Week of Prayer 2020 – Saturday

Thanks for joining us for our final day of our week of prayer.  This week we have been joining with the Assemblies of God and the theme, “Leveling the Praying Field”.  

Saturday Prayer Focus

May my present and eternal relationship with You, O Lord, be strengthened by continually keeping the line open with You day by day.

Saturday Prayer Activity

As we come to the close of our week of prayer, I pray that this is just the beginning of your commitment to spend time daily in communion with the Lord. “Real praying comes from a heart that is hungry for God. It comes when we say like David did in Psalm 42:1-2 NLT, ‘As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?’ When a person is hungry, the deepest part of their spirit begins to call out to God for something to fill that hunger.”1

“Once you begin abiding in Jesus, once you grow accustomed to having daily times of communion with him, you’ll find you cannot live without them. You’ll find yourself so craving to be in His manifest presence you can hardly wait to get into your place of prayer. Instead of hurrying to finish your time with God so you can get on with the rest of your day as you once did, you’ll hurry through everything else so you can have more precious time with Him.”1

Take some time today to think about and plan how you will continue to grow in your relationship with the Lord during this year. Set some goals, make some commitments, and write them down. Make this year your best ever by developing a strong prayer life!

Saturday Scripture Focus

Deuteronomy 4:29 NKJV

But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Philippians 3:10a AMP

[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly]…

References:

  1. Hammond, Lynne. The Master is Calling; Discovering the Wonders of Spirit-Led Prayer. Living Word International, Inc.. 1995. 22,27.

Week of Prayer 2020 – Friday

Thanks for joining us for day 6 of our week of prayer.  This week we are joining with the Assemblies of God and the theme, “Leveling the Praying Field”.  

Friday Prayer Focus

O Lord, increase my sensitivity to divine appointments to pray for others, conveying to them Your love, grace, and power.

Friday Prayer Activity

As we consider today’s prayer focus, I think about the power of praying for others and the power of joining with others in corporate prayer.

We learn in Matthew 14:14 NLT, “Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Jesus demonstrates here that He had sensitivity to divine appointments. It began with his compassion. Our love for others will position us to allow interruptions in our lives when there is an opportunities to pray for others or show the love of Christ in some way.

I love that the Holy Spirit gives us cues when we are sensitive to Him to let us know when prayer is needed. There are times that someone’s name or their face just comes across my mind. I know that they are in need of prayer through these kinds of promptings. There have been many times where others have blessed me with that same sensitivity. Just recently, while I was walking through a very difficult moment, a friend sent me a text saying, “You are so heavy on my heart, I am praying for you now!” What a blessing! It was the power of prayer that got me through that moment!

There is also much power available when we join our faith to pray together. You can read the story in Acts 4:23-32, when the religious leaders threatened Peter and John unless they stopped preaching about Jesus. The members of the early church joined together in prayer. The Bible tells us they prayed in one accord and when they were done the place was shaken. There is so much power available to us through prayer!

Friday Scripture Focus

Matthew 18:19-20 NLT

“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”

1 Timothy 2:1 NLT

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.

Week of Prayer 2020 – Thursday

Thanks for joining us for day 5 of our week of prayer.  This week we are joining with the Assemblies of God and the theme, “Leveling the Praying Field”.

Thursday Prayer Focus

Help me, O Lord, to understand that prayer is my personal responsibility, not something someone else can do for me.

Thursday Prayer Activity

At the beginning of a new year, many people think about health and wellness. Countless individuals embark on a new diet and exercise plan. It would be crazy to think that someone else could eat healthy or do our exercise for us. We understand that if we want results, we have to bear the responsibility.

Why would we think that if want to embark on a new devotional life centered on prayer and the study of the Word that someone could do that for us? “Prayer is a choice, a discipline, a decision to talk to God and hear from God, and no one can do your praying for you anymore than someone else can praise or worship for you.”1

Jesus demonstrated this for us. There are many times in Scripture where we read about Jesus’ prayer life. This is just one example from Matthew 14:23, “ After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.”

Once you begin having daily time of communion with the Lord, you will find that you just can’t live without them. The interesting thing about spiritual hunger is that it can never really be satisfied. The more you get the more you want!

I hope that by day 5 you are settling into your new routine of committing dedicated time every day to spend communicating with your heavenly Father.

Thursday Scripture Focus

Matthew 6:6 NLT

But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Ephesians 3:14-19 NLT – Paul’s Prayer for Spiritual Growth

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

 

References:

  1. Barrett, Donna L. Leveling The Praying Field: Helping Every Person Talk To God And Hear from God. Gospel Publishing House. 2019. 112

Week of Prayer 2020 – Wednesday

Thanks for joining us for day 4 of our week of prayer.  This week we are joining with the Assemblies of God and the theme, “Leveling the Praying Field”.  

Wednesday Prayer Focus

O Lord, may I hunger after, receive, and use the powerful prayer language available through the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday Prayer Activity

Before Jesus left this earth to return to heaven, He told the disciples that it was best for them that he goes so the comforter and helper the Holy Spirit could come (John 16:7-14). We believe that when you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit enters your life fully and completely. However, we also believe in an additional encounter with the Holy Spirit, which is described in Acts 2 that happened on the Day of Pentecost. We often refer to this experience as being filled with the Holy Spirit and when this happens the initial sign is speaking in tongues.

This gift allows for a deeper prayer life opportunity. In our Week of Prayer theme book, “Leveling the Praying Field”, the author Donna L. Barrett shares the below insight about the gift of the Holy Spirit:

The truth is, when we pray, we only have a small part of the story and fuzzy facts based on human understanding. We’re limited in the information and can’t see into the future to know how this piece of the puzzle might best fit into the whole picture, so to instruct God on the details really seems a bit absurd. Since He has our best interests at heart, knows the future and past, and has all the intelligence about the situation, wouldn’t it be great if our spirit could connect directly with His Spirit in prayer and bypass our limited knowledge?

We can! That’s exactly what happens when we pray in tongues. We engage the perfect knowledge of God, connected to our hearts, practically using our voice and bypassing our limited human knowledge. What a power tool!1

Wednesday Scripture Focus

Romans 8:26-27 NLT

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.

Ephesians 6:18 NLT

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Jude 20-21

But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.

References:

  1. Barrett, Donna L. Leveling The Praying Field: Helping Every Person Talk To God And Hear from God. Gospel Publishing House. 2019. 97

Week of Prayer 2020 – Tuesday

Thanks for joining us for day three of our week of prayer as we join with the Assemblies of God and the theme, “Leveling the Praying Field”.  

Tuesday Prayer Focus

Help me understand, O Lord, that the power of prayer is not so much in what I pray about, but to whom I pray.

Tuesday Prayer Activity and Scripture Focus

Ephesians 6:10 teaches us to, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” We must realize that the God we pray to is our source! He is the beginning and He is the end. Many in Scripture knew Him as the great “I am”!

  • He said to Abram, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” (Genesis 15:1 NKJV)
  • He said to Jacob after he wrestled with Him all night. “I AM God Almighty!” (Genesis 35:11)
  • He said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” (Exodus 3:14)
  • He said to the prophet Isaiah, “I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.” (Isaiah 44:6)
  • He told the disciples:
    •  “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35)
    •  “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12)
    •  “I am the door.” (John 10:9)
    •  “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11)
    •  “I am the true vine” (John 15:1)
  • He told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25)
  • He told Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)
  • He told John the Revelator:
    • I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” (Revelation 1:11)
    • I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.” (Revelation 1:18)
    • I am He who searches the minds and hearts.” (Revelation 2:23)
    • I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.” (Revelation 22:16)
    • “Surely I am coming quickly.” (Revelation 22:20)

We can be confident that He is our great I AM, He will be what we need Him to be at each moment in our lives, and this is to whom we pray!

Take some time today to write down who God is to you.

Week of Prayer 2020 – Monday

Thanks for joining us for day two of our week of prayer as we join with the Assemblies of God and the  theme, “Leveling the Praying Field”.  

Monday Prayer Focus

As I present needs and concerns to You. O Lord, may I be content to leave the results to You.

Monday Prayer Activity

In the book, “Leveling the Praying Field”, the author Donna L. Barrett shares the below challenge:

On the playing field, what if we played like we were winning even if the scoreboard were covered? On the praying field, what if we prayed with confidence that God is responding even when we can’t see the results? What if we gave up the need to be the arbiters of God’s will because we understand that His plans are far above anything our most astute minds could dream up?

When there’s a good team leader, each person on the team only needs to carry out the assignment given to them and the group wins. General Motors makes cars on an assembly line. There may be an employee who puts four bolts on the floorboards of cars all day long, but never gets to see the finished shiny car on the showroom floor. If he faithfully completes his assignment, he knows he helped to build that final product. In a similar way, we’re on God’s team and our assignment is to pray for His purposes to be fulfilled. We need to pray faithfully knowing we have a Creator God who is doing His part to answer our prayers.1

Ask yourself if there are areas in your life in which you are not trusting God for His best results. Write about that situation and ask the Lord to help you to relinquish the control of that situation over to Him. Trust that He has your best interest in mind and rest in the knowledge that He is for you and not against you.

Monday Scripture Focus

Isaiah 55:8-9 NKJV

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

References:

  1. Barrett, Donna L. Leveling The Praying Field: Helping Every Person Talk To God And Hear from God. Gospel Publishing House. 2019. 50-51

Week of Prayer 2020 – Sunday

I want to invite everyone reading this to join with my church, Grace Community Church, and the Assemblies of God as we start our year strong with a week of prayer Sunday 1/5 through Saturday 1/11.  Our theme this year is “Leveling the Praying Field”.  The book with the same title, by Donna L. Barrett, is a great resource and is available at Amazon and other retailers.

At the beginning of each year, I like to seek the Lord for what He has for me as a focus for the coming year. This year my focus is on 20/20 Vision. When you have an eye exam and discover that you do not have that perfect 20/20 vision we all desire, there are specific lenses that are useful to correct your vision.  One of the best places to start correcting spiritual vision is through prayer! It is so important that we establish the priority and right perspective of what our personal prayer life can be. Watch for our daily focus updates each day this week and use this time to refocus your attention to making prayer a priority in your life in 2020.

Sunday Prayer Focus

Strengthen in me. O Lord, the commitment to regularly talk with You and hear from You through prayer.

Sunday Prayer Activity

I encourage you to take some time today to make a commitment to dedicate specific time to pray this week and then carry this new commitment into the year.  Write down your plans and do your best to stick with it. Remember that communicating is more than talking; it also involves listening. Train yourself to spend time before the Lord listening to what He has to say to you.

Often we make prayer so difficult, but refocus on making prayer more like a conversation with your best friend. Tell your best friend how wonderful he is, ask about his plans for your life, ask for his help and protection, then listen and follow his advice.

This may seem oversimplified, but it is a very basic outline of the prayer Jesus demonstrated in the passage below.

Sunday Scripture Focus

Luke 11:1-4 NKJV

Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Psalm 27:7-8 NLT

Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me! My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”

What Will You Do With Black Friday?

Today marks the beginning of a new holiday season. As with many of our holidays, the once simplified celebrations have become much commercialized.  For many, Thanksgiving, which we celebrated yesterday, has become about “Black Friday” which now really begins Thursday.

I am not here to criticize anyone who takes advantage of the sales of black Friday, even if it is on Thursday, but what I do want to do is look at a parallel story in Scripture.

I always struggle with that term “Black Friday”.  Originally, this was used because it is the day many retailers finally move from the red to the black, or become profitable, because of the large amount of shopping for the upcoming Christmas Holiday.

However, when I hear the term “Black Friday”, it just sounds like a dark thing.  Don’t you think it is interesting that another Friday that was a dark day for many is called “Good Friday”?

Indulge my play on words here for a moment, because I want to show you what a man named Peter did with his “Black Friday” that most call “Good Friday”.  This is the place in the story, where if you were watching it on TV or at a movie, you would see the words flash across the screen “ABOUT ONE MONTH EARLIER”.

Who is this man named Peter?  We first learn about Peter in Matthew 4:18-20:

And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  They immediately left their nets and followed Him.

We learn here that Peter was the first man Jesus called to follow Him.  The Bible says that he and his brother IMMEDIATELY left their nets and followed Him, even though they didn’t know anything about Him.

This is the first clue we get about what kind of man Peter was.

     1.  He Was A Man Of Faith

We must use faith when we do not know the outcome.  Peter shows here that he is willing to use his faith to follow Jesus.  We read a few chapters later where Jesus named him the first of his twelve disciples and empowered him for ministry. (Matthew 10:1-2)

The next thing we learn about Peter is that he is:

     2.  A Risk Taker

A familiar story is found in Matthew 14:25-32 (NKJV)

Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

It is easy to criticize Peter for having this moment of weak faith and doubt, but I have always said it this way, “I WOULD RATHER BE A WET WATER WALKER THAN A DRY BOAT TALKER!!!”

Peter was testing his sea legs, he took the risk, and I am sure that his faith and his character were strengthened by it.

The next key scripture we read about Peter is found in Matthew 16:13-19 NKJV

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.  And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.  And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Jesus tells us the next characteristic of Peter he is:

     3.  A Rock

Again, we see here Peter is at the head of the class.  Jesus asked the question and Peter is the one who spoke up!  If you remember from the first passage we read, his name was Simon and Jesus called him Peter.

The word “Peter”, in Greek, means “a rock”. Christ gave it to Simon when he called him to be a disciple.

There are many different opinions of the interpretation of this passage, but let me tell you my personal thoughts.  When asked who Jesus is, Peter says that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God…..Jesus is pleased with Peter’s response and tells him that he is blessed because this information has been REVEALED to him by His Father in heaven!

Basically, Jesus is saying that because Peter expressed His true character by calling Him the Son of God, He also, has given Peter a name expressive of his character. He called him Peter, a rock, denoting firmness, solidity, and stability.

Further, I believe Jesus is telling Peter that this REVEALED KNOWLEDGE OF WHO HE IS COMES WITH MUCH AUTHORITY!

Peter’s learning curve continues just a few verses later in Matthew 16:21-23.

From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

Here we see the next characteristic of Peter.

     4.  He Was A Passionate Man

The definition of passionate is, “capable of, affected by, or expressing intense feelings.”  Peter clearly shows in this passage that he is capable of intense emotion, he shows he was dramatically affected by what Jesus described that was going to happen to Him, and he was intense in expressing those feelings!

Peter was a passionate man.  He had left everything to follow Jesus.  He recognized Him as the Son of God, I am sure he did not expect that the Son of God would suffer and die!  I am sure Peter could not bear to think of Jesus’ death, He most likely expected a triumphant Messiah and couldn’t imagine how death fit in that plan.

Has your passion ever gotten you into trouble?  Mine has.  There have been times I have felt so passionate about something at work that I just didn’t know when to be quiet.  It could be perceived here that Peter was in trouble with Jesus for expressing his passion.

For many, this would have been a good quitting place.  A place to get disillusioned and to stop being part of the Jesus team!  Not Peter.  He didn’t quit; he received the rebuke from his Master.  He had to learn that his passion was in opposition to the master plan of salvation for all of us.  He learned submission and continued with fervency.

In fact, we read that six days later he took that same kind of passion up on the mount of transfiguration.  You can read about it in Matthew 17:1-8.  Peter wanted to stay in that place of God’s presence and passionately expressed this desire.

You just have to love Peter.  He tries so hard!  We have already seen he isn’t afraid to move in faith, to be a risk taker, and to express his passion.  He is trying to get it right this time.  He says to the Lord, “It is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

Peter recognized that this was a place in God’s presence he had never experienced before….it was a good place!  What he still had to learn is there is always purpose for the presence.  They would need this experience in the coming days.  Furthermore, if they had stayed there, not only would their purpose not have been fulfilled, but also the boy at the foot of that mountain would never have been healed.

This is the place in the story where we began before going back and looking at the previous month’s activities.  Now we find Peter is sitting with Jesus and all the disciples as they celebrate a Passover meal, much like we sat around tables in the last few days with our loved ones celebrating Thanksgiving.

Scripture tells us that they ate, they sang a hymn, and then left for the Mount of Olives.  Just as Black Friday began on Thursday this year, this was the beginning of Peter’s Black Friday.

Let’s pick up reading the story from here.

Matthew 26:31-35 NKJV

Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written:  ‘I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”

If you keep reading, you see where Jesus led them to Gethsemane.  Again, just like at the mount of transfiguration, he only took His three closest with him, this time asking them to join Him in prayer.  Peter was the first he asked.  If you know the story, it is in this garden that Jesus is arrested and taken away to face his accusers

Now let’s read about Peter’s “Black Friday”

Matthew 26:69-75 NKJV

Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are saying.” And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.” But again he denied with an oath, “I do not know the Man!” And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.”  Then he began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So he went out and wept bitterly.

We have learned that Peter is:

  1. A Man of Faith
  2. A Risk Taker
  3. A Rock
  4. A Passionate Man

But now we see that He is:

     5. A FAILURE!

This is the place in the story where we ask the question we began with….

“WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH BLACK FRIDAY?”

“What will you do with that moment of failure?”

The one thing I am confident of is that each of us have all had times in our life where we felt like a failure.  Maybe you started as a man or woman of faith, but a situation came in your life that caused you to lose hope/lose your footing/ and your faith failed.

Maybe you were the risk taker….you were the one willing to step out of the boat against all odds only to lose sight of the goal and sink ending in failure.

Perhaps you are the one who is always a rock, your stable, your fixed, your tenacious, yet that one situation caused your rock to crumble ending in failure.

Possibly, you are the passionate one.  The one who is capable of expressing intense feelings and because of your intense passion, a season of failure hits you the hardest.

You can put your own name on “Black Friday” it comes in many forms.  It could be a personal failure, but it could also be a major trial.  Maybe a family issue, maybe a health concern, the list goes on.

THE QUESTION IS, “WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH YOUR BLACK FRIDAY?”

Let’s go back and look at what Peter did with his.  Maybe you have heard the phrase, “It may feel like Friday night, but Sunday is on the way!”  Jesus died on Friday but He arose on Sunday, which afforded us the opportunity to make every failure a victory.

Not long after Jesus’ resurrection, we read where he was meeting with His disciples for breakfast…

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”  He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”  He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”  He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”  And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.  (John 21:15-18 NKJV)

I may not have any Bible scholars see this passage the way I do, but let me tell you what I see….

First, I think it is interesting that Jesus called him Simon.  He had named him Peter that means “Rock” yet here for the first time that I know of, He goes back to his given name Simon.  I personally believe that Jesus knew how Peter was feeling.  He knew that he felt like such a failure and didn’t deserve the name given to him by Jesus at that moment.  He knew Peter didn’t feel like a rock and He was reaching out to him in his current state of despair.

The second thing that stands out to me is the fact that Jesus asked Peter the same question three times. “Do you love me?”  I believe He purposefully did that because he was giving Peter the opportunity to “feel” forgiven for ALL three times he denied Him!

Now we see that Peter has a new characteristic.

     6.  Peter is Forgiven!

The third thing I see from this passage is Jesus’ response to Peter each time.  He tells him to feed and tend to My sheep.  To me, this speaks of Peter’s purpose.  He was the first man Jesus called to follow Him.  He had a plan for Peter’s life.  He wanted to take this man’s faith, his ability to be a risk taker, his stability, and his passion and turn him into a mighty minister to spread the gospel.

BUT FIRST, HE HAD TO DECIDE WHAT TO DO WITH HIS BLACK FRIDAY!

Would he let this failure, this disappointment, this difficult day be the end of his purpose or would he allow this black day to propel him into his intended future?

If you know Scripture, you know the answer to this question.  After Jesus ascended  to heaven it was Peter who preached an amazing sermon.  Take the time to read it in Acts 2:14-41.  There were over 3000 people saved that day!

Now we see the last characteristic of Peter, he is:

     7.  An Overcomer!

You can continue to read in the book of Acts where he was used by God to perform many miracles, he ministered to the Gentiles, he was imprisoned and delivered, and he wrote two of the books of the Bible!

So what did Peter do with his “Black Friday”?  He allowed a day of great disappointment, great disillusionment, and great failure to propel him into his divine destiny.

It isn’t all about falling; it is about getting back up.  So the question I have for each of you today is, “What will you do with your “Black Friday”?

Cycles

How do we stay in faith in all the different seasons or cycles of life? I thought a practical way to consider this question is to use the analogy of laundry cycles.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly enjoy doing laundry, but the alternative is worse, which would be wearing dirty stinky clothing, or stepping out of the shower to a sour smelling towel.

Jesus said this to the disciples in John 16:33 NLT:

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

With this strange analogy, we could say that just as in this world, we will have trials and sorrows; in this world, we will have dirty laundry.

Just as there are cycles in life, there are cycles to doing laundry. We live in a world of changes, and sometimes these changes seem to go to extremes, from one end of the spectrum all the way to the other.

    • In Missouri where I live, we typically enjoy four seasons of the year. There are changes that come with each of those seasons.
    • In the natural sense, we have
      • Day time and night time
      • Rainy days and sunny days
      • We celebrate the birth of a new baby and mourn the loss when another dies

Perhaps you are familiar with the most quoted passage of the Bible about this subject of seasons. You can read it in Ecclesiastes 3. This chapter describes the seasons we face in this life. As we cycle through these times of extremes, there is a place to stand in full confidence that you are never alone and God is on your side.

Some of the cycles are an act of God; some relate to the will of man. I also believe some are strategies from our enemy, who as we know is out to kill steal and destroy. That chapter tells us that everything under heaven is changeable, however, we can adapt to this because if we are a Christian, we serve an unchanging God.

Even though we find ourselves in different cycles of life, we do not have to cycle from faith to fear or faith to doubt.

THE WASH CYCLE

Using our analogy, let us consider the first cycle we typically start with, the wash cycle. I want you to try to go inside that wash machine in your mind and think about this cycle, it isn’t just water dumping in on top of you; there is agitation!

If we consider Joseph’s life in Scripture, he is a great example of someone who endured some agitating cycles in life. His brothers wanted to kill him by throwing him into a pit, but then decided to make a profit instead by selling him into slavery. He came out of that difficult season into one of blessing where he is elevated to leadership because of the favor of the Lord that was on his life.

Then later, after a false accusation by his Master’s wife, he found himself thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit! He still had the favor of the Lord on his life, which enabled him to interpret dreams. The use of this gift provided a way of escape from the prison and elevated him to a position as an overseer for the whole land of Egypt.

Sometimes the unpleasant cycles in life  complete a work that otherwise could not be accomplished. We see this in the life of Joseph. God used the cycles of agitation to create something clean and wholesome in Joseph that prepared him for the work He had for him to do. In the end, Joseph acknowledged that it was God, not his siblings, who sent him ahead to Egypt (Genesis 45:5: 7-8).

Another example of this cycle is how a pearl forms. It starts with a foreign object like a parasite or a piece of shell that accidentally lodges itself in an oyster’s soft inner body. It causes agitation and irritation to the oyster, but the result is that the oyster excretes a smooth hard crystalline substance around the irritant to protect itself. Over time, this coating creates a lovely and lustrous gem called a pearl.

THE SPIN CYCLE

The second typical cycle of laundry is the spin cycle. Have you ever felt like your world is spinning out of control? Just like agitation, if I am facing the spin cycle I want to find the good in the situation. Spinning can create an opportunity to stir some things up in us.

I love the way the Passion Translation reads James 1:2-3:

My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things.

How many of us feel power stirred up within us when we are faced with difficulty? If we are honest, we may say sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.

I equate this concept to my analogy by comparing it to a big cover I put in my washing machine. After starting that cycle, I go on about my business and when it hits the spin cycle I start hearing this awful clunking sound. When I go in there and pause the cycle, I discover that the cover has gotten OUT OF BALANCE!

What I am saying is the spin cycle has the opportunity to stir up the power that is in you through Christ Jesus to endure all things, or the spinning can create an “OUT OF BALANCE” situation in your life.

I personally believe that how we respond to the spinning is what determines the difference? The devil likes to use the spin cycle of life to get you out of balance! That is why we are encouraged in 1 Peter 5:8 to be well balanced, because our enemy is looking for every opportunity to devour us!

Let me share a tip for keeping your balance during the spin cycle of life. We can learn this from figure skaters or professional dancers, who spin at unbelievable speeds, yet never lose their balance. They employ a technique called “Spotting”, where they keep their body moving at a constant speed but fix their gaze on one spot. These professionals have to train to overcome the response our eyes have to this kind of movement.

When you are in the spin cycle of life, the key is to fix your gaze on God, who is the author and finisher of our faith! This does not come naturally, you have to train yourself to focus on God and not the problems.

THE RINSE CYCLE

The next typical cycle of laundry is the rinse cycle. It is during this cycle that many add fabric softener. I personally like the way adding Downey to my rinse cycle makes my clothes feel and smell, but I really hate how messy it can be. The compartment used for this purpose often becomes all gummed up and difficult to clean. Some people may have the attitude that the benefit just isn’t worth the effort.

When you come out of the agitation and then the spin cycle, you have an opportunity to become bitter or better. I believe the latter is the correct choice. The key to this cycle is to allow life’s difficulties to soften us, not harden us! This can be a challenging goal to achieve but I believe the solution comes through an optional cycle that I have not mentioned yet.

PRETREAT AND SOAK

Before you go into the wash cycle with agitation, even before you go through the spinning, and before you go through the softening…..you can pretreat and soak.

I personally like to pretreat with a product called “Shout”! This is true in my spiritual life too! Before I face the cycles of life, I make a habit of spending quality devotional time with the Lord, shouting His praises, and soaking in His presence. It is in this discipline that I quickly remember that I am never alone in any season. He is with me in the good times and in the bad. My God is bigger than any cycle I will face and He cares about the things we endure, and He can use all things for good.

I hope my laundry analogy has caused you to see a difficult season of life from a different perspective. Try to always remember that it is in your shout and your praise, it is in your intimacy with your God that you are enabled to not only survive the cycles of life, but thrive in them and develop the character and endurance that is needed to walk out the destiny that God has for you!

 

 

[RB1]

Mountain Moving Faith

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Have you ever faced a mountain so big that you felt like you were trying to move it with a plastic spoon? I have described challenging times that way. Sometimes life is full of difficulties and in our own strength, it is much like that description, trying to move this huge amount of earth with a flimsy little plastic utensil.

If you feel that way today, I want to encourage you to take a step back and realize that no striving in your own strength will get it done, even if you have a bulldozer! There are times when only our faith can move the mountain that stands in front of us. Jesus said it this way:

Mark 11:22-24 NLT

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea, and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.”

When you feel as if the mountain is crushing you, it can be difficult to pray and believe that it will be lifted up and thrown into the sea. This is the moment that we choose faith over doubt, or faith over fear. I am not suggesting that we ignore or deny that the circumstances exists, but rather that we use our faith to stand on the promises that are provided for us in the Bible. Faith recognized that a mountain truly exists, but presents it to God. When we do this, we trust Him and we turn our striving into believing that His promises are true.

Abraham is a great example of this behavior. He didn’t pretend that Sarah wasn’t facing a mountain of bareness. Instead, he chose to believe the promise of God. He was ninety-nine years old when the Lord appeared to him and told him that He would be the father to countless descendants (Genesis 17:1-8). If you are still childless at ninety-nine years old, it takes great faith to believe this promise. What an amazing example for us to follow. The Bible tells us that Abraham never wavered in his belief that this promise would be fulfilled; in fact, we read that his faith became stronger as time passed.

Romans 4:16-21 NKJV

Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed — God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.”  And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.

One of the keys to staying in faith instead of fear is referenced in the emphasized portion of the Scripture above. “God calls things which do not exist as though they did”. Abraham began to call himself a father long before he became a father. This is what faith looks like. We call things the way the promises of God describes them, even before we see them that way in the natural. We hope for the promises of God even before we see them with our eyes (Hebrews 11:1).

This principle also works the opposite way. When we start calling things that are not as though they are from a negative perspective, we create worry and fear. When we start using our voice to declare doom and gloom or even just to keep rehearsing the problem we are facing, the result is not faith; it is fear and worry. Stop and consider what you are declaring!

If you feel like a mountain is crushing you today, don’t lose hope, instead, tell your mountain about your God!