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”

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.

Post-It Notes of Remembrance

IMG_3956My mind today is on my friend Cathy, who was one of the bravest and most stubbornly faith-filled women I’ve ever known.  Cathy may have left here sooner than those of us who loved her would’ve allowed…but her short life was not shadowed over with a spirit of grumbling and complaining.  She had a thing about Post-it notes, and she didn’t care one bit to litter her beautiful home with them.  Scriptures, prayer requests, blessings to give thanks for, Cathy would have notes on mirrors, door frames, refrigerator, walls…wherever they’d stick.  They were her deliberate effort to maintain a grateful heart, right thoughts in her memory and on her lips.  It worked.  I watched a woman fighting for her life who made room for jubilant thanksgiving and praise of her God, and it humbled me.  It made my petty groanings seem a lot less significant when she’d say of her own major obstacles, “Hardly nothing.”  I’m trying to get a little less stingy with my Post-it notes; and because her friendship is one of those blessings I’m honored to remember, she is getting her own note on my wall.  Today’s devotional doesn’t start out on a sad note at all…I’m just integrating a bit of very important nostalgia to support the idea of remembering one’s blessings.

The reason why God established the feast days for the children of Israel is to help them remember.  You might ask, “How could anyone forget miracles like watching the parting of the Red Sea…or the deliverance from the bondage of Egypt…or the passing by of the angel of death?” Don’t be too quick to judge!  If you do not consciously make room in your life for thanksgiving, celebration, and remembrance, you too will forget your miracles when faced with another mountain. Why, we do it all the time…but for the grace of God and the Holy Spirit jogging our memory, we’d become plumb full of ingratitude, forgetfulness, complaining, wishing for what we don’t already have, bitterly living in the past, coveting other people’s blessings.

You are looking at a bill in this morning’s mail that you have no earthly idea how you’ll pay…but shift your focus back to the last time God sent provision right when you needed it. The medical report the doctor’s office just gave you is not at all what you were wanting to hear…but don’t be overwhelmed by today’s trouble when there’s a memory of a previous healing begging to be unlocked.   It’s practically screaming through the soundproof glass, “Wait!  Wait, you forgot all about ME!  Let me out of here and let’s talk!”  Shut off the distresses of the moment, right now. If but only in your mind, place them in a tucker tote and put them in a corner out of your way. You can still deal with them, but for the moment, set them aside. It sounds elementary I know, but please don’t be insulted by the simplicity of what I’m going to suggest next–I’m not downplaying your serious needs. Get a piece of paper and begin to list some things from the past which God did for you “in the nick of time.” Add to that list the blessings you already have. You might have to press through pain to get there, but list what’s good. If your left leg’s hurting, praise Him that your right leg isn’t.

There’s an old hymn that says “I can take you to the time, I can take you to the place, where the Lord saved me, by His wonderful grace.” A major weapon of spiritual warfare is that determination to remember the victories. Maybe you don’t remember the exact date or place when something happened…write it down anyway. It will be the testimony that begins with, “There was that time when______.” It will be no less powerful! God’s not like an angry spouse who’s upset that you forgot the anniversary…His reasoning for you setting that time to remember is more for YOUR benefit than His. Anyway, make that list. If you know specific days on the calendar, find some way to commemorate them. Jot them in the margins of your Bible, or Post-it notes on the cork board, whatever. We mark everything else on our calendar from mortgage due dates to doctor appointments…make some room for good things! Whenever May 22 rolls around again and you’ve got even a small story of thankfulness that coincides with that date, make an all-out celebration of it. Today, you might say to others, marks 17 years since the doctor gave me six months to live! Next Thursday marks 2 years when God saved us from losing our business. Or, I’ll always rejoice in April because that’s when I got a letter of acceptance to a university that by all human reasoning, I shouldn’t have been able to attend. Or, it was on a New Year’s Eve 30 years ago when such-and-such relative tried to take his own life, but God spared him. I can’t tell your stories because I don’t know them all, but if you’ll sweep today’s troubling circumstances to the side for just a bit, you have some incredible victories you NEED to relive. You need the strength from those memories to inspire you to forge ahead in today’s trials.

Yes, you need to make a big deal of these things. Who cares if someone else doesn’t want to have a party with you? You have a party with God! Recently, Dana and I started a journal of blessings. Oh, we might not post to it every day, but we’ve gotten into the practice of talking about blessings at night before we go to sleep, and he has me jot them down. Sometimes I go back through and read a few entries. It might be a major healing, or it might be thanks that God helped me to change a faucet under our sink without it leaking. On either end of the wow spectrum, these blessings are worth remembering and giving thanks for all over again!

What has He done for YOU–past or present–that’s worth a celebration? It’s time to put on the garment of praise and ditch that spirit of heaviness!  Grab the calendar, grab the pad of sticky notes, and encourage yourself in the Lord.  He’s worthy of praise, and His loving kindness is so worth the remembrance.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” –Psalm 103:2-5

Prayer: The Science of Moving Impossible Loads

Lever_(PSF)“Give me a place to stand, and I shall move the Earth with it.” — Archimedes, 3rd Century BC, while discussing the mathematical principles of a lever, and how it can simplify a near-impossible task.

A lever is simply a movable bar that pivots on a fulcrum attached to a fixed point. The lever operates by applying forces at different distances from the fulcrum, or a pivot. The Egyptians are thought to have moved the huge stone obelisks for their monuments by the use of levers.

Did you know that you have a spiritual lever?  It’s called prayer!  Prayer has the ability to move things too heavy to shift in the natural realm.  The Apostle Paul tells us to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests (Eph 6:18).  “All kinds of prayers” is similar to the various placements of the fulcrum (pivoting point) of a lever.  Your prayer is the lever.  You, the willing servant of God, are the fulcrum.  God is the effort, and the enemy is the resistance.

Depending on its pivoting point placement, prayer can accomplish various types of moving that otherwise could not be done.  Think of a crowbar trying to pry something loose that’s stuck.  That’s a lever with a fulcrum in the middle, and the effort and resistance on opposite sides.  Sometimes in prayer, God will put you right in the middle.  As you intercede, you may feel pressure on both sides.

A nutcracker is a lever that breaks a shell off by having resistance in the middle, effort on one side, and the fulcrum on the other side.  God may get on one side of a situation, have you on the other side, and the two of you put the “squeeze” on a stronghold that needs broken off someone’s life.  In times like this, you may not be able to see God because the enemy has your view obstructed, but keep praying.  God can apply whatever pressure is needed on the enemy because He has you positioned to be a stable object to push against!

A pair of tweezers is a lever that has the effort in the middle, and the resistance and the fulcrum on opposite sides.  There are times when God gets in the middle, with you and the evil one on opposite sides.  The grasping motion of the tweezer helps it to pluck up deeply embedded things.  In this alignment, you can see God even when you can’t see the enemy…but that’s good!  God’s in the middle and because of the right placement, He can use your prayer lever to get a grip on what needs pulled out.

Have I lost you yet?  We can narrow it down like this: knowing how to pray the Word accurately can bring alignment on earth with God’s will in heaven. 

Through prayer, you team up with God.  You willingly become a support for His will to be done.  Through prayer, you can pry something loose in the spirit realm.  You can break off strongholds.  You can pluck something painful out of a life, or even pluck some ONE out of a dangerous situation, all through prayer.  If we pray according to God’s Word, God can even use the “resistance” to work to His advantage!

As you go into this day, ask God to make you a willing “fulcrum” to accomplish His will on earth.  You may not always understand the method behind His placement of you in a particular situation, but that’s ok.  Remain fixed.  If you’re obedient, you can stand still and see the salvation of the Lord!

 

Scientific Fact Source:  Wikipedia.com