Category Archives: Prayer

Am I consistently joyful in my walk? Part Two of Two

Image result for free picture of walking with jesusLast week as we considered how to consistently “maintain a joyful Christian walk”, an investigation sparked by Andrew Murray’s jewel “The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer”, we covered points one through 9 in the outline below. This week we will finish with points 10 through 15.  I pray these words help you draw closer to the One who loves us so, so, so very much.

  1. Practicing His presence.
  2. “As you do not know the path of the wind. . . “(Ecclesiastes 11:5)
  3. The message of the hummingbird.
  4. Drawing nearer to God includes pulling away from the world and self.
  5. Steps to wholeness of healing, which is this joy of depending only on Him.
  6. STEP ONE:
  7. “But I am already living a holy life”, my flesh says.
  8. More pruning produces more fruit.
  9. Too straight and too hard?
  10. Are You my vital necessity, Lord?
  11. Am I (still not yet) a slave to righteousness which leads to holiness?
  12. STEP TWO
  13. STEP THREE
  14. ONE LAST “STEP”
  15. I know You will guide me, Lord.

Image result for Free Picture of Bread and Water. Size: 158 x 105. Source: thecatholicspirit.com[9]       Are You my vital necessity, Lord? Jeremiah 2­9 is a letter God wrote through Jeremiah to the captives exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem because of their wickedness and unrepentant idol worship. In the first nine verses, God told the captive Israelites to settle down and work for the good of the place they lived (Babylon) because “its welfare will determine your welfare.” (V. 7b, NLT). God told them they would stay in Babylon 70 years, which was until their punishment was completed. (Notice how God is taking care of them, even while they are being punished, by telling them how to have a better life.)  In verse 10, God promises that after 70 years He would return them to Jerusalem and “do for you all the good things I have promised.” (v. 10b).

And then comes the well-known verse, Jeremiah 29:11:

11 For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. (NIV)

Let’s look closely at verses 12 through 14.

12 Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you.

13 Then you will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (emphasis added)

14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will release you from captivity and gather you from all the nations and all the places to which I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I caused you to be carried away captive.”

Image result for free clip art of the plans i have for youGod reassures His rebellious people that He has good plans for them, and that their final outcome will be one where they love Him whole-heartedly and find Him as well as enjoy freedom again. I think God gave them this encouragement because He knew it would take some of them the whole 70 years to seek Him whole-heartedly. Verses 12-14 concern the “then” time or “in those days,” meaning when the captives are returned to Jerusalem. God says “in those days” His people will pray and He will hear, and when they seek Him as their VITAL necessity and seek Him with ALL their heart, they will find Him and He will bring them back to Jerusalem.

Perhaps the lesson for me, regarding spiritual growth, is that when my life includes putting other things before God—which is idol worship—I will get my consequences, as the Israelite captives did. And I will live with my consequences until God’s righteous judgement on my sin of putting things above Him is completed. And then, after I have learned my lesson through the harsh, but righteous circumstances of my sin, I will then be free FINALLY to seek God, inquire for God, and require God [as a vital necessity] and search for Him with my WHOLE heart. And then—when I truly have no other gods before Him—then is when I will find God and He will return me to my own Jerusalem, my own fortified city where God dwells and truly reigns, my own life where I have the light of peace in my heart.

I believe this process of sin-captivity-judgement-restoration applies to any scale of time, from our ‘little” failures that take us away from God part of the day to on-going, unrecognized and/or unconfessed sin that steals our closeness and our peace for many months or years.

Image result for free picture of slave to righteousness[10]     Am I (still not yet) a slave to righteousness which leads to holiness? (Romans 6:19-23) God makes it clear that “when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16, NIV). So as long as we serve and obey our own flesh or the enemy, we are enslaved by our flesh or the enemy. The consequences of our voluntary enslavement is that the enemy takes us “captive to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:16, NIV), and we are unable to “maintain a joyful Christian walk in God’s way”, which is a symptom of the diseased condition of our heart. I have to ask myself, “Is my heart still not totally submitted to obedience to God?”  Am I carried away to Babylon sometimes, made captive and my will controlled by the cruel enemy, because I still sometimes “offer myself’ to sin?

Perhaps we weak humans simply do not truly learn what seeking God whole-heartedly and with our whole heart is, i.e., as if our life depends on it, until we are in desperate circumstances.

First by force, then by choice? This is why I say God blessed me with depression–it forced me to keep my mind on Him and His Word constantly. My case is not as extreme but it reminds me of the book “Shadowlands.”  When his new wife had cancer, C. S. Lewis was so driven to constant prayer that he said prayer was all he could do and that he had to pray to survive.

Image result for Baby Leaning On JesusPerhaps, after circumstances force us to lean constantly on God, the next quality of character to be developed is to choose this constant leaning, even when we feel we can manage “without thinking about God while we visit with family, spend an afternoon at a museum, etc.  I ask myself, “Freda, is that not self-confidence and self-sufficiency?” This voluntary constant leaning Andrew Murray speaks of costs “self-will, self-pleasure and self-confidence.”  I do have to give up all of self if I am to give all my heart to God.

Although I have lately been spending more time in prayer and Bible study and meditating more consistently during waking hours, trying to grow closer, I sense that asking God to “heal me” in this way is a definite, concrete step, much like the very first time you tithe and must trust that God will meet your needs that month though it looks impossible if you give Him ten percent.

I am certain God will help me in this. As He promises in Romans 6, if I offer myself continually to Him to obey Him, I will be a “slave to righteousness”, which means I will be under the control of righteousness.

16 Do you not know that if you continually surrender yourselves to anyone to do his will, you are the slaves of him whom you obey, whether that be to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience which leads to righteousness (right doing and right standing with God

17 But thank God, though you were once slaves of sin, you have become obedient with all your heart to the standard of teaching in which you were instructed and to which you were committed.

18 And having been set free from sin, you have become the servants of righteousness (of conformity to the divine will in thought, purpose, and action). (Romans 6:16-18, AMPC)

Image result for Free Picture of Sitting with Jesus. Size: 86 x 107. Source: www.pinterest.com.mx[11]     STEP TWO: The second step is to “look to Him as your only help.” (p. 84) We must say, like the lame man at Bethesda “I have no one to put me into the pool” (John 5:7). We must know that there is no help for us here on earth. We must confess our weakness and “know there is no hope for you unless Christ in His mercy heals you.” I think that is something else I must say to the Lord and keep on saying. I do understand that every good thing comes from Him, as James 1 says, and that even our desire to please Him, comes from Him working in us as Philippians 2:13 tells us.

[12]     STEP THREE: The third step is to respond in faith. As the lame man at Bethesda believed Jesus and obeyed and walked, so too must we believe that there is “truth and power in Christ’s word.” (p. 85) “If we fix our gaze on Christ. . . we will have courage to obey.” (p. 85) Yes, I must believe that even I, with all my weaknesses, I can walk in the way God intended. I can exercise my faith which is “. . . being sure of what we hope for and sure of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV) and I can, like Abraham, believe “. . . in the God who brings the dead back to life and Who creates new things out of nothing.” (Romans 4:17, NLT)

Image result for free picture of rain on fields[13]     ONE LAST “STEP”. Andrew Murray then wisely warns about forming false expectations, to not, for example, expect “to be all at once be proficient in prayer or any part of the Christian life.” He concludes the chapter by saying that, like learning anything, we must start at the beginning, but we must start. I will heed this warning because, as a perfectionist in some areas, I can expect too much of myself and get discouraged. I will take the attitude of James 5:7 and be patient as God works in my heart. I can wait “. . . for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.” (NIV)

[14]     I know You will guide me, Lord.  Thank You, Lord, for the grace I feel to yield and not struggle with the idea of this greater pruning of self. But I do need Your clear guidance, Lord. I will meditate on and pray Psalm 25 with greater intensity, and I will declare it.

You know, Lord, in this matter of living my whole life for You, in the past I have been too zealous in some ways, like staying up too late reading the Word, sitting at the desk too long when I need to go exercise, or depriving myself of so many pleasures that I became resentful and frustrated with the lifestyle I created for myself in trying to put You first.

I know I need adequate rest and exercise and time with family and friends. And I have learned it is essential to invest at least a bit of time regularly in keeping my home and surroundings tidy. But, Father, what about “leisure time”? Lord, I do not want to spend too much time on that but neither do I want to become unbalanced and eventually frustrate myself and cause discouragement.

Image result for free picture of praying handsI paused, but only a moment before a clear thought came. “I can spend time praying in the Spirit for direction about this.” I have learned recently (although I think I knew it in years earlier and ‘forgot’ it) that when I faithfully set aside time each day to pray in tongues about something specific, He answers clearly.

“Yes! Lord! I know You will answer!”

And, another thought came then, one I was not so excited about.

“Lord, is the healthier diet You recently led me to part of all of this? I have fallen away from it lately. Is this part of the things that seem “too hard and too straight”? Well, I will include prayer and prayer in tongues about that, too. As Paul said in I Corinthians 14:15, “I will pray in the spirit, and I will also pray in words I understand. I will sing in the spirit, and I will also sing in words I understand.” (NIV)

“Father, You know this will be a new and exciting adventure. Thank You for leading me to that book through my friend. Something has not seemed quite right between us for a while, and I think it is what I have heard some Bible teachers and preachers say, that You sometimes pull away so that we will press on further and follow You into new places.

Dearest Father, with the psalmist in Psalm 27:4, I say:

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek, inquire for, and [insistently] require: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life, to behold and gaze upon the beauty [the sweet attractiveness and the delightful loveliness] of the Lord and to meditate, consider, and inquire in His temple.

Yes, Lord! Keep me close while I grow!

 Note: For more about “Standing Strong Like the Hummingbird,”see the May 9, 2020, blog post. May our loving Father grant both of us grace to stand strong and to move forward with Him in our personal growth. Amen and so be it, Lord Jesus!

Image result for Walking with Jesus Quotes

Am I consistently joyful in my walk? Part One of Two

Image result for Free Picture of Walking with Jesus. Size: 124 x 100. Source: www.fanpop.comThis week we will cover Parts One through Nine of the points listed  below  as we consider how to consistently “maintain a joyful Christian walk”, an investigation sparked by Andrew Murray’s jewel of a book “The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer.” Let us commit this study to God and ask for His wisdom. Let us ask with faith, knowing He will give it, for we know He is good and only good and that He delights in giving good things to His children (James 1:5-8, Luke 11:11-13). I pray that pondering Andrew Murray’s teaching convicts, comforts, and spurs you on to greater commitment to our loving Father, as it did me. May your deepening commitment enable you to feel His loving embrace ever more clearly in your daily walk. Here are the headings of this two-part series.

  1. Practicing His presence.
  2. “As you do not know the path of the wind. . . “(Ecclesiastes 11:5)
  3. The message of the hummingbird.
  4. Drawing nearer to God includes pulling away from the world and self.
  5. Steps to wholeness of healing, which is this joy of depending only on Him.
  6. STEP ONE
  7. “But I am already living a holy life”, my flesh says.
  8. More pruning produces more fruit.
  9. Too straight and too hard?
  10. Are You my vital necessity, Lord?
  11. Am I (still not yet) a slave to righteousness which leads to holiness?
  12. STEP TWO
  13. STEP THREE
  14. ONE LAST “STEP”
  15. I know You will guide me, Lord.

Image result for free picture of tree branches in wind 

[1]       Practicing His presence.   “Father, I love this new habit You led me to, this just sitting with You a while before starting morning devotions. Thank You for guiding me.” I sipped the chamomile fast, so it would help with breathing, and gently moved the rocker, peering into soft morning light, grateful three-story units to the east blocked the direct morning sun. The window framed soft green, intertwined crape myrtle branches in shadow, like a private, secluded forest.

[2]       “As you do not know the path of the wind. . . “(Ecclesiastes 11:5)  The morning Texas wind shoved larger branches to the right, pinning them there, while slender stems at the ends traced quavering circles in the air. As abruptly as it had begun, the wind stopped. Branches snapped back and stood straight, stretching leafy arms toward their Creator.

“Yes, Lord, I remember when I learned that verse, “As you do not know the path of the wind or how the body is formed in the wind, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” (Ecclesiastes 11:5, NIV). It was more than thirty years ago, when Sharon was in elementary school and I was a new believer. I was walking from the bus stop to the office on a cold, gusty February morning, holding an index card as I walked, memorizing the Word. I remember the wind blasted my coat open at that very moment, reminding me that You were with me. That one touch of Your love warmed me the whole day. Hmm.  So sweet, so sweet. . . Thank You, dear Father. Memories of Your Word speaking to me are truly are “sweeter than honey”, as You say in Psalm 119.

Lord, I could not then and I cannot now know which way the wind will turn, and I do not understand Your work or Your ways, but I do love Psalm 25, how the whole psalm is a plea for You to teach the psalmist Your ways and show him how to live. I especially like that short verse, verse 25, “Show me Your ways, Lord; teach me Your paths.” (AMPC).  I am glad it is taking so long to memorize. That’s making me think deeply about each phrase.

Image result for free picture of hummingbird[3] The message of the hummingbird.  “Oooh!” I breathed as I saw a hummingbird hover beside the fuschia flowers of the crape myrtle ten yards from my second-floor window.

“I have never seen one this high up. Thank You Lord!” Before the hummingbird darted away, another treasured memory drifted into thought.

“I remember how, when depression was at its worst, You gave the person praying with me visions of hummingbirds and a rhema word that I must feed on the nectar of Your Word as a hummingbird feeds on flower nectar. That so much confirmed how You had led me to meditate constantly, day and night, on Your Word. And that constant meditation healed the depression and fear and has kept me free.

“Yes,” I thought, “that is part of drawing closer, when God lets events force us to return our mind to Him as often as hummingbirds return for nectar. That pulling away from anything else but dependence on Him must be an essential part of drawing nearer.”

[4] Drawing nearer to God includes pulling away from the world and self.  I have been pondering a chapter in Andrew Murray’s sterling book “The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer.”  He says “Your inability to maintain a joyful Christian walk in God’s way is a sign of disease.” (p. 84). That sentence grabbed my attention. By grace alone, I maintain joy and victory more consistently now than before, but not always.

I have learned to fight my way back to emotional balance and joy, rather than just avoiding depression.  But Andrew Murray’s book explains my “remaining disease of self” is the cause of emotional imbalance and negative emotions that still happen sometimes. Andrew Murray talks about this disease of the self that is so hard to be free from. The chapter “Will You Be Made Whole?” outlines God’s way for healing us of self so we can walk as He intends, with consistent joy and “heavenly power beyond anything we could dare to imagine or hope for.” (p. 81).

Image result for free picture of doctor and patientMurray notes that a doctor heals by making the patient independent of the doctor. Our Great Physician’s aim is to heal by bringing “. . . us into such dependence upon himself that we will not be able to live a moment without Him.” (p. 82). We live frail Christian lives because we do not appropriate Divine truth for our own selves.

“As long as we expect Christ to continually do something for us in single acts of grace, trusting Him from time to time to give us only that which will last a little while, we cannot be restored to perfect health. But when we grasp the fact that we need Him moment by moment in our lives in utter dependence upon His strength and provision, then the life of Christ becomes the health of our soul.” (p. 82)

[5]       Steps to wholeness of healing, which is this joy of depending only on Him. Murray outlines three steps to being made whole: telling God we want to be made whole, looking to Him as our only help, and responding in faith.

[6]       STEP ONE: To achieve this condition where “the life of Christ becomes the health of our soul”, Murray explains, Christ first asks us, as He did the man at Bethesda (John 5:2-9), “Do you want to get well?” And we must tell Him we want to be made well.  Some will not admit we are sick and others will not believe Christ can make us fully whole.

“At the root of it all [this not admitting our sickness and our unbelief] is the fear of self-denial and the sacrifice that will be required. People are not willing to entirely give up self-will, self-confidence, and self-pleasing (emphasis added). The walk in Christ that makes us like Christ is too straight and too hard (emphasis added). They do not want to be made whole. . . . If you are willing to be made whole, you must confess clearly, “Lord, at any price, I will!” (p. 84)

Image result for free picture of pruning grape vine[7]       But I am already living a holy life”, my flesh says. Each round of trials-wobbling-rebalancing these many months has shaken off more self-confidence, more of the flesh, and more of the world. My walk has become more narrow regarding what I do, read and listen to. I also am better now at forgiving and forgetting because they now feel like the poison they are (whereas for years before they stayed buried, unaware, deep in my heart). This narrowing of our daily life is part of the pruning Jesus describes in John 15:2. “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (NIV)” Andrew Murray explains that of all fruit-bearing vines, the grapevine most needs pruning. Pruning cuts away not only dead branches but good, fruit-bearing branches because those branches use sap, and more sap must be channeled into producing fruit, rather than merely sustaining branches.

[8]       More pruning produces more fruit. And now? Now I think God is calling me to sacrifice some good things in favor of better things, lovingly pruning good wood so that more of my life’s energy will, like sap, will go into producing fruit for the kingdom. I believe that includes more prayer and Bible study and more time invested in others rather than self-indulgences, self-pleasures or self-will.

Image result for free picture of narrow mountain path[9]       Too straight and too hard? I am thinking deeply about Andrew Murray’s observation that entirely giving up  our “walk after the course of this world” can seem “too straight and too hard  because it includes giving up “self-will, self-confidence, and self-pleasing.” Suppose, for example, we forego R-rated movies because God shows us those are no longer acceptable. Suppose our path then narrows to only movies with no violence or obscenities. Would our path to greater closeness seem “too straight and too hard” if it means many evenings of foregoing all “entertainment” so as to make more time for Bible study and prayer or acts of service or a higher quality of family evenings?

More than four years ago, when God first showed me it was necessary to keep my mind on the Word all day, I recall thinking “I can’t live like Joyce Meyer and other Bible teachers say they do. I can’t think about the Word ALL day.” At that point, I do not think I wanted to either, although I thought I loved God with all my heart back then. Perhaps I did to the fullest extent I could, BUT He was not yet my “vital necessity,” not until desperation forced me to meditate constantly, just like I had heard.

Is God showing me that He is still not truly my vital necessity, that I still depend on and/or love my own self and worldly things more than Him? Part Two explores this question.

Trees. . . so pleasing to the human eye!

1treesPEACEFULforestSCENE

Few things are as calming to my soul as trees.  All kinds of trees, in all seasons, in all locations – they all comfort my heart and, “magically”, make me feel secure.   And I can explain why.

Pleasing to the eye

In telling us about creation, God says in Genesis chapter 2, verse 9:

And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye [emphasis added] and good for food.” (New International Version). 

I have always loved the outdoors, though I’ve been a city dweller all my life.  Maybe that’s one reason I’ve always loved trees – they are a part of nature that is in cities and yet remain much as they would be in the woods.    Their branches reach outward from a trunk in the same way, their leaves sway with the wind in the same way, and they stretch their branches up toward heaven in the same way.   Trees do this whether they are in a city or in a wilderness where no one but God sees them.

The Bible tells us that God called all that He created “good”.  I believe God thinks trees are beautiful, too.  I believe that they are pleasing to His eye, just as they are to mine.  Our all-powerful Father in heaven, our Creator and the Creator of the universe, could have made earth obtain its oxygen in an invisible manner.  But He chose to cover the earth with beautiful flowers, bushes, and trees. . . majestic, glorious, upward-reaching trees.

1autumn_trres_PANORAMIC

Whether you live on a mountain with a panoramic view all around or, like me, in an urban area with one tree outside my window, I pray you will pause and let the beauty of trees bring you pleasure, as God intended.  Let them remind you to lift your heart towards heaven, just as the trees lift their branches to heaven.

“The heavens declare the glory of God. . . ” (Psalm 19:1, NIV)

Together with all of creation, let us praise and glorify and love the wonderful One who made us and gave us such a beautiful earth to call our temporary home.

1TREE_ONLYONE_LOOKING UPINTO IT

 

The Best New Year’s Resolutions – Gratitude and Trusting God

obstacle

Christian Values and Goal Setting

My personality type constantly plans and sets goals, sometimes to excess, I admit.  Below are two good links about making goals and plans.  My two main goals for 2016 are to be more grateful and to trust God more.  (Along with trusting God, of  course, goes worrying less!)  I encourage myself often by remembering that nothing is impossible with God.   As Proverbs 16:3 says “Commit to the LORD whatever you do and your plans will succeed (New International Version.)

This fist link regarding goals is entitled “Personal Goal Setting:  Planning to Live Your Life Your Way.” Although this webpage is not about setting goals as a Christ follower, you can adapt it for goals related to your life with God.   http://bit.ly/1LabpRU

The next link entitled “Five Tips for Setting Christian Goals” focuses specifically on spiritual goals.   I found it personally highly  useful and thought-provoking.  http://bit.ly/1Zw3B6P

And Have Fun Planning and Anticipating!

dog jumping obstacleIf you have ever watched the amazing things dogs do during obstacle course competition, one thing is clear:   the dogs are having a great time – doing what they are meant to do.  We, too, are made to be overcomers.  Let’s enjoy the journey!

Trusting God

Dear Father in heaven,

I ask that You would graciously guide each of us, as You promise in James 1.   As we trust You, give us wisdom in setting goals for the next year.  Help us not to get  caught up in the process or  start depending upon ourselves.  Rather, keep reminding us that You are  in charge of our lives and that You have everything in control.  All we need to do is serve you with our whole heart, and soul and mind and trust You for the results.  We love You, Jesus!”

 

Trusting God – Easier Said Than Done!

Trusting God vs. Overplanning

planning papers 2015

This last week I’ve had extra time to work on my blogs because my teacher son-in-law has been home to help with childcare.  I confess I’ve gotten myself overwhelmed by too much planning.  How can I improve my blogs, how can I EVER get comfortable with Facebook and Twitter?  How can I find more time to write and do all the peripheral work related to blogging without sacrificing these next few  precious preschool years with my grandsons? The answer?  I cannot, of course.

Family First 

All my writing is about how to “focus on your family”, which is the God-directed duty of every parent.  I can reduce my family time and try to bulldoze my way to success. Or, I can choose to trust God and keep priorities in line.  Just as He has worked every single thing in my life out for my good (Romans 8:28!!) so He will continue to do so.

It Does Take Faith!

I admit it takes faith to spend hours with the family when I still have not done so much that the expert bloggers recommend.  But I know, day by day, God and I are taking huge steps, and I am learning to “build my  author platform” so that eventually  publishers will be interested.

God NEVER Leaves Us and He NEVER  Forsakes Us – NEVER!

I can no longer stay up late and get up early to do the writing, as I did when Sharon was little.  However, over the years God has graciously shown me the effectiveness of prayer and faith and  committing all that I do to Him.  God has no favorites.  And just as He enabled George Mueller to accomplish a lifetime of miracles through prayer alone, He will help me with the writer’s life to which He has called me.  Below is a link to a description of this amazing believer’s life.  I read an entire book about him years ago.  I have always remembered, that, as this link says:

 “God answered his prayers. The needs of the orphanage were met each day. Sometimes a wealthy person would send a large amount of money, or a child would give a small amount received as a gift or for doing chores. Many times food, supplies or money came at the last minute, but God always provided without George telling anyone about his needs. He just prayed and waited on God.”

http://bit.ly/1NIky6u

By God’s unfathomable grace, may we all spend more time in prayer about our work for God!  As the hymn at the link below says – He never fails, He yet prevails!  Have faith in God. . . have faith in God!”

http://yhoo.it/1QQqjW2