Tag Archives: prayer

Escaping Captivity (Guest Post)

Escaping Captivity

by Steph Beth Nickel

Because of Jesus... we can escape captivity.Many of us have read books or watched movies in which the main character is taken captive, books such as Janet’s own Heaven’s Prey.

While few (if any) of us have experienced this horror, we have all been held captive at some point. Some such occurrences seem almost too insignificant to mention: that bad dream that leaves us in a funk for the rest of the day for example. Some we seek to keep hidden: that bad habit we can’t seem to shake perhaps.

And what about that careless choice that makes us want to relive even a few seconds that would change the course of our lives for several days, months or even years to come?

Our Response to Captivity

Do we get tied up in knots? Do we obsess over negative feelings or less than stellar choices? Or do we actually believe Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (ESV).

Many Christians have memorized this verse and quote it often. But do we cling to this promise when we’re at a low point?

Do we quote this verse and others like it to reassure ourselves, to pull ourselves out of emotional captivity or simply as a declaration of truth?

Our Response to Truth

If we don’t instantly feel better, will we still cling to the truth?

If God doesn’t “fix” everything in the way we want Him to, as quickly as we want Him to, will we still believe?

Will we allow our captivity to keep us bound in knots, making us ineffective?

Or will we deliberately look for the good in every situation? Will we pray for those involved? Will we see it as one more step on the journey to spiritual maturity, to authentic freedom?

Our Response to Promises

Will we rejoice in the midst of everything? (See 1 Corinthians 5:18.)

How can we, as Christians, escape captivity? We can hold onto 1 Peter 5:6-8 with both hands. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (ESV).

And when we can’t hold on, we can trust that our great God will always, always, always hold onto us.

No matter what happens, whether because of our choices or the choices of others, we can trust God. Even in the midst of apparent captivity, we can live in the freedom there is to be found in a growing relationship with the Lord.

Tweetables:

Because of Jesus, we can escape captivity. (click to tweet)

God’s promises believed bring freedom. (click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

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Highly Valued

So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock – his church, purchased with his own blood – over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders.
Acts 20:28, NLT*

Let’s face it, church is a collection of sinners saved by Jesus’ blood, plus those still fumbling toward saving faith. Some are easy to love, but most of us have sharp edges, abrasive surfaces, or other sources of irritation.

We’re in the process of spiritual growth, and what God sees in us is not always visible to those looking through human eyes. But He’s building us into the Body of Christ, and into His Temple.

He sees value in us. Enough that Jesus died to redeem us.

He commands us to love one another. (John 13:34-35) He’s not asking us to do anything He hasn’t done first, and He offers the Holy Spirit within us to produce that love for one another. We just need to choose to obey, even when it’s hard.

Is there someone in your church who’s impossible to love? Pray for him or her. Regularly. If you ask God to grow His love in you – and persistently choose to cooperate with Him – He’ll surprise you.

Most times it’s not that extreme, but may we remember to ask what He sees, instead of focusing on what we see. May we remember the high value He sets on us – as individuals and as His flock.

God our Shepherd and our Saviour, we dare not dismiss any soul You love. Please help us see what You see, and grow Your love in our hearts for each member of Your Body. Show us what You see in us, as well, and help us surrender fully to Your cleansing and growth.

Matt Maher’s song, “Instrument,” made a powerful difference in my life during a very difficult time in my own church life.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Review: The Menopause Guide, by Danna Demetre, RN

The Menopause Guide, by Danna Demetre, RNThe Menopause Guide, by Danna Demetre, RN (Spire edition, 2009)

I picked this book up years ago from a sale bin ($3 well spent) for reference “someday.” The cover offers help to “manage hot flashes, increase your energy level, understand hormones, reduce mood swings, and live with new purpose.”

What it doesn’t say is that this is a book for Christian women. I was delighted to find, along with the practical physical information, advice that integrated the spiritual dimension of our lives.

Each chapter addresses a relevant topic with compassion, humour, and a sense that the author and/or the women she quotes have “been there” and survived. Chapters end with health tips and a quick checklist where readers can make a note of the one thing that impacted them most in the section. So often we finish a book like this and have already forgotten the things we meant to put into practice.

The book includes tips on vitamins and natural supplements that may help manage various symptoms, always with the caution to consult with a health-care professional before making any changes.

My favourite part of the book focuses on how we may need to change our thinking (and the way we talk to ourselves) – renewing our minds as Romans 12 instructs. New to me was the candid assessment of how long it takes to regularly practice a new thought pattern before it becomes habit. Most of us give up way too soon.

Prayer is also mentioned as an integral part of a healthy journey through menopause. My favourite line:

My personal prayer for this season is to have a heart of contentment and an attitude of surrender at all times. [page 72]

Women struggling with specific symptoms may find help in the nutritional, exercise and supplement information. They’ll definitely find encouragement, a laugh or two, and reassurance that they’re not alone. And that menopause is not a sickness – it’s a natural part of life.

Danna Demetre has a background in health care, personal training and fitness. Her stated mission on her website is “transforming lives: body, soul & spirit.” Visit dannademetre.com for more about the author and her books, and to explore the free content she offers to help women find balance in their lives.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: The Beginner’s Guide to Intercession, by Dutch Sheets

The Beginner's Guide to Intercession, by Dutch SheetsThe Beginner’s Guide to Intercession, by Dutch Sheets (Vine Books, 2001)

What I appreciate most about this insightful and practical book is its emphasis on prayer as a way to draw nearer to God. Intercession rises out of that, but the essence of prayer is relationship with God. It’s not about bringing Him our wish lists.

Through Scripture, personal examples and the experiences of others, the author shares key principles of intercession. This isn’t a “name it and claim it” book, but one that points to the Holy Spirit leading people to pray for those things He wants to accomplish. Some of the stories have miraculous endings – but they’re results of God’s direction in prayer, not formulas to follow to get whatever we want to ask.

Easy to read and understand, each chapter builds on those before. The book challenged and equipped me to deepen the intercession part of my prayer life, and to ask to see what (and how) God is calling me to meet with Him about in prayer.

Dutch Sheets’ website tagline is “Teach – Awaken – Restore”. He’s an author, speaker and teacher, and you can find more about his books and ministry at dutchsheets.org.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Praying Scripture

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13, NLT*

I love eavesdropping on Paul’s heart-felt prayers for the congregations he’s writing to. Sure, parts of his letters are direct to the point of sounding harsh (although always with a motive of love), but in his prayers we see how deeply he cares.

We can borrow these prayers for those we love, or for ourselves. Take this one as an example. We can ask this for anyone who knows the Lord, no matter their circumstances.

We may not know how God plans to work out someone’s particular struggles, but we know this is the sort of prayer that’s always in line with His will.

To apply this verse for a non-believer, we could begin by asking God to reveal Himself as the Source of hope and to give the person faith to trust Him.

Take a second look at Paul’s words. Who might God want you to pray them for?

Holy God, we praise You that You alone are the Source of hope. Real hope, not wishing. You are the Source of joy and peace. And You are trustworthy. Forgive any doubts that taunt us. Help us to trust You fully. Open us to receive the joy and peace You give. Fill us with the Holy Spirit and the confident hope He brings. Fill us to overflowing, and flow through us to reveal Yourself to those who don’t yet know you, for their sakes and for the sake of Your Kingdom.

There are so many songs based on prayers from the Bible. Here’s Brian Doerksen‘s “I Lift My Eyes Up (Psalm 121).”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Guest Post: SURPRISE!

SURPRISE!

by Steph Beth Nickel

Have you ever wondered if God was truly at work in you?

I admit there have been times—many times—when I had my doubts about myself. “If I really loved the Lord, wouldn’t I ____?”

And then SURPRISE! Seemingly out of the blue, something happens and you just know it had to be His doing.

When they offered my hubby the job as church custodian, he wasn’t quite sure how he was going to fulfill the responsibilities, especially considering he has a full-time job already. But he was willing to give it a try.

One day when Dave was at work—his day job, I felt God nudge me to offer to help with the cleaning. After all, with two of us working at it, it would only take half the time.

And do you know something? I was good with that. There wasn’t even the slightest hint of “but I don’t wanna.”

A quick aside for those who don’t know me well . . . I used to write regular posts for one of my blogs called . . . wait for it . . . “Confessions of a Horrible Housekeeper”

Now, I’m not one of those people who says, “Forgive the mess,” and you’re thinking, “What mess? I don’t see any mess.”

Think I’m exaggerating? I once put caution tape across my stairs when we had company. Hey, the main floor was presentable, but if they went upstairs, they would definitely be doing so at their own risk.

And believe you me, things haven’t changed a whole lot—at least not around the house.

But the church? Well, that’s a different story.

I asked God to give me the right attitude as I took on this new responsibility. I wanted to see it as a privilege, a ministry, not merely something to cross of my To Do list—as quickly as possible.

And when He answered that prayer, I knew for sure He was at work in me.

Yes, my back constantly feels as if I’ve done a serious workout, but that’s okay. It is getting stronger. And wow, do I appreciate my bed at night! Plus, as many of you know, there is a real sense of satisfaction that comes after a time of physical labour.

This may not sound like a very spiritual evidence of the Lord at work, but He shows up in some of the most everyday, some of the most surprising, ways. We just have to be on the lookout.

How about you? What evidence have you seen of God at work in you recently? [Scroll down to join the conversation.]

Tweetable: God shows up in surprising, everyday ways. (click to tweet)

~~~

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

True or False

Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus.
John 12:10-11, NLT*

You’d think raising someone from the dead would be proof enough of Jesus’ power, even for the priests and Pharisees. The common people could see it clearly enough.

It’s easy for us to say these priests were protecting their own power and didn’t want to acknowledge the truth. That they felt threatened.

That’s likely the case, but these verses make me stop and think.

How often do we deny what’s true because we’re invested in something false? (click to tweet) A belief, a perspective, a plan? Something we’d have to set aside to do life God’s way?

  • I can’t make it to church because Sunday’s my only day to sleep in, to see my friends, it’s the best time to golf…
  • Forget tithing, I can’t give anything at all, because money is tight. Hey, do you want to go out to lunch after the service?
  • It’s okay to sleep with my boyfriend/girlfriend because morals have changed.
  • I’m not bound by the Bible’s words about homosexual behaviour because Jesus would want me to be happy.
  • I don’t need to read the Bible because it’s out of date and confusing.
  • No matter what my friends say, I can trust this particular person. If I have doubts, personally, then I’m not being very loyal.
  • Maybe I shouldn’t complain, but listen to what she/he did!
  • I don’t have to report that money I earned on the side. There’s no paper trail, and the government would only waste the extra tax.
  • And the list could go on for pages…

It doesn’t have to be a big thing. God often teaches us in the small. The point is, we need to be open to see – and to follow – God’s perspective instead of our own. (click to tweet) The best place to start is with reading the Bible and taking time in prayer. Regularly and consistently.

Father God, You see the past, the present and future. You know all things, and You alone are wise. Open our eyes, hearts and wills to what You reveal, and help us to let go of our own cherished perceptions, plans and desires, and to trust You. Because we know You are good and that You love us, we know that Your way is best.

Our song this week is “Thy Word,” sung by Amy Grant.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Our Point of View and God’s

“You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” For even his brothers didn’t believe in him.
John 7:4-5, NLT*

Jesus’ brothers were urging Him to go to Jerusalem, where more people could see His miracles. They clearly believed in His power, but didn’t “believe” in the sense of recognizing Him as the promised Messiah.

Without that crucial piece of understanding, the future they saw for Jesus wasn’t in line with the Father’s actual plan. Jesus, who always listened to the Father and did what He said, knew the path ahead of Him and chose His actions accordingly.

Jesus’ brothers’ advice was aimed at reaching a different goal. So was Peter’s, when he rebuked Jesus for saying He had to die. Jesus’ strongly-worded response included this assessment: “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Matthew 16:23b, NLT. In context: Matthew 16:21-23.)

Today, Christians know Jesus is our Saviour, who gave His life and rose again to restore us to relationship with Him. But don’t we still ask or expect things that aren’t in His plan?

In our limited perspective, we ask for what we see as right, not knowing we don’t have the full picture. We ask for what we want, what we think is best. Sometimes that’s selfish and near-sighted, but sometimes it’s clearly the best – at least from our limited, human perspective.

Those are the hard times, when God doesn’t answer as we expect because He sees and knows more. He sees the future, and the ripple effects from the need we’ve been praying about. He sees how to better use this time of struggle.

When we don’t understand, it has to come back to trusting the God who does understand. The better we know His character, the easier it is to trust Him and to surrender to His will and His way.

God our Creator, Saviour and Sustainer, help us to surrender every aspect of our lives into Your capable hands. Give us open eyes and hearts to see more of what You see, and give us the faith to trust You even when we can’t see.

A song I come back to when I’m troubled or confused about the future is the Newsboys‘ “Lord (I Don’t Know).”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Review: Feed Your Spirit, by Kimberley J. Payne

Feed Your Spirit, a collection of devotionals on prayer, by Kimberley J. PayneFeed Your Spirit, by Kimberley J. Payne (Kimberley Payne, 2014)

Feed Your Spirit is a short collection of devotionals on prayer. Each opens with a Scripture passage, and closes with a quote on prayer. Each devotional is longer than your standard brief daily reading, and explores an aspect of prayer.

One that I most appreciated was the PATH method of prayer (Praise, Admit, Thanksgiving and Help). Topics also cover prayer walking, gratitude, hearing from God, and the question of “what if God’s answer is no?”

My favourite line reminds me that “Just as His mercies are new each day, His plan for me is new each day.” (Kindle location 296)

This collection of devotionals can be read one-a-day, or in one sitting. It’s free on all ebook platforms. Author Kimberley J. Payne writes about faith, family and fitness. For more about the author or to read her weekly blog posts, visit her website: kimberleypayne.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

More than a Miracle-Worker

“Lord,” he said, “I want to see!”

And Jesus said, “All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.”
Luke 18:41b-42, NLT*

On the way to Jericho, Jesus responds to a blind beggar’s plea. I love this story, and the man’s cry, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:38, NLT*) can become our own in times of distress. It’s one of the variations of the Jesus Prayer.

Jesus’ approach is different in this brief encounter. (It’s only 9 verses; take time to read it here: Luke 18:35-43, NLT.)

While the crowd tries to shush the man, Jesus stops and commands him to be brought near. He invites (or commands) the beggar to make his petition – a petition Jesus grants with an authoritative response and with none of the touching or further instructions He often gives.

Instead of a dusty road, the actions bring a picture of an elegant throne room. This is a King’s response to a subject’s plea.

At first I wondered why. Jesus is usually more approachable for the common people. Reading the story again, I see a hint of His reasoning.

When the blind man asks about the crowd noise, the people say “Jesus the Nazarene” (or “Jesus of Nazareth”) is passing by. Excitement fills the air. This is the miracle-worker.

The beggar calls Him a different name: “Jesus, Son of David.” From what he’s heard about Jesus, this man’s spirit knows the truth. Jesus isn’t just a travelling healer. Jesus is the promised King. The Messiah.

I think Jesus responds in Kingly fashion here both to meet the man where he is and reinforce his belief, and to give the crowd a chance to realize there’s more to discover.

What difference would it make in our prayer lives if we remembered we’re approaching the King – who welcomes us and who has complete authority to meet our needs?

Jesus, Saviour, Son of David. You are our King, who came in the flesh and defeated death and hell. You save us when we cry out to You, even though we have nothing to offer but ourselves. Thank You for such grace, power and love. Strengthen our faith to believe that You are fully approachable and fully able to meet our deepest needs.

Like 7eventh Time Down sings, sometimes we need to “Just Say Jesus.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.