Monday, August 31, 2020

I Come to the Garden Alone (Part 2)

 Matthew 26: 36-39 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.”  He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed.  He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Prayer time is preparation, a recharge. We have to prepare our spirit and our mind for the attack of the enemy. All the enemy needs is one little opening and he’s all in. So Jesus encourages us and His disciples in v. 41 when He says, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Have you ever used the rechargeable batteries? Not sure if they’re still on the market, but they never lasted too long without needing to be recharged, at least mine didn’t. I almost had to recharge them daily or else, if I was listening to a CD player, the song would start to drag before the batteries gave out. What would happen to your spiritual resolve if you didn’t recharge? You’d probably be cursing somebody out in traffic by the end of the day because you didn’t recharge, you probably wouldn’t even be listening to your praise music to keep your mind right. 


See that’s just the opening the enemy is looking for. Or you’d be home upset with your spouse or children over the most insignificant thing, (example?)see that’s an opening. Remember that the enemy is constantly seeking a way to kill, steal, and destroy your spirit. Prepare so that you don’t let Him in. Remember go a little further in prayer and prepare your spirit at all times.

So have you ever felt groggy or like you just needed a day off or away from everything to clear your mind? That’s likely an indicator that you need to recharge and spend more time in God’s presence. 

Tired? Recharge with God.

Frustrated? Recharge with God.

Anxious? Recharge with God.

Depressed? Recharge with God.

Need direction? Recharge with God.

Lonely? Recharge with God.

Afraid? Recharge with God.

Confused? Recharge with God.

Need comfort? Recharge with God.

We can go all day with this, but the crux of the matter is that answers are found in time alone in God’s presence. Though we know this, it is often neglected, rushed through, or low on our priority list.

One key thing through Jesus’ prayer throughout the text was that He rested in God. He trusted in Him. We know this because He was mature enough to say, not My will, but Your will be done. In order to get to a place where we are in agreement with God’s will, we have to have a personal relationship with Him, and relationships are built by spending time with one another. 

So my encouragement for you today is to go beyond your normal routine with God. Take your relationship to the next level by spending intentional time with Him. (That’s what we do when we’re in love, we’re constantly spending time with and talking to our mate) Spend more time in His presence alone and pray without ceasing. If you’ve been looking for answers or needing to hear from God, get in His Word and in prayer. Remember that God speaks through His Word. This is how you set yourself up to make yourself available to Him. It begins in His presence - communing with Him, listening to His voice and direction. God never asked us to be perfect, but He does need our availability in order to use us. James 4:7-8 says, “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you.” See that’s a promise from God. He will draw close if we draw close. God is waiting on us to move toward Him.

Monday, August 24, 2020

I Come to the Garden Alone (Part 1)

 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.”  He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed.  He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Matthew 26: 36-39)

Sometimes we can become so troubled that we need to take our prayer time with God to the next level or go a little deeper or go a step further as Jesus did in v. 39. It says, “He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” See, His disciples started with Him but scripture says that He was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. So for Jesus in this text, going a little further meant stepping away from His disciples, going to God alone and pouring His heart out. Though He knew what He was called to do, that didn’t stop Him from feeling overwhelmed, afraid, or even wanting God to change His mind about sending Him to the cross.

Our burdens are not even close to what Jesus was experiencing but we can learn from Him. It is okay to be scared or overwhelmed with sorrow sometimes but we must know that we need to take that sorrow to God. We’re often quick to tell our sisters to pray for us and yet do not take the time to pray for ourselves. There are times when those closest to you just can’t quite grasp how heavy your burden is or how badly you need God to move in your life. Look at the disciples. Jesus had an “I NEED YOU NOW” situation. He asked his disciples to pray, and yet they went to sleep. Sometimes our friends “sleep” on praying for us. Not in the literal sense, but because they don’t do so with urgency or don’t pray as fervently like we need them to.

In this text, Jesus went to God three times, back to back, about the same thing. And this just brings to mind that sometimes life can be so tough that our only option is to stay on our face in prayer.

Some situations require us to step outside of our normal daily prayer routine. Or even our daily routine. This could mean skipping out on the next gathering (which I hope you're not gathering at this time anyway), turning off the TV & internet, powering off the cell phones, and giving that time to God.

But what do you do when it seems you don’t have the extra time to go a little further? I mean from the moment you’re out of bed until you’re back in it again, your day is filled with activities and things to do. You’re just so busy. I can recall about five years ago, I started getting up an hour earlier than normal just so that I could pray and meditate on God’s Word. At the time, my oldest daughter was five and we know that kids that age have questions about everything. Well, she started getting up early as well and I would send her back to bed. And she’s like, its morning and you’re up. Why do I have to go back to bed and why would you want to be up all by yourself? She wanted to be my company I guess, but what she didn’t understand is that I already had company; I wasn’t alone. And since she started waking up early, I had to start getting up even earlier until that wasn’t working and I started staying up late at night. So whatever going a step further in your prayer time looks like for you -whether that’s waking up early, using your lunch break or staying up late, take some time to go the extra step in seeking God. And it doesn’t matter if you’re currently going through a rough spot in life or not we all need a daily refreshing of being in God’s Word and in prayer.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Why Did You Doubt?

 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matthew 14:31 NKJV)

This is quite a familiar passage of Scripture, Peter walking on water and sinking when his focus shifted to his surroundings instead of Jesus. Peter is often used as an example of lacking faith in this instance, which he did, but I think we ought to cut him some slack, right? He was in unchartered territory. It isn't like he was going around walking on water everyday. No, he asked Jesus in verse 28, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water."

Jesus called him and he went. I think it takes a great amount of faith to step out of the boat in the first place, not knowing what would happen, but trusting that Jesus would care for him. It is not unnatural to get distracted by our surroundings, but we can't get stuck in our distractions. Immediately Peter called out to Jesus to save him and He did.

We've all had doubting moments in our lives, but today I ask, "Why did YOU doubt?" Was it because of external circumstances? Lack of faith? Unchartered territory?

After I read this, I sat and thought for a moment to answer this question for myself. Obviously there are many times, but I want to share this one time with you:

About ten and a half years ago, I was recently married, pregnant, and out of work. Not exactly the way I imagined starting my newly married life. My husband and I were both working at our church full-time when they decided to make cuts. I was one of three people who were cut that weekend before Valentine's Day. Now, I had left my job at a big four accounting firm to go work at my church so I was disheveled when I received my walking papers. 

How could this be? Surely God had opened that door for a reason, right?

Given my background in accounting, I thought surely I could quickly find a new job. I even considered going back into public accounting for a while! Eeek! Desperation, right?

As my belly continued to grow, so did my job search. I interviewed here and there. As my belly grew and I went to interview after interview, I received weird stares. A time or two I was asked when I expected to start work and how long did I think I'd need to be out after having a baby. I'm certain my bump played a part in me not getting hired a time or two.

But then a friend of mine forwarded me a job announcement for a position with a government agency. I applied and received a notification that I would be hearing from someone about an interview. Yay! Well, things in the federal government can take a while, a long while. So after about three to four weeks, I reached out and received a response saying if I hadn't heard anything by now then they've hired someone else. Go to usajobs and apply for something else!


After repeatedly applying and interviewing, I was at my wit's end. The year was halfway over and I'd already given birth. The constant no was unchartered territory for me. I started to doubt and wonder if God was leading me to be a stay-at-home-mom. Sidebar: I love my children, but I don't think I'm made for stay-at-home-mom-life. :-)

Doubt and uncertainty crept in. I knew that I would find a job again, but when? I could have started writing at this time but there were too many unknowns. 

Fast forward a couple of weeks later. I received a phone call about that government position late one evening. They wanted to interview me the next day! Problem was, my husband would be at work and I didn't have a babysitter. I attempted to reschedule but the manager insisted that it had to be the following morning. The kicker is that she allowed me to interview over the phone. I thought there would be no way they'd hire me from a phone interview.

But they did. I received a call later that same afternoon. :-)

I wanted to share this story because we are all facing uncertainty right now, not knowing how things will look on the other side of the issues we face. No matter what's going on in your life, I encourage you to look back on a time when you doubted God and consider why. Then focus on how God worked in your life.

The same God who called Peter to walk on water, and subsequently saved him from drowning is the same God at work in our lives today. Have faith that He'll save you again, my friend!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

What will it take?

Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. (Matthew 11: 20- 21 NKJV)

As I read this, the question, What will it take, came to mind. In the above-referenced Scripture, many miraculous things took place in those cities, but the people weren't moved by them. Not moved enough to change, repent, and give their hearts to God. If you continue reading the next couple of verses, Jesus says that even Sodom (remember how God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sin?) would still exist if these mighty works had been done there.

Why is it easier for us to believe or cling to negative thoughts or the evil happening around us as opposed to the good? The God things? The holy things? The miraculous? Why aren't those happenings taking root in our soul? In the passage of Scripture, they chose not to believe and repent, and we are often the same way.

This is really random, but as a child, I didn't get as many whoopings or spankings as my cousins. Why? Usually, they got in trouble first! And after seeing what happened to them, I didn't want to experience the same outcome so I got my act together before I got in trouble. lol. 

As I consider that thought, unfortunately, as adults, we don't always learn from the mistakes of others. Some of us need to personally experience hurt and pain to get the picture. To run to God. To trust in His truths.

Make it personal: What will it take for you to give your [insert issue here] and heart to God? What's holding you back? 

Consider everything happening in the world around us. Can you see God at work? Take a few moments to look back over your life, can you see God at work? Has He done enough to encourage you to follow Him? If not, what will it take for you to repent and give your heart to God?

Monday, August 3, 2020

Are you uncomfortable?

"And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their region." (Matthew 8:34)

As I read the above Scripture, I thought, why would they want Jesus to leave their area? So I meditated on this for a moment and then it hit me. Jesus made them uncomfortable. Scared. Fearful. What we do not understand, often evolves into fear, unfortunately.

In the previous verses, Jesus had just healed two demon-possessed men. In fact, he cast the demons into a herd of swine, causing them to run off into the sea, killing themselves. The people who were keeping the sheep fled and told everyone what had just happened and that's when the folks came to see Jesus.

Who is this man, right? What is He doing here? How did He do that? We don't understand and we don't want Him here causing trouble so He must go.

An interesting train of thought when you really think about it. Whenever Jesus is doing something in our lives that makes us uncomfortable, we're quite the same. We may not say, go away with our lips, but our actions will do the talking for us. It is manifested in our disobedience to the nudgings of the Holy Spirit or God's Word. It is when we intentionally act out against what we know to be true.

The Good News is that God still loves us and is giving us chance after chance to get it right. If God is doing something in our life that makes you uncomfortable, I encourage you to run closer to Him and not further away. Remember that ultimately, God wants your heart and desires a relationship with you. I believe everything that happens in our lives can be reconciled to that fact.

Prayer: Ask God to search your heart and reveal to you any area where you may be running from Him because of discomfort, fear, or uncertainty. After He has revealed it to you, I encourage you to be intentional in pressing in toward God and surrendering that area of your life to him. In Jesus' name, Amen.