I hope you enjoy a sneak peek at the first chapter of Unmasking Myths: Is This Prayer? — the first conceived but second born of a group of books on prayer.
In many ways, I feel like a new mother hoping everyone will think her baby as beautiful as she does, yet knowing that none could or would as much as her. So it’s time to pull back the blanket, hold my breath and wait with excitement and anticipation.
Unmasking Myths looks at prayer on the basis of relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Through the testimony of dozens of Christians, Unmasking Myths unanimously declares God’s goodness, mercy and grace in responding to our petitions. It includes many miraculous interventions of God, as a result of people praying.
Even though over half the world’s population acknowledges that they pray, many don’t know who they are praying to, or feel their prayers are effective. Most Christians feel impotent and unsure about their prayers being heard or answered by God.
Unmasking Myths attempts to expose misconceptions about prayer, answering common questions and creating a solid biblical foundation to pray.
Other chapters explore topics like:
Hearing God’s Voice
The Discipline of Praying
Praying in the Marketplace
and much more
Is This Prayer?
Unmasking Myths: Is This Prayer? attempts to turn questions into answers, replace hesitancy with confidence, and conquer fear with faith. The real treasure found within the pages comes from the combined wisdom and experience of dozens of people, aged from nine to ninety years old. It is their voices, rather than the author’s, that create a fertile bed from which prayer can take root and rise strong.
“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless and because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.” C.S. Lewis
God bless each of you! May you begin to pray with power as you approach God with confidence and humility.
” . . . tremendous power is released through the passionate, heartfelt prayer of a godly believer!” James 5:16 TPT
Why would Paul include righteousness, peace and joy as the key ingredients in the kingdom of God? What sets these three qualities above all others? Why are these components indispensable?
“For the kingdom of God
is not a matter of eating and drinking,
but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
because anyone who serves Christ in this way
is pleasing to God and receives human approval.”
I confess to having more questions than answers. However, one thing appears certain, righteousness, peace and joy create the fertile soil from which they each thrive, co-existing for their mutual benefit.
Recently, I’ve had more than one conversation surrounding the frustration we can feel regarding righteousness. (Or perhaps the lack of it.) Why does it seem to be too easy to do the things we would or should not do, while at the same time difficult to do the things we truly want to do? Oops! That’s another question!
Before the initial sin, humanity could freely choose to obey God and maintain close relationship with Him without feeling pulled and tugged in other directions. Since that time however, our propensity bends continually toward disobedience and rebellion. For every son and daughter since Adam and Eve, we now need to make a deliberate choice for righteousness — to walk in innocence and freedom. Without this focused attention, we automatically default to sin and error.
Just a few verses earlier Paul despaired of the same frustration I experience, “Who can possible help us?” he asks. Then immediately he gives the answer,
“Thanks be to God, who delivers me
through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:25
There’s hope! Righteousness means to be faultless, innocent, and guiltless or observing divine laws. Only God fits this description. In light of His holiness, we all end up far short.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,
so that in him we might become
the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
God solved the problem in Jesus. Through covenant relationship with Him, God counts us as righteous. Because of Jesus, righteousness now becomes the hallmark of all other relationships as well.
Through the liberty of Jesus Christ, we are no longer forced to continue in negative patterns. He came to deliver us from the stronghold of sin. With righteousness in place, we can start growing upward and onward. Maturity and development in any area isn’t always easy, but possible through Christ.
“The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;
its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.” Isaiah 32:17
The apple tree in my yard doesn’t have to work at producing apples; it simply bears what it is genetically designed to produce. The fruit of righteousness however does take work, or at least active involvement. “Fruit” here is an activity or byproduct of action taken.
Isaiah says with certainty, the byproduct of righteousness “will be” peace. Peace effects us inside and out, giving us a sense of undisturbed quietness, complete safety and absolute security.
When I’ve violated God’s standards, I’m immediately robbed of peace and void of internal quietness and confidence. In Christ, however, I am able to be restored again to right relationship with God, producing “fruit” naturally.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18
Peace works its way outward spreading to others with enough fruit to share!
It’s hard to believe that someone like me, whose life was marked by depression and anxiety for decades, could experience such complete joy. But it’s true! Perhaps more than any other quality, joy marks my life . Because of what Jesus Christ has done in me, I easily share the overflow of joy with others.
“Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul,
produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ
in the word and in the world.”
– John Piper
When we begin to walk in right relationship with God, living at peace with ourselves and others, we possess an ability to see the world in a new light. God enables us to view His Word and the world around us from kingdom perspective.
In a sense, God gives us spiritual contact lens, that allow us to see those we encounter here on earth from His viewpoint. At the same time, we are able to maintain clear focus on Him. Righteousness, peace and joy retrains our minds to see with His vision.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy
and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
Righteousness produces more and more. This time in the form of overflowing, bubbling over and abounding hope.
Kingdom of God
Listen to how the Message Bible phrases our original verses:
“God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness’ sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone; pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.”
The kingdom of God isn’t so much about what we do, but what God does in us. He “sets it right, puts it together and completes it with joy.” He does it all! What we need to do is rest in the process, co-operating with the Holy Spirit, while He does the heavy lifting.
We have only one part to play — “single-minded” service. By keeping our eyes on God, all the pressure falls off of us. No matter how old we become, how mature in the faith, or how seasoned in the Scriptures, we constantly depend on Him to lead, equip and enable me.
Though we try our best to please God in every way, our own efforts matter little. Through righteousness, peace and joy we automatically become pleasing to God and valuable to others.
Righteousness, Peace and Joy
Righteousness, peace and joy are byproducts of living wholly for Christ. Through my vain efforts to try to do and be, I actually hinder the natural flow of God’s design.
God has planted us firmly. The Holy Spirit washes us continually with the Word, watering us deep to the roots. We rest in His finished work producing the fruit of the heavenly kingdom to which we belong.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control.
Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
Don’t ignore the last sentence. “Against such there is no law.” We no longer have to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, or the law pointing out right and wrong, like our first ancestors did. Because of God’s grace, we eat freely and fully from the tree of life where righteousness, peace and joy thrive.
No wonder Paul declared these three ingredients as essential in the kingdom of God. This is how God sets our lives right, puts them together, and completes them with joy.
Pentecost and the outpouring of Holy Spirit, that occurred during the Feast of the Harvest, is a subject I am continually seeking to understand. God’s Word holds a rich reservoir of significance and truth worth searching out and discovering.
Jesus “gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.” (Acts 1:3)
“… he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time…” 1 Corinthians 15:5-6
Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus visited His disciples for the last time. He instructed them to wait for“the gift” from the Father.
“… Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4,5
I’ve never been good at waiting, especially when I know something good is about to happen. Waiting creates room for God.
The disciples waited. They returned to Jerusalem together, “to the room where they were staying.” (Acts 1:13) “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” Anticipation grew as they waited together in unity.
Ten days later, they continued to press in together in prayer waiting for the promise— the outpouring of Holy Spirit.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Acts 2:1-4
The Feast of Weeks, or the Feast of Harvest, was rooted in Moses’receiving the Law. Many similarities mark the Presence of God both here in Jerusalem and on Mt. Sinai.
God’s appeared with fire, smoke and thunder on Mt. Sinai. Wind, fire and the loud noise of speaking in other tongues confirmed God’s presence at Pentecost.
The Law taught the people how to live. Holy Spirit now became the Teacher and Counselor.
While Moses was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments, the people were worshipping the golden calf. As a result, 3,000 people died. At Pentecost 3,000 people received new life by believing in Jesus.
God’s presence covered Mt. Sinai. His presence filled the Tabernacle of Moses, and then later Solomon’s temple. With the outpouring of Holy Spirit, God came to dwell “in” His people with power.
At Pentecost, people were “amazed and perplexed” to hear their own language spoken by foreigners. They were convinced something significant was occurring. Others laughed and mocked, calling them drunk!
“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, … old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” Acts 2:17-18
Every Jew recognized these words as a small portion of a much larger text. The preceding verses in Joel speak of abundant harvest — relevant to both the Feast of Harvest and Pentecost.
“Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains of righteousness. He sends you abundant showers both autumn and spring rains, as before.” Joel 2:23
“The autumn rains in righteousness“ can also be translated “teacher of righteousness.” The religious sect of Qumran, which produced most of the Dead Sea Scrolls, claimed that its most revered teacher of the law … the “Teacher of Righteousness” was the fulfillment of this prophecy.”
Jesus Christ, Teacher of Righteousness, fulfilled all He promised, including the outpouring of Holy Spirit.
As important as timely rains are, one shower never produces a bumper crop. Joel declares the evidence of the outpouring of Holy Spirit is overflowing harvest,
“The threshing floor will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.” Joel 2:24
Joel’s prophesy included both physical and spiritual overflow. Worship and praise of the Lord accompanied the feasting of the harvest. Joyouscelebration and thanksgiving accompanied the festivities.
Twice Joel repeats,
“never again will my people be shamed.” Joel 2:26,27
Peter, who once bore the shame of denying Jesus, stood strong, now filled with Holy Spirit. “Never again” would shame make his life! “Never again” would lack fill his soul. The harvest would “never again” fail. From this moment on, the new wine and oil of Holy Spirit poured through his life in overflowing measure.
Christ may have left, but the outpouring of Holy Spirit had come!
Peter used the historical record of Israel to prove Christ’s validity. Without mincing words, he boldly talked about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, to explain this visible work of Father, Son and Holy Spirit evidenced among them.
“Exalted to the right hand of God, he (Jesus) has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” Acts 2:33
Joel spoke of God dwelling in the midst of His people.
“Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.” Joel 2:27
That little phrase “I am in”means “in the midst, present in the center or middle.” Though Joel may not have comprehended the meaning of his words, the imagery of the outpouring of Holy Spirit living “in the center”of believers is clear.
God, not wine, made the people stagger with His Presence. He came to live “in the center” of their beings. “Never again” would shame (disappointment, delay, or the pale of death) oppress them.
Peter challenged his listeners to respond to the outpouring of Holy Spirit,
“Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38
The only prerequisite to receiving the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is repentance. Repenting means confessing and turning from sin, accepting Jesus’ death as the all-sufficient sacrifice as payment before God. Then believing Jesus destroyed death through His resurrection and confessing Him as Lord.
Peter calls them to publicly demonstrate their death to sin and life in Christ through baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.
“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” Acts 2:41
What joy in the harvest of souls!
The outpouring of Holy Spirit began at Pentecost, but it didn’t end there. A few days later, we see it continued.
“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” Acts 4:31
Paul told believers to “not get drunk on wine…instead be filled with the Spirit.” (Eph 5:18) He encourages them to “keep being filled, to cram in more, to level up the supply.”
God intends the outpouring of Holy Spirit to be a continuous action in every Christian.
Just like an oil lamp needs a constant supply of oil to produce light, believers require constant filling of Holy Spirit to bring light to the world. Pentecost was the initiation into an unending supply available to all!
Joel said, “In the last days“, making it clear he wasn’t referring to a single one-time activity. In Acts, they “all” received. Even now, Holy Spirit continues to be poured out on those hungry and ready to welcome Him.
Perhaps, today will be the beginning of your personal Pentecost, as you receive Holy Spirit.
Hunger is the signal telling us we are running out of essential fuel! In the natural, it starts when our stomach is empty but quickly messages the brain to activation. I may be able to ignore my stomach, but it is much more difficult to ignore my thoughts. Do I as acutely sense spiritual hunger? How do I respond when I’m hungry?
Hunger is the feeling of weakness or discomfort caused by lack of food. It triggers the desire to eat or crave food. Am I hungry for more of God? Do I choose to satisfy my spiritual desire through Him or other sources.
At times after finishing a pleasant meal and feeling fullysatisfied, if I catch a glimpse of some sweet delicacy impulsively I want more. How about you?
This is actually normal! God made us to always be on the lookout for more; He has designed us to never be empty.
The Hungry are Fed
Heidi Baker, missionary to Mozambique, often affirms “The hungry are always fed.” The hungry, in desperation, push to the front of the line. They will not be refused!
“The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the LORD will praise him –
may your hearts live forever.” Psalm 22:26
God has allowed us to recognize natural hunger through the discomfort of painful hunger pangs. If we ignore our bodies long enough hunger actually subsides. The same is true spiritually. He has also built within us an awareness of spiritual longing and hunger.
Hunger ignored has a price tag; vital organs can be irreparably damaged. We cannot safely ignore spiritual hunger either.
The Spirit within us is constantly inviting us to enter the Lord’s Presence and feast in His abundant provision. There are no shortcuts to resting, waiting, worshiping, or meditating on the bible. Junk food goes beyond chips, coke or a bit of chocolate. Time can never be regained! How we spend our minutes forms life patterns shaping our identity.
The unceasing demands of our physical bodies and fleeting attractions can be the greatest hindrance to wholesome feeding of the Spirit.
“So I say, walk by the Spirit,
and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit,
and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.
They are in conflict with each other…” Galatians 5:16-17
We will either reach for what is good and truly satisfies, or what temporarily tastes and feels good. Daily we choose!
Jesus The Example
Let’s contemplate this verse?
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness…” Matthew 4:1
There can be unrealistic expectation that faith will be a pleasant journey of “always full”. Not so! The Spirit purposefully led Jesus to a wilderness of prolonged hunger. In the place of hunger, what Adam lost in the fall Jesus began to reclaim.
After forty days of hunger the Tempter comes! His timing is usually the same for us as well. When hungry, angry, lonely and tired, halt! This is a place of vulnerability.
Jesus, the Living Word, stood His ground against every assault of the evil one.
“Man shall not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4
Bread will never satisfy our deepest hunger! Neither will lust, money, power or position! Our relentless deepest hunger is satisfied in God alone.
“The key to Christian living
is a thirst and hunger for God.” John Piper
When we go to God for every need to be met, we too will experience supernatural provision. One of the names for God is Jehovah Jireh. It means “the LORD will provide”, or “the LORD our Provider.” Provider is who He is!
In the Lord alone is provision for all we need! Our hunger is meant to draw us to The One who provides.
In Christ Alone
In the Beatitudes, Jesus states,
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6
Jesus gives us a life-giving promise. Not only is He the Lord our Provider, he is the Lord our Righteousness! Ultimate filling is complete in Him.
Our personal wilderness journeys are ultimately meant to accentuate our hunger. The hot dusty road heightens and stresses our hunger and thirst for more of Him. It is a good thing!
Without hunger pangs, we would not survive. Are you hungry?
I hear it all around me! I see it among the young and the old! People of every nationality, demographic and generation, crying, “More, Jesus! More of You!” The hunger is increasing, and it is good.
People are turning their hearts and eyes from temporary satisfaction to ultimate fulfillment. It is beautiful! Prayer rooms are filling up!
“I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” Psalm 81:10
God journeys with us in the wilderness, bringing us through to the other side. He invites us to “open wide our mouths”. Don’t expect a crumb from our generous God! Open wide your mouth! May faith arise in each of us for more. God is anxious to satisfy our hunger; “I will fill it!”
There is no need to look elsewhere. “I will fill it!”
The Sound of Hunger
The birds outside my window rouse me at three in the morning. Long before the sun breaks the darkness of night, pangs of hunger stir little nests with cries for more. One hungry little chick has an ability to awaken an entire nest. The feathered chatter shifts from nest to nest until the whole community is alive with the sound of awakening.
Let us take a lesson from these little feathered ones, we can never be too greedy for more of God; “open wide (your) mouth”.
Are you in need of refreshing? Perhaps you need an activity, or lack thereof, to renew personal strength and energy particularly after pouring out physically, emotionally or mentally. These moments usually don’t just happen! Taking time to refresh often takes planning.
What ways have you developed to refresh yourself? A good book, a movie night, a vacation, a relaxing bath, a game of golf, a walk in the woods, a lounge on the couch, or time at the gym? For each of us it might look quite different.
I just spent a few days with others who are involved in ministry at a lakeside retreat. Those few days away with others of like mind was refreshing, enabling me to return home encouraged and with renewed vision.
It wasn’t without struggle though!
To refresh means to reinvigorate, or give new strength or energy. I must admit I set out on this little adventure feeling tired. My mind and body were in need of some down time!
Those present were in full time ministry and have been most of their lives. Honestly, I felt like the odd man out or the ugly duckling – the one that just didn’t fit!
I can easily identify with farmers and labourers. It is a culture I know. Such has been my life’s work. The full time ministry environment is relatively new and feels a bit uncomfortable. like wearing a new pair of shoes.
After the first evening’s activities, I snuggled into my sleeping bag to read again from Romans.
“I urge you, brothers and sister, by our Lord Jesus Christ
and by the love of the Spirit,
to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.” Romans 15:30
Now Paul’s struggle was serious! There were those seeking to take his life! He goes on to say…
“so that I may come to you with joy,
by God’s will,
and in your company be refreshed.” Romans 15: 32
Sometimes God has to speak clearly! This was one of those nights! My struggle was a serious struggle of identity and belonging.
Here I was in the company of amazing men and women. God gently whispered His confirmation to this little servant that yes, it was His will, that I be here at a “Refresh” conference to, in fact, be refreshed!
I almost laughed at the simplicity of God’s affirming word. I began to recognize I am in His perfect spot at the right time to be reinvigorated, strengthened and energized.
To Stimulate Memory
Is it just me who knows, but forgets?
My bible is an important tool to refresh my mind. The words within at times feel like a gentle reminder of truth, and at others like a baseball bat to the shin!
When I am weary and in need of refreshing, I can easily forget who I am in Christ.
“…with an anxious mind,
eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart.
You will live in constant suspense,
filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life.” Deuteronomy 28: 67-68
I am being painful honest. When I am feeling drained emotionally, physically, mentally or relationaly, I fit this description!
Back up a few verses! You will find this is not a condition associated with the blessing God promises, but rather the result of opposing God. There is no victory on this side!
Even though these verses describe my feelings, they sure don’t describe my true position! Go back a few more verses and we taste of the real truth as a son or daughter of God:
“You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
The fruit of your womb will be blessed,
and the crops of your land
and young of your livestock …
Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.
You will be blessed when you come in
and blessed when you go out.” Deuteronomy 28:3-4
No room for anxiousness, weariness or despair here! My circumstances may be a long way from lining up, but there is nothing to keep my mind and heart from agreeing with God’s truth about me and my family!
It is time to remember what I know!
To Refill a Container
The third main meaning of refresh is to refill, recharge, or replenish like a drink in a container.
I leak! That probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you, but sometimes I forget that too!
I need to take time to refill, recharge and replenish those areas where I have been pouring into the lives of others. God is a never ending Source; I am not!
The only way to truly fill up is in the Presence of God. There are no “drive-through windows” or “fast-track” to refuel. It requires time with God, waiting on the Holy Spirit, and lavishly worshiping Jesus. To refill our emptiness we must wait in the stillness of quietly knowing and resting in Him. It is the beautiful being “with” God.
Holy Spirit is ready to “keep on filling constantly and continually” our leaky containers. It is like being thirsty on a hot day, a sip of water is never enough! In the same way, only Holy Spirit satisfies are deepest thirst!
We come into His Presence one way and leave changed. Then when we “leak”, we leak Him! We leak His love and goodness! We leak His grace and truth!
In so doing, our refreshing, becomes the refreshing others can taste and see for themselves. I think leaky buckets is an apt description of God’s intention for us. God refreshes us for the purpose of leaking enough to refresh others. I like that!
Where I grew up as a child there were many sources of water people relied upon. The quality and quantity of that water varied substantially depending on the source. It would be impossible to classify all water as living water. Only one of these fountainheads compared to what Jesus was referring to:
“All you thirsty ones, come to me! Come to me and drink! Believe in me so that rivers of living water will burst out from within you, flowing from your innermost being, just like the Scripture says!” John 7:38
Every time I read the word “all” I get excited! Everyone who is thirst is welcome!
Are you thirsty? How is your belly doing? How is my belly doing? Any sign of living water bursting forth?
An Underground Spring
On the farm where I grew up the water source was a shallow spring fed well. The water naturally filtered its way through layers of sand before seeping into our well. Cool, tasteless and refreshing water!
Ladies would come from miles around for this soft spring water to make their preserves. There was something about the water from this spring that seemed to sustain the flavours of pickles and preserves like no other water.
The little spring consistently flowed and nourished five generations of thirsty ones. Even in years of drought the well gave forth its precious commodity of living water.
Just a couple miles south, no underground springs could be found. The only water source in this area was open dugouts. They were stagnant pools open to pollution by animals and runoff. Algae grew unrestricted during the hot summer months.
Our neighbours spent thousands of dollars in attempts to purify the stale water for usefulness. Winter and summer, they purchased and hauled suitable water for drinking.
Though this water was fit for ducks and deer, it wasn’t safe for human consumption.
A Deep Well
The deepest wells in the district descending hundreds of feet below the earth’s surface, tapping into an underground lake. Here too, the water sat stagnant. Hidden from the sun but exposed to underground elements, this water was saturated with mineral content.
Worse yet, the water smelled like rotten eggs! The water was extremely hard and corrosive. Even with expensive filtration equipment it was not suitable for drinking.
Not all water is equal! The source here was abundant; the quality, however, was disappointing.
An Artecian Well
Many years ago, my uncle searched for much needed water on his farm many miles away. To their great surprise, they accidentally struck a high pressure underground river. The “gusher” shot several feet into the air.
Up from the hidden reserve flowed water crystal clear and sweet!
Over the course of the summer an entire lake was formed where once there had been dry ground. When the pressure diminished, they were finally able to tap the well.
Decades later this well continues to serve the farm’s needs. The peaceful lake still fills the gully below the well-head. It too is a source of pleasure and usefulness.
The Holy Spirit
I hope I haven’t wandered so far talking about natural water that we have forgotten the essence of what Jesus was offering.
“When he said “living water,”
he was speaking of the Spirit,
who would be given to everyone believing in him…” John 7:39
Whether we realize it or not, we are all thirsty; we quench this spiritual thirst in only One place.
“All you thirsty ones, come to me! Come to me and drink!”
Money won’t do it! Fame or power won’t quench this thirst either. The wise respond to Christ’s open invitation to both come and drink – not just once, but continually!
Those who know me well, know I’m usually within arm’s reach of a glass filled with water. I thirst a lot!
They also know that I’m never far from catching a fresh “drink” of Holy Spirit! Yesterday’s encounter with Holy Spirit doesn’t carry through to today. Every morning I welcome Holy Spirit to infuse every part of my life. Only then will He “flow” in the river God intends.
What comes out will be a reflection of what I welcome in!
River of Living Water?
The concept Jesus presented is clear enough:
First Step: Come and drink!
Second Step: Believe!
Third Step: A river flows!
Is the river within me a quiet underground spring refreshing and useful to only a few?
Worse yet, is it an open and stagnant pit – polluted and filled with spiritual algae?
Is the internal reserve large, but without an outflow, “rotten” and hard?
Or is it a “gusher”? Is God’s reserve within me so full that it cannot be stopped, springing from Jesus Christ the true Source, with intense pressure that turns dry ground into a deep pool?
If it isn’t, I’ve perhaps missed a step or two!
“Rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
Every time I come and drink from the Spirit, the pressure within is intended to build creating a supernatural force that flows from my life in a way that brings refreshing, healing, hope and strength to those around me.
So my question is, “How is my belly doing?” Is there any evidence of living water flowing?
Have you ever heard the expression, “If the shoe fits, wear it!” It means if something applies to us personally, we are to accept responsibility and acknowledge it. I have worn several different types of shoes in my lifetime. some bring back positive memories, others the reverse.
There are many types of shoes in my closet and my spiritual garment bag, each is for a specific purpose.
The foot attire in bible times was, of course, sandals. When God commissioned Moses he commanded,
“Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet,
for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
I have a painting of Moses and the burning bush above my bed. It illustrates Moses’ surrendering to God’s call. When Joshua met the commander of the Lord’s army before the battle of Jericho, he too was asked to remove his shoes.
Removing the man-made sandals was a reminder that nothing we can or will do qualifies us before God. We come into His presence by grace alone. Like Moses, God asks us to lay aside human effort in surrender to Him.
Sandals are my favorite footwear, slipping easily on and off. Their comfort, ease and simplicity exemplify the warmth and freedom of summer.
My response to God’s invitation to draw close and submit to His leading, should consistently be quick and humble.
Humble hardly describes my next illustration!
My husband and I recently moved from farm to city. Everyone in our wonderful new church dressed classy. I mean really “put together”! My laid back country-style hardly qualifies as either classy or put together.
One Sunday I made special effort to rise to this new standard. Checking myself in the mirror before we left home, I thought, “Yep! Looking good!” On getting out of our vehicle at church, however, I noticed one minor problem. I forgot to change shoes. My feet were clad with fuzzy blue slippers!
I know God laughed, even before my husband did! The laugh was appropriate. I was taking myself way too seriously!
I had three options:
Go home, change and be late for church
Dishonestly feign a limp or injury
Or admit my blunder,swallow my pride, laugh with God and give a few other folks a bit of a chuckle too!
I actually chose the latter, learning an important lesson!
“…And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
I think God would like to write this verse permanently across my forehead as a reminder to never remove shoes of humility. Instead, He has written it upon my heart.
Walking in the Spirit
Spring time on the farm required special footwear to navigate the challenges of muddy yards. Mud-walking has two potential hazards: slipping and falling, as well as losing a boot in the suction like grip of the muck. Unfortunately, I have experienced both!
Navigating life has similarities!
“So I say, walk by the Spirit,
and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16
Walking in the “desires of the flesh” is like mud walking. The consequences of gratifying fleshly desires are more far-reaching. Here is Paul’s mini list of mud walking:
“The acts of the flesh are obvious:
sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy,
fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factionsand envy;
drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
I warn you, as I did before,
that those who live like this
will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5;19-21
On the farm, it was always a relief when the season changed and boots could be stowed away. The comfort of walking sure-footed on dry ground was a relief!
Though an apt illustration, it doesn’t compare with the difference between walking in the flesh and walking by the Spirit.
“just as he who called you is holy,
so be holy in all you do” I Peter 1:15
God has more for us than mud walking!
Shoes of Faith
The best looking shoes may not be the most practical.
Shortly after the release of “Olivia & Me”, I had the honour of being a guest on “Talk of the Town” with Lisa Peters. Just before air time she sat down and put on her best looking shoes. She laughed explaining they were very good sitting shoes, but a little dangerous for walking.
Christians need the sure-footed ability to walk the heights:
“The Lord God is my Strength,
my personal bravery, and my invincible army.
He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk
[not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and
make [spiritual] progress upon my high places
[of trouble, suffering or responsibility].” Habakkuk 3:19
Maneuvering through trouble, suffering or increasing responsibility requires faith.
The feet of a mountain goat has a hard outer shell and a rubbery, concave foot pad which acts like a suction cup. This helps to cushion their feet when they leap from rock to rock. Incredibly, they are also able to pull themselves up from ledge to ledge with their front feet.
Lisa’s shoes were a beautiful accent to her equally wonderful personality.
Can we honestly settle for only looking good when God has given us strength to climb with faith? He wants us to be able to leap and overcome seemingly impossible obstacles.
Shoes to Run
Serious runners need shoes of tenacity and endurance to run and finish strong.
“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” Hebrews 12:1
Our city hosts an annual marathon luring runners of various capabilities. Avid runners train through the heat of summer and the cold blast of winter. They are focused! Each runner wants to reach their peak finishing the 42 kilometer course in their best time.
There are also those who don’t understand the benefits of training. Their bodies groan under the stress for days after the event.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run,
but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” I Corinthians 9:24
Endurance is developed in the training; the benefits will not be seen until much later.
Shoes For Battle
Part of every Christian’s armour is
“having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE
PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE” Ephesians 6:15
The word, ‘shod’ reminds me of the process of shoeing horses. Pleasure horses don’t need shoes; serious work horses do. The farrier trims each hoof, grinds down rough edges and cleans away any debris, before nailing each perfect fitting horseshoe firmly in place.
The Greek word “shod” comes from two words mean “under, beneath, inferior position” and ” to bind, be in bonds, knit or tie.” Acknowledging Jesus as Lord over our lives is part of the binding and preparing.
To effectively share the Gospel of Jesus Christ I must be both bound to and convicted of its liberating truth. I want to be prepared to
“Honor Christ and let him be the Lord of your life.
Always be ready to give an answer
when someone asks you about your hope.” I Peter 3:15
The Roman soldiers maintained a secure foothold because they wore heavy sandals studded with hobnails. They were able to stand firm in any combat situation. The best stance is the one provided by the peace we find in Jesus.
As Christians we wear many different types of shoes. These are only a choice few.
I haven’t mentioned shoes of compassion and mercy, or shoes of justice and righteousness. We need to be ready to pull from our spiritual garment bag whatever is necessary to re-present Christ well to our generation.
Whether walking, running or warring, the shoes God has provided fit. Let us wear them well!
Do you ever find yourself scratching your head wondering about the things you say and do? I just had one of these moments! Here I sit with an Alice & Victor cool pack resting on the shoulder I pulled during an ungraceful entrance into my own home – through the basement window.
As I read first hand accounts of others I know they questioned their decisions:
Joseph, as he mentioned, “remember me” to the cupbearer
In case you think it was only the male leaders who were rash in speech or action, I’ll spare us the feminine examples Eve, Martha, the mother of James and John, and others.
We’ve all been there at one time or another:
speaking when silence would have been golden
moving at a time when peace and rest were the power centers of advancement
allowing emotions to rule reason
hidden internal agendas and motives bubbling into full view
“Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.” Proverbs 21:23
In most cases if I would slow down, say a little prayer and move thoughtfully, “calamity” could be avoided. Proverbs 31 speaks about women but it applies to all:
“She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26
But of course, it isn’t just our words that can get us into precarious situations; actions speak too!
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” James 3:13
Fruit of the Spirit
I enjoy growing fruit: raspberries and strawberries, cherries and plums, apples and grapes, apricots and pears – all in a Canadian prairie garden! That may not seem like much to those in warmer territories, but in northern regions these plants need to withstand the brunt of harsh and lengthy winters.
The bible and life have taught me that a good tree will always bear good fruit. Always!
I know we tend to think of the fruit of the Spirit as elementary, but it remains a constant work in progress for me. (Slow learner?) Just when one branch of my life is producing in abundance, another withers.
I find the hardest place to position this beautiful and life-giving “fruit” is toward myself especially in “what did I just say and do” moments.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is
love, joy, peace,
forbearance, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.“ Galatians 5:22-23
In our “Ugh!” moments, can we show ourselves the same grace we demonstrate to others?
patient in our weaknesses,
loving in our self-thoughts,
gentle and kind in failure,
displaying the love of Christ
when we feel replaceable, unloved,
rejected, forsaken, or alone…
The fruit of the spirit is the kingdom on heaven, through Christ, being expressed toward others and myself!
Why Did I Say and Do That?
It all begins in our thinking!Graham Cooke is a gem at inspiring many to redirect the negative to positive!
“Every day, we wake up with a mindset that works for us or against us…
It produces a way forward
and it allows us to enjoy the circumstances
and the discovery that we are going to make.
It allows a strength to emerge and be developed.”
Did you catch that little word – “produce”? That is fruit talk!
“A mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:6
The good news is, we have the mind of Christ already! It has been given to us with salvation! Now we just need to adjust it, focusing itfully on the Spirit!
So on those days when I say or do something out of focus with who Christ in me is, I can think creatively and positively to turn things around. This little pulled muscle reminds me of lessons learned!
I’m too old to elegantly climb through windows!
I can listen and focus on what the Spirit is doing and saying.
I have opportunity to adjust my personal lens zooming into the same perspective.
As a child growing up on the edge of the Qu’Appelle Valley, adventure was only a short walk away. The destiny was rarely chosen! The journey itself a joy! While walking unmarked trails over hills and through deep valleys, there was nothing more exciting than stumbling on a stream head oozing from the fresh soil. Cupping my hands into the moist earth, watching them fill with crystal cool water and finally tasting the refreshing goodness was a delight. I would linger there in the discovery of a refreshing stream!
I can still hear the voice of my father, “Springs open up just before a good rain!” He, too, had lived in this area most of his life, as his father had. He learned the signs of shifts in the atmosphere long before he saw or heard the evidence. The little springs and streams announced the news to any who would take notice!
This little spring, like all other streams nearby, would ebb its way downward to the valley floor, nurturing life along the way. It would join itself to the sleepy Qu’Appelle strengthened by larger named creeks, before merging with the Assiniboia and the Souris. Finally, intersecting with the Red, it would eventually rush ever northward until it dumped its sweet contents into the ocean of salt.
“How blessed you will be, sowing your seed by every stream…”
Seeds grow by streams. Their roots go deep to unseen resources hidden beneath the soft crust. There they would flourish and endure!
There are many streams:
natural and spiritual
some powerful and large,
others unnamed and obscure,
merging with others
combining strength and momentum
losing themselves in united direction!
How blessed I am to know and have deep connections with those whose lives are committed to sowing seeds of faith by various streams. Some have a generational lineage of seed sowing; many are just beginning that inheritance of enriching others!
I’m noticing a marked increase in the abundance of streams lately. Perhaps my Father is saying, “a heavy rain is coming!” Joel talked about it and so did the writer of Acts – a rain that will drench
“…I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”
I recognize my little stream of influence is insignificant in comparison to others! Thankfully, it isn’t the stream that is of greatest value. It is Jesus who is the clear demonstration of all God’s goodness; He is of highest worth. So I simply, humbly and carefully announce the news of His presence and love to any who will listen. As they do, they are refreshed, revived and restored.
A Refreshing Stream Prayer
Lord, today I thank you for my little life.
Thank you for reminding me how small it really is.
I rest in the shadow of your greatness,
goodness and glory.
I relinquish my right to be different or separate
as I join myself willingly and joyfully
Together we become stronger and swifter
spilling the essence of You into the ocean of salt –
the nations before us.
I stand in awe of the every growing discovery of who You are
and drink deeper still from Your refreshing
and abundant stream.