Joy and willingness

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. – Psalm 51:12, NIV

Do you ever have one of those days or times in your life where you hear different things on peace and joy and fullness? You hear these things and you start to wonder what that is like? You think to yourself the last time you truly felt peace. When was that?

This has been on my mind recently. Different sermons and songs I listen to keep talking about peace and joy. They speak of such great and wondrous peace. They talk about a heart that is yearning to know some type of rest. All around me now seems like there are many things going on. The world and stresses and obligations of this world start to wear on me. My heart turns from being vertically minded and focused on God to being horizontally minded and things of this world.

It amazes me how fast the devil can cloud my peace. I can feel and see the storms and chaos but that inner delight, that joy, that fullness seems like it is nowhere to be found. While David wrote this Psalm during a difficult and convicting time in his life, I can relate to how he feels when struggling with the weight of sin and not being connected to the Source of life. But as with today, in the mundane tasks of life and just another day, I lose sight of the joy of salvation. I lose sight and forget about what abundant peace our Father in heaven gives. A gift that cost so much yet out of the fullness of His grace, He showered it and continues to shower it upon us.

All too often I think the joy of salvation should be something it isn’t. I probably feel like I should be on this spiritual nonstop high. And maybe that is it. But what is the joy of salvation to me? It is even on bad days, long days, boring days being so delighted in God. Being so delighted that it overflows to the various parts of your life. Remembering the truths that God has told us in His divine Word. Remembering who God is. An awareness or an awake-ness of God begins to well up inside of me. A thirst to be connected to our heavenly Father. That even in the midst of a bad situation we can lift our eyes to heaven and faithfully say, “Your will be done.” Knowing that what God has planned, is beyond our imagination, beyond all knowledge and is right because He is sovereign. A joy so strong that we can honestly look upon Him and remind ourselves and say “I need God more than the next breath, heartbeat. I need you God more than anything. More than words can say.”

The thing with joy is it’s when we can give God praise in good times and bad times, in happy times and sad times, in abundant times and meager times. When we simply kneel in awe of the only awe-inspiring thing. That joy of salvation could even lead us to tears when we simply think about what He did in Jesus. We can’t believe that something or someone would do that for us. That in times of depression and loneliness, there is someone who wants to spend time with us, know us and loves us. That through the struggle and scars of not having a father, we have a heavenly Father who made us His children. He tells us to unpack our bags and gives us refrigerator rights for the greatest fruits imaginable in joy or peace or love or faith or grace or any quality of our great and mighty God.

One of my favorite parts of this verse though is David realizing that not only does he need the joy of salvation again after feeling so low for what he did, but asking God to give him a spirit of obedience. A spirit of saying yes to God no matter what it may mean because he knows that the only thing that will sustain him is not of this world, but the Creator of this world and all things. David knows that the only way he can keep going is by being connected to God. Connected to the Sustainer and Giver of life. David knows he needs to eat but the only thing that will satisfy him is to feast on God and His great love. He knows that nothing compares to God or knowing Him. He tasted and saw the goodness of God and wants to taste that goodness again (Psalm 34:8).

For me personally, I know that in those brief moments that I have an attitude of yes toward God that there comes one of the sweetest gifts with that. It is the gift of joy. When I actually obey God and do His Will that is one of the greatest and best gifts I could ever have. It is beyond compare. To simply say yes to God fills me with such sweet joy that I just want more of it. My desire is there, but so often my spirit isn’t. That is why I need to ask this daily, even hourly. I need a willing spirit, because God is my life and only He will sustain me. Not food or money or fame or relationships or success, but the simple joy of obedience. “I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart. (Psalm 40:8, NIV)”

Today, I ask God for a willing spirit to sustain us. To restore the joy of salvation and be reminded of what He has done for us, who He made us and how great and awesome is our Great God. The God of peace, rest and everlasting joy. I pray that we will confess we haven’t always had joy in prayer or reading God’s Word or our relationship. We confess that, but ask God to help us and may we receive his joy.

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Downcast and disturbed

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. – Psalm 42:5, NIV

Why are you so torn? Why so lost? Where has your hope gone? Why so anxious? So worried? In this Psalm, as well as Psalm 43, this verse is repeated two other times. The Psalm strikes me as it is filled with such emotion. The writers start out in verse 1 by recognizing their need. They recognize what their soul is longing for. I pray and hope that we would stop trying to fill our thirst with all these other things of this world. The writers recognized the only thing that could fill their thirst. But what strong and powerful words that are used, “…my soul pants for you, my God.” (italics mine)

You can almost feel their emotion. I can just imagine these sons of Korah on their knees almost writhing in pain, pounding the ground with their arms. Then opening their arms open with tears in their eyes almost with a loud voice filled with hurt and pain. They know they need their God. They know nothing else will do. “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (verse 2). They remind us that where we need to be in our hurt and pain is in the presence of God. When we feel so low and are left so unsatisfied with things of this world, they know the only thing that will satisfy is God. The only thing that gives them hope. The only thing that can satisfy their hunger. Their souls long to be with God. To drink from His infinite well and they will stop at nothing to do that. As they cry out, they just want to know when they will be with God. They want to be where the Fountain of Life is. “When?” they ask.

Oh how we feel their pain. How we feel what they are saying. Those times when nothing will do. As our longings for heaven grow stronger, we know there isn’t something right with this world. We know we weren’t made for it. Our soul longs to be in the garden again taking a stroll in the cool of the day with our Father. What beautiful those longings are. But oh how we try to satisfy those longings with things that do not matter.

As the enemy attacks us, we fall into traps of trying to fill these deep longings for a closeness to God with superficial desires. That in turn leads the enemy to tempt us with the thoughts that the people said in verse 3, “Where is your God?” A problem is that He has been here the whole time, but we took matters into our own hands and tried to fill those longings with the things of this world. Whether that is money, relationships, power, security, fame, success, sex, drugs, alcohol or whatever it may be, these things leave us empty and only more aware of our thirst. Our soul becomes even more aware. It becomes downcast because we haven’t been in communion with its food. It needs the nourishment that comes from God. It needs that connection of being fed. Being fed essentially from the inside out. While we struggle to work on the cleaning the outside of the cup like the Pharisees, the inside (crucial longings) get ignored. Our soul as this verse points out becomes disturbed. It becomes sad and depressed because the only thing that can bring it joy is the hope of God. The communion that comes from being with the Almighty Father.

What I love in the second part of this verse is that you can almost feel a quick change in the emotions of the writers. To go from so sad, so down, so depressed and writhing on the floor by not having that fellowship with God, that it is almost like the Spirit pokes them and reminds them, “Put your hope in God…”. This is a great reminder for us. As the enemy attacks and life brings us down, this points us to put our hope in God. Only God. As we do that, our hearts and souls will turn to praise Him.

We will quickly be reminded how good our God is and who He is that even in all the hurt and pain and toil and torment, we will want to praise God because He is working in us. He has a plan and is in control. As it states in verse 6, “…therefore I will remember you…” we will need to remember who God is, what He has done and how all things are possible. As we remember who God is and what He can do, as we put our hope in Him, we will be swept over with peace and the reminders of a great and powerful God. “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. (verse 7)” But the writers don’t just leave us there to be in the sea of God’s grace, but shows that God (verse 8) “directs his love, at night his song is with me…” God is with us and loves us. In the midst of these hard times, even when we have dug our own cisterns, God loves us and is pointing His love toward us.

The writers finish this Psalm with a prayer and so should we turn to God in prayer. So should we talk to God and being in communion and fellowship with Him. He will lead us and direct us. And thankfully we never have to worry that God will leave us or forget us. We have a God of hope and love. We have a Savior that is worthy of praise. As we long and seek to fill this thirst, I pray that our thirst will grow and that we will drink from the unending well that is the Great and Almighty God. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ during His temptation told Satan clearly, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Turn your thirst to God and pant after Him. Drink from Him and experience the rest and joy of being satisfied in Him. Eat from the Bread of Life!

Downcast and disturbed

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. – Psalm 42:5, NIV

Why are you so torn? Why so lost? Where has your hope gone? Why so anxious? So worried? In this Psalm, as well as Psalm 43, this verse is repeated two other times. The Psalm strikes me as it is filled with such emotion. The writers start out in verse 1 by recognizing their need. They recognize what their soul is longing for. I pray and hope that we would stop trying to fill our thirst with all these other things of this world. The writers recognized the only thing that could fill their thirst. But what strong and powerful words that are used, “…my soul pants for you, my God.” (italics mine)

You can almost feel their emotion. I can just imagine these sons of Korah on their knees almost writhing in pain, pounding the ground with their arms. Then opening their arms open with tears in their eyes almost with a loud voice filled with hurt and pain. They know they need their God. They know nothing else will do. “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (verse 2). They remind us that where we need to be in our hurt and pain is in the presence of God. When we feel so low and are left so unsatisfied with things of this world, they know the only thing that will satisfy is God. The only thing that gives them hope. The only thing that can satisfy their hunger. Their souls long to be with God. To drink from His infinite well and they will stop at nothing to do that. As they cry out, they just want to know when they will be with God. They want to be where the Fountain of Life is. “When?” they ask.

Oh how we feel their pain. How we feel what they are saying. Those times when nothing will do. As our longings for heaven grow stronger, we know there isn’t something right with this world. We know we weren’t made for it. Our soul longs to be in the garden again taking a stroll in the cool of the day with our Father. What beautiful those longings are. But oh how we try to satisfy those longings with things that do not matter.

As the enemy attacks us, we fall into traps of trying to fill these deep longings for a closeness to God with superficial desires. That in turn leads the enemy to tempt us with the thoughts that the people said in verse 3, “Where is your God?” A problem is that He has been here the whole time, but we took matters into our own hands and tried to fill those longings with the things of this world. Whether that is money, relationships, power, security, fame, success, sex, drugs, alcohol or whatever it may be, these things leave us empty and only more aware of our thirst. Our soul becomes even more aware. It becomes downcast because we haven’t been in communion with its food. It needs the nourishment that comes from God. It needs that connection of being fed. Being fed essentially from the inside out. While we struggle to work on the cleaning the outside of the cup like the Pharisees, the inside (crucial longings) get ignored. Our soul as this verse points out becomes disturbed. It becomes sad and depressed because the only thing that can bring it joy is the hope of God. The communion that comes from being with the Almighty Father.

What I love in the second part of this verse is that you can almost feel a quick change in the emotions of the writers. To go from so sad, so down, so depressed and writhing on the floor by not having that fellowship with God, that it is almost like the Spirit pokes them and reminds them, “Put your hope in God…”. This is a great reminder for us. As the enemy attacks and life brings us down, this points us to put our hope in God. Only God. As we do that, our hearts and souls will turn to praise Him.

We will quickly be reminded how good our God is and who He is that even in all the hurt and pain and toil and torment, we will want to praise God because He is working in us. He has a plan and is in control. As it states in verse 6, “…therefore I will remember you…” we will need to remember who God is, what He has done and how all things are possible. As we remember who God is and what He can do, as we put our hope in Him, we will be swept over with peace and the reminders of a great and powerful God. “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. (verse 7)” But the writers don’t just leave us there to be in the sea of God’s grace, but shows that God (verse 8) “directs his love, at night his song is with me…” God is with us and loves us. In the midst of these hard times, even when we have dug our own cisterns, God loves us and is pointing His love toward us.

The writers finish this Psalm with a prayer and so should we turn to God in prayer. So should we talk to God and being in communion and fellowship with Him. He will lead us and direct us. And thankfully we never have to worry that God will leave us or forget us. We have a God of hope and love. We have a Savior that is worthy of praise. As we long and seek to fill this thirst, I pray that our thirst will grow and that we will drink from the unending well that is the Great and Almighty God. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ during His temptation told Satan clearly, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Turn your thirst to God and pant after Him. Drink from Him and experience the rest and joy of being satisfied in Him. Eat from the Bread of Life!

Casting for anxieties

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7

You ever have one of those weeks where it seems that each day has its new challenge. Each day the calendar is full and the demands are many. Then, when you think things couldn’t get any crazier, it does. Your week goes from long to agonizingly long and you don’t look forward to the next new day. There are times when we feel we can barely make it through this day. Your strength is sapped around 9 AM. Your confidence is gone and it seems like it left days ago. It seems like everything you do or touch or say is wrong.

I feel like that is the story of my week. Each day I am not looking forward to and it has already been way too long. The demands that work puts on us is so much at times. The anxiety of tomorrow and the next day and the rest of the week is just too much right now that I want to run away from it all. The anxieties are weighing me down. I feel like each passing moment is another moment to call on God for grace and help because this world is beating me down.

But actually, that is what I need to do. I need God’s grace and help constantly, especially on these tough days. Because as I get worn down from the different beatings, the wrongs, the failures, I need the help of God so much. But that is when the verse in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “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. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” comes to life. That is when God reminds me, I can’t do this nor do I need to try. For when I am low, when I am weak, when I am struggling so much, that is when I need to call on Him and I will be at my strongest. It is funny that when things are fine and going well, that I am weak because those are the days I rely on self.

Jesus reminds us in Matthew 11: 28-30 about not being burdened with the things of this world, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Rest. Sweet, sweet rest. While the burdens and cares of this life weigh us down, while this world tries to strip life away from us, Jesus promises us a way to be free. A way to not be burdened by the things of this world. A way to turn it all over to Him and let God be in control. The stresses of life and bad days and weeks create all sorts of different problems. Tiredness, stress, anger, bad attitude and so much more. But God offers us an escape. When we give to God our cares, worries and anxieties, He promises us in 1 Peter 5:7 that He will help us because He does care for us. So much more than we could ever, ever imagine.

God cares so much for you that even the things that seem like the smallest irritation; even He cares about because it is something that is bothering us. God cares for us. He cares about all aspects of our lives. How awesome and amazing is that! God wants a deep, personal and intimate relationship with us that no matter how big or small the anxieties are He wants to know. He knows them already. More than we could imagine and know about, yet He wants to hear from us. He wants us to remember Him. He promises us what this world can never promise us. Hope. While we struggle and fight for control in this world, God simply tells us to give all our anxieties to Him and He will take care of it. Why? Because He cares for us. He wants to see our dependence on Him. What wonderful joys come when we let God be God. When we get out of His way and trust Him with our worries and burdens, He gives us such an amazing peace. He comes to our rescue.

The thing we struggle with is control and thinking we can do it or that God needs our help. God needs nothing. God created all things, so He can handle our problems. He is already there, working in it. But we need to let go. We have to trust. And when you think about it, why would we not trust the only thing worthy of trust. We know that things won’t always work out the way we may want or desire, but God has a plan. That plan is beyond our comprehension, but God is good. God is for you. “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31, NIV).

As we struggle in the tough times. As the world brings us down, God offers hope. Give Him your worries because when everyone else doesn’t seem to care or listen. When everyone else in your life isn’t hearing you or your pain or your struggle and all you want is just to be heard. You want to know that someone is actually listening to you and your pain and it seems no one understands. It seems that others aren’t hearing the words coming out of your mouth. They are too busy trying to solve your problem. Telling you what to do and how to feel or not feel. Remember this verse from 1 Peter. God is with you and wants to hear from you. He will listen and is listening now. He knows those pains already. He knows what you are struggling with. He has felt that pain and knows those struggles. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15, NIV). God wants to hear from you. He cares for you. He will listen. But we also need to listen to Him and what he is moving us to do. Talk to Him and give Him your worries, anxieties and cares. He will help. He is waiting for you.

Finally, I leave you with a simple promise from our Great Lord and Savior about tomorrow. Listen to His words in Matthew 6:31-34, “31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (italics mine). Talk to God. What is He saying? Keep listening. Keep giving Him your cares, for He is already at work. He will and is helping you! Blessings brothers and sisters.

A prayer in chains

Ephesians 6:20 – for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should

As we finish this section in Ephesians 6, Paul does two things in this short verse: (1) He reminds us that he was in chains for proclaiming the Gospel and (2) reiterates that he may declare it fearlessly as was done in the previous verse.

First, Paul is such an amazing example for all of us. He was not scared and was never ashamed of his faith. Even if it meant losing everything, he would keep on preaching it. Paul didn’t care about his comfort. He followed the same path as Christ. They never worried about their comfort. In fact, they lived very uncomfortable lives. The life of Christ is such a reminder that we never need to seek the comforts of this world. We never need to seek things in this world that will only fail us and let us down.

As Paul points out that he is in chains for his faith, he reminds us that this life and the things of this world doesn’t matter in Philippians 3:8 (NIV), “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” The surpassing worth of knowing Christ. WOW, that is powerful! As Paul wrote this from a prison in Rome, he asked in verse 19 and the continuation into this verse that as he was in chains, he wanted to make the most of the opportunities to fearlessly and boldly tell the Gospel to those around him.

He knew that God had him there for a reason. He knew that this was a beautiful opportunity to tell the guards and other prisoners of the hope of Christ. That even though they were physically in chains, they could have spiritual freedom. He felt that freedom and wanted to share that with others. The same freedom that brought him to that cell. I love that no matter what was happening in life to Paul, he was so filled with God’s love and it overflowed in him that he wanted to share it with all. Nothing else mattered. He took God’s charge seriously. And so should we.

I struggle greatly with thoughts of “Why am I here? In this place, what is my purpose?” I struggle with how to make a difference in a corporate environment when I have this inner thing inside of me reminding me I wasn’t made for this. But, this is where God has me for now and I must and want to honor that.

I think about Joseph and all those years that passed between the time he was thrown in the pit and the time he came to be Pharaoh’s right hand man that led to seeing his family again and the eventual protection of God’s children. I think of the time that passed between when God told Abraham he was going to have a child to actually having Isaac.

God has this great and masterful plan that is beyond our comprehension and there is this big story going on up there. This upper story is happening but it is one we can’t see because we get stuck in the lower story. We get lost in the trees and can’t see we are in a forest. The lower story is what is in front of us now and what we can see. The upper story is essentially the 50,000 foot view. It sees a whole range of things happening.

The point is that as God has us in our different places for a reason. He is working in us. It may be to get us back on track because we made a wrong decision. Or out of no fault of our own, to grow and be used for some purpose in the future like Joseph. Just like Paul who was in chains used this time to write inspired letters and help those without hope come to know what hope is. Through Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, he was able to reach a whole new set of people. But it had to come on God’s terms, not his.

Secondly, as we discussed in the last post, Paul mentions once again to declare the Gospel fearlessly. What I love is at the end he throws in “as I should” reminding us that we should all do that. We get so caught up in what people think and what will happen if we even mention the name Jesus, yet Paul tells us so simply it is what we should do. We should tell people of the wonderful hope that God offers. We should show those around the peace of God even in such troubling and hurtful times. Fearlessly cling to God asking Him for help and wisdom to handle the toughest parts of life. Asking God to help us and strengthen us even when life seems so good.

This verse while short is powerful. We may be persecuted. We may get thrown in prison. People will leave us and fail us. We will experience pain. But we have a task. A task to glorify God not because He needs us. Not for our glory or to earn our salvation. But out of being a benefactor of the Great Giver and being so satisfied in Him that we delight to do His will and are so overjoyed with Him that the joy and love that overflows in us reaches out to meet the needs of those around us. God is good. We should adore Him. What a great and amazing joy it is to be called a co-heir with Christ.

I am left with the great old hymn “It is well with my soul”.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul, It is well, with my soul,It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,Let this blessed assurance control,That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well, with my soul,It is well, with my soul,It is well, it is well, with my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well, with my soul,It is well, with my soul,It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,It is well, with my soul,It is well, it is well, with my soul.

A Prayer for fearless words

Ephesians 6:19 – Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,

Every time I have come across this verse, it has stood out to me. I start praying that for myself. I pray that God will give me the words to speak. I pray also for the boldness and courage to speak up, let alone speak those God given words. But what I forget to do all too often is pray for other believers, especially pastors, preachers and missionaries, to be given those words to speak. On a rare occasion I might pray for them, but all too often I take what they are about to say in a church service for granted. These are the people who we should be praying for so much, which probably relates more to verse 18 when it says to pray for other believers.

But, for some reason, it hit me that I need to be more intentional about praying for our church leaders, our churches, the missionaries around the world to be open to what God is telling them to say. And to say those words. Fearlessly and boldly. But for this verse, it strikes me that Paul shows such humility in asking God for the words to say to people. A man so inspired by God and full of the Spirit showing us what it means to follow Jesus and have a heart like God. As we pray, we seek God. We ask Him for help. We are desiring to have a heart like Him. A heart to be constantly dependent on Him. That is the glimpse I see here in Paul. A man so wise and knowledgeable yet shows his humility and shows us that no matter how much we think we know we will always need words. We will always need our Father in heaven to give us those words that will pertain to that particular person or crowd. Paul shows his reliance and need for God so that God gets all the glory.

All too often I have to be reminded with asking for boldness and words like what is shown here. But Paul doesn’t just leave us this one verse to show us this, but he writes something similar in Colossians 4:2, “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.” So one of my biggest takeaways from Ephesians 6:19 is that each day and probably on a constant basis throughout the day, I need to keep asking God for the words to say when we talk to people. It is weird how God can take a simple conversation and suddenly make it turn into a spiritual one. Sometimes we are caught off guard, sometimes we are intentional, but no matter what we need the words of God.

I think all too often I worry about saying the right words or right things to do in that moment, but what God reminds me of, if I am obedient to Him and do what He asks, it won’t matter what I say. He will work in their heart and let them hear the words they need. Essentially, God is working in them and if I have the blessing to be used as a tool then that is completely awesome. I just pray for the obedience and boldness to do what God asks.

It may be speaking words to reveal the Gospel, but it may also be showing Jesus to them in different ways. God may open doors through ways that we never thought of and it may happen without us saying a word. But to go back to something earlier in Ephesians 6, we must be prepared. Be alert like in verse 18. Keep praying to God for ways to show the Gospel. Keep praying for doors to be open. Persevering in prayer about be used for Kingdom purposes.

What I get reminded of is that God can accomplish so much through someone as weak as I am. The way it will happen will be in ways that He gets the glory. On my own, I will fail, but with the help of God and His strength and power, the impossible is possible. No one is ever too far out of the reach of God.

I pray that we will be alert to different opportunities to share God with those around us. I pray that we will be on fire for a God or at least a spark and that a spark will happen wherever we are. It is a matter of life and death. This is serious business. We need the help of God to make known the mysteries to those around us. While they may be struggling, what an opportunity to point them to the peace and hope in Christ. To show them or help them see there is a God who has a will and nothing is out of his control. While the world is full of chaos, God is our Rock and fortress. He knows us and calls us His children. We can show them, by His boldness, the mystery of why we can be called righteous and justified. That there is hope in the salvation of Christ.

So on this day, I pray that you and I and all the brothers and sisters in Christ may proclaim the Gospel and all its mysteries to the lost. Our friends. Our families. Our neighborhoods. Our work places. Our cities. Our states. Wherever. God is with you. Get out of His way and let Him work in and through you. He will give you what you need. Ask Him! Just ask your Father and He will provide. Satan will attack but pray for boldness. I hope we will all have the boldness and courage we need. I know that I need it. Pray for me as Paul said. I pray for you that we may declare the Gospel to those around us. I pray that our lives may be examples of Christ. I pray that we will show and share and be willing to share what God has done. By the grace of God, it can be done. God we need you, help us as only you can to be strong and faithful. Help us O Lord to make known these mysteries. We need you Father! We need you in all things. Give us words, your words. Help us that you get the glory. Not for ours, but all for your glory. Amen.

Be alert and pray

Ephesians 6:18 – 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 Lord’s people.

God is faithful. Never once has He left us. He will lead us on this journey. I have been wondering about the “pray in the Spirit” part of this verse. What does that mean? What does that look like? I know that is what I should do, but how do I do that?

In Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, he says that it is performed by having the heart, the soul and our spirit engaged in it. By this he means to pray by putting up a true heart, a right spirit without hypocrisy (see: how the Pharisee and the tax collector prayed), and in a spiritual way with a fervency and assistance from the Spirit.

What I love about the Spirit is that God knew how much help we would need. He knew how weak we were so He gave a part of the Trinity to us to be our Advocate and our Counselor. God reminds us through the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans 8:26 what the Spirit can do for us: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” I love that because how often do we feel like we need to talk to God or want to talk to God, but because of some hurt or pain or distress, we just don’t know what to say. Or we worry we will say the wrong thing. The Spirit helps us!

We also need to remember who we are praying to. We are praying to our Father. Our dad. God, your Father wants to talk with you. He knows what you need. He knows what your requests are, but He still wants to hear from you. He wants to have that relationship with you. God already knows our needs but the reason it is good for us to say our needs is because we admit we can’t do it. We admit that we need God to handle this situation. That is what is so special about what Christ says in the famous Lord’s Prayer, “…Give us this day our daily bread…” We confess that we can’t do it on our own. We submit to the perfect, holy, pleasing and good will of God. We admit we need what only He can give and only what He can do.

How many different verses does Jesus remind us that if we pray in the Spirit and for things of the Kingdom, that God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, the Giver of all life, the Sustainer, the Healer will give us exactly what that is? As long as it is for the kingdom and as James says in the first chapter of his book, we need to pray expecting an answer and not be double minded.

God has a plan and may or may not answer our prayers but He knows best. Imagine some of the prayers you have lifted up for a second if they had been answered. Imagine how your life would be different. God knows what is right. Life will be tough. It will be hard. Many bad things are going to happen. But none of it surprises God. He is in charge. Trust in God. Trust in Jesus. But there is a God who wants to have a greater relationship with us. He wants our soul awakened to new heights so that we may see Him in new and powerful ways.

That is also why Paul reminds to always pray. On all occasions. With all different types of prayers and request. There are so many of us who the first thing we turn to is not God, we turn to a friend or a spouse. God wants to hear from us. Not just when we are in stressful situations when we have tried too hard and for too long to do it on our own. He wants to hear from us from the beginning. He wants us to turn these things over to Him. Only God can help us. This verse reminds us that we should be in constant communion with God. We should be constantly talking with God about everything. Take that time stuck in traffic to worship our God. Take the time waiting in the long line at the grocery store to ask God for patience and grace. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 it says, “Pray continually.” Again in Colossians 4:2, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Paul reminds us of virtually the same thing in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God.” But Paul doesn’t stop there, he shows us a beautiful and priceless gift for our prayers in verse 7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” That is such a spectacular reminder.

This goes with the last part of the verse as well. Look how the NASB translates this: “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” Essentially, keep on praying and be persistent about it. Remember the story of the persistent widow in Luke 18. Be alert. Jesus reminded the disciples of that in Mark 13:33, “Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.” Be always on your guard and ready for prayer. Be ready with a spirit of prayer. Not just against the temptations of evil, but also for opportunities to do good and serve the Lord.

Think about for a moment the wonderful opportunity God has given us by allowing us to share in His kingdom by praying to Him for others, for situations, for our brothers and sisters in Christ, for the spreading of the Gospel. Remember prayer isn’t just something to be said before you eat. Prayer is a beautiful opportunity to share with God who wants to hear from you. He is inviting you to conversation and given you the direct line. God will amaze you with what prayer can do. Ask Him to restore the joy of prayer. Ask Him for a greater prayer life. It doesn’t have to be anything special. Just talk with God. Oh what joy we have that we can talk to God. Thank you Jesus for removing that veil that we can come directly to the Father.

A helmet and a sword

“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17, NIV)

As the armor gets completed, the Christian is left with two important things in Ephesians 6:17. One is a helmet to protect his head. The second is the only offensive weapon given. But what a powerful weapon it is. It goes beyond all measure and cannot be imagined or fathomed just how strong and powerful it is.

Without salvation, there would be no hope. The cares of this world would get to us. We wouldn’t have anything to look forward to. Yet, throughout Scripture, both in the Old and New Testaments are countless verses on salvation.

So in this final verse on the armor of God, God tells us to protect our head. Protect the vitally important head. Protect yourself from blows to the head that could be fatal. While our heart is so vital and important, think for a moment of all the various things that happen in your head. The senses that occur, from sight to sound to smell to taste to feel. Think about how Satan likes to twist our thoughts and our words. How our mood and attitude is governed by our brain.

God know how important our minds are. Paul references our mind in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Without this strong and mighty helmet of salvation, what hope do we have? All we have is a world with no hope, no joy and no satisfaction. There is nothing.

And while our minds are a target, so are our eyes and ears. The things that the world tries to distract us with are hard. It will throw all sorts of fleeting “pleasures” at us to try and lure us away from one of the most beautiful things we could ever look at, Our Father in heaven. All around us, God reveals Himself and His glory to us. From a beautiful moonlit night to a beautiful sunset. To the birth of a newborn or wonderful wedding day. The beauty of standing on a mountain overlooking a wondrous valley. The sounds of nature around us, like a bird singing in the morning. Throughout this world, God is revealing Himself to us daily. It may be loud or the gentle whisper in a breeze of wind, but how awesome is our God. May our senses be opened to the ways God is revealing Himself to us this day!

So with this helmet of salvation, we have hope. We have hope for a future. We have hope of one day being in a place where there is no pain, no suffering, no sin, no heartache, no guilt, even no taxes! But greater than a place where those things are no more, it is a place of abundance. It is the place of the greatest richest gift that is beyond all compare, the place when we will finally fully be with God. The longings we feel now will be more than satisfied and never yearn anymore. Salvation is such a great gift. A priceless gift. A gift that was bought in the blood of a sacrificial Lamb.

So wear your helmet, proudly and securely. The attacks will come. Suffering will happen and there will be persecution, but you have a God who says there is nothing to fear with Him, “The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1, NIV).

Finally, God reminds us to hold onto His Word, to apply it and remember it. By hiding it in our heart, we have a great weapon to attack these struggles with. We have a way to fight back against the enemy. We can stand on firm foundation of truth that is the Word of God.

I don’t always read the Word of God with the conviction or joy that I should. I fail more times than not. But what amazes me is how when I am able to seek God with all my heart, to truly delight in His Word, how powerful those times are. When we struggle with something or some event happens, it is so awesome to me when that Scripture I just read essentially comes to life and I am able to recall it. Or even when I am talking with someone about a random event that happened to them, that verse or reading almost seems applicable to them as I talk with them even though I read it only a few short minutes or hours ago.

When we call out to God that we need Him and turn His Word, it is amazing how He comes through. That doesn’t mean the devil stops attacking or trying to distract us or say this doesn’t apply, but oh how beautiful when we have those powerful, impactful times of being in the Word of God. There are still times I don’t take joy or delight in the Bible or prayer like I should. Why I don’t, I am not sure. It probably has something to do with the sin of busy-ness or hurriedness but it is something God has been working in me.

What I love about this verse is how God didn’t leave us to do this on our own. He gave us His Word and the Helper. John 14:26 says “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” What a beautiful promise over and over and over throughout Scripture with God giving us the Holy Spirit. God is with us. God is in us. God will never leave us. By the strength of the Spirit, we can live for God. By the Spirit, He lifts up our request to be in perfect harmony with the will of God. He speaks for us even when we don’t know what to say.

I want to leave you with some of the lyrics from the song “Salvation is here” and be reminded of the promises of God. Hear what God did for you and continues to do:

Cause I know my God saved the day
And I know His word never fails
And I know my God made a way for me
Salvation is here
…Cause You are alive and You live in me
…salvation is here and it lives in me
…Salvation is here that died just to set me free

Salvation is here!!!

Good and faithful shield

Ephesians 6:16 – In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

How often do we forget the foundations of faith in Jesus in the troublesome times? I know that in these times I feel completely fragile. I feel the chaos that surrounds me is so thick that it becomes hard to breathe. I, like Peter when he started to walk toward Jesus on the water, take my eyes of Jesus. My attention doesn’t naturally turn toward faith in these times. My natural tendency is be overwhelmed with the anxiety and worry.

In the same way, during times of trouble or attacks from the evil one, the natural tendency of my flesh is to get so burdened by the weight of guilt from the temptation. The attacks come and keep coming, my flesh fails and sin overtakes me. I get down and begin to feel worthless. I wonder how anyone can love a person like me, so full of evil. So full of a flesh likely to fail and chase after worthless earthly things. In these times, I cannot wait for heaven where sin is no more.

I am thankful for what Christ has done in words I can’t express. All too often I take that precious and priceless gift for granted. I don’t delight in God like I should. I make prayer more of a box to check off than remember the awe inspiring gift of being before the Almighty Creator of everything. I forget that I can call the one and only God, the true King of Kings and Lord of Lords, my father. The Father. How often do we not delight in prayer or in the Word of God? How often do we feel the joy of salvation nowhere near us.

In a scene from a movie, I picture hundreds of flaming arrows being shot at all of us each day. The imagery of us being shot with these flaming arrows piercing our flesh. The shock on our face as our jaw drops. The puzzled look as to what is happening. Then another arrow. We fall to our knees as it feels like we can’t breathe. The hurt has taken over. Feeling almost paralyzed then one more. As the devil attacks, on our own we are helpless. We have been defeated. We cannot win. The battle is over. We fall to the ground with arrows sticking out of our body.

Yet time and time again, Jesus comes and picks us up. He removes the arrows from our lifeless body and gives us life. He tells us He loves us even though we failed. Discipline may come. He steadies us and carries us. Then, He reminds us what He left us with. He reminds us of faith. Faith in Him and who He is. Faith in what He has done. Faith in who He has made us and who we are now. While we may and will fail, He picks us up and brushes off the dirt. As we lay down our lives to Him, just as He rode that colt into Jerusalem, so He rides into our kingdom.

While we fail, the amazing thing is that we are loved and still called God’s children. When God looks upon us, He looks with a smile because of the glory of Christ and what Christ has done in our lives. As the flaming arrows of evil are shot at you each day, each hour, remember the shield that we have. While it may be a daunting task to look at this flaming arrow coming your way, we can remember what Christ did. He gave victory for us. He has let us overcome. Sometimes, many times actually, you won’t see the arrows come. All the sudden you will feel the sting of sin and temptation, but the shield of faith will extinguish it. Don’t try to fight it or put it out on your own. Call on Christ and “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

I know it is hard and it isn’t our natural tendency but this is one of those things that if we ask God to help us, how glad He will be to help us in these moments. How good it will be to have God teach us to take our eyes off the pain, the attacks and be focused on Him. For when we focus on God and who He is, when we remember what He has done, the power of those flaming arrows loses their power and no longer can they harm us.

The attacks and persecution will come every day. It will come in all shapes and sizes. They will also come from unexpected sources but God’s grace is enough! The grace of God will always be enough and it is more than enough. Even though the attacks wear us down and burden us, God reminds us to “…boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecution, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Delight in God. Delight in who He is and be satisfied in the fullness of life that He gives. What a promise! He will not leave us, even though the attacks will make us feel alone and fragile, He is here with us, for us and strengthening us!

I want to leave you with a beautiful promise that comes from a prayer that Jesus prayed in John 17. This comes from John 17:24, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” Jesus is for us. God will never forsake us. He is so patient and gracious and merciful and true. He fills us. He knows our every move. He dances over us. And Jesus wants His children to be where He is and to see HIS GLORY! I pray that we will have the spiritual awareness and awake-ness to sense how God is revealing Himself to us this day!