Tuesday Prayer: The Judge

And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

Revelation 14:7

Eternal One, You are the only just Judge. As the Creator, to You alone belongs the privilege of determining right from wrong and good from evil. Because You are the God who is and was and will be, all wisdom, power, and glory also belong to You.

God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.

Psalm 7:11

We worship You because You are Lord. Your decrees are righteous, Your knowledge extends far beyond the collective understanding of mankind, and Your Name is worthy of our praise. Blessed be You, the Almighty King!

When we are reminded of Your capacity as Judge, please call to our minds the many people around us who do not know You. With Easter approaching, may our meditation be on Your Word and Your goodness, but may our eyes be open to the desperate plight of so many people who do not trust in You and share our hope in salvation. 

For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

2 Corinthians 1:5

O Lord, give us a heart for the lost! Help us to live lives which glorify You and teach our tongues to speak Your praise freely no matter who our audience is – perhaps especially when our audience is someone who scoffs at You. Let us not be ruled by fear of man but be inspired by the horror of what will happen to each man who does not trust in the sacrifice of Christ to speak the Truth in love. 

Lord, use our mouths as Your megaphone, our bodies as Your messengers, and our lives as reflections of Your grace and glory. Teach us to be open about our own sin and repentance and to pray earnestly for our own eyes as well as the eyes of others to be opened to see our sin. Then, Lord, bring us all into the Godly sorrow which brings repentance and leads to salvation without regret.

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

2 Corinthians 7:10

May our candid confessions and honest repentance be an open door for others who have been afraid to come forward with their sin or afraid to approach You. May our joy even in times of affliction become a beacon of hope for those who struggle with despair or addiction.

May our changed lives and God-honoring priorities be evidence for our gratitude toward You so that others may see that You are the reason behind and the impetus for all our good works.

And Lord, use us to shed Your light and spread the Gospel so that many others will be rescued from the wide path leading to destruction and brought into the Kingdom. This year, we pray to see a great harvest of souls who come to salvation in Christ to the praise of Your glory, amen!

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

2 Corinthians 5:20

Ebb and Flow: A Migraine Story

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8

I haven’t written a migraine post since this year began, and since I’m on a brief hiatus and am actually typing these words several days before you read them, I thought now would make a good time for an update.

I’ve been on Ajovy, one of the new anti-CGRP migraine prevention meds, since mid-December. I’ve also weaned off of amitriptyline and divalproex, two of my other preventatives (which weren’t really preventing anything except weight loss and… um, other things I’ll spare you from). I’ve also had a single treatment of Botox.

And things have been… OK.

February was amazing. I only had 11 headache days, not a single one of which went above a 4 on my pain scale of choice – at least after I took the rescue meds. In fact, the rescue meds actually worked and completely knocked out the oncoming migraine. I thought we’d found the combo for sure.

Then March came in like a lion, so to speak, and it hasn’t been as lovely. With a day and a half to go in the month, my current count is 22 days affected by headaches, some of which were full-blown migraines ranking between 6 and 8 with rescue meds, many of which lasted for more than a single day.

So much for the winning combo. But it’s still better than 30 headache days, so I’ll claim it as a victory nonetheless.

But you know what? God is still good. He is still sovereign, and I refuse to let mere pain make me forget that. Even without migraines, pain is just a thing I deal with. It’s a part of my life; an expectation. A back injury at the age of 12 and early onset of arthritis-like changes in my 20s ensured that.

And with migraine, well. It’s just a thing. Avoid what triggers I can, deal with what I can’t avoid.

As an aside, it cracks me up when I’m asked how many times I went to the emergency room for my migraines. Why on earth would I do that? I know what the pain is, and I know how little can be done for it. I already have the ER treatments in my medicine cabinet, so the last thing I want to do is be add being poked and prodded amid the craziness of a hospital ER to my misery. Heck, I didn’t even go to the ER for meningitis until the third day of zero food or fluids…

But back to my point.

Pain is transient. Not fun, but not worth getting worked up over.

You see, my hope does not lie in a pain-free existence on earth, nor is my joy found only on low-pain days. I’ve tasted small sips from the Fount of Living Water and seen that He is good. More than anything, I long to drink deeply of this Living Water and be fully refreshed, and I know I will be someday.

Pain will end. Suffering will cease. But not just because my body dies. It ends because now – while I labor on in this broken body on earth – I have surrendered myself to the Lordship of Christ over my life. He is my King. He is my Master, and I am no longer my own. I belong, completely and utterly, to Him.

In my little life, I’ve had a sip from the cup of God’s wrath and from the cup of Living Water. One is bitter; one is sweet. Both are enduring. The amazing thing is that He sets before each of us both cups. We get to choose the one we drink from.

As for me, I choose to serve the Lord. Even in pain.

Tuesday Prayer: Praise

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! 
(Psalms 100:4)

Gracious and Holy One, we offer up our praise to You today! Blessed is Your name in all the earth , and blessed is the work of Your hands. It is You who made all good things and who gives all good gifts. There is nothing that happens on earth outside of Your knowledge. You even know the number of hairs on our heads, and even take note of the fall of a single sparrow in Your creation.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Matthew 10:29-31

Oh Lord, thank You for the consideration You pay for us, Your image bearers, even though we have done much to stain and warp Your precious image. Thank You for the redemption You offer by the blood of Your only Son and for the mercy You show to us each and every day.  Thank You for being a God who sees us, who is compassionate and involved in both the details of our lives and in the vast scope of all Your creation.

Most High, forgive us for the many times we bring our concerns and pleas before Your throne of grace with an attitude of assigning tasks to You rather than with a humble demeanor of thanksgiving and praise. You have already done so much for us in Jesus; have already offered us eternal hope and joy. And yet, You still do more for us! 

Please, God, make us more mindful of Your holiness. Keep our hearts humble before You and never let the wonder of our Lord the Messiah leave our hearts and minds. May we approach You forever thankful, forever blessing Your name and exalting You in all we do. Teach us to exult in Your presence and to be satisfied and content in You. 

May we develop a habit of entering Your courts with praise and thanksgiving always. And as we learn to praise You in everything – in clouds and sunshine, in good times and bad – may the joy of the Lord fill our hearts. Let the brightness and genuineness of joy in us act as a beacon to the lost and hurting int he world. Use our testimony, Lord, to turn the hearts of others to You so they, too, may share in our joy, amen. 

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8

The Funny Thing About Hell…

In truth, there is nothing whatsoever funny about hell. Nothing. It’s more serious than a heart attack, more gnawing than cancer, and unlike both of these, it is eternal and spiritual, not temporary and physical. Hell is not funny in the least.

But people do have some funny ideas about hell.

When I was a young atheist, I remember discussions about how much more fun hell sounded than heaven. The thought process went something like this: “If I got to choose, hell is the place I’d go. I mean, if all the fun stuff you’re not supposed to do isn’t found in heaven, then it must be in hell, right?”

Well, to be blunt: No. No it isn’t.

But the good news is that we do get to choose. Either we choose Yeshua who is the Way to heaven or we choose hell by default.

Make no mistake: Satan is not the ruler of hell, nor is he the life of some fiery party. He is in misery already because of his rebellion, and his mission is to take as much of the clay creatures stamped with the image of God – that is, humanity – into eternal misery with him.

…and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever…

…And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:10, 15

Whether the image of a lake of fire is literal or symbolic doesn’t matter. It isn’t a nice place to be. Hell is Satan’s torture chamber, and I believe his hatred of humankind is partly because of the redemption offered us and his own bitterness towards God.

Looking around this world – the suffering, the heartache, the pain – I can’t help but think there’s hell enough on earth. Why would anyone choose to continue suffering throughout eternity? Most, I think, simply don’t really believe in the reality of hell or heaven.

Now that I am no longer young nor atheistic, I can look around at many of those who embraced the mentality of hell as the “fun” choice and ran with it to its logical conclusion.

Some of them are heroin or meth addicts. Others have adopted a more legal drug dependence, but they have cabinets full of drugs – and drugs to counteract the side effects of drugs – just the same. Others are addicted to sex and shallow relationships or drink so much they don’t know they’ve had the same conversation 85 times. Still others are dead.

I guess the last sort know by now.

My heart breaks for the dead who didn’t choose the Lamb of God and whose names were not written in His book of life. I literally cry for some of them, and I weep and plead for salvation for those who still live and have not yet chosen the Way.

May my God draw them to Himself and may they choose to surrender to Him now. O Lord, please; let it be!

Hell is a far cry from an eternal party. Honestly, after watching the party scene for a few years and seeing the end results – addictions, broken relationships, broken lives – even if it was a party, I wouldn’t want it.

The sex, drugs, and alcohol party lifestyle is its own hell. Just ask any sweat-drenched addict as he pukes his guts out between fixes. Or anyone who is a prisoner of their own fear. Or anyone who age catches unaware after they’ve squandered life on shallow physical relationships and now face old age and death alone.

No, my friends, you do not want hell. I don’t want hell for you. And if I know you personally and you are not a follower of the Lord, chances are good I pray frequently that you will come to Him of Your own free will.

I so desperately want you to choose life. I so desperately want to keep you from hell. But you know what? As much as I want this for you, God wants it even more. He wants it so much, He paid the price of your sin with His own blood.

Please. Choose life.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose lifeloving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days…

Deuteronomy 30:19a, 20a, emphasis mine

Tuesday Prayer: Victory

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

Romans 6:17-18

Mighty Savior, we praise Your holy name for You are good. You are not only Creator of all that is seen and unseen, You are merciful. You’ve shown compassion on us even when we were in rebellion to Your created order and ways.

Though we were Your enemies, You stepped into our midst to live in perfection, to lay down Your life, and to redeem us when there is nothing we could do to extricate ourselves from slavery to sin. Thanks be to God for the victory He has given us in Christ Jesus!

But Lord, we confess that we do not always walk in victory over sin. Sometimes we toy with it as if it is a child’s plaything and not the very gateway to death. Other times, even though You have loosed the chains of sin, we cling to them as if bound and give in to self-loathing rather than fixing our eyes on You and stepping out in the freedom You’ve already given. In many other ways, Lord, we allow ourselves to be entangled by this world instead of caught up in rejoicing and praising You for our salvation.

And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.

Luke 8:14

Forgive us, we pray, and help us to remember that when it comes to sin, we are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us. Lord, today we cry out passionately and boldly: give your people victory over sin! Whatever has held us back to this point, pry our fingers off it and show us our freedom in Christ. Wherever we have embraced a lie, show us Your Truth and help us to believe it.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

1 John 5:4

Because of what You have done, we are no longer slaves to sin but have become slaves to righteousness. May we truly live this way, walking in the light of Your great love and enjoying daily and hourly victory over whatever sins have harried us throughout our lives.

Whether we’ve struggled under addiction, depression, anxiety, fear, lust, anger, unbelief, or any other thing, show us how to live victoriously over the plague of sin, rejoicing in the Lord who saves us and who is with us always.

Not only for us, Lord, but for our loved ones – please bring victory over sin. For those who are lost and still in captivity, open their eyes to the truth of Christ and set them free as well. May they see us victorious over sin and want to walk in that same victory.

Use us, Lord, to show them Your ways and draw them to our Lord Jesus. We pray to see a mighty work of Your Spirit, shaking the prison and flinging the doors wide so the captives can walk free along with us in genuine, joyful, and breathtaking victory over sin, amen. 

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin…

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:6-7, 11

Book Review: Parenting Beyond the Rules by Connie Albers

How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.

Proverbs 16:16

If I’ve learned nothing else in my 18 years of parenting, I’ve learned that I don’t have all the answers. There are tremendous benefits in staying teachable and gleaning tips from the acumen of others.

This is why I appreciate the wisdom and advice Connie Albers shares in her book, Parenting Beyond the Rules: Raising Teens with Confidence and Joy. There is great value in seeking wisdom from those who have gone before me, and Connie has not only been there, she’s gained excellent wisdom and insight straight from the Lord to share with us.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Proverbs 9:10

Between her experiences raising her own five children to adulthood and her 20 years of experience working with teenagers, Connie certainly has the credentials. The wisdom she shares is offered with humility and boldness; both confronting and challenging as well as offering grace and hope for the weary, battle-worn parent.

Personally, I was convicted by chapters 7 and 8 which cover listening to your child and monitoring your own mouth. The chapters served as a bit of a spiritual gut check to me because the Lord had already been addressing these very topics in my walk with Him.

You see, for over a decade, my homeschool mom habit of capitalizing on teachable moments whenever they arose in conversation served me well. However in the teen years, my favorite tactic has failed painfully more than once. In fact, I’m pretty sure I have permanent gunpowder stains from the sheer number of backfires!

Rather than engaging in a lively conversation springing from such “teachable moments,” suddenly my teenagers began to shut down and make their way into another room as I spoke.

Because of this, Connie’s words in Chapter 7 rang true to me:

“But that day – and many others like it – I learned that most teens don’t need our steps; they need a good set of ears if we want them to share what’s on their heart…

…Although our words may provide valuable information, it’s not usually what’s needed at that moment.”

Besides listening more and talking less, God has been showing me how frequently I misuse that most deadly of weapons: my tongue. Here again, some of Connie’s words from Chapter 8 reinforced what my Lord has been revealing:

As parents, we think we are saying one thing, but our teen hears something completely different… Communicating well and with intent begins with being slow to speak.

…When we don’t control the words that come out of our mouths, we hurt the relationships we long for and unintentionally model a pattern our kids will one day use to parent their children.

In Parenting Beyond the Rules, there are many other convicting truths, but I love that Connie also shares how she learned through her own failures – and how God changed those failures to successes as she humbly submitted to His teaching through His word.

She doesn’t flinch away from confronting sin, but neither does she shrug her shoulders at confession as if to say, “Well, we all sin. No one’s perfect.”

No, she goes a step further to show how God has made a way to walk out of the sin and into a rewarding, loving relationship with our teenagers. Easy? No. Worth it? Absolutely.

In Parenting Beyond the Rules, Connie Albers offers real-world, in-the-trenches advice for those of us willing to go to battle for the hearts of our kids. Not only that, but she offers grace and hope, recognizing that it is God who takes our imperfect efforts and through our weakness shows that His grace is sufficient – even for our teens.

You always have the opportunity to add new coats of forgiveness, wisdom, and maturity.

Connie Albers, Parenting Beyond the Rules

Tuesday Prayer: Godly Grief

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 
(2 Corinthians 7:10)

2 Corinthians 7:10

Perfect Father, Your word tells us that You reprove and discipline those You love, reminding us to be zealous and repent of our sin (Rev. 3:19). Today we want to thank You for giving us a chance to repent. As our Creator, You would be within Your right to simply exterminate us as a people for our rebellion. Yet in Your overwhelming mercy and compassion, You gave Your only Son to ransom us from our captivity to sin. O Lord, may we never cease to wonder at Your astonishing grace!

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

Revelation 3:19

Today we pray that Your Spirit will lead us into a time of reflection and sober self-judgement. Open our eyes to any places we have lied to ourselves about sin or any area in which we have believed the lies of the enemy simply because they are cultural norms. Help us to see every single sin for what it is, Lord, even in the most subtle disguise. Then once we have understood and acknowledged our sin, we pray for the Godly grief which produces repentance leading to salvation without regret.

Because of what You have done, because You are powerful and truly do use all things for the good of those who love You, we do not have to be weighed down by unending remorse for any sin we have confessed, for Your forgiveness is sufficient. Though we may bear a temporary consequence for our crimes, You have removed the eternal punishment through the work of Jesus on the cross. For that, we are grateful beyond measure!

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Not only to us, O God, but to those we loved who are not yet saved, we pray for Your Spirit to stir up this Godly grief. Let none be weighed down with worldly grief – either the false grief which is only an outward pretense nor the grief of inescapable guilt by which repentance is not produced but only a continual downward spiral of self-loathing and misery.

Please, Lord, do not let our loved ones be caught in this worldly grief but set them free by repentance and joy in Christ! Draw them to Your Son and heal their spiritual sin sickness by salvation through Him. Use us to share of Your great mercy and grace and by our changed lives and joyful love of You and Your ways.

Help our lives to show others the way out of sin and the despair it causes. Bring hope to the hopeless, Lord, and by Your loving discipline, bring the unsaved to a saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, amen. 

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13