31 Days Of Prayer

Expectation

There is an amazing scripture found in Psalm 5 that speaks about our attitude in prayer:

"In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly."  Psalm 5:3

These words stir something in me and I am sure also in you.  Look at what the scripture says: God will hear our voice as we make our requests known, and then we are to wait for Him to respond with great expectation.  As you and I join with thousands of others during these 31 days of prayer, it is vital that we have not only a determination to pray, but also an expectation that our Lord will answer.  That is why the theme of "Ask, Seek, Knock, Believe: Finding Answers While Seeking Jesus" is so important. We are not just coming to this month of prayer to "get from Him," but to "know Him." For many of us, our prayer life consists of asking God for what we need Him to do for us, instead of allowing prayer to be a two way street of transforming interaction with the God who made us.  We make it a running wish list of new requests and endless needs.  I am glad that God never gets tired of hearing us pray, but as we begin this concentrated month of prayer, may I challenge you to start differently?

Today is October 1st. It is a fresh month with a full 31 days of possibilities and opportunities to hear from God.  What if instead of asking God for what we want, we first say "Lord, what do you want?" When the disciples saw Jesus praying in Luke 11, they wanted His kind of prayer power. So they asked, "Lord, teach us to pray."  Since we have been called as followers of Jesus to be His Disciples, let’s pause on this first day of the month and look at our all-powerful, all loving, ever faithful, full of grace and truth Savior, and ask questions like, "Lord, teach me to follow Your heart," or "Lord, show me what I have been missing in my life with you." Or simply, "Lord, I am listening; let me hear your voice."  Let your first "Ask" during this time of prayer not be about yourself or your desires, but let this first "Ask" be a big one.  "Lord Jesus, I am asking you to do in me and through me what you have planned for these next 31 days."

Then after making this all important request for more of Him, wait ... not with fear or doubt, but with expectation!  Expectation of His presence growing in your life. Expectation that you will be sensitive and will respond to His voice.  Expectation that God will show you things about Him that you have never seen before. I am excited for all of us on this 31 day journey.  I believe that God rewards all those who seek Him.  I believe that when we pray, He hears us, and I believe that our God is waiting for us to ...Ask!

-Pastor Mark Lehmann

"Ask, Seek, and Knock" Luke 11:9-10

I never really understood this verse until I started working with kids. I would always say, "I have asked God. I have sought Him and knocked nonstop." But after being around babies, I realize that I don't even come close to doing any of those things. An infant’s only way to communicate is through their cry. I am not a parent, but I'm starting to learn that not every cry (regardless of the intensity) is the same. The hungry cry is much different than the wanting to be held cry, yet a child will not stop crying until they get what they are asking for. If they just want to be held, food will not satisfy them or make them stop crying. A baby will literally cry themselves to sleep or cry themselves out of a voice if what they are asking for is not given to them. They know how to ask, seek, and knock without ceasing. What really surprises me isn't the child crying (although it fascinates me that God made us in such a way that even as children we know how to be persistent), but the parents that come to their aid. It doesn't matter how many times a baby cries; a mother and father will always go to answer their cry. They might wait a bit to see if the cry continues or to decipher what kind of cry it is. But whether it is because they are truly concerned for their child or just because they want the crying to stop, they rush to their aid. This is what I think He means by "it will be given unto you".

I have never seen a child apologize for asking or seeking their parent. I don't believe that an infant thinks to themselves, "Man, I should really leave my parents alone. I bugged them enough today. I literally cried like 5 times. Maybe I should wait a bit until my next cry." Why not? Because that is the only way they know to communicate. If they don't cry, they can die, and unfortunately, many of us are dying because we are refusing to cry. I think the reason we don't ask or seek or knock is because we are being satisfied by other things. If God isn't the only one that can satisfy your need, you'll look elsewhere and begin to cry to and for those things that satisfy you sooner. If your need is money but a job is providing that, who do you think you'll do your crying to? I recently took a trip with my cousin who was constantly on his phone. Halfway through the trip, his phone died. I thought to myself, "Finally! I'll get some time with my cousin to catch up and make memories!" But to my surprise, the next time we stopped to buy gas, he bought a car charger and was right back on his phone. I guess what his phone had to offer was better than what I could offer. It made me wonder how many times I have done that to God. I don't have anything else to do today, so I guess I'll seek Him. Then someone texts me or calls me and I'm like, "Just kidding Jesus, I'll seek later". Maybe God isn't rushing to our cry because we are not crying long enough to get His attention, or perhaps because we allow others to come to our aid. May we begin to turn our cries to the only One who can truly satisfy our needs. May we not be so focused on finding answers that we forget to seek Him. May our answers be found only in Him.

-Hagar Home Ministry in Romania

On the Margins

In thinking about a devotional, the Lord has laid on my heart the area of asking God how He wants to speak to us…….to touch souls.

Having ministered in Eastern Europe for over 20 years, the Lord has led us and directed us through many different areas of ministry. From church planting to teaching in Bible Schools. From evangelism to refugees.  But no area of ministry has impacted us more than our work among the Gypsy (Roma) people of Eastern Slovakia. Though the poorest of poor in Europe, there is a move of God that is taking place there like no other place we have ever seen. We are seeing village after village come to the saving knowledge of Jesus as their savior. This all started with a desire to reach these precious souls and a dream from the Lord. The Roma people of Europe are not only the poorest of the poor of Europe, but they are despised and rejected by the people of the countries they live in. Oft times they are forced to live in the slums and ghettoes on the outskirts of cities and towns.

After visiting this area several times, one night, the Lord gave my husband, Jim, a dream. In it, he saw a field filled with beautiful yellow flowers…….just filled to the brim. But at the edge of this field, all around the edges of the yellow flowers, there were beautiful bright red poppies growing. In the distance, Jim heard the sound of heavy machinery approaching. Huge farm vehicles ready to harvest the yellow flowers. As the vehicles came onto the field, they were literally crushing and destroying all the little red poppies. In that moment, the Lord spoke to Jim and said these little red poppies are the Roma of Eastern Europe……help them, care for them. Through this dream, Europe’s Heart was born and through Europe’s Heart, those that live among the margins of society are hearing the gospel and finding acceptance into His Kingdom.  Touch souls……reach out to those who live on the margins…..in doing so…" the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:40

-Sherry Sabella, Southeast Europe

 

The Lord needs it.”

This statement rings of ultimate power, absolute authority. Jesus sent his disciples into the village to untie a donkey and her foal with clear instructions. They were not to ask permission to take the animals—which were not theirs—nor even to notify the owner. Only if an explanation was demanded were they to say these words, and only these words. Nor were they told what to say or do if this rehearsed line was not accepted. There was no plan B because none was needed.

In the mouth of anyone else, the command to take the rightful owner’s property without so much as a “please, may I” or a simple “thank you” to acknowledge ownership would have been theft, and given the value of these animals, a serious crime.

But the Lord who sent the disciples spoke from a position of authority that transcended all other claims of ownership. This was the Creator speaking. He owned the donkeys as unquestionably as he owned every creature, the world they stood on, and the life they breathed. His claim of ownership predated every title, and when he asserted his claim, no laws were broken.

The scribes placed their careful trap, “Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"
“Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?”
“Caesar’s.”
“Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

To that conversation, Ravi Zacharias posits a follow-up question, “Whose image is stamped on you?” At creation, God said, “Let us make man in our own image.” The Creator rightfully claims every aspect of us. When we give back to him what is his—which is all that we are—we die to our own self-ness and live dead in his life.

Then we are sent with his authority to boldly loose bonds and lead men to Christ. They are his.
"Ask and they will be given to you."

-Larry Hall, Live Dead Africa/ Africa’s Hope

Isaiah 6:8-13

Isaiah 6 has long been a favorite text for missions mobilizers.  Many a man and woman have knelt at an altar and made that life defining ask: “Here am I! Send me.”  And we asked, little knowing what we were asking for.

Unfortunately, most missionary sermons and appeals end with verse 8 (Here I am, send me) instead of starting there.  The text in quick progression goes on to say: Go talk to people who won’t hear you, Go speak to a people who won’t understand you, (verses 9-10), Go on this fruitless errand until all things are laid waste and desolate (verse 11), Go and face a forsaken and desolate future (verse 12).

The “Here am I, send me” ask is a request from God to fail 90% of the time.  Verse 13 gives the hope that a tithe will survive and that the tree once cut down will leave a stump that can one day sprout again. If a tithe is what remains, that means 90% was lost. Our culture has a very demanding view of success. Who in our schools celebrates a 10% success rate or what sports fan praises teams that lose 90% of their games?

In the competitive war for souls, let us be clear that when we ask God to send us, we are asking Him to send us to contexts where if we win 10% of the people we witness to, we have done awesome.  Let us discard our ridiculous expectations without losing outrageous faith.  Let us remember that wide is the way to destruction and narrow the path to life, without diminished joy when one sinner repents.

Let us go back to the altar, and cry again with tears, “Here am I, send me!” but this time with the sober Biblical expectation that 90% of the people we share Christ with will reject us – and the great heavenly joy is that a tithe is prophesied, that though trees will be cut down, there will be life that springs out of the stump.

Biblical reality does not discourage; it propels us in hope to the task.  Out there ready to be found, out there waiting to be reached, out there longing to be rescued are a tithe of my assignment. Lord, that’s awesome!  Send me.  I ask for the strength to press through all the rejection to find the ones you have promised shall be saved.

-Dick Brogden, Arab World

Going To Our Friend

“Friend, lend me three loaves of bread!” The man keeps knocking. “Friend! I need some bread, and it can’t wait!” (Luke 11:5-8) How loud and long would it take to wake someone from deep sleep and get to the door with bread? The man knocking didn’t care, because his other friend needed bread. With this story, Jesus reminds us that asking, seeking, and knocking receives their answer (v. 9-10), and how much more so from our Heavenly Father who desires to give to His children? (v. 11-13) Jesus has shown us a concrete picture of intercession: we come to our Friend on behalf of the needs of another, and knock knock knock until He opens the door of blessing and gives the answer to our cries.

Church planting in the heart of the Buddhist world is not what you'd call fast. If we were washing dishes, it would be less like washing a water glass and more like scrubbing out a crusty lasagna pan that hasn’t soaked overnight. People have been “baked” in presumptions and misunderstandings about Christianity since birth. Both their culture and community teach practices and beliefs that are directly opposed to Jesus, and people’s minds are veiled to His truth (1 Cor 2:14; 2 Cor 4:4). Everywhere I go, I see temples and spirit houses and offerings to images and things unseen. My heart breaks when I feel the hopelessness of their worship and their efforts to gain good karma.

So I go to the Father. I ask God to touch that person bowing at an altar. I seek God for wisdom to speak His truth to my friend. I knock at the door of heaven for God to open my neighbor’s heart to Him.

And even as I come to Him on behalf of the one, I must also come to Him on behalf of the entire Buddhist world. I ask God to break strongholds of disbelief and false teachings. I seek God for His power to fill the Church and raise up laborers to serve in the Buddhist world. I knock knock knock—Lord, open eyes and minds and hearts of the millions here who have no concept of who You are and of Your love for them!

In all the asking, seeking, and knocking, for the one and for the many, I continue to believe that God is the good Friend, the good Father, who opens the door and faithfully responds to the prayers of His people—the one (you! me!) and the many (all of us!). Though it may be harder to see answers to the larger prayers we pray, we can have confidence in the character of our God to respond.

-Lauren Becker, Thailand

Humility

“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.”

-Luke 11:11-13

Asking and demanding are two very different things. If I say to my daughter, “Hey honey, it’s time for dinner so please set the table,” I am not really asking her; I am politely demanding something of her. I could set the table myself, but for some reason or another I am “asking” her to do. But if I turn to God in desperation and say, “Oh please God, I need your wisdom on how to resolve this problem,” then I am purely asking. I am saying that I cannot handle this situation on my own.

True asking requires humility. It shows the lack that is present in us. Anytime you ask someone for something you are saying in effect, “I cannot provide this in my own strength”. Anytime you ask someone for help you are in effect saying, “I cannot do this in my own strength.” This is rather humbling when you think about it.

This is especially true when it comes to asking our Heavenly Father. Asking means that we don’t have the answer or the resources. Like a little child, we humbly come before the Lord and say, “Please!” If we could do it all on our own, then we would not need God - but we need Him in everything that we do. We can ask for healing, for wisdom, for peace, for courage, for souls! We can ask on behalf of ourselves personally, a friend or family member, our church body, our nation or for the world. None of these things that I just listed are things that I can make happen in my own strength; they demand the supernatural power of God.

The encouraging thing that we must remember is that our God is a good God, a good Father who rewards those who humbly seek after Him. God answers our prayers made in humility and rewards us with His goodness.

Just like a little child, ask…and do it humbly.

-Alex Humphreys, Japan

 

Becoming Our Lord’s Prayer Partner

“Therefore He is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.” -Hebrews 7:25

When we look around at our world, we see the results of nations filled with people who have turned their backs on God.  People lost and hurting, like sheep without a shepherd.  It is remarkable that the world cries out to God when terrible events strike and yet forgets all too quickly that the God who is in the storm is also the God who is in the stillness. He is the unchanging, faithful, loving God who is not willing that anyone should perish without Him.  So, what if we would choose to partner with God in prayer? We would realize that He has given us His own list to pray for. Our Lord is always speaking to everyone on the planet, calling them to Him, calling them home.  This one truth should motivate our times of prayer with confidence and compassion. Since we know it is His will that everyone knows salvation and forgiveness first-hand, we can join with Jesus in prayer.  We can pray for new life in Jesus to come to those we love and to those we despise.  Jesus’ prayers are not biased towards a few but are beautifully passionate, covering all those who don't yet know Him.  In every corner of the world, in every dark spiritual alley, in every Park Avenue mansion and every thatched roof hut, Jesus is calling and Jesus is moving on hearts to come home.  Shouldn’t we be praying with our Lord about the same things that touch His heart? When was the last time that you got down on your knees to pray and said, “Lord, what would you have me pray about today?”

It reminds me of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane with some of His disciples. Even though He was in anguish, His disciples did not see the importance of praying for Him and with Him- so they went to sleep.  Jesus was shocked that they could not even pray for one hour at the worst moment in human history. We must learn that lesson from the disciples and not repeat it.

During this month of prayer, we can partner with Jesus over lost people everywhere. What an honor and what a responsibility to be a prayer partner with Jesus- to share His burden in prayer for changed hearts and transformed lives. Hebrews 7:25 says that He is interceding on the behalf of the lost, the hurting, and the broken.  Would you join our gracious God in interceding for the lost?  And as we are asking, seeking and knocking, never forget that we are not doing it alone.  Our Prayer Partner will tell us how to pray and who to intercede for as long as we are willing to listen and obey.

-Pastor Mark Lehmann

A God to Know

The 19th Psalm celebrates God’s self-revelation to people. The first 6 verses proclaim that God has made himself known to us through the natural world. Meditate on the poetic description of nature’s witness to God:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing
hidden from its heat. (1-6)

The second half of the Psalm speaks to us of God’s special and specific revelation of himself. The Psalmist proclaims that God shows himself to us through his Word and that we are made wise, joyful and holy by knowing God:

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the
LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are
right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter
also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (vs. 7-11)

With these words, the Psalmist encourages us with an assurance that the Lord is a God who delights in revealing himself to us, both through the world he made and through the Word he speaks. He is not a hidden God, but one who knows and is known by his creation—that’s you and me! Our meditation this month brings us back to the promise that if we knock, ask or seek, God will respond. He’s not going to hide himself from you. He causes the stars in the sky to sing of his greatness and his love for us and he speaks his Word to us so that we can grow in our intimacy with him.

The Psalmist concludes his celebration of God’s revelation by reminding us that knowing God, who he is and what he says, transforms us into his righteous people:

Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Approach God with confidence today, knowing that he desires for you to know him and for you to be known by him. He’s not hiding from you, waiting to see if you are clever enough to find him, he’s right out in the open inviting you to come and be with him.

Heavenly Father, show us your ways today. Let us glimpse your presence in the world around us and enable us to hear your Word cutting through the noises of this fallen world with life, wisdom and joy. We seek you today with our whole heart filled with confidence that you will be found. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

-Steve Lilly

The Father Heart of God

Both of my kids are now adults, but I can clearly remember the joy I felt when they began to express their needs and desires to me. Whether it was something as simple as a drink or snack, or as they grew and life became more complex, help in negotiating the twists and turns of the adolescent journey—there have been few experiences as fulfilling as hearing and responding to their felt needs and desires. Now, I get to relive that as my grandsons begin to communicate—“Papa, fix duh train?,” “Go to dee playground?” or a simple tug at my leg to pick one of them up and hold him close to me. I can’t think of another human experience that can trump hearing their words and being able to respond and meet the need being expressed, no matter how basic it may be.

Being a father and grandfather has served to remind me of the Father heart of God. He delights in hearing our petitions—as rough hewn and faltering as they may be at times. He sifts through the humanity to the crux of the need at hand, finds joy in our coming to Him, and responds by reaching down, picking us up, and holding us close to Him. He looks past the dirty faces and straight into our eyes and heart as we cry out to Him.

As you engage this day or wind down from a busy one, could you take a moment with me and envision a God that longs to have you cry out to Him? A Father that is waiting, with open arms, to take you up and hold you close to Himself? And you can respond by crying out to Him, “Abba.”

-Butch Frey, AGWM Personnel & Member Care

“Seek the Lord with all your heart” – Proverbs 3:5

What does seeking the Lord with all our heart mean?  Are we desperate to find Him?  Too often we’ve come to the realization that we are lazy. We long for God, though we’re not willing to put the effort into seeking Him in prayer.  The journey of one of our patients, described by Mercy Ships crew, has given us a vivid picture of what it means to seek after something with all your heart.

Sambany trembled as he walked up our gangway in Madagascar and did something extraordinary . . . he changed our lives while God was changing his life. Over the next few weeks, his name was spoken across the Africa Mercy’s eight decks, thousands of tears and prayers ascended to God, and social media exploded with his story. What was so special about Sambany?

Around 36 years ago, a tumor began to consume Sambany’s life. It became a monstrous burden, weighing 7.46 kg (16.45 lbs) – equivalent to two extra heads. After nearly three decades as a maxillofacial surgeon, Dr. Gary Parker, Chief Medical Officer, says, “It’s one of the biggest tumors of this type that I’ve seen.”

The tumor caused unrelenting discomfort. Sometimes it felt “hot like fire.” Sambany said, “I cannot sleep at night, and even during the day. It heated me up. When walking, it’s too heavy. I have to hold it.” The tumor was also an emotional burden. Family and friends rejected him, mocked him, laughed at him, shunned him. Some thought his condition was contagious.  Harsh words were flung at him: “Why are you still alive? No one can help!”

Hopelessness defined his life. The search for help required traveling hundreds of kilometers and included ten hospitals (only three of which had surgeons) and a witch doctor … with no success. Sambany’s poverty blocked any other option. His despair reached new depths. He says, “I was waiting to die. I could not do anything. Every day, I was just waiting to die.” So, Sambany’s world shrank to the size of his house, his only place of safety and peace.  Eventually, he became so weak that his life became a monotonous cycle of waking, sleeping eating. He felt useless, and it was hard to watch his family laboring in the rice fields while he wasted away. They were poor, and money spent on trying to help him was money unavailable for food.

Sambany’s main companion was the radio. One day he heard an announcement that resurrected hope: a hospital ship that could treat tumors for free was coming to Madagascar. In spite of his weakness, Sambany told his family, “Die or survive, I want to go!” It was a journey that only a desperate man would attempt. The closest road was several days away; the ship was hundreds of kilometers away. Sambany struggled to walk around his house. How could he survive such a journey? But his family recognized his desperation and determination. They sold a rice field to pay for the journey. Five people took turns carrying him on their backs for two days. Then Sambany endured a painful six-hour taxi ride … but he made it.

Due to multiple health concerns, Sambany’s surgery would be extremely high-risk. For almost two weeks, he rested as the medical team determined the best course of action.

Meanwhile, his story spread throughout the ship. It made its way into our community meeting, when all were asked to pray. It appeared as signs on doors, asking us to pray and to give blood. It lent its voice to concerned requests for updates. It travelled into people’s dreams, dampened many a tissue with tears, and prompted some to go hungry as they fasted for this stranger from a country far from their own. Sambany penetrated our lives.

Then, with one word, Sambany’s entire life was changed. After a lifetime of hearing, “No, no, no,” he was delighted when the medical team said yes to performing the difficult surgery. Sambany was well aware of the risks. “I know without surgery I will die. I know I might die in surgery, but I already feel dead inside from the way I'm treated. I choose to have surgery.”

The surgery took over twelve hours, and over twice of his body’s volume of blood was lost and replaced. Our crew, our living blood bank, literally poured life into Sambany. The blood of seventeen people from six nations now runs through his veins. The end result?  Sambany was finally free from the burden that had weighed him down for nearly two-thirds of his life! And the ship exploded with people praising God.

Sambany’s story and determination helps us to understand what “seeking with all our heart” looks like.  We want God with a desperation so great that we won’t stop until we find Him and all He has for us.  “Die or survive”…we want Him!

-Patrik & Diana Bergström, Mercy Ships

The Question: Bread, Fish, and Egg?

She sits each day under the shadow of the minaret, with hand extended and her baby cuddled in her lap. She asks each passerby the same question; she is faithful, she is persistent, but her hand remains empty.

In Luke 11:1-13, the disciples asked a question, the neighbor asked for bread, and the son asked for sustenance. Everyone who asked received something. Yet, the beggar woman, in the shadow of the minaret, remains empty-handed. What makes the difference? In Luke’s examples, the asker sought after the right person. They had confidence in asking because they knew the individual. They invested time in building the relationship. The disciples remained with Jesus, the neighbors lived in community, and the son lingered with his father. Each asker knew the giver. The neighbor had many friends living around him, but he knew the one that would reward his perseverance. He knew his friend. The child was assured his father would not deceive him with an imitation. A loaf of bread may look similar to a stone, but it doesn’t meet the need. The son knew his Father. The beggar woman does not know the passer-by; she remains in need.

Are you investing time in your relationship with the Father? John 15:4, Jesus said, “Abide IN me” not “with” me. Abiding IN means investing the time to remain, live, endure, and linger with God. When you abide in God, you will know his character intimately which will give you the boldness to persistently knock on his door until you have received. During this month, the challenge is to abide IN the Father. Linger in God to learn his character and receive his good gifts; you don’t have to remain empty-handed. Prayer: Dear Father, thank you that you are eternally good and that you desire to pour into my life and allow me to abide in you. Teach me, daily, to put all distractions aside and linger in you until you speak to me. Help me to keep lingering and asking for your presence in my life until you give me the gifts you have planned for me. Father, I ask you for your gift of the Holy Spirit to help me abide in greater depths with you. Thank you, Father. In Jesus’ name.

“Who would, after seeking the King's palace, be content to stand in the door, when he is invited in to dwell in the King's presence, and share with Him in all the glory of His royal life? Oh, let us enter in and abide, and enjoy to the full all the rich supply His wondrous love hath prepared for us!” Andrew Murray (“Abide in Christ”)

-Elaine

Seek and You Will Find

There comes a time and season in every believer’s life when the rain stops falling, the brook dries up, the leaves fall off, the sun scorches the bark, the ground begins to crack, and you feel all alone with your branches crying out, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” It happens to all who have been crucified with Christ. But comfort and counsel can come for those in this season:

#1 God usually sends these droughts when the roots are too shallow. I need to search for water that is deeper. I am being called to pursue that underground spring that never runs dry. It’s challenging, painful, and difficult…but I must reach! Perseverance is necessary (Matt. 24:13). Fair weather “Christians” are a dime a dozen. But all-weather followers of Christ are true believers (Matt. 13:6). They aren’t much swayed by the currents and the pollution on the surface. They have learned to abide in the deep, fresh spring. They have learned to be sustained on what satisfies and to reject all else (Heb. 12:1). Consequently, God can place them in the harshest environments and they can thrive.

#2 - Offer the sacrifice of praise. Some may say, “But I don’t feel like it!” Exactly. Faith sees what is invisible (Heb. 11). Is this drought not for your good? Is the Pioneer and Perfecter of your faith (Heb. 12:2) not giving you an opportunity? Know this: If you wait until after God answers, you will have lost the opportunity to praise Him in faith. Now is the moment! Open your mouth! Lift up your hands! Praise Him before you see an inkling of the answer. Otherwise, are you truly seeking in faith? Also, do you have air to breathe? Is your heart still beating? Did you have food to eat today? Do you have a Bible full of precious promises? Is God on the throne? Once we become grateful for the constant goodness of God, it truly is no sacrifice to praise.

#3 - You are not forsaken. If we could be witnesses of that awful day, we would kneel on the hallowed ground by the cross and hear Jesus cry with all His might, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" The cataclysmic crash of perfect holiness "becoming sin"(2 Cor. 5:21) and being rejected (Isa. 53:3, 10) by man and also by His Father (Ps 22:1) leaves me speechless. What astounding love! Why would Jesus lay down his life in this way? Answer: Jesus must take our sins upon him, and be forsaken so that we can be made perfect and this promise can be possible: Never will I leave you or forsake you (Heb. 12:14). If Divine Sovereignty chooses to send a cloud and “hide the Son” for a while, know by faith that it is impossible for you to be separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus your Lord (Rom. 8:39). Your legal separation from God is now reversed - paid for with the priceless blood of Christ. If you are His child, you are not forsaken.

#4 - Seek and you will find. Moses spent the last forty years of his earthly life on a mission to bring the Israelites to the Promised Land. What kinds of prayers would accompany that mission? Perhaps: “God, lead this people to their dwelling place! We’re weary of these tents and all this sand!” But when Moses wrote Psalm 90, he began a different way: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place.” Out in the desert, he had found the answer to all his prayers. He was not truly seeking the Promised Land of Canaan, but the Promised One who met with him in the tent of meeting. He was being fed of the “Bread (Manna) of life”. He was seeking The Rock that quenched his thirst. He was desiring the Pillar of cloud that directed his steps. He wanted to know the Fire that spoke from the bush and protected at night. He learned a most valuable lesson: To be with God is to find. Your prayers are not only a means. They are also the end: communion with God. As you walk through this season, know that a change of circumstances is not the ultimate answer...God is. With that knowledge, stand upon the promise: “Seek…and you will find.”

-Pastor Jason Rose

He Wants Our Whole Heart

A much beloved game from my childhood was “Hide and Seek.” Most often, the game would begin as the sun was setting and there was barely enough light to see. We would gather the neighborhood kids, declare boundaries, and from a quick side game of ‘not it’, the seeker was chosen. Then we would all scatter and the countdown would begin. While most children loved to hide, I always loved to seek. Diligent to find every last child and not give up, I would at times keep the game going for much too long. You see, as much as I loved to seek, there was always that child who equally loved to find the most obscure place to hide, a place no one would think to look. Eventually, the other kids would grow tired of waiting and parents would grow anxious about the increasing darkness and the game would come to a screeching halt.

God has declared to us in Deuteronomy 4:29, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Unlike the game of my childhood, God does not run from us to see how long it will take us to find Him. He is not hiding in the shadows trying not to be found. It is us who have allowed the shadows and darkness of sin to hinder our ability to find God. Our anger, cynicism, envy, fear, pride, and so much more create shadows that turn into darkness and eventually make it difficult to even seek God.

We are reminded again in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Over and over in the scriptures, God tells us that He wants our whole heart. He doesn’t just want a part of you, He wants all of you. How diligently are you seeking? Have you grown tired of seeking? Have you given up or become complacent? We are not playing hide and seek with God. He has not moved and He declares, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me,” Proverbs 8:17.

​-Pastor Sonja Owen

Knocking is Faith in Action

... Knock and the door will be opened to you.....and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Jesus tells us that when we knock and keep on knocking, the door will be opened.  He is speaking of a deeper truth than just a mere “Hail Mary” prayer.  He is saying that asking is the first step.  Then seeking speaks of being intentional in pursuing God and His answer. And finally, knocking is the passionate, persistent action of praying with the faith that opens doors, opens hearts, and opens the way to the next door we need to knock on.

Our Lord tells us that knocking is an action that is symbolic of our persistence in prayer.  When we come to a locked or closed door at a store during normal business hours, we have options.  We can walk away and leave the door locked, or we can start knocking until someone comes and opens it.  The knocking on a physical door is a sign of intent and of intentionality.  We have an expectancy since this store should be open now, and we want to get in. We want someone to answer the door, and if no one comes, we knock louder, longer, and harder.  If we will do this in our natural life, we must be even more persistent about the doors in the spiritual life that we are living.  Knocking is faith in action- it’s taking the admonition of the Lord to keep praying and never give up. (Luke 18)

Our Lord Jesus would never tell us to knock in vain.  We are not knocking as an exercise of devotion; we are knocking so that the door will open.  What doors have you been knocking on?  What prayer points have you almost given up on?  What is the door that is right in front of you that God says to knock on?  We have a choice today.  We are standing at a crossroads of God’s power and God’s possible.  But we must do our part and knock!  This week, will you join with me in knocking on the doors that seem closed?  Let’s believe in the God who promises the door will be opened!

Knock on the door.  Take this step of faith, and doors will open.

-Pastor Mark Lehmann

He Answers

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Matt 7:7-8

“Knock, knock.”  “Who’s there?”  Squeals of laughter peal from 5-year-old Monti, a young Romanian boy living at Hagar Home Maternal Center with his mother and brother.  Who doesn’t remember playing house and the fun of “knocking” on a table or chair in a pretend world and having someone “answer” the knock?

In Bucharest, Romania, a recent news article announced that since January 1, 2017, 245 babies have been abandoned at Bucharest hospitals.  The reasons are many, but often it’s because these mothers are young, single, scared, and without resources to care for themselves little alone a child. That’s why Touched Romania, under Raegan Glugosh's (AGWM missionary) leadership opened Hagar Home in 2005. The team prayed and realized that the best way to minimize the number of abandoned babies at Bucharest hospitals was to start ministering to the mothers of these children so they could keep them and establish a family.  Since then, over 400 women and children have been helped through the process at Hagar Home – their “knock” has been answered.

And so it is for us as Christians.  We have the security of a personal relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ.  He has not left us alone, but has given us the Holy Spirit and promises in His Word.  No matter the circumstances we face, we know that “…everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

Please take time today to thank Jesus for answering when we knock.  Pray for Touched Romania ministries, the staff and all the mothers and children that are being blessed through this ministry and how they are responding to His call.

-Kathleen Mildrum, Hagar House in Romania

Be Persistent in the Things of God

A few years ago, my family and I were hurt deeply by someone close to us. Because of that, I had a very hard time forgiving and allowed that to guide my heart instead of the characteristics of Jesus. I began to walk this lonely road of bitterness and frustration. I could not seem to shake the things that had been spoken and done to us. These issues that I just could not let go of started to cloud out the voice of God and His presence. Never once was my faith shaken and I never questioned who God was. I continued serving Him, praying, studying the word, and joining my husband for every itineration service. However, when we allow the things of the world to cloud our minds, the things of God seem to fade. It all just became routine because I just wouldn’t let go of my hurt. What happens when we hold onto our hurt? We continue hurting. The saddest part of my situation was that I wouldn’t bring my hurt to God. As silly as it sounds, there was more accountability for me to forgive if God “knew” what I was dealing with. One day, I finally had some breakthrough where I decided to knock. Over a period of 3 months, I shared my anger with God. He knew every hurt. He was aware of every question and every “why us”. And you know, I knocked and knocked, but I wasn’t ready for Him to open the door. I basically banged on the door with my frustrations, but He knew my heart wouldn’t receive His response.

Sometime later, I was rocking our 4 month old who was having a hard time sleeping. A song came to mind and I began to sing it while I rocked. I got to a certain line that said, “And as you sleep my dear, know that I’ll be near,” and everything inside me broke. I realized in that innocent moment of taking care of my child, that God had never stopped taking care of me. He opened the door and reminded me that He was with us during the hard times we’d had. I’d sought after Him so much and He, always knowing what is best for us, knew the exact time that I would hear Him. I sought Him and found Him. I knocked and He opened the door, reminding me of His faithful love and graciousness towards not only my family, but towards those who’d hurt us so deeply.

If you have something hidden in your heart, I encourage you to give it to God and not keep it from Him. Allow your heart to be open to receive what He wants to give you. When you knock, He will always open. God knows what is best for you, so be persistent in the things of God. He will grant you His peace, grace for others and yourself, and guide you in the way of His perfect path. Don’t stop knocking.

-Jessi Bock, Montenegro

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