Tag Archives: humility

Penned Prayers

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When was the last time you wrote your prayers down in a prayer journal?

Recording our prayers in a journal offers three benefits.

A journal is a place where we give expression to the fountain of our heart, where we can unreservedly pour out our passion before the Lord. -Donald S. Whitney

Ask yourself, when was the last time you wrote your prayers out using a prayer journal and a pen? If you’ve ever studied the book of Psalms, you’ve likely noticed many of them are penned prayers. You may have also noticed that many of them were written by King David at a time when he fled from his son, Absalom, who rallied up an army in an attempt to overthrow him.

“O God, you have declared me perfect in your eyes; you have always cared for me in my distress; now hear me as I call again. Have mercy on me. Hear my prayer…” (Psalm 4:1). Or Psalm 5:1-3, “O lord, hear  me praying; listen to my plea, O God my King, for I will never pray to anyone but you. Each morning I will look to you in heaven and lay my requests before you, praying earnestly.”

From these prayers we can sense the despair and anguish in David’s heartfelt petitions.

There have been times in my own life where my prayers have been a reflection of a desperate heart. Later, when that season had passed I re-read those prayers and gave God the praise for how He came through for me or gave me victory in a certain area. Often times, I see God’s answer in a whole new perspective.

Another prophet, Jonah, recorded his prayers on the written page, too.

“Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish: ‘In my great trouble I cried to the Lord and he answered me; from the depths of death I called, and Lord, you heard me!’”(Jonah 2:1-2). I guess if I was in the belly of a large fish, I’d be praying too.

Benefits of Penned Prayers

I also find that journaling my prayers helps me to stay focused and achieve three goals:

  1. Recording my prayers forces me to clarify what my prayer needs actually are rather than just a vague generality.
  2. Recording my prayers allows me to write Pen-Point Prayers where I focus on the specifics of my petitions.
  3. Our lives are busy and we often just snack on God’s Word, reading a short devotional or grabbing a Bible verse and running out the door.  Writing out my prayers mean keeping an appointment with God. This slows my mind and body down so I can have an honest heart-to-heart connection with the Lord.

Legacy of Faith

One of the blessings that come from a life of penned prayers is the legacy of faith you leave your children and grandchildren. When my grandmother passed away, I received one of her journals. It’s a mixture of her daily reflections on life, family, faith, but also some very gut-wrenching prayers. I can say that it was her prayers that I most treasure. They allowed me to get a glimpse of her pained heart laid raw and hurting before God.  Underpinning her petitions to her heavenly Father was a heart of humility, recording her failings as a parent, her shortcomings, fears, sorrows, and even some regrets. But for all the grief that filled her life towards its end, she remarked how thankful that Jesus stood in the gap as well as the void, between what was all wrong and missing in her life, and the forgiveness and acceptance Jesus offers.  Her repentant heart reflected in the truth that she needed God – every day.

And there’s more, something I will always carry with me- her prayers for me and referring to me as a blessing in her life. Of course, she wrote letters to me often and expressed her love for me and offered affirmations, but to know that I was a blessing to her life impacted me when I was a young adult. She wasn’t perfect, but I know from her prayer journal that in all her weaknesses, she placed her confidence in God, and trusted in His love and forgiveness. Her prayer journal, in turn, was a double blessing back to me.

Blessings to you,

Lisa

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In A Little While

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“In a little while.” These four important words can change our perspective on waiting.

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Jesus said, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me” (John 16:16)

In the verse above, Jesus was referring to his death and then His resurrection three days later. The disciples were saddened about Jesus’ impending death. But they didn’t understand the language Jesus used to explain that after He died they would see him again. To clarify, Jesus used the metaphor of a woman about to give birth. She experiences severe labor pains, and the hour has come for the baby to enter the world. “…you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy” (John 1:20, nrsv).  After the birth of her baby, the mother no longer dwells on the pain because of the joy of finally seeing her new baby.

I cried at my grandmother’s bedside the night she took her final breath.  It was Mother’s Day 1986. When the doctors discovered she was full of cancer it was too late for treatment. She was sent home to live out her final days. Twelve days later she went home to Jesus.  While caressing her soft but lifeless hand in mind, my heart was conflicted. I was relieved that her suffering from an aggressive form of cancer was over, but at the same time, my heart ached. I wasn’t ready to let her go. Her unexpected illness and sudden death seemed surreal. She and I had always been close.

As a teen, I occasionally spent my Saturday afternoons visiting her. She always baked a fresh loaf of bread and brewed our favorite flavor of tea. We spent the afternoon talking about the things on our hearts, how school was going for me, my friends, college plans, spiritual things, stories about my grandparent’s early days, and family history.  As we sipped hot tea from her best china tea cups and enjoyed the warm bread, Cat Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel, the Carpenters, Elton John and Fleetwood Mac played in the background. My grandmother had a sense of humor, too. And it always floated to the surface of her stories sending us into long spells of deep belly laughs with tears rolling down our cheeks.

Not only did her passing away leave a huge hole in my heart, but I was troubled over God’s timing. I wondered, Didn’t God know that I still needed her?  Nine months earlier, my husband (at the time) had left for work one morning and never come back. Heartbroken from his rejection, I couldn’t see past the hurt. However, in hindsight, it was my grandmother whom I believe God used to help discern my situation. My husband had literally abandoned me and broke our marriage covenant. 

For the next nine months, my grandmother was like Jesus with skin on. Living four hours away, she wrote letters every week professing her unconditional love and support, as well as Scripture verses to encourage and strengthen my faith.  More than anything, she wrote about God’s compassion towards those abandoned, rejected and crushed in spirit.

Like it did for the disciples, John 16:16 brings hope to Christian’s today. Twenty–nine years have passed since my grandmother went to be with Jesus. His words “in a little while” still apply and continue to bring hope. With the passing of the years, sadness has been replaced with joyful anticipation.  Faith says to wait on God because “in a little while” I’ll not only see my grandmother, but Jesus as well.

Who or What is Your “In A Little While?”

Are you waiting for your spouse to return home from deployment? When he or she left your heart ached, but take comfort in Jesus’ words “in a little while.” In a little while, you’ll rejoice at his or her homecoming. Are you praying while waiting on a situation to be resolved? Remember, there is an invisible hand working behind the scenes and “in a little while” He will make straight what is crooked. Trust Him to do what’s best. Do you feel agitated, pray, and “ in a little while” God will provide the calm. In cases in which you don’t understand something, pray and maintain obedience and “in a little while” God will bring clarity to the situation. As the days of deployment drag on and you feel discouraged–draw close to–and put your faith in the Lord, (James 4:8) and “in a little while” He will be the “lifter of your head” (Psalm 3:3). Those four words are significant. They were for the disciples when Jesus spoke them. When there’s a longing of the heart involved, “in a little while” becomes alive with new meaning and fresh hope.

Blessings,

Lisa

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Eve’s Mistake – Discontentment

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Heed Eve's Mistake

Are you content in the military lifestyle?

“…I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.” Psalm 131: 2

Most of us are familiar with the Genesis account of Eve taking the fruit from the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden and eating of it. But have you considered why she was tempted by the serpent in the first place? She was discontent. The clever serpent (Satan) was successful in getting Eve to question God’s goodness after he posed the question, “Did God [really] say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’? (Genesis 3:1).  He planted the idea in Eve’s mind that God was tightfisted, not wanting to allow Adam and Eve to partake in His knowledge of good and evil. She reasoned, if she couldn’t have anything from that one tree, how could she be happy or content? The crafty serpent managed to get Eve to take her eyes off of God and refocus on what she didn’t have. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve defied God and received understanding of good and evil–with disastrous consequences.

In the military lifestyle, perplexing circumstances are a norm. Some of these difficult circumstances will test your level of contentment. Like Eve, you may sense a nagging dissatisfaction with your life.

Lingering discontentment causes us to look at the lives of others and secretly covet what they have. Discontentment turns our focus from all that God has provided for us to what we lack. This lack, whether tangible or intangible, becomes our “I’ve got to have it”3 mentality. Basic human nature hasn’t changed since Eve. She was convinced that having the knowledge of good and evil was harmless. 4 However, we must also consider that perhaps what we don’t have is best for us. Consider Eve’s mistake. The serpent told Eve that she could become like God by taking matters into her own hands and deciding for herself what was best for her. She believed that by having the knowledge of God she would be content. What it boils down to is that the serpent convinced Eve she could become her own god. Her shortsighted plan backfired. In the end, it saddened and displeased God.

Humility Leads to Contentment

Jonathan Edwards said this about humility:

A truly humble man is sensible of his natural distance from God; of his dependence on Him; of the insufficiency of his own power and wisdom; and that it is by God’s power that he is upheld and provided for, and that he needs God’s wisdom to lead and guide him, and His might to enable him to do what he ought to do for Him.1

Only God knows what’s best for us. Like Eve, some of the things we want are not good for us. When we defy God’s authority and decide for ourselves what we believe are good and right for us, we are making the same mistake Eve did. If what we desire is a worthy goal, but we leave God out of our plans, we are putting ourselves above God. Sadly, this is exactly where Satan wants us to be.

Until God changes our current situation, we are to work at being content in the here and now. We must rest in the secure knowledge that He will be the Keeper of our hearts. This means taking our desires and plans to the Lord for Him to determine what is best for us – trusting Him with the outcome. It also means putting on humility. Humility declares that God knows what’s best. Humility acknowledges God is in control. Humility also means that for the things we don’t understand, we leave in His hands. It is in this framework that our humility leads to contentment.

Blessings,

Lisa

Notes:

1 Lisa Nixon Phillips. Faith Steps for Military Families–Spiritual Readiness Through the Psalms of Ascent ( New York, NY:, Morgan James Publishing, 2014) 126.

2 Ibid. 131.

3 Profile of Eve, Life Application Bible (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, Inc. 1989).

4 Bible Note for Genesis 3:6, Life Application Bible (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, Inc. 1989).

 

 

Sennacherib’s Prideful Downfall

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King Sennacherib of Assyia

King Sennacherib of Assyia

Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord

1 Corinthians 1:31

Do you enjoy watching movies about the battles fought during Bible times? I do, but I have to admit that I don’t enjoy watching spears slicing through the air and striking the heart of a soldier, or swords decapitating heads, or the sharp spikes on the wheels of chariots chopping up men as they crisscross the battlefield. No, that aspect of any ancient battle disturbs me, perhaps because it was how war was actually fought–facing the enemy, literally. For me, I prefer the behind the scene stuff, namely plot, character, and suspense. My favorite Bible battles are those that pit the character of the protagonist against the character of the antagonist, and watch how God determined their fates as the plot unfold. Take for example, two kings: Hezekiah and Sennacherib. Their way of ruling their kingdoms were as different as their personalities. But only one personality would ultimately triumph.

The Tale of Two Temperaments

 In 2 Kings 18 is the story of Hezekiah’s and Sennacherib’s battle of wills. King Hezekiah of Judah and King Sennacherib of Assyria each ruled their kingdoms differently. Hezekiah was a godly and humble king. He sought the Lord about matters regarding his kingdom. The priority of his heart was obedience to God and he “held fast to the LORD; he did not depart from following him but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses. The LORD was with him; wherever he went, he prospered” (2 Kings 18:6-7). On the other hand, King Sennacherib of Assyria was a calloused ruler (I can see trouble ahead already!). His armies were ruthless and enjoyed torturing his captives. By the time Hezekiah became king of Judah, Sennacherib had already conquered the northern kingdom of Israel. He was convinced that his kingdom couldn’t be defeated. Sennacherib was a prideful man. He trusted in his own skills and means. Sennacherib was in his fourth year as king of Assyria when he threatened to conquer Judah, Hezekiah’s kingdom. The year was 701 B.C.

To make matters worse, Hezekiah defaulted on paying his tribute money, money paid to Sennacherib with the agreement that Assyria wouldn’t attack Judah. Hezekiah hoped Sennacherib hadn’t noticed, but he did. Hezekiah sent Sennacherib an apology letter, along with the tribute money he owed, but Sennacherib’s pride got the best of him and decided to invade anyway. Assyria was known throughout as a mighty nation and Sennacherib was designated as a great king, an association reserved in those days for a king who dominated a vast region. Prior to Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah, he sent a delegation of men to Jerusalem to intimidate and persuade Hezekiah to surrender.

In their negotiations, the Rabshakeh, Sennacherib’s chief officer, met Hezekiah’s officials and said to them, “On what do you base this confidence of yours? Do you think mere words are strategy and power for war? On whom do you now rely, that you have rebelled against me? See, you are relying now on Egypt, that broken reed of a staff (a staff signifies a ruler, and in this case the reign of the Pharaoh of Egypt was considered by Sennacherib to be broken), which will pierce the hand of anyone who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who rely on him” (2 Kings 18:19-21). Sennacherib’s men performed a cleaver trick by mocking God and at the same time hoping to learn who or what was king Hezekiah placing his trust in, calling any efforts to align himself with Egypt foolish.  Can you perceive Sennacherib’s pride oozing through his own official’s words?

Sennacherib’s officials appealed to Hezekiah’s officials to surrender. “The king of Assyria says: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you out of my hand. Do not let Hezekiah make you rely on the Lord  by saying, the Lord  will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’” By trying to convince them that no country would come to their aid as Assyria had defeated them all, the goal was to promote fear and doubt in the people of Judah. None of their gods protected them from Sennacherib, so how could the Lord protect Jerusalem? Furthermore, by using the words, “Do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you by saying, ‘the Lord will deliver us’” (2 Kings 18:32) this was Sennacherib’s final attempt to convince the Israelites to forsake King Hezekiah and create antagonism and disagreement in his kingdom. But what Sennacherib didn’t understand or appreciate about God is that He can take a godly nation with only a flicker of faith and strength and turn it into a strong nation.

When Hezekiah’s officials returned with Sennacherib’s threatening letter, he did two things:

He humbly approached God for His help. With the pending attack of the Assyrian army, he had a decision to make. Would he give into Sennacherib’s fierce intimidation and warnings to surrender, or a take a stand, with God going before him? After reading the letter, he “spread it before the Lord . And Hezekiah prayed: “Oh Lord the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, you are God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, and have hurled their gods into the fire, though they were no gods but the work of human hands–wood and stone–and so they were destroyed. So now, O Lord our God, save us, I pray you, from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone” ( vv. 14-19).

Can you detect Hezekiah’s desperate plea in which he incorporated God’s sovereignty and Judah’s full dependence on Him?

King Hezekiah trusted. After his bold petition for God’s help, all this godly king could do was trust–place his hope and expectation in God for the outcome. But true to God’s own nature, “…the eyes of the Lord range throughout the entire earth, to strengthen those whose heart is true to him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). God also keeps His promises. He will honor those who honor Him. He perceived the condition of Sennacherib’s heart and didn’t like what He saw–a healthy dose of pride. Sennacherib took all the credit for the growth and the military strength of his kingdom. He accredited his past success and future victories to himself. In reality, Sennacherib missed an important truth. His success came from God. But God only allowed it in order to fulfill His purpose. Sennacherib’s greatest mistake was that he never acknowledged that another ruler, the God of the Israelites who made heaven and earth reigned with ultimate power and authority. Pride is a serious offense to God (see Proverbs 6:16-19). And He dealt a deadly blow to this evil and prideful Assyrian king using the hands of his own children, a final humiliation of the worst kind.

That very night the angel of the Lord set out and struck down one hundred eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; when morning dawned, they were all dead bodies. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria left, went home, and lived in Nineveh [defeated and humiliated]. As he was worshipping in the house of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped into the land of Ararat. His son Esar-haddon succeeded him (2 Kings 19:35-37).

Pride was the ruin of King Sennacherib of Assyria. His arrogance and belief that his kingdom had become powerful was because of his own efforts and strength led to his demise. Today, the word pride has been stripped from its sinful nature and been given an elevated position, making it less offending.1 But God’s Word doesn’t view pride in the same manner as the world views it.2 There’s a difference between being proud of certain things or people–and being prideful.3 The sin of being prideful overestimates our own value and importance, ignoring God’s role in our lives and endeavors, including our successes and achievements.4 God calls this type of pride sin.5 “For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves” (Galations 6:3).

The difference between these two kings is that King Hezekiah knew the Source of his accomplishments as king and Who gave him his victories. He attributed full credit to God. Our heavenly Father doesn’t object to self-confidence, a healthy self-esteem, or feeling good about an accomplishment, but what He does object to is our taking full credit for what He does in and through our lives and for subscribing to the belief that we are superior to others.

Blessings,

Lisa

Notes:

1 Lisa Nixon Phillips, Faith Steps for Military Families -Spiritual Readiness Through the Psalms of Ascent, (New York, NY:, Morgan James Publishing, 2014) 129.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.