Two Ships

If you were to embark upon a seafaring vessel, would you choose a boat of peace or turmoil? Whether we realize it or not, we each make a choice. As we navigate upon the waters of life, we encounter two ships. We can sail upon a wor-ship or a war ship.

Our vessel of peace is known as worship. The vessel of turmoil is a war ship. I realize I am taking liberties with words. However, I believe God has a message for us through this play on words.

A war ship is waiting at the docks of our lives. There are numerous seafaring battles to fight. In history, we read of many battles fought upon the waters. Ships sinking and the sailors drowning were (and still are) possibilities. As spiritual sailors, we are involved in spiritual warfare. I Peter 5:8-9 tells us, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” Ephesians 6:12 NLT says, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

This results in a violent voyage. However, we can be encouraged by II Chronicles 20:15. “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” Psalm 34:19 says, “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all.” In Ephesians 6:10, we are told to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.

According to II Corinthians 4:8-9, we will encounter times when we are hard pressed on all sides, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. Jesus says in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

It is time for us to embark upon the wor-ship! Psalm 95:6 invites, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” Psalm 96:9 instructs us to, “Worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness; tremble before Him, all the earth.” Psalm 105:1 encourages us to “Give praise to the LORD, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done.” John 4:24 says, “God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Throughout our lives, we will be onboard both ships at various times. Prayer includes praise and petitions. Our prayers will burst with praise when we are on a wor-ship. II Samuel 7:22 says, “How great You are, Sovereign LORD! There is no one like You, and there is no God but You.” However, our prayers will include plenty of petitions when we are on a war ship. Romans 5:20 says that where sin increased, grace increased all the more. That describes a spiritual battle. Prayer is asking God to speak to the chaos of our lives. Prayer fights both outward and inward forces. The fervency of prayer will overcome the ferociousness of the enemy.

We will encounter violent waves of a vicious enemy. Ultimately, however, we will ride upon God’s victorious waves. There will be a tsunami of triumph. I encourage you to read Romans 8:31-39. I highlight a few verses. Verse 31-32 asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, freely give us all things?” Verse 35 asks another question. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? Verses 37-39 answers, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I John 5:4 NLT declares, “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.”

With a renewed fervency of prayer, we will defeat the enemy’s ferociousness. I believe a big wave of revival will soon crash upon our nation. Living water will flow across our land. Isaiah 44:3 promises, “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants.”

We are spiritual sailors upon the seafaring vessels of wor-ship and war ships. Using another another play on words, let me ask a question. Are we embarking upon a seafaring or see-faring vessel? Do we have spiritual eyes with which to see what is happening in the heavenlies? Paul says in Ephesians 1:18, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people.”

When the war ship tries to steer you into tumultuous turmoil, claim Psalm 91. I encourage you to proclaim the complete Psalm but I quote verses 2 and 3. I will say to the LORD, “You are my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler, and from the deadly plague.” The captain of wor-ship is waiting for your arrival. Jesus promises in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

I suggest that wor-ship is the best place to be when we encounter war ships. The best wor-ship is also a war ship because worship is a form of spiritual warfare. Philippians 2:10-11 says, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” This is a picture of the final victory of all worldly battles. There will be no more turbulent seas. In Revelation 4, we find a description of the Throne of Heaven. Verse 6 says, “in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.” Around this sea are four living creatures who worship God saying in verse 10,Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”

In closing, I include a few lines from two current worship songs. The first is Battle Belongs by Paul Wickham. The song begins, “When all I see is the battle You see my victory.” I also like the lyrics, “So when I fight, I’ll fight on my knees with my hands lifted high. Oh God the battle belongs to You.”

The other song is Defender written by Bethel Music vocalist Steffany Gretzinger and recorded by Francesca Battistelli. I highlight the following portion. “You go before I know that You’ve even gone to win my war. Your love becomes my greatest defense. It leads me from the dry wilderness. And all I did was praise. All I did was worship. All I did was bow down, oh All I did was stay still.”

Welcome aboard to the wor-ship!

NEVERTHELESS

This is the third week of our Lenten focus. We continue looking at special events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, death and resurrection. Since entering Jerusalem, Jesus has been busy. First, we watched while He cleansed the temple. Next, we joined Him while He and the disciples shared the Passover meal. (Temple Cleansing Time | An Apple of Gold (wordpress.com)\; Suspicious Characters | An Apple of Gold (wordpress.com) This week, we join Him in a time of prayer.

Jesus took the disciples with Him to the Garden of Gethsemane. He would soon be betrayed by Judas and arrested. But first, Jesus prayed. This is recorded in Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42 and Luke 22:39-46.

I highlight Matthew 26: 30 NKJV. He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” More specifically, I focus on one word Jesus spoke: NEVERTHELESS. Many translations use the phrase “if it be possible.”

Jesus prayed again in verse 42 saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” This time notice the word UNLESS.

In verse 44 it says, “So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.” We do not read, “nevertheless”, “if it be possible” or “unless”, but the idea is reiterated when Matthew writes “saying the same words.”

Three times in 14 verses Jesus stressed the message of NEVERTHELESS. The Spirit Filled Life Bible notes that Jesus was not so much concerned about the physical pain. His dreaded taking on the sins of the world. He was human but He was also holy. Although Jesus did not look forward to dying upon the cross, He surrendered to His Heavenly Father’s will.

In Matthew 6:5-14, Jesus taught His disciples to pray. Verse 10 says “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” This sounds like a NEVERTHELESS phrase.

Listen to Jesus’ words in John 12:27-28 when He explained why He must die. “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name!” Jesus surrendered to the NEVERTHELESS.

Jesus wrestled with the NEVERTHELESS, but prayer sustained Him through the events leading up to and including His crucifixion. His Heavenly Father heard His prayers and strengthened Him. Jesus said in John 5:19, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

I am encouraged by Jesus’ prayer. I can identify with Jesus. Although I have never had to surrender my life, there are numerous times I have had to take a deep breath and change the words I was praying. Many times I find myself telling God what I want Him to do. This is not bad because He already knows my thoughts anyway. However, I must do more than vent my thoughts and feelings. I have to make some adjustments. It is best when I pray, “Nevertheless, God, Your will be done.” God knows the best solution to the things I bring to Him in prayer. God sees the big picture. He knows how to respond so that His greater eternal purposes can be achieved. I must relinquish my will to God’s will. NEVERTHELESS!

Let’s go back to the garden where Jesus was praying. Gethsemane means “oil press.” Jesus probably was surrounded by olive trees while He was praying. There may have been an oil press in the garden where the oil was squeezed out or pressed from olives. The life was about to be squeezed out of Jesus. But oil would be the result. Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit who would be given after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension. Only because Jesus said NEVERTHELESS to His own will and surrendered to the Father’s will are we able to have the Holy Spirit as our Helper today.

We can tell God how we feel and even what we desire. However, we must surrender – we must pray NEVERTHELESS. I encourage you to listen to the prayers you pray during the upcoming weeks of Lent. Let’s learn from Jesus how we should pray.

Joshua, Aaron and Hur as “Pray-ers”

Do you ever get weary while praying? Do you ever just get tired of praying? Although we may be hesitant to admit it, most of us will have to answer positively. Let me share a story about how to overcome the weakness of weariness.

I begin by introducing you to four characters: Joshua, Moses, Aaron and Hur. Joshua was on the battlefield fighting the Amalekites. Moses was on a hill watching the serious skirmish. When Moses raised his hands, Joshua experienced the upper hand in the battle. When Moses’ arms got tired and he put them down, Joshua’s men also got tired and the Amalekites seemed to be more successful. I believe that when Moses had his arms raised, he was praying and praising the Lord. When he put his arms down, he quit praying. While Joshua fought a physical battle, Moses was fighting a spiritual battle.

Aaron and Hur were with Moses. They realized he was tired, so they gave him a rock to sit upon. They also held up Moses’ aching arms. With Arron on one side and Hur on the other, these friends supported Moses’ arms. In other words, I believe they prayed with him. By the end of the day, the Amalekites were defeated by Joshua and his men.

Moses and Joshua had a unique relationship. They worked together as leaders of the Israelites but they were also friends who supported each other. Joshua knew he could rely upon Moses’ prayers before he began fighting the Amalekites.

Aaron and Hur were also friends of Moses. When they saw Moses overcome by weakness and weariness, the came to his aid. Aaron and Hur did more than hold up Moses’ arms. I think they also agreed with him in prayer for Joshua’s victory.

Now, let’s see how we can relate to each character of the story.

JOSHUA:
If you were to find yourself in a Joshua situation, who would pray for you? Who would you allow to hold you up in prayer? Some individuals may be quick to say they will pray for you. However, are you confident they will do it? t could be risky! Joshua trusted Moses.

MOSES:
As a Moses, who do you pray for? Are there a couple of specific Joshuas who have asked for your prayers?

If a friend were in a Joshua type situation, could he/she rely upon you to be their Moses? Are you willing to make this kind of a commitment? You may be willing initially, but what if you forget to pray? You may get tired physically and/or spiritually. Physical fatigue can cause a person to quit praying. After praying for an extended time for a specific situation, a person can also become spiritually weary. Confidence can wane regarding belief for an answer.

AARON AND HUR:
If you are a Moses, who are your Aaron and Hur? Who holds you up in prayer? Are you part of a prayer group that prays not only for others but also for each other?

Envision a prayer meeting. Usually, there is a Moses – a group leader. The rest of the individuals attend the meeting but do not have a specified responsibility. These individuals just show up – the Aarons and Hurs. Are you a dependable Aaron or Hur who takes the commitment to pray seriously? Or, will you skip the meeting if something else comes up? Remember, your part is significant. You might think about coming to the meeting early and setting up the chairs.

Now for the end of the story. Moses’ prayers, supported by Aaron and Hur, were heard. Joshua and his men defeated the Amalekites. However, it was not the characters who won the battle. God did!

God brought the victory!” is the message for us. As intercessors, we are part of God’s army of praying soldiers. He enlists our help to fulfill His plans.

For complete details, you can read this story in Exodus 17:8-16.

My Readers, I would be honored to lift you up in prayer if you are willing to share a need with me. You may be a Joshua fighting battles. I will be glad to be your Moses and hold you up in prayer. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we can be Aaron and Hur to each other.

Hand the Lord Your Load

Do you ever feel like you are carrying a ton of bricks upon your shoulders? Although this may be a downer of a question to begin a blog, my desire is to help lift your weight. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28 NLT, Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.The Lord is willing and able to help us. But, we first have to admit we are experiencing a heaviness.

Recently I have become aware of how heavy my conversations with the Lord can become. Prayer for our president’s health, the upcoming elections, the next supreme court justice, the ongoing pandemic, wildfires, violent protests, equality for all races, respect for law and authority, democracy, freedom of speech and worship, sanctity of life, etc. Then there are personal prayers for family and friends. All legitimate prayer concerns but they can cause a heaviness in one’s spirit. What do you pray about? Our requests may be different but our reliance upon the Lord is the same. God feels our heaviness and hears our prayers.

Let me share how I begin my day with the Lord. Scripture helps me overcome the weariness that I may sense even after a good night’s sleep.

I begin by simply taking time to say “Good Morning, Lord!” It is my personal way of greeting the Lord and inviting Him into my day. Psalm 37:4 NKJV says, “Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.This does not mean that God gives me everything I want. But, He replaces my feelings with His desires. My heaviness becomes a little lighter.

I proclaim Psalm 118:24 NLT, “This is the day the LORD has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” I make a conscious effort to rejoice. Why? Because of the new mercies God extends every day. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “Because of the loving devotion of the LORD we are not consumed, for His mercies never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!God’s mercies are never stale leftovers. God removes another layer of heaviness and replaces it with His mercy.

Psalm 91 has become my declaration for each family member. A heaviness within me is lifted as I am reminded of God’s active place within the lives of our children and grandchildren.

Isaiah 61:1&3 says, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on Me, . . . to console the mourners in Zion— to give them a crown of beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and a garment of praise for a spirit of despair.I remember a chorus we used to sing. “Put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Lift up your voice to God. Praise with the Spirit and with understanding. Oh magnify the Lord!” I can replace any residue of heaviness with praise.

If I am not out of bed yet, the Lord reminds me of Isaiah 60:1. Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.

The Hebrew word for glory is kabod. Kabod describes the weightiness of the splendor of God. The glory of God can be described as the infinite beauty and greatness of God’s manifold perfections. Glory reveals the presence and holiness of God.

Paul says in Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.The heaviness we may feel because of the current situations in our world is an entirely different heaviness that we will experience in God’s presence.

I listened to an online message by Jon Zondervan. He presented a challenge “Be a carrier of God’s glory.” I have accepted his challenge. I choose to carry the weightiness of God’s glory in contrast to the weight of the world’s situation.

My Reader, will you also accept this challenge? I encourage you to lift up your heavy prayer burdens to the Lord. He is able to handle the weight. II Corinthians 4:17 says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Worrier or Warrior

I look at the situations surrounding our personal lives, our nation and our world. I see the COVID-19 pandemic threatening not only our physical health but also our emotional health. I see political motives threatening the accuracy of our upcoming elections. I see organized groups with hidden agendas endangering our democracy and freedom. As an American citizen, I mention what I see happening in our nation. However, I know similar, and even worse, situations exist around the world.

What am I going to do about what I observe? Am I going to focus on these happenings or am I going to focus upon God? There are big problems, but God is bigger! My goal is not to be a persistent worrier but to be a prayer warrior.

I Peter 5:7 NLT instructs us, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.Our human instinct may be to worry. However, our spiritual responsibility is to be a warrior. Luke 21:36 NLT says, “Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.

Worry is a natural tendency. However, Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33-34, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.Jesus also says in John 14:1, Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me.

Jesus asks in Luke 12:25, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” The answer is no one! God does not want us to be persistent worriers. He equips us to be prayer warriors.

II Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV tells us, “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.The turmoil of our world is real but it should not control us.

Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.This verse defines the two sides of the spiritual battles we face. Jesus is the commander of one side of the spiritual battle while satan influences the opposing force. We know God will be victorious, but meanwhile, we engage in spiritual warfare.

When we go into the spiritual war room to pray, we must be clothed with the armor God provides His warriors. Ephesians 6:11-17 describes our spiritual armor. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Notice that Paul urges us to put on the full armor of God – not just 1 or 2 pieces. As intercessors, we need full protection!

Paul continues to say in Ephesians 6:18 NLT, Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Prayer is the battle plan that achieves victory over worry.

What Paul shared with the Romans is relevant for us today. I want to highlight a few verses from Romans 8. In verse 15, Paul writes, “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery that returns you to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father.’” Fear leads to worry. Paul points out that as believers in Christ, we are freed from fear. So, no need to worry. Paul continues in verse 18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not comparable to the glory that will be revealed in us.” Yes, we are encountering sufferings today. But, according to verse 26, the Holy Spirit helps us pray while we are in troublesome times. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words.” Paul asks in verse 35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” He answers in verses 37-39. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I love the fact that as prayer warriors we are more than conquerors!

Apostle Gabriel Cross of Pure Glory International Ministries  shared a post entitled “Conquering Warrior.” He wrote the following.It doesn’t matter what happens to you, what matters is what you do with it. Are you going to bow and succumb TO THE ENEMY’S LIES OF WHO YOU ARE NOT…or are you going to use it as motivation to worship YAHWEH and CONQUER like the WARRIOR THAT YOU ARE?”

My Reader, are you going to be a worrier? Or, are you going to be a warrior who worships and prays?

I Thessalonians 5:17 is a powerful challenge. Various translations give us the same command with different words. Pray without ceasing. Never stop praying. Pray continually. May this verse be a life goal for us as prayer warriors.

May Romans 12:12 NLT be the spiritual strategy for our personal lives, our nation and our world. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.