The Root of the Problem

S (Scripture) – Ephesians 6:12-13 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”

O (Observation) – Lord, I see that You are warning us that behind every circumstance we face in this life, there is a spiritual issue behind it.  If someone is struggling with an addiction, there is more to it than just mere physiology and brain chemistry.  If someone is having an affair, there are serious spiritual undercurrents to that person’s emotions and lustful desires.  Yes, depression is a very real physical condition – but there are spiritual components as well.

A (Application) – As we pray for ourselves and others, it is critical to recognize that praying for the spiritual issues at the root of the problem is the key to overcoming and walking in victory.  What emotion is the person feeling?  Name it.  When was the first time that emotion was experienced?  Recall it.  What lie is the person believing?  Say it.  Immediately renounce the lie for what it is, and replace it with God’s truth.  Proclaim that truth over the situation, and receive God’s grace to overcome it.

P (Prayer) – Oh, Heavenly Father, how many of us are struggling with issues in our lives today that have been plaguing us since childhood?  We try as we might to deal with them in our own fleshly ways, but the foundational elements of the battle cannot be won apart from You and the victory You make possible for us.  Help us, Lord, to recognize behind every issue the spiritual battle that is being fought.  Give us the grace we need to become more than conquerors in Christ Jesus as You have promised (Romans 8:37).

Make the Most of Your Time

S (Scripture) – Ephesians 5:15-17 “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.  So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

O (Observation) – Lord, this life is so short in relation to eternity.  We are given one life in which to come to a knowledge of You, walk in fellowship with You, and serve You.  When we die and come face-to-face with You, we are going to look back on our lives and realize that the only thing that mattered in the grand scheme of eternity is what we were able to accomplish for You and Your kingdom.  When we die, our bodies are buried, and everything that we accumulated in this life is stripped away.  The only lasting treasure that we have is what we have sown for You – our families, friendships, and relationships in which we have invested our very lives.  1 Thessalonians 2:8 says, “Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.”  May we understand that ministering to others “life-on-life” is what will reap eternal rewards that can never be taken away.

A (Application) – May we not reach retirement age and look back on our lives only to wonder where all the time has gone.  We need to understand what the will of the Lord is now, and through fellowship with Him, walk out each day living on purpose.  May it be so that at the end our lives we look back over all that Jesus has been able to accomplish through us and marvel at how far we have come throughout the process.  Don’t let one more moment go by where we are bouncing from one circumstance to the next and unsure of what His purpose is for our lives.

P (Prayer) – Father in Heaven, You have created each and every one of us with unique strengths, personalities, gifts, and a purpose.  May we not allow the cares of this world to keep us from passionately pursuing every last bit of it.  My prayer is that when I finally meet You face-to-face, that You would proclaim to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant! (Matthew 25:23)”  I do not want to finally meet You only to have You say that there was so much more that You had for me to accomplish for You that I just missed out on because I was too busy with other things.  Equip me, Lord.  We are in this together.

Forgiveness

S (Scripture) – Ephesians 4:30-32 “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

O (Observation) – Lord, I see that You want us to be so filled up with Your truth, walking in step with Your Spirit, that we shed all that is not of You.  We are not to harbor bitterness against another, exercise wrath, dwell in anger, engage in clamor, slander another, or operate maliciously.  Our relationships with others are to be kind and tender-hearted – we are to forgive all, even if they don’t deserve it.

A (Application) – It has been argued by some who claim to be forgiven by Jesus that forgiveness of others is only commanded to those who are also believers, particularly those that are sorry and repentant for their grievances committed against them.  This is simply not true.  We are commanded to forgive everyone.  This does not mean that people are absolved from all consequences, or that we all of a sudden rebuilt trust with someone that has betrayed us.  It does mean that we do not cast judgement on that person, nor do we hold bitterness or anger in our hearts toward him or her.  The only person broken and hurting in the entanglement of un-forgiveness is the person holding on to the pain caused by the wrong.

I came across a posting regarding this matter that I feel sums this up perfectly:

“God is willing to forgive non-Christians, through Jesus.  But they must be willing to be forgiven, open to the truth.  God is full of mercy.  But our forgiving our fellow man is not the same as God forgiving one of us.  We are two sinners, one hurting the other.  God is sinless.  Even if we forgive our brother who hurts us, that does not mean that God forgives him.

Human forgiveness is purely relational: we do not actually REMOVE the guilt of his sin, only the ill feelings we have.  Divine forgiveness is purely moral, and truly ontological: our actual guilt is removed.

God doesn’t take our offenses ‘personally.’  He cannot lightly forgive because sin is against his nature.  Sin is antithetical to God’s nature (Habakkuk 1:13 etc).  For example, hot water cannot “forgive” an ice cube.  The ice cube will melt.  It will not be preserved.  This is not possible.  It’s nothing personal!  But God is pure God, and hence antithetical to evil.

Christians are supposed to forgive non-Christians.  Yet this does not wipe away their sin; it only removes a block between us and them.” – Douglas Jacoby

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, I am so profoundly thankful that while I was still yet a sinner, You sent Your Son to die for me (Romans 5:8).  It is, indeed, Lord, Your kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).  Help me, Lord, to be kind to others though they do not deserve it, to forgive them when they aren’t sorry, and to refuse to have a wall be built that would block us from each other.  How can I possibly show Your love and truth to those that don’t know You if I cannot see over the wall of un-forgiveness?  May they see and experience but a glimpse of Your forgiveness through what they receive from me.

Filled Up

S (Scripture) – Ephesians 3:16-19 “…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”

O (Observation) – Oh, what it means to live a life filled to the brim with the Most High God!  There are so many in this world that look at what they think to be the Christian life as a set of rules, regulations, obligations, etc. and believe that such as life is devoid of any “fun” at all.  When we truly understand what it means to “abide in Christ” and to be led by the Holy Spirit each and every moment, we will witness first-hand the power of the Lord in our lives.  This power will make every earthly experience pale in comparison.

A (Application) – Many people go from experience to experience through recreation, substance abuse, concerts, etc. looking for an escape, a thrill, or some other type of feeling that elevates them above the mundane day-to-day “grind” that they proclaim to be stuck in.  They are forgoing the very essence of why they were created – to know God, to be known by Him, and to walk in step with Him while accomplishing His purposes.  Only then will we understand what it means to be “filled up to all the fullness of God,” when we learn what it means to experience His presence.

P (Prayer) – Most High God, thank You for drawing us ever closer to You, and for allowing us to feel and experience the awesome power that can only come from You.  May we not allow cheap substitutes of manufactured power this world provides take its place.  Help us to continually walk in submission to Your Holy Spirit, being filled up to all the fullness of You.

Amazing Grace, Redemption, and Crazy Love

S (Scripture) – Ephesians 2:4-7 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

O (Observation) – The song, “Amazing Grace,” was one that I always thought sounded lovely when I was a little girl, but I never quite understood why the author referred to himself as a “wretch.”  I finally understood when I found myself as a young adult, living in opposition to the Lord, walking to the beat of my own drum, and demonstrating by my own actions that I believed I knew more about life than Him.  Even in the midst of my blatant rebellion, God never stopped loving me, pursuing me, ever-so gently beckoning me back to Him.  Christ died and paid the penalty for my sins, despite the fact that I wanted nothing to do with Him for a season in my young life.  It is this kindness and crazy love for me that turned my heart toward Him.

A (Application) – God has the ability to bring life and victory to a person who is spiritually dead and defeated inside.  Only He can do that.  There is a time and a place for counseling, anti-depressants, and life coaches, but there is no substitute for our Heavenly Father’s loving touch.  When we understand who we are in Him, what He created us for, and find ourselves walking in step with His Spirit, we are alive for the very first time.

P (Prayer) – Loving Jesus, there are no words to describe the fundamental need of the created thing to know, and be known by, its Creator.  Help us to become overwhelmed with passion for Your Name, and may we never forget that You have always been there, always loved us, and teach us to love others in this way.

The song, “Come Alive (Dry Bones)” from Lauren Daigle, comes to mind:

Through the eyes of men it seems
There’s so much we have lost
As we look down the road
Where all the prodigals have walked
And one by one
The enemy has whispered lies 
And led them off as slaves

But we know that you are God
Yours is the victory
We know there is more to come
That we may not yet see
So with the faith you’ve given us
We’ll step into the valley unafraid

As we call out to dry bones 
Come alive, come alive
And we call out to dead hearts 
Come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes 
Let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones, come alive 

God of endless mercy
God of unrelenting love
Rescue every daughter 
Bring us back the wayward son
By your spirit breathe upon them 
And show that you alone can save
You alone can save

As we call out to dry bones 
Come alive, come alive
And we call out to dead hearts 
Come alive, come alive
Come up out of the ashes 
Let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones come alive

So breathe, oh breath of God
Now breathe, oh breath of God
Breathe, oh breath of God
Now breathe

Riches of His Grace

S (Scripture) – Ephesians 1:7, 13 “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us…In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”

O (Observation) – Lord, Your abundant love is so overwhelmingly incomprehensible.  Through You, and You alone, we have redemption and forgiveness, and the fact that You don’t just give us enough to get by – You generously pour out Your grace on Your children, so much so that we can’t help but be transformed by You.  We are consumed by Your love and Your faithfulness to us, and are drawn to repentance by Your kindness.  You place Your Holy Spirit within us so that we might walk boldly, and with the highest level of confidence, that You are God, there is no one like You, and we are Yours.

A (Application) – Oh, that we would only understand this glorious truth!  How differently we would live our lives if we truly believed it.  We are to live this life with nothing less than total surrender to the one and only King of kings and Lord of lords who died for us, while we were still yet sinners.  This confident hope and peace that You give to Your children is indescribable.  How anyone can bounce through life apart from You and this promise is heartbreaking.  May we be the ones to bring Good News to a lost and hurting world.

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, Mighty God, Precious Savior…thank You for Your gift of redemption.  Thank You for lavishing your grace on me day in and day out, and for the guidance Your Holy Spirit provides.  Help me to walk in full confidence and reassurance of the inheritance You have for me.