Monday, November 25, 2013

Let Everything that has Breath Give Thanks

Giving thanks.  Variations of the phrase 'give thanks to the Lord' occur at least 40 times throughout the Bible.  An important topic to our Lord to say the least. It should be equally important to us.

A spirit of thanksgiving. "Sure", I say "I can give thanks. I can offer up a prayer of thanksgiving for the food on the table, the roof over my head, the material blessings that surround me, even the air I breathe."

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!    His faithful love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:39

We thank you, O God! We give thanks because you are near. People everywhere tell of your wonderful deeds. Psalm 75:1

And, I can certainly give thanks when a prayer is answered as I have asked. When life is good. When I have everything I think I need.

And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety. 2 Corinthians 1:11

And Moses told them, “It is the food the Lord has given you to eat.  These are the Lord’s instructions: Each household should gather as much as it needs. Pick up two quarts for each person in your tent.” So the people of Israel did as they were told. Some gathered a lot, some only a little. But when they measured it out, everyone had just enough. Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough. Each family had just what it needed.” 
Exodus 16:15-18

But, do I really know what I 'need'? Can I really give thanks to Him during the tough times?  Can I thank Him for that trial, tragedy, or tribulation?  The unpredictability that life brings? The pain that often accompanies it?

And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
Ephesians 5:20

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Ouch! Giving thanks for everything?!  Certainly easier to say than to do. Yet we are asked, in effect commanded, to do so!  It is God's will for us. So then, we must ask ourselves those hard questions once again...  What do we truly 'need'? How and when should we give Him thanks? 

Sorrow is better than laughter,  for sadness has a refining influence on us. Ecclesiastes 7:3

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

So simple yet so difficult. We read it; we hear it.  But when it comes to living it, we deny it.

He desires to transform us. To become more like Him. The potter and the clay.  It hurts. It's hard. It doesn't make sense to the flesh; yet, His ways are NOT our ways. He is increasing our faith and trust. He is reducing our stress and anxiety so that we can find rest in Him and become eternally minded. So that we are free to desire a deeper understanding, draw closer to Him, and develop His character.

Desire something Deeper
 Draw even Closer
 Develop Godly Character

Remember:  HE IS LOVE. He is not motivated by any other reason than His unconditional love for us! He desires an intimate relationship with us unhindered by the flesh. Our definition of love must become His definition of love....

Praise the Living God for what He has done, is doing, and will do. It all has glorious purpose.  Praise Him who is a God of details leaving no stone unturned so that we can relax. Praise Him for being Love and for loving us so much that He gives us just what we need when we need it most! Praise Him for His devotion to us and to our transformation process. Thank you, Lord!

An attitude of gratitude. Always. In everything. 

Receive His grace.
Accept His gift.
Give thanks. 
No matter what.
His love endures...


Wednesday, November 20, 2013


The words ‘community’, ‘clusters’, and ‘huddle’ have been running through my thoughts as of late. You  may be thinking because it is Fall. My mind must be filled with visions of grapes on a vine, football, or family gathered around a Thanksgiving table. Or maybe I'm craving chocolate-covered peanut clusters. In part, you are right; however, I was thinking more along the lines of butterflies!

My family usually makes a trek to the Central Coast of California at least once every couple of years. Truly, it is my favorite place to visit in California with the June Lake/Mono Lake area running a close second place. For me, it is like stepping out of the world—a slower pace, more open space, a more clear vision of Him and His creation—to regain focus on what is truly important. A breathe of fresh air literally and spiritually.

Amtrak Coast Starlight

Moro Rock

Hearst Castle

Avila Beach

There is a very special place in that coastal area in Pismo Beach where the Monarch butterflies migrate every winter.  They spend the warmer months up in Canada and parts of the northern states but find wintering in the warmer climates of Southern California and Mexico much nicer.  Much like the migration of geese or ‘snowbirds’ as we affectionately call migrating/vacationing seniors.  The butterflies, however, have a beautiful aspect added to their migration habits.  They love to cling together in clusters on eucalyptus trees in October and November!

A Monarch Butterfly
Our trip to Central Coast this year took us, once again to this familiar stomping ground. I never cease to be fascinated by these graceful creatures and their gathering together. They are huddled in beautiful clusters like grapes on a vine or crystals on a chandelier. I love their need for each other, their dependence upon each other, their sense of urgency in helping one another. They gather together in early morning and evening to keep warm until the air warms up enabling them to spread their wings and fly. Their clusters among the eucalyptus leaves keep them well camouflaged to protect them from predators. As the sun rises and the temperature warms, each butterfly will gradually spread its wings and fly to its next destination. Often, they will return to that same resting place each evening for a number of weeks until conditions warrant moving onward.

Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. 1 Peter 5:2

Clusters of Monarch Butterflies
 A cluster. A community. Of caring. Of sharing. Of providing for one another. For protecting each other. So intimate, so beautiful and so necessary for survival. By God’s design.

This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other.  
1 Corinthians 12:29

We were made to cluster. We were made for community. Families, friends, churches, neighborhoods.  Yet, in our flesh, we want to ‘go it alone.’ We become exclusive rather inclusive—cliques, social circles, clubs—with standards, seen or unseen, that shut people out. We feel more comfortable with people who see things pretty much the way we do. We focus on differences rather than similarities or the wants of the few rather than needs of the many. We focus upon what divides us rather than what unites us. Not by God’s design.

 "When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures,  idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division,  envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21

Good things happen in huddles, clusters, and community. People form bonds, make plans, accomplish amazing things and share life experiences together, win or lose.

Just think how wonderful it would be if we were to cluster together, to reach out continually to one another, to share with one another, to care for one another!  To be inclusive. To truly be in this world but not of this world. Our emotional and spiritual tanks would be full rather than empty. What if we were to appreciate our differences, learn from them and grow together? Make friends rather than enemies. Agree to disagree without anger. We could shine our light upon others, bringing them into community to experience warmth, friendship, intimacy, transparency, love and security without feeling vulnerable. We could spread our wings and fly returning to our community to recharge our batteries and fly again. We would bless and be blessed. We would not be wanting. By His design.

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. Acts 2:42

So much more to learn (than science) from this delicate creature that God has created. So beautiful. So much like our Savior…. Let us reach out to others, as He did, to include rather than exclude, to embrace rather than disgrace, to accept rather than reject. He came and He died for us ALL!

If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. Matthew 5:46
And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us. 1 John 3:23

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Beautiful Sacrifice of Prayer & Fasting Part II

"Prayer is reaching out after the unseen; fasting is letting go of all that is seen and temporal. Fasting helps express, deepen, confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God." ~ Andrew Murray

Love this quote! What a powerful statement!  Bringing heaven and earth together.  Bringing the temporary condition of our lives on this earth in alignment with the eternal, everlasting domain and the will of the Almighty. Coming before the throne of grace and power in surrender. Drawing close to Him. Expressing our love and trust in Him. Knowing Him more intimately. Prayers with power behind them. Spirit-led and Spirit-filled. Don't miss this wonderful opportunity!

The Sacrifice

The power and beauty in the sacrifice of prayer and fasting...









Praise Him. For all He is, all He does and His willingness to humble Himself to commune with us.
Repent and Release your heart. Come before Him with a humbleness and a willingness to learn and grow. Embrace His forgiveness. Surrender.
Ask Him to guide you in Spirit (rather than flesh) as you pray for your heart’s desire for yourself and others.
Yield in submission to His perfect will and in anticipation to His answer to your request whatever the outcome.

Focus on the power and provision of God, His Spirit and the gift of redemption, reconciliation, and salvation rather than on perceived needs of the flesh.
Acknowledge His sovereignty in all things. He is our ALL in ALL; we would not, could not exist without Him.
Sacrifice something of significance such as food, a stronghold or a bad habit. The sacrifice should be something you feel you need but must do without to increase the realization of your weakness and dependance upon Him. Sacrifice your time to be used in prayer.
Thank Him continually during the fast for providing spiritual strength and sustenance during your time of surrender and moments of weakness and revelation. Thank Him for His unfailing love and provision.

Reasons to Pray and Fast
To seek God’s guidance and wisdom
To seek deliverance or protection
To express grief or remorse
To strengthen prayer
To express repentance
To rededicate your life to God
To humble yourself before Him
To overcome temptation or conquer a stronghold
To seek His provision spiritually or physically
To ask for healing emotionally, spiritually or physically

“Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.” Daniel 9:3, seeking guidance and deliverance

“Now, therefore,” says the Lord,
“Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
 So rend your heart, and not your garments;
Return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm.” Joel 2:12-13, in repentance and mourning.

“Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ Isaiah 58:6-9, fasting pleasing to the Lord.

Scripture References for Prayer and Fasting

The Beautiful Sacrifice of Prayer & Fasting

Another absolute favorite story of mine from His Word comes from 2 Chronicles 20.  It is a story of angst, danger, desperation and deliverance. It is a story of prayer, power, community,  and perseverance. It is love story sacrifice and deliverance.

A summary of the story goes something like this:
King Jehoshaphat of Judah was told that his enemies were coming to make war. Jehoshaphat was terrified and begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting. So people from all the towns of Judah came to Jerusalem to seek the Lord’s help.

Jehoshaphat stood before the people.  He prayed before the people giving the Lord all the praise honor and glory. He also took claim to God’s promise of protection for his people. He said, ‘We can cry out to you to save us, and you will hear us and rescue us.’ In humility, Jehoshaphat prayed, “ We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.”

Then the Spirit came upon Jahaziel, a man in the crowd.  He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.  Then King Jehoshaphat bowed low with his face to the ground. And all the people of Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping the Lord. 

 Early the next morning the army of Judah went out into the wilderness to face their enemies. On the way Jehoshaphat stopped and said, “Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm.

(And, here is the best part!) After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang:  “Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!” (Can you imagine singers leading you into battle?!)

 At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves. The armies of Moab and Ammon turned against their allies from Mount Seir and killed every one of them. After they had destroyed the army of Seir, they began attacking each other.So when the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped.

 King Jehoshaphat and his men went out to gather the plunder.  It took the people three entire days to gather the plunder! It is still called the Valley of Blessing today.  When all the surrounding kingdoms heard that the Lord himself had fought against the enemies of Israel, the fear of God came over them.  Jehoshaphat’s kingdom was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.

Valley of Blessing

I love this moment in history because it memorializes the beauty of relationship with God Almighty.  The king loved his people and his people loved him. The king loved God and God loved him. The people loved and worshiped God. There was beauty in the sacrifice of prayer and fasting and coming before God with surrendered hearts.

Jehoshaphat had a sense of urgency in approaching the Lord; rather than trying to solve the problem himself, Jehoshaphat went straight to the Creator of the Universe. He approached the throne with humility before God and his people, relying on God alone. The king seized God’s power in collective fasting and prayer demonstrating his trust, reliance and dependance on Him alone. His prayers and demonstration through fasting with his people were answered, he gets an added bonus of peace on every side during his reign, and God gets the glory!

The sacrifice of prayer and fasting, with a yielded heart, can move mountains. It is a beautiful way to demonstrate our love and trust in the Living God. It is one the most powerful tools of spiritual warfare yet one of the least used.

May we grasp the power of prayer and fasting, may we seize the opportunity to gather together in coming before Him to offer this sacrifice in submission, worship, trust, and dependence. And, may we utilize this tool in our toolbox of faith often just as we put on our armor to face each day!