A Storm of Blessing is Approaching!

P.U.S.H. Pray Until Something Happens.

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The prophet Elijah had just singlehandedly vanquished the Nation of Israel of 450 false prophets, demonstrating the power of God could be trusted over the fear of man, which ushered in a revival. Standing on Mount Carmel, like a tall cedar that had weathered the storm-full of faith and power-before the vile king of Israel Ahab, he looked to the sky for rain. With blood still dripping from his sword, a reminder of how quickly God responded to those who feared Him, he remembered God’s promise; that rain would break the drought that had plagued the land for three years. Elijah prayed to God for rain, then sent his servant to a clearing to look for the storm clouds only to have him back, reporting the skies were clear. Elijah had mocked and verbally berated Baal’s false prophets just a few hours prior when they cried a request to their gods only to be met with silence; now, he is experiencing the same thing. So, Elijah prayed and sent his servant out again, only to have him return with the same discouraging news; no clouds. This routine continued four more times with the same results; Elijah would petition God for rain, send out his servant, who would report clear skies with no rain in sight.

How would King Ahab interpret this period of perceived silence from God in response to Elijah’s prayer? Would the wicked King Ahab think that the past victory was a fluke, a flash in the pan event, and become empowered enough to boldly attack his now weakened adversary? What did the Nation of Israel think of this silence of God? Perhaps God was done with Elijah, moving on to someone stronger, younger, better equipped to lead them, and closer to God to advise them? What about Elijah’s servant? Could he start to doubt Elijah’s power, or even worse, consider that God Himself might be asleep, overworked, or too busy to care about His people anymore? Most importantly, what was going through the mind and heart of Elijah? In his past, Elijah would call out to God with immediate results; the dead were raised, food was supplied, fire came down from heaven, but now, nothing. But, Elijah did something that many would not; he continued to trust God and pray anyway. After he prayed for the seventh time, he sent his servant out, who came back with some great news, a storm cloud could be seen on the horizon, rain was coming! The draught would soon be over; crops would again grow, livestock would be saved, the spread of disease slow, and hope would be restored. The storm of blessing had arrived!

I may be stepping out on presumption a little, but I would guess there have been times in your life when God responded to your prayer request with a sense of urgency; you prayed, and God moved. There can be no better example of this than when you prayed for salvation; you asked God to forgive you and be the Lord of your life, and instantly your burden was lifted, and you were adopted! Conversely, I am confident there have been times in your life when you have prayed only to be met with silence; no clouds appearing on the horizon. If we can learn anything from this story recorded in the book of Kings, it is this; faith that is strong enough to persevere is a faith that will see an end to the lengthy draught of God’s blessings. A faith that trusts the storms of blessings will break over the horizon one day is a faith that continues to believe enough to pray until something happens.

Scripture: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” -Psm. 37:7, ESV

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” -Psm. 27:14, ESV

Question: Have you ever given up praying for something? Would you be willing to admit that perhaps you gave up too soon in light of our story?

Nugget: Elijah’s prayer was answered on the seventh request. The number seven in scripture represents completion; in other words, God’s timing was perfect!

Prayer: Father, I never want to give up on you. Please help me recognize that the voices around me are the loudest during the seasons of silence, encouraging me to quit; that you are too busy, have moved on, or are dead. Please give me the faith to believe, the strength to continue, the attention to focus, and the boldness to walk in a dark culture that doubts you. May I learn to dance in the rain before it arrives, enjoying your presence while I wait for an answer. Thank you for knowing what is best for me and holding out for the perfect time to send your showers of blessings. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

From Pain to Praise

What if God wanted us to use our trials to showcase His sufficiency?

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We generally don’t have a choice when it comes to pain and suffering invading our lives, causing tears to flow, nights marked with restlessness, and if we’re not careful, leaving our minds full of doubt, spirits bitter, and souls unsatisfied. While we don’t have a choice over some of the trials that knock on the door to our lives, we do choose how we greet that trial. I have come to believe that trials are the stage upon which Christians either present to the watching audience a crippled and defeated life or one that showcases Jesus as more than enough. 

A few years ago, my secretary put a call through to my office. On the other end was a church member that had heard of a lady involved in a horrible car accident that took her husband’s life, and had been transferred to the local nursing home for rehabilitation. With no details, other than the potential to find someone that was discouraged and depressed, I made my way out to visit. On the way, I spent time in prayer, asking God to use me to introduce this lady to the Lord or to encourage her faith. I was not prepared for what I found upon entering that room.

When I entered her room, I found a bright-eyed owner of one of those “light up a room” smiles! I thought I had the wrong place. Nope. After a few minutes, I found out that in one tragic car accident, she had lost her husband, her legs, her dog, her car, and even her house, as the money from the sale of it was used to pay for her medical bills. Almost in tears after hearing her tragic story, I asked if I could pray for her, to which she replied something like, “I am fine! I still have my Jesus, and He is enough. Let’s pray together for all of the hurting and lonely folks in this nursing home.” Wow! But that is not even the best part of the story. After I left that room, I went to the nurse’s station to ask how long she would be at the facility and to make my intention of future visits known. The nurse told me to check at the information desk before each visit because she was never in the same room. Do you know why? The nursing staff moved her from room to room to encourage other patients who were depressed after having knee and hip replacement surgeries!

Every one of over 4,000 religions in our world looks to suffering as an inconvenience that should be avoided, prayed away, or as punishment for a past life of sin. Only Christianity offers a purpose for our suffering; that it “produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-4, ESV). Again, trials are the stage upon which Christians present to the watching audience a crippled and defeated life or one that showcases Jesus as more than enough.

When I visited that dear saint, I was but 30 years old and relatively healthy. Since then, I have been diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease, had five shoulder surgeries, one back surgery, and am currently on a three-month leave of absence for high blood pressure and other issues. What I learned from that Gloria over twenty years ago was how we respond when trials enter our lives, determines our faith growth rate, and what kind of an impact we will have on others. The next time circumstance invades and disrupts your life, remember the stage is set for you to present a God of power and peace to this world; the question is, are you willing to fill that role with passion and purpose?

Scripture: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. -James 1:2-4, ESV

Question: The next time a trial comes into your life, instead of praying it away or griping about how miserable you are, would you be willing to use it as an opportunity to showcase the sufficiency of God?

Prayer: Father, please help me to spend less time praying trials away and more time realizing you have a purpose for every circumstance that comes my way. If trials are your way of growing my faith, producing steadfastness, and conforming me into the image of your Son, then bring the rain. I want my life to make a difference, so please give me the faith and strength to persevere, and I will provide you with a heart of willingness. Thank you for loving me, and thank you for using me to share your power and purpose in this world. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

He Knows

Having Someone above you, that knows what’s going on inside you, makes all the difference.

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“If you really want to quit, give me 15 minutes, and I will lay out a plan guaranteed to work”, said my fellow shipmate in response to my struggle with trying to lay down a two-pack a day smoking habit. My wife Laurie and I had been transferred to Guam and were now caring for two young children through the foster care program, and Laurie did not want me smoking in the house, and in that tropical environment, I didn’t want to smoke outside! So, I set out to stop something I had been doing since high school. So, there I sat, listening to John confidently lay out his 15-minute plan, with hopeful expectation. John’s plan was well presented, even included a diagram on a piece of copy paper, and when he was finished, I asked the million-dollar question, “John, how long has it been since you’ve been free of this habit?”, “Well,” he replied, “I’ll have you know I never smoked a day in my life; I take care of my body.” Here was this man, giving out advice on stopping something he never struggled over. Needless to say, I threw that cartoonish diagram in the trashcan and went my way.

Was his advice sound? Perhaps. Would that advice, if taken at full value, have worked? Maybe. But what I could not get over was that he did not know what it was like to be huddled on all fours in the kitchen the night before crying out to God for the strength to stay home and not rush out to the store for more cigarettes. John didn’t personally know the struggle and had never experienced the personal pain, and for me, that was a deal-breaker. No wonder he made it sound so easy to simply stop something that had its roots in me for years, something that had provided comfort, made me feel good, and had been with me through some tough times; he was on the outside looking in. I did end up finding Someone that understood, offered advice, and gave me the power to overcome that obstacle, Jesus Christ.

Writing to a group of Christians who had endured suffering and faced even more, the author of the book of Hebrews writes, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” The author may have had some good advice on how they should respond when their loved ones were dragged out of the home, beaten, and thrown into an arena where wild animals would tear the flesh from their bones. Or how they should keep the faith when thrown in prison, scheduled for execution, and separated from their children. But what the author could not say with integrity was, “I know how you feel” therefore, he pointed them to Who could say that very thing, Jesus. While we all can appreciate the sentiment when someone uses “I know how you feel” as a springboard to giving advice, it often falls on deaf ears since it’s spoken from the outside looking in. But with Jesus, He has been there and done that and knows how we feel in every situation or struggle. He always speaks from the inside; therefore, He speaks with authority, credibility, confidence, and power.

Whatever you are going through, there is one true thing; no one around you knows how you feel. There is, however, One above you that does know how you feel. Before you shed that tear, God knows why. Before you open your mouth, He knows the request. And, knowing that God knows makes all the difference. Perhaps today, you would be willing to consider this all-knowing, all-loving, and all-caring Father that went through the ultimate suffering so that He could be with you today not only to hear you but help you. 

Scripture: “You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.” -Psalm 139:3-4 ESV

Question: Do you feel like you are walking a trail of trials alone? Would you be willing to call out to Jesus today to find hope in a God with inexhaustible resources?

Prayer: Father, I am going through a trial and feel so alone, like no one understands how I feel. Please remind me that you are with me, you care about me, and you know how I feel. Remind me today that I am not alone. Please draw close to me, and may I find comfort and strength through your presence. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray, amen.