By Peter Lundell –
The sky finally dumped rain in Southern California—in October. Through all the years I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen more than spit and drizzle this early in the rainy season. Today it came with thunder and torrential downpour. Kim and I thanked God for it and prayed for more. My daughter texted me with a request for an umbrella.
After a terrible drought across the country in 2012, the Bible would say that the land cries out for rain. A lot of people seem to think that water comes from a faucet and that lawn sprinkler systems somehow produce water out of PVC pipes—and they complain when their picnic or soccer game gets rained on. Others know that without rain we’re in trouble—as people in many parts of the world are.
In the rain I also saw God’s Spirit. And I saw that in the midst of busyness, I have too often relied on the equivalent of faucets and PVC pipes for spiritual vitality. I pray and read the Bible, but I want my soul soaked. I’m thirsty for downpour, for the Spirit of God to pour out on me and my church, and on you too.
Isaiah 44:3 parallels the image of rain with the outpouring of God’s Spirit: “I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.”
Ask Him for that Spirit. It’s life-giving.
I must be honest and ask myself, how badly do I want it? How much will I focus my heart on that? What will I sacrifice for it? God does not take lightly the giving of his Spirit. I invite you to be thirsty with me, not for religion but for God himself.
PRAYER: Lord, pour out Your Spirit on me! Forgive me for times I’ve been like Teflon and not received what You would have given me. I thirst for You. Keep me thirsty.”
“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams. One will say, ‘I belong to the LORD’; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; still another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD’S,’ and will take the name Israel” (Isaiah 44:3–5 NIV).
By Cheri Cowell –
My husband loves to shake the boxes under the Christmas tree and try to guess what they are. It is a lot of fun when he is so far off base. I feel as if I’ve done my duty when I can trick him into thinking about one thing when I’ve actually bought him something else.
It is not much fun, however, when he guesses correctly. What is the fun of giving a surprise gift if there is no surprise? One year when Randy was a little boy, he guessed his gift correctly and his brother picked up the gift and walked out the front door with it. “What are you doing?” he asked in bewilderment. “You guessed it so I’m taking it back,” was the reply.
Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about God returning His gift. Yes, we already know what it is, but it doesn’t change for us the excitement that builds knowing we are getting the best Christmas gift we could ever receive.
The Jewish people should not have been surprised when they finally received this gift. Some, like Mary, recognized it right away. Mary knew the Scriptures, and had probably prayed each night for the Messiah to come and save them from their oppression. Little did she know that she would play such an important role in the giving of this gift to the world. We know the gift that is coming, and we, as well, have a role to play in sharing this gift with the world.
So shake some packages, get excited. The greatest gift is ready to be shared.
PRAYER: I praise You God for the planning that went into the giving of this precious gift. Thank You for the hundreds and thousands of people who played a role in passing this gift down through the ages so I might receive it. Thank You for trusting me to be a part in sharing this great gift with others.
“Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:13-14 NIV).
By Michelle Lim –
Today I was grousing about a big disappointment that came my way. After all, shouldn’t I have a corner on the blessings market?
Not hardly. We are all on planet earth. Well, at least most of us.
Life comes with disappointment. There are wonderful blessings we can all be thankful for, but when things don’t go our way we act surprised and offended. At least I do sometimes.
What about those moments when we see others who have done wrong escape struggle, while we do not? It is especially irritating when it is someone who has treated us poorly. We do what Jonah did after preaching to the city of Nineveh. He walked to a hill overlooking the city waiting for God to destroy it. After all, they were enemies of Israel. This would be a great show.
But God didn’t see it that way. The people of Nineveh repented and God forgave them. For Jonah, on the other hand, God sent a worm to destroy the shade from the sun where he rested.
What did Jonah do? He complained. Sounds a bit too familiar to me.
This fall we have seen so many lose all of their earthly possessions, even their homes. Still, when was the last time you complained? I did just this morning about something considerably less significant.
Life isn’t always a stroll through the blessings market. In fact, sometimes it is downright devastating. We may never know on this earth why some of the struggles we face come our way, but none of us are exempt from hardship.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be the children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:43 – 45 NIV).
By Cheri Cowell –
My husband has learned what I mean by getting the house ready for company. He is okay with everything being put away or picked up, but I want to go a little further including mopping and sweeping, dusting and cleaning, and all the little touches like lighting candles. My definition is not the same as his, so when he prepares our home for guests according to my standards, I know he is telling me he loves me.
One reason I feel a need to go to such lengths when company comes is because I believe it tells the person coming that they are special and valued in my eyes. They may never know the difference, but I will know I have done everything I can to prepare the way for them to feel it and possibly see it.
In Matthew we hear John the Baptist quoting from the prophet Isaiah who was also telling his people they needed to prepare for God’s coming. Likewise, we can help those who have not met Jesus by making their paths straight. How can we do this? We begin by becoming their friends so they can know our hearts and see that we are genuinely different. Then when we enter desert times in our lives they can watch how we rely on a strength that is beyond our own. People who don’t know Him need to be prepared to meet Him through seeing Him in us.
“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him’” (Matthew 3:1-6 NIV).
PRAYER: Thank You Lord for those who prepared the way for me to know You personally. Help me befriend those who need to see You making a difference in someone’s life. I want to be used by You to prepare the way for Your coming in someone’s life today.
By Elaine James –
“Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” implored Paul. (Philippians 4:6 NIV)
People, when do you know it is time for a haircut?
Believe it or not (don’t make fun of me) I prayed “God I would really like to know from someone I respect if the way I am styling my hair lately is okay. Especially if I should do bangs or no bangs.”
A week later in a coffee shop I meet my friend, who I haven’t seen in a year. She walks in with glee in her voice declares “Elaine, I really like your hair and the way you have grown out your bangs. You look so much younger.” My heart was tickled pink with this quick answer to prayer! She even said I look like a movie star, but I won’t reveal which one.
The next day I told someone this story and their reaction was like “Oh come, on with all the starving people and problems in the world, you think God answered that prayer?”
“As a matter of fact I do,” I retorted. I know the attributes of God. Having a personal relationship with Jesus is intimate and as He wants to delight in me. I have seen Him do it in small ways and big. I have seen God answer a friend’s prayer who was craving apple pie. That day someone dropped off an apple pie! God is everywhere and He can take care of all at the same time. That is the mystery and sovereignty of God.
To help alleviate stress/anxiety I memorized Psalm 139. I had this person read part of it out loud “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You, Lord, know it completely” (Psalm 139:1-4 NIV).
I told this person that God, from the first page of the Bible till the end, has shown Himself to many in unique ways. Gideon is a great example. He prayed asking God to allow a test; he took wool fleece, if there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that You will save Israel. That is exactly what happened. But Gideon doubted and asked again; this time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew. God did it. And God also saved Israel.
Do you pray to God about everything? Maybe you have something you need to pray about now.
On a side note, Google “Do I need a haircut or not?” You will find a whole gamut of answers.
Wow! Praying made it a whole lot easier than googling and wondering.
PRAYER: Father in Heaven, I want to have a deeper relationship with you. I pray _________. Thank You for being there for me. In Jesus name, Amen.