The last day of the love month; not the last day to pray

Wedding ringsFor the entire month of February, I have prayed specifically for couples who are struggling in their marriage. I have prayed for them by name, I have wept over them and poured my heart out to God begging for the enemy’s stronghold to be removed from homes, families, and relationships. Some would say I pray in vain because marriages will always struggle — they have since the beginning of humanity. I can agree in part, but not the whole.

I agree that as long as we are in this world, we will have tribulation, trial, heartache, and struggle. Jesus told His disciples this before His ascension (John 16:33), and we know it to be true because we all suffer heartache and none are immune. Where I do not agree is that prayer is in vain. 28 days ago, my list of couples was 10. Today, it is 44. I didn’t go out seeking these names, they came to me. As I shared the burden God laid on my heart to pray, more and more couples contacted me and asked me to pray specifically for them, and I have. Some of them I’ve never met; yet, I know God knows them and He knows their heartache. So, I pray.

Healing and restoration doesn’t typically come overnight; it comes in incremental steps. When I see and hear of these healing steps, I rejoice and know that God is at work in relationships. For instance, I received word from one couple that they are going through counseling and things in their marriage are beginning to heal. Another couple is doing the same, and although they have not shared with me specific improvement in their relationship, it is most evident. A month ago, they were contemplating divorce — today, they are attending church together and obviously treating each other with much more respect. I received a text from a friend who thanked me for praying, because “things” in the home were much better. The amazing thing is this friend didn’t know I was praying for their relationship, but God knew what was going on behind closed doors, so He prompted me to pray. One couple experienced salvation, and their relationship is quickly turning around. Another decided to sit down together and talk through some issues they had “swept under the rug” for almost 25 years, and healing has begun. I received word that one couple has started fasting and praying together for answers in their relationship and for their family. They have never fasted and prayed together as a couple, but God is leading them to seek Him more aggressively than ever before in their marriage. This is why I pray.

Still, skeptics would want me to believe that these things would have happened even if I had not prayed. For this, I respond, “Perhaps, but why would I want to run the risk?” If I do not pray for those I love, who will? Running that risk is way too high a price for me — I’ll not bargain with the enemy, lay down my spiritual armor, and walk away. The risk is too much. There is hope and healing in the hands of a loving heavenly Father. He desires that His people pray. And I believe He burdens hearts for areas that He knows needs healing and restoration. Sometimes, He leads us to stand in the gap on behalf of those He loves. He has burdened my heart for my family, close friends, and now a whole list of people who need a touch of the Master’s hand. For this reason, I pray.

It is the last day of February, the love month. Every Thursday of this month, I have fasted, stayed quiet and still, isolated myself from others and prayed — list in hand. At 2:14 every day, my phone alarm has sounded, and I have knelt before my Father (at times, in some very public places) and laid names on the throne room floor, asking God to intervene. Some people have joined me in this effort, while others have probably questioned my sanity and become annoyed by the constant “2:14” reminder on Facebook. It is the last day of February, but God has not lifted the burden from this heart, so it is not the last day to pray.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

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Amazing

The Holy Spirit never ceases to amaze me.  As elementary as it may seem, He simply knows everything.  He knows when someone is hurting with defeat. He knows when someone experiences the exuberance of victory.  He also knows not only what goes on behind the scenes, but behind the walls of the heart where we believe no one can penetrate — He sees.  He knows.  He cares.

Several weeks ago, this same Holy Spirit burdened my heart for relationships and marriages within the sphere of my influence, which included family, church family, friends, students, and colleagues.  He burdened my heart toward fervent and focused prayer which began the first day of February (the love month).  Eight days into this focus on prayer I have seen salvation come to three souls. “Hallelujah!”  I have seen the layers of crusted hurt and pain begin to be ever so gently pulled away, and the process of healing restoration commence in the hearts of some relationships. “Hallelujah!” I have experienced an inflow of more married couples who have revealed they need a divine touch of healing and restoration from a loving, heavenly Father (36 couples and counting). Healing begins with admitting help is needed and desired, as God will not penetrate an unwilling heart. It would seem more and more are willing. For this I say, “Hallelujah!”

The Holy Spirit amazes me.  He is alive and well.  If anyone thinks differently, I would challenge him/her to search the scripture for the breath and power of the Holy Spirit.  He was present in power at creation Genesis 1:2; He was present and empowered Jesus when he was forty days in the wilderness Luke 4; He completely transformed Saul from a persecutor of Christians and empowered him as Paul to preach the gospel; He empowered and performed miracles of healing and raising the dead to life through Peter. It would seem each time the Holy Spirit comes on the scene, there is power.

The Holy Spirit is just as powerful today. If anyone thinks differently, I would challenge him/her to sincere and focused prayer.  Allow Him to penetrate the heart of the one praying first, and then begin to watch the effectiveness and power those prayers invoke. Use whatever strategy the Holy Spirit puts on your heart.  Mine is simple –2:14 every day; fasting and focused one day a week throughout the month of February.  His activity is convincing me He sees, He knows, He cares. I believe He wants to heal, restore, and amaze.

What might God do through the focused and sincere prayer of His people?  He sees.  He knows. He cares.  Pray and let the Holy Spirit do what He does best — come in power and amaze.  

On my Knees with Sword in Hand

When I spoke my wedding vows over 38 years ago, I didn’t do so with the thought in the back of my mind, “In a few years when things get hard, I hope to get a divorce.” In fact, if I would have had this thought in mind and my husband was aware, he probably would have left me at the altar. I would be a fool (and a liar) to say that there have not been rocky times in our marriage, but through God’s grace and sticking it out, we have grown up together. I would also be a fool to get mad and upset with those around me who choose to not stick it out, but simply walk away from their marriage. The foolish part would be to get mad at the couple, when in fact, if anger should be turned at anyone, it should be turned toward the enemy. I believe with all my heart that Satan has a goal to destroy marriages, and in turn, tear families apart for generations to follow. I am becoming increasingly more aware of struggling marriages, as I am surrounded by them in my family, friends in the church, and in my classrooms. I am also becoming increasingly more burdened for those I personally love and care about. In fact, I received an email just this morning from a distraught out-of-state student, who apologized for her assignment being late, because her husband walked in this weekend and announced to their three children (without prior notice to her), that he wanted a divorce and was leaving – with that, he walked out. Absolutely tragic. Satan wins again.

Every couple has their own story, and I certainly cannot make a blanket statement which says that all marriages fall under the same category, but what I can say is for me to simply sit back and do nothing when someone’s marriage is on the brink of division is just as heartbreaking to the heart of God as is the destruction of the marriage itself. If I say I believe in the holy union of marriage, and I say I truly care about my family, friends, and those within my sphere of influence, how can I simply sit back, shake my head, and do nothing? I can’t. My heart compels me to do something. I feel compelled to do what I believe is the greatest action before God. I feel compelled to pray – sincerely pray.

Dr. James Dobson, an American evangelical Christian author, psychologist, and founder of Focus on the Family, has been an aggressive advocate of traditional marriage and family for many, many years. He is quoted by saying, “It is impossible to overstate the need for prayer in the fabric of family life.” This quote seems to compliment the old cliché, “The family who prays together, stays together.” Again, I would be a fool to believe that all families are praying together, but the burden I have in my heart is not about what families are doing, it’s about what I am to do. I believe the power of prayer transforms hearts, changes lives, restores relationships, and sets captive hearts free. I also believe that we are not fighting against flesh and blood (each other) in these battles, and it is useless to try and tear each other down. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12, NASB). If I really believe this, why wouldn’t I pray?

I cannot simply say I will pray and make a difference. Saying and actually doing are two completely different things. The scripture is clear that the enemy has a strategic plan against the ways of those who follow the Lord. Ephesians 6:11 – “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (emphasis mine). The Greek translation of schemes is methodeia which means “the following or pursuing of an orderly and technical procedure in the handling of a subject.” If Satan, who is a proven liar and thief (John 10:10), is following an orderly and technical procedure with an end goal to kill, steal, and destroy, and his target is clearly aimed at the family – this should drop me to my knees on behalf of those I dearly love. And this it has. Not only has it dropped me to my knees, God has given me a counteractive, strategic, and prayerful plan in mind for the upcoming month “of love.”

February, the month of love, is just around the corner, and with the changing of the seasons and holidays, we will soon have our eyes and ears turned to Valentine’s Day; a day which is designed to be an expression of devoted love. According to a 2016 U.S. News and World Report, Americans were predicted to shell out a record $20 billion on Valentine’s Day gifts. Twenty billion dollars – let that one soak in. I don’t know about you, but in my financial books, that’s a lot of zeros! Although my husband and I have never really shown our love and concern toward each other through Valentine’s Day gift-giving, I know others who do, and that’s okay. But God has not softened my heart in the area of my friends and family who are struggling in their relationships by telling me to buy a gift. He is instructing me to pray and reach out to those within the sphere of my influence and let them know I care and want to help. Only the Lord Himself knows what goes on behind closed doors or in our hearts, so I am calling on the Name above all other names and the power of the Holy Spirit to do a mighty work in the relationships of those I love. I may be an army of one, but I am hoping others would consider this strategic effort as well.

Here is my invitation: will you join me? During the entire month of February (the love month), I am setting aside one day a week to fast and pray, sincerely pray, concentrating on my family and friends who are struggling under the attack of the enemy in their marriage. I am standing in the gap on their behalf, fully geared up with the Spiritual Armor of God Almighty, and fervently seeking the Lord. I am asking Him to tear down the strongholds the enemy has placed around the homes of my loved ones. I am begging Him to break the shackles of fear and doubt, distrust, unfaithfulness, lies, and deceit the enemy has tightly anchored on the ankles of those I care for deeply. I am calling on the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Great I AM to step in and take over – to rid homes of the influence of the enemy and the strategic schemes and gnarly deceptions he has put in place. One day a week, I am fasting and praying. That may sound like a lot – it’s not. It’s only four days in the month of February. I believe my family and friends are certainly worth four days of my time, aren’t yours? Or has the enemy deceived you into believing you are just too busy?

As with the majority of Americans, my schedule is full. I seem to be way too busy all the time. But I have learned, if do not follow the leading of the Lord, even in my “busyness” my time will be wasted. I must allow Him to be my time manager, and guide me to do those things I know are in His will. I KNOW praying against the enemy in the area of my own marriage and family is in God’s will. I know He instituted marriage, I know He blessed it, and I know He desires to see families set free from the influence of the world and the enemy. Therefore, I KNOW I am to pray for those I love who are struggling in this area. In addition to fasting one day a week in February, I am also praying for a short time each day. I am setting an alarm on my phone, and at 2:14 p.m. (February 14th is Valentine’s Day) each day, no matter where I am or what I am doing, I will stop and pray for two minutes and 14 seconds. This may sound silly to some, but this is a plan God placed on my heart to work as a reminder to keep this commitment to pray ever before me – why? – I’ll say it again, because my schedule is busy, and I’m certain yours is as well. If I do not remind myself, even as much as I care, I will forget as I am wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the day.

How about you? Do you have friends or loved ones who are struggling in their marriage relationship? Maybe you and your spouse are personally struggling and no one knows but the two of you. Would you join me in calling on the greatest power in the universe? Would you join me in prayer? Would you fast for four days in February specifically to pray for those you love? Would you pray for at least 2 minutes and 14 seconds every day? Please tell me you believe two minutes out of your day is worth seeing a marriage restored (whether your own or a couple you know). Please tell me you care enough to pray. Please tell me you believe in the sufficiency of Christ and the power He holds to heal, restore, and set free. Please tell me you believe prayer makes a difference. Please tell me you will pray. Sincerely pray.

38 years ago, I said my vows. I have seen 38 years of marriages come and go. I am not mad at the people who walked away from their marriage, I am simply sick and tired of the enemy continuing to destroy families I love. I refuse to sit back and do nothing. I am fighting back – on my knees. I have a list of names (and my list is way too long — currently 26 couples and growing). I am laying this list on the throne room of heaven at the feet of Jesus – begging for restoration and healing. Perhaps you would like to have your name added to this list.  I would be honored and humbled to go before the Lord and stand against the enemy on your behalf.  Have you had enough of the enemy’s schemes and victories?  Join me on your knees, sword in hand.

Washing of Water with the Word

I am so encouraged to be a part of a church body who believes in the power and importance of God’s Word.  Again this fall, we are offering many opportunities to get involved in Bible study. This is not exclusive to Trinity http://tbclongview.com/ members, so if you are not involved in a local Bible study and looking for some place to dive into the Word with those who love to study scripture, you are most welcome to come join in on the discussion.

Image result for image of hebrewsOn Wednesday evenings, beginning in October, our pastor will be offering discussion and study through the “Chapter Challenge.” We just finished in Joshua, so our next reading will take us to the book of Hebrews.  What a rich and full book!  You will not come away from this portion of the Bible without scratching your head a bit, but rest assured, your life will be greatly enriched by its truth.

On Tuesday mornings, the Adelphi Bible Study group is walking through “The Gospel of Mark — The Jesus We are Aching For” by Lisa Harper.  There is still time to get involved with this group and delve into the truth of this great book!

The Gospel Of Mark

On Wednesday mornings (The Church at Lake Cherokee), and Wednesday evenings (Trinity Baptist Church), Beth Moore’s new “Entrusted — A study of II Timothy” is being offered.  For those of you who have ever been involved in one of Beth’s studies, there is no introduction needed — you already know God is going to speak through this study.

Also on Wednesday evenings, a Precept Inductive Bible Study on Ephesians is being offered.  This is a 10 week, in-depth look at Paul’s epistle and the great truths written particularly to the Gentile believers in Ephesus. The truth contained in this study will not only challenge you —  it will change you.

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These are the adult Bible studies that are currently being offered.  This doesn’t even begin to cover what is going on with our children in Music and Missions on Wednesdays, Children’s Church on Sunday mornings, and AWANA on Sunday nights: http://tbclongview.com/index.php/children/.  Nor does it cover our student ministry and the challenge in the Word with Journey Small Groups on Sunday evenings and discipleship on Wednesdays.  You can check out more at the CREW Student page: http://crewstudents.com/  We also have a full slate of Bible study opportunities and worship through our Celebrate Recovery ministry: http://tbclongview.com/index.php/celebrate-recovery/.

Yes, I am encouraged by how much emphasis my church places on the inerrant Word — the Bible.  It is because we believe it is inspired by God, profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (II Tim 3:16, NASB).  Personally, I would consider myself a fool to not devote my utmost attention to God’s Word.  After all, I am continually cleansed by the washing of water with the Word (Eph. 5:26).  It is my counsel, guide, and life road map. Without it and the faith it develops within me, I am like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind (James 1:7).

 

“Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart”

Stop Asking Jesus“If there were a Guiness Book of World Records record for ‘amount of times having asked Jesus into your heart,’ I’m pretty sure I would hold it” (Greear 1). This is a direct quote from J.D. Greear’s book entitled, Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart  / How to Know for Sure You are Saved.  J.D. Greear is the lead pastor of The Summit Church, a multi-site congregation in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.  This scholarship has been read and endorsed by Matt Chandler, James MacDonald, Joshua Harris, David Platt, Ed Stetzer, Paige Patterson, and others. This power-packed little book is less than 130 pages long, but filled with so much spot-on frankness concerning security in salvation that I feel compelled to share this with others.

Perhaps the reason this book speaks to me so clearly is because like Greear, I have prayed the sinner’s prayer at least 1000 times, and what I have discovered is that I am not alone.  For a long time, I didn’t tell anyone that as a young person, I prayed for salvation almost every night in fear and doubt.  I always thought my doubting stemmed from coming to Christ at such a young age and not really having a deep-dark “sin list” from which to repent. Nor was there a visible  difference in me like there was for the 54 year old redeemed drug-addict.

What I have found is that the more I encounter people and talk with them about their walk with the Lord, the more I realize many struggle with these same questions: “Did I really understand what I was doing the first time?” “If I’m saved, why do I continue to struggle in so many areas?” “If I die tonight with unconfessed sin in my life and Jesus returns, what if I’m left behind?” “Why do I feel compelled to pray that same prayer EVERY TIME we have a revival and the evangelist leads the whole congregation in unison?” “What if I wasn’t sincere enough?” “What if this…” “What if that…” Greear addresses this as “the damnable doctrine of doubt” and states that “every religious message except for the gospel uses doubt and uncertainty to compel obedience” (22).  He goes on to explain the difference in the gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s desire that we obey because we want to obey, not out of fear of punishment.  And “the only way to develop real love for God is to have fear removed” (22).

One would think a book so small could be read in a short afternoon; however, this work has taken me much longer simply because of earmarking pages, annotating chapters, referencing scripture, re-reading paragraphs simply because they speak a balm to my soul, and working through the supplemental study-guide questions which are available as a free download (jdgreear.com #sinnersprayer).  I plan on contacting a few personal friends who have struggled with this issue for far too long, but I also plan on keeping this book on my shelf for continued reference material.  My goal in recommending this book through my blogsite is a desire to help others who may be living in turmoil over where they stand in their relationship with Jesus Christ.  Hopefully, after reading Greear’s work those who have doubted in the past can once and for all drive a stake in the ground, draw a line in the sand, step across and walk in confidence and ultimate peace.  No. More. Doubting.

I hope to meet this author face to face one day and simply say, “Thank you for being willing to say publicly what so many of us have feared to even whisper to ourselves.”

 

 

Greear, J.D., Stop Asking Jesus in Your Heart / How to Know for Sure You are Saved. Nashville,         Tennessee: B&H Publishing, 2013. Print.  

http://www.amazon.com/Stop-Asking-Jesus-Into-Heart/dp/1433679213/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458927090&sr=8-1&keywords=stop+asking+jesus+into+your+heart

 

Incarceration and Grandparents

Incarceration

I entitled this post something a bit out of the ordinary in hopes to draw as much attention as possible and gain much feedback as well.  Attention, not to myself, but attention to the growing need we are finding in our churches and society as a whole.  This need is found within those families (particularly spouses with children), who have a husband or wife in prison.  Also a need among grandparents who are finding themselves in the role of second-time parenting (more on parenting as grandparents later in the post). My specific purpose in this post is to try and gain as much insight from these families as to what their greatest needs might be in order to be more informed and equipped to better meet some of those needs personally and through the church.

As a pastor’s wife, church life is a “normal zone” for me.  My days revolve around ministering to others’ needs, working around others’ schedules, and looking for better ways in which to serve in the Kingdom of God.  I gladly embrace that role; however, there are times that I need much input in areas in which I am not equipped or adequately informed.  More and more, I am finding that God is placing in my path those (in my case, wives/mothers) whose spouse has been incarcerated.  This is an area that I am asking for feedback and input from those who might read this blog.

Whether I know you or not, I would like to hear from you if you have an incarcerated spouse.  You may remain anonymous, and you WILL NOT be contacted unless you specifically request a reply.  I simply would like to hear what your greatest needs are, particularly as a woman/wife/mother, of an incarcerated spouse.  I would like to personally be informed as to how to reach out to those in your situation, but I would also like to develop some material that might help others address these same type needs.

In the past, some of my family members have been imprisoned.  However, my spouse has never been in prison; therefore, my ability to relate, especially to a young mother of small children whose Daddy is in prison, is very limited.  I am not here to judge, give advise, or ask probing questions — I simply want to be more informed on how to minister and love those whom God is placing in my path. What, as a spouse of someone in prison, are your greatest needs (whether physically, monetarily, emotionally, or spiritually)? And how can the church better minister to you and your family?

Grandparents in Parenting Roles

In addition, I am looking for feedback from grandparents who have taken on the role of being the primary caregivers to their grandchildren.  There are more ministry resources available on this particular role as opposed to those who have incarcerated family members (I can share some of those upon request); however, I would like to hear from this group as well.  If you are a grandparent who is raising your grandchildren, would you share with me your greatest needs?  How can the church better minister to you and your family?

To both groups, and whomever would welcome prayer support, I would love to have the privilege to pray for you.  Please feel free to send me your prayer request and I will join with you in bringing this matter to the throne-room of heaven before of God who knows your needs, hears your prayers, and cares deeply about your life.

If you would be willing to share (anonymously) your thoughts, please either respond to this blog-post or send me an email at abundant.heart.ministry@gmail.com

I would also ask, whether or not you find yourself in either of these groups, that you share this post with your friends in order that this might gain much valuable input from those who are walking these roads.

Thank you in advance.

Carolyn

The Vision of His Glory

Vision of His GloryWe are starting a new Bible study at my church, Trinity Baptist Church, Longview, Texas, in January. There may be some ladies who live in the East Texas area who are familiar with this blog site, but not connected to our church, so I want to put this information out there for you.

I have been able to walk through the first two to three weeks of this study over the holidays and look forward to what God is going to teach us through His glory! Read the information below for more details:

If you have never read the book of Revelation, or sometime in the past you tried to read it and lost your way or grew weary, Anne Graham Lotz’ study, “The Vision of His Glory” will guide you to a new understanding of the vision of Christ’s glory. This study is designed to help you explore the book of Revelation in a personal and practical way.

With skilled teaching, an inspiring sense of wonder, practical insight and heart-touching parables, Anne brings clarity to the glorious pageantry and imagery of the book of Revelation. Sharing her passion for God’s Word, she will lead you step by step through John’s eyewitness account of God’s plan for our future. The Vision of His Glory brings you to an intimate encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, our one Source of true, life-changing hope (excerpt from “The Vision…” synopsis).

“The Vision of His Glory” will be the focus of Trinity Baptist Church’s first women’s 2016 Bible study. There are three different opportunities from which to choose:
Mondays @ 5:30 PM – Begins 1/18/16 — Hosted in Sue Boyd’s home – light supper served
Tuesdays @ 9:30 AM – Begins 1/12/16 — Hosted at Trinity – followed by potluck lunch
Wednesdays @ 6:00 PM – Begins 1/13/16 — Hosted at Trinity – childcare available

7 Week Course Materials: $22.00

This study is not exclusive to Trinity members or age specific. All women are welcome. Invite a friend and join us!

Trinity Baptist Church, Longview, Texas — follow this link for more information about the church: tbclongview.com

 

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