My Journey Along the Narrow Way

Posts tagged ‘faith’

Prayer…

I’m going to let you in on my big, bad, dark secret…

I’m a bad pray-er.  I don’t want to be a bad pray-er…I really, really want to be a prayer warrior.  It’s just that I’m not good at it and I didn’t really know what to do to get better.

I have tried to various things to become better at praying.  But pretty much what ends up happening is I learn a “system” or way to pray and promptly become legalistic about it. You see, I’m a list maker and checker offer.  Once I have a system, it all because just something to check off the list.

I could never figure out what the problem was.  It’s not just about lack of time or commitment but more about motivation and what it should look like.  But no matter what I tried it just didn’t feel right.

Was God really even listening?  Why would He want to hear what I had to say anyway?  Also, I was pretty sure that every time I repented He was thinking, “Here she comes again, confessing the same thing.  Why can’t she learn and get this right?”.  Of course, intellectually I knew that God wasn’t thinking that…but emotionally, well that was a whole different story.

I have been thinking about prayer a lot lately and really wanted to grow in this area of my walk.  And, as He so often does, God seemed to be telling me a lot about prayer lately as well.  (I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I tend to have periods of “themes” in my life.  What I mean is when God really seems to be trying to get a point across to me everything will relate to the one thing, from the sermons i hear, to the books I read, to the music I hear. It’s like I can’t get away from it until I “get it”.)

Well, apparently God has been teaching me much about prayer in the last several weeks.  Usually I am not quite so deep in my blog posts but I had to share what God has taught me in the hopes that if there are others struggling in this area that it might help you as well.

A week ago our morning sermon was entitled, “Pride Comes Before Denial.”  In this sermon, Shawn, our pastor, spoke about the five manifestations of pride.  While these did not directly deal with prayer they all seem to lend themselves to teach something about prayer, or a person with a poor prayer life.

1. Pride argues with Christ even as it expresses allegiance with Christ.
2. Pride dismisses the truth of Scripture on the basis that God doesn’t know or understand our hearts.
3. Pride justifies disobedience on the basis that God doesn’t know or understand our circumstances.
4. Pride exalts ourselves over others (Shawn’s point spoke about exalting ourselves over those with God-given authority over us but with prayer I believe we just exalt ourselves over others period).
5. Pride confesses complete faith in Christ while still depending on one’s own strength and resources.

The next week the sermon was on Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.  There was much that God spoke to me from this sermon but one thing really stood out.  It was the following statement:  [speaking about the prayer to God in the Garden immediately preceding the betrayal of Christ]…This is where the battle was won against Satan.

So this prayer and the resolve that Jesus felt after the prayer is where Satan was defeated?  This really made me think about the POWER of prayer.  Then a little further in the sermon there was this section about Temptation/Spiritual Tragedy that listed the steps that lead to temptation and tragedy.  The steps were as follows:

1. Self confidence [so sure they didn’t feel the need to depend on God in prayer]
2. Spiritual indifference [apathy in the Christian faith which is most characterized by a lack of prayer]
3. Temptation [lack of prayer equals a lack of dependence on God]
4. Sin [temptation gives way to sin as we fail to put on the full armour of God, including prayer]
5. Spiritual tragedy [falling away from our Lord]

At this point I was feeling pretty bad about myself and beat up about my poor prayer life.  I knew what God was telling me through this exposition of His word was to Pray.  Again and again He was bringing me the reasons why I should pray.  But itg was the same question as always…what to do next?

The next Sunday in MIT once again prayer came up.  We are studying The Holy Spirit and Sanctification and look what is on page 97 of the book we are studying:

If we work without the Spirit {to be sanctified}, we will be frustrated. On the other hand, if we leave it all to the Spirit and do not work, we will also end in failure. But combine the Spirit with work; then increasing victory will be ours. The secret of holy living is found in this combination. With it the Christian can have success.   The first work is to pray for a fuller presence of the Holy Spirit and Christ in his life….We may pray in faith for an increased indwelling of the Spirit in our lives, and we shall receive it.  We must remember that prayer is not simply a pious expression of devotion and thanks to God, but it is also a means of power. …It is necessary to persevere, for example – to go to God again and again with the same request.  It is also essential to go believing and expecting that He will answer our prayers, and not simply desiring an answer, thinking at the same time that God will not grant it….Faith is composed of trust as well as of knowledge.

Once again, I was floored by the teaching that God was sending my way about prayer.  The final piece of the puzzle was soon to fall into place for me.

Later that same evening in Tom’s evening sermon the last piece was given to me.  Tom said the following (I’m paraphrasing because I can’t possible write as fast as Tom can preach when he gets going):  You must labor to obey but it is natural and comfortable when you know God’s love through Christ.  What fuels our prayer lives?  When we are saturated in the knowledge of the love of God, our prayer life will be energized.  In our walk of faith, it is all energized and moved when we see the great love and grace to us through Jesus Christ, and the full assurance of our faith.

And therein was my problem with prayer in a nutshell:  I had a problem reconciling how much God loves me.  Growing up with a “fire and brimstone” type pastor, I tended to think of God more as the disciplinarian type Father.  When I sinned, I would feel like I disappointed Him and would actually avoiding God by not praying rather than face Him in His anger.  But that is such a wrong way of thinking.  That is totally leaving out the Love of God and Jesus Christ.  I was focusing on the wrath of Christ and not the love.

How freeing it is to remember that God loves me, He wants to hear from Me, I am his child and He wants me to talk with Him just a sure as I want my children to talk to me.  I can already feel a great change in the way I am thinking about prayer.

1 Peter 5:7  Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst,
a  mighty One who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will  quiet you by His love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.

 

Sin and Security…

I am going to be really transparent in this post. If you don’t like transparency, or emotional outbursts, this is probably not the post for you.

I have been taking a class at church going through a book called, “The Peace Maker” by Ken Sande. I have to confess that at first I was drawn to this class because at times my marriage has needed some peacemaking. But when two sinners get married, what do you expect?

The first few chapters were good, but then I hit Chapter 5 – Conflict Starts in the Heart. Wow…I will have to say that is when God really opened my eyes. I started reading this chapter and all of a sudden everything was applying to me…not to my husband. And let me tell you something, it was heartbreaking.

God has really used this book, and another study I am doing in my quiet time about Prayer, to break me. He has shown me that I have made an idol out of the need for security. I have seen clearly for the first time how I will do anything, including putting a huge burden on my husband, to get the security I crave and think that I deserve.

Let me back up a bit. Most of you know that I was adopted as a baby. I had fantastic, wonderful parents who always told me how much I was loved and wanted, but there was always this deep seated insecurity inside of me. I always felt like I was different and somehow not good enough because my birth mother obviously did not want me and just gave me up. Of course, as I got older and (a little) wiser, I realized that this was not true at all. She did love me, enough to give me up to someone who could better care for me. But knowing that intellectually and living it emotionally are always two very different things.

So, little by little, I placed a huge burden on my husband of making me feel secure. And when he failed, and he did, because he is a human sinner, as am I, I blamed him for my insecurity. This caused me to build a wall in my heart to avoid the pain. Sin, sin, sin…

I have never seen this so clearly as I did today. Let me share a little of what I journalled for my homework in class:

What do I seek and desire? Love of my spouse and security in our relationship. This is my idol. When I do not feel the security I desire in our relationship, I punish him by becoming distant (justification = protect myself) or angry (threaten or blame shift), instead of finding the security I crave from the one True God.

Another entry says:
As you look back on how you have handled this conflict do you see a need to repent and for confession? Yes! I was placing my needs and expectations on Bud. I believe that most of this (a recent argument) stems back to placing my desire for security on his shoulders as a burden that he can not possibly fulfill or carry. Again, repentance is necessary on my part as I have placed this on him rather than on God who is the only one who can and will give me the security and love I desire. I have continually taken the desire for love of God He has placed in me and put it as a burden on my husband. This has brought about a lot of conflict in our marriage which I have then blamed on him. I now realize there is no way my husband could ever meet these needs because he was never meant to…only God was.

As you can see, this has been rather eye-opening for me. And wildly freeing to my heart.

I can see God’s goodness and mercy so clearly and how I was the one backing away not God.

Why am I sharing this in a public forum such as my blog? I think transparency is a good thing. I think it is a public confession. I also think when God shows you something this good and freeing, you need to share it so others can learn from it as well. But most of all, I wanted to share how GREAT our God is! How loving and merciful and tender. I want to praise Him for being so longsuffering with me when I do not deserve it, worm that I am.

Thank you for letting me be transparent and free with you, as well.

But God…

People ask all the time what my favorite verse is in the Bible.  There are so many to choose from but if I had to pick one it would be Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  During the hardest times in my life I CLING to this verse.

But when I think of what words of Scripture are most precious to me, it would have to be this:  But God.  These have long been my absolute favorite words in the Bible.  And I see I’m not alone.  Just this last Sunday Shawn (our preacher) mentioned those two words in his sermon as well.  Google these two words and multiple postings, including many blogs, pop up.

For being two small little words, only 3 letters a piece, they are very powerful words.  What they say again and again in the Bible is:  man does _________ (which is usually something selfish, hurtful, stupid, etc.); BUT GOD __________ (fixes it, works it all for our good and His glory, hits us upside the head with a 2X4 so we understand, etc.).  How can anyone NOT love that?

For example…I was running away from God and his enemy.  I was literally shaking my fist at him…but God loved me, pursued me, called me to Himself.

Psalm 49:14-15

14 Like sheep they are laid in the grave;
Death shall feed on them;
The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning;
And their beauty shall be consumed in the grave, far from their dwelling.
15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave,
For He shall receive me.  Selah

I am mortal and I will one day die…But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave.

Acts 13:29-30

29 Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. 30 But God raised Him from the dead.

Jesus’ earthly body died on the Cross, But God raised Him from the dead.

Romans 5:7-8

7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We might lay our life down for another, but only if we feel like they are worthy…But God died for us – worthless, angry, sinful worms.

1 Corinthians 10:13

13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

We are tempted and fail repeatedly…but God is faithful to help us either escape or bear the temptation.

Psalm 73:26

26 My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

We will rot and die…But God will redeem us forever!

I fail and fall repeatedly…But God
I hurt others and am selfish…But God
Satan attacks and tempts us…But God

I mean, how can you not LOVE this?  It reminds me again and again…it is NOT me.  None of it.  Nothing I do.  It is ALL God.  He is sovereign, He is faithful, He is in control.  And all I can say is Thank God!  If my faith was left up to me I would stumble before I finished typing this blog post, mostly likely before I finished typing this sentence.  But God is faithful to the end.

No matter what happens in my life, when I’m down, or disappointed, or I fail, I cling to these two little words….BUT GOD.

That Kind of Woman…

 I’ve always wanted to be one of those women like my mother was.  In fact, pretty much my entire adult life has been spent trying to figure out how to be her.  You see, my mom was one of those women that are so rare.  She had that “quiet and gentle spirit” that the Bible speaks about.  She was loved by all: I never once heard anybody at anytime say anything negative about her.  She was always calm, no matter what.  I never, ever heard her say one negative thing about anyone. 

For example, there was this one woman in our church growing up.  She had really bad arthritis, the kind where her fingers looked mangled.  She was absolutely the hardest person to be around.  She was extremely negative all the time.  However, my mother agreed to drive her to and from her doctor’s appointments.  My mother actually seemed to enjoy her time with “Miss Emma”. 

I want to be that way.  I want to be content, no matter my circumstances.  I want to take joy in everything I do…without grumbling.  The problem is, that is not my personality naturally and I don’t know HOW to be that way.

1 Peter 3:3-5, speaking to women, says:

3Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.

That really, really is convicting to me.   And really, really impossible for me to attain.  You see, I’ve never been that kind of woman.  I’ve never been called gentle or had someone refer to my quiet spirit.  But I really want to be that woman.  So, I’ve asked God to help me in this area. 

Recently, I’ve had some success in this area.  I realize it is all God’s work, and God’s alone.  But He has helped me keep quiet lately when I was upset and stressed.  He has helped me tame my tongue.  However, I realize that this is definitely a work in progress.  And it will take a long, long time.  But, Lord willing, maybe one time I will be that kind of woman.  And one day someone will tell me I remind them of  my mother, or even better, that I remind them of Christ.

Proverbs 31:30

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
       but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

All About Clouds…

I was looking at my tag cloud on my blog last night and I found that my top tags are as follows (in no particular order):

This makes me feel like at least I have my blog posting’s priorities in line.  I want to strive to make sure my life is in line and focusing on the MOST important things, not the mundane.

With Bud being gone for an extended period and changing jobs and training someone to replace me, I feel like my priorities are all skewed.

I have started using something called the Read Through the Bible Program for Shirkers and Slackers which seems to work well for me.   It is a reading plan but it’s not as structured so I don’t feel so freaked out if I miss a day or only read half of what I was supposed to that day.  I have been much more consistent with my daily Bible reading since starting this.  http://www.ransomfellowship.org/publications/notes_biblereadingprogram.pdf

I am still struggling with praying like I should.  I’m being really transparent here…I am truthfully praying around 4-5 times a week instead of every day.  This is something I am working on, though.  I am hoping once I change jobs and have an extra hour in the morning, I can institute a real consistent quiet time with praying every morning.  I am keeping a prayer list and am doing much better than in the past.  Prayer is really something I struggle with the most.

I am trying to be reading a good non-fiction Christian book at all times.  Sometimes I am reading fun reads (mostly Christian fiction) as well, but I’m trying to consistently read something meaty too.  Right now I am in the Holiness MIT class so my meaty Christian book is “Holiness” by JC Ryles.  This book has helped me greatly in this endeavor, as JC Ryles is an excellent read and has totally smashed my misconceptions about non-contemporary Christian writers.  This is good stuff and it’s making me want to branch out to more classic Christian writers.  I was, however, always a fan of CS Lewis.

Oh, and just a quick mention about adoption.  I saw Third Day’s new video for the song, “Children of God” and can I say that I’m amazed.  The song is already fantastic but the video blew me away.  Check it out if you haven’t seen it.

Third Day, Children of God

As an adopted child myself, by earthly parents as well as God my father, this is a subject near and dear to my heart.


We are a Moment…

My stepmom fell today (at a doctor’s office, no less) and broke her hip.  She is currently in the Emergency Room getting admitted into the hospital where they will do surgery  tonight to fix her hip.

Prayers are appreciated – her name is Louava and my dad’s name is Troy.

This immediately brought to mind the suddeness of her fall.  It’s funny how we wake up each morning and we expect to make it through the day in one piece.  We expect for everything to be the same when we get home in the evening as when we left in the morning.  We forget how fleeting life is and how it can all change in the instant.

Before I was a believer, I used to still understand deep down in my heart that if I died without Christ, I would go to Hell.  I didn’t want to go to Hell.  I had been in church enough growing up to know Hell was not where I wanted to spend eternity.

So, what did I do about it?  I stuck my head in the sand.  I put my hands over my ears and closed my eyes and sang, “lalalalalalalala, I’m not listening.”  If my thoughts came even close to thinking about dying, I would quickly and firmly push them into a box and ignore them.

When I did actually let the thought of myself dying come into the corner of my mind, I would assure myself that when the time came, I would have time to “get things right” before dying.  I really thought that.  That I would actually have time to “get saved” at that last instant.  However, the Bible tells us in Job 14:1-2, “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.  He comes forth like a flower and fades away; he flees like a shadow and does not continue.”

James 4:13-14 says, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

God calls us “a vapor”.  That is how fragile our lives are.  Just like a vapor that comes from a boiling pot, it soon disapates and is gone.  How silly of me to think that me, just a vapor, could just say to God, “Hold it just a minute, I’m not quite ready for You to take me.  I need just a few minutes so I can get saved”?

Ecclesiastes 8:7-8 says, “For he does not know what will happen; So who can tell him when it will occur?  No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, And no one has power in the day of death. There is no release from that war, And wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it.”

What an arrogant thought.  And what an insult to the Cross of Jesus and the blood He shed to save men from their sins, for me to make it so cheap that I could just slide into salvation at the last minute.

But that’s what being lost does to you.  It makes you arrogant and self-righteous.  It makes you think that you have all the time in the world to do and live however you want to.  You’ll get right in the end…no problem.

Ecclesiastes 8:12-13 also says, “Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God.”

All this to say… Don’t wait!  You could be gone in an instant!  Romans 10:13 says, “For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”” Call on Him…be saved!  Do it now.  You may not have another chance.

Psalm 90:1-2

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

Yay!

So I just got some great news!

It isn’t something I can share just yet but just suffice it to say that God has shown out yet again!!!

Sometimes I feel so much like an Israelite in that I continually seem to forget how great God is and to remember His past deeds. I wonder why that is?

Deuteronomy 4:9

Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren.

Psalm 77:11-13

I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?

God has shown Himself faithful to me (and my family) again and again. And when I stop to think about it I am so thankful and amazed. But the problem is that I don’t seem to stop and think about it near enough. I seem to be content to just go through my life consumed with looking down and plodding ahead.

It reminds me of when Peter walked on the water.

Matthew 14:22-33

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.

Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Notice how Peter was fine until he took his eyes off of Jesus. But even more than that…like me, I wonder how much Peter missed of what Jesus was showing him by taking his eyes off of Him?

And also, see what the other disciples observed as they were watching what the Lord was doing:

Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Wow! I have got to look up. I am missing so much of His beauty and holiness.

And I definitely need to quit being so surprised when my Heavenly Father gives me good gifts and blessings. Scripture even tells us that God gives us good things if we ask (and even when we don’t).

Matthew 7:7-11

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

For now, I am remembering the past deeds of my Father and rejoicing in the blessing He has chosen to bestow on me.