Archive for July, 2012

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

– 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

I have shared in a previous post that Hannah, Elijah and Jesus had something in common during the days they lived in the earth. They shared a common struggle with the troubles of life and they each shared openly with God how they were feeling about what they were struggling with. I am learning that sharing expressed intense emotions with God in prayer positions me to encounter a greater outpouring of His grace and power to help me in my circumstances. Perhaps some may see expressed feelings as a sign of weakness, but the Apostle Paul saw it as an opportunity to rely more on God’s grace and receive power from God to help him live victoriously!

“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” – Psalm 55:22 NIV I believe acknowledged and accepted thoughts and feelings that stand in direct opposition to allowing you to experience the fullness of God’s power at work within you and through you is what will empower you to live victoriously. David declared in Psalm 139:1-4 that God knows our thoughts before we even speak them. The benefit of speaking them is being open intimately with God in a posture of sincere humility, even when our thoughts and feelings are in opposition to what God desires for us, or how we see Him. Hebrews 5:7-8 mentioned that Jesus was heard in prayer, during the days He prayed with loud cries and tears before the Father, because of His reverent submission. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus acknowledged His struggle internally with His own desire to fulfill God’s plan of salvation through His death, but also acknowledged and accepted God’s will even if God did not answer His prayer the way He desired.

The Apostle Paul shared his intimate discourse with God over his concern about a ‘thorn’ that was a source of struggle for him in his faith walk with Christ. God’s response to Paul was, “IAm more than enough for you, despite how you feel and what you are going through.” It is in the midst of how we are feeling and the reality of what we are facing that God desires to reveal, manifest and make Himself known as the One who is more than enough for us! It is His desire for us to experience the ‘immeasurably more lifestyle,’ beyond what we can think or imagine that can only occur as we allow His power to work in us! God may not relieve me of my circumstances when I pray, but as I release to Him my cares, He can relieve me in my circumstances with more grace and power to help me endure, persevere and live victoriously despite how I feel and what is happening.

May God bless you and help you to cast your cares, expressing those intense internal thoughts and emotions, that prohibit the greater flow of His grace and power so you may live the victorious spiritual life Christ came for us to have.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

– Ephesians 3:20a NIV

If our struggle is not against flesh and blood, then, possibly our greatest struggle is within us. Perhaps, our greatest struggle is to allow the power of God to work in us and through us to become all that He desires for us to be in Christ, over remaining in a state where we have a form of godliness, but our lifestyle denies the power within. Ephesians 1:3 reminds us as believers that we have access to every spiritual blessing through Christ who lives in us by faith. By faith and prayer, we are privileged to experience the fullness of God to equip, enable and empower us to live the victorious spiritual life and all of its fullness that Christ came for us to have.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” – Ephesians 3:16 NIV Through faith in Christ and prayer, I can access God’s power to help me overcome the misfortune, injustice, grief and temptations of life that come my way. God’s power is power to heal, power to uplift and power to uphold me in my circumstances when I get weak, weary and worn from the troubles of life I face in my faith walk with Christ. God’s power is power to overcome and resist the temptations of life that ensnare me and inhibit and prohibit me from walking in the liberty and freedom of God’s love, mercy and grace. God’s power is power to restore me, renew my strength and help me to recuperate from the times when I fall short, backslide and need His forgiveness to help me return to Him, as my first love, when I rebel and go astray.

God’s power is power to help me achieve my dreams, fulfill my purpose in being a Christian and experience the ‘immeasurably more lifestyle’ than what I can encounter in my own strength. God’s power enabled Hannah to endure and persevere year after year of external provoking and internal torment until God fulfilled her desire to give birth to a child. God’s power enabled Elijah to experience a great spiritual victory against the prophets of Baal and renewed him in his strength when he was overcome with exhaustion, fear, discouraged and humiliated from Jezebel threatening to kill him. God’s power raised Christ from the dead that allows us to become beneficiaries of the working of His mighty strength in us as we trust in His unfailing love and hope in His name. Access His power and allow Him to do exceeding, abundantly above all you could ask or think and experience the ‘immeasurably more’ life He desires for you to experience in your faith walk with Him.

May God bless you and help you to experience His power at work in you to allow Him to do exceeding, abundantly, immeasurably more than what you could achieve in your own strength so you can experience the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

– 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against our inherent nature to do opposite of what God desires for us. In the face of misfortune, injustice and grief, faith and prayer will provide us godly wisdom and divine power to help us and empower us to live the victorious spiritual life God requires of us through faith in Christ. According to Ephesians 1:3, God has provided us every spiritual blessing we need to live victoriously and according to Ephesians 6:12, there are spiritual forces of evil trying to inhibit and prohibit us from progressing in our faith walk with Christ and experience the spiritual blessings God provides in Christ.

In Ephesians 6:18, the Apostle Paul admonishes us to be alert and pray. Be alert to the oppositional forces (fiery darts) that are hurled in our direction that seek to extinguish the joy for life and hope for the future God instills in us as we trust in His unfailing love and hope in His name for the fulfillment of what He promises to perform according to His word. “Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust.” – Psalm 40:4 NIV Being joyful in the midst of trying circumstances comes from cultivating a heart of gratitude in acknowledging consistently what God has done, is doing and expressing in advance thankfulness for what I believe He will do. “I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.” – Psalm 143:5

“But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” – Psalm 39:7 NIV God has planted within me, through the person, presence and power of His Holy Spirit everything I need to overcome any oppositional force, external or internal, that would seek to inhibit or prohibit me from experiencing the fullness of life, liberty and the pursuit of righteousness God has ordained for me to experience through faith in Christ! Whether, like Hannah, I am facing the trying disappointment of a longing unfulfilled while enduring year after year of being tormented in my soul and provoked by external forces, or if my circumstances, like Elijah, have brought me to a place of overwhleming odds that threaten my well-being, God is present ready to respond to faith and prayer that invites Him to bless and help us. Perhaps, like Jesus, we are struggling with doing what we know God would want us to do over seeking an easier way out. Like David declared in Psalm 51, petition God for a willing and steadfast Spirit to follow through in doing what He desires as we wait patiently for Him to satisfy our desires with good things.

May God bless you and help you to demonstrate proactive initiative to pray and invite Him to help you and bless you with the spiritual blessings you need to demonstrate patient endurance until He satisfies your desires with the good things that will allow you to experience the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

– Ephesians 6:18 NIV

Christians have one common enemy, Satan, but many oppositional forces. Ephesians 6:12 teaches that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, authorities and powers of this dark world and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. According to Ephesians 1:3, God has already provided us, in the heavenly realms, every spiritual blessing in Christ we need to live a victorious spiritual life. The place where God has already provided us everything we need, we face oppositional forces trying to prohibit and inhibit us from experiencing those blessings. How real and great are those oppositional forces? It caused Hannah to no longer eat (see 1 Samuel 1), Elijah told God to take his life (see 1 Kings 19), and Jesus was so overwhelmed with sorrow that He felt like dying (see Matthew 26). Careful inspection of their unique circumstances reveals Hannah’s disappointment for a longing unfulfilled; Elijah’s humiliation in receiving death threats after a great spiritual victory and was exhausted from battle, and Jesus’ anxiety dealing with the real emotional and mental human stress associated with the reality of what He was facing and the ensuing crucifixion. It also sounds like they were suffering from depression in what each of them were facing.

In my personal life I have been a witness to the real impact of what can happen when thoughts and emotions are allowed to run ramped and terrorize our soul. I have witnessed the harmful, debilitating effects of paranoid schizophrenia and stress caused by anxiety, worry and fear. I have also witnessed the life changing power of faith and the word of God restore and heal those who wrestle and struggle within against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. As I’ve explained to others, all of our opposition, or enemies, are not external. As Hannah, Elijah and Jesus modeled for us, we have to learn how to identify and express these intense emotional/mental oppositional forces that seek to inhibit and prohibit us from experiencing the joy, peace and liberty God promises us to experience through faith in Christ!

Did you know that Jesus expressed concern about the cross before He entered the garden of Gethsemane (in Matthew’s gospel) and prayed 3 times about His concern to the Father about not wanting to go through with what God’s will was for Him? “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!'” – John 12:27-28 NIV In John’s gospel, before the Last Supper, Jesus has an open dialogue with Himself in the company of others about the reality of being crucified and articulates whether He should ask about not going through with what He has come into the world to do. So, at least 4 times it is recorded how much Jesus actually struggled with what He was willing to do for us. The Apostle Paul concluded in Ephesians 6 that prayer, along with the armor of God, is how to extinguish the oppositional forces that come against us! Don’t be ashamed of the fact that you struggle against opposition, but rest in assurance, through faith and prayer, God hears you and He will deliver you as you trust in his unfailing love and hope in His name!

May God bless you and help you to identify and express to Him what troubles and torments your soul so you may experience the power, grace and truth of Jesus Christ and the fullness of life He came for us to have.

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”

– Matthew 26:38 NIV

The reason why Hebrews chapter 4:15 discloses that we do not have a high priest (Jesus Christ) who is unable to sympathize with us and our weakness, is because Jesus felt what we felt and experienced life as we do. God understands us. God cares about us and He is concerned about us when we face the troubles in this life Jesus explained to His disciples that we would face in John 14. Even the prophet Isaiah declared that Jesus was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief (familiar with suffering in the NIV version) in Isaiah 53. In fact, the book of Hebrews goes on to say, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” – Hebrews 5:7 NIV

Jesus’ mind started to become overwhelmed with the reality of the suffering He was about to face being crucified for the sins of the world. But even greater than that, the momentary distress of feeling separated from the Father because of sin. In agony He cries out, ‘My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?’ – Matthew 27:46b In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus expresses the intensity of emotion tormenting His soul (feeling overwhelmed) and then goes off into solitude and prays. God responds by sending angels to minister to Him that strengthened Him to fulfill the purpose for which He was sent into the world. While on the cross, in the midst of His suffering, Jesus felt forsaken and cries out to God about how He feels. He dies, but God raised Him from the dead!

Remember my post about Hannah (see Provoked to Pray) and her story in 1 Samuel. The bible says that while Hannah was praying, her lips were moving, but no sound was coming from her mouth. She expressed being deeply troubled, in anguish and bitterness of soul was used to describe how she felt. Jesus sounded like He wanted to die saying He was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, while Elijah just came out and said to God, ‘Take my life now.’ “He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. I have had enough, LORD, he said, ‘Take my life.'” – 1 Kings 19:4 NIVWhat Hannah, Elijah and Jesus all have in common is their personal suffering and the proactive initiative to carry their burdens to God in prayer. God responded to each of them and He will respond to you too! Trust in His unfailing love and hope in His name for your deliverance and salvation during the overwhelming times and troubles of life.

May God bless you and help you to come to Him in prayer to relinquish to Him the internal struggles you face so you can be strengthened and released from what encumbers and weighs you down to experience the freedom and fullness of life Christ came for you to have.

“The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.'”

– 1 Kings 19:7 NIV

Have you ever got to a place in your faith walk with Christ that you felt, or said, ‘Enough!?’ The prophet Elijah did. I am glad too, because Elijah let’s me know it’s okay to think and feel that way. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” – 1 Kings 19:4b NIV The fact that it’s written in scripture makes me feel understood by God when I get to that place I call the ‘cave season’ of life. Elijah had just won a great victory in 1 Kings 18 and by 1 Kings 19, his life was being threatened. The same prophet who had just experienced a great spiritual victory was now fleeing, in fear, from a death threat.

Prior to this point in Elijah’s faith walk, he had won a great battle for God and after the battle ran a great distance, on foot, to outrun a storm that was coming (see 1 Kings 18). By this point, Elijah is probably exhausted, then he hears about the threat on his life because the great battle he had just won for God. Elijah, immediately takes off to escape the imminent death that awaits him. Sometimes, living right and doing right brings adversity before the blessing of being obedient to God’s will is provided. Being obedient, even in the face of adversity, moves God to be with you to provide you comfort, encouragement and inspire hope to keep you going.

You can probably relate to Elijah. You are experiencing victory in your faith walk that required a lot on your part. Then, still recovering from your great spiritual victory, somewhat tired mentally and emotionally, something greater opposes you that shrouds your soul with fear (spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms) and then, on top of that, a storm is threatening in your life! “All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.'” – 1 Kings 19:5b, 7 NIV

God comes alongside Elijah and provides him with rest, food and water that provided Elijah the physical strength to endure the journey. When Elijah arrives at the cave, God speaks to Elijah that provides Elijah the mental and emotional nourishment he’ll need to face the threatening storm of circumstances rising in his life. “Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?'” – 1 Kings 19:8b-9 NIV God will come alongside us, touch us, and provide us the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual replenishment we need, as we take refuge in Him, to keep the faith and fight the good fight!

May God bless you with His touch and help you to get the proper physical, mental, emotional and spiritual replenishment you need to keep you going in your faith walk and fight the good fight of faith so you may experience the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

“And because the LORD had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.”

– 1 Samuel 1:6-7 NIV

The story of Hannah, in 1 Samuel, is a great illustration of what Ephesians 6:12 teaches about our struggle not being against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Hannah wants to have a child, but the LORD has closed her womb. Some would suggest God is against her. Because the LORD has closed her womb, her rival, Peninah, intentionally provokes Hannah to irritate her because she could not bear a child. In fact, if you read this passage closely, it says that this went on year after year while they attended church! It appears God and Peninah are against Hannah. What I have learned from reading the story of Hannah is that the external conflict Peninah caused Hannah by intentionally seeking to provoke her was not the source of her conflict. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood.

How Hannah chooses to handle her conflict is a great model for us when we face various conflicts in life, even when it appears God is against us too. According to 1 Samuel 1:9, Hannah takes a stand deciding she was going to take her conflict to the only One who could help her. This is significant, because those who would see God being against Hannah by closing her womb would see Hannah going directly to the source of her problem. This tells me that Hannah does not see God being against her, but she sees Him as the source of her solution to what she sees as the opposition to her condition. “Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the LORD’S temple.” – 1 Samuel 1:9 NIV Despite the years of torment from her rival, Peninah, and the futility and frustration of not being able to conceive, Hannah, takes a stand in her circumstances and takes her concern to God.

“In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD.” – 1 Samuel 1:10 NIV During Hannah’s time spent in prayer, the bible uses words/phrases like bitterness of soul, misery, deeply troubled, great anguish and grief in relation to the state of Hannah’s soul. During the years of Peninah’s provoking, Hannah stopped eating which would also indicate she suffered from depression. In all that Hannah prayed, the bible does not mention that Hannah talked about Peninah. Hannah’s focus during prayer remained on the condition of her soul, how she felt emotionally, and what she desired, a child. Hannah’s struggle internally with bitterness, misery, great anguish, trouble, grief and depression, are great illustrations of the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms that can prohibit us from experiencing the fullness of life Christ came for us to have. Eventually, Hannah began to eat again and later conceived! Hannah persevered and relinquished her distress to God until God relieved her of her duress. Cast your cares and anxieties on Him because He cares for you and wants to satisfy your desires with good things!

May God bless you and help you to cast all of your cares and anxieties upon Him, believing He cares for you, so you may experience the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.