Honoring and Guarding Our Sabbath: A Devotional and Prayer for Ministry Leaders (and Workaholics in General)

“So then, there is still awaiting a full and complete Sabbath-rest reserved for the [true] people of God; For he who has once entered [God’s] rest also has ceased from [the weariness and pain] of human labors, just as God rested from those labors peculiarly His own. Let us therefore be zealous and exert ourselves and strive diligently to enter that rest [of God, to know and experience it for ourselves], that no one may fall or perish by the same kind of unbelief and disobedience [into which those in the wilderness fell].” (Hebrews 4:9-11, Amplified Bible, Classic Edition)

I remember once hearing Joyce Meyer say something to the tune of, “The Lord’s the author and finisher of our faith, but He’s not obligated to finish what He didn’t author.” The following paragraphs are not intended to make you bail on your calling, lie down on the job, or abandon your work ethic or loyalty; but rather, to compel you to work smarter instead of harder, and to actually consult the Holy Spirit before you start filling up your daily planner with what God may not have told you to fill it with! And you guessed it. I’m talking to me here…

Take care, friends, that you begin to respect your bodies and minds and start cutting ties with what God didn’t author, even what appears to be good or productive. Some of us are addicted to busy-ness and we gauge our stock value in the Kingdom (and everywhere else) by how far we can push the envelope abusing our bodies. Sometimes we feel a little more important, pious, “martyr-ish,” and yes, even prideful when people are fawning over our dedication with, “Wow, I don’t know how you do all you do.”

Let me lovingly submit to you that God doesn’t violate His own precepts! If you are not allowing yourself a Sabbath–on whatever day you choose to celebrate it–you are walking contrary to the system He Himself set in place and was the first observer thereof! God doesn’t need downtime…the God who never slumbers or sleeps doesn’t actually need to recharge; but He set the example for us by resting on the seventh day. Now, I realize that a “Sabbath” looks different for everyone–folks have work shifts, assigned workdays, etc., that are set for us without negotiation; but the point is, there must be designated downtime; set-aside blocks of time. For someone whose job mandates unreasonable 7-day schedules, I can’t tell you that you must leave that job, but I will tell you to make yourself a Sabbath block of time. That block may be hours instead of a full day; but I urge you, set aside your block large or small and guard it as sacred! For those of you who have the luxury of a 5 or occasionally 6 day workweek, you don’t get to fudge in this, either. Start establishing a Sabbath in your life instead of treating your quiet time with God like a power nap.

And full-time ministry leaders who aren’t under secular workplace mandates, this applies to you, too–perhaps especially to you. Start setting a better example for those in your circle of influence! Even a 3-shift coal mine sets scheduled downtime for maintenance on its equipment, if it wants to stay in business! Keep running that machine without greasing and regularly changing hoses, etc., and see how costly it gets when things start burning out, locking up, and falling apart… In Exodus, when God established the Sabbath, He did it not just for that head of a household and his family, but also for the sake of the animals and hired servants/slaves…He even designated Sabbath years for the sake of the land, which could be overworked out of zeal, greed, or a variety of motivating factors. Relentless leaders not only abuse their own bodies, they wear out anyone or anything who’s close to them or under their authority!

So why do we people in leadership feel compelled to give the “do as I say, not as I do” excuse for abusing our bodies? We reference Scriptures like “work while it is day because night comes when no man can work” to justify never, ever taking a break? And we tune out the voice of reason who urges letting go of a few things so that the remaining works we do are done more effectively. Are we letting the enemy guilt us into walking in rebellion, deceiving ourselves into thinking that because we are in the last days, we must override common sense (and the Word) to be as busy as we possibly can be? Can we do so and expect to be exempt from the health and emotional consequences of priding ourselves in being workaholics?

I submit to you as well, we as spiritual leaders have a moral obligation to live in balance, for the sake of those who emulate our example. If we don’t respect our own body/soul/spirit, we must, MUST think of our families, our constituents, and a lost world around us–all of whom look to us for at least a reference point of guidance. Hebrews 4 doesn’t beat around the bush here…suggests that we can actually be a spiritual liability to ourselves and others if we disobey God’s directive on right balance. It’s not legalism to suggest that we treat the rest-time He has given us as a holy thing. God engineered all of creation to flow with that same protocol. You aren’t too important to observe some form of a Sabbath, and neither am I! Let’s start re-drawing the boundaries in our lives so that we can be healthy and strong–emotionally, physically, and spiritually–for these last exciting days before our Lord returns!Pray with me…

Lord, I sincerely appeal to You first for mercy, as a person who is guilty of making myself busier than I should be. My spirit man suffers and my words tell on me when I have spent myself beyond reason. While I don’t like the stress and aggravation of no downtime, I confess and repent before You that I’m a recovering addict of work. I drive myself to be busy while making others miserable, because I make sure they’re busy too. I’m working twice as hard for half the impact, because I’m breaking Your rules and expecting You to bless my dismissal of common sense and Your example.

I’m sorry for thinking that You make special exceptions for me because I carry a heavier responsibility. Yes, to whom much is given, much is required–but the “much” is in terms of a closer walk with You and a deeper level of consecration. And even if it were much more required in the physical realm of activity, there are a lot of things on my plate that You didn’t give, Father. Oh, I like to think of all these responsibilities as given by You, but some of them are of my own doing. Some of them are just because I won’t say no to people who can’t wait for me to get even busier doing things THEY want me to be doing! And I say yes and pencil it into my bloated calendar, knowing all the while that I need sleep, I need study time, and just a break from having to think and run so much.

Forgive me, Lord! You gave me a healthy body meant to carry me well-into old age; and I live like I intend to wear it out in half its life expectancy. I pass up sleep and exercise; and I rationalize that if I’m spending that time doing good works, it will never catch up with me.

I repent and I appeal to You for mercy on all others, too, who have become the work adrenaline-and-approval junkie I’ve allowed myself to become. We don’t know how to change except by submitting ourselves to You and listening for Your counsel. We will have to hear from You because we can no longer hear the appeals from our own bodies. We shush our compromised adrenal glands by pumping them full of caffeine. We have a pill for everything. You in turn have a Scripture for everything and a word MODERATION that we ignore because we convince ourselves that we must be always working 24/7 because of who we are.

I will find a way to be less busy, Lord, with Your grace. I will respect this body as the temple of the Holy Spirit and stop giving You an efficiency apartment with worn-out furniture and tired, cloudy windows to look out of. I will make not just room for You, but the best room. I won’t be merely shooting You a copy of my to-do list after I’ve filled it and crammed more into the margins and started on a new sheet. No, I will say, “Here, Father. Take Your eraser and start removing the sacred cows of a busy addict.” In fact, wad up my to-do list and just start me a new one. Put only Your agenda on my list, in Jesus’ name I ask. And I’ll start asking Your permission before I make all those plans that leach the life right out of me and anyone else who has to tag along.

What? You just wrote in a full night’s sleep and a Sabbath! More time with relationships with real people and less time on computers and electronic devices? And even orders to put healthier foods into my body and more time walking and moving! Wow, You are ordering me to get my act together so that You can get maximum return on Your investment in me. I thought maximum return meant how many items were on my list.

You’re after quality. You are after a ten-ring shot and not a broader spray pattern. Most of all, You are after my heart. You want me chasing after You, walking with You in the cool of the day for RELATIONSHIP, not for my sales pitch to You of all the things I did in Your name (or rather, in the name of “ministry”) which You may or may not have instructed me to do! You want me to know You. Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light? Wow. I guess I wasn’t listening to that (even though it was…written in red).

And Your way of governing balance will help me be first a better daughter to You, and then to be a better leader and better family and society member, too?

Yes.

Selah.

(Adapted from a Facebook post I made 03/31/17)

Never Departing—Raising Kids with Values and Not Just Skills

arrows“Dedicate your children to God and point them in the way that they should go, and the values they’ve learned from you will be with them for life.”  (Proverbs 22:6 TPT The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017 by BroadStreet Publishing® Group, LLC.)

Your child’s real future isn’t in scholarship, it’s in #discipleship. Scholarship says, “I got it all because of ME.” Discipleship says, “yes I have talent, but even that is because of HIM.”

Praise the Lord for favor and open doors, for free rides to college, and I’m all for getting all the education and credentials we can; but please, Christian parents, don’t elevate your child’s talent above his or her spiritual well-being. If we teaching our children it is all about their earthly goals, we are teaching them to build on sand instead of the Rock. If their entire hope is tied up in their talent—their life plans formed solely around what their own hands can do–then their future is as fragile as one unfortunate sports injury or failed entrance exam. And what good would a scholarship be on the timeline of forever if that renowned college were to transform your child into someone who no longer believes there even IS a God? Celebrate that talent, but don’t make talent an idol. Don’t neglect the foundation in favor of making the facade look good. Want eternity for your kids even more than you want moments...yes, let’s want heaven for them even more than we want a degree from that prestigious university hanging on their wall! If we seek Him first and His righteousness, did our Lord not say that “all these things” (the things that the world would make the primary or sole focus) would be added to us?

I get grieved when I see once God-focused homes where the celebration is no longer on the children’s Jeremiah 29:11 future, but on exalting nothing more than skills and beauty and temporary achievements. Are your children discovering their spiritual gifts? Are they growing strong in their relationship with God, connected to stable children’s or youth church groups where they are fortified by other young believers and godly adult mentors? Are they being brought to see and participate in the move of the Holy Spirit in revivals, prayer gatherings, youth camps, and worship services, or is there never time or desire for those things because of all the other pursuits we have enabled? Do they hear prayer and the Word read in the home, or does God only receive honorable mention from time to time? Are the dreams they chase guided by godly wisdom and balance, or are we endorsing paths that lead far away from God by not teaching them to use those talents for His divine purpose? If we aren’t training them up in the way they should go, how can they stay on a path they were never taught not to depart from!

Lord, speak to our hearts today as Christian parents and recalibrate our focus. Forgive us for grooming our kids to grow up as unbelieving adults who were raised in lukewarm, powerless Christian homes rife with duplicity. You gave them to us as arrows; show us when the problem lies in our aim. You have blessed us with healthy, smart, beautiful kids–and we will teach them how to use their gifts to glorify You rather than to replace You.

Help us to train them to be as effective in fervent prayer as they are in the fast pitch; to tear down strongholds even better than they can sack the opposition’s quarterback; to be Esthers instead of divas; Solomons instead of just intellectuals; Davids instead of rock gods; Daniels instead of conformists. Help us to model in front of them a burning, living relationship with You instead of just a religious experience we once had. Help us not to have poisoned our kids with pride and self-absorption! Remind us to tell them often that we are pleased with them not just because of all they can do but rather, who they are in YOU! Help us not to live our lives vicariously through our kids, trying to recapture our own missed opportunities. We want them to be successful and strong, but O God, we want them to love You even more than we ourselves have loved you. We want them to rise and be the ushers of a last-day awakening, who use their gifts and talents and testimonies to draw people to the Savior!

We choose today to openly to put You first, and to teach them to put You first, too. We will guard our conversations in our homes, what we take into our gateways of eyes and ears. If You tell us we need to change some things, add or take away some things, we will not ignore Your voice! We will communicate to our kids that no matter what else they do or don’t become, we want them to love and serve You first and foremost. We will help them hone their skills, but will teach them to give You all the glory for what those skills help them achieve. We will instill eternal-mindedness into them, and we will live lives in front of them that back up what we teach. It will show in how we invest our time, our money, our affections. We will have great fun with them and laugh and make memories; and we will teach them how to have compassion, how to give, how to love with perfect love, and how to flee from temptation. We will teach them how to cling to truth, stand firm even when the world bullies them for what they believe, and we will teach them how to forgive and be forgiven. We will love them like You want us to love them–unconditionally–and will love them too much to let them be deceived and led by the devil away from their life purpose!

Help us to hear Your voice concerning our kids, Father. Your planned future for them is better than anything we could lay hold of for them on our own. As we trust You for that future, we will be good stewards of our little arrows; and by Your grace, they will grow to be arrows hitting not just any mark, but the actual destinies for which You handcrafted each of them uniquely, fearfully and wonderfully!. We consecrate ourselves, our homes, and our children today. Bless them, protect them, do great things through them, and let them never depart from You, in Jesus’ name.

(Adapted from my Facebook status, August 11, 2017)

Crazy Faith

Now faith brings our hopes into reality and becomes the foundation needed to acquire the things we long for. It is all the evidence required to prove what is still unseen. (Hebrews 11:1 TPT)

God expects #faith that compels action. I’m not talking faith versus works…I’m talking about faith that is too strong not to respond in some way to what we believe about Him.

Jesus requires the man with the withered hand to stretch it out as best he can toward Him. God’s word for Naaman is to dip seven times in the muddiest water hole around. The disciples are ordered to sit the 5000+ down for a meal that hasn’t yet materialized–and it’s either going to make them heroes or the biggest fools on the planet.

There are many “bring them to Me” moments recorded in the Bible. Everything from five loaves and two fishes to a weighty test of whether Abraham will be willing climb a mountain to offer his son to God. When the Lord is getting ready to do something whopping stupendous big, He asks a token of that person’s faith–and that something might seem embarrassing, ostentatious, risky, perplexing, seemingly nonsensical, or impossible to rationalize. But consider: isn’t faith at times any/all of the above?

I saw where Theresa Hanshaw posted a challenge today for believers to get their passports in anticipation of trips to the mission field. It’s another bring-them-to-Me window of opportunity. It’s a way of saying, “I don’t just flirt with the idea of God doing extraordinary things for me; I prepare for it.”

People of real faith don’t just pray for rain, they set out their buckets and barrels. Hungry seekers don’t just wish for a visitation from God; they clear all the junk out of their guest room, fluff the pillows, and keep checking to see if He’s on the doorstep yet. They start coming up with names for the baby. They stick their toes into the Red Sea before it parts. They don’t calculate their odds of winning, consult the Doppler radar for probability of precipitation, or fact-check at Snopes to ascertain whether that sort of miracle has ever really happened before.

Put walking shoes on your prayers today. And don’t pray lazy, boring, 95% off markdown rack prayers that apologize for expecting too much of a tired, frail, depleted, resourceless Savior—request the impossible kind of stuff a person would ask only if he or she really believes in a great big wonderful God. Not that any of it is actually a challenge to Him, of course…but our prayers are often so lackadaisical and faithless that they don’t even get the attention of our angels (who are left undispatched, like Maytag repairmen)—much less inspire the Creator of the Universe.

Ask big…then go get your passport. 😉

Father, we live in a day when, even with all our technology and endless information and gadgetry, our imagination for dreaming big things seems diminished.  It doesn’t even occur to us to bind and loose, to call things that be not as though they were, to see wrongs and deficiencies and make them right.  Forgive us for our anemic, lazy, “template” requests that require little to no faith.  Forgive us for giving You so little chance to show us just how powerful and capable You really are!

We ask You to awaken the dreamer in each of us today.  File away the callouses from our hardened, indifferent hearts so that we may have a heightened awareness of situations around us which warrant change.  Make us those agents of change!  Your Word tells us that we have not because we ask not…and we are not asking because we are instead ignoring or just accepting.  O God, realign our priorities.  Make us hungrier than ever for Your Word; for as we read Your great exploits from Genesis to Revelation, it renews our understanding all over again just how mighty and capable You are to do the seemingly impossible.  We ask that You will reveal to us extravagant requests to make…make us aware of what never before occurred to us to ask.  You are the Creator who created us in Your image, with creativity in our DNA.  Awaken that creativity which causes us to partner with You in the miraculous.

From this day forward, make us divinely dissatisfied to coast through our lives, doing just enough to get by.  Give us BIG vision.  Share Your heart with us about what YOU see needing changed and then help us to get on board with You.  We stretch out “withered” hands to You that have withered from inaction and we say, “Wake up every sleeping part of us that could otherwise be doing Your work.”  Help us build “crazy faith” so that we will imagine, dream, and invite You to go above and beyond our wildest requests.  Nothing is too hard for You…so take us on the ride of a lifetime as You erase the “im” from impossible.  In Jesus’ name we pray, and in faith we ask for more from a Father with an unlimited supply.

(Adapted from my Facebook status 7/31/17)

Optical Illusions

Illusion.png

The eye is the lamp of the body. You draw light into your body through your eyes, and light shines out to the world through your eyes. So if your eye is well and shows you what is true, then your whole body will be filled with light. But if your eye is clouded or evil, then your body will be filled with evil and dark clouds. And the darkness that takes over the body of a child of God who has gone astray—that is the deepest, darkest darkness there is. (Matthew 6:22-23)  The Voice (VOICE)

 

Most of the strife we encounter between ourselves and others can be traced back to #perceptions instead of reality. It’s said that perception IS that person’s reality; and while that may be the basis on which people make their decisions and speak their life-and-death-in-the-tongue words, perception is not necessarily #truth. Learning the difference is vital to your survival if you don’t want to walk around miserable and vexed in your soul all the time, always in drama and conflict with other people.

The devil knows how to use “optical illusions” to trip you up and keep you upset, angry, unforgiving, paranoid, suspicious, offended, and biased toward other people. He counts on you being driven by your emotions, because it’s when your emotions are all over the place that you have distorted perception. When you see that person whose presence makes you uneasy, the first thing the devil does is whisper in your ear. “That person hates you.” “You can’t trust him/her.” “They’re jealous of you.” “That group over there? Crooks. Dirty. They’ll cut your throat the first chance they get.” “She is out to get you.” “He thinks you’re ugly/fat/stupid.” “Her political views make her your enemy.” “He thinks you’re nothing because of the color of your skin and he’ll treat you unfairly.” And friends, when we lend him our ears and eyes, then the other person’s facial expression, tone, body language, quietness, nervousness, etc., will almost certain be interpreted incorrectly or in a way that creates further tension and distance.

We are so quick to assume that people feel negative thoughts toward us, when in fact much of the time, people don’t have an opinion about us one way or another. We are all so inundated with information coming from all sides that we are apt to misspeak or to act in haste or to have a “look” that others can read into incorrectly–at any given time. You can hurt someone unknowingly, definitely unintentionally, just by being lost in thought. And so can I. So, shouldn’t we cut one another just a little slack? Shouldn’t we remind ourselves that the Word tells us our fight is not against flesh and blood? When you know this to be true, and remind yourself of it, you’re less likely to be moved by that initial reaction to what you’re observing. And pertaining to that flesh-and-blood Scripture, while it’s sometimes true that the devil is manipulating that other person’s ACTIONS–at other times it’s forces of darkness at work manipulating our PERCEPTIONS.

Yeah, it’s possible that certain people don’t like us. And if they do…so what? Really? We can’t control their decisions or their opinions, BUT we can choose to love them and to take the high road anyway. And, consider this: what if that other person is acting odd because the devil’s whispering that same lie about you that he whispers to you about the other person? What if you both think the other is a hater, when neither really is? And the real culprit sits and laughs from the sidelines because of the trainwreck of relationships…based on…perception. I had that happen once in a very memorable way. I went through several years of believing a certain person had a strong dislike of me…and because it made me act standoffish, that person in turn thought the very same thing about me. The Lord arranged a very timely, honest discussion about it, which healed a friendship and eventually led to some great conversations about faith and eternity. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this person didn’t have long to live. What if that wall had remained up?

Lord, anoint our eyes with eyesalve! With our prayers and affection toward You, we chase after truth even in the little things. We don’t want broken or strained relationships. We don’t want the enemy sowing discord. We don’t want to step out on the premise of an optical illusion to find that we are falling from the ledge of a carefully-crafted deceit. Sharpen our perception, Holy Spirit, so that we can tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not. As long as there is disunity so thick in the air we could cut it with a knife, we will never be able to operate as one Body. With skewed vision, we will always stand in opposition to, or at the very least, in distrust of, one another.

Yes, we will have to apologize to one another sometimes. Sometimes You’ll lead us to apologize or be the icebreaker even when we don’t feel like we are the party who’s in the wrong (smile). But we pray for godly love to overtake us, so that there’s clear communication and no room for wrong perception. Father, in times where someone truly has something against us, help us to navigate with wisdom and to handle the situation the way Jesus would. In this world, and sometimes even within the Body of Christ, there are at times people whose personality clashes with our own–nothing personal, just two personalities that don’t naturally meld. We can recognize that and garrison up our minds not to go at war with the other person who rubs us the wrong way. Sometimes if we take time to learn that person’s history, it can even help us understand why he or she behaves that way–whether or not it excuses bad behavior. Some of the people we butt heads with the hardest in this season may potentially become our biggest defenders when a crisis hits.

Help us to seek to please You, because when we are truly out to please You first, we will have a bent toward humility and right heart attitudes. May we be led by Your Spirit to sense times in which we need to behave better or to be more respectful or considerate of other people. May we live in such a way that if others do say bad things about us or treat us unfairly, they will feel convicted. Don’t let other people be deceived about us, and don’t let us be deceived about other people. We want love–YOUR love–to reign supreme in our lives, that love which is longsuffering, believes the best in other people, and is driven by great hope. We ask in Jesus’ name, as we receive eyes that see and ears that hear the TRUTH.

 

Cooling That Hot Button: Prayer to Set a Watch on Our Lips

Hot Button“My heart burned with a fire within me,
    and my thoughts eventually boiled over
    until they finally came rolling out of my mouth.”  (Psalm 39:3 – The Passion Translation)

If the devil put people in Jesus’ path to try and trip Him up and cause Him to #speak in haste, don’t be so surprised that you and I have to guard our #words as well. I was just thinking today of times when I’ve been vulnerable over the years, and some lessons hard-learned. At times I still have to go back to retraining. 😉

There are people out there who will solicit your opinion about a matter or about another person and then later use your words against you. I wish it only happened in situations where the other person is an outright enemy; but folks, we know that sometimes it unfortunately happens among those we care about and trust. Even more unfortunate when it happens in the Church. Most of these situations you can steer out of if you’ll listen to the Holy Spirit; and other times you may be accused falsely and just have to trust Him to clear your name. Stick tight…this isn’t going in a negative direction…it has a positive conclusion that will hopefully help and encourage you!

When I was young, I had a person in my life who’d routinely bait me. That person knew when I was aggravated or under stress and how to push my buttons. When I couldn’t take any more and I’d speak my mind, it would come back to bite me in the way of trouble. I would also get pulled into conversations I didn’t want to be part of and get included just by being in the room, only to hear that my name was dropped in a collective, “Well, it’s like when Lisa and I were talking the other day, and WE feel that____.” Many times all I did was just stand in silence while the other person rattled off, but then I’d get named as an opinion accomplice to something I didn’t agree with at all! Sound familiar? It took a while for Miss Naive to pick up on this, but God used what was a bad situation to teach me a little wisdom. The Lord even helped me to forgive that person, even feel pity, but to be wary of the pitfalls of getting too close in conversation.

The people who bait you may or may not even realize that they’re doing it; and they may do it just to serve their own agendas with no malice intended against you. Others definitely do it on purpose and with wrongful intent. We see it happening all the time on TV–reporters asking a minister or leader his/her stance on hot-button sensitive questions of our current culture, so that the reporter or network or special-interest group can later brand the person a homophobe, racist, chauvinist, hypocrite, charlatan, heretic, etc., etc. The person in the crosshairs stands to then get accusation flung from both sides: one side accusing him/her of compromise or being too cowardly to speak the truth; then the other side accusing him/her with any kind of label that might destroy one’s livelihood and reputation. Entrapment. Sure, that’s the extreme instance of it, but we see that happening more and more as the public gets increasingly bloodthirsty for a good brawl. When it happens to a fellow member in the Body of Christ, oh how sad that we all gang up on the one who’s down and kick that person in the ribs! Peter knew there’d be times like this…and he urged us this way, “If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs.” (1 Pet 4:15) And folks, we need to honestly speak with caution when we get BAITED into commentary by these “news” articles on the Internet and begin to judge one another unfairly. I’m trying a lot harder to avoid them entirely! I keep reminding myself of the times when the Bible says, “And Jesus answered them not a word!” or, “He was reviled, yet reviled not again.”

Either way, while we can’t go through life distrusting everybody, we can be, as the Word says, “Wise as serpents, harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) I have friends who’ve taken some serious hits against their personal and professional lives, accused wrongly, even some convicted without cause. While I’m sorry that’s happened to you, I know full well that it could happen to any of us but for the grace of God.

I don’t know why all this comes to mind today, because I’m not in a situation like this right now; except perhaps the Lord wants that to be a focus in our place of prayer. An admonishment for days ahead as we deal with culture, with school, with workplace, community, church and home. You and I may have encounters in the future where we’re going to have to bow out of a conversation and just walk away if there’s no tactful way to say, “I’m sorry but I will not be part of this.”

Father, David talked in various Psalms about those who lay in wait to ambush him. There are many of us who’ve suffered by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, like Joseph. Others of us have taken the bait and sinned with our mouths, or at the very least, made some commentary we’d like to retract but cannot. Help us to remember that our battle isn’t at ground level, person against person, but a more diabolical force is at work to entrap us. We purpose today to set a guard on our lips. We will listen for You and trust You to order our steps. If someone were to ask our opinion about a matter or about another person, we will answer with our ears aimed heavenward. We will garrison up our minds and beware of our vulnerabilities when tired, stressed, aggravated–and we will give no place to the devil to use our words against us either in the court of heaven or down here on earth exchanged between those who gossip and manipulate.

Father, we likewise commit to pure motives in all we say and do; and just as we don’t want others drawing us into discussions we’ve no business being part of, we will not do that to other people either. We will not gossip. We will not spread innuendo or allow others to be misled by ambiguity on our part. We will let our yes be yes, our no be no, and we won’t be caught up in evil by all the tricky layers in-between. We will not betray confidences or look for opportunities to embarrass, demean, demote, or discredit others…not even when it’s to our perceived advantage to do so.

We confess Colossians 4:6 over our lives: “Let your speech at all times be gracious and pleasant, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how to answer each one [who questions you].” We will no longer say of ourselves, “Well, I was just mad, irritated, upset, having a bad day,” as a poor excuse to let our words run untethered. And we plead Your grace over the situations we’re still dealing with where in previous times we have spoken amiss and loosed hardship on ourselves. We draw on our heritage as servants of the Lord and we invoke Isaiah 54:17: “But in that coming day, no weapon turned against you shall succeed, and you will have justice against every courtroom lie. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord. This is the blessing I have given you, says the Lord.” Thank You for mercy, for helping us to hear from heaven when we are treading in gray areas. Help us learn from past misjudgments, that we may people of integrity, not weakened by having undisciplined speech.

Finally, Lord, we release and forgive those who’ve ever used our words as weapons against us. We forgive those who’ve lied on us, twisted our words, taken advantage of us, and “pushed our buttons” to cause us to say and do wrong things. As we release them, we look to You to release and forgive us. We will let You vindicate us of false accusations, and we will trust You to restore multiplied favor for what was taken away by the enemy. You are always good. Always fair. We can trust You to keep us, so we plant ourselves firmly in the palm of Your hand and we refuse to budge from there!

We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Release and Renew: Prayers for Those with Heartbreaking Jobs

”I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13 NAS1977)

Be deliberate today in your pursuit of the goodness of God. I speak especially to those in careers where you daily see the ugliest side of humanity, or perhaps the most hopeless-appearing situations. Soldiers, law enforcement, social workers, oncology nurses/doctors, ministers, teachers, counselors, and others–at the end of your day you must find a way to disconnect from the despair, lest you become a casualty instead of a catalyst for healing and hope. You can find that in prayer. At the beginning of your day you have to coat yourself in the hope of the Word to shield yourself from what you’re going to encounter. You might say, “why aren’t you suggesting I pray for the people I encounter instead of myself? This feels so selfish. What about their problems?” I’m writing this today to help keep you strong enough to do the hard work you do. You can’t help others if you wind up taken out by despair. It’s time to gear up because we NEED you doing what you do. Please, stay strong! Take care of your spirit!

Our world is sad. It’s bad out there. There’s so much despair and so many wicked activities taking place. There’s so much sickness and tragedy and cruelty. So many children, elderly, weak, innocent who are preyed upon. So many people operating under demonic influence inflicting pain and suffering on themselves and others. So much ADDICTION.

I’ll be honest. I went through my Twitter feed earlier this morning and the bad news was exhausting. I wanted to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head. I honestly thought, “Death’s not such a bad thing…it’ll be a relief to leave this world and go on to heaven!” But then I remembered what Paul said about it being more expedient (needful) that he remain behind to help others instead of going on to be with the Lord. I want heaven. I want to go and be with the Lord and be away from all the madness for all eternity…eventually. But what I really want to do first is effectively hold back the worst of evil by collectively offering up effectual fervent prayer. I want to point others to Jesus and be someone who hammers signposts in the ground of life that show a lost world the direction in which to run to find hope. THE ONLY way I can remain objective is to have God’s Word tattooed on my heart and mind, and to stay close enough to Him to hear His voice. Otherwise I just disappear into the sludge of despair with everyone else who’s given up and is waiting to die.

So for all of you who are so bravely doing the jobs I could not do (or rather, don’t necessarily WANT to do), I just encourage you this morning to cover yourself. Even if you’re already well into your shift, there’s no time like the present to start. Pray with me:

“God, thank You for helping me survive all the situations I encountered yesterday. Your Word says Your mercies are new every morning. Today I receive Your new mercy. Clothe me with salvation, with humility, with strength. Just like the “whole armor of God,” I put on my tactical gear. My head’s covered with salvation. My heart’s covered with righteousness. My tactical belt is truth…I can attach every tool I need to do my job to this truth. My feet are covered with peace. My shield is faith. My defense weaponry is Your Word and Your Spirit! That said, Lord, I’m getting ready to walk into the unknown today. I will encounter messed-up lives. I will meet hurting people. My heart will break over what’s not fair. Use me to make a difference, to be Your light bearer in a dark place. Help me to respond not out of anger, but with great wisdom.

Help me to do my best while I’m on the job and then help me to LET IT GO at the end of the day. Lord, help me not to carry these problems home to my family. I need my family and they need me. Help me to appreciate and be ministered to by the innocence of the home I’ve worked so hard to build and protect.

Keep me safe today, guard me against burnout; help me to strategize with the mind of Christ about how I can use my gifts to bless others and my strengths to help those who are in the place of need. Help me not to lose my sense of compassion nor my sense of duty to minister to the disparaged. I don’t want to be callous or insensitive when someone is needing treated gently. Help me to be just and fair with all people, even those who aren’t just and fair with me. Remind me that I represent YOU and can’t afford to let my words and actions go contrary to Yours. Help me not to think as the world thinks, but as YOU think about situations. Keep me from being jaded. Keep my heart tender even as you keep it from breaking in two at the things which also grieve YOU. In Jesus’ name.”

And at night (or the end of your workday, whenever that is 😉 ):

“Father, thank You for helping me to make it to the conclusion of another day. These burdens I bore all day long, these suffering people I worked with, the situations I can’t necessarily fix with an easy button…these worries and cares all want to come home with me. The memories want to invade my ability to wind down, to hear my spouse and children’s conversations, to keep me from the place of prayer and the much needed place of recharging and sleep.

But just like a set of coveralls, I choose to unzip the activities of the day and I step out of them. What I couldn’t fix today, I will deal with tomorrow, but for now I let it go. I’m not God–You are. I trust You to put things on hold, to keep the people I can’t help 24/7, to send others alongside to help, and to keep this world spinning on its axis for another day. In Jesus’ name I reject the effects of constant exposure to negative forces. I will not cope with frustration and sorrow by engaging in substance abuse or destructive relationships. I will seek out things that keep my heart pure and guileless, I will freely laugh at every possible opportunity, and I will give mindful thanks for the simple blessings You afford me, like a beautiful sunrise or the giggles of a small child.

I boldly declare that the helmet of salvation will keep my mind and protect me from becoming a walking case of PTSD. You are strengthening me, You are renewing my mind, You are restoring my innocence, and You ARE my joy, my strength. I will run to You and not be so “tough.” You’re the One I run to when I’m out of my league. It’s ok for me to be vulnerable in Your presence because You heal me and help me. I plead the blood of Jesus now to wash me clean, to cleanse the portals of my mind from what I need to let go of. Thanks now for blessing my family time, my worship time, my downtime and strengthening me to fight another day. I love You and trust You. Amen”

Mirror, Mirror

It is so critical that we put our attitudes and hidden heart issues on the altar, and become so immersed in the Word that we aren’t blind to undealt-with sin and/or weights. We can have every potential to do great things—even have had prophetic words spoken over us about our gifts elevating us to leadership or notoriety—and negate the prophetic word through pride, narcissism, jealousy, or fear. Instead of being angry at those we perceive to hold us back, and instead of being envious of others who possess our same potential, we must deal with that pesky hidden man of the heart. If there are unforgiveness issues stemming back even to our childhood, or healing that needs to happen when we release those who’ve hurt us, we must do the work. If we fail to do so, we will taxi the runway back and forth but never gain the momentum to get off the ground. Still more tragic, we risk imprinting our character flaws on our children by forcefully living vicariously through them, by repeating abuses on them that we experienced, or by failing to desire success for them that exceeds our own. Even very good people can be trapped in a holding pattern, mind you…disqualified over things that could be fixed!

Father, help us not to be our own worst enemy. You are fully-aware of even what we don’t see about ourselves–those damaged, flawed, or underdeveloped matters of character that we haven’t yet recognized or owned-up to. We will stop blaming others for our lack of success and begin to look inwardly, with humility and a quick-to-repent heart, for what needs purged from our character. Even if we don’t aspire to promotion of some kind, coddling wrong attitudes and negative emotions is a behavior not pleasing to You; and as badly as we want not to feel like a failure in our destiny, we want to find favor in Your sight even more. As David prayed after his hidden sin bubbled to the surface, likewise create in us a clean heart and renewed right spirit. See if there be (expose) any wicked way in us; and after the diseased element in our hearts is purged, restore the joy of our salvation. May we bear good fruit—30, 60, 100-fold, unhindered by toxic emotions, attitudes, and behavior.

You discipline those whom You love…and we know You love us too much to leave us messed-up. We don’t want to be those Your Word speaks of whose neck becomes hardened from having to be chastised often. Help us get it right, to learn and be willing to change. Remove the blinders, and after we’ve seen ourselves without the wax coating, make us whole—perfect and entire, lacking nothing. Give us courage to allow ourselves to be overhauled from the inside out. We ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Vagabond Spirit

ghostThere are a lot of paranormal shows and books that talk about ghosts being the wandering souls of the dead who still seek closure. Though I’m not blogging today to argue the existence or nonexistence of ghosts (smile), hold that thought about wandering spirits. I’m really going somewhere with this.

All around us (perhaps even a few are reading this post) are millions of living people who walk around with a spirit of restlessness that they’ve not been able to shake; this spirit sabotages everything they set their hands to. That’s a haunting far scarier than the things that go bump in the night—being stuck with an inability to commit or to find satisfaction in our already-blessed lives.  So these persons are constantly changing careers, in and out of relationships, church-hopping, changing college majors a dozen times, moving from state to state, and in general, never able to just unpack all the boxes and sink roots.

I’m speaking both figuratively and literally here.  And while I realize the nature of some vocations, ministries, and dreams involve being flexible and open to frequent changes, many people simply have issues with “stick-to-it-iveness.”  One foot is planted firmly while the other has the sprinter’s shoe firmly laced up and ready to bolt.  One eye is on the spouse or fiancé while the other is scanning other options, just in case the relationship fails to remain exciting and new.  And church membership?  Seriously?  That person has a laundry list of every pastor who has hurt him or her, of every church that’s failed to be stimulating enough to earn permanent home status.  Ask where he or she is connected and you’ll get an uncomfortable stuttering of, “Um, I’m kind of in-between churches right now.”  I bet you know at least one person like this…and I hope for your sake that person isn’t staring back at you in the mirror.  If he/she is, don’t be discouraged or feel condemned!  We are going to talk a little about this issue and pray together.

There is nothing wrong with God-ordained change.  Moses was getting up in years when God had him switch from herding flocks to herding people.  Sometimes we even make bad choices that warrant change.  Outside factors can leave us trying to find a new job, requiring us to move.  I’m not talking about these types of occasional milestone situations; I’m addressing the curse of never being willing to commit—truly sell out for a cause–that can rob an entire life’s sense of accomplishment and fruitfulness.

The existence of a vagabond spirit  is just as prevalent in seemingly-stable environments as it is among people who abandon their families and go live under bridges. Oh, it may not manifest as being the same thing, but the end results are not so dissimilar.  Person can’t deal with mundaneness of stability, so person exchanges stable environment for a possibly unhealthy, unfruitful lifestyle of hobo-esque wandering.  And sadly, the very thing which the person overtaken with a vagabond spirit is hoping to gain is the thing he or she forfeits in the name of freedom.  Yeah, just like a ghost…wandering aimlessly in search of resolve.

There is hope for the wandering soul.  It lies in submitting ourselves totally to God’s will; reading His Word, talking (and listening) to Him, disciplining ourselves, and admitting we have need of deliverance from the fear of commitment.

Father, break the “ghost syndrome” off Your people, we ask in Jesus’ name. We were not meant to be in a perpetual state of limbo in our lives. You began a good work in us and will finish it; and You designed us to walk in completeness. You have assignments for us–jobs, families, churches, life plans, goals, callings–that were meant to have a victorious, finished outcome. When we are faced with hardships, help us not to abandon our posts in continual hope that the pastures are perhaps greener somewhere else. Sure, it’s easier to quit, to lose by default; but why should we not instead…win?

Help us not to have chronic detachment that never allows us to stay and see things through. Help us to be people of covenant, people of our word, people of principle. When You end a particular season in our lives (and on occasion You do), it’s never left in chaos and confusion; that’s not how You operate. No, You have right order and a peace that accompanies every change that You orchestrate personally in our lives. Give us tenacity—the kind that sets us up for favor, promotion, and utter blessing. Give us an ear that hears the voice of the Good Shepherd and is keener to His voice than even to the sound of opportunity knocking. Not every knock is something or someone sent by God! We won’t open doors You don’t instruct us to open. We will be neither unable to commit, nor too stubborn to obey when You order change.  We will be balanced; we will be able to be in a fixed place/circumstance for as long as You ordain, without being attached to the world and things of the world.  We will find joy in the assignments You give us; and instead of being driven to find the next big thing that fuels our adrenaline, we’ll linger long enough to rest, reflect, give thanks, and enjoy the work of our hands!  Bless us with a deep appreciation of commitment that makes having variety and mobility safe instead of destructive to Your best for us.  We will bring the fruit of finishing to You instead of leaving a littered path of abandoned missions.

By allowing You to establish borders in our lives through accountability and covenant relationship, we poise ourselves to be fruitful and multiply. We prove ourselves fit, through our faithfulness in a few things, to be made rulers over many. Thank You, Lord, that Your children are being loosed from the “ghost” mentality.  Thank You for casting out the vagabond spirit that denies us satisfaction in commitment.  We are alive in You–and we are not aimlessly wandering souls!  In Jesus’ name we ask and give thanks for answered prayer!

Save

The Two-Sided Sickle

sickleFor the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart.  Hebrews 4:12 AMP

When I was a kid, my parents and grandparents lived side-by-side and the only fence we had was around the two properties.  It was wonderful to have a big, collective yard to play in, even though our neighborhood was laid out in a way to where most folks had a 40 ft section of land and no more.  Our ground was a little swampy because I’m told that at one time that’s exactly what it was–swamp property.  The dirt was rather dry on Grandpa’s side, but very rich on the left side of our house…so what little bit of gardening we were able to do between the two yards was sort of divided up by what grows best in each particular type of soil.  A topic perhaps for another post…

Anyway, for some reason this morning I’m remembering this old sickle in Grandpa’s tools, the one whose wooden handle left a big splinter in the palm of my hand before I reacted to his warning not to play with it.  (Love his heart, he used black electrical tape on everything else…how that handle escaped his attention I’ll never know.)  Grandpa’s warning came because he was worried about me chopping off my leg; but the splinter was lesson enough to keep my hands off it in the future.  Now, this sickle didn’t see much action because Grandpa’s primary use of it was to occasionally clear weeds that grew up outside our fence next to the railroad tracks, and to clear the green bean vines from our fence at the end of the last picking…maybe to chop down the fodder after the few times we grew a little corn.  The limited type of gardening we did really didn’t require a sickle for harvesting; so it wasn’t until later that I learned about a sickle’s role in gathering what is grown.  Interesting, that this rusty old gadget had two potential purposes (other than giving little girls splinters and giving her big brother a yellow jacket attack while he was cutting weeds once…another story):  weeding and harvesting.

We read in the Scriptures about the Word of God being a two-edged sword, and I’ve always imagined that as being useful for cutting on both the forward and the backward stroke.  No motion wasted!  Twice the result in half the time! Or, a dual-purpose weapon, of which there are many types of cutting instruments.  Some blades are smooth on one side and serrated on the other side for when a little systematic sawing is needed (ever run into an obstacle where persistent back-and-forth re-application of the Word was needed to cut yourself free from the choking vines of the enemy?).  Or, dare I suggest, the Word is also a sharp sickle that achieves two objectives:  clearing out the things on our soil that hinder growth, and gathering in the harvest from the seed we’ve sown.

You may, up until now, have only been using your “sickle” for part of its potential use. Perhaps you use it to weed out the hindrances, sins, and weights that block your blessing; but then you don’t actually use it to aggressively reap your harvest.  I know many people who are generous to sow and bless, but who feel guilty about being blessed in return.  So they grow a magnificent garden that is left to decay, whereas the fruit could be harvested and used to be an even greater blessing.  If you can’t feel good about receiving the blessing for yourself, don’t worry; it’s not all about you!  The blessing is needed in order to perpetuate more blessing for more people:  a testimony of God’s mercy and provision for those who are called by His name.  Stop leaving your harvest un-gathered!

Still others are using the Word to receive the harvest, but their harvest is puny because it has been choked out by the sins and weights that the sickle could have cleared from the ground before and during the growing season.  If you are sowing heavily but reaping sparingly (and I’m not only talking finances here…investing time, energy, passion, conviction, prayers, and love into people and worthwhile objectives while getting little in return), you may need to take that Word into the preventive and maintenance modes and start clearing the junk from your life.  Is there drama or disappointment or depression where there should be peace and prosperity and perpetuation of blessing on your children and grandchildren?  Do the work.  Don’t let the enemy succeed in choking out your blessing through hidden sin and unbridled carnality.  Whatever the reason your harvest is slim pickings, God can reveal not only the root cause, but also reveal the part of His Word that can hack away at that root!

We even have to clear out the remnants of yesterday’s harvest before tomorrow’s potential can be unlocked.  Some folks leave the fodder of once-upon-a-time movements of God standing as brown, brittle memorials that He once was there in their midst, instead of tilling up the soil for another planting.  Yep, sometimes preparing our hearts for what He wants to do in this season requires letting go of our expectations based on the past.  Hard stuff…we can’t do it without the right tool in our hands.  God’s Word does honor to the past, but it is constantly demanding that we press forward, keep working while it is day.  I don’t know about you, but I desire with all my heart to be moving from glory to glory with God.  I don’t want to sum my entire existence up on what He once did, when He’s still moving and doing and showing Himself mighty to save!  May He look at me–and likewise, may He look at YOU, too–as good ground, and as good stewards who will put His every tool to use to maximize His kingdom and His will on earth!

The truth is, we need God’s Word in every season, in every step, in every creative process, and in every discipline of our lives.  If we will get it off our coffee table, off the nail in the tool shed, and keep it polished, shining, and used regularly, it will not only inhibit the wrong kind of growth in our souls, but will enhance the potential for the right type of growth in our spirit-man!  Don’t let your sickle–your precious copy of the Bible, God’s holy Word– get rusty from only occasional use.  Make it your “Swiss army knife” that finds an application in every area of your life!

Obedience Above All

Years ago when I was just starting out in my young adulthood, I acquired a secondhand hot plate that had only one temperature:  wide open.  It was this Frankenstein monster of a thing—big, heavy, and depending on what you needed, handy—well, handy perhaps if you were planning on smelting iron ore.  You didn’t dare turn your back on it for a second if you actually desired to EAT what you were cooking.  It was a dumpster dive contraption that served a very temporary purpose, and I was so glad to retire it at the earliest possible opportunity…before I burned out the whole neighborhood and not just the scrambled eggs.

Sometimes we as believers are a lot like this old hot plate.  We mean well; but we have no thermostat, no discipline to read, listen, and obey.  And for that reason, God can only use us for very limited purposes.  If we’re stubborn enough long enough, we may find ourselves completely disqualified for the Master’s use…still saved, but not submitted; still rescued, but restricted.  We may be offended and affected by anything that has the ability to tip off our emotions; so although our zeal for the things of God may be genuine, it’s all over the place…instead of targeted where and to what extent God actually wants it.

The Church in the Wilderness had a lot of testing to endure; but it was as much a mercy as it was a proving ground.  There were mindsets to change in between liberation from poverty and the stewardship of promise. God had to prove He could trust them for destiny.  Oh, He fully knew their capabilities, but their very survival as a people—HIS PEOPLE—would depend upon how well they listened and obeyed.  He wasn’t setting them up for failure:  no, to be certain, the try-and-try-again course they were on was setting them up to succeed.  He loved them; He was qualifying them for where He would take them, but He also required their allegiance.  He was aware that some would simply refuse to be obedient—further validating what He already knew about the incompleteness of the Law.  We would need a Savior.  Even then, however, with a Savior, we would still have to choose to be followers and not just freelancers!

James gave us the perfect example of how serious rogue Christianity can be:  But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. (James 1:22-24)  It’s very possible, if we just hit-and-miss with our time in the Word and prayer, to go away and forget who we are and why we’re here.  Our carnal impulses begin to render His commandments powerless in our lives because there’s no discipline to hold to the purity of obedience.  We become religious rather than submitted; self-righteous rather than humble and attentive to His every instruction.  James says we deceive ourselves at that point.  The knob is ripped off and we run wide open, so therefore God can’t trust us for a second.

God winked at (tolerated) our ignorance initially, but He’s calling us all to repentance now. Change must come.  We are in critical times where one misstep, one wrong “my way or the highway” attitude on our part can completely abort a mission, defer an entire movement.  His merciful, extended testing time offers us daily opportunities to grow, to strengthen, and to prove ourselves as fit wineskins to hold His anointing; or we can go around and around the same dumb issues in our lives, unchanged and burning everything entrusted to our care.  At some point, regardless, we must decide whether to follow Him wholeheartedly or be left in on the sidelines.  God won’t entrust His harvest to those who’ll let it be left in ruins while they bicker about who’s in charge, who gets credit.

While He’s pruning us for fruitfulness, you can be sure He’s going to test us by changing up our plans to see whether we’ll accept His will as the final call, or whether we’ll pout and get in strife.  I’ve seen it (and had it happen to me) time and again.  Work toward a particular end—maybe have a new song rehearsed and ready to use in the worship set—just to have the Holy Ghost show up and shut it all down for a different direction entirely.  When it happens, can we joyfully handle submission, or will we instead defy Him by trying to “get ours” while we’ve got the chance to do so?  How you and I respond in these these testing moments either adds to or depreciates our stock value!  Can God trust us?  Is He REALLY Lord of all?

In my prayer time last night, God gave me the perfect example of how critical our obedience really is.  Imagine a “SWAT team” trained for duty, who’ve rehearsed every scenario and know every drill.  But someone on that team is overzealous for a chance to use that newly-acquired skill.  Frustrated.  Impatient.  Chomping at the bit.  In a hostage situation where lives are at stake, that drive to break bad can override the Commander’s instructions; and the undisciplined desire to ACT can result in unintended casualties–maybe even among that rogue member’s own unit.

We are in the spiritual world war of the ages; and if there were ever a time to be with our faces to the ground seeking God’s instruction, it’s now.  Captives are in peril and He’s calling us to pull them from the very jaws of death.  Many are in vulnerable, volatile situations.  It’s just as important to recognize and obey the command, “stand down,” as it is the command to “open fire,” because our spotter has a better vantage point than we do.  If we go by merely our own driven-ness and instincts, we can even forget who the enemy really is.  We then stop engaging in heavenly warfare and just turn on anyone earthly who appears to oppose us and what we preach.

If we crucify our tendency to run wide open all the time (some things go out only by prayer and fasting), we can come out of this with more than just ourselves intact; we can rescue lives.  If we have the attitude of “Don’t tell me to pull back, Lord.  I came here to git-er-done and I’m not going to waste all this adrenaline on waiting and patience and doing it Your way,”  however, then we forfeit His ability to use us in those very ways we long to be used.

Remember, God will always choose the most obedient, least ego-driven to carry out His will and establish His kingdom. Believe it or not, obedience will prove to become the greatest skill in your arsenal of spiritual warfare.  Your qualification to open the valve all the way in those appropriate times will be determined by your willingness to hold a controlled, unambitious grip during the slow-and-steady maneuvers.  If you can contain all that power but handle it with delicate precision that hears only one Voice calling the shots, God will entrust you to complete great exploits in His name!  Remember, obedience above all.  Master it.