Facing the Big “What If”

I recently had the privilege of sharing a brief devotion with a bunch of teenage girls. Weeks in advance, when I asked the Lord what He might have me say, His answer was clear: “tell them they can pour it all out to me, they can always come to me.”

The Lord never gives you a lesson to share He isn’t also going to teach you through.

I kinda forgot that.

See, I talk to God all the time. But I don’t always talk to Him like He is who He says He is.

A few hours before I shared with the girls, He got my attention. Listening to those same girls, I began listening to the Lord about what I know goes on in their lives…and what I know will go on because they are humans living in the same fallen world I am.

They (and we) are going to face a lot of “what ifs” that plunder their prayers:

What if God never has me get married?

What if God never gives me or shows me my dream job?

What if God never makes me healthy again when I get sick?

What if God never heals the broken relationships I can’t fix myself?

What if I fail?

These are valid questions, and it’s alright to ask them. There is wisdom in preparing for many “what ifs.”

But the question of “what if” can also be a positive one.

What if God actually has plans for my life?

What if God is waiting to comfort me in my struggle?

What if God loves me more than the people in my life can and wants time with me too?

What if God is a confidant and an advisor?

What if God can lean in, listen, and embolden me like (or more than!) my best friends?

 What if we believe, when we speak to God, He is listening as lovingly, patiently, kindly, perfectly, gently, and honestly as He says is in His Word?

What if we believe

In Ephesians 6, Paul encourages believers to put on the armor of God. Then He goes on to say “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”

Prayer is included right there in the battle plan. But notice it fits in, bound to, other pieces of armor like salvation, righteousness, and faith. Notice how God speaks elsewhere about praying with a right heart, not for our own selfish ambitions (James 4:3.)

In other passages, God tells us we must ask and believe (Matt 21:22.)

What I’ve been convicted of is this: our prayers are plundered when we don’t believe or don’t recognize exactly who it is we’re talking to.

The best place for “what if” in prayer is “what if God is really listening, really cares, and has a perfect plan?” Because He is, and it changes things when we believe Him.

At very least, praying while believing God is who He is changes our perspective from desperately attempting to persuade God to resting in the blessed assurance of Christ.

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

In Planning We Trust

{The tenth installment in the In ____We Trust Series}

For open words on life, faith, and the unfailing love of the Lord, visit Carly over at Life In The Spacious Place. So grateful for Carly's honesty and simple, plain truth-telling way. 
carlypro

All my life I have been a planner.  I was always the child who had their homework done on time, who had everything they needed with them, who saw all the detail in a situation and kept others organised.

As a teenager, before a family holiday to Disney World, I even read a guidebook and created a detailed plan of exactly which order to go on the rides and attractions in order to minimize queuing and make the most of the day!

I didn’t like the feeling when things were out of control, and planning became a way to combat that.

As I got older I learned to relax a bit and accept that life doesn’t always go according to plan, but sometimes the desire to find control through planning can still kick in.

Proverbs 3:5-6 instructs us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

I have learned to trust God, but I struggle to trust him with all my heart.  It is easy to divide my trust between God and my own planning.

I realised last year that this was an issue.  Part of my work is organising camps and events for young people and it was becoming increasingly stressful.  The week leading up to an event would be filled with sleepless nights, while the days would be a frantic flurry of photocopying, of thinking up wet weather alternatives and creating back-up plans for every eventuality in case other people didn’t do what they were meant to do.

planningtrust

I’d have said I was trusting God, but really I was relying far too much on my own planning and that was the root of the stress.  The worst thing was that other people were beginning to rely on me for everything too, which only added to the pressure.

Fortunately God had a plan to address this.

Part 1 of the plan was that I forgot something for an event, which I realise is not as earth-shattering as it seemed at the time.  I couldn’t understand how it had happened but I’m convinced that God was behind it.  I had written a list of everything we needed and triple-checked it.  It seemed impossible that I could have forgotten something, especially something obvious and important.

It was embarrassing and it was an inconvenience to sort out, but God definitely worked it for good.  It showed me, and others, that I was not invincible, I learned that others would show me grace, and I realised that we could deal with the situation and it wasn’t the end of the world.

Part 2 of God’s plan was thrusting me into leadership in a situation so completely chaotic that I hadn’t a hope of being in control.  There were too many unknowns, too many factors that depended on other people, too many difficulties that could never have been foreseen.  Every time I felt I was making progress something else would go wrong.  There was no way my planning was going to fix it and I had to accept that from the start.

It made me look to God: to seek him, to truly learn to rely on prayer rather than planning, to let my first response be turning to God instead of finding my own solution.

It forced me to admit that I couldn’t deal with it myself- that my planning was not enough but I needed God to bring order from the chaos and make it come together.

It allowed me to see God’s power and faithfulness as he did just that (at the last possible moment, which really exercised my faith!) and I knew that in the end, the successful result was all down to him and not to me.

Planning is still something that comes naturally to me, but I don’t want it to be an idol, or the place I put my trust.  These verses from Proverbs remind me that my trust has to be firmly in God and that it is his plan I should be seeking and trusting him to lead me.

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.  (Proverbs 16:9)

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.(Proverbs 19:21)

Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.  (Proverbs 16:3)

For the next few weeks, guests will be writing each Monday on something (or someone) we tend to trust in besides God. 

What about you? How do you fill in the blank: In ______ I Trust?

This post will also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

In Avoidance We Trust

{The eighth installment in the In ____We Trust Series}

Honored to welcome writer Elizabeth Giertz to the blog. A veteran turned army wife, Liz is a strong and courageous proclaimer of the Lord's goodness and truth. This post was originally featured on Liz’s blog and is shared in this series with her permission. Please join me in welcoming Liz and praying with her for those who serve to protect us and our freedom (and those who love them!)

liz profile pic

I laced up my boots and straightened my starched uniform every morning as I left for work before the sun rose above the horizon. I was a Soldier and a combat veteran.

Strong. Confident. Competent.

But I packed a MESSY secret deep in my cargo pockets.

I couldn’t shake the thought of a black sedan with government tags pulling up in front of my town house and dress uniform wearing Soldiers knocking on my door. My heart pounded and my stomach was tied in knots. For months on end, I did everything within my power to be anywhere but home during official notification hours.

If your spouse has been deployed in a combat zone, this scenario might sound familiar.

But for me, common fear crossed the line into unhealthy anxiety.

avoidancewetrust2

By the grace of God, my husband came home from that deployment unscathed, but my experience uncovered an uncomfortable truth in my heart.

My faith had been tested and found insufficient. I lacked confidence that God would take care of me if something should happen to my husband. I was consumed by fear because my the roots of my faith were shallow.

Have you found yourself in a similar situation?

A lack of trust often presents itself as worry, fear, anxiety, discouragement, or a constant desire to fix things our own way.

I believed in God and knew that His son was sacrificed for my salvation, but I didn’t have a relationship with Him. Believing in God and trusting Him are not necessarily synonymous. To trust Him, we must know Him – like a Friend, Father, Protector, Sovereign Lord, and Redeemer. To establish a strong relationship with Him we must read His love letters and communicate with Him in prayer.

My faith had to be more than an entry on my dog tags.

To find peace in troubling times trust God.

Instead of being consumed by my earthly needs, I learned to seek God’s Kingdom and then trust Him to provide all that I require for righteousness (Matthew 6:33).

In place of fretting I began to pray and give thanks (Philippians 4:6-7) even for the smallest of blessings, acknowledging that all goodness comes from above.

Rather than agonizing over the possibility that I would suffer unspeakable pain, I trusted God would never leave nor forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6) no matter what happened, because He is near the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).

In lieu of allowing worry to consume me, I began to cast my cares on the Lord, knowing that He cares for me more than I can imagine (1 Peter 5:7).

Friends, it works.

Since instituting these practices into my life, I have not experienced a single moment of all-consuming anxiety during any of my husband’s more recent deployments. In fact, I have learned to look forward to deployments as periods of significant spiritual growth, but that is another post altogether.

I replaced worry with trust.

This I know, that God is for me.

In God, whose word I praise,

In the Lord, whose Word I praise,

In God I trust, I shall not be afraid.

Psalm 56:9-11

Will you join me? Together, let’s commit to trusting God so that the enemy cannot steal one more second of the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

For the next few weeks, guests will be writing each Monday on something (or someone) we tend to trust in besides God. 

What about you? How do you fill in the blank: In ______ I Trust?

This post will also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

WordoftheWeek: In

Seriously? A word study on a preposition? Yes and more yes!

Here’s why: “in” occurs twice in this verse:

“But you, dear friends,

by building yourselves up in your most holy faith

and praying in the Holy Spirit”

Jude 1:20

But each “in” is different.

(1) The first is a definite article of speech. AKA, this “in” is just highlighting the subject: the building of holy faith.

(2) The secondin” is indeed a preposition, and it pointedly explains our position in prayer.

To be “praying in the Holy Spirit” is to be

(a) in the condition of

(b) in realm of

(c) inside of, alongside of, within

When we pray in the Holy Spirit, we pray in the position of one whose condition is defined by that same Spirit. We pray from alongside the Spirit the Lord sent to help us. As we interact with God by praying in the Holy Spirit, we connect in the terms of His realm, His kingdom, and His will. That’s what Ifeoma was talking about in her post earlier this week.

Praying in the Holy Spirit isn’t so much a long distance call as it is sitting beside our Lord and simply conversing.

This “in” preposition is the same used to describe:

  • People being baptized in water = immersed in
  • A winnowing fork in the hand of God = held by
  • Sickness in people = filled with
  • Where God resides in the heavens = dwelling in
  • Speaking in parables = formed in
  • Having the Word sown in the heart = located in

Just take the verse and fill in with these italicized examples. For instance:

“Praying immersed in the Holy Spirit.”

in prayer word

In” is a basic word, but it speaks volumes about prayer and our relationship with the Holy Spirit.

<ClickToTweet>

Praying that we would be so willing to let the Holy Spirit change our heart condition, set us in place, and come alongside us as we interact with God!

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

In The Midst of Trials- The Word Works Series

 

It always seems that Ifeoma has a timely lesson on her blog, Purposeful and Meaningful. Sharing practical tips on relevant topics, Ifeoma keeps Christ at the center of her writing. Grateful to have her sharing a challenge to grow in prayer based on God’s Word.


ifeoma

One fateful night, after I had spent a splendid time studying and praying, I prepared to ease into my writing by checking my messages.

You wouldn’t believe the message I got. My eyes literally widened in shock. I read the message over and over again. It is not possible, I said to myself. This can’t be true!

It was far from being good news, friend.

I was in the midst of a mess. Someone had set me up. Now I was called to my own defense.

I lost my balance. Lord, what is this? At 2 am I couldn’t bear it any more, I woke Obi up and briefed him. He began to pray about it too.

It was time for a divine intervention. I had less than 24 hours to prove I was innocent of this senseless accusation. At about 8:30 am, I let a few sisters know about what was going on and we prayed. The Word was declared over the situation. Sometimes we need other sister friends in our lives to pray along with us. We need true friends who would stand by us in faith. Remember Ruth and Naomi?

Every Christian Woman needs praying Sisters.

God’s Word works. There is tremendous power in the Name of Jesus.

<ClickToTweet>

My heart found peace and quiet and I went about my routine activities believing that the Lord would vindicate me.

Friend, God did it! Amen!

By 8:30pm that same day, I received a follow-up email confirming that the perpetrators had confessed and my name was cleared. Thank God for His faithfulness.

Are you been falsely accused?

Is there a situation threatening to swallow you up?

Does it seem like everything is contending with your peace?

My prayer for you:

In the Jesus Name, there is deliverance. In the Name of Jesus, there is divine help for you. The Lord will quiet every raging storm blowing over your life in Jesus Name. The Lord will fight every battle over your life and set you free from the trap you are caught in. He alone will deliver His people and take the glory in Jesus Name.

The Word of God works in every situation.

As a believer, strengthen your faith by feeding on His Word.

“But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost…”

Jude 1:20 (KJV)

Believe and act in faith.

God’s Word is a powerful weapon in the hands of those who have faith and understand the potency of His Word.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds”

 2 Corinthians 10:4 (KJV)

You my friend, are not of this world. You operate differently because the mystery of the God’s kingdom is given to you not to the world. Therefore, the world cannot understand it. To them it is foolishness to call on the Name of Jesus and to speak the Word. To us, the Word of God is everything.  For more reading… (1 Corinthians 2:4-7 and 1 John 4:4)

We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory (1 Corinthians 2:7.)

In the midst of trials don’t give up your faith. Hold on to His promise over your life and He will come through for you. In whatever situation you find yourself, lift up your voice with all your heart and call upon the name of Jesus. Wait for Him and be not discouraged. 

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

 

Praying After Has a Purpose

Photo from: www.missiochurch.com

We pray before we eat. Before our days begin. Before we go to sleep. Often, we pray before big events and decisions. We pray as loved ones face difficulties. But we don’t have to stop there.

Keep praying after.

In our limited sense of time, that can feel futile.

Why pray about something that has already happened? Can the Lord change even that which is in retrospect? Is He sovereign over history when it’s already been written?

Yes.

History, it is often said, is life’s greatest teacher. To build better futures, we look at the past. So praying in retrospect makes sense.

Unlike “changers” in sci-fi movies that erase and replant memories, the Lord is in the business of changing hearts. And while that may not change history, it changes our perspective of it. That makes all the difference.

After you complete that nerve-wracking conversation, pray. Turn to the Lord. He can work in your heart to use that conversation for good. He does, after all, work all things together for the good of those who love Him according to His will and great purposes (Romans 8:28.)

He can also change the heart of the one you spoke to. Or the loved one who faced the tragedy. And even the course of that decision you made that you’re not so sure about.

It’s never too late with the Lord,

…and that should effect how we live in this world and how we relate to others. Forgiveness is all the more possible when we live in the truth of that fact: grace has no expiration date. Not between the Lord and any of us, and not between any of us at all.

So pray after it all goes crazy, it all goes well, and you have no idea how any of it could go anywhere. He remains faithful and above all.

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.”1 Chronicles 29:11

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday #Faith-Filled Friday, and #DanceWithJesus.

Pray First

Photo from: sapch.org

I remember when these words sounded limiting –were you ever in that place? Praying first…or really before anything at all, seemed so restrictive. It took up valuable time and energy. Praying first meant either doing something obligatory and then continuing in my own way or having to sit around and wait while time was a-wasting.

But these words have become sweet. Praying first is a blessing the Lord provides. When we really turn to Him in prayer, laying all before Him, there is a peace unlike any other that permeates our lives.

  • What if you never had to guess about the right answer?
  • What if you never had to wonder if you were doing the right thing?
  • What if you didn’t have your plans messed up because you waited to make them until the timing was right?
  • What if you never looked back in regret, believing you really disobeyed God in a decision?

These things happen when we pray first, and when we pray in line with His will. Think of all the verses the Lord gives to show us this truth.

To name a few:

 “…in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 4:6-7

Scripture knows it, too. The peace of God, the kind of peace that guards us, keeps us, and changes our lives and hearts, that fills us when we present ourselves in prayer to the Lord.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” -1 John 5:14
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” –1 Thessalonians 5:6-7

Put these two verses together. God hears us (indeed other verses say will give us anything) when we ask according to His will. God’s will for us is that, for one thing, we pray continually.

To be in His will, we need to be praying. To pray in His will, we need to be praying. (tweet this)

When we really pray –as in, going before the Lord and doing so to give His thoughts, Word, and ways priority in our lives- we hear Him. We get closer to Him. We find ourselves moved and led because we are in closer fellowship with one we can go to always. He’s also the best one to go to always. He’s God.

There’s a reason prayer gives us peace that transcends. It’s in prayer that we are nearest to Him, and He defines peace. He is eager to fill us with it and keep us there (Isaiah 26:3.)

Praying first puts the Lord’s will first. (tweet this)

It puts Him above ourselves, which keeps us where we ought to be- at the feet of Jesus, following Him along the perfect way. That makes it hard to get lost. It removes worries of missed turns and bad timing, replacing them with the perfection and grace of our Savior.

Pray first when you:

  • Get up in the morning
  • Face difficult tasks
  • Make decisions
  • Eat a meal
  • Enter a conversation
  • Spend time with someone you love
  • Get the feels (anger, joy, excitement)
  • Think you’ve got it handled
  • Begin routine tasks
  • Consider your relaxation and entertainment options
  • Start to worry
  • Make plans
  • Say yes
  • Say no
This post is being shared on: #LifeGivingLinkup #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, and #TellHiStory.