No More Contingency Plans

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Miracles have been on my mind.

It’s the natural outcome of spending time in the Gospels. Jesus literally changed the lives of the people He met – time and time again, He healed broken bodies and spirits. He multiplied food to meet needs. He calmed storms and walked on water. He brought life from death. In the book of Acts, the disciples carried on the work Jesus began. Again, accounts of healing and divine rescue are recorded for us. Again, the power of God works through men and women for the glory of God…which is exactly what Jesus said would happen.

In John 14:11-14, Jesus explained that His works were evidence of how He was in the Father and the Father in Him…and how those who believe in Him will do the same works – and even greater things – so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

“Believe Me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask for anything in My name, and I will do it.”

For months and months now, I’ve been holding onto these threads in Scripture: faith, prayer, the power and promises of God. And as it becomes clear how much we need Him, in so many ways, I have been struck again and again by the bold declarations Jesus makes in the Gospels…declarations of who He is and who we are in Him.

And His words that are never hesitant and never second-guessing? They have caused me to ask some hard questions about my own prayers, my own faith.

Questions like this: Have I been afraid to put my full trust in His promises and in His power? Have I truly believed that I am a co-heir with Christ? Have I truly believed that His Spirit has empowered me? Do I live my life based on what He can do rather than what I can do?

Because often I have prayed with contingency plans…”a course of action to be followed if a preferred plan fails or an existing situation changes.” In other words, I have prayed, making my petitions known, even while I’ve prepared myself for God’s response to be silence or refusal. I set myself up for my preferred plan (which would be to see God to change things, to see the impossible done in His name)…to not work out. I kind of steeled my emotions and my faith for the second choice, the plan b. I tried to figure out how I would handle things in plan b.

Of course, I never said it plain like this. I never said – I am afraid that I will be disappointed…I am afraid that I will ask and not receive…I do not allow myself to fully trust that this answer will come so that I am not ‘let down’. I never said that I was afraid of overstepping my boundaries, claiming too much…afraid I’d seem guilty of trying to pursue the signs and wonders of God rather than His heart.

But as I’ve asked God to help my mustard-seed faith to grow, to help me in surrendering everything in this life to Him, those underlying feelings are what came into light.

The thing is…these feelings don’t line-up with what Jesus tells us. These feelings don’t line-up with who He is and all He has given to us.

Praying with a contingency plan does not reconcile with words like these: Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. (Matt.17:20)

And praying with the fear that I don’t have the ‘right’ to ask for the fulfillment of His promises disregards words like these: If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him! (Matt.7:11)…and…”Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in Heaven. For where two or three gather in My name, there I am with them…” (Matt.18:19-20)

It’s a balance, I know, this not-holding-back faith and yielding-our-will trust. I believe we must pray with open hands – expecting to receive even while willing to let go of everything we hold. We believe He is able and we trust His sovereign wisdom.

I want my prayers to be full of faith instead of doubt…when I surrender outcomes to Him, I want that surrender to be rooted in trust instead of fear. I want to get rid of contingency plans. However God chooses to act, I want His plan to be the only plan that I trust and follow. I want His building-plans, His path-before-me plans, His purpose-that-stands-forever plans, His words-that-never-fail plans.

I want to pray like Jesus tells me to pray. I want to believe who He says He is. I want to live accordingly.

Do you want this in your own life? Have you ever felt the tension of faith and surrender? Have you ever found yourself praying with contingency plans instead of expectation?

If you have, I hope you’ll stay with me as we walk through the words of Jesus. I want to hear, again, what He says about our faith and about the fruit we will bear when we believe in Him. I want to understand, anew, the more-than-we-can-comprehend power of God.  Boldly and down-to-the-bones, I want to declare that nothing is impossible with God.

The amazing-grace part of this journey is this – it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6)…so God Himself, through His divine power, “gives us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3)

So as we put our eyes on Him, seeking to know Him more and living to glorify Him, He will be with us – helping us — every step of the way.

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Prayer for the Brave

Help us to be brave, Lord.

Because You know us. The deep-down-real us. You know how Your grace has already brought us far from where we used to be. You know how Your love picked us up when it felt like nothing could help us, when every hope proved false and every answer fell through. You know how Your grace brought us into Your presence, how Your mercy forgave what we could not overcome alone.

And so You know how we want to follow You – wholly, without hesitation, with everything. We long, maybe in the quiet moments or maybe in every moment- to give over all of our lives for Your purpose. We wonder what it would be like to follow in the way the disciples followed. Theirs was a minute-by-minute journey. You moved and they followed. You spoke and they listened. You led the way, and without any guarantee of what might happen or where they’d end up, they walked with You.

But, Lord, You also know how fear tries to grow rampant in our lives. We are so often like Peter, eagerly running towards You…but knowing how the waves around us are wild and unpredictable, we change our minds. We want to retreat, to run backwards, to hide in the steady security of the boat we know so well.

What we forget is how You stretched out Your hand, immediately, and caught him when he faltered. Even though his faith failed, You didn’t. You picked him up and set him on course again. Even knowing that he would sink again, You pursued his heart.

Because You also knew that, one day, he would be inundated by Your Spirit. You knew that, in the fullness of Your presence, Peter would become the man You created him to be: a shepherd for Your people, a voice and a testimony to turn the world upside-down in Your name and power.

Here’s what I know: this is Your promise for us, too. “We all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” As we follow You, we change to become more like You. We become the men and women You created us to be…which is what we yearn for – to have every part of our lives redeemed, not one piece of us separated from You.

And yet we hesitate. We know the transformative, ever-creative, bigger-than-us ways of Your Spirit. Sometimes, we fear letting go of what-has-been. Sometimes, we are afraid to let go of who we think we are supposed to be. Sometimes, we forget that when You lead our lives into the Unknown, our only guarantee is You…and that certainty of You is enough.

So when we feel You call…but there is no road-map or itinerary in sight…Lord, we pray like a father prayed long ago – “we believe; help our unbelief!”

We don’t know what the next step looks like. We don’t know what this new season or place or mission will look like…but we know that Your thoughts toward us are good, to give us a hope and a future. We know that You promised to never leave us or forsake us. We know that You told us our needs would be met, our lives safe in Your hands.

Let our knowledge become our action and our reality, the deep-down roots of Your unshakable Kingdom in our hearts.

Let us live Your truth, let us speak and sing and sink into Your Word, soaking in Your living water until the only seeds that grow are of faith and bold belief in Your promises and provision.

We know it won’t be easy. We know there is a cost and a cross we all will carry.

But You carried it all first…and Your arms steady ours as we build Your kingdom.

“Therefore, we do not lose heart. Thought outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Yes, You are our one guarantee – our Life, our Love, our Peace, the desire of our hearts – help us to be brave enough to believe this, Lord, to take You at Your Word and to find that You are true. Help us to understand in our very bones, in every bit of our being – You are faithful. If we never leave our known places, if we never yield to Your Spirit, if we never move to follow – we will never know how present and how trust-worthy You are. Help us to take those first steps and to find You there, Your strength filling the void of our weakness, Your power lighting up what we have been given until it shines brighter than we ever could have hoped for…for Your glory, for Your honor, for Your praise.

Lord, we want to wear Your name. Not ours. For only by Your name can people in this world of ours be set free…be healed…be rescued from their sin. Only in Your name is there Hope.

Help us to press forward, to leave behind the old habits and securities, the knowing-what-to-expect in favor of expecting You as we obey. It is life-shaking to give up our control. But it is also life-giving– for “the old is gone” but “the new is here!”

You are the better-than-we-can-dream, the strength of our hearts, the portion we have been freely given, the hand that reaches out to catch us when we fail.

Lord, help us to be brave as we put our trust in You…help us, as we follow, to steady our vision…to look only at You.

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” –Hebrews 12:1-2

{I am working on a few soon-to-be-shared posts about courage in prayer and bold faith…so I decided to share this prayer today that I originally posted back in May of 2014.}

The One You Can Trust…

Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you…He will never let the righteous be shaken.-Psalm 55:22

There are no cares too small or insignificant. There are no cares too big or too complicated. There are no lost causes and there are no too-far-gones. He doesn’t think you are infringing on His time. He doesn’t think that you should be strong on your own and have it all together. He doesn’t think that your fears are silly. He doesn’t turn away from your tears.

He will never turn you away.

So what will He do when you cast your cares on Him?

He will listen. He will sustain (strengthen and support) you. He will be near to you. He will deliver you from your fears. He will steady your heart and renew your mind. He will be your peace. He will be the sturdy foundation, your safe refuge, your joy. He will work all things together for your good, according to His purpose…because He is the God of redemption, the God of mercy, the God of all power and might. No matter what the cares in your life might be and no matter how big they seem to you—NOTHING is impossible for God.

He loves you, friend. Your life matters to Him. You matter to Him.

So may we choose to trust Him – to rely on Him. May we lay everything down before Him, holding nothing back. I hope we can understand and hold onto the truth, soul-deep, that He is all-sufficient…always good…and forever-faithful.

“Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to You, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I…”

“Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me.”

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.”

“Power belongs to You, God, and with You, Lord, is unfailing love.”

(Psalm 61:1-2, 54:4, 62:5-8, 11-12a)

Scripture & Song {My Anchor}

Power belongs to You, God, and with You, Lord, is unfailing love…

From the ends of the earth I call to You, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I…for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe…

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken…Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.

(from Psalm 5:11-12, 61:2, 62:1-2, 5-8)

Evening Prayer {written by Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt}

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know Your name trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You. -Psalm 9:9-10

Lord our God, we look to You in our many needs, in the distress of our hearts, in the anguish of the whole world. We beseech You, let light come to Your people everywhere on earth to bring them Your help and Your victory. Remember the wretched, the sick, the poor. Let Your living strength come to them so that they can bear their sufferings and hold out joyfully to the end. Remember us all, O Lord our God, for we all need You. We are weak and poor and cannot go forward alone. Your Spirit must help us. May the Savior come to us, and may His grace and His power be born in our hearts.

Amen 

{Please join me tomorrow…I am so excited to share the words of Jacquie Wagner – my friend and editor of Christian Women Online​ – with all of you…I know you will be encouraged by her reminders that Christ reigns over our hearts, bringing us freedom through His grace…}

Immeasurably More {how you are loved}

I put all my hope on the truth of Your promise and I steady my heart on the ground of Your goodness…

-Audrey Assad

God loves you.

I am praying that you will feel the certainty of this truth through and through. I know it seems like a simple thing to say – something we have heard over and over again – but as we’ve talked this week about trusting Him in every situation, even those that don’t make sense and even those that break our hearts – it becomes clearer and clearer that we need to believe in His love so that we can trust Him with our lives.

If we are to find peace in His purposes, if we are to live unafraid because He is in control – we must first know that His thoughts toward us are good, His plans to give us a future and a hope. (Jer. 29:11) We must know that we are each personally and wholly loved by the One who breathed life into us, the One who knit us together in our mother’s womb. (Psalm 139)  He redeemed us Himself, by His own hand. He forgave us fully. He promises to lead us Home, never forsaking us for a moment.

For our Father who is love will not abandon His children to chaos and pain. Our God who gave His only Son – because of His great love – to bring us everlasting life promises all things made new, all things restored. What happens in your life matters to Him. You matter to Him.

I am praying that we will see, all over again, how we are loved by Him (from beginning to end – faithfully, fully, graciously). I am praying that we will know, all over again, that He is good. I am praying that these truths will take such root in our hearts…so that when we are so weary, when we are overwhelmed, when we are looking at broken pieces of our lives – we will know that He is still our unshakeable foundation…and He will never, ever fail us.

His love endures forever. (Psalm 136)

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!

Amen.

-Eph. 3:18-21

Lifting Eyes To Where our Help Comes From…

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him.” -Psalm 28:7

Can we take a moment — out of the full-to-the-brim-busy — to rest in our God’s presence?

It can be hard, sometimes, to find a quiet place or a quiet time of day…but His peace can come in the middle of it all — it can be noisy around us even while His sweet presence calms our hearts.

And in this space of stillness, let’s turn our eyes to Him…

Dear Father in Heaven, we thank You for everything You have done for us, everything we think of when we are quiet for a moment and look back. May all that You have done remain alive in us, so that we can look forward with open, clear-seeing eyes, aware that our lives are in Your hands and that You always lead us to something new, great, and glorious…

May our lives be entrusted to Your hands, and may we always find our strength in You, our God and Savior.

May our hearts always exult afresh, rejoicing in You, our God and our Savior.

Amen.

{prayer from Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt}