PRAYER AND PRAISE

By Lori Willard

If a family member answered the phone and they discovered the person on the other end of the line was Billy Graham, and he was calling for you, would you drop everything to speak with him?  Well…The Lord of the Universe – The King of Kings – is calling for you to exchange words with you.  Will you answer His call?

31 Days of Prayer and 31 Days of Praise by Ruth and Warren Myers have influenced my times of prayer and praise over the past few months.  The prayers and praises are broken down into daily times with God based on the scriptures that guide you.  In the books, they record Bible passages so you can rewrite the prayers if you choose to do so.  A few thoughts from their books have given me new insights or have reinforced ideas already known.  I have modified some of those thoughts to share from my perspective.

The Word and prayer keeps us connected to God – then links our lives with God’s purposes and power.  The Word and prayer bring us into a loving relationship with God.  We also realize through this relationship, how much we need Him so we prayerfully choose to depend on Him.

Praying for others – intercession – moves us from “give me” prayers to partnering with God on others’ behalf.  Philippians 4:6 says that He desires to hear our needs, but wants us to move beyond those prayers.  The Lord’s Prayer has 7 petitions – 6 of them focus on God’s purposes and our spiritual needs – 1 focuses on our practical needs.  God wants us to grow in prayer as we continue to commune with Him.

There are all kinds of prayer, for example:  praise, thanksgiving, confessing our sins, quiet communion, our needs, loved ones and others.  However, God desires us to partner with Him in our prayers.  What does God want me to pray about?  Jesus prays for us in John 17 and Hebrews 7:25.  The Holy Spirit helps us in prayer according to Romans 8:26.  How awesome to join His inner circle of prayer with Him!

Praise and Thanksgiving helps us rise above our self-centeredness to a God-centeredness.  It focuses our hearts and minds on the Lord and makes us more dependent on Him.  God gives us joy, spiritual vigor and an overcoming attitude as we focus on Him.

Praises allows the Lord to turn grief, distresses, and struggles into peace.  Praise during times of blessings and during times of trials enables us to “rise above” because we know that the Lord has promised never to leave us or forsake us – Hebrews 13:5; so we can say, along with David, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” NKJV

God chooses to use prayer, praise, reading His Word, Bible study, and fellowship with true believers, etc. all to bring us closer to Him.  May we not neglect the most important details of our relationship with Him but instead – PRESS ON, PRAY ON!

Philippians 3:13-16 “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,  I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.  Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.” NKJV

The Important Thing!

By Jonni Sliver

We celebrated Mother’s Day last month. Lovely images came to mind – a precious little girl bringing flowers to her mom, a little boy proudly presenting burnt toast to mom for breakfast, the acrid but delightful love offering! But I am long past a precious little girl and it is five years since my mother received her reward; I’ve never had children of my own so I guess Mother’s Day doesn’t have much to do with me. Right? Wrong!

I received a gift that not everyone gets. As an adult I got to live with my mother. For five years mom and I lived in a two bedroom apartment and did just about everything together, from cooking to cleaning to putting together massive jigsaw puzzles (credit where it’s due, mom probably did 70% of them) and telling really silly stories (we were both pretty  good at that!). I got to know my mom as my friend and five years after her passing I still am blessed every day because of what I learned from my mom.

I learned about priorities. Mom didn’t answer the phone or the door for the first hour or so after she woke up (that was o.k., the people who knew her knew not to call then anyways). That was because she had her quiet time, right in her bed, before her feet touched the floor. She had her Daily Bread, her study Bible and a Bible encyclopedia all on the table by her bed. She would begin her devotional but it would quickly become a study as she looked up a city she didn’t know, or a practice she wasn’t familiar with in the encyclopedia. She would separate the verses that touched her heart and look up all of the cross references and then she would share them with me at dinner that night. And then she would pray. She prayed for her children and grandchildren, she prayed for her church family, she prayed for what she saw on the news last night. She had seen God move, she had seen His faithfulness, and she held on the promises of the Father!

But that first hour or so wasn’t “God’s time” in her day. Mom found moments all through her day to meet with the Father. She was the leader of our church prayer chain, most of the prayer request went out by e-mail, but there was a good size group of ladies who weren’t online. Mom would call them to share the prayer requests, and they would talk. All of the phone chain were a little older (like mom), many were widows, several had hard times getting out of the house. The calls mom made remind each woman that she was still part of the family, she still had a ministry and that she was loved. It only took mom five minutes to send the e-mail prayer requests, it took, sometimes, hours to do the phone chain, but for mom it was time well spent.

When I get so busy with the “important” things that I have to do that I am irritated by drop in visits, I can just about hear my mom reminding me about what really is important. There really isn’t an age limit to learn from your mother!

 

Heaven is for Real

By Velma Amundson

We recently watched the movie “Heaven is for Real”. I really enjoyed it. I have to say, I’m no expert on whether or not this little boy “went to heaven and back”. We know that God took Enoch and Elijah directly to heaven, and we know from Revelation that John was given a vision. I’m willing to leave it at that.

What struck me, though, was the title: “Heaven is for Real”. My first thought was “Duh”. I mean, after all, isn’t that what we hope for, what we look forward to? One of my husband’s favorite Bible passages comes from John 14:1-2, “Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so would I have told you I go to prepare a place for you? (ESV). I think of all the songs we sing, “Beyond the Sunset”, “Mansion on a Hilltop”. The first verse of one of my favorite songs, and I have many, says, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through. My treasure is laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door and I can’t feel a home in this world anymore.” There are so many songs which tell us of the hope that we have that God has provided a place for us to be with him for all eternity. What a glorious promise and hope to cling to.

I hope that this spate of summer movies featuring religious themes has given you hope and inspiration. I hope that if someone asks you about it you can say, “Yes, of course Heaven is for real, God promised so it must be”. I hope most of all that as we live our lives we remember that hope and cling to our Lord, Jesus Christ, who made it possible for us to hope.

 

Seeing the Redeemer Through the Rain

by Vicki Johnson

Have you ever wondered about those people? You know, the ones who seem to get the blessing all the while they’re complaining and grumbling? I was thinking about this as I was doing housework on a rainy day. The verse from Matthew 5:45 that says,  “…He causes His sun to rise on {the} evil and {the} good, and sends rain on {the} righteous and {the} unrighteous.” Sun and rain, in their seasons are blessings. Some blessings, in various forms, are given to all simply because our good God has prescribed it. But sun and rain out of season can cause grief and pain. So, my thoughts, as they tend to do, wandered and paused on a book from the Old Testament: Job. If it EVER rained torrentially or scorched a person to the bone, it was Job.

Job was described as blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil and the greatest of all the men of the east. What a guy. He had numerous sheep, camels, oxen, and donkeys. A host of servants.  Ten children whom he loved and prayed for continually. And one wife.

This blameless man was chosen to prove that God was worthy to be worshipped, even if all earthly blessings were stripped away. So it began. One by one, all he possessed and loved were taken away, eventually, even his health. Except for his wife.

Mrs. Job has only one thing to say to her hubby and she muffed it. “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” This woman, the mother of his children, also benefitted from Job’s wealth and prestige as his wife. But she also suffered the loss of her children as well as the rest of their earthly riches. Sun and rain for both.

Integrity is easy to hold on to when life’s good. It’s the testing of integrity that determines how deeply it goes. Though Job struggles to understand why he is suffering at every turn, yet he clings to the one absolute truth that keeps him drawing breath, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God;” (Job 19:25-26) Job, because he is a righteous man, came to a point of humility saying, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6)

Job’s intense suffering comes to an end. God restores his fortune twice fold. He father’s 10 children: seven boys and three beautiful girls. He lives another 140 years, seeing his sons and grandsons. No mention of a new wife, so Mrs. Job partakes of the restored blessing also. But, where is her proclamation of faith and confession? Her life had its ups and downs; sunshine and rain. But how did she fare in her relationship with the Lord? Her terse comment to her boil-ridden husband is the last we ever hear of her. Truly a sad and faithless epitaph to have on one’s gravestone.

On the other hand, Job’s righteous testimony and tenacious trust in God has stood the test of time and served as a beacon of hope to countless generations.  He understood that the sunshine and rain would cease; his security is founded on neither.  No, Job’s true hope and joy was anchored in the Lord of Life, his Redeemer through the rain.

God’s Everlasting Love and Faithfulness

By Liz McCarlson

My thoughts for the past couple of weeks have been on one, simple verse, but there is so much truth packed into this verse, and hopefully it can be as much of an encouragement to you as it has been for me.

Jeremiah 31:3 (ESV) reads: “…I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”

God loves you. Remember this, because I’ll come back to it shortly.

Because God loves you, He is faithful to you. How can you know? He has kept all of His promises. God was faithful to Adam and Eve by providing clothing for their protection as they were banished from Eden. God was faithful to Noah and his family by bringing them safely through the flood. He was faithful to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. He was faithful to Israel by bringing them out of captivity, through the wilderness, and to the land He had promised them. God faithfully kept Israel safe from their enemies. He was faithful to Israel during and after their exile…And that’s just to name a few instances of His faithfulness from the Old Testament.

I said I would come back to God’s love, and here it is: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, ESV) Just as He promised, God sent His son, Jesus, to this earth, as a baby, to grow to be a man, who, even though He was perfect, would take our sins upon Himself, would be rejected by His Father, would die and be buried, but would rise again, on the third day, defeating sin, death, and the devil. God loves you and has been faithful to you through His Son, Jesus. It’s a simple statement, but it is true, and it is everlasting.

Search

by Lynn Wellumson

Last weekend I got to help out at my sister and brother-in-law’s ranch.  They are in the middle of calving, always a challenging and exciting time for them.  The calf puller had accidently been misplaced in the tractor bucket.  The tractor had unloaded several loads of hay to many feeder spots and our mission, armed with a very large magnet, was to locate the three pieces before they were urgently needed.  It had the feel of looking for a needle in a haystack.  It also gave my sister and I a great chance to visit.  The cow/calf pairs in the corrals we were searching seemed a little too aware of us.  I spread my arms and announced “We come in peace”.  My sister laughed the first time, but not the second or the tenth.  It also had the feeling of walking through a minefield, as any misplaced step would result in serious shoe cleaning.

I’m happy to report that within a relatively short time, the lost was found! All three pieces!  Order was restored in the calving world.

Jeremiah 50:20 says “In those days, at that time”, declares the Lord, “search will be made for Israel’s guilt, but there will be none, and for the sins of Judah, but none will be found, for I will forgive the remnant I spare.” (NIV) 

Even God cannot find the sin that is covered by Jesus’ blood.   Even things we think are impossible to find, are possible to find with God’s help. Jesus bore our sins on His body on the cross.

Child Like Trust

By Vicki Johnson

Oh, to be a child again!

A daily desire for some; a repulsive concept for others. As a child, I remember thinking how I couldn’t wait to grow up and be an adult so I could do my own thing and be my own boss. The adult world always seemed ideal, as I peered through childish eyes.

The tables have turned and now my spectacled vision regards my childhood days with envious longing. Those days are history,yet, my Lord draws me back to re-live them in light of eternity.

In Matthew 18, verse 1 the disciples ask Jesus a question they had been mulling over for some time.   “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” they ask.  In essence, who is greater, larger, elder, and stronger? I get the idea the question was asked with a supposed answer in mind. They simply wanted Jesus to confirm their assumptions. But, Jesus’ response would correct their focus from worldly perceptions to heavenly insights.

“ And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18: 2-4 (ESV)

Jesus gave the answer nobody wanted to hear. That happens to me so often.  I ask Him a question after I have worked on the possible answer just to have Jesus come at my pre-conceptions from a totally different approach. Not fair, Jesus! I wasn’t ready for that one. He is the ultimate game changer.

So, who is greater, larger, elder and stronger in the Kingdom of Heaven? A child. A little one. The one who must look up to find her answers. One who must trust for strength from above to lift her higher than she could go herself. It is the child who asks for guidance at each turn and step of the way. A child doesn’t disguise fear, loneliness, and anger. She knows that fear is changed to courage, loneliness to belonging, anger to peace when she comes to her Father’s throne of Grace. She knows that she isn’t the Beginning and the End of all things, but she is a part of the One who Is, and that’s alright with her. Her response to Grace is uninhibited joy, wonder, and praise for the Grace Giver.

Mature faith is child-like trust. The kingdom of heaven is made of this.

Resurrection of Jesus Christ

By Lori Willard

A Heavenly Inheritance

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 Peter 1:3-5   (NKJV)

RESURREC’TION, noun s as z. [Latin resurrectus, resurgo; re and surgo, to rise.]

A rising again; chiefly, the revival of the dead of the human race, or their return from the grave, particularly at the general judgment. By the resurrection of Christ we have assurance of the future resurrection of men.

Webster’s Dictionary 1828

Since we have just celebrated Easter, here are some thoughts to ponder regarding the remembrance of our Savior’s Resurrection Day.  My husband and I were convicted this year that we did not focus our attention on Easter as much as we focus our attention on Christmas.  God helped us to change our thinking and actions.  We should truly be grateful that our Heavenly Father gave us Jesus Christ in His birth but what was Jesus’ purpose; what was the vital task of His Father?  He came to redeem a lost race; to seek and to save that which was lost. (Lk.19:10 NKJV)

Fellow Christian – Christ died for our sins, and rose again on the third day because God is satisfied with Christ’s atoning sacrifice!  We have a living hope because of His resurrection!  Do we realize what a daily blessing is ours?  We have a hope that only comes to us through Jesus – the only man on this earth that came back to life on His own power because He is God!!!  Through faith in Christ, we will receive the same resurrection to eternal life. What a precious gift our Father has given to us – Eternal Life through His Son!!!

May we remember that Christmas is a blessing but Easter is an ongoing blessing – well into Eternity – for those who put their faith in Him for their salvation!

Truly – To God Be the Glory Great Things He Has Done! – for each and every one of us as we turn our hearts and ways to Him!!  Eternal Life is ours from that moment and beyond!

May we focus on His resurrection and realize that:

He has RISEN!  He has risen INDEED!

The Freefall of Jesus

By Vicki Johnson

“One more step, Michael. When you’re ready, let go. I’m here. I’ll catch you.”

My husband, David, who was speaking at a summer camp, got our 6 year old to help him in a visual aid during his message. The plan was for Michael to climb up a 6’ ladder, one rung at a time, and freefall backward into his daddy’s arms. As Michael advanced to the next height, he could hear his dad’s voice behind him encouraging him to “let go” and trust. For a short time, Michael couldn’t see or hear David, but he knew what the plan was. Don’t goof off, get silly, or switch things up and there would be a happy ending. Michael was obedient and held true to the plan. His confidence in David’s trustworthiness was a wonderful example.

It’s been a long time since I thought of this story.

Three things stand out to me:

  1. Michael and David knew the plan from the beginning.
  2. Michael took the steps needed to fulfill the plan.
  3. Michael finished the plan, relinquishing all control for the final outcome to David.

When the world began, a Father and a Son knew a plan. The Son took the steps needed to fulfill the plan. The Son finished the plan, relinquishing all control for the final outcome to His Father. Jesus Christ, fully divine and fully human, came into this sin-sick world and lived a life of perfect trust in His Heavenly Father. There was never a time when Jesus would be out of fellowship with his Dad, except for the cross. On the cross, Jesus would need to experience that devastating sin-separation from the Father. There was no other way for the plan to be completed.

Jesus, nailed to a cross, is raised up for all to see. The sun is obscured. He cries out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He has been abandoned; left alone. Then John writes in chapter 19 verse 28, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, *said, ‘I am thirsty.’” The price is paid. The plan is complete. His parched lips are wet with sour wine and he affirms, “It is finished!”

With one last act of trust Jesus,”… crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.” Having said this, He breathed His last.” (Luke 23:46) Jesus freefell into the gracious hands of God. May I live each day in that way.

My Heavenly Father knows the plan; I can trust Him with my life.

My Savior lived a life of trust in God, the Father, to the point of death; I can also, in Jesus’ strength.

The best outcome is when I relinquish control and allow God to work in me and through me to accomplish His plan, to His praise and glory.