Pray Always, So That You Don't Become Discouraged

He then told them a parable on the need for them to pray always and not become discouraged:
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“There was a judge in a certain town who didn’t fear God or respect man. And a widow in that town kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’

“For a while he was unwilling, but later he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or respect man, yet because this widow keeps pestering me, I will give her justice, so she doesn’t wear me out by her persistent coming.’”

Then the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. Will not God grant justice to His elect who cry out to Him day and night? Will He delay to help them? I tell you that He will swiftly grant them justice. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find that faith on earth?”

-Luke 18:1-8

Do you ever wonder about prayer, if you should keep praying?  Jesus says, "keep praying".

Have you been discouraged about a situation in your life? I definitely have. I realize now, that my discouragement came from not continuing to pray about it.

I thought I was discouraged because of the issue, loss, or injustice; but I now realize that I was discouraged, because I fell into the trap of giving up.  I stopped praying and subtly decided that the negative was mine to live with.

Jesus says to pray always, so that we do not become discouraged, lose heart, or give up.

The set-back, or negative situation is a call to prayer, or an opportunity for prayer.  God is a God of covenant, who moves on behalf of and in partnership with his children.  That's why we pray.

It is foolish to say, "If God wants to do it, he will do it", and passively 'hope for the best', when Jesus says, "Pray".

When we do not pray, when we stop praying, we have given up and we are not supposed to give up.  When we give up, we cease to follow Jesus' training for us and we get stalled and the kingdom advance is stalled.

I gave up.  I let the disappointment or failure define me and define God towards me.  Then I came back later and told God that since he is good, it must be me who is bad.  That 'insight' was false.

When I look at Jesus' teaching and the lady in the parable, I realize that I was massively discouraged; but not just because of my misfortune, but because I gave up on persisting in prayer.  I shut myself off from the benefit offered of coming to God in prayer, over and over, if necessary, for encouragement.  I can tell you, that just going to God to express myself is very encouraging and gives me hope.

I realize now, that when we go through a failure, a rejection, an injustice, or a loss and we act stoic, rather than praying; we end up with negative judgments toward others, ourselves, or God.  What happened was unreasonable, and when we do not process the pain and let the hurt become a prayer, we reason about it and end up with an unrighteous judgement about others, ourselves, or God, which puts us in bondage, from which we are disqualified and side-lined, until we go back and deal with it and get free.

Each disappointment in our lives needs to be brought to the Lord for redemption.

Jesus seems to indicate that those who pray get results.  Prayer is a privilege and a responsibility.   If you stop praying before something is resolved, you fall into discouragement.  And a discouraged heart can fall into offense, bitterness, and shame.

Look at what you are discouraged about in your life, and see if you stopped praying about that issue.  Get yourself clean and free from bitterness, judgement, and offense; through confessing and renouncing.  Get delivered and ask God to fill the areas where you have been infested by darkness, that you invited, through the garbage that you are now throwing out through confession and renunciation.

Start over.  Take up prayer again.  Ask God and tell God, then listen to God and receive God's love for you; and be worthy of it, because God has adopted you and loves all his children.  Give God everything - your hurts, fears, bad memories, past, and future; and let his love fill you and transform you.

Giving Glory To God Through Being Who God Has Gifted You To Be

You will be a glorious crown in the Lord’s hand, and a royal diadem in the palm of your God.
-Isaiah 62:3

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In our lives, each of us has the task of  discovering who God made us to be.  When we walk in who God has made us to be, we can flourish in life and we bring glory to God. 

Who has God made you to be?

When we discover who God made has us to be, then we begin living in God's gifts to us.  The goal of life is to bring glory to God and that is what happens with the person who discovers their gifts and begins to live in them.

The journey of discovery, of who God made you to be and what your unique gifts are that will be enjoyable for you to function in and will give God glory, is a very exciting and fulfilling thing. 

The core of life is your relationship with God.  God gifts every one of us with special endowments for life, that give us an abundant, joy filled life.  When we discover who God made us to be, and live in that life, we shine with God's glory and offer our gifts back to God.

Your Life on The Shelf

Do you feel like your life is on the shelf?  Do you feel like you are not living the life you were designed to live?  Do you feel like a big question mark, sitting on the sidelines of life?

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If you have this awareness, it is actually a good thing.  Somehow, you are in the wilderness, in some aspect of your life.  The wilderness is a common motif in the Bible.

Life on the shelf is where you suffer the loss of something.  You lose your job, you lose relationships, or you lose your place.  You go from active to in active.

Now what?  On the shelf, things shift from outer to inner.  Rather that doing things going outward, God shifts you to intensive inner work.

When we get put on the shelf, there is a dying that occurs, so that God can form Christ's life in you.  God teaches us to live in his love and be accepted by him, and not live for the applause of people.  A purging happens that can not happen when we are constantly engaged in activities with people.

When we go through a stripping where things are taken away that gave us esteem, it is time to embrace God and find our whole worth in him.  We get to and have to decide how we will spend our time on the shelf.  Will we exercise faith and press into God, even if God seems distant or absent; or will we misbehave?

The choice is ours, bitter or better.  Waiting on God, when there seems to be no tangible reward, because the reward is not immediate, is the test we face.  If we lean into the experience that God puts before us and learn what lessons he is wanting us to learn, then we will be able to say that we were refined and when we come out on the other side, the gold was left.

The time on the shelf is a time to grow in loving God.  It is a time to discover God's relationship with you: who God wants to be to you and who you are to him.  When we first get put on the shelf, we might view it as punishment or disfavor or failure.  Actually, it is a blessing.

Consider this song:

Ain't Misbehavin'

No one to talk with
All by myself
No one to walk with
But I'm happy on the shelf
Ain't misbehavin'
I'm savin' my love for you
I know for certain
The one I love
I'm through with flirtin'
It's just you I'm thinkin' of
Ain't misbehavin'
I'm savin' my love for you
Like Jack Horner
In the corner
Don't go nowhere
What do I care?
Your kisses are worth waitin' for
Believe me
I don't stay out late
Don't care to go
I'm home about eight
Just me and my radio
Ain't misbehavin'
I'm savin' my love for you
Like Jack Horner
In the corner
Don't go nowhere
What do I care?
Your kisses are worth waitin' for
Believe me
I don't stay out late
Don't care to go
I'm home about eight
Just me and my radio
Ain't misbehavin'
I'm savin' my love for you

Being Sick

I was sick and you took care of me...
-Matthew 25:36b

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I have been sick.  Many people have been sick, much worse off than I have been.  In the real world, we all get sick.

Jesus told his disciples, "Heal the sick", when they went on mission, proclaiming the kingdom of God.  But, he also said that taking care of sick people is part of practical discipleship.  So, we live in the tension of believing in divine healing and practicing it, while also taking care of the unhealed.

A calling card of the disciple of Jesus Christ is kindness.  We love one another and that love is shown through kindness, with compassion.  The same hands that offer a blanket, chicken soup, or help to walk down the hall, also are hands that God uses to heal people.

We pray for healing and take care of the sick among us.  When healing does not manifest through our prayers, we just keep going.  Keeping going means humbly taking care of the sick ones and suffering through the sickness, while taking a stand against it, and praying again.

Perhaps the biggest blunder, for those who pray, is to get bitter towards God or blame the sick person for their lack of healing.  Please do not do that.

I know about healing from God, that is beyond the normal, built in, healing process of our bodies.  We put our hands on the sick person, gently 99.9% of the time, and pray healing.  We don't petition God to heal, but we speak healing to the condition.

Some churches publish prayer lists of folks who are asking for prayers.  What about hands on prayers for healing?  All that I would encourage is to do what is in the New Testament.

In the New Testament we have the laying on of hands, we have Jesus saying, "Heal the sick", we have the enjoinment from Jesus' brother that if, "anyone is sick, call the elders to pray over them and anoint them with oil, in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well", and we have Jesus' command to kindly take care of the sick people.

That is the full spectrum.  And part of being a disciple is being able to say, "I don't know", a lot.  We say, "I don't know", and "I trust God", and "God loves me and you".  These three go together.

Time To Fight For Your Life

“Make every effort (Strive, Strain, Fight your way in) to enter through the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to enter and won’t be able once the homeowner gets up and shuts the door.
-Luke 13:24-5 (ESV, WNT, Knox)

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There comes a time when we must fight for our lives.  Other people can support us, but only we ourselves can choose to fight.  It is true that Jesus saves, but we we must fight to enter into salvation.

Striving has a reputation as a negative word.  We say to each other, "stop striving".  There is bad striving, where we are not resting in God, and are following our impulses, rather than abiding in the Lord.

Good striving is when we fight for our lives, for our salvation, that Jesus has already paid for.  The door of salvation can not be entered into passively.  There is going to have to be a fight.

The song, "This is it", by Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald, is a song about fighting to live, that Loggins wrote for his dad.  Kenny's dad was very sick and Kenny wanted to encourage him to fight for his life.
There've been times in my life,
I've been wonderin' why.
Still, somehow I believed we'd always survive.
Now, I'm not so sure
You're waiting here, one good reason to try
But, what more can I say? What's left to provide?
Living in "why?" is a place of stuck-ness.   God does not usually answer our "why?" questions.  But what God does is redeem us, transform us, heal us, always giving us hope in him, and God always loves us.  The who and the what are active in our lives, now.

We might have a lot of disappointments and still believe.  We might even be like the man who said to Jesus, "I believe, but help my unbelief".

Waiting is good, if it is waiting on God.  Waiting on God is active, like a waiter, who is on his or her feet, attentive to those they are serving.  Waiting on God requires action, but is still waiting for his move.  Waiting is good, but there comes a time what God says, "what are you waiting for?  Get up and fight."
(You think that maybe it's over,)
(Only if you want it to be.)
Are you gonna wait for a sign, your miracle?
Stand up and fight.
The fight for your life depends on you.  God has made provision, but you have to fight for it.  You must choose to fight, if you want to live.

Signs and miracles are good, but it is a fatal mistake to not 'strive to enter in', to not 'make every effort to enter in', and to not 'fight your way' through the door of your salvation.  A person who refuses to fight for their life, who says they believe God is going to do a miracle or give them a sign, is a fool who is not going to make it.

The Christian life only works as you work it.  You must stand up and fight for your salvation.  This is not to say that you are saved by works.  We are saved only by faith, in Christ.  The faith of the New Testament that is saving faith is a radical giving of your life to the one who saves you, and to do that will be a great struggle and fight for you.
(This is it.)
Make no mistake where you are.
(This is it.)
You back's to the corner.
(This is it.)
Don't be a fool anymore.
(This is it.)
There comes a "now time", a "karios moment", when you have to do something, when you have to decide to fight.   That is the "This is it" time.  Time to fight for your destiny.
The waiting is over, no, don't you run.
No way to hide.
No time for wonderin' why.
It's here, the moment is now, about to decide.
Let 'em believe.
Leave 'em behind.
But keep me near in your heart.
Know whatever you do, I'm here by your side.
There comes a time when time catches up with you and it is time to make your decision if you will fight, and you must fight.  There comes a time when you can no longer run or hide.  The doorway is in front of you and says, "You must fight to enter in".

There comes a time when you must stop looking backwards.  God wants you to look forward.  You and God today.  God is always "present-future" with us.

We encourage each other to the fight, to the struggle, to the striving to enter in.  Love is the calling card of Christians towards one another.  So, we can say that we are rooting you on, and whatever you decide to do, we are by your side.
(You say that maybe it's over.)
(Not if you don't want it to be.)
For once in your life, here's your miracle.
Stand up and fight.
(This is it.)
Make no mistake where you are.
(This is it.)
You're goin' no further.
(This is it.)
Until it's over and done.
Be encouraged that the battle is not over.  But your miracle requires for you to fight for it.  You can't live in passive, delusional, denial any longer.
(No one can tell what the future holds.)
(Who makes the choice of how it goes?)
It's not up to me this time.
(You know.)

Comes a day in every life.
(This is it.) 
Faith is always optimistic.  We reason, without God, when we are hopeless and pessimistic.  Faith, hope, and love always are optimistic about what God might do, can do, and will do; in response to us.

No matter how bad your past has been, no matter how disappointed you have been, and no matter what your dire straights are right now, God can save you.  But you must fight for your life.  God has provided the doorway of salvation, but we must struggle, strive, and fight our way in.

Go for it.

Sky Links, 1-19-19