Fill-In-The-Blank Differently

God gives backHow would you fill in this blank: “The Lord gives, and the Lord ________  _________.”

I had some misconceptions about God when I was a kid. I didn’t want to pray, “God, You can use me however You see best” because I just knew He would send me to do something gross. Or we would sing a song like I Have Decided To Follow Jesus and one of the verses said, “Though none go with me still I will follow.” I didn’t really like that because I liked my friends and family; I liked my life just as it was.

Job was a righteous man, and some really bad things happened to him. He’s the one who said things like, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21), and, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10).

But there was still another 40 chapters to go! In the very last chapter of his story we read this―

After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. (Job 42:10)

In hindsight, I think Job might have said something different: “The Lord gives, and the Lord gives back!” But this insight would have come only after “Job had prayed.” Getting into God’s presence helps us capture the heart of God.

  • A grieving mother learned this when God gave her a son and gave back her resurrected son to her (2 Kings 4:8-37).
  • And then again when God gave her their family land and gave back the lost income (2 Kings 8:1-6).
  • The apostles learned this when Jesus gave them His presence and gave back a position of authority (Matthew 19:27-28).
  • We can also know that Jesus will give us a hundred times what we’ve given up for Him, and give us eternal life too (Matthew 19:29).

God never takes anything from us unless He intends to give back something even greater, something eternal, something unbreakable, something un-losable!

You will only begin to see this better when you get in His presence. “The object of secret prayer is to unite us to God that we may know His abiding presence with us” (Andrew Murray). It’s time to fill-in-the-blank differently! 

I’ll be continuing our series on The Prayers Of Elisha this coming Sunday, and I would love to have you join me!

Your Greatest Stress Reliever

Stress relieverSadly our country is anxious and worried. Based on the number of anti-depressants that are prescribed each year, we are a people dealing with a lot of issues!

When worry or fear begin to interfere with normal thinking and functioning, doctors call it anxiety disorder―that is, disorder in our lives creates the anxiety, and more anxiety creates even more disorder.

What causes anxiety in the first place? One of the main culprits is chronic stress. Things like marital problems, financial pressures, relationship breakdowns, emotional traumas trigger the fight-or-flight responses in our bodies. This leads to increased blood pressure and heart rate, interrupted sleep patterns, digestion issues … and all of this leads to the chronic stress, which leads to anxiety, which leads to even more disorder!

But here’s the great news―Getting into God’s presence could be your greatest stress reliever!

There’s a story in 2 Kings of a woman who is clearly stressed out. Her husband has died, she’s exhausted all her resources trying to settle up with creditors, she has sold nearly everything in her home, and one creditor is ready to carry her sons off into slavery. Talk about anxiety!

Elisha asks this widow two questions:

  • How can I help you? Jesus said that our Heavenly Father knows our needs before we even ask Him, but in the very next verse Jesus says, “This then is how you should pray…” (Matthew 6:8-9).
  • What do you have? God will use even what we think is insignificant to show His superabundance in our lives!

God did meet this woman’s needs. He gave her enough to pay off her creditor. But that wasn’t all―God also gave this family enough to keep on living stress-free!

God Who, by the action of His power that is at work within us, is able to carry out His purpose and do superabundantly, far over and above all that we dare ask or think―infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams. (Ephesians 3:20, AMP)

Don’t try to carry all your stress yourself, cast ALL your anxiety on Him because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

I’ll say it again―Getting into God’s presence could be your greatest stress reliever!

We are continuing our series on prayer next Sunday, and I hope you can join me!

Pray & Dig

Pray & DigThe fact is far too many of us get ourselves into hot water all on our own, and then we want to call on God like an insurance policy to bail us out. We usually have some reasonable-sounding excuses:

  • “It seemed like a good idea at the time”
  • “It was so practical and common sense I didn’t think I needed to pray about it”
  • “I’ve done this dozens of times before and never had any trouble.”

There’s a story in 2 Kings where three kings got together for a battle. To them it seemed like a pretty good idea―there were three of them going to war against just one king, they knew the terrain, so it would be an easy victory.

Except it wasn’t.

The Bible says that after a 7-day roundabout march, the three armies were out of food, out of water, stranded in the desert, and about to be defeated without the enemy ever firing an arrow or swinging a sword.

One king wanted to blame God. The king of Israel said, “Bad news! God has gotten us three kings out here to dump us into the hand of Moab.” (2 Kings 3:10, MSG). But fortunately the king of Judah thought to ask, “Isn’t there a prophet of God around that can call on God for us?” (v. 11).

Here’s one of the most amazing things: Elisha―the representative of God’s presence―was right there with them! Think about that … these kings hadn’t asked God for help, and hadn’t invited Elisha along, but there was the prophet right in their midst!

It’s a good reminder for us: God is ALWAYS with us. But it’s up to us to recognize Him and go to Him in prayer.

When these kings finally asked God for help with their water problem, Elisha said, “It’s an easy thing for God to provide water for you. You’ve prayed, now it’s time to prepare for His supply.” The armies were called on to dig lots and lots of ditches. God would send a supply of water without rain to take care of the troops. And if that wasn’t enough, God also said He would give them victory over their enemy. As Matthew Henry wrote, “God’s grants out-do our requests and expectations.”

Pray first. Pray continually. Pray always. And then when God tells you to dig ditches, get ready for His abundant blessings. But get the order right: Don’t dig and then pray; pray first, then dig!

If you’re in the Cedar Springs area, please join me next Sunday as we continue our series The Prayers Of Elisha.

The Prayers Of Elisha

The Prayers Of ElishaElisha was a prophet whose name means “God is salvation.” And God did show His saving, healing, sustaining power through Elisha in 28 separate miracles.

But here’s the cool thing to me: Elisha is a regular guy. He comes from an average family, from one of the lesser known tribes of Israel. Elisha was a farmer, and had a few guys working for him. Other than that, we don’t know much about his background. Elisha truly was an Average Joe.

Elisha is a perfect guy for us Average Joes to learn more about the power of prayer. What God did through Elisha, He wants to do through all of us too. Please join me this Sunday as we kick-off a new series called The Prayers Of Elisha, and get ready to see your prayer life grow.

Keep Striking

Keep strikingThere is an unusual story in 2 Kings about King Jehoash. Elisha the prophet was on his deathbed, Israel was morally bankrupt and on the brink of defeat. The entire Israeli army had been reduced to fifty horsemen, ten chariots, and ten thousand infantry. It was in this hour of desperation that Jehoash sought out the counsel of Elisha.

Elisha said [to Jehoash], “Get a bow and some arrows,” and he did so. “Take the bow in your hands,” he said to the king of Israel. When he had taken it, Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands.

“Open the east window,” he said, and he opened it. “Shoot!” Elisha said, and he shot. “The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!” Elisha declared. “You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek.”

Then he said, “Take the arrows,” and the king took them. Elisha told him, “Strike the ground.” He struck it three times and stopped. The man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.”

What made Elisha angry is what I believe makes God angry. Jehoash came to God when the situation seemed impossible, but he wouldn’t pray it through. It’s almost as if he felt like three times was enough to pray, and then he needed to take it from there.

God wants us to pray BIG, but He also wants us to pray LONG.

We need to keep striking the ground (or as Mark Batterson would say, keep drawing the circle) until God answers. God gave Jehoash a promise of victory, but Jehoash didn’t pray long enough to see it through.

What are you praying for? What promise has God given you? God is glorified when you place your request in His hands, and leave it there. Keep on praying. Keep on striking. Keep on circling until God brings about what He has promised!

We are praying all this week. If you’d like a copy of the prayer guide we’re using, please click here. If you are near Cedar Springs, please join us Friday, January 11, at 6pm for our prayer concert. We’ll be striking the ground in prayer, and then our worship team will lead us in singing our praise to God.

And join us next Sunday as we continue to learn more about praying circles.

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