Let me Always, Let me Never


Praying through Hebrews 11

In my chair time this morning, I was inspired to write a short one-liner for several of the stories Hebrews 11 walks us through – stories of the faithful in God’s family. I’ve shared them here.

 

Hebrews 11:4 –  By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
Let me always offer all I have to you.

Hebrews 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Let me never fail to seek you!

Hebrews 11:8 – By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
Let me always follow you, even into the unknown.

Hebrews 11:11 – And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.
Let me never forget your faithfulness to me!

Hebrews 11:19 – Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
Hebrews 11:30 – By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.
Let me always trust & obey you, even when it makes no sense to my worldly senses.

Hebrews 11:21 – By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. 
Let me always be found worshiping you, even and especially when I have no strength left of my own. 

Hebrews 11:23 – By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
Let my faith in you always drive out my fears in this world.

Hebrews 11:25 – He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.
Let me always choose you over worldly pleasures. Let me always place you first.

Hebrews 11:31 – By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
Let me always be bold enough to ask for grace.

Hebrews 11:40 – since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Let my story always bring you glory; let me forever remember that my story is only a small part of your Grand Plan for all your people, til the ends of the earth.

Let me always delight in you first, trusting that you know and will fulfill the deepest desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4). All this I pray in your mighty Son Jesus’ name, knowing you are able to do exceedingly, abundantly above and beyond what I can even think to ask you for. All the glory belongs to you! (Ephesians 3:20)

Let me Always, Let me Never

“Doing a New Thing”

A few months ago, in my mom’s bible study group, we began reading and studying Lysa TerKeurst’s “The Best Yes”. I was so excited about this book, because with 3 young kids you learn quickly that unless you want to literally go insane, you cannot possibly say YES to all the things you WANT to say yes to. You have to have priorities and limits and schedules. But I for one have had issues in saying “no.”

Sometimes it’s because I want to look good.
Sometimes it’s because it’s an activity or event I feel strongly about.
Sometimes I just don’t want to be left out.
Most times I just want to help.

Long story short, this book helped eliminate any guilt I had in giving “no” answers when necessary, and how to find and pursue God’s “Best Yes” for my life. Well there I was going along and thinking to myself, “Finally I am getting in a groove where I feel like I’m managing everything really well.”

Well of course as soon as you think something like that, something’s bound to change.

A friend approached me about a small, part-time, paid position at my church. My initial reaction was, “As much as I’d love to, I’m being really careful about taking on too many new things right now.”

And then I began the interview process.

I watched a series of training videos that explained the roles of this particular position.

And I felt really strongly that God had been preparing me for this for a long time.

So, I continued through the interview process and I have to tell you: God gets all the glory for this. I don’t think I could’ve done it of my own accord at all. You know there’s a verse that says God goes before us and behind us (Isaiah 52:12)? Well he definitely proved that verse true. Why don’t I think I ‘earned’ this position of my own merit, you ask?

I was asked to tell of a time when I felt like things were really tough and I wanted to quit.

Do you know that I answered that actual, grown-up, real job interview question by talking about learning to ride my bike as a child? Yes, instead of using a real-life, grown-up situation where I felt discouraged and wanted to quit, I talked about learning to ride a bike. And trust me, there have been plenty of those times when working in the restaurant industry. Or being a mom. Or a wife. Or cleaning my house! But I decided learning to ride my bike was the best answer.

Maybe it doesn’t seem so outrageous written like that. But I left that part of the interview feeling like I had blown it for sure.

The devil will play funny tricks with your thoughts if you let him.

When my friend approached me and recommended me for this position, she said “I would love to see God surprise you.” And that He has!

There are several prayers that I’ve prayed over the past 5+ years that I knew would take time. They’re the kind of prayers that take time just by the nature of the request. For example, for me to have close, Godly Christian mommy friends who I can DO LIFE WITH. Relationships don’t pop up overnight. So I prayed, trusted that God would answer when the time was right, kept an expectant attitude always searching to see who around me could be that next Christian mommy friend, and waited. I kind of put that prayer, along with several others, up on the shelf for awhile.

And in this ONE thing, He has not only pulled those prayers off the shelf, but surpassed my expectations of what He ever would have done! Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…” Exceedingly abundantly. Yes, He did do exceedingly, abundantly above and beyond all that I could have ever thought to ask for on my own.

And not only that – because answering one heartfelt prayer is enough in itself – but He also answered several of those prayers in this ONE thing. And even some things that I don’t even remember specifically praying for. They were just quiet, aching desires of my heart. And God knows my heart. How thankful I am that He takes the time to know my heart! Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

At the same time, He has shown me a completely separate opportunity that is flourishing and solves a scheduling issue I knew would have to be dealt with in the next few years. Working nights at a restaurant has been perfect for me and my family up until this year when A went to full day school, and started dancing with her dance company two nights a week. This means I was only home 2 nights a week. That’s rough. I realized this situation would not work for much longer. I want to be home with my kids at night. Be able to attend their activities. Help them with homework. Read and pray every night before bed. Our current schedules and commitments wouldn’t allow that. But God has dropped an opportunity in my lap that I can’t deny will solve this problem before it becomes a bigger one.

Isaiah 43:19 says, “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

In Joshua 1:3 God promises He will give us “every place where you set your foot…”

There was a season of life (not so very long ago) in which I felt I wanted to do more to help others and advance God’s kingdom. But that particular season of life didn’t allow that to look the way I thought it should. So I just did my best to “bloom where I was planted” as they say, taking delight in the Lord whenever and wherever possible.

Now check out this verse from 2 Chronicles 20: “…Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf…”

The Lord our God hears our prayers. Even when it looks like nothing is happening, there is always something going on in the spiritual realm. Stand firm and hold your position. Watch for what God is going to do. He will exceed your expectations in a way that, all at once, makes you feel unworthy, grateful, blessed, and so thankful that He cares about YOU. His love, grace, and blessings are overwhelming.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. – John 15:16

Keeping God First, pt 1

Mark 12:28-31 says God’s first commandment is to love HIM, with everything we are. 

Read Matthew 14:22-33. It is our CHOICE to activate the authority God has given us. When we keep our eyes and our focus on Jesus, the storms and distractions of life remain UNDER OUR FEET. But as soon as we start focusing on the waves (our problems, worries, etc.), we transfer our power to our problems, thereby letting them control US. We begin to sink as if into quicksand.

Here are excerpts from the song “The Voice of Truth” by Casting Crowns:
The waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed…
But the voice of truth tells me a different story
The voice of truth says do not be afraid…
And the waves they don’t seem so high
From on top of them looking down
I will soar with the wings of eagles
When I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus singing over me…
I will choose to listen and believe the Voice of Truth

When Jesus says, “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” I detect some loving disappointment… He is promising us that if we only keep our eyes on HIM, He will not allow us to drown in the problems of this world. Taking our eyes off of Jesus temporarily will not prevent Him from reaching out and saving us from the storm if we ask. But if we never waver from our focus on him, we will have so much more peace and power in our lives.

How can we do this, though, amidst our busy lives?

Here are a few areas on which we can focus: In the morning, In eliminating other gods, In knowing God’s Word, In controlling our thoughts, In prayer, In deed, and In Submission. We will just discuss a few today.

In the morning. Read Psalm 5:3, 59:16, 88:13. Remember the lyrics to this well-known hymn: “In the morning when I rise… give me Jesus.” Ask God to help you remember HIM first every morning – to greet him with praise and thanksgiving for the gift of another day. These verses in Psalms remind us that when we cry out to God in the morning, He hears us. It doesn’t have to be very long or detailed at first. It takes 21 days to make a habit – if we start today that means in 3 weeks this will become a natural part of our waking. What simpler way is there to show God that He is first in our life than to speak to Him first every day? (My legalistic past self has to include that some days we may speak to our children first, if they wake us up. I don’t suggest ignoring them until you’ve prayed for half an hour. But in these instances remember to pray as you get them what they need.)

Practical ideas: KLove Radio has an app you can download for free on your phone. It has an alarm feature. Or, if you have an iPod or CD player for an alarm, you can have Christian songs wake you up as a reminder to praise God first. Keep a study book, a daily verse calendar, or your bible by your bed. Take 5 minutes every morning to meditate on a verse or passage. Write a ‘life verse’ on your bathroom mirror in dry erase marker. Or pin up a 3×5 card with a favorite bible verse somewhere you’ll see it when you first wake up.

Eliminate other gods. First, see Exodus 20:3. What are the gods in your life? TV? Video Games? Magazines? Celebrity news? Fiction stories? These days we don’t construct statues of idols or gods out of copper or gold. But identify places you spend your time which are yielding no fruit for you or your family, and you will find the gods that need to be eliminated from your life.

Practical ideas: Each time you find yourself wanting to do something that you know is keeping you from God’s best, refocus your attention by praying, praising, reciting a verse, or singing Christian songs. James 4:7 says if we submit to God and resist the devil, he will flee. Remember our verses from last week and know that you are stronger than the temptations you’re experiencing. Create a plan of action for every time you are tempted. For example, if you are sitting in front of the TV, stand up and go to a different room. Remove yourself from the temptation. Pray or praise God for His goodness, and ask Him for help. Then repeat a verse to yourself that empowers you to do the right thing. (A few good ones are: 1 Cor 10:13, Matt 26:41, Hebrews 2:18, Gal 6:9, Eph 6:11)

Know God’s Word. Now read Proverbs 7:2-3. If we don’t know what God’s word says, we cannot make wise decisions. We need to dive into our bibles and find as many verses as we can that allow us to make those wise decisions. Do you have a list of verses that come to mind in different situations? What verses do you refer back to when you are in times of trouble?

See Jeremiah 31:33 and Hebrews 8:10. When we keep God’s Word in our hearts God says that HE WILL BE OUR GOD and WE WILL BE HIS PEOPLE. If we want to keep God first we have to know his Word; and if we know his Word, God claims us as his own. God’s Word connects us to him in a very real way. He takes a fatherly ownership of us when we know His Word; it causes Him to reign over our life.

Practical Ideas: Get a topical index companion book, which allows you to find verses that pertain to your situation quickly and easily. Joyce Meyer’s The Secret Power of Speaking God’s Word is a great one. Many bibles also have a topical index in the back. You can also use this website: http://www.openbible.info/topics/

Key Points

  • God’s first commandment is to Love HIM with everything we are
  • Keeping our eyes on Jesus allows us to live with peace and victory
  • Eliminate distractions/ other gods
  • Learn God’s Word and memorize verses which bring life to you so you can repeat them in times of trouble

Supporting Verses

Mark 12:28-31: One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Psalm 5:3 (Amp): In the morning You hear my voice, O Lord; in the morning I prepare [a prayer, a sacrifice] for You and watch and wait [for You to speak to my heart].

Psalm 59:16 (Amp): But I will sing of Your mighty strength and power; yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy and loving-kindness in the morning; for You have been to me a defense (a fortress and a high tower) and a refuge in the day of my distress.

Psalm 88:13: But to You I cry, O Lord; and in the morning shall my prayer come to meet You.

Exodus 20:3: You shall have no other gods before or besides Me.

Proverbs 7:2-3: Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.

Jeremiah 31:33/ Hebrews 8:10: “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”