By Jane Horvath
Ephesians 3:20 is a wonderful verse to memorize and pray back to God. It is a reminder of what God wants to do in our lives.
Many years ago, a small group of friends and I were treated to a weekend away in Charleston. This was a time in my life when the only way I could afford to visit Charleston was to travel down with a group early in the morning, spend the day, bring my own food rather than eating out and drive back the same day. We would share the cost of the gas and have an inexpensive, fun day. We used to joke about the fact that we could write a book about taking inexpensive vacations. We had the corner on doing just that.
However, this time we were able to stay two nights in a hotel and the cost of our meals was covered. In addition, our host had a boat and paid for the gas for the boat and provided snacks during the day. It was a wonderful, relaxing time.
One of my best memories from that trip was dinner on Saturday night. We went to a very nice restaurant in downtown Charleston. When I saw the prices, I gulped hard and wondered what I could possibly order that I could afford. Additionally, if our host was paying, I wanted to pick the least expensive item on the menu. Then our host said these words, “I want you to choose your meal from the left side of the menu rather than the right side.”
You may wonder about the significance of those words. I certainly had no idea what our host meant when he said it. Then he explained: He did not want us to choose our meal based on what it cost. He wanted us to pick out what we really wanted to eat, regardless of the cost. I had never had someone make such a generous offer.
Recently, God brought this memory back to my mind as I was preparing to pray about situations in my life and in the lives of my friends. I realized that I too often pray from “the right side of the menu.” I think about the requests we have and pray as if it is up to me to have to provide for the request. Consequently, I pray minimal (appetizer-sized) prayers. When God reminded me of this memory, He showed me that He wants me to pray from “the left side of the menu.” He wants me to remember that He can do far beyond what I’m able to ask or imagine. He also reminded me that “my God shall supply all my needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
By Cindy Van Wingerden, PhD
What do you do when you are struggling to find joy? It is a challenge for everyone at one time or another. For me personally, I love David’s response from 1 Samuel 30. In the story, David’s wives and children had all been taken by the Amalekites. Verse 6 says, “David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters.” David’s response to this was remarkable: “But David encouraged himself in the Lord.” 1 Samuel 30:6
Whenever I find myself fighting for perspective and joy, I sense the Holy Spirit prompting me, saying “learn to encourage yourself in the Lord.” So then the question is, how do I actually do that, especially when my soul is so downcast?
I was recently spending time in the book of Ephesians when I discovered a list of verses in my old study Bible. It is a list of very clear promises regarding who I am and the reality of my identity in Jesus Christ. As I read them out loud, I was reminded of the prompting of the Holy Spirit to “encourage yourself in the Lord.”
I can encourage myself in the Lord by meditating on the Truth of God. I also do it by replacing the lies of our culture, of the enemy, and of my own flesh with those truths. Of course, other ways include calling a godly friend who I know will pray for me, immersing myself weekly in biblical community, or making a slight change of scenery. But, to encourage myself IN THE LORD means actively putting off the lies that currently weigh me down and putting on the truth of God. His Truth cannot be matched for its excellent, restorative power.
I trust that you might be blessed by these few truths that follow. Of course, this is just a small fraction of the promises of God to us in Jesus Christ. Encourage yourselves in the Lord!!!
By Karen Baloy
“1 Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. 2 Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. 3 My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? 4 Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. 5 Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave? 6 I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. 7 My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. 8 Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. 9 The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer. 10 All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish; they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.” Psalms 6
This psalm was written toward the end of David’s life when he was expressing sorrow for sin. It is the first of seven psalms that are referred to as Penitential Psalms or Psalms of Confession. While not all sickness is a direct result of personal sin, when it is, the pain can be instrumental in bringing the sinner face-to-face with God.
David and I have shared the same battle cry. One early morning in 2015, I woke up and wasn’t able to count numerically. Over the next few days, I began to lose my words. I had to stop driving a few weeks later because I couldn’t remember where I lived. Shortly thereafter, I started losing weight rapidly. Then my organs started to fail and I was too weak to walk more than a few yards. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.
Doctors and family members had their opinions of what was going on, but I knew none of it was true. I was eating well and serving myself healthy portions. I kept searching for answers all the while being taken care of by adult babysitters. Through the help of a dear friend, I eventually received a diagnosis of long term chronic Lyme disease. It took over a year to rehabilitate my body with very expensive treatments. While I had a series of biological risk factors to contract the disease, years of stress on my body made me particularly susceptible.
Lyme disease is incurable. The best I can hope for is to have long remissions where I can lead a normal life. But I live with the uncertainty that I could flare overnight and my life could come to a screeching halt for anywhere from a few days to a few months. The threat looms large. I would often cry myself to sleep wondering what the next day would hold and whether I would have to cancel my plans yet again. I immediately related to David when he cried, “I am worn out from all my groaning; All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.”
After spending a lot of time in the Word and reading “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young, I realized that God was using this disease to teach me how to live in the present. I wouldn’t wish this disease on anyone, yet I am grateful that it forced me to lean on Him rather than my worries and human understanding to get through each day. God is the great Healer and Comforter. Thanks to Him, I no longer let tomorrow’s worries steal from my today. “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.” Indeed, the Lord receives my prayer EVERY SINGLE DAY. Thank you, Jehovah-Rophe (God our Healer)!
By Karen Baloy
“1 Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, 3 Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.” 4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. 5 He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, 6 “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” 7 I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father. 8 Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” 10 Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling. 12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” Psalms 2
Psalms 2 is a Messianic psalm in which nations and kings are urged to serve God because He has entrusted the ultimate judgement (the wrath of God or blessed eternity) to Christ. Verse 1 is a reminder that our sin nature hates authority so we rebel to get our way, all in vain. Many chapters in the Bible refer to the theme of rebellion. I have realized that in reading the Bible, I typically think of rebellion as something extreme like killing, stealing, idol worshiping or destroying nations. While those are terrible things, these things don’t keep me down on a daily basis. Lust for control keeps me down. It’s insidious and I had never realized it.
Natalie Grant captured it perfectly in her song “King of the World” when she confesses, “I try to pull you down so we are eye to eye” and “I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world.” It never works. Our God is omnipotent; he doesn’t take orders from me. He has the power to sit in the heavens and laugh at my futile resistance, bring His wrath or bless me. He’s in control. My only job is to put my childlike trust in Him and relinquish control. In doing so, the final verse tells me I will be blessed: “Blessed are all those who take refuge in him.” Thank you, Papa!
By Karen Baloy
Scripture Reference: Psalm 1
Read Scripture. Listen to God. Be obedient. Have faith. Pray vulnerably. Meditate on His Truths. Repent quickly. Seek godly counsel. Surround yourself with Christ-like people. Fear not. Repeat. Psalm 1 perfectly captures my life before and after hearing, understanding and living these commands. “Like the chaff which the wind drives away,” I had nothing to stabilize me when adversity would come my way. I would seek ungodly counsel from family and friends who would tell me what I wanted to hear and feed into the lies of our broken world. I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t matter. I wasn’t lovable. They deserved it. I was better than them. I wasn’t worthy. Get them before they get me. Win at any cost. No one will be there for you. It’s you against the world. I believed these lies and lived accordingly.
Verse 6 ends by saying “the way of the ungodly shall perish.” The Hebrew word for “perish” means “to destroy, be ruined, be lost, fail.” I was perishing physically, emotionally and spiritually because of the enemy’s lies when God crossed my path with a Godly counselor whom He has used to teach me how to read Scripture and hear Him. She has also taught me the importance of praying for wisdom and discernment in all that I do. In addition, He has used her to plant seeds in my heart and encourage the vulnerability to reach out to other Godly people whom have been instrumental in shaping my walk with Him. As a result, I have come to “delight in the Law of the Lord” and meditate on it “day and night.” I now feel “like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season; Whose leaf also shall not wither and whatever he does shall prosper.” To God be the glory!
Are we truly aware of the impact our beliefs have on our life and our relationship with God?
She believes she is worthy.
She believes she is loved.
She believes she is accepted.
She believes she is victorious.
She believes she is powerful.
She believes she is righteous.
She believes she is significant.
She believes she has purpose.
She believes she can have hope in Christ.
She believes she is forgiven.
She believes God can heal her.
She believes God will heal her.
She believes she is full of the Holy Spirit.
She believes God makes His home in her.
She believes God works mightily through her.
She believes she can have a meaningful impact on others.
She believes God wants her to show His love to others.
She believes the joy of the Lord is her strength.
She believes she is courageous.
She believes God knows her by name.
She believes God will remove any chains that hold her down.
She believes she doesn’t have to live an unfulfilled life.
By Danielle Harmon
For the longest time, I was worried that I was going to miss God when He was speaking to me. I was constantly concerned, afraid, full of guilt and condemnation and felt that I would make a wrong turn and not hear Him. At times, I lacked confidence in my decisions because I was constantly afraid they were wrong. I was aware of the verse from John 10:27, which reads, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me”. However, I was afraid that somehow I would miss Him. An understanding of the Father’s love for me has been essential in learning to hear His voice more clearly.
Through His Holy Spirit, God has been teaching me that any fear, worry, condemnation, anxiety or depression that I hear or sense is not the voice of the Father. Whenever I have these feelings, they’re directly from the enemy. The Bible says in 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Therefore, if God is guiding me in His perfect love, He will not use fear to accomplish His purpose. Being fearful is not walking in the Spirit. Instead of fearing misdirection, I can remember Psalms 91:14-16 which speaks of the Lord’s protection, deliverance and guidance.
“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Psalms 91:14-16
Whenever feelings of doubt or fear creep into my mind disguised as “wisdom”, I can defeat them because of my understanding of God’s love. Meaning, I can recognize these thoughts and feelings as the voice of the enemy and extinguish them. Then, I replace them with the Truth of God’s Word. As Christians, we are instructed to do this in 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Learning to do this is essential to hearing the voice of God. It is the revelation of His love for me which has enabled me to have confidence in my right to use and apply His Truth to my life.
Now that I’m learning to hear God’s voice more clearly, the verse from John 10:27 has taken on new meaning. I have come to understand that the deeper my relationship with Him, the more clearly I hear Him. Continued learning and revelation of His character leads to greater ability to hear his guidance. As I grow in my understanding of Him, I have found that He will direct me so I can follow His will. The Bible tells us this in Proverbs 3:6: “Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” I have confidence in knowing that the Father will tell me when to turn right or turn left. He will not lead me astray. He created me for His designed purpose and He is faithful to see it to completion by showing me the correct path. Just as a parent would not watch a child wander off in the wrong direction without speaking up, God will let me know when I start to roam so that I can make a change and turn back.
Through the revelation of the Father’s love for me, I have traded fear and anxiety for love and confidence in Him. I am no longer afraid of “missing God.” I know that He cares for me. As a result of the relationship that I have with Him, He will let me know when I start to get off-course. As I am consumed by His love, I find my refuge and peace in Him instead of being tossed around by worry and fear. I can rest in the knowledge that God truly loves and cares for me (See Psalms 23).
By Danielle Harmon
Surrender your life to me. I surrendered it all for you. I came directly from my Heavenly Father to the earth and I came empty-handed. I temporarily surrendered my place in Heaven so I could be reconnected to you. I came to serve you so that we could have a relationship. Won’t you follow my lead and surrender too? I want a relationship with you. But a relationship cannot happen without mutual surrender. Surrender your life and your desires and replace them with my desires. My ways are higher than your ways. My purposes are greater than your purposes. Your life is not your own. Surrender to me & to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and you will find purpose and receive divine inspiration. A surrendered heart and life are how I move on the earth. Allow me to move in and through you.
“Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28
By Danielle Harmon
Opening up to others can seem like a daunting task. Fears, insecurities and past hurts are often the reason we are hesitant to form deep, meaningful relationships. In times past, I have overlooked the God-ordained significance of close fellowship with others. However, God has shown me immeasurable blessings through vulnerability and sincere friendships.
When my husband and I first moved to Greenville, we decided to join a large, local church. This church was vastly different from the churches that I had grown up attending – where Sunday school was the closest thing I could equate to Bible study or small group activity. I was overwhelmed by the size of the church, as well as the church’s challenge to its members to be “an active member”. Everyone was encouraged to serve (utilizing their gifts) and participate regularly in a small group. An introvert to the core, I promised myself that my husband and I would join a couple’s group where I could hide behind my husband’s Biblical Studies degree and wait for him to expertly answer any theological or scripture-related question.
However, God had other plans. In fact, try as we might, my husband and I were unable to find a couples’ small group that met at a time convenient to both of our schedules. Inevitably, with frustration and some trepidation, I joined a women’s small group. It was one of several with which I would become involved. Although I was unaware at the time, it was through my participation in these small groups that God was preparing me to lead my own small group.
God began using the women and the group studies to ignite a passion in me for learning more about His Word, His Son, and His Holy Spirit. Further, He began maturing my prayer life. I began hearing Him and learning more about His character in ways that I previously had not. He was using my “active membership” within that church to bring clarity to His purpose for me – a call into the counseling ministry. As Henry Blackaby discusses in his book, ‘Experiencing God,’ I had joined God where He was already working. He was weaving together people and themes throughout my daily life and slowly revealing parts of His plan for me.
As God was revealing these things, He was also impressing upon me the importance of connecting with other believers. Although I know God hears our prayers whether we are praying alone or with others, I was reminded of Matthew 18:20, which says, “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” There is undeniable power when we come together and pray for one another. In James 5:16, Scripture reads, “Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” If God says it, we are to take Him at His Word. So, if there is power in unity, there is also power in confessing our sins.
Following Biblical instruction by confessing our sins and praying for each other requires transparency. It means shedding pretense and presenting ourselves – warts and all. That is terrifying for many people. We want to cling to our pretense because it feels safe. That, in itself, is a false security. The more we hold onto the facade, the longer we remain bound by strongholds. The sooner we embrace vulnerability, the quicker God brings His healing activity into our lives. What we allow God to work in us while others are watching may be the precipitating event that draws them into a more authentic relationship with Christ.
In her book, ‘Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus,’ Ann Spangler writes, “Jewish thinkers have considered it vital to study the Scriptures in the presence of other people.” She cites a famous line of rabbinic advice from before Jesus’ time: “Acquire for yourself a rabbi, and get yourself a haver.” Her book further describes “A haver (plural, haverim) is a male student who partners with another student to enhance learning…A female study partner is a haverah (plural, haverot).”
One of my most valued relationships is a close friend and prayer partner. In essence, she acts as my haverah. God has worked through the two of us in undeniable ways. Together, He has taken us further in our faith than either of us would have gone individually. My haverah challenges my thinking, as I do hers, as we seek to understand the scriptures together. When she is too tired to pray for herself, I step in. When I am too exhausted or distraught to pray for myself, she steps in and takes the lead. Our relationship includes laughter, tears, and at times, disagreement – all of which enhance our learning. Through all of our experiences together, God continues to encourage and grow us both in our faith and witness.
God has lead me to discover that being vulnerable with other believers brings significant power and freedom. Although it can be challenging at times, I have learned to silence my insecurities and fears and lay my heart open before other believers. I’m so glad that God had other plans for me when I wanted to keep to my introverted self. Had I followed my own desires, I would have missed so much that the Father wanted to show me!
- Who is your haverah? Is it one person, or a group (haverot) of spiritually mature believers?
- How have you benefited from having a haverot?
- Who do you have that speaks Godly wisdom into your life and challenges your thinking?
- If you don’t have anyone, what is keeping you from connecting? If you don’t know the first step to take, ask God to bring a person or group into your life. He knows your needs and is faithful to answer your requests!
By Stephanie Baker
We all experience disappointments in life: the loss of a home or job, hurt feelings, difficult circumstances. Disappointment is the result of someone or something not meeting our expectations. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have the privilege of filtering our disappointments through hope in Him.
We can have hope in spite of disappointment because Jesus’ sacrifice brings us a greater hope — the hope of new life. First Peter 1:3 (NIV) reads, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy, he has given us new birth in to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Discovering the living hope that is found in Jesus means that we do not have to be constantly disappointed. Hope does not carry around hurts, insecurities or offenses. Instead, we can have hope because there is more to come. And we can rejoice knowing that He willingly went to the cross so we could live abundant spiritual lives now, not just in Heaven.
We’re able to release our disappointments and embrace God’s Truth because the power of the Holy Spirit fills us with hope. Romans 15:13 (NIV) states, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Believing in God and His Truth produces joy and peace in us. And, as a result of the divine work of the Holy Spirit, we experience hope. This supernatural hope allows us the opportunity to see God provide for us when our children make life-altering mistakes, a business deal falls through or a friend doesn’t fulfill an obligation.
When feeling overwhelmed by disappointment, we can have an attitude of thankfulness towards God, which produces hope. First Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV) says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We are told in this verse to be thankful in every situation, including when we’re let down or disappointed. A thankful heart says, “God, I’m disappointed and this hurts; but even though this hurts, I can be thankful for who you are to me (provider, healer, etc.)”. Our thankfulness moves the focus from ourselves and our expectations to God and His goodness.
Although we are children of God, we live in a sinful world and experience dissatisfaction when our expectations aren’t met. Because we have hope through Jesus Christ, we do not have to live with constant disappointment: God offers us hope in its place. Instead of focusing on the circumstances that fall short of our expectations, we can focus on the hope we have in Jesus, with thankful hearts, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
By Danielle Harmon