Challenge, Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day, Prayer

 “Our Thoughts and Prayers are With You”

We’re hearing these words a lot lately, too often really. It seems we can go from tragedy to tragedy all too quickly.

Of late we’re also hearing some pushback about that spoken or written phrase. Why? Do people see it as insincere? Or, maybe these words in question seem too glib or perhaps spoken too soon? Maybe they’re associated with the lack of action steps? It would be wrong to judge the heart of the person using that phrase because you or I do not know what’s in their heart. 

Would we rather it said, “Our thoughts are not with you and neither are our prayers?” That’s cold and I would think, rarely thought.

So, let’s say people are sincere when they speak these words. They might be far removed from the incident and can have little to no effect upon the event. But in their minds, they can visualize it happening in their home area and they shudder to think of its occurrence. And so, they offer the one thing they can, thoughts and if they are praying persons, prayer. I do know my wife and I pray for the victim’s families and their deep pain. We pray for the first responders and what they have to experience. We pray for our nation.

Is there a time to take action? Yes. Can everyone take action? No. Is everyone called to take the same action? No. Some have to settle for well wishes, concern and hoping for a better outcome in the future. 

In my mind, here is the fault in criticizing these words. By pushing back, you belittle the one thing that some people feel is their only choice to offer. You repeat a mockery of those who meaningfully use this phrase. You judge their hearts. You condemn them for what is thought as doing nothing. And, you as well, use phrases similar to these and think nothing of it. But, is it right to jump on a bandwagon of someone else’s critical, sometimes arrogant and thoughtless words which also have very little meaning to them and effect little to no change?

Here is my biggest issue with this subject: Prayer is not inaction! Prayer to our heavenly Father is faith in action on the believer’s part. It is grappling with concern and personalizing it into words of petition directed by the Holy Spirit. Our heavenly Father waits to hear from us and that is called: prayer. How do I know this? Please take a minute to read the scripture verses below.

  • I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for all people. (I Timothy 2:1)
  • Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:17)
  • During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears. (Hebrews 5:7)
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)
  • The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous. (Proverbs 15:29)
  • We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.(Romans 8:26)
  • Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. (James 5:13)
  • Trust in him at all times, you people: pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (Psalms 62:8)
  • Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. (Jeremiah 33:3)
  • Pray continually. (I Thessalonians 5:17)

Wow–prayer, petitions and thanksgiving are to be made first for all people. Prayer is powerful and effective. Jesus, the Son of God, prayed and He is our example! Prayer is presenting our requests to God, keeping us from anxiety as we know He hears the prayers of the righteous.  The Spirit of God helps us to pray accurately.

So, call on Him continually and He will answer you and show you the effective ways you can serve others to bring about change for the glory of God and the good of mankind. At the same time, please know there are very real and authentic persons full of compassion and hearts devoted toward seeing change come to the world we live in.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Identity, Prayer

It’s An Unfair Advantage!

As believers, we have an unfair advantage! 

God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. 30 Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. I Kings 4:29, 30

Proverbs 2:1-6 – My son, if you accept my words
    and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
    and applying your heart to understanding—
indeed, if you call out for insight
    and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

With God on our side, watching our backs, going before us, behind us and beside us, we have an unfair advantage as believers. The Holy Spirit is always working on our behalf in us and through us. Jesus loves us, saves us and heals us. He goes before the Father in intercession for us. 

We live in a world of favor, mercy and blessing. Our minds, controlled by the Spirit, always have the potential to think His thoughts, have His insights and walk in His wisdom. We are never without His presence, His going before us and His protection of us. We walk throughout life in an unfair advantage.

We serve and have daily access to the best lawyer, banker, mortgage agent, doctor, dentist, counselor, scientist, financial manager, retirement planner, head hunter and boss. He opens doors before us and closes those which we are not to enter. He has the answer to every question and insight into every problem. He is the inventor, innovator and creator. All wisdom and all insight reside within Him and He freely shares this wisdom with us as He did with Daniel, David, Moses, Solomon and Esther.

We are never alone, never without hope and never without a friend. He is our safe place, our comforter and our lover. We are never without an answer to a question; we have a fulltime advocate and we walk with the Teacher of teachers. We clearly have an advantage in serving Him, loving Him, placing Him first in our lives and pursuing Him with all of our heart. 

This unfair advantage is given to us freely but we must take hold of it. We must call upon Him first and foremost. We look to Him before anything or anyone. He is our source and our explanation. He is the Good News and He longs to give every one of us this advantage. 

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Challenge, Encouragement, Prayer

One of the Quietest Places in the World

Have you ever heard of the National Radio Quiet Zone? The United States designated a radio quiet zone in which any radio transmission is heavily restricted by law covering a land mass of 13,000 square miles in 1956. This quiet zone contains the largest, fully-steerable radio telescope in the world. It’s located in Green Bank, West Virginia.

 

The dish alone is larger than a football field. This telescope can capture infinitesimal signals from space. The government prohibits the use of cell phones, cordless phones, Wi-Fi, microwaves and wireless speakers within a ten-mile radius that could cause any interference with radio observations. This “quiet” allows scientists to “hear” and to listen for any noise from outer space.

 

Where is your intentional “quiet space?” How do you quiet yourself so you can hear and listen to the voice of the One who created our universe? There are so many voices that require our daily attention, but there is One we must hear.

 

In Job 33, God said to Job, “Pay attention and listen to me; be silent…and I will speak.” There is a time for speaking our petitions and there is a time to listen. When we position ourselves to listen, we position ourselves to hear direction, to receive wisdom and to feel loved.

 

There are more than enough distractions in our lives today. Renew in your heart to allow your heavenly Father undistracted and unrestricted access and time by turning off those devices, reading His word and listening to Him. You will not regret one minute of it and neither will He.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Prayer, Women

The Intimacy of Couple Prayer

While fighting and arguing can be powerful in its disagreement, seeking God together in prayer is far more powerful in its spiritual agreement. You find yourself side-by-side, holding hands and letting your requests be known to your Creator. If you’re being honest, you know God sees your heart and expects vulnerability from both of you. In that openness and vulnerability, you become unveiled before Him. 

 

Before you were married, did anyone advise you that your marriage would need room for failure, forgiveness, loss, brokenness, disagreement, or even sin?  If not, a full and honest disclosure was missed, and you may have entered into marriage a bit naïve or ill-advised.  Marriages fail because we fail God, each other, and ourselves.  We fail to love, we fail to honor, we fail to forgive, and we fail in keeping at bay our own personal struggles with selfishness.

 

Before the Genesis three account of failure, the Bible states that God created us for a world where mankind was first introduced to God’s idea called marriage, and within that world, we would personally walk with God on a daily basis.  Can you imagine as a couple that at the end of each workday, after dinner, you would take a stroll in God’s perfect garden and speak with Him as you would any other person?  How that must have refreshed Adam and Eve, reenergized them, and built them for life together, for family, and for their next day.

 

But can’t God walk with us on a daily basis today?  Can we not have a conversation with Him together about our marriage, family, business, or life questions?  Would we be amiss to entertain for one moment that God has stopped longing to hear from us as His creation, especially the concerns we hold within our marriage and family?

 

You can be sexually intimate with almost anyone, but you cannot pray with just anyone.  In order to really open up our hearts and pray together, we must know we are in a safe place.  We must know we are not being judged for our heartfelt prayer.  And we must know that the one with whom we divulge our heart will maintain confidentiality and that we can trust them with our deepest, most secret sins and needs.  Praying together within marriage is so intimate that if these factors are not present, we will almost always divert ourselves to a same-sex prayer partner for that level of prayer.  At the same time, we will be forfeiting something so intimate, so close and so heartfelt, that a certain dimension will be missing within our marriage relationship.

 

Start small; find five or ten minutes in your day to connect in prayer.  Begin your prayer time by giving God thanks for all of His blessings in your life, including each other.  Move on to praying for one another and then your family, along with any other needs.  Close again with prayers of thanksgiving, because a thankful heart is an encouraged and an encouraging heart.  As this time of prayer becomes a habit, allow it to grow and increase.  The Bible says that when we find a place of prayer, we find a place of power and agreement (Matthew 18:19-20).

 

Some couples do not pray together because of vulnerability (it’s risking too much); others avoid prayer because of feeling inadequate; some use the excuse that they do not have enough time; others simply do not trust their spouse enough. Whatever the reason, all of these reasons keep us from obedience to God, from growing together spiritually, from becoming passionately intimate and from agreement that brings the deepest unity any marriage can encounter.

 

Perhaps you’ve already begun praying together. If not, we encourage you to begin today. If you establish this life-giving habit now, it will continue to flow within your marriage relationship quite naturally. It will build over time and as you experience, in deeper measure, the hand of God and answered prayer, you will find yourselves rejoicing together far more often.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Prayer

We Know About Green Spaces, But What About Blue Spaces?

We hear a lot about green spaces and how we all need time to view the open land, touch the trees and enjoy the air quality they create for us. But how many of us value blue spaces?

 

Blue spaces are areas near water such as lakes, oceans and fresh water streams. These too are all associated with a better well-being, less stress and relaxation.

 

I recently read about a current study in which it was discovered that those who lived less than half a mile from a coast were less likely to suffer from “common mental disorder” like anxiety and depression. Interesting, but what’s the point?

 

This study leads me to one of my favorite scriptures in the New Testament. It’s found in Matthew chapter 13, verse one, “That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake.”

 

There’s something about water, the sounds, the fresh or ocean air that surrounds it. Jesus had a spot, a blue spot to commune with His Father and to consider His day ahead of Him.  Apparently, just taking time to be, was important to His well-being also. Eventually the crowds found Him so He entered a boat and taught them while the people stood on the shore listening.

 

Do you have a favorite blue spot? If not, perhaps you want to find one and enjoy some time to commune with your Father just like Jesus did.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Prayer

For the Love of Rocks

I accomplished all of my own landscaping, by trial and error, but it is something I enjoy. While landscaping, I used rocks–lots of rocks. I outlined specific landscaped areas, made steps, created a retaining wall, built a sidewalk and even a bench seat all out of local, beautiful and from small to large rocks.

 

Finding all of those rocks was no easy task. They came from barn foundations and walls. Most of them were hand hewn and some had holes drilled right through them for one purpose or another. I would often pause and think about how many hands touched this certain rock, what quarry it originated from and was its natural beauty noticed for a century or more before I obtained it?

 

Recently in accomplishing yet another landcaping project at my home, I was once again in need of a few rocks. This time I had no idea how to find the particular color I needed. I voiced a request on social media and had an immediate response. I was told about a young stone mason who collected rocks, tons and tons of rocks.

 

I called him and we arranged a time to meet. This young man loved rocks more than me. He had dump truck loads spread over acres of ground. He had gray, brown, red, tan, black and even white rocks. I never saw so many rocks in one location. And when he heard of my love for these precious stones he couldn’t stop talking about them and then showing me his many, many accumulations. He knew the origination of each pile of rocks collected and he was excited about sharing a rock commonality. He even wanted to give me the few rocks I needed.

 

How is it that God cared enough to show me the way to some rock piles? Or did He so care about this young man that I was destined to meet, build a repore with him in order to share about faith? Not sure.

 

Matthew 6 tells us to not worry about food or clothes (or in this case, rocks). He feeds the birds and clothes the lilies of the field. He tells us to seek Him first because He knows where all the rock piles are located.

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Challenge, Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day, Prayer

The Importance of This Time in Our Lives

There is always something to learn in life about ourselves or about others in both good and bad times. The book of Ecclesiastes reminds us there is a time and a season for everything.  (See Ecclesiastes 3:1.) Here are a few of my observations and reminders from this amazing, but challrenging season.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Prayer

The Unmistakable Comfort of Psalm 91

So many have found Psalm 91 to bring great comfort, strength, truth and spiritual reality to us during this unique time. Personally, I have been praying through it every morning for my loved ones and the many others I am responsible for. One morning I felt prompted to look up one of the words in the dictionary for greater clarity and then became intrigued with so many of the other words found in this amazing Psalm. I ended up with a very amplified version and decided to share it with you below. I hope it is of great comfort, help and support to you as it is to me when praying these beautifully written words.

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day, Parents, Prayer

7 Healthy Responses to the Coronavirus

I love Psalm 91; it is so full of good news.  With all of the change the whole world is facing today, God’s word and His promises do not change and it is good to remind ourselves of this fact.  If you haven’t read this Psalm recently, please do and consider reading it daily as recommended in point number one below.  Its truth is so encouraging in this hour.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Prayer

Do You Have a Dream(s) for 2020?

Joseph was just a teenager of 17.  He received two significant dreams that he foolishly, and in a bit of arrogance, shared with his family.  Of course, if you know the story, his brothers hated him for the content of those dreams and for expressing them.  (Genesis 37:1-11)

 

It would be another 20 or so years until those dreams became reality.  During those years he experienced some really low periods, like jail time in a king’s dungeon for a false accusation.  But Joseph held onto his dreams from God.

 

A dream is a direction that you feel led toward from your spirit, not your head.  It typically incorporates your personal bent and gifts.  When God sparks a dream in your heart, it’s difficult to let it go. I have experienced many dreams/visions fulfilled over my 65 years.  As I look back, I am in awe of what my heavenly Father has brought about.  That said, I also believe there are still many more dreams to be fulfilled. It takes a dream, a vision from the Lord to move you on.

 

It’s not that we’re discontent, for if we are, we’ll most likely remain where we’re presently at for some time. Dreams are from God about what’s next, what He’s preparing you for and that means you need to finish what you’re doing.  We need to complete it well, with integrity and no burned bridges.  There is something about completing a vision or taking it as far as God desires you to.  We must find contentment in what our Father has given our hands to do.  Godliness with contentment is great gain.  (I Timothy 6:6)

 

Author Steve Addison wrote, “Discontent without vision leads to cynicism, but a dream without action is a fantasy.”

 

God downloads a life-giving dream into your spirit, you begin to consciously see it and either meditate on what the Father is saying or begin excusing why the thought couldn’t be God and dismiss it. If we have our eyes on his present circumstances only, we’ll feel as though Joseph missed God or God missed Joseph.  Not so. Life was happening to Joseph, but all for a reason.

 

God was wasting nothing.  His plan was coming about.  In Genesis 45 we see that Joseph’s heart was broken as his brothers knelt before him and he sobbed uncontrollably. Did he miss his brothers?  Yes.  Did he miss his father?  Yes.  But perhaps that is not why he was crying.  Maybe, just maybe, he was crying because the dream he had as a child was being fulfilled, before his very own eyes.  Nothing was amiss or awry.  God did not mess up or forget one single detail. All those years of suffering now melted away with purpose and fulfillment.  All those years of not knowing about his homeland or his family while in Egypt, are now history with the exuberance of a fulfilled dream taking place before him.

 

Do you have a dream?  Is there something inside of you?  Is there something you are passionate about to pursue?  If not, ask God for a dream, a vision from Him. Give your dreams a place in your prayer life.  Write down what you hear your Father speak to you and write down the answers He reveals.  As Habakkuk 2:2 says – “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.”

 

We have a brand-new year ahead of us – 2020.  Maybe you gave up on a dream or thought it too lofty;  consider re-digging those wells.  Give thanks for the many fulfilled dreams in your life and expect, anticipate many more. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.  (Proverbs 13:12 NLT)

 

Dream on!

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