Helping women live victorious lives in Christ

God Answers Prayers, But…

Yes, we know that God answers prayers.  Those of us who believe in the power of prayer know that He’s there to listen and that when we pray according to His will, He hears us; and because we know He hears us, whatever we ask, we know we receive it (see 1 John 5:14-15).  Many times when we pray, especially for those things that are extremely challenging situations (serious illness of a loved one, difficult marriage, long-term financial strain), where we may not see breakthrough for quite some time, we continue to pray but sometimes wonder when the answer will come.  But the question I want to pose today is…as you continue to pray, are you looking for the answer?

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What prompted me to write this today is the fact that I am praying for a few ‘big’ things and have been praying for quite some time.  And God showed me signs of his answering them all in one day, all in one church service.  But I wasn’t looking for the answers! I was just going along enjoying the worship service, when boom, boom, boom…there were the answers.  Three prayer requests, three answers just like that. The situations are not completely solved, but I can see that God is working (note the present tense) to answer the petitions that have been brought before Him.  And these prayers have just not come from me, but from others as well.  I know that He is going to answer, but I was in awe at how God is working and the timing in which He’s working.  My mind is still blown as I’m writing this the next day after it happened.

 

What’s the lesson for me (and hopefully you) today?  Don’t stop looking for the answers and for your breakthrough to come!  They are coming!  And they are coming in ways and through people that you may not expect or anticipate.  When your answers (or the beginning of the answers) appear, give God praise for them!  For me, what God did yesterday was a reminder for me to keep praying, keep pressing, and to not give up.  God is sovereign and has our situations under his complete control. He is well able to handle them, and I am trusting and believing that He WILL answer (just like it says in 1 John 5:14-15). I encourage you to join me and do the same.

As leaders in ministry, we are looked upon to set an example for those who follow our guidance.  It goes without saying that we should be above reproach, honest, consistent, loving, fair, just, and people of integrity.  There are many scriptures that speak to these characteristics (just take a look at what the apostle Paul wrote to his mentee’ Timothy for examples).

Vulnerability-Just-Ahead

It’s true that a leader should possess a certain level of spiritual maturity (again, Paul talks about these qualities in his letters).  Leaders should know the Word of God, not be swayed by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14) and be able to live out the Word that we teach and preach on a daily basis.  There are countess books by authors such as John Maxwell who expound greatly on the concept of leadership and what makes an effective leader.

Recently the question of transparency and vulnerability in leadership has entered my mind.  Yes, leaders are to be examples to those around us, but how far should we take the example?  The issue I’ve seen recently is the fact that in many instances, church leaders are placed on pedestals by those whom they lead.  Leaders are saddled with sometimes unrealistic expectations of perfection and super-human strength (and no I’m not talking about Superman or Wonder Woman strength), and are expected to always “take a licking and keep on ticking” (anyone remember the old commercials for Timex watches…I guess I’m dating myself lol).  Leaders are sometimes expected to be able to withstand any and everything and keep going as nothing has happened…nothing should be able to faze them, right?

However, sometimes the people we lead (and us as well) forget one very important point: Leaders are human beings!  We experience emotions like sadness, anger, and frustration.  We get tired and sometimes feel like throwing in the towel (or at least taking a hiatus).  We sometimes get confused and are unclear about a decision we need to make.  We sometimes feel disappointment when things in our lives and ministries don’t turn out the way we thought they should.  I could go on and on, but I think you get what I’m saying.

So in light of that, how does a leader balance his or her own vulnerability with the need to set an example?  I’m certainly not an expert in this area, but my thoughts are this: it’s ok to be vulnerable and transparent to a certain extent.  How can this openness benefit those around us?  Being open with some of our struggles can help remind people of our humanness.  Just because God has called someone into ministry or leadership doesn’t elevate a person to the level of perfection.  Everyone struggles with many of the issues I mentioned before, whether we’re a leader or not. We need to stop worshipping people (after all, that’s idolatry – go back to the Old Testament to remind yourself about what God says regarding idolatry), and remember that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).

Being open with our concerns can also be an encouragement to those around us.  If you’re dealing with an issue, our followers are watching us to see how we’re handling a situation.  Are we living in defeat because we’re facing challenges, or are we standing on the Word of God and in faith to help us overcome?  Paul reminds us that we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37)! And we may experience emotions as a result of our situations (and sometimes those emotions are visibly seen on our faces and in our eyes), but our faith helps us to keep going, and can serve as an example for others experiencing similar situations.

Vulnerability and transparency are not easy.  Our egos sometimes don’t want to admit that we are flawed or imperfect.  But I believe a certain level of vulnerability can be healthy and helpful, not only for us, but for those who follow us.  However, I would caution that we be careful to display wisdom regarding our vulnerability.  Everyone can’t handle hearing everything (AMEN somebody), and we never want to be a stumbling block (1 Corinthians 8:9, NIV) to anyone.   We’re not going on Dr. Phil to tell it all (of course, this is an exaggeration, but you get my point).  We probably shouldn’t share every last one of our issues and concerns, but there are some issues that if shared the right way, can help strengthen someone else.

Your decision to be vulnerable can be a blessing to you and to others but we must be wise.   Every spiritual leader should have a spiritual mentor who has traveled the road you’re currently on, and provide you with Godly advice and can help counsel you through those issues that everyone’s not ready to hear. Ultimately, we should seek God’s guidance about what areas to be transparent in, when and with whom. Stepping outside of God’s will in this area could prove to be disastrous.

So leaders, I believe it’s ok to be vulnerable and transparent.  And followers, I believe it’s ok for your leader to be vulnerable and transparent.  Leaders are human, and we’re all trying to accomplish the same thing: to live fully for Christ, live a victorious life, and to look forward to the promise of eternal life in Christ Jesus.  Whether you’re a leader or a follower, we’re all in this thing together.

Just my $0.02.

We deal with difficult people on a regular basis…that co-worker who never speaks to you, the church member who never has anything nice to say, or that neighbor who complains about everything and everyone on your block.  We can try not to interact with these people (as much as possible) to not be pulled into their drama. But…what if the difficult person is your life is someone very close you, someone you just can’t avoid?  Are you living with a difficult spouse or child?  What about a close friend?  These are people you just don’t want to write off, but it seems to be getting more and more difficult to deal with them.  I’m experiencing this right now, so let me share with you how I’m trying to deal…

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The first thing to recognize about this difficult person is that he or she is wounded.  Negative things happen to all of us (divorce, job loss, rejection, failure, etc.), but sometimes those negative experiences have a negative effect on a person long after the experience has ended. They haven’t dealt with the hurt or disappointment that came as a result of the past situation, and it’s festering in their minds and souls.  Maybe they were in a previous abusive relationship, and now they don’t trust you in the current relationship. Or maybe they grew up being blamed for everything and now they become very defensive when someone tries to constructively help them.    Knowing what the person has been through helps you to put their behavior in context.  It does NOT excuse their behavior (let me be clear on that), but at least you can understand where the behavior may be coming from.  And knowing their past experiences may help you be more compassionate toward that person.

Then, you should pray for that person.  Prayer will soften your heart toward him or her and help you not become bitter and resentful (the last thing you need is two angry and bitter people trying to be in relationship with one another).  Ask God to heal that person’s brokenness, ask God to help them see how their behavior affects others, and ask God to give you a forgiving spirit as you interact with that person.  Trust that God can transform anyone.  According to 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”  Pray that God will transform that person to reflect more of God’s image, and in the process, He will also transform you to reflect more of God’s image.

Scripture commands to do this: “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18, KJV) Try your best to do your part to live peaceably with the difficult person in your life.  It’s not always easy, but when they lash out at you, try not to lash back (did I say that it’s not easy??)  This doesn’t mean be a doormat, but there is a time and place to address the situation with the difficult person (and the best time is probably not in the middle of a confrontation).  Ask God to give you wisdom to know when to address the issue and the words to say (with the right emotional temperament).

I pray this encourages you, as it reminds me what I need to do in my own situation.  I would love to hear your comments, so please feel free to share your thoughts.

Whenever I write, I am writing from my own experiences, and this post is no different. My hope is that when I write, I can bless someone else who may be going through the same thing that I am (or have).

disappointment

Disappointment is a feeling that at some time or another we all experience. We may be disappointed that our favorite sport team didn’t win like we thought they would, or we may feel disappointed when we’re planning a trip to the beach, but the weather forecast calls for rain all day. At the moment, these turn of events negatively affect us, but soon we’re over it and on to the next thing….we continue to root for our favorite team (or change teams) or we change our plans and decide to hit the beach another day. These are what most people would consider minor, but what about those disappointments that are not so minor?

Here are a few examples of the kind of disappointments I’m talking about: the person we planned to spend the rest of our lives with decides he or she no longer wants to be married to us; one of our children didn’t turn out the way we raised them to; the life that we envisioned growing up is not what we’re currently experiencing, and there seems to be no hope for things turning around in our favor. This list can go on, but you get my point. We just don’t ‘get over’ these major disappointments in our lives, but we have to somehow find a way to deal with them. If we don’t what will become of our lives? Will we be in a perpetual state of misery because things didn’t turn out the way we wanted them to?

I don’t believe God wants us to live this way. Just like the title of this site states, I believe God wants us to have a victorious journey. And it’s through Him (and only Him) that we can experience this.

So, how do we deal with disappointment? We can first cry out to God and be honest about how we feel. It’s ok to ask questions and wonder why circumstances didn’t turn out the way we’d hoped, planned and prayed. And certainly, if God created and maintains the universe, then He can handle our questions. Check out the example of David in the Psalms: “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” (Psalm 18:6 NIV) What a blessing it is to know that in our distress we can call out to the Lord, and not only that, we can rest assured that he does hear us. Our cries are not falling on deaf ears!

We can also go to the Word of God to remind ourselves of God’s promises to us. Look at what Peter writes to the early church (this also applies to us): “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”(2 Peter 1:4, NIV) One of the key words in this passage (in my opinion is ‘knowledge.’ We have everything we need for a godly life through the knowledge of God, and we obtain that knowledge from the Word of God (remember this scripture: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God”? Romans 10:17)

Lastly, we should trust God and His word. When we are in the throes of experiencing disappointment, this is when our faith comes in. We’ve read the word, we’ve prayed, and now we must trust that God knows exactly what he’s doing. Even if things never change, if we never receive the desire of our heart, we can rest assured that God said he would “never leave us nor forsake us.” (Hebrews 13:5b) This scripture in particular has helped me navigate through disappointment, and it helps remind that God really does have a plan for my life, and that’s it’s in His hands to make it come to pass.

This post is a bit longer than I would normally write, but it’s particularly relevant to me. Although the idea of this topic came to me months ago, it’s very interesting to know that I’ve only been led to write it today, 2 days after Mother’s Day Not having had the experience of motherhood, this particular Mother’s Day was very difficult for me. So again, I’m writing this, not as just glib points, but real life experiences. I may never receive the desire of my heart in this area, but I’m TRUSTING that God’s plan for my life is perfect and that He will not leave me or forsake me.

I’m Already Complete

A dream I had this morning left me feeling odd.  In this dream, I was searching for something that would bring me peace and contentment.    I was literally trying everything I could to find this desired state, and finally, after munch struggle, I found it.  It was a little girl.  And when I found this little girl, I knew she was what I’d been looking for, and I began to release all the other things I’d tried in search of satisfaction. 

Searching

Well, who among us can’t relate to searching for something that seems to elude us, but we believe that once we get it, it will completely fill and satisfy us.  It could be that career, that relationship, that fortune, that house…it could be any number of things.  We think that if we just get that thing, all will be well with us and the world.  But time and time again, we’ve been disappointed and discouraged.  If we finally receive the thing we believe is the panacea for the lack of peace in our lives, we soon come to realize that it isn’t!  So we go on a search for the next thing, and the pattern repeats itself.

I believe the message from that dream is that Jesus is the One thing that can fully complete us. Colossians 2:10 (KJV) says “And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.”  The NIV says that “in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.”    According to Clarke’s Commentary on this verse, “the Colossians were empty – spoiled and deprived of every good, while following the empty philosophy and groundless traditions of Jewish and Gentile teachers; but since they had received Christ Jesus they were filled with him.”  Doesn’t that sound like us?  We are empty and trying to fill ourselves with any and everything, only to fall short every time.  In Jesus, we find our completion, contentment, and peace.

So what does that mean?  Do we stop striving for the dreams and goals we may have?  Absolutely not!  But we put those goals and dreams in their proper perspective.  They are designed to give us some level of satisfaction and fulfillment, but they are not meant to complete us.  Only Jesus can fill that space each of us has inside.  And when we’re feeling empty and alone, we should seek Him out in prayer, Bible reading, meditation or quiet time (instead of trying to fill that space ourselves). And when we will draw closer to him, James tells us that Jesus will draw closer to us (James 4:8). 

So today, I’m resting in the truth that I am already complete in Christ. I’m believing what Jesus said about seeking Him first and the kingdom of God. (Matthew 6:33) And I’ll strive to press into Him to remind myself that He is my source of peace and contentment.  Will you do the same?

At many church services and worship experiences, we are admonished to pray.  We go to prayer meetings where we devote a special time for giving praise and adoration to God, and for making intercession on behalf of those in need.  But I’m sure many of you can relate to the fact that we sometimes feel inadequate when it comes to our personal prayer lives.  I feel this way sometimes too.  We offer up excuses as to why we’re not praying as much as we should…but what can we do to get past the excuses?

Prayer

We sometimes say “my schedule is so busy…work, family, church activities…when am I supposed to get it done?”  There are just not enough hours in the day to do everything on our to-do lists, from work to our businesses to school work to volunteer activities…the list can go on! 

This post is not meant to beat anyone (or myself up), but is meant to encourage.  I want you to see (and I want to remind myself) that even in our busy lives, we can communicate with God on a regular basis. Please don’t see prayer as something to be checked off a list (the planner in me has a tendency to do that sometimes), but as an opportunity to be in the presence of God, no matter where we may be physically.

Psalm 55:17 says that “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.”  Do they mean that literally?  Are we supposed to pray every morning, every afternoon and every evening?    Let’s not get legalistic here….if we put too much focus on the morning, noon and evening thing, we’re becoming more religious and not spiritual.  I agree with what Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible says about this verse: “And now, though we are not tied down to these exact and precise times of prayer, yet this teaches us that we ought to pray frequently and constantly, and that a day should not pass without it…”  At some point in our day, we should offer a prayer to God, whether it’s a prayer of thanksgiving, confession, adoration or petition.

Do you have a commute to work?  Instead of listening to the comedian on the radio or the latest hits, take time to pray during your commute (PLEASE don’t close your eyes lol).  Or do you workout regularly?  How about while you’re on the treadmill or walking in your neighborhood?  How about when you’re preparing dinner for the family? I could go on with ideas on when we can pray, but I think you get the picture.

So what if the issue with your prayer life is the fact that you feel inadequate, not with your time, but with how to pray and what to say?  Let me help you with this verse from Romans:  “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26)  And what about this verse: “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Romans 8:34).  These verses tell me that we have help! (Hallelujah) We have Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit interceding on our behalf when we pray.  So since we have help, we shouldn’t worry about how to pray and what to say.  We should just talk to God with a sincere and open heart, knowing that two persons of the Trinity have our back in prayer.

I hope this brief message helps you understand that we can have a vibrant and meaningful prayer life.  Don’t beat yourself about what you haven’t done in the past.  Remember some of the benefits of praying to the Father who hears and answers us: we have a deeper relationship with Him, our faith grows stronger, and we can live more fruitful lives for Him.  Keep pressing in prayer and see what God does in your life! 

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. Matthew 7:24-27

 

Hurricane image

 

I live in West Central Florida, and from June 1 to November 30, we have to contend with hurricane season. As I write this, we’re about 6 weeks into the season.  Things have been quiet so far, but that could change at any moment.  Having been born and raised in New Orleans and now living in Florida, hurricane season is a part of life.  What can this weather phenomena teach Christians?  I’m glad you asked!

 

We know it’s possible that a storm will come

There are some years when the season is a quiet one, while other years, it’s crazy! But we know, based on scientific evidence, that a storm will come! In 2004, we dealt with 4 hurricanes back to back here in Florida that took just about the same path (right up the middle of the state).  Just as soon as we breathed a sigh of relief, there was another one on the way that we had to brace ourselves for.  It’s a proven fact that, because of the warmth of the water and other factors, these storms WILL form in the Gulf of Mexico and travel around the states surrounding the gulf, or to the states bordering the east coast of the United States.

Just like we know hurricanes will come, we Christians also know that the storms of life will come. James 1:2 tells us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” (NIV, emphasis added)  James doesn’t say “if” trials come, but “when” they come.  Peter says in 1 Peter 4:12: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you” (KJV).  Just like we shouldn’t think it strange that a tropical storm or hurricane will form in the Gulf from June to November, we as Christians should not be surprised that storms and trials come in our lives.  So, if we know storms and trials are coming…

 

We need to be prepared for when a storm comes

During hurricane season, there are several ways to find out how to prepare for a storm.  The local city and county governments publish brochures and update their emergency preparedness websites, local TV stations air news specials, and local newspapers have entire sections dedicated to hurricane preparedness. When the storm hits, we know what to do (or we should know what to do), and there should be no excuse for lack of preparedness.  Unlike sections of the country that deal with tornados, when facing hurricanes, we have advanced warning.  We have the resources at our disposal to get ready, so we can prepare ourselves as best we can.

Christians also have advanced warning of impending storms (we already know that they will eventually come).  And we’ve been given instructions on how to get ready.  What are those instructions?  According to Jesus, we are to hear his words and put them into practice. As we read and hear the Word of God, we become more assured of the promises He’s made to us.  Our faith is growing as we study and meditate on his word, and we are becoming like “a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matt 7:24, NIV)  Although we don’t know the exact circumstances, we are shoring ourselves up for what will come.

 

We have an assurance that, despite the storm, all will be well

When a tropical storm or hurricane comes, there will be some after effects or consequences.  There could be flooding, downed power lines, interrupted phone service, and damage to our homes.  But if we’ve prepared properly, we’ve secured a generator, we’ve evacuated to a safer location, or we’ve stocked non-perishable food and water to have on hand until the comforts of home are restored.  We have what we need to face the consequences of the storm, and we know that eventually, things will get back to normal.

I’m sure you can see the parallel for the Christian!  J  Look what Peter says in 2 Peter 2:9a: “Now if [all these things are true, then be sure] the Lord knows how to rescue the godly out of temptations and trials.” (AMP)  Praise God, He know how to rescue us! Also, look at Jesus’ words to us: “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matt 7:25, NIV)  Despite the rain, wind, and streams, the house that was built on the rock remained, while the house that was built on sand fell.  The house on the rock remained because it was built on a solid foundation.  Rock is far more stable than sand, right?

Don’t be caught unawares, we know that a storm will come.  It’s our responsibility to prepare for impending storms when things are going well, not when the storm is barreling down on us.  And as we prepare for impending tests and trials, and build our spiritual house on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ, we are assured that we will be able to withstand the storms of life, because God has promised that we wouldd.

A storm is coming…are you ready?

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