Are You Contending or Pretending?

This coming Sunday many will gather to watch Super Bowl 55 played from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Florida.  I am a Missouri girl, so I guess you know which team I will be rooting for!

Ironically, I have loved the game of football since I was a young teen, and my friend’s family invited me to my first professional football game at the home of the Kansas City Chiefs.  Before life with my own family was so busy, I enjoyed playing fantasy football.  Then I thoroughly enjoyed watching my son play the game in high school. Since I am such a visual learner, I love to apply the basic concepts of the game to drive some especially important spiritual points.

From a spiritual perspective, I often find myself praying the word, “Contend”.  There have been many times I have received important revelations from God where the word “contend” is involved. If we consider the definition of this word, it states:

Contend:

  1. To strive in opposition or against difficulties; struggle
  2. To strive in competition, as in a race1

When we consider these definitions, one can easily relate this word to those players who will play in the very prestigious game on Sunday.  The very basics of the game are all about contending. 

Those amazing athletes CONTEND for every single yard as they inch down the field toward the goal line.  It is also important to realize that once they push through the obstacles to reach a particular line, they then have to DEFEND so they do not lose that forward progress.

Down the field they go, contending and defending a minimum of ten yards at a time.  Sometimes with great effort only progressing ten yards with every three-four attempts, and sometimes with great ease when there is an opening for a quick runner or a wide-open receiver to catch the pass. 

Unfortunately, there are also times that the attempts for forward movement are simply blocked.  The opposition is too great for the desired breakthrough.  It is also possible that the quarterback is sacked, or the runner is pushed back and ground is lost.

Isn’t this a great analogy of our spiritual walk?   Every day we contend for forward momentum in our spiritual maturity as we grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Some days it takes great effort and somedays there is more ease.  There are also times when we are sacked with a hard hit that knocks us off course and causes us to seemingly lose ground.  Other times the obstacles and opposition are so great that we cannot seem to break through.

Jude 3:3b NASU says: “…I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.

The word “contend” from this passage in the original language is epagoonizesthai.

epagoonizesthai – is one of those words used by the sacred writers, which have allusion to the Grecian games. This word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It means ‘to contend upon’ – i.e., ‘for or about’ anything; and would be applicable to the earnest effort put forth in those games to obtain the prize.”2

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 NASU: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.”

Both of these scriptures encourage us to contend in our spiritual life the way these men will contend in Sunday’s big game….CONTEND TO WIN!

I often see individuals who contend, but they are not successful to defend the ground that they take.  The helmet is a critical part of the uniform in the game of football.  It is also a vital part of the Christian Armor!  In Ephesians 6:17, you can read about the helmet of salvation.  Our salvation gives us access to our identity in Christ and to the promises of God.  This helmet is the protection for our mind, which is essential to defend the ground we contend to obtain.

Let me ask you a difficult question.  Are you contending or are you pretending?  The battles we have been fighting can cause us to push harder or back off. I can assure you that none of the players who are privileged enough to play in Sunday’s game will be pretending.  Shouldn’t we walk out our spiritual life with the same intensity?  Do not let the opposition cause you to be sidelined. Focused on the goal and determine to win the prize!

 

 

1. Contend. 2021. In The Free Dictionary by Farlex.  Retrieved from www.thefreedictionary.com/Contend 2/3/2021

2. Barnes’ Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.

Journey to Bethlehem

As we enter this Christmas week during one of the most difficult years many of us have experienced, I want to take a moment to share a message I feel is important for each of us to consider as we approach turning the page of our calendars to a new year. In Psalm 25:4 TPT, we read:

Lord direct me throughout my journey so I can experience your plans for my life. Reveal the life-paths that are pleasing to you. 

Have you ever experienced a journey that did not turn out the way you imagined?  Perhaps it was a vacation trip, a move from one home to the next, a journey to spend time with your family over a holiday, or just 2020 in general!  I am sure each of you reading this could share some examples of funny stories, but also sad, scary, strange, and eventful experiences.

The reality is that our lives are a series of experiences and events that make up our journey.  So often, we get stuck in one leg of our journey and this prevents us from experiencing the fullness of all the plans the Lord has for us.  As we contemplate that thought, I want to consider the life of Mary as an example.

The journey to Bethlehem for Mary was only one leg of her journey. This part of her journey is the one we remember the most, especially at this time of the year, yet there was so much more.

We don’t know much about her life before we learn that she was visited by Gabriel, the angel, who told her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus” (Luke 1:30-31).

Obviously, Mary’s journey prior to this moment had to be important since it caused her to find favor with God. As her dramatic story continues to unfold, she learns that she will face a journey with responsibility unlike any other woman in all of history. She was obedient to a life-path that was chosen for her above her own comfort and reputation.

When it was time for delivery, Mary was again in a remarkable predicament.  While traveling to register for the census, the time came to give birth.  There was no room in the inn, so she was forced to delivery baby Jesus in a stable and lay him in a manger (Luke 2:7-20). 

The journey to Bethlehem was just part of Mary’s journey.  After Jesus’ birth, she was faced with the next challenge, which was the need to go into hiding because Herod wanted her child destroyed (Matthew 2:13).  Mary was not able to return to her home because her journey was now dictated by the destiny of the child she bore. Wow! Her faithfulness to walk out her journey was essential for His purpose to be fulfilled!

Mary was the one who encouraged Jesus to perform His first miracle, turning water into wine (John 2:1-11).  She must have been so proud as she observed Him heal the sick, multiply food for thousands, and raising the dead.  She must have felt such concern when she watched as He was rejected, ridiculed, and falsely accused.  Eventually she finds herself at one of the most difficult parts of her journey, the foot of the cross (John 19:25-27). 

Can you even imagine a mother’s heart breaking in this moment?  Her innocent Son suffered unbelievable agony as He bore stripes and died for all humanity, so we might have eternal life. Jesus was resurrected three days later, but not long after He ascended into heaven. I am sure Mary missed her Son. Mary was an amazing woman.  She walked a difficult journey, but one that benefited us all.  She went where none had gone before.  Where would we be if she had refused? Jesus fulfilled the journey He was given on this earth, partly because Mary was faithful to hers.

During the Christmas season, we celebrate the glory of God that came to us first through a baby and now exist among us in the form of the Holy Spirit.  This glory enables us to walk the journey that God created for each of us to travel.

At times, our human strength is gone and our willingness to persevere the challenges life brings wears thin. There was a process between the prediction Gabriel gave of Jesus’ birth and the promise of his death and resurrection that provides us the opportunity for salvation. The same is true for us, we might call that process our journey. 

I don’t know where you are on your journey, but just as Mary had a destiny to fulfill, so do we!  We can let her amazing story inspire us to be a person of strength and rise to the challenges we face. We can willingly accept the journey that has been chosen for us and allow God to impower us to walk out every step of our destiny.

Do Not Be Deceived!

Have you ever wondered what Jesus wrote in the dirt that day when the scribes and Pharisees brought before Him the woman caught in adultery? (John 8:3-11) The Bible tells us that they were testing Jesus. In fact, some versions say they were tricking Him to find accusations against Him. I find Jesus’ response to their tactics so interesting. He didn’t engage with a war of words; He simply stooped down and began to write something with his finger on the ground.

I can’t help but reflect on this story as I consider the war of words, the accusations, and even the trickery we are bombarded with every day. There are real issues to be solved, there are extreme opposing views on how our country should be led and should respond to crisis, and even more importantly, there is a war going on for the souls of countless men and women.

In Matthew 24, Jesus warned His disciples about deception that would be prevalent in the last days. As Christ-followers, we must be alert and aware of the tricks and tactics and allow the Holy Spirit who lives in us to provide much needed discernment for the times we are living in.

Deception often comes with partial truths. That is exactly the way that Satan tried to tempt Jesus in the wilderness. He quoted Scripture when he tempted Jesus to throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple! (Matthew 4:1-11)

This is the kind of deception that is so prevalent today. We hear partial truths in reporting that strikes fear and sells agendas and programing. We are bombarded with partial truths about key issues, candidates, positions, and parties that has the sole purpose of destruction and trickery to deceive many to support plans that individuals otherwise would never uphold.

What is the solution? It certainly is not simple, but if you are a Christian, you find sound instruction in the Word of God. The book of James gives some practical and spiritual advice we could all use in the days we are living through.

  1. “DO NOT BE DECEIVED!” (James 1:16) Ask God to give you His discernment! Study the truth of God’s Word and you will be more likely to identify the lie when it comes deceptively. Pray that He will give you supernatural help to discern the truth from lies.

From a practical standpoint, can I suggest that you be INCREDIBLY careful with what you share, and what you use to form your opinions unless you fact check and know the full story. I have heard misinformation about critical topics that were appalling to my beliefs, only to later find out they were not factual. I do not want to participate in spreading partial truths, which are really lies!

  1. “BE SWIFT TO HEAR AND SLOW TO SPEAK!” (James 1:19) Isn’t that what Jesus did when He stooped down to write on the ground? He did not avoid the situation, He did eventually respond to the accusers, but this moment in between when he quietly responds with this unusual action is so powerful to me.

As believers, we are not to be silent, but when we speak, let our words be profound all while demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit. There was a time during Jesus’ earthly ministry where He was driven to action. You can read the story in John 2:14-17 NASU

And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME.”

 Even though Jesus demonstrated action related to His passion for the House of God, He took time to respond appropriately. I can just envision Him sitting down and weaving together the whip that He would use to express His displeasure with their actions. He was not reacting – He was responding!

  1. GUARD AGAINST PREJUDICE AND JUDGEMENT! (James 2:4) Believers cannot love their neighbors as themselves and show partiality. We are called to love the sinner but hate the sin. The fight is not with human beings it is against the powers and principalities of darkness! (Ephesians 6:12)
  2. TAME YOUR TONGUE! (James 3:5-10) This passage tells us the tongue can be an unruly evil and a deadly poison. As a Child of God, we should be speaking blessings instead of curses.
  3. BE PATIENT AND EXPECTANT AS YOU WAIT FOR THE RETURN OF THE LORD! (James 5:7) This last chapter of James is full of pearls of wisdom to guide us through behaviors and actions we should be focused on as we get closer and closer to the return of the Lord.
    • Don’t grumble against one another. (verse 9)
    • Use the examples of the prophets of old as they demonstrated endurance even during times of great suffering. (verse 10)
    • Pray and praise! (verse 13)

Let me close with the end of this amazing book of the Bible as interpreted by The Passion Translation:

Finally, as members of God’s beloved family, we must go after the one who wanders from the truth and bring him back. For the one who restores the sinning believer back to God from the error of his way, gives back to his soul life from the dead, and covers over countless sins by their demonstration of love! (James 5:19-20 TPT)

Isn’t this what Jesus did in the story we began with. We don’t know what He wrote on the ground, we do know that all her accusers walked away and when she was left with the one who loved her enough to see past her sin, He left her with important instructions, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Years ago, I walked into an Adult Bible Fellowship class with a box of pennies. After passing them out to all who were present, I asked what this coin represented to each of them. I received some interesting responses but did not get the one I was searching for.

As you look at the above photo of a penny, what does it represent to you? The answer I am searching for today is ONE. This is a word that seems to have lost its value. There are so many voices and so many choices, so many distractions and so many priorities, that focusing on just one thing seems impossible. Yet David, who is credited for being a man after God’s heart, penned this important truth.

The one thing I ask of the Lord—the thing I seek most—is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple. For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. (Psalm 27:4-5 NLT)

This passage provides us with sound instruction for the unprecedented times we are currently living in. When we seek the ONE true God first, our priorities can come into alignment, and His voice can resonate above all the noise.

While I do not believe God sent the current crisis our world is facing, I do believe He is using it to help us remember the power of one. The importance of His voice and instruction over all other. The significance of making Him our number one priority.

We are unable to possibly decipher the many conflicting reports, agendas, and opinions we are bombarded with each day. Many of our former priorities that competed for our time with God are no longer existent. Could it be that God is reminding us to seek Him first? Is He asking us to make Him number one yet again? In our seeking we can find many benefits.

First, we can access the promise of the second part of the Scripture above. It doesn’t say, “If trouble comes”, it says, “When trouble comes”, we can be hidden in the secret place of the Most High. As a Christian, I am not promised a life with no storms. I am promised that I can be sheltered, and that God will never leave me or forsake me. I can have the assurance that He will calm the storm, or He will cross through it with me to the other side.

Secondly, if we the Body of Christ could all be focused on one thing and one voice, we could see a spirit of unity prevail as it did in the New Testament Church. This group of believers were known for having one heart, one mind, and operating in one accord. They turned their world upside down!

What if the Body of Christ could do that today? What would happen if collectively we all could unite with His agenda, focused on His priorities instead of our own? Now is the time for today’s Church to arise, with a spirit of unity, in one accord, asking our one true God to have mercy on the United States of America and restore her to be “One Nation Under God” once again.

I do not believe God is finished with His church on this earth; I believe her best days are in front of us if we can remember the value of one. We are given the key right there on the face of the coin, “In God We Trust”!

 

What Would You Do if You Missed the Rapture?

I remember several years ago when I was a teenager at my church’s youth camp, I heard a sermon entitled, “What to do if you miss the rapture”. At that time, the recording was on a cassette tape, and we were encouraged to get a copy to leave where those left behind could find it.

Thirty-five years later, I doubt anyone could find my cassette tape or be able to play it if they did. I do wonder how many people will someday use a search engine to ask this very question when they realize they have indeed missed the rapture of the church.
Maybe you are reading this and you have never heard of the Rapture. Let me explain.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 NKJV
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

You will not find the word “rapture” in the Bible. However, it describes a biblical event. The word means, “catching away”, and we use it to refer to the catching away of believers to be with the Lord in Heaven. Here are some facts:

    • Approximately one-third of all the prophecies in the Bible deal with the second coming of Christ.
    • Jesus’ return is mentioned 318 times in 216 chapters of the New Testament.
    • Both 1 & 2 Thessalonians are written around the theme of Christ’s return.
    • Several New Testament chapters are devoted to this topic.

No One Knows the Day or Hour

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Matthew 24:36-44 NKJV (Also see Mark 13:32-37; Luke 17:26,27,34,35; 21:34-36)

If you are reading this and the Rapture has not occurred, I want to urge you to make sure you are ready should today be the day that the Lord returns! You might be tempted to think this will not happen in your lifetime, but if you study Bible prophecy, you can see the signs of the imminent return of the Lord are all around us! (See Matthew 24) We do not know the day or the hour, but we can know the season, and I believe we are living in the very last days.

What to Do if You Missed the Rapture!

I know this may seem unconventional, but now I want to address anyone who finds this post at some time in the future and the rapture of the church has already happened. I am sure you are frightened, possibly alone, and are experiencing a world of mass chaos. Many who accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior disappeared in a moment. This would have caused much disaster with countless vehicles, machinery, aircrafts, and the like left without anyone to operate them. This is just the beginning of the great difficulty to come.

What should you do? Try not to panic; there is still hope for you. It would have been much better if you had accepted Jesus as your Savior before the rapture, but you can still do this. Ask Jesus to come into your life as your personal savior. Repent of your sins, quit sinning, and confess with your mouth that Jesus is your Lord.

Gather as many Bibles as you can find, keep one close and begin to commit it to memory. Hide the rest, because they will most likely begin to be confiscated. Read the following:

1. The whole book of Daniel
2. Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39
3. The whole book of Revelations
4. Matthew chapter 24
5. Luke chapter 21
6. Then begin reading the whole New Testament. I hope that you are able to locate a study Bible with commentator help. Many of these passages are full of symbolism that is difficult to understand, but it describes the times you are experiencing.

Following the rapture, there will be a seven-year period of great tribulation. Daniel 12:1 and Matthew 24:21-29 speaks of a time of trouble and tribulation such as has never existed. There will be seven seal judgments, seven trumpet judgments, seven thunders, and seven bowl judgments. These will be horrible to endure and many will die. You can read about all of these beginning in Revelations chapter 6.

The first seal in Revelations chapter 6:2 is about the rider of a white horse. He is the Anti-Christ, the ruler of a one-world government, who will quickly rise to power. You MUST NOT take his mark or his number!

Revelation 14:9-12 NASU
“Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.’”

It will be difficult to avoid taking this mark, because it will be required to buy and sell. You may be tortured and have to die for your belief, but you must not worship the image of the Anti-Christ.

Here is the good news. If you will stay faithful, you have the below promise:

“Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”
Revelation 20:4-5 NASU

Following this one thousand years of peace, you will enjoy the new heaven and new earth for all eternity. (Revelations 21:10 – 22:9) Stay strong and we will meet in heaven some day.

Pruning Season

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

IMG_0293“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.”  John 15:1-2 NLT

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He taught the people using parables and analogies that made the message relatable. This particular passage of Scripture about pruning in the vineyard is packed full of truths that can be applied to our lives.  When we consider the practice of pruning, especially at this time of year before growing season, it is relatively easy to consider the importance of pruning away dead or diseased branches.  However, the interesting thought found here is the fact that he also prunes the good branches to make them better.

Sometimes the most powerful enemy of “great” is settling for good. These words that Jesus spoke challenge me to be open to the reality that sometimes our Heavenly Father will prune good things out of our lives to create great things.

Letting go of the good can be unsettling and very difficult at times. We like the comfort of the known and the security of the familiar.  Truthfully, we are often attached to the “good” in our lives, and it is difficult to release that without knowing what “great” looks like or when it will arrive!  This is the point where our level of trust in the gardener will be critical.  We have to believe that He knows best even while we wait to see the results that come from the pruning process.

Like many spiritual concepts, this is easier said, than done, so let me try to encourage you further. There are many factors that can affect the overall quality of a grapevine, but the three most important are climate, slope, and soil.1

For the best fruitfulness, vineyards need to be in a climate where there is a lot of sun. When they are positioned on a slope, they get full advantage of the sun, are more protected from the frost, and benefit from the best drainage.  Drainage is the most important factor for healthy soil, which is critical for strong root systems.  Healthy roots determine level of growth or fruitfulness.

How can we apply this to our own spiritual lives? Keep reading below from the passage we read at the beginning:

4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. 5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.  John 15:4-5; 8 NLT

Just as a climate with much sun is important for a fruitful vineyard, our connection to the “Son” is equally significant. We must remain in Him; spend time in His presence and in His Word if we want to be fruitful.

Our slope is crucial for two key reasons. First, in the context of position to best absorb the sun and avoid the frost.  From a spiritual standpoint, we must position ourselves as victors and not victims.  We cannot be fruitful with a victim mentality.  Secondly, proper slope determines drainage.  We have to position ourselves where the pain, stress, hurt, and all other negative influences can drain away.  If we allow those things to remain, the soil and ultimately our root system will be diseased and damaged, preventing growth.

If you find yourself in a pruning season, it can be very painful because you often do not understand what is happening. Try to remember that if He is pruning you above the ground, your root system is multiplying below the ground.  Even when the process is painful, try to focus on the fact that He wants to take you from good to great!

 

Reference
1.  Web.  10  Mar.  2017.  http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viticulture

 

 

 

Tempted to Look Back


When the road of life leads us into difficult seasons, it is easy to be tempted to go back to the place that was more comfortable. When we decide to swing for the fence, take the big risk, only to strike out, it is tempting to stick with the status quo. Let’s face it, risk can hurt and leave you horribly disappointed. Change can be unsettling, and stretch us beyond our comfort zone. At the same time, we have heard it said that if you always do what you have always done, you will always have what you have always had.

This makes me think about the Children of Israel. They were held captive to serve as slaves to the Egyptians, yet they were God’s chosen people living so far below their destiny. God raised up Moses, who would lead them out of their captivity and toward their promise. With the Red Sea behind them and their enemy destroyed, they found themselves in the wilderness, in a difficult season wishing to go back to slavery.

For many, the familiar, even if it is slavery, is better than the unknown is. This mentality limits progress and traps us in a place of mediocrity and in some cases misery. Some of the Israelites died in the wilderness and never saw the land they were destined to inherit. They were out of Egypt, but Egypt was not out of them. They could not seem to stop looking back.

We read a different story of a man who was not afraid to head into the unknown. Elijah, one of the greatest prophets of all time, was directed by God to anoint Elisha to succeed him.

Elijah went straight out and found Elisha son of Shaphat in a field where there were twelve pairs of yoked oxen at work plowing; Elisha was in charge of the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak over him. 20 Elisha deserted the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please! Let me kiss my father and mother good-bye — then I’ll follow you.” “Go ahead,” said Elijah, “but, mind you, don’t forget what I’ve just done to you.” 21 So Elisha left; he took his yoke of oxen and butchered them. He made a fire with the plow and tackle and then boiled the meat — a true farewell meal for the family. Then he left and followed Elijah, becoming his right-hand man. (1 Kings 19:19-21 The Message Bible)

Elisha had a very different response than many of the Children of Israel did. He was so determined to avoid being tempted to look back, that he burned his equipment and sacrificed his oxen! He had nothing to go back for.

What encouragement for us today. We can grow and learn from our past, but if we want to move forward, we cannot be tempted to look back. Albert Einstein defined insanity, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Make a decision today to swing for the fence, take the risk, head toward the unknown, and become everything God has called you to be. Don’t give in to the temptation to look back to your old ways, your old life, or your past disappointments and mistakes. The Bible tells us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV)

Find the Seam

This weekend many will watch the greatest game of the Football season as Super Bowl 54 kicks off in Miami Florida.  I am a Missouri girl, so I guess you know which team I will be rooting for!

Ironically, I have loved the game of football since I was a young teen, and my friend’s family invited me to my first professional football game at the home of the Kansas City Chiefs.  Before life with my own family was so busy, I enjoyed playing fantasy football.  Then I thoroughly enjoyed watching my son play the game in high school.

You may not be a football fan, but this game gives me so many spiritual analogies, that I love to find one in this season of the year.

“Find the Seam” is a term that references a receiver who has the ability to find the gaps or opening in the zone defense.  A smart offense will run route combinations that are difficult for the defense to cover.

I once posted the below picture on my Secret Place Revelation Facebook page.

After posting it, I just couldn’t get the image of that lock holding the door shut off my mind.  I guess I have always operated under the assumption that God opens doors of opportunities in my life, and closes doors where protection is needed.  I do believe that this happens in the life of a Christian, but I recently began to ponder the possibility that perhaps the enemy wants to close doors to prevent us from walking into our destiny.

To say this in my football analogy, the zone defense is closing all the seams and the receiver cannot find the opening to make the forward momentum toward the goal line!  This thought made me take a step back and consider the possibility that I didn’t win because I let my opponent out play me!

This weekend when Mahomes faces off against Garoppolo, they each will look for the receiver who can find the seam.  If the defense closes in, they will look for a different opening.

I can tell you for me personally, I plan to look at open and closed doors differently in my future.  While there may be times I must trust God’s sovereignty, I am not going to sit back idly and see if an opening appears, I am going to scout my opponent’s defense and make sure he isn’t just blocking my progress.

Is there an area in your life you need to make some forward momentum? Don’t let your opponent keep you from finding the seam!

Written in Red

Tags

, ,

I love the red-letter editions of the many versions of the Bible I enjoy reading. There is just something about reading through the Gospels and seeing the words, that Jesus spoke, written in red.

Recently, I had an opportunity to read about a woman who used this same concept during her prayer time. In the book, the author shares a story about her friend taking a prayer journal with her when she goes to pray. She said, “I write in blue ink the words I want to say to the Lord in prayer. There’s something helpful about taking the time to write it out longhand. Then I wait in God’s presence for what I sense He is saying in response to what I’ve written. When I get a sense of His response, I write it in red. Back and forth we have a discussion, in blue ink and red ink.”1

A red ink pen is always handy for me, but I had never thought of using it this way. I am one of the people who mark up all the books I read. You can pull any book from my bookshelf including a Bible and know exactly my favorite parts and my thoughts about it because they will be circled, underlined, and comments added in red.

I also have a passion for spiritual journaling. For years, I have tried to document the insights I receive as I study the Word of God, as I pray, and frankly, as I just do life. I have found that if we are faithful with what the Lord gives us, He will give us more! Additionally, I realize my human inability to remember even the very important things as life goes by so quickly.

There have been many times that during my journaling I have chosen to write my prayers out longhand, and there have been times I have written things I feel the Lord is revealing or directing at the time, but I have never thought about changing ink color to write what I felt the Lord was speaking.

With this author’s story, I decided to do just that.  I decided to write out my prayer that day. When I had finished, I picked up my red ink pen and I said, “OK Lord, I am listening” Immediately, I knew exactly what to write, the Lord began to impress on my heart the words He was speaking to me that I should document!

Since that time, I can thumb through my journal and quickly see sections written in red! There is just something about the expectation of picking up that pen and then waiting and listening for His voice. This practice has given me a fresh perspective on my communication with God.

In the book I referenced, the author asked her friend how she knew those impressions in her mind that she wrote in red were from God. “Without hesitation, she replied, “God’s response always lines up with the Word of God and the nature of God. Over the course of time, I’ve learned to hear His voice, to recognize the ideas He drops in my heart while I wait on Him. The enemy wouldn’t be telling me the type of things I write.”1

We learn as we practice. One of those red-letter passages found in the Word of God tells us, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27 NLT). As we spend dedicated time with the Lord, we can learn to hear His voice clearly.

I don’t choose to make writing out my prayers a ritualistic thing that I do every day, there will be times I choose to verbalize my prayer.  I have however, quickly learned that it is a powerful practice to enter into my prayer time with the attitude that I am having a conversation with God and His part will be written down in red! It is a reminder that my discussions with Him are not supposed to be a one-way dialog!

There was something about picking up that red pen and saying, “I’m listening” that opened the door for the communication because I actively took on a new posture. I don’t think I will look at a red ink pen the same now, and I hope you won’t either!

References:

  1. Barrett, Donna L. Leveling The Praying Field: Helping Every Person Talk To God And Hear from God. Gospel Publishing House. 2019. 82-83

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.