Happy Thanksgiving!

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Persistent

 

“Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness.” 

Martin Luther 

One of my favorite passages is Luke 18:1-8, the parable of the persistent widow. In the first verse, Jesus sums up the two lessons He wants us to take away from this story. “Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” 

Jesus wants us to keep praying and to continually ask Him to meet our needs, as well as to intercede on behalf of others. He loves it when we talk to Him 24-7; both day and night prayers please Him. What matters is that we’re communicating with Him, which deepens our relationship. 

The second point He makes, is to never give up in bringing our requests to Him. God doesn’t want us to stop praying, nor to lose hope that He will answer our prayer. There’s no need to be ashamed of our continual intercession. God never tires of hearing our requests. It’s not like He thinks, Oh, no, she’s not asking for that again! He wants us to keep pleading and asking Him with faith, expecting Him to supply our need. 

I began to pray for my Dad’s salvation, when I was fifteen and a new believer. Forty years later, when my eighty-year old Dad had dementia, God set the scene. Dad felt remorse over the regrets in his life and God gave him a three hour window of lucidity. Dad’s mind was clear. He was able to track with me and understood what I shared. As I read Dad Billy Graham’s, Steps to Peace with God, I realized I surrendered my life to Jesus, forty years earlier, on that same date. Dad followed in my steps and gave his life to Jesus. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that I persistently prayed for my Dad’s salvation! 

I didn’t give up and nor should you. In what area of your life are you battling? Does it involve a wayward child, or a marriage that has slowly grown cold and distant? Is it a health crisis, or a career struggle? Whatever it is, remember what Jesus said to do in Luke 18:1: always pray and never give up. Then you’ll become like the persistent widow in the parable and receive what you’ve asked for. 

“Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.” 

Samuel Johnson 

Relevant Reflection: 

Spend time in persistent prayer for the area you’re most desperate for God to break through. 

 

 

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Revelation

 

“As prayer is the voice of man to God, so revelation is the voice of God to man.” 

John Henry Newman 

Sometimes the physical gets in the way of the spiritual and blinds us from seeing reality. It takes faith to see the spiritual realm. Overwhelming circumstances in the natural snuff out faith and cause spiritual blindness. Faith changes our vision and helps us see what others can’t. 

I’m like the two blind men in Matthew 20:29-34. I’m unable to see and understand the mysteries of God. My word for 2018 is revelation. I’m crying out to God to receive His vision and understanding. I want Him to peel back the scales of unbelief so I can see all that He is. My verse for this year is Ephesians 1:17: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.” 

When the blind men heard Jesus was passing by, they shouted, “Son of David, show us mercy, Lord!” Son of David is a term used for the Messiah. These blind men lacked vision in the natural realm, but they possessed 20/20 spiritual vision. They saw what most people missed – Jesus’ true identity. 

When the crowd tried to quiet the blind men, they screamed even louder. Their desperation for healing made them bold and they weren’t going to allow others to deter them from going after God. Jesus stopped and asked them, “What do you want me to do for You?” The blind men responded, “Lord, we want to see! Heal us!” Just one touch from Jesus and the blind men were instantly healed. 

Reason, fear of disappointment, and pride rob us from receiving the gift of faith to see beyond the natural. Faith is seen by the action we take. The blind men believed Jesus could heal them, so they cried out. Ask God for greater revelation in who He is. Then you’ll have faith to see what He sees. 

“God’s revelation does not need the light of human genius, the polish and strength of human culture, the brilliancy of human thought, the force of human brains to adorn or enforce it; but it does demand the simplicity, the docility, humility, and the faith of a child’s heart.” 

E.M. Bounds 

Relevant Reflections: 

  1. If Jesus asked you: “What do you want Me to do for you,” what would you say? 
  2. In what area of your life do you need revelation to see the spiritual realm? 
  3. What robs you of faith? 
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Possess Your Identity

 

“When we really understand who God is, we begin to recognize who we are. Revelation about Him leads to revelation about ourselves.” 

Katherine Ruonala 

The more I get to know God, the more I realize how little I know about Him. Understanding who God is and His attributes, leads me to understand my identity as His child. In order to live out of that identity, I need to believe those truths within my heart. Then and only then, can I possess my true identity in Christ. 

For years my shame-based, low self-esteem compelled me to seek affirmation and approval from others. I didn’t feel good enough and became a people pleaser, to feel valuable and to gain acceptance. When all along, I didn’t realize how God felt about me. 

The truth is, God adored me. He wholeheartedly loved and accepted me unconditionally. I didn’t need to do something to earn His acceptance. But I did need to believe it. When I already possess something, it’s not necessary to look to find it elsewhere. If a recipe called for a can of diced tomatoes and I already had one in the pantry, then I won’t need to run to the grocery store. 

Likewise, when we know and believe who we are in Christ, then we won’t desire to look for identity in our careers, hobbies, family, friends, or ministry. We won’t require our positions or possessions to make us feel significant, because our identity is firmly attached to who God says we are and how He feels about us. 

Possession has to do with ownership, what you already have. Possess your identity, believe who He says you are, and then live from that belief. Knowing how our heavenly Father feels about us, rids us from shame, fear, and rejection.  

Ephesians 1:18 says, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints.” Behold God, get to know who He is, and you will possess your identity in Christ. 

“We all live out of the identity we see for ourselves. You will almost always fulfill the vision you have of yourself.” 

Katherine Ruonala 

Relevant Reflections: 

  1. By what means do you strive to find your significance? 
  2. What can you do today to get to know God more? 
  3. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you greater understanding of your identity in Christ. 

 

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Desperation

 

“The good news of suffering is that it brings us to the end of ourselves – a purpose it has certainly served in my life. It brings us to the place of honesty, which is the place of desperation, which is the place of faith, which is the place of freedom.”

Tullian Tchividjian

In Mark, chapter five, there’s a story about a desperate woman who had suffered with bleeding for twelve years. The woman spent all that she had on doctors, yet became worse. She not only suffered physically, but emotionally as well. People shunned her because she was ceremonially unclean, causing her to live in isolation. I can’t imagine how discouraged she must have been, but she didn’t give up hope. She thought if she could touch Jesus’ garment, she would be healed.

Desperation sometimes means we go out on a limb and take a risk. This woman did exactly that. She risked her reputation and set herself up to be rebuked and shamed by those around her. Her desperation trumped her fear of man and what others thought. The woman broke the religious rules and went out in public; she pressed through the crowd to touch the cloak of Jesus. The woman’s faith, her expectancy for Jesus to heal, and her desperate actions paid off. Immediately her bleeding stopped.

Jesus asked who had touched His clothes, because He knew power had gone out from Him. After the woman confessed it was her, Jesus affirmed her healing. “Then Jesus said to her, ‘Daughter, because you dared to believe, your faith has healed you. Go with peace in your heart, and be free from your suffering’” (Mark 5:34, Passion Translation).

It’s hard to be in a desperate situation, but it’s for our benefit when we realize Jesus is our only option left. Desperation is the seed of faith. When we’re desperate, our faith overrides fear and gives us courage to believe.

When you’ve reached the end of your rope and can’t see a solution in sight, look up and lean upon Jesus. Just one touch changes everything. Dare to believe and reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’ garment.

“We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Relevant Reflection:

  1. In what area of your life do you need to dare to believe, and see God come through for you?
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Freedom Through Grieving

 

“We are healed of grief only when we express it to the full.” 

Chuck Swindoll 

Holidays are painful when there is loss. This may be your first Easter since a loved one passed away. Maybe your loss involves a change in a job or in your health. My loss may not be as devastating as a loved one dying, but to me, moving to Wichita, away from those I love, rocked my boat. 

All loss is significant, even disappointments. Any form of sorrow shapes us. Loss needs to be mourned, but not all grieving requires tears. But we must process our loss to get to the other side of hope. If we deny our grief and stuff it way down into our hearts, then we won’t experience the freedom God intended for us. Grieving is a gift from God which deepens our relationship with Him through the comfort He provides. 

The third verse in Isaiah 53, says that Jesus was a man of sorrows, who was familiar with grief. More than anyone else, Jesus understood grief, because He experienced it. The next verse goes on to say, “Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4). If we let Him, He will carry our grief. 

I am grateful God gave me a whole year to say good-bye to Omaha – to the family, friends, church, the familiar city, and our comfortable house. God bottled up my numerous tears and listened to my many prayers. Grieving helped me cross the road into gratefulness. 

If we don’t grieve our pain and loss, if we don’t release it and let it go, then we will never be able to fully embrace the gift God has for us next. When we hold on and look back, then we miss the present and the future ahead. Grieving helps us move forward and not remain stuck in the past. 

Be real with God. Journal your raw emotions with the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. In Psalm 34:18, He promises to be close to the brokenhearted. Let Him take you by the hand to walk across the road of loss, to get to the other side of freedom. 

“He that conceals his grief finds no remedy for it.” 

Anonymous 

Relevant Reflections: 

  1. How have you experienced freedom through grieving? 
  2. Is there a disappointment or loss that you need to grieve? Spend some time processing your grief. 
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A Gift in Disguise

 

“The only lasting and fully satisfying joys for any man lie on the other side of a cross.”

Walter J. Chantry

Our son has been known to wrap Christmas gifts in duct tape, or to wrap several smaller boxes within a larger one, all the while keeping us in suspense for the wonderful gift within. The outer wrapping of a gift, has no bearing on what’s inside. The wrapping surrounding some of God’s best gifts, may not be attractive nor enticing to unwrap, such as our move to Wichita.

What seemed at the time to be the end of my world, turned out to be a beautiful new beginning. Even when something looks and feels so awful on the outside, there may be a precious gem hidden on the inside.

My shortsightedness caused me to focus on the fears of the unknown, the loss I would grieve, and the hard work involved in getting a house ready to sell and packed up to move. I had set my sight on what was immediate and right in front of me. What I initially fought tooth and nail against, became just what I needed. Wichita is God’s gift in disguise.

Psalm 35:9-10 in the Passion Translation says: “Then my fears will dissolve into limitless joy; my whole being will overflow with gladness because of Your mighty deliverance. Everything inside of me will shout it out: ‘There’s no one like You, Lord!’ For look at how You protect the weak and helpless from the strong and heartless who oppress them.” I can’t explain it, nor do I fully understand it, but my heart is at rest living here. The peace, joy, and contentment I’ve experienced have taken me by surprise, but as a result, a well of thankfulness springs up inside.

God’s best gifts don’t always look like a pretty package on the outside, but wait till you open it! Don’t be deceived or deterred by the ugly wrapping paper or by the difficulty to unwrap it. Persevere. Receive the gift in disguise God has for you and do whatever it takes to unwrap it, because it will all be worth it.

“The Lord gives His people perpetual joy when they walk in obedience to Him.”

Dwight L. Moody

Relevant Reflections:

  1. In what situation are you being shortsighted? Ask Holy Spirit to expand your vision, to see further down the road, and to provide the faith to believe.
  2. What fear are you facing that could be God’s gift in disguise?
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Extravagant Devotion

 

“Our Lord is filled with overflowing joy whenever He sees any of us doing what Mary did-not being bound by a particular set of rulesbut being totally surrendered to Him.” 

Oswald Chambers 

The past few months, I’ve written about Mary of Bethany and what it means to be like her. The first thing I discovered, Mary wasn’t in a hurry. When she was with Jesus, she sat at His feet, hanging on to each word He spoke. She took the position of listening and her gaze was undistracted, singularly focused on Jesus. Secondly, Mary, being the lovesick bride, could not get enough of Jesus. She desired more time with her Bridegroom. The most recent revelation of Mary of Bethany, comes from Mark 14, verses 3-9. Mary displayed extravagant devotion. 

Jesus was in Bethany at Simon’s house, a former leper whom Jesus had healed. Mary walked into the house with an alabaster flask, filled with “the highest quality of fragrant and expensive oil,” roughly a year’s wages. She gave God her best; nothing was too costly to give to Him. In her boldness, she walked right up to Jesus, broke the flask, and poured out the oil upon His head. Immediately, some were angry with her, complained to one another, and scolded her. Our extreme passion for Jesus may cause us to be misunderstood, resulting in criticism and ridicule. 

But Jesus was touched by her lavish devotion to Him. He knew what she did was a sacrifice and was honored by Mary’s radical act of kindness. Jesus shushed the naysayers by saying her worship would always be remembered. “She has done all that she could to honor me” (Mark 14:8b-Passion Translation).  

Mary’s outrageous act of honor was symbolic of her life being fully surrendered and poured out for Jesus. She didn’t withhold anything from the Lover of her soul. “Now is the time for us to break ‘the flask’ of our lives, to stop seeking our own satisfaction, and to pour out our lives before Him.” (Oswald Chambers) How can we be extravagantly devoted to Jesus, by doing all that we can to honor Him? 

“The limitless loving devotion to God, and the gift God makes of Himself to you, are the highest elevation of which the heart is capable.” 

Edith Stein 

Relevant Reflections:  

  1. How have you displayed extravagant devotion to God in the past?
  2. In what way is God asking you to pour out your life for Him as a way to show Him honor?

 

 

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