Tidbits and Blessings Blog
by Jeanie Malone
I’d love for you to join the conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments section under each entry.
We all have divine appointments, whether we recognize them or not. I have briefly met a stranger in a public place, sometimes to chat briefly and end up holding hands and praying, and at other times, only our eyes met, and I was overcome with a heavenly chill and firm confirmation from God this person was praying for me.
These people have come and gone, often nameless to me, but certainly not unimportant. Sometimes the divine appointment is as an anonymous kind deed. Sometimes it’s an event where you are especially moved by a speaker. God loves us so much and shows up in so many ways to show us that He cares.
Recently, my husband and I attended a Christmas party with his former coworkers from a company that shut down a couple of years prior. A kind, small-framed, elderly man came and hugged me and took my hand and asked me by name how I was doing. I didn’t recognize this man but after learning his name quickly knew he was the prayer warrior praying specifically for me and my daughter when he worked with my husband.
I knew at that moment, his prayers for us had continued without pause, even without knowing any results of his prayers. Instantly, my mind went back to the toughest couple of years of my life when I felt that I was at the bottom of such a deep pit I could barely see light above.
I knew this man’s prayers were part of God’s plan to keep me holding on when I could do nothing more.
Just today a sister in Christ purse dialed me. When I called her back, she apologized but desperately needed a moment of stillness in prayer, so we prayed together. This was no accident her phone dialed me. It was a divine appointment and invitation to pray for her and with her.
With the account of Onesimus in the Bible, we could talk about the value of new beginnings or the significance of justice and equality, but we’re going to talk about the importance of divine appointments. Read about Onesimus in Philemon 1:1-25 and Colossians 4:9.
Onesimus was a slave to Philemon, who was a friend to the Apostle Paul. Philemon was a wealthy Christian leader who hosted house-church gatherings. Onesimus stole from him and hit the road to Rome. It was no coincidence that at the same time, Paul was under house arrest in Rome for preaching the gospel. Onesimus sought out Paul, the man whom he’d known to come preach at his master’s home in Colossae. Onesimus came to the saving grace of Jesus Christ and was a great help to Paul, so Paul sent Onesimus with Tychicus, along with a letter to the slave’s owner, imploring Philemon to forgive Onesimus and assuring him that Onesimus was living up to his name, which meant, “profitable, useful, helpful.”
Onesimus went from being a slave to being a thief and fugitive on the run to helping spread the gospel. God used unlikely circumstances to unite Paul and Onesimus and reunite Philemon with Onesimus later. Their meeting in Rome was certainly appointed by God for Onesimus to surrender his life to Christ, make honorable choices, and for him to be a help to Paul.
Another account of divine appointment is the account of Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Read this account in Acts 8:26-40. Phillip obeyed the angel of the Lord when he was instructed to go a certain direction on a specific road. There he encountered a eunuch “of great authority under Candace, the queen of the Ethiopians” (Acts 8:27). The eunuch had come to Jerusalem to worship and was reading from the book of Isaiah when Phillip found him.
The eunuch was eager to understand what he was reading—what we have as Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”
Phillip explained the prophecy. The eunuch believed. They traveled a way together before coming to a body of water where the eunuch requested to be baptized. His faith lacked nothing! He was so happy to now understand, accept, and live the truth.
God didn’t keep the two together for a long period of time; Acts 8:39-40 says immediately following the baptism, “when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.” God put the two together for a divine appointment to change the eunuch’s life.
Every life affects other lives in some way, good or bad. Getting to know Paul in Rome affected Onesimus, whose help affected Paul and his ministry. Phillip’s obedience affected the Ethiopian eunuch, and surely countless others were affected by the eunuch, a man of authority and importance.
Some divine appointments stand out in our minds. Others come and go in a fog but with no less power. Thank God for those divine appointments you remember and those of which you weren’t even aware. Ask God to help you tune in to Him so closely that you never miss an opportunity for a divine appointment where you bring the power of God to someone else’s life, knowing that God is using you to show His love for someone as He invites them to a deeper relationship with Himself.
God’s Word tells us “this is the day the Lord has made,” meaning He allows every obstacle and temptation we face, already has a way of escape for every temptation, and is there for us in the place where we will understand our need for Him and cry out to Him.
His desire is for us to depend solely on Him for strength—strength to overcome, strength to walk away, strength to succeed no matter what we face. He knows that our own strength is insufficient, will run out, and let us down.
Psalm 118:4-6 says, “Let them now that fear the Lord say, that his mercy endureth for ever. I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?”
The Psalmist, likely King David, called upon those who fear the Lord to speak the truth that God’s mercy endures forever. Then he prayed for himself.
The Psalmist’s action: He called upon the Lord in distress.
God’s response: God answered him and set him in a large place.
The results for The Psalmist:
8 It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.
10 All nations compassed me about: but in the name of the Lord will I destroy them.
12 They compassed me about like bees: they are quenched as the fire of thorns: for in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.
13 Thou hast thrust sore at me that I might fall: but the Lord helped me.
14 The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.
17 I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.
18 The Lord hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord:
Here are some things we learn about the Psalmist in Psalm 118:
Scripture is full of examples of faithful people choosing to praise God in the midst of storms. These examples are to encourage us to make the same choice to rejoice despite our circumstances that may easily cause us to forget that our strength is in the Lord and that we have access to His supernatural peace and wisdom when we praise Him.
Psalm 27:1 mirrors what we read in Psalm 118, verses 6 and 14: The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
We know that God allowed this day and all that is in it. This is true of everyday. That means that God allowed this season, this year, and so forth. Everything that happens must be allowed by God, including evil.
We all struggle with wanting God to wipe out evil. We wonder why bad things happen to “good people.” We may never fully understand why God allows evil, but we can be at peace by living in the Spirit and not the flesh.
Faith helps us hold on to hope when we cannot see the light, when we feel overwhelmed, and we are too numb to seek it. Romans 8:24-25 says, “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.”
We know that God’s holy Spirit helps us hold on: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27). “Favour of God,” a God-honoring woman I follow on Twitter recently tweeted, “The Holy Spirit will cause you to desire God’s will over everything else.” This is so true when we submit to God. I am so thankful because God’s will is best. He is omniscient and we are not. Only in foolishness do we ever choose our own limited vision and thinking over God’s.
As we hold on, God gives us peace of mind knowing “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
God does not enjoy the evil, yet he allows it, and then He brings good from it.
That includes seasons and years that resulted from our choices and those over which we had no control.
Regardless of how the day or season came to us, God allowed it, infinitely for our good. He gives us control over how we respond to situations. Like the Psalmist who wrote Psalm 118, we can choose to praise God and cry out to Him; we can declare our trust in God as our strength and salvation. Taking these actions doesn’t necessarily undo the trials we face but rather guides us through to the best possible outcome.
God is sovereign, meaning He has the final say, and He always responds with the best outcome, which may or may not be what we would do if we were God.
King Hezekiah was facing death and desired to live and serve the Lord. He cried out to God. God answered him through the prophet Isaiah: 2 Kings 20:5 says, “Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, ‘I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord’.”
God added fifteen years to King Hezekiah’s life. In that fifteen years, King Hezekiah accomplished great things such as, “he made a pool, and a conduit, and brought water into the city” (2 Kings 20:20).
However, not all was easy and happy in the extension of King Hezekiah’s life. He still had free will and made some poor choices. There was hardship to come as a result of King Hezekiah’s unwise choice to show all his palace and treasures to a frenemy. In hearing that King Hezekiah was sick, “Berodachbaladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present unto Hezekiah”(2 Kings 20:12). In response, King Hezekiah “hearkened unto them, and shewed them all the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah shewed them not” (2 Kings 20:13).
The coming result of King Hezekiah’s foolishness was delivered to him by the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”(2 Kings 20:17,18).
God loves us and desires the very best for us, but we still act with free will and suffer the consequences of our choices, though we are still loved just as much by our eternal Creator, Savior, and Lord.
We can answer our human questioning regarding evil and difficult circumstances with these truths and actionable steps given in scripture:
Matthew 5:44-45: Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
Wisdom from James 1:
2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
16 Do not err, my beloved brethren.
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
When all seems dark, don’t fall away from truth. There is always light, even if you cannot see it in the moment.
We are all at times challenged by the threat of discouragement. It’s a natural consequence of life. Good and bad happens to everyone, regardless of their choices and their relationship, or lack thereof, with God. Romans 2:11 tells us, “For there is no respect of persons with God.” In His sermon on the mount, Jesus said that God “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).
It’s what we do with the threat of discouragement that powerfully determines our outcome.
Sometimes we get discouraged at what we have or what we must do. Sometimes we get discouraged because of what we don’t have or what we cannot do. This cause of discouragement has much to do with being discontent.
Though we should always seek to be and do better, we are called to be content, regardless of our circumstances. Paul said to the Philippians, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:11-13).
Earlier in this passage Paul shares the key to being content: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:6-8).
We learn three direct actions we are to take regarding our own contentment and encouragement:
With this thought, let us see that the peace of God is the antithesis to discouragement. At times we all are disappointed and even distressed. Those temporary slides are part of being human. It’s up to us to encourage ourselves in the Lord to not let those lead us to deep, lasting discouragement which causes despair and our inability to obey God and hold on to hope.
I love the account in 1 Samuel 30 of God’s deliverance when David encouraged himself in the Lord after the Amalekites seemed to have the victory; they had taken all the women and children captive and had burned Ziklag, the place where David and his supporters found safety while fleeing King Saul. David’s supporters were now ready to stone him because of their distress. David understood their distress because his family was also taken captive.
“And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6).
David prayed asking God for guidance. Then David obeyed what God led him to do. God gave him a perfect victory. All the women and children were brought back safely, and the troop now had the spoil of the Amalekites to split amongst themselves.
God is always at work for our good. Sometimes it requires us to do what we don’t believe we can before we see the victory, but God always has it waiting for us. God gives us peace when we give our concerns to Him and ask for His protection while focusing on living right in Him instead of trying to undo or do things we cannot. There will always be distractions and distortions of truth. And sometimes we won’t see what is true until we choose to do as God directs.
David sought God’s leadership in his situation when it seemed their loved ones were gone forever, and his followers were ready to kill him. Then David focused his attention and energy to obey what God told him to do. He didn’t let the possibility of what may be stop him from focusing on and obeying God.
Sometimes we feel like giving up but at the same time feel like we are being pushed forward with an energy and enthusiasm only God can give. God won’t give up on us living His purpose to help bring others into the fullness of His relationship with them. We can never find and stamp out all the fires, but we can build our own fire bigger, brighter, stronger through God.
Choosing joy is strategy that became all too real to me when Satan wanted me to believe that my daughter was gone. From a young age she was spiritually oppressed and suffered from multiple mental illnesses and several addictions. She ran away from home at 17. She told lies to authorities and many others attempting to separate herself from the people who loved her most and most tried to help her. She didn’t want to go to rehab, so she ran away.
During the storm of false allegations, court proceedings, and continued addictions, delusion, manipulation, and poor choices by my daughter, I found out that she was only alive because a month earlier, God clotted her blood after she passed out in a suicide attempt when no one was around to help. This precious child was bent on destroying herself and her life. It was purely a satanic attack against one God created and equipped to serve Him in powerful ways.
She ran away the first week in May. I recall crying and feeling the intense pain of trying to understand while standing in Hobby Lobby where my mom took me to pick out something for Mother’s Day and my birthday. I was staring at a sign that said, “I choose joy.” I knew God had that sign there just for me. He was telling me to hold on to truth, no matter how oppositely things appeared. That sign was my gift, and it is in my bathroom where I read it every day. I was so thankful to have my daughter back and knew I still had a very important task ahead of me to show God’s love for this precious soul who was so cast down by satan that she wanted to destroy herself or end her life.
Choose joy. Choose to focus on God no matter what. God is the only source of truth, joy and peace. If we let distractions steal our focus, we are weak and useless; we are disoriented and directionless. We have an important purpose that we can only live when we choose to focus on and take our marching orders from God. During those rough days with my daughter as now, I must focus on God and choose joy to not lose hope. I focus on the truth of the matter, not the smokescreen satan sends to distort reality. Satan sends smokescreens our way often. When he fails, he tries again; he is determined to discourage us. We must be even more determined to stay the course and not let him succeed.
It is of utmost importance that we choose to focus on God instead of all that distorts, distracts, and tries to discourage us. Psalm 57:7 says, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.” God inhabits the praises of His people. Psalm 22:3 says, “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” A powerful transition occurs when we choose to focus on God and praise Him as our Lord and Savior. He comes alongside us making us able to bear what we thought was too difficult. God energizes and strengthens us to do what is impossible without Him.
In the acrostic Psalm 9, David uses the chiastic structure to contrast the everlasting power of God and His name to the end of the wicked who are wiped out by righteous God. David starts with his declaration to praise God with his whole heart, to show all God’s marvelous works, to be glad and rejoice in the Lord. Then David acknowledges God as a righteous judge and as his source of strength and power against his enemies, the enemies of righteousness.
Let us follow the example of David, a man after God’s own heart, to fix our hearts on God, to praise Him for who He is, to ask for His guidance in our situation, to get up and without questioning, do whatever it is God leads us to do.
Last week, we looked at how intercessory prayer is the key to our success. Others’ prayers for us and our praying for others are essential to our overcoming obstacles, recognizing right opportunities, and persevering in our purpose given to us by Christ, our Savior.
Praying for others, especially our enemies, involves praying for them to seek God with their whole heart so they will have the close relationship with God necessary for an eternally productive life. We must pray for our enemies with empathy, knowing that we have been forgiven much, including many offenses of which we aren’t even aware. We are to pray in this manner for those we personally know and don’t know and by whom we are offended or oppressed.
People are just the pawns Satan uses to instrument his evil. David prayed for God’s judgment against those who did evil. David prayed in accordance with God’s will for evil to be crushed, so God’s power, purpose, and plan prevailed. We learn from David’s example to hate evil and pray for evil to be crushed. Praying imprecatory prayers against people who do us wrong, such as David prayed against his enemies, is not what we are to do under New Testament Grace.
David was described in the Bible as a man after God’s own heart. In 1 Samuel 13:14 as part of God’s judgment against King Saul’s evil, Samuel says that “the LORD hath sought a man after his own heart.” This is echoed in Acts 13:22 when Paul recounted God’s miracles and power and the lineage of Christ through King David: “And when he had removed [Saul}, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he have testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will.”
In the New Testament, we learn to separate the evil from the person. In Ephesians 6, Paul instructs us to be strong in the Lord, to put on the whole armour of God, and we are reminded that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (10-12).
In order to pray for others, we cannot harbor ill feelings toward them. The entire passage of Ephesians 4 teaches us how we ought to live with one another. The chapter ends with verses 29-32 clarifying, “grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
We are told not to “grieve” the holy Spirit of God. Think of the sorrow and deep emotional pain you feel when someone close to you passes away. This is the same deep emotional pain we are told not to cause the holy Spirit of God. It is no small matter for us to harbor bitterness, anger, or unforgiveness toward someone. It is a major offense to the holy Spirit of God for us to speak evil of someone.
Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount to “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:44-48)
Christ makes it clear that we must forgive others to be forgiven by God (Matthew 6:14-15) and that how we judge others, we will also be judged (Matthew 7:1-2). Furthermore, we cannot worship and serve God if we have wronged another and do not sincerely apologize to that person (Matthew 5:23-24). It is important that we repent of our sins and apologize to God and to those against whom we have transgressed.
I love the acronym for forgive given by Chou Allegra, founder of Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC, on a recent episode of Juniper Tree Live by Rhema Creationz and Broken Vessels Podcast:
F—Find out if your grudge is valid
O—Organize your grudge (the facts)
R—Relinquish control; drop selfishness
G—Get a different perspective
I—Initiate Self Care—Emotional and Spiritual; take it to God first
V—Value peace about all (peace within, peace with God, and peace with others)
E—Eliminate traps and set boundaries
Allegra goes into details regarding these important parts of the process of forgiveness on the Juniper Tree Live podcast. If we do some of these, but not all, our forgiveness and therefore our own healing, is incomplete. Peace and living our purpose are of utmost importance in this life. If we evaluate our own unforgiveness yet don’t eliminate traps and set healthy boundaries, we are setting ourselves up to make the same mistake again that will cause grief to ourselves, God, and others.
The Old Testament gives pictures of the Grace to come with Christ. In one of the Pilgrim Songs, or Songs of Ascent, composed and sang as part of the annual Jewish tradition of traveling to Jerusalem, Psalm 130 is a song of repentance. It humbly admits reliance on God for forgiveness, healing, and hope for the future. It is important in our prayers today that we recognize the need for ourselves and others to humble ourselves and seek God with our whole hearts in order to be productive in the purpose God has for us. We must love others as much as we love ourselves and want the same intimacy with God for them as we want for ourselves.
Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities (Psalm 130).
Who have you harbored ill feelings toward? Who do you need to forgive today? Who do you need to ask forgiveness from? Take the important steps to peace and living your purpose by forgiving and praying for those who despitefully use you and persecute you. Remember that Christ himself instructs to “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
Click below to enjoy the podcast with Chou Allegra.
Intercessory prayer is powerful. It is what keeps us safe, focused, and driven to do God’s will. Oswald Chambers wrote in Disciples Indeed, “The meaning of prayer is that I bring power to bear upon another soul that is weak enough to yield and strong enough to resist; hence the need for strenuous intercessory prayer.” Chambers wrote in Christian Discipline, Volume 2, “Intercessory prayer is part of the sovereign purpose of God…We take for granted that prayer is preparation for work, whereas prayer is the work; and we scarcely believe what the Bible reveals—that God’s chosen way of working is through intercessory prayer. We lean unto our own understanding, or we bank on service and do away with prayer. Consequently, by succeeding in the external we fail in the eternal, because in the eternal we succeed only by prevailing prayer” (57).
There is a constant battle for our focus. I love the Irish proverb that says, “Your feet will take you where your heart is.” I believe this is true concerning our spiritual lives as well. Wherever we place our thoughts and attention is where we will end up. Whatever we focus on, we will do. We must continuously focus on God so we remember to pray for one another. We must focus on God so that we are weak enough to yield to Him and strong enough to resist satan.
Romans 8:26-28 says, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for the good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” We see that God Himself as the Holy Spirit prays for us, for needs we aren’t even aware of and cannot put to words to pray for ourselves.
Further in this passage we read, “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (verse 34). Christ makes intercession for us constantly. Notice the verb tenses in verse 34: Christ died—past tense, completed, no longer occurring; now look at the rest of the sentence: is risen again, who is even at the right hand…, who also maketh intercession.” He has risen; He is at the Father’s right hand, and he makes intercession for us. The present tense helps us understand that He makes ongoing intercession for us.
In Ephesians 6 where the armor of God is outlined, we are told to take up the armor “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (verse 18). It is commanded as something we are to do wearing the armor of God.
Job 42:10 records that “the LORD restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.”
God commanded the exiles to pray for the city where they were taken: “Seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7).
Corrie ten Boom said, “We never know how God will answer our prayers, but we can expect that He will get us involved in His plan for the answer. If we are true intercessors, we must be ready to take part in God’s work on behalf of the people for whom we pray.”
As intercessors, we must expect and be ready for God to put us to work, not only in praying for others but also in bringing about the answers to those prayers. If I pray for someone yet believe that I am too busy to encourage that person in the truth or help them in whatever way God leads, I am not truly breaking through in intercession for that person. If I am not totally dependent on and obedient to God’s leadership, my prayers are useless.
One of my favorite and most read books is The Kneeling Christian by An Unknown Christian. The author says, “Our Savior’s three greatest commands for definite action were: Pray ye—Do this—Go ye!” The author points out that “without obedience to the ‘pray ye,’ it is of little or no use at all either to ‘do this’ or to ‘go’” (16).
Successful prayer is aligned with God’s Word and is prayed by a soul totally dependent upon and trusting in God for not only his own life but also for that of others. That soul must be willing and ready to step out in faith to “do this” and “go” as God bids as part of His working in the life of the one for whom intercession is being made.
Sometimes we are urged by the Holy Spirit to pray for someone because they are in immediate need. There have been countless times in my life where the immediate need for intercessory prayer was confirmed—sometimes later in the same day, sometimes days later, or even weeks later, after praying for someone as God impressed me to do. I am always thankful when God confirms the need after I have prayed for someone.
I can say with heavy sorrow that I remember a time that God impressed me with urgency to pray for someone, but I brushed it off as stress and busyness affecting my mind. Later, God confirmed the need to pray for the person, and I had ignored the invitation to help this person by interceding on her behalf. By ignoring this invitation, I suffered punishment and missed out on the spiritual blessing that comes with intercessory prayer.
It may be a possible traffic accident, giving in to temptations, or that person simply needing a divine touch in their work and activities for that day. Regardless of the need, we should never ignore the invitation God lays on our heart to pray for someone. Often we do not know the exact need until after we pray, and sometimes we may never learn of the need, but we can be assured there is a need when God puts someone on our heart.
Sometimes God puts others on our hearts to pray for them long term for their obedience to God’s purpose for their lives. Sometimes we intercede for a person regarding salvation or submission to God for many years before we see the fruit of our prayers, and sometimes we die without seeing our prayers answered. Whether we see it come to pass or not, we know with certainty that God is serious about prayer and uses our intercessory prayers for one another for His will to be done.
A couple of years ago while I was very sick and not able to do much more than try to get well, God used intercessory prayer to sustain me. While attending an event at the church where I was saved as a teen, a dear lady asked me how my writing was going. Her question caught me off guard because severe sickness had all but taken writing off my radar. God used this precious prayer warrior to remind me of His plans for me. I knew by her question that she was interceding for me, even when I wasn’t strong enough to ask for intercession. I was so struck by the realization that God was using her on my behalf that my faith was fueled to hold on even though I was too sick in that season to see God’s purpose come to fruition in my writing.
Not long after that incident, I came across a personal note I had written in the margin of the book The Kneeling Christian. I had written that intercessory prayer sustains us in seasons of waiting and mentioned the intercessory prayers of two very powerful prayer warriors in my life. God was showing His love for me through these prayer warriors in a difficult season when I felt forgotten. Just knowing that we are remembered in prayer is a powerful catalyst to pick us up when we get knocked down.
It’s important that we remain so close to God that we hear His invitation for us to pray for one another. Intercessory prayer is a supernatural way God knits His people together. He strengthens our love for one another, so we understand the importance of encouraging one another in His truth.
Who is God calling you to pray for today?
In what ways have you experienced the power of intercessory prayer in your life?
When I am exercising on my indoor trampoline, or rebounding, I must focus on one stationary item nearby; otherwise my vision is distorted and I see nothing clearly. Looking out the window at something far away is not sufficient to keep my vision clear. I must focus on a near, stationary object.
In life, if we don’t focus on God, we don’t see anything clearly. In order to focus on God as we need, we must be close to Him. Psalm 141:8 sums up our desperate need to focus on God, “But mine eyes are unto thee, O God the Lord: in thee is my trust; leave not my soul destitute.” We must focus on God, trusting Him, desiring Him and His wisdom, knowing we are destitute without Him. I love the bold declaration of David when he fled from Saul in the cave:
“My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise. Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early. I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people: I will sing unto thee anong the nations. For thy mercy is great unto the heavens, And thy truth unto the clouds. Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: Let thy glory be above all the earth.” (Psalm 57:7-11)
Though David is hiding in a cave to stay alive, he is determined to praise God. His praise did not stop when life got hard. What is our response when our life gets hard? Do we praise God or shrink back in worry, feeling overwhelmed?
God promises us in James 4:8 that if we draw near to Him that He will draw near to us. We need a close focus on God to have a clear, correct perspective and understanding. He is never too far away for us to focus on because He promises to be near to those who seek Him with their whole hearts. If our desire is to honor God, He will show us how to do so.
In 2 Samuel 7, David considered that he lived in a sturdy house but the covenant of the Lord resided in a tabernacle, a temporary tent. The prophet Nathan told King David to do all that was in his heart to do, that God was with him. David desired to honor and love God. God’s response was to acknowledge that He had never dwelt in a house “since the time [He] brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt…but walked in a tent and in a tabernacle” (2 Samuel 7:6).
David’s heart of worship fixed on God impacted himself, others, and God. God’s heart was so moved by David’s love for Him that God promised to appoint a place for His people in Israel, “to plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime” (verse 10).
David’s love for God was returned not only for himself but also for the people of God more than they could have imagined to ask. David went to God seeking nothing for himself but wanted to bless God who already had shown Himself mighty in David’s life.
God has already been better to us than we could ever ask, whether you agree and acknowledge it or not. What has been your response to God’s grace and mercy toward you?
After the short time and exchange which established so much between God and David that would bless King David, his kingdom, and his lineage and would provide a permanent place of worship in an established land for God’s people, David went into the tabernacle to be with God, to meditate. Verses 18-19 say, “Then went Kind David in, and sat before the LORD, and he said, Who am I, O Lord GOD? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto? And this was yet a small thing in thy sight, O Lord GOD; but thou hast spoken also of they servant’s house for a great while to come. And is this the manner of man, O Lord GOD?”
David’s desire was to bless God, and after the prophet Nathan told David how God intended to bless him in return, he simply wanted to thank God and speak personally with Him. He wanted the intimacy of talking directly to God. David’s desire to focus on God despite any circumstance and his desire to bless God was always rewarded greatly. It was this strong focus on God that gave David peace of mind and supernatural protection many times in his life.
God knows the desires of our heart, and He knows if He is our number one desire. The most important lesson I think we can learn from David is to have a continual focus on God, seeking Him, desiring to bless Him, and praising Him no matter what.
According to one of my all-time favorite preachers, Dr. Charles Stanley, “There is nothing that you and I do that is equal to or as important as spending time alone with God, and we call that meditation.”
It’s hard to get alone and quiet with God in our world that is so loud, but private, personal meditation is vital for our peace of mind and wisdom for living. We must control our environment as much as possible to have a quiet place for a few minutes. We can adjust our focus settings on our phones and devices, so we aren’t interrupted by notifications.
Even more within our control yet harder to do is to get our minds quiet, so we are able to hear God. We must stop the noise in our busy brains, so our thoughts can truly be centered on God and attentive to hear what He says to us.
It’s important that we not only speak to God but also be ready to hear what He says. We must pray for a receptive heart that is willing to receive whatever God says. We may meditate upon scripture, but our minds and hearts must be prepared. Each time we begin meditation, let us first pray.
Jesus showed us how we should pray, and in that model prayer we see certain components well-remembered by using the acronym PRAY:
P— praise for who God is, including but not limited to all the ways He blesses you, others, and His creation
R—repent of known sins and ask God to search your heart for unrealized sins
A—ask God for what you need and ask Him to show you what you did not know you have need of
Y—yield to God; surrender to His will, desiring His impact in every detail of your life, desiring His heart
Just as King David had many eyes on him, some supporting him and some seeking to see him fall, we have many eyes on us. People judge God by what we do and say or don’t do and say. People are encouraged or discouraged from a close relationship with God by our lives and our response to God.
Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
When David entered the tabernacle, he entered with a heart of worship and with a humble question basically asking God why him. Then he sincerely praised God for who He is: “Wherefore thou art great, O LORD God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee” (verse 22). David continued to praise God for the many miracles and great works He had done over Israel’s history. Then he thanked God for His personal blessings on David, even those yet to come, and asked God to bless the blessings he had promised.
This is similar to our asking God to bless our family with which He has promised or already blessed us with. When God blesses us with work to do for Him, it is good to ask Him to bless that work, our efforts, and our focus on Him to accomplish the work. When God blesses us with a job opportunity, it is good for us to seek to honor God in how we work and conduct ourselves, and we should ask His blessings on the work.
It is important for us to get alone with God, with our minds fixed on Him to talk to Him and listen to Him, just as David did when he made plans to build the temple. God blessed David beyond human imagination that day. The blessings would unfold over many years, and in fact continue to us today as we enjoy the blessings of our relationship with Jesus Christ, God who came in the flesh in the lineage of King David.
Get alone with God. Don’t be afraid of the silence. Remember the PRAY acronym to guide your quiet time. I pray for your patience and boldness to come before your Creator acknowledging Who He is, asking forgiveness and turning away from your sins, and surrendering every desire and every detail of your life to the One who has your best interest at heart and can do more for you than you ever could on your own.
Relationship habits determine the health of any relationship.
Jesus taught that the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Your neighbor is anyone you have contact with, whether it’s once or an ongoing relationship. In a relationship, that love is expressed through devotion and a seeking to improve or secure the wellbeing of the other person. This love is seen in all healthy relationships including parent-child, grandparent-grandchild, romantic, friendship, and more. This love is usually expressed through devotion and compassion, two common threads of true love throughout countless relationships in the Bible.
From the beginning of David and Jonathan’s friendship, they show love for one another as oneself. When David and Jonathan first met after David slew Goliath, 1 Samuel 18:1 shows, “the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” Jonathan offered his clothes, armor, and weaponry to David, not asking for anything in return. (1 Sam 18:4)
After Saul became jealous of David and wanted him killed, Jonathan convinced his father that he had no right to order David’s death because David had only done good to and for Saul. (1 Samuel 19:1-7) Saul was not an honest man, so he sought many times after to kill David, but David’s and Jonathan’s hearts remained knit together as kindred spirits.
After the death of Saul and Jonathan on the battlefield, David mourned for them and never forgot his love for Jonathan. He had Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son brought to him and had compassion for him: “I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table” (2 Samuel 9:7).
David and Jonathan’s devotion to and compassion for one another and their extended families is one example of the continual give and take we see in healthy relationships today. The bible says they made a covenant and Jonathan loved David as his own soul, so it is likely that they gave unselfishly, not thinking about the themselves. Regardless of the type of relationship, a deep love for the other person is essential for a healthy relationship.
Another account of sincere devotion and compassion is in the story of Ruth, Naomi, Boaz, and Obed. During a famine in Bethlehen-Judah, many Israelites moved to Moab. Elimelech and Naomi were one of the families to move to Moab. Ten years after her husband died, still living in Moab, Naomi lost both her sons. She urged her daughters-in-law to return to their homes as Naomi chose to journey home to Bethlehem. Orpah kissed Naomi and departed to her family, but Ruth insisted to stay with Ruth.
Ruth was impressed by all she had learned about the God of the Israelites and replied to Naomi, “whither thou goest, I will go…and thy God my God…the LORD do so to me, and more also” (Ruth 1:16-17). Ruth had spent the latter half of her life with Naomi, learning about her God, and she felt a strong devotion and desire to continue in this family, though no longer legally bound. Ruth chose to remain devoted instead of switching paths.
Once Naomi and Ruth were in Bethlehem for barley and wheat reaping season, Ruth went hard at work to provide a means for her and Naomi, who would likely not be able to work or secure employment because of her age and status. Hard-working Ruth caught the eye of Boaz who owned the field where Ruth was working. Her devotion, kindness, and virtue won his heart. (Ruth 3:10-11)
After Boaz and Ruth married and had a child, Naomi continued to be an important part of their family, supporting the care of their child Obed. “And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it” (Ruth 4:16). The word used for nurse is translated from Hebrew as “aman” and means to “confirm, support,” according to Strong’s Concordance. We also see God’s love for Israel through Obed’s continuing lineage, which two generations later brings King David.
Another story of deep devotion and compassion is the account of Hosea and Gomer. Gomer was not a loving nor faithful wife. In fact, their marriage began as God told Hosea the prophet to “go, take a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD” (Hosea 1:2). Even after they married, Gomer often took lovers who lavished her with expensive gifts. After years of continuing her whoredom, she found herself in desperate trouble which she couldn’t connive her way out, and Hosea compassionately came to her rescue and bought her, though she was already his wife. He was devoted to his marriage and his wife, though for a long time she was not committed to him.
We see devotion in the relationship between Joseph and Mary when common sense didn’t fit their unique situation. We see in Matthew 1:20 that the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream telling him that Mary’s child was conceived of the Holy Ghost. He trusted love over common sense. He had compassion and showed devotion.
We could spend hours and pages listing more examples of true love in God’s Word in all kinds of contexts such as romantic, friendship, family commitment, and we would continue to see the common threads of devotion and compassion.
We clearly see that these two relationship habits of compassion and devotion, which stem from true love for others as if for ourselves, is the glue that holds a relationship strong during stormy seasons. Every relationship will experience times of more and less growth, but what gives strength in all times is the continuance of devotion and compassion.
Sometimes we don’t feel loved, or we don’t feel like loving others. We have to remember the big picture of what love really is. It’s not an emotion. It fosters a myriad of emotions that span the full spectrum from hate to desire. Love is a decision we make and either keep or change. To stay committed to a relationship, we must understand and agree within ourselves to be devoted, no matter what, and we must understand and agree within ourselves to show compassion, no matter what.
Sometimes the devotion and compassion look different than what we may expect or what others expect. This has to do with healthy boundaries, which we will discuss in more detail next week.
We all need relationships. We were born for relationships. It’s a give and take. If we only learn to take and not fully grasp the joy of giving continually, we miss the point entirely and live as miserable, unfulfilled creatures.
This week, I challenge you to love others as yourself. For at least three relationships, focus on putting the needs of others above your own wants. Pray for yourself, the other person, and the relationship, asking God to help you see and love the other person as He sees and loves this person. Ask God to help you say and do things that will foster the other person’s walk with Him. Give grace, then give more grace, and see how this affects not only the other person, but more importantly, your perspective and expectations for the relationship.
The first time I planted garlic was the same year that we built our raised beds. One of my high school teachers, the teacher who transitioned our school and community from typewriters to computers, and her well-respected city council member husband were generous to share a bounty of bulbs with locals who wanted to start their own garlic. I was enthused. We typically eat 10-40 cloves each week, so growing our own sounded perfect.
Bought soil won’t have the same nutrient quality as built soil. Bought soil can be packaged as many things, and for what it is, it’s great. But don’t buy a goose expecting a duck. Bought soil is a quick fix to get you started, but it is lacking nutrients that take time to build by amending and working the soil. Many crops including garlic need nutrient-dense soil in order to make a good harvest.
But you have to start somewhere, so we built the garden frames from materials we already had and filled them using the hugelkultur principle of compiling compostable biomass materials. We topped limbs and larger debris with top soil and compost we bought and added smaller, compostable materials such as dead leaves from our own yard along with a stingy amount of expensive, pelleted, organic fertilizer.
Within a week of planting the cloves in our new beds, fresh, green garlic shoots lined the sides, and I expected a good harvest based on that initial growth. After a few weeks of appeared to be stunted growth, I added more of the organic fertilizer.. After two more weeks of unsatisfactory growth, I added some commercial standard triple 13 fertilizer, the magic tonic of much commercially grown vegetation. Nearing time for harvest, I noticed that the blades on my garlic weren’t tall and thick but were somewhat flimsy. It just wasn’t growing like I wanted it to. After the blades died, I pulled up the smallest cloves I’ve ever seen.
A few months after my sad lack of harvest, my former teacher asked how my garlic did. I was so embarrassed to admit my failure. Her husband then gave me a short gardening lesson, informing me of how nutrient-needy garlic is.
Now I realize that I cannot take shortcuts to growing good garlic. These master gardeners shared their secret to success—having good built soil that they continually feed and amend.
I thought of this principle of built versus bought soil in growing relationships. The built being something that takes a lot of consistent effort over time and the bought being convenient, quick fix we often try in efforts to save a marriage, friendship, or other relationship. Often we want a quick turnaround, especially in new relationships. We think, “Well, I was nice to him, so now he should respect me.” We want to quickly build a relationship using materials we already have. Then we throw in some dirt we already own and venture to pour in something flashy fad that promises quick results. We may even add some expensive fertilizer like flashy cars or expensive vacations to ensure good results. Then when harvest time rolls around, we reap weak results. Our relationship hasn’t grown strong in unity and the ability to weather the storms of life.
Some of us continue adding fertilizer late in the season, desperately hoping for a harvest, but then one day we realize the frost killed the plants before any fruit was produced.
The guiding principle I taught as a parent and educator was, “Do what you should when you should how you should, and you’ll be happy with the result.” And depending on the individual and level of understanding, sometimes I would add, “why you should” after the how. I believe this is true for all of us in every aspect of life. There are right and wrong steps, and there is a right and wrong order to things, and there are right and wrong motivations for doing things.
Only the original Gardener can create the timetable from breaking ground to reaping harvest. Whether you plant garlic, pumpkins, or radishes, these all will take a certain number of days to grow. We can do a few things to jumpstart growth like heat lamps or seed blankets, but we have very little control over the length of time God ordained for each fruit to grow to its full potential.
Sometimes in a relationship we exhaust of making contributions to the soil and grow impatient for a harvest. We decide that the six months, six years, or six decades we have labored is more than enough for a harvest. Part of being human seems to be impatience in one way or another.
But some things take longer to grow. According to Penn State Extension, seeds “wake up” and germinate when conditions are right. They lie dormant until then. Instead of seeking God’s wisdom and love for the relationship, adding new amendments and working the relationship so it will breathe healthy, we often give up.
When my husband and I married, we envisioned a wonderful unity of our ministry work as a large part of our marriage. We both felt strongly led by God to minister together.
Even before our nuptials, things seem to start unraveling. A week or so before our wedding, I was in the hospital severely dehydrated and with a couple of infections. This seemed to start a new trend in my health that I kept trying to bolster despite continuing weakness.
My health and our ability to minister together unraveled. Confused and trying to make sense of the drastic contrast from our reality to what we envisioned, my husband started his own downward spiral.
After ten years of nonstop attacks on our marriage, we didn’t even discuss plans to minister together. At the time, we had no plans but trying to figure out how to navigate our individual lives. Ministering together was all but off our radars.
Feeling numb and abandoned, I began praying for my marriage, my husband, my feelings toward my husband, and for our purpose I remembered feeling led to. After many months of doing nothing but hanging on and praying for these things several times every day, something changed. I changed, he changed, and our relationship changed. We started getting closer than ever before. Our passion for one another and our passion to live our purpose together was not just smoldering but on fire completely.
After a few months of growing closer and thanking God for our rekindled romance, we realized that we needed to nurture the relationship for it to grow stronger and fully blossom. We had to fan the flames to keep the fire going. We added in some new priorities and practices. My husband made Friday night date nights a priority in his tight schedule. I studied up to be a good masseuse. Together we planned fun meals and played old board games. We made time for one another every day, no matter how busy or tired we were.
It wasn’t just the new habits that fanned the flames. It was the attitudes behind the habits. We took an honest look at our lives, remembering the vision God gave us, and recommitted to doing our part—something we didn’t quite fully grasp when we started this journey over twelve years ago. We had a long engagement, did pre-marital counseling, discussed our objectives, but then along the way in all the busyness and attacks on our marriage and purpose, we lost focus. We hadn’t prepared realistically against the attacks guaranteed to come our way.
Just as the healthy built soil that gives a good harvest isn’t left alone without additions and amendments, a healthy relationship isn’t left alone, either. It needs good things added in, it needs to be worked so it breathes, and it needs the weeds picked out. Sometimes we expect a good harvest in a relationship just because it has been a part of our life for so long. But a garden left untended only grows weeds. The same is true in relationships. Weeds deplete healthy soil of nutrients, and weeds in our relationships deplete our energy, desires, focus, and efforts so there isn’t anything left to nurture the relationship. We must continually work on our relationships, just like building soil for a productive garden.
What’s the Spirit of Your Communication?
Proverbs 15:4—A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: But perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit. The Hebrew word used for “spirit” in this verse is translated as “ruach,” meaning “breath, wind, spirit.” This is the same word used for “Spirit” in many verses in reference to the Spirit of the LORD, such as in Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 11:1-5:
1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 2 And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; 3 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: 4 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. 5 And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
In verse 2, we see the characteristics of the spirit of the Lord:
We can know if we are implementing these two greatest commandments by checking if we are reflecting Jesus’ character in our lives and relationships.
We might be quick to agree that we live with Godly wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, but let us judge by our fruit. Do we judge by what we see and hear? Do we live with righteousness only God can give? What is righteousness? Righteousness can also be thought of as “rightness” and entails accuracy, fairness, and justice. Even when we think we are right and righteous, we should verify by God’s Word. A good way to know for sure is to ask if we are judging someone or something by only what we see and hear, or only what we see and hear with our perception added to the mix. Do we judge by what we think? If we are personally offended, it’s likely that we are adding our own perception and personal judgment.
God’s design for every relationship is to draw us nearer to Himself. Sometimes we are the vessels used to show others His love, and sometimes we are on the receiving end. Ideal relationships grow all parties closer to the Creator.
But in this broken world, most relationships are broken as well. That doesn’t mean we should throw up our hands and quit when a person seems hell-bent on being hell-bent. We should see rejection and opposition as opportunities for intercessory prayer.
We are to plead to God on behalf of the other person. It’s important that we pray God’s Will and not interject our own perception into our prayers. What we know is God’s Will is for the other person to be a living vessel of honor submitted and completely reliant upon God for life and breath and direction. God doesn’t want us to make one decision without Him because He knows that alone we will mess it up, just as Adam and Eve messed it up in the beginning.
Our commitment to the relationship is a commitment to God to show His love to the other person. The love we have for someone comes from God. The determination we have for doing our part, regardless of how that person behaves, comes from God. Our love for someone does not depend on that person’s current determination, or lack thereof, to have a right relationship with God.
Our value of and respect for others doesn’t come from their beliefs and actions, it comes from our beliefs. When we understand this, we are in control to remain steadfast, regardless of the other person’s behavior. How we behave and respond toward others is a direct reflection of our relationship with Christ. It’s not always reflective of how the other person sees and treats us. Often, it’s an apparent contrast.
Two pieces of advice this week for your communications and relationships: Have a heavenly state of mind and leave the consequences up to God. Don’t worry so much about the other person’s response. Prayerfully, carefully choose your words after listening and seeking to empathize with the other person. Do all things with God’s love, and you’ll leave no room for selfish ambition. If things don’t go as you intend or hope, just keep prayerfully, carefully considering your own attitudes and actions, and leave the rest of to God. Just do your part, not trying to do His.
I love the example we have of King David in Psalm 27. He desires the LORD. He has enemies and knows his life is safest as close to God as he can get. Look in verse 8 where David acknowledges his own response to God’s invitation to us all to seek His face. David faithfully responded in obedience and with expectation. David shows full confidence in the LORD above all human forms of relationships, even his parents. He understands the inevitable fallibility of humans and knows his trust is more wisely placed in God. David seeks God’s help for how to maneuver his present situation and relationships. David is aware of the danger his enemies present, and his response is to seek God’s wisdom, direction, and protection. In verse 11, David asks God to teach him His ways. The word used for teach is interpreted as “yara” meaning “to throw, shoot.” The word used for way is interpreted as “Derek” meaning “way, road, distance, journey, manner.” David is asking God to help him know what choices to make in order to please God. Thinking of the teaching from the perspective of the student’s learning, David doesn’t want to aim and get it wrong, but he intends to hit a bull’s eye with his first attempt. He is confident that God will instruct him perfectly, and he is making himself ready to receive and obey God’s instructions.
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. 3 Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. 4 One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple. 5 For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. 6 And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord. 7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me. 8 When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek. 9 Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. 10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up. 11 Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies. 12 Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty. 13 I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.
We all have an enemy of our soul and to our obedience to God. This enemy slyly uses unaware humans as his weapons of attack. Just as we read of David’s enemies in Psalm 27, you are likely aware of some folks being used as weapons against you.
Remember that these people aren’t truly the enemy, just the weapon the real enemy is using at the moment to trip you up and trip you out mentally, so you cannot focus on your source of strength and wisdom that will guide you safely through every attack.
Ephesians 6:10-18 says, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”
Notice some echoes in this passage from where we began in Proverbs 15:4 and Isaiah 11:1-5. This week, please read these scripture passages to yourself several times every day, pray asking God for wisdom, and spend time meditating on them. You will soon find them easier to understand and more naturally applied to your life. You won’t feel like you are fighting naked, and you won’t scramble to find and put on your armor when it’s really too late. ;-)
For a closer look at how our attitudes and words are formed and influence others, please visit the archives at the bottom of the page to see the following posts:
June 26, 2021--"Always Ready for Battle"
August 13, 2021--"The Power of Words"
August 27, 2021--Don't Let Distractions Lead to Your Destruction
“It is the weak who are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong.” –Leo Roskin
People with unhealthy character impose guilt messages in an effort to control and manipulate others.
These people are angry , lack self-control, and live with many fears.
Regardless of the negative person’s real problems, if I let the negative remarks affect my thinking and my choices, I am a victim as well. God designed us to be victorious no matter our life circumstances. God wants our thinking to be centered around Him because He knows that is how we can live victoriously, regardless of our nitty-gritty details. If we allow the negative attitudes and remarks of others to control our thinking and actions, we are slaves to that negative, and our thinking is not centered around God. This is sin, and in it we will not live victoriously. We are not only designed to live victoriously, but we are designed to be free from the chains of sin. It has no power over us unless we allow it. We can choose to remain centered around God and speak life to the person who is spewing anger and death.
In response to attacks from others, we can scrap and scrounge to fight for ourselves, or we can call for help from a much more reliable power source than ourselves. When David fled King Saul and hid in a cave to stay alive, he praised God. Psalm 57 shows how David felt in his situation, and it shows his powerful response.
King Saul was full of pride and power. When he said jump, strong men jumped. When he set out to have someone murdered, he could consider it accomplished. But he didn’t count on his scare tactics and mental manipulation to fail in his pursuit of David. He counted on tripping up a scared, panicky David. But David had trust in God and prior training to keep his mind focused on where his strength came from. As a young shepherd, he had slain many wild animals responsible for killing livestock and men alike. Then he took down and cut off the head of Goliath, the mighty Philistine whose size, reputation and use of fear tactics were enough to cause all the mighty warriors in the Hebrew army to cower with knees knocking.
“Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast. I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me. He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. Selah. God shall send forth his mercy and his truth. My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword. Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; Let thy glory be above all the earth. They have prepared a net for my steps; My soul is bowed down: They have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves. My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise. Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early. I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people; I will sing unto thee among the nations. For thy mercy is great unto the heavens, And thy truth unto the clouds. Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: Let thy glory be above all the earth” (Psalm 57:1-11).
David was under attack and had to flee for his life. He was scared and knew he was in danger. His response to his situation no doubt comforted him with God’s presence and strengthened his resolve to stay focused and clear-headed as to not become an emotional and mental victim as well as having to preserve his physical life by hiding in the cave.
Just as David chose a powerful, empowering response to his situation, we can choose this power as well.
King Saul was angry, lacked self-control and lived with many fears. He knew that David was appointed by God to be the next king of Israel. King Saul was jealous of David’s relationship with God. What if David had responded differently to King Saul’s tactics and attacks? What if David had not turned to God and praised God as he did? Do you think the outcome would have been the same?
Think of a situation in your life that is troubling you right now. Identify what the problem is, or the stimulus, if you will. Then consider several options of how you can respond to that problem, and predict to the best of your ability what would be the outcome of each possible response. You likely have prior experience to pull from to help you accurately predict the outcomes of your possible responses.
I learned a powerful concept from Stephen R. Covey’s teachings that he came across in a book in a university library: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” This concept greatly shifted my paradigm of life, just as it did for Covey. I realized the complete power I had over any response I gave in any situation. I employed this in my relationships as a parent, spouse, daughter, sister, aunt, teacher, coworker, and friend. It was empowering to realize the liberty I had in how I choose to respond to any comment and any situation.
The human endowments that reside in the space between stimulus and response, according to Covey, are self-awareness, conscience, independent will, and creative imagination. According to Covey, the synergy of these endowments is necessary for quality of life.
Self-awareness is defined as “our capacity to stand apart from ourselves and examine our thinking, our motives, our history, our scripts, our actions, and our habits and tendencies.”
Conscience is defined as what “allows us to sense when we act or even contemplate acting in a way that’s contrary to principle.”
Independent will is defined as “our capacity to act.” Covey further says this regarding independent will: “While environmental or genetic influences may be very powerful, they do not control us. We’re not victims. We’re not the product of our choices. We are ‘response-able’—able to respond beyond our moods and tendencies.”
Creative imagination is defined as “the power to envision a future state, to create something in our mind, and to solve problems synergistically. It’s the endowment that enables us to see ourselves and others differently and better than we are now.”
It’s important that we use the creative imagination God gave us to speak life and truth to ourselves.
When George Foreman was training to regain his title as Heavyweight Champion of the World 20 years after he lost the title to Muhammad Ali, he learned to not even hear the negatives anymore. He focused on his goal and worked hard to make it happen. He promised himself that in time he would be the champ of the world. After recapturing his title in 1994, Foreman said when he looked in the mirror he still saw the same old guy turning 50, but he also saw a guy who was able to seize and conquer. He said, “I could never see someone who could not do it.”
The synergy of these four endowments is what produces optimum results. One endowment without the others is out of balance and unable to produce positive fruit. According to Covey, “the development of each of the four endowments and the synergy between them is the core of personal leadership” (59-61, Covey, Merrill, Merrill).
Our responses to people speak as loudly if not more loudly than our original actions. We need to be able to objectively evaluate our attitudes and behaviors and be honest with ourselves as to whether we need to change our paradigms. We need to see if our words and actions align with our principles. We need to recognize our ability to respond beyond our own moods and tendencies. We need to be able to envision and work toward good outcomes, not only for ourselves, but also for others. Clearly we need a lot to be effective communicators seeking win-win outcomes not only for ourselves but for everyone involved. Clearly, it is very possible for us to have, do, and be what is needed. Remind yourself of the example of David or of George Foreman when you feel discouraged or helpless to change the direction of a conversation or relationship. Next week, we will look deeper into how our words drive our attitudes and accomplishments.
I'm tired of running from God and am trying to learn to run to Him instead.