Category Archives: Pray with Authority

Weakness Turned to Strength-Day 8

Welcome to 21 Days of Strength. I hope you’re encouraged by stories of the mighty men and women of valor in the Bible. Each started out weak and ended up strong. World changers. Let’s take another look at Gideon. He was least and last in a family whose clan was the weakest in their tribe. He was the runt of the litter. A self-described loser. Yet the angel of the Lord approached Gideon with these astounding words, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.”

“The angel of the Lord” is a term reserved for a very special kind of messenger. Most scholars believe “the angel of the Lord” describes an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ. God in physical form. Read a little further. You’ll notice that instead of “the angel of the Lord,” this visitor is actually referred to as the Lord Himself:  And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” (Judges 6:11-14 ESV).

This was a defining moment for Gideon. He asked for a sign to see if this was really the Lord.  He made an offering of meat and meal which the Lord touched with his staff.  The offering burst into flames so Gideon knew it was the Lord.  He was terrified, certain he would die because he had seen the Lord. But God assured Gideon he would not die.   So he built an altar to the Lord and called it, “The Lord is Peace” (Judges 6:24).

God then asked Gideon to do a very hard thing.  He was to tear down the altar to Baal at his father’s home. Gideon took ten servants and did as the Lord had told him. “But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night” (Judges 6:28).

“Who could have done such a thing?” the men of the town asked the next day. They discovered it was Gideon. So they went to Joash and said, “Your son Gideon knocked over Baal’s altar… Hand him over, so we can kill him!” Gideon’s father replied, “Are you trying to take revenge for Baal? If you are, you will be the ones who are put to death…If Baal really is a god, let him take his own revenge on someone who tears down his altar.”

That same day, his father changed Gideon’s name to Jerubbaal, explaining, “He tore down Baal’s altar, so let Baal take revenge himself.” (Judges 6: 30-32 CEB). This marked the beginning of Gideon as a leader of Israel against their enemies.  And a new day of courage for Joash, his father.

God delights in making weak people strong.  Isn’t that great news for all of us?  Gideon, who started out “less than,” is listed right up there among the great heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11, a chapter that many call the Hall of Fame of Faith:

“And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies” Hebrews 11:32-34 NIV).

30 Days of Hopeful: Day 19

“Jesus, are you willing to heal me?”  The man was desperate.  He was covered with leprosy–a terminal case.  His condition was hopeless.  Lepers were untouchables, so he was ostracized.   An outcast.  Jesus was his last ditch effort.  Face in the dirt, he crushed any remnant of pride…and begged.  His plea was simple. Just ten words: “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Jesus answers in half as many words and performs a miracle.  “I am willing.  Be clean!” (Luke 5:12, 13 NIV).

Let’s meditate on this passage in a different Bible version:  While he was in one of the towns, Jesus came upon a man who was a mass of leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he prostrated himself before him and begged, “If you want to, Lord, you can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out his hand, placed it on the leper, saying, “Certainly I want to. Be clean!”  (Luke 5:12-13 PHILLIPS).

Notice this version uses the word “want.” The Greek word, thelo, is translated “want, will, desire,” or even “wish.”  Thelo also indicates a “pressing on to action.”  Jesus not only wanted to and was willing to heal the guy. He took action!

In an instant, Jesus changed the man’s condition from hopeless to hopeful!  The leper’s plea can be considered a type of prayer. The word deomai, translated “beg,” describes a specific, urgent prayer.  The leper’s answer came swiftly.  His desperate cry for healing was consistent with the will of God for that man in that moment.

Alignment with God’s will is the key to powerful prayer, as Jesus taught His disciples in The Lord’s Prayer: Pray, therefore, like this: Our Father Who is in heaven, hallowed (kept holy) be Your name.  Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-10). This is a strong petition. It’s an imperative—more of a demand than a request—and better translated:  “Kingdom come! Your will be done on earth as in heaven!”

God’s will is done perfectly in heaven–so heaven becomes the template for our earthly prayers. It’s almost as if Jesus wants us to shake our fist and shout as we decree that God’s will be done on an earth still crawling with enemies.

So how do we know God’s will? My short answer is this: Read His Word.  Saturate your heart daily. Grow so close to your Good Shepherd that you know His will, obey His will, pray His will.  And when we pray according to God’s will, our hope springs to life.

30 Days of Hopeful: Day 18

Sometimes it’s hard to hold onto hope in the middle of life’s storms. We may have to lean on the help of a few good friends. It was one of those times for the paralytic in Luke 5. We don’t know the man’s ailment; what we do know is that he was helpless. So his friends carried the man on a mat to see the Master.  Their way was blocked by the crowd, but they were persistent and clever. They climbed on the roof, hauled up their sick buddy, and lowered him through a hole they made in the roof—right in front of Jesus. Pretty daring!

But instead of rebuking them, Jesus (maybe with a hint of a smile) applauded their faith.  Right then and there, he healed their friend!

Let’s reflect further on this miracle:  Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus.  When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven”  (Luke 5:17-20 NIV).

Jesus saw the faith of the sick man’s friends and forgave the man of his sins. Then he healed him. As everyone watched, the man “jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God” (Luke 5:25, 26). The onlookers were “gripped with awe and wonder” and praised God, too. Could the faith of a few friends have ignited such miracle? Was it their persistence? Their willingness to take a risk? Maybe all of those.

But I like to think it was also their love for their friend that opened the door to the miracle. They had suffered with this man. Prayed for him. Refused to give up on him.  Did whatever it took to get him to Jesus. Most important of all, they believed in the power of Jesus, Son of the Living God, to set their friend free.

These friends were true intercessors. They knew what it meant to stand in the gap. They remind me of some friends who stood in the gap for a woman I know. She was caught in the grip of addiction. She’d lost hope—even the will to live. Together, her friends waged a battle for her on their knees.

How they did pray! That little team of friends demonstrated the power of persistent prayer and loving action. They “made a hole in the roof” to place their friend at the feet of Jesus.  Maybe this is our calling as believers.  To be vessels of the same mercy we’ve received from the Lord. Agents of hope.  It was Jesus himself who reminds us that there is no greater love than to “lay down our life for our friends.”

I‘ll leave you with my favorite definition of mercy:  “Mercy is the willingness to enter the chaos of another person’s life.” 

Lord, make us willing to be Your vessels of mercy and agents of hope to a hurting and broken world. –Amen

30 Days of Hopeful: Day 11

We’ve touched on the danger of hope-killers, those predators which attack our hopes and dreams.  Anxiety is a big one.  But there’s another, more subtle enemy of hope—complaining.  Griping is so woven into our culture that it feels like a birthright.  We complain about the weather, the food, long lines, rude workers, bad drivers, you name it.  It’s second nature to whine when we don’t have enough of this, or too much of that, or when whomever or whatever is not working out for us.  Even if we don’t say it out loud, complaining can become a habitual part of our inner dialogue. You get the point.

The Bible calls this behavior grumbling, and warns against it repeatedly:  “Do everything without grumbling or arguing”(Philippians 2:14).  Some translations use the word “murmuring.”  The Greek word gongysmos, translated “grumbling,”  is defined as “a muttering, murmuring, low and suppressed discourse; the expression of secret and sullen discontent, murmuring, complaint.”  Ouch!

How does complaining hinder our dreams? Let’s take a look at the children of Israel.  They were chosen by God for a purpose. He picked a man named Moses to lead the people to a promised land “flowing with milk and honey” (Numbers 10:11-12).

But soon, they began to complain about hardships—the food, the fatigue, the water. Their grumbling angered God and frustrated Moses.  When the time finally came for them to take possession of the land,  Moses sent out 12 spies who returned with this negative report: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! But the people who live there are powerful.  We seemed like grasshoppers  in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them”  (Numbers 13:26-33).

Caleb and Joshua tore their clothes, pleading with the people. “We should go up and take possession of the land,” said Caleb. “Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them” (Numbers 14:1-9).  The Israelites became furious at Joshua and Caleb and threatened to stone them.

 So the Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?  Not one of these people will ever enter that land. They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will ever see it” (Numbers 14:20-23).

God called their grumbling contempt.  Rebellion.  In short–it was unbelief.  And it would cost that generation of the children of Israel their dream.  It’s the unbelief at the core of grumbling which blocks the very hope God wants to give us when we trust in Him.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

My Drift to Snarky

A curious thing happened the day after I completed 30 Days of Thankful.  I exhaled, let down my guard, and forgot to be thankful. I had a couple of what I can only describe as colorless days. What’s worse, I found myself being a little snarky to those I love. (Check it out. Snarky has made its away into the Oxford Dictionary).

So yesterday morning, I “hitched up my britches,” as my grandma used to say, and stepped back into my thanksgiving mode. I aligned my head and heart, once again, with the mindfulness of my previous days of practicing thankfulness.  I was intentional throughout the day to thank God—for the good stuff and the not so good stuff in my life. Straight away I noticed a change. The morning , though grey and rainy, gradually became filled with color.

I headed back to the ICU where most days are spent with my sister who is recovering from a traumatic brain injury. After two weeks here, I’ve come to understand that families don’t just stroll into the trauma unit without a story.  But today was different—almost holy—as one person after another told me their stories, mostly in the elevator. A young woman’s husband had been brutally assaulted Saturday night as he walked home from work. His name is Doug. I promised her I’d pray for him as he fought for his life.

A large and loving family from a nearby small town had come to the trauma unit because their 19-year-old son had been hit by a drunk driver. I told his mom, grandmom, great uncle I would pray for the boy. And they agreed to pray for my sister…both still in a coma.

In a more lighthearted vein, I noticed some tiny answers to specific prayers. We’re heading out to our son’s college swim meet in another state.  It’s a big football weekend and I waited too late to make reservations.  So earlier this week, the rooms were all taken.  But just this afternoon, a hotel room became available. What’s more, the reservation clerk said, “M’am, I can’t figure out how, but you’ve been given an upgrade worth twice what we are charging you.”  I suddenly remembered I had thanked God for the hotel hassles this morning and put them into His hands. It was as if I could hear His voice: “Just look what happens when you are thankful and give control to Me.”

More things to be thankful for:  My compassionate husband.  A friend that brought over some wonderful soup. Another who left us an amazing chicken pie.  There has been a lifting of my mood. The appearance of fresh hope.  And so I stop. Savor. Give thanks. God has got this covered.

Bottom line: I now believe that thankful needs to become a permanent fixture in my mind. And I can tell you this. If I forget—which I’m prone to do—it’s a pretty sure bet that life will again become colorless. Or worse, I’ll return to snarky.  So I’ll remember to confess, repent, hitch up my britches, and start being thankful all over again.