Friday, April 24, 2015

2015: The Year of Prayer - Week 16

I opened my Bible this morning, kind of a shot in the dark, to John 6 - where Jesus walks on water, then declares (more than once....quite a few times actually) He is the Bread of Life.

This is one of those I AM statements which has been hard for me to grasp.  In fact, in the ensuing text, the statements Jesus makes and questions those statements raise are hard.  They were hard to hear for His Disciples and they are hard to hear now. But in light of the last 9 days, I'm starting to really get it.  You see, this week in prayer has been about miracles.  Our worship leader called that out on Tuesday of last week and they became real the very next night.

People delivered from the grip of sin and the enemy, filled with the Spirit of God.  Lives changed.  Love, healing, grace on full display.

It's one thing to hear about it and be amazed.  It is another thing entirely to be a participant in someone's healing - to be a witness.  If When you have the privilege to be a part of it - when you have surrendered the details and outcome of the work to the Lord and then just let Him do changes you and your prayer life FOREVER.

It has not been hard to ask the Lord to do miracles in people's life in the last 9 days.  When, like in Acts 2, you are filled with awe....asking for big, bold things doesn't seem as hard anymore.  It makes your prayers (or at least mine) more specific, targeted and centered on the will of God.

No more lukewarm prayers.  It's time to ask Me for what you really want.

God gave me that word last Thursday morning.  I'd been dancing around asking for something really big for maybe 10 years.  I've known I'd been lacking in faith for it the last 2.  Last Thursday, He finally put me on the spot.

It was what Mark Batterson writes in The Circle Maker, "If Jesus were to meet you face-to-face and ask, “What do you want Me to do for you?,” what would you answer?  What would you dare to ask of Jesus….and have the confidence that it is something He wants to accomplish in and through you?

(No coincidence there I start teaching this premise of drawing circles in prayer on Sunday.....)

Very early, as I lay in bed that morning, I humbly but boldly asked God for the thing I most wanted Him to accomplish in my life.  I'm waiting to see the reality of it, but because it is His will (and I've seen His will accomplished innumerable times in my life, especially in dramatic ways here recently) - I KNOW THE ANSWER IS ALREADY YES.

The timing of reading John 6, like the time and place of Jesus' declaration He is the Bread of Life, is significant.  He is at a place where they needed faith, not miracles, to believe.  15 weeks into this journey and it feels like I'm to the place of assured faith and the miracles are the icing on the cake.  Maybe it is has taken this long to prepare me (although I don't always feel prepared or very capable of doing what He asks of me).  Maybe I'm finally full enough - on His Bread, His Way, His Nourishment - instead of depending solely on my own.

I do know one thing: Prayers are my legacy.  A lot of people don't feel like you are doing very much when you pray, but I want to assure are doing the most powerful thing in the universe.  When you pray about something or someone - especially when you pray in the Spirit - you are literally shaking the foundations of the spiritual atmosphere around you.  You are making room for the God of Heaven to come and make His Home on your plot of Earth.

I don't just pray, I expect God will continue to do bigger and betters things.  Not just because I've seen the miraculous in the last week.  But because I am, my family is, nothing short of a miracle.  It took many months/years for the miracle to be revealed.  We are living stones representing the grace and love of God.  Jesus has given/is giving me (and us) more than our fill, more than our share of spiritual, emotional, mental and physical blessings.  He has given us the entire package - Himself.

With Him running things, we will never go hungry.  Whoever believes in Him will never be thirsty.

Who else, in the history of the world, has dared to make such an audacious, bold, impossible declaration???  No One!

I'll leave you with this....maybe you are in a situation where your faith is sagging or you've prayed for something for years and it is like a big empty hole in your soul.  Take that prayer back to God and really listen.  Ask for eyes to see how He is filling you and answering that prayer.  Change your position (from sitting to on your knees....from on your knees to on your face on the floor); change the place where you pray.  Change something in your atmosphere, so you can be given a different perspective on what and how you are praying.

The Bread of Life will meet you there.  Jesus will satisfy you.  He promised and He never goes back on a promise.

Maybe you are my friend who doesn't pray, doesn't believe in God.  I ask you to give Christ another shot.  Don't lean into what you already know about Him or what you've seen of Him in the lives of others.  Really open yourself, not for a minute or a day, but for longer than you ever have.  Give the Lord some space, reserve a chair for Him at your proverbial breakfast/lunch/dinner table.

I'm praying you will experience Him in a way(s) that change your life - your eternity - forever.

He has yet to disappoint me.  I've thought He had but looking back on those moments of doubt, they were clouded by fear and uncertainty in my situation....not in God.  Keep praying, He will not delay.  My refuge and strength...I will not fear.  He promise is true.....ALWAYS.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

2015: The Year of Prayer, Week 15

This week is good.  Not that there aren't things I'm swimming upstream against, but my intensity about it all seems to have come down a few (much needed) notches.  Of course, who knows what the next few days have in store, but I want to report on some good teaching I encountered, which really hit home on the point of making this year - 2015 - all about prayer.

There is a better best way to do things.

When I'm experiencing those feelings of stress, fear, frustration (etc.), I'm leaning on and into my own understanding of the situation.  I'm trying to process what is going on with my mind alone, rather than involving my heart, where Jesus is.  In Proverbs 3:4-5, we are instructed NOT to do that....
Lean NOT on your own understanding but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.

"Jesus meets us where we are, but He never leaves us that way."  The rubber meets the road of this statement only in prayer.  It is there, before God and in conversation with Him where I am set free and right.  By not only talking to Him about what is going on, but listening for His perspective, I can move from good to better to best.  Prayer is when Jehovah shows me what the Apostle Paul called....The Most Excellent Way. (1 Cor 12:31)

That's the progression - the walk of faith - is always towards better.  But more than just getting to better, He wants us to get to THE BEST.  Every good father wants that for his children, so knowing who the Lord is, He is THE BEST Father; so He wants THE BEST for His, the People of God.

Sometimes the best requires walking uphill.  We are not meant to keep walking flat.  There has to be some peaks and valleys to strengthen our different faith muscles groups.  I feel as though much of this year has been one continuous training run, going uphill.  The good news is I will (eventually) reach the end of the race (this season).  And then I'll start a new one, the race this season prepared me for.

It is all about the preparation.  That's the adventure of Christ - always a new level, new mercy, new experience, new truth to make a part of your life with Him.  There are seasons of rest, to wind down and recover.  I did that for about 6 months after Sophia finished treatment because I had to figure out what life was about again.  When those times of rest are over - we are meant to get up and walk again with Him from glory to glory.

The Great Evangelist Smith Wigglesworth wrote this (which I read yesterday),

Any number of people are satisfied with "good" - that is, justification or salvation.  Other people are satisfied with "better" - that is, a sanctified life, purified by God.  Other people are satisfied with the "best" - that is, the fullness of God with revelation on high.  So I come to you with the fullness of God in the Holy Spirit through His baptism.  I come not with good, but better; not with better, but with best.

To say this was a challenge for me would be a gross understatement, but not a discouraging challenge.  I prayed, asking the Lord to keep moving me toward His best.  Truly, that is what I desire and the Lord works in us in such a way to make sure our desires line up with His; so He can give us what we ask for that will also bring Him maximum glory.

Then, after reading and praying through that early, a couple hours later, I was listening to Chuck Swindoll.  At the end of his message, he said the same thing, only another way!!!

Swindoll called the progression an extension of John 14:6.  He said salvation was finding Jesus as The Way; sanctification was learning and walking in Jesus as the Truth.  Finally, this glorified, best way was living with Jesus as our Life.  Get in the spirit, walk in it and move towards learning to live all the time in it. Good is ok, but it just barely scratches the surface.  Better is getting there, more and more of God at every turn. BUT BEST IS WHAT WE WERE MEANT FOR.

I will always need more clarification on what to desire more of in my relationship with Christ.  I don't want to settle, in any area of my life and I'm asking the Lord to show me where I have.  I've made a decision to start seeking His best, every time I pray.  I want the Lord to so renew my mind, I can discern the 3 options Paul gives in Romans 12:2 - the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.

It is daunting, to be sure, to seek the perfect will of God.  More valleys will follow but I learn more in the valleys than the mountaintops.  And because the perfect will is the best, I don't have to fear what is coming.  Jesus will be right there, making sure goodness and mercy keep me company all the days of my life with the end result being I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6).

I'll end with two questions: are you settling for only good or better?  What would happen if you sought God's best for your life?

Keep journeying and look forward to meeting up with you long the way....

Friday, April 10, 2015

2015: The Year of Prayer - Week 14

Roller Coaster.  Again.

I was reminded several times this week, as my emotions went up and down on this ride called "Life," of other roller coaster weeks in recent memory.

There was that one time, back in 2013, when we didn't know if we were going back to Italy or not.  Oh yes, and I was 9 months pregnant.  (Read about that here: View from Houston...)

Such a stressful, emotional week.  It was as if God was saying to me the whole time, "Just wait a minute.  I have this handled.  You can keep praying but if you would just stop grabbing at Me for a second, your view will clear up to see my deliverance is at hand...."

(Just wait on the Lord.)

Then there was that time, 4-5 weeks later, when Ella Grace was born and in the NICU.  The Lord spoke into my heart she was going to come home on Friday of that week I got out of the hospital.  I didn't tell anyone that because I didn't have the faith to really believe it.  But He said it and she was home on FRIDAY.  I learned a lot about having faith when it doesn't make sense.  (You can read that story here: Ella Grace's story...)

(Just wait on the Lord.)

My dear friend Ms. Janice texted that to me during my biggest freak out moment - on MONDAY.  It bounced around the inside of my skull all week......Just wait till FRIDAY.  My prayers have been very myopic, focused nearly entirely on one issue, regarding Sophia's school experience.  Should we stay at her school or should we go?  Should she go onto 4th grade or should we hold her back to be in 3rd again to make sure she gets the foundation she needs?  I wrote about my heavy heart and mind several times on FaceBook and the encouragement The Word showed up with.

Yet, it all came down, like those other times, to just one lesson:  

Just wait on the Lord.

I had to walk through a whole bunch of angst to be able to let go and let God do what only He can do - which is help her (and help Dave and I.)  There are so many variables in her school situation right now, I was so stressed out.  I was ready to yank her out and home school her on Monday.  But Janice said:
Just wait on the Lord.

I cried, I faced my worst fears and I threw a fit.  I prayed silently, I prayed fervently, I wrestled with God and myself.  I praised Him, thanked Him and exalted His Name.  I claimed Scripture and I prayed from my heart.  Here we are at the end of the week - another FRIDAY.  Didn't He remind me before of the 2 previous times He told me to wait till Friday?  Yes, He did.

This time I listened and I have seen the parting of the Red Sea.

We are not across the great divide just yet.  There are still a lot of things up in the air.  But it's Friday I know we are just about to come out on the other side of this tunnel.  I know my God has and will come through for her.  She prayed herself through 2 practice STAAR tests this week and her scores reflect God honoring her dependence on Him.  She still has to take the real tests but light is flooding the tunnel we've been walking through together. 

I don't know what the scenery will look like when we get out, but my job is to just be in the moment.  We have worked like it depends on us and prayed like it depended on God.  Those are taken directly from Mark Batterson's The Circle Maker.  Sophia's schooling has been my most consistent prayer circle over the last 2 1/2 months.  We've been standing in that circle, together, for awhile.  We've doubted, we've argued, we've laughed and we've cried.

The Lord has shown Himself faithful through it all. 

I know it is not the biggest challenge we've ever faced, especially where Sophia is concerned.  But in this moment, it is a big one.  We want her prepared to be successful, in school and life.  We want her to have the confidence to believe in herself, like we believe in her.  This is a lesson for our whole family and I know it is a lesson well learned.

I don't know the circumstances you are in, but I know what you need to do: Just wait on the Lord.  Your very own "end of the week," is coming (even if it has been more like months or years.  Wait on Jesus.  He is already there, with the answer to your need in hand.  He is ready, He is willing and He will provide.

Keep praying - keep walking around your own prayer circles (highly recommend the book if you can get your hands on it!!).

The Year of Prayer keeps going....