Pivotal Prayer

In the last few months, we have heard the word pivot in many arenas. This past week I was able to have a Zoom meeting with a small group of professionals around our prayer life.  Yes, this is definitely something that I know I always need to focus on.  The speaker was Tim Elmore who wrote the book Pivotal Praying: Connecting with God in Times of Great Need.  I look forward to reading this book.  As I reflect on this Zoom meeting and my current prayer life I was captured by our conversation about the types of prayers people often pray.

The three types described were:

  • Logistic prayers-  The everyday prayers around what is going on in the moment.  Routine prayers like the ones I can often have at mealtime, bedtime, or mundane prayers I have currently for the technology to work properly for myself, teachers, and students daily.
  • Tactical prayers – Prayers I have that ask for His presence in the moments of fear, worry, or need.  Receiving strength to get through a difficult time.
  • Strategic prayers- Prayers that come in the midst of even a pandemic where I’m focusing on building His Kingdom. Praying for all of these worldly events to draw me and others closer to God.

Tim mentioned to me that sometimes close to 80% of our prayer life can be on the logistics of day to day routines.  At that moment I felt maybe he was hearing some of my prayers somehow? This conversation helped me to reflect.  Where would you describe your prayer life?  As we walked through a few hidden passages tucked away in 2 Kings 3.  As the focus of the people was on their momentary need of water God reminds them that His focus is much bigger.

17 For this is what the Lord says: You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink. 18 This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord; he will also deliver Moab into your hands.

In what ways can I transform more of my prayers from the logistics level to a strategic level?  As challenges come do I question God or His plan for me? To be honest, I can be guilty.  I pray to remember the Kings of Elisha and their lack of trust in the Lord. Knowing that God is in the business of meeting my goals and dreams far beyond any of my expectations.  In moments of uncertainty, I need to step back and pray for trust in His ultimate plan and not my immediate needs.   I need to pray for the war, not just the water.  Paul reminds us of the magnitude of God’s love and plans for us in Ephesians.

20 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, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Dear Heavenly Father,

In the midst of a pandemic, I can pray through many logistics.  I know you hear every single one.  But Lord, help me to be more strategic, to know and trust your plan for this day, and that it is not just about simply bread and water to live but plans to build an eternal Kingdom for us all.  So as we have all had to pivot, help me to pivot closer to you Lord in my prayers being faithful in whatever Your will has planned for me as I tell of Your Greatness to others.

Amen

The Age of Wisdom

Knowledge is where you receive information gathered from different sources.  Wisdom is the synthesis of the knowledge and experience to create a meaningful understanding. 

I have been fortunate and blessed to have many mentors in my life, and one of the most influential mentors I have currently is my aunt. On the 31st of October she will reach a new chapter in her life, she will be 80 years young. She has had a life full of experiences. She is my mother’s older sibling. She was born right at the beginning of World War II. She experienced segregation and integration on a very intimate level. As she grew up to adult she worked in the school system. Her career in the school system spans over approximately six decades. 

She is a person who has shown me how to work hard and diligently for the future. She started her school career as a cafeteria worker.  She pursued her dreams and aspirations by attending night school to complete her Bachelor and Masters degree.  She became a teacher, then a counselor, and then an administrator. For the last 20 years post-retirement she has still been in the classroom teaching technology to kindergarten through second graders. She has so much life experiences that I hope to attain half of that information in a knowledge in my lifetime.

When searching for a subject for my “Writer’s choice” my first thought was to call my aunt and ask her what are her words of wisdom that she would give to me to share in this blog. As we spoke she tells me about life; about marriage; about children; and about health.  As we speak I ask her, “ What are some of your favorite verses or scriptures?”  Her first response is John 14:1-3

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 

As we speak the Holy Spirit starts to speak to her and she gives me some very amazing nuggets of wisdom starting with Luke and also Genesis. She mentions Luke 6:27-36  where Jesus is telling the crowd to love your enemies as yourself

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Genesis 45: 1- 3 (The Full chapter relays the fullness of the story) 

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.

3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.

In Genesis 45, this is the ultimate reveal of Joseph to his brothers. In this particular situation Joseph meets his brothers after several years been estranged from them because they sold him into slavery to never be seen again.  In this particular scene Joseph could have done one of two things: he could have completely banish them and set them off in isolation or he could show love to his enemies, which are his brothers, he chooses the latter. 

In this particular section we can see how Love is through the Holy Spirit in both Luke and Genesis. It’s amazing how my aunt was able to bring these two sections together in such manner with flawless effort. 

It is easy for us to love our friends our neighbors our family. But it is almost impossible to love individuals that want to do harm to us in the flesh. But we have been given this amazing gift to be able to lookout outside of our flesh and allow the Spirit to love unconditionally through Christ.  This same love can be seen between David and Saul.  (Refer to Samuel I & II) 

In this conversation that we had my aunt also gave us some additional nuggets of wisdom:  Even though you are asked to love others, you can choose the proximity in which you can love them. You can love without making yourself completely vulnerable to the other person. She referenced my grandmother: “Some people you have to feed with a long handle spoon”.  This is translated to mean: “In order to love some people, you have to love some individuals at a distance at the same time protecting yourselves”. You can not be dissuaded from giving your love to them because of fear.  God is Love and Love conquers fear.  May you be be blessed this week. 

What are you seeking?

Oh boy…I don’t even need to mention all that we are going through these days.  I am sick of hearing and reading about it all as I am sure you are.  So today, lets take a step back and refocus on what we are seeking.

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.  Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?”  And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”  He said to them, “Come and you will see.”  So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.  

John 1:35-39“What are you seeking?” are the first words of Jesus that John records and the big question that he asks of these two men who are interested in becoming disciples.  This question also could be understood as, “what purpose do you have?”  The same question applies to us right now.  What is our purpose in seeking to follow Jesus?  Especially through these trying days, weeks, and months.  

What we learn from the two men in this passage is that they simply wanted to go where Jesus was staying, to spend time with Him.  They wanted to gain insight into who Jesus was and what he was about.  Spending quality time with Him to learn and listen was their goal.  We can learn form these men what it means to seek Jesus today.  Seeking is more than just saying a prayer or one day a week in church.  

My encouragement to you and to myself over these next few weeks is ESCAPE!  Escape to Jesus.  Seek Him.  Open your Bible and sit with him for 5 or more minutes every day.  I hate to admit how easy it is to get caught up in all that is going on and skip my time seeking Jesus.  His Word is living and a guide for us to follow daily.  I remember growing up hearing our pastor saying, “Keep it simple stupid” (KISS).  I need to remember this today!  KISS…just sit, with my Bible and let the Holy Spirit speak to me through His Word and He will light my path.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Psalm 119:105

For God to be a lamp and a light in my life, I actually have to open my Bible and read it.  This means seeking Him!

Keeping Me in Perfect Peace

I don’t need to tell you how peace has been tough to come by these days. Even before the COVID era, but especially throughout this time, it’s seemed as though every day, people find something new to be unnecessarily concerned about. It’s no wonder 40 million American adults suffer some kind of anxiety disorder (a number I’d be interested to see the increase of in these times!). I deal with anxiety a lot myself, as do a lot of my close family members and friends. That’s why I felt compelled to write this week about Isaiah 26:3: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

I’ve been keeping that verse close to my heart this year, and it has helped remind me constantly of what is important. As Isaiah was prophesying here about the Assyrians’ and Egyptians’ comeuppance for antagonizing the Israelites, he knew that more important than his own concern was that God was in control over all the heavens and earth, and that He would provide salvation and security no matter what. When I am gripped by worry and anxiety of the future and of the world around me, this verse points me to the Lord, who provides peace instead. And I know in those moments, God can take my troubles and replace them with songs of praise. “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. So what exactly does this verse tell me?

a) Peace, truly harmonious peace, comes only from Christ – not a momentary ease, but as Christ says in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.” In all things, the Lord satisfies more than our immediate physical need, not “as the world gives”, but serenity brought only by a trust greater than earthly sources could guarantee.

b) Perfect – as is all things from Him, God’s peace is infallible, incomparable. Psalm 18:30 “His way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true.” When I’m troubled by the reflection of a broken world, to know God’s promise of peace is not like the world’s temporary peace, offers assurance beyond what my words could describe.

c) To focus on God – it seems often like my anxieties come from focusing on myself, and my own selfishness. This reminder to shift perspective beyond myself helps me analyze my priorities – how can God use this situation? What good would this worry do for in my work for God? How is God moving me to action through this right now? I thank Paul for his reminder to Colossae in Colossians 3:1: “Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”

d) Trust – to trust, not that I’ll be without worry, but that I can come to God and He will be there for me. It seems so many of my anxieties can be traced to a lack of trust. How useful it is to remind myself with this verse: trust that God’s got this! That we would have a friend, a confidant, a source of comfort in God, Who we could pour our hearts out to and know He is listening and He guides us through it: that is peace!

In these reasons and more this verse helps point me to God in times of anxiety and stress, to know I can take my worry to Him and He’s got it taken care of. I thank the Lord that He turns these many worries into songs of praise. I thank Him that he would give me opportunities to share with others where my peace comes from, that I could tell of a perfect, soul-filling tranquility from heaven to those who need to know. And I pray that you too could focus on God over all else, and when inner harmony would seem nowhere to be found, that in Christ you would find peace.

The Word

Whether you realize it or not, you probably have a lot of questions going through your mind right now. You are not alone. Every single human being on this Earth has questions. One big one is…”Am I going to make it through this?” It could be a medical issue, financial hardship, challenges with your business or career during Covid, or family/relational challenges to name few. During these times many of us in the U.S. are asking when the racial tensions and other political turmoil will end. When we will get past this as a country? Again, most questions come back to am I going to be ok, or will we be ok?

There is great news in that every one of these questions can be answered in the Word of God.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were mad through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:1-5

The Word is Jesus. He has always existed. The book of Genesis gives us the first indication of the triune God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, and God the Son (the Word).

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness..

Genesis 1:26

Note the words “our likeness.” From the beginning of creation, Jesus was there. God knew man would sin before He made us and due to sin would have all the problems and questions we have today, so He had a plan and answer. His plan and answer was and still is Jesus.

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him.

John 1:10

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

Jesus came down from His throne in Heaven willingly and without sin to die for you and me the cross. Because of this and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday, the answer to every question is that all who believe in Him will be ok and get through whatever challenge we are facing. However painful our life on this Earth is, it is brief and we will spend eternity with Him without any of the burdens we face while here.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

Revelation 21:4

As I was writing this I was thinking, and you may be thinking the same while you are reading this, “Wow..there is a lot of Scripture here and not much other writing/dialogue.” Well..that’s really the point. Every answer we are looking for is found in the Word. The Bible is called the Word because it all points to Him, the Word. It is not just God’s story and love letter to us, but it is our story because we are all part of God’s plan through Jesus.

When you get down to it, I believe every human being is looking for truth whether they know it or not. John 1:14 above says Jesus came in grace and truth. Note that grace comes before truth here and every time it’s mentioned in the Bible. I’m thankful that grace and forgiveness came before truth, and we should follow Jesus example in our lives. When we, and others, dig into the Word we find the truth and answers we are looking for and we fall in love with Him. We find that truth and love in His grace. Then, we can’t get enough of it.

I’ll wrap up with these 2 questions…

  1. How can you be in the Word more to fall deeper in love with Him?
  2. How can you introduce someone else to the Word who is struggling and needs the grace and truth only He can give right now?

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7

 

Wonderful Counselor

 

 

 

Wonderful; Inspiring delight, pleasure, or admiration. Extremely good; marvelous

Counselor; Trained to give advice or guidance on personal, social, or psychological problems.

 

Our Father is extremely good, inspiring admiration because He gives perfect guidance to us in every area of our lives. He is marvelous because He gives us the exact right advice in every situation we bring to Him. He knows each of us so intimately He shares perfect direction with us for our own issues, for how we live in and respond to the world, and for our individual thoughts. I cannot comprehend how He is able to do this for the millions of people alive each day on this earth. It makes my head explode, trying with my human mind to understand God’s knowledge of and ability to communicate with everyone. Yet I know it is true. I have experienced His direction over and over in my life and I know countless people in other towns, states and countries who experience the same personal guidance regularly from our Father…our Wonderful Counselor.

“Wonderful Counselor” in Isaiah’s time, was a name describing hope in a very dark time. People were not following God. God had been reaching out to people for years and they continued to ignore Him. God told Isaiah when He sent him into the world with God’s message that the people wouldn’t listen. God told him to speak anyway because eventually a few would end up taking his message to heart. So Isaiah obeyed and spoke what God told Him to speak, for decades he spoke what God asked him to say. Isaiah 9:6 says, “ For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah told people that hope would be coming in Jesus. God was going to communicate with people in human form, He was coming to live with us and also die for us. He was going to deliver all people from their sin with His death and resurrection. Hope for everyone, then and now, Wonderful Counselor to all who believe in Him!

 

God is exceptional, distinguished, and without a peer. He is the one who gives the right advice every time.

Wisdom From God

What does it mean to be wise? Many people look at the word wisdom and automatically think of knowledge or intelligence. Wisdom can contain both knowledge and intelligence, but it doesn’t necessarily have to. Wisdom is defined by Webster as, “the natural ability to understand things that most other people cannot understand”. Many people are “smart” in this world, but I would argue that there are few that are wise. True wisdom comes only through the Lord. 

Who would you describe as a wise person? The current Pastor at my church (Bob Smart), my campus ministry’s Pastor (Ben Miller), and my grandfather are three people who come to mind as wise people that I know. These three men have wisdom that is beyond my understanding. All have had the influence that I can only attest to the Holy Spirit. They all have wisdom from God. 

What is wisdom that comes from God? 

Throughout all of Scripture, God reveals His wisdom to His people. He grants wisdom to many who ask for it, but also gives it to those that don’t seem worthy of it. Moses is one of the many people that God chooses to use. Moses leads the Israelite people out of Egypt, and into the Promised Land. On paper though, Moses doesn’t seem like a worthy candidate, and before God comes to Him (Exodus 3). In Exodus 3, God reveals the qualities of wisdom that come from Him through the story of the burning bush. 

  1. Moses was called by God (Exodus 3: 2-3)
  2. Moses responded quickly to God’s call (Exodus 3:4)
  3. Moses listened to the words that God spoke to him (Exodus 3: 7-10)
  4. Moses questioned and investigated God’s words (Exodus 3: 13-19)
  5. Moses was humbled and responded out of fear and respect from the Lord (Exodus 4)

Moses was far from perfect! He wasn’t eloquent and didn’t fit the part of what he was called to do, but the LORD used him anyway. He provided Moses with what he needed. Without God, Moses wouldn’t be wise. 

Wisdom from above is very different from what we think of when it comes to wise people in this world. God’s wisdom is humbling and it is a lot to take on. It doesn’t come without some type of burden, and it relies heavily on God providing everything for you. Those that obtain wisdom from God are the ones that are His humbled servants that are called, respond, and live out their lives for God. Wisdom from God gives us all guidance in our lives. Each of us should be asking for more wisdom from Him daily. 

Lord, allow us to seek after your wisdom. I pray earnestly that we desire You more each day. I ask that we recognize where we need Your wisdom and discernment in our lives. Also, I ask that you put wise people in our lives that are able to share Your understanding that we need to hear. Allow us to have ears that will listen and to respond to Your Words. Thank you for using all of us to glorify You. 

Love One Another

There is strife, disagreement, controversy, and angst nearly everywhere we turn today.  We all feel it and it can be smothering.

The political climate is as polarizing and negative as it has ever been. The pandemic has riveted our way of life and there is persistent disagreement about masks, openings and closures of everything, and no end in sight.  Many people have lost their jobs, been furloughed, or live in fear that they will lose their job at anytime. Racial tensions are at an all time high with horrible instances of discrimination and death.

I believe that masks, although positioned that they protect us, are pulling us apart.  People are hiding behind their masks. No eye contact in the stores.  No “hello” or “how are you” when seeing people.  In fact, we are walking past people we know in public places because we do not recognize each other.  In addition, many are quarantining themselves to protect their health and don’t socialize or leave their home.  We are distanced, literally, from each other more and more each day.

Let’s talk about social media.  Political posts are everywhere.  Commercials and comments are never ending, and most are not nice.  The back and forth spewing of political and personal beliefs is rampant, and people are slinging negativity with no regard.

The verse that is on my heart today is “Do what is right to other people, love being kind to others, and live humbly.” Micah 6:8

Convictions and beliefs are important.  To some, their beliefs are the foundation of who they are as a person.  Our beliefs are different based on where we grew up, what type of home we grew up in, our faith or religion, as well as where we live today.

In John 13:34 Jesus said “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”  This was the last commandment Jesus gave to His disciples before he was crucified.

Jesus modeled kindness, devotion, love, and loyalty.  Jesus loved the tax collectors, prostitutes, thieves, Gentiles (non Jewish people) as well as sinners.  The Bible is filled with story after story of Jesus loving every sinner he came across.  He loved people of different color, background, and faith.

We can disagree with each other.  We can be irritated by one another. We might not even like each other.  But, we can still listen, acknowledge our differences, and be kind.  Perhaps it is best not respond to a social media post and not say anything.  Let’s slow down and see what is going on around us.  Let’s not take for granted a simple smile, compliment, or acknowledgment might be the only kindness a person receives that day.  Restrain from piling on with negative comments.  Don’t sacrifice your convictions but perhaps we should go about expressing our opinions in a different way.

I have as much intensity about my beliefs and convictions as anyone else.  I am a work in progress.  Let’s model for each other what love and kindness looks like, by loving one another.  Kindness is contagious.  So is negativity.  Let’s start with love and kindness first. Jesus did.

Heavenly Father,  We need you.  We need to feel your presence and power.  Wash over us with a sense of kindness, patience, and grace for others.  Help us have compassion and love, even though we disagree with others.  We know you are at work in EACH of our lives.  Help us to hear what you want us to hear and see what you want us to see. Amen

The Way

This past week we worked on comparing and contrasting in our reading time for school work at home. How are these two things the same, how are they different? We made Venn diagrams  (overlapping circles) to visualize this concept for characters in stories, two animals, etc.

Our community has recently lost some really amazing people. It seemed like the heart wrenching news just kept coming, one after another. Some of them I knew directly, and some were indirectly through people close to me. They were from different decades and had different roles in life. The oldest was just a few weeks shy of his 100th birthday, and the youngest was a young mom with little kiddos at home. They were farmers, and artists, wood workers, gardeners, and bakers. They were volunteers and activists, they were spouses, parents and friends. It’s really neat to think about all the intricacies and uniqueness of their lives, and how God created them with purpose. They were so so cherished by their families and friends. The memories their loved ones have are just beautiful.
More than all of those sweet things, the most important thing about each of these special people is their belief. If I had a Venn diagram for these three, their faith would be right in the center of it. While there might be a few other overlapping comparisons, their belief that Jesus is the WAY is what’s at the center. And it’s what was at the center of their life. When you believe in Jesus, his fruit shines through. Because of their belief, everyone around them experienced love, joy, and peace. We saw God shine through them in their kindness, gentleness, and patience.
John 17:3 says This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 
 
As we continue to grieve the loss of them here, we have the comfort of being able to celebrate that they’re in their eternal home. And we will be with them one day!
He IS the Way. If you’re unsure of your future or the Way to spend eternity with our creator, please reach out. To me or to any of us at the Bible Journal. Life’s too short to not know the Way.

Gentle flowing water or a raging river?

What comes to mind with the phrase “waters that flow gently”? I think of peace, a pure stream in the wilderness, tranquility, something natural not made by man, something to observe and take in, reflection, a source for the sustainment of life. Contrasting this, a raging river is harsh, it erodes, it destroys.

“Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks, (Isaiah 8:6-7)

Referring to Isaiah 8:6: “The waters of Siloam denote the reign of Yahweh, as manifesting itself in the administration of the family of David – a mild, gentle, and munificent reign, beautifully represented by the unfailing and gently flowing waters on which the happiness of Jerusalem so much depended.” (Albert Barnes Notes on the Whole Bible)

For us this can be represented in our choices. We trust and obey or we refuse our God. We remain in the bondage of sin or freedom in Christ. We live in the darkness of anger and bitterness, or in the light through forgiveness. Living in fear or living joyfully, boldly going where God is calling us. Leaving hurtful past behind, moving forward with the eternal hope we have in Christ Jesus.

Let us take rest in the gentle waters. Let us choose Him as Master. Let us hand him our burdens. Let us take his yoke, his gentle guidance. Let us see him as the humble one who calls us like the gentle flowing waters.

I could use some of this rest and gentle flowing water today and over the weekend, how about you?

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)