to know Christ . . .

Seasons Change

I thought this post would be the continuation of the previous Prayer Nugget.  In fact, I had already begun working on it, and working on it, and working on it – which is pretty much the way writing has been for me for quite some time, even when the subject is dear to my heart.

Instead, after ten years, I’m ending new posts here.  If I write anything in the future concerning prayer, it will most likely be posted on my other blog, To Make Christ Known, though the Prayer Nuggets already posted will remain at this address.

Thanks to all of you who have journeyed with me in this thing called prayer through the years.  My understanding of Jesus Christ and living in and by His Spirit, including prayer, has changed dramatically since I began writing.  I hope you have come along with me, seeing Him more and more as He really is, and knowing His great love for you as well as His desire for intimate fellowship with you.  May we continue together on this journey in Christ by His Spirit whether or not our paths cross again.

THE END

I Called it Prayer

Watkins Glen 002Before getting out of bed one morning while on vacation, I decided to pray (aka nag God) about every detail of this long-awaited trip.  I reminded Him to make sure the weather was just right, that we had good restaurants for me (no hidden gluten,) that we’d have quiet hotel rooms with comfortable beds, wouldn’t get sick, etc.  It might have been okay to ask these things . . . the first time.  But I’d been over this ground so many times during the months of planning and preparation that I’d created a deep rut!  Since I’d just awakened from a night of interrupted sleep, it seemed appropriate to remind Him of all my wants.  Yet, even as I asked for them, I knew something was amiss.

“What if all these things are just as you ask?” Daddy seemed to speak to my heart.  “Will you then find peace and joy?”

He needed to say no more.  His simple questions revealed the source of my nagging.  I had become so focused on having perfect circumstances that I lost sight of my only real joy – Jesus Christ and His amazing love.  Instead of trusting Him in every situation now and in the days to come, I worried about things I could not control.  In essence, I dictated to God my ease and comfort – and called it prayer.

James 4:2-3 says, “You have not because you ask not.”  Not stopping there, it also says we ask amiss when our focus is personal gain.  Spending time meditating on my personal ease and comfort is not the purpose of this part of eternal life.  Neither is it the purpose of prayer.  This is a self-centered focus, one not relying on God’s grace in and for all circumstances. It also shows Him (and me, if I will see) I don’t believe He cares enough for me.

What if the good comes only after I endure something that doesn’t feel so good at the time?  What if Jesus wants to show Himself strong on my behalf and to others around me in a way that requires me to trust Him in difficulty?  He did say that in this world we would face difficulties, not ease and comfort.  But His promise was that we could take heart because He has overcome the world for us.  (John 16:33)  It’s about being in Christ.

The truth is, I am already dead – having been crucified with Christ.  Additionally, I am alive in Christ!  Things of this mortal life only affect me when I allow them to.  Bad sleep, bad weather, noisy neighbors – even the possibility of them – do not need to be my focus in life or prayer.  When my focus is Jesus, I will handle these situations – not just the ones I would dictate – in His grace and peace.

Colossians 3:1-3  NIV  Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

Hebrews 12:2-3  NIV Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Daddy’s words opened me up to the needed change in perspective during the remainder of the vacation.  Though I still slipped into that spoiled self-centered mode in my thoughts from time to time, it took only a momentary reminder to look to Him and His grace, not my natural comfort.  Since returning to my regular life, He’s begun to show me broader implications for this perspective change in life and what I called prayer.  I am eager to share, but it must be a Prayer Nugget of its own.  Coming soon . . .

Captives No More

In case I haven’t made it clear before, I despise all varieties of politics.  Imagine, then, how disturbing it was for my prayer to be interrupted by the name of a high-profile politician.  This woman might have received mention in my prayers once or twice through the years, on the order of asking God to remove her from office.  Since He brought her name to me this time, I decided He probably had more in mind for her than what He’d heard from me before.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith little enthusiasm, I prayed, “Change her hard heart.”  Obviously, the attitude hadn’t changed since asking Him to remove this woman from office, a fact the Lord knew before He ever spoke her name to me.  To help me past this obstacle, He used a favorite tool – the question.

“Do you want her to go to hell when she dies?”

My attitude softened slightly as I answered like Peter when Jesus asked if he loved Him, “Definitely not, Lord!  You know I don’t want anyone to go to hell, no matter how bad they are here on earth.  I know You love them and have forgiven them through Christ’s sacrifice, the same as You love me.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs with Peter, there was something I still didn’t see, something I needed to see clearly in Christ.  He restated the question in such a way that I engaged more fully with His heart for me and for this woman.

“Do you want to spend eternity in heaven with her?”

My first response was, “Sure, as long as she is always on the other side of heaven where I never run into her, never have to spend time with her, never even have to acknowledge her.”

There was a subtle agent working in and against me, and against others for whom I prayed, but I was oblivious.  Daddy knew it was there and exactly how to eliminate it.  He used a woman I have despised from afar, whom He absolutely loves, to bring me – another of His absolutely loved women – into greater freedom in Christ.  The slightly softened attitude following the first question became one of complete compassion and humility in Christ with the second.  Heartfelt words of intercession now flowed freely.

“Help her see and meet You, Jesus, so she might truly know Your unconditional and perfect love for her.”

What a difference! The words I prayed early on were true, but my thoughts disallowed their power in me.  Intercession on behalf of another was greatly hindered, yet Daddy didn’t give up on either of us.  Instead, He removed the barrier so He could move more fully through the words of His heart, coming through my mouth.  Jesus did, indeed, come to set the captives free – all the captives.

Psalm 19:14 NIV  May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

He Knew It All Along

It had been a long time since I last arrived for our special meeting without something already percolating in my mind to discuss.  Those times I had come with an agenda, we usually worked through it and moved on to other things I couldn’t have imagined beforehand, so I had a heightened sense of anticipation this day as I awaited His lead.  After only a few moments of silence, I heard in my spirit, “Things are not what they seem.”

Israel_818Rather than doing the obvious (waiting for more) upon hearing a statement like this, I let my mind take control, which is definitely not what was in God’s mind when He first spoke to me.  My thoughts were immediately negative and suspicious, casting doubt on people and situations in my life.  “And I thought everything was going so well with ______ and with ______ situation.   I guess I was duped by the façade.”  Instead of the earlier eager anticipation, I now had rapidly increasing apprehension as I wondered how long it would take the bad reality to come to the surface. Seriously, I managed to come up with all this from a six-word sentence!

Before my mind took me even further down this destructive path, Holy Spirit broke in with a much-needed nudge.  The kind of nudge that let me know I might have gotten off-track, and whose effect was like a sudden drenching with ice-cold water to wake me from my rapidly descending thoughts.  I hadn’t waited to hear who or what the Lord was referencing, nor had I given Him the opportunity to make any other statements that might have shed light on His meaning.  I took His six words and ran, assuming it was someone or something familiar to me, never considering Daddy may have chosen to include me in His work on behalf of someone or something known to Him and not to me.

Beyond that, I immediately looked at the negative possibility of His statement, not considering there could be a good angle.  There might be a good work going on inside when it looks really bad – maybe terrible – in the natural.  After all, the unseen realm is the workroom of Holy Spirit.  What I see outwardly may seem to indicate only bad is at work, but . . . it’s subject to change! God calls things that are not as though they were! When I saw it this way, I was no longer in my own thoughts, but His.  Then we were able to continue with what had been on His heart for us to do together.

I thought my erroneous mindset had been a hindrance to God’s plan for that day, until I reflected further.  In reality, revealing and then removing the hindrance to our intercession was pre-planned.  He knew it was in me all along, and He knew this was the day to eliminate it.  He was neither surprised nor frustrated by my reaction to His words, but merely saw it as part of this day’s fellowship together.  What an amazing Father!  Because of His wonderful love, even in correction, I have returned to that place of great anticipation any time I pray.

Daddy, thank You for Your interest in every single part of our lives, and for Your perfect wisdom in bringing us out of the old ways of thinking and seeing and into our newness in Christ Jesus.  Thank You for calling us alive though dead, and then allowing us to work with You for others.  You are so far beyond our limited vocabulary of superlatives to describe, but we continue to try.  You are wonderful, amazing, glorious, incredible, tender, gentle, all-wise, life-changing . . .  We love You.  We praise You.  We thank You.  Through the name of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ!

Freedom Words

We were having a wonderful time together that morning, enjoying the beauty of a new day from above the fog of our surroundings.  Since we were exploring terrain that was new to me, we’d not ventured far.  While Daddy spoke to my heart, I was caught up in some of the new possibilities this terrain would afford in the future.  All too soon, however, it was time for me to leave, to return to the regular activities of daily living.  I apologized.

Israel 2012 120With the apology scarcely uttered, Daddy reminded me of freedom words I so needed to hear – the ones I need repeated until I no longer revert to the old mindset.  “Kay, you’re not leaving this place we’ve walked this morning just because you are physically moving on to other activities, those that are necessary but not spiritual in your mind.”

The amen to what He spoke was simply, “I AM.”

Because Daddy is I AM in the present tense, there is never a moment or a situation in which I am alone.  He is always with me, and I am always with Him.  I do not come in and out of His presence as I would enter and exit a room, based on whether I’m in a set-aside time with Him or doing the rest of life in this world.  I may be more aware of His presence in those quiet times because of my focus, but it doesn’t change the fact that He is I AM – always.  Indeed, there is no such thing as secular when I am in Christ, for wherever I am, He is I AM with me.  This means I can fellowship with Him all day long . . . even while doing the “mundane” tasks of living!

I am totally convinced of this truth, yet I quickly forget, returning to thought patterns that enslave. In His grace and overflowing love for me, Daddy continues to direct, redirect, remind, and re-remind that Jesus’ blood removed all barriers to His presence once for all people for all time – including me.  And that no day or time is any more special to Him than any other since Jesus finished His work.  Neither is one location or activity.  It is for freedom Christ set me free.  Oh, what wonderful freedom – to live in the eternal presence of my Abba Daddy.  Freedom words like no other!

Romans 8:38-39 ISV  38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor anything above, nor anything below, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is ours in union with the Messiah Jesus, our Lord.

This Place Called IHOP

stack of pancakesIt’s not a restaurant with stacks of hot pancakes, butter melting, maple syrup dripping down the sides and pooling on the plates.

It’s not a Missouri-based ministry dedicated to worldwide 24/7 prayer.

This IHOP place has nothing to do with any organization, institution, or physical location.  Rather, it is the place of the Spirit referred to by Jesus as He taught in the temple area of Jerusalem shortly before His crucifixion. (Matt. 21:13, Mark 11:17, Luke 19:46)

Isaiah 56:7 NIV  “. . . for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

world mapFor years, I thought I understood this verse to mean that God’s people are supposed to pray for people of all nations.  While definitely a worthy cause for intercession, I no longer believe this is what Jesus revealed here.  He was not speaking about a physical place for us to gather or an action for us to perform.  Instead, He referred to His own actions, the ones that would finish His work of obedience for the salvation of the world.  It was all about Jesus and what He was doing, not about us and what we are to do for Him.

At the very moment of His final agonizing breath on the cross, when Jesus gave up His Spirit, the veil (curtain) of the physical place was torn in two from top to bottom – the one that separated man from the presence of God.  From that moment forward, anyone from any nation who believes and receives Jesus Christ and His finished work at the cross is able to live in unbroken fellowship with Him wherever they are.  No longer required to go to a specific location, follow specific laws and traditions, or rely on another person to speak to God on their behalf, they are free to commune with their Father.  For their place is in Christ by His Spirit.  The house of prayer for all nations is the place of His Spirit in us.

Thank You, Daddy, for making it possible for us to live in unbroken communion with You – for removing all barriers through Christ Jesus, so that all who will believe and receive Your forgiveness and Your righteousness may dwell in this place of true freedom forever.  May what we call prayer reflect an ever-deepening walk of freedom in You, and an ever-increasing manifestation of Your life in us. All glory to You, dear Lord!

Unceasing What?

[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death . . . Philippians 3:10 Amplified

It’s time to be completely candid about something I’ve only alluded to in several previous posts.  There is the risk you might not see it the same way, but I welcome thoughtful and Scriptural comments – even of disagreement. It is important for you to know why I write as I do now.  Life in Christ is a journey that doesn’t end until we are permanently home with Him.  What I thought I understood of Christ and prayer at the beginning of my writing journey has helped me see Him as I do today – so much brighter and clearer.  In another ten years, I expect to be just as changed by what He reveals to me going forward that I cannot see today, and have it reflected in my writing, as well.  May your journey in Christ be enriched by reading another of my conversations with the Lord.

I awoke so very early this morning, Lord.  Though I tried to go back to sleep, I could tell I was awake for the day, and I thank You.  It’s so nice and quiet in the house right now – a special time to be alone with You.  Do You want me to pray now?

Pray without ceasing.

Okay, I hear what I think You’re saying.  It’s been niggling at the recesses of my mind for a while now – pretty much every time I say things like, “Do You want me to pray now?”

If this thing called prayer truly is communion or communication with You, which results from being together in silence or in word, then Your statement actually asks when it is not prayer.  When do You not hear my thoughts?  When are You not with me?  When am I not with You?  There are times when I am not consciously aware of Your Presence, but Your Presence is not a mental place.  It is, rather, a constant, ongoing place with and in You.  It is not an action itself, though action might result.

This place called prayer is the result of being born again, pure and simple.  Religion has made it a science, a formula, a theorem (if we do and say it this way, we get this result), a work of our own strength, even a duty that we’re told will become a delight.  Since when does that happen?!

I have been asking You for a while now, Lord, to show me just what prayer is, because I’ve had this uncomfortable stirring that we in Your body have been saying, “You need to pray,” and even teaching how to pray, when we don’t really know what prayer is.  We know what we’ve called prayer, and what those who were praying before us called it, but as much as I see prayer mentioned in the Bible, I don’t see an explanation of it.  Yet we’ve built doctrines around what we think it is and is not.  Could it be that there is no specific definition to be found because it is a work of and with Your Spirit, which in itself defies definition?  Defies pattern or formula?  Requires resting in You and Your leading alone?

Lord, there is so much more to communing and communicating with You, and even working with You through this thing called prayer.  We limit ourselves so much by saying “This is the way to pray.”  Help me leave the mechanics behind, that I might simply flow with You by Your Spirit to touch whomever, whatever, and whenever You want to touch.  To listen when You want to speak.  To sit contentedly in times of silence with You.

This all feels so radical, upside-down, and inside-out, Lord.  Yet, in this place, there is a smile in my heart and a sense of freedom I’ve not known in my safe, right-side-up, outside-in life.  It’s not about me, but about You – knowing You more and declaring and decreeing Your will and Your kingdom and Your plans and purposes.  Keep interrupting me when I start to say, “Let’s pray,” and ask again, “When did we stop?”

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