Praying, or Worrying Out Loud? reprint of article by Chas Stevenson

One day I was driving along in my car and God spoke to me something that could solve many people’s faith and prayer issues. He said, “I have given my people a secret weapon called prayer. Prayer is supposed to replace worry. Prayer is supposed to be the substitute for anxiety. They are not supposed to exist together. If people find themselves worrying after they have prayed, then what they did in the first place was not praying – it was only worrying out loud.”
Have you ever worried out loud to God? I think I might have once or twice. And what good did it do me? Not much. And I can tell you exactly what God did in answer to me – not much. Worrying out loud has nothing to do with the prayer of faith. Faith-filled, miracle working prayer does not grovel to God nor rehearse all the details of its difficulties. Effective prayer makes a mature, heartfelt, calculated request to God based on God’s Word, God’s will, and our own desire. And then it leaves the care with God, moving on without worry, knowing that our Father has heard and will handle it.
It seems that we sometimes complicate the life of faith. We get all 10-point-sermoned-to-the-hilt, and then we get scared thinking that we’ve missed something. When the truth is that the only obstacle to our prayer was that we just did that one thing God said not to do – worry. “Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything.” (Phi. 4:6 Ampl.) It may be hard to do sometimes. But we must fight the urge to worry. How do we fight? Do whatever it takes: read your Bible, get more scriptures, confess the scriptures out loud, yell, holler, run around the block, pray in tongues, go soulwinning, or go shopping. It doesn’t really matter how you beat the worrying. Just do it. How long must we fight? Until the answer comes.
In the Christianity Basics – Finance 101 section of the Bible (Matthew Chapter 6), Jesus outlines God’s side of this New Covenant concerning our money. It is wonderful that we find how our Heavenly Father likes us better than a bird and better than a flower and how He will always care for us. However, it seems that many times we fail on our side of this New Covenant. Jesus said that our side is to “.do not worry.So why do you worry?…Therefore do not worry.” (verses 25-31). Though God would love to do everything good for His children regardless of their faith condition, His partnership regulation for earth life requires that His people do their part to get His involvement. Every divine intention requires a corresponding human response. His hands are handcuffed when we worry but released to help when we don’t.
Worry is the litmus test for our faith because if the “paper turns blue”, it is the proof that we do not fully trust. If we recognize worry in our heart after we pray, we’ve not yet connected to God with full assurance of faith. So we shouldn’t expect anything to happen. I always encourage people to be honest with themselves as to their own personal faith condition so they can take appropriate action. They might need to go back to the Truth of God’s Word and spend some time driving out our fears and worries. And then pray again. I assure you that when God hears a prayer of faith that is purified from all trace of just “worrying out loud”, He rushes in to answer.

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Lion and Bear Steps

I would like for us to look at the David-Goliath story in a new way.  David’s victory over Goliath brought him acclaim and notoriety.  What I find intriguing is what he had been doing before that epic encounter.  I’d like for us to look at his resume.

Pre-Giant Days
David had recently been anointed to be king by the prophet Samuel, after having passed over his older and seemingly more capable brothers.  Shortly thereafter, three of David’s brothers were drafted to serve in an escalating conflict involving the Philistines in the Valley of Elah.  During this time, David is charged with taking care of the sheep in a wilderness environment.  There is nothing glamorous about the job—finding good pasture, locating in a safe environment, and having access to water.  It is hard work, long hours, and a very solitary assignment. He became an incredible shepherd. During this time, David devoted himself to being a creative worshiper.  Not only did he journal, he also wrote music, wrote poems, and played out those pieces on a harp. He became an accomplished musician.  It was this skill—playing the harp that brought him on a part-time basis to the palace.  He was asked to come and play for King Saul because of Saul’s depressive episodes. David’s father asked him to take supplies to his brothers and gifts to the king on the battlefront.  There is never any mention that David refused any of the assignments he was given. So this king-to-be comes disguised as a shepherd, poet, musician, supply clerk, and general farm hand.

At the Valley of Elah
When David arrived on the battlefront and handed his supplies to the supply-keeper, little did he know that he was hours from a life-changing encounter.  As was his daily custom, the giant, Goliath, appeared to ask for a combatant, a challenger, a foe.  This had been occurring for 40 days.  It was the first time David had heard the challenge. David’s brother was upset that David was voicing his willingness to fight—he was just a kid—inexperienced and untrained.  The Bible states that he “turned from him.” David had a completely different perspective on the giant.  The army saw Goliath as invincible.  David saw him as one who had defied the Lord God and his armies. When Saul was told that David voiced a willingness to fight the giant, he sent for him.  It’s this exchange that holds some relevant insights for us:
34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”  (1 Samuel 17:34-37)

Secrets of Lion and Bear Steps
Lion and bear steps may seem insignificant, but they are defining moments.  Moments that affirm or confirm calling, vocation or purpose.  Lion and bear steps are indispensable.  Simply put, without them, we cannot move to the next level.

They are hidden away
David’s encounter or brush with the lion and the bear occurred in the wilderness while watching the flock.  It was out of view.  Perhaps no one else to assist. While they may be an “Aha!” moment, a wake-up call, or give us a big rush, there is no public acclaim.  It is not a concert-stage setting.  There is no applause following the act of courage, bravery or integrity. David’s first encounter with a wild animal was a motivational event to prepare for additional encounters.  As a shepherd, a wild animal event was a given, it was not a question of “if”, it was simply a question of “when”.

They are stepping stones
When David is summoned by King Saul, Saul questions his inexperience and his youthfulness.  What David says is both significant and intriguing.  He tells Saul that he (David) is eminently qualified because on two occasions aggressors came against his father’s flocks and on both occasions he successfully rescued his sheep and killed both aggressors and he adds this Philistine is just another aggressor. What David is saying is: “I’ve been to basic training!  It may be a little different that the basic training you went to but I’m good to go!”

Each lion and bear step gave David a holy confidence, not a self-confidence, but a confidence that God is fighting on our behalf if we enlist in the cause. In David’s mind there was never any wavering—I wonder if this will work—he has waged war against wild animals of superior strength, agility, weight, and speed and they were not match for him. David is not daunted by appearances.  The wild animal events taught him that! David saw the lion and bear experiences as God redeeming his life through opportunity to improve his skills with a sling, his mobility, and his reliance on God!  The lion and the bear were simply God-opportunities to hone David’s skills for a time when he would meet Goliath.  There were arranged and ordained by God.
Every past experience is preparation for some future opportunity.  God doesn’t just redeem our souls.  He also redeems our experiences—and not just the good ones.

They are filled with covenant power
David had a profound understanding of his covenant with God.  He was able to face down enemies in any dimension because he understood who he was linked with! We have a blood covenant that has redeemed us, delivered us, and empowered us to face down enemies in every level of life—we simply need to be mindful of our covenant relationship!

Connect the Dots
From outward appearances it looked like David was not the go-to guy for the Goliath encounter.  He lacked experience; he had no weapons training; and  he was not in the army.  For David his destiny was hidden when he least expected to find it.  He had compensatory skills—he was one mean guy with the sling! David connects the dots between his past experiences and his present circumstances and he has a sense of destiny….

Before David ever sets foot on the battlefield, the battle has been won!  David connects the dots between  his past experiences and his present circumstances. David was not relying on self-confidence, but on a holy confidence that had been birthed in him by reason of the lion and the bear.

In order to be a giant killer, you must first take lion and bear steps. . .

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Come Out of Your Cave

Elijah is a no-holds-barred, tell-it-like-it-is figure from the Old Testament.  He is beloved for his “hands-on” approach to faith.  He is known for his passion for God (his own words) in a time when God’s people were being led astray to follow after the Baal gods.  In order to counteract the influence of the Balls, Elijah set up an encounter with the prophets of Baal at Mt Carmel to show who the true God is.  It was a no-brainer.  The Baal prophets prayed, pleaded, and cut themselves, but their god did not respond.  Elijah had servants set up the bull, watered the altar and the trench, and the Lord God answered by fire.  Israel was persuaded that Jehovah God was the only true God.  He seized the moment and had the prophets killed–all 450 of them.  On the heels of this decisive event, Ahab tells Jezebel about the brown-out of the Baals.

7 The angel of God came back, shook him awake again, and said, “Get up and eat some more—you’ve got a long journey ahead of you.” 8-9 He got up, ate and drank his fill, and set out. Nourished by that meal, he walked forty days and nights, all the way to the mountain of God, to Horeb. When he got there, he crawled into a cave and went to sleep.  Then the word of God came to him: “So Elijah, what are you doing here?” (1 Kings 19:7-9, The Message)

Jezebel issues a threat setting a deadline on Elijah’s life.  Elijah runs.  He covers some 100 miles, from Jezreel to Beersheba and ends up in a cave.  I think his cave experience has much to teach us.  As we look at Elijah’s cave experience, there are  some questions worth asking: (1) What force would cause a person to flee like Elijah did?  (2)  What would drive a person to go from triumph to terror?  (3)  What would compel a person to withdraw into a cave?  (4) What happened to take a person off their game?  The answer to these questions will explain something about the trigger.
The Big Trigger

Elijah was heavily invested in the future of his nation.  He had predicted a drought to King Ahab.  He had supernaturally received food from a widow and birds.  He had announced the end of a drought.  He had challenged the 450 prophets of Baal and mobilized people to elilminate idols.  He had outrun the storm and Ahab’s chariot, and when confronted by Jezebel he ran–he even left his servant! Apparently, there was not a large and immediate return to the worship of Jehovah.  In fact, the King’s wife vowed to kill him.  What a way to treat a man who selflessly risked his neck to save the nation?  Who wouldn’t be angry?  He resented Israel and Jezebel:  “for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword.

The Downward Spiral
First, he was depleted by victory
.  The Mount Carmel encounter was huge!  His public victory against idolatry was spectacular!  He thought he would get some well-deserved recognition for his stand against wickedness.
Second, he was disconcerted by fear.
Instead of being impressed with Elijah, Jezebel was infuriated and flew into a rage, demanding his immediate execution.  Jezebel’s threat consumed his every thought and overwhelmed his faith.  In his panic, he lost his handle on the power and provision of God, even though he had just experienced it in a mighty way.  The threat from Jezebel had shaken him to the core.  Instead of praying to God for help, he bolted.
He was disabled by isolation.
Elijah was stuck in emotional overdrive:  he was driven, fatigued, tired, exhausted, weary, burned-out, anxious and running on empty.  Elijah exacerbated the situation.  Instead of connecting, he treated into his shell–that intensified his loneliness.
He was devastated by self-pity.
Elijah ran for an entire day until he saw a small broom tree and collapsed in its shade.  In his despair, he prayed that he might die.  He let self-pity cultivate a “victim mentality” within himself.  He had succumbed to the “poor me” syndrome.  Elijah said:  “I’ve had enough!”

Elijah was fed up.  He wanted nothing to do with anyone.  He was frustrated with the turn of events and with the response of Israel.  He had little faith, a bad attitude, and an ugly spirit.

The problem with caves:  they can start out as a “hiding place”, but if we stay there long enough the can become a “prison”, and beyond that a “burial place”!  (See Joshua 10)

Four Prescriptions
Burnout is a reversible ailment.  Elijah was given four prescriptions that have great application to our own lives-if we’re willing to take the medicine.
Rest
: God knew that the most important medicine Elijah needed was rest. Elijah had collapsed under a broom tree and had fallen asleep in utter exhaustion.  God sent an angel to refresh him with bread and water.
Rediscover God
: God asked Elijah what he was doing in the cave.  Elijah gave a shaky answer.  When Elijah was in his cave a violent rushing wind swept across the ridges, but the Bible says that God was not in the wind.  Then an eerie earthquake ripped through the entire area causing gigantic rock slides and cracks everywhere.  But God didn’t reveal Himself in the earthquake either.  This was followed by a furious fire that consumed everything, but God wasn’t in the fire either.  When Elijah heard the soft voice of God, “he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave at the revelation of God’s holy and majestic whisper.”
Reassignment
: Now that Elijah is rested and has rediscovered God, he’s given a third prescription– a reassignment to serve others: “Anoint Hazael king over Aram.  Also anoint Jehu over Israel and anoint Elisha to succeed you as prophet.  God wanted him to make a choice of godly action based on obedience rather than inaction based on his emotions.
Relationships
: The final prescription has to do with relationships.  God’s work is never done alone! Even though he was rested and had rediscovered God, he was still alienated from others.  God then provided him with a genuine friend and a personal attendant.

Maybe you are going through a cave experience yourself.  You find yourself withdrawing from people and activities.  What often drives us there results from faulty responses to problems and a faulty perception of reality.  Self-pity and resentment extract a heavy price from us when we allow ourselves to indulge in them.  They are both sins.  Those wrong responses can also be unlearned and repented of–that will bring us out of the cave!

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Samuel: Right Living in a Risque World

Samuel is the last in the line of prophet judges.  He also serves as a transition figure between the confederacy (time of the Judges) and the monarchy (when the kings are appointed).

  • Samuel is a priest: he is in the shrine. He offers sacrifices. He builds altars.
  • He is also a seer and a prophet—he receives the word of the Lord.  And as a prophet he will be anointing kings.
  • He is also a judge in a sense that he leads Israel to military victory.  But he also travels a circuit acting as a judge in a judicial sense.

Samuel is an asked-for child.  His mother, Hannah went yearly to Shiloh to offer up sacrifices with her husband Elkanah.  At one of those festival times, the Lord heard her prayer and the Eli, the priest, who at first misunderstood her state, asked God to fulfill her request.  God fulfilled that request and gave her Samuel.  She weaned Samuel, and as promised goes again to this once-a-year festival in Shiloh and leaves Samuel with Eli to live at the shrine!

12 Now the sons of Eli were corrupt;[a] they did not know the LORD. 17 Therefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD, for men abhorred the offering of the LORD. (1 Samuel 2:12, 17)

Total craziness:  Eli’s sons were wicked; they were intimidating God’s people as they come to sacrifice; they were taking their pick of the offerings as people came to sacrifice; they were taking their pick of women as they came to work in the shrine, and they refused to repent.  Hophni and Phinehas  had become hard-hearted—they were living completely on the “sensory” level.  Everything was about them.

18 In the midst of all this, Samuel, a boy dressed in a priestly linen tunic, served God.

  • Smackdab in the middle of Shiloh (a veritable Sodom-Gomorrah), this young kid was loving and serving God with all his heart.
  • Eli’s sons are playing loose with God and with His people, and right in the center is a kid whose heart is on fire for the things of the Lord.
  • The rumor mill is filled with stories of wickedness and the gross sin of Eli’s sons and right in the heart of the shrine is a kid who is hungering for the Almighty!
  • Ungodliness to his left; intimidation on his right…it did not matter how others were living their lives dishonoring God; right at the hub, was a kid who was not living by what others did.
  • Evil circumventing the entire landscape of his life, and this heart-toward-God kid zeroes in on what’s really important—being true to God!

Why is Samuel a hero?  In the most formative years of his life (just a child) he is taken to live (boarding-school style) at the home of Eli (whose sons are the pre-cursors of Jersey Shore) — and Samuel refuses to be identified with the wicked and wild behavior of Hophni and Phinehas. Sin is sin and it will be judged.  The Lord will not tolerate sin.  The environment in which Samuel grew up was not the best, but he did not use it as an excuse for going in the way of sin; he served the Lord and not the environment.

God is calling us to full-fledged integrity before Him.  It’s time to stop intending, pretending, and defending. It’s time to lay aside all the nonsense and get right with God so that our lives become lives of destiny and lives of purpose! It’s time to grow where we are planted!  It’s time to stop making excuses for where we are planted and refuse to grow!  God expects us to be fruitful.

What did Samuel do?

1. He was open to the Word of the Lord.
2. He was honest about what God was telling him.
3.
He was obedient with the instructions the Lord gave him.

 

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Abigail

Today we began a new 5-week teaching series, Heroes. It will zero in on people who are to be admired for their achievements as well as their noble qualities.  There are three main characters in this story:  Nabal, Abigail, and David. The story unfolds as David sends ten of his men to Nabal’s ranch during sheep-shearing time asking him for supplies as was customary in that culture.  Nabal sharply denies the request.  When David hears of the denial, he becomes very angry and plans to punish Nabal.  One of Nabal’s servants tells Abigail about the incident and warns her that David is on his way to kill Nabal.  Abigail responds with a brilliant plan.  She prepares a large supply of food and rides out to meet David pleading with him not to kill her husband.  Even though David is on extra testosterone, he thanks God for sending Abigail to him and agrees not to harm Nabal.

Abigail returns home to find Nabal celebrating a feast.  After a night of heavy drinking, Nabal is told by Abigail about the terrible danger he had been in; he suffers a stroke.  Ten days later the Lord strikes him and he dies.  Following Nabla’s death, David asks Abigail to become his wife and she accepts.

Why is Abigail a hero?  She modeled for us how to act wisely and quickly to limit the damage someone else has done. In a life-death situation, she displayed unusual steadiness and quick thinking acting in the family’s best interest.  Nabal had made an absolute mess of the situation.  David was on his way to kill Nabal and his household.  Abigail saved Nabal and his entire household.  She carried out a rescue operation brilliantly.

Life with Nabal could not have been happy.  It was probably an arranged marriage.  She was a princess.  He was a toad.  Nevertheless Abigail did not allow Nabal’s nastiness to make her bitter.  Beside the rescue operation, Abigail did one other thing that makes her a hero:  she confronted Nabal with the consequences of his actions.

Abigail’s response is a fantastic template about how to respond in bad situations.  How does one act wisely and quickly to limit the damage someone else has done.  And how do we turn bad situations into good?  She worked behind her husband’s back to avert calamity. She saved her husband and everyone else.  What courage! Is your situation asking you to step up in faith to take Abigail steps and do unusual things to redeem those around you?

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100 Years Without Christmas

In the DVD “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”, there is a scene where the kids have slipped into Narnia through the wardrobe and are surveying the surreal environment under the rule of the witch.  The winter-like setting seems barren of life and even the creatures appear to be sub-standard.  One of the characters describes it this way: “We haven’t had Christmas in one hundred years!”

It’s hard to imagine a land without Christmas.  It would be short on hope. Tomorrows would be hum-drum.  Each day would resemble the other.  The word “promise” would be non-existent.

Peace would be absent.  There would be turmoil and treachery.  The law of survival would loom large and in those environs peace would be greatly diminished.

Joy would be a forgotten treasure.  There would be little to rejoice about.  Unlike the first Christmas when the angel announced:  “I bring you good tidings of great joy”!

If the Narnian winter is any indication of barrenness, I don’t want to be part of that. I never want to “miss” any Christmases—but most of all I don’t want to miss out on the one who brought us Christmas!

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The Father’s Forgiveness

This evening we continue with our series on Prodigal Perspectives by Chris Seay.  The topic is “The Father’s Forgiveness”.  The focus is on the father.  Frankly, I’ve seen some cool things!  The father is characterized by forgiveness and generosity.  The father’s response was entirely uncharacteristic for his culture.  Where he was expected to shun his son and have him prove himself he immediately gives him carte blanche.  So unusual is his approach that he ran toward his son—that is an indication that he wanted to spare his son the shame and derision that he would be met with in the town.  Instead, the father shames himself by running with a robe and meeting him long before he got to town.  The father embraces the decadent son and is not the least turned away by the smells or the failings of his progeny.  He instructs his servants to put on sandals on his son–a clear image of his sonship being restored.  He tells them to bring out the best robe–a symbol of honor.  This robe was designed for once-in-a-lifetime events: very costly and fashionable!  And finally the father instructed his wards to give the signet ring to his son–a symbol of authority.  All this was done publicly so there would be no confusion as to his intentions about this wayward son.  The father is setting aside his rights and is humbling himself in order to restore his repentant son.

This calls for major celebration.  I have always understood the Father’s Feast to be for the son.  I have a new take on it:  the father is inviting the entire town to join him in celebration of the redemptive act–the father has by his gracious acts restored an errant son and that is cause for celebration!



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