Tips on prayer and pursuing deeper connection to God.
Tips on prayer and pursuing deeper connection to God.
A high-stakes moment in the life of Joshua shows us that when we’re on God’s side, nothing is impossible. This is an excerpt from Lysa TerKeurst’s book Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions.
If ever there were a moment for Joshua to feel overwhelmed at facing a situation totally out of his control, [the siege of Jericho] would have been it. The plan was crazy. Short of a miraculous intervention from God, it wouldn’t work. Joshua would be shamed. His people would be defeated. And to those who didn’t believe, the God of Israel would be revealed as nothing more than a figment of Joshua’s overactive imagination.
Talk about pressure.
But this is all part of the story with which you’re probably familiar. Where’s the little part that’s less known? … It’s at the end of Joshua 5 when Joshua goes out to look at the walls before receiving his marching orders from the Lord. There he is. And there the wall is.
Despite Joshua’s long military experience, he had never led an attack on a fortified city that was so well prepared for a long siege. In fact, of all the walled cities in Canaan, Jericho was probably the most invincible. There was also the question of armaments. Israel’s army had no siege engines, no battering rams, and no catapults. Their only weapons were slingshots, arrows, and spears — which were like straw toys against the walls of Jericho. Yet Joshua knew the battle of Jericho must be won because, having crossed the Jordan River, Israel’s troops had no place to which they could retreat. Further, they could not bypass the city because that would leave their women, children, animals, and goods at Gilgal vulnerable to certain destruction.
Pondering these heavy thoughts, Joshua is suddenly confronted by a man with a drawn sword. Scripture reveals that this is no mere human but “the commander of the army of the Lord” (Joshua 5:14).
God’s presence in human form. Seeing that the man is ready for battle, Joshua asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” (Joshua 5:13).
Wrapped in this question we see a hesitancy in Joshua — a peek inside his thought life — a need for reassurance. Such an honest question, but one that makes me feel Joshua isn’t walking in complete confidence and assurance. If he were, he wouldn’t have asked. But he did. And this is where we assume that, of course God’s presence will answer, “Joshua, I am with you, for you, and on your side!” But we would assume wrong. When asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” the presence of God says, “Neither.”
“We cannot heal our own broken heart,” write doctors Henry Cloud and John Townsend, but there’s hope. Find out why in this excerpt from the NIV Life Journey Bible. -Adam Forrest
Brokenheartedness is a painful state of being… When we are brokenhearted, our inner self feels smashed into pieces. Brokenheartedness occurs when we do not have the capacity to bear a loss or pain and something breaks inside.
For example, it is one thing to be discouraged in a relationship after a quarrel or period of alienation; it is quite another to be devastated by a severe relationship problem, such as deception, unfaithfulness, abuse or abandonment. We can also be brokenhearted about the loss of a loved one, a serious health issue, an emotional problem or a career loss.
However it happens, life as we know it goes on hold when we are brokenhearted.
We cannot heal our own broken heart in our own strength; we need God. During those times, God does not leave us alone. He takes initiative, healing us and binding our wounds…
If your life were summed up in one sentence, what would it be? A question question posed by Warren W. Wiersbe’s Life Sentences: What Sentence Will Sum Up Your Life?. In it Wiersbe Steps To Get Your Ex Back With You summarizes 63 lives from the Bible in one sentence each. Here’s his summary, and somewhat surprising reflection, on Abel:
Abel - By faith he was commended as a righteous man. -Hebrews 11:4
The most important thing in life isn’t what we think about ourselves or what others think about us, but what God thinks about us. He is the final Judge. When He examines and evaluates our motives, words, and actions, are we commended, as was Abel, or are we condemned, as was his brother Cain? “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at,” God told the prophet Samuel. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
Why did Cain murder his brother? “Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous” (1 John 3:12)… By using the plural “offerings,” Hebrews 11:4 may suggest that [God gave his approval] each time Abel came to the altar; and perhaps each time Cain noticed it, he became angrier and more resentful. What a tragedy to come to worship God and then go away filled with thoughts of murder!
Had you questioned Cain, you probably would have discovered that his theology was fairly sound. He believed in God and believed that God had created all things. He believed that God wanted to receive worship and thanksgiving. He believed that he and his brother were supposed to work and carry their share of the family burdens. But the demons believe in one God, and they aren’t saved; and when they think about God, they tremble — something Cain didn’t do (James 2:19). That’s why James added, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26).
Dead faith is deceptive faith, but it doesn’t fool God. True saving faith makes the believer into a new creation, with a new Master, new motives, new priorities, and new desires to love God and one’s neighbor. Jesus called Abel “righteous Abel” (Matt. 23:35), and John said that Abel’s actions were righteous, so in both character and conduct, he proved to be a righteous man.
-Christine Caine, Undaunted: Daring to Do what God Calls You to Do
More from Christine Caine on facing disappointment:
Do you feel stuck in a hopeless struggle and suspect prayer won’t make a difference? I recommend these insights from the life of Joshua, courtesy of Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s NIV Life Journey Bible. -Adam Forrest
Too often we pray with low expectations. Perhaps we pray out of habit or guilt, but there are times when we don’t expect God to do anything drastic on our behalf. Perhaps we fear getting our hopes dashed, so we set low expectations for God so that he won’t fail or disappoint us.
Joshua prayed differently. He asked God to make the sun stand still so that his warriors could continue to fight in daylight.
But Joshua didn’t expect God to do all the work. He trusted God to do his part — suspend the heavenly bodies — while he did his part, which was to wield his sword and lead his soldiers tirelessly into battle. The Lord hurled hailstones on the Amorites, while the Israelites chased and fought them. Joshua didn’t passively wait for God to do everything, but he trusted God to do what God could do [see Joshua 10:1-15].
Parents: Here’s some empowering news for your parenting journey, courtesy of Mark Batterson (parent, pastor, author of The Circle Maker). This post is an excerpt of Praying Circles around Your Children, which is free to download for a limited time — find out where you can download it after the jump.
I want to be famous in my home… Parenting our three children is far more difficult and far more important than pastoring thousands of people.
Just the other day, I said to Lora, “I feel like we’ll finally figure out this parenting thing the same day our kids leave home!”
The truth is, we’ll never figure it out, because children are moving targets. Just when you think you have them pegged, they become toddlers or teenagers or twenty-somethings, and you’re right back at square one. All you can do is learn a few lessons along the way and enjoy the journey. I have discovered one thing, however, that makes all the difference in the world.
Yesterday Mark Batterson shared his experience with trying to Force a Miracle. Here’s the story’s unexpected conclusion — a real-life example of “seek and ye shall find,” and how the finding will often surprise … ye!
I love how this story hints that God is directing the scene, but Mark and his unnamed friends have their roles to play. That is exciting, because it’s true in our stories too!
This story is from Mark Batterson’s book The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears.
-Adam Forrest, Zondervan
Have you ever ever prayed for something that would advance God’s kingdom, but your plan didn’t work out? This can be disconcerting, to say the least.
“This could be God saying ‘Not yet’ instead of ‘No,’” a friend says. But a delay is mysterious when we see a clear need for God’s intervention. “Why would God wait?” I’ve thought. “Doesn’t he know the timeframe I’m working with? I only get about three score and ten years to make a difference!”
These concerns come out dramatically in this true story from pastor and author Mark Batterson. This story is from his book The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears, and I hope you find it as encouraging as I did.
-Adam Forrest, Zondervan
Ann Voskamp explores the deep-rooted link among surprise, joy, and humility. [Excerpt from Selections from One Thousand Gifts: Finding Joy in What Really Matters.]
Perhaps there is no way to discover joy but as surprise…
The humble live surprised. The humble live by joy. The humble are the laid-low and bowed ones, the surprised ones with hands open to receive whatever He gives.
He hands them the earth. The earth. [Matthew 5:5]
But is it any wonder? That word humility itself comes from the Latin root humus — the kind of earth that grows good crops. God gives the earth to the humus-people, the humble ones. Humility is that good humus that grows gratitude that yields abundant joy.
Ann Voskamp shares a discovery from her spiritual practice of counting gifts. [Excerpt from Selections from One Thousand Gifts: Finding Joy in What Really Matters.]
I had read it often, the oft-quoted verse: “And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). I would nod and say straight-faced, “I’m thankful for everything.”
But [in] counting gifts, to one thousand, more, I discover that slapping a sloppy brush of thanksgiving over everything in my life leaves me deeply thankful for very few things. A lifetime of sermons on “thanks in all things” and the shelves sagging with books on these things and I testify: life-changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time.