John's One Message

When the apostle John was very old, he often had to be carried into their meetings. According to tradition, as they carried him, he always had only one thing to say, "Little children, love one another."

Wearied by his constant repetition of these words, they asked him why he always said the same thing. "Because," he replied, "it is the Lord's commandment, and if it only be fulfilled, it is enough."

Peter wrote, "Above all, love" (1 Peter 4:7). St. Paul said, "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love" (Galatians 5:6).

I talked to a lady who quit going to church. "I didn't feel loved any more," she gave as her reason. 

I've asked myself, "Would I be acting differently if I didn't love her? What am I doing that tells her I care?" 

Unexpressed love is often interpreted as no love.

Expressing love is a matter of being sensitive to God's Spirit. When we're listeners to the Holy Spirit, our hearts will teach us what to say and when to act so love is expressed. 

Teach me, Jesus, to love with a passion that is from You. 

"Love is patient and kind...Love does not demand its own way...Love never gives up" (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5, 7 NLT).

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him" (1 John 4:7-9).


Those Impossible Prayers!

Are you praying for a "hopeless" situation? I learned something about this kind of praying by comparing some of the battles of the Israelites.

Judah drove out the inhabitants of the mountain, but they "could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron," Judges 1:19. When Judah was brought to face these chariots of iron, they hesitated, wavered, gave way to fear, and lost their faith in God. Then there was no driving out the enemy. They decided it was hopeless and lost heart.

But were the iron chariots really the reason for their failure? We might think so if it had not been that Joshua and Barak had conquered despite iron chariots. (See Joshua 4:9 and Judges 4:15.) They refused to give up because, while they could not defeat iron chariots, God could. They kept their focus on God.

Have you met up with the "impossible iron chariots" in your praying? We might be tempted to think of some reason God "couldn't possibly answer" and believe that if it were not for a certain factor or situation, we could trust God for victory. But when we get to Heaven we'll not be able to say, "Lord, I would have conquered my discouragement and doubts if it had not been for those "iron chariots." When in eternity we glimpse God's glorious power and faithfulness to answer persevering prayer, we'll see that our excuses made no sense.

Thank You, Lord, for the hope I have in You.

"Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God'" (Mark 10:27).

The Most Effective Weapon

The angel of the churches gave this message to the church in Sardis: "Wake up!....if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief" (Revelation 3:2, 3). The people of Sardis thought their city was built so it could not be conquered. Yet, twice, enemies captured Sardis because they carelessly posted no guard. 

Over every one of our families there is a spirit hovering, watching for ways to capture the soul of each one. If we're faithful to guard, perhaps when we get to Heaven, we'll be able to see how our prayers protected and strengthened our children at strategic moments.

Jesus said,  "While I was with them I protected them." It's possible for us to protect spiritually those the Father gives to us. In Luke 21:31-32, Jesus told Simon Peter what He would do for Him to protect him during temptation.

He didn't say He would call for angels or strike Satan with a rod of iron, but He would do the most powerful thing He could do. He simply said, "I will pray for you." Prayer is the most important way to protect our children, and our prayer habits should indicate that.

Those who have someone faithfully praying for them can report with the psalmist, "He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me" (Psalm 55:18). Is there someone or some situation you see that needs God's special blessing or protection? Why not commit to praying specifically for that person for ten minutes daily for the next six days. One hour of prayer may seem costly, but it will bring God's presence into the situation.

Dear Jesus, what a privilege to carry everything to you in prayer. Please give me patience and faith to pray for others, and with others, until the battles are won. 

"I will not sacrifice to the Lord . . . offerings that cost me nothing" (2 Samuel 24:24).


How to Change the Atmosphere

Five young college students were spending a Sunday in London, so they went to hear the famous Charles Spurgeon preach. While waiting for the doors to open, the students were greeted by a man who asked, "Gentlemen, let me show you around. Would you like to see the heating plant of this church?" 

They were not particularly interested, for it was a hot day in July. But they didn't want to offend the stranger, so they consented. The man took them down a stairway and quietly opened a door. 

Their guide whispered, "This is our heating plant." 

Surprised, the students saw 700 people bowed in prayer, seeking a blessing on the service that was soon to begin in the auditorium above. Softly closing the door, the gentleman then introduced himself. He was Charles Spurgeon.

It doesn't take 700 praying to make a difference in church services. Many years ago, my husband and I began meeting with a few others on Saturday night to pray for the services the next day. Our pastor, Dr. Dale Yocum, told one of our group, "When I walk into the pulpit on Sunday morning, I can tell if your group met for prayer on Saturday night."

Prayer changes the atmosphere not only in our churches but also in our homes. What a good reason to regularly pray with others.

Dear Jesus, keep us reminded that our prayers are more effective than Satan wants us to know and so are important.

"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it, and it will be yours." (Mark 11:22, 24).

If you are on Facebook, I invite you to pray along with Arla's 40-Day Prayer Challenge which is on Come to the Fire's Facebook page. Each day is a video of her praying scripture on a specific topic. Topics covered have included praying for healing, harmony, parenting, joy, protection, praying for others, forgiveness. 


The Hungry and Thirsty Are Happy

Last week my husband and I attended the Brooklyn Tabernacle Tuesday night prayer meeting. After more than an hour of praise, worship and prayer, Pastor Jim Cymbala spoke on a scripture that I frequently use when praying for others: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled" (Matthew 5:6). The word "blessed" means happy or joyful, and he mentioned that the verse says more than we are happy after we are filled, but that we have joy while we hunger for spiritual things.

Despite the joy we have when we have a passionate desire for God, it's easy to yield to "the desires for other things [that] enter in and choke the word" (Mark 4:19). The weakness of our hunger for God is often because we keep occupied with "other things."

John Piper wrote in A Hunger for God, "The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night." 

"Other things" can also be duties that demand our attention. One mother told of her struggle to pursue God while she was rearing her family. There were times of sickness and trial when limited time and strength drained her prayer practices. However, on more than one occasion, she would fall by her bedside at the end of a long day and ask the Lord to keep the desire for Him alive in her heart. God honored her soul thirst because she recognized the danger of losing her longing for Him.

Dear Lord, help me to hunger and thirst after righteousness for nothing is more important to my spiritual growth.

"My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God" (Ps. 84:2).

"One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple" (Psalm 27:4).


If you are on Facebook, I invite you to pray along with Arla's 40-Day Prayer Challenge. Each day is a video of her praying scripture on a specific topic. Topics covered have included praying for healing, parenting, joy, protection, praying for others, forgiveness. 

The Only Thing God Asks

I was so discouraged. I had written for days and most of the pages ended up in the trash can. I didn't know how to write but I knew God had called me to write.

One day when I was in despair, I read 2 Corinthians 2:14: "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ." God said, "You can have that." That verse changed my attitude toward writing. I was able to trust that although my writing still often had to be discarded, God was using the process to lead me in triumph. 

That day over 35 years ago, I began the habit of sitting down at the computer saying, "God, I'm not here because I think I can write. I'm here to give You an opportunity to lead me in triumphal procession."  What a relief this writing by faith was. 

God has qualified us to do exactly what He wants us to do, but He wants us to have some area--often the crucial part of the ministry--in which we say, "Lord, I simply cannot do this without You. Do Your work through me."

When He is leading us to do the "impossible," we don't say, "But Lord, I can't!" Instead, with our eyes focused on Christ, we trust Him to give us the ideas of what to do. Then we proceed believing that He is guiding us and will use our efforts. 

Oswald Chambers said, "The moment we recognize our complete weakness and our dependence upon Him will be the very moment that the Spirit of God will exhibit His power."

Paul's words to Timothy is one of my life verses: "God's work--which is by faith" (1 Timothy 1:4). As Samuel Chadwick said, "The only thing in the world God has ever asked a man to do is to trust Him."

Thank You, dear Father, for never failing to do Your work through those who trust You. Help us to recognize when we're depending upon ourselves to do what only You can do.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5).


God's Plan to Reach the World

It is our most awesome privilege to reflect God to the world around us. But can we truly reflect the glory of a holy God? Yet we hear God's plan is for us to do just that: "Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD when I show myself holy through you before their eyes" (Ezekiel 36:23).

God wants the world to see the beauty of His holiness in us. A startling but marvelous thought!

Second Chronicles 20 gives us a hint of what that holiness will look like. When Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the beauty of His holiness, they didn't mention the word "holiness" in their song. Instead, they sang, "Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever" (2 Chronicles 20:21).

Without doubt, His holiness in us will look like love--not a self-serving love--but God's love that endures forever.

We cannot create this kind of holy love within ourselves. Jesus is love. We give Him access to every corner of our lives, and He fills us with Himself. Then, daily, moment by moment, as we draw from Him, He has the pleasure of expressing His love through us.

"Then the world will...understand that [God] love(s) them" (John 17:23 NLT) when they see God's holiness in us!

I praise You, Father, for Your amazing plan to reach the world.

"To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).

Amaze Jesus

When I was a girl, I liked to read Christian romances. Sometimes, overcome with curiosity, I'd peek at the last page and then breathe a sigh of relief. "Oh, good, she's going to marry the right one." I could continue my reading without worry, confident the story would turn out okay in the end.

One time when I was a teen, I told my mother that I was doubting my relationship with God. My mother's words have served as a guiding principle to me many times since. "Did you know at one point in your praying that God heard your request? If you were certain at one point, then God did what you trusted Him to do." 

After we have prayed about a need and know God has heard, our faith is much like looking at the end of the book, getting a glimpse of truth, and continuing to believe what we saw no matter what happens. The story unfolds however it will, but we're not worried. We know that in the end we'll be able to look back and see that God answered our prayer in a way that glorified Him.

Faith is not a hope that looks forward with wistful longing but a hope that looks forward with utter certainty. We continue to trust despite delays and no apparent reason to believe the answer is on the way. 

Such refusal to doubt amazes and pleases God.

"Dear Lord, I keep my eyes on You, because you never fail those who trust in you. I want to be one who causes you to be amazed because of my faith."

"When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, 'Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith'" (Matthew 8:10). 




A Secret to Instant Forgiveness

In her book With My Whole Heart, Karen Mains tells of a discipline she has that reminds her to maintain a kind spirit. It involves a phrase she derived from an old prayer: "Christ betwixt thee and me." She writes, "I breathe the words 'Christ betwixt thee and me' when I grow impatient with the phone caller who is talking too long, with the difficult personality who is taxing my resources, with the cranky child...I breathe the prayer, then see the form of Christ between me and the one to whom I am speaking."

She asks herself, "How would He respond to this one? What words would He choose? How would He touch? What kind of concern would He show?" Then she does whatever is closest to what she thinks Christ would do.

Prayer is a powerful tool to use when we find we're unable to respond with kindness in our own strength. We pray, "Dear Lord, what are You thinking about this one?" and often find we suddenly possess a fresh love and understanding that enables us to deal kindly with a troublesome situation. 

We once knew a man who had been wronged by someone. During this time he hurt deeply, but the Lord impressed him to pray for the man who had wronged him. He was to pray that he would be effective in his ministry. Miraculously, his bitterness against that man dissolved.

Being willing to pray for the ones who hurt him was Job's deliverance. God told Job to pray for those three miserable comforters. "After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before" (Job 42:10).

Thank You, Jesus, for providing grace to love even those whose actions I don't understand.

"But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?" (Matthew 5:44-46).

How to Help a Discouraged Friend

The phone rang and as soon as our telephone conversation began, I knew I was talking to a very discouraged friend. What should I do? Try to think of scriptures to cheer her? Try to recall what has helped in the past? Seek to feel what she is feeling? 

These ideas may be helpful, but my immediate response should be to look to Christ acknowledging that only He has the words of eternal life. "My eyes are on You, Lord." 

Looking to Christ can be done in an instant. In our spirits we turn to Him and acknowledge, "I trust You to give me all I need. I know that in myself I do not have words of life. I will say only what You give me. I trust that the ideas that come to me are Your words-not my own." We let go of the tension that can arise when we feel the responsibility to change another. That is God's work. Our work is to believe.

When I am resting in His promised provision, I can say what comes to mind knowing that I have the mind of Christ. 

We must believe in the possibility of being led by the Spirit. It would be very strange if Jesus promised to give us a Counselor who would be with us to teach us at all times but then didn't give us the capacity to hear Him.

Dear Jesus, help me to remember to look to the Holy Spirit instead of depending upon my own efforts to help others.

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:4-5).

One Man's Burden Is Changing a Nation

Pastor Nakov in Macedonia attended a conference in 2013 in Turkey. His heart ached when he saw many mosques in contrast with early Christian ruins. He wondered "Why is Islam flourishing?" and "What happened to the gospel witness?"

He returned home and during the night he sensed the Holy Spirit's presence. The Spirit asked him piercing questions that showed him he was not praying much, nor was his church. He was ashamed and convicted. He saw that the Imams were rising to pray earlier that he was. 

He wept as he saw just how much they were playing church, and he asked God to change him.

The next Sunday he issued a call to prayer. They started with just one or two, then six. Finally about half the church responded. They were praying corporately and God was responding. Then pastors began praying together.

Now they are seeing answers as they pray not only for their own church but also for their nation to be in unity with others in the Balkans. Last year the Serbian president publicly asked for forgiveness for Serbia's past violence and bloodshed. Bulgarian officials have asked for forgiveness from its citizens of Turkish nationality who were expelled from their homes decades earlier.

"All of Europe needs to come before God and repent for the preaching of a cheap gospel that does not change lives; it is no gospel," said Pastor Nakov. "We in the Church must repent, ask forgiveness, and experience reconciliation. We now want only God's presence and His power to flow in us and through us."*

One pastor who asked God to change his own prayer life and who called his church to corporate prayer is changing his nation! God works when one leader obeys!  God is still looking for just one person who will take the lead. 

Dear Jesus, please allow leaders to see their potential influence to turn our nation back to You.


"Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city" (Jer. 5:1).


* Adapted from the July-August 2014 First Friday Prayer Letter




Prepare the Way for the Lord

About 20 years ago, I was reading to my husband about a revival that had been on campuses in the 1990's. I came to a verse in Isaiah: "Build up, build up, prepare the road!" Suddenly to my surprise, I began to cry not understanding why except that I sensed this verse had something to do with the future.

More recently, the Lord impressed upon me Isaiah 40:3:  "A voice of one calling: 'In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'"

In those days, when an Eastern monarch began a journey, the people went ahead to prepare a road, leveling the mountains and building bridges through the barren land. God says there is a highway we must prepare for His coming, and it is a Highway of Holiness. "And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness...only the redeemed will walk there" (Isa. 35:8, 9).

Christ's Church is in a spiritual desert, and many of us are asking God to come to revive His people. Henry Blackabee declared, "All revival praying is an offense to God if we do not have a clean heart. It is almost blasphemy to ask a holy God to bless us when our hearts are unclean before Him."  

I remember my Grandpa Schloeman's standing up in testimony time in church and singing, "Nothing between my soul and the Savior." He knew it was true and sang it with great joy. We, too, can bring our hearts into God's presence and allow Him to show us if all hindrances to Him are removed. He can make our hearts match His holy heart.

Only if holiness is a patten for our lives are we prepared to intercede for His coming whether we are asking God to come to our family, our church, or our nation. "If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened" (Ps. 66:18 NLT).

Isaiah was saying "Prepare the way" to people who did not yet see the King, but they dared to believe He was coming. With cleansed hearts, we can dare to believe He is coming in response to our prayers. 

Oh, Lord, is my life a highway of holiness so I can pray and dare to believe You will come in revival power?

"Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart" (Ps. 24:3, 4).

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8).



God's Definition of Wonderful

I heard a mother tell that she had asked God to heal her daughter who had been seriously injured in an accident.  

"God, wouldn't it be wonderful if the doctor could see how wonderful You are by healing her?"

God replied, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if the doctor could see how wonderful I am by what I do in you?"

The abiding Holy Spirit wants to do much more than give us comfort, guidance, and even healing. He wants to reveal Himself through us and He wants to empower us. 

A friend said that in her quiet time she felt God said, "You suppress the truth." 

She was almost afraid to ask, "What truth?" afraid it was some awful hidden sin, but when she asked, she felt the answer was, "You are powerful and effective. I give you my power and strength to tread down the enemy. I give you My authority in prayer. You see yourself as weak, and you are, but through my shed blood and the fact that My Spirit dwells in you, you are powerful. Captives will be set free as you remember and move in the power and authority of the fact that I live within you!"

God receives glory when we say, "Christ lives in me, and I trust Him to give me all I need for Him to be revealed through me."

Thank You, Jesus, for revealing Your Spirit through my spirit when I look to You.

"When I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10).

"I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes" (Ezekiel 36:23).

"He said to me, 'You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor'" (Isaiah 49:3).


Summertime and Children's Spiritual Growth

When my husband Daniel was a little boy, his mother would sit on their front porch in the summer and read the Bible to him and his brother. Those Old Testament stories were so fascinating that soon the neighborhood children began to join them. "Is your mother going to read today?" the children would ask Daniel.

Three of the Gospels record the story of Jesus welcoming, holding, and blessing children. Only two or three times in the Gospels is Jesus shown as angry. This is one of them. "People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them" (Mark 10:13). The disciples thought He would not welcome the little ones. The idea infuriated Him.

"When Jesus saw this, he was indignant." The words that follow this rare expression of Jesus' anger are full of both His tender love for the children and the thunder of His wrath against those who saw no reason to bring children to Him.

"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these" (vs. 14).

Mothers of young children may think, "My children are small. There will be plenty of time to pray for them and teach  them when they're older." But when Jesus wept over Jerusalem, He said, "If only you had known on what your peace depends." Parents' peace in later years is often determined by what they do when their children are young.

Reading Bible stories and encouraging them to memorize scripture by giving rewards can help make those summer days both profitable and enjoyable. Andrew Murray said, "Every activity can be used to point the little ones to the unseen and ever-near Father in heaven."

Dear Jesus, thank You for still wanting to bless the children.

"And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them" (Mark 10:16).

But I Failed, Lord

Phoebe Palmer felt she had received an impression to speak a word to someone. She hesitated and then decided to pray about it first. She went away to pray and just as she bowed to pray, the Holy Spirit whispered, "Did you not, this morning, ask to be filled with the knowledge of the will of God? Why then did you not do that which was in your heart, knowing that the Lord was with you?"

She saw her error and hurried back to speak, but her opportunity was gone. She wrote, "I felt ashamed before the Lord; but I felt my heavenly Father did not condemn me, for He saw that my intention was to please him."

Although the Holy Spirit doesn't chide us unmercifully, He often uses our failures to help us in future situations if we thoughtfully and prayerfully reflect upon them. We can profit from past mistakes by looking carefully at the reasons we've failed. 

Richard Taylor advised, "Do not be too cast down when you have reason to believe that you have missed the Holy Spirit's signal. If the Holy Spirit has been grieved, He will let you know in a gentle chiding....It is the devil who cracks the whip, not God."

One of the names of God is Erech Appayim, the One who, because of His goodness and tenderness, is not easily angered. We need to remember this when we've made the same mistake repeatedly. He will still respond to us with no impatience. Because God is so good and tender, He "suffers long and is kind" (1 Corinthians 13:4 NKJV).

I praise You, Jesus, for being pleased with me simply because I trust You to forgive me when I'm wrong.

"The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he understands how weak we are; he knows we are only dust" (Psalm 103:13-14)

God Is Good All the Time

"Would you know who is the greatest saint in the world?" asked William Law. "It is not he who prays most or fasts most...but it is he who is always thankful to God, who wills everything that God wills, who receives everything as an instance of God's goodness, and has a heart always ready to praise God for it." 

How can we possibly receive "everything as an instance of God's goodness"? 

We can if we believe that God's desire to do good to us is constant. He doesn't choose good for us some times and bad other times. Even when things are going "bad," He has not stopped doing good. It means He is rearranging things to do us more good if we continue to trust Him. 

Joseph had been abused by his brothers, separated from his devoted father, falsely accused of immorality, and finally imprisoned. Then we hear him say, "...but God intended it for good." Those words could be said over every thing in our lives. 

God will not permit anything to happen to us that is utterly incapable of doing us good. If it were possible to conceive anything out of which infinite wisdom could not bring good, God would not allow it. He has no hidden motive or agenda so that it only appears He is doing us good. 

"Surely goodness...will follow me all the days of my
life" (Psalm 23:6). The Hebrew word for "follow" means to "run after" or to "chase." God is pursuing us with goodness and mercy! No wonder the psalmist seemed to take delight in meditating on the goodness of God. "The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord" (33:5 KJV). "The Lord will indeed give what is good" (85:12). 

I thank You, Father, that through Your sovereignty and because of Your goodness You will bring good out of all that You allow. 

"I had fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord" (Psalm 27:13 KJV). 


Are Commitment and Surrender the Same?

Dr. Marvin Powers told our Sunday School class of his experience of learning that although he was committed to following Christ, he was not totally surrendered.

In the week following his enlistment in the U.S. Army, he was brought to a cross-road confrontation with Christ. In a late-night prayer session, while all alone, he pled for forgiveness and arose a new creation!

That night God called him to enter the ministry. He was surprised! He had never given a thought to this possibility, but the challenge instantly gripped him.

While in the army he witnessed to others and studied the Bible. He was committed to this task of ministry. Upon discharge, he entered college in order to prepare to fulfill God's call. As a college student, speaking engagements opened for him.

Dr. Powers tells it like this:  "Preaching was primary! I was committed to this honorable task and pictured myself moving both forward and--and shall I say it?--upward upon graduation."

One day while in prayer, a whisper as gentle as a breath of air made its way into his inner consciousness. That tender murmur raised a point about his motivation for preaching. He put it from his mind, thinking it may have arisen from some outside psychological source. Or perhaps even Satan! Yet inexplicably, he affirmed to the unidentified Whisperer that his purpose was to reach people for Christ and his preparation was putting him into a better position to touch even larger crowds.

The Voice came back. "Why--just why--are you doing what you do in the pulpit?"

He saw that he was in a conflict of some sort and hardly knew what to make of it. "Lord, I am committed to a lifetime of service in your Kingdom. I am willing to work hard to fulfill the calling you have brought into my life!"  He was unable to pinpoint the thing that was creating the fogginess--or was he?

On the last day of that year, he awakened and before getting out of bed, he reached for his New Testament. He flipped it open, randomly, and his eyes fell on these words:

"What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ" (Phil. 3:7).

The Spirit spoke to his heart lovingly, but with a powerful question: "You don't count your ministry loss for Me, do you?"

Instantly the truth became clear. In his unhesitating commitment to do the work of God through ministry, he was not surrendered to making it all for God's glory! For the first time, he got a glimpse of 'self,' of pride, of peoples' favorable opinions, of residual corruption within him that he did not know existed.

His heart was overwhelmed with sorrow. He recognized he had taken the message of God's sacrificial love and used it to bring glory to himself. He saw that his quest for the larger crowd and the popular church reflected the desires of his own self-will. He knelt in a tiny bedroom closet, and through a morning of agonizing heart-searching and bending his will to meet God's will, he made every effort to give himself to God in absolute surrender despite the crashing of his grandiose dreams.

"I told God that I no longer wanted to pursue the large church, that He could send me to 'Podunk Center' (which He eventually did!), that He could bury me unknown in the heart of Africa, that I would follow His will in preaching without consideration of praise or criticism.

In those moments, Marvin Powers got beyond sincere commitment to full surrender. With that surrender came a sweeping heart-cleansing and an infilling of the Holy Spirit that has made all the difference in his ministry.

"I can testify that in full surrender to Christ and the rejection of the claim to myself-from that last day of the year 1947 to the present--I have never preached a sermon except for the glory of God."

Sincere commitment is wonderful, but only absolute surrender enables us to say wholeheartedly, "To God be the glory!"

Correction: In last Friday's devotional, the quote was from Oswald Chambers - not Charles Spurgeon.

What to Do About Those Negative Emotions

The man Jeri had thought would someday be her husband announced he was moving away and ending their relationship. The thought filled her with pain. 

"How do I stop feeling so connected to you?" she asked. "I guess you have to want to," he candidly replied. 

But strong emotions filled her heart and she cried until she became emotionally numb.

"God, I prayed about this relationship! How could you let this happen?" How do I get out of this desolate place?" she cried to the Lord.

God seemed to remind her, "I never promised that you would never suffer heartbreak or be exempt from suffering. But I did promise that whatever comes or goes, I will never leave you." 

Then He seemed to say, "Now speak to those negative emotions and command them to leave."

Obediently, she wiped the tears from her eyes, took a deep breath and began to speak encouraging words to herself in the power of God. A sense of joy and freedom flooded her heart and mind. What had seemed intolerable seconds earlier became another proof of God's love and faithfulness.

Charles Spurgeon said, "There are certain things in life that we need not pray about--moods, for instance. We will never get rid of moodiness by praying, but we will by kicking it out of our lives....We have to pick ourselves up by the back of the neck and shake ourselves; then we will find that we can do what we believed we were unable to do."*

When David and his men returned from battle and found Ziklag destroyed and their children taken captives, his men were all angry enough to stone David. "But David found strength in the Lord his God" (1 Sam. 30:6). He refused to give into the mood that filled the others. Perhaps that determination was one of the key things that set David apart from others.

Dear Jesus, help us to be aware of when we allow negative emotions to hinder what You want to do through us. 

"Rejoice in the Lord always" (Philippians 4:4). (Written by Paul, the prisoner.)

*From My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition, May 20, 2018


Prayer Matters

God eagerly receives our prayers because when we bear others' needs in prayer as though they were our own, we allow Him to do what He could not have done if we had not prayed.

I learned this years ago when a group of us gathered around a dear hurting friend. As we were praying and weeping over her, Jesus spoke to my spirit: "I'm so glad you're doing this, because now I can do what I want to do." Our praying opens up possibilities for others that they would not have if we had not prayed. We are, indeed, our brother's keeper.

For instance, as more and more people are praying for Muslims, God is revealing himself by dreams and visions to this group in many places. One Muslim was suddenly awakened by a shining white figure by his bed, saying, "I am the Way; follow Me." This identical experience is reported to have happened in various places. In fact, in one area this same thing has happened 19 times and the 19 converts somehow found each other and now meet to pray!

Mothers who understand how important their prayers are in helping their children be victorious spiritually make prayer a priority. When one mother learned that something very evil had happened to her son, she was devastated. She wept for three days before the Lord. 

"At the end of the third day God started reminding me of Jesus' prayer to His Father for the believers: 'I pray not that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil that is in the world.' Then He took me to the Lord's Prayer often. Praying this prayer has been a very big part of my life and prayer ever since."

As a result of her prayers, the evil that happened to her son actually brought him to a very personal acquaintance with Jesus that has grown and matured through the years.

Dear Jesus, help me to remember that when no one is praying, the enemy has an advantage.

"The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results" (Jam. 5:16 NLT).

Dr. Ronnie Floyd's Secret

"God used prayer and fasting to change my ministry," said Dr. Ronnie Floyd, Chairman of the National Day of Prayer. I heard Dr. Floyd give the following at Fasting & Prayer '96 in St. Louis.

He said as he grew up no one taught him how to fast, but he began to notice fasting in Scripture and out of a desire to draw near God, he decided to delve into what it meant and to practice fasting.  

Then in 1990, his wife was diagnosed with cancer. He felt God wanted him to fast and pray one day each week for her healing.  He did, and, in response to his obedience, God healed his wife.

He was burdened for his church and ministry and in March 1994, as he read about God's calling Moses, he felt God telling him, "Ronnie, I want you to fast and pray for 40 days now for spiritual renewal for the nation, the church, and your life."

"I have never been the same since," he confessed. "God had my attention on America, on the Church, and on the sins in my life." 

God spoke to him from Isaiah 57:15: "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit."

"Your biggest problem is your sin of pride," God said to him. "You are a young arrogant, proud pastor and I will break you to make you what I want you to be."

One Sunday morning, he got up shortly after midnight to pray.  After three or four hours, God came. "I was free like never before."

On June 4, 1995, Dr. Floyd told his church of his 40-day fast, and how God had dealt with him. That morning the Holy Spirit came, and people were on their faces before God, praying. They worshipped for two and a half hours. He spoke of another service in which, "The only comfortable place in that room was on your face before God." Although he didn't give a call to fast, nearly fifty lay people completed a 40-day fast.

Dear Father, fill every part of my life with the spirit of humility, and make it my consistent habit so that I have no thoughts and no desires except those that are the fruit of a humble spirit.

"For this is what the high and exalted One says-he who lives forever, whose name is holy: "I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit" (Isa. 57:15).