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

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A Heart of Thankfulness and Praise

By Lori Willard

When frustrating trials come into your life, do you wonder, “Why me?” Instead of frustration, do you long for a life of peace?

Romans 13:33-36

33“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has become His counselor?”35 “Or who has first given to Him, And it shall be repaid to him?” 36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (NKJV)

Often, our initial thoughts and responses to adversity are not the best; but, as we welcome the Holy Spirit’s work in us, the Lord is so gracious to give us wisdom and knowledge to change our thoughts and responses to conform to His desire for us.  In turn, we glorify Him and are used by Him more effectively.  As a result, He brings us into a deeper relationship with Him.

Recently, a friend was challenged by many difficulties in her life.  With so much heaviness, she had gotten a heart of negativity.  What a blessing that the Lord performed “heart surgery” for me just a few days earlier!  I was able to share some of His blessings to me with her.

I asked her to hold out her hand – palm facing down.  I explained that down represented the negative thoughts.  Then I asked her to hold out her hand – palm facing up.  I further described that upward facing hand represented our positive thoughts.  Also, we are then in a position to receive from our Heavenly Father and to offer praise to Him.  The Lord illustrated to me, through my devotions, that He wanted me to turn my thoughts right side up and begin to thank Him and praise Him for all He had done.  I was led, also, to thank Him for future blessings that He sees in me, my family, my church, my community, and my world even if those blessings are not yet seen by me or others.

Negative thoughts feed in to Satan’s realm and we begin to have heavy hearts and sour souls.  We also lose hope.  When we have thankful hearts – full of praise – it gives God the glory.  Which is better?

Psalm 50 (read as you have time) explains that the Mighty One, God the Lord, wants us to gather together because He has a message for us.  He wants us to know that He is God, our God!  He sees the good work we are doing and will not rebuke us for our sacrifices.  However, even more, His heart’s desire is that we have an attitude of thanksgiving and praise.  Verse 14 and 15 says, “Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High.  Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify Me.”   Verses 22 and 23 further state, “Now consider this, you who forget God, Lest I tear you in pieces, And there be none to deliver:  Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; And to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.”  God is really asking His people to not forget Him and to glorify Him in all we do, to examine our lives, and He will show us His salvation.

Oh!  What a joyful blessing to have the Holy Spirit work in and through us!  Please consider taking time to have the Lord examine your life.  Check in with Him often.  Agree with His ways instead of your ways.  In Isaiah 30:15 the Lord says, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” Turn your thinking right side up!  Do not resist those trials!  Thank God for them because trials stretch and grow us!  God has promised He will be with us through our trials.  In Hebrews 13:5 the Lord says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Offer Him a thankful heart – full of praise – through words, song, prayer, etc. which will glorify Him!  The Holy Spirit will bring to you a heart full of hope, peace and joy that only He can give – all combined – to prepare us to receive His will in and through our lives!

 

 

 

 

Home

O.K., I hope you’re ready for buck shot – I have had a few different recurrent themes on my heart recently and I think they came together.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “home” for a while. I was recently home on furlough and it was wonderful. The combination of spending time with people I love and getting to travel to new places, meet new people (and add to the afore mentioned list) is amazing! But when the e-mail came that said my visa had been issued and I would receive it is a couple of days the first thing I said is “I get to go home!” Maybe I’m fickle (though I don’t think so, I root for the Twins and Atletico Mineiros even when they are losing), more likely I’m blessed to have two places where my heart is at rest.

A second thought came with the passing of a precious brother. Antonio has been the caretaker of the retreat center here in Campo Mourao for more than forty years – and so much more! He was the driver for Pr John Abel during evangelism trips,  he has mentored many, many young people. Basically, everything he did, he did to the glory of God. Antonio had a heart attack and passed away at the age of 85. One of the verses shared at his funeral was Psalm 116:15 (ESV) “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. “ I’ve heard the verse many times before, but it has been rolling around in my mind – the death of Antonio, precious in the sight of the Lord.

Finally a little clip has been playing in my mind is of Brandy. He was my dog when I was growing up and he was a pretty smart little fur ball. He knew exactly what time my school bus arrived in the afternoon and five minutes ahead of time he took his position on the back of the sofa, nose aimed at the picture window so he could see the whole street. The moment I got off the bus he would freeze and when our eyes met, four houses down the block, I could see his little body start to quiver. Pure joy. What a precious thing it is to know that someone is waiting for you to arrive, that your arrival brings real joy to their heart.
And these three images finally came together.

As wonderful as our home is, it is an appetizer. God placed the desire for a place that we belong, a place where we “fit” because we have a better home waiting. And there is a reception waiting for us that is beyond what we can imagine. The joy of my little dog, over joyed that I was finally home is an appetizer. Imagine the joy of the Father, waiting for each of us to cross the finish line, the cloud of witnesses cheering and our hearts finally fully home.

Praise the Lord, when we are safely tucked in our homes, we know something even better is coming. And when it doesn’t seem like we will ever find a place where we really fit in (and sometimes it is easy to feel like that), hold on! The Father has more prepared for us than we could even imagine!

Bring Back the Wonder

by Sarah Langness

With the arrival of warmer temperatures, my little Ezekiel’s world has gotten so much bigger. I love seeing the wonder – and sometimes fear – on his face as his feet touch grass for the first time. As his fingers crumple a dead leaf for the first time. As his mouth tastes and encloses a rock for the first time. (Actually, the wonder was completely on his face on this one; the fear completely on mine. Zeke’s mouth is far too big for his own good.) Throughout this journey of parenthood, there have been countless times that I have wished I could remember that wonder, that awe, of discovering the world for the first time. I wouldn’t want to go back and re-learn everything; but I do wish I could remember what it was like to taste a banana for the first time. What it was like to take your first step. What it’s like to see snow for the first time or feel grass beneath your feet. To just simply be amazed at the beauty of creation.

And sometimes – actually, a lot of times – I wish the same thing for my salvation. Growing up in a Christian home, growing up going to church, growing up hearing the wonderful message of the Gospel — unfortunately, the awesome loses its wonder at times. It shouldn’t. Because I’m still a sinner in need of that daily grace, that daily forgiveness. But I guess it’s just too easy to get used to the truths of Scripture; the state of what I was and have now become because of Christ. I wish it wasn’t.

So I decided that I need to pray the prayer that David prayed. And not just once, but daily. That every morning I need to humble my heart as I approach His throne and say:

“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.” – Psalm 51:12  NASB

I want the wonder back.

Praise in Adversity

by Sarah Langness

I love my son. I love his high-pitched squeals and “songs”. I love his smile that takes up his entire face. I love his newly found sounds of “da-da-da” and “ba-ba-ba”, along with other vowel/consonant combinations I cannot spell. That little man fills me with such joy! But I’ll be honest, this last week when he and I were up at three in the morning for the sixth straight night, both tired of bulb syringes, I was not filled with joy. I was exhausted.

It’s easy for us to accept the good things in life, isn’t it? It’s easy for us to praise God in the easy situations, in the times filled with joy. But it’s a whole different story when trouble comes. Our joy turns to mourning. Our praise turns to questioning. Our thanks turns to doubt.

This morning as I drank a day-old cup of coffee and read over the first two chapters of Job, I was struck by something Job said to his wife. Everything but his life (and the life of his wife) was taken. His oxen. His sheep. His camels. His servants. His children. His health. And when his wife yells at him, telling Job to just to get it over with – to curse God and die – his response is startling: 

“Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” – Job 2:10

Shall we indeed!  We love it when God blesses us. But what about when He sends trials? Not so much, eh?

We forget sometimes that God isn’t surprised at the trials that come our way. We forget that He has a purpose in those trials. We forget that His goodness is not dependent upon our circumstances. We may even forget that He is with us during those difficult times.

“He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. . . He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’ so that we confidently say, ‘The LORD is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me? Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” – Hebrews 12:10-11; 13:5-6, 8

I’m not saying that adversity is easy to take or that its weight isn’t crushing. But in those moments of deep pain and utter darkness, may we do as Job did turn to the LORD. To the One who knows and understands our pain. To the One who deserves our praise and thanks no matter how strong the storm around us.

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.Blessed be the name of the LORD.'” – Job 1:20-21