Category Archives: Bible Study

Am I Ungodly?

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Am I Ungodly?

 

Well, we’re in Romans at BSF this year. That’s Bible Study Fellowship for the uninitiated. Romans is a wonderful book full of the teaching of Christian doctrine and how to live a Christian life. However I’d completely missed Paul saying in Chapter 1 verse 18:

For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

While I initially understood godlessness (or in some versions ungodliness) and unrighteousness as one in the same, Paul distinguishes between the two.

In his book, Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges states that ungodliness is describes an attitude toward God, while unrighteousness refers to sinful actions in thought, word, or deed.

While I usually start chastising myself when I misread Scripture – or don’t read it well enough to begin with – I’m going to let myself slide in this instance. Let’s face it, in the beginning of Romans Paul has been hammering home the “wrath of God” on everyone because we are all sinners. The passage is uncomfortable to read because you know it’s true. But we have to know – must know – what we ought to receive at judgment because of our sinful nature before we can truly appreciate the saving grace of Christ. We deserve nothing short of God’s wrath.

So, am I ungodly? Are you?

Jerry Bridges goes on to define ungodliness as living one’s everyday life with little or no thought of God, or of God’s will, or of God’s glory, or one’s dependence on God.

Gulp.

I can see myself in that sentence. I may spend some quiet time in the morning with God but how often do I continue that conversation throughout the day? Some days are better than others. Some days I’m in communication with Him all day long; praying, worshiping, thanking, giving Him glory, talking, and trying to listen for His voice.

But not always and it’s definitely not often enough.

Jerry helps when he says:

Our goal in the pursuit of godliness should be to grow more in our conscious awareness that every moment of our lives is lived in the presence of God; that we are responsible to Him and dependent on Him. This goal would include a growing desire to please Him and glorify Him in the most ordinary activities of life.

After I finished this convicting chapter I knew I needed to seek God’s forgiveness at once. I squeezed my eyes shut, rolled over, and dug my head into my pillow in an attempt to shut out the world and be alone with Him.

Lord, help me to keep you forefront in my mind all day long. Allow your Holy Spirit to guide me, mark my steps, watch my words and actions, and do everything for your glory.

Immediately I received a vision I have not seen since 2008.

All I could “see” behind my shuttered eyes was a glorious swath of deep, rich purple. This has been an indicator that my Lord is with me. Non-condemning. Hearing my plea and cradling me. I was awash in His love.

How is it that we have the maker of the universe listen to and love us so?

His all-consuming love makes me want to not be quite so ungodly.

In His love,

Felecia

PS: the book is almost ready to go to my beta readers and then to editing. Thank you all for being so patient with me. Keep your eye out for a chance to sign up for my email list and receive a couple of chapters – Free!

PPS: Another great book on the subject of becoming more godly is: The Practice of the Presence of God a thin but weighty volume by Brother Lawrence.

The End of Me

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Don’t you love when God hits you sideways with something He’s probably been trying to get through to you for a while and you finally get it?

I admit, I have to laugh.  Because when I do get it, I can look back and see how long He’s been after me to learn something.  I laugh because God knows I’m a dolt sometimes and loves me anyway!  He’s so good to give us space to laugh at ourselves.

In Bible Study Fellowship this week we’re studying John 16 and one of the questions asks, “What circumstances in your life test your commitment to follow Jesus?”  I thought and thought about this question because over the past 9 years the Lord has brought me to a place where I can no longer imagine not following Him.

So I considered my previous life … a time when I backslid … and answered with the situations that tested (and won over) my commitment to follow Jesus.  Namely – success in my career (which gave me prestige and popularity), health (which wasn’t that good, but wasn’t bad enough to worry about), and finances (which were so that I was frivolous and spent buying possessions to fill up the ache in my heart).

As we answered the question in leader’s group on Saturday, I looked at the words on the page: career, health, finances …

The three were the world’s interpretation of success.  I spent my time focusing on those things that were going to help me live the “good life.”  I was doing good.  I had everything I needed and then some.  I … I … I … what I didn’t see was the gulf between God and I getting wider and wider until … I lost it all.

That’s when it hit me.  I’d answered the question a couple of days prior but right in the middle of leader’s group I had an epiphany.

God had brought me to the end of myself.

Ten years ago I was ignoring God and doing my own thing – great career, decent health, super finances.  But now …

Now I have no career, no health, and no finances!!!

Why do I sound so happy?

Because I’m closer to Jesus than I’ve ever been in my whole life!  That alone fills me with so much hope and joy I’m busting at the seams.  At the end of myself my thirst was quenched, my pain was comforted, and my sorrow turned to joy.

So no, nothing can get me to go back to the world’s system.  I’m following Jesus as closely as I can and when I get a little ahead of Him … or perhaps lag too far behind … I know that He’ll pull me close to Him again.

Have you come to the end of yourself yet?

Bible Bite: Mark 4:41

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Bible Bite: Mark 4:41

A Bible Bite is a little tidbit that I run across that irks me and controls my thoughts until the Holy Spirit helps me to break through the miasmas to teach me some lesson. 

During Paula and my bible study, we were talking about standing stronger by walking in faith (Day 27 of the 28-day study).  I grew increasingly distressed during the scriptures of Mark 4: 35-41.  Jesus had been teaching using several parables (vv. 1-34) at the side of the Sea of Galilee.  As night fell, He told the disciples they were going to go over to the other side of the sea and they all hopped in a boat.

As they sailed, Jesus slept in the aft of the boat and a wind brewed up that whipped up the waves so forcefully that they were crashing over the sides of the boat and threatening to capsize.  Yet, Jesus slept.

The disciples woke Him up concerned that He was going to let them drown and He got up and rebuked the wind and the sea with, “Silence, be still!”  He turned then to the disciples and asked, “Why are you fearful? Do you still have no faith?”

What amazed me most was the next verse, Mark 4:41:

“And they were terrified and asked one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

Terrified?  Why were they terrified?  I didn’t get it.  The disciples had been with Jesus for a while at this point and had seen miracle after miracle.  What terrified them now?

And they asked each other, “Who is this then?”  How could it be that they forgot who Jesus was?

Part of the keys are in Jesus questions.  First He asks, “Why are you afraid?”  I love being on this side of the situation.  We’re reading about an incident in the Bible and have the benefit of being able to take a global view. Do you (like me) often find yourself shaking your head at what some Biblical one is doing or saying at any given time?  I do that until I realize that in some way I’m just like them … ahem … and then keep reading to learn from these Saints who have gone before.

“Why are you fearful” (my HCSB states)?  Why are they fearful?  Jesus said when they got into the boat that they were going to the other side.  Surely He knew the boat would be caught in a storm, but He wasn’t worried because He fell asleep.  (Another aside: I like to see Jesus’ humanness here – He slept because He’d been teaching all day and was tired.  The Son of God gets tired. I love that little bit of insight.)

But back to the question at hand.  In Warren W. Weirsbe’s Exposition Commentary, he notes, “… for the greatest danger was not the wind or the waves; it was the unbelief in the hearts of the disciples.” Further, “It was their unbelief that caused their fear, and their fear made them question whether Jesus really cared.  “We must aware of an evil heart of unbelief.” (Heb 3:12).1

“Do you still have no faith,” Jesus asks?   Jesus asks these questions as a way to test the disciples.  Just how far have they come?  How much do they or don’t they believe?

How often do we continue to wonder if God is really all that He says He is?  How often are we shown His grace, His mercy, His faithfulness, His very deity, and still we forget the works He has done?  Can we be that stiff-necked?  That hard-hearted?  Nincompoops to the core?  Yep.  And still He loves us!  Still He’s patient with us and He who started a good work in us will carry it on to completion. (Phil 1:6)

It was true that the disciples had seen Jesus’ many miracles. They’d seen him cast out demons, heal people, and forgive sins but now – Weirsbe ends the section this way, “Now they discovered that He even had authority over the wind and the sea.  This meant that they had no reason ever again to be afraid, for their Lord was in constant control of every situation.”2

Is Jesus your Lord?  Then we must understand completely – we have no reason to ever be afraid.  Ever.

That, my friends, is freedom.

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1 Warren W. Weirsbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary: New Testament Volume 1, 2nd ed, (Colorado, David C. Cook), 125.

2 Weirsbe, 125.

 

Holy? Who Me?

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Holy?  Who Me?

Just thinking about being thought of as holy or attaining this wholly lofty ideal makes we want to say, “Holy archangels Batman!”  I can’t quite fathom it!

Days 15 and 16 in the Bible study are on holiness.  Trying to comprehend how holy God is, what it means to say we’re holy, and how to live to become holy.

“You shall be holy, for I am holy,” says God in 1 Peter 1:16b it’s a command from God Himself.

Haven’t you ever shuddered when you think of yourself as a saint?  And yet we who have found salvation in Jesus are considered saints – set apart for God.  Clearly my behavior at that gas station outlined in the last two posts was very unsaint-like!  But how can we possibly hope to be holy?  Let’s look at the entire passage from Peter though for a clue.

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance.  15 But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.  ~ 1 Peter 1:14-16

We hear echoes of verse 14 throughout the New Testament.  Don’t fall back into your old pattern of living.  When I became born again, I had the hardest time kicking myself free of my former life.  Now that I write that out – I see it was probably because I tried to do it on my own.  “I had the hardest time …”  It’s true.  I didn’t allow anyone to help me grow, I didn’t ask for help assuming I could do it on my own, nor did I ask for Jesus’ help to strengthen my resolve.  What that did is lengthen the time it took me to start living holy.

Verse 15 is pretty awe-inspiring isn’t it?  The one who called us … God.  The Almighty.  The Alpha and the Omega.  Heavenly Father.  So holy that when heavenly beings speak of His holiness they cry out three times … “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty…” ~ Revelation 4:8b  Anytime a word is used in succession like that in the Bible, it’s emphatic or superlative.  Making, in this case, God’s holiness even more so – the most most most holy.

So here is our God calling us to be holy in our conduct.  I get the meaning pure and true.  Can we do it?  I know we can try and certainly that is what God is working us toward … our holiness … our Christ-likeness.

Then, in verse 16, Peter reminds us that God Himself is our standard for Christian living.  He states, “For it is written…” and when anyone says that in Scripture I always search for where it was written.  Here I find the call to be holy uttered by God to the Israelites “For I am Yahweh your God … be holy because I am holy” in Leviticus 11:44 and in 19:2 and 20:7.

Can we ever hope to truly be holy?

I would pray that as we walk in obedience we would get closer and closer to His ideal.  While I used to dread that sick feeling when I realized I’d sinned, now I almost welcome it … not the sick feeling (!) … the identification of committed sin.  We can make ourselves more open to the Holy Spirit’s promptings to point out our sins and then confess and repent from those sins.  I’ve found that it actually becomes easier and easier and at times, I’m almost glad when the Holy Spirit pulls me up short on something.  I want to become holy like Him.  In my heart of hearts, I want to please my Father.

I like the way Kay Arthur puts it:

“We don’t have to yield to sin; we can be separate from it – holy.  It happens moment by moment, opportunity by opportunity, with a decision to walk in obedience to God in the power of the Spirit.  The Spirit dwelling within you gives you the power to resist sin.”

The Bible Study also lists some practical steps to getting your holy on:

  • Watch the company you keep. People can have more impact on you than you’d expect, so seek out godly friends.  You’ve probably heard Proverbs 27:17 “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  For me it’s my bunch of Outrageously Christ-Filled Girlfriends and the ladies I lead with in BSF – good friends encouraging one another to grow in wisdom and godliness – even if it requires painful criticism.
  • Keep yourself sexually pure. This probably requires its own blog post, but in short, participating in sexual immorality will have the devil salivating at your door as you become one with the world and not living as one set apart for our Father.
  • You perfect holiness by living under control of the Spirit. I’ll ask again … can we hope to be holy on this ball called Earth? We can if we follow God’s call to walk by the Spirit. As Paul stresses in Galatians 5:16 “I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
  • Holiness is perfected by love. Perfect for a time such as this in our country – straight from 1 Thessalonians 3:12 (emphasis mine) “And may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone, just as we also do for you.” Later on in verse 13 Paul states that in loving others God will make your heart blameless in holiness.  If we will look at one another through the eyes of Jesus, I guarantee that our hearts will be broken again and again with love for people we never thought we could love.  It completely changes the way you view the world … at least it has for me.

As you think about becoming more holy this weekend, let God know that you want to be holy as He is holy.  Ask Him to show you anything in your life that mars His image in you.  Then remember that it’s love for one another that demonstrates His holiness and manifests the reality of God within us.  As we abound in love, we live out holiness.  Pick someone to love on this coming week … someone who needs it.  Let them experience God’s love through you.

And have a fantastic weekend!

Cross to Bear ~ 2

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This story started on Friday.  If you missed that, you’ll be lost today. So here’s a quick link to pop back and catch yourself up!

As I placed the nozzle back in the pump, I walked around the back of the car and my newest decal loomed large … a reminder of who’s I am and whom I’ve just disgraced …

† = ♥

I hung my head in shame and slid back into my car.

In my head I replayed what I said to the station manager.  Was that anyway to treat another human being?  What did that outburst say about me as a Christ follower?  I shook my head in disgust.  Some witness!  Paul can survive beatings and floggings and stonings and I can’t persevere through an argument without coming unglued.  I still have so much to learn!

By the time I was ready for bed that evening the weight of the sin-millstone around my neck was palpable.  The incident and the implications of the fallout weighed heavy on my mind for the rest of the day and I knew I couldn’t go one more minute before I had to get down on my knees that night and cry, begging forgiveness from my Lord and Savior.  I went to bed with a beautiful peace on my heart, but still mortified by the way I had acted that day.

The ever-present oily pit of black goo roiled in my soul.  I imagine it to be a pool of sin sloshing back and forth in my soul.  Sometimes it lays dormant for a while, other times it bubbles up and leaks out.  Now, I don’t want you to think that I’m in a constant state of consternation – far from it.  I fully accept the grace God affords me after I repent and ask forgiveness for my sin.  My heart and spirit are somehow lighter knowing He forgets my sin “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12 (NIV).  It’s just that as I come to love the Lord more and more I am ever so much more saddened when I sin.  I know I hurt His heart.  I know I disappoint Him.  All sin is an act against God.  I love how Jerry Bridges puts it in his book Respectable Sins:

“Even though our hearts have been renewed, even though we have been freed from the absolute dominion of sin, even though God’s Holy Spirit dwells within our bodies, this principle of sin still lurks within us and wages war against our souls.”

Even though we are believers, we have a tendency to evaluate our behavior by how it relates to the society in which we live.  Since as Christians, we’re usually operating at a higher moral standard than those around us, it’s easier to get caught up in feeling good about ourselves and how we behave – even though we are sinning all along.  We must watch out for that trap.  Can’t you just see Satan grinning with joy?

Unbelievably, I hadn’t even read Day 14 when the incident at the gas station occurred.  As I opened up the bible study the following day I couldn’t help but see my sin all over its pages.  Convicted over and over again (but not condemned because I’d already received forgiveness from God).  Unfortunately, there were other recent incidents where I had opened my mouth inappropriately and these occurrences tugged at my heart.  I hadn’t confessed those to the Lord yet.  I’d pushed them aside as acceptable sins.  The bottom line – would I ever learn to keep my big yap shut?

Kay asks, “If I want to live this life (a life sold out for Jesus), am I willing to pay the price?”

Am I willing to really come to grips with my inability to keep my mouth closed when it isn’t necessary to speak?  Am I able to look with such love toward others that a critical thought never enters my mind again?  It’s certainly become a prayer of mine.

Think this week about your cross.  Or at least one of them – because I know I have many myself!  What can you, once and for all, give up to Christ by next weekend?  What can you cut out of yourself like fisherman gutting a newly caught snapper – all for the sake of Jesus?  I don’t think we have time to waste, my friends.  Jesus may arrive at any time and I want to see you on that narrow path with me!

What is Your Cross to Bear?

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What is Your Cross to Bear?

Yes! We return to Kay and David Arthur’s bible study after an extended vacation where we visited Prayer Point and Peace Place. Thanks for letting me wander!

Today we’ll tackle locating our personal cross (or crosses).

Matthew recorded Jesus saying,

“And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.”

~ Matthew 10:38

But what does that mean?  Are we to literally pick up a cross and carry it?  Obviously, no.  But Jesus is asking for His followers to take up their cross for the death march and be prepared to die – literally and figuratively.

Sadly, with what’s been occurring here in the United States and around the world, we Christians have had a chance to actually ponder, ‘Would I die for Christ?’  If a gunman in the classroom asks me if I’m Christian and tells me that if I say yes I should be prepared to meet Jesus … would I say yes?  If I got ambushed by a member of ISIS and he asked me to deny Christ and bow to Allah or die, what would I do?

At no other time in my life have I had to actually think about my answer to these questions or even make these decisions.  Isn’t that interesting?  One might ask – why does God allow these things to happen?  But what if it’s just another clue that we’re solidly in the end of times.  It’s almost as if God is inspecting us – how steadfast is our belief – how strong our faith?  Will we be a martyr for the Kingdom?  Who is a true follower and who is not?  The path through the gate gets narrower and narrower, doesn’t it?  Because when these awful things happen and Christians stand around the watercooler, I keep hearing the phrase, “I’d like to think I’d …” say yes or no depending upon the situation.

Oh my friends, don’t wobble.  Choose now to die for Christ.  We have no knowledge of what tomorrow will bring.

But the Arthur’s are not asking about dying a literal death for Christ in this Bible study.  They most likely don’t venture down that path because my edition was published in 2009 long before ISIS gained international notoriety in 2014 with their takeover of Mosul (even though they’d been in existence at that time for nearly a decade 1).  No.  The Arthur’s are examining our ability to figuratively die for Christ.  Die on a daily basis.  Die to self.  It wasn’t long ago that I heard two important ideas (1) we need to preach the gospel to ourselves on a daily basis, and (2) we need to surrender on a daily basis.  Both are great advice since we’ve proven to ourselves how easily we forget!

In order to give us the ultimate role model of dying to Christ on a daily basis, we take a look at the Apostle Paul.  Next to Jesus, Paul is my second stop for an autograph when I get to Heaven.  He is such a magnificent soldier for Christ.  In 2 Corinthians 11:23-31, Paul outlines the life he’s led in living for Christ.  Please take a moment to read it this weekend and marvel about how he could be so spiritually strong.  It is gut wrenching.   The only way he could have endured was if God had sustained him.  Which one of us wouldn’t have been eager at any point during his trials to call it quits?  But Paul, having come in contact with the living Messiah, wanted to please God and knew he could count on God for strength until the end.  Truly overwhelming.

Further, in 2 Corinthians 6:3 we see that Paul tried to avoid saying or doing anything that would cause offense or be a discredit to the ministry:

“We give no opportunity for stumbling to anyone, so that the ministry will not be blamed.”

Can I say I take the same great care in my speech and behavior?  Sadly, no.  The pages convict me and remind me of a recent incident.

I was on a road trip with my family.  It started out well enough but with hot heads breeding with stubbornness (and producing me) a pleasant conversation had dissolved into muck and mire.  I was trying desperately to not let a certain family member goad me into an argument and had already let a few choice tidbits escape through my clenched lips.  In an attempt to stop the conversation from a further downward spiral I made myself busy shooting arrow prayers to God saying, “Help me keep silent, Lord, help me allow it to roll off my back,” and thought I was winning the fight against my flesh until we pulled over into a gas station.  I got out to pump gas and realized too late that I had parked at a Full Service pump.  Still though, I was hoping to just be able to pump without an issue.

I peered through the dirty station windows and could see my father speaking with a man who was gesturing wildly and who kept looking out the window pointing and glaring at me.  I started getting agitated. If he’d just turn the pump on I could be done and out of there in a matter of minutes.  Why I didn’t just pack up and move to another pump I’ll never know, but if the scene hadn’t played out the way it did, I would have missed a very valuable lesson.

Still watching the scene inside, the man finally pushed past my father and bolted out the door screaming at me.  I lost it.  All the clenched teeth in the world couldn’t keep a half-hour’s pent up anger sprinkled with new frustration from spilling out and covering the station manager with a torrent of abrasive speech.  Eventually I got into my car and pulled it around to another pump.

So of course that’s not the end of the story.  But this post has grown quite long and it’s best if we wait until Monday for the conclusion and how I’m trying to handle the crosses in my life.  In the meantime, read that passage about Paul – you are sure to gain an even deeper appreciation for this amazing apostle from Tarsus.

Until Monday my friends.  Thank you and have a great weekend!

1 http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/10/how-isis-started-syria-iraq/412042/

Stronger in Prayer ~ Praying Boldly

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Stronger in Prayer ~ Praying Boldly

We’re still talking about answered prayer and I wanted to relate this story specifically because even though God did mighty things at the time (2012) in hind sight (natch!) I can see immeasurably more purpose to His answering one simple prayer of a few women.  If you missed …   Monday, Wednesday, and/or Friday.

I looked up to find the women’s ministry director leading a young girl I’d never seen before to my table.  We’d finished our Priscilla Shirer program the week before and were set to see a new, stand-alone Priscilla video this evening.  Deb introduced me to the young woman (whom I’ll call Lisa) telling me that she had just wandered in, was given the option of our program or the Beth Moore study happening in the other room, and had chosen Priscilla.  I welcomed Lisa and pulled out the chair next to me.  Before the rest of my ladies arrived at the table, I discovered that she was a single mom of a 2 ½ year old boy and although she hadn’t quite said as much, she seemed to be in a bad place.

We watched the video which focused on the principles found in Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV):

20Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen. 

Priscilla’s main point was that God is able to do – for you – immeasurably more than you can imagine.  How many times do we squander our time with God asking for the easy?  The video had affected all of us at the table as several women, and Lisa sniffed and wiped away an errant tear or two.  I thought about my own expectations of God.  I realized I was tired of asking God for the minimum because I felt some sort of embarrassment regarding my need.

At the end of the video Priscilla had us turn to each other and speak truth into each other’s lives.  I turned immediately to Lisa and am not really sure what I said (evidence that the Holy Spirit had taken over) I just knew that by the time I was done she and I and half the table were crying.  I laughed as I wiped away the tears that were coursing down my cheeks saying, “Sorry, it’s the Holy Spirit.”  Lisa was smiling brightly and her eyes shown as if lit by some inner light.  It was clear that whatever the Holy Spirit had spoken to her, it was as if some sort of weight had been lifted from her soul.  That was when she told us her story.

Lisa had been a Christian for just a few short years, divorced her husband for adultery, received full custody of her child, and moved back to Florida to live with her parents.  She had been abused by her father when she was a child, but had some hope that he’d changed with age?  Time?  I don’t know, but she was proven wrong.  When her father continued his abuse of her and had included her child, she left.  Now it seemed she was working a part-time job, was unable to find an apartment due to her husband’s poor credit and her non-credit, and was couch hopping between a few friends – and on the days she couldn’t stay with them – was sleeping in her car.

The one bright spot in her tale of woe was that she did have an interview for a full-time position the following day.  One of the ladies at the table said, “We’ll pray for you.”  The same way we Christians always say, “I’ll pray for you,” and may or may not.  But I couldn’t get the message we’d just heard out of my mind and held out my hands to the young girl and the woman on my right and said, “With what we’ve just heard about Ephesians 3:20, let’s pray right now.”

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us …  ~ Ephesians 3:20

I opened the prayer thanking God for bringing Lisa to our table … and then I thought about the promise of Ephesians 3:20 … and then I didn’t hold any punches.  I told God there was a reason He brought her to our table and asked Him squarely for a full-time job and an apartment for our young friend and her son.  She needed it now and not next month.  As the prayer grew and roamed around the table, the other ladies were equally as dynamic.  God had never heard such fervor from this group of women in any of our corporate prayer to this point.  We ended that that evening with my ladies pouring their hearts into this young woman and opening their wallets in aide.

The events in this post occurred on a Wednesday.  We Christians always talk about waiting on God because we’re also human and usually very impatient.  Some of my prayers take months and years to be answered (or at least for me to recognize the answer) and I often remind myself, “in God’s timing, not mine.”  But, it is absolutely refreshing when we can witness God work in an instant.  You’ll hear the rest of the story on Wednesday.

Please come back.

Stronger in Answered Prayer

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This is the third part of a post that began on Monday and continued Wednesday. Feel free to step back in time to catch up.  We’ll be right here when you return.

How much stronger can your faith be in answered prayer?  STRONG.  Maybe even Orlando Strong or Boston Strong or NYC Strong.  We should just call it USA Strong since our strength as a people is one of the identifying characteristics of Americans (even though this administration would rather just apologize for it).  We are strong and we’re not going to let a bunch of whiney jihadists following the alleged writings of some pagan god destroy the love that we have for one another.  OK – that’s my political speech for today.  Let’s get back to answered prayer … and for all of you praying that God would destroy (or turn) the terrorists, your prayers have already been answered.  Read Revelation.

When I was in the hospital facing an operation that might uncover that the worst of the worst diseases, cancer, had invaded my body; I knew a lot of people were praying for me.  A huge group of people at church, ladies I didn’t even know yet at Bible Study Fellowship, friends and their friends, blog readers (whom I count among my friends!), family, and (I would later find out) my parents friends and fellow country club members.  That was a whole host of people.  And you know what?

I felt every prayer.

Every. Prayer.

How?  Because before and after the surgery I felt as if a blanket of love had enveloped me.  Even when I awoke in the Recovery Room with my doctor’s hand gently laying on my arm, his little face smiling at me, and his warm eyes glowing – delivering the worst possible news – I still felt awash in a blanket of love.  OK, that could have been the drugs, but I don’t think so.  Because the same feeling persisted over the next few months as I went home, recuperated from the surgery and open wounds in my belly, and then started chemotherapy to kill what my doctor’s hands couldn’t.  I was buoyed by prayer and the warmth of a lot of love.  Praise Him that He hears the prayers of His saints.

Even when I sat in a hospital for 11 days and still hadn’t received a visit from any pastors in my church I prayed that God would send me a man of the cloth to talk to and pray with and within minutes the hospital Chaplin was at my door.  Praise Him!

Even when I wound up back in the hospital when a hematoma had burst under my incision and I had to receive a wound vacuum to help close the open wound, it didn’t look like it was going to happen.  I put a call in to three mighty prayer warriors to pray quickly to right what was going wrong.  In less than 15 minutes the situation became 100% positive.  The nurses said they never saw such progress.  I said, “You must not know my God.”  Praise Him for answered prayer!

All along this journey I (and others) have prayed and we’ve received answers to our prayers.  Although not always what we’ve prayed for or wanted.  I certainly didn’t want cancer, or an open would that would persist for six months, or weird salt & pepper curly hair, or neuropathy in my feet so bad that my toes feel perpetually stubbed.

But prayers always go answered.

Remember in Daniel 10 when the angel Gabriel told Daniel that his prayers had been heard immediately but he’d been fighting against Satan to get to Daniel with the answer and even needed Michael’s intervention to make it happen.  In some cases we might still be waiting for an answer to our prayer.  In others, and probably more frequently than we care to admit, it could be that we just don’t recognize the answer because we’re so set on what we want rather than God’s will for us that we don’t see it.

I remember a counselee talking to me about needing financial assistance.  There were several things happening in her life that could be covered easily if she’d only had more money.  She (and I) had been praying for a few weeks for a new, better paying job for her.  About four weeks into our sessions she came in really distraught that another interview had gone without a job offer.  It was getting down to the wire and she was getting more and more frustrated.  After we prayed again, we spent the rest of the time discussing the good things that were happening in her life.  As she spoke I got the sensation that I should be making a detailed list.  At the end of the session I was almost laughing out loud.  All of the “little good things” that had happened had removed the need for her to get a new job.  God had answered her prayer – just not in the way she thought she needed it.  Among other things, her two grown boys had both gotten jobs and agreed to pay $100 a month each to the household, her older son had taken on his responsibility for his car insurance, her father had gifted her with new tires for her car, and a neighbor had a garage sale which netted her a couple items she so desperately needed.  God didn’t want her in a new job.  He wanted her right where she was and had met her needs – almost to the penny.  He is so amazing!  He cares so much for us.  Why do we forget that?

For now, if you don’t have one already, why don’t you start a prayer journal?  I have a little blank book and on the right page list my prayers and leave the left, facing page blank to record the praise when the prayer is answered.  Seeing the request and the answer laid out in this manner will go a long way to strengthening your faith.  I can guarantee that you will be surprised about how God answers prayer time and time again.

Now … I promised my Ephesians 3:20 story and I see I’m well over 900 words.  To tell this whole story would be another 1,000+ words.  So I regret I must leave it until next week – BUT – I don’t regret for one instant getting to talk longer about answered prayer!!

That really just thrills my heart.  Thank you, Lord!

Praying you have a wonderful weekend with answered prayer of your own!

Stronger in Prayer ~ Part Two

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Stronger in Prayer ~ Part Two

This is part two of a post that began on Monday and can be found here if you wish.

So then, if we shouldn’t pick and choose different lines out of the Bible to make one glorious prayer that will get us exactly what we want, how should we pray?

David brings up Matthew 6:5-8 where we learn we are to not be like the hypocrites (Pharisees) making sure others see us praying and go into our inner room because the Father sees what we do in private.  We are not to use meaningless repetition and remember that our Lord knows what we need before we ask.

In Matthew 6:7-13 Jesus’ instructs his disciples by giving them what we commonly call “The Lord’s Prayer”.  If you break this prayer down to its bones you can easily see the directive.  We should:

  1. Begin our prayers with praise, adoration, and worship. One of the neatest things that’s come out of being a BSF group leader has been during our leader’s meeting every Saturday morning.  When we gather to pray, we break into smaller groups of 3-5 and begin with praise.  We tell God who He is.  Obviously He knows who He is, but I find it very special to bring my heart into a right relationship by telling Him I know He is faithful, the Alpha and Omega, my Healer, my Rock, my Fortress in times of trouble.  David Arthur puts it this way: “We’re telling our heavenly Father that He is God and we are not.  He is the one who gives and we are the ones who receive.  This demonstrates to both God and to our own hearts that we are dependent on Him.”
  2. Move into thanksgiving. Next we move into a period where we thank God for who He is and what He has done.  I thank Him for the gift of His Son, the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, answering previous prayer, or His handling of a particular situation.  I might thank Him for His timing (which is perfect) and for helping me to wait and submit to His timing.  I may even thank Him for what I know He will do.  All of the gratitude puts my heart in the right place.  God is bigger than me and I trust Him completely.
  3. Seek.  If you follow the prayer that Jesus laid out you will find that we are to seek His will, His guidance, His provision, His forgiveness, and His protection.  Then do just that:
    1. Lord, may your will be done and help me to accept it if I cannot understand it.
    2. Lord, please give me wisdom in (___) situation …
    3. I need … (requests for yourself and others)
    4. Please forgive me for … (or help me to forgive ___)
    5. Lord, protect me (and others) or do not let me …

There are a myriad of other “ways” to pray as well.  There is the ACTS model (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication) and my tried and true model (from a 1984 version of the NIV Disciple’s Study Bible from Cornerstone) PTCPI – which of course doesn’t spell anything but stands for praise, thanksgiving, confession, petition, intercession.

Another favorite of mine is to pray actual Scripture.  If you are unfamiliar with the Psalms I want you to get in there and devour them immediately!  But, if you don’t know them very well, you can actually Google “psalm for ____” whatever you’d like to pray about … justice, mercy, comfort, love, safety, etc. and it will return a bunch that you can look up.  For our purposes, I went ahead and Googled “psalm for healing” and chose Psalm 103 out of the list that appeared.

A quick read of the psalm shows me that the best verses for what I want to pray are 1 through 5.  I find that this psalm actually begins with praise and we read (in the HCSB),

My soul, praise Yahweh, and all that is within me, praise His holy name. My soul, praise the Lord, and do not forget all His benefits.

~ Psalm 103: 1-2

It’s interesting to me that I chose this particular psalm from the list in Google.  Whenever a word in Scripture is repeated three times, in this case “praise,” it becomes emphatic or superlative.  Usually you’ll see “holy, holy, holy” meaning God’s otherness – that he is completely and unequivocally separated from sin.  In this case the thrice repeated “praise” is the highest form of worship … the utmost praise upon praise upon praise.  At the end of verse two we also read that we aren’t to forget His benefits meaning His blessings.  What a perfect example to how I started today’s post!  But I don’t mean to lecture.  What you would want to do is pray this psalm – and I mean, make it personal between you and God.

Here’s how I would do it:  My soul, praise Yahweh!  With all I am, my heart, my body, the very fiber of my being, I praise you my heavenly Father.  You are like no other.  There is no one higher than You.  You have always been and You always will be.  How comforting that is to me.  Your name is above all names now and forevermore.  Oh my soul, praise my Lord and Savior!  My Rock and my Redeemer.  You chose me from the beginning of time and have brought me to this day.  You have been with me throughout my life and know what is still to come.  I can be secure in my future Lord, because you chose me, have sanctified me, and love me with a love I can’t even fathom.  The peace I feel from that knowledge is unmeasurable.  Glory!  Thank you, Father.

I could go on but you can see how I took these two verses and made them personal.  And that’s all any good prayer is, a conversation between you and the Almighty.  If you’ve never prayed this way, I urge you to try it.  You will be amazed at how, with the opening of your heart and God’s very own words before you, your own words will just flow.  Some of my most satisfying prayers have been prayed in this manner.

On Friday we’ll wrap up prayer … aww … must we?  I so love this discipline!

Praying your hump day is full of love and laughter!

** Image from The Bible Miniseries  – I use it because we know that Jesus liked to get away by himself to pray.

Bible Study ~ Stronger in Prayer

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Bible Study ~ Stronger in Prayer

When I got to Day 8 which is entitled “Stronger in Prayer” I kinda rolled my eyes.  Not because I didn’t want to read it, but because I’m a poster-child for the value of prayer and know I could write a month’s worth of posts about it.  In fact, I think it’s so important that we’re going to talk about prayer all this week.  But how, I thought, could David Arthur break this important issue down to one day of study?  I was not going to be disappointed.

David initially asks if we see our life as a train or a hot air balloon.  A train that is bound by tracks moving in a linear direction or a balloon – soft in shape and form and easily able to change direction.  Paula thinks she’s more like a train, I think I might be a little of both … but more balloon like.  David likens trains to doing their own thing (because they’re rigid and can’t change unless the track is rerouted) and balloons as being led by the Spirit.  I think we would all like that, wouldn’t we?  So in tune with God that you turn at a moment’s notice this way or that depending on His guidance.

My favorite line on the whole day is when David says, “To grow strong as believers, we need to be guided, moved, and shaped by the wind of the Holy Spirit.”  And how do we do that?  Through prayer – by allowing us to speak to Him and through which He can speak to us – God can mold and shape us.  Does that seem funny to you?  Are you one who oft-times finds themselves praying and trying to shape and mold God with your petitions?

Now, I’m not one who will tell someone that they’re praying incorrectly … everyone should pray as they see fit because that’s a conversation between you and God.  But once I was leading a small group and one of the members was asking the group to pray for her to find a home.  When I prompted everyone to bow their heads, she asked me to wait because she hadn’t finished telling everyone how to pray.  My curiosity was piqued and I listened as she gave everyone a little slip of paper to read while they prayed.  I looked at the slip that she shoved into my hand and noticed that she’d taken parts of certain verses and had combined them into a sentence describing what she wanted.  I surveyed the group – most looked like they were in a state of shock.  She explained that finding this in the Bible meant that it was a promise for her to hold on to and she wanted us to remind God of His promise to her.  I looked again at what she’d typed up – it read almost like some sort of incantation – an attempt to influence God to do what she wanted.

I feel quite comfortable saying, “This is not the way to pray.”

God is not a big vending machine in the sky whom you can instruct to do your bidding.

I suggested that we pray Ephesians 3:20 over her situation:

Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us … (HCSB)

Praying this verse does two things:  (1) It asks God to do more than we’re asking for in a certain situation; but (2) it is also dependent on the power that works in us – meaning – the Holy Spirit.  If one prays this prayer and isn’t Spirit-filled, I’m pretty sure nothing is going to happen.  After the group had left I spoke to the woman about her needs and prayed one-on-one with her as well.  Sometimes, when we get desperate, we’ll do anything to get the results we want.  It becomes problematic when the results we want are not in God’s will.  Do I mean God didn’t want her to have a house?  No way.  God knows that shelter is a basic need of ours; but do we need our own home on an acre of land with trees and a river?  No, and yet that was what she was asking for.  We prayed that day that she would get a roof over her head, and that she did, within the week.

I’d like to tell you another story about how Ephesians 3:20 worked in my life, and the lives of about eight other ladies, but I’ll hold that until later.

Until Wednesday then … I pray you have a great week!