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.

A boat in the storm

Credit: JC

By JC

“Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’ Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.”
from Matthew 8:26

I feel like I am in the boat alone on rough waters. Health, job, marriage, finances, family, future and so on. Everything is unstable and has been for months. And, of course, the global pandemic and, as of late, riots all over the country I live in.

I was asking Jesus, “Where are You?” As I focused on that question, I thought about the disciples in the boat during the storm. They thought they were going to die.

“The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!'”
Matthew 8:25

With all that is going on right now, it is not so far fetched to feel that death is a possibility. If we go back a few verses to Matthew 8:22, “Jesus told him, ‘Follow me now.'” He was addressing a disciple that asked to go bury his father before committing to following Jesus. Most Bibles label this set of verses “The Cost of Following Jesus.”

The very next verse, 8:23, “Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.” We move from Jesus telling us the cost to follow Him to getting into the boat with Him.

There are two things to highlight. One, He just told us there is a cost to following Him, so why are we surprised when storms arrive?

Two, Jesus is IN the boat with us. He’s right here – do not feel the need to ask, “Where are You, Lord?” He is right here in the boat with us.

“Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.”
from Matthew 14:22-23

Jesus “insisted” the disciples get in the boat while He went by Himself to pray. Keep in mind this encounter with the boat is not too long after the verses above that we just read in Matthew 8. The disciples had recently witnessed Jesus calm the storm when He was IN the boat.

While Jesus was praying by Himself, a storm came up, and “the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves” (from Matthew 14:24). The disciples cried out and Jesus came to where they were on the water.

In verse 27, Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid! Take courage. I am here!” Jesus was not physically in the boat with them this time, but He was there. He knew where they were and how to get to them and, of course, had the power to once again calm the storm.

Jesus said to Peter in verse 31, “You have so little faith, why did you doubt me?” In Matthew 8:26, Jesus had said, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!”

This is a message for us today. Jesus asks why are we afraid, why do we doubt Him? We must have faith. He has saved us every single time throughout our lives, for you and I have not drowned yet.

We cannot doubt Jesus is with us. He is right here – in the boat in the storm. He is stretching our faith.

The first time, He was in the boat, right there. The second time, we cannot see Him in the boat. So, we have to use our faith and not our sight. Ride out the storms knowing He is right there. Hand over everything to Him – your faith, your life, your today, and your tomorrow.

Credit: JC

Don’t be someone to whom Jesus would say, “You have so little faith!” When fear creeps in, take it captive by praising Him. If doubt enters, pray. If loneliness clouds your mind, read Matthew chapters 8 and 14. Let the Word of God remind you that you are never alone. And there is a cost to following Him – complete and total faith.


If you need a 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

You are never alone

Credit: JC

By JC

Right now, there is a lot going on in my life. I am not talking about the virus. A tragedy occurred in my life a few weeks ago, and I am once again working to adjust to my new normal. I have learned during difficult times that we should not focus on “Why God?” He is more than okay with us asking that, though, and wrestling with Him, for we see every emotion in Scriptures. And, lets face it, He already knows how we feel – so just be honest, He can handle it. The key is not to dwell on the “Why?” Pray to have strength to move to the “What do you want me to learn?” and “How do you need me to grow and shine Your light in this situation?”

Moving from “Why” to “How” is not an easy process. I am learning to praise Him when I feel the “Why” creeping into my thoughts. I put on praise music or pray or read the Bible. I must take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). But why? Why are we told to take every thought captive? The enemy wants us to take our eyes off of Jesus. Whether it is the virus, job loss, betrayal by a loved one, death, paralysis, etc. The moment we take our eyes off of Jesus, the enemy owns us. He has our thoughts focused on him and away from Jesus.

One of the ways the enemy gets me is to make me feel all alone. I cling to verses that clearly demonstrate God’s love.

“Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?”
Romans 8:32

That one is a good verse to let seep in. I have a son and trying to process giving him up is beyond my comprehension. But God loved me and you so much, He gave us His son. So, of course God loves us. He sacrificed His son for us. He is not going to leave us. That is nonsensical, and, of course, there are plenty of verses that support Him being with us to the end of the age. As believers, we have the Holy Spirit. He is always with us. Even though I grieve Him with stupid thoughts and actions, He is with me. I am never truly alone.

The other way the enemy tries to get me is to attack my prayer life. Either I get distracted or shorten the prayer time or sometimes I do not feel like praying. I have an accountability partner, Snow. He kicks me in the backside when I need it. He prays for me when I cannot pray. And again, the Holy Spirit prays for me, too. And you know who else prays for you and me constantly? Jesus.

“But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.”
Hebrews 7:24–25

Jesus lives forever to intercede with God on our behalf. Wow! I cannot process that. My Savior and my King lives forever to intercede on my behalf.

You are never alone. I know as a human, it is hard to go without other loving, human interaction. Sometimes, I just want to hear a loving voice praying for me or receive a prayer in text or email.

If you need or want someone to pray with you, contact me and Snow. We are happy to pray with you!

If you would like to make a public prayer request, so that other readers can also pray for you, then enter your request in the comments. Otherwise, click here to go to our new Prayer Requests page – also accessible via “Prayer Requests” in the main menu. There, you can send us a private prayer request.

You are enveloped in the loving arms of the Holy Spirit, you are interceded for by the King of all kings and embraced by the Father because of Jesus. And you have at least one brother and one sister praying for you daily.


Father in Heaven,

We lift up those who feel alone. Please remind them who they are in Christ:

In the blessed name of Jesus we pray.

Amen

When there is a loss, God provides a gain

By JC

With thanks to Dr. B., whose wise words inspired today’s post.

When people ask the question “Why?” to God, whether it is, “Why is there evil?” “Why didn’t You answer this prayer?” “Why did You allow this?” or “Why did they die?” an approach might reference we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8), His thoughts are higher (Isaiah 55:9), and God’s response to Job (Job 41:11). That is certainly one method to understanding the questions we have of God.

Another approach says to look to God’s character. Of course, we read the Word to understand who He is and what His patterns are – His character. No matter how much we question Him, He is Love, He is Truth, and He is Light.

Credit: Snow

I want to highlight one such pattern – how each time someone in the Bible lost something, there was a gain. We could look at Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:35-43) or Peter’s mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14-15) – they lost a life or lost an illness (were healed). I want to focus on Lazarus.

“A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, ‘Lord, your dear friend is very sick.’ But when Jesus heard about it he said, ‘Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.’ So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days.”
John 11:1-6

Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters, yet, when there was a cry for Him to come because Lazarus was sick, He did not answer that cry. He did not come. At least it appeared He did not answer, because the people making the cry wanted Jesus to answer, “I am coming now.”

We offer up many prayers, daily, about all kinds of things. I do believe that we have hopes of how He will answer our prayers or we might think we already have the best answers: “I have put a lot of thought into the matter, Lord. I saved You the trouble – here is the answer to my prayer.”

Even the Son of God prayed, “Thy will be done” (Matthew 26:42). So, if the Almighty Son of God submitted to the Father when He prayed, how much more shall we?

I am not suggesting it is wrong to ask for specific things, but, rather, that whatever we pray, before we say “In Jesus’ name, we pray,” add in “Thy will be done” and work hard to mean it.

The sisters of Lazarus wanted Jesus to come right away. They thought He could heal him, like He had so many others. However, He failed to answer the way they wanted and expected. Instead, He let two days pass before making the journey.

“Then [Jesus] said, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.’ The disciples said, ‘Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!’ They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died. So he told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.'”
John 11:11-15

Jesus had a reason, He always has a reason. And if we claim to believe in all of Scripture, then we believe all the verses that talk about how much He loves us and how all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).

We also would claim to believe Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”

Out of a loss, God brings a gain. We may not see it right away or even this side of Heaven, but trust His character, trust who He is.

“‘Where have you put him?’ [Jesus] asked them. They told him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, ‘See how much he loved him!’ But some said, ‘This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?’ Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. ‘Roll the stone aside,’ Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, ‘Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.’ Jesus responded, ‘Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?'”
John 11:34-40

Jesus shows up after Lazarus has been dead for days. The sisters, who earlier had been so eager for Jesus to heal their brother, now discouraged Him – Lord, the smell.

Jesus was undaunted by a stench, He had bigger things in mind – that the glory of God Almighty would be shown. No smell was going to stop Him from glorifying God.

As we go through life, there will be stenches we must endure in seasons where God is waiting for the right time for Him to receive the glory. Your time of stench in the tomb may be four days, it may be four years. However, trust in these things:.

  1. Jesus knows exactly where you are. He has not forgotten about you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
  2. Sometimes, you need to be still and ask Him to help you deal with the stench while He is waiting on the right time. (Psalm 46:10)
  3. Know that He is at work while you are working through the stench. (Isaiah 43:15-19)
  4. Know that when He is ready to release you, there will be an incredible gain. (John 10:10)

Never take your eyes off Jesus, never stop believing in Him, never stop trusting Him – through loss of freedom due to a quarantine or loss of a job or loss of your retirement because of the stock market – never stop trusting Him.

When you waiver, read the Bible. See His character, His heart, and His patterns – when there is a loss, He provides a gain.

“So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.’ Then Jesus shouted, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, ‘Unwrap him and let him go!’ Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen.”
John 11:41-45

Everyone thought Lazarus was dead – they buried the man. He began to stink. Then, Jesus showed up, and the loss became a gain – a life was restored better than before and most important, God was glorified. People came to know God’s character through Lazarus’ death and Jesus’ miracle of bringing life to where death reigned. That is His pattern. Cling to who He is, not what is going on around you.


During these chaotic times, when I feel overwhelmed with bad news, I listen to “It Is Well (With My Soul).” Because you know what, brothers and sisters, it is well. Jesus Christ holds our very souls, so it is well.

Credit: Bethel Music (YouTube)

The root cause of the failure of marriage

By JC

I know that secular statistics say that money and communication are the causes for divorce. I propose another root cause that is based in Scripture. The failure of marriages can be traced back to the parties failing to fulfill their Biblical roles.

In this piece, I am going to step on toes. But, Snow and I have committed to be unfiltered here, no matter how controversial what we say may be. The goal is to challenge your perspective. Perspective is everything, but that is an entirely different post.

In the Bible:

“For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body. As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
Ephesians 5:22-33

When either of the parties disobeys or chooses not to fulfill his or her Biblical role or is ignorant of it, the enemy reigns. These roles also apply to non-believers because God created marriage, so it is only by His playbook that a marriage will be in line with its design. While unsaved people can still have great marriages, anytime you do not follow the instruction manual, things will not be optimized.

What about if only one of the people is fulfilling his or her Biblical role in marriage? That is where we run the risk of stepping outside of God’s design. For example, if the wife respects her husband as he disobeys Scriptures, is she endorsing non-Biblical behavior?

We are called to obey God above everyone else.

Credit: JC

What if the husband loves the wife, but she does not respect him? I suggest that it goes back to whether the husband is obedient to God. If he loves her, but disobeys Scriptures, I would offer that is human love, not Biblical love. As defined by the verses above, Biblical love is “as Jesus loves the church.”

So, when a husband loves his wife, but is disobedient to Scriptures, he is failing in his Biblical responsibilities.

It is mighty difficult to respect someone who claims to know Jesus as his Lord, yet refuses to obey most, if not all, of the Scriptures.

But what about those husbands who love their wives, but are disobedient occasionally (as we all are)? Then, as wives, we need to pray for our spouses and fast for them; wives are the “helpmates” (Genesis 2:18).

As wives, we are commanded to respect our husbands, not love them. There are a lot of thoughts that can be said about why that is, but the point of this post is the root cause of the failure of marriage. Wives are to respect and submit to their husbands as the husbands obey Scriptures. Notice how we go back to the obedience of the husband. Wives are not commanded to submit to a husband who is disobedient to God.

If there are issues in your marriage, it is certainly worth praying over these verses to see where is the breakdown. Is the husband obedient? If he is, is the wife respecting him? If not, the enemy is using your marriage as a playground.

Why did God let me down?

Please see JC’s “The Cycle of Trust” for background on today’s post.

By JC

So many prayers for healing. She was so young. Maybe I did not pray enough. Maybe I did not pray the right way.

I have heard non-believers say, “How can a loving God allow that?”

When you are crushed and cannot breathe, yet the hits keep coming, believers ask that, too. I do.

I begged Jesus through sobs of pain. Crying out, “Please help, Jesus. Please.”

Nothing.

Silence.

I watched her take her last breaths while in pain.

I prayed for her to be healed, but I also know that we are to pray for His will above all else. So, I dutifully prayed, “Father, please heal her. If that is not Your will, then please allow her to pass peacefully in her sleep.”

That is not how it happened. It was not peaceful or painless.

If another believer were to ask me, “How can a loving God allow that?” I would quote Isaiah 55:9: “For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

I would also say that He loves us more than we can understand, so there must have been worse things ahead. Worse pain, things unbearable to see. So, He called her home before things reached that point.

Haven’t we been through enough? So much death and pain in such a short time, so many loved ones gone despite prayers and fasting. Why God, why do we now have to go through this, too? We are still recovering from the last tragedy. The last wounds are still raw.

“Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9

I believe Scriptures. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I believe He died for my sins. So, I read this verse and know it to be true. But God, how weak do I need to be?

The pain is more than I can bear, Lord.

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”
Psalm 34:18

I seek You. Why am I seeking, though? I have the Holy Spirit. You are already right here with me. Help me to feel You. I need You, Lord. I need to remember that I am not like King Saul.

“Now the Spirit of the LORD had left Saul, and the LORD sent a tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear.”
1 Samuel 16:14

You will not remove Your Holy Spirit from me.

“God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 5:5

I do not have to fear like King David, when he saw the Spirit removed from Saul and penned Psalm 51.

“Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.”
Psalm 51:11-12

While this pain is unbearable, I cannot let my heart doubt You or Your love.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”
Proverb 4:23

My own heart works against me.

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”
Jeremiah 17:9

So, where do I go from here? I am to guard my heart, which is desperately wicked, but I cannot guard it properly.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7

But because I believe Jesus is the Son of God, I have His peace that is beyond understanding. I have peace when I should not. I have peace when the world says, “How can a loving God allow this?”

The answer is, I do not know. I may never know this side of Heaven. But I know God is love (1 John 4:16).

I also know I am not to focus on such thoughts, nor allow my heart to ruminate on such things.

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Philippians 4:8

It is not easy. Pain crushes. Feeling like God let you down crushes.

I do not believe that time heals all wounds. Instead, I believe that you find your new normal. Through Jesus, you find the way to move forward with the hole in your heart and determine your new normal.

Why did God let me down? I don’t know that He did. I know my heart is telling me that, but my heart can be wicked.

No, I cannot guard my heart. I need Jesus for that. We must stay anchored to Him for peace and joy that is beyond understanding.


“Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭57:1‬

Credit: JC

Dear God, please forgive me

For background on today’s post, please see previous posts where JC has shared her story – including “Spiritual Abuse” and “The Cycle of Trust.”

Credit: JC

By JC

Dear God,

Please forgive me. I am sorry. I am sorry that I did not trust You during my storm.

Funny thing is that I know the story about the disciples and You sleeping in the boat, commonly known as “Jesus Calms the Storm”:

“Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’ Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. The disciples were amazed. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked. ‘Even the winds and waves obey him!'”
Matthew 8:23–27

I read your Word everyday so I know this story. And yet, for a long time, I have doubted Your control over the storm I am in. I never said it that way or thought about it that way, but that is what I did. While I never doubted that You love me, I was not hearing from You. Despite my faithful prayers, the many times I cried and begged for an answer, You were silent. I felt like the disciples – scared and crying out, “Lord, where are You?”

I prayed to You, Lord, asking for You to bend me and break me to Your will. I kept handing over the situation to You, reminding myself of Philippians 4:6: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”

But then I would take the situation back from You:

Lord, You are not moving, I do not see anything improving for months and months, despite my prayers and fasting and my broken heart. I do not understand, I know You love me. I have been a Christian for over a decade, so I know what to do when prayer goes unanswered–Fast, ask God if there is unconfessed sin in my life, check if what I am asking is in line with Scriptures, talk to Godly people, and sometimes understand no answer is an answer.

I was trying everything just to survive.

Then, I was listening to K-LOVE at work this week and I heard this: God waits until you truly surrender to Him. Then, He kindly says, “My child, I was just waiting for you to be done.”

That hit me hard. I was trying to do this or that. While I was praying and fasting and removing sins from my life, I had not fully surrendered to You. It was unintentional, I believed I had surrendered. But, what I was saying was “God, please fix this . . . just not that way please.”

I was not fully surrendered to You. I then started praying, “Lord, please do whatever You want. I no longer care. Just please do something.” [I am not recommending this exact prayer, as I had a bad attitude.]

I spent a few days praying this and inviting the Holy Spirit to work on my bad attitude.

Then, You moved.

And You moved in a big way.

I am sorry I did not trust You. I am sorry I kept handing over my burdens and then taking them back. I am sorry I did not fully surrender to You.

Thank you, God. You have taught us so much. May we never forget these lessons:

  • You provide (Philippians 4:19)
  • Trust in You (Proverb 3:5)
  • Be still (Psalm 46:10)
  • “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything” (Philippians 4:6)
  • Rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4)
  • Owe no one a thing, except love (Romans 13:8)
  • Love Jesus first
  • Seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33)
  • If it’s His will, He will
  • “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28)
  • “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good” (Genesis 50:20)
  • And nothing can separate us from Your love (Romans 8:38-39)

Amen


Doctor Lois Evans, beloved bride of Texas-based pastor and author Doctor Tony Evans, went Home on December 30. Doctor Evans on January 5 provided a poignant sermon as a tribute to her, embedded below or available directly on YouTube. JC notes, “He talks about being close to God, how you can hear and see Heaven when you stay close to Him. She trusted Him in her death. We must always stay close to Him and trust Him no matter what.”

 Credit: Tony Evans (YouTube)

Is nostalgia holding you back?

Credit: JC

By JC & Snow

Nostalgia can be fun, but it can also be a barrier to spiritual growth if you dwell too much on the past. For one thing, we tend to remember the best parts and forget the rest. While this is only natural, it can make the “good ol’ days” of our lives seem idyllic in a way against which our lives today can never hope to compete.

The Israelites of the Old Testament come to mind. It seems every few miles on the way to the Promised Land, they are complaining to poor Moses about something. Here is but one example:

“‘If only the LORD had killed us back in Egypt,’ they moaned. ‘There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.'”
Exodus 16:3

God and Moses have literally led these people to freedom. God has even worked visible miracles to do so, including the parting of the Red Sea. Yet, they are remembering the good ol’ days . . . of being slaves in Egypt. Here is how the Bible describes that slavery:

“The Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king.

“The Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands.”
from Exodus 1:11,13-14

Rather than placing their newfound freedom in perspective, the Israelites choose to obsess over the best part of their former lives – the Egyptian version of the all-you-can-eat buffet. They forget that the costs of admission to that buffet were their bodies and spirits.

This is not to suggest we should dwell on negative events from our past. In fact, you should discard anything that is holding you back and take only the good memories with you. Just don’t obsess over those memories.

As always, Paul has some good advice on the topic:

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭3:12-14‬

Paul is focusing himself and telling himself to forget his past. Along the same lines, let’s go back to the Old Testament. This is from Isaiah:

“I am the LORD, who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea. I called forth the mighty army of Egypt with all its chariots and horses. I drew them beneath the waves, and they drowned, their lives snuffed out like a smoldering candlewick. But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.”
Isaiah 43:16-18

Here, God is telling us, humanity, to forget His previous miracles because His future miracles will be even bigger.

People will sometimes say if only God still did big miracles – like the parting of the Red Sea. Saved Christians don’t need to see those kinds of miracles, though, because, as Paul said, we have the Holy Spirit in us, and we intimately know Jesus. These are far bigger miracles than parting any seas. We are carrying within us the very same power that brought Jesus back to life.

The faithful of Isaiah’s time were only able to read or hear about what we are blessed to have. They were still faithful, even without the gifts we have.

“All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:13‬

Live for today and tomorrow, not for yesterday. Lean into the future, not the past.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.

How will you commit to God in 2020? We have 12 suggestions

Credit: Snow

By JC & Snow

Happy New Year! As the sun rises on the 2020s, this is a perfect time to take stock of your life. Many people will make “resolutions” that will be all but forgotten by this time next week. What is the point of doing that?

Instead, we suggest that you make daily commitments for your soul. Here are some to consider:

  1. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  2. “Rejoice in the Lord always” (from Philippians 4:4).
  3. Meditate on Scripture day and night (Joshua 1:8).
  4. “Owe no one anything, except to love each other” (from Romans 13:8).
  5. Provide God a contrite heart, not sacrifices (Psalm 51:16-17).
  6. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name” (Psalm 100:4).
  7. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (Philippians 4:6).
  8. Remember that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28).
  9. Be holy (Leviticus 20:26).
  10. “Seek first the kingdom of God” (from Matthew 6:33).
  11. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ […] ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (from Mark 12:30-31).
  12. Serve widows and orphans (James 1:27).
Credit: JC

“I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea. I called forth the mighty army of Egypt with all its chariots and horses. I drew them beneath the waves, and they drowned, their lives snuffed out like a smoldering candlewick. But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. The wild animals in the fields will thank me, the jackals and owls, too, for giving them water in the desert. Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed.”
Isaiah 43:16-20

For both of us, 2019 was a year full of change. Except for giving birth, just about every other major life event that can happen to someone occurred to at least one of us in 2019 – much of it chronicled here on this very site. It was a year of blessings and tragedy, and through it all, we had Jesus and each other.

As the above excerpt from Isaiah says, though, “forget all that.” For you, that may mean forgetting 2019. Or it might mean the 2010s. Or even your entire life to this point.

Forget all of it.

Jesus is about to do something new in your life. Focus on what He is about to do. Look for Him. Feel Him.

Watch as He makes a pathway for you through the wilderness. Watch as He brings you water in the dry wasteland.

He is always there with you. He has a plan, and you are in it. He has already begun. See it.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you in 2020 with peace, love, and joy.