Mary and Martha’s Prayer

While reading the account of Lazarus’ death and new life in John 11, I gained a deeper understanding of prayer.

Previously, we have been introduced to the family of Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. They were Jesus’ friends. He often visited at their home. They had a personal relationship with Jesus. John 11 begins by telling us that Lazarus is sick – very sick. Mary and Martha wanted Jesus to know what was happening.

Verse 3 says, “So the sisters sent word to Jesus. ‘Lord, the one You love is sick.’” When Mary and Martha sent this message to Jesus, they were praying. (Most everyone who has a personal relationship with Jesus prays. At the very least, we cry out to God during our times of need.)

Time progresses and the story progresses. Although Jesus received the message, He did not respond as Mary and Martha expected. Jesus did not come to them. Verse 6 says, “So when He (Jesus) heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days.” Not a quick response to Mary and Martha. (All of us know what it is to wait for answers to prayer.)

Jesus says in verse 7, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory…” Jesus got the message, but He had other plans. (Have you ever prayed a prayer that was answered differently than you expected? Of course – all of us have! However, God’s glory should always be our motive.)

I wonder how the sisters were feeling two days later. One may have asked, “Why hasn’t Jesus come? What is taking Him so long?” Or, the other one may have said, “I thought Jesus loved us. Maybe He doesn’t care about us as much as we imagined.” (Have you ever made such remarks when a prayer you prayed was not answered immediately?)

It is interesting that Jesus says to His disciples in verse 15, “and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” Jesus desired to deepen the faith of His disciples as well as that of Mary and Martha through His answer to their request. Jesus had a greater truth to reveal than just healing Lazarus from his sickness. Jesus was not in a hurry. He knew how and when He would respond. Mary and Martha’s expectations of how Jesus would respond had to die as well as Lazarus had to die. (God may have more in store for us than we realize when we pray. Do not limit God by expecting Him to only answer as you desire.)

Lazarus died. Jesus had not arrived yet. But, He does eventually come. Verse 17 says, “On His arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.” (Have you ever felt like it was too late for Jesus to answer your prayer?)

Martha is the first sister to meet Jesus when He finally comes. Her first words to Jesus are recorded in verse 21, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (Notice Martha’s words “but” and “if”. Have you ever used these words when questioning or explaining something about your faith?)

Although Martha did not completely understanding all Jesus was saying and doing, she still believed. I think she passed a test of faith.  And, Jesus had more to reveal to her. (We, too, must keep our faith and not doubt.)

Mary then arrives on the scene. Her greeting in verse 32 is, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Sounds familiar! Mary’s words are the same as Martha’s words. It is not that she does not believe, she just limits God. (Beware! It is very possible that we have not interpreted Jesus’ words and promises correctly or with full understanding. He is able to do so much more than we can ask or think.)

The next verse that catches my attention is verse 35, “Jesus wept.” Shortest verse in the Bible. Why did Jesus weep? In verse 36 the Jews say, “See how much He loved him!” Although this statement is true, I believe Jesus wept for additional reasons. I think He was sorrowful that those around Him were not able to understand all He could do – all He was still going to do. (Have you caused Jesus to weep because of your limited understanding or expectations?)

We are nearing the climax of the story. In verse 39, Jesus says, “Take away the stone.” The stone in front of the grave hindered Jesus from doing what He was about to do. (Are there any stones you need to remove before Jesus can fully answer a prayer you continue to pray?)

Jesus prays in verse 41, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I know that You always hear Me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that You sent Me.” (Jesus gives us the example of how we are to pray. We are to thank God for what He is going to do – not just thank Him after we have received the answer.)

In verse 43 Jesus commands, “Lazarus, come out!” Finally Mary and Martha receive their answer to the message they sent to Jesus at the beginning of the chapter! Lazarus is not merely healed but brought back to life. A greater miracle than either sister could have requested. (Yes, God answers our prayers – not always when and how we want, but in the way that most glorifies Him.)

Jesus makes on final statement in verse 44. “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” There was still something for those surrounding Mary, Martha and Lazarus to do. Lazarus was alive but he needed the help of others to freely walk in the life given to him. (I think God requires us to be stewards of the answered prayers and miracles we receive. He may want us to help the person who has benefited from our prayers. Maybe we are to share the testimony of how God has answered our prayers.)

This account of Lazarus, Mary and Martha, is a wonderful miracle in and of itself. However God also has a message for us regarding prayer. Meditate upon what I have shared. See if it applies to you.

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Frequency

Have you ever heard someone make a comment such as “God told me…”? How did it make you feel? Did you feel like this person was speaking authentically or were you intimidated by someone thinking they could actually hear God speak?

Maybe you have been the person who has said “I heard God say…” Were you speaking these words literally or spiritually? What did you hear and how did you hear it?

Is it truly possible to hear God’s audible voice speak words? Yes, I believe it is. However, I also believe God speaks in many additional ways. Just because you have not heard His audible voice, does not mean you have not heard God speak. I believe God is always speaking in some way. But, are we always hearing?

I will often say that God has revealed something to me. He speaks to me through an impression rather than audible words. For example, I may be typing a blog post and all of a sudden I will realize I am typing words that were not part of my original idea. I wonder, “Where did that come from?” I realize it came from God. I was attuned to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

God is spirit and we are human. Having a human to human conversation is quite different from hearing God speak Spirit to spirit. Although we may not exactly hear words, we can sense in our spirit that God is speaking. Job 33:14 says, “For God does speak–now one way, now another– though no one perceives it.” May our spiritual ears be sensitive to the way God chooses to speak.

In Qualities of a Spiritual Warrior, Graham Cooke has said, “Never allow the noise of your circumstances to drown out the sound of the Spirit.”

God will speak to each of us in the way we are best able to comprehend. God may speak through the beauty of nature or the words of a friend. He may speak through inner feelings, impressions, or experiences. Maybe a verse of scripture or a couple of sentences in a book will jump off the page.

Whatever God chooses to speak, in whatever manner, His message will always align with His character. Psalm 100:5 declares, “the LORD is good.” Graham Cooke had said, “You need to be able to tune out the voices in this world that are not helpful and really tune into the voices that will sustain you on the journey ahead.” There are many voices and variables speaking to our hearts. We must discern what is truth.

Do you have a favorite radio station? Craig von Buseck has suggested that God may have His own radio station called WGOD. He emphasizes that God is always broadcasting. However, we must be aligned with His wavelength. Our ears must be accurately tuned to His frequency to catch the signal. Just as we carefully adjust the radio’s digital dial to the exact frequency to clearly hear a song, we must adjust our spiritual dial to God’s frequency to clearly hear His voice. Are you tuned to the spiritual station where you hear God? He may be telling you that He loves you. Listen carefully! He may be giving you guidance or revelation.

Webster’s Dictionary defines frequency as the number of times any action or occurrence is repeated in a given period. This can refer to the frequency of radio waves. Or, it can refer to the frequency of our moments spent with God. We must frequently listen to His frequency. What good is a radio station if we do not listen to what is being broadcast? What is the value of God speaking if we do not listen and obey His words? Samuel said in I Samuel 3:10, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” God spoke to Samuel – and He still speaks to us today.

In Daily Fire Devotional: 365 Days in God’s Word, Reinhard Bonnke has said that we are conductors of God’s power. Prayer is the way we can connect to the frequency through which God speaks. Bonnke goes on to say that prayer is intended to be the grid system for transmitting the power of God into this powerless world. He points out, “the lower our resistance to the Word of God, the higher our power rating!” The opposite is also true. “The higher our resistance to obedience to the Word, the lower our operational power of God.” Hmmm. This sounds like James 4:6, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.

In Revelation 14:2 John says, “And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. That was God speaking through spiritual wavelengths. Finding the frequency of faith is possible only when we frequently tune our spiritual ears to the correct frequency. We must be ready to frequently hear on God’s frequency.

In his book, Frequency, Robert Morris writes, “We are responsible to steward God’s spoken Word. Those who listen to God – receive His word with humble hearts and act upon it – will hear God again. God will not continue to speak to prideful people or those who do not obey what He has said. God is speaking all the time, but the only ones who hear are those who tune in to the right frequency through humility and obedience.” Luke 11:28 says, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.

My Reader, what is God saying to you? Are your ears tuned to His frequency to receive His spiritual signal? How frequently do you listen to the message coming over His air waves? Remember Hebrews 4:7, Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.

Happy Birthday, USA!

You are invited to a birthday party! It will be a big party. Over 327 million people are invited. July 4 is the birthday of the United States of America. Tomorrow we will be celebrating the birth of our nation. It will be our 243rd birthday!

The birth certificate of the USA is known at the Declaration of Independence. This formal statement was written by Thomas Jefferson. It was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. The original 13 American colonies declared their independence from political ties to Great Britain.

Today, our nation has grown from 13 original colonies to 50 states. We have grown up to be the leading nation of the free world.

Over the years, we have undergone many growing pains. One of the biggest challenges for our nation was the Civil War from April 12, 1861 to April 9. 1865. It was a war within our own country caused by differing views of slavery. Our country was divided into the North and the South during that time. Finally, the war was over and our country was reunited.

As Americans, we recite a Pledge of Allegiance to our flag and country. Through this pledge, we acknowledge our unity as one nation and our dependence upon God and our commitment to liberty.

The pattern for this pledge was originally written by Francis Bellamy in August 1892. After a couple of additions, our pledge affirms the following. “I pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Our country is unique in that we are composed of 50 individual states that have agreed to work together for the betterment of one country. We declare to be indivisible – not able to be separated. I believe this is only possible because we are a nation submitted to God. We are under His guidance and protection. God has blessed our nation and we must continue to rely upon Him for the survival of our nation.

Regardless of our political ideology, we must work together to stay together. We must pray together to stay together. Titus 3:1-2 outlines a positive way that we can work together as a nation. “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.” In I Thessalonians 5:17, we are told to pray without ceasing. This directive can be applied to our prayer responsibility for our nation.

A birth certificate has been written for our nation. However, may there never be a death certificate issued for our nation!

We will probably not sing the traditional “Happy Birthday” melody at our birthday party. However, I believe there is an appropriate song for us to sing. The chorus of God Bless America by Irving Berlin (LINK) is a wonderful song and prayer for our nation.

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

Let’s celebrate our nation’s birthday! Happy Birthday, USA!

God’s Knitting Project

It was morning. Quietness filled the house. I was praying for an individual and a difficult situation she was encountering. My friend had strengths and weaknesses. There were pros and cons regarding her situation. I cried out, “Lord, knit their hearts together.”1

The Lord immediately began showing me mental pictures in my spirit.  I sensed the Lord holding two balls of yarn – one in each hand.2 Each ball was unique. However, God was knitting them together. The knitting needles were the Holy Spirit. Sharp needles were piercing in truth and cutting out lies – like the two-edged sword of the Spirit.3 The colorful yarns were being knit together. A new creation was being made.4 

Sometimes there were knots in the yarn. A weakened thread in one of the yarns could have caused a knot. Or, tension between the two yarns could have created a knotty spot. The knots had to be removed before knitting could continue.  If a person tried to get a knot out with one’s fingers, it was harder to remove than if the Holy Spirit’s needles were used. The pointed end of the knitting needle was like the point of the sword of the Spirit.5 When the sharp needle was poked into the tangled yarn, the knot was removed. It certainly was easier for yarn to become entangled than to get it untangled!6 Human hands could have caused the tangles, but God was the Untangler. The knots had to be untied – set free of entanglements and bondage.7

Knitting and unknotting continued. A new creation was emerging. It was beautiful.8

My day progressed and I tucked away the images of my spiritual knitting project. Later, I heard the word “unraveled” whispered in my spiritual ear. I asked the Lord how this applied to His knitting project. To me, both knots and unraveling appeared to be hindrances to what was being made. What was the difference? God reminded me that the knots were in the individual yarns while unraveling occurred where the yarns were knitted together.

God showed me that yarn unraveled when there was a snag – when it caught on something.9 A snag could be repaired but it involved tedious work. It took time to weave the threads back together.  No new progress was made while the snag was being mended.10 However, once the snag was fixed, the Knitter continued His project.11

That evening, I was reading scripture. I do not think it was just a coincidence that I read Colossians 2:2 NLT,I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself.The New International Version uses “united” rather than “knit together”. Whatever the terminology, love was a secret strand that was integral to the resolution between my friend and her situation. The Holy Spirit was knitting together, uniting, two balls of yarn that were held in God’s hands. Love was a part of the new creation.

God heard and was answering my morning prayer! Through mental images, a whispered word, and His written Word, God showed me He was at work. I have not yet seen the fulfillment of my prayer in the natural realm, but I have been encouraged. We walk by faith, not by sight, so I keep believing and lifting up this individual and her situation in prayer.12

Endnote Scriptural References:
(all scriptures are New International Version unless otherwise noted.)

1. In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. – Psalm 5:3

2. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

3. For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12

4. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! – II Corinthians 5:17

5. the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God – Ephesians 6:17

6. Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us fee, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. – Galatians 5:1 NKJV

7. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:36

8. He has made everything beautiful in its time. – Ecclesiastes 3:11

9. Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. – Galatians 6:1

10. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. – I John 1:9

11. He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:6

12. Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. – Hebrews 11:1 NLT

 

 

Presents of His Presence

Yesterday was Christmas. Most of us gave and received gifts. No longer are there brightly wrapped packages under the tree. All the presents have been exchanged. So, how are you today? Is your heart feeling as empty as it looks under the Christmas tree? Psalm 73:26 says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Material stuff does not satisfy the heart indefinitely. I wonder if we gave and received the most meaningful gift possible yesterday.

John 3:16 says, For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” We may say we give Christmas gifts because God gave. This is good – but do our gifts reflect what God gave? I want to think about this more deeply.

What did God give? He gave His Son. He gave of Himself. He gave Emmanuel – God with us.

What are we to give? We are to give Him. We are to give His presence – not just store presents.

Our goal should be to present (offer) to others the present (gift) of His presence (God with us). God is omnipresent – so He is present everywhere. Jesus assures us in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” However, when there is a manifestation of His presence, there is a greater awareness of His nearness.

We are not required to wrap the present of His presence in holiday paper or put it in a Christmas gift bag. However, we can give this gift in two unique ways.

First, we are actually God’s presents to those around us. Jesus says in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in My name, there am I with them.” Galatians 2:20 NLT says, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” Since Christ lives in us, we share His presence with whomever is in our presence. His presence radiates from within us. The presence of God is often described as His glory. Colossians 1:27 says, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Secondly, our prayers are presents to those for whom we pray. Psalm 145:18 says, “The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.” We give the present of God’s presence when we ask God to intervene in people’s lives. Philippians 4:19 NLT says, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Answers to prayer are provided when the Lord is present. His presence is manifested.

Yesterday we celebrated the birth of Jesus. We recognized the fulfillment of John 1:14 ESV, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Have you received the present of His presence? If not, receive it. Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with Me.” His presence is not a gift you will ever want to return. However, it is a gift you will want to give. Remember, His presence is not a gift you can purchase at a store. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Although it is the day after Christmas, it is not too late to give this present. You can give His presence 365 days of the year.

The present of His presence is amazing! If your heart is discouraged today, unwrap the present of His presence that He offers you. Psalm 16:11 assures us, in Your (God’s) presence is fullness of joy.

The present of His presence is the greatest expression in Emmanuel, God with us. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! II Corinthians 9:15.

 

 

Fall Down or You Will Fall Down

A single little leaf freely fluttered to the ground. I picked it up. It had fallen from a tree. As I examined the leaf, a realization dropped into my mind. Let me share it with you.

Fall down, or you will fall down.”

Let’s explore the meaning of this leaf message together.

The first “fall down” can refer to worship and humility.

Psalm 95:6 says, Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” When we worship God, we lift Him up. We focus upon God – not ourselves. We take a lower position while elevating Him as Lord of all. We surrender to Him as we fall down.

When we give the Lord this place of honor, we allow our lives to be more about Him and less about us. Proverbs 22:4 says, “Humility is the fear of the LORD.” This type of fear refers to a reverential fear or a feeling of awe. This is worship.

I Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.” When we fall down in humility, God picks us up. Isaiah 29:19 tells us, “The humble will increase their joy in the LORD.”

May we follow the example of the angels in Revelation 7:11-12. “All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: ‘Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!’”

We now move to the second “fall down”. In this case, it can be a description of moral descent – falling into sin when yielding to temptation.

Psalm 25:9 says, “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.” Falling before the Lord in humility will keep us from falling into sin.

Matthew 26:41 encourages us to, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Paul says in Ephesians 6:10, “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” Finding strength in the Lord will help us not fall into sin.

I John 2:1 says, My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” The leaf I held in my hand could not be reattached to the tree from which it had fallen. However, if we fall because of sin, there is forgiveness and restoration for us.

Proverbs 18:12 says, “Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.” This verse warns us, “Fall down, or you will fall down.”

Joseph Prince has said, “I am falling out of love with sin and falling in love with God.” He sets an example of how to not fall into sin by falling down in humility.

Philippians 2:9-11 says, “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him (Jesus), and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Paul says in Ephesians 3:14 NLT, “I fall to my knees and pray to the Father.” May we follow Paul’s example and fall in prayer so we do not fall into sin!

ASK!


Ask, and it will be given to you;
seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives,
and he who seeks finds,
and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Matt 7:7-8

While “ask” is the first word this scripture, it is also the acronym for the three verbs:
Ask
Seek
K
nock

There is a corresponding promise for each action:
Ask and receive
Seek and find
Knock and be opened

ASK

When praying, can we ask for anything and get what we want? Can each of us be like a little child and say, “Give me, give me, give me!”? No, more is involved if we are to be confident that we will receive.

In Mark 11:24, Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
We must have faith in God’s ability to answer our request. We must have the kind of faith that trusts God to answer according to the way He sees best.

Jesus goes on to say in John 14:13, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
First, we must ask in the name of Jesus. This involves more than saying “in Jesus’ name.” Joseph Prince emphasizes that when we pray “in Jesus’ name,” we acknowledge that our prayers will be answered because of what Jesus Christ has done for us – not because of who we are or what we have done.
Secondly, our Heavenly Father must be glorified. Ultimately, prayer is about what gives God glory.

SEEK

Seeking is not simply a verbal request. It’s action time. We seek God’s will by searching the scriptures. This helps us find out how to pray.

Luke 8:17 says, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.
There is something to seek. And, there is something to be found. God plays a game of spiritual hide and seek with us. Amazingly, He always lets us find Him.

Matthew 6:33 instructs us to “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Seeking is looking. Looking for God’s kingdom. We are not only to seek health or wealth. We are to seek God’s will. He has a unique plan for each of us. Unless we seek to know His kingdom plan, we may ask incorrectly.

David says in Psalm 27:8, “My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek.
To grow in our relationship with the Lord, we must seek Him rather than just what His hands can do for us.

KNOCK

Knocking is more than tapping on a door. It is a repeated pounding. When we are confident in what we ask and seek, we will knock tenaciously until the Lord answers. Knocking implies that we believe God has better and deeper things yet to be acquired.

In James 1:6 we are told, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt.”
I associate knocking with believing while tapping reflects doubting. Knocking is persistent.

Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
If we have answered Jesus’ knock at our heart’s door. If we have invited Him into our life. Then, He will answer our prayerful knock upon the door of His throne room. Our answer may be just behind a door.

ASK – SEEK – KNOCK

The parable of The Lost Coin in Luke 15:8-10 is a good example of asking, seeking and knocking. The woman knocked on her neighbors’ doors asking them to help her seek her lost coin. Her need, or her prayer, was answered – the lost was found.

Jeremiah 29:12-14 is another inclusive scripture. “Then you will call upon Me (ask) and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search (knock) for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD.”

Thank you, Lord, that we can ask and receive – seek and find – knock and have it opened!