Prayer: The Weapon Against My Hopeless Heart

I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord the Maker of heaven and earth. – Psalms 121:1-2

I’m a news addict.  I love to read everything I can get my hands (or eyes) on.  It’s a great blessing to know at any given moment what’s going on in the world, but it’s also a curse.  It’s hard not to be effected by stories of death, wars, natural disasters, crime, etc.; and it can seem paralyzing at times.  worried

As Christians, how should we respond to negative news or suffering around the world?  Pray for Christ to come quickly?  Shake our heads in condemnation?  Worry about the future?  Throw up our hands and just give up?

It would be easy to agree with the lie that we’re helpless.  After all, it’s a big world with plenty of big problems.  It often seems impossible for one, small voice to be effective.  However, it’s important for us to remember we have the most powerful weapon in the world against such chaos — prayer.

Negative things we see and hear often effect us deeply because we are made in the image of God.  As Christians, what grieves our Father should also grieve us.  We are His mirrors on the earth, reflecting His heart for humanity and His divine nature.  We are creative, emotional, inventive and Spirit-filled beings just like our Abba.  As we grow in our Christ-like world view, our compassion and love for others grows. As such, when we see terrible things happen, whether it’s in the news or a tragedy involving a loved one, it can be painful.  However, instead of feeling helpless and giving up on the situation, what if we used the burdens we feel for others as opportunities to pray?  Could our intercession and pleading on the behalf of others change the course of an event or a person’s life?  I can speak from personal testimony — Yes, prayer makes a difference!

Prayer is frequently used as our last line of defense when it should be our first.  It’s a direct communication line with the God who makes all things possible. When prayers are answered, it builds personal faith in God. It strengthens and reaffirms trust. When we share testimonies of God’s faithfulness through answered prayers, it can change someone’s helpless feelings to hope again. It can build the faith of others or renew a commitment to pray about a promise not yet fulfilled.

Here’s a true story about how someone else’s prayers and testimony changed a person’s life (and mine):

Mrs. Golightly, my middle school and high school English teacher, appeared visibly shaken one morning as we begin class. Her usual cheery smile was noticibly missing. Tears welled up in her eyes. As she explained the day’s lesson, she began to cry and had to stop.

“Class,” Mrs. Golightly began, “I found out this morning that a former student who is only a few years older than you all has been diagnosed with Lymphoma. The cancer is all over his body, and the doctors don’t expect him to live more than a couple of months. We are going to pray for that young man every morning before class until he is healed.”

I had Mrs. Golightly as a teacher for two straight years. Every day for two years, we prayed for the boy with lymphoma. Although there were bad reports some days about the progress of the cancer or lack of effectiveness of chemotherapy, we prayed anyway. When two months and then several more passed and the boy miraculously still lived, we prayed. We thanked God for the young man, his life, and his testimony. We prayed with hope that he would live despite the odds against him.

Then the news came: the boy was healed completely of cancer. The doctors ran several tests and claimed it must have been a miracle because the evidence of cancer was gone.

How did the news of they boy healed of cancer affect me? As a new Christian, I saw my Father in action. I saw that partnering and petitioning with Him matters. That day built my faith and laid a foundation to pray earnestly and expectantly, knowing my Father would here my requests and answer.

Scripture points us to the importance of intercession as a valuable tool of deliverance, healing, and divine intervention:

I pray this post will encourage you in whatever you are facing. Remember, you are not alone because God hears your prayers. Never give up. Never lose hope.

The Covert Christian: How Transformed Lives can Secretly Transform the World

In a world that’s becoming increasingly hostile to the Gospel, how do we fulfill the Great Commission to share our faith and make disciples, especially in places where it may be cropped-cropped-cropped-joyinchrist1.jpgrestricted?  For some Christians, this task may seem daunting, paralyzing or impossible.  What do we do?  Do we give up?  Do we defiantly disregard the rules placed upon us and share anyway?

As Believers, we are called to follow God’s laws over man’s laws even at great cost; however, we are also given the responsibility to exercise wisdom and good judgment when facing scenarios in which sharing our faith is restricted (Acts 5:29; Ephesians 5:15-16).  You could disregard the rules; but in many instances, this may not be the wisest option.  In some instances, disobedience may be necessary, and should be used as a last resort (Acts 5:29).  In other situations, you must weigh the degree and necessity of actions which may cause you to lose access to the people to whom God called you to minister.  We must always do what is right, but we must also ask who will reach the lost if we’re not there as His testimony and witness.

The Power of a Transformed Life

One key way to share the Gospel in our workplaces or other places where we may face restrictions is through transformed lives.  Actions almost always impact people more strongly than words.  The words we speak may tell people who we are and what we think, but our actions tell people what we believe and Who’s we are.  When others see how we live, it should cause them to wonder why we live that way and for whom we live.

A Changed Heart Begins with a Renewed Mind

Before we can live in a way that reflects Jesus, our lives must be transformed from the inside-out.  This means our minds must be renewed, and Jesus must drive our new motives and mindsets (Romans 12:2).  A renewed mind means we change our ways of thinking, hoping, believing, and trusting.  We have new perspectives, new motives, and allow His will to become ours.  It means we choose to let go of the attitudes that once controlled our thought life and drove our motives without God (Romans 6:6).  As with salvation, once we have renewed minds, we act out what we believe in our hearts (Romans 10:9-10).  What we act out should be evidence of the motives of our hearts and what we believe.

Evidence of a Transformed Life

The Scriptures place a high emphasis on our lives as a powerful witnessing tool and declaration of what we believe (James 2:17-18):

  • Our thoughts and attitudes change to reflect His Spirit within us. – 1 John 3:5-6
  • We produce the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. – Galatians 5:22-23
  • People will know we are Jesus’s followers because of our great love for each other. – John 13:35
  • Our eyes reflect His light of purity and righteousness within us. – Luke 11:34
  • We chose mercy over judgment even when the world claims we have a right to be justly unmerciful. – James 2:13
  • We speak the truth and mean what we say. – 1 John 3:18-19
  • We “do what is right” when faced with tough moral choices. – 1 John 2:29
  • We keep God’s commandments. – 1 John 2:3-5

I’ve often found that when you exhibit facets of the character of God through the fruit of the Spirit, other people notice.  I don’t say this pridefully.  After all, it’s not me whom they see.  It’s Him.  If we live our lives in a way that reflects who He is, other people will be drawn to His attractive nature within us.  Questions like: “Why is there something different about you?”, “Why do you live that way?”, and “How can you forgive when I never could in your situation?” are open doors to share the Gospel with others.

May God use your life as such a powerful testimony of His love, mercy and grace that people are drawn to the Light you carry.  May they also see the radiance and genuine expression of grace and mercy that clearly reflects the evidence of a transformed life.  In many ways, this is the call of the In-Place Missionary — which is you!

An Encounter with God through Prophetic Ministry

I hear His voice again — it’s the familiar, gentle nudge to speak a specific word of encouragement into a person’s life. The word fills my ears, although my natural ears never hear it. It becomes my breath, permeating the air around me. It floods my mind and soul. The word He gives is specific and deep yet simple.

friends

I glance over to the woman for whom the word will be given. My introverted, shy heart races; and doubt suddenly clouds my mind. What if I heard wrong? What if she isn’t receptive? What if she rejects me?

“Faith requires risk,” I remind myself.

A second gentle nudge shakes away the confusion. His tender voice repeats the same word. Peace accompanies it and anchors within my heart. As new courage builds within me, I walk over to deliver the word. Now, it’s time to speak.

The person before me stares for a long moment with curiosity as the word flows from my mouth like a living spring. As it touches the woman, her eyes well with tears. The word ministers to her in ways I can only imagine.

“How did you know?” she asks. “I’ve prayed about that issue for months.” It takes her mind a moment to realize God just encountered her for something her heart was desperately seeking. Her shocked expression shifts to a broad smile.

For a moment, I see through His eyes, staring upon her with unfathomable love, grace, and mercy. I feel His immense compassion; my heart is full of uncontainable joy. The emotions are overwhelming. My eyes also fill with tears.

Recent strangers quickly become sisters. The woman hugs me. The Presence of God always carries relationship from which life and love flow. We celebrate God’s revelation for her, and we pray together. The woman is forever changed by her God encounter. Honestly, I won’t be the same either.

This story is from another “ordinary” day as a follower of our amazingly loving and personal God. Like you, I am a simple conduit of His love. The story above is true and an illustration of how God can use anyone to minister to people. We just have to be willing to wait, listen, and respond when He calls to us.

Love and peace to you, friends. I pray this story encourages you to seek His Presence and share His love boldly when the opportunity arises. It’s time to be His hands and feet to this broken world.

The List (April 2016)

This captivating true story was written to honor a friend. Her interesting life journey will captivate and inspire you. ♡

Random Thoughts & Non Sequiturs

A friend shared with me a testimony that I felt compelled to share with others. It seems many years ago, when she was much younger, she went through some tough times. I won’t go into the gory details, but she was even told by some ‘professionals’ that she would never be able to hold down a job. One evening while she was at a prayer meeting, a woman approached her and said she ‘had a word’ for her. The woman told her that “God wanted to give her the desires of her heart, but she needed to tell Him what they were”.

My friend took this to heart and that evening began to make a list of things she wanted in her life. Top of the list was to find a man who would love her for who she was. He had to be artistic and enjoy music. He had…

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You are So Loved

I’ve been a Christian for many years, but it caught me by surprise a few years ago when I realized I never truly understood how much God loved me. At the time, I was going through some of the hardest months of my life.youaresoloved

It seems God uses the “deserts” of our lives to give us revelations of His providence, goodness and His love. Next time I enter another desert, I will go with confidence. I am loved no matter the outcome of my situations, and I know He is always with me. He guards my path and makes my steps secure.

Today in worship, I saw a beautiful vision of the expression of God’s love for me. Below is a description about what I saw. If you are going through a wilderness in your life or, if you have never known whether or not God loves you, I pray this blog post will speak to your heart.

You crushed me under the weight of your love, Lord. I felt your powerful presence as I entered your throne room. The angels and the elders surrounded us. I heard them singing; but somehow in that moment, it was intimate like it was just us in the room. I saw you, Father, on your throne. Jesus was at your side. The Holy Spirit’s bright glory burned like a furnace, igniting the room with splendid light, almost too bright to bear with my eyes. Although, I could not see you directly, my heart immediately knew it was you.

I saw myself in rags kneeling before you. The act of bowing didn’t seem like enough, but I didn’t know what else to do. Perhaps, I should kneel lower, I wondered? But when I looked down, I realized my rags were gone, and you had adorned me in a beautiful flowing dress of deep purple. The dress fanned over a cushioned stool of red velvet. The legs were twisted spindles resembling a ram’s horns. You fitted me with shoes of fine, glittering diamonds. I felt like a beautiful bride on her wedding day or – I suddenly realized – a princess – the daughter of a King.

This image of royalty overwhelmed me, but you weren’t done lavishing your love upon me. When I reached upon my head, I felt you place a golden crown, encrusted with precious gems there. I knew I was unworthy to wear it. My cheeks reddened as I quickly removed it. But, Jesus, when I attempted to hand it back to you, the rightful owner, you pointed to other crowns at your feet and the one upon your head.

Abba, your words sounded like trumpets and whispers all at once that permeated and electrified my soul: “favored”, “daughter”, “beautiful” and “loved.” I had so many words I wanted to say back, but I couldn’t find my voice. None of my words felt to be enough. All I could do was fall on my face and worship you. It was in that moment, I felt you and Jesus hugging me. I wept happily and worshipped you again because you are worthy of much more honor than I could give.

Thank you, Lord. Thank you for your revelation of love. Thank you for sending Jesus to die for me. Thank you, Jesus, for dying for me and rising from the grave in triumphant victory so that I might live abundantly. Thank you, God, that you don’t simply tolerate humanity. You love us. You made us coheirs with your Son. Thank you for your extravagant love.

Is God Real?

Is God real? How do you know? Faith is often intangible; therefore, how do you explain to others how God is real to you? These restless questions from friends and strangers echo in my ears. The latest praying_on_bible_redPew Research polls show a record number of people leaving and rejecting organized religion.  The people who responded to that poll join the chorus of dissatisfied people who no longer see value in following the traditions of faith. Some people want nothing to do with God or church. Others are simply looking for something – anything – real. Intellectual debates about faith are fun but rarely persuade minds to think differently. In a world filled with sorrow and chaos, words often seem empty.

If words simply aren’t enough to change a mind, what can? Evidence of changed hearts often change minds where words fail. Below are eight amazing personal stories about the reality of God. The people who graciously contributed to this blog post come from different backgrounds, upbringings and views about faith. All stories paint a beautiful picture of a powerful, personal and loving God. Here are their stories:

Andrea
I experienced God’s reality from a very young age because of spiritual warfare. At night, I saw terrifying waking nightmares. They weren’t night terrors, but they were just as frightening. When I experienced those terrible visions, my mother talked about Jesus who could protect me. I memorized Scripture and cried out to Him when the tormenting images reoccurred. The Word became my armor and my sword against the enemy.  God was always there to comfort me.

As an adult, I feel His heart and His love for me and other people. I’ve seen Him perform miracles and accomplish the impossible. He is my provider and sustainer. This knowledge of His reality has changed everything about me. He is like my breath. We are one and cannot be separated.

Barbara
I had a pastor years ago who said, “God is more real than my right arm!”  I didn’t get it for years and then one day, it was like a lightbulb turned on.  I’m right right-handed.  If I couldn’t use my hand or arm, it would be extremely difficult to function.

God has done so many miracles for me.  When I was seriously ill with cancer, I thought I was dying.  God came to me, comforted me and touched me.  He is the very breath I breathe.  His Word says the Holy Spirit is always with us, and He’s a very present help in time of trouble.  I have found this statement to be true.  Belief and trust in Him has changed my life.  I don’t always get it right, but I know God is with me and will be with me until the end.  Because of His peace, I know we will be okay; and one day we will be with Him forever.

Heather W.
I’ve been a Christian for many years, but on one particular day, God encountered me.  It’s a day I’ll never forget.  In a moment of prayer, He healed me from crippling anxiety.  For the first time in my life, I felt true IMG_7190_p_smpeace and joy flood my soul.  I found Him in the midst of sweet surrender, after finally letting go of the power and control I thought I had (but never really did).

He changed the lives of others around me.  Nothing speaks louder of His reality than to see Him at work.  It’s awe inspiring to see lives completely change when people are in His presence.  It is mind blowing to see Him heal injuries, remove fevers, grow legs, heal stage four cancer and the terminally ill.  It’s impossible not to fall on your face when you hear His whispers and minutes, hours or days later see Him confirm something you’ve heard Him say.  Yes, God is real.  He is love.  He is an encounter.

Daniel
Yes, God is real. How do I know? I believe there are good, rational arguments to be made; but those reasons are not why I believe. I have witnessed and experienced too many healings, miracles and prophecies that attest to the existence of a God who loves me more than I could ever imagine to not believe He is real. This belief changed my life and caused me to reevaluate my view of myself, others and the world; and it convinced me to sacrifice many things in my life because of my relationship with Him. Grace has completely ruined my life in the best possible way.

Matt
God miraculously saved my eye once when I was a baby, and He spoke to me once when I was a young child. That being said, I’ve never been a believer in “Jesus as the Son of God.” I feel that God allows one to believe as He sees fit for you. My belief in God hasn’t really changed me other than the memories from when I was young. Whatever “God” is, it’s omnipresent.

Gary
I’ve seen God do the miraculous and become the perfect, just-in-time solution to impossible situations throughout my life. All the little pieces always fell into place at just the right moment.  It could have never happened that way by chance. He literally saved my life. I saw His hand provide for me even when I didn’t know Him as my Savior. As a result of seeing how Jesus has protected me, I recently decided to follow Him. Now, I am exploring my new life with Him.

Heather H.
I know God is there.  I see Him work in my life and through others around me.  I’ve seen too many things happen to not believe He is real.  When everything in life goes horribly wrong and you shout and scream at Him, He shows Himself.  Trust me.  He makes Himself known, especially when you’re angry with Him.  He changed everything.  If He wasn’t here, I wouldn’t be here.

Leslie
I spent most of my life as an atheist/agnostic after several bad experiences with the church. However, that all changed when I was going through a tough season in my life; and I began to feel God walking withhands-compassion me and comforting me. When I felt depressed and angry thoughts, He whispered words of encouragement. It was His relentless love that drew me into a decision to follow Him.

His reality has caused me to realize how blessed I am. I recognize how loved I am by my wife, family and friends. If I were to die tomorrow, I’d go a fulfilled man because I know what it means to feel true joy and love beyond what I ever thought I’d have.

Final Thoughts
Testimonies, encounters and love will always speak louder than words from any pulpit or through online arguments with others who believe differently.  This world is starved for hope, encouragement and reality.  I hope you will be brave and share your stories with others around you.  You are His vessel for someone else’s encounter with a very real God.

Cherry Pickers? Why Most Christians Don’t Follow Old Testament Laws

Bible

Have you ever read the Old Testament, especially the Laws of Moses, and thought, “I love bacon, wear mixed fabrics, really like shellfish and got that tattoo of a butterfly on my ankle when I was 18 — am I a hypocrite because I choose not to follow those Old Testament laws?” Well, have no fear. You’re not alone in your bewilderment. Old Testament laws are frequent points of confusion inside and outside Christian circles. This topic contains several small nuances, but for the sake of brevity, here are some points to consider from a 30,000 foot view:

What are the Covenants between God and Man?

There are five covenants between God and Man: Edenic, Noahic, Mosaic, New Covenant in Christ, and Heaven. Answers in Genesis has a great chart explaining the differences with each covenant.

Why Did God Make Covenants with Man? Does God Change?

God makes covenants with man for specific seasons and purposes in time. God never changes; however, since the Fall, man’s evolving relationship with God has changed as He restores our broken relationship with Him (James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8). Although Christians may disagree with how/which laws still apply in a post-Resurrection world, most Christians agree Old Testament laws were changed, modified or affirmed by Jesus. Verses supporting this stance include, but are not limited to: Jeremiah 31:31-33; Matthew 22:37-39; Ephesians 2:15-16; Galatians 2:16; 3:8, 13, 19, 23-25; Romans 3:21-24; 10:4; Luke 24:44; Hebrews 7:12; 8:6, 13.

“Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” – Galatians 2:16 (NLT)

What are the Divisions of Old Testament Law and to Whom Do They Apply?

There are three main divisions of Old Testament laws found in the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) — civil, ceremonial and moral laws:

Civil/Judicial Laws – Civil laws provided instruction for the Hebrew people’s daily life and culture. These laws were written for the nation of Israel not Christians, and they dissolved when Jewish civil government ended. These laws instructed the ancient Hebrews about the proper way to handle disputes, appropriate dress, how to resolve and determine penalties for various crimes, debts, children rearing, etc. These laws were also designed to set apart the nation of Israel as God’s people because the way they conducted themselves as a society was starkly different from their foreign neighbors.

There’s a fantastic list of different types of civil/judicial laws on Carm.org’s website if you’re interested in doing more research on your own.

Ceremonial Laws – Ceremonial laws instructed Hebrew priesthood practices and rituals and gave detailed directions about how to perform various sacrifices to cleanse the nation of Israel of sins. The sacrifices offered by priests did not provide final atonement of sins and required ritual sacrifices to remain pure and holy before God.

Christians believe Christ, our High Priest, permanently fulfilled sin offering requirements with His death on the cross. The sacrificial processes outlined in the Old Testament are direct parallels and prophecies to Jesus’s death on the cross as the final payment for sins.

Moral Laws – Moral laws include the Ten Commandments, and they are based on the God’s character. Unlike civil and ceremonial laws that culturally based and intended only for the nation of Israel (although, Christians are certainly allowed to practice civil and ceremonial laws), moral laws are universally binding to all humanity. For example, in most cultures around the world (whether they know God or not), it is a terrible crime to torture and murder another human being. Moral laws are generally easy to differentiate from the civil and ceremonial laws because the behaviors of people who don’t follow these laws are referred to as “abominations” that “defile” the land and the nations and are “detested” by the Lord (Leviticus 18:24-30).

There is some disagreement about moral laws and whether or not they still apply. Some Christians follow the belief that Christ was referring to the moral law in Matthew 5:18 which states that the Law is in place until the earth passes away. Other Christians believe that Jesus fulfilled this requirement and Matthew 5:18 refers to the new commandments to love God and others (Matthew 5:17). I personally believe that God’s love for us is more than enough to provide grace for Christians who share either view (Colossians 2:16-17).

Resources: