Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

By Snow

Sundays have meant different things to me at different times of my life. As a kid, the day began with Sunday breakfast. Mom, often with help from me and my little sister, would prepare a big meal for our family of six. Some weeks she made pancakes, some weeks she made French toast. I can also remember other weeks just standing at the toaster making a huge plate of toast to go with whatever else we were having. Toast specifically made for my father had to have the little adjustment lever all the way to the far right, resulting in a charred brick no one else would eat.

Bread of some sort was always involved in Mom’s Sunday breakfasts. To complement the main course of starchiness, there would be delicacies like bacon, sausage, eggs, and grits.

Oh yes, grits. To eat grits right requires stirring in at least a teaspoon of sugar to your bowl (we used three teaspoons when I was growing up, but I have scaled back), adding a pat of butter until it starts melting, and then splashing in just a drop or two of milk so it mixes up with the melted butter. Break apart a piece of toast, and add it to the mix if you are ready to take your grits to the next level (optional – for advanced connoisseurs of grits only).

Sunday breakfast would normally hold us until an early dinner, which was often big, too – though the specific courses weren’t as consistent. While Sunday breakfast was always at the big round dinner table, dinner was sometimes allowed in front of the TV in the living room. I can remember watching a movie called Shenandoah, one of my father’s favorites, one Sunday afternoon while eating pork chops and jelly biscuits.

Now, that’s not to say we avoided the occasional nod to healthy eating in our house. For instance, we quite often ate a salad – iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, onions, deli ham and Kraft American cheese cut into little squares – doused in French dressing prior to the main course of a huge plate of angel hair spaghetti covered in Prego sauce with added ground beef. On the side, plenty of warm French or Italian bread on which butter would quickly melt away into nothingness. For drink, you had your choice between a pitcher of sweet iced tea or ice cold Coca-Cola.

Okay, maybe I was stretching it a bit with the “healthy eating” claim. But there was a salad buried somewhere in there. And we did, for a time, substitute Diet Coke for the real thing.

By middle school, I had grown an appreciation for football, so Sunday afternoons during that season consisted of sitting in the living room while my father and brother screamed at the TV in attempts to motivate our team. Their combined yelling apparently catapulted the team to multiple Super Bowl wins, for the team began a perennial losing streak soon after my father left the scene that continues to this day nearly three decades later.

As middle school wore on and then on into high school, Sunday nights became a time of anxiety for me. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t do any of my homework (though often true), it was the knowledge that I had to face another full week at that place – dealing with people, not being myself, and other assorted problems.

My first job was at an amusement park, so Sunday then became a key working day for me as I entered adulthood. No more big breakfasts or football games. This lasted a couple of years before I moved on to more typical Monday through Friday work – though, admittedly, never quite as fun as the park.

Sunday night anxiety became a fixture, except the dread of the forthcoming school week was soon replaced with the dread of the forthcoming work week. During my marriage, I went through a long period of time where my inner dialogue often consisted of statements like, “I wish I was dead. I wish I was dead. I wish I was dead.” Sunday nights into Monday mornings were the peak for these kinds of thoughts. By Monday mornings, my stomach was ripped to pieces. But this post is about Sundays. Fortunately for you.

Sundays during my marriage consisted of a blaring TV. Actually, so did all of the other days of my marriage, but on Sundays, it would specifically blare either football games or NASCAR races – both of which I had lost interest in by the time I was married, oddly enough. Sometimes I would sit there with my former spouse and endure this audio and video assault. Other times, I would go hide in my office to try to have a moment to just think, knowing full well I would be guilt tripped later for my retreat.

I find it difficult to concentrate when a TV is blaring all the time, and my former spouse required the TV to be on at all times – even while sleeping. My only opportunities for audio peace were those few times she wasn’t home. Anyway, I am getting off track here. We can dissect my marriage some other time.

In general, I saw Sunday as a lesser version of Saturday. Lesser because Saturday morning was full of promise with the entire weekend ahead, while Sunday was an inevitable march into Monday, collapsing hopes that the new week would never come.

Credit: JC

In June 2018, JC led me to Jesus and, as evidenced by just about every post I’ve ever made on this blog, my entire life changed. Including, of course, Sundays.

At that time, for various reasons, I began attending my local church through streaming. Combined with the daily quiet time of reading and prayer that JC instilled into me right from the start, I began to learn and absorb so much about Jesus, God, and myself. Over time, Jesus and JC helped me with my anxiety. While I still have my anxious moments from time-to-time, they are nothing like the prison I had built and constantly refined for myself before I knew Jesus.

As my marriage disintegrated, I began attending the church in person. Outside of JC and a couple of her friends, I never did become fully comfortable there, though. While I was learning, the environment never felt quite right. The mostly monochromatic parishioners left me cold, for one thing. Everyone looked like me, which wasn’t what I wanted. And there were other issues.

JC and I did a few times drive about 70 miles to a small church that I absolutely love (another long story). Locally, we began trying to find a more diverse church. This proved a bigger challenge than anticipated.

Then, COVID-19 hit. My Sundays changed again, as did everyone else’s on the planet – no matter their belief system. At first, it felt like I had come full circle. I was streaming the local church again, but that church just wasn’t for me anymore.

Instead, I began to seek out other streaming alternatives to hear the Word. Dr. Tony Evans and Pastor T.D. Jakes have really risen to the challenge of these times, and I have felt so enriched experiencing their web sermons. The little church 70 miles down the road even added video sermons, which allowed me to stay spiritually in touch with them as well.

Whereas Sundays had become about dutifully going to a church for an hour where I never quite belonged, it has evolved in COVID times for me into a day of worship, learning, reflection, and writing. My three most recent Sundays began with reading, prayer, a big breakfast (in honor of Mom, though never quite as big as those days gone by), followed by whichever video sermon I am led to watch, followed by lunch, blogging, another video sermon, some reading, dinner, and blogging again. And some praise music mixed up in all of that, too.

Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t admit I usually sneak a nap or two in there as well. After all, it is supposed to be a day of rest, right?

I just noticed the time. My heart still sinks when I realize Sunday is almost over. Anxiety is always on the other side of the door, waiting to come in. No. This time, I won’t open that door. Jesus will hold it closed for me.

Thank you for reading these rambles. May Jesus bless you.


“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
Isaiah 41:10

“Pray without ceasing.” . . . Huh?

By JC

“Pray without ceasing.”
1 Thessalonians 5:17

This verse has always burdened me, as I do not know how to pray without ceasing. Sure, there are “popcorn prayers” – quick two or three second prayers you offer up while at red lights or in traffic or on elevators. “Lord, please help” or “Lord, I need you.” And those are great! Any prayer you offer up, no matter how short or befuddled it may be – is an offering of incense to God: “When He took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Revelation 5:8).

Credit: Snow

Even though I offered up popcorn prayers and, of course, had focused, quiet time with God daily in prayer for longer than my knees would like, I still was not sure I was living out this verse.

Then, this morning, it came to me that in the Old Testament times, there was the Temple. This was the physical, designated place to worship and pray to God. If you wanted to be close to God, you went to the Temple. This could mean several days’ trip for some, depending on where they lived in proximity to the Temple. In fact, there were so many people trekking to the Temple that there were entire songs written for their journeys (see Psalms 120–134). But the key in the Old Testament is that God had a designated physical place for worship and prayer.

The concept of the Holy Spirit indwelling in human beings was not yet pervasive. Note that David mentions it in Psalm 51:11, “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.” However, in this verse, we see the concern he has of losing the Spirit like Saul did – a passage I covered several months ago in my “Why did God let me down?” post.

With the Old Testament context in mind, we now return to 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” Praying without ceasing no longer seems so difficult to achieve because we do not have to journey to a physical place, He is always with us. The Holy Spirit indwelling in us has made us the Temple, so we can pray literally wherever we are, whenever we want, and there is no required physical place. Praying without ceasing also helps us to walk in the Spirit versus the flesh.

“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”
Romans 8:5-8

The more we are plugging into the Holy Spirit through prayer, the more likely we are to live in a way that pleases God. When we remember that we are the Temple, we have the Holy Spirit, that makes it much easier to “pray without ceasing.”

Pray whenever, pray wherever – there is no long trek to take. You are already there.


Father God,

We lift up everyone who has come across this page for any reason and reads these words. If they already know Your Son, Jesus, may they feel the power of the Holy Spirit within them and pray without ceasing. If they do not yet know Jesus, then make today the day, Lord.

In the powerful 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.

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

A prayer to end spiritual distancing

Credit: Snow

By Snow

Heavenly Father,

We thank You for Jesus. We thank You for love. We thank You for spring. We thank You for this beautiful world that You created for us and that we handed over to the enemy.

Father, they shut down our schools. They shut down our workplaces. They shut down our flights. They shut down our hotel stays. They shut down our supply lines. They shut down our sports arenas. They shut down our movie theaters. They shut down our beaches. They shut down our playgrounds. They shut down access to our loved ones in the hospital.

They even shut down our churches.

But they couldn’t shut You down. You are still here with us, still bringing hope. Still healing. Still working miracles.

We lift up the medical personnel on the front lines, the grocery store workers, the delivery truck drivers, the postal carriers, the restaurant employees, the police officers, the firefighters, those that have lost loved ones, those that have lost their jobs, those that have lost their retirement funds. We lift all of them up to You, Lord.

We are all affected in some way. We lift all of us up to You, Lord – where we should have been all along.

Please carry us all through this time, Lord. Please light the way to cures, not only for this virus but for the distance that we created between humans long before anyone had heard of COVID-19. Yes, and a cure for the distance we have placed between us and You, our loving God. Please use this tragic time for good. Bring us back to You and Your Word.

We need You now more than ever.

In the precious name of Jesus we pray.

Amen

Credit: JC

“Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. Remember, O LORD, your compassion and unfailing love, which you have shown from long ages past.”
Psalm 25:4-6

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)