Seated with Him

By Elizabeth Strayer

Ephesians 2:6 (NIV)
“He also raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavens in Christ Jesus .”

A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to a devotion and was blown away. The memory of the visual that he provided will always stay with me. Then, in a class I am taking, we were discussing our relationship with God and Jesus. The memory of the devotion came back, and I had to share with the class. I have had a vertical relationship with God and Jesus for a long time. I pray to them and look up asking for help, healing, grace, financial freedom, and for blessings for friends and myself. I ask for guidance, wisdom, and to see and know that His spirit resides in me. Although this is great and my heart is in the right place, it has been a vertical relationship, and one with a a distance involved. Well in Ephesians, it says that God raised Jesus up to heaven to sit at His right side, the place of honor and love.  In Ephesians 2:6, there is a verse I never realized had so much power and would open my heart and mind to an entirely new relationship. To give you the same eye opening vision I now have through that verse,  I ask you to set upthree chairs side by side. Imagine God sitting  at one end.  Take a moment to really see HIM in your mind’s eye.   Next, imagine Jesus sitting right next to Him holding casual conversation, talking about anything and everything as a son talking to his father.  Now, here is the really cool part!   Imagine you, as the verse states, sitting right beside Jesus. You too can just lean over and say, “Jesus, what do you think? What would you do? How should I handle this situation?” Your relationship is horizontal, not vertical.  You can talk freely and openly, and He hears you. This was a revelation to me, and I have to keep going back to that picture and telling myself, “Missy, you are seated next to Jesus and He loves you so much.”   Think about it!  You, too, are His favorite child.

Prayer – Daddy, Abba, thank you Lord for tearing the veil so that I can have the relationship that you long for us to have with you, for allowing us to talk freely with you and each day develop a better understanding of your heart and what your plans are for us. You have an overabundance of grace and love and it is freely given we just have to sit long enough to receive. God please help me to make the time to sit with you often and reveal in your love and Glory. In Jesus Holy name Amen.

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God, Deliver Me …

By Cortney Donelson

Psalm 7:1(NIV)
O LORD my God, I take refuge in You; save and deliver me from all who pursue me.”

The definition of “unplug” is to be free from an obstruction or to disconnect. Ironically, when I am plugged into my phone, my computer, my iPad, my TV, my iPod … it is then I am truly disconnected. These devices and the information I gather from them are merely distractions from the powerful relationships and wisdom I can only gain from personal interaction and communication, not only with people, but with God too. Especially God.

I am guilty of checking my phone as soon as the text messaging notification sounds. It beckons me to leave what I am doing in pursuit of “communication,” even if what I had been doing was connecting with my husband using some good old-fashioned conversation! “Save and deliver me … “

I tend to read my email and catch up on news at the counter in exchange for eating breakfast with my two children. “Save and deliver me … ”

Psalm 7:1 is a challenge for me. It is a prayer I often avoid, at least when it comes to those things that pursue me. Yet, it is precisely the prayer in which I need to invest. For, the “ones” that pursue me are my electronic devices that, in reality, keep me disconnected from those who matter most. Sure, the status updates and text messages keep me in the loop. In truth, that is not how relationships go deep and thrive. My family is in pursuit of me. They deserve to have all of me. “Save and deliver me … ”

“Deep calls to deep,” as Psalm 42:7 (NIV) reminds me. In the past, I have struggled with being transparent but not “authentic.”  Transparency is the ability to discern your feelings and discuss them. It’s a necessary attribute to develop for your relational growth. Authenticity, however, is the ability to experience your feelings while you share them with others … To open up your heart. The difference between the two is the difference between having casual friends and spiritual sisters who really know you. The difference between transparency and authenticity can also be the difference between a marriage where two people feel like roommates and a marriage between best friends working towards holiness together.  However, the most important difference between transparency and authenticity can be seen in your relationship with God. God knows your heart, but do you share it with Him too? Do you know God or do you experience Him?

Just like my family, God has been relentlessly in pursuit of me. His pursuit started before I was even “me.”   He has been quietly whispering in my ear. I have heard Him. I know His request. He’s asking me to go deep, to put down the distractions and turn off those things that pursue me. I have felt it as a pang of guilt and as a quiet voice. Sometimes, I ignore Him. Maybe He’s been whispering in your ear too? If so, let’s do this together:

“O Lord my God, I take refuge in You; save and deliver me from all who pursue me.”

My prayer is that God releases my desire for more surface level information. I pray He delivers me from my habit of treating online “relationships” as more important than those two little faces standing beside me at the kitchen counter. I would rather have a book in my hand and a child sitting in my lap than hold onto an electronic device with a “death grip” and sit with a pile of regret!

Prayer – Dear Lord, deliver me… save me from my perceived need for more information, more emails, more texts, more distractions. Those who matter most are right in front of me, and they deserve nothing less than all of me, including You, Dear Jesus. Lord, I pray I can find refuge in You and build up relationships that matter by unplugging from those distractions that mean nothing. In Jesus’ Name I pray, AMEN!

You Can Take That to the Bank!

By Cortney Donelson

Luke 6:38 (NLT)
“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

Blink.

Yet again, life suddenly changed. A few weeks ago, my husband lost his job. I am (mostly) a stay-at-home mom, dabbling in a few other part-time jobs while my youngest is in preschool. So, in the blink of an eye and without warning, we had lost almost 80% of our income.  

In the past, I would have panicked. The fear of financial instability and the loss of health benefits for my kids would have left me feeling anxious and worried. However, I knew I had two options. I could allow the enemy to grab hold of my fear and send me into the darkness, or I could hold tight to God’s promises and stay in His light. I read Luke 6:38, which states, “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back,” and I made my choice. My husband and I have been serial “givers” for years – to church, to non-profit organizations that are close to our hearts, to any needs we see arise. We elected several years ago to trust God with our finances and believe His promises regarding giving, such as the one found in Luke 6. God asked us to test Him in this area; so we did. We still do. We give joyfully and abundantly. It feels absolutely wonderful! We heard over and over, “you cannot out-give God.” I was now secretly praying this was true!

I chose to hold onto the promise that our giving would be “pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and poured back into my lap.” I immediately made an active decision to lay it all down at the Cross. I put our family’s career, health, and finanical affairs into His hands, and I truly let go and let God.

No surprise here … God did not disappoint! Four weeks into the world of unemployment, my husband interviewed with one company several times and was offered a fantastic job, including exceptional benefits, a work-life balanced schedule with flexibility, and perks to boot. I had never experienced God’s faithfulness in this way. He was pouring down on us so many blessings in such a short amount of time and in an incredibly specific way!  In an economy that says, “Impossible!” God said, “DONE!”

God’s promises never fail. His love never fails. You cannot out-give Him. He will always be faithful and good. His blessings will come in whatever form is best for you and aligned with His will at that particular time: financial, healing, opportunity, grace, forgiveness … the gifts are endless. And, “you can take that to the bank!”

Prayer – Dear Lord, I barely have the words to thank you. I am in awe with the ways you bless each of us in the areas we need it at just the times we would benefit the most. I give You all the glory!  You are always faithful and true. My prayer is that we all hold tight to Your promises and trust You with every part of our lives, including our finances. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

Deuteronomy 15:10
Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.”

God’s Promise of His Spirit

By Elizabeth Strayer

Joel 2:28 (NIV)
” After this I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will have dreams and your young men will see visions.”

Recently, I was working with a mission group to plan our trip to Leticia, Colombia, South America (SA).  Our team was small, only five in number. However, we were passionate for this small, poor city in SA. In every one of our meetings, we would pray for different aspects of the trip.  At one evening meeting, I was praying that we would have the chance to walk through the streets of Leticia, pray for the people, and lay hands on them when possible. When the prayer was finished the group leader, Craig, shared that while I was praying, he had a vision that we would see a woman in the streets with a walking stick or crutches. This would be a sign from God that His presence was with us, and we were doing exactly what He wanted us to do. 

During the first part of the trip, after landing in Bogota, we had a day-long layover.  We visited the  Monserrate Church at the top of the mountain. It was absolutely breathtaking!  We walked up the “Fourteen Stations of Christ” and retraced his journey from sentencing to being taken to the tomb, and then on to the church located at the top of the mountain. We visited the service that was in progress and absorbed all the surroundings.  There seemed to be more ritual  than relationship there.  It was sad, really. We walked up the hill farther to the market area, and as we walked my eyes turned to the right.  Then, my knees started to go out from under me.  There she was… the woman with the walking stick! I grabbed Craig.  I was speechless!  We all just stood there in awe of what we saw. We were where God had placed us for His purpose…not ours. We stopped on the way down the walkway, on our way back to the church, and a man with crutches was holding out a cup as we started to pass by.  One of the members of our group heard the Lord say,  “Lay hands on him and pray,” so all five of us asked this man, who spoke no English, using sign language if we could pray for him, and he allowed it. Wow, it was awesome.

The next day, we flew to Leticia. As we traveled in the jeep from the airport to the orphanage, we were telling our hosts, Lucy and Angie, about the vision and seeing the woman. Craig said he knew we were supposed to see that woman.  “She was the only one with a walking stick, but it would be great if God could show us a woman on the streets of Leticia”.  Well, I am not kidding…as we were driving through the village, a woman walked out of her house with a crutch, looked at us, and smiled. I am telling you, my whole body felt His presence.  God is always with us, showing us His grace and love.

Prayer – Father, Abba, we praise You, Lord, for who You are, for the grace that You so lovingly give to us as Your gift.  I pray that we all continue to see You in everyone and everywhere we go. That Your glory is exalted! Thank You for letting us see a glimpse of You and know that You are always with us. May each of us continue to know you more deeply than the hour or day before, let our relationships grow stronger with each breath we take. We love You, Lord, and praise Your Holy name.  Amen