One Christian’s support of the Black Lives Matter fight against racism in America

By Snow

Before I begin today’s post, I want to point you to Wounded Butterflies. My collaborator, JC, is in progress over there on a brave series of posts, “Nobody Knew, Yet Everybody Knew,” chronicling her story as an abuse survivor. Check the first three posts out at the following links: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3.

I originally had a different topic in mind today, but Jesus has led me to write this one instead. It has been on my heart for some time, and today is the day.

To serve as the backbone of this post, I’m going to use a letter I wrote to a pastor back in June. However, I am going to both condense and expand it to better serve my purposes here. While I generally have tried to keep Beloved Walks free of politics, we are living in unusual times, and I feel burdened to speak. If not now, when?

Yes, I am compelled as a Christian to write this today, but I claim to speak for no one else other than myself.


“My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?”
James 2:1

Here in the United States, we are a country full of pain. In many ways, we are a country founded on pain. Wonderful ideals masked flaws right from the start because of sin’s infiltration. Harsh realities marred powerful words, like “All men are created equal,” in the Declaration of Independence. The Constitution went on to codify the disenfranchisement of entire groups of people. Yes, this document, touted as a beacon of democracy, is blemished in its very first article! The issue should have been resolved at the beginning, but instead, the founding fathers kicked it forward to a future generation.

The United States fought an entire war against itself decades later to free slaves, and, ostensibly, it did free them. Yet, African Americans still did not receive that promised equality. Oppression and disenfranchisement continued, but under other guises.

The losing side of the Civil War was later even able to erect statues of the traitors who chose the wrong side of morality. Why did losing generals in a failed secession get statues? “History” was the oft-repeated answer. No, those statues were meant to intimidate, plain and simple. They symbolize everything that is wrong with race relations in America. State and local governments have been slow to act to remove them, so the people have ultimately been compelled to do so on their own.

To be clear, I am definitely in favor of acknowledging and learning from history. What I strongly object to is the notion that this should be accomplished through maintaining statues of traitors portrayed falsely as heroes. No. Tear them down.

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.”
Proverb 31:8-9

A century after the Civil War, Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., and so many other true heroes marched and shed their blood for civil rights, resulting in many advances. Because of their efforts, for example, I was blessed to have African American classmates and teachers – including my favorite teacher ever, who changed my life. As a white student, these gifts would have been impossible for me to receive before that movement. What a loss that would have been.

Yet, even after these civil rights victories, oppression and disenfranchisement continued, often in more subtle ways.

“‘Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.’ Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.”
Joel 2:13

I am ashamed to admit, I was one of those naive enough to believe that this country’s racist history was finally behind us when the people elected President Barack Obama in 2008. Yet, he had barely taken the oath of office before I learned that racism was sadly alive. I remember the sinking feeling as I received multiple email forwards of supposed “humor” in the early days of his Presidency that was nothing more than racism.

Today, seemingly bereft of any leadership, this country is spiraling out of control at almost every level. Those we, the people, entrust with power are abusing that power to the point of murdering citizens. Only the prevalence of video cameras, thanks to smart phones, is finally making the rest of us see what some already knew far too well all along: There is still much work to do in the United States before we can truly be the “land of the free.”

Yes, I know many police officers are noble and put their lives on the line daily for just purposes. However, silence in the name of “brotherhood” only condones and emboldens those officers undeserving of our trust and the uniforms they wear.

Credit: JC

Dr. Tony Evans, in a moving sermon on September 6, stated, “The only reason why we have a ‘white Church’ and a ‘black Church’ is because one group of the Church decided that another set of Christians didn’t belong. […] We would not have a racial divide in America if it weren’t for the Church. The Church is the cause. The good news is, it’s also the cure for the racial divide creating havoc in our society.”

White evangelicals elected a blatantly racist, sexist, choose just about any horrible adjective, President in 2016, and that support appears sadly to continue. The conservative political machine has become expert at manipulating that group through the use of hot button, dog whistle talking points. Much like the noble police officers, I am aware there are noble conservatives. However, silence in the era of Donald Trump – no matter if he supposedly identifies as your party or even your faith – only condones and emboldens a man undeserving of our trust and the office he holds. It really is the same as the officers who look the other way.

We are living in a time of change, yet this is barely reflected on the national ballot. It is one old, white man versus another old, white man for the Presidency. When it comes to racism and sexism, Joseph Biden has his own problems and only appears acceptable if contrasted to the mass chaos of an ignorant, power-hungry narcissist like Trump.

Should that really be our bar? Where are the real leaders?

No one is perfect, but surely we, as a nation, can do better than a choice between “Bad” and “Worse”? I used to think the United States was the greatest nation on Earth, but it’s hard to believe that anymore.

I, for one, am sad that for the second Presidential election in a row, I will be voting against someone, rather than for someone.

I can’t pretend to know what it is like to be an African American in this country. I don’t know what it’s like to have discrimination and hatred always lurking, always waiting to strike, always preparing to destroy. I don’t know what it’s like to be afraid for my life at a minor traffic stop or when jogging after dark. The small glimpses I have seen of these cruelties have been sickening, but I know I have experienced nothing compared to the reality.

What I do know is that black lives matter. What I do know is that white supremacy must end. What I do know is that police departments must make significant changes at a foundational level. What I do know is that we must seize this opportunity to correct the inherent flaws in American society.

What I do know, above anything else, is that we are all God’s children, created in His image.

Racism is not only a sin, but it is an attack against God Himself.


Father in Heaven,

May our hearts be torn. May our hearts be broken for what breaks Your heart.

In the blessed name of Jesus we pray.

Amen


“Anyone who loves a fellow believer is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. But anyone who hates a fellow believer is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.”
1 John 2:10-11

What should your loved ones know?

Credit: JC

By Snow

Though I don’t plan to die anytime soon, I also acknowledge that is ultimately up to the Lord. Therefore, I recently assembled a document of information my loved ones need to know. Loosely based on a printed workbook JC gave me a couple of years ago (yes, I procrastinate), I had to type mine in Microsoft Word because I enjoy constantly reanalyzing and changing things, which a handwritten version would not really accommodate very well.

I am not sure what I expected it to be like, but it turned into a very emotional process at times for me. This type of document essentially represents your last communications, in this world anyway, to your family and friends. Many cold but necessary things are captured. Bank accounts, life insurance policies, and the like.

I sprinkled other things throughout mine, though. Little notes here and there. Some to whoever happened to be reading, others to specific people. I also added some of my favorite Bible verses. Much prayer went into my document.

Near the end of the exercise, I decided to add some concluding thoughts. I considered as I wrote, what if I really did die today? The emotions flooded me as I realized what a blessed life I have led. I found Jesus (or, rather, He found me). I experienced true love. And so many other wonderful aspects.

I also know where I am going when I die, thanks to Jesus. The fear of the unknown future after death or, as William Shakespeare so eloquently called it, “the undiscovered country” (Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1), no longer has a grip on me. I am going to the Perfect Place, Heaven, to be with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Whether I go in five minutes or fifty years, He has a place for me.

On a more practical side, I discovered a number of things while gathering the material. First, it took me far longer than I expected to pull together the information. Which, to me, completely justifies the exercise. If it took me 30 hours to find all of this stuff while knowing, in general, where to look and how to access it, I imagine it would take loved ones at least ten times that long if I did not provide them this kind of assistance. And some things they would never find or even know to seek.

I also learned that I had failed properly to fill out paperwork when updating one of my old retirement plans, so beneficiaries I thought I named earlier this year were actually not present. I also found I had failed to name beneficiaries at all on my life insurance policy through my new job. On that one, I thought for sure I did – but apparently my mind wrongly checked off this task as “done” when I named beneficiaries on my new retirement plan. I still get a headache now thinking about it. Fortunately, this exercise helped uncover these discrepancies, as it is much easier to resolve such things while living – or so I am told.

If you do not already have a document like this in place, I highly recommend you do so. Be sure to store your document in a secure location and let at least a couple of trusted people in your life know how to access it.

You can find various forms online (I enjoy creating my own documents, one of my quirks), but here are the kinds of information you might want to include (some may not apply):

  • Your Personal Information (legal name, aliases, date of birth, place of birth, social security number [if applicable], home address, phone numbers, email addresses, marital status, citizenship, and organ donor status)
  • Family & Friends to Contact (name, relationship, contact info, comments)
  • Other Entities to Contact (e.g., employer, bank, insurance company)
  • Memorial Instructions
  • Bank Accounts (bank, type, account #, name on the account, automatic deposits, automatic withdrawals)
  • Debt (entity, rate, type, balance, minimum monthly payment, data as of, payment method)
  • Other Monthly Bills (entity, approximate payment, payment method)
  • Charitable Concerns (listing of churches and other charities/ministries you support)
  • Other Credit Cards (zero balances/not in use)
  • Life Insurance Policies (insurer, policy #, address, phone, type, death benefit amount, primary beneficiary, contingent beneficiary)
  • Instructions About Life Insurance Proceeds (e.g., tithe)
  • Vehicle(s) [description, title holder, amount owed (if any)]
  • Location of Important Papers
  • Medical (doctors, dentist, known diseases/medical history, etc.)
  • Retirement/Investment Accounts (entity, type, from, balance, data as of, beneficiary, contingent)
  • Business Interests
  • Real Estate Owned
  • Individual Stocks
  • Annuities
  • Distribution of Personal Items (item, current location, for)
  • Notes About Borrowed Items You Have
  • Notes About Items or Money You Have Loaned
  • User Names & Passwords (or how to find them)
  • Final Comments
  • Signature

While a will is more appropriate for substantial items, the “Distribution of Personal Items” section is useful for articles of more sentimental than financial value. I made sure to add at least one little note per recipient in this section. Once completing this exercise, you may want to consider even writing full letters to each of your loved ones and including them in the same location.

Completing the above for the first time is surely the hardest part. Be sure to brush it off every six months or so, though, so that it doesn’t slowly become uselessly outdated.

Think of this document as a gift to your loved ones. They will be grieving you. Make the administrative aspects of your death as easy on them as possible so that they can concentrate on the emotional aspects and healing.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.


“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”
John 14:1-4

More than conquerors

By Snow

In my post last week, I mentioned that I, like many other believers, have been watching video sermons during the COVID-19 crisis. I want to point you to one such sermon that live-streamed earlier today.

This video is Bishop Wayne I. Welch, Sr., pastoring at Cool Spring Missionary Baptist Church’s first in-person gathering since mid-March. For social distancing purposes, the service is outside, and the vast majority of the parishioners are actually listening from their cars. The sounds of the horns honking affirmations throughout gives me chills. This is not a fancy production, nor does it need to be. This is all about sharing the Word and coming together as His church.

Please click here to watch Bishop Welch’s sermon on YouTube. If you are led to do so, I ask you to give a thumbs-up or make a positive comment over on the video itself, as it is always important to encourage fellow believers.

Here are verses that Bishop Welch covers:

“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:37-39 KJV

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
Romans 8:5-7 KJV

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
John 10:10 KJV

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
John 3:16 KJV

“And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.”
Luke 23:46 KJV

Credit: JC

And so, another Sunday night is here. I must admit, I did not do too well coping with the end of the weekend last week – despite my attempts to the contrary in my post earlier that evening. I allowed darkness to overshadow me for much of the week, a mixture of negativity and guilt.

The negativity was resentment of work, and the guilt was for not being more grateful that I have a job in these times. I feel like I’m no longer allowed to dislike my job – which, of course, is a provision from God and according to His plan.

While I generally consider myself a positive person these days, when I am being negative, I excel at it. For instance, my proficiency for writing can be wielded in negative ways. I can write words that sting as I try to explain why my negative position is a logical one.

No matter my internal reasoning, though, being negative and carrying around guilt did me no good. JC was the one who recognized I was under spiritual attack, pointing me right to one of the verses above, actually – John 10:10.

We must never give up to the enemy the life of abundance that Jesus provides us. A lesson I needed this week, and one that I must keep in mind for the weeks ahead.


Before a brief prayer, I want to close this disjointed post with a video by Elvis Presley, who passed away 43 years ago today. While not gospel per se, this song is certainly inspirational. Elvis recorded it in 1968 as a tribute to Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who were assassinated only weeks before. Written by W. Earl Brown, the song is called, “If I Can Dream,” and it is as relevant today as ever. The video presents the conclusion of the singer’s 1968 television special, ELVIS.

Credit: Elvis Presley (YouTube)


Heavenly Father,

Thank You for the gift of Your Son, Jesus, who has made us more than conquerors. May everyone feel Your love, especially those facing uncertainty in these times. May You end this virus, and, more importantly, heal our hearts. May all Your children walk together, hand-in-hand. More than conquerors, living a life abundant.

In the blessed name of Jesus we pray.

Amen

How to avoid losing to a defeated enemy

Credit: JC

By Snow

We know that Jesus has already won the war against Satan, the enemy (John 16:33). We, therefore, fight from victory against that enemy.

Though Jesus has won the war, we can still lose individual battles against the enemy. Jesus provides His followers with many blessings, including joy (John 15:11) and a life abundant (John‬ ‭10:10‬). Only we can give up these blessings by letting the enemy infiltrate our heads and control our thoughts. Never give up the blessings of Jesus to the enemy.

How do we combat the enemy so we don’t lose these individual battles?

Your first and foremost weapon is prayer. Call on Jesus, call on the Father, call on the Holy Spirit. If you are a follower of Jesus, you literally have the power of the Holy Spirit within you. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead. The same power that has already defeated the enemy. Trust and call upon this eternal energy.

What is better than you praying? Two people praying. Enlist another Christian or two to assist you. In turn, you can assist them with their personal battles against the enemy as well. There is a power in two or three. I have seen it time and again over the last two years since I was saved.

“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”
Matthew 18:19-20

What other weapons do you have? Another formidable piece of your arsenal is God’s Holy Word, what Ephesians 6:17 calls, “the sword of the Spirit”! Are you reading the Bible every day? God’s Word is not something to be glanced at for an hour on Sundays, but to be read and absorbed each day of your life.

Remember, Satan is an expert on Scripture (Luke 4:9-11; Matthew 4:5-6). How will you defeat his twisting of truth if you never read the Bible on your own? Read it. Study it. Learn about it. Experience it as a living document.

Praying and reading will tremendously help, but the enemy can and will still attack you. This is why you must be mindful of your thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5). When you feel yourself going negative, stop. Just stop. Breathe. Capture the thoughts and dispose of them, using the powerful name of Jesus.

If you are being pulled into sin, put the brakes on. Pray. Text a friend. Read a verse. Whatever it takes.

And if you do sin, don’t give up. All is not lost. Don’t plummet into even more sin. Instead, go to God and ask forgiveness. Repent. He forgives you. His Son died such that all of your sins would be forgiven. Begin anew with a blank slate (Psalm 51:7-8).

Yes, the enemy fights from defeat. However, the enemy wants to make you as miserable as possible – by either keeping you away from Jesus altogether or stealing the joy and other gifts Jesus provides you.

The enemy is cunning, but can only defeat you if you let him. You have Jesus on your side – the mightiest spiritual warrior there ever was – and the full strength of Heaven’s Armies.


The above is all well and good for those who are saved, but what if you don’t yet know Jesus? Then make today the day you come to him. What is holding you back?

Do you have to be perfect to know Jesus? No, certainly not. I sure wasn’t perfect, as has been well documented here.

Jesus accepts you for who you are. Right now. This very instant. He died to save the very worst version of you.

No matter your past, Jesus will walk with you – but you have to take the first step.

Will you be perfect after you know Jesus? Alas, no. I can report that I and all other believers still stumble, make mistakes, and sin every day. However, when you truly let Jesus into your heart, your life will forever be different as He shares His blessings with you.

In many ways, your life will begin anew when you accept Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). You will see with new eyes. Experience life with new feelings. The enemy doesn’t want you to know Jesus. What better reason to run to Jesus right now and accept His gifts of salvation and eternal life?

If you don’t yet know Jesus but feel ready to do so, why not take a moment to surrender your heart to Him?

Pray with me:

Heavenly Father,

Please forgive my sins. I accept Your Son, Jesus, into my heart as my Lord and Savior. He came to Earth as a human and died on the cross such that my sins could be forgiven, and I would have eternal life. Your power resurrected Him and has already defeated the enemy. Thank You for giving that same power to me. Please lead and guide me to a new life of abundance, full of Joy and Peace.

In the blessed name of Jesus I pray.

Amen

These are words and whether you use these or your own variation, repeating them is not some kind of magic incantation that grants you eternal salvation.

No, you must believe and live the words. Breathe the words. When you do accept Christ, be forewarned the spiritual battles have only just begun. Seek out fellow believers for help growing in the faith. Don’t know anyone to help? Then contact JC and me. We are here for you.


Be sure to check out our sister blog, Wounded Butterflies, and JC’s latest post, “When You Forgive and God Punishes,” in which she explains why it is so important for us to forgive others.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you as He has blessed me.


“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”
Ephesians 6:11-18

The healing time

By Snow

Not long after my last, brief post here, I started obsessing over “completing” my apartment. I moved here in July 2019. After recently extending my lease another 14 months, I decided to rev up my efforts to meet my goal of unpacking everything within a year of moving in.

Oh, I started really well last year. I unpacked everything that I initially brought here and then slowly started bringing additional boxes from a storage unit. Then… that slow process trickled down to nothing because I had about 6 tons of paperwork to go through (seemingly almost every piece of postal mail I had received since 1995).

One of my weaknesses is procrastination. So, it was easy to sit back and arrange my life around those unpacked boxes of paperwork. Not to mention the remaining boxes in the storage unit, which were out of sight, out of mind.

I even briefly put a blanket over the paperwork boxes so they would not be an eyesore when I wanted to use my living room for dancing.

Finally, though, late last month, I decided enough was enough. Now, the main weapon I have against my procrastination is my tendency towards obsession. So, I began to obsess over finishing my apartment. I spent just about every free hour working on it. Multiple trips to empty out the storage unit. Many memories to relive. Many more items to place.

I went from a 2,400 square foot house to a 660 square foot apartment. I want to be clear about something. That is not a complaint. I love my apartment. It feels like a home, far more than my house ever did. My apartment continues to be a part of my healing process as I become who God created me to be, and I am so grateful to Jesus for providing it to me.

The reduction in space has actually been helpful. Since another goal of mine was not to leave items in storage (because, really, what is the point of having something if it is locked away all the time?), it has forced me to prioritize. I have reduced my media collection (books, music, movies) by at least 75%. I do have to keep my “collecting” mentality in check, for there is a fine and rather blurry line between collecting and hoarding. I was married to a hoarder and even took on some of those tendencies myself in an attempt to fill spiritual holes. No. Never again. I have Jesus now.

Many items I realized I was keeping just to have. In case I might want to read or watch them again one day. In the modern age, though, if I really was intent to re-read a non-favorite book or re-watch a non-favorite movie, that would certainly be easy enough to accomplish without having to hang onto hundreds of them for years on end for the odd chance that I might decide to revisit one or two of them at some unknown point in the future.

It is freeing to let go. To donate items so that others may make use of them. After all, a book is to be read, not to decorate a shelf. I even had some brand new books that I planned to read “one day.” In some cases, over a decade later, I still had not started them. Better to let someone else have them. Let them be what they were designed to be.

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”
Matthew 6:19-20

Credit: JC

Meanwhile, as I was obsessing over my apartment, JC was cranking out one blog post after another. She has really become quite the writer, and I am sorry that I got behind in posting them. I can hear her now reacting, though: “Don’t be sorry. It is all God’s timing.” I have finally posted one of the backlog of posts over on the new Wounded Butterflies site: “23 Pieces of Advice from a Mom to Her Kids.” Be sure to check it out, as her advice is applicable to all of us. Besides, we are all somebody’s kid. Remember, since Wounded Butterflies lives on a separate server, you will need to sign up to receive emails about new posts there even if you are already signed up over here on Beloved Walks.

I am proud to say, I met my goal. By the time I hit the one year anniversary of moving in, I had finished unpacking. I still unfortunately have a few things in boxes, simply due to lack of storage, but they have all been examined and prioritized. All of my stuff is now gone from the storage unit.

After this stunning achievement, I decided to keep going. I had never decorated the walls of my apartment (I was afraid to hammer that first tack into the virgin walls), so artwork was one of the last things I brought over from the unit. I am happy to report that I have started putting up select pieces, old and new. After driving in that first tack and “ruining” the walls, it became a lot easier. While I was already happy with the place, it does feel even more like me now.

July 22 marked a year since the day of monumental blessings where I lost my job, signed away my house, and saw my former spouse for the last time. This July 22 was much less eventful. I did venture out of the apartment to go to the dentist, though, where everything checked out fine other than learning that I chipped a tooth at some point. My dentist is analytical, so she immediately went into root cause analysis to determine why I have been chipping my teeth (about the third time in the last decade). I eat way too much popcorn, it seems. Those un-popped kernels (“old maids”) will get you every time. So now, I have to sift out those old maids – since giving up popcorn is obviously not an option!

So, it has been a year of healing for me. Not only have I grown closer to Him, made my apartment into a place of calm and peace, found a new, less-stressful job, and reduced the burden of owning so much “stuff,” I have even made huge strides in bringing down the mountain of debt I accumulated during my marriage. No, my life isn’t perfect, but all is well.

I am so grateful to Jesus for being with me every step of the way and picking me up when I fall. I am also grateful to JC for being on this journey with me. Thank You, God, for such blessings.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.

Our prayers and the heavenly realm

Credit: Snow

By JC

There are times in our lives when we have been praying and/or fasting for something for a long time. For me, I have had some prayers going for over a decade. I could say they remain unanswered. But can I say that God is not working?

The other day, I was spending time with God, and He reminded me that He is at work even when we cannot see Him moving. Each time you pray, something moves in the heavenly realm. There are several reasons we know this.

Our prayers are incense to the God of all creation:

“The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.”
from Revelation 5:8

“Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand.”
Revelation 8:3-4

Even if we think our prayers are going unanswered, at the very least, shouldn’t we offer incense to our Lord in the form of our prayers?

Jesus prayed – a lot. There are over two dozen verses capturing Jesus praying to God, many times in private. Here is just one example:

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
Mark 1:35

This is where Christians have the example of our personal “quiet time” each day. Yes, we should pray with others and study with others, but we are to have a personal, daily-growing relationship with Jesus. If the Son of God needs to pray, clearly we need to pray.

I want to focus on Daniel. In the book of Daniel, we read that Daniel has been fasting and praying, apparently to no avail. Until we read in Chapter 10:

“Just then a hand touched me and lifted me, still trembling, to my hands and knees. And the man said to me, ‘Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.’ When he said this to me, I stood up, still trembling. Then he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia. Now I am here to explain what will happen to your people in the future, for this vision concerns a time yet to come.'”
Daniel 10:10-14

Credit: JC’s Mom

We see several things in these verses. Daniel is told not to be afraid, and he is called “precious to God.” You are precious to God, too, and should not be afraid. God sent His Son to die for you. There are many verses to support that you are precious to God (e.g., John 3:16). The man also notes that since the first day you prayed and humbled yourself, your request was heard in heaven. We know that the moment we begin to pray, our request is heard in heaven. Something occurs in the heavenly realm, which will eventually impact the physical realm where we live. Even when we cannot see God moving or see the answers to our prayers, believe that each time you pray, something moves in the heavenly realm.

It is important to realize that Daniel humbled himself before the Lord. Fully submitting to His will, whatever that may be, is the proper posture for a Christian. The answer He sends to our prayers may not be the answer we want.

We also see in these verses that the possibility exists of our answers to prayers being delayed in reaching the physical realm. We must remember, even if the answers to our prayers are delayed, God is still in control. His timing is perfect, when the answer arrives is when the answer was supposed to arrive.

Another point I want to highlight in these verses is that the answer to Daniel’s prayer was a vision about the future. This was not a “small” answer to prayer. The Lord of all creation was about to reveal a prophecy with exquisite details and many facts that we still covet and read to this day. The remaining chapters of Daniel lay out the future, revealing Daniel’s answer to his prayers. Thus, when the answer is delayed in the spiritual realm, there is quite an answer on the way, or why would Satan’s minions try to block the answer from being revealed?

The answer to prayer that Daniel receives is probably not what he was hoping for. This is the last item to note, that when God answers our prayers, He may not answer them the way we wanted. However, we must recall that God is sovereign, and His plan for us is perfect.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.'”
Jeremiah 29:11-13

Take heart if you have been waiting for an answer to prayer. He is listening, your prayers are incense to the Lord, you are precious to Him, your prayer has been heard, things are moving in the heavenly realm, and an answer is on the way.


Credit: JC

Father in heaven,

We lift up all the prayers of those who read these words. We know You hear them all. We bind anything at all inhibiting these prayers from being answered. May the answers become clear, and may all experience the joy and peace of knowing You and Your Son. Thy will be done.

In the precious name of Jesus we pray.

Amen


If you need a personal prayer, please reach out. Jesus loves you.

Peace or in pieces

NOTE: Today’s post is about an abusive relationship. If you are being abused, please get help.

Credit: JC

By JC

During the quarantine times, I have heard about families enjoying the extra time together and growing as a family, etc. When you live with an abusive person, quarantine is your complete nightmare.

Perspective is everything, so I consider my current situation to be a trial. There are verses about trials in the Bible telling us to expect them, but there is one verse in particular that I have struggled with over the years:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
James 1:2-4

Um, what James? Consider trials to be pure joy? This situation I am in does not feel like joy, nor cause it.

During my quiet time with God this morning, I was studying the authority of Jesus. God will sometimes connect two unrelated topics in my mind during my time with Him and show me something new. I felt led to write down what I need to get through this trial, and how I want to handle the circumstances of the trial and the person involved in it. I wrote down, “Love, peace, joy, increased trust in Him, deepen my obedience to Him and to be as Christ-like as possible.”

Then I felt led to look up the fruit of the Spirit:

“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
Galatians 5:22-23

Funny thing about this is I was not at all thinking about the fruit of the Spirit when I listed what I need to get through this trial.

Credit: JC

Showing love to people, no matter how they act, is Christ-like. To be clear, I am not suggesting that if someone is abusing you in any way that you just keep loving them. This love is about loving yourself, too. You are the temple of God and there are times in our lives when we need to end a relationship and THAT is loving both to you and the other person. You are created in the image of God and abuse of any kind to the image of God is completely unacceptable and an affront to Him.

What I am saying is that when that person hurls hate, you do not reciprocate. God will address their choices (Romans 12:19).

Peace in Jesus, at all times in all things, is the most critical thing to my soul. My life and the world around me can be in pieces, but I must focus on the peace of Jesus. I have learned that when you focus on the peace of Jesus, joy comes right after it. How can you focus on the peace of Jesus and not feel joy??!!

When we go through trials, it is clear throughout the Bible that He is going to use them for our good. He is going to grow our faith, and we will emerge stronger and wiser than before we went through the trial. But, friend, we must get out of His way. Trust Him, completely and unconditionally. Stop fighting and listen to Him. Stop trying to solve it all alone – He’s got it. Stop investing time and energy into things that are not of Him or for His glory. Take those thoughts and actions captive.

You are a child of God who has been freed, act like it. Focus on the work He is doing in you or wants to do in you. You cannot control what other people do – their behavior is between them and God. Just like yours is between you and God. Focus on the fruit of the Spirit. Be stretched by the Almighty, Loving Father.

And, oh by the way, yes, it hurts. Trials hurt. There is no growth without hurt.

Pray to Him. Cry out to Him. Cling to His Word. Journal. That last suggestion is so that WHEN you get through this trial, you do not forget how you hurt, wrestled with God, cried out, and how He answered prayers along the way.

I have wrestled with God about unanswered prayers. For years, the same prayer – unanswered. But, I realized that me living to see another day is Him sustaining me. He loves me, He loves us so much. The fact that He brings us through each day means that He is not done with us yet. We may not know what His plan for us is, but, friend, it is a beautiful and perfect plan that will arrive in His time.

Jesus can end any trial at any time, so why does He allow it to continue? Our growth is paramount to Him. Redirect all of your energy toward deepening your obedience and trust in Him.

Credit: JC

As for the negative person in my life, this verse provides hope to me, “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world” (1 John 4:4).

In that verse, who are “those people” that are referenced? Everyone who does not proclaim Jesus is the Son of God. That is a lot of people. It is the majority of the world’s population, I am sorry to say. But we have the Holy Spirit, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.

So, remember, friend, “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Focus on the peace of Jesus when you look around and all you see is pieces.

“Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.”
John 17:11


Heavenly Father,

May You protect Your children from anyone who dares attempt to hurt them, be it spiritual, mental, or physical abuse. We lift them all up to You for healing. May these wounded butterflies soar ever higher with wings powered by Your strength. Please fill their bodies, minds, and spirits with love, peace, joy, and trust in You. Surround them with Love, Light, and Truth.

In the blessed name of Jesus we pray.

Amen


If you are in need of a personal prayer, please reach out. You are never alone.

Credit: JC