(Unedited segment of Chapter 3 Unmasking the Myths: Is This Prayer? to be published 2020. Unmasking the Myths is the first of three books on prayer containing over 70 interviews from people around the globe. Their stories and experiences give insight to the power and effectiveness of prayer.)
|“All along, prayer has been the Holy Spirit
planting love in me for Jesus.”
As young as seven years old, Kevin wondered if God was real. Even though he went to church and took communion, Kevin felt there was a huge distance between God and himself. As a young boy, whenever he had trouble falling asleep, he would reflect on God. Yet, he felt confused.
By the time he turned 16 the confusion had turned to fear. Though he assumed he was a Christian, he honestly didn’t know what that meant. Only three years later, he was heading in the wrong direction fast.
“Back home from my first year of university, I was working for the town. However, Because of a severe spinal injury from playing hockey, I couldn’t do anything without being loaded up on prescription pain killers. When I came to the end of that summer, I had no money left. I was drinking daily and spending every penny at the local bar. I was on a destructive path.
Here I was a 19-year-old guy who couldn’t even stand up straight or sit down. I was depressed. I didn’t want to go back to university the way I was. Everything was on a bad track, although I maybe wasn’t aware of it at the time. My family had been set free from alcoholism. However, I was on my own journey of recovery after being raised in a dysfunctional home.
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For many people, like me, seeing is believing. First we look up, and then we rest in the enduring fabric of faith we find in God. Faith weaves through the pages of biblical history uniting man and God. It’s a history filled with divine encounters passed down from generation to generation.
My grandchildren delight in passing on the exciting things they are doing and showing me their recent accomplishments. Their experiences mark milestones of achievement or are just plain fun things they want to tell me about. They are happy to share; I’m equally happy to listen and encourage them.
On the other hand, I have stored more than a few bone-headed blunders in the “open-at-your-own-risk” file! Seeing is believing there too. During those episodes, I hoped no one witnessed my absent-mindedness. Even I can’t believe how or why I stumbled into such predicaments.
I’m not alone! Israel had just about had enough of circling the wilderness. Even though God had faithfully led and cared for them the whole way, instead of gratitude, they were growing impatient.
“They spoke against God and against Moses, and said,
‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt
to die in the wilderness?
There is no bread! There is no water!
And we detest this miserable food!'”
Actually, I empathize. There are days when I’ve thought, “Enough is enough! God where are you?” Thankfully, my words aren’t recorded for everyone to examine in microscopic detail.
This wasn’t the first time complaining rose among this discontented mob. They had experienced the severe consequences of such mumbling before. You would think they had learned their lesson, but they were human — just like me!
How many times do I know better, but look at my self-made circumstances and grumble? The depraved condition of my own heart expresses itself: dissatisfied, malcontent, self focused, entitled, glum, disheartened… The longer I look at my surroundings the worse it gets.
“Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them;
they bit the people and many Israelites died.”
We reap what we sow! Their sharp poisonous words reaped the consequences of equally sharp venomous bites by deadly serpents. God allowed them to see the snakes and feel the poisonous effects of their actions. Seeing is believing and so is feeling!
Look to Man
Instead of looking up to God, their first response was to point their rigid fingers toward their leader. Their second response was, “Help! Get us away from the problem!”
“The people came to Moses and said,
‘We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you.
Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.’
So Moses prayed for the people.”
It’s a familiar refrain from fallen and broken humanity. Yet, even when it is obvious how wrong we have been, we refuse to look up to God for help. We choose rather to look for another savior, someone else to rescue us from our trials.
God neither removed them from their circumstances, nor did He remove the snakes.
The Israelites witnessed the effects of mankind’s fall in the most tangible of ways. I hear the silent echo of words spoken to the first serpent in the garden of Eden.
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
Here they were sinning like their original parents, Adam and Eve, feeling the serpent’s poisonous bite. God neither removed the serpent from the garden, nor from the wilderness. He doesn’t always remove our situations that strike with equally deadly force today either.
“The LORD said to Moses,
“Make a snake and put it up on a pole;
anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”
Talk about faith! Look up at a man-made bronze snake hanging from a pole and you will live! What does looking have to do with halting poisonous venom? Only one look brought life — it worked! Seeing is believing when we take time to look up.
“…Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and
looked at the bronze snake, they lived.”
Jesus, the Savior of the world, compares this very act to Himself.
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness,
so the Son of Man must be lifted up,
that everyone who believes
may have eternal life in him.”
Faith looks up and believes. We are like the people in the wilderness being struck by a deadly serpent. We too desire safety, away from the evil intentions of our enemy. Rather than remove the enemy, God still provides a solution — look up in faith and believe!
Faith Looks Up
“Looking” and “believing” are synonymous. When the Israelites looked at the serpent, they believed in their Deliverer. When we look to Jesus, that same faith rises within us.
“Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.”
– A.W. Tozer
“Without faith it is impossible to please (God)”
Unfortunately, we bend our gaze toward each other — mirroring ourselves in smug content. We try the same things other churches try, imitating explicitly, with very little variation. It is all a substitute for looking up to the real Savior Jesus Christ.
If only we would recognize that seeing is believing. Faith actively looks up!
Eyes to See
The serpent’s strike of the heal has inflicted us all with near-sightedness. We are blinded even in our looking.
Faith gazes outside of human perspective. With eyes inside the heart, we look intently upon the all-seeing God. When we look and see, we find One sitting upon the throne.
“At once I was in the Spirit,
and there before me was a throne in heaven
with someone sitting on it.”
If there is one verse that speaks peace to my troubled heart, it is this one. Someone, The Savior, remains on the throne. When I feel the poisonous strike of the enemy upon, my marriage, family, church, community, nation or world, I know there is still One upon the throne. No one and nothing can remove Him from His position of ALL authority and power.
Seeing is believing! So in prayer, I look and see as faith moves within me stirring up peace beyond understanding, joy unquenchable and love irreversible.
Faith is a heart action beholding God from the inside out. We look up to Him, by looking into His Word, the Bible. Our gaze refocuses as we soak in His Presence. Nothing can replace these solitary times of meditation and prayer, seeking His face.
At the root of all faith resides the habitual intention of looking up, gazing upon, and beholding God. While our outward eyes know there are serpents among us, with inward eyes we see the solution, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Look up! Seeing is believing!
God exceeds all expectation. What if greater things than ever before are coming our way? Greater than anything experienced to this point in history. The bible reveals sufficient evidence to cause us to believe that what lays ahead is far better than anything in preceding times.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me
will do the works I have been doing,
and they will do even greater things than these,
because I am going to the Father.”
The disciples witnessed Jesus perform many miracles, heal the sick, raise the dead, calm storms, cast out demons and feed multitudes. He taught scripture with indisputable authority, confounding His strongest opponents. After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, His followers continued to teach and perform supernatural miracles. They were ordinary men doing extra-ordinary works through the Holy Spirit.
“When they saw the courage of Peter and John
and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men,
they were astonished and they took note
that these men had been with Jesus.”
The only explanation for the supernatural works of God moving through natural man was they “had been with Jesus.”
Glory to Glory
The Kingdom of God refuses to remain stagnant. In fact, “The Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing“ in spite of great opposition. (Matthew 11:12) Everything originating through God contains the seed of reproductivity and increase.
Entering the Presence of God caused Moses’ face to radiate with God’s glory. All who looked at him were overcome with fear and awe. Paul tells the Corinthian church even greater glory is coming.
“And we all with unveiled face,
beholding the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image
from one degree of glory to another.
For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3:18
Far greater things — expressions of God’s glory — awaits us. Why? Because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross.
Strength to Strength
One of my favourite psalms talks about the people of God triumphing over adversity as they continue to pursue His face. Even in the Valley of Baka (Valley of Weeping), they leave behind places of refreshing for others who have found the journey difficult.
“They go from strength to strength,
until each appears before God is Zion.”
“He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
…walk and not faint.”
Isaiah 40: 29-31
Although my running days are over, walking is one of my favorite pass times — especially when I can stroll outside the city limits. The truth is, however, these frail bodies have a propensity to wear out and fail us. We all face varying degrees of personal limitation.
Yet, God gives His people a capacity to exceed any natural boundaries. He gave Elijah the ability to outrun a horse and chariot (1Kings 18:46). Moses endured two back-to-back forty day fasts — something humanly impossible. Samson with supernatural strength wrestled a stone palace to the ground with one mighty push. The feats of David’s top warriors (2 Samuel 23) remain unparalleled in history.
But even in our mundane day-to-day activities, for “those who hope” in their God, He grants us the capability of exceeding normal limits. Though my personal examples don’t compare with these biblical counterparts, I have experienced times when beyond a doubt, God, and God alone, carried me through.
Faith to Faith
After Jesus had established His ministry in the surrounding territory, He returned to His hometown.
“And he did not do many miracles there
because of their lack of faith.”
On another occasion, He was astonished by a centurion’s “great faith” — a faith greater than anyone else in Israel! (Matthew 8:10) The disciples asked Jesus to “increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5)
“For in it (the Gospel) the righteousness of God
is revealed from faith to faith,
as it is written,
‘The righteous shall live by faith.'”
The Good News of the Gospel awakens within believers an increasing progression of faith. The kind of faith that expands and deepens to even greater faith. Paul commended both the Corinthians and the Thessalonians for their faith that was “growing and growing.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3). Their ever increasing faith became evident in the increase of love displayed toward each other.
Latter Is Better
I enjoy reading about the great revivals that have awakened and transformed the church over the generations. Faith sparking reading to be sure! However, even these remarkable revivalist were aware that what they experienced did not yet measure up to what is yet to come.
Whatever supernatural God encounters mankind has witnessed in the past pales in comparison to what is ahead!
“This is what the LORD Almighty says:
‘In a little while … I will fill this house with glory,’
says the LORD Almighty.
‘The silver and the gold is mine,’
declares the LORD Almighty.
‘The glory of this present house
will be greater than the glory of the former house,’
says the LORD Almighty.’…”
The Lord God Almighty continues to be the God of greater and greater things. Our difficulty is
visualizing beyond former paradigms.
believing past the natural,
receiving God’s truth as infallible,
and responding to Holy Spirit incentives.
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it…”
“For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour my Spirit on your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.”
As much as I am inspired by past revivals, they are but a foreshadow of what is ahead — a taste test of the main course to come. God promises such a mighty outpouring of His Spirit that the world cannot fathom. All things are possible for the “LORD Almighty!”
I pray for an increased, faith-filled expectation for more. The world, my own flesh and the devil creates a gravitational pull that attempts to ground all such heavenly vision. As God begins to pour out Holy Spirit in greater measure, these counter forces work to diminish the effects of God’s live giving flow.
“Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”
God is prepared to pour out far more than even our greatest expectation. This greater glory will require even greater faith to lay hold of the promised out-pouring. Greater strength, wisdom and sensitivity will be needed to steward well what God is about to do.
“I also pray that you will understand
the incredible greatness of God’s power
for us who believe him.
This is the same mighty power
that raised Christ from the dead and
seated him in the place of honor
at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”
Let’s get ready! Greater things are coming!
Earth’s resources may be diminishing, but heaven’s never do. Your promise is waiting, but you may have to do something illogical to receive it. However, these God opportunities sometimes have expiration dates.
I read the other day that over $800 million remains in unclaimed bank accounts in Canada alone. A $60 million lottery ticket currently sits unclaimed in Alberta. That sounds ridiculous to me. Somebody do something!
How many even more valuable promises sit in God’s hand waiting for somebody — anybody — to do something? God’s prompting to motivate us may hit a road block in my over-rationalizing mind or carry a risk I’m unprepared to take. Possessing our promise may take courage.
“And without faith living within us,
it would be impossible to please God.
For we come to God in faith knowing
that he is real and that he rewards the faith
of those who give all their
passion and strength into seeking him.”
Hebrews 11:6 TPT
Courage requires faith. Faith demands courage.
Peter had given up everything to follow Jesus, including his family, business and security. So when the tax collectors came knocking Peter’s pockets were empty. Jesus instructed,
“…go to the lake and throw out your line.
Take the first fish you catch;
open its mouth and you will find
a four-drachma coin.
Take it and give it to them for my tax and your.”
Sounds little “fishy” to me! (That’s Canadian for unbelievable.) I like fishing, but the most unusal thing I have found in a fish’s mouth is another fish. Peter trusted Jesus’ words and took a risk. He did something perhaps no one else would have done. He obeyed.
You would think everyone who saw the day’s catch would go fishing. But they knew God gives a specific word to a seeking heart that is unique to that time and situation.
What if Peter chose not to listen? What if he failed to respond? Frankly, I don’t know why God often relies on the obedience of people.
Familiarity gives the absurd directives within bible stories almost a “normal” appearance. The way of us earth-walking humans and our infinitely minded God present distinct and contradictory opposites.
God recruits Moses, Egypt’s most wanted criminal and fugitive. When an entire nation cries out in panic as a fierce army corners them against the Red Sea, God tells Moses to point a stick at the water. Seriously?
“Why are you crying out to me?
Tell the Israelites to move on.
Raise your staff and stretch out your hand
over the sea to divide the water
so that the Israelites can go through
the sea on dry ground.”
Who would you rather be? Moses or the first person stepping into the ominous depths? As absurd as the instructions appeared, victory came as everyone moved forward in obedience. Moses knew the voice of God. His confidence rested not in himself, but in the faithfulness of the One speaking.
A promise is waiting for all who will obey.
Rebellion blocked Israel’s ability to hear God. Twisted attitudes and calloused hearts continue to affect our ability to hear clearly and respond fully to God’s leading.
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left,
your ears will hear
a voice behind you, saying,
‘This is the way; walk in it.'”
Responding bridges hearing with receiving:
- Wash seven times in the dirty Jordan River and the leprosy will disappear. (2 Kings 5:10)
- Step out of the boat and you will walk on water. (Matt 14:29)
- After we make mud from spit and put it into blind eyes, go wash for healing. (John 9:6-7)
- Feed the starving crowd of thousands with a boy’s bag lunch. (Luke 9:13)
- Throw your nets on the other side. A great catch was waiting! (Luke 5:4)
If we ignore the prompting of the Lord, insisting on doing things like we have always done them, we will miss many miracles and divine encounters. Perhaps a promise is waiting today. Is anyone willing to move in a radical way to find out? Will we hold back looking for a risk-free formula to claim the blessing?
Though the bible is filled with such illustrations, none of these men or women moved in presumption. A sure word from God preceded each miracle.
“I will instruct you and teach you
in the way you should go;
I will counsel you
with my loving eye on you.”
Biblical examples abound of those who “presumed” they heard God and missed the mark. Others hesitated and decided too late to respond, with disastrous results.
Maintaining close relationship with God (through prayer and bible reading), while being in authentic relationships with mature Christians, creates a safe guard helping us discern God’s voice and respond appropriately. Having a mentor, coach or accountability partner will help us access God’s best for our lives.
But ultimately, the choice is ours. Will we trust God and risk?
“Trust in the Lord
with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.”
I have this verse etched on the wall at the foot of my bed. I need a constant reminder to resist the tendency to trust in my own strength, ability or wisdom.
When my husband and I took over the family farm, my father responded, “What a relief! I never liked farmer.”
It was sobering to think that my father continued, for over 50 years, to do a job that he didn’t find fulfilling. As I questioned him further, I discovered that he kept doing what he always did because he lacked the confidence to risk change. His creative ingenuity remained largely untapped.
It can be the same with us. It isn’t easy to trust God in the unknown. Fear held my father back. Fear paralyzes many.
The psalmist declared,
“I will hurry, without delay,
to obey your commands.”
Those who accessed the promises and miracles of God hurried “without delay.” Those who say “Yes!” to God, continually and radically create pathways for the supernatural. They may leave families, businesses, securities and predictable lives in their obedience. These aren’t absent minded decisions. They have
sought God with all their hearts,
listened intently to His voice,
tested and weighed the word against scripture,
and listened to the counsel of others,
before moving toward God in obedience,
knowing a promise is waiting.
God alone knows the result. Will we shake cultural norms? Will we allow His Kingdom to come to earth in surprising ways?
“But when he,
the Spirit of truth, comes,
he will guide you into all the truth.
He will not speak on his own;
but he will speak only what he hears,
and he will tell you what is yet to come.”
So if you ask me what I’m doing these days, don’t be surprised if I answer, “I’m walking with a stick.” “Going fishing.” or “Making mud with spit.” God alone knows the outcome. I don’t intend on holding back. A promise is waiting! Hopefully, there will be no unclaimed balances left in any of my spiritual bank account.
Do you know that we are invincible warriors with supernatural weapons — strategic members of a great and mighty army? So what holds us back? There is no reason for excuses. What keeps us from marching in unison — powerful, and focused?
Common elements necessary for military success and the advancing of God’s kingdom include discipline, humility and ownership. They are supernatural weapons.
The bible often uses two Greek words together: “egnokamen” and “pepisteukemen”. They mean “to know (understand, recognize, are conscious of by observation and experience) and believe (adhere to and put faith in and rely on). When our knowledge, experience, and faith unite a powerful synergy erupts.
We must recognize and gain knowledge of our weapons, using them through faith, to become invincible warriors.
There are two valleys in the bible that warriors avoid.
in the valley of decision!
For the day of the LORD is near
in the valley of decision.”
Procrastination dominates the Valley of Decision, “I can’t because ______.” “There is no one to help me.” “What if I fail?” “I don’t know how.” Excuses defeat an army’s opportunity of success before they even enter the battle.
Valley dwellers are a peculiar breed. I should know, I am one! Valley dwellers don’t like risk. They prefer security and safety. Lingering too long, however, and this valley turns into another dreaded location.
“The hand of the LORD was on me,
and he brought me out
by the Spirit of the LORD
and set me in the middle of a valley;
it was full of bones.
He led me back and forth among them,
and I saw a great many bones
on the floor of the valley,
bones that were very dry.”
The common denominator appears to be “many” and “multitudes”. Multitudes of fossilized dead — undecided, disconnected, lifeless, “very dry”.
How long had these bones, picked clean by vultures, lay disassembled on the valley floor? What life once formed their existence?
“So faith comes from hearing,
and hearing through the Word of Christ.”
God tells Ezekiel to “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!…'” (Ezek. 37:4) The Word of God fused knowing and believing, experience and faith.
Prophecy speaks God’s present word. Alignment with the conversation of heaven makes anything possible — then and now. Ezekiel obeyed.
“So I prophesied as he commanded me,
and breath entered them;
they came to life and stood up on their feet
— a vast army.”
Only God resurrects “dry bones” into a vast army of invincible warriors. No longer full of excuses, paralyzed by fear, or dead, an army rises from the valley floor — the lowest place.
You may become slightly confused looking at me: once solid muscles sag; a small frame fluffed with excess weight; femininity wrinkled and faded. Not your image of invincible warrior? But look again!
Knowing and believing,
experience and faith,
working deep in co-existing momentum
creating internal change.
Valley dwelling becomes increasingly uncomfortable and no longer optional. I’ve been in training! Secret service training!
The first essential discipline of invincible warriors is the study of God’s Word.
“For the word of God is alive and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword,
it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,
joints and marrow;
it judges the thoughts and attitudes
of the heart.”
Paul tells Timothy, “the Holy Scriptures…make you wise…is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2Tim.3:15-16) A necessity to prepare and equip every soldier for the task ahead!
The second and equally important discipline is prayer. Jesus patterned the need to pray: early in the morning, at the end of a busy day, even all night long.
“But Jesus often withdrew
to lonely places and prayed.”
The third, taking thoughts captive, becomes possible after the first two disciplines.
“For though we live in the world,
we do not wage war as the world does.
The weapons we fight with
are not the weapons of the world.
On the contrary, they have divine power
to demolish strongholds.”
2 Corinthians 10:3-4
Every battle is first won in our minds. The wise never battle without the supernatural weapon of discipline.
Humility of Invincible Warriors
Do you ever feel you’ve joined the enemy ranks? I have! Pride forfeits the use of our most powerful weapon — humility. It also puts us in direct opposition to God.
“…God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
Every biblical leader who chose to humbly submit to God experienced remarkable military exploits. They lead armies victoriously into battle against overwhelming odds:
- Abraham’s 318 defeated the armies of Babylon
- Judge Deborah and Barak went against the Canaanites with a vast army and 900 iron chariots
- Gideon with 300 defeated the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern people, “thick as locust. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.” (Judges 7:12)
- Elisha blinded, trapped, and fed the entire Syrian army, before sending them home.
Often when Israel clothed herself in humility before God, He threw the enemy into such disarray she only had to gather the plunder. Invincible warriors submit to their Commander.
“In order for the Church
to accomplish her last-day mandate…
we need the grace and anointing of God.
Because God gives grace to the humble,
we must learn to take every opportunity
we get to humble ourselves.”
God’s highest ranking warriors are disguised changing diapers, sweeping streets, driving trucks, mowing grass, and working fields. Common people with the supernatural weapon of humility. Quietly doing whatever God asks — unnoticed, unpraised, unrecognized — powerful instruments in the Kingdom of God. Invincible warriors own responsibility!
A common denominator among God’s history makers is the willingness to take ownership of themselves and their “world”. When cultural perspectives shift and become warped, they stand and say, “Not here! Not on my watch!”
A Philistine giant, Goliath, taunted Israel day after day, until the whole army was “dismayed and terrified”. (1 Samuel 17:11) A young shepherd boy came along! David took ownership of the situation. He didn’t blame the army for being frightened. He didn’t talk the fowl-mouthed enemy down peacefully. David stepped forward.
That difference impacted everyone who witnessed the supernatural work of God through one young, invincible warrior. David raised up 30 more fearless leaders and a vast army who delivered Israel from her enemies..
“Don’t let anyone look down on you
because you are young,
but set an example for the believers in speech,
in conduct, in love, in faith, and impurity.”
1 Timothy 4:12
As one experienced in battle, Paul commanded young Timothy, “Don’t make excuses! Do what you are called to do! Own your leadership!” Paul’s last words to Timothy describe a true warrior,
“I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
and I have kept the faith.”
2 Timothy 4:7
No More Excuses
Blaming, finger pointing and giving excuses abound in Christian circles. Changing that error starts with me!
When I am willing to adopt the disciplines of a warrior, humbly serving wherever God calls, and taking ownership of my sphere of influence, I become one of His “invincible warriors”.
Joshua clearly put the decision to the Israelites,
“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you,
then choose for yourselves this day
whom you will serve…
But as for me and my household,
we will serve the LORD.”
May the combination of knowing and believing, experience and faith, lead us out of the Valley of Decision and past the Valley of Dry Bones, raising us up to become a mighty army. The supernatural weapons we carry are the practical tools of discipline, humility and taking ownership in battle as we serve God.
Many people today are wrestling with truth! Some are sure there is no absolute truth. Meanwhile, others are giving their lives for truth! Lengthy wrangling, articulate debating, and bull-headed dogmatism abound.
Truth is more than a concept; it is a Person!
Throughout the ages, many people have spent their lives searching for truth, others have fought fiercely in its defense.
At the trial of Jesus,
“What is truth?” Pilate retorted…”
A wrangler is more than someone who debates eloquently or a favorite pair of jeans. A wrangler is someone who takes care of livestock.
Our family were cattle producers. One spring, the season of serious wrangling, a “town boy”, who happened to be a pastor’s son, was anxious to enter the corral and experience true wrangling.
Into the pen of spring born calves he confidently pranced. In short order the poor lad was dragged, dangled, trampled, kicked and bunted. There wasn’t an inch of his apparel not caked, covered and layered in a mixture of mud, sweat and manure.
Though we felt sorry for the young green-horn, the real life drama playing out before our eyes was worth far more than any trip to the movies. Although lacking the skill of catching, flipping and holding a calf, he deserved top marks for the effort he brought to the ring.
Surprisingly, he had as much fun trying as we had watching. Years later, the image of his arms and legs flailing the air continues to bring smiles and chuckles.
If there was one lesson I learned that day it was that persistence pays! Quitting was no where to be found in this boys genes!
Those who wrestled and wrangled in the bible carried the same attitude.
“So Jacob was left alone,
and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.
When the man saw that
he could not overpower him,
he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip
so that his hip was wrenched
as he wrestled with the man.
Then the man said,
“Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied
“I will not let you go
unless you bless me.”
Jacob’s painful wrangling gave him more than a permanent limp; he gained a new identity and a generational promise.
Until this point, condemnation shadowed Jacob’s life, “You are a thief, a trickster, a liar.” That day, Jacob wrestled for the truth of his belonging. He received a new name, Israel, meaning Prince of God.
What about Elijah? The Mount Carmel show down between 400 prophets of Baal and Elijah wasn’t about strength or power. It ultimately was a contest of what is true? Who is God? Is it Baal or is it the LORD?
“At the time of sacrifice,
the prophet Elijah
stepped forward and prayed:
“LORD, the God of Abraham,
Isaac and Israel,
let it be known today
that you are God in Israel…”
1 Kings 18:36
When God responded with fire, the people declared in unison,
“The LORD — he is God!
The LORD — he is God!”
1 Kings 18:39
Truth ultimately wins, though usually not without a struggle of faith.
It was true for Jonah, Esther, David, and Moses. It was true for Abraham and Sarah, Gideon, and Jeremiah.
Faith and Truth
Most of the deepest wrangling comes when God bends our experiential truth into alignment with the way of The Truth, Jesus Christ.
A man brought his demon possessed son to Jesus. The tormenting spirit had attempted to kill his son many times by throwing him either into fire or water. He doubted if even Jesus could or would help.
“…But if you can do anything,
take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus…”
As truth spoke, faith grabbed hold! The wrangling began,
“…I do believe;
help me overcome my unbelief!”
In prison, John the Baptist wrestled in faith to believe Jesus was The Truth, The Messiah sent from God (Matthew 11). Thomas wrangled to believe Jesus was raised from the dead (John 20). Peter grappled with the truth that salvation was for Greeks as well as Jews (Acts 10).
Faith and truth collided on the Damascus road, as Paul brutally faced the reality of his spiritual blindness.
Perhaps tangling with truth is necessary for us all!
“My thoughts are nothing
like your thoughts,”
says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond
anything you could imagine.”
Thankfully, God consistently bends our minds, wrangles our attitudes, and wrestles our intentions into alignment with His. He never quits – never leaves us as He find us.
Sometimes I stubbornly resist! It doesn’t make sense! My futile thought processes cannot instantaneously connect faith and truth.
I ultimately end up a lot like our young helper many years ago! My wrestling for and with truth sometimes feels dangerous, downright messy, and thoroughly exhausting.
Three times in Acts 10 God pushed Peter beyond former paradigms,
“…Do no call anything impure
that God has made clean.”
God’s truth united with Peter’s faith opening wide the door to preach the Gospel of salvation to non-Jews. The implications of this single instance of receiving truth cannot be measured.
My little contending undoubtedly isn’t as dramatic, but I cannot allow myself the luxury of refusing the invitation to come into agreement with God.
The bible is the unmoving standard of all truth.
“All your words are true,
all your righteous laws are eternal.”
God’s word is true! That word is eternal! Never ending, never changing, never varying!
How can I be so sure? Jesus made the astounding declaration,
“…I am the way, the truth, and the life…”
Truth isn’t a relative concept that changes with times or seasons. Truth is a Person. Jesus is Truth. Truth never changes because God never changes!
In fact, whenever I find myself wrestling with the definitive truth of the bible, I am attempting to wrangle with God. Resist His truth and I can expect to come away limping like Jacob! Yield to it by faith and God alone knows the grandness of the repercussions.
Divine truth must be received by faith. That doesn’t mean we throw out sound judgment, critical thinking, and careful consideration. Actually, acknowledging truth is giving full mental assent to its reality. In so doing, God gives us a new lens with which to view Him and the world around us.
My source of wrestling for truth is often like Peter’s,
“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied.
“I have never eaten anything
impure or unclean.”
How many times have I responded similarly to God, “Surely not! I have never…”?
Wrangling clenches tight-fisted to “never“! Placing experiential truth ahead of God’s eternal truth will reveal terminal fault lines in our thinking.
God proves patient, however. He is relentless in drawing us into ever increasing ways of truth. We may wrangle like Peter, wrestling with our “Surely not, Lord!” attitudes. Peter got the message and responded with new understanding.
Will our “never” yield to God’s truth? Because God’s ways really are so much higher than ours, we will continue to wrestle both with and for truth. But it is a wrangling that pays benefits!
This year God is challenging me to move out the old and make room for the new. That means change! Even though I tend to be flexible and open to change, I like to know what change is coming.
My husband is a fully certified “keeper” of all things that may at some point be useful for any unforeseen circumstances. He is a “fixer” — and an excellent one at that! I, on the other hand, am a “thrower”. I resist clutter with a fervency. If something isn’t serving a useful purpose, I am quick to give it away to someone who will make good use of it. We have learned the benefit of “keepers” and “throwers”.
“You will still be eating last year’s harvest
when you will have to move it out
to make room for the new.”
Did you ever try to take food from a toddler? Be prepared! What a child lacks in size they certainly make up for in resistance.
Honestly, I feel the same way when I have to part with something I am enjoying!
It is the “you will still be eating” part that has me a little nervous. The “new” at the end of the verse sounds perfect, but what will I have to give up before actually seeing and holding the new?
“You will still be eating” implies the blessing of God in the preceding harvest was substantial. A harvest that was valued and appreciated! However, “still eating” also means I’m not yet satisfied, full or content with that proceeding blessing.
Inwardly I groan, “Not yet! Wait until I’m full! Don’t bring change now! All is good!”
But it also bids me to ask,
“What blessings am I hanging on to?
What am I afraid to let go of?
Where is my grip too tight?”
Before every new harvest, storage bins receive a thoroughly cleaning. Any remnant of last years harvest is removed, eliminating any opportunity for the old to contaminate the new.
Jesus gave a similar illustration:
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth
on an old garment,
for the patch will pull away
from the garment,
making the tear worse.
Neither do people pour
new wine into old wineskins.
If they do, the skins will burst;
the wine will run out and
the wineskins will be ruined.
No, they pour new wine into new wineskins,
and both are preserved.”
You Have To
“You have to” doesn’t exactly sound favorable either. Give me choice!, Show me the options allowing time to weigh and assess benefits. I can adjust with that! Add the words “you have to” and the dynamic changes!
What makes change so difficult? Here are my top five reasons for resisting change:
- Change is awkward! More of my life than I care to admit is lived by learned behaviour! Adjusting to something new takes time and patience.
- Change costs! Want an example? My old computer stopped working; the new replacement has added features but was expensive. Change often carries an unseen price tag — sometimes financially, maybe relationally, or even emotionally.
- Change is a process! It is the undetermined span between the now and then, the here and there, that requires effort and time. This unknown discourages movement.
- Change awakens fear! What if it doesn’t work? Will it be worth it? What will people think?
- Change requires confidence and trust! When the change isn’t my choice, I need to have a deep trust of the one asking me to change. I need to know my best interest is considered or there is a higher goal or purpose for change.
Some things I will gladly let go of, however. The sooner poor habits, destructive thought patterns, or nagging fear exit my life the more content I’ll be.
Thankfully God attached a promise with the “have to”; it includes “make room for the new“.
I am an expert at making room! We had five boys in just over eight years in a relatively small three bedroom home. Making room for one more created a welcome challenge.
Now with family grown, we have downsized into a much smaller home. Over the years, I have become proficient at making the best use of even the smallest spaces.
The changes necessary to make room for others includes far more that external space
to broader dimensions of love,
devotion, care, provision,
to sharing and giving,
preferring and protecting.
Just like I am unsure of what I may have to let go of, I am equally unsure of what God is asking me to make room for. These unanswered questions create tension, an uneasiness, that only faith in God can resolve.
Not every harvest is prime quality or quantity on the Canadian prairies. There can be infestations of disease or pests, adverse weather like drought or hail, and any number of other issues that significantly affect the new crop. As a matter of fact, there is no guarantee the new crop will even be realized!
Yet, God promises us new!
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”
It is virtually impossible to forget the “former things” when the flavour is fresh in your mouth. However, there will be no appreciation for the new unless we willingly release the old.
Being a seasoned veteran at “letting go”, Corrie Ten Boom offers us solid advice,
” Hold everything in your hands lightly,
otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”
Perhaps the reason change becomes increasingly difficult is previous experiences with both positive and questionable changes. Such resistance to letting go of something firmly possessed for something not yet visible is understandable.
If God is asking me to let go of the old,
if He is saying in no uncertain terms,
“you have to”,
I know He has a greater plan
than I can presently see.
I trust Him and His word! Not blindly, but fully!
Faith is never blind! Though I cannot see what the future holds, I see clearly the God who holds my future. He never fails in His promise.
“For all the promises of God
find their Yes in him.
That is why it is through him
that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”
2 Corinthians 1:20
Laying aside yesterday’s blessings, yesterday’s provision and yesterday’s anointing is for the sole purpose of taking hold of today’s increased blessing. I will never fully realize God’s best while stubbornly holding on to yesterday’s good.
So I am prepared “to move out” all that is necessary “to make room” for what is ahead!
It sounds like work! But I’ll let you know how God works it out!
Several nations, on virtually every continent, designate a specific time each year for thanksgiving. Some mark with appreciation harvest, freedom from slavery, life itself or a new homeland. Thanksgiving for me, however, is built around three primary relationships: family, friendships, and faith.
Canadians join in Thanksgiving festivities a month before our American counterparts, but the traditions are strikingly familiar. I am thankful for this national time to reflect and be thankful.
It is surprisingly easy to become content, even apathetic, in our blessings.
While out with my grandchildren recently, they all stopped to say “thank you” when someone offered them a treat. I was glad they remembered their manners without being prompted and surprised by the response they received, “You are the first children to say thank you all day!”
Something to Learn
Appreciation doesn’t come naturally to our selfish nature. It must be taught and learned!
“Be thankful in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you
who belong to Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Paul commands his readers to “be thankful” not just when we feel like it, but “in all circumstances”. We are not always thankful for our circumstances, but it is possible to be thankful in our circumstances. Yet I have witnessed faith grow so deeply secure in many whose peace and joy were tangibly evident in all circumstances. In their lives. expressions of continual thanks seem to flow freely even for all circumstances.
No matter how heavy, or how overwhelming life becomes, God is bigger! It is helpful to train our focus not on present situations, but rather on the One who
knows far more than we know,
loves beyond measure,
and cares above all others.
I applaud parents who instill in their children the value of gratitude. Our Heavenly Father also smiles upon those whose hearts overflow with appreciation.
With a broad grin, my husband often says in reference to our five sons, “I wouldn’t take a million dollars for any one of them, but wouldn’t give you a plug nickel for one more!” It is his way of declaring the blessing he recognizes within the gift of family.
When we were married, we both considered two children to be the ideal number. God had a better plan! Presently, our family is 23 strong!
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,
declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts
than your thoughts.”
The joy of family is hardly measurable. The loss of a family member through death, or absence through separation, is the most painful experience we will each endure. Holidays are difficult for those feeling the weight of such a burden. Searching for thankfulness takes concentrated effort in the midst of such brokenness and pain.
Yet even then, as we focus on eternal reality, fragments of gratitude radiate through grief bringing strength to sullen days.
Second only to family, friends fill my thankful list. My husband and I made what seemed like a radical move out of our comfortable home and familiar community about a decade ago. We cannot image what life would be like without the many friendships that have been nurtured since that time.
Rather than leaving friends behind, our circle of friendships has widened, then widened again with overwhelming surplus. God has enriched our lives surrounding us with many loyal and true friends.
“Every good gift and
every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no variation
or shadow due to change.”
Genuine friendship is a gift from God! No amount of material wealth can replace the good and perfect gift of friendship.
The ability to simply “do life” together with others is something truly to be grateful for. Laughing and crying! Supporting and encouraging! Sharing and caring! Loving and lasting! Friendships fill our lives with colour and vibrancy.
Faith may be listed last, but it is actually first!
“Give thanks to the Lord,
for he is good;
his love endures forever.”
1 Chronicles 16:34
Thankfulness begins with God! To finish well, we must start here, with an attitude of gratitude towards God. Void of thanksgiving, our faith inevitably slides into the realm of delusion and confusion.
“Yes, they knew God,
but they wouldn’t worship him as God
or even give him thanks.
And they began to think up
foolish ideas of what God was like.
As a result,
their minds became dark and confused.”
It is surprisingly easy to know God and yet neglect to appreciate Him — not just for what He does, but for Who He is.
Is the darkness and confusion woven in any culture visible evidence of hearts hardened against the worship and thanksgiving of God? Perhaps!
Even in writing today, I am reminded of so much more to be thankful for. Is it possible to cultivate a continuous level of thankfulness crowning every day with gratitude?
Here are a few practical ways to create a lifestyle of thanksgiving:
- Use a journal! One of my daughter-in-laws has a thankfulness journal. Each day begins by writing something she is thankful for.
- Several of my friends recharge their appreciation by doing a 100 Day Challenge. Each day for 100 days they share with others something they are thankful for.
- Express it! Tell the people in your lives what you appreciate about them. Weave it into your family and friendship times until it is naturally spoken and expressed. Say “thank you” often and regularly.
- Pray! Has prayer become a list of “I wants”? Expand you time with God to include more!
“Devote yourselves to prayer,
being watchful and thankful.”
- Look for “silver linings!” Even the most difficult situations have some kind of positive aspect. Is it the compassion others show in times of pain, the generosity that surfaces at points of need, or humility that flourishes in seasons of struggle? Be thankful!
- Focus on others! When life’s challenges press hard, focus on helping someone else in need. Changing perspective by improving the life of someone else, will often stir thanksgiving within ourselves.
- Notice the little things! Looking with child like simplicity often helps us see the beauty and wonder around us with new appreciation. Choosing to look at even the smallest of blessings can generate multiple reasons for thankfulness.
Just Do It!
Enough reading! It is time to do it! Starting a pattern of gratefulness will reap abundant blessing today while creating a pattern of thankfulness that will flow to subsequent generations. Now is the best time to begin a new chapter of appreciation right where we are.
Start a fresh movement of thankfulness! Be the person others can emulate in their journey toward thanksgiving!
Have you met a hero? One day at work, a gaggle of overactive preschoolers ran past my office door: two girls with long hair bobbing, followed by two enthusiastic boys. One little guy in the middle announced with exuberance, “If you need someone strong, I’m the one!”
True heroes are rare! I have no doubt this youngster has the right attitude!
I broke out in open laughter in response to such confidence coming from one so small. The more I thought of it, however, I realized I should possess this same buoyant enthusiasm.
“No, in all these things
we are more than conquerors
through Him who loved us.”
God planted inside each of us a desire to overcome, triumph, defend justice, and fight for what is right. Children don’t hide it socially like adults do, but we all have this godly desire.
Ask any child to name their favorite superhero and you might be there for awhile! The “first” superheroes emerged in the 1930’s. The list of imaginary “supers” is long!
Ask an adult the same question. Their ballots may include people of excellence in sports, arts & entertainment, social justice or a multitude of other fields.
A hero, according to Oxford Dictionary, is someone who is “admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities.” Look around for a moment. You will see heroes hidden behind humble acts of service rather than standing in front of a microphones or cameras. True heroes live well
parents, teachers, doctors, plumbers,
farmers, truckers, nurses, administrative assistants,
husbands and wives, neighbours and friends
courageously and faithfully
feet to the road and grit in their teeth
When there is unrewarding, difficult, relentless tasks, heroes say, “If you need someone strong, I’m the one!”
Yet, at the same time, they face their humanity with all its limitations. Listen to this:
“…For apart from me you can do nothing.”
Heroes face their impossibilities not with drooped heads but rather with hearts of courage and eyes fixed upward.
“I’m the one!” kind of people don’t back down from a fight; they press in to overcome!
Heroes face grave opposition and come through! In knowing their strengths and their weaknesses, they are prepared to accentuate those strengths and place extra protection over their weakest area.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Put on the full armor of God,
so that you can take your stand
against the devil’s schemes.”
Actually, most of those who triumphed in the bible were not seeking front-line duty. Think of
Esther a young non-descript Jewish girl,
David, a young shepherd,
Samuel, as a small boy, dedicated to serve in the church
Moses, a foster child, a ward of the state, run-away, then shepherd
Gideon a farmer or Daniel a refugee
Ruth, a widow,
Peter, James and John, simple fishermen
High risk and no visible guarantee marked the tasks ahead of them. None of them had their hand raised saying, “If you need someone strong, I’m the one!”
As a matter of fact, they were reluctant to step into God’s assignment. However, all of them grasped the truth
“…What is impossible with man
is possible with God.”
Like true heroes they put on their God given armour and fought the fight of faith, triumphantly bringing good over the evil in their day.
Some of the last words of Jesus resonates as a call to heroism.
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation
….and these signs will accompany those who believe;
In my name they will drive out demons;
they will speak in new tongues;
they will pick up snakes with their hands;
and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all;
they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
Clearly “superhero” stuff, right? Yet, Jesus said, these superhero qualities are for all “who believe”! Now that is a bold kind of faith!
Oh, but it is a faith that those who believe are running with!
Everyday people are set free from demonic strongholds, bodies are healed, minds restored, and some are even raised from the dead. Faith is being activated in people globally to walk as God’s heroes, trusting His word, and radically taking risks.
Faith is often spelled r-i-s-k! It may feel risky to pray for the sick to be healed, until they are. It may also feel risky to step into the fray and cast out demons, until they do. We will never see the dead raised to life, until we ask.
I can tell, I’m losing some of you here, but listen again to what Jesus commanded:
“Heal the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.
Freely you have received; freely give.”
I am convinced we have received far more through faith in Jesus Christ than we are presently accessing or releasing.
There is one more hero you, of course, have never heard about. Her name is “SuperGram”. Apparently one of her greatest powers is “master-mind”.
The reason you have never heard of her, is because she was just so “bestowed” only yesterday!
Yes, only yesterday, my 6 year old grandson came to where I work secretly announcing my new position. Of course, he revealed his own super status and the secret powers he too possessed. He went around lavishly disclosing the hidden super hero strength of others as well. My girlfriend was instantly dubbed “Lightning Woman!”
I chucked and I’m sure you are too!
Yet at the same time, I feel Jesus nudge my heart just a little, “you are far more super hero than you realize”!
“Ye are of God, little children,
and have overcome them:
because greater is he that is in you,
than he that is in the world.”
1 John 4:4
Why? Because God is greater! The One who resides in us is greater than all else! As God’s children, we may be small, but we are overcomers!
Take this fresh motto from a child, “If you need someone strong, I’m the one!”
Embrace God’s truth; be a hero!
Apparently one way to age a lion is by scarring on its face. Scars show the fearless characteristic of a lion. The bible calls the righteous “as bold as a lion”. The scars of those who survive and thrive are evidence enough of their bold faith and tenacious perseverance!
“The wicked flee though no one pursues,
but the righteous are as bold as a lion.”
Do you notice the difference between the “wicked” and the “righteous”? One runs from harmless shadows, the other faces real and impending threat squarely. We have to admit, there isn’t much a lion will back down from.
Brave of Heart
To be lionhearted describes someone who is unflinchingly brave and courageous in the face of danger.
In the months ahead, I will be sharing stories of personal heroism demonstrated in the lives of some incredible people I know and appreciate.
Though none would consider themselves either brave or “bold as a lion”, their journey reveals a different story. Each one has faced dangers of various kinds. They have the scars to prove it!
Those who thrive hold wisdom like gold dust loosely in their hands. They willingly and with liberality reach into their experiences and share the treasures they have found in Christ, allowing the winds of the Spirit to inspire others. Their stories igniting faith, hope and courage in the rest of us.
“In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
As we examine their lives, we will clearly see the difference between surviving and thriving is rooted in their faith and the unshakable love of Christ.
Love of Christ
Paul prayed for the Ephesian church,
“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people,
to grasp how wide and long and high
and deep is the love of Christ.”
“In this is love, not that we loved God
but that he loved us…
” 1 John 4:10
God’s love is unconditional! God loves, because He is love!
Courage and bravery are not necessary to somehow merit His love. He loves us as we are. He loves us completely, even in our weakness and frailty. God will never love us more; He has no capacity to love us less.
It is in the basis of this relationship of love that survivors thrive.
Thriving Against all Odds
What makes someone brave? What compels one person to face life’s toughness squarely while another turns and runs?
“Courage is not the absence of fear,
but the triumph over it”
David’s bravery was tested in the pastures with his flock:
“…When a lion or a bear came
and carried off a sheep from the flock,
I went after it, struck it and rescued
the sheep from its mouth.
When it turned on me,
I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed.”
I Samuel 17:34-35
Acts of bravery aren’t always physically!
It takes courage to not only see your own way through difficult, but to lead others into victory as well. “Thrivers” are mothers and fathers who
love with the love of Christ,
disciple younger ones to maturity,
foster godly character,
instill hope and impart vision.
Those Who Thrive Speak
My husband still teases me about my “farmer’s call”. Being the mother of five active sons who enjoyed roaming the acres beyond our farm yard, this “momma” learned to call her young in for supper or bedtime with a distinct “Yoohoo” that could be heard far and wide. It is a non-comparison to a lions roar, however!
I have read that the spine-tingling roar of a lion is as loud as a turbo fan of an aircraft on takeoff, reaching 114 decibels. It is one of the loudest voices in the animal kingdom heard up to 8 kilometers away.
Lions roar to tell other lions their location, to show how big they are and to warn lions from other prides to keep away from their home territory.
“They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb and
by the word of their testimony
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.”
As these people share their stories, it may sound more like a whisper than a roar. Truthfully though, God has given them voices that echo through generations, powerfully declaring the faithfulness of Him who is greater, Jesus Christ!
Those who Thrive Rest
I have chosen people who have discovered the power of waiting! Waiting is the womb of courageous strength!
“Wait patiently for the LORD.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.”
In the natural, the most intense development and formation occurs within the concealed and protected womb. For these, waiting and trusting in the Lord has formed the foundation of their courage and strength.
Those who have studied lions say it is a boring of occupation. Lions sleep for over 20 hours every day! That is a lot of rest! In resting, a lion is able to conserve strength for when it is most needed. It is also a position of watching; the place where wisdom is gained.
I am excited to use this blogging platform to share their stories. It is my hope that we will all draw from their wisdom, be inspired by their strength, motivated to action, and invited into deeper faith.
“A final word:
Be strong in the Lord
and in his mighty power.”