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Prayer, Is it all we can do?

This is the post excerpt.

We have all been in situations where we’ve exhausted every avenue to change the outcome or redirect the path. Most of the time it’s primarily in our own strength. We may have even watched someone we love struggle endlessly, despite our best efforts to help. Over time, our hope diminishes and many times lives begin to fracture. It’s at those times we find ourselves feeling at the end of the rope. 0e6293129_1496960861_vtcbruwonqo-ben-white-973x650.jpgThen, out of sheer weariness and desperation we often find ourselves saying, “all I can do now is pray.”

Why do we seek God’s hand through prayer more often when things start to spin out of control? And more so, why do we tend to see prayer as the eventual answer to our dilemma and not our first approach? It’s as if we say, “okay God, I’ve done all I can do, now it’s your turn.”

I can remember a season in my life when circumstances seemed to have no real glimmer of hope. I had tried everything in my power to change the situation but things seemed to remain the same. Over time, weariness and defeat set in. I was talking with a dear sweet woman I had met several years ago at a women’s event. As I was sharing some of the details of the situation, I have to admit that I found myself closing the conversation with, “well, all I can do is pray.” This sweet woman grabbed my hands, looked me in the eyes and said, “honey, prayer is not the only thing you can do, it’s everything you can do!”

How I needed to hear those words! Prayer is everything we can do! I need for you to hear it again, “prayer is everything I can do, and prayer is everything you can do!” It’s not our last resort, it’s our first line of defense. Doesn’t that excite you? It does me. Prayer is our lifeline with the One who knows everything we are going through and knows exactly how it will all play out. Prayer should be our special time with alone with God. A time where the Holy Spirit ministers to us in a way that no one or anything else can. Scripture tells us that we are to pray for all things and believe God for every outcome. We don’t have to understand why things work out the way they do, that’s up to God. We do have to trust and have faith that His ways are better than our ways and He is always working things out for the good.

The next time you find yourself or someone you love in a season of trials, make sure you have the attitude that “prayer is everything you can do!” This posture of prayer will change the way you look at the power of prayer, and intensify your relationship with Jesus. What a blessing that prayer IS everything we can do!

Father, thank you that you hear our prayers. Thank you, Jesus, that you don’t tell us to go figure things on our own and then come to you when we have nothing left. We ask Your forgiveness for the times that we do that very thing. Help us to be mindful that You allow us, and bid us to come sit and talk with You so that You might be glorified in all of our circumstances.

“I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.” Psalm 17:6

Additional reading – Mark 11:24, Romans 8:28-29, John 15:4

Denise Matthews © 2017

A Midlife Degree

As a woman in her fifties, this whole “I’m starting seminary” thing is a sheer faith walk. As a recent graduate of a university, I told myself that was it. God completed what He started and I was finished. It was a long, hard, and grueling four years! Not only for me, but my family as well. God opened those doors and I knew that He would see me through the end, and He did.43433801_1943317879068121_2443115631487221760_n

During that time of studying at the university, God also opened the door for me to begin working at Gateway Seminary. Honestly, I didn’t want the job. Seminary, really? I had heard about the seminary coming to southern California, but felt pretty comfortable where God had me. I was directing the women at a large church and had the best team helping me lead. Why would I just walk away from it? Over the next seven months I would hear that the position for a women’s coordinator was still available, and that I should apply. I would ask, “really, that job is still open? Thanks, but no thanks, I’m good where I am.” It wasn’t until about the ninth month, when someone had approached me from the seminary and said, “we are praying for you, did you know that there’s a position for the women’s coordinator at the seminary?” Again I looked in astonishment and said, “that job is still open?” I gave my standard reasons for not applying and to each reason there was an affirmation that God would work it all out. Now what?

Finally, I looked at my husband and said, “I think I need to apply for the job. I don’t have to take it, and if they don’t want to hire me its okay because I wasn’t looking for it, right? I really am good where I am, but this is just too coincidental to let go of, and I think I need to apply.” Needless to say, I applied and am now in my third year as the women’s program coordinator at Gateway Seminary. We can be sure that when it’s not God’s time, you can’t force it. When it is God’s time, you can’t stop it. No matter our desires, God’s plans will always trump them.

And now, the next opportunity to take graduate courses came up. I didn’t really want to, after all, the four years at the university nearly did me in! Once again, God’s call beckoned. I wanted to throw in the towel and God threw it back. I registered for classes and am nearing the end of the first semester. I won’t say it’s easy, and I won’t say that I haven’t questioned God in the process. But I will say that it is a straightforward walk of faith.

We don’t always see what God has planned ahead for us, and we don’t have to be in our twenties and thirties to be used by Him. We just need to walk in faith and have a desire to do His will, regardless of what it looks like, or feels like. For anyone thinking that they want to go back to school, I would say, “you can’t do it, but God can.” Don’t put the God of the universe in a box and settle for anything less than He has planned for you.

The journey continues and I am sure the tears and the countless questions to God about why He thinks I need to be doing this will continue as well. I go in the strength of the One who called me.

 

“I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD; I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.” Psalm 71:16

 

Photo Credit & Quote: thatdapndave

What’s Your Hurry?

 

One morning I was driving and in a hurry. And, of course, the car ahead of me wasn’t going as fast as I would have liked. I stayed behind for a while and then thought, “seriously, I can’t take this anymore. Could they drive any slower?” I moved out of the lane so I could get where I was going at a faster pace. As I was coming to the intersection the light changed to yellow. Rather than slow down and wait, I sped up. I think we’ve all done this at one time or another. How awkward it would be to miss the light and sit side by side with the car I had just tried to pass up? “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him, Those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the land.”Psalms 37_7, 9

Just as my front wheels hit the crosswalk, a German Shepherd came running across the street headed straight for my car. I knew I was going to hit it. So, I did what anyone would do, I slammed on my brakes closing my eyes. I wasn’t wanting to see what was to be inevitable doom for the dog. As quickly as they shut, I  opened my eyes and as I turned my head looking to the side, I could see the passengers in the vehicles of the opposing direction of traffic beginning to cover their eyes as they watched in horror at the event about to unfold in front of them. It seemed at that moment everything began to move in slow motion.

To everyone’s astonishment, as quick as he was in front of my car the dog darted to the left, barely missing my car. He ran behind the car and off down the road. My stomach was up in my throat,  along side my heart. I had narrowly missed hitting the dog because I was in such a hurry! Not only had I narrowly missed the dog, but everyone around me was effected by my choice to speed ahead. I pulled over and sat stunned. I actually saw the slow car I passed zoom right on a head of me only now I didn’t care. All I could think of was no one was injured and the dog, well, the dog was still running down the street.

Sitting dazed by the event, my mind went to prayer of thanksgiving for Jesus having spared the dog and my sanity. The reality that I didn’t hit the dog still amazes me.  It still seems so impossible that I didn’t. Slamming my brakes on and clenching my steering wheel with my eyes shut for only a second, but long enough to cause more harm, I can’t even believe no one else was hurt, let alone the dog! Just as I finished praying and thanking God, it also became abundantly clear to me how many times are we in a hurry spiritually, expecting fast results in the situations in our lives. We petition God for something and wait impatiently for quick results. We grow weary or irritated in the wait. We have things we need accomplished or we want action to our petitions quickly, so we dart to the side in effort to go around what seems a slow moving vehicle, only to end up in a disaster.

All too often in our daily lives we are in such a hurry. We don’t take time to slow down and realize that we are exactly where God wants us to be. God spares us from so many things in our lives we cannot see, simply by taking His time to answer. And there’s more; God’s timing is not always about us! God isn’t only sparing us personally in the waiting, it’s very possible He’s also looking out for those we may hurt or cause injury to during our rush to fulfill our own desires.

Where do you need to slow down in your life? Are you waiting patiently for God to answer or are you darting ahead and inadvertently placing yourself and others in danger? Wait patiently on the LORD and He will make everything fall into place for your good and His glory.

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him, Those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the land.” Psalms 37:7, 9

Abounding Love

Our dog, Conner, was such a good boy. He was smart, active and loyal. He was also very determined to have fun. If given the chance he would dart out the side gate, and run up and down the street. He would always come back, but not until he’d sniffed every tree, chased every squirrel, and met every person.

We have a lot of people who walk in our neighborhood. We also have a lot of dogs in our neighborhood, and at times it’s not uncommon to see strays that wander the street. Many of those that walk carry sticks or other objects to ward off any possible attacks from unfriendly dogs.

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One afternoon as we were putting our trash cans back inside the gate, Conner slipped through. He, as I mentioned, was determined to make it out, and this day, he surely did. He ran and but for a moment, didn’t look back. He was out to have some fun and explore the neighbors yards and whatever else happened to strike his fancy.

Just prior to his grand escape, a group of people had walked by. Conner, now feeling free and wanting to play, darted down the street towards them. I ran to the edge of the driveway yelling and calling his name. “Conner, no, come back!” As I mention, he did stop but only to look back for a moment, and then proceeded to dart towards what he must have assumed were his new friends. I continued to rush towards him down the street, continuing to plead for him to stop and come back.

One of the men in the group heard me calling and turned to see Conner coming towards them. Before I knew it, he had pulled out a small defense sprayer of mace, and as Conner got close enough, he sprayed him in the face. Immediately, Conner dropped and began whimpering, snorting, and pushing his face around in the grass trying to remove the spray. The group kept walking as I continued to rush toward Conner, still calling his name. He began to move towards my voice. When I reached him, his eyes were watering and he couldn’t see well, but he could still hear my voice.  I took hold of his collar, stroked his face, spoke gently to him and guide him back to the yard where he was safe.

Once we were back in the yard, all I kept thinking was, “Conner, I called you and you didn’t listen. Look at the mess you got yourself into. The backyard isn’t to confine you, but to keep you safe.” Then it struck me. We too, can be just like Conner. God puts up boundaries not to confine us, but to keep us safe. We, like Conner, are tempted to run outside those boundaries for fun and excitement and when we do, we can end up in trouble. It’s also safe to say that when we hear that small voice, or maybe it’s loud, yelling, “Stop, don’t go that way, come back!” we too find ourselves stopping for only a moment, and then darting ahead. After all, we just want to have fun, expand our horizon’s, right? Well, it’s all fun and games until the day  we suddenly find ourselves in a painful mess. When we are dropped to the ground and not able to see clearly to find our way back.

Thank you Jesus that through Your voice of forgiveness, grace, compassion and unconditional love, we can find our way back. Thank you, that in those moments where we run in disobedience and find ourselves in a mess, that You still watch over us. That You not only watch over us, but beg that we turn around and come back. Thank you that even in our messes, when we cry out for Your forgiveness, You come to us, gently leading us back. Thank you for loving us unconditionally, in spite of ourselves.

Conner lived a good long life, and he is dearly missed. The redemptive analogy through his tale, reminds us that when we mess up, and it’s certain we will, that we can call out to the One who watches over us, and we will find forgiveness, mercy and grace. Christ and His abounding love is never-ending.

“But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love…”  Nehemiah 9:17   

The Changing Seasons

The past couple of years have been a changing of seasons in my life of ministry. I have always been a huge proponent of being obedient to God, even when it didn’t make a lick of sense. It didn’t make sense that He would save me from myself, and yet He did. I vowed from that moment that I would do whatever or go wherever He asked of me. I mean, how could I not?! b11c84b89506fc7410a9c90b97766f78Over a decade ago, God led me on journey to Africa. I had no intentions of doing ministry in Africa and even tried to run from it when it came to mind.

Our family had sponsored a young girl from Compassion International. Her name was Glory. She was 8 years old when our family began sponsoring her. I remember thinking that there had to be more than this when I would receive her letters, but I didn’t know what that more was. She would draw pictures of me in an airplane window and write letters asking when I was coming to see her. I can remember sitting in my living room chair saying to myself, “I’m not going to Africa.” The next thing I knew I was being led to pursue missions in Africa and would eventually be called by God to lead a ministry in Uganda that would expand to Kenya and South Sudan. All this did not take place in day, nor did it come without pain and sacrifice. But God did the amazing work of transforming lives, communities and hearts through the ministry that so many had been a part of. I think I can safely say that those that volunteered on mission had their own lives and hearts transformed. I could write a book on the wonders that God has done over the past ten years, and some day, I may.

Today, however, that season has come to a close. This year the word God gave me was “listen.” I didn’t understand the full meaning of listen until I began searching the scriptures. Listen is always coupled with obedience.  For most of us, we don’t listen with the intent to do something, rather we listen halfheartedly with the intent to respond so that we ourselves can be heard. We’ve all done it. We’ve been in that conversation just waiting for the other person to stop talking so that we can reply with our own thoughts. This time was no different. I heard God clearly over the past several months, but tuned Him out. Why? Because I didn’t want the change. I thought maybe my plan was better and that I would continue on, or that I wasn’t hearing God clearly. Change is difficult. Finally, like Samuel in the scriptures, I stopped listening to outside voices and my own, and said, “Speak God, I’m listening.” (1 Sam. 3)

When we abide in Christ and rest in him and truly begin to listen carefully, without interruption, amazing things happen. And for the record, amazing things can be painful! As I was listening while reading the scriptures, God brought me to John 15:2 “Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit.” Did you catch that? He prunes every branch, good and bad. He prunes the bad because it’s not useful, and the good, yes the good, He prunes so that it will produce more fruit. I know without a doubt the ministry God allowed me to lead in Africa was good and producing much fruit. I know that God’s plans are far greater than mine ever could be. I know that He had been telling me to step down and allow someone else to take the torch. I know His plans are for good and not destruction. It doesn’t mean that it’s not painful. How do I know? Because I took the time to listen through prayer and fasting, through reading His word, and then through the step of obedience. A friend of mine gave me some much needed encouragement when she said, “I have learned this past year that even when I know I am in God’s will, what hurts is supposed to hurt. While you are being held in His hands, he is also catching your tears and comforting you.” I think anyone that has gone through change can take comfort in those six words..”What hurts is supposed to hurt.”

So while the hurting is going on, I know that God is still on His throne and setting all things in motion according to His plans and purposes. It’s not the end, but the beginning of something new. A new season of obedience within a new season of ministry. I have peace in knowing the God of the universe that has called me in and out of different areas of ministry will continue until I stand before Him in all His glory. My hope is to hear the sweet words, “well done, my good and faithful servant.” All for His glory. His will, His way.

“LORD, thank you that you know what’s best in our lives. Forgive us for those times when we don’t listen. When we are too busy making our own plans rather than trusting Yours. Thank you for entrusting the care of a beautiful missions ministry to me for over a decade, and now allowing me to step down, not without tears or grieving, but in knowing that You will be faithful to continue the work in Africa and in my life. May You be glorified in and through this new season and in the changing seasons to come. May all of us take time to listen and more importantly to abide in You. Without You we are nothing and can do nothing. Let us just be the branch and let you do the work. Thank you that seasons may change in our lives, but You God never change. ” In Jesus Name. Amen

 

Proverbs 3:6-10; John 15; Matthew 25:23

Carry the Message

I was talking with a sweet woman yesterday. She’s recently retired as a BSF leader after 40 some odd years. We were discussing ministry efforts and how it can be difficult to give the reigns up to someone else.

She said to me, “I just found out I’m a donkey.”
I looked at her puzzled, and her daughter looked at her even more so.
“Mom, what are you talking about!?” She said, thinking she may have just lost her mind.
She smiled and winked at her daughter and turned back to me.
“I just recently found out I’m a donkey!” She continued.
“You see, as a donkey, I came into town one day and everyone was cheering for me. They were waving branches and throwing down their cloaks. I was so happy and it felt really nice. Then it dawned on me that all the attention and cheers were not for me, but for One I was carrying.”

She finished by saying, “We can all be that donkey. We can begin to think that ministry belongs to us and that we deserve the cheers and recognition. We can be afraid to give the lead over to someone else, especially if we’ve led for many years. The fact is the ministry was never ours, the ministry really belongs to the One whose message we are carrying.”

Now that my friend is wisdom! I hope it spoke to someone the way it spoke to me! ❤️❤️

Denise Matthews © 2017