Family in Prayer

What is S.U.P.V.?

For those new to our church, website and this blog, here’s what it’s all about: SUPV stands for the Straight Up Prayer Vigil. It is a virtual prayer vigil that happens every Wednesday (God willing). The Straight Up refers to the times of 6:00 a.m., noon, 6:00 p.m., and midnight–you choose whatever time works for you–and you pray for our church, those on prayer list, and prayer requests that are included in the blog post or are sent by email, normally at the beginning of the week for that Wednesday. 
The length of the SUPVs has grown in nature over the past couple of years, and now it’s pretty much a full-blown devotional, with specific prayer requests included. May it bless you as you read it.   
 
 

Refuge

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”

                           Psalm 91:1       
 

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.

 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;”

 Isaiah 43: 1b-3a

 

“Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

                           Habakkuk 3: 17-18  

 

 

I’ve grappled over the past couple of weeks because I was unsure what to write about. I had not gotten a clear message from Him in my prayers and quiet time, and frankly had not had the chance to sit in front of the computer to write because of some health-related and professional challenges of late. Those challenges still exist, and I almost passed on the chance to do so tonight, since I still didn’t have a clear idea of what in the world to write. I sorely missed writing last week’s devotional and wanted to make sure that I sent something out this week.

 

My last devotional was about a temporary loss of the immeasurable joy that comes from above. I would love to partake of my own words and cling to that joy as if my life depended on it.

 

But I struggle at times, and I’m confident that you do as well.

 

There’s a lot going on, y’all: health, family, and job concerns; political and economic woes; societal horrors and injustice. But those aren’t the only ones—there are the small, piddly things that can impact our peace—traffic, a misbehaving pet, a fight with a family member—annoyances that, when combined, have the cumulative effect of making one weary.


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Theft of Joy

 “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

Nehemiah 8:10                 

“…He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

                       1 John 4:4

 

My apologies for having not written devotionals the past couple of weeks—I have traveled for work twice in the past two weeks and was not able to get things going. But I’m here now!!

 

I had the opportunity near the end of March to be on a team that worked on a women’s Walk to Emmaus, a 72-hour spiritual retreat that some of you have attended. I was blessed with the opportunity to meet and bond with women I’d never met before. We laughed together, cried together, shared our struggles and our pain, broke bread together, and felt the workings of the Holy Spirit in the mending of broken hearts. It was a cloistered environment, insulated from the distractions of our every day lives. We were unencumbered by perceptions and politics, as we felt God’s love permeating our shared experiences. I drew great strength from making people laugh, and belly laugh we all did.

 

Once we were back in the proverbial wild, returning to our jobs and our families, it was a struggle at times to keep the life I knew before this Walk to Emmaus at bay and maintain the lightness and joy I’d experienced during those three days. Mind you, I’ve done this before—I’ve been blessed to work a number of Walks, each one special and different yet the same, and I’ve handled “reentry” to my regular life just fine. This time, things were a bit different. Work threw me a curve ball or two, and some pruning and conviction from the Lord left me unsettled (add to that some poking from the enemy, and you’ve got a recipe for a quite deflated Laura).


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On the Surface

 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.                          

Galations 6:2            

 

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works

                              Hebrews 10:23

I was fortunate enough to be able to go to a conference in Boston last year with a co-worker. My friend “Sally” and I had worked together some, and even shared a cubicle, but I didn’t know a whole lot about her, and vice versa. Having never been to Boston, we planned to get there early to have some time to knock around the city and become “wicked smaht”, taking in a game at Fenway, noshing on “chowdah” and exploring that historic city on foot (I kid you not—my Fitbit recorded over 27,000 steps one day!).

It was at the restaurant and bar of that classic Boston sitcom Cheers that Sally and I ordered a beer and some appetizers on that first evening, and we opened up a bit to each other. I’d always admired her calm demeanor and the pictures of her adult children – a young man and young woman, both of whom seemed to love taking pictures with their adorable parents, based on the number of family pictures on Sally’s desk. Sally’s husband was a believer, and they attended church together every Sunday. Sally never said a bad word, was gracious, and was never afraid to admit a knowledge or experience deficiency, but always sought to learn and grow.

 

Perhaps it was lateness of the evening after a long flight; perhaps it was the headiness of the beer that loosened my tongue, but I told Sally that it seemed to me that she lived a charmed life. She smiled a knowing smile and said that it sure did seem that way. I was either too tired or too slow, but I didn’t pick up on the nuance of what that meant.


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Peter’s Restoration

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these? ”He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”

He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Tend My sheep” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep… Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”

 

                                             John 21:15-18

I read the last chapter of John last week, thus concluding Pastor Ray’s challenge of reading the book of John for the season of Lent. As I read about the breakfast Jesus made for the disciples on the shore, after they brought their big haul, I started to cry. I wasn’t crying because of the fish, or the thoughtfulness of Jesus to make them breakfast; I was crying for the upcoming interaction Jesus and Peter would have. Peter was a man of great sorrow, I imagine, until the Lord restored him.

 

There is a scene from The Bible miniseries that aired in 2013 in which the producers may have taken a little bit of poetic license, but it showed Jesus and Peter exchanging a look after the guards took Jesus. The cock had just crowed. Peter had such a look of horror and self-loathing at the realization that he had denied His Lord, and had abandoned Him at a crucial moment. Three of the gospels mention that he wept bitterly when he heard the crow; Luke mentions that Jesus looks at Peter as the rooster crows.

 

In the miniseries, the look in Jesus’s eyes was not judgment, disgust, or anger—it was one of understanding, acceptance, and love. That look struck my heart, and has stuck with me for the past five years.

I can’t imagine Peter’s anguish throughout the Passion—I truly cannot grasp how he wasn’t torn apart by guilt, knowing that the last (recorded) interaction with his Savior was one of denial. With the exception of John, Scripture doesn’t record Peter’s thoughts or actions during this time or beyond, until the book of Acts (I assume he was there in the upper room, and he received the Holy Spirit there as well). It is John who writes about how Mary Magdalene summons Peter and John to the empty tomb, and it is only in John that we find the interaction between Jesus and Peter.


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Blind Since Birth

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”Jesus answered, “Neither did this man sin, nor his parents; but, that the works of God might be revealed in him.

                                             John 9:1-3

 

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

                                             Romans 8:28

 

As I shared before, I’ve been reading John. I’ve read John countless times before, but I’m trying to read it now with the Holy Spirit’s help (that, and David Guzik’s study guide). I started to read the ninth chapter, where Jesus passes a man, blind since birth. The prevailing thought at the time was that if a child was born with a birth defect or condition, that it was due to his parents’ sin or his own sin, apparently committed before birth. The disciples, curious to know Jesus’s take on this, ask Jesus which person or set of persons sinned.

 

I was stopped in my tracks when I read verse 3: “Jesus answered, “Neither did this man sin, nor his parents; but that the works of God might be revealed in him.” Does this not help explain the purpose of suffering in this world? This man with this specific condition was around Jesus for the sheer purpose in allowing Jesus to glorify God in His divine healing of his blindness.


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Pity Party

So Ahab went into his house sullen and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no food.

                                             1 Kings 21:4

 

“Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”

                                           Jonah 4:3

 

The past couple of weeks or so have been quite stressful at work. I’ve been asked to consider taking on a different role within the same department. It is better suited to my strengths than my current role (as my current role evolves, I am expected to be more strategic minded and less in the details. I love to be in the details!). I’ve grappled with the decision, knowing that while it would be better for my emotional health if I took this job, I’d be overly concerned about potential effects on my reputation (“Oh, she couldn’t cut it over there.”) I prayed about it, and felt that the Lord was leading me to take the new position.

 

Since my decision, I’ve felt an increase in the frequency and velocity with which the enemy’s barbs have been hurled at me. Although no formal announcement has been made nor transition plans set, I’ve felt excluded from discussions and requests that I’d used to handle, as my successor takes over some of my responsibilities. I am the proverbial “man without a country,” and it’s unsettling to me. Self-pity and doubt cling to me, clouding my ability to assess the true state of affairs around me. Self-pity’s twin sister of self-absorption keeps my focus inward, blind to some of the need right outside my door. I feel wronged and resentful, despite the stern talks I gave myself to snap out of it and be thankful for the many blessings I have in my life. Nope—I couldn’t really see past the perimeter of “me” that filtered and shaped my views.


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John the Baptist

“John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. 27 It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”

                                                              John 1:26

 

You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’  He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.  He must increase, but I must decrease

                                                            John 3:28-30

 

I have been reading the book of John, enjoined to do so after Pastor Ray invited us all to do during this Lenten season. John the Baptist is mentioned in the first and third chapters, and we gain a glimpse of his character as we read about him (and we fill out more of it with the help of other gospels). We know from the gospel of Luke that he was preordained to “go before Him (the Lord) in the spirit and power of Elijah, to ‘turn the hearts of the fathers to the children’ (Malachi 4:5-6), and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make read a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:16-17). We remember from our childhood Sunday School lessons that he was the guy who ate locusts and honey, and wore camel’s hair and a leather belt (as we read in Mark 1).

 

Mark also tells us that John “preached a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4), and that as he baptized Jesus, he got to experience the divine in seeing the heavens part, and the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus like a dove, and hearing God’s declaration of Jesus as His beloved Son.


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Evangelism

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

                                                               Matthew 28:19-20

 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

 

                                                                                    1 Peter 3:15        

The topic of evangelism has been on my mind lately: a couple of times on Saturday when I playfully teased one of my best friends about her spiritual gift of evangelism and how easy it could be; and then again in the devotional Jack shared before Sunday School. As I sought to prepare for this devotional by looking up various scriptures and blogs and such, I found myself realizing that evangelism is not something I should be taking lightly.

 

I’ve often thought of the line that is attributed (erroneously) to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words” as an innocuous way to evangelize. We can demonstrate love in our acts of service to others, and we act as the hands and feet of Christ when our servants’ hearts enable us to take care of the sick, destitute, imprisoned, and hungry. And these are very good things! They are not, however, true evangelism.

 

True evangelism occurs when we share the gospel with someone else, with the purpose of convincing nonbelievers of its truth—“teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade”, according to author Mack Stiles. And it is something that we are called to do.


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Taking Captive Your Thoughts

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ

                                                            2 Corinthians 10:3-5         

 

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 

                                                            Philippians 4:8

                                                           

I’m fairly confident that I’m not the only one who has conversations with herself as she processes events that have taken place, though I may be one of a very few who will admit to having them and actually share that in cyberspace for all to read.

 

I was driving home from work the other day, after a fairly stressful day that was capped off with an end-of-day meeting with my boss and my executive director to go over some miscommunications on the part of multiple people tackling a problem. I was proud at my collectedness during the meeting, despite the frustrating nature of the topic we’d been discussing. It was during the drive home I’d remembered the answer to something I’d not been able to clarify, and while I was happy that I’d recalled it, I was frustrated that I hadn’t brought it up during the chat. I then started to play out how the conversation would have gone if I had remembered it then, and I found myself feeling defensive and a little bitter.

 

I found myself recalling the other times in the past couple of months that work frustrations had set in, and resentment began to rise as I painted myself the victim in most of these interactions, self-awareness and reason placed temporarily on hold while it happened. With each interaction’s recap, irritation at my self-perceived affronts grew exponentially.

At some point in this escalation scenario, I realized what I was doing and stopped the negative talk immediately. I believe the Holy Spirit impressed upon me the phrase “I control the narrative in my head”, as He led me to recognize the handiwork of the enemy. No, I wasn’t possessed nor did he control me, but what he did was seize an opportunity to plant the tiniest seed of doubt and bitterness, and I watered and cultivated the soil of acrimony in which it grew.

 

Friends, Paul tells us in 2nd Corinthians, verse 3 about the spiritual warfare we are in. The enemy is constant and relentless in his pursuit, seeking whom he may devour. When we allow ourselves to dwell on negative thoughts, we offer him an opportunity to cause us to lose focus on what God wants us to.

 

A way to counteract that is to be in His word, for Paul tells us that we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We can also focus on those things that are from the Lord, as Paul told the Philippians. We need to be in constant contact with Him in prayer, and in tune with the Holy Spirit for His help to combat negative thoughts. As soon as we recognize an evil or negative thought, we need to take it to the Lord and confess it, and ask Him to cleanse your heart and mind.

 

I don’t mean to make it sound so simple, because in our own strength it isn’t, but we know that we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us. He is our Helper and our Counselor, and He longs to help us.

 

Prayer Requests

  • For us to realize the riches that we have, and for us to share them with others and give them back to the Lord, Who gave them to us in the first place
  • For grace to abound in all things within the body of Christ
  • For the innumerable heart wrenching notices and posts about missing teenagers and children
  • For us to fully commit to being His church, regardless of the cost

 

Surrounding yourself with people who have a deep and personal relationship with Jesus Christ is another way you can help counteract the negativity and attacks from the enemy. Find a small group, or <shameless plug> come by the Fellowship Hall Thursday nights at 7:00 and join our prayer group. Small groups can offer accountability and love.

 

Quotes

 

“We can’t walk with the Holy Ghost unless we agree to walk the way He walks and go in the direction He’s going.” — A.W. Tozer

 

“Don’t treat people the way they treat you. Treat people the way God treats you.”    — Dave Willis



From Jericho to Ai

“ And Joshua said, “Alas, Lord God, why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all—to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turns its back before its enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will You do for Your great name?

 

So the Lord said to Joshua: “Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face?  Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff.” 

 

                                                            Joshua 7:7-11         

                                                   

I started reading the book of Joshua after Jack had shared the name of their new band in church a couple of weeks ago. The awesome destruction of Jericho under the mighty hand of the Lord happens in chapter 6, positioning Israel as a force to be reckoned with and Joshua, a battle strategist whose fame “spread throughout all the country” because the Lord was with him. Chapter 6 ends on a very high note.

 

With a sense of foreboding, chapter 7 starts off with the word “But”, introducing a shift and invoking the tagline from the ABC Wide World of Sports “the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat”, with the footage of the downhill skier missing his jump (I know I’m dating myself with that reference but still… the memories, hmm?). We learn that one of the Israelites took something from the spoils of the defeat of Jericho, something he was expressly forbidden to take as the Lord had declared it “accursed,” and so the Lord “burned against the children of Israel.”

 

We read how Joshua sent a small contingent of men to attack the city of Ai, on the advice of his scouts, that 36 men were killed by the men of Ai, and how the remaining 3,000 men retreated from the battle. Unsurprisingly, Joshua reacted to the defeat in despair, tearing his clothes and falling prostrate before the ark, and implored the Lord for an explanation for His abandonment of Israel (verse 7 above).


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Refuge

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”

                           Psalm 91:1       
 

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.

 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;”

 Isaiah 43: 1b-3a

 

“Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

                           Habakkuk 3: 17-18  

 

 

I’ve grappled over the past couple of weeks because I was unsure what to write about. I had not gotten a clear message from Him in my prayers and quiet time, and frankly had not had the chance to sit in front of the computer to write because of some health-related and professional challenges of late. Those challenges still exist, and I almost passed on the chance to do so tonight, since I still didn’t have a clear idea of what in the world to write. I sorely missed writing last week’s devotional and wanted to make sure that I sent something out this week.

 

My last devotional was about a temporary loss of the immeasurable joy that comes from above. I would love to partake of my own words and cling to that joy as if my life depended on it.

 

But I struggle at times, and I’m confident that you do as well.

 

There’s a lot going on, y’all: health, family, and job concerns; political and economic woes; societal horrors and injustice. But those aren’t the only ones—there are the small, piddly things that can impact our peace—traffic, a misbehaving pet, a fight with a family member—annoyances that, when combined, have the cumulative effect of making one weary.


Read more...

Theft of Joy

 “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

Nehemiah 8:10                 

“…He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

                       1 John 4:4

 

My apologies for having not written devotionals the past couple of weeks—I have traveled for work twice in the past two weeks and was not able to get things going. But I’m here now!!

 

I had the opportunity near the end of March to be on a team that worked on a women’s Walk to Emmaus, a 72-hour spiritual retreat that some of you have attended. I was blessed with the opportunity to meet and bond with women I’d never met before. We laughed together, cried together, shared our struggles and our pain, broke bread together, and felt the workings of the Holy Spirit in the mending of broken hearts. It was a cloistered environment, insulated from the distractions of our every day lives. We were unencumbered by perceptions and politics, as we felt God’s love permeating our shared experiences. I drew great strength from making people laugh, and belly laugh we all did.

 

Once we were back in the proverbial wild, returning to our jobs and our families, it was a struggle at times to keep the life I knew before this Walk to Emmaus at bay and maintain the lightness and joy I’d experienced during those three days. Mind you, I’ve done this before—I’ve been blessed to work a number of Walks, each one special and different yet the same, and I’ve handled “reentry” to my regular life just fine. This time, things were a bit different. Work threw me a curve ball or two, and some pruning and conviction from the Lord left me unsettled (add to that some poking from the enemy, and you’ve got a recipe for a quite deflated Laura).


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On the Surface

 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.                          

Galations 6:2            

 

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works

                              Hebrews 10:23

I was fortunate enough to be able to go to a conference in Boston last year with a co-worker. My friend “Sally” and I had worked together some, and even shared a cubicle, but I didn’t know a whole lot about her, and vice versa. Having never been to Boston, we planned to get there early to have some time to knock around the city and become “wicked smaht”, taking in a game at Fenway, noshing on “chowdah” and exploring that historic city on foot (I kid you not—my Fitbit recorded over 27,000 steps one day!).

It was at the restaurant and bar of that classic Boston sitcom Cheers that Sally and I ordered a beer and some appetizers on that first evening, and we opened up a bit to each other. I’d always admired her calm demeanor and the pictures of her adult children – a young man and young woman, both of whom seemed to love taking pictures with their adorable parents, based on the number of family pictures on Sally’s desk. Sally’s husband was a believer, and they attended church together every Sunday. Sally never said a bad word, was gracious, and was never afraid to admit a knowledge or experience deficiency, but always sought to learn and grow.

 

Perhaps it was lateness of the evening after a long flight; perhaps it was the headiness of the beer that loosened my tongue, but I told Sally that it seemed to me that she lived a charmed life. She smiled a knowing smile and said that it sure did seem that way. I was either too tired or too slow, but I didn’t pick up on the nuance of what that meant.


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Peter’s Restoration

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these? ”He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”

He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Tend My sheep” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep… Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”

 

                                             John 21:15-18

I read the last chapter of John last week, thus concluding Pastor Ray’s challenge of reading the book of John for the season of Lent. As I read about the breakfast Jesus made for the disciples on the shore, after they brought their big haul, I started to cry. I wasn’t crying because of the fish, or the thoughtfulness of Jesus to make them breakfast; I was crying for the upcoming interaction Jesus and Peter would have. Peter was a man of great sorrow, I imagine, until the Lord restored him.

 

There is a scene from The Bible miniseries that aired in 2013 in which the producers may have taken a little bit of poetic license, but it showed Jesus and Peter exchanging a look after the guards took Jesus. The cock had just crowed. Peter had such a look of horror and self-loathing at the realization that he had denied His Lord, and had abandoned Him at a crucial moment. Three of the gospels mention that he wept bitterly when he heard the crow; Luke mentions that Jesus looks at Peter as the rooster crows.

 

In the miniseries, the look in Jesus’s eyes was not judgment, disgust, or anger—it was one of understanding, acceptance, and love. That look struck my heart, and has stuck with me for the past five years.

I can’t imagine Peter’s anguish throughout the Passion—I truly cannot grasp how he wasn’t torn apart by guilt, knowing that the last (recorded) interaction with his Savior was one of denial. With the exception of John, Scripture doesn’t record Peter’s thoughts or actions during this time or beyond, until the book of Acts (I assume he was there in the upper room, and he received the Holy Spirit there as well). It is John who writes about how Mary Magdalene summons Peter and John to the empty tomb, and it is only in John that we find the interaction between Jesus and Peter.


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Blind Since Birth

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”Jesus answered, “Neither did this man sin, nor his parents; but, that the works of God might be revealed in him.

                                             John 9:1-3

 

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

                                             Romans 8:28

 

As I shared before, I’ve been reading John. I’ve read John countless times before, but I’m trying to read it now with the Holy Spirit’s help (that, and David Guzik’s study guide). I started to read the ninth chapter, where Jesus passes a man, blind since birth. The prevailing thought at the time was that if a child was born with a birth defect or condition, that it was due to his parents’ sin or his own sin, apparently committed before birth. The disciples, curious to know Jesus’s take on this, ask Jesus which person or set of persons sinned.

 

I was stopped in my tracks when I read verse 3: “Jesus answered, “Neither did this man sin, nor his parents; but that the works of God might be revealed in him.” Does this not help explain the purpose of suffering in this world? This man with this specific condition was around Jesus for the sheer purpose in allowing Jesus to glorify God in His divine healing of his blindness.


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Pity Party

So Ahab went into his house sullen and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no food.

                                             1 Kings 21:4

 

“Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”

                                           Jonah 4:3

 

The past couple of weeks or so have been quite stressful at work. I’ve been asked to consider taking on a different role within the same department. It is better suited to my strengths than my current role (as my current role evolves, I am expected to be more strategic minded and less in the details. I love to be in the details!). I’ve grappled with the decision, knowing that while it would be better for my emotional health if I took this job, I’d be overly concerned about potential effects on my reputation (“Oh, she couldn’t cut it over there.”) I prayed about it, and felt that the Lord was leading me to take the new position.

 

Since my decision, I’ve felt an increase in the frequency and velocity with which the enemy’s barbs have been hurled at me. Although no formal announcement has been made nor transition plans set, I’ve felt excluded from discussions and requests that I’d used to handle, as my successor takes over some of my responsibilities. I am the proverbial “man without a country,” and it’s unsettling to me. Self-pity and doubt cling to me, clouding my ability to assess the true state of affairs around me. Self-pity’s twin sister of self-absorption keeps my focus inward, blind to some of the need right outside my door. I feel wronged and resentful, despite the stern talks I gave myself to snap out of it and be thankful for the many blessings I have in my life. Nope—I couldn’t really see past the perimeter of “me” that filtered and shaped my views.


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John the Baptist

“John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. 27 It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”

                                                              John 1:26

 

You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’  He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.  He must increase, but I must decrease

                                                            John 3:28-30

 

I have been reading the book of John, enjoined to do so after Pastor Ray invited us all to do during this Lenten season. John the Baptist is mentioned in the first and third chapters, and we gain a glimpse of his character as we read about him (and we fill out more of it with the help of other gospels). We know from the gospel of Luke that he was preordained to “go before Him (the Lord) in the spirit and power of Elijah, to ‘turn the hearts of the fathers to the children’ (Malachi 4:5-6), and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make read a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:16-17). We remember from our childhood Sunday School lessons that he was the guy who ate locusts and honey, and wore camel’s hair and a leather belt (as we read in Mark 1).

 

Mark also tells us that John “preached a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4), and that as he baptized Jesus, he got to experience the divine in seeing the heavens part, and the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus like a dove, and hearing God’s declaration of Jesus as His beloved Son.


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Evangelism

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

                                                               Matthew 28:19-20

 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

 

                                                                                    1 Peter 3:15        

The topic of evangelism has been on my mind lately: a couple of times on Saturday when I playfully teased one of my best friends about her spiritual gift of evangelism and how easy it could be; and then again in the devotional Jack shared before Sunday School. As I sought to prepare for this devotional by looking up various scriptures and blogs and such, I found myself realizing that evangelism is not something I should be taking lightly.

 

I’ve often thought of the line that is attributed (erroneously) to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words” as an innocuous way to evangelize. We can demonstrate love in our acts of service to others, and we act as the hands and feet of Christ when our servants’ hearts enable us to take care of the sick, destitute, imprisoned, and hungry. And these are very good things! They are not, however, true evangelism.

 

True evangelism occurs when we share the gospel with someone else, with the purpose of convincing nonbelievers of its truth—“teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade”, according to author Mack Stiles. And it is something that we are called to do.


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Taking Captive Your Thoughts

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ

                                                            2 Corinthians 10:3-5         

 

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 

                                                            Philippians 4:8

                                                           

I’m fairly confident that I’m not the only one who has conversations with herself as she processes events that have taken place, though I may be one of a very few who will admit to having them and actually share that in cyberspace for all to read.

 

I was driving home from work the other day, after a fairly stressful day that was capped off with an end-of-day meeting with my boss and my executive director to go over some miscommunications on the part of multiple people tackling a problem. I was proud at my collectedness during the meeting, despite the frustrating nature of the topic we’d been discussing. It was during the drive home I’d remembered the answer to something I’d not been able to clarify, and while I was happy that I’d recalled it, I was frustrated that I hadn’t brought it up during the chat. I then started to play out how the conversation would have gone if I had remembered it then, and I found myself feeling defensive and a little bitter.

 

I found myself recalling the other times in the past couple of months that work frustrations had set in, and resentment began to rise as I painted myself the victim in most of these interactions, self-awareness and reason placed temporarily on hold while it happened. With each interaction’s recap, irritation at my self-perceived affronts grew exponentially.

At some point in this escalation scenario, I realized what I was doing and stopped the negative talk immediately. I believe the Holy Spirit impressed upon me the phrase “I control the narrative in my head”, as He led me to recognize the handiwork of the enemy. No, I wasn’t possessed nor did he control me, but what he did was seize an opportunity to plant the tiniest seed of doubt and bitterness, and I watered and cultivated the soil of acrimony in which it grew.

 

Friends, Paul tells us in 2nd Corinthians, verse 3 about the spiritual warfare we are in. The enemy is constant and relentless in his pursuit, seeking whom he may devour. When we allow ourselves to dwell on negative thoughts, we offer him an opportunity to cause us to lose focus on what God wants us to.

 

A way to counteract that is to be in His word, for Paul tells us that we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We can also focus on those things that are from the Lord, as Paul told the Philippians. We need to be in constant contact with Him in prayer, and in tune with the Holy Spirit for His help to combat negative thoughts. As soon as we recognize an evil or negative thought, we need to take it to the Lord and confess it, and ask Him to cleanse your heart and mind.

 

I don’t mean to make it sound so simple, because in our own strength it isn’t, but we know that we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us. He is our Helper and our Counselor, and He longs to help us.

 

Prayer Requests

  • For us to realize the riches that we have, and for us to share them with others and give them back to the Lord, Who gave them to us in the first place
  • For grace to abound in all things within the body of Christ
  • For the innumerable heart wrenching notices and posts about missing teenagers and children
  • For us to fully commit to being His church, regardless of the cost

 

Surrounding yourself with people who have a deep and personal relationship with Jesus Christ is another way you can help counteract the negativity and attacks from the enemy. Find a small group, or <shameless plug> come by the Fellowship Hall Thursday nights at 7:00 and join our prayer group. Small groups can offer accountability and love.

 

Quotes

 

“We can’t walk with the Holy Ghost unless we agree to walk the way He walks and go in the direction He’s going.” — A.W. Tozer

 

“Don’t treat people the way they treat you. Treat people the way God treats you.”    — Dave Willis



From Jericho to Ai

“ And Joshua said, “Alas, Lord God, why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all—to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turns its back before its enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will You do for Your great name?

 

So the Lord said to Joshua: “Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face?  Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff.” 

 

                                                            Joshua 7:7-11         

                                                   

I started reading the book of Joshua after Jack had shared the name of their new band in church a couple of weeks ago. The awesome destruction of Jericho under the mighty hand of the Lord happens in chapter 6, positioning Israel as a force to be reckoned with and Joshua, a battle strategist whose fame “spread throughout all the country” because the Lord was with him. Chapter 6 ends on a very high note.

 

With a sense of foreboding, chapter 7 starts off with the word “But”, introducing a shift and invoking the tagline from the ABC Wide World of Sports “the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat”, with the footage of the downhill skier missing his jump (I know I’m dating myself with that reference but still… the memories, hmm?). We learn that one of the Israelites took something from the spoils of the defeat of Jericho, something he was expressly forbidden to take as the Lord had declared it “accursed,” and so the Lord “burned against the children of Israel.”

 

We read how Joshua sent a small contingent of men to attack the city of Ai, on the advice of his scouts, that 36 men were killed by the men of Ai, and how the remaining 3,000 men retreated from the battle. Unsurprisingly, Joshua reacted to the defeat in despair, tearing his clothes and falling prostrate before the ark, and implored the Lord for an explanation for His abandonment of Israel (verse 7 above).


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Family in Prayer

What is S.U.P.V.?

For those new to our church, website and this blog, here’s what it’s all about: SUPV stands for the Straight Up Prayer Vigil. It is a virtual prayer vigil that happens every Wednesday (God willing). The Straight Up refers to the times of 6:00 a.m., noon, 6:00 p.m., and midnight–you choose whatever time works for you–and you pray for our church, those on prayer list, and prayer requests that are included in the blog post or are sent by email, normally at the beginning of the week for that Wednesday. 
The length of the SUPVs has grown in nature over the past couple of years, and now it’s pretty much a full-blown devotional, with specific prayer requests included. May it bless you as you read it.