Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

“It is not so much as prayer changes things, but prayer changes me and I change things.” Oswald Chambers from, ‘My Utmost For His Highest.’

It could be rightly said that when we pray we are not petitioning the Lord to change His mind, but rather that He changes our minds so that our desires line up with His. meWe know this in part because God said, “For I am the LORD, I change not.” As we approach Him with a subjected mindset [in prayer] it will be revealed to us in a most practical way that He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.’ This recognition strengthens both faith and relationship, and consequently we are transformed. In the Oswald Chambers’ quote, he said, “And I change things,” but I sense he recognized that God is the changer of things and we are just His yielded vessels.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5

Prayer keeps us connected. To suspend prayer is to sever the branch to which we are affixed and to hinder prayer is to effect a withering death. As it pertains to His will (and our change), we are simply the conduit by which His blessings flow. If we fail to yield there will still be fruit, but it will be attributed to someone else. In other words, God’s plan will be achieved regardless if we are involved or not. However, God wants us onboard, engaged, and motivated; He wants to bless us as He blesses; He wants to transform us as He transforms. As we are prayerfully connected, both heart and circumstances will be altered.

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Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, And wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your justice as the noonday. Psalm 37:1-6


You have probably heard the old aphoristic saying, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

I was mulling that over after I read this item from today’s Washington Times:

The Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters have began forcing the roughly 15,000 Christian Copts of Dalga village in Egypt to pay a jizya tax as indicated in Koran 9:29, author and translator Raymond Ibrahim reported on Sunday.

Jizya is the money, or tribute, “that conquered non-Muslims historically had to pay to their Islamic overlords ‘with willing submission and while feeling themselves subdued’ to safeguard their existence.”

I found that interesting. While I don’t mean to make light of the Christian oppression and persecution that is taking place in Egypt and around the world in alarming numbers, the headline gave me pause…

“If I were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to force me to pay a jizya tax or any other kind of abusive tax?”

Silly, right?

Well I haven’t been arrested or accused yet, but I have once again been sent a bill from the irsIRS for several thousands of dollars, making this two years in a row. Last year it was cleared up with a simple response to the agency, and I have no reason to suspect this time will be any different, but in light of one of our nation’s most recent scandal regarding the IRS and their sketchy (illegal?) dealings with conservative Christians, I cannot help but wonder — is this nonsense still going on, or is this merely a coincidence?

God only knows.

Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Matthew 22:19-21

Christian Persecution

While I might be experiencing a twinge of paranoia, the reality is that Christians are being persecuted by the millions around the world and it is rapidly coming to America.

Consider the statistics:

  • Christianity is the largest; most widely spread faith in the world (Reuters)
  • About 100 million Christians are persecuted around the world (Reuters)
  • Another 150 Million Christians are murdered each year (UCANews)

I’m not even dogmatic about the numbers. They could be off by 90% and they are still staggering –15 million Christians killed annually is satanically horrific.

What’s Our Recourse?

Prayer is always our first response.  God changes us through prayer and He gives us the inside scoop through prayer. What do I mean by the ‘inside scoop?’ By that I mean He reveals His will to us. The reality is that sometimes God allows a Christian to be in jail (the Apostle Paul, for example), because that believer can (perhaps) share the Gospel with a people group who might not otherwise hear the Good News of salvation through Christ Jesus. All the more reason we need to understand the biblical concept of incorporating “Thy will be done,” into our prayers.

What you do after prayer is between you and God.

Submit yourself to God, listen for His response, and then comply with His directive.

“Pray without ceasing” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

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“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11

Prayer Warrior

It’s a term we all recognize. I have used it, my pastor has used it, and probably every Christian I’ve been blessed to schmooze with through the years, has used it. We use the expression because it best prayerwarrior7describes the actions of those of the faith who earnestly lift others in prayer; who consistently and persistently go before the Lord with all requests, supplications, intercessions, and thanksgivings, and often time while possessing prayer lists and maintaining prayer logs. They are classified as our  ‘go to’ people within the body of Christ when an appeal, a plea, or petition is desired. That brings me to a twofold question:

“Is the label right (and by ‘right’ I mean Biblical), and is it harmful?”

I’ll explain. First…

Is it Biblical?

The short answer is, I don’t believe so. While there are certainly folks in the church who fit the definition, I’m not convinced God would concur that a special designation is called for. Is being a prayer zealot a gift of the Holy Spirit? If so, I’m not seeing it. The Bible records three main passages regarding spiritual gifts: Romans 12:6-8;1 Corinthians 12:4-11; and 1 Corinthians 12:28. According to the list, we see…

Prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, mercy, the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues, helps, governments, and diversities of tongues.

But, I don’t see prayer warrior on the list.

I suppose you could make an argument that tenacious prayer falls under one (or more) of these categories, but I sense that’s when we begin to stretch the doctrine a little too thin. Let’s be honest, prayer is a vital component of each of these giftings, but is not the actual gift.

Is it Harmful?

Yes, I believe it is, and I’ll tell you why — our Father in Heaven desires that we all pray in this manner. Could we really believe that the Lord would want us to delegate our conversation to somebody else; someone who we perceive is better at it then we are? Where in the Bible does God suggest to us to go find a prayer warrior, or even to make a separate distinction? Nowhere that I can find, but I do see this…

“In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.” Acts 10:34

Elevating someone to the status of prayer warrior may encourage the believer who happens to fit the mold, but it simultaneously sends an erroneous message that this person is gifted in a way that we are not, and therefore, we have been relieved of this duty. Do we really believe that? Aren’t prayer warriors doing the very thing that we are called to do? Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that prayer warriors are obedient, rather than gifted? Finally, should we be seeking out a prayer mediator when the Father has already provided us one?

“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” 

Haven’t we also been given a Helper in our pursuit of prayer?

“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Romans 8:26

Here’s the truth — God desires all His children pray in this manner! The fact that you don’t now is not the point. God never intended that in your discouragement (in this regard) you turn to another Christian, but rather you turn to Him. Therein lies the point!

Look at these directives from God’s word…

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

There is nothing in there that remotely suggests we find a prayer warrior to do this for us.

Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17-19

Do you see anything in there that implies this is somebody else’s job? Me either. The one thing that does jump out at me [is] that if we’re not praying like this, we’re throwing water on the fire that is the Holy Spirit. That cannot be good.

One more…

“Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” Ephesians 6:17-18

The Last Word

Try to look at like this — it’s the church (not God) that has created a prayer warrior status. When we serve to encourage others with the moniker, it is a wonderful, Christian gesture, but what we’re really saying (when we use the term), is that we recognize there is a great void within the body Christ that only very few are filling. It might be better to recognize this Christian’s faithful obedience instead. May I suggest that the next time we sense the need to identify another believer in this manner, that we also ask the Lord to examine our own hearts to determine why the title is not befitting for us. The question should not be, “Lord, why am I not a prayer warrior,”  but rather, “Why am I not submitted to Your will in my life?”

Am I suggesting we should not seek out others to pray for us?

Heaven forbid!

We are called to pray for one another. I’m saying that there is not a circumstance to ever shy away from being the type of communicant the Lord wants us to be or to relegate the duty to someone else. God wants to talk with us directly and has fully equipped us to be fervent communicators.

Talk — God is listening.

If you enjoyed the post please like it, share it, comment on it, or subscribe to it. Frankly, I am blessed that you stopped by to read it today. God bless you too!

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“What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6:28-29)

It’s been estimated that since Christ’s time on earth, 70 million Christians have been martyred for their faith. Recent statistics reveal that over 100,000 Christians are killed each year. Their crime: faith in Jesus Christ. Some reports say that annual number is closer to 160,000 deaths per year! As for general Christian persecution not necessarily leading to death, it is estimated that currently over 200 million Christians are being persecuted worldwide. That’s 200 million Christians who are routinely subjected to oppression, humiliation, jail, beatings and/or torture.

Again, that’s 200 million!

How should we respond?

I don’t know about you, but I very often feel helpless. My attention has been drawn to the reports of American Christians, arrested in foreign lands. Names like Saeed Abedini, Kenneth BaeMaryam Rostampour and Marzieh Amirizadeh have made our recent headlines, thanks primarily to a select few media sources, such as Fox News.

Why would God allow this to continue?

The answer to that question has too many facets for us to count. In a sad way (and in one small SaeedAbediniaspect), I see these arrests and the media attention they are receiving, as a good thing, in that the eye’s of American Christians are being opened to the horror. Is this a tiny portion of God’s plan? It very well could be, although I would not be dogmatic about it. The reality is that many of us have heard the outrageous statistics, but at the end of the day they are just numbers on a piece of paper and we do nothing. So in a sense, Saeed Abedini and Kenneth Bae have become the face for Christian persecution — essentially they are the poster boys for the 200 million tyrannized Christ-followers, worldwide.

Now that you know, what will you do?

I submit to you that God has a purpose for each of us in this, and that the directive behind the purpose is unveiled, at least in part, in these two Bible passages:

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

“We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

To simplify…

Pray and  Obey

As a first response to any situation, prayer is our course of action. Frankly, it is the best thing we can do. God, through prayer, does many incredible things, but the fact that God changes us when we pray could perhaps be the most significant factor. Don’t believe God changes us? Then try praying sincerely for your enemies or for the needy or praying thanksgiving over the blessings you already have, and watch how God changes you. The truth of the matter is that in our earnest prayers, God reveals the next step we are to take. It might be a baby step or it might be a grand leap, but whatever it is, He shares the maneuver with us. In contrast, if we do not pray, we probably will not hear.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

We need to know that our prayer, at least as it pertains to how God wants to change us, is often rendered powerless, unless it is our intention to obey whatever we learn from God in those prayers. In actuality, we might want to include that talking-point in our prayer, for as we know it is not an uncommon thing for our Spirit to be willing, but our flesh to be weak. It has been my experience that if the Lord detects any insincerity in this regard, He likely guides us to address our submission issues, while putting the other items we presented on hold. Not always, but remember, our Father is a God of order, not chaos.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)


What God says to you may not be the same thing He says to me. It could be, but I believe the Father takes our individual needs into account, in order that the changes He makes in us are most appropriate for us. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Let us also keep in mind that these changes in us are for His glory, not ours.

For example, when I began to pray for the persecuted church, God’s initial response to me was that these prayers needed to be an everyday, consistent practice of mine. The Lord then moved me to share the dire situation with others so they would pray. I’ve got to be honest with you — I was waiting for God to say to join some cause, or financially support some persecution ministry, such as Voice of the Martyrs. He still might! I am willing, but that’s not the direction God is nudging me, today.

One substantial thing He has led me to do is to exercise my liberty as a US citizen — to share the Gospel more boldly and passionately. It seems to me, and I could be wrong, that God would not have reached me with this change He desired to make, unless I had been praying for the persecuted church and the likes of Pastor Saeed Abedini and Kenneth Bae. All that is to say, God is faithful.

I don’t know firsthand what the Lord is doing on behalf of Saeed and Kenneth, and the millions of nameless Christians whose plight we bring before the throne each day, but I know God’s way is the best way and that He will get His glory in each situation. My prayer is that you will be encouraged to pray for the persecuted church and  all things, with an attitude of submission to God’s will.

Expect to hear from the Lord and be prepared to obey.

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“And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:22)

At Low Tide

When Hurricane Sandy hit our home (on whatever day that was), I was asleep with earplugs crammed deep into each side of my head. We all decided to go to bed once the electricity went out about 8 PM. The next morning we awoke to a chilly, un-electrified house. From what I could determine, our home, and those in my neighborhood, were spared. There were trees and wires down everywhere, but most of the houses were intact. The rain had not been that bad; even our basement was dry. In fact, the portion of ceiling that usually leaks when we get a driving rain never proffered a drop of water. There was one tree down in my yard, but with the aid of a floor jack and my Jeep, I was able to get it up off the lawn and re-planted. I lost about 8 shingles off my roof, but wouldn’t you know it, I had exactly 8 shingles in my garage and was able to make a repair in about 30 minutes or so.

Hurricane Sandy, I surmised, wasn’t that bad. Once again, the media over-hyped the weather report.

I jumped into the car and drove down to the beach front. It soon became apparent that my assessment of the storm’s intensity and destruction was askew. It pained me to admit it, but the media had gotten this one right (it was bound to happen eventually). Sections of boardwalk were flipped over, mountains of beach sand covered the roads, buildings were collapsed (or missing), and piers that once jutted into the Atlantic Ocean for decades, and through countless storms, were no more.  I snapped pictures until the battery in my camera went dead, jumped in the Jeep, and drove home.

Again I thought to myself, it wasn’t that bad. After all, much of what was lost could be characterized as extracurricular entertainment — the boardwalk, the piers with their roller coasters and fishing facilities, the food concessions and games, all of it for our amusement. These businesses would all, in due time, recover, I concluded. They would likely come back better than before. And a lot of the homes that were damaged or destroyed, well, these folks are wealthy; they all have insurance, and eventually they would all be restored.

I went home to my family and dark house where we prayed and played board games until the electricity came back on about a week later. No TV, no internet.

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14)

When the power eventually was restored and I was able to get back online, I began to witness the relief effort that was going on all around me. Honestly, I was shocked. I kept thinking, What for? With the exception of millions of people not having electricity, there really wasn’t much need for relief.

I soon learned that our church joined in the effort. A church from Pennsylvania was coming to join forces with us, and together we were going to join forces with a church in a place called Highlands, NJ. I knew the area. It was misnamed, because there is nothing high about it. This small, bay front community is about 10 feet above sea level. I wasn’t sure why we were going there, after all, I had seen the damage in other areas, and it didn’t seem so bad, but nevertheless I prayed and I went.

As we drove our cars down the hill into the Highlands, the devastation was immediately apparent. The folks had already begun the process of cleaning up and the curbs were filled with garbage.

But wait. This garbage was different.

On both sides of the street; every street, piled has high as a person could throw a wet blanket, were the personal belongings and contents of the citizens of Highlands. Their furniture,  their clothes, their appliances, their mattresses, their toys, their walls, their baby pictures, their rugs, their floors, their insulation, their blood, their sweat, their tears.

What in hell happened here?

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth (John 16:13)

As far as I could tell, not one home was spared. The first floor of practically every single home (and most homes were only one level) were flooded out. The water had long since receded, but in every direction there was ruin. Even the church we were partnering with lost everything on their first floor. But as God would have it, this turned out to be a blessing, because as soon as it was emptied and gutted, it was filled with relief supplies for the community.

I spent the next few days here helping residents empty their homes of all their possessions, pulling down sheet rock, and pulling up floors, in order that they might be able to rebuild when their insurance checks came in; if they had insurance that is. Not all of them did. You see, Highlands is not such a highfalutin kind of place. Most who live here are middle-to-very-low income families. Not all; there are some higher-end condos closer to the water’s edge, but the majority of the folks in Highlands are struggling to make ends meet. In most instances, Sandy came in and stole all they had.

This was the case in most of these communities along the coast: complete ruin. I had no idea. So sad, but these people did not need our tears.

Why am I telling you all this? 

Because there is a great need here and the need will continue for months. Oh not just in Highlands, NJ, but in every shore town that Sandy touched. I figured you may not be aware. I thought that because I live here and I didn’t even realize how bad it was. Less than 3 miles from my house, people were putting out to the curb everything they own, and I was oblivious to it. Thousands upon thousands of homes and lives were destroyed, and I thought to myself, “Gee, Sandy wasn’t so bad.”

As it turns out, I did one thing right — I prayed.

While I didn’t understand the scope of the problem initially, I prayed for people who may be suffering loss. Despite my ignorance, God answered those prayers and changed me. God woke me up to the reality of the situation and in the process made me an effective tool in His hand. Had I not prayed at all, the likelihood is that I would have sat in my warm and happy home unconscious to the needs around me. Because of God, through prayer, something better occurred. Oh, it wasn’t much, but it was something. Without the prayer, it would have been nothing. Yesterday I helped a guy named Eugene gut his home. Today, as my aching back heals a bit, I write to exhort and encourage you to pray.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21)

What will your prayer do?

I do not know specifically, except to say, that if your prayers are sincere, God will change you in some manner. Maybe all God will do is make you a prayer warrior. Maybe He’ll make you a helper or a giver. Maybe He’ll get you moving in an entirely different direction altogether. The reality is that nothing will change until you pray. And consider the notion that if you’re reluctant to pray, maybe the underlying problem is that you are not submitted to the change God wants to do in you. Stop saying that you hate change and pray.

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

Please pray for the victims of Sandy and wait for the change in you. If you want to help in some small or big way, first pray. 

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Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, But are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish. Psalm 1

I typically do my Bible study in front of the computer. I cut and paste the text (NKJV) I am going to study into a word document, pull up a couple Bible resource sites (usually BlueLetterBible.org and BibleStudyTools.com), log onto my favorite online Bible study (SearchLight with Jon Courson), and then dive right in. With this method I have discovered that I can pause the study at any given point to further investigate or better document what is being shared by the Holy Spirit by way of the teacher. What should take about one hour (if I merely listen to the teaching), more often than not, takes two to three. I take pleasure in taking a key component from the session and sharing it in a blog. That might add another two hours. Needless to say, this is time well spent. Bible study is not something I have to do; it’s something that I get to do. I thoroughly enjoy it because the Lord blesses me in the process.

Today was different. My Bible study lasted about eight minutes.

The sun was shining and I thought it would be nice to just grab my Bible and go sit out on the deck. I soon found that while the rays were glorious, they were too bright to read by. I suppose I could have turned my chair so the light came over my shoulder, but I was way too comfy to do that. So I closed my squints and began to pray, resting the Bible on my warm belly.

I began to prayerfully replay some of the events of the last few days before the Lord. In no less than three conversations I had alienated and/or otherwise annoyed the people I was chatting with, despite the fact I was hyper-vigilant to the doctrine of tolerance; i.e., the right for others to say and/or believe whatever it is they want. And for the most part they tolerated me and my faith in Jesus Christ, but nevertheless, they were either angered or appalled by my Biblical views. God reminded me that I shouldn’t take it personally..

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:18-19

That helped.

In one of these discussions I cited that we, as per God’s word, should avoid interacting with nonbelievers as they engage in their sinful activities. That raised the ire of one disputant who quickly turned my words around so as to say I was suggesting sinners should be avoided at all costs. That notion would of course be anti-biblical. The exchange left me exasperated. He ended the dialogue soon after. Was my Biblical interpretation correct or was I just playing the legalist? What happened next was pretty cool.

“Father,” I prayed, “I need a verse that will let me know that I am on the right (or wrong) path.”

God spoke to my heart. “Open your Bible,” He said.

“Father,” I objected, “I was just taught last night that randomly opening our Bibles as a technique to studying the Word is not the best method.”

God continued, “Open it to where the book mark is.”

So I did and a marker fell out in Numbers. “Not that book mark,” He said, “keep going.”

I chuckled to myself, closed and opened the Bible again, and it opened to where a friend’s business card marked the last page of Job. “Oh no,” I thought, “not Job!”

“The other page,” He said.

Oh, Psalm One! Much better! As I began to read I felt a smile come across my sun-taunted face.

Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, But are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish. Psalm 1

“Thanks Father,” was about all I could say. My Bible study was over.

These ramblings are typically (but not always) a byproduct inspired by God through my personal Bible study at SearchLight with Pastor Jon Courson and with my pastor at my home church, Calvary Chapel Coastlands

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Oh, do not deliver the life of Your turtledove to the wild beast! Do not forget the life of Your poor forever. Have respect to the covenant; For the dark places of the earth are full of the haunts of cruelty. Oh, do not let the oppressed return ashamed! Let the poor and needy praise Your name. Psalm 74:19-21

He spoke first. “I’d love to do this,” he said, “but I’m on a fixed income.”

Jerry motioned to his wife silently, “You keep walking, I’ll catch up, I’m okay here a few minutes.” These two clearly knew each other very well; her unbroken stride and a quarter nod was her only acknowledgment.

Picking up the conversation I said, “Hey, that’s okay; the best thing you could do for us is pray.”

The us I was referring to was a ministry I used to serve with.

“Oh not me,” He said, “I’m not the guy for that.”

My spiritual ears went up. Getting to talk to lots of people about lots of things was one of the perks of the job and I sensed that I was on the verge of having one of those wonderful discussions. Perceiving that this old man was not a believer, I quickly prayed, “God, help me here please.”

“Why is that; why aren’t you the guy,” I asked. I extended my hand, introduced myself and asked, “What’s your name?”

He told me his name was Jerry and that he was eighty seven years old. “I’ve seen too much,” he said. “It was my job to get our prisoners back from Japan. What they had done to these guys was the worst thing I ever saw.” Then he added, “We were just as bad.”

“So you don’t believe in God?” I asked.

“Oh I used to, but that was before the war,” he said, but added, “There can’t be a God; God wouldn’t let this kind of stuff happen.”

I wanted to share a whole bunch, but I figured he had heard a sermon or two since those World War II days. I weighed in a little bit and apologized at least twice for sounding a little preachy. He assured me it was okay and that I was correct—many pastors and good intended Christians have talked to him through the years regarding his faithlessness.

“I just can’t get past the pain,” he would tell them and, “I just can’t get past the pain,” was what he told me.

Jerry continued, “We would put food out in the open to lure them in and then we would shoot them. We were ordered to shoot them in the belly so they wouldn’t die right away and the others would have to come and help them. Then we would shoot them too. I’m not proud of what I done.”

“Do you think that what you did was unforgivable?” I asked.

Jerry hung his head low and said, “Yes.”

I began to tell him otherwise, but he stopped me in my tracks, “Dave, like I said, I’ve heard this all a hundred times before.”

I tried a different tact. “So what you’re telling me Jerry is that you don’t believe in Heaven or hell; is that right?”

He nodded.

“What do you believe happens when you die,” I asked.

Jerry told me what one would expect to hear: you die, life is over, and your body rots in the ground, to which I replied replied, “Jerry, if you’re right that will be wonderful. If there is no Heaven and no hell, I can’t think of a better conclusion. We’re born, we live, we die, and that’s the end.”

I paused a few seconds waiting for his upper lip to reveal when he was going to speak. When it did I cut in, “But Jerry, what if you’re wrong–what if I’m right and you’re wrong?”

The expression on his face revealed that in all his eighty seven years he never pondered that question. He started to speak, but he had nothing, so I interrupted, “Jerry, by your own account, God has sent at least a hundred people to you with a message—do you think that’s He’s trying to get your attention?”

Jerry nodded.

“Jerry. You’re eighty seven years old. How many more messages do you think you’re going to get before you die?”

Jerry’s countenance changed somewhat. He seemed angered at my remark, but his speech failed him again.

“Jerry, do you want to sit and have a cup of coffee with me?” I asked.

“No, I can’t. The wife’s here, I gotta go,” he said.

“Okay Jerry,” I said, “it was such a pleasure talking to you. But will you please remember those four words I told you?”

He recited them back to me, “What if I’m wrong.”

“That’s right, ‘What if you’re wrong,’” I said.

“How could I forget,” he said and shook my hand.

On the ride home I beat myself pretty good. I could have said things better. I could have been more vigorous in my request to have coffee with him. I acknowledged before the Lord that I ignored His leading at least once during our conversation. Then the Lord reminded me that the encounter wasn’t about me. He assured me that I did my part and that Jerry’s salvation was His responsibility, not mine. I was also reminded that the best thing I could do was pray.

Where had I heard that before?

Oh, do not deliver the life of Your turtledove to the wild beast! Do not forget the life of Your poor forever. Have respect to the covenant; For the dark places of the earth are full of the haunts of cruelty. Oh, do not let the oppressed return ashamed! Let the poor and needy praise Your name. Psalm 74:19-21

Pray for the Jerrys of the world.

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So David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel, for his kingdom was highly exalted for the sake of His people Israel…Now when the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over all Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. And David heard of it and went out against them…And David inquired of God, saying, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?” And the Lord said to him, “Go up, for I will deliver them into your hand.” So they went up to Baal Perazim, and David defeated them there…Then the Philistines once again made a raid on the valley. Therefore David inquired again of God, and God said to him, “You shall not go up after them; circle around them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees. And it shall be, when you hear a sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall go out to battle, for God has gone out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.” 1 Chronicles 14:8, 10-11a, 13-15

Four Reasons Why Christians Suffer

Generally speaking there are four fundamental reasons why born-again Christians experience suffering. First and foremost we’re afflicted because we live in a fallen condition brought about by Adam’s indiscretion in the Garden. As a result we sin against others and they sin against us; God does not routinely interfere lest He deny us our free will.

A subsequent (and obviously interrelated) cause is based not on what other sinners do to us, but rather upon what we do to ourselves; i.e., the things we suffer because of our own foolishness. The reality is God is not mocked and we will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7-8).

Thirdly, there is the sanctification process the Christian willingly submits himself to. Followers of Christ choose submission over disdain because the trying course consistently proves to be a blessing rather than a curse. The truth be told, believers know that those who are without God’s chastening are considered to be illegitimate children (Hebrews 12:5-8).

The final reason is subtly revealed in the 1 Chronicles 14 passage (above) and fortified by this New Testament canon:

In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33b

When David knew that God had established and ordained him ~and~ when the Philistines heard about it, they attacked. This satanic policy holds true for us as well, for when the enemy learns of our anointing, he too will attack. How the enemy manifests himself varies and I submit that they range from flat tires to martyrdom. I know of one brother in the faith who had a deer jump through his car window as he traveled to a ministry conference. The naysayer rolls his eyes and screams, “Coincidence! Hardly. Christians know better.

Our Response

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4

Our first response is birthed in our hope, for we know that, ‘All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.’ (Romans 8:28). We have our rest in the assurance that God is orchestrating a picture beyond the scope of both our suffering and our imagination. However, in light of that hope, we have spiritual responsibility.


That responsibility is revealed in what David did. In an act of Godly dependence, he inquired of the Lord, not once, but each time the enemy was on the attack. How God answered David teaches us that our responses can be as varied as the attacks themselves. Like David, we might be called to mount up a frontal assault one time and a rear offensive another. The significant point is that we cannot be confident in anything until we ask for His input. For all we know, we might be called to ignore the enemy entirely. Important things to glean from David’s story are to never suppose God’s methodology runs consecutively and to never assume (based on history) we can leave God out of the equation. To become dependant upon what God has given rather than upon God Himself, we effectively open the door of victory to our adversary.

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These ramblings are typically (but not always) a byproduct inspired by God through my personal Bible study at SearchLight with Pastor Jon Courson and my pastor at Calvary Chapel Coastlands

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Therefore David inquired of the Lord, and He said, “You shall not go up; circle around behind them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees. And it shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall advance quickly. For then the Lord will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.” 2 Samuel 5:23-24

David is poised to battle his adversaries again. The Philistines had attacked once previously, but David was victorious because he dropped to his knees to pray before he stood up to fight. Wisely, David returns to his knees before taking further action. David could have marched into battle without making inquiry of the Lord, but fortunately he perceived that yesterday’s divine strategy was for yesterday. The lesson of course is for us to bring every matter before the Lord never assuming that divine tactics are etched in tablets of stone. The bonus, as it were, is that persistent prayer improves perception.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17

Both non-believers and biblical scholars have scrutinized the passage, “When you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees,’ and have theorized that the breeze-in-the-trees was merely some kind of natural phenomenon. Some have even speculated that the marching column of Philistine soldiers was enough to rattle the branches of the delicate Mulberry. Perhaps. They can choose to look at the incident like that if they want, but oh boy, are they missing out on something truly spectacular. Personally, I prefer to see the rushing wind as the Holy Spirit for which it is.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Romans 1:20-21

The fact of the matter is that the disconnected aren’t able to see God’s hand in these things because they aren’t willing to. Self-disabled, they regard things as naturally occurring rather for the supernatural occurrences they are. In contrast, and as the detractors shake their collective heads in astonished disbelief, the purposed Christian can look at any component of God’s good creation and rightfully proclaim, “I see God’s handiwork.”

“Oh well,” we rejoin, “their loss!”

The reality is that bringing this to their attention will probably not influence them to abandon their skepticism, but I’m not writing this them…I’m writing this for me (and maybe you). The truth is that I occasionally forget that ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above;’ I am the one who needs the reminder. When I step outside the refuge of Christ Jesus and neglect the components of my faith, I run the risk of seeing things as the world sees them—pleasing, but nevertheless catastrophes of nature; accidental pleasantries if you will. Oh how sad it is to miss the gargantuan quantity of blessings God has bestowed upon us. The resolute know that standing close to Jesus improves our vision.

“God will not be behind-hand in love to us: for our drop, we shall receive an ocean. Thomas Watson

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It happened after this that David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go up to any of the cities of Judah?” And the Lord said to him, “Go up.” David said, “Where shall I go up?” And He said, “To Hebron.” So David went up there, and his two wives also, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite. 2 Samuel 2:1-2

There might be scores of reasons why God isn’t talking to you and I don’t want to explore them all right here right now. I simply want to say that perhaps one reason God isn’t talking to you is because you aren’t talking to Him.

When I read the Bible passage above, one thing that leaps off the page is that God’s response to David’s first prayer is extraordinarily concise. Why, when David asks the question, “Shall I go up to any of the cities of Judah?” doesn’t God simply give him the entire answer at once? Why doesn’t God respond, “Yes David, go up and specifically I want you to go to Hebron.” It’s almost as if God is making David ask more questions.

I submit to you that is exactly what God is doing with David. In the same way a parent draws out conversation from a child, our Father in Heaven elicits prayerful exchanges with us. Our Father calls for more than communication; He desires communion. The reality is that He loves us so much He wants to converse with us continually and the deeper those conversations are, the better they are. Consider the inferences revealed in these quotes:

“Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire.” Corrie Ten Boom

“I have so much to do that I spend several hours in prayer before I am able to do it.” John Wesley

“Is the Son of God praying in me, or am I dictating to Him…Prayer is not simply getting things from God, that is a most initial form of prayer; prayer is getting into perfect communion with God. If the Son of God is formed in us by regeneration, He will press forward in front of our common sense and change our attitude to the things about which we pray…Prayer does not fit us for the greater work, prayer is the greater work.” Oswald Chambers

“Why is it so important that you are with God and God alone on the mountain top? It’s important because it’s the place in which you can listen to the voice of the One who calls you the beloved. To pray is to listen to the One who calls you “my beloved daughter,” “my beloved son,” “my beloved child.” To pray is to let that voice speak to the center of your being, to your guts, and let that voice resound in your whole being.” Henri Nouwen

Our Father seeks our intimacy, our honesty and our accessibility and wants nothing more than any parent desires from their adored child – an authentic relationship.

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