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

Relentless Love

The typical response when we knock on a door that is unanswered is to leave.  While it might be the polite thing to do, it is relentless love, not etiquette that we observe in Scripture. Love keeps knocking.  There can be a time to step away acknowledging that the door is closed, but more often than not, we go back again and again, often uninvited--even unwanted, and knock persistently.

Recently, a friend very honestly said how hard it was for both of us, believing the other was going to hell.  This knowledge of those on the other side of the door from us being under God's wrath leaves us not just knocking-we are pleading.  2 Corinthians 5:20 describes it this way: "So we are Christ's ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, "Come back to God!" Pleading, appealing, imploring ...fists bloodied from knocking at the doors of hearts, to extend this message of reconciliation. If we really believe those around us are perishing (and indeed they are), then "plead" is the perfect word choice--it says much more than to ask or offer.

You'll be glad to know that we aren't literally beating our fists on our neighbors’ doors--and yet this must be the relentless attitude of our hearts as the ones who knock.  “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.” Charles Spurgeon

Whose knees are our arms wrapped around? Are you weary from knocking? The door may be about to bust wide open...but even if it doesn't, Jesus is worthy of our persistence.  He is worthy of the praise of the one on the other side. Jesus help us to keep knocking on the doors of hearts with our lives and the door of heaven on our knees, until He calls us home.

-A worker in a sensitive country

Why Knock

As a girl, I remember walking around our neighborhood collecting donations for the school food drive. I knew people would be prone to give, but it was still a long walk up the sidewalk or driveway to someone’s door. Then there was the big moment of having to knock. I fearfully held my breath, hoping that someone would actually answer.

It’s an immense comfort to know we serve a God who always opens the door—“to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Mt. 7:8, Lk. 11:10). We can come to Him (He invited us), and without fear He brings us into His home, His dwelling, His very own presence.

Jesus is the way to the Father (John 14:6)—the sidewalk or driveway to the front door of the Father’s house and all His riches inside. Jesus is also the door to the Father (John 10: 7)—the entrance into His very presence.

When we knock, we don’t have to fear because He “has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). Every spiritual blessing is in Jesus!

When we knock, we can be confident the door will fling open and pour out “the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us” (Eph. 1:7-8). That’s no small door!

When we knock because the enemy is close at hand, we know that the door will open and an infinitely strong arm will draw us in. He is “our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Ps 46:1).

When we walk into our time of prayer each day, we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence” because our bold knocking brings the gift of mercy and grace “to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

Why must we knock? Because Jesus has led us to the door of the house—He’s the Way. Why must we knock? Because Jesus hears and feels our knocking—He’s the Door. Why must we knock? Because Jesus has immeasurable riches inside—He’s the Treasure!

Let’s run the Way to the Door and knock boldly with faith in the Promises of God. Why? Because it all leads to more of Jesus!

-Pastor Charity Rose

Thoughts Shape Belief, Belief Shapes Prayer, Prayer Shapes Actions

I was at a medical conference recently, and the main speaker was going over the medical statistics of older people. A significant majority (approx. 88%) of people 65 or older will have one serious chronic illness. Most older people (65%) will have a few serious chronic illnesses and many older people (45%) will have multiple serious chronic illnesses. A serious chronic illness is one that will require supervised medical intervention for the rest of your life.

I realized my wife and I are not too far away from that high risk group. I found myself praying, "Lord please do not let that happen to me or my wife." Immediately I felt the Holy Spirit's conviction that the prayer was "wrong thinking". "Not me" thinking implies we have some kind of special deal with God that exempts us from challenges and difficulties (which would make us more favored than everybody else, including Jesus.)

The Holy Spirit not only convicts. He corrects and instructs as well. He said a better prayer was "Lord, if I am in that group, I thank you now ahead of time for being with me through it all."

The first prayer was a selfish prayer, focused on comfort and ease. Lives of unbelief are always found where there are comfort and ease.

The second prayer was full of belief in God's power to care for is in midst of storms, furnaces, lion’s dens, whale bellies, and death row prisons.

Which of the two prayers believes God is really able? You decide, because every day we decide how big our belief is by what we pray for and how we pray for it.

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.  -Romans 12:2.

-Pastor Arnold Bracy

Keep Knocking…

When John Crist was at Cornerstone, he made a joke about playing softball against various types of churches. The final comparison was about how the Jehovah’s Witnesses team kept knocking on the door of victory. The entire audience erupted in laughter - due to the fact that we all have had a Jehovah’s Witness knock on our door, or know someone whose door they knocked on. They are relentless. They will knock on any door, knowing that the majority of the time they will be rejected, yelled at, or have a door slammed in there face. The saddest part to me is not the rejection they face, but the souls they win. There are people who are so desperate to believe in something, or find purpose in this life, that the message the Jehovah’s Witnesses preached does not matter, but it’s the simple fact that they knocked. Think about it, people are going to hell because someone, who is deceived in their own right, knocked on someone else’s door.

I was recently reading an article which highlighted a study found in the book UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity... And Why It Matters. The article states that the authors David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons “spent three years polling young, unchurched Americans to find out what they thought about Christianity… A shocking 50 percent of respondents said they base their negative views on personal contacts with Christians. As the authors write, ‘Many of those outside of Christianity ... reject Jesus because they feel rejected by Christians.’” Do you know why people feel rejected? It is because we are not knocking. We are not going out of our way to demonstrate God’s love. We tend be so focused on accomplishing our to-do lists that we forget about knocking.

When Brandi, Bennett, and I go out, I tend to drive 95% of the time. While driving, my eyes are fixed on the road, except for a small percentage when I am distracted by my wife’s beauty, but that quickly ends when she says, “Stop looking at me; keep your eyes on the road.” On the rare occasion that I am sitting on the passenger side, it never fails, I end up saying, “Hey did you know that house was over there?” I quickly realize that it’s a change in my perspective that has allowed me to see what was always there. What doors are you not knocking on because your perspective needs to be changed?

When was the last time you knocked on your neighbor’s door and talked about Jesus? When was the last time you knocked on your neighbor’s cubical at work and talked about how God sent His only Son to die on the cross for their sin? When was the last time you knocked by picking up your phone to call a family member who does not truly understand God’s grace and mercy? Do not feel like you’re in this boat alone; I am in the exact same boat. I am constantly praying, “God break my heart for what break Yours. Give me the boldness to knock, and help me to allow your Spirit to do the rest!”

-Pastor Matthew Lehmann

Don’t be afraid. Only Believe

The synagogue leader Jairus came to Jesus and begged for the life of his daughter who was at the point of death. Jesus went home with him. Some bearers of bad news met them along the way and said to Jairus, “Don’t bother the Teacher anymore. Your daughter is dead.” Jesus overheard the conversation and just said to the father, “Don’t be afraid. Only believe.”

I knew that God called me to a specific city in the Arabian Peninsula but without a specific timeframe. One day while praying for this city, He gave me a vision. In it I saw golden music notes coming from a shorter skyscraper in the city’s skyline. The music notes rose into the sky above and gradually surrounded the city. I knew the golden music notes in the vision to be the praises of God, and I heard the promise that the praises of God would be sung in this city, that Jesus would be exalted where He is not.

To a father who just lost his 12-year-old daughter—to us with dreams and visions we long to see fulfilled—Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid. Only believe.”

I imagine Jairus took some pretty heavy steps toward home after learning his daughter was dead. The end that he hoped to avoid by going to Jesus in the first place had happened. But I also imagine the words of Jesus rang in his ears as his feet moved forward: “Don’t be afraid. Only believe.” He believed the words of Jesus as he headed home. When he arrived home, he saw Jesus work.

The vision of rising music notes came two years ago, and I only recently arrived in a nearby country to study language. So much of me desires to be in “my” city to see the vision become real, but I have steps ahead of me here, in this equally unreached city and country: steps to language school, the mall, the market, my friend’s house, coffee shops, steps that will cross paths with unreached Muslim women who are headed for certain death. God gave me a vision, not a time table, so I take steps here, casting aside fear, to share the truth about Jesus as I make my way to my next home, believing God’s promise that His praises will be sung in the Arab world.

Don’t be afraid. Take steps. Only believe. See Jesus work.

-Jackie C.

“Jesus is so worth it”

Luke 11:9-10 Jesus says “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 the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”

A young girl grew up in an extremely religious family. Her father was a Sheikh (leader) at a local mosque. One night she had a dream where a dove came down from the sky, and turned into a man when it reached the ground. The man took her by the hand and led her to the cross. He explained that he died for her, that the cross paid for her sins, and she was forgiven. That she could have new life if she would follow him. He also told her that there was a book written about him.

She awoke knowing that the man died for her and that there was a really long book written about him. For three years she searched for someone who was willing to tell her more about this dream. She did not even know the name of the man…

Finally the young lady found someone willing to tell her that the man’s name is Jesus. This moment began her journey of discovering who Jesus was. She was able to search His name, and finding that He is the Son of God and the book was called the Holy Bible, she began to read.

She found Jesus’ words to be freeing and life giving, different from anything she had ever read before. She began to share Jesus’ words with her family and tell them about her dream. Her BELIEF in who Jesus was pushed her towards bold proclamation. She was quickly threatened by family and community for reading this book, and they made many forceful attempts to keep her in Islam. But all of their attempts to stop her did not stop her from seeking him. She was so desperate to follow after the man from her dreams.

One night, her mother shook her awake and told her that she must leave, because her father was bringing her uncles and cousins to force her back into Islam or they would take her life. She was forced to leave her family, community, security, her future, even her name, at the threat of death if she returned, still a follower of Jesus.

When this young lady told her story to us for the first time, my wife was so broken over the fact that she had to leave everything behind. My wife looked at this young girl and said, “I am so sorry…” The girl looked back at her, almost with a look of offense. She said, “No, No! Do not be sorry… Jesus is so worth it.”

Is Jesus worth it to you? Do we truly BELIEVE that God is able and willing to move on our hearts and the hearts of the nations? It was this young woman’s unshakable belief and faith in Jesus that allowed her to endure the pain of persecution.

What does our belief in Jesus enable us to do? Are we willing to suffer for His name? Do we believe that He is with us even unto the ends of the earth? Let pray that Jesus would give us unshakable faith in the face of difficult circumstances.

-Cairo, Egypt

Hearing From God

We serve a God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, yet He seldom ever does the same thing in the same way He did before. Faith is such an interesting subject to talk about because it manifests in so many different ways. Whatever situation you are facing today might be one of those times when you hear the Lord saying, “Just watch what I am going to do for you today.” Then tomorrow comes, and it might be one of those cases that requires walking around the walls for seven days. No matter what the current obstacle is, the key to walking in faith is hearing from God. We all know very well the verse in Romans 10:17 that says that faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of God. We desperately need to be hearing fresh words from God every day to put proper faith into practice. If God is waiting on you to walk around the walls seven days, and you are sitting back waiting on Him to do His thing, then you probably will not see the breakthrough you are needing. We cannot think that He will act in the same way He did before. He likes to change things up- keep things fresh and new. So what is He saying to you today, about what you are facing right now?

Last year I was diagnosed with an enlarged heart in Namibia. I tried several prescription remedies, but they all kept me awake. Finally, I just told the doctor that I could not take those meds anymore. I was going to completely trust God for a healing miracle. I prayed daily for my heart, as well as working to improve my overall health. Many people at the church were praying for me and laying hands on me also believing for a miracle. Weeks would go by without any pain, and I would think I was healed. Then suddenly, I would have severe pain for a few days. This went on for months. One Sunday morning, I woke up with more pain than I normally experienced. I was busy getting dressed for church, so I was just doing my normal asking God to please take that pain away and continuing on with my normal Sunday routine. I went to the church early to prepare for leading worship, but the pain had become so severe that I was even struggling to breathe. It just hurt to even inhale and exhale. As you can probably imagine, my prayers became a bit more fervent and effectual by this point. Suddenly I just heard the Lord speak the word AUTHORITY into my spirit. When I think of authority, I think of spiritual attack and the blood of Jesus and the name of Jesus. So I began to declare that my body was covered by the blood of Jesus, and that even the mention of the name of Jesus makes the darkness tremble. In all the time I had been praying for my heart, I had never heard the Lord specifically give me instructions, so I continued to pray and trust Him for healing. This day was different! I heard the word, and I acted on it. My report from the doctor a few weeks later showed no signs of enlarged heart. It is so very important that we stay in tune with what God is saying every moment so that we do not delay, or even miss completely, our breakthrough.

-Kim Gardner, Namibia

True Desperation

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

I’m going to focus narrowly on one aspect of this story Jesus tells in Luke 11.

Jesus speaks of a man who has a late-arriving visitor and no supplies with which to adequately host the guest.  This represents serious social pressure; the host’s honor is at stake.  In this instance, his ability to provide for the guest reflects not only on himself and his family, but possibly even the reputation of all his relatives.  He is a man in need.  He is desperate.  What does he do? He runs to his friend in the middle of the night to ask for enough bread to meet his need.

Today it is easy for us to miss the severity of the crisis in this story.  In fact, the need for bread for visitors is something that we can easily solve by going to the 7-Eleven down the street — even in the middle of the night.  And it’s not just a problem of finding food at all hours of the day that we can solve.  Our technology and our wealth convince us daily that we can solve anything that this life throws at us.

In our abundance and ability, we approach God in prayer like we approach much of modern life: Everything is predicated on our instant satisfaction.  We’ve become consumers even in our approach to our Heavenly Father.  It’s alarming for me to realize that at times I’m demanding, self-centered and entitled, imagining I deserve God’s mercy, grace and good gifts.  I begin to imagine myself capable of dictating what it is that God needs to do in any given circumstance rather than being consumed with God’s mission in the world. There have been times that I’ve prayed, but actually didn’t really feel very desperate.  In fact, I’m half-consciously assuming that I’ll have to sort everything out with my own resources and, being unaware of my own spiritual poverty, I assume at the end of the day I’ve got what it takes to fix the situation.

For the past ten years I’ve walked through a season of illness and pain.  There was no quick solution for me.  There was no answer to my question.  There was no pill for me to take that would make everything alright again.   I was in a situation in which my own limitations were very clear.  I became desperate and in great need of God.  Undoubtedly, many of you also have walked through valleys of loss in this broken world.

So when I hear this parable from Jesus, I immediately notice the great need and desperation of the man.  For us to be able to grasp the whole picture that Jesus is putting forth in this story, we must also come to know and see that we have needs that we cannot meet on our own.

Is there a moment in the past day, week, month, year that you have felt truly desperate?

The man seeking bread in the story has no personal illusion of power.  While there is a shared social expectation for that whole community to be hospitable, the man knocking on the door of his friend doesn’t come wielding power.  In no way is the man the boss or authority over his friend; so whatever responsiveness his friend exhibits isn’t based on the supplicant’s superior power or inherent rights over him.

Let’s be aware that our modern life, with all the “control” and “convenience” that technology has provided, can confuse us and make us think we are more powerful than we in fact are.  When we pray, how much are we even really expecting from the Lord?  Maybe we subconsciously or half-consciously expect that in the end, we must sort out our need from our own resources.  Maybe we’re not truly aware of our own spiritual poverty.

True desperation makes you aware of your lack, of your inability to meet the needs of the circumstance.  Desperation wipes away this voice in your head that says you can functionally by-pass God and take care of things on your own.  True desperation weeds out the attractive but futile distractions that clammer for our time, affection and attention.  Appropriate desperation removes our common cultural confusion; it clarifies.  You don’t feel “desperate” about saving money for more fine dining experiences out on the town.  But you do feel desperate about saving money for a reliable car to get to work so you can eat.

If, when we look at the world today, we do not feel a sense of desperation and need on behalf of others, ourselves, our world, then, before we “seek” or “ask,” let’s first pray for God to quiet us, to calm us, to shake us from this illusion of power and self-sufficiency, and to realize that He alone is our source.

That is good news.  Indeed, the following words that Jesus speaks show just how eager the Father is to give to those who come in desperation and persistence to ask, seek and knock.

So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

-Loretta Neely, Refuge Outreach Coordinator

Trust His Character

Sometimes God is a mystery—a good mystery.

Sometimes when we pray, God gives us exactly what we ask for, on the very first time we ask.  Those are probably the times we tell others about the most.  But it is not always the case that God answers immediately.

At other times, God lets us show our commitment to pursuing what it is we are asking Him for.  He lets us persevere with a time of asking, seeking, and knocking.  When God fulfills the desires that we have been passionately pursuing, those are usually the answered prayers that we treasure the most.

Here is an illustration from my life: I have two sons.  Sometimes I give them things the first time they ask for them.  Other times, I let them pursue it.  In both responses I am teaching my sons.  The first response shows them something about me (my generosity).  The second response shows them something about themselves (that they need to persevere in some things, and are able to do it).  They don’t always understand right away why I choose to make them pursue some things more than others.  But that’s okay. I don’t ask them to understand all my ways.  I ask them to trust in my love for them.

Similarly, we may not understand why one time God gives quickly, and another time he allows us to pursue things.  Though the “whys” of each scenario may be a mystery, the “who” isn’t.  Jesus concluded this teaching on prayer by reminding us of the character of God.  He is a father, and a good one.  He isn’t always predictable.  But he always has our best in mind.

Have you decided to trust our Heavenly Father’s character, and trust that he loves you, even when you don’t understand his ways?

-Mike Tyler, Germany

Luke 20: To be amazed is not enough…

The whole chapter of Luke 20 is about being tested and giving chances. Jesus was tested, and those who tested him were given the chance to believe in Him. The chapter begins with priests, scribes, and elders who test him by questioning his power (verses 1-7). Then come the spies with the question about Caesar’s tax. As a result, they are amazed at Jesus' answer (verses 20-26). Next are those who did not believe in the resurrection- the Sadducees. Their question is about the resurrection from the dead. They too are amazed by Jesus’ answer (verses 27-40).

Naturally, that amazement should have led everyone to believe in Jesus. However, staying amazed is not enough - you must believe in Jesus. We can be amazed by the response of God, His creation, His miracles, and the testimony of others, but all this should lead us to sustainable faith in Jesus.

Whether it’s His Word, the beauty of His creation, or the many testimonies of transformed people that have caused us to be amazed, let’s not remain there. Not just amazed, but full of faith in what we have believed.

Psalm 34:5 – Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.

-Pastor Anatol, Moldova

Between Ask and Receive

There is power in prayer. When we pray, things happen. In John 16:23, Jesus tells his disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you.  Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Asking is easy, receiving is exciting, but it is the space in-between where we often get stuck. It is the gap between ask and receive where we can become discouraged and begin to doubt because God has not answered our prayer yet. What do we do when we are caught in-between ask and receive?

In John 16:31, Jesus gives his disciples the answer in the form of a question, “Do you now believe?” The word “believe” is used 280 times in the Bible and 68 times by Jesus in the gospels alone. There is a strong connection between prayer and believe. Jesus tells us that we are not just to pray, but rather to pray believing. Andrew Murray says, "We must begin to believe that God, in the mystery of prayer, has entrusted us with a force that can move the Heavenly world, and can bring its power into the situations of earth."

If Jesus tells us to believe when we ask God for something in prayer, then it must be possible to pray and not believe. All religions in the world encourage prayer, but only the Bible requires us to believe when we pray. In Mark 11:24, Jesus says to Peter, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Five years ago, after my wife and I first moved to our community, the church that we pastored held a prayer meeting in January 2013. During that week of prayer, we prayed that God would help us reach our community for Jesus. More specifically, we prayed that our church might become “a church without walls. We were not asking for a new building or more property, we were simply asking God to expand our influence and to use us to reach our city for His glory. We also prayed that God would close down the only bar in town. Six months after our prayer meeting, we found out that our church had been built on a toxic waste dump, from an old oil refinery dating back to the early 19th Century. The Environmental Protection Agency told us that our property was on the National Priority List to become an EPA Superfund site. Within six weeks, our church was forced to relocate off our property and we literally became a church without walls. Seven months after our January 2013 prayer meeting, the bar and dance club in town went out of business. In August 2013, the Lord spoke to Pastor Mark Lehmann and Cornerstone Church to begin helping us with our rent. Today, after many miracles, this 100-year-old historic building on Route 66, formerly known as the Overtime Pub, is now home to Cornerstone Church Bristow. As a parent-affiliated church, we are reaching our community for Jesus in ways we never could have imagined in 2013 when we first prayed.

There have been moments between ask and receive where we have wondered what in the world was going on. How could shutting down the church property be part of God’s plan? This was not why we moved to Bristow. Our congregation has had to desperately hold on and believe through some very challenging times. There have even been times I have felt like the father in Mark 9:24 who said, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” Thank the Lord we don’t have to pray perfect prayers before God listens to our hearts. Sometimes our prayers are a complete mess, but God still answers.

Jesus told the father in Mark 9:23, “Everything is possible for the one who believes.” That is the power of believe. Believing takes the focus off of our prayer itself and puts the focus entirely on God Himself. Jesus never intended for us to rely on prayer alone. Instead, Jesus wanted us to rely on Him. “Whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give to you.” It is only when we fully rely on Jesus that we can fully pray believing.

-Pastor Mark Evans, Oklahoma

He Can Do It!

In Mark chapter 9, a man comes to Jesus regarding his son. The son was afflicted by demons. The man starts by telling Jesus what is wrong with his son. Mark 9:22 the man says to Jesus 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” I love how Jesus responds to him in vs. 23, “‘If you can?’” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Everything becomes possible for the person who believes in Christ! Ask God, Seek God, Knock on God’s door, and Believe God! Often we struggle to believe God can move because we doubt he can do it. Think about it. We doubt God…
• The God who created the earth (Genesis 1).
• The God who enables the barren to give forth life (Genesis 16).
• Who causes the lame to walk (Acts 3).
• Who made the blind to see (Mark 8 ).
• The God who raised the dead (Luke 8 ).

And we think He can’t move in our situation. He can do it! We must believe in Him.

Sometimes we doubt because we can’t see Him working. The Holocaust is one of the most traumatic episodes of modern history. There was a Jewish family hidden in a dark basement in the French countryside for the duration of the war. The Jewish family waited and waited for their deliverance. At the end of the war these words were found scribbled on the wall of that dark basement:

“I believe in the sun even when it does not shine.
I believe in love even when it is not given.
I believe in God even when he is silent.”

Think of what that means today as we face our broken situations and challenging difficulties. Even if we can’t see God, He is always working. There is an old hymn- and it reminds us that even when we feel insignificant, even when we feel dispensable, God’s eye is on us. It says, “For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” Let’s not be depressed and give up; but rather, let’s lift up our hearts to God in faith. He can do it! All He asks us to do is believe!

-Pastor David Lehmann, New Jersey

Remember Who's With You

"One day Jesus said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side of the lake." So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Master, Master, we're going to drown!" He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. "Where is your faith?" he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him." -Luke 8:22-25

The power of prayer is evident throughout Scripture. So why is it so hard for us to persist in asking, seeking, and knocking? For me, it often comes down to fear, which reveals a lack of belief in God. Just like the disciples in this passage, it's so easy to focus on the storm and the waves, or all the urgent things in our lives.

I've wondered before why Jesus rebuked the disciples. After all, we're supposed to come to Jesus with all our burdens! I don't think that's what they were being rebuked for, though. They did the right thing in coming to him. The problem is revealed in vs. 25 when they asked, "Who is this?" They didn't realize yet who was with them, or what He was capable of. The same God who made them, the wind, and the lake they were on, was with them in the boat. When you think about it this way, it's amazing and almost laughable that they were afraid! But we do the same thing. The Spirit of our God literally dwells within us, yet we still get overwhelmed and anxious when the storms come. Sometimes we just need to remember who our God is. He created everything, He knows everything about our situation, and He is good. Just because He seems to be asleep doesn't mean He's not aware or doesn't care. This is the same God who humbled Himself by coming to earth as a man and endured extreme suffering and death for us… and He doesn't change. If He loved you that much then, He loves you that much now. When we remember who our God is, what He is capable of, and what He has done, those waves don't seem quite as big as before.

Sometimes we need to remember who God is, and sometimes we need a change in perspective. Jesus wasn't anxious or fearful like the disciples; He had a bigger and more accurate perspective of the situation. He knew that the wind and waves wouldn't overtake them. In 2 Kings 6:16, Elisha told a servant, "Don't be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." The servant's eyes were opened, and he was able to see horses and chariots of fire that he couldn't see before but were there all along. Jesus, help us to fix our eyes on the unseen! God is doing so much more than we are aware of. Corrie Ten Boom said, "Faith is like radar which sees through the fog- the reality of things at a distance that the human eye cannot see." Even when we can't see, we can trust the One who knows what's really going on!

Take some time to remember who God is and ask Him to show you His perspective of your situation. And keep asking, seeking, and knocking. It becomes so much easier to persevere in this when we take the time to strengthen our belief in Him!

-A worker in a sensitive country

The Choice

“.... pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” -Matthew 6:6

Everything we do requires a choice. You made a choice to get out of bed today, you made a choice to pray, to read the Word, to take time to consider this devotion. The choice we make when it comes to prayer and seeking God has more effect on our lives and the lives of those around us than anything else we do. The Word of God gives us the promise that as we come close to God, He will come close to you. The choice is up to us.

During these last 31 days, we made a decision to Ask, Seek, Knock, and Believe. We have seen and heard of some amazing God moments and divine encounters during this season of prayer. But more than that, we have learned that going after God is the best way to find answers. Now we have to choose that as we finish these 31 days of October, this will be a springboard to a deeper relationship in prayer. Having a vibrant time with God that will cause our lives to be lived with expectancy will take a choice, each day. But the reward of finding our loving Lord is more than worth the time we invest. So, as we have together committed ourselves around the world to pray and believe, would you also make the choice to believe that the God who hears in secret will reward you with more of Him in every facet of your life? Consider the words of Oswald Chambers on prayer:

“Jesus did not say — “dream about thy Father in secret,” but “pray to thy Father in secret.” Prayer is an effort of will. After we have entered our secret place and have shut the door, the most difficult thing to do is to pray; we cannot get our minds into working order, and the first thing that conflicts is wandering thoughts. The great battle in private prayer is the overcoming of mental wandering. We have to discipline our minds and concentrate on willful prayer.

A secret silence means to shut the door deliberately on emotions and remember God. God is in secret, and He sees us from the secret place; He does not see us as other people see us, or as we see ourselves. When we live in the secret place, it becomes impossible for us to doubt God, and we become more sure of Him than of anything else. Your Father, Jesus says, is in secret and nowhere else. Enter the secret place, and right in the center of the common day, you find God there all the time. Get into the habit of dealing with God about everything. Unless in the first waking moment of the day you learn to fling the door wide back and let God in, you will work on a wrong level all day; but swing the door wide open and pray to your Father in secret, and every public thing will be stamped with the presence of God.”

-Pastor Mark Lehmann

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