Tag Archives: faith

Making a Believing Preparation for the Divine Blessing

 

A Word For Today

From Morning and Evening

by C.H. Spurgeon

Entry May 16th Evening Verse

 

“And he said, Thus saith the Lord, Make this valley full of ditches. For thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye and your cattle, and your beasts.” 2Kings 3:16,17

The armies of the three kings were famishing for want of water: God was about to send it, and in these words the prophet announced the coming blessing. Here was a case of human helplessness: not a drop of water could all the valiant men procure from the skies or find in the wells of earth. Thus often the people of the Lord are at their wits’ end; they see the vanity of the creature, and learn experimentally where their help is to be found.

 

 

Still the people were to make a believing preparation for the divine blessing; they were to dig the trenches in which the precious liquid would be held. The church must by her varied agencies, efforts, and prayers, make herself ready to be blessed; she must make the pools, and the Lord will fill them.

 

 

This must be done in faith, in the full assurance that the blessing is about to descend. By-and-by there was a singular bestowal of the needed boon. Not as in Elijah’s case did the shower pour from the clouds, but in a silent and mysterious manner the pools were filled. The Lord has His own sovereign modes of action: He is not tied to manner and time as we are, but doeth as He pleases among the sons of men. It is ours thankfully to receive from Him, and not to dictate to Him.

 

 

We must also notice the remarkable abundance of the supply –there was enough for the need of all. And so it is in the gospel blessing; all the wants of the congregation and of the entire church shall be met by the divine power in answer to prayer; and above all this, victory shall be speedily given to the armies of the Lord.

 

 

What am I doing for Jesus? What trenches am I digging? O Lord, make me ready to receive the blessing which Thou art so willing to bestow.

 

I felt the Holy Spirit as I read this entry from Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening devotional today, so I decided to post it. If after reading it you feel it is fitting for the situation you are in or your church is in or if you have an insight or opinion please take the time to comment.  

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Character of God, Christian Spiritual Growth and Disciplines, Church Life and Growth, Personal Growth

Finding Your Way Out of Depression

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?

How long will You hide Your face from me?

How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily?

How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and hear me, O Lord my God;

Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death;

Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”;

Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.

But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me. 

Psalms 13:1-6 (NKJV)

 

When believers find themselves in depression it doesn’t help to hold the despair in. The Bible models to us through the examples of the saints of old that when we are down and out the proper strategy is to open up and pour out our hearts to God.  David, that man after God’s own heart, was shameless about discharging his miseries before The Almighty.  In Psalm 13, we find David depressed and on his face before God and in just the first three verses he lists four woe-filled complaints.  Surprisingly, his grievances are not that out of the ordinary.  In fact, his complaints are the common complaints that torture those faced with long term despair.

 

 

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? is David’s first perplexed protest. The cry of David’s soul is that the dry and trial filled season he is enduring has gone on way too long.  His question reveals that his hope for relief has almost completely vanished. David is so emotionally trampled by life’s circumstances that he feels like God has abandoned him. He wonders if the arid season he is in will ever end and his questions for God aren’t ending either.   How long will You hide Your face from me?, he continues.  In Scripture “to seek the face of God” refers to seeking an audience with God and overtly seeking His favor through prayer. God “hiding his face” means He withdraws His presence or His favor.  David feels as if God has totally ignored him and his prayers for a very long time.  He feels rejected and wonders why God has chosen not to answer.

 

How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? is complaint number three and it takes on an air of warning.  In contemporary language the essence of what David is saying is, I’m going to have to take things into my own hands if you don’t help me soon.”  David laments that he has spent every day in the same distressing situation only to be no closer to finding his way out.  He admits to trying to devise his own rescue by counseling himself, yet he realizes the folly of leaning on his own resources.  David is desperate and can’t understand why God has withheld His guidance. 

 

David’s final issue with God is– that on top of everything else–his enemy is triumphing over him.  How long will my enemy be exalted over me?, he quizzes His Father in Heaven.  David was a man well acquainted with war and highly competitive in his nature.  Nothing galled David more than to have God sitting back seemingly ignoring him while his enemy prevailed over him.  He hated being beaten by his enemy and does not hesitate in asking God why he would allow this happen?

 

Many Christians might think that the depressed David must have surely overstepped his bounds with this overflow of inquiry to his M.I.A. God.  Yet Psalm 62:8 commands, Pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us.   Job and Jeremiah are two other saints who boldly risked coming before God with similar interludes of questioning.  Venting true feelings before The Almighty is not off limits.  Bible commentator Warren Wiersbe, however wisely calls for balance in the venting process.   He states: We must not deny our feelings and pretend that everything is going well…but at the same time, we must realize how deceptive our hearts are and that God is greater than our hearts and can still lift us above the emotional storms of life.

 

The Bible urges us to be discerning as we give air to our feelings, we should never forget whose children we are. 1 John 3:20 assures us, For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Many times in Scripture we see believers singing the blues when God has their ultimate redemption right around the corner.  In the story of Joseph for example when Simeon is left behind in Egypt Jacob bemoans that his life is over. The patriarch feels that everything has gone against him when in actuality everything in his crazy family is just about to be worked out. With this and many other biblical stories in mind it is good to remember as we set out to vent our emotions that our emotions are not always completely truthful. While clearing the toxic debris from our hearts is healthy and good and permitted by God we should never believe that just because we feel something, it is true.

 

When struggling Christians are depressed no matter how bad it gets they should continue to pray.  The truth is if we wait and persevere and don’t give up, God will eventually touch us and lift our hearts. The Bible teaches that even if we don’t hear God’s voice we can be assured the Holy Spirit is at work within us. Romans 8:25-26 states, But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  The Holy Spirit helps us through periods of trial and waiting and helps us to pray in the midst of them.  He communicates our feelings to God when we can’t find the words to describe them. The promises of God to reward those seekers who persevere through the desert are prevalent throughout Scripture.  In the book of Isaiah and then again in Jeremiah for instance God declares, For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground;  Isaiah 44:3, and I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint. “Jer. 31:25 (NIV).

 

One thing is clear as the reader continues through David’s Psalm 13 lament.  After releasing his miseries to God David seems to get better and begins to find a new direction for his pain as he talks to God.  Instead of being accusative and viewing the Lord as being absent and uncaring for example, David now requests that He “consider and answer.” Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; Psalms 13:3, reflects a different more intimate tone on the part of David.  Somewhere in the midst of his pain God has touched him and drawn him closer. 

 

As the Psalm goes on, replacing the total despair that had overtaken the outlook of his soul David somehow finds a burst of hope.  He passionately requests that God enlighten his eyes.  Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death; Psalms 13:3 or as it is also worded Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die. Psalms 13:3 (NLT).  This request involves petitioning God for physical and emotional vitality as well as spiritual enlightenment. Here David shows inspired insight into the reality of depression.  Depression is a body, soul and spirit ailment and requires an appropriate all encompassing treatment. The Bible reflects the truth of the physical and emotional components of depression; it is not just a sin issue.  Scripture shows how the spiritual, emotional and physical aspects intertwine. Verses such as Proverbs 17:22 ,A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength reveal the interconnection between all aspects of a human being.  Those suffering with depression should consider the physical components of their malady and pray as David did for restoration. If a sufferer of depression is so weakened that he or she cannot function in daily routines there should be no hesitation in seeking the assistance of one’s personal physician.  The knowledge of modern medicine and nutrition can provide help to the person fighting the physical repercussions of long term despondency.

 

When Christians find themselves in seasons of despair they should “keep the faith” continuing to reach out to God .   Hebrews 11:6 teaches us what the bottom-line of “keeping the faith” really is, But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Heb 11:6 (NKJV).  Those in the grips of depression should cling to the foundation of their faith.  They should continue to believe that God is a loving God who rewards those who diligently seek Him.  As the psalm draws to an end I believe that it is because David has encountered God that he finds the reserves to continue to express his trust in the Lord’s unfailing love.  Psalms 13:5-6 reads, But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me. David begins verse 5 with the word “but” and but is a word that usually introduces a contrast.  David is saying, in contrast to my former grievances…I have trusted and my heart shall rejoice and I will sing.  By the end of this psalm, David in prayer has made some obvious different choices.  His  faith shown byrelying on the Lord’s love and then remembering his mercy, has paved the way for David to rejoice. 

 

When a person is in depression it is good to try to train yourself to remember the mercy of the Lord towards you in the past.  How has God shown his loving-kindness to you at other points in your life?  Remind yourself of those times and praise God for those times and it can begin to have good results.  Paul a man not unfamiliar with depression taught, Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! …Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Phil 4:4-7.  Rejoicing in David’s life led to singing of His goodness, which in turn began to lead David out of the depression giving him patience to wait on the Lord a little longer.  David had the foundation of an intimate relationship with God and a habit of trusting in God’s love and reminding himself of God’s goodness (see Psalm 34).  He knew how important “keeping the faith” was to the equation. I would have lost heart, unless I had believed, that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!  Psalms 27:13-14. 

 

As we come to the close of the psalm David’s circumstances had not changed. Saul was still hunting him down, the wilderness was still the wilderness and his longing for God was still a reality.  In fact we really have no evidence that God had spoken to Him throughout the entire ordeal but I believe in his lament and in the pouring out of his heart to God, God in the process touched him and revealed himself to David. Nothing around him was different and yet David on the inside at least for the time being was changed.  Our conclusion must be that because he poured out his heart before God, because he continued to pray staying close to God and because he kept the faith, he appears to have escaped the pit of his depression.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Mental and Emotional Health

Sarah Palin Calls for Intercession Believing God Will Do the “Right Thing for America”

While many are accusing Sarah Palin of arrogance and religious fanaticism, I view Sarah as the ultimate woman of faith.  She is calling for prayer believing that in the end God will listen and what is right for America will happen on Nov. 4.  Please heed Sarahs call to action and pray!

CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby reported today:

In an interview posted online Wednesday, Sarah Palin told Dr. James Dobson of “Focus on the Family” that she is confident God will do “the right thing for America” on Nov. 4.

Dobson asked the vice presidential hopeful if she is concerned about John McCain’s sagging poll numbers, but Palin stressed that she was “not discouraged at all.”

“To me, it motivates us, makes us work that much harder,” she told the influential Christian leader, whose radio show reaches millions of listeners daily. “And it also strengthens my faith because I know at the end of the day putting this in God’s hands, the right thing for America will be done, at the end of the day on Nov. 4.”

Dobson praised Palin’s opposition to abortion rights, to which the governor affirmed that she is “hardcore pro-life.”

She said giving birth to her son Trig, who has Down syndrome, has given her the opportunity “to be walking the walk and not just talking the talk” in her long-standing opposition to abortion.

She also thanked her supporters — including Dobson, who said he and his wife were asking “for God’s intervention” on election day — for their prayers of support.

“It is that intercession that is so needed,” she said. “And so greatly appreciated. And I can feel it too, Dr. Dobson. I can feel the power of prayer, and that strength that is provided through our prayer warriors across this nation. And I so appreciate it.”

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/10/22/palin-god-will-do-the-right-thing-on-election-day/

          http://www.citizenlink.org/clspecialalert/A000008476.cfm

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events and Editorials

Sacred Places of the Heart

 

Throughout God’s Word a recurring metaphor becomes evident; faithful believers are likened to travelers or pilgrims on the road of life.  Psalm 84:5 declares, Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage.  A pilgrimage is a long journey to a sacred place, especially one of exalted purpose or moral significance.

The idea of pilgrimage is introduced in Genesis. God reveals himself to Abram and requires of him that he leave his homeland and go to another land of God’s bidding.  Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  Gen 12:1-3 (NKJV).  Why did God call Abram out from his familiar surroundings? God knew he needed to be removed from old friends and situations that might hinder his full obedience to Him and that his departure would provide a definite step of faith.  God has, throughout the centuries, required his people to come out from among the world and to be separate.  We are special people with a special destination – heaven – and as Christians we are all pilgrims. We have realized that this world is not our home and we have started our trek to “our Father’s house.” 

 

 

Hebrews 11 gives a long list of Bible characters and explains, All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it and they agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Heb 11:13-16 (NLT). According to this passage, all the faithful characters listed shared a common understanding that they were pilgrims, sojourners, travelers and nomads—human beings just visiting this planet on their way to their true and promised habitation.

 

 

In reading the accounts in the Bible of the lives of the many pilgrims that have come before us, it is clear that life’s journey is almost never a simple excursion.  Instead the path God provides is almost always a circuitous expedition over extremely adventurous territory.  As Christian sojourners our hearts are on the road that leads to heaven and God, but the places of the heart we must visit on the way offer unique and varied challenges. 

 

 

As we traverse this foreign land we can be assured of many side trips to “spiritual locations” along the way.  Like required stations or stopovers along life’s journey, there appear to be compulsory sites we must all experience.  Many places of the heart described in the Bible have geographical titles that tie them to a metaphorical map of life’s journey.  Similarly to our predecessors who followed the Lord through literal deserts and valleys and like those who climbed actual mountains in order to be obedient, those on “spiritual” pilgrimages also take visits to places both uncertain and sublime. 

 

 

Visits to the desert, the valley, the high seas, the fruitful places and the mountaintops are among those sacred places that we all have an opportunity to discover.  They are inevitable sites of the soul that God’s itinerary almost always dictates and has in store.  The Bible provides rich symbolism to be researched and understood about each of these sacred stopovers that are so common to God’s people.  Much can be gleaned as we interpret the imagery of Scripture and apply the wisdom and experiences of other pilgrims who encountered these sites along the way. 

The desert or wilderness is an arid expanse of land that is unsettled, usually used as pasture for animals and is suitable only for the nomadic lifestyle. A sojourn in the desert or wilderness in the Bible is associated with seasons of temptation, solitude, persecution and barrenness.

The valley is a tract of low lying land between mountains. The valleys of ancient Palestine were mostly dry, rocky, glorified riverbeds where occasional torrents caused flash floods during the winter.  In Scripture, the valley symbolized low times of affliction, pain and vulnerability.

 The mountains of the mid-east are known for their stark appearance. They have no great forests on their slopes and are instead characterized by cliffs, crags and rock overhangs. The mountains symbolized strength and steadfastness.  They depicted God’s power and were the backdrops of great spiritual events and revelations.

The sea refers to the Mediterranean and the Jews had a natural tendency to shrink away from the sea. Traversing the sea was associated with great danger, little control and constant fear.  To pass through the “deep” was symbolic of passing through a time of heavy affliction wrought with tossing waves and storms.

Fruitful places or gardens in biblical times were usually walled enclosures, in which there were paths that led among the trees and foliage.  An individual could rest among arbors decked with aromatic blossoms and enjoy the effect. Gardens were used as sacred places and fruitful gardens symbolized prosperity.

 

We can look into the lives of Scripture’s pilgrims, compare notes on their journeys and learn from their successes and failures. The question becomes “how did those who came before navigate their course through life and how will I navigate mine?” Peter in his epistle warns Christians, “And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as “foreigners in the land.” For you know that God paid a ransom to save you… 1 Peter 1:17-19 (NLT)

The apostle Peter believed that we should be wise and fear the Lord because of the lessons others had learned during the times of their pilgrimage. We should pay attention and realize we are also foreigners on a sojourn paid for through the precious blood of our Savior.  I agree with Peter and I would add we should not be accidental tourists along life’s path because each place we are fortunate enough to visit has a beauty and a lesson of its own. I think what we often fail to realize is that each place is actually a meeting place with our God and a site to be savored and walked through with Him.  Each of the sacred places of the heart, even the difficult places, give us an opportunity to grow closer with Him and to know Him in deeper and more intimate ways. 

 

Fellow pilgrims, October 17-19, 2008, the Women at Crossroads are heading to Winter Park for what we hope will be a life-changing women’s conference.  Grab your backpack and your Bible, because spending a weekend adding to your understanding of Sacred Places of the Heart is bound to impact your relationship with God in countless beneficial ways. 

 

  

1 Comment

Filed under Personal Growth

A Call to the School of Prayer

Effective prayer is not as easy as it seems. While on one level prayer is “just conversation with God” and is a privilege that is available to all believers.  The Bible indicates that prayer also comes with an efficiency rating.  Scripture makes it apparent that prayer can be heard or not, be effective or not, and most obvious of all be answered or not.  The disciples who were the fortunate witnesses to the awe inspiring prayer life of Jesus quickly learned an important insight about prayer.  Not all prayer is created equal.  They were swift to notice that there was a huge contrast between The Master’s prayer efforts and their own feeble attempts.  On one occasion we are told an unnamed disciple watched Jesus pray and was clearly humbled by what he saw.  In a moment of clarity he turned and asked Jesus the wise and inevitable request “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).   

 

The original twelve saw something in Jesus’ prayer life that made them want to enroll in His school of prayer.  It becomes evident that on top of being a privilege and a spiritual discipline; prayer is also a skill.  It is a competency that must be learned and an aptitude that every believer should desire proficiency in.  To say the least, from a pragmatic point of view, skillfulness in prayer is highly beneficial for all of us. Warren Wiersbe states it simply, when you know how to pray, the Lord can help you meet every need.  There is a reason that prayer has always been regarded as a key part of a successful Christian life, an ability to connect with God in prayer provides the under girding for all other aspects of Christian living. John Henry Jowett, a renowned preacher of the early 20th century felt so strongly about the advantageous nature of prayer that he wrote, I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.   

 

There is no way to get around the fact that there is much to be understood in the Bible about prayer and that most Christians have stopped short of an adequate education on the topic. Scripture teaches that prayer when it is practiced well is able to produce great benefits in the spiritual realm but few take the time to tap into it as a dynamic resource. James 5:16 promises us that, the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.  Two adjectives “effective” and “fervent” are used to describe prayer that works. The English word effective is translated from the Greek word energeo and means capable of putting forth much power.  While the second term, fervent means; to glow with heat, or to exhibit great intensity of feeling.  In one verse we have two clues to the kind of prayer that accomplishes much.  Prayer that bears spiritual power coupled with genuine passion when offered from the righteous heart has the ability to hit the mark.

 

Many after surveying James 5:16 might think that not being a righteous person is the problematic factor that would disqualify them from a fruitful prayer life.  However righteousness according to New Testament standards is often misunderstood.  Being a “righteous” person according to New Testament definitions requires being a person who comes by righteousness from being “in” Christ. Romans 3:10 states it plainly, There is none righteous, no, not one.  The painful truth is that on our own none of us are capable of having a right standing (being righteous) before God.  It is passages such as 2 Cor. 5:21 that point out where our righteousness must come from.  The good news is that, God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). Our righteousness comes from being in Him.  Jesus Himself laid out the truth in regard to the connection between intimacy with Him and a successful prayer life.  He made “abiding in Him” and acceptance of His words pre-requesites of an effective prayer.  He taught, If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.  John 15:7

 

In short, the promise of James 5:16 is that properly energized, genuinely emotional prayer from a believer who is in a loving and dependent relationship with Jesus Christ should accomplish a lot spiritually.  The Bible teaches it and it is fact.  The reason so many of us experience so little in prayer however is that few of us take the time to understand the basics of prayer much less take the time and energy to “do” prayer well.  Prayer like any skill requires education and practice.  In other words in order to excel at prayer it takes time learning about what effective prayer entails and then more time spent doing it in order to get good at it.  If you are tired of experiencing an anemic prayer life the task before you is two fold.  First you must learn how to pray; that is take time to search the Scripture and discover the principles of successful prayer.  And secondly you must take time to diligently practice those principles. 

 

Jesus told his disciples that “they should always pray and not give up” Luke 18:1.  The word translated “give up” means to become weary and to give in to evil.  Despite Jesus’ warnings many Christians today have long ago given up on practicing real prayer as a part of their Christian lives.  In this “fast food” society that gets all its needs met on the run, many believe they are satisfying the divine mandate to pray by merely sending up self-centered S.O.S’s to God throughout the day.  They throw up regular brief petitions to God as they go about their daily grind but their prayer lives are largely unfocused and their agendas are largely uninterrupted. 

 

I believe that a call to pray and a spiritual unction to enroll in “the school of prayer” are going forth from the heart of God God into the church today.  God is calling us to His throne of grace to “wrestle” with Him in prayer as the saints of old wrestled with him.  Colossians 4:12 gives us the account of Epaphras, a believer who was held up as an example in prayer by Paul.  Epaphras the text tells us was known as one who was “always wrestling in prayer” for the work of the Church (Col 4:12 NIV).  The Greek word translated wrestling is agonizomai and gives us the English word agonize. This word agonizomai perhaps describes most adequately the level of intensity that is required to produce true effectiveness in prayer and it draws a stark contrast to the effort that most of us are willing to extend. 

 

In conclusion, too few of us have sought to be educated in prayer, fewer still have the time set aside for practicing prayer and the I believe fewest of all of us comprehend the intensity that is required in order to see results in prayer.  There is no doubt that the lack of effective prayer amounts to a great weakness in the church today. The unnamed disciple of Luke chapter eleven when faced with the embarrassing contrast of his prayer life with that of Jesus knew enough to ask “Lord teach us to pray.”  That simple prayer is the prayer that first and foremost needs to be on the lips of those that Jesus is currently calling to prayer. Let’s acknowledge how far we have to go as we evaluate and acknowledge the efficiency ratings of our own prayer times and let us vow today to become willingly enrolled in the school of prayer.

 

 

 

\

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Prayer