I've often recalled moments in church meetings - whether large or small - where people regularly prayed together for needs or even confessing struggles or, dare I say... sins. These were some of the most impactful and impressionable moments in my life and continue to be today...
"...The prayer of a righteous person is powerful & effective."
There is great strength & health in heartfelt confession to others when we have sinned. If you remember anything from this little note, remember that.
When we acknowledge our sin to each other (when we humble ourselves and trust our family and friends in Christ) we open a powerful, relational door, full of humility and practical encouragement and support. Yes, this can be risky, but with wisdom there are incredible perks and advantages.
God is faithful when we come to him privately, but He has made us family. We are a community that is meant to do life together.
I remember the churches that our family was a part of when I was growing up. (Yes, there were a few as my dad's jobs had us moving a lot. :)
They were communities who had regular times at the end of Sunday meetings where we were invited to come for prayer if we wanting support. Others, then, would come and buddy up with each person, respectfully ask what they would like prayer for and... pray.
Sounds simple, but in hindsight, they were some of the most memorable moments in church gatherings for me personally. Sometimes I was the one needing prayer and other times I was the one listening and praying for. We became family in these sacred spaces. They were personal, earned trust, and grew humility. We realized, just as James goes on to say in verse 17, that we were all humans on a challenging journey with a supernatural God. We needed Jesus and each other.
Confession is a beautiful, risky, powerful thing that gives great gifts in return. Healing, wholeness, support, and a bond in trusted community, to name a few. I think the greatest gift that it brings though, is humility. For where humility is, judgement is not.
We are the family of God. Should we not be able to come to each other with our struggles to pray, encourage, cheer or cry with one another?
I believe in a church like that... the family of Jesus, full of mercy and patience as we bring our struggles to the Lord, supporting each other in love.
We can be that church for each other.
“Will you not take what your god Chemosh gives you?
This is an interesting story in the continuing saga that Israel journeyed through during the time in history where judges ruled the nation. Jephthah was in that role for this account and was standing his ground, defending Israel's rights of ownership to a land that the king of the Ammonites was claiming for his own. It was when I was reading this story (read it here) that the 24th verse jumped out at me. I felt God challenging me...
War was imminent. The Ammonite king was challenging Israel on the ownership of the land in question, saying that Israel had stolen it. Jephthah went through details of the Israelite's journey from the time they left Egypt, declaring that they had legally fought for the land and God had given them victory - God had given them ownership of it. Because of that, Israel would stand their ground - they would not give up the inheritance given them by their God. He challenged the foreign king saying that he would've done the same thing if this was a dispute of something that their god (Chemosh) had given them. (interesting dialogue from a judge of Israel ...) Then, Jephthah said; "Likewise, whatever the LORD our God has given us, we will possess."
What does it mean to possess? (see Blue Letter Bible)
What has God given me?
As soon as I asked these questions, I was reminded of verses like these:
I asked myself; do I really possess what God has given me?
And God reminded me of something He allowed in my life several years ago...
I was experiencing intense back spasms, and this went on for about 6 months. The pain was terrible and most of my days ended up in bed. I had been diagnosed medically with scoliosis many years prior to this incident and, for the most part, had functioned normally despite the curvature in my spine. But this season was different.
We were leading a small congregation at the time and the Lord was taking us (and the church) through significant change. It was a revival of sorts in our church community. We were growing, and God's presence was significant among us. We moved to a larger facility and then this pain hit me. I remember feeling like it was a spiritual attack of some sort but didn't know how to verbalize that to people without them thinking I was a bit weird. So, I did what I knew that I could. I got physical attention... went to the doctor, massage therapist, chiropractor, took the med's prescribed, etc. But still did not find relief. I got spiritual attention... asked for prayer for healing, declared promises of healing over myself regularly, confessed anything that I thought might be a cause to this happening to me, submitted myself to deliverance processes (I was desperate to be free from months of chronic pain!), etc. Some of this season is embarrassing for me to think about now, but I do not regret going through it! God taught me a lot (although it was kind of a hard way).
After exhausting all the avenues that I was aware of at the time, I had to wait it out before God. I fell asleep many times (and with much medication) listening to a lot of great teaching (like Joyce Meyer) and worship music. My spirit was fed by those who spoke and sang hope. I made a practice to, as much as possible, speak life over my body. I would declare the promises of God over and over. My back still didn't change.
I don't recall the date or circumstance when the pain stopped, but I suddenly realized that it had. There were a number of people who had been praying for me in this season and I knew instinctively that God had answered mine and their cries for His intervention.
And here's the part that resonated with me as I was reading the story from Judges. Something landed in my spirit the day God took the pain away and caused the spasms to stop. As I read, He reminded me of it. It was an understanding, a confidence that the pain would not happen to me in that way ever again... if I stood my ground, not unlike what Jephthah told the Ammonite king, or what is described in Luke 10:19. I became aware of the gift, the inheritance that God had given when He healed my back and innately understood that it was mine to keep. I felt an authority that I had not felt before. Any time I felt spasms starting up in my back again, I simply (and tenaciously) would say 'NO' and they would stop! The interesting thing to me was that I had done that many times prior to this moment of God releasing healing to me, but nothing changed. I had told the pain to go in Jesus' name and nothing had changed. Somehow this was different.
I was well for several months and then the headaches hit! They would travel up the right side of my neck and knock me off my feet for a few hours. I was getting 2 or 3 of these daily. The doctor said they were like migraines but not textbook as they were just as intense but much shorter. I went through all of the same process of what I described above and then, after about six months, God lifted it. How did I know it was God? I cannot explain that to you but I knew and, like the back spasms, I then had an authority over that kind of headache that I didn't seem to have before. Any time I felt the pain traveling up my neck in the same manner, I would say 'NO' and it would retreat. In fact, even as I was writing this article it happened... I said 'NO'!
I don't understand all of this other than I must stand my ground and walk in what God has given to me. Galatians 5:1 says; "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." That is my definition of this verse; I will gratefully possess and occupy the land of my inheritance. I will testify and allow fruit to grow from what He has given me.
What has the Lord given me? Oh my, how can I write that all here? He has given so much - life, salvation, healing, hope, grace, mercy, forgiveness, family, possessions, creative abilities, health, peace, purpose, heaven, His presence...
How great and how vast He is!!! I never lack adventure in Him. He is better than, holier than, greater than I can even imagine. He is always more. He is not a better love, He is love. He is not a brighter light, He is light. He is goodness, kindness, gentleness, and humility. He heals, delivers, and rescues. He is God - the one true God. I can rest in Him. I can trust His ways. He has given all this and more to me in Himself, in Jesus. I will praise Him forever!
"Whatever the Lord has given me, I will possess."
A friend put out a public prayer request asking for a non-believer's healing. It was given with her consent and with the assurance that God is a healer, has been doing some great things in people's lives lately, and that we will ask for a miracle to happen ... that she has a full recovery.
I found myself praying for the individual and then, I thought, "God, Your name is being put out on the line today." And just as quick as the thought was out, was this realization: God is His Name!
We serve a great God; One who actually personifies His name.
Healer Lover Provider Redeemer Faithful Friend Powerful Merciful Just Compassionate Forgiving
Let them know that You, whose name is the Lord —
that You alone are the Most High over all the earth.
Psalm 83:18 NIV
God stands by His Name.
And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people. Acts 12:11 NKJV
There's an old song that says, "He touched me ... something happened and now I know, He touched me ..."
We've all been touched by God. We just might not realize it. We all got touched (so to speak) when we were created. God was hands on in the designing and creating of each of us. (Read Psalm 119:73) I just don't remember that one!
But, sometimes in life, God gives us a special moment, where we actually have a sense that He has come down and touched us.
Peter had that. He was in prison (again) and an angel jolted him out of his sleep. The image I have in my head as I read this is actually comical, for the angel was not passive. The Bible says that the angel 'struck' Peter on the side and pulled him up! Ha! So here's what my brain sees ... Peter sound asleep. An angel shows up with tons of light happening. Peter stays asleep. The angel gives him a boot in the side and yanks him up. He tells him to get dressed, put his shoes on and follow. Peter thinks he is dreaming. They go by the 1st and 2nd guard posts and when they come to the exit, which happens to be a large, iron gate, it opens all by itself! They walk out, go down the street a bit and the angel ... vanishes! Peter wakes up. (Read the whole story here)
Have you ever been touched by God? Has He delivered you from something that held you in a prison of sorts? I have. He has touched me. He has delivered me and led me past the 1st and 2nd guard posts. He opened the massive iron gates without me even lifting a finger. He touched me and healed me. And I wasn't dreaming.
So, I ask you again, has God touched you? If He has, tell someone about it. If He hasn't, ask Him to.
When you choose a picture to represent yourself to the world (like in Facebook) what do you pick? My guess is that it would be one of the following:
Life is not like the picture. A picture remembers what we have chosen to.
That's why I love reading what David has to say in the Psalms. I can totally relate!! He wrote about the stuff in between the photo-shoots!
Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
For many years I have asked God to heal me. Now you may be surprised at that, but when I was a young teenager we discovered that I had a twisted spine. The label the medical community puts on it is scoliosis... For the most part it never really hindered me from doing what I wanted. But, as time marches on, I have had to battle the effects of imbalanced muscles caused from the curve. I have been through seasons of migraines, muscle spasms and chronic pain and each time God has healed me ... but not when I wanted Him to.
I have examined this from many angles, but today I was listening to someone that I admire greatly and who has much to say about this subject of healing. Her name is Joni Eareckson Tada and she is a quadriplegic (she has a new audio-book that is being released and you can download the 1st hour of it free at https://christianaudio.com). Joni said something that surprised me, but that I can totally relate to. She quoted Psalm 37:4 and said that as much as she desires to be free from the wheelchair and the present pain, she has a greater desire to know God & to grow in Him. Joni is allowing God to work good in her despite (or is it, 'to spite') what the enemy has thrown her way.
My heart totally concurs. I started to recall all of the times that I went up for prayer, with absolute faith to be healed (and each time in response to God's prompting for me to do so, I might add). I have continually come away from each of those experiences with God answering a deeper need, a greater need every time. My back is still curved. He eventually healed me from the migraines & spasms. But again, my back is still curved.
My greatest quest in life is not to have a straight back, although I won't argue if it comes. My greatest quest is to know God's peace, to really trust Him, to have His mind, to be so intertwined with His presence that I am truly one with Him. My 2nd greatest desire would be to reflect & wear Him well to my family... and to you.
I'll stop here. If you are in a hard place, trust God to deliver you. If He does not alleviate your physical circumstances, trust Him. Do not let the enemy gain control of your mind & your spirit.
Please inquire for the word of the LORD today. 1 Kings 22:5