Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Things God Has Been Showing Me

I was meeting with my accountability partner, Jill, yesterday and shared with her some things I wrote down not too long ago. I had wanted to make sure I didn't forget the insights I have received about myself because I don't necessarily want to have to be reminded again. I'd rather remember and, hopefully, change. She said that she could relate to a lot of them and thought putting them here on the blog would be a good idea because there might be others who understand and/or feel the same. So, if you happen to read this and can relate to anything, please let me know. Thanks!

1. I let fear keep me from doing what I ought to. Allowing fear to win is ultimately saying that I don't trust God to protect or provide for me. Fear is how Satan keeps me from being effective and powerful.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." Romans 8:15
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

2. I don't truly live in light of God's love for me. I don't fully grasp or understand his love. God loves me because he created me - he loves me because I am not because I do. I cannot do anything to cause God to love me more or less. He loves me so much that Jesus died for me. How do you love more than that?
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

3. God has forgiven me before I even seek forgiveness - that's what Jesus did. He offered forgiveness without knowing whether I would seek it. He loves me so much he is willing to do whatever it takes to be with me. He risks being rejected by me because he believes that the reward of my love is worth any and all humiliation.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son." But the father said to his servants, "Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." Luke 15: 20-24

4. I should be willing to risk it all for God because the possible reward is greater than any possible failure or humiliation. It is worth everything.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. I Peter 1:6-7

5. I struggle with making myself vulnerable in my relationships. I know that risking rejection allows for greater intimacy and is worth it but the fear still holds me back. I know that many relationships are not as deep as they could be because both people are hesitant to risk due to the fear of rejection.
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom all men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Isaiah 53:3
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

6. I struggle to give God control of all areas of my life. For example, I want a successful marriage but I act like I am solely responsible for that result. I try to do everything on my own and get frustrated when it doesn't seem to have an effect. I need to constantly and consistently give God the reigns and trust him to do what is needed.
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." Luke 9:23-24

7. I concern myself too much with what others think of me and not enough with what God thinks. I try to people please and receive acceptance of others rather than being honest about who I am, what I think, and what I want.
Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

8. Why should I fear others learning of the sins of my past? Should it be so surprising that a sinner has sinned? What should be surprising are the sins I haven't committed, the ones God has protected me from. Proof of sin is not evidence that I do not love God. I do love him. I have repented of my sin. My sin is evidence that I need God - his mercy and grace. God knows my heart and knows that I don't want to sin, but the human state of being (weak flesh) has a propensity for sin. Thank God he continues to love me and show compassion toward me! What can man do to me? I know and admit to being a sinner. I have all the acceptance I need in Jesus Christ.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2

9. For a long time I have been concerned/a little nervous about publishing the book I am working on because I know that I can't control who reads it and there is the possibility of many people I know reading it. I am concerned about what they will think of my past transgressions, though it shouldn't matter. We all have things we aren't proud of - who are we to judge others for their mistakes? I need to trust God that the risk is worth it and it's for his glory and purposes that this book is being composed.
In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? Psalm 56:4

P.S. - While I was writing my list, I felt the urge to supplement with scriptural truths. Hope it benefited the reading.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Prayer has always been a subject of interest to me. I am always trying to learn how to be more effective in prayer. I read books about it and study scriptures on prayer. However, I struggle with trying to implement everything I learn. There are many good suggestions on how to pray. I have to be careful about keeping prayer from becoming a ritual rather than a true connection with God. Prayer without passion seems useless.

I know that there is no one right way to pray. I know that everyone does it a little different. I find that writing out my prayers in a journal is effective in keeping me focused. However, I don't always do that because I don't always take time to hear what God is trying to say to me. I may simply write out all of my requests and head on my way.

I have heard of and used the ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) method at times as well. I do also pray silently as well as out loud. I guess a lot of it depends on my mood.

As mentioned above, one of my biggest struggles is with listening to God, being silent and still before him. I will ask God to share his will with me but my mind will go off on other thought tangents and it will be a struggle to get my mind refocused. It's one reason I try to avoid silent prayer - I tend to get distracted. Praying out loud or through a journal definitely keep me on track in this area.

I recently finished Jim Cymbala's Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire and it talked a lot about our need for prayer if we are to have any effect in our churches and communities. Some quotes:

If we call upon the Lord, he has promised in his Word to answer, to bring the unsaved to himself, to pour out his Spirit among us. If we don’t call upon the Lord, he has promised nothing – nothing at all. It’s as simple as that. No matter…what we claim to believe in our heads, the future will depend upon our times of prayer. P.27

God has chosen prayer as his channel of blessing. He has spread a table for us with every kind of wisdom, grace, and strength because he knows exactly what we need. But the only way we can get it is to pull up to the table and taste and see that the Lord is good. P.85

The apostles prayed for God to do supernatural things. They wanted people to know their belief was more than positional or theoretical. There was power in their faith. “O God, stretch out your hand – work with us in this.” They wanted a faith that was obviously alive, a faith based not just on the cross but also on the empty tomb. P.138-139

What we are dealing with today is an Old Testament “vow religion” comprised of endless repetitions and commands to do all the right things... There is little dependence on God’s power to make an ongoing difference. There is little calling upon God to revolutionize us in a supernatural way. P.139

I want God to work in my life. I want his power to be evident. I want a faith that others can see. I want to see God move in miraculous ways. I want more of God. We need more God. And how can that happen? By seeking him desperately and diligently through prayer. Our need should drive us to our knees, to call upon God in any and all circumstance. To believe that he is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.

And that leads to another hang up. When we ask, we are to believe that we have (Mark 11:24). Sometimes I wonder if I truly trust and believe that God will work in the situation. I know that he can, but I wonder if he will come through. My faith is so small sometimes. I hear of people in Africa praying for a man who broke his ankle and him being miraculously healed as a result of their prayers. I want to witness prayer that powerful - to have prayers that powerful. Yet I lack the belief and faith and tenacity in prayer for that to happen. My desire is great, my will is weak. I acknowledge my deficit, how do I change?

Praise the Lord for his willingness to have mercy on me and to encourage me bit by bit! The other day I was struggling with the huge gap between my desire and my actions. I was asking him how I could have more effective prayer. At the end of my heartfelt call, I picked up the Bible and began to read. I felt urged to read in Luke (a book I am reading a little at a time) so I turned to where I had last stopped and God blessed me.

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
(Luke 11:9-13)

That was such an encouragement to read. To be reminded that I need to be persistent in my requests and that God is gracious to those who seek him.

No, I don't have it all figured out. I have the feeling that this is going to be a lifelong journey, but I am thankful that I have a loving God who will guide me along the way.


I hear and read a lot about the importance of abiding in Christ. What I don't understand is how you know that you are truly abiding. I've seen formulas (Prayer + the Word + Time = Abiding) but if it's ritual then it's not authentic, right? Obviously, these are good things that we should be doing, but one can do all the right things and not have the mind and heart needed to truly abide.

Jesus says, "Remain [abide] in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:4-5).

Okay, so this means that if there is fruit in my life then I am abiding. But what kind of fruit? Am I receiving insights through the Word? Am I having positive, encouraging relationships with others? Am I sharing Christ with receptive people? If God seems silent, does that mean I'm not abiding?

I really do want to comprehend this because I desperately want to be near to God and to be useful to him. I want him to be able to say, "Well, done, good and faithful one." (Matt. 25:21)

There are some days when I really feel like I am in tune with God through the Holy Spirit. The Scripture yields "aha" moments. I am humbled by my brokenness and truly see my need for God in my life. My prayers seem powerful and pleasing to God. God reveals his love to me in a personal way. But those days are not the majority of my days and I want them to be.

Does anybody have any thoughts?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Satan and prayer

As I was driving to work this morning I was hit by the thought that Satan fully understands the power of prayer and uses fear to keep God’s children powerless. He makes us self-conscious about praying out loud. He causes us to be concerned about whether others will approve of the way we pray. We worry that we will not be eloquent or that our prayer will be too short. Or too long. So out of fear we elect not to pray. Yet prayer is our connection to God. It is how we learn what he desires of us. It is how we ask him to intercede on our behalf, to give us strength, courage, and wisdom. It is how we draw near to him and learn his will for us, for our lives. Satan knows all of this and knows that if he can keep us from prayer then he will have less resistance against his plans and desires for this world.

I am reading Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala and he talks about the powerfulness of the prayer meetings in his church and how they are the factor that determines his church’s effectiveness. A quote in the book says:

You can tell how popular a church is by who comes on Sunday morning. You can tell how popular the pastor or evangelist is by who comes on Sunday night. But you can tell how popular Jesus is by who comes to the prayer meeting. p.28

That quote really struck me. I have encountered numerous people who refuse to pray in front of others. I used to be one of those people. I was terrified of how I would sound, whether I would mess up. I know how important praying in community is and have asked God to stretch me in this area (and boy has He!). I’ll admit that there are still times when I feel insecurity and doubt, but I know that’s Satan trying to keep me from praying. He wants to sever my lifeline. I don’t want to give him any satisfaction. I have to remind myself that my prayer is not for those I’m with but for God alone. It doesn’t matter if I’m eloquent or if I stumble through. What matters is my sincerity. Most people will not remember what you said five minutes later. But God will hear our call and will answer.

As of late I have been trying to spend more time in prayer. Sure, I spend some time each morning praying, but I know that’s not enough - I am not satisfied with just those few minutes. We are supposed to pray without ceasing and, while that sounds daunting, it seems like a reasonable goal to work toward.

I have joined a prayer group that has committed to meeting together monthly. We are a small group of four, but I am praying that more people in our church will have a desire to petition God on the church’s behalf and that our numbers will grow. We don’t want it to be a popularity thing, but a true desire to humble ourselves before the living God and seek His will and provision.
I truly desire to have an effective prayer life and to grow deeper in my relationship with God. I want to know what His will is for me. I want to more fully comprehend his love for me. I want to be obedient and faithful. But I know that I need to seek Him daily and ask Him to give me the strength to follow Him if I am to be useful to Him.

One more quote from the book I want to share:

If the times are indeed as bad as we say they are…if the darkness in our world is growing heavier by the moment…if we are facing spiritual battles right in our own homes and churches…then we are foolish not to turn to the One who supplies unlimited grace and power. He is our only source. We are crazy to ignore him. p.86