The Struggle

Embed from Getty Images
Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Genesis 32:28 NIV

I sat down for prayer one morning and it became a little messy and awkward as both my cat and my dog jumped in the chair with me.  They both wanted attention at the same time. As I watched them, my heart melted. They are innocents. They want comfort and affection; attention. They find it with me. They trust me. Sometimes they get startled and afraid. That can create a mess. I just wondered about us – mankind.  What does it look like when God looks at us? My pets are totally dependent on me for care. I don’t want to entrust them to someone that may not care for them well. How much more care than that do we receive from God! And yes, I can be a mess and awkward myself sometimes.

I don’t want to pretend that I can do this life on my own. I need God. I want to live a life that depends on Him. Anything else is burdensome; a struggle. I don’t want to pretend to be tough and take it all on by myself. I just don’t have the desire to do it any other way anymore.

O God, You are my Jehovah—my protector, my provider, my rock and my foundation. I pray that I look to You for all things, Father. I pray that I listen and hear You clearly and do what You ask.

Genesis 32:23-26, 28; Revelation 1:18

Let Me See It!

Embed from Getty Images
18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

As I was reading this verse I thought of a child waiting to view something new and exciting in the hands of their parents.  I can hear the screams of excitement, “Let me see it! Let me see it!” Many times the reason the parent is holding onto the item is because it’s very valuable, complicated beyond their understanding, or very fragile and easily broken. Like a puppy, an electronic device or toy, or an infant. As parents we have to teach little ones how to treat things (and people) with care. Knowing when to be gentle and when to handle something with great care and respect.

As God is making a way for us, how many times do we rush in expecting to grab hold of it all at once? We don’t see where we need to be careful or handle His new way with care.  Sometimes we are more anxious to get our hands on it than to wait and listen for His handling instructions. He knows when we are ready and He knows when we aren’t. We have to trust that He is making a way for us in the wilderness and providing streams in the wasteland. We have to be patient and seek His guidance.  And as we learn and grow, celebrate the journey!  See all the wonderful provision along the way.  Give thanks, even in the small things.  They demonstrate the level of detail that He engages in our lives.

This may sound silly, but I was on a walk with a dear friend one day.  We were walking through a beautiful subdivision set on a golf course.  All the ponds and fountains were along the cart path and we couldn’t see them from the road.  I said out loud “I would really love to find the cart path so that we can walk around the most beautiful part.” We were caught up in conversation and I realized a short time later I was lost.  I was in a new section that was unfamiliar.  We had a good laugh (because this happens often). I generally knew the direction we should be headed and boom! We were on a cart path.  We followed it around to the other side, wandering around springs, fountains, over bridges and found our way home. It was peaceful and gorgeous. It was exactly what I had been hoping for! For me, it was like a little kiss from God.  I believe He heard me. He let me see it.

Father, thank you for teaching us to handle Your purpose for our lives with great care.  Thank you for the surprises and delights you put in our paths; Your care with each detail.  Give us eyes to see each one and give thanks!

Proverbs 24:16, Philippians 1:6, 2 Timothy 2:16-17

Transformation


The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Romans 8:6-7 NIV

Philosophy and intellectualism can carry us off in bondage as though we’ve been taken captive in a battle between the natural/material world versus the spiritual world. That’s why we have to be deeply rooted so we will not be carried away or taken captive by it. That is also why our hearts have to be yielded to God – so that we can be deeply rooted in walking in conformity to Him – yielded, surrendered, submitted and in unity with God.

It reminds me of a butterfly.  As a caterpillar, it gorges itself on leaves to a point when it stops and its chrysalis is formed.  Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar’s body disintegrates to make way for transformation.  In its new gooey state, imaginal cells generate its next form. Without that process, there would never be a butterfly.

As we yield to God, we allow ourselves to disintegrate into that spiritual place that allows transformation.  The old person is shed and a new person emerges.  We are transformed.

Father, I pray for a desire to yield to you more and more each day so that I can be transformed.

Romans 8:1-15, Ephesians 4:21-23

Do As I Am Told

Embed from Getty Images
“The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away.” Isaiah 50:5 NIV

There are mornings that I sit in prayer and realize that walking by the spirit can be very easy if I am obedient.  If I don’t have to wrestle with every little thing that God asks of me.  It’s generally a whole lot easier to just do it than to (1) argue about it, (2) delay it, (3) try to negotiate it (which never works out anyway), or (4) flat out disobey. All four have their consequences.  I am thankful for His grace because I have tried them all!

God holds the master plan for all mankind.  I have to remind myself sometimes when He gives me a “to do” list that it is not just about me.  He has a purpose and design that touches and engages every single person on earth.  How arrogant it is of me to think that I get to pick and choose which thing I want to do!

So if I really love God, I know that I am called according to His purpose.  I want to walk alongside Him and bask in His love, knowledge, power and presence.  I can only do that if I am willing to come with a pliable and submitted heart.

Father, help me do what you ask of me daily with a joyful heart.

John 10:10, James 4:7, Hebrews 2:18, Proverbs 3:26, Romans 8:28, Psalm 119:71

Heavenly Promotions

Embed from Getty Images
“When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Judges 6:12 NIV

The angel of God positioned himself under the oak next to Gideon while he was working. Gideon was executing his strategy to hide his provision from the Midianites.  He was also threshing his wheat in a winepress; repurposing his resources.

As the angel watched Gideon, he delivered a message from God.  It was a new job title: Mighty Man of Valor; Mighty Warrior.  God sees things others cannot – in us, in circumstances, in others, in the present and the future.  He orchestrates things at a level we can’t even imagine. God is the ultimate strategist!

As Gideon engaged in conversation, he was not afraid to ask the hard question: why are all these horrible things happening to your people? It is at that point in the discourse Gideon recognizes God in the conversation.  God answers his question: I am sending you to save them.

But Gideon is having a hard time accepting God’s new job title.  God is already speaking to him as a Mighty Warrior, but Gideon can’t wrap his head around it. He takes an account of only those things he can see: I am the weakest of the weak.

God asks Gideon to accept his title in faith. He assures him: “I will be with you.  You will do this in My power.” Gideon is still skiddish.  He asks God for a demonstration and confirmation. He steps out in faith and honors God with a sacrifice. Sometimes learning to trust God starts in the little things.  It builds our trust and confidence in him before the battle comes. Gideon goes back to God a second time.  There is a second demonstration of power by God.  At this point Gideon begins to step from the seen world into the unseen world.  He begins to recognize the breadth and depth of God’s power.  He begins to hear God’s voice clearly and see things in a different realm. He begins to step into his new job title: Mighty Man of Valor; Mighty Warrior.

God, help us see You move and receive Your promotions.  Lord God, help us let go of the old and grab hold of the new in Christ Jesus.

Judges 6:1-24

The Hunt


8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV

This scripture made me curious about how lions hunt.  My thought is this: if Satan hunts like a lion, then I can gain a better understanding of his tactics.  Here’s what I learned:

Lions prefer to scavenge, animals either dead by natural causes or killed by other predators. This really made me stop and think.  How do we put ourselves in harm’s way to make ourselves easy prey? Many times the things we attribute to Satan are really internal battles with our own flesh.  I must prayerfully consider what things I am responsible for that cause my own grief and suffering.

Lions typically work in a group, choose their prey, and then circle a herd. Then they reach for the closest prey. If I examine my life, am I engaged in anything that makes me easy prey? Maybe I obsess over things or people, worry too much, or idolize someone or something.  Maybe I can’t let go of what I see in front of me to trust God.  It keeps me stuck where I am instead of moving forward.

Lions don’t have a lot of stamina.  They take advantage of factors that reduce visibility, like some form of cover or darkness of night.  They sneak up on their victim until it is in close range. Then they finish with a fast rush and a final leap.  If this is true of the enemy, I need to pay attention to my surroundings. If I walk in the light, I am less likely to be attacked. Is there anything else in my life that the enemy can use for cover to get within close range to me undetected?

Lions typically kill by strangulation or suffocation. I found this very interesting. What are the things in my life that choke out love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?  If something is choking or strangling these things in my life, it is like suffocation spiritually. The fruits of the spirit build us up and make us strong. They are spiritual vitamins and God’s Word and prayer are like water and oxygen.

Father, thank you for revealing tactics of the enemy. Thank you for victory in Christ.  Thank you for giving us the tools, power and authority to defeat him in this world by not being of this world. I pray we stay tucked into You.

Titus 2:11-13, Galatians 5

What Is My Egypt?

Embed from Getty Images
1“Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the Lord, “to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin; who go down to Egypt without  consulting me; who look for help to Pharaoh’s protection, to Egypt’s shade for refuge.” Isaiah 30:1-2 NIV

When my faith is tested, what is my Egypt? Where is the comfortable place that I return to that delays me and keeps me from stepping forward in faith? In Egypt, we sweat and toil to generate the outcome we want.  In the Promised Land, obedience is all that matters. Do I diligently inquire of God what He desires me to pursue? Or do I think I have it all figured out?

I know that I am in Egypt when fear sets in. I begin to rely on my own power and not wait for God. Sometimes I forget to look for God at all. I have noticed this pattern.  I can feel the difference of God’s hand in my life, moving things forward on my behalf in His great care, when I stop trying to do it all alone.  When I step out of that fearful place and step into faith.

It’s so simple.  It’s not about outcome.  It is simply about seeking God’s direction, listening/waiting, and then doing what He tells me to do. Not thinking about it. Not holding onto it for discussion and debate.  It is simply a matter of obedience.  In that place I find joy.  I can delight in Jesus. It is a reboot.

Father, keep my eyes focused on Your promises and not on what is comfortable and within reach.  Father, help me stretch into what You have designed me to be. Do not let fear hold me back in any way. Fill me with confidence in You for all things.

Psalm 27:14, Deuteronomy 6:5-7

Unmet Expectations

Embed from Getty Images
3” I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:3-6 NIV

You can hear the expectations of Paul oozing out of this scripture.  They are full of hope and joy!

Expectations can be a trap if not fully committed to God’s purpose in our life.  So how do we deal with unmet expectations? Always go back to the source. If we react to circumstances with bitterness and resentment because of unmet expectations, we are saying we know better than God.  There is nothing we can hide from God in our heart.

When you look at the source of expectation – God’s purpose or your own:

  • If God – important to go back to God
  • If yours – pause, reflect, seek God
  • If others – seek God for direction and guidance

Do you have unmet expectations? How do you respond?

Father God, I am so thankful that you have me in the palm of Your hand in every instance of my life.  Even when I am not in Your will, you are still watching me with concern and care.  Thank you for always being there for me.

Proverbs 14:10, Acts 8:23, Proverbs 4:23, Luke 16:15, Galatians 5:22, 1 Peter 5:7

Seek

Embed from Getty Images
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV

Seek: To go in search of or quest of. To try to find or discover by searching or questioning. To try to obtain. To try or attempt. To go to. To ask for, request; seek advice. To search or explore. To make inquiry. Be sought after, to be desired or in demand.

Our view of things is limited to our senses.  God’s viewpoint sees it all.  So when we seek God’s perspective it expands our vision into the unseen. The stretching can sometimes be hard to grasp! It may not make sense to us.

Jesus called us to step into that unseen world in faith.  Trusting and believing that there is more for us than meets the eye.  We have to exercise that faith in order to benefit from His vast viewpoint. It is a fight between our senses and our faith.  But He knows the battle that is going on.  He is there for us with compassion and to give us the strength and grace to sustain us.  He is the light that pierces into the darkness.  Things are not always as they appear.  We just have to seek Him and believe.

Father, thank you for sharing Your vast vision with us.  Stretch us to release what we see in order to accept Your all encompassing view.

Hebrews 11:1, James 1:22, Proverbs 3:5, Isaiah 30:18, John 14:6, Colossians 3:23-24

Border Patrol

Embed from Getty Images
“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.” 2 Thessalonians 3:6 NIV

When the children of Israel crossed the Jordan they fought two battles before they entered the Promised Land.  After they entered the Promised Land, they fought 39 battles.* They could not afford disruption or idleness.  They had to act in one accord submitted to their leadership.  They had to be fit and battle ready. Standards were set by God and followed to the letter. There were harsh consequences for the disobedient.

Boundaries are standards that we set in our lives. They are like a no trespassing line to be respected.  They protect us from standards that do not match our own. God does not enable irresponsible behavior.  Consequences give some good “barbs” to our boundary fences.** They let people know the seriousness of the trespass and the seriousness of the standards. Consequences teach others that our commitment to living according to our values is something we hold dear and will guard and fight to protect.

Jesus told us that in Him we can have peace.  In this world we will have trouble.  He has already won the victory but there are still battles to be fought.  When we hold true to our standards, we are standing firm in the territory that God has allotted for us. When we honor the boundaries of others, it is a way of showing respect for the territory God has placed in their care.

Father, thank you for Your standards. Help us learn to live peaceably with one another in respect and love.

1 Thessalonians 3:11-13, John 16:33, Joshua 1:16, 14:11-12

*Prime Time with God devotional, “Being an Overcomer,” 07/26/14

**Bible Gateway, Boundaries devotional, “Back Up Your Boundaries,” 07/25/14