By Jane Horvath
Ephesians 3:20 starts by saying, “Now unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.” Many of us have memorized that scripture and prayed it back to God asking Him to do “exceedingly abundantly” in a given situation. However, I was not always sure how that looked until God gave me a great word picture to help me understand it.
I had been saving for a particular household item for months (probably a couple of years would be more accurate). Since this item was not a necessity, other needed items became more pressing, and I would borrow from the want fund in order to purchase the necessary items.
Then, one day God did “exceedingly abundantly above all that I could ask or think.” He provided the item to me free of charge, and the item was much nicer and bigger than what I would have purchased myself. Just remember, this was not a needed item; it was just something on my “wish list”.
So what did God provide? A new TV. He gave me a 55” TV FREE OF CHARGE! I would never have purchased that size for myself. I had a 22” TV in my living room (at least it was a flat screen TV). What I really wanted was a TV that made it easier for my older eyes to watch. The one God provided is just the right size because whenever I see the TV hanging on the wall or I watch a program, God reminds me that He is able to do “exceedingly abundantly.” Moreover, if He does that with a want or a dream, just imagine what He will do for a real need!
Now when I pray Ephesians 3:20 back to God about a situation in my life, I remember how He provided “exceedingly abundantly” in the recent past and ask Him to do the same in my current situation. I have a better idea of what that might look like, and I am confident He will continue to show me in tangible ways what those words from Scripture mean for my life.
By Karen Baloy
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7, NLT). I felt so liberated the first time I heard this verse. I had been completely owned by my fears prior to hearing it. Whenever I would feel the signs of a panic attack starting, I would recite this verse. I sometimes had to chant it on loop until the feelings passed. I knew God’s words were truth. I wasn’t going to let the enemy’s lies prevail. I wanted to be calm and loving, just like my precious Jesus.
As 1 John 4:18a reminded me, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.” (NKJV) Fear had no place in my life! Romans 8:15a was right, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear”. These verses brought me to a place of total reverence and awe of God, not to mention giving me an appreciation for the continual peace His Spirit provides.
Once I became more settled in my New Testament understanding of God, I began to study the Old Testament. I was immediately bombarded with verses that told me that I needed to fear God to find peace. The voices of my fire and brimstone preachers and teachers of my youth came flooding back. Is God good or is God bad? I’m supposed to demonstrate my love to God by showing him I’m afraid?!? The mixed messages continued to confuse me, even while reading other chapters of Psalms.
Reading Psalm 25 was a transformative experience. I felt urged to research verses 12-14, “Who, then, are those who fear the Lord? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose. They will spend their days in prosperity and their descendants will inherit the land. The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.”
After reading this verse, I wanted to find out why being afraid of Him would bring me wonderful things. It didn’t take long to discover that there are TWO definitions of fear. According to Eugene H. Merrill on BibleStudyTools.com, the two definitions of the verb fear are: 1) produces awe, reverence and obedience; and 2) that which causes one to cover in dread and terror in anticipation of his displeasure.
Prior to the revelation of these two definitions, I hadn’t quite reached peace because I thought I was flawed by not being afraid of God. But then I realized this is exactly what the enemy wanted. Now I can rejoice: Hallelujah, His truth has set me free! I’m no longer a slave to a misunderstanding of a single word. I have now released the spirit of fear by fearing God with all of my heart and all of my soul!
By Jane Horvath
Have you ever had a situation that astounded you or made your heart stop? I am not talking about a beautiful sunrise or sunset or the birth of your child or grandchild. I am referring to that phone call you never wanted to receive, the work situation, the overwhelming health problem or the relationship that seems beyond repair.
One of my new favorite shows is Code Black. A few definitions of code black, a medical term, is mass casualties or personal threat. Any of the situations above could fall into these definitions. We do not live in a vacuum, so work, health and relationship issues can feel like a personal threat and may involve mass casualties. In every episode of Code Black, someone’s heart stops beating for one reason or another, and the doctors and nurses use a variety of means to restart the heart.
When these situations occur, what means are you using to restart your heart? On the other hand, would you prefer to be just another casualty? What will it take to go from the flat line of your heart not beating to hear your heart beat again?
In Code Black, sometimes the heart starts using basic CPR. Other times a powerful medication like epinephrine is used. If all else fails, the heart jolts to life with a defibrillator. In the case when our hearts stop beating because of overwhelming circumstances, God may use a variety of means to start our heart again.
Many times God uses a verse in His word, a song or a text from a friend to jolt my heart back to life. Other times, it is a message from church or something from a book I am reading that startles me back to life. For other times it takes counseling over a period of time for me to start hearing a faint heartbeat.
I do know that the longer it takes me to recognize my heart has stopped beating, the longer it takes it to start beating again. God is the common denominator for my heart to start beating. He uses people, places and things, but God is the one who breathes life back into my body and soul.
If your heart has slowed or stopped beating because of overwhelming circumstances in your life, do not be another casualty. Instead, seek God through His Word or through a person who knows the life-saving treatments to start your heart beating again for Him.
By Jane Horvath
I have had the opportunity, privilege really, to go on several mission trips. One trip was to a school in Jamaica where we were involved in their ongoing building program. Construction is not my forte. However, we were bringing most of our own food for the trip and cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner for our group was part of our responsibility. Now, cooking for groups was an area of expertise for me!
Part of our planning responsibilities was making menus and gathering as much food and dry goods as we could prior to our trip. I reached out to the director of the food services at the school cafeteria associated with our church with the hope of getting some donations. The director was very helpful, but there was one problem: She wanted to donate a big, industrial-size can of baked beans. I HATE BAKED BEANS. I could not think of any reason why we should bring this giant can of beans. After all, probably many people felt the same way as I did, and it was going to be hot (really hot). Why would anyone want hot beans after working in the heat all day long? Moreover, do we really want people eating beans when we are sharing our bedrooms with up to six people?
Well, guess what? I did end up reluctantly bringing the can of beans. I was not planning on opening the can and cooking them. I figured I would leave them with the missionaries to dispose of as they saw fit — through their stomach or in the garbage. At least I did what I was supposed to do — bring the beans.
As we were unpacking the groceries, the missionary saw the beans and exclaimed, “Those are my favorite beans, and I have not had any in the five years since I have been here.” THAT was the reason I was supposed to bring the beans. Serving can be difficult in America, but it can be even more difficult in another country. Isolation and feeling as if God does not remember who you are can be a lie we hear and believe.
It was obvious God knew the missionary well and used a willing participant (the cafeteria director) and an unwilling participant (me) to bring His gift of love to this missionary. I do not think we ate the beans that week, I cannot remember. But I do remember being thankful that I brought the beans even though I did not want to do it. God knows exactly what can encourage us and often he uses us, willing or not, to encourage others.
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)
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