Re: Awareness of His Presence

woman-with-bibleDuring the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2016. We hope these will encourage you and connect to your heart. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February 2017!

When I was in my early 20’s, I attended a Walk to Emmaus. During one of the talks, a woman told us how she spent her quiet time with the Lord every day. She had a cozy chair, in a specific spot in her house. She had a CD player that continually played worship music. She had a journal that she faithfully wrote in every single day. She read a chapter in the Old Testament, a Psalm, and a chapter in the New Testament. She used different colored highlighters to mark certain topics in her Bible. She seemed like she had it all together! So I took out my paper and made a checklist of all of these things. I figured that if I did everything she did, my personal time with the Lord would be….…EPIC!

Unfortunately, keeping up with her checklist for myself left me frustrated, feeling inadequate and like a failure. Can anybody relate to this?

I had to learn this truth: I will never experience abundance or fulfillment in my personal time with the Lord if I am fixated on the process itself. It’s not God’s intention for us to just feel good about ourselves, because we read our Bible today. Psalm 86:11 says, “Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name.” He wants us to know Him, and He wants to reveal Himself to us. This takes practice, patience, perseverance, living in your truth, having an undivided heart, being aware of His Presence, and being vulnerable and obedient to His Spirit.

This looks different at different seasons in our lives. Currently, all four of my kids are in four different schools. I’m also a preschool teacher to fifteen 4-year-olds. I’m a pastor’s wife, a worship leader, and a life group host. I have thousands of loads of laundry to do. Somebody has to feed all of these people in my house. Then there’s the “driving everybody to all of their stuff” everyday! Life is pretty overwhelming right now in this season. BUT, my Father has things to reveal to me. And I want to know Him more every day. So I wake up very early, and I spend time with Him. I pray. I worship. I read His Word. And I listen.

But that’s not all!!! I have friends who speak life to me. I have a church family that surrounds me in prayer and love. God even reveals Himself to me in the 4-year-olds that I teach. You see, He is everywhere all the time. The time you spend with the Lord doesn’t have to be confined to your comfy chair in your special place in your house, with your vast assortment of highlighters, and all the right worship music. It is living life, being aware of His presence, and responding to His love by bearing good fruit to all He puts in our lives.  Jesus says in John 15:16,

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.

You, Beloved, have been chosen by the Father. He has great things in store for you! Make the choice to commune with Him today and see what He reveals!

This post was written by Allison House. To read more about her, click here

Recommended Reading: Experiencing the Spirit

Experiencing the SpiritThis month we’ve been focusing on spending time with the Lord, and for our book review, I’d like to recommend Experiencing the Spirit by Robert Heidler.

If you’re new to the Holy Spirit or if you have questions about who the Holy Spirit is, Heidler’s book is a great resource full of straightforward explanations, grounded in Scripture for understanding the indwelling and empowering of the Spirit.

I was Spirit-filled many years ago, and even if you’re a seasoned Holy Spirit veteran, this book is still for you. I found it refreshing and inspiring.

Akin to Bill Johnson’s When Heaven Invades Earth, the power in this text is the testimonies he offers. Everyday people—like you and me—who experience God’s healing, His miracles, His gift of prophecy and words of knowledge, His manifest presence, etc.

Those testimonies build my faith and remind me that when I feel defeated the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in me.

And more than that, He’s asked me to minister to others, to advance His kingdom here on earth.

It’s not about me; it’s about Him. And His power demonstrates His love for others.

My constant prayer while reading this book has been, “Holy Spirit, come. Empower me to do your work.”

I want to have a deepened relationship with the Holy Spirit, to sense when He is moving, to hear what He is saying, to see how He is manifesting Himself. I want to encourage others, to see them set free and healed and filled with the power to overcome anything.

Don’t you?

I highly recommend this text! Read it and sign up for the Holy Spirit class November 13. Both will be a blessing! J

This post was written by Laura Brandenburg. To read more about her, click here.

Kitchen Sinks and Quiet Moments

kitchen-sinkWhere do you most feel the presence of God? I could give you my Sunday school answers such as: in my quiet time, during a worship service, or while deep in prayer.  While all of these may be true (I am one girl moved by worship!) I have a definite time and place I can feel His presence most.

Ladies, to be honest, I most feel the presence of God at my kitchen sink. Something about scrubbing caked-on casserole pans and muddling through dishes that would suggest I fed a small army all day opens my heart in a way to feel God’s presence.

Maybe it is the fact that I am finally alone—no toddler demanding all of my attention. Maybe its because I am worn and weary from a day of serving my family. Or maybe it is simply the fact that I am not rushing about—I am still and fully present.

Here, in His presence, I have received promises of His love and provision. I have received grace to finish the day. I have received comfort for my tears (Please tell me someone else cries while washing dishes!). I have received words of hope and direction.

The fact that I stand in His presence elbow-deep in dirty water suggests to me that He is waiting for me always. I don’t have to wait for Him until my next quiet time or, heaven forbid, until the next time I walk into church. What great news!

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens you are there;
If I make my bed in the depths you are there.

Psalm 139:7-8

Are you fighting to get into God’s presence when you are already there? Has your connection with God been stolen by religious practices? I believe it is possible to miss out on real, true relationship in the pursuit of a religious experience. Sisters, you don’t have to stand on your head while reading the Bible cover-to-cover to get to Him.

I encourage each of you this week to let go of your pre-conceived ideas about being in God’s presence and simply wait for Him in those quiet moments. Your “kitchen sink” might be while you are driving, while tending to your flowers, or in the still of the morning.

Wherever you are, lean your thoughts and your heart to Him, and feel Him embrace you with his presence—because ladies, He is already there.

This post was written by Makenzi Wethington. To read more about her, click here. 

Connecting with God in the Midst of Every Day

worshipHi Ladies,

Contrary to popular belief, not all pastors’ wives rise before dawn and roll out of bed into the Holy of Holies when they give the first of their day to the Lord. Frankly, I’m in a stupor when I get up and I quite agree with the Folger’s commercial, “The best part of waking up, is [coffee] in your cup.” Many times I leave my morning “quiet time” feeling like that time wasn’t what it was meant to be, which is time actually spent with the Lord. I may have read the Word, but did it penetrate my heart? Did I actually have heart to heart conversation with the Lord? Thankfully, our time with Jesus doesn’t have to look like the pastor’s or a serious Bible scholar’s.

I have a few favorite ways to connect with God. The first is playing a worship song and turning it into a prayer. Holy Spirit by Brian and Katie Torwalt is fantastic. “Holy Spirit you are welcome here. .. I’ve tasted and seen of the sweetest of loves, where my heart becomes free and my shame is undone….” Another favorite is David Crowder’s, Here’s My Heart. I concentrate on His presence and the meaning of the worship/prayer. Often I try to extend my quiet time into my “exercise” time by walking in front of the house while the kids sleep, worship music blaring from my phone. This wakes up my mind, and works great for praying over personal concerns and for others.

A simple thing that I sometimes do in a brief moment is to just stop and say, “Thank you, Holy Spirit.” I acknowledge His presence and it is powerful.

I hesitate to share this next thing because it is very personal and precious to me. However, I’m probably not the only one who struggles with a wandering mind and this helps me to just be with God. I have a picture in my mind as I rest in Him. In my mind’s eye, I am perched on a rock on a high place. God is a huge bird: warm, comforting, protective, strong. His wing is around me and I lean against his chest. We are looking out over a valley together. I think about this image and stay in His presence. In His presence is peace. Psalm 91 (KJV) says,

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty….He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust.

The Scriptures are full of imagery revealing God’s nature. I’m not a very visual person, so if God can give me this image, I know that He will give you a picture of your own if you ask Him.

Finally, sometimes I just spend time meditating on a scripture God has highlighted for the season I’m in. Doing that gives me confidence in Him and peace.

May your times spent with Jesus be precious,

Erin Smart

This post was written by Erin Smart. To read more about her, click here

It’s Not About Rules

not about rulesThere seem to be so many rules about spending time with God: You should pray first thing in the morning. But, also pray throughout the day. You need to pray about J(esus) O(thers) Y(ourself). Praying for 30 minutes is a minimum. Pray the Word. Be quiet and listen. Pray in a prayer closet. Pray with others. Pray by yourself. Pray for your children (for sure before bed!).

Nothing seems to be wrong with any of these guidelines. We WANT to pray effectively. We WANT to be taught how. We will do anything in our power to get it right…And that’s where it seemed to break down for me. I realized I am dependent upon God, even for—especially for—prayer.

I recognize that I have rules/guidelines for interacting with my friends and family, but that is not what I am most thinking about when I have fellowship with them. My awesome heavenly Father captures my attention so much more, and woos me into a love relationship with Him. I just want to be with Him. I want to be led by Him as I grow in my relationship with Him in prayer.

Not that my relationship with God has to have parallels with my human relationships, but I think it does bring up some things to think about. Just as I don’t interact with my husband in the exact same pattern every day, I realized it is the same with my heavenly Father.

Sometimes I can sit quietly in His presence and be refreshed. Sometimes it looks more like a great interceding for a matter that He has placed on my heart. Sometimes I sing a love song to Him (although not as often as I would wish, and certainly not with a microphone). Sometimes I pray for those matters that it says specifically in His word that we should pray for (like our leaders and for Israel).

Right now, I have a desire to grow in these things. I also don’t want my life to be so segregated, but to fellowship with God throughout the entire day.

I love having a sweet reminder of His presence when I see the sunrise. I love when I sense His leading as I seek Him silently in the middle of a difficult conversation. I love when He brings a Scripture to my mind. Walking with Him and abiding in Him all day long is my desire. But it is only in His strength. Thank you, Lord, that your strength is all I need.

I love Philippians 2:13 that says,

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

It’s all in Him. He gives me the desire to have greater fellowship with Him, and then He doesn’t leave me hanging—He gives me the power to do it. I’m grateful.

This post was written by Karen Earhart. To read more about her, click here

Awareness of His Presence

woman-with-bibleWhen I was in my early 20’s, I attended a Walk to Emmaus. During one of the talks, a woman told us how she spent her quiet time with the Lord every day. She had a cozy chair, in a specific spot in her house. She had a CD player that continually played worship music. She had a journal that she faithfully wrote in every single day. She read a chapter in the Old Testament, a Psalm, and a chapter in the New Testament. She used different colored highlighters to mark certain topics in her Bible. She seemed like she had it all together! So I took out my paper and made a checklist of all of these things. I figured that if I did everything she did, my personal time with the Lord would be….…EPIC!

Unfortunately, keeping up with her checklist for myself left me frustrated, feeling inadequate and like a failure. Can anybody relate to this?

I had to learn this truth: I will never experience abundance or fulfillment in my personal time with the Lord if I am fixated on the process itself. It’s not God’s intention for us to just feel good about ourselves, because we read our Bible today. Psalm 86:11 says, “Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name.” He wants us to know Him, and He wants to reveal Himself to us. This takes practice, patience, perseverance, living in your truth, having an undivided heart, being aware of His Presence, and being vulnerable and obedient to His Spirit.

This looks different at different seasons in our lives. Currently, all four of my kids are in four different schools. I’m also a preschool teacher to fifteen 4-year-olds. I’m a pastor’s wife, a worship leader, and a life group host. I have thousands of loads of laundry to do. Somebody has to feed all of these people in my house. Then there’s the “driving everybody to all of their stuff” everyday! Life is pretty overwhelming right now in this season. BUT, my Father has things to reveal to me. And I want to know Him more every day. So I wake up very early, and I spend time with Him. I pray. I worship. I read His Word. And I listen.

But that’s not all!!! I have friends who speak life to me. I have a church family that surrounds me in prayer and love. God even reveals Himself to me in the 4-year-olds that I teach. You see, He is everywhere all the time. The time you spend with the Lord doesn’t have to be confined to your comfy chair in your special place in your house, with your vast assortment of highlighters, and all the right worship music. It is living life, being aware of His presence, and responding to His love by bearing good fruit to all He puts in our lives.  Jesus says in John 15:16,

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.

You, Beloved, have been chosen by the Father. He has great things in store for you! Make the choice to commune with Him today and see what He reveals!

This post was written by Allison House. To read more about her, click here

How to Pray BEFORE the Meltdown

declarative prayerI don’t know about you, but taking care of sick kids wears on me after a while. My girls took turns being sick for two weeks and not long afterward my eldest ran fever for 7 days straight. Too sick to go to school but not sick enough to stay in bed. Irritable kids. Irritable mom. Flesh struggling against flesh patterns. Lots of triggered pain. You get the picture.

But my heart is my responsibility.

How do I work through this, especially after I’ve completely lost my composure?Declarative Prayer.

We steer where we stare. Declarative prayer gives me a vehicle with which I can shift my focus back on God and what He says is true. Declarative prayers aren’t speaking magic incantations or denying the difficulties I face.

They help me recognizing that even in the midst of this circumstance, God gets the last word.

Let’s go back to my quasi-meltdown. Afterward, I settled down and thought. Once I verbally processed what I was feeling, I identified the lie I believed: abandonment. It went something like this, “I am alone. No one wants to help me and it’s up to me to make everything come together. Of course, I will fail and it’ll all be my fault.”

Cheerful, huh?

Once I said it out loud I could see the ridiculousness of it all. This lie was in direct opposition to a promise God spoke to my heart a few years back. He said, “Jodi, I’m going to help you.

That’s it. When I thought about His promise, it wasn’t difficult to enter into declarative prayer. Here’s an example:

“Lord, thank You for helping me through this tough time. You are able to keep me from falling and present me without fault (Jude 24). I’ve had a hard time, but You have not given me a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). Because of the finished work of the cross I have peace with God (Colossians 1:20) and I can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13). So instead of relying on my old coping mechanisms to get me through today, I am going to lean into who I am in Christ and trust You. I am not responsible for making everything work today. Instead of pre-judging others, I will ask for help from the appropriate people and move forward from there. Thank You for helping me walk in reality instead of vain imaginations.”

Bam.

I’ve never spent time praying this way when His peace didn’t give me clarity to take the next step. And friends, honestly that’s what most of us need. We couldn’t handle detailed marching orders for the rest of our life. He’s going to show us the next step. Then we get to choose whether or not we’re going to obey.

When you realize you’re rapidly approaching a pain cycle, I want you to remember that you are not powerless. You can use declarative prayer to release the power of God into your heart, your mind and your response. Go for it!

This post was written by Jodi LaFrance. To read more about her, click here