An exercise of “Thus Far” to end the week…

I loaded you down with a lot of thoughts this week, didn’t I?

Does it help to know my own head is swimming with our journey through 2 Chronicles 20?

I had planned to wrap this up in a five day series, but God’s Word is always layered and there is so much more than first meets the eye.

So we are going to pause today…

take a little rest stop along the way…

and take some time to ponder and apply what we have covered so far.

I did this yesterday on the drive to watch the band of brothers and Sweet Caroline.

I had forty-five minutes and I want to apologize to anyone I passed because I wasn’t talking on my phone or telling you off….honest biscuits…

I was filling in my own “there’s a great multitude coming against us…” session with the God who made me, loves me, saved me.

So here are the basics for you, my friend, for you to do the same for personal area of influence.

Step 1: Mentally or on paper go ahead and list everything that is opposing you and God’s good plan for your life.

Include all the people who come to your mind who are also facing overwhelming situations that are causing pain, stress, death, loss, betrayal….all the calling cards the enemy of our soul would like to leave on their doorsteps.

You all know what the difference is between that which brings “life, health, truth, peace, joy, self-control, prosperity of the soul, stability, kindness, etc” and what “steals, kills and destroys”.

So name it – all the enemies attempting to ruin God’s people and God’s plan.

Step 2: Now name everything you know to be true about God, your Father…Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior…Holy Spirit who lives in you and who gives you power and strength.

Go ahead and use King Jehoshaphat’s pattern. He won’t mind…there are no copywriter issues in Glory…He doesn’t care if you plagiarize his words.

Start out your declarations with “Are You not God who….?” and just fill in the blanks.

For example…here’s how I started.

“Are You not the God who saved my sorry soul out of the pit of self-service and called me into your Kingdom? Are You not the God who transferred me from darkness to light? Are You not the God who loved me before I even knew who You were?”

Please note…this may take awhile and you most assuredly can use your Bible if you run out of things to say about who He is.

Step 3: Really analyze what the enemy is trying to take in these attacks and call those out as well.

Declare how those things go against what God has promised you in His Word and in your times before Him in the past when He laid hopes and dreams on your heart.

You might be tempted at this point to lean into self-pity and start explaining your own virtues to God and begin whining about how unfair the enemy is. May I urge you to NOT do that….remember…the focus here is on how awesome God is and how awful the enemy is…and let God decide where you land between those two extremes.

This will be helpful for the final step…

Step 4: After you have poured out all of it, stop.

Stop and assume the position of a helpless child with your hands and  your heart spread wide.

You really have nothing to bring to the battle except your great need and the measure of faith you have been given.

You stand before the One who has everything you need to win.

So gather your family, your friends, all the people near and far for whom you carry any burden and stand there before God and lift your eyes to Him alone.

And wait.

I hope and pray you will find some kind of quiet place this weekend and do this.

I look forward to regrouping with you on Monday as we continue on this journey.

May the Lord meet you in your outpouring and may He pour out on you wisdom and comfort, peace and joy.

May He hear your cries and may you experience His mercy and grace over all that is coming against you and those you love <3

 

Fast forward…as the focus turns from self to God <3

To catch you up to speed: I started a little series for the week based on 2 Chronicles 20. (we started Monday this week if you want to go back and read those first, we will wait for you…)

This is a well-marked and often visited set of pages in my Bible over the years as it describes those times when we don’t just have one thing coming against, but we have many things coming from all directions.

Attacks on all borders and we are greatly outnumbered.

Jehoshaphat was King of Judah and received news of a huge multitude of armies coming against his land.

We are told he realized the serious situation and feared greatly, but he set himself to seek the Lord and called for all the people from every city to come together in fasting and prayer to seek God’s help.

The next thing he did is interesting.

As everyone was gathered in the Temple and with desperate cries to God; Jehoshaphat led them in prayer.

His words are recorded in verses 5-13 but here is the summary of the declarations he made:

<3 Who God is…the God of their history and past generations, ruler over heaven and all the kingdoms of earth, the One who holds all power and all might in His own hands

<3 What God had done already…drove out the inhabitants of the land and given that particular place of real estate to His people, Israel – the descendants of Abraham, made them a nation with a place of worship specifically dedicated to Him alone

<3 What God had promised…that if at any time trouble of war or famine or pestilence should come on them, if they gathered in that place and called out to Him, He would hear them and He would save them

<3 What the enemy was doing…tattled on them, he did. Jehoshaphat straight up called out the enemy’s activities in detail to God and pointed out why what they were doing was NOT God’s plan for Israel.

<3 What they needed…King Jehoshaphat…the King of Judah…the man with all the resources of the kingdom at his disposal….stood humbly before the LORD his God…and this precious so don’t ever miss this…not only did the King stand there before Him but “all Judah, with their little ones, their wives and their children, stood before the LORD” v. 13. 

<3 What they declared about themselves….And they all…the whole huge crowd of royals and commoners and peasants and business owners…holding their little babies and huddled with their youth beside them… they admitted…we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us. We have no idea what we should do. But our eyes are upon You.

Not….here’s our battle plan. Lord, bless it.

Not…we are pulling all the smartest people out and reviewing battle strategies and taking inventory of our weaponry.

Not…call out for any able bodies and lets get them suited up in army and gather horses and sharpen our swords.

No.

They gathered together as families and stood before the Lord and lifted empty trusting hands and faith-filled eyes to the One who had made promises.

Jesus made us some promises.

He promised in this world we would have trouble…but to take heart…because He has overcome it.

He promised He would never leave us nor forsake us.

He promised His Spirit to dwell in us and guide us and teach us and correct us.

He promised He was going away but that He would come back.

He is faithful.

In the midst of overwhelming circumstances today, would you humble your heart?

Would you gather those you love dearly, even if it is only in your prayer closet, and stand before the Lord with honesty about situations and then would you acknowledge your need for Him to show up and would you keep your eyes firmly fixed on Him today?

God bless you dear ones. The trials and struggles of this life are real and they are a multitude.

But…..

HE. HAS. OVERCOME. <3

Oh to have the want-to <3

Picking up from yesterday’s post, I can not improve on God’s written word as to what happened to our knee-shaking, brow-wiping King Jehoshaphat on the direct heels of his decision to set himself to seek the Lord.

Picking up at the end of verse 3 of 2 Chronicles 20, we read…

“…and {Jehoshaphat} proclaimed a fast throughout all of Judah. So Judah gathered together to ask help from the LORD; and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.”

Can we just stop and absorb that passage and imagine what it would have looked like?

This may be breaking all kinds of copywriter laws but I took this pic on my phone so…to me it’s just a snapshot of what happens to be a map of Judah and surrounding areas about this time frame.

We can see the names of all the forces that are descending on them from all directions.

Now picture the first battle strategy the King engages in.

He calls for all the inhabitants of Judah to collectively fast.

Do without food.

And we read that all of Judah gathered together from “all the cities” and did just that.

Please.

Look back at that map and imagine a world without smartphones, cars, planes, trains and automobiles…and people coming from all the cities to fast and seek God’s help together as one.

And I think to myself, what if.

What if we…the Body of Christ…were called to gather together and to fast.

Not protest.

Not debate.

Not carry plaquards.

But we all gathered from all the cities and we fasted and sought God.

And then I think…what about me?

What kind of desperation would cause me forego eating and to put aside all other endeavors and seek the help of God?

Because I used to do it.

But I don’t anymore.

I confess it has been a long time since I proclaimed a fast and sought the help of our God for this broken and hurting and conflicted world.

And if you hear something tearing right now, it just might be my heart.

Because I have cried some desperate prayers in the last few years.

But I can tell you that I have come to a place in my life where I must confess, I am not prone to answer the call to fast.

Let me be clear – fasting is not a “tool” to get God to do what we want.

Fasting is a way to humble ourselves by literally denying our flesh and turning to God in our  spirit.

It is a way to position ourselves before Him in a tangible way of abstaining from our life-giving, comfort-supplying need for sustenance and saying…

God, You …ALONE…are my life…my food…my source of all things and I am seeking Your help now, with all that I am and all that I have.

And I don’t know any other way to put it, but I honestly lately have not wanted to do it.

I have come to a place in my life where food is not only a requirement for keeping my body running, it has become a place of comfort and solace for me.

I look forward to dinner with Russ at the end of the day, meals with family and friends, snacks…treats…and I have to pray to God for the “want-to” of self-denial.

Perhaps our whole country has come to such a place as well.

We feed greedily on food, beverage, entertainment…

eye candy for the soul in the form of visual beauty through Instagram and Pinterest..

and I am not picking on those things but I do wonder just how desperate I will have to become…

this country will have to become…

this world will have to become before we declare that we have reached a place where only God can help us…and we will take our request for His intervention seriously enough that we will truly humble ourselves and cry out to Him with all that we have.

Not a fun one today, my friends.

Not pleasant to tell you that I, who well know the need to practice the disciplines, have developed dragging feet and a faint heart.

But in my weakness…in our weakness…we can turn to Him who loves us, who made us, who knows we are but dust…and He will strengthen us to turn from our idols and renew our love and dedication to Him.

Oh LORD, even though I long to serve You with my whole being, Thou knowest I falter in my flesh. Change my want-to’s today to want only Your will for us. I ask in the most precious Name, the Name of Jesus…who denied all that we all might live in Him <3

 

 

Battle plans and God’s timing

So this whole series has been brewing in my head since last week when I read this quote from A. W. Tozer

“The whole Bible and all past history unite to teach that battles are always won before the armies take the field. The critical moment for any army is not the day it engages the foe in actual combat; it is the day before or the month before or the year before….”  excerpt from The Next Chapter after the Last

and I could just stop right there and let you mull that truth over.

Let it sink deep into your core.

In fact…go ahead and read through it again because it resonates with what we know.

Even as I sit here with my notes of what I want to say to you resting at my elbow, I am picturing one of my favorite movie scenes of all time….the pre-battle “there will be a day…but it is not this day” speech of Aragorn at the Black Gate.

Even if you are not a Lord of the Rings fan, google it because if you are ever facing a rough day …this one is sure to inspire you to carry on.

But I digress.

Because before Tolkien ever imagined such a face off between a small army of good going up against an untold mass of evil, Scripture gives us a beautiful picture of being surrounded with no hope of escape.

My go-to passage when I have my own “Dark Gate” moments is 2 Chronicles 20 which opens with these words…

“It happened after this…

{after what?? after King Jehoshaphat brought about all manner of wonderful reforms to restore order} …

that the people of Ammon, and others with them besides the Ammonites, came to battle against Jehoshaphat.”

We are told in the next passage that some came to tell him that “a great multitude is coming against you.”

And Jehoshaphat did what?

He …. feared.

Which, yeah…that would be an appropriate response.

So I look at my own times when too much is coming against me and  threatens “all I hold dear”, as our Lord of the Rings King would say.

All that is precious to me is suddenly under attack and I fear that some power greater than us will take and destroy all of it.

I have not even engaged in the actual battle yet.

I have seemingly lost and the fight hasn’t even started.

So I look at the rest of the passage to see what Jehoshaphat does next and I read that he “set himself to seek the Lord.”

As overwhelming odds stacked against this King, he turned his fear into faith by intentionally taking steps that would lead him into God’s presence, protection, provision.

Tomorrow we will look at those steps a little closer but for today, if you have a few minutes, would you open your Bible and read Chapter 20 for yourself?

Because we have some forces coming against us in large numbers.

To name a few:

  • Broken and bankrupt political systems on state and local levels, not to mention national…
  • Military forces in countries that do not like the U. S. testing out weapons of mass destruction
  • Increasingly violent clashes between citizens in this country and citizens of many other countries
  • Countless refugees around the world and now in our own country as large portions of the south have been wracked with storms and the north west with fires
  • A growing hostility between the Church and the culture and even hostilties  within the Church

There are more. Many more.

Maybe an army rose up around your breakfast table this morning or at the ball game last night.

And then there is our own working out of our salvation with fear and trembling that can sometimes seem like the biggest conflict going as our old nature rears it’s ugly and strong head up against the “new creation” we thought we had become.

In the overwhelming tide of whatever might be rising around you today, would you set yourself to seek the LORD first of all?

I pray we will choose to do that …you and I.

When fear rises, I pray we will not succumb to it nor try to distract ourselves away from it.

I pray…when we see that vast army gathering and rattling their very real and very destructive swords at us and all we hold dear…we will stand firm and set our feet as we set our hearts to seek the Lord our God <3

I look forward to our time together tomorrow as we continue exploring 2 Chronicles 20 <3

 

Best Battle Strategy Ever <3

I have on my heart to share a series with you this week. However, before we begin I do want to acknowledge this day in the history of our country.

While there are high schoolers who were not even born on that infamous day 16 years ago, I well remember the phone call from a friend asking me if I had the news on.

This was pre-smart phone days when we used wall phones to communicate and one by one, America found out that airplanes full of people had become a new form of weapon.

I remember sinking to my knees on the floor of our family room as the newscasters tried to explain how a plane had just flown into the side of a building, even as they realized another was headed to do the same to the sister tower.

In horror and with desperate prayers to God, many followed the events of that morning.

I do believe the increasingly less effective methods of destruction were in direct answer to the prayers of those around the world as this well-planned attack became exposed.

We have been told that across Maasai-land, our Kenyan brothers and sisters were in prayer for us as well.

Many around the world were interceding for us that day.

There is an enemy that seeks to destroy all that God has created.

And while we often want to put some tangible face to this foe, scripture tells us that our enemy is not flesh and blood.

Yes, the enemy works through people…through ideologies and governments and systems; through terrorists and agendas and despots; through exploitation and greed; through the exaltation of “self”…

I am reminded of the “I will’s” of pride outlined in Isaiah 14:13 – 14…

I will ascend into heaven

I will exalt my throne above the stars of God

I will also sit on the mount of the congregation

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds

I will be like the Most High

Playing God.

A dangerous game for anyone, with tragic repercussions for all.

The hallmarks of such thinking are destruction and devastation and death.

So for our nation today, I pray that we would learn well to remain humbly before the God who blessed this land with resources and with His Spirit.

I pray that we would enter into all warfare under His direction and counsel, availing ourselves of His guidance so freely given to those who seek His face.

I pray for those who still mourn the loss of lives in personal ways, for those first responders who showed true heroism and courage.

I pray for those who still suffer today from the physical and emotional sacrifice they gave to enter into a different kind of battle as they inhaled ash to find survivors.

I pray for those who are today fighting another unthinkable kind of warfare as rains and winds and fires sweep various areas of our nation.

I pray that we would be a nation that recognizes the power of prayer, not only for our own country but for the many many people who suffer around the world.

Devastations of man and nature abound around this globe and many do not have any kind of resources with which to bring aid to their people.

May God’s mercy and grace be poured out over us as we lift our hands to Him and invite Him to come and work in ways that only He can.

I hope you will come back tomorrow and each day this week as we look at what God says about winning battles His way.

Be blessed today in all that you do, as you bless others <3