POEMS, PRAYERS & PROMISES

During this week of prayer, we are sharing the writings of two of our precious ladies, Pam Lundy and Nanci Larkin.  Pam has experienced many difficult trials in life, but has used her poetry as a way to express her petitions and praises to the Lord, who has been her constant help.  Nanci shared thoughts at our January prayer breakfast, based on James 5:16.  We are publishing a manuscript of that presentation to encourage you to pray fervently and effectively!

JESUS LEADS THE WAY
by Pam Lundy

Dear Lord, I pray,
That I will walk each day,
With faith, hope and a life that you willed,
For me to be fulfilled.

I love you Jesus,
Through you I have picked up the broken pieces,
Putting one foot in front of the other, going forward,
Filling my heart with joy and never looking backward.

Jesus, lead the way,
Through each new day, I pray,
For strength, understanding and love,
And someday I, too, will be with you in heaven above.

THE FERVENT PRAYER OF A RIGHTEOUS MAN
Presented January, 2020 at SW AG Prayer Breakfast
by Nanci Larkin

 This week has been set aside for prayer and fasting. Today we end our congregational fast, but as Christians, prayer will always continue to be our focus.

My key verse today is James 5:16 (KJV) “The effectual and fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

So, what I have observed from the daily emails with the stated prayer focus for the day is that:
First, the needs are MANY
Second, the needs are BIG: bigger than ourselves.
Third, the needs are desperate.

And finally, You are not alone. There are others to your right and to your left that carry the same prayer burdens you also carry.

So when we look at the key verse  James 5:16 (KJV) “The effectual and fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” And then look at our many, needy, and desperate prayers, let’s ask some tough questions.

There are some here today who have been praying the same prayers for even up to 10 years! Maybe 20 years! And maybe longer, yet they remain unanswered today. (Remember Tomorrow is just a day away so hang on to your prayers).

Very recently as I was praying for the lost, I fell under the weight of the knowledge of the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Genesis 6:5 (NLT) says “The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness…. & He saw that EVERYTHING they thought or imagined was CONSISTENTLY and TOTALLY evil.”

I sobbed in tears most of that night, crying out and asking: Why does He bother with us? Why was He willing to dies for the likes of us? How could He love us in our wicked condition?

Mostly, I am immune to the common sins all around us. They are part of our culture—we get desensitized from advertisements, news articles, TV, and every worldly voice, even our workplace rules of ‘tolerance’. I mean the Bible says to dress modestly and it is incredibly difficult to find modest fashions in our current culture. But I digress.

This night my own heart was full of anger, disgust, and horror at our worldly sins. I wanted judgment and justice to fall on those trapped in these horrible sins—which are so offensive to my Savior. And I was so disappointed and sickened by my own unsaved loved ones trapped in their ugly sins. How could God love them in light of this deep sin? I was having a very hard time with love myself.

But He does love them and scripture says it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4), not the sternness or lectures from Mom and Dad. Though sternness if often a very healthy thing as well.

The discrepancy here is sometimes we cry out for justice and judgment out of our hurt, anger, and our disappointments and God says in Romans 5:8 He died for us in our current, stinking rotten condition! (NIV) “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And He also tells us in Mark 2:17 (NIV) “….

It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

And so we step back, bow our heads and ask Him to teach us to love.

We circle back to our key verse now, “The prayers of a righteous man…” and cry out: O God, am I righteous? Show me my own moral failings!

I am sure you are all familiar with Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the spirit list. It starts with the big bang of LOVE and ends with the grand finale of SELF CONTROL. (ouch).

But if you back up a few verses and read Galatians 5:19-21 you find a different list, the sin list. Discord and envy are just a few, the list is long, take some time to read it—just sayin….. When I got saved, as I read my Bible, I kept finding myself on the wrong list! It took years of fervent prayer for me to slowly change lists. I asked God to move me from one list to the other, and He was faithful to answer my prayers.

But as our Christian walk continues, our moral failings become more subtle. However, God remains faithful and still convicts us and moves us to the right ‘list’, if we cooperate with the Holy Spirit.

We read again: James 5:16 (KJV) “The effectual and fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” And still this congregation has our many, our big, our desperate unanswered prayers, so we ask, “Am I fervent?”

All of our fervency waxes and wanes, it surges, and it rests, it wells up and it ebbs away. Do not despair, my beloved. Do not grow weary. Be encouraged. The LORD inclines His ear to hear you.

So we close with the final phrase of this verse: “Availeth much”. This is not a guarantee God will give us OUR exact answers on OUR timetable according to OUR instructions.

If your unanswered prayer is for yourself, lean in hard to your LORD and ask, “What do You want me to learn from this situation?”

If your unanswered prayer is for another, lean into your LORD and Thank Him for His kindness which is leading your loved one to repentance.

And finally, all of us should ask for increased fervency and perseverance in prayer.

Be encouraged—He may not change the situation exactly to your liking or on your schedule, but I guarantee He WILL CHANGE YOU! And it will be GOOD!

And remember, God does hear your prayers. They remain awake even when you are sleeping. He is not mad at you and delayed answers are not for your harm.

When we get unexpected blessings, we stand amazed and in awe of our most Holy God. When we get unexpected delays, also remain amazed and in awe of our King and Savior.

Be blessed and Keep Praying!

THOUGH SEASONS CHANGE, GOD DOES NOT!

The official start to the fall season began last week. This is my favorite time of the year. It is more than getting a Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks. Summer is too hot, and winter is too cold with the accompaniment of snow. There is something to be said about the cool crisp air throughout the day and the crunching of leaves under my feet. No matter where I have lived there has been a shift in my life. Seasons. As I recall going through various changes, there is a tug at my heart. Some changes for the better, other changes not so much.

“Constant” is a phrase that comes to mind. According to the Google dictionary, constant can be defined as “remaining the same over a period of time.” Immediately, Hebrews chapter 13, verse 8 resonates with me. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”  Jesus Christ is constant. I made prayers as a little boy for Him to order my steps. Now as a grown man I have asked to have boldness and courage to share His unchanging Truth to this hurting world. At all times my prayers were directed to the exact same God.  Did you catch that? EXACT SAME GOD.

This God who answered my prayer and acted on my behalf is an unchanging God who did amazing things back in biblical times. King Hezekiah is a wonderful biblical example; he told his people to keep their faith in God and pray for delivery from their enemy the Assyrians. King Sennacharib led the Assyrians, who wanted to lay siege on the city of Jerusalem. That night an angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers which made the rest of the Assyrian army return home without a fight (2 Kings 19). It can be said that “whenever God’s people follow His plan; He wages war on their behalf” (Sue Schlensman).

To be honest, often times we tend to believe our ways and decisions are better than God’s. Nothing is further than the truth. Situations and unforeseen circumstances can cloud our perspective and judgement. It is important to remember that even when everything around us is unstable; the Creator of Heaven and Earth is the only solid foundation that is trustworthy and unshakeable. What God has done before He can and will do again.  We need to learn how to maintain a fresh perspective by focusing on the eternal and vertical relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ, instead of things in this world that are temporary, which are horizontal. It truly is a blessing to have an active and unchanging God on our side instead of doing life alone. The choice is up to each of us.

HE KNOWS MY WAY

Exodus 13:17-18 Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the land of Egypt.

God had made good His promise to free the Israelites from Egypt. They were leaving the land of bondage behind and well on their way to the Land of Promise. Looking at the map, it would take the Israelites less than two weeks to travel from Egypt to Canaan, but God did not lead them in the shortest route, He led them in the best route. The shortest route would take them through the land of the Philistines, fierce warriors whom the Israelites were not yet prepared to face. With the Egyptian army in pursuit, the shortest route would lead the Israelites into a trap between the Egyptians and Philistines. Instead, God led His people several miles to the east and to the Red Sea where He would decimate the Egyptian army while providing safe passage for the Israelites. Victory over the Philistines would have to wait for another day.

God sees what we do not see and knows what we do not know. For many years I have taken great solace in Psalm 37 “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and He delights in his way” (v.23). If we can trust God to forgive and heal all sin and mistakes of our past, we can trust Him to direct us in our future. Ask the Lord to direct your steps, then trust His decisions.

Let’s sing: “Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand; but I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand.

WAITING SILENTLY FOR THE LORD

Psalm 62:1-2 Truly my soul silently waits for God; from Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.

“Waiting silently for the Lord” elicits an image of a person sitting and listening to soft music, drinking a cup of coffee, unfazed by the storm that rages outside his home.  I can’t help but think of the old song, “We have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll, fastened to the Rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep I the Savior’s love.”

(verses 5-8 ) My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved.  In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.

The psalmist repeated himself, talking of waiting and trusting in the Lord, but elaborates a bit more, describing the Lord as his rock, his salvation, his defense, his glory, his strength his refuge and his GOD.  This brings to mind the old song, “The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide, a shelter in the time of storm…”

Finally, we hear the psalmist admonish us, “Trust in Him at all times, pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.”

 I think I’ll sing a song now.  Feel free to join me:

“I raise a hallelujah, in the presence of my enemies;
I raise a hallelujah, louder than the unbelief.
I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody;
I raise a hallelujah, heaven comes to fight for me.
I’m gonna sing in the middle of the storm,
Louder and louder you’re gonna hear my praises roar…”

THE ROD OF MOSES

The assignment God gave Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3-4) can be summarized in the following:

Release what you have to the Lord and watch what He can do with it.

The story began with an interesting conversation in Exodus 4.  “The Lord said to Moss, ‘What is that in your hand?”  Moses said, ‘A rod.”  And God said, ‘cast it on the ground,’ and it became a serpent” (vv.2-3).  The snake wasn’t the point; God changing the rod was the point.

That rod became a source of great confidence for Moses.  In Exodus 7, Moses instructed Aaron to throw down his rod and it also turned into a snake.  There’s more; with his rod Aaron struck the Nile River and it turned to blood, he stretched out the rod over the land and God sent the plague of frogs, he held his rod out again and God sent the plague of lice.  Later, Moses pointed the rod over the Red Sea and it parted.

The rod is a reminder that God can use something simple to accomplish something amazing.  Need more evidence?  God used a young teen aged boy to kill a military champion with a sling and a stone, God spoke through a donkey to get the attention of Balaam; God amplified the sound of 4 lepers walking to send the Syrian army into panic, and Jesus fed 5,000 men from one sack lunch.

Imagine what God can do with your simple word of encouragement or a small financial gift to a neighbor.  Do you want to do something significant for the Lord?  Start by giving him what you have.

Assignments

Most of us are familiar with the story of Moses at the burning bush. If you would like to review the facts, read Exodus chapters 3 & 4. As we review each part of that experience you will see an overview and an assignment.

As the story unfolds, Moses was tending his sheep as he had every day for 40 years. There is nothing in the Biblical record to show that Moses had any reason to believe that day was going to be different than any other day. Then, suddenly God got his attention with a bush that was burning but not being consumed by the fire. When God got his attention He spoke clearly to him letting him know he was on holy ground. Assignment: describe a time when you felt an overwhelming urge to draw closer to the Lord.

In 3:7-9, God assured Moses He was concerned about the sufferings His people were enduring. Assignment: take a minute to write the name of a person you know who is going through a particularly tough season, especially someone living in the bondage to sin.

In 3:10, God told Moses to go and lead the Israelites out of Egypt. It is not enough for you to just wish your friend had a better life. Assignment: Let your friend know you are praying for them, and share a Biblical promise that will bring them encouragement. Think of a practical way you can help your friend through this tough time.

In 3:13-14, God told Moses the message he was to take to the people in bondage. First, he was to introduce himself as a representative of Almighty God (hint – One with more authority than Pharaoh holding the Israelites captive). Then, tell the people that God has been watching over them whether they realized it or not, and that He had something very exciting in store for them. Assignment: remind yourself that when you work to draw someone closer to the Lord, you are working as an emissary of Almighty God Himself. Then, present that name to the Lord in prayer and boldly claim their spiritual freedom.

In 3:14 through 4:17, God told Moses he was not going into this assignment alone; his brother Aaron would be with him (4:1-17) and more importantly God promised to be with Him (3:12). Assignment: remind yourself that you are not on this assignment alone. God has promised to be with you, and other people are in position to help.

WE LEARN FROM JOSEPH

The story of Joseph is recorded in Genesis 37-50.  As a teenager his brothers mocked his faith and sold him into slavery.  I suspect at some point Joseph may have wished they would have killed him rather than sell him as a slave, thinking in death he would have been put out of misery.  But by being sold as a slave he would awaken each day with the reality he had been rejected by those closest to him – his family.  For years, the last memory he had of his brothers was them ignoring his pleas for mercy.

In the next chapter of his life he worked as a slave in the home of a high ranking Egyptian official, and we can see God’s favor was on him (see Genesis 37:2-5).  His hard work caught the grateful eye of his boss and unfortunately the lustful eye of the man’s wife who repeatedly tried to seduce him.  Realizing she could not lure him to compromise his vales, she accused him of attempted sexual assault.  Her husband, serving as judge and jury, took the words of his unfaithful wife over the words of his loyal servant, and with that Joseph spent over a decade in prison.  If anyone had a “right” to take on the persona of an embittered victim it would be Joseph.  Yet even in prison we see examples of a man whose faith in God remained intact.

At age 30 he was released from prison and immediately elevated to the position equivalent to Vice President of Egypt (see Genesis 41).  In this chapter of his life we see that his faith in God survived the challenge of success and power.  After several years, he passed on a prime opportunity for vengeance against his brothers.  Referring to the time they mocked his faith & sold him into slavery, he told them “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good…” (Gen. 50:21).  Suffering and success revealed the true character of the man.

Perspective has a great deal to do with faith.  Faith can be emotional, but is not an emotion we “work up.”  It is a quiet resolve, a conscious commitment to hold steady when your emotions scream “ENOUGH.”   In the moments and seasons of uncertainty, it is the anchor that holds fast.  It is what drives us to pray for the answer to that same need day after week after month after year.  It is seen in the acrostic F.A.I.T.H. – Father Again I Take Hold of your promise.

 

 

GOD USES BROKEN PEOPLE

If you ever wondered if God can use broken people, consider the story of Jacob in Genesis 27-32.

In his youth, he manipulated his brother, deceived his father and left home without one healthy relationship in his family.  His first encounter with God was as he was fleeing from the anger of his brother hoping to find a refuge with his extended family.  In that encounter (Gen. 28), God spoke to him in a dream, filled his heart with hope with the knowledge God had a plan and purpose for his life.  A lesson we glean from this experience is that God sees something in us when others do not, and He looks past our failed relationships and invites us wonderful relationship with Him.

Jacob’s second encounter with God occurred roughly 20 years later (Gen. 31). Those twenty years were filled with the joy of marriage, starting a family and career.  The problem was his career involved working for his father-in-law who was manipulative to say the least.  Weary of trying to manage that dysfunctional relationship, Jacob gathered his family and possession and set out to return to his homeland.  His father-in-law was in hot pursuit intended to harm Jacob, but before he reached Jacob, God had a private meeting with him and warned him to not harm Jacob.  God took care of Jacob’s accuser without Jacob having to get involved.  A lesson I glean from this experience is that God will go before us and protect us from our spiritual enemy.  None of us know how many spiritual victories have been won on our behalf because Almighty God came to our defense.

Jacob’s third encounter with God occurred a short time later in Genesis 32 as Jacob prepared to face his brother, Esau.  When Jacob last saw Esau twenty years earlier, Esau made it clear he intended to kill him.   Twenty years is plenty of time for resentment and hatred to fester into an out-of-control rage.  It is also plenty of time for an inner work of the Holy Spirit.  The night before the two were to meet, God sent an angel who wrestled with Jacob through the night.  It is ironic that Jacob’s life would be spared from the altercation with his brother because of a wrestling match with an angel.  We get a glimpse into the real heart of Jacob verse 26 when he said to the Lord “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  There you have it.  After a lifetime of wrestling with people, his true heart is exposed; he was a man who simply wanted to be blessed by God.

Each of the three encounters Jacob had with God occurred when he was alone.  They also came at crisis points in his life.  Every person needs their own experience with God, an encounter that serves to define your faith.  It will happen when you get alone with God and surrender your past to His mercy and your future to His grace.

SILENCE IS A CURIOUS THING

SILENCE is ______________________. You might fill in the blank with “golden” (unless you are void of companionship, and you crave conversation.) You might fill in the blank with “deafening” (especially if you’ve extended an invitation that was ignored.) My husband has been known to say, “Silence cannot be misquoted.” He’s correct. But though silence cannot be misquoted, it certainly can be misunderstood.

For example, when Jesus slept in the tempest-tossed boat, the disciples roused him with the urgent question, “Don’t you care if we drown?” Perhaps they were thinking of Jesus’ safety, as in “How can you sleep through this? You’d better wake up and take whatever precaution you can!” More often, we interpret these words in Mark 4 just as they were said, “Don’t you care….?” (v. 38) The disciples wanted Jesus to do something! Reactionaries that they were (Remember the one who sliced off a soldier’s ear in the garden?), they believed this crisis called for action – or at least a show of concern!

Isn’t it interesting that the disciples were disturbed by Jesus’ silence, and then when He did speak, He actually commanded nature to be silent? “Peace! Be still!” is one translation, which reminds us of another scripture where stillness is commanded: “Be still and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10)  In stillness, we often gain confidence that God is working in ways that we cannot see.

At the same time, we learn from Solomon “There is a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7). This wise man said it another way in the Proverbs when he acknowledged that sometimes we need to swallow our response, and other times a swift but thoughtful comeback is required.

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. (Prov. 26:4)
Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. (Prov. 26:5)

Contradictory advice? No. The discerning person knows the difference between stooping to the level of immature, foolish babble and standing up to correct erroneous or untruthful accusations. Jesus illustrated this in Pilate’s judgment hall when He withheld His response to the jeers about His kingship.

Silence is a curious thing – every bit as powerful as words! “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. (Isaiah 30:15)

But it is never wrong to break the silence by giving praise to God!
For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. (Acts 4:20)
My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long. (Psalm 71:8)

It is also never wrong to voice my concern to God. He invites me to do so.
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:8)

Again, “There is a time to be silent and a time to speak.”  May God help us to understand the times!

WALKING HIS WAY

God often orchestrates His plan through “chance” meetings. Genesis 24 contains the heart-warming story of two relatively obscure people who played an important role in fulfilling God’s plan to bless mankind. The backdrop of the story is that Isaac had reached the stage in life when he was ready to marry and start a family. As part of the culture of the day, parents were intricately involved in the process of finding the prospective spouse for their children, but because of his advanced age and declining health, Abraham had to assign that task to another. Take heart those of you age 65 and older who have been advised by our government officials to stay home during the COVID pandemic. As we see in this story, we may be restricted in our ability to move around the community, but God is able to accomplish his plan and purpose regardless of our circumstances.

This story illustrates the truth of Psalm 37:23, “the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” Abraham gave his servant the assignment of finding a wife for Isaac. I suspect Isaac may have had a private conversation with the servant to give him a few things to consider. As the story goes, the servant left with ten camels loaded with treasure that would serve as the dowry for the new wife. Now consider the significance of Abraham entrusting that great amount of wealth and the importance of this mission to the servant.

Reach chapter 24 again and take note how Abraham’s servant met Isaac’s future wife through a “chance meeting.” I am convinced the timing and location of that meeting were orchestrated by God. In the proper course of time, Rebekah became Isaac’s wife and consequently the mother of Jacob / Israel through whom the Messianic line would come. This should encourage each of us that Almighty God is directing our steps to have the conversation with the person who needs the words of encouragement we are prepared to share.

Let’s consider a couple of other important factors. The mission was successful because an obscure servant had already built the trust in Abraham to the point he could be trusted with the resources and assignment. The mission was also successful because of Rebekah. She is described as a virgin which means she had never had sexual relations with any man and had committed herself to a standard of purity. Also, when she met the servant she was busy fulfilling her daily and ordinary routine as a shepherdess. This tells us she was faithful to her responsibilities.

Proving yourself trustworthy, committing to a high moral standard, and faithfully fulfilling the basic responsibilities of every-day life are the keys that open the door of opportunity.