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 prayer after reading Romans 15:9, 2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18:49.
Oh Lord, I honour You.
You are a firm place for my feet.
A safe place for me to dwell;
Refreshing and affirming to my spirit.
My flesh rests in You, my soul is at peace.
My heart is satisfied by Your goodness.
Your mercy overwhelms me.
Your love seeps into my deepest parts.
I am changed because of You.
I praise You, Lord Jesus; my redeemer, my life blood.
I worship You, oh God and sing to Your name.
I honour You with my life so that others may know and bless You.
One day, I will be with You forever.
One day, I will see You and look at Your beauty; Your majesty.
One day, I will see You looking at me....
Teach me. Show me the path. Guide me today.
Shine, so I can see where to put my feet. Lord, I am walking in obedience. Give me renewed passion & purpose for You.
May I, like Phinehas, do Your will in this complicated world.
Psalm 106:30-31, Numbers 25
Jesus, You were there in the beginning; fashioning, shaping the world, the generations and me. Thousands of yeas ago (in human terms:) You were planning, strategizing and creating.
May I be struck by Your Majesty!
Jesus, if You were there in the beginning, then you were surely there when perfection fell. You saw the greed & forgetfulness, the shame & nakedness. You saw the cowering to hide as Your holiness drew near in friendship. And you clothed them.
May I know Your love. May I fear Your holiness. May I love like you do.
And Jesus, You watched the generations trust, then forget over and over again. You watched with Your Father as the nations chose to not serve You wholly. You watched Your very own people choose evil over good. And yet, You came to give another chance. To redeem. You gave everything to woo them back. They didn't even know it was You! You suffered humiliation. You took all of our sin... my sin. You sacrificed it with Your body and died.
May I be full of Your grace & mercy toward others.
Then, Jesus, You rose up; back to life. Death could not hold Innocence. You put all my sin to death and came back stronger than ever! You are my King. You have killed my debt. You have given me life without shame.
May I live in it!
May I worship You forever!
May I always remember.
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. John 15:13
Please inquire for the word of the LORD today. 1 Kings 22:5