Hello friends. Today finds me feeling a little weary mixed with a lot of hope. I recently spoke at church and I titled my sermon “Living as People of Hope”- a challenge I think many of us have been feeling since 2020 descended upon us in all it’s fury. For those interested, I will write a blog post all about that and post it in the next few days- a nice recap to start the year, perhaps. Many know I write quotes and mark up my bibles- it helps me to put things into my heart and mind and to find them quickly when I need to. In one of my favorite bibles today, I came across this quote, written on the cover page of the New Testament.
E.M. Bounds wrote:
“Nothing but a specific effort from a praying leadership will avail. None but praying leaders can have praying followers. Praying apostles will beget praying saints. A praying pulpit will beget praying pews. Holy men have, in the past, changed the whole force of affairs; they have revolutionized CHARACTER AND COUNTRY by prayer. And such achievements are still possible for us. The power is only waiting to be used. Prayer is simply the expression of faith.”
….they have revolutionized character and country by prayer…
This is where the weary comes in, but the hope can overcome it. I have been very saddened to see fellow Christians, fellow citizens of the United States, tearing each other apart after the recent election. I feel like we have lost sight of where our trust should be, which is wholly in God and His ability to keep us where He wants us to go. As such, it is time that we realize more than ever, we have personal responsibilities to see to. A responsibility to examine our own individual character to see what we are doing in our own lives to better the place where God has seen it fit to have us. Take stock of how I am living right here in my own little corner of the world. Am I serving Him truly in my neck of the woods? Am I being a good steward of my resources such as time, money, goods, and what I contribute to my local community?
Proverbs 27:23-27 were my personal verses for 2017/2018 :
“Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds; for riches are not forever, nor does a crown endure to all generations. When the hay is removed, and the tender grass shows itself, and the herbs of the mountains are gathered in, The lambs will provide your clothing, and the goats the price of a field; You shall have enough goats’ milk for your food, For the food of your household, and the nourishment of your maidservants.” (New King James Version)
So, what does that mean? I remember it spoke to me, as we live on a farm, so I related to what it was saying, but to break it down even more, I felt like it was a calling to examine our lives. We have a lot of stuff, so much stuff that we don’t even know all the stuff we have. Stuff that we need to sort and decide what to do with and we have been making progress towards that over the last few years. I felt led that we weren’t using our resources to the best of our ability and I wanted to “free’ us up so that we would be free to serve Him, our family, and our community, well.
After the mess of 2020, the start of this new year is a great time to take stock of any changes that can be made. But, rather than add in anything new, how about looking at what can be taken away or how what we already have can be repurposed in a way to benefit your spirit, soul, and body? Self care is essential in building a healthy life, a good character with which we can live. Character is defined as “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual”. According to Collins Dictionary, the character of a person or place consists of all the qualities they have that make them distinct from other people or places. What sets us apart as Christians, is that our human character can be transformed daily to become more and more Christ-like here on earth. I love Romans 5: 3-5 from the New International Version, which ties character and hope together :
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into out hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”
My paraphrase- through all of the hard times in our lives, we learn from them. Things to do different, or better, next time. Compassion so we can treat others kindly when we see someone going through something we have gone through. But it is not through our power alone, it is by His Spirit that He has gifted to us to help us, that we can do these things. They sharpen our character, mold it to be better. Chisel away at it and define it.
Micah 6:8 tells us “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”. Three guidelines to help us learn to redefine our lives and our outlook. To shape our spheres of influence, right where we are.
To change the course of our country, we start right where we are. We look at ourselves in the light of God’s word, allow it to transform us, and chisel away anything that would stand in the way of His plans, and, we pray. Lord of Mercy, do we pray. Because, we are gonna have trouble my friends. It is the way of this earth. Plant John 16:33 deep into your heart today : “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world!” That was Jesus talking by the way. No other power greater.
I will leave you with some other notes and quotes about praying.
James 5:16b says “…the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective”
“Prayers are deathless. They outlive the lives of those who uttered them” E.M. Bounds
“Our prayers go where we cannot…there are no borders, no prison walls, no doors that are closed to us when we pray. ” Brother Andrew
“To pray or not to pray? Those are the only options.” Mark Batterson
Jeremiah 29:12 (Message version) “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.”
Lamentations 2:19 “Rise during the night and cry out. Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord. Lift up your hands to Him in prayer, pleading for your children.”
James 4:7-10 “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.”
“Prayer is the key note of the most sanctified life, the holiest ministry. He does the most for God who is the most skilled in prayer.” E. M. Bounds
Stay praying. Stay in the word, my friends.
Until next time,