Knees That Bleed (Daily)

I wrote a devotional earlier this year entitled “Knees That Bleed”, and since Pastor Ben taught a wonderful sermon on prayer this week, I thought I would make this devotional a follow-up to that, as the importance of prayer in my life has increased more and more since that time.

The longer I’ve followed God, the more I’ve realized that I desperately need Him, and just as the term “daily bread” implies, I need to meet with Him and be in relationship with Him every single day.

“Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come,

your will be done,

    on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our debts,

    as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

    but deliver us from evil.”

Matthew 6:9-13

We’ve all heard the Lord’s Prayer, and most of us have prayed it countless times, but it never fails to orient us properly in the Christian life. When our prayers center around the themes of glorifying God, prioritizing His will, and asking for simple providence, forgiveness, and deliverance, we get closer to the LORD and understand that it’s His glory alone that we are living this day for.

The elder that walked me through my baptism process a few years ago taught me this: “Envision yourself on your Father’s lap as you rise to pray to Him every morning.” I see now that this is the essence of the Christian life. At the time, I struggled greatly with only seeing God as a holy judge, but I was wrong to not see him as a loving father, and this teaching helped bring me into a balanced and biblical understanding of God’s character. It’s taken some time to form that daily habit, but the LORD has been so gracious to me in teaching me to meet with Him.

Fast-forwarding to today, there has been a series of trials that have come upon me, but I feel the LORD using each and every one of them to pull me closer to Him. He’s teaching me the steadfastness of faith, and in turn, the dire need for each and every one of us to meet with Him on a daily basis. We can make it a day or two without food (ironic, with a sermon on fasting coming up this week), but we can’t make it a day without the LORD. We can’t breathe apart from His power.

But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,

    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Matthew 4:4

Another elder that I’ve been meeting with has been teaching me the importance of daily scripture reading alongside a reading technique called SOAPing, and it’s one I highly recommend to all of my brothers and sisters in Christ! You simply write down a few verses of Scripture, followed by Observations, then Applications to your life, followed by a Prayer to the LORD.

It is a simple yet effective daily discipline that engages you with the true meanings of scripture in context, as well as directing you to our Father in Heaven as you walk out the day with Him. Every SOAP I have completed has increased my longing to meet with Him again, again, and again, for longer, longer, and longer.

Moments of intense grief and pain will drive us to our knees to call out to the LORD, and I believe He ordains that, seeking to stir us to rely on Him above all things. But it’s also in making our knees bleed daily that the LORD truly achieves a steadfast and faithful relationship with us.

Even when life is bland and typical, there is so much joy to be found in spending time with Him, and I’m so blessed by the LORD to know Him through these private and intimate meetings. Even when I fail, he calls me back to the prayer closet. I’d be lost to the gates of hell without Him, and for that salvation and His glory alone, I press on.

~ Alex Nicholson serves as Social Media Director and Music Director at LIFE Fellowship.

Knowing Him

My mentor called me one evening, and as we spoke it was if she could feel the weight of my weariness through the phone. It had been a long day. I was worn out and feeling stressed about having to finish a lengthy Bible study assignment before my head could hit the pillow. Her voice firmly, yet gently, reminded me that I don’t need to feel obligated to finish my Bible Study homework.

“Tara, He simply wants your attention. Can you put aside the task and just talk to Him?”

This question puzzled and comforted me at the same time. You mean God doesn’t care if I finish all the questions? He’s not waiting with pen in hand to check off my list of to-do’s for the day?

No. He’s not like that. He just wants me. He wants my attention. He wants my heart.

How refreshing!

Our Father doesn’t want a check-the-box mentality from us. He wants us to want to be with Him. To want to know who He is. To experience His love, His sacrifice, His grace and mercy… to simply enjoy the presence of our Creator.

God wants us to KNOW Him.

As Pastor Dan explained, the best way to know someone is by building a relationship with them. Now, we know good, strong, and lasting relationships don’t happen by chance. They take time. Investing time is hard for us in today’s instant-gratification world. Social media tries to connect us with people we should be “Friends” with. We add a new “Friends” to our feeds just because they’re mutual friends with someone we know.

I have to pause and ask myself, Do I even know this person? Do I have any idea of what their interests are? Their beliefs? Their priorities? Will I ever get to know them as a real friend?

Our last sermon series focused on the names of God. Knowing the names of God increases our understanding of Him. But knowing about someone and truly knowing someone are two different things. To understand others, to really know them, we need to spend time with them.

King David knew God well. He spilled his heart out to Him, worshiped Him, trusted in Him and celebrated Him. And God heard him. Just like the Lord hears you and me. I can almost see David crying out to us in Psalm 34:8: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”

While spending time with the Lord isn’t complicated, it does take practice and persistence. It takes discipline.

It will look different for each of us. For some it might look like setting your alarm 30 minutes or an hour earlier to avoid distractions of the day. For others it might look like shutting off the cable news channel and opening our Bibles. For some it might look like turning the satellite radio channel from talk radio to worship music.

The best mornings I have are spent with Bible and notebook open…pen in one hand, coffee mug in the other. I love those mornings with Jesus. Crave them. The more time I spend with Him, the more time I WANT to spend with Him. The more I know Him, the more I want to know Him!

Yet I still struggle with the bigness of it all… His love for me. I struggle with believing that the God who hung the stars and breathed life into existence really wants to know me and be known by me. That He cares and is near.

I understand God’s always with me, but still tend to think of Him as being seated high in Heaven, not next to me at the kitchen table, guiding me through His love letter, nodding and smiling as we go. Yet He is there with me. He is there with you. His presence is inescapable, He is the vine and we are the branches. This is how we grow together.

Some days I get all my Bible Study questions completed. Some days I don’t. Some days all I can do is sing praises in the car as I run my kids from activity to activity. What I’m learning is this: what God really wants is my attention and my heart.

That’s what He wants from all of us.

How will you spend time with Him today?

~ Tara Dye is a longtime member of LIFE Fellowship. She and her husband Paul have three children.

Red Sea Places

Have you ever wondered about hymn writers?

Who they were? Why they wrote? What their lives were like?

This week, I learned about Annie Flint, a hymn-writer who also wrote poetry. Annie was born in New Jersey in 1866 to a life of heartbreak; and yet, her inspirational story is one of standing strong on God’s promises and trusting who He is no matter what the circumstances. From a quick study of her life, it is clear that Annie Flint surely knew The Lord of Hosts, Jehovah Sabaoth.

After her mother died when she was 3, Annie’s father gave her and her sister up for adoption. Though she was young, Annie suffered greatly from arthritis. Eventually it prevented her from walking and ushered in years of helplessness for Annie. A few years later, both adoptive parents died leaving Annie and her sister alone, and destitute. Annie found herself in a “Red Sea Place,” an impossible and desperate situation through which God faithfully guided her.

Annie began to write hymns and poetry, and through her writing, peace overcame her despite her physical and financial sufferings. Hand-lettered cards and gift books continued Annie’s writing. Soon, messages of gratitude and blessings from her writings began to pour in from all around. It was then that her work was published in greeting cards and in her first poetry brochure.

Annie Flint was certain of one thing: God was glorifying Himself through her weakness. She was convinced that though she couldn’t always “see” God’s purpose for her, He had called her for His specific purpose; He was carrying her through her “Red Sea Place.”

As I read Annie’s words in her poem, “What God Hath Promised,” I thought of Isaiah as he remarked, “Woe is me! My eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts!” (Isaiah 6).

He gives more grace when the burdens grow greater.

He sends more strength when the labors increase,

To added affliction, He addeth His mercy,

To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,

When our strength has failed ‘ere the day is half done;

When we reach the end of our hoarded resources

Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limit, His grace has no measure.

His power no boundary known unto men;

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus

He giveth and giveth and giveth again.

 

Isaiah and Annie Flint too, it seems, got a glimpse of The Lord of Hosts, Jehovah Sabaoth. They realized they didn’t have all the answers; they didn’t see it all; they didn’t know it all. They understood they didn’t have to though. The Lord of Hosts already did; what they needed was to know and trust Him, He who was, and is, and will be forevermore. When Annie and Isaiah glimpsed the Lord in their lives and in their vision, they were undone. As it turns out, undone is not a bad place to be. In fact, as Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “God will never do anything with us until he has first undone us.”

The Covid pandemic has proven to be an impossible situation, one that added to our already difficult challenges of life, has caused us to feel overwhelmed and powerless at times. It’s undone us. As Annie Flint’s life illustrates, in these “Red Sea Places,” God may not remove our obstacles, but He will carry us through them. And He will use them. For His glory and our good. As we face today’s challenges, let’s not lose hope; let’s continue in our pursuit and knowledge of Him; let’s return to the Truth and cry out to the Lord of Hosts; let’s run into the Strong Tower of Jehovah Sabaoth.

~ Nicole Bryan has been a member of LIFE Fellowship for over 10 years and will graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary in May with a M.A. in Biblical Studies. She and her husband Callan have three children. 

Radical Obedience

Radical obedience is the basis for understanding the name of God, Yahweh Yireh (which means “The LORD will provide.”)   We can see how the Lord provides in Abraham’s journey to Mount Moriah in Genesis 22 and our daily lives as we live out our faith through radical obedience.

Genesis 22:2 starts with a command to Abraham, “Take your only son whom you love and …offer him as a burnt offering.” So Abraham took his son Isaac to the place God commanded him.

This command was a test of Abraham’s faith.  Was he willing to give up his beloved son, or would he find a way to avoid doing what God commanded?

Some people have read this and wonder how God could command child sacrifice. God’s plan never included Abraham sacrificing his son.  (In the law given to Moses, God clearly stated that child sacrifice was never acceptable.) Instead, this command to sacrifice Isaac was a way to test Abraham’s faith and move him to a place of even greater blessing.

I have observed in my life and in my friend’s lives that God often points us in an interim direction that we can understand to move us just enough so that we can see what He really wants for us, which is so much better, whether we are looking for a new house, finding a spouse, or seeking our life’s purpose.   Every step of the way requires walking in faith and trusting that God, who can see the future and knows what is best for us, will provide.

As Abraham and Isaac hiked up Mount Moriah, Isaac  asked his dad, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering.” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb.” (Vs.8)

The phrase “will provide” in this verse comes from the Hebrew word Yireh. Other Biblical passages translate it as “will see.” Our English word “provision” comes from “pro,” which means “beforehand” and “vision,” which has to do with seeing.   A provision is a resource we have before we need it. So Abraham is telling Isaac; God sees our need, and He will take care of it.

Abraham walked out his faith every step of the journey. At any point,  he could have changed his mind and decided not to obey. Instead, he chose to obey because he had confidence in God’s character. He held fast to the knowledge that the God who gave a son to Sarah and him in their old age could take care of his family even to the point of death. Though Abraham couldn’t see what God had around the next bend, he continued to believe that God would provide the sacrifice, or God would raise his son from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19).

Just as Abraham raised his knife, the angel of the Lord called his name to stop him.  He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” (Genesis 22: 12)  Just then, he looked behind him and saw a ram caught in the thicket. So, Abraham offered the ram as a burnt offering instead of his son. Abraham named that place, “The LORD will provide.” Then the angel of the Lord proclaimed that Abraham’s offspring would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens, and all the nations of the earth would be blessed through his descendants.

Abraham’s radical obedience and willingness to trust God with his beloved son led to generations of blessing for all nations. When God calls us to radical obedience, it is because He is our Pro-Vision.  He can see what we need before we even realize it.

Andy Barker created this list of questions to discover what you are holding onto that is keeping you back from radical obedience.

Do you need to forgive?

Do you need to love your enemies?

Do you need to trust and give up fear and anxiety?

Do you need to start talking about Jesus when it feels like masks are most important?

Do you need to continue in obedience when it feels like you do not see His provision?”

God calls us to let go of things that have replaced Him in our hearts. At times in my life, I have put my desires, career, academics, and personal relationships above my relationship with Jesus. An idol is anything other than God that we expect to be our Provider, our Security, our Joy, our Love, our Healer, or our Life. Just as Abraham laid Isaac on the altar, God is calling us to dedicate our finances, jobs, family, health, and joy to him.  Doing things God’s way in obedience will lead to God’s blessing  for generations.  We can trust that He will provide all that we need. He is Yahweh Yireh, The Lord Will Provide.

~ Penny Noyes, M.Ed. just released her fourth book Seeing Value A Biblical Perspective on Intrinsic Value on Amazon. She also writes for Christianity.com, GracefullyTruthful.com and her blog.   She is a wife to Tom, mom to Chris and John, Step-mom to Hillary and Jeremy (son in Law) and a Mimi to the cutest grandkids ever. 

Breaking Through The Invisibility of Pain

Pain often cannot be seen. We can feel it, our bodies display symptoms stemming from it, but pain will not be remedied until it is acknowledged.  Our invisible afflictions demand attention, relief, and resolution as we anxiously seek acknowledgement and help. When we are met with neither, we are plunged into hopelessness. Pain is one of the strongest emotions humans experience. The more it lingers, the more it drives us to scream out, Does anyone see me? Do something! Help me!”

I live with both cystic fibrosis, which is a genetic terminal disease that mainly affects the respiratory and digestive systems, and Scheuermanns disease, which is a spinal deformity. Both have resulted in chronic and often debilitating pain that frequently drives me to bed with a heating pad, taking multiple pain medications, being alone in my room instead of at social outings, lying awake in the wee hours of the night seeking any hint of relief, and crying in the bathroom when it overtakes me in public. Yet despite its severity, my pain is usually hidden, especially as Ive learned to hide it so well. Because there are no visible symptoms of my afflictions, most people dont recognize my suffering, and if they do, they grow numb to it, or sweep over it with a platitude like,You look great! I would have never known youre sick!” It may feel like a compliment, but my deepest need is for someone to see my pain.

Witnessing the pain of others is uncomfortable and we often prefer its trait of invisibility. The question, how are you?” quickly turns sour when someone offers an unfiltered response, exposing some difficulty. Expecting the habitual response of Good! How are you?”, we grow silent or offer an I’ll pray for you” sentiment and carry on our merry way.  Offering to pray is a wonderful step, but go a step farther to walk with others in their suffering.

God sees us in our pain, meets us in our pain, and walks with us in our pain, just as he did with Hagar by the well. Alone, afraid, and forgotten, Hagar is surprised to be seen by God Himself! Though she is told she will be protected and blessed, the name she gives God has nothing to do with either. She calls Him “El Roi”, “the God Who Sees.” Being known was more meaningful than all else offered to her.

God meets us in the wilderness at our well. He sees the pain when our smile is just a wall holding back a dam of tears, when we are sobbing in the bathroom alone, when we are clutching a photo of someone we lost, when we are laying on the floor after a few too many bottles of alcohol, when we are mourning broken dreams, when we are paralyzed by anxiety, and when we feel trapped by lifes circumstances. We can do the same, imitating Gods behavior and bearing the burdens of others.

When you ask someone, how are you?” are you really willing to accept the visibility of pain, to really see it and walk with them through it, no matter how uncomfortable? Or is asking how are you” just a vapid question that society has turned into a meaningless greeting?  All around us, people are silently crying for help. Begging for us to see their pain and intervene. Yet few are willing to break the invisible barrier as God did for Hagar. Who in your life is wandering in the wilderness, slumped over by the well, desperate to be seen? How can you break through pains barrier of invisibility to show them that both God and you see their pain, and both are willing to walk with them, just as God did for Hagar?

~ Abi Gordon serves as Production Coordinator at LIFE Fellowship. She enjoys watercolors, photography reading, writing and spending time outdoors. She is as a native of Colorado.

An Almighty God

Have you ever heard the argument that if God is all-powerful, He must not be all good?

The reasoning goes that if God were all-powerful, He would surely stop the horrors of this life…everything from natural disasters to famine, and from cancer to human trafficking. But because these things exist, some assert He is either powerless to stop them or fully capable, but chooses not to. One renders Him impotent, and the other, indifferent. In this box of human logic, God is forced into an either/or” dichotomy. He can either be all-powerful or good, but not both. But as with most things relating to the infinite, supernatural, almighty God, perhaps He does not fit so neatly into human paradigms.

The name of God that was introduced this week is El Shaddai, translated “Almighty God.” The term first appears in scripture in Genesis 17:1 when the Lord makes a covenant with Abraham, vowing to make a 99-year-old childless man the father of many nations. Only an all-powerful God could make such a promise.

God is also called good. Nahum 1:7 explains, “The LORD is good. A refuge in times of trouble.” Can God be both all-powerful and all-good? How can He allow and even author some of the terrible things that happen to us and around us… and still be a good God?  We have all wrestled with this on some level.

The book of Job is a depiction of this universal question. Job loses his children, his wealth, and his health when God permits Satan to attack him. In the dialogue between Job, his friends, and the Lord, we find verse 5:18 describing God’s hand in suffering, “For He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole.” This verse appears to reference affliction for which God is directly responsible yet it does not depict Him as One who is not also “good.”

He bruises and He wounds. But He also binds and makes whole.

There is purpose and resolution to the pain God inflicts. And there is healing. Our suffering will not last forever for He will bind up our wounds. I can feel the compassion in this verse.

God is not wringing His hands, wishing He could prevent evil in the world. He has His reasons for allowing it, not the least of which is our willingness to turn to Him in times of trouble. As Hosea 6:1 reads, “Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us”. Also Deuteronomy 32:39, “See now that I am He and there is no god beside me. It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal”.

I don’t like to read the words “It is I who put to death,” and I don’t like to think of God wounding anyone. But Paul’s thorn and Jacob’s hip force me to acknowledge God’s sovereign hand in suffering. This is not easy. I wonder if the disciples felt similarly when Jesus explained that they must “eat His flesh and drink His blood” in order to live forever. This was more than a little uncomfortable for the disciples, and they responded, “this is a hard teaching; who can understand it?” In response, many disciples fell away and Jesus asked Peter, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:60-71).

Just as many disciples fell away in the wake of this teaching, people today reject God in disillusionment with suffering. The idea that an Almighty God allows suffering and sometimes authors it, is a hard teaching.  Pastor Dan noted that when God doesn’t behave as we think He should, we are quick to doubt His sovereignty and His goodness. But from our limited, humanperspective, how can we begin to know how El Shaddai should behave? We must simply trust that even in the face of suffering and evil, He is all-powerful and all good.  It may be difficult for us to reconcile, but a supernatural God can be both.

Though this is a hard teaching and these are hard times, like Peter, we trust that Jesus has the words of eternal life. Where else shall we go?

~ Melissa Gibbs has been a member of LIFE Fellowship for over 10 years, is the mother to four boys and widow of the late JD Gibbs.