Prayer: Waging War on the Enemy

This post almost didn’t happen. The week leading up to writing this post and even while writing, I have had to stop and pray against attack. Words wouldn’t save, images wouldn’t upload right, and interruptions kept coming that couldn’t be ignored.

Spiritual warfare is daily battle with an unseen attacker. It sounds like something dangerous to stay away from. It wasn’t something I heard about when I was younger. It was especially difficult for me believe there was an “enemy” I was at war with. How can we battle something we can’t even see? I have found that the closer I walk with God, the closer the enemy follows. I became a Christian and was baptized at 12 years old. I didn’t really grasp what it meant to walk with God at that point, so the enemy left me alone. As I have come to a better understanding of surrendering my life to God daily, the enemy has tried to do everything he can to stop me.

While the enemy can find many ways to attack, I have never felt his attacks so strongly as when it comes to my marriage. I read somewhere that the goal of satan is to divide the church. The best way for him to do that is to divide the marriages within the church. Many agree with me that satan works his hardest on Sunday morning when a family is getting ready for church. God’s mission is completed through the hands and feet of his followers, the church. When the church is divided, we can not be successful in sharing the love of Jesus in a broken world.

The movie “War Room” with Priscilla Shirer and T.D. Stallings is about an elderly woman, Miss Clara, who is getting ready to put her house on the market. She walks her realtor through the house and shows her favorite room. It is a closet where she goes to war on her knees through prayer. The realtor, Priscilla Shirer, has marriage struggles that don’t seem to be resolving. Miss Clara encourages her not to fight with her husband but to get to the root of the struggles, which is a spiritual attack of the enemy on her marriage.

I will never forget sitting in the movie theater watching this scene with tears streaming down my face. I felt like I was watching myself on the screen. Prisiclla Shirer had enough of the enemy’s attack on her family and her life. She has her own war with the satan. There have been many times in my life where I have had to pray spiritual warfare as I felt a heavy attack on my family.

Removing the enemy doesn’t remove the problems, it removes the ammunition.

Maybe you are reading this and find it hard to believe. You may have never acknowledged the presence of a spiritual enemy or felt you were being attacked. The presence of the enemy is in Genesis 3 when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve who walked closely with God and had Him all to themselves. They didn’t realize they were being attacked until they gave into the enemy. In Luke 4, Jesus did know he was being attacked and he fought the enemy with the truths of scripture. Evidence of the enemy is throughout the entire Bible.

In John 10, Jesus talks about sheep safely in the comfort of their pen and in John 10:10 Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Jesus says “the thief comes” not “might come”. Its guaranteed that the enemy is prowling right now seeking to steal and destroy your joy, peace, and your life. Jesus goes on to say, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” With the attack of the enemy comes abundant life. Why? Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection was an act of looking satan in the eye and saying “I won”.

Death did not control the fate of the Savior of the world nor will it conquer you or me.

Through prayer we can get the enemy away from our doorstep so we can take hold of the abundant life Jesus promises to give. Ask God to help you see when the enemy is attacking. Then, call satan out, like Priscilla, and in Jesus Name send him away from your door. Say it out loud. Tell the enemy he has no power over you, in Jesus Name.

Prayer: Put on Holy Spirit Glasses

Praying for guidance does not come naturally. Personally, I want to decide on my own and “fix it” myself. Praying and relying on God’s guidance often comes as an afterthought. I seek the guidance from everyone else around me instead of from the One who ultimately knows best.

In the Old Testament, kings who followed God sought guidance from the prophets. God honored their wisdom in seeking His will. When the king sought guidance related to battle, the Lord would deliver victory to the king. When the king and people of Israel turned their faces away from God, they “did evil in the sight of the Lord”. They turned to worshipping their own idols and seeking their own will. As a result, God became angry and allowed their cities to be ravaged by invaders and their land destroyed.

In the New Testament, Jesus gave us a new path to seeking God’s guidance. In John 16, before He was arrested, Jesus told the disciples that He would be leaving them. It was necessary for Him to leave because they would be given a Spirit of Truth: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come.” (John 16:13 CSB) God gave us Jesus so we could be forgiven of our sins. In His kindness, God didn’t stop there, not only are we eternally forgiven, but the Holy Spirit becomes our internal voice that guides us in decisions and our spiritual path.

When I was little, I took piano lessons from our church pianist. For some reason, when it was time to play for my piano recital, I decided to attempt reading the music and playing without my glasses. I didn’t like my glasses, so I decided to lay them beside me on the bench. Even at a young age, my eyesight was horrible, thus my performance was a struggle. I muddled through and knew I had made a huge mistake in trying to play without clarity. Often, we try to do the same thing with life. We go about our day, making decisions that we could use a little extra clarity on. The Holy Spirit is like a pair of glasses. We have to choose to put them on in order to see more clearly.

When I pray for guidance, I ask to “hear” Him. I ask for the Spirit to show me clarity in what choice I should make in a situation. This has been a frequent prayer regarding my daughter living with fibromyalgia. I have prayed over treatment options. There have been many people in my life that have kindly offered an abundance of advice regarding her care. The Spirit of Truth has helped me recognize which advice is wisdom we should consider and what is something I should appreciate, but move away from. The Spirit of Truth has guided me away from well meaning doctors that didn’t offer the help what we needed at the time and toward people that would help us make more progress in her care. Have I always made the right decisions every time? No. By God’s grace, “He works everything out for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28).

Its difficult to describe what its like to “hear” God. The voice of the Spirit isn’t a loud voice that I hear in my ears. Its this sensation of a word or phrase that I feel overwhelming my soul. While some describe it as a “still small voice”, it isn’t so for me. When I know I am hearing God, He says things that hadn’t already been thinking on my own and my heart starts pounding. Thankfully when God wants me to hear Him, he has graciously directed me away from certain situations. His guidance has told me “NO” quite frequently, but I have also heard Him comfort and encourage me in difficult situations. In Luke 24:32, the disciples described their encounter with the resurrected Lord as their “hearts burning” within as He talked to them on the road to Emmaus. This is more like the sensation I feel when I know the spirit is talking to me.

Praying for guidance is what God wants us to do. He wouldn’t have given us the Spirit of Truth to guide us “into all truth” if He didn’t want us to pray to the Spirit for that guidance. Knowing what that “sounds” like is key. In John 10, Jesus shares how His “sheep” (those who follow Him and know Him), know His voice. Sheep aren’t going to follow a shepherd whose voice they don’t know. If you want to know the voice of the Spirit you have to spend time with Him in prayer, asking to hear His voice. Eventually, you will be able to sense when you are guided by the Spirit. Making an effort to put on the spiritual glasses will give you clarity when you need it most.

Prayer: Set Your Heart on God

I have struggled to have a meaningful prayer life for so long. If someone asks me to pray on their behalf or over a particular situation, I willingly take on the challenge and complete it in order to check it off a list. I know there is more to prayer than just going before God with my list of needs. I also know that what I pray may not go along with God’s will. I just didn’t know any other way.

Last week we looked at the prayer of consecration, offering a heart before God, to be cleaned and used by God for his purposes. I want God to use me. I want everything I have to be laid before Him to do with it what he likes. Its all His anyway. Praying a consecration prayer helps me enter my day with zero expectation that things are going to go the way I want them to. Laying it all before God reminds me that the details of my day will go the way He desires. I have to be content with that.

Intervention prayers require me to look at prayer in a different light. In “Live A Praying Life!” by Jennifer Kennedy Dean, she writes: “The purpose of prayer is to discover God’s will, not obligate Him to do mine; to reflect God’s mind, not change it… Changing my prayer focus from my own satisfaction and happiness to God’s glory and eternal purposes would take a brand new heart.” A brand new heart…a clean heart ready to be molded and used by God.

If God will answer my prayers however He wants, then what is the point of praying for intervention in the first place? Dean also writes that our prayers are like puzzle pieces when only God can see the completed picture. This is evident to me throughout the Bible as God’s people relentlessly lift their prayers to Him.

I thought of Jesus praying in Gethsemane before He was arrested. He knew God was calling him to die the most brutal death. That was his entire purpose for coming to earth, yet he still prayed to God for intervention, three different times (according to Matthew 26), “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?” (Matthew 26:39, MSG) Jesus asked God to intervene. He asked to be released from this responsibility of dying a horrific death. In his human-ness, he did not want to endure the pain that was to come. However, after expressing his desire three times, he also said, “may your will be done”. We can express our desires to God but in the end we have to understand God’s sovereignty. He knows infinitely more than we do.

Its one of those scriptures I have read so many times, yet missed how God answered. In my head, Jesus prayed, yet had to die anyway. But God did intervene. “Then an angel from heaven appeared to him, strengthening him” (Luke 22:43, CSB). He sent an angel to strengthen Jesus in order for God’s will to be completed. Jesus had to die for the sins of the world, but God gave him the ultimate strength in order to endure the coming hours.

During one of the most painful times of my life, I prayed for God to “do whatever it takes”. It was my “your will be done” prayer and it was the hardest prayer I have ever had to pray. I knew what I wanted the outcome to be, but I had absolutely no control over it. So I prayed, “Lord do whatever it takes. Protect my family, but please do whatever it takes to get us through this.” It wasn’t easy, but I trusted that whatever the outcome, God knows best.

It’s been several years since I prayed that prayer. I repeated it relentlessly and desperately. Did God fix everything immediately? No, but He led me to do some hard work on my heart and my attitude. Was it worth trusting Him with all of it? Absolutely. He intervened in ways I didn’t even ask, in ways I didn’t even know I needed Him to. My puzzle piece prayers did not compare to beauty of the completed picture.

I hope you have downloaded and printed off the prayer cards*. The prayer of intervention can be tailored to your particular situation. Don’t just pray it once and move on. Jesus prayed three times for God to intervene. I bet he prayed that same prayer in the days leading up to his arrest as well. Trust in God’s sovereignty. Align your heart and will with His. You will see His intervention in ways you didn’t expect.

*The prayer cards can be sent to you by joining the email list. Simply put your e-mail in the box at the top and you should see the prayer cards delivered to your inbox!

Prayer: Create a Clean Heart

Prayer is intimidating. Talking to someone you can’t see or audibly hear is weird. In the Christian faith, prayer gives us direct access to our Creator and Savior and yet, many believers pray out of duty or desperation without ever feeling the presence of God. I know. I am describing myself.

My focus word for 2020 is Prayer. For the past six months I have been hearing God (because He has repeated to me), “prayer, work on your prayer time.” I can pray in front of crowds. I can go to God on behalf of a sick or grieving friend. However, I knew there was an aspect of prayer I was missing. My prayer time with God wasn’t meaningful. Last year I dedicated time to read the Bible through. I truly craved my time in His word each day. This year, I want to crave time with God through prayer.

In Matthew 6, Jesus gathered the disciples to him, away from the crowds, and taught them about prayer, where to pray, and how to pray. Jesus said, “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” (Matthew 6:6 MSG) The goal is time alone with God to share what’s on your heart. Also to feel his presence and hear him speak to your soul. Its not displaying anything for anyone else. Just a conversation between you and God.

I gathered resources on prayer that I will be sharing with you throughout the month of February. I wanted to dive into books by authors who have been praying for a lot longer than I have. John Eldredge is one of my favorite Christian writers of all time. I have more books by him on my shelf than any other writer. Two of them were signed by him at conference where I heard him speak. Recently, he wrote a book on prayer titled, “Moving Mountains: Praying with Passion, Confidence, and Authority”. Each chapter walks through different aspects of prayer. There are great samples of prayers throughout the book depending on your prayer needs.

The one chapter that made me realize where my prayer time was definitely lacking was the chapter on “Consecration – Bringing things Under the Rule of Jesus”:

The act of consecration is “repairing the wiring,” the first step before God’s protection and provision can flow. It is the fresh act of dedicating yourself – or your home, a relationship, a job, your sexuality, whatever needs God’s grace – deliberately and intentionally to Jesus, bringing it fully into his kingdom and under his rule. It seems so obvious, now that we state it, but you would be surprised how often this vital step is overlooked (and then folks wonder why their prayers don’t seem to be effective).

Throughout the Bible people, animals, the tabernacle, etc. are all consecrated to God. Meaning, they are dedicated to God for His use. I often go about my day, checking of my to-do list without first consecrating my day and the tasks within it to God. Its like I am saying, “Okay God, I am ready for you to use me and all I do for You and Your plans.”

Each morning, I pray/journal a prayer of consecration. Giving Him every part of my day: going to the gym, the grocery store, my writing time, my studying time, time with my kids, etc. as an offering to use how He wants to use it all. I have found that my mindset throughout the day is different. I am not doing all of these things on my list for me, but for God. My stress level has decreased and my joy level has increased.

What does a prayer of consecration look like? I tell God, “I consecrate my day to you.” I list the things in my schedule. I even consecrate my interactions with my neighbors, friends, family, and other people I may encounter. I bring every part of my day under God’s Rule. It is like I am laying my heart before God to clean it up and use me however He desires.

Where are you in your prayer life? Is it a time of meaningful conversation with God or are you, like me, floundering a bit? I hope this month’s theme will encourage you to dedicate more time and energy to growing in your prayer life and connect with God on a deeper level.

Don’t forget this month’s free download for email followers!

I have a sample prayers as a part of my free Prayer Card download for email followers. If you are already on my email list, you should have received the download as a part of your weekly email. If you are not on the list, put your email in the box at the top right corner of this page or click “follow” on your mobile device.

The download consists of four sets of prayer cards that can be printed on cardstock or glued to large index cards. You could even get them laminated. These cards can easily be placed in your Bible or journal to pull out for your prayer time. Each card has a prayer topic, explanation, and verse on the front, then a sample prayer for the back. My hope is that these prayer cards will guide you through your prayer time and help you form prayers of your own.

Growing Faith: Daily Trust

As we end this series on growing faith, I think it is important to not forget a basic foundation, trusting God with your entire life on a daily basis. Our faith is a reflection of our belief that we are sinners, that Jesus died as a punishment for our sins, and we know that He rose from the dead to live an eternal life with God. As we live out our faith, it requires a daily commitment to trust Him as Lord over everything.

Is He?

Lord over your home?

Lord over your work?

Lord over your relationships?

Lord over your mouth?

Lord over your actions?

Lord over your heart?

Whether we are new to Christianity or have been a believer for years, from time to time, we have to come back to this basic idea of daily trust.

I have always been told to keep God first in my life, but by putting Him first, does that mean I keep Him exclusive and not a part of my other priorities? I have to put God in the center of my life so that through my trust in Him, He infiltrates the way I interact with the other areas of my life.

Forgive my mental picture:

I have had problems with control my entire life. When my emotions are raging, its usually as a result of me feeling out of control. Recently, I have made an effort to lay my day before God each morning through prayer, asking and trusting Him to be Lord over all of it.

Without daily trust that God is in control over all areas of my life, I will only feel the full chaos of my day. When I acknowledge His control, my eyes are opened to see Him working throughout my day.

This morning, I prayed over each part of my day, entrusting it to God. Occasionally, I attend a Tuesday class at my gym. I don’t know anyone in the class. I typically walk in, do my workout, and leave. Today, a lady in the class had on a shirt from my church. She has been in the class every time I have attended, but I didn’t know her. We began talking and making connections. We now know each other by name and will make an effort to look out for one another at church. I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe in trusting in God to orchestrate my day so I do not miss sweet conversations and connections.

The theme for next month is Prayer. It is my word for 2020. I have been diving into prayer and how to make it a consistent and meaningful part of my day. I hope you join me as we look at many resources on prayer as well as how you can incorporate it into your life.

If you are an email subscriber, you will be getting a download you can print out to help guide your daily prayer time. This will be emailed out on Wednesday, February 5 when the first blog post on Prayer is released. If you are already an email follower, it will be a part of your weekly email that you already receive. If you would like to get the free download and you are not on the e-mail list, on your desktop/laptop computer look to the top right of this post and sign up! If you are on your phone or tablet, look at the bottom right of your screen and click “Follow”. Blog followers and email followers are not on the same list, so if you want the download, put in your email address.

Miss the previous parts of this series? Here you go!

Growing Faith: Patience and Prayer

Growing Faith: Boundaries and the Bible

Growing Faith: Finding Fellowship

Growing Faith: Finding Fellowship

I have begun writing my second Bible study. This one is on the book of Acts. My first study on John is a for new believers and those who are new to or intimidated by studying the Bible through a look at the life of Jesus and his followers. I chose Acts for my next study because I wanted a continuation of the lives of Jesus’ followers. They were new believers and Jesus was adamant about their love and devotion to one another after he was gone. (John 13)

New as well as seasoned believers need to surround themselves with other Christ followers. God never intended for us to walk our journey of faith alone. In Acts 2, the new believers: “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2:42 ESV The believers learned from the apostles, those who had a strong faith and relationship with the Lord. They knew this was vital to grow in their own faith. There have been times in my life where I have not been connected with a local group of Christian believers. Moving to a new area makes you feel lost where no one knows you or can connect with you through your faith. After moving to our current home a couple of years ago, I had to be intentional about finding a church home, Bible study group, or small group to connect with. It was not easy! It took time to find a church home to settle in and get involved with a group. It takes perseverance and consistency to find the right fit for you.

Through the devotion of the believers they grew in their faith: “And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.” Acts 2:43-47 ESV

The more time the early church spent together they became in awe of God because of the work they were witnessing in one another’s lives. Through my time with fellow believers, I have seen friends healed, broken lives regenerated, and destroyed marriages reconnect. I have seen fellow believers whose faith in God has carried them through the darkness of divorce and the death of a child. I am in awe of God as He works in my life and those around me.

The early church also became more connected as they spent time together. Their common belief and faith bonded them greater than anything else. I have friends in my life who I have very little else in common with, except for our faith in God. I am in a Bible study with ladies in a completely different season of life from me, but its their love for God that keeps me coming back to each meeting. I feel connected to them because our common faith.

The more time the early church spent with one another, the more generous they became. They saw the needs of one another and did whatever they could to meet them. When we are devoted to fellow believers, we spend less time focusing on ourselves and more time on the needs of others. I have four children. After the birth of each child, my church family provided meals for 2-3 weeks for us. As a church we have raised money for the needs of members who were struggling financially as well as given an abundance of baby items to a newly single mother of four.

Some of you may not be a part of a church because of negative past church experiences. I have had plenty of dealings with fellow church members that could have made me leave and never return. BUT I DIDN’T. We are all growing in our faith. You can not allow the behavior of one person to take away from the heart of a church as a whole. While it may not benefit you to remain in that particular church, find another group of believers who share the same heart for God as you.

All churches are different. In my lifetime, I have been a part of five different churches. Every single one of them differed greatly from the one prior. Our current church is drastically different than all of the others put together. I can not say one church is better or worse than the other, but I can say each church met my needs for fellowship and spiritual growth for myself and my family at the time we attended. If you are not growing where you are, visit another church. Find a place you can become devoted to teaching, fellowship, and prayer. This was the mission of the early church. It should still be our mission today.

This blog series is based on an article I wrote for Crosswalk.com found here: I‘m a new Christian, Now What?

Growing Faith: Boundaries and the Bible

Last week in the Growing Faith series, I wrote about the need for patience regarding your spiritual growth, especially as a new Christian. Sometimes it can be overwhelming when it seems like there is a checklist to complete. Thankfully all we need to remember is daily surrender and working toward loving God, ourselves, and others with everything that comes from our hear, mouth, and mind. (Matthew 22:37-38). Each day is a new day to love God and one another a little bit better.

I also wrote about prayer and the importance of talking with God to develop a relationship with Him. This is the foundation of the Christian faith, relationship not rules. Prayer is one way we can get to know our Creator.

Another part of walking in the Christian faith is to be aware of the need for boundaries. I don’t know what your life was like before you gave your life to Christ, but there may be people or situations that would not support your faith. Sometimes we have to be aware of the things in our life that influence us the most. While I am certainly not saying you should only maintain relationships with those who believe the same as you, be aware of those who influence you the most and whether or not that influence is an encouragement to your faith.

In the Bible, Paul became a believer after being blinded and encountering Jesus. His former life was spent putting Christians in jail and often having them killed. After his conversion, he spent some time away from his former life (Galatians 1) before he became a missionary.

Determining your boundaries may be better understood through your time in prayer. God can definitely lead you to step away from people or circumstances that aren’t the best influence. Also, the more you surround yourself with people and opportunities that help you grow in your faith, the more you will see areas that need some boundaries.

As you continue your journey as a new Christian, regularly reading the Bible allows for you to gain a greater picture of the character of God. Opening the Bible can be very intimidating. What do you read? How do you understand? What is it all about anyway? Do I need to join a Bible study group? Again, be patient. No believer has a full understanding of the Bible or God. It is impossible in our lifetime. That’s one reason to look forward to heaven!

In 2 Chronicles 34, King Josiah was a strong leader who worked to bring his people back into a relationship with God. When the book of law (part of the Bible written by Moses) was discovered and read to him, he learned the history of God and his people. He brought back observances and customs that God had instructed them to follow in order the bring them in a closer relationship with Him.

There is an abundance of Bible studies and devotionals to help you begin your time in God’s Word. There are also online resources to help you understand what you read. Biblehub.com is one of my favorite resources. You can read different translations of the Bible as well as commentary to help explain what you read. A great place to begin reading is the New Testament. If you click on the link to the right, I wrote a Bible Study on the book of John, specifically for those who want to begin reading the Bible but need a basic structured path.

I hope this series is helpful to you as you continue your journey as a Christian or need a reawakening of your faith. Creating boundaries is important if you want to grow and be encouraged in your relationship with God. Reading the Bible allows you to gain a greater understanding of your Creator and His love for you.

Growing Faith: Patience and Prayer

January. The time of year for new beginnings, a fresh start, and hope for change. Last month I wrote about opening the greatest gift we have ever been given, the gift of God’s Son,Jesus. We don’t deserve such a perfect gift, but God loves us and wanted a way for us to have a forever relationship with Him.

If you opened that gift or have recently come into a relationship with God as a new Christian, you may be excited but a little overwhelmed about the next step. This month I will be writing about some ways to help you grow in your faith.

First, be patient with yourself and pray. We are all on this journey together. You are not alone. Don’t feel like you need to learn and do everything all at once. When God’s becomes a part of your life, through the Holy Spirt, He is more interested in your heart and not some Christian checklist. You can spend a lifetime doing, serving, learning, and studying but if your heart never reflects a personal relationship with Him, then your energy spent will be wasted. Talk to Him. Begin sharing your worries, your questions, and your desires.

The Pharisees (religious leaders) in the Bible knew the laws, all 600 of them, but could not surrender their hearts to a relationship with God. Jesus was asked by the Pharisees, what was the greatest law? They wanted to trap Him and find a reason to charge him with going against the Jewish laws. Jesus said the greatest commandment is “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it. ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” Matthew 22:37-40 MSG.

God wants every part of us.  Everything that comes from our heart, our soul, and our minds should be an echo of our love for Him.  This can take a lifetime and we could never do it perfectly, but this should still be our aim.  That’s why Jesus died for each of us.  We can be free from trying to live a perfect life and just live to love Him.  When we mess up loving Him, forgiveness comes, and we can try again and again. But when we do hit the mark, loving Him helps us love ourselves and pour that overflowing love out on others.

This faith journey is like a baby learning to walk. Each step is followed by a stumble and a fall. Eventually the baby learns to catch herself, balance, and keep going. Falls become less frequent. But the interesting thing is, when a baby falls, she will eventually get up and try again. Babies don’t give up. They are persistent. They like the feeling of being upright on two feet more than they like crawling on all fours.

In the beginning of Christian journey, you will fall more than you remain upright, but be patient and persistent. Keep getting back up. You will find that being upright, running after God, is a place you would much rather be, other than crawling along, never getting to fully see the life God has for you.

As you begin your Christian journey, be patient and pray. God will guide you and walk with you when you surrender to Him each day. Focus on loving Him however you can. Pray for the abundance of love to be poured out on yourself and others. If we all focus on this each day, our baby steps will keep us upright, growing in our faith, and running toward God.

A Gift Left Unopened

I wasn’t until I was married that I found an appreciation for one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time. “A Christmas Story” is about a young boy named Ralphie with his heart set on receiving a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. Everyone in his life tells him “You’ll shoot your eye out” and he is left discouraged. On Christmas morning he searches for a gift under the tree that might resemble its shape. He is left disappointed after every gift is unwrapped.

Overlooking the sea of wrapping paper, Ralphie’s mother asks, “Did you have a nice Christmas?”

With a sigh he replies, “Yeah”.

His dad follows with,”Did you get everything you wanted?”

“Almost”

“Well, there’s always next Christmas.” Ralphie’s dad reassures.

Suddenly, his dad directs Ralphie to something hidden in the corner. An unwrapped gift. Could it be his beloved Red Ryder BB gun? Ralphie’s elation is palpable as he tears into the long slender package.

I think we’ve all had that one gift that we desperately wanted and couldn’t contain our excitement as it lay opened before us. This Christmas my husband gave me a gift card for a massage. I opened it and cried. For someone to give me money and time to care for myself is one of the greatest gifts I could ever receive.

One year when I was a young teenager, my cousins and I scraped our money together and had our photos taken at Sears. We divided the hundreds of photos and wrapped them for our mothers and grandmother. I can still see the shock and tears on their faces as they opened their gifts at the same time. For them it was a gift that they didn’t even ask for, but cherished once opened.

Each Christmas we are reminded of a gift given to all of us. The gift of hope, joy, peace, and love embodied in God’s Son. We all have a choice to make. Do we allow the gift to stay hidden in a corner, waiting for something better next year? Or do we open the gift, discovering it is something we had wanted and needed all along.

Thankfully, we don’t have to wait until next Christmas. God gives us every moment of every day to unwrap a relationship with Him. Once we do that, it’s like receiving a gift every day. A gift of new life.

Next month I am going to write about what it looks like to walk with God every day. Not a strict set of rules, but entering into a relationship. First you have to put your faith in Him. You have to open that gift.

“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — “ Ephesians 2:8

If this is something you’ve never done or maybe you did years ago and need to come back to Him, you can pray this prayer to get you started, untying the bow and releasing the wrapping:

“Dear God, thank you for your gift of your Son. I know I don’t deserve it, but I want to learn what it means to have faith in you and allow you to be a part of my life. Open my eyes and show me the next steps to take. Amen.”

If you prayed this prayer, leave a comment here or send me an email at bayoublessingsblog@gmail.com . Tell a believing friend or pastor. They can help you with the next steps to take as a new believer.

Don’t let another moment pass without unwrapping the gift your life needs the most.

Because of Love

The fourth week of advent brings us to the reason for it all. The purpose He came to us. The final purple candle is LOVE.

A challenge I gave myself this past year was to read the Bible through from beginning to end. Not only read, but understand and take notes. I didn’t want to read and not remember a thing. I have been wanting to read the Bible through for as long as I can remember, but I couldn’t grasp its meaning. The Bible isn’t laid out in an easy to understand format and it isn’t chronological. I found a reading plan that makes sense and lines up beautifully. I am within days of finishing and still processing all I have learned.

What I do know is that what I have been told about the Bible my entire life is true. It’s a love story. A story of a Father who so desperately loves his children that he keeps disciplining and shaping us while trying to draw us close. He loves us without demanding anything in return. Does He want our love and humble hearts? Absolutely. He wants us to live our lives on earth in His daily presence so we can go on and live eternity with Him. But he will not force it. He wants the purest love and devotion in return, given freely. God filters our lives through his love. It may be painful. It may not always seem loving, but the love filter is what is best for each one of us.

Sending his son to die doesn’t seem loving, but through His love filter He knew that the sacrifice of his Son could bring his children and all those who believe back to him. No sacrifice would mean eternal separation. Our loving God did not want that.

This week we see an act of love displayed like no other in the history of the world. Our Father, Creator, wanted so much to be a part of our lives that He sent Himself to earth to be with us. God with us. Emmanuel.

Lean into that this week. Ask God to help you. Ask Him to open your eyes to the love He displayed over 2000 years ago and still displays every day of the year. He sees you. He is with you. He loves you.

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