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

7 Must-Wins: Authority of God’s Word

7 must winsWe are beginning a new fall blog series, “7 Must-Wins.” With a uniquely personal twist toward us as women, we will address seven topics that must be understood and walked out in order for us to have success in this life. As you read, ask the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of your heart to what He has to say. We hope you enjoy this series!

I am very good at memorizing things. This was helpful in college…although whether or not I retained any useful information for more than a week after testing is questionable! It also helped me while growing up in a church and a family that highly valued knowing the Scriptures. I memorized many verses, and even remembered where most of them were found in the Bible. This still helps me today, but I have also learned something else: knowing God’s Word in my head is different than knowing God’s Word in my heart. Knowing with my heart means that I actually take in what God says, and it makes a difference in the way I live my life.

In today’s culture, when everyone else is choosing the world’s way of doing things, choosing to live according to God’s Word means submitting to an authority higher than ourselves. These are not just words on a page. God’s Word is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). When God’s Spirit in us opens our eyes to the truth of His Word, it comes alive in our hearts, and we can begin to live out of it.

I used to think that to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25) meant I had to force myself not to walk “in the flesh.” But all God is saying here is that as we align our hearts with God’s Spirit, we begin to see the fruit of who He is coming out of us. Because God is love. He is peace. He is joy. That does not come out of striving to “do better.” It comes out of surrendering myself to God and responding to His voice when He speaks to me.

Yes, this may mean correction sometimes. Paul advises Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man (or woman) of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Sometimes when I read or hear God’s Word, I am convicted because I know my heart does not line up with God’s heart for me. So I have to repent, and choose to turn my heart to God’s truth. Yes, it is painful to admit that I am wrong. But it is so good to experience the peace of the Holy Spirit when I choose to agree with Him and follow His voice.

So what does this look like in reality? Honestly, it will be different for each person. It is not a formula. I tend to read the same section or chapter of Scripture for days at a time when God grabs my attention with something. For those of you who don’t like to read, you can easily find websites and mobile apps that will read the Bible to you in many different versions. Just start. Ask God to make your heart come alive to His Word. Why? Because this leads us to God’s heart.

This post was written by Heather Dillard. To read more about her, click here

**For Part 2 of this series, click here.

Be A River

river-of-lifeOne thing I love about God’s Word is that it’s always fresh and relevant. Just when you think you’ve read a Scripture a hundred times, God can shine His light on it and cause you to see a whole other level of meaning. Even so, I think it’s easy sometimes to fall into the “been there, done that, got the t-shirt” (or bumper sticker, or refrigerator magnet) trap. Especially for folks who have grown up in church, the power of the truths that we hear preached over and over again can seem to get lost in their familiarity.

So what’s the solution?  Be a river. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'” (John 7:38 NASB) We’re meant to let life flow from our hearts. We’re meant to take what we’ve been given and share it with others.

Do you know why the Dead Sea is dead?  It’s constantly being poured into, but it has no outlet. This results in a toxic situation in which nothing can live. The Jordan River flows in, but then the water is trapped and eventually just…evaporates.  If the Gospel seems stale, powerless…it’s not a problem with the message. Maybe it just doesn’t have an outlet. Allow the Good News to flow and see if that doesn’t bring life to all involved.

Proverbs 11:25 says, “Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (NIV) Another version says it this way: “He who waters will himself be watered.” (NASB)

We know all about the need for water here in West Texas. We’re all too familiar with drought. We would think it was crazy if a farmer had an irrigation system with a full well and he never used it to water his crops. No one would just sit there and watch his harvest literally shrivel and die just because he made a choice to keep the water for himself. Let’s not make that mistake as Christians. There are people all around us–in our own circles of influence–who desperately need the life-giving water we’ve been given. We’re meant to flow. We’re meant to be refreshed…inspired…ALIVE…and that’s what happens when we become a river.

This post was written by Becca Wilhite. To read more about her, click here.

Desiring Mercy and Not Sacrifice

loving God's Word_image“Go and learn what this means, for I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” Matthew 9:13
“But if only you had known what this means, I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” Matthew 12:9

The Pharisees couldn’t get what Jesus was saying—first to “go and learn” and later “if only you had known.” With all their knowledge of Scripture, with all their rules, with all their duty and obedience, and with—in their mind—their righteousness, they could not understand this truth. Jesus’ words did not compute with their tradition.

Sometimes, if we’re not careful, we can have the same tendency to desire sacrifice more than mercy. What does this mean? We are bent on works because it’s more natural. It’s more natural to do than to be.

As long as I’ve been saved, I’ve loved the Word of God. I’m highly analytical and can spend hours reading scripture and commentary and translations and the original Greek or Hebrew meanings. But, as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 8:1, “knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.”

Knowledge without mercy is a dangerous state.

To know scripture is important, but before we can receive fully, before we can fall in love with God’s Word, we have to first fall in love with its author. When we are so filled by the love of God, His love and grace becomes a lens through which we can read and receive His Word.

Here Jesus is quoting Hosea 6:6. The full verse is this: “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”

The knowledge of God is not mutually exclusive to mercy. And while He desires mercy not sacrifice, He desires knowledge more than burnt offerings. Under the Old Testament covenant, God is not negating or replacing what must be done for atonement. We know from Romans 3 that in His forbearance, He passed over their sins, yes, but their account was not settled.

So why does Jesus not quote—in both places here—the full verse from Hosea? Is it because knowledge of God is no longer important? Of course not. The problem is the Pharisees had all the knowledge in the world.

But under the new covenant, we get to know God in a different way. Because of the finished work of the cross, we have a mediator, who is Jesus, and we have the Holy Spirit. And that revelation—when we believe in what the cross accomplished—that changes how we know God.

We, with unveiled faces, get to behold Him. And it transforms us.

How do we know God? We spend time with Him. What He desired then and now is a heart that loves Him and is loyal and faithful to Him…a heart that delights in Him and wants to be with Him—not a heart bent on doing or performing or actions or piousness. He desires that we know Him. That’s all. To know His character, to sit with Him and love Him, to be.

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

God’s Word

God’s Word literally is breath and life. It says that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Wow, this is amazing to me! God’s Word became an actual living, breathing body through Jesus Christ.  Here at Harvest, one of our core values is the Word of God, and understandably so.  Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. “ God’s Word is what leads and guides me, what keeps me on his path. It is His Word spoken to me. From a young age I have had a hunger and a love for God’s Word. The older I get the more I believe that hunger and love for his Word has been birthed from a longing to have a deeper, more loving relationship with Him, with Jesus who was the Word made flesh.  The son, Jesus, was the perfect representation of the Father’s heart towards me.  So much of whom God is, His character, His heart towards us, and His promises, are written in His Word.

God’s Word is a place I run to in times of need, when I am desperate to hear from Him, when I need His comfort and His truth. I am always in need of God’s Word; in good times and in bad, it is a source of encouragement and strength to me. God is always faithful to show Himself to me. The beauty of God’s Word is that it is His truth, and when we hide it in our hearts it becomes a resource when we need it. God’s scripture runs through my head throughout the day. He will remind me of specific verses He wants me to meditate on. Having God’s Word hidden in our hearts is not about becoming righteous. I am righteous because of Jesus, not because of what I do. My value doesn’t come from how much of his Word I know. Rather, His Word being hidden in my heart is a priceless treasure that I have as a tool and weapon whenever needed. It is part of my relationship with Him. Remember, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. To me, it is a very intimate part of my relationship with Him.  I can tell a major difference in the way I respond to life when I am not meditating on God’s Word. In a sense, I forget who I am for a moment and revert to an old way of living. Psalms 119:32 says, “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.”  When I remember God’s Word and walk in his truth it sets my heart free! It frees me to be who God created me to be, and that is a beautiful thing.

How sweet are your Words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalms 119:103) My prayer for us as women is that we would hunger for God’s Word, that it would be sweet to us. I pray God’s Word would be life and truth to our hearts and souls and that we would find great joy in reading and meditating on it. Thank you, God, for this incredible gift you have given us in your Word.

This post was written by Tissie Beasley. To read more about her, click here.