The Key to Effective Personal Prayer

4.01.20 Leave a comment

One of the most common reasons we have for not feeling good about our personal prayer lives is simply this:  “I just don’t have the time to pray.”  Well, for most of us, (though not all) that excuse has been remedied for the next month!  Not only do we have time to pray, we also have a compelling reason to pray which quite honestly was not really on our minds just 30 days ago.

The covid-19 virus is effecting everybody; most all of us directly.  However, what can we do to “supercharge” our prayers so that we sense they are effective; changing lives and circumstances?

Effective prayer is not formulaic, it’s not repetitive or found in a book somewhere.  Rather it is heart to heart direct communication with the God of the universe.  Let me suggest how to prepare your heart, to build your faith, to pray effectively, and then to act accordingly.

  1.  Begin with praise!  Effective prayer always starts with the person, the nature, the character of God.  Jesus taught us to pray this way “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed (praise be) be your name.  (Matthew 6:9)  The more clearly we see and understand the nature of God, the more of His spiritual presence you sense in these times, the more confident you become in His love and care for you.  As part of your praise time, you can read His word, proclaim His promises in the word, you remember His faithfulness,  and you sense the depths of His love relationship with you … yes, you.  (If this is not a natural or easy thing to do for you, I highly recommend using one of the great resources available to us through the worship music that is readily available on many platforms.  My home church, North Way Christian Community, recently did a series of praise and worship songs which are available at North Way Christian Community on YouTube.)
  2.  God inhabits the praise of His people and thereby causes faith to rise!.  Faith is simply the confidence that God will provide what you need according to His plan, purpose and will for your life which is always good.  (Romans 8:28)   Without faith, our prayers will not be effective; but with faith all things are possible!  (Mark 11:22-24)   Praise is the catalyst to our faith which comes as we spend time in His presence — it is a direct result of being with Him.
  3. Now, with a heart full of love and faith pray specifically for those people, circumstances and concerns on your mind and heart.  Name names!  Ask in detail!  Oswald Chambers in the reading for April 1st says this,  “Begin with the circumstances we are in — our  homes, our business, our country, the present crisis as it touches us and others — are these things crushing us?”  I’m not sure how something written almost a hundred years ago could be more relevant!  But he goes on to warn us not to “let them squeeze out your praise because it is the source of faith that catalyzes effective prayer.”
  4. Finally, don’t give up on your prayers until you know that God has answered.  For reasons that we cannot explain, some prayers are answered immediately and some take a significant amount of time.  (See Luke 18:1-8)  Pray until you have peace that the matters you have prayed about have been settled.

Friends, there is so much more.  Perhaps we should look at the matter of spiritual warfare next time.  We can see how to exercise the authority of God over spiritual powers as secured for us through Christ’s victory on the cross.  Next week, Easter week, is the perfect time to do that!  For today — just pray effectively!

Blessings,
Pastor Jay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Together In The Storm

3.25.20 Leave a comment

Last evening, our North Way home group experienced our first “virtual meeting” as 13 of us gathered together around our computer screens and shared what the Lord seems to be speaking to and doing through each one of us.

It may a bit difficult to understand, but somewhere along the way what was a bit awkward and somewhat unfamiliar to those of us who are  not technologically gifted, it became very evident that the Spirit of the Lord was in that gathering according to His promise that when “two or more of you are gathered together I am there  in the midst of them.”  Matt. 18:20

If there was one thing that emerged out of our 90 minute virtual gathering, it was that this current pandemic situation has affected all of us quite differently .  Some have been burdened with additional duties of care and concern for other loved ones, some have suffered significant personal disruptions and circumstantial upheaval that was entirely unexpected.

On the other hand, there were a number of us who were able to share that this time of “voluntary isolation” has provided a wonderful on ramp into the presence of God because we have had unhurried and uninterrupted time to be with the Lord on a daily basis.  Out of that time of communion, the Lord has opened opportunities to share with others and express love, care and compassion for neighbors, friends and even strangers.

We understand that we must go through this storm together.  It is affecting everyone of us in a different way, but make no mistake that it is affecting every one of us.  On the one hand, that seems like an overwhelming challenge, but on the other hand it is also a galvanizing truth that provides incredible opportunities to let the life of the Lord flow though you to others in need as you tend to your own heart and soul.

If there would be one point of focus that I would offer to every one of you who may turn to this post for encouragement on a regular basis, it is simply this:  when you go through the storms of life, even ferocious storms such as this one, remember who is in the “boat” with you, even the Lord Jesus Himself!

In 3 of the 4 gospels the very familiar story of Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee with the disciples they encounter what is called a “furious squall” so that waves broke over the boat and it was nearly swamped.  The contrast in the life of Jesus and the disciples is notable:  He was asleep on a cushion in the stern of the boat, but the disciples were terrified and fearful that they were about to drown.

This is a picture for me that there is nothing that we face in life, no storm, no upheaval, no virus, no financial crisis that upsets the Lord Jesus.  He is metaphorically “asleep in the stern” of our small ships of life because He knows His authority and is fully confident that there is no power, no authority, no circumstance, no evil, plague, or need that will overwhelm His ability to overcome it.

What is key for us to remember is that though we may lack that level of faith, He is in the boat with us and is not going to let us perish.  If anything, He is allowing us the opportunity to exercise our faith and to speak to those demonstrations of the winds of destruction and to speak to them with authority, specifically identifying them and calling them into submission to the higher authority, the name that is above every name, the name of Jesus!

The disciples wondered if Jesus really cared about them and would He allow them to drown in the midst of these circumstances.   When He rose up spoke directly to the storms and the waves and said “Quiet!, be still!” the wind died down and it was completely calm.  Mark 4:39

Jesus then turned to His disciples and said, “Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?”

Fear is something that most everyone must confront.  Is there an element of fear in our lives that is threatening to swamp our craft, our vessel of life and if so, what can you do to rise up and confidently weather the storm, and even bring it to a halt?  The answer lies in the awareness of the one who is in that vessel with you and the one who has imparted to you His very faith to take authority over every circumstance that seems to be overwhelming to you.  The apostle Paul later says, “The life I now live I  live by the faith of the Son of God.” (Gal. 2:20)  That is the life of the son of God in us is the source of the faith, the grace that we need to overcome every circumstance, every storm, every evil design by our adversary.

So let me remind you in these days of uncertainty and even turmoil, you are not alone in your vessel of life.  Hopefully, you are in that craft with others of like-minded faith such as we experienced last evening, and certainly with family and a few select friends who share your confidence in our Savior who has defeated every power of the evil one by His undeniable triumph on the cross. (Col 2:15)

So when you’re feeling overwhelmed, perhaps even fearful that you won’t be able to sustain this much longer, turn to the one who is in that vessel of life with you and He will rise up and He will speak perhaps through you or someone near to you or even Himself and cause you to see that He is in control.  He is the Lord of all of life, even that which seems so daunting and uncertain.

Blessings,

Pastor Jay

I want to share with you just a few ways that I am living out these days with a new sense of focus and expectation in my next post which will be just days away.  God bless!

My Master Passion

3.18.20 Leave a comment

Over the past weeks, I have been giving much thought to this one question — what is the one thing about which I am most passionate?

Like everyone else, I have many interests, many sources of discovery, enjoyment and fulfillment!  But this very unique time of “social distancing,” or in it’s true sense “voluntary isolation,” has really allowed the Lord to shine His light most brightly on this question:  now that many of these “lesser things” are on hold, perhaps not even available to me, what is truly my master passion?  What do I desire more than anything else?

For most of us, we’ve already matured to the place where we know that our ruling passion is not to be found in “things” no matter how beautiful, exciting or inspiring they may be.  Money and all it may provide is a “lesser master.”  (See Matthew 6:24)  Things are not inherently wrong, but they must never rule us, never be what we think about, desire and pursue more than our master passion.

For others, maybe something far higher such as family, friendships, teamwork, success in one’s chosen career, sacrifice, service, giving to others or even a ministry of the Lord; but still, none of these should rule us.  None of these should become the highest and most dominant focus of our lives.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that you’re not susceptible to these distractions.  They are all good things and therefore seem to be worthy of being our master passion, but they are not!

I’ve come under great conviction that the constant assault on our minds and senses with all of these lesser things tends to eventually dull what is revealed in scripture as our highest and unchanging master passion.  “We make it our life’s passion to live our lives pleasing to Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:9b

This is not a weekly exercise when we gather to worship with others, or in our small group experiences in homes and other locations, nor even in our daily devotions; but rather it is a moment by moment experience – born of the conscious awareness that the Holy Spirit lives in us and will reveal to us what the Lord desires in every decision, every conversation or exchange, every relationship, every pursuit, what is pleasing to Him!

There is a level of relationship, communion with the Lord, that this commitment opens to us that far exceeds whatever sacrifice, whatever discipline, it may seem to take.

In the end, my life is not about “me” any longer, it is about Him, knowing Jesus, being one with Him, in this life and forever.

With all of my heart I desire that by grace this will be my master passion.

Blessings,
Pastor Jay

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Fear vs Faithfulness

3.12.20 Leave a comment

No doubt about it, the message that we are now receiving from our national leadership professionals in medicine, economics and politics is that the coronavirus will have a profoundly more widespread impact than perhaps originally perceived.

As more and more measures are taken to limit the potential for contact with infected people (social distancing), it tends to lead us down the very precarious path of imagining the “what if the worst happens” scenario.

Just yesterday, longer lines are being seen in places of bulk grocery and home supply distribution and the likelihood that further public gathering opportunities will be curtailed is seemingly inevitable.

Thankfully, the great majority of our population should not suffer significant physical implications, although it is clear that older people and particularly those with other pre-existing conditions are most vulnerable to serious medical consequences. (Think about the thousands of people just in our area that are currently in nursing homes, retirement villages, etc., who would be much more susceptible than others.)

There is one particular posture that I think is absolutely critical for every Christ follower to embrace in this time.  What we are facing has taken place literally thousands of times during the course of redemptive history.  Scripture is full of the accounts where the people of God faced situations that naturally speaking produced great fear because there was no certainty about the future or clear way though the potential pain, suffering and confusion that seemed to be about to overwhelm them.  It was in those very moments that the Lord was preparing His plan for the deliverance of His people and He called upon them through His prophets, His leaders and His men and women of faith to believe and trust more in God’s faithfulness than the fear that was consuming their hearts and minds.

That’s it in a nutshell loved ones.  It’s fear vs faithfulness that every one of us must consider in every dimension of our personal, family and corporate lives in the coming weeks.  I’ve been blessed by God to have lived through a number of these kinds of situations as far back as gasoline shortages that potentially were going to cripple our nation’s economy in the early 70’s, the widespread uncertainty that lead to a fair amount of hoarding and hysteria as we approached the Y2K event at the turn of the millennium, the 9-11 strike and days of uncertainty that followed that tragic occurrence when all flights domestic and foreign were cancelled as well as other rather draconian measures and perhaps most recently the financial crash of 2008.

In all of these fear was widespread in its manifestations clearly seen in the habits and practices of individuals let alone groups, institutions and businesses.  However, in every situation God’s faithfulness was the true “safe haven” as those with a spirit of discernment knew that nothing was outside of God’s control and that fear would not and could not overwhelm the faithfulness of God in caring for His people.

And so, in the immediate future, may I encourage you to pray faithfully for our nation, and the people of the world who might be suffering with fallout from this virus even more than we are, until the tide begins to turn.  Pray for the people of our nation to have their hearts opened to recognize just how fragile the lifestyle that we have created and the things in which we put our energy and trust in really are.  Along with protection from illness and/or serious implications, pray that the Lord opens hearts and conversations and exchanges as we go through this together.

Remember in the end, God’s faithfulness will always defeat a spirit of fear.

Blessings,

Pastor Jay

A Word of Encouragement Part 4

3.04.20 Leave a comment

In the last three posts, we talked about the need for encouragement, that is God’s comfort, strength and hope in the course of our daily lives.  No one is immune from the overwhelming circumstances and challenges that we face in our daily lives.  Some manage better than others, but all of us, at one time or another, need encouragement.

I want to close this brief series of thoughts on this topic by talking about finding encouragement when you’re by yourself.  In my experience, this is the most important source of this great gift from God that we can cultivate.  Others can help us from time to time and there’s certainly different resources that we can access such as Bible teaching and worship music, etc.

I have found the greatest instruction on tapping in to God’s encouragement on my own from the very transparent and personally revealing thoughts and revelations given to David, King of Israel, throughout the course of his spiritual journey.

In a time of being exiled from his throne in Jerusalem, wandering in the Judean wilderness without any clear path or strategy to recover his god-given kingship, David needs the encouragement of God Himself.  He writes this in Psalm 63:

” O God of my life, I’m love-sick for you in this weary wilderness.  I thirst with the deepest longings to love You more, with cravings in my heart that can’t be described.  Such yearning grips my soul for You, my God!”

Note that David doesn’t begin by talking to God about his obvious dilemma.  He doesn’t focus his thoughts on what he doesn’t have but on where he knows his heart belongs, and that is with the presence of God.

You’ll have to read the entire Psalm to fully grasp just how intent David is on discovering this source of power from God Himself.  But know this, he is not timid about just how expressively he desires this intimate connection.  In verse 4&5 we read:

“Daily I will worship you passionately and with all my heart.  My arms will wave to you like banners of praise.  I overflow with praise when I come before you, for the anointing of your presence satisfies me like nothing else.  You are such a rich banquet of pleasure to my soul.”

You see, David understood that true encouragement is not necessarily the resolution of a conflict or situation that has brought you down. Rather, true encouragement is a soul connection with God where He imparts to you the sense of favor, grace and confidence that He’s with you and will sustain you and carry you through whatever it is that has brought you into the season of disappointment, doubt, or even despair.

Dear friend, you can apply this in every area of your life; whether it be in your closest relationships, your physical body, your financial or career issues, even your own spiritual dryness.

The beginning of encouraging yourself in the Lord is to make time in His presence your number one priority, no matter what your circumstances dictate.  Rise up early in the morning if need be or stay up late at night if that suits you, but be with God in some sort of undisturbed and unbroken way.  Use the “weapons of your warfare” including the Word of God, songs of spiritual praise and worship, expressing yourself as honestly and openly as you know how. These are the “on-ramps” that move you onto the highway that leads to God’s “anointing presence” which you will discover satisfies you like nothing else and imparts to you the very encouragement that you need to be lifted up and out of the entanglement of life’s seemingly impossible situations.

If you get a moment to share how you’ve discovered this to be true in your life, I’d love to hear about it.  I may not always be able to respond personally, but I read your responses and I value them as I seek the Lord for what to share with all of you in this spiritual journey together.

Blessings,
Pastor Jay

A Word of Encouragement Part 3

2.27.20 Leave a comment

There are many times in our spiritual journey when we need encouragement but we find ourselves either unable to reach out to others or simply in a time of being alone.  As uplifting and strengthening as words from others may be, there are times when you have nowhere else to go but God yourself.

Of course, the potential problem with this is that you may not find yourself knowing where to turn from your resources within.  The fact that you need a word of encouragement likely means that you have been spent in trying to deal with an issue or struggle or faith-battle on your own and find that your resources are depleted.

In John chapter 4 in the beautiful story of the Samaritan woman that Jesus met at the well in the village of Sychar (a place where Jacob of the Old Testament dug this well nearly 1000 years before… ) he teaches us a great lesson.  Jesus sees the need of this woman who is internally very thirsty and who is in need of a word of hope, some way to break out of the cycle of failed relationships and quiet desperation in which she was living.

Jesus asked the woman to give Him a drink of water. (vs. 8)  The woman was surprised because the Jews and Samaritans did not speak with each other.

Jesus answered her confusion when He said, “If you only knew who I am and the gift that God wants to give you you’d ask me for a drink, and I would give to you living water.” (vs. 10)  They go back and forth for a few verses and then Jesus says this:

“For when you drink the water I give you it becomes a gushing fountain of the Holy Spirit, springing up and flooding you with endless life!” (vs. 14b)

The most common mistake that we make in a time of extended struggle is to look at what God has done in the past in our lives and conclude that we don’t have the resources ourselves to change anything.  Our wells are dry and there’s no use in trying to simply lift yourself up by looking within.

The key here is to recognize that the Lord is not expecting you to find the resources within, but rather to draw on His resources from above which will then in turn refill your own personal well, your heart, with fresh love, power and encouragement.

Don’t make the mistake of only believing in what Jesus can do in your life based on what He’s done in the past.  Those wells may be dry, but He is here to give you fresh and living water even today!  It takes some focus to look away from yourself and what you know based on the past, but the answer lies in looking to the Lord and His limitless resources of life that never run dry and are never inaccessible to us.

There’s a fascinating reference to this same principle in the life of King David in 1 Samuel 30 where King David finds himself in a time of deep and profound discouragement.  His city had been burned and the wives and families of his fellow soldiers had been taken captive.  His own people even threatened to kill him as they blamed him for this carnage.

And then one simple verse stands out in 1 Samuel 30:6 “But David strengthened himself in the LORD His God.” 

In my next post I want to talk about how we can learn to do what King David did:  to strengthen ourselves in the Lord.  (By the way, the Hebrew word for strengthen in that verse is the exact same word for “encouragement.”)

So take heart, dear friend, that even if you are feeling somewhat alone and unable to be encouraged by others, the Lord has an endless supply of living water that He desires to pour into your life.

Blessings!

Pastor Jay

A Word of Encouragement Part 2

2.20.20 Leave a comment

More often than not, when I hear the expression “a word of encouragement” I think of it in terms of one individual speaking to another one a word that edifies, uplifts, or sustains a fellow believer or sometimes even a stranger. (In some future post, I want to talk about “prophetic encouragement” which is simply another way of describing the inspiration of the Holy Spirit when we believe the Lord has given us a specific “word” for a person, group or situation.)

However, just recently in my personal home group we had the experience of what I would call “full body encouragement”!  In other words, there were 12 people present and fully engaged for the meeting and after a few brief words of welcome and introduction, we simply prayed that the Holy Spirit  would lead the meeting. There was no particular person that was in charge of providing direction, focus, a teaching or a flow of ministry, etc.

If you think this sounds a little bit uncomfortable, I will confess to you that, as someone who has been blessed to provide leadership for literally thousands of such meetings over the past decades, I find it hard to let go and simply believe that the Holy Spirit will lead every individual in that room in the direction that He wants.

In 1 Corinthians 14, after a rather long word of correction to the church about the focus of spiritual gifts not being on “rating manifestations” but on “strengthening the entire church,” Paul says this:

When you conduct your meetings, you should always let everything be done to build up the church family.  Whether you share a song of praise, a teaching, a divine revelation, or a tongue and interpretation, let each one contribute what strengthens (encourages) others.”

Over the course of the 90+ minutes, we didn’t just grow in our  knowledge of what spiritual authority in Christ meant or our understanding of what spiritual gifts were about, we actually grew in our experience and manifestation of those truths.  The meeting was a wonderfully edifying time and much ministry took place that was not prescribed or predetermined.

Here are three practices that I believe led to a “corporate word of encouragement.”

  1.  We began with a time of expressive praise and worship.  It’s not unknown to me that quite a number of small group leader training manuals discourage worship in small groups.  Most think it’s awkward for a dozen or so people to try to openly worship together.  Even though it takes a little bit of adjusting and accommodating, we have found that our worship times are vitally important in transferring our control from ourselves to the Spirit of the Lord as we focus heart, spirit, mind and soul on Jesus and His presence with us.  (Even during the worship time, individuals felt the freedom to quote a scripture, to lead out in a word of specific praise or thanksgiving and most everyone sang whether they were gifted in doing so or not!)
  2. Everyone had something to contribute.  I thought this through carefully in reflecting back over the meeting and all 12 participants made some sort of contribution.  A few had very powerful prayers of ministry for specific needs including healing, relational breakthrough and wisdom and peace for a major business decision.  When you’re participating in a meeting like that and no one is leading or giving anyone else permission to speak, you begin to realize that literally, the Holy Spirit’s controlling the meeting.  It’s not an individual leader or a specific protocol that’s been established in a guidebook.  It’s the Spirit Himself, which is new territory for many of us.  Let me say that though it’s a bit stretching, the end result is truly uplifting and encouraging in ways that we rarely experience.
  3. We keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace by focusing on the love of Jesus as the highest focal point of the evening and not the various expressions of encouragement or ministry to one another.  We did this by celebrating the Lord’s communion together, and frequently, not just at the end of the meeting, acknowledged that everything that is happening in and through us is to the glory of Jesus and an acknowledgment of His presence with us by His Spirit.

Corporate words of encouragement where the whole gathering is involved in giving expression to those words is an amazing experience.  However, I believe it’s what Paul was talking about in the book of Corinthians and other places and is possibly one of the clearest expressions of the reality of the living “body of Christ” that one can ever see or experience.

By all means, believe that such experiences are meant for everyone in the body of Christ and not just a select few.  This is the normal Christian life!

Blessings,
Pastor Jay

A Word of Encouragement

2.13.20 Leave a comment

Over the past few weeks I’ve sensed the Lord is getting my attention about one fundamental need that is common to almost every believer, as well as everyone who may not yet know who Jesus is.

This is something that we may find “non-essential” in our day-to-day activities, but I have no doubt that every one of us have need for this gift from time to time, if not from day to day.  That gift, that empowering moment, is called in the Bible encouragement.

The Hebrew words translated “encourage” mean “to strengthen.”  The Greek words, the ones used in the New Testament, are somewhat more complex.

The basic New Testament words are related to the verb parakaleo which appears over 100 times in the New Testament and carries three different meanings:

  • “to summon, invite, or ask”
  • “to exhort or encourage”
  • “to comfort”

So basically, to encourage means that we come alongside (the exact translation of parakaleo) and comfort, strengthen and perhaps exhort others to continue to walk faithfully with God or, perhaps more basically, to continue to pursue their goals and/or solutions to their challenges or problems.

I was first struck by this important concept in Acts 13 when Paul and Barnabas speak to the church in the city of Antioch.  They are asked by the leaders of the synagogue for God’s message when they say “Brothers, do you have a word of encouragement to share with us?  If so, please feel free to give it.”  (Acts 13:15)

What struck me about this expression was that these new believers, or potentially in some cases non-believers from the Jewish faith, wanted Paul and Barnabas to share something with them that would strengthen, uplift and exhort them in their search for the truth about who Jesus was and His mission on the earth.

Amazingly, Paul stood and went on for nearly two whole pages detailing what the “Jews and non-Jews who worship God” had in fact understood and yet still missed about what God was doing through His Son, Jesus.

In other words, this was not a message that was uplifting at first, nor did it have any sense of perseverance or overcoming; rather it was a clear word that they all needed to change what they believed about God’s plan and the work of His Son.

I’ll go into this more in the next post, but rather amazingly it says that “as Paul and Barnabas start to leave, the people pleaded with them to share more about these things on the next sabbath day.”   (Acts 13:42)

In other words, a word of encouragement may not be the final insight or perspective or truth that we need to hear; but it may move us out of our stagnant or lifeless practices and beliefs that keep us from experiencing the fullness of God.

We’ll talk more about this, but let me encourage you to begin to ask God to hear, in small ways, what He’s saying to you as an encouragement for your life, or perhaps even better, for someone that you love.

Blessings,
Pastor Jay

 

 

Freedom From Fear!

2.04.20 Leave a comment

Whether or not we want to openly acknowledge it, I believe it’s true that most every one of us deal with some sort of inadequacy or past experience that cause us to have fear in different situations.

This fear is not the kind of “horror” that people may fall into when being physically attacked or in some sort of open conflict.  No, this is not fear of bodily harm as much as it is fear of not being good enough, not being accomplished enough, not trusting enough, and not being loved enough.

I’ve been talking with a couple of friends over the past several months who are seeking a job/career change in their lives.  They know that this is something they want to do, but for quite a few months now neither one of them have seen any doors open.  Opportunities and even interviews come and go and yet no one comes back beyond a second interview to make an offer or even give feedback as to what might be needed for the change to occur.

This kind of fear can be paralyzing.  It can cause one to believe that somehow they may be stuck in a situation that they find unsatisfying and certainly far from what they dreamed their lives might be about.

The same kind of fear comes upon people who have had relational difficulties and find themselves at a time in their life when they never thought they would be “living alone.”  There’s no shame to that situation, but there is fear that perhaps this may be their permanent state and that’s not something that they see as a blessing.

I have my own illustrations but I wanted to share some encouragement from King David in Psalm 34.  David begins:

Lord! I’m bursting with joy over what you’ve done for me!
My lips are full of perpetual praise.”  Psalm 34:1 (TPT)

“Listen to my testimony: I cried to God in my distress
and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears!
Gaze upon him, join your life with his, and joy will come.
Your faces will glisten with glory.
You’ll never wear that shame-face again.
When I had nothing, desperate and defeated,
I cried out to the Lord and he heard me,
bringing his miracle-deliverance when I needed it most.
The angel of the Lord stooped down to listen as I prayed,
encircling me, empowering me, and showing me how to escape.
He will do this for everyone who fears God.”  Psalm 34:4-7 (TPT)

There are many more verses in Psalm 34.  You really must read it to get the full impact of how David experienced the power of God to deliver him from his fears.  What really affected me as I read this over and over again is that David did not concentrate on those things that were causing him fear.  He didn’t think about them over and over again and try to find a way to help himself out of those circumstances.

Rather, David talks about the emergence of the presence and power of God as he focused his whole heart on who God is.  He says it best in verse 17:

Yet when holy lovers of God cry out
to him with all their hearts,
the Lord will hear them and come to rescue them
from all their troubles.”  Psalm 34:17 (TPT)

Even when bad things happen to the good and godly ones,
the Lord will save them and not let them be defeated
by what they face.”  Psalm 34:19 (TPT)

The revelation of these verses has reminded me of the need to do more than just have my “Bible reading” every day or to go through my prayer list in some perfunctory manner.  Rather, there’s a profound level of relationship which David models for us and calls us into with the Lord Himself.

If we’re all really honest with ourselves, many of us know that getting to that place with God where we know that we are pleasing to Him and encountering Him and loving Him for who He is and not what we can get from Him, often takes more focus and investment than we are willing to give.

I read yesterday of one of the fathers of the faith movement of the last century who was a pastor and would hear from the Lord that it was time for him to seek God “earnestly.”  He told His wife he would be going over to the church and was not to be disturbed unless it was an emergency.  There were times, he said, when “I would pray for several days and not leave the church.”

I know there may not be any of us who could imagine doing something like that.  However, it did make me ask the question ‘just how desperate am I to hear from God?”

And so if you’re dealing with fear, the way to find freedom from your fears is to focus on the face of God and read His Word about His love for you, His promises for your circumstances and situation and most of all, the glory that is due His name for all He has already provided for you and me and all who call upon His name.

Becoming free from fear,

Pastor Jay

Praying the 23rd Psalm

1.23.20 Leave a comment

If you have read any of my posts over the last several months, you’re aware that I’ve become a very big fan of The Passion Translation Bible.  In it’s current form, The Passion Translation is simply Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon and the entire New Testament from Matthew through Revelation.  (I’m doing some research on if and when a more complete Old Testament translation will be released.)

What I’ve discovered in this Bible reading adventure is that many of the more familiar passages have taken on entirely new dimensions of understanding for me.  What is a true blessing is that often this deeper understanding seems to come along on days when I’m facing situations that require just that particular insight.

Today in reading the 23rd Psalm, I was struck by the fact that though the word fear is only referenced once in the NIV (vs. 4b “I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”), it is referenced three times in The Passion.

 “Lord, even when your path takes me through
the valley of deepest darkness,
fear will never conquer me, for you already have!
You remain close to me and lead me through it all the way.
Your authority is my strength and my peace.
The comfort of your love takes away my fear.”Ps. 23:4

So why would I fear the future?
For your goodness and love pursue me all the days of my life.
Then afterward, when my life is through,
I’ll return to your glorious presence to be forever with you!” Ps. 23:6

As I read those verses over and over today, I recognized that fear is many times hidden within the various trials and struggles of our lives.  When relationships falter, we fear that we may be hurt or rejected.  When we become sick or perhaps lose a job, we fear that we won’t recover.  And on and on it goes, even to our ultimate destiny where we somehow fear that we will come up short and not spend eternity in the Lord’s loving presence.

I want to encourage you once again to consider investing in a copy of The Passion Translation and letting God refresh your heart with the thoughts and promises from His heart as revealed in this amazing Bible.

Blessings,
Pastor Jay