Archive for category Prayer and Intercessions

An Impartation of Grace?

Ken and I attended a special meeting yesterday. I would identify it as a worship service—although we were drawn there because we’d been told a respected teacher would provide excellent teaching.

For the familiar reasons, we struggled with attending. 5:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon is a good time to relax at home.

In the end, we went. And I’m don’t think I’ll ever be the same.

I hope not.

What was the life-changing message about? Well, part of it dealt with forgiving others. Part of it dealt with receiving forgiveness from God. Because it was about knowing God and receiving His grace—about knowing He loves, accepts, and forgives those with whom He has a relationship.

Oh, yes. Relationship was a major topic—because knowing God is more than knowing facts about Him or than having correct doctrines about Him. Knowing God involves interaction with Him.

But I could have told you all those things before we heard the message. I could have laid it all out systematically if asked to do so. And the speaker wasn’t systematic at all. He wound around, sharing not only his story but the stories of others as examples. All jumbled together.

He shared several Scripture passages, but I can’t tell you any of them today.

But as he meandered, the message somehow became Life. I not only heard and understood; I received the Holy Spirit in my inner being. Somehow, the Holy Spirit revealed and imparted and the Life of Christ.

To make sense of this—to explain why I needed this impartation—I’ll mention that I’ve struggled for several years, ever since we retired, with indefinable feelings of inadequacy and alienation that affected relationships with family and friends. I wanted to withdraw. At times I did withdraw. I wounded people, people I cared about.

I felt judged. From within because I felt guilty for not being able to respond the way I should have to others. And because I failed to meet reasonable expectations of others. And the more I failed, the deeper the despair. I knew that my failures—my sin, if you will—had caused schisms beyond repair. I felt family and friends could not forgive me. God was surely very disappointed, too.

The only thing left was operating without emotions.

Which only compounded matters.

I believe it was God’s grace that allowed me to begin bringing some of this up before a small group several months ago. (Because I was so desperate, I had begun attending a prayer group a few years ago—difficult because I knew and know so much about the Christian life. I can seemingly operate on a spiritual level while overcome by guilt, making it difficult to be transparent and honest before God and others.)

Meanwhile, in life outside the prayer group, I tried to extend love to a couple of people who are especially important to me on several occasions. Although I struggled during the processes—generally felt miserable, estranged—I believe the efforts were important.

And last night, as you might imagine I was uncomfortable as the speaker began.

He continued to probe deeper—to reveal more and more of human frailty and of God’ grace. I hope you won’t be surprised or disappointed when I tell you I cannot exactly explain what happened. I do know I was emotionally wasted and devastated.

And when it was over I was free.

Free from guilt.

My understanding of God’s grace somehow expanded. I realized that God was not surprised by my sin or my capacity for sin. He is not surprised by my failure to love with His love. He understands emotional weakness, and He accepts me and others just as we are. He receives us and loves us. By the end, I somehow knew God receives me, accepts me, loves me, and forgives me.

I went to sleep easily last night. And after waking up around 4:00, I easily returned to sleep.

Of course, there are thorny issues ahead: I can do nothing to change the past. Right now, at least, I have faith to believe I can live with the problems I’ve created, even with the wounds I inflicted. Because God’s grace will reach out to others. His grace can turn all things to good. And His grace is big enough to sustain me through the process.

I understand this faith will be challenged—and that my part will be limited to prayer, to hearing His voice, and to responding to His leading. There will be difficult times.

But truly, the grace that was big enough for this breakthrough will be big enough to sustain me during difficult times ahead. I cannot undo the damage my diseased soul wrought. But God set me free, and He can and will set others free as well.

If I try to remain in His grace, I’ll fail. But if I look to Him rather than to myself, His grace will continue to work on my behalf. I don’t expect it to actually be easy, but the hard part will not be self effort or working to make changes. It will be continuing to release my guilt, to receiving His forgiveness, and to move in others because He loves them.

I didn’t stand up during the call to ministry. I couldn’t. I was too overcome and remained glued to my seat. Nevertheless, transformation occurred. Something larger than mere understanding occurred. It would seem God’s Spirit penetrated my inner core, my heart. He wrought a new relationship between us.

Lord, I love You. I praise You. I come to You with joy. Because You love me. You welcome me. You desire to bless me even while I’m a sinner.

Praise Your Holy Name.

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Insight: It’s Time to Hear His Voice

Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  (Eph. 6:11:”13)

During a prayer meeting we attended last week, a fellow shared a challenging prophetic message. I felt it was important at the time so I jotted down what I could, and stuck it in my Bible.

From there it went home where it was placed on a stack near my desk.

Tonight I’m feeling overwhelmed, faced by the need for internal and external resources I don’t have, feeling self-imposed pressure to make decisions that can wait. And we’re going on a short jaunt for a few days

Here’s the message I found when trying to organize that stack of papers:

          Arm yourself with the Word, with prayer, with praise, and with the blood of Jesus.

          Put on the armor to stand against the enemy.

          Become an enforcer [in the Spirit]. Use your sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.

          Rise up and take your place. Take your righteousness.

               Don’t be shy.

                    Don’t be ashamed.

                         Don’t be afraid.

          Authority belongs to me and I’ve given it to you.

              It’s your will.

                    It’s your choice.

                         It’s your move.

          So move forward.

               Do not retreat.

                    Do not draw back.

     Go forward and the gates of hell will not prevail.

Now, I know this message could be criticized on several counts. But you don’t know the man and you didn’t hear it in context. He’s not suggesting God wants us to foolishly take on spiritual battles we aren’t ready for.

But God is calling His people to spiritual battle. The world needs Jesus. I need more of Jesus, you need more of Jesus, we all need more of Jesus. And we won’t receive Him as we need Him unless we put on God’s armor and do what He tells us to do.

I also know I’m not the only one who has heard a message, identified it as important, and then walked away. But I’m so glad God didn’t let me get away with it. He saved it for tonight—when I’d be too tired and vulnerable to set it aside again.

I initially remembered a verse. Proverbs 25:11 reads, A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. If ever a word was fitly spoke, this one it. But there’s even danger when I revel a word—and savor it as a way of avoiding the bite

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not weighed down by condemnations by this message. In fact, I’m not as burdened as I was before it hit me.

The word convicted and liberated.

God knows how to deal with people that way.

And here’s the crazy thing: I don’t feel called to a specific function—I’m called to a different mindset.

There are times and there are times. And this is one of those times.

It is time to listen to the Spirit.

It is time to actively listen to the Spirit.

Add it’s embarrassing to acknowledge He’s saying this to me because I do hear Him—quite a bit.

I get messages now and then. God is my friend.

Yet He’s telling me to listen.

And I know it is time to hear His voice.

I know it. I feel it. He is calling me—and probably many others—to something different. Something new.

Do you feel it, too?

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Gleanings: Ruth 9, Another Opportunity to Trust

Ruth continues to labor in the fields throughout the barley and harvest season. This post, based on Ruth 3:1-5, looks at what Naomi does and doesn’t say after she learns Ruth’s benefactor is their kinsman Boaz.

Then the season comes to a close and Naomi does offer specific advice. As the one who understands, she becomes a counselor with a plan. Naomi knows that although Ruth gleaned in the fields simply to survive, God was doing something bigger, something special that could open up a future.

And as is always the case, moving forward to receive God’s plan requires another leap of faith and an increased level of obedience.

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Gleanings: Ruth 5, Preparing for a New Life

Previous messages focused on Ruth 1 which established the time and setting for Naomi and Ruth’s big journey from Moab to Bethlehem. We also observed much about the two women’s backgrounds, motivations, personal integrity, and ability to make faith-based decisions..

This message looks at Ruth 2:1-4. It also provides information on how the people of the era brought in the harvest because those details are key to understanding later developments.

In chapter 2, Ruth takes center stage, and she realizes she must help provide for the physical needs both Naomi and herself while she adjusts to an unfamiliar culture. Nevertheless, even after she has a plan, she submit it to her mother-in-law for approval. Naomi knows things Ruth does not, and Ruth seeks the older woman’s counsel.

Chapter 2 also introduces Boaz, the third major character. The seeds of a plot are in place.

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Gleanings: Ruth 2, Oprah and Ruth Make Decisions

Naomi surprises her daughters-in-law Oprah and Ruth after they begin their journey from Moab to Bethlehem of Judah. She gives each a choice that forces them to make a difficult decision.

The Scripture for this portion of their story is found in Ruth 1:8-19.

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Weekly Insight: More than Expected

The prophet Isaiah received this word from God:

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness… ((43:19)

I thought about that verse this week when I decided, again, that well-run meetings should not be our goal.

Ken and I attend a couple of weekly prayer meetings. One is small—about five to seven people—and usually focuses on the needs of a specific ministry. Another is somewhat larger—about ten to twenty-five people—and the focus encompasses a region along with many ministries within the region.

(I don’t think the second is more important; I believe God often accomplishes His purposes when smaller segments hear His voice and respond to Him. Our goal should be responding to Him whenever or wherever He calls.)

But the point is allowing God access—and His goals might be different that our goals. His methods might be different than our methods.

In both prayer groups we’ve seen Him sovereignly interrupt to do something unexpected. This usually happend when the leaders didn’t know which way to turn—so they turned the meeting loose.

Several weeks ago, when the leader of one group couldn’t finish reading an obscure Scripture passage and broke into sobs several times, a man in the group volunteered to finish. And he did.

Then we sat in silence—mostly silence—until we began to pray in a rather halting manner.

The result did not fit most people’s image of a well-run meeting. I can’t quite remember everything we prayed or the subtle ways our prayers changed—but as we trusted God to lead us in this unfamiliar ciricumstance, we somehow transcended our usual inhibitions. God did a new thing by opening our hearts in new ways.

And this isn’t an isolated incident. It happens when people are thrust into unfamiliar and uncomfortable circumstances.

I’ve decided God has agendas we know nothing about.

Why should this surprise me?

Yes, people can and should plan. We should do our best to put things together in orderly fashion.

But God is GOD. And He knows things we don’t know.

Sometimes we think we’ve been successful, because we accomplished our goals. Empahsis on “our.”

But when God enters to do His thing—His “new thing”—we can only stand in awe.

We don’t wonder if He accomplished something—even if we aren’t sure of what that something was.

We know He did. We were simply along for the ride.

And it was so much more than we planned. So much more than we expected.

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Gleanings: Ruth 1, Naomi’s Decision

After Naomi moves with her family from Bethlehem of Judah to Moab, and after tragedy strikes the family, Naomi learns that God has visited the people back in Bethlehem. At that point she realizes she can make a decision to change her life and the life of her daughters-in law.

This lesson looks at key verses, Ruth 1:1-7. In addition, Judges 2:10-12 provide background. Two New Testament Scriptures, Romans 12:3 and James 2:17 also come into play as they define key aspects of faith.

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