I woke up very early and suddenly this morning. It was like someone had flipped a switch. My brain immediately went into high gear thinking about the details of a very large event—our upcoming Honor Israel Week that I have been working on for a year. There are a thousand details to tend to and as we are getting closer to the event, they become ever more important. While working on this event, I recently paused to take a large group of people to Israel. That trip had more details to take care of than I care to say. Through it all, I don’t worry about any of these details, but I still have to think about them and pray through them. Without the Lord’s help and the help of many great people He has surrounded me with, I could do nothing!
When I woke up, the temptation was to think and worry about these details. If I did that I’d put undue stress on myself and those around me, so I refused to do that. I really woke up hard so I didn't go back to sleep. I've learned over time that when that happens, yield to it and spend time in prayer over what has been on my mind. This is how I learned that lesson many years ago.
Early on in my Christian walk, I had created a discipline to get up early and spend time with the Lord, reading His Word and through praying. I did that most every day. It wasn’t legalistic and I didn’t think God would be mad at me if I didn’t do this. I simply wanted to give Him the first part of my day as a worship of Him. I absolutely believed in my heart that by dong so, that I would find the grace to help me no matter what the day delivered to my doorstep and that I'd be blessed in all my doing.
One morning I felt greatly distracted. My brain was on overload with details of things I needed to take care of. Although I was trying to keep my mind focused on what I was reading and praying about, I wasn't succeeding. My mind kept drifting until finally, at one point I repented and told the Lord I was sorry for being so carnal that I couldn’t keep my mind on Him. Suddenly I felt the Lord speak to me. He said, “Tim, you regularly talk with me and ask me to help you with what you are doing and blessing your hand at what you put it to. Your mind is not filled with carnal thoughts. You have been praying and worshipping me and praying in tongues. These thoughts you are having are from me. I am trying to tell you how and what to do throughout your day.” I was in shock as I heard these words in my heart. Then the Lord continued, “I have been trying to help you but you think it’s you being carnal and so instead of receiving my help, you think you are distracted and you are suppressing my help. From now on, get a pad of paper and bring it to prayer time. When you have times like this, write down those thoughts and what I show you. Then you won’t worry about forgetting them and you’ll be able to let go of them so that you are free to worship me and pray over what I’ve shown you.”
This was a monumental paradigm shift in my prayer time. God was helping me in the details. Wow! From that point on, I did what He instructed. It freed me up to really pray over what the Lord showed me with great confidence for my day. It brought fresh insight to Phil. 4:6-7. “Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
I don’t allow sleepless nights to become my norm or dominate me. But when one of those occasions happens where I do wake up in the middle of the night, I handle it in the way the Lord told me. It turns into an awesome time of thought and prayer. I jot down what is on my mind, let go of it, and return to more reading and prayer. I don’t worry about losing sleep either. I just plan a nap or an early bedtime the next time and trust God for His grace and strength to get me through that day. God is in our details if we will learn how He communicates with us. It's worth learning. It's worth having faith in His grace to help you. It's a great joy to watch God give your thoughts and guidance to walk through what would other be sleepless nights tossing and turning over cares! To have such a loving, kind Savior and intimate Father is a glorious wonder! I praise Him!
Matthew 11:28 (Message Bible) “Are you tired? Worn out?... Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
1 Tim. 1:6 From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;
Today’s Fresh Manna verse has a phrase that is not used in our day-to-day conversations and that sounds unusual and funny - “vain jangling.” Have you used that phrase lately? It may sound funny but it’s actually an indicator of a sad event – the backsliding of a Christian.
One of the most important lessons that every Christian should learn as they grow in their walk with the Lord is how backsliding happens. I am sure that the majority of people have heard the frog in the kettle illustration at least once if not numerous times. It goes like this. If you put a frog in a boiling kettle of water, it will try to jump out. It knows it’s in danger. If you put a frog into a kettle of room water at room temperature and then turn the water up slowly till it boils, it will stay in the kettle unaware of what is happening to it until it has slowly boiled to death.
That is a good illustration of what happens to Christians. If a Christian is tempted with blatant sin that is contrary to what they know God’s Word says, it’s easily recognizable and they would most likely resist it. But that isn’t how it usually happens.
The first mistake Christians make is that they think they are strong enough in will power and intelligence to manage temptation and sin. What they don’t realize is that sin is more than the sin itself. Sin is accompanied by spiritual power often compared to in the Word of God as “darkness.” We see this in Eph. 5:8-9 “For though your hearts were once full of darkness, now you are full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.” This verse is saying that before a person comes to Jesus, their heart if filled with darkness. That darkness is the power of Satan to blind one’s heart to the truth. You see this in 2 Cor. 4:4 “Satan, the god of this evil world, has blinded the minds of those who don't believe, so they are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News that is shining upon them.”
When a Christian participates in what they know according to the Bible is sin, then they are opening the door to darkness in their life. It is more than just looking at pornography. It’s more than just having sex outside of marriage. It’s more than just a little gossip, or lie, or unforgiveness. It’s opening the door to the god of this world to begin to blind and darken the heart. Christians will NEVER have the power to manage or accommodate sin. Sin produces a darkness in your heart. God gives you the “light”—the ability to recognize sin and avoid it and recognize what is of God and draw near to it. God gives you the grace and mercy to resist temptation or to ask forgiveness if you blow it. His love always wants to draw you back to Him, but sin played with is the power of darkness at work that turns you into the frog in the kettle. It’s the dimmer switch that turns the lights out so slowly you don’t notice it until you have lost your ability to see clearly.
It’s at this point that a Christian can no longer see God’s Word clearly and begins to muddle it with worldly and self philosophies that become “vain jangling” meaning random babble. It turns a Christian from a person that knew the greatest truth in the world; that Jesus Christ is the Son of God—who died for each and every person’s sins, offering eternal life and a life of purpose and blessing on earth—and instead becomes the person that is full of nothing more than random babble; a fool filled with foolish thoughts that is on a path to destruction.
None—not one of us—is able to manage sin. If you know you have been engaged in sinful activity but you don’t feel guilty about it, it means your heart has become hard. If you do feel the guilt, God does not want to condemn you. In either case, you have to get on your knees, talk to the Lord about it, ask Him to forgive you, receive that forgiveness, resist that sin going forward, and don’t be the frog in the kettle. Don’t be a vain jangler. Don’t be deceived. Instead, follow the instruction of Eph. 5:7-8, 15-18 “Don't participate in the sinful things these people do. For though your hearts were once full of darkness, now you are full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it…So be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. Don't act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don't be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you."
Don’t slide back from God. Move toward Him and His love! You were created to speak the wisdom of God, not vain jangling. So do it!
Mat 14:23 "After Jesus had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray."
Every Christian should know and understand the importance and power of prayer! When you come to that place, you come to realize that it is one of the most influential positions and powerful forces that God would privilege anyone with. But, even if you do come to understand that, because we live in such a defiled world with so much corruption and misery, the negative circumstances of life can work to wear us down and make us feel like our prayers avail little. That is not the case but most Christians feel that way at one time or another. Most Christians go through periods in their prayer life where they feel discouraged and powerless. And that leads to the feelings of "Why pray? What's the point?" That is a time where we have to step up and manage feelings of what isn't true - that our prayers our pointless - with what we know is true - that our prayers are powerful and effective!
When discouragement becomes someones experience in prayer, and when that results in prayer becoming routine or mindless or something we keep putting off or even stop doing, the alarm is ringing and you need to wake up and be refreshed in truth!
Jesus knew better than to let that happen. Let’s take a look at His example to us and be refreshed of exactly why we can’t let our prayer life be stolen from us. I want to show you a day in the life of Jesus.
In the verses you are about to read, you will see that Jesus just lost his cousin John to persecution - he was beheaded by Herod. He had no time to personally mourn because he was being swarmed by intense crowds who wanted to hear and be healed by Him. They didn’t care how He was feeling. They were consumed with their own needs. Jesus had to seek the Father through prayer in order to take care of the diversity of needs these people thronged Him with. Remember, He stripped Himself of His divinity to live as a man living by faith as He taught us to. He eliminated His divine advantages. He lived by faith which is fed through the Word of God and prayer – just like we are to do!
The people wanted to follow Him everywhere. Jesus knew that His source of strength, miraculous power, refreshing, and instruction from God came through prayer. So, He didn't start the day in prayerlessness nor finish this horrendous day crashing on the couch. Instead He yielded in prayer to His Father. It was a good thing He did because after an exhausting day, He had a spiritual emergency call that night. Because He was spending time with the Father, the Holy Spirit prompted Him to go save His disciples from an attack of Satan. Had He not taken the time to pray, He may have been too spiritually weary and not done it. The next day he started this kind of routine all over again. Is a prayer life an option for us? Can we afford to let is slide? As you will see, people were dependent upon Jesus. He had to pray. Read all this for yourself.
Mat 14:9-33 King Herod was distressed… he ordered... John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter… John's disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.(John was Jesus' cousin.) When Jesus heard what had happened, He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food." Jesus replied, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat." "We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered. "Bring them here to me," he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."
Because Jesus prayed, God could work through Him. Even though His heart hurt over the personal loss of His beheaded cousin John, and even though He was weary and exhausted, he still prayed. He prayed even though He had to have wanted to just crash, rest, and zone out. When we pray, like Jesus, we can be used to speak words that bring life and encouragement. We can bring people Jesus' healing touch. When we pray and trust God, we can be a part of someone's miracle! Jesus gave His life to be an example for us. Prayer infuses refreshing, faith, direction, instruction, strength, and great purpose. It's not a place to drift from. It's something to yearn for and yield to. The lives of many depend upon it! Don’t let any kind of discouragement render you ineffective. Pray! Let God refresh and empower you like He did Jesus. Prayer will help you be led by the Holy Spirit to help prevent and destroy the evil that Satan attacks lives with. You are crititcal to lives being saved!
James 5:16 "... The earnest prayer of a Christ-believer who has had his/her sins washed away by the blood of Jesus, has great power and produces wonderful results."
Edith Burns was a wonderful Christian who lived in San Antonio, Texas. She was the patient of a doctor by the name of Will Phillips. Dr. Phillips was a gentle doctor who saw patients as people. His favorite patient was Edith Burns.
One morning he went to his office with a heavy heart and it was because of Edith Burns. When he walked into that waiting room, there sat Edith with her big black Bible in her lap earnestly talking to a young mother sitting beside her. Edith Burns had a habit of introducing herself in this way: "Hello, my name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?" Then she would explain the meaning of Easter, and many times people would be saved.
Dr. Phillips walked into that office and there he saw the head nurse, Beverly. Beverly had first met Edith when she was taking her blood pressure. Edith began by saying, "My name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?" Beverly said, "Why yes I do." Edith said, "Well, what do you believe about Easter?" Beverly said, "Well, it's all about egg hunts, going to church, and dressing up." Edith kept pressing her about the real meaning of Easter, and finally led her to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Phillips said, "Beverly, don't call Edith into the office quite yet. I believe there is another delivery taking place in the waiting room."
After being called back in the doctor's office, Edith sat down and when she took a look at the doctor she said, "Dr. Will, why are you so sad? Are you reading your Bible? Are you praying?" Dr. Phillips said gently, "Edith, I'm the doctor and you're the patient." With a heavy heart he said, "Your lab report came back and it says you have cancer, and Edith, you're not going to live very long."Edith said, "Why Will Phillips, shame on you. Why are you so sad? Do you think God makes mistakes? You have just told me I'm going to see my precious Lord Jesus, my husband, and my friends. You have just told me that I am going to celebrate Easter Forever, and here you are having difficulty giving me my ticket!"
Dr. Phillips thought to himself, "What a magnificent woman this Edith Burns is!"
Edith continued coming to Dr. Phillips. Christmas came and the office was closed through January 3rd. On the day the office opened, Edith did not show up. Later that afternoon, Edith called Dr. Phillips and said she would have to be moving her story to the hospital and said, "Will, I'm very near home, so would you make sure that they put women in here next to me in my room who need to know about Easter." Well, they did just that and women began to come in and share that room with Edith. Many women were saved. Everybody on that floor from staff to patients were so excited about Edith, that they started calling her Edith Easter; that is everyone except Phyllis Cross, the head nurse.
Phyllis made it plain that she wanted nothing to do with Edith because she was a "religious nut". She had been a nurse in an army hospital. She had been a nurse in the army and she had seen it all and heard it all. She was an original G.I. Jane. She had been married three times, she was hard, cold, and did everything by the book.
One morning the two nurses who were to attend to Edith were sick. Edith had the flu and Phyllis Cross had to go in and give her a shot. When she walked in, Edith had a big smile on her face and said, "Phyllis, God loves you and I love you, and I have been praying for you."
Phyllis Cross said, "Well, you can quit praying for me, it won't work. I'm not interested." Edith said, "Well, I will pray and I have asked God not to let me go home until you come into the family." Phyllis Cross said, "Then you will never die because that will never happen," and curtly walked out of the room.
Every day Phyllis Cross would walk into the room and Edith would say, "God loves you Phyllis and I love you, and I'm praying for you."
One day Phyllis Cross said she was literally drawn to Edith's room like a magnet would draw iron. She sat down on the bed and Edith said, "I'm so glad you have come, because God told me that today is your special day." Phyllis Cross said, "Edith, you have asked everybody here the question, Do you believe in Easter?' but you have never asked me." Edith said, "Phyllis, I wanted to many times, but God told me to wait until you asked, and now that you have asked.." Edith Burns took her Bible and shared with Phyllis Cross the Easter Story of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Edith said, "Phyllis, do you believe in Easter? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is alive and that He wants to live in your heart?" Phyllis Cross said, "Oh I want to believe that with all of my heart, and I do want Jesus in my life." Right there, Phyllis Cross prayed and invited Jesus Christ into her heart. For the first time Phyllis Cross did not walk out of a hospital room, she was carried out on the wings of angels.
Two days later, Phyllis Cross came in and Edith said, "Do you know what day it is?" Phyllis Cross said, "Why Edith, it's Good Friday." Edith said, "Oh, no, for you every day is Easter. Happy Easter Phyllis!"
Two days later, on Easter Sunday, Phyllis Cross came into work, did some of her duties and then went down to the flower shop and got some Easter lilies because she wanted to go up to see Edith and give her some Easter lilies and wish her a Happy Easter. When she walked into Edith's room, Edith was in bed. That big black Bible was on her lap. Her hands were in that Bible. There was a sweet smile on her face. When Phyllis Cross went to pick up Edith's hand, she realized Edith was dead.
Her left hand was on John 14: "In my Father's house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also."
Her right hand was on Revelation 21:4, "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there shall be no more death nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."
Phyllis Cross took one look at that dead body, and then lifted her face toward heaven, and with tears streaming down here cheeks, said, "Happy Easter, Edith - Happy Easter!"
Phyllis Cross left Edith's body, walked out of the room, and over to a table where two student nurses were sitting. She said, "My name is Phyllis Cross. Do you believe in Easter?"
Luke 24:4-6 (NLT) "As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes. The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee..."
While Renee and I were in Israel, we were walking through a particular city where we were told a story by a Jewish man. When Samuel was a young man serving in the Israeli Defense Forces, a friend, Ahuv, also serving in the IDF, invited him to come and stay the night in his parent’s home with him. They had two days off and the home was in a beautiful city. Samuel thanked him and accepted the offer. They went to the man’s home in Sufed, Israel. Samuel was hoping that they would go out clubbing and have fun. Instead Ahuv told him they would stay home and celebrate Shabbat – the Jewish Sabbath. Samuel saw this as a time of religious restrictions while Ahuv saw this day as a precious gift from God and time to spend with family celebrating their love for God.
The next morning, Ahuv woke up Samuel very early - before sunrise, and told him to hurry up and get dressed as he was taking him somewhere. They left hurriedly without eating and on foot. Samuel kept asking where they were going but Ahuv would only say, “You’ll see, be patient.” The sun had not risen yet although the blackness of the night was giving way to a lighter morning sky. After walking for about two miles, they could both begin to smell the most wonderful smell of fresh bread cooking. Samuel was so curious as to where they were going but Ahuv would only say, “Follow me.” Just as the sun was breaking through the horizon, they came upon a small home where a little old woman was standing out front next to a table. Upon that table was fresh-baked bread with heat still rising from it. The smell was so wonderful, it in itself seemed almost edible. The little old lady was looking up; her focus seeming to be somewhere between the sky and the sun rise. The both stood at a distance and watched her.
Two minutes after the sun had risen, she walked in her home and shut the door leaving the bread outside on the table. Ahuv led Samuel to the table to pick up a loaf of bread. “What are you doing Ahuv?” “Why are you taking her bread?” “I am taking it because she has left it here for the taking.” She does this every morning. She makes bread each night for the Messiah in case He would come in the night. She wants to greet the Messiah with her fresh-baked bread. When He has not come at sunrise, she leaves the bread for whoever wants it.”
They took and began to eat what tasted more like a delicacy than just bread as they began their walk home. Their conversation was only about the bread for a moment. It quickly drifted over to this woman’s incredible love and yearning for the Messiah. Ahuv loved that about her. Samuel had never experienced such a love and dedication to the Lord. He told Ahuv it was a Sabbath he would never forget.
Although I have changed the names, this was a true story! When I heard it, I also could not help but think about this woman’s love for God and for her yearning and waiting and expression of love for the Messiah! I know the Messiah – Jesus, as I am sure you do also. Like anything in life, it is too easy to take for granted, the greatest of all things – first and foremost Jesus and His love for us!
This story stirred me to find my own ways to express thanks and eagerly look for and await Jesus’ second coming. If I did this, not out of some new obligation, but out of thanksgiving, it would change my day-to-day life. Effort is what makes love so real – what stirs the emotions of love we want to feel. And we have the liberty in Christ to do that in a multitude of ways!
I am stirred today! I love you Lord! You are the greatest part of my life and I will sing of your love forever!
Luke 21:27-28 (NIV) “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."