You Will See Me

“Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me.” John 14:19

Do you see Jesus, beloved? According to Jesus’ own words, that’s one of the rights and privileges of being His disciple. While the world cannot see Him, His followers can.

Perhaps that statement causes your eyebrows to rise in disbelief. Seeing Jesus was a blessing reserved for those who lived in His day, before He returned to the Father, right? How can we see Jesus? Yet before He left, He told His Disciples, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me.” John 14:18-19

I will admit to you that for many years I didn’t see Jesus. I went to church. I had memorized Scripture. I had followed someone through the recital of the “sinner’s prayer” and had asked Jesus to be my Savior, but I couldn’t see any evidence of Jesus at work in my life. It left me doubting my salvation and wondering if He was even real.

Can you relate to my experience? Do you see Jesus at work in and around you? Or are you left trusting that Jesus exists only because you’ve heard stories of how others have experienced Him? Are you secretly longing to have your own stories to share?

You, dear one, are meant to witness Jesus revealed in your life. That blessing is available to you by the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus sent. Consider Jesus’ words from Luke 4:18.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.”

Jesus came to set the oppressed free and restore sight to the blind. His promise wasn’t only for those suffering the limitations of physical blindness. Jesus speaks that promise to you and me. The gift of the Spirit He sent us after His death and resurrection restores our spiritual sight.

How can you experience the revelation of Jesus in your life? Let’s see what Jesus had to say about it.

“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” John 14:21

Did you see His promise, dear one? Jesus claims He will love and reveal Himself to a very distinct group. He will show Himself to those who love Him.

Seeing Jesus isn’t about how often we go to church or how much Scripture we know. Seeing Jesus at work relates directly to the condition of our hearts.

If you want to see Jesus, He simply requires that you love Him. That was the part I missed all those years. All the ritual of religion couldn’t open my eyes to see what I desperately needed. I had to open my heart to Him. I had to love Him. And I had to demonstrate that love by walking in obedience to His commands as He led me.

Here’s the great news. Ezekiel 36:26-27 teaches,

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

The ability to love and obey Jesus has been given to you by the Spirit Jesus sent. You need only ask Him to empower you to love Jesus as He deserves. The Spirit within you will “circumcise your heart” to love Him (Deuteronomy 30:6). And as you draw on His strength and submit to His authority, He will “move you to follow” His commands. As you follow Jesus through loving obedience, you will see Him revealed in your life.

Don’t settle for someone else’s experience of Jesus. Perhaps it’s time you had your own.

 

The Greater Gift

 

“But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” John 16:7

Jesus made a profound statement to His confused followers while preparing them for His departure. He told them that He was leaving them for their own good.

Can you imagine their disbelief as they listened to Jesus—the promised Messiah they had waited centuries for—tell them He was leaving them again? They had just gotten started! And to top it off, He said that His departure was for them!

I imagine you and I would have been right where the disciples were: dumbfounded. In fact I know we would be, because we still continue to argue with God’s plan just like they did. We grumble that the disciples had it so much easier than we do. After all, they could see Jesus and touch Him. They were eye witnesses to His miracles! We reason that we can’t be expected to impact the world like they did because their faith grew out of what they saw. We’re simply asked to believe in the unseen.

I suppose it’s a reasonable argument when we consider those facts. Our problem is that we neglect to contemplate all of them.

Let’s consider these Disciples, ordinary men who enjoyed the enviable privilege of ministering along-side Jesus and seeing Him face to face.  

  •          They spent time daily in Jesus’ presence.
  •          They were taught Scripture by the Son of God Himself.
  •          They witnessed miracle after miracle and even performed miracles themselves by His power.

And yet, when an angry mob came to arrest Jesus, “all the disciples deserted him and fled” (Matthew 26:56). Even with all of those things going for them—things we wish we had—when they were faced with something they didn’t understand, all of them turned their backs on the Messiah they claimed they would never deny.

Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you I never will.” Matthew 26:33

We know how that turned out. Peter, so certain that Jesus was the promised Messiah and that he would never disown Him (even if he had to die with Him, verse 35), denied that he even knew Jesus on the night of His trial. Not once, but three times.

The original Disciples had everything we claim we need, and still, they couldn’t stand up against their unseen enemy. Standing side by side with Jesus on this earth didn’t empower them for victory. When push came to shove, they deserted and denied Him.

Do you know what they lacked, dear one? The one precious gift that we have been given.  

“But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” John 16:7

According to Jesus’ own words, we have the greater gift. His death and subsequent return to the Father released the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to all who put their faith in Jesus Christ. He has sent us the Counselor to guide us into God’s will and empower us for victory.

Jesus walked beside the Disciples; the Spirit dwells within us. People had to fight through the crowds to get near to Jesus; the Spirit is accessible everywhere and at all times. Jesus taught them from the outside; the Spirit teaches and transforms us from within.

What if we decided to actually believe that Jesus’ words to us are true? What if we chose to quit complaining about what we didn’t get to experience with Jesus and start taking hold of what we have available to us in the Spirit He sent us?

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

It wasn’t the fact that they had Jesus for a teacher that ignited the Disciples to risk their lives to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. They stumbled and fell like the rest of us until they received Jesus’ gift. But after He sent them the Holy Spirit, they were empowered to become what they could never be no matter how much time they had spent listening at Jesus’ feet. Steadfast . . . victorious . . . changed.

Let’s spend the next few weeks getting to know the Spirit Jesus sent us. After all, Jesus claimed He was sending Him for our good. Perhaps it’s time we discovered just how good.

Joy in Times of Trouble

 

Today I’m excited to introduce you to my dear friend and right hand in ministry, Juliet Sharrow. Juliet has faced difficulties in her life that would break many people, and yet one word comes to mind when I think of this sister: joy. The smile that illuminates her face and shines through her eyes bears witness to the all-powerful, transforming life that is found in Jesus. Juliet shared at a women’s event at our church recently, and today she shares some of those thoughts with you. May her words provide hope as you face your own difficulty. Be blessed, dear one.

 

Joy in Times of Trouble

By Juliet Sharrow

Does trouble seem to FIND you? Do you feel like you can't avoid it no matter how hard you try?

I think it's safe to say we've all been in situations that have caused us distress or pain.  We've all had difficulty.

Maybe you can relate to some of mine. I was rejected by my biological father and unloved by my adoptive father.  I suffered physical abuse in a bad relationship and became a mother to a child with special needs. I’ve battled depression forever and have even attempted suicide. We struggled financially for years after my husband and I both lost our jobs… The list goes on.

For years I felt like my life was one painful event after another, like I must be doing something wrong or I was being punished. So, I decided to see what the Bible had to say about trouble.

You know what I found?  In John 16:33 it says…

"In this world you will have trouble."

This is Jesus speaking, saying that we will have trouble—not that we might, but that we will!  Wow. That hit home.  Instead of seeing all my trials as punishment, I realized they are a normal part of life!

Then I read 2 Corinthians 4:17.

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."

Well, I don't know about you, but my troubles have never seemed light and momentary to me!

But what if we allowed God to change our perspective? If we could see our suffering from His view point—in light of eternity—we would see how truly small and insignificant they are.   

Try to think of the biggest problem you had when you were 18.  Can you even remember what it was?  Do you remember the outcome?  As you look back, most of what you perceived as unbearable trouble has likely faded from your memory.  And 20 years from now, many of the problems you face today will long be forgotten. 

2 Corinthians 4:18 gives us a key to help keep our perspective.

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is Temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Through most of my hardships, I was fixing my eyes on what is temporary and seen: the problem itself.  Despair often overwhelmed me and I felt emptied of hope.

I should have been fixing them on the eternal—the unseen—Christ himself. When we shift our eyes from the trouble and instead focus on Jesus, He will change our perspective and revive our souls.

You can't let your troubles define you or dictate your expectations of what lies ahead. You have to stop focusing on your problems and instead concentrate on Jesus.

Through all of this, I’ve learned that I am not meant to have peace and joy apart from troubles and trials. However, I can experience joy and peace in the midst of them.

As I focus on Jesus and spend time in His presence, He reminds me that He is in control. He’s on top of the situation, so I don't have to be, and that fills me with peace.  Then as His peace settles on me, I feel joy overflow from the knowledge that I don't have to do anything but focus on Him. It’s His job to do the rest!

What are you going to do with your trouble? Will you allow Him to use the trouble that comes your way to mold you into the person He created you to be, or will you let it make you bitter? Will you cling to your suffering and wear it as a badge of honor, or will you cling to Jesus?  Will you allow Him to use your pain for His glory? Will you be thankful, even in this, knowing He’s working glory in you? 

I know this is hard when you’re in the midst of suffering, but Jesus gave us another promise in John 16:33, ". . . take heart! I have overcome the world."

Jesus has overcome the world, so you don't have to.  You just need to keep your focus on Him no matter what and allow Him to triumph over your mess.

And, you can rest in knowing the best part of your life lies ahead, stored up for you in heaven, awaiting your arrival. Let this hope give you courage to keep holding your head high as you endure suffering and sorrow in this life.

"For blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God promised.” James 1:12

Did you get that? We are blessed when we persevere.  We are meant to stand the test and receive crowns in Heaven for our perseverance. That represents our eternal reward!

One of my favorite verses in the Bible contains a promise that I cling to during difficult times.

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4

I await the day when there will be no more crying or pain, but until then, I want to glorify my God in the midst of trouble.  I want to have joy in the suffering.  I want to be thankful for the trials.  And I want to persevere so I can claim my eternal reward!

The Way of Death

 

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12

Logic. It’s one of our worst enemies—at least it’s one of mine. I’ve always been a person who needs to understand things. It helped me in school and produced straight A’s on my report cards, but it often works against me when I need to trust. My analytical mind sets to work and robs me of peace.

Can you relate? Have you ever tossed and turned in the night working through all angles of a scenario, looking for that light bulb moment when it all becomes clear? If we can just figure it out, we can fix it, or at least we’ll be able to rest.

That might be true in the world, but that doesn’t apply to God’s agenda. Isaiah 55:9 explains why.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

God’s thoughts and ways are beyond our ability to understand. If we spend our time trying to, we’ll end up frustrated. There’s only so high our thoughts can ascend. Once we reach that plateau, we’re left with trusting the unseen as our only recourse, and most of us aren’t very comfortable there. We don’t like that dark area where we can’t understand or make sense of our circumstances. Logic tells us things shouldn’t be happening this way, so we find ourselves robbed of peace.

Oddly, we pursue logic in search of that elusive peace, but we won’t find it there. Consider our opening Scripture,

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”

Death, not peace, lies at the end of the road traveled by logic. In God’s economy, logic is our enemy, not our friend. The way that seems right to us is often the path that leads to destruction. How do we escape it? We need to allow God to renew our minds. Praise Jesus that through salvation, “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Dear one, peace comes when we learn to release what we don’t understand and trust what we know of God. What do we know of Him?

  • He’s good. “may your saints rejoice in your goodness.” 2 Chronicles 6:41
  • He’s loving. “He is my loving God and my fortress.”  Psalm 144:2
  • He’s for us. I know the plans I have for you . . . to prosper you.” Jeremiah 29:11

Here’s the best part.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”1 Corinthians 2:9

If you can think it, you’re limiting what God wants to do for you.

Ask God to let that settle on you . . . Give it a moment to really sink in. The best plan that you could come up with for yourself—your best case scenario— is less than what God desires to do for you.

Beloved, if God gave you the desire of your heart in the way you think He should do it, He would be robbing you of a blessing.

Your God loves you too much to allow you to settle for less than. He wants to give you it all.

So the next time you find yourself stumbling in the darkness, try practicing gratitude. Know that the blackness you see is merely the result of your limited ability to understand, but there is something waiting for you just beyond the horizon. Something you can’t yet see. Something wonderful. Something perfect for you.

Don’t let logic rob you of your blessing. When His blessing for you finally does come, it will likely bring you to your knees, overcome with gratitude, because it has blown your mind. But of course it has. It was designed for you by the One who made you. He alone knows what you really need.

City on a Hill

 

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14

Do you ever struggle with how you’re supposed to shine the light of Jesus when we’re surrounded by so much darkness? Jesus compares our light to the penetrating glow of a city! How can we possibly shine with that kind of strength?

One thing is certain; we can’t do it alone. But then again, we weren’t meant to.

I remember as a child in Sunday school joining with the other children to sing a favorite song, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.” As we belted out the words in unison, we would point our fingers toward the sky and boldly declare that we’d never allow our light to stop shining. Together we would radiate Jesus like a city on a hill until His return.

I meant those words when I sang them; I’m pretty confident most of us did. But something happened between my own grand declaration and my reality. My light never turned on. My problem was not so much that I allowed my light to become hidden or blown out by Satan as the song suggested. My issue was that I never actually let Jesus ignite the flame.

When we put our faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior and receive the gift of His Spirit, we receive all the potential we need to shine brightly. Jesus said in John 8: 12:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Did you notice the one action required of you in that verse? Your job is to follow Jesus. He is the light itself. In order to possess that light and illuminate the darkness, we must choose to follow Him.

I used to think it was my job to produce the light. I thought that by trying to live according to God’s ways and by doing good things, I could make the light shine. What I didn’t understand is this:  If I could do that, I wouldn’t need Jesus.  

Let’s discover together how to let Jesus shine. Consider the words of Isaiah 58:6-8.

 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice 
   and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free 
   and break every yoke

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— 
when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear . . .” 

Verse 8 announces the promise of what we seek: your light will break forth like the dawn! The Scriptures leading up to it reveal our path to get there: freedom from chains and oppression, followed by loving the world through good works.

Dear one, Jesus came to set captives free (Isaiah 61:1). Our freedom from bondage to sin plays an integral role in whether Christ’s light will burst forth from our lives to illuminate the darkness. Yet we often ignore that part of the equation. We overlook the biblical call to freedom and go straight to producing works for the kingdom. Good works, after all are tangible—something we can control and manage ourselves.

Yet in this passage, the loosing of chains and freedom from oppression precede our call to produce good works.  Why do you think that is? Perhaps because true spiritual freedom can only be reached through Jesus. (“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36) Anyone can produce works, but an atheist who helps stock a food pantry or donates clothing to a shelter isn’t shining Christ’s light; he’s demonstrating self-righteousness.

Release from our bondage to sin is the only way to allow Christ’s light to truly shine. When we daily choose to follow Jesus and submit ourselves to the authority of His Spirit, He frees us from the sin that has held us captive. As He releases our hearts from bondage, we are free to love with His love. And as He prompts us to serve others from a pure heart, we begin to shine with the glory of the Lord.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 3:17-18

When we become Christ’s light instead of trying to reproduce it ourselves, His glory cannot be concealed. And another beautiful miracle occurs among the hearts of believers who have been set free. Jesus said,

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.”

John 17:22

Like a city on a hill, our individual lights shine as one, unhindered by selfish chains. And we, His church, pierce the darkness with glory.

 

The Son Rises

 

 “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. 
See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, 
but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.”

Isaiah 60:1-2

Have you ever had the joy of watching the sunrise? Of witnessing light splitting the darkness on the horizon?

I’ll admit that until recently, I’ve never been much of a morning person. Opening my eyes to welcome the day while darkness still blankets the earth never offered much appeal to me. I’d much rather wait until the sun is shining. Somehow, rising to the bright radiance of its warmth seems much more inviting.

But on a few occasions when I have allowed the Lord to draw me out of bed before the sun made its entrance, I was greeted with a spectacular sight. My willingness to rise in answer to the Lord’s invitation made me privy to a special blessing: I witnessed the waking of the earth.

Have you had the privilege, dear one? Have you observed the glorious transition from night to day as the sun draws back the heavy curtain of darkness? It’s wondrous to see. Anticipation stirs the heart, kindled by a hazy glow forming on the horizon to announce the sun’s ascent. Then light begins to pierce the blackness, illuminating the earth with shades of yellow, orange and gold. After washing creation in a glorious array of color, the sun takes its place in the sky.

Beloved, we miss the glory of the sunrise when we refuse to awaken while the sky remains dark. And yet, that’s often what we choose. We’d much rather pull up the covers and settle back into sleep, waiting out the cold blackness that lingers before the dawn. We decide that we’ll rise from our slumber when it’s a bit more comfortable out there.

We often take that approach as believers in this dark world. The evil that we see penetrating the earth makes us want to wrap a cozy blanket around us and just sleep through it. We’ll get up and stand for Jesus when circumstances are a bit more agreeable. Yes, we’ll wait for His light to rise and shine brightly, and then we’ll emerge from our slumber to bask in its warm glow.

There’s one problem with that line of thinking.

“You are the light of the world.” Matthew 5:14

If we do not rise to bear witness to the glory of our Lord, the world will remain in darkness.

Take a moment to revisit our opening Scripture for today. Christ’s glory is rising. The hazy glow forms even now on the horizon. Can you sense it? For that glow to pierce the darkness and fully illuminate the sky, you must do your part. Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).

It’s time to awaken from our slumber. Sure, we can remain in our cozy beds and wait for someone else to step up. We can let someone else experience the heavenly glory of the “Son rise” as it unfolds and continue on with sleeping. But we will miss the blessing of witnessing His revelation, and our complacency will only prolong His coming.

“What kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” 2 Peter 3:11-12

Let’s answer Jesus’ call to shine His light and usher in a new day. He’s poised and ready to reveal His glory. Will you allow Him to do it through you? 

Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. 
Put on your garments of splendor . . .
Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, O Jerusalem. 
Free yourself from the chains on your neck, O captive Daughter of Zion.

Isaiah 52:1-2

Overflowing with Thankfulness

 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

Difficulties have a way of swallowing us whole. They start consuming us bit by bit, and before we know it, we’re all in, struggling to come up for air. It’s in those moments that we tend to call on God.

Have you been there? Consumed by your circumstance, unsure of how you’ll ever get out of this one? You cry for help, desperation sending you to your knees. God is your last resort. Anxiety rules your heart instead of peace. Overwhelmed by your need, you can find nothing to be grateful for.

And that, dear one, fuels the problem. Gratitude holds the key to your release.

Look back at our opening Scripture. In Philippians 4:6, Paul calls us to pray—for everything. But he doesn’t just tell us to present our requests to God. He instructs us to do it “with thanksgiving.”

What does thanksgiving have to do with the power of our prayers? Thanksgiving recognizes the goodness of God, increasing your awareness of what God has already done for you. As you remind yourself of God’s faithfulness, your faith for your current circumstance will increase.

Repeatedly throughout Scripture, the Israelites were commanded to remember what God had already done for them. They would draw on the faith that remembering would produce to believe for their present situation.

  • When facing battle to secure the land God had ordained for them, God instructed: “But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt.” Deuteronomy 7:18
  • Again, in 1 Chronicles 16:11-12, the people were instructed to Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced.”
  • And in Psalm 42:6 David writes, “My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.”

Even David, the King after God’s own heart, struggled with a downcast soul. And He knew there was one way out—remembering what God had already done. No wonder Scripture teaches we should be “overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:7).

When we offer gratitude to the Lord in the midst of our need, we change our focus. Instead of our thoughts resting on our need or negative circumstance, our thoughts now dwell on the goodness of God. And when your thoughts dwell on Him, you open yourself to hear from Him. Beloved, God can only lead you to victory when you’re listening.

Gratitude changes your perspective. Your gaze shifts from the enormity of your problem to your much greater God. From that view, your problem appears smaller. God gets bigger, and your heart begins to change.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. Philippians 4:7

Peace comes with God’s presence. So does God’s power. Run to Him with your burden, and allow the Spirit to shift your thoughts away from your struggle. Release it to the Lord, and offer God gratitude for His faithfulness. Then expect to see Him move.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2

Sounds like advice worth following. 

 

Free to Receive

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12

You deserve to be angry. It wasn’t fair, and it certainly wasn’t right. God would see it your way. He’d agree. It shouldn’t have happened to you. No, there’s no way you can let this one go.

I imagine those thoughts are familiar to you. I’ve had them. I’m sure you have too. Hurts, betrayals, and unfair treatment send us reeling. At our core, we want someone to pay. We need someone to pay . . . or at the very least, be sorry.

We often wear our need for others to repent and make things right like chains. We carry our resentment with us. It hangs on us, clinging to us like a net, and everything we do and say must get filtered through its tangled layers. Even the prayers we lift to the Father.

We’ve spent the last few weeks considering prayer together, exploring its purpose and looking at how we can pray with a power that opens the heavens. Today, we take a peek at a destructive force that hinders them.

As Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He included Matthew 6:12 in His model:

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

If you’re like me, perhaps the verse is so familiar to you that you may have missed its significance. Have you ever really thought about what Jesus is saying with those words? His plea for God’s forgiveness is attached to a clause, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Jesus asked God to forgive us in the same way that we have forgiven others who have hurt us.

Think about that for a minute. If we seek God’s forgiveness in the same way that we forgive others, what will happen when we refuse to forgive and harbor bitterness and resentment in our hearts? I’ll let Jesus answer that for you.

"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

Matthew 6:14-15

Dear one, there isn’t anything we need in this life more than God’s forgiveness. Forgiveness secures our release from sin and opens our access to have intimate relationship with our heavenly Father. We receive God’s forgiveness the moment we repent of our sin and put our faith in His Son, Jesus. Praise His Name, Jesus took all of our sin upon Himself so we could be free!

And yet, we still sin. Here’s the good news: we can never sin our way out of our salvation. But sin that we carry with us and refuse to repent of will hinder our relationship with God, removing us from His favor and blessing. In fact, harboring sin in our hearts causes God’s ear to close to the prayers we lift in our need.

“Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” Isaiah 59:1-2

Verse one assures us that God is mighty and able to rescue us! He is also able to hear us when we cry out to Him in our need. Our sins, however, separate us from the intimacy we should enjoy with God and turn His ear away from us. If we want God to hear and answer our prayers, we need an open channel. Sincerely confessing our sin ushers in God’s forgiveness. With forgiveness comes His power. Consider 1 John 1:9.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.for”

Praise Jesus, God is faithful to forgive! The question before us is this:  Are we?

When we refuse to forgive, we sin against God. We tell Him we don’t trust Him as the Righteous Judge and we’ve decided we should handle it. Our stubborn refusal to release the wrongs done to us pushes God away and invites the enemy of our souls to wreak a little havoc. Not only will harboring bitterness keep God at a distance, but it will keep you bound in your own chains. You will be forgiven as you also forgive.

Has resentment left its chains on you? Ask God to work forgiveness in your heart. It doesn’t let anyone else off the hook. Just you. And as you forgive, you allow God’s forgiveness to penetrate your own soul, releasing you of burdens you weren’t designed to carry. That freedom will leave the channel between you and God open, creating an unobstructed doorway for your prayers to not only rise to His throne, but for His answers to come down.

Forgive, dear one, and be free to receive.

The Beauty of Intercession

 

“. . . He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 7:25

Jesus lives. What a profoundly glorious thought! Our Lord and King did not remain in the grave He visited for us. Instead, He rose, conquering its power and making His victory available to us. One of the ways we access that victory is through prayer, petitioning Jesus to help us in our need. And now, Scripture promises that He is able to save us completely, because He lives to intercede for us.

Have you let that thought settle on you? Jesus’ current, active role is to intercede . . . for you. Romans 8:34 agrees that Jesus, “is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” What does that mean? Dictionary.com defines intercede this way: “to act or interpose in behalf of someone in difficulty or trouble, as by pleading or petition.” Jesus acts on your behalf by what He speaks.

Do you face difficulty, dear one? Is trouble crushing you under the burden of its weight? Consider Jesus’ promise to you in John 16:33:

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Trouble finds all of us. Because sin exists in this world, it’s impossible for us to live out our days without experiencing difficulty. And the reality is, when trouble hits us, it often defeats us. It robs our hope. It breeds fear and anxiety. It causes us to run. But not Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t waver in the presence of trouble. No. In the presence of Jesus, trouble must bow its knee.

Do you believe that Jesus has conquered even your difficulty? Be encouraged and take heart. Why? Because Jesus has overcome! And now, according to Hebrews 7:25, Jesus lives to intercede on your behalf. What’s more, as your intercessor, He is able to save completely!

So, how does the Overcomer intercede for us in our circumstances? Through prayer!

Last week we learned that prayer is the conduit that releases God’s blessing and power into our lives. Although we often use it as the means to try to get God to do what we want, God actually moves in answer to prayers that align with His plans and purpose. For us to release His power into our circumstance, we must pray according to His will (Matthew 6:10, 1 John 5:14-15).

How can we know how to pray in line with God’s desires? We allow our intercessor—the One who knows exactly what we need and who provides the power to overcome—to lead us in prayer.

Jesus has given us a tremendous gift to help us in our need. While He intercedes at God’s right hand, the Spirit He sent us is hard at work within us. Celebrate the promise of Romans 8:26-27.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

So often when circumstances and pain overwhelm us, we don’t even know how to pray. In those moments of weakness, God’s precious Spirit within us cries out on our behalf in compliance with God’s will. And when we ask anything according to God’s will, He hears, and “we know that we have what we’ve asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15).

One of the primary roles of the Holy Spirit is to lead us to pray according to God’s will, but He Himself is led by another source. Consider Jesus’ words surrounding the sending of the Holy Spirit:

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” John 16:13-14

Do you see it, dear one? Jesus sits at the right hand of God so that He can intercede on our behalf. As God speaks His will to His Son, the Son reveals the Father’s will to the Spirit. The Spirit then brings glory to Jesus by, “taking from what is [His] and making it known to you.”

The most important thing we can do in prayer is to quiet ourselves before the Lord. We spend so much time telling God what we need, but we rarely stop to listen. Listening, beloved, is where prayer’s power is found. Allow Jesus to whisper the Father’s will into your heart through the Spirit. As you partake in the mind of Christ and follow His leading to pray His own words back to Him, the gates of heaven will open in answer to the speaking of God’s will. That, dear one, is how we pray “in Jesus’ Name.”  

“so is my word that goes out from my mouth: 
   It will not return to me empty, 
but will accomplish what I desire 
   and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

Isaiah 55:11

Opening the Gift of Prayer

 

“. . . your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”     Matthew 6:10

We often approach God in prayer like He’s a magic genie in a lamp. If we speak our request and rub Him right, we’ll soon have what we asked!

Unfortunately, the results often disappoint us. We earnestly go before the throne to tell God what we need from Him, and His silence leaves us doubting the power of this God who apparently has better things to do than answer.

Can you relate? Do you faithfully bring your requests before God in anticipation of His desire to help you? Do you find that He regularly answers you in tangible ways? Or have you found yourself frustrated and doubting whether prayer has any real power at all?

Dear one, our Creator God invites us to touch the realms of heaven with our needs and requests, and He delights in revealing Himself through His answers!

Scripture is full of promises regarding prayer, but many times we struggle due to our interpretation of them. One of those promises is found in Matthew 21:22:

Jesus said, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

We often interpret this verse to say that if we can just muster up enough faith, God will give us whatever we ask for. Then when we don’t see the answer we prayed for, we assume our faith must not have been strong enough. Yet Jesus taught that we only need faith as small as a mustard seed to move a mountain! (Matthew 17:20)

Jesus offers this teaching about prayer in John 16:24:

Jesus said, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”

Here Scripture teaches that we will receive from God when we ask in the name of Jesus. Great! In answer to this, we decide that we will simply end all of our prayers with the words, “In Jesus name, Amen.” That should get God moving.

Dear one, seeing God answer our prayers isn’t the result of having the right formula or the right amount of faith. It comes from having a right heart.

Let’s review our opening verse for today. In Jesus’ model for prayer, before He ever asked God to meet a single need, He prayed, “. . . your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).  

My friend, prayer is not about making God bring about our will on this earth. Prayer is the conduit that releases God’s will upon the earth. Our prayers, when uttered in compliance with His perfect purpose, dispense the blessing and power of God into the lives of individuals.

Consider 1 John 5:14:

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

When we utter prayers that are aligned with His perfect will, Scripture promises that God hears us. Even more beautiful is the promise found in verse 15.

“And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

The key to unlocking the mystery of powerful prayer is to align ourselves with God’s will. Instead of insisting on telling God how He should answer our need, we must approach Him with a humble heart that’s willing to move where He leads.

Yes, God invites us to ask big things of Him. He loves when we offer specific needs and ask Him to reveal Himself by meeting them. But we must remember that God’s desire isn’t just to make us happy. He desires to provide His very best for us.

Let’s release the genie from the lamp and let God be God. Let’s give Him permission to answer our prayers in the way that He chooses, even if it might be different from what we think we need. As we approach Him in faith, believing that God is able to meet our need, can we also open our hearts to trust Him for His answer?

You needn’t fear His will for you.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Let’s boldly approach the throne to ask big things of God. But as we do, let’s leave our hearts open to receive His will for us instead. After all, it may just be better.