Tuesday, January 22, 2019

When God Answers Prayer

The other night my phone rang, which is not out of the ordinary, but the name on my screen did catch me by surprise. A far-away friend, who I frequently text, but rarely talk to was giving me a call. It was great to hear her voice and wonderful to listen to her news. She called to share an answer to prayer and God worked to give me a good lesson and important reminder.

As I've reflected on our conversation and thought about the work God did, I've realized when He answers prayer there are somethings I need to do. Friend, perhaps you should do them too -

First and foremost, when we hear about or witness answered prayer, we must thank the One who is responsible for it. Scripture instructs us to ask God and gives great examples of prayer, but God's Word also directs us to be thankful. What a wonderful thing to be thankful for...answered prayer!

"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. 
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits..." Psalm 103:1-2

So my first point is rather obvious, but this idea of sharing is two-fold. I know asking for prayer is not always the easiest thing to do, but on the flip side this conversation brought to mind a question - "How often do I share the answers to prayer?" The pure joy and gratitude in my friend's voice was powerful. God's answer was a blessing and my prayers played a part. It's important and necessary to share our burdens, but it's also critical that we share God's blessings. This truly glorifies God and builds up our faith.

"And He did not permit him but said to him, 'Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.'" Mark 5:19

The prayers my friend referred to have been ongoing. These answers weren't quick, but they were perfect in God's timing. When God answers prayer, I'm reminded to press on. Answers do come. God is listening. His way may not be our way, but it is best. In those moments of doubt, may we pray the prayer of the father whose son was possessed - 

"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" Mark 9:24

I truly believe my friend called to share God's answer and thank me for my prayers, but as always God is doing more. He used our conversation to stir up my thoughts and remind me of truths. He is always working, even when, especially when we don't see or understand. His Holy Spirit truly connects His children and puts things on our heart. God is a good God who gives us the desires of our hearts. We are each unique and can be blessed by one another's strengths and gifts. When God answers prayer, I remember how powerful, mighty and good He is! He truly is the giver of all good things and in Him I can put my trust.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding..." Proverbs 3:5

Friend, what prayer has God answered for you? Have you shared this answer with others? Chances are you've taught your children to pray, but have you made it a habit to help them look for and thank God for the answers? What would you add to my to-do list for when God answers prayer? 

Let's start the wait for another answer now - 

Dear Heavenly Father, Lord, you are so good. You are always working and listening. Help me cry out to you and help me see and embrace your answers. Don't let me take answered prayer for granted Lord...may I always thank you, share with others, press on in prayer and remember who you are. Help me pray more because I know you will meet my every need with your glorious riches. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Turn the Page

Welcome to my friends from the Encouragement Cafe! Thank you for joining me today! Like I said in the devotional, "Life is full of choices!" They truly never end, but I want to encourage you in a specific area today.

Like I wrote in my previous post, much of my time is spent in a gym these days. All 3 of our boys are wrestling and our 2 girls are playing basketball. As I coach the b-ball team, I find myself remembering that sports can teach us so much about life and our spiritual walk.

One phrase I've said a few times this season is: "Turn the page." The words come as I talk with an athlete who's made a mistake. Basketball is a physical game, but it requires mental strength as well. Turnovers are part of the game and bad calls can be too. Sometimes your shot isn't falling, but still you must press on.

I still remember my high school coach telling us, "Don't let one mistake lead to two." Now as a coach myself, I see this happen quite often. When a player makes a bad pass, they tend to make a bad play on defense. This takes place because mistakes tend to get in our head; they become the focus of our attention. We think about what we did wrong instead of what we need to do next. We allow what happened in the past to impact what happens in the future.

In attempt to encourage my players to not get stuck in their mistakes, we simply say, "Turn the page." We've talked about this as a team and the girls know what the simple statement suggests. Knowing this and doing it are two different things, which is where choices come in. My athletes can decide if they are going to move past their mistake or dwell on it and friend, you and I can do the same.

There comes a time in practice and in games when athletes must make this choice and though our playing days come to end the need for perseverance never does. We mess up as friends, employees, wives and moms and when we do, Satan tends to pounce.

Our mistakes impact our lives and the people we touch, but they also affect our minds. Doubts can creep in and lies can lead us astray, so mentally we must turn the page. Friend, daily you and I need to choose to exercise Philippians 3:13-14. Here Paul tells us, "Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead; I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Once we make the decision to turn the page, we then must choose to press on. This isn't easy on the basketball court and it's just as challenging in life, but our effort will be rewarded! Whatever mistake you make today, I pray you can put it behind you and move on. Then make the choice to do the work that lies in front of you! Friend, turning the page might help my team win a game, but this choice for us as Christians has the potential to impact eternity, so let's choose wisely today!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Purpose of Practice

As a mom to athletes and a basketball coach, practice is a part of my daily routine. I spend time planning it, driving kids to it and leading it, which is probably why the word caught my attention the other day as I read my Bible.

Philippians 4:8-9 says, "What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."

Verse 8 is one I've read numerous times, studied a few times and even memorized, but nearly a week ago it was verse 9 that really went to my heart. "Practice these things" seemed to jump off the page and I dug a bit deeper and thought a bit more. I found myself thinking about it through the day and eventually found myself back in God's Word with a desire to know more.

Like I said, practice is part of our everyday life right now. Our two girls are playing basketball and three boys are wrestling. They practice at the school and at home as well. I coach the girls and help them practice too. As a coach and former player, I know practice is important. It's where we prepare, learn and improve. It's vital for success as a team and individual.

Practice clearly plays a part in the world of athletics, but does it have a place in our spiritual life? According to God's Word, the answer is clearly "Yes!" In Philippians, Paul clearly tells us to practice. In simple terms, practice means: to do, so Paul is instructing the people then, and you and me now, to do what he did, to follow his example and imitate him.

Really, it's no different than what a coach does with their team. I show my young girls how to pass, shoot and dribble. I explain offensive plays and defensive position. Athletes need to listen, understand and execute. Sometimes they try and fail, but that's why we practice. Friend, as a believer we must "practice" the same. In God's Word, He clearly instructs - we need to read, study, pray for understanding and humble ourselves to obey. Practice comes down to doing what we know.

This effort and event can lead to victories on the playing field, but the purpose of spiritual practice is so much more important. Let's read the end of verse 9 again - "and the God of peace will be with you." Friend, when we practice the spiritual disciplines Paul addresses we aren't guaranteed success, but we are promised God's presence and His peace!

As a player, I experienced some difficult practices, but I was always thankful I endured and did the work. I have no doubt we will say the same when we practice prayer, thanksgiving and Godly thinking. Practicing holy habits will improve our spiritual walk and daily living. This practice prepares us for eternity and invites God into the present.

Friend, most athletes will tell you practice isn't always easy, but they know it is necessary. Can you as a disciple of Jesus say the same? Are you willing to practice today? Start with practicing what Paul shares in verse 8 - "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things..." Today pay attention to your thought life. Take your thoughts captive. Tune out the lies. Replace the doubts with Truth. Think Godly thoughts. Practice having the mind of Christ. Your day will be better because God will be with you!!

Heavenly Father, thank you for always teaching us. I'm grateful for your living active Word that never returns void and speaks to my heart. Lord, help me practice hard for you. As a coach I know practice serves a purpose, thank you for showing me spiritual practice is necessary too. Help me imitate Paul as he imitated Christ. Thank you for your presence and peace. In Jesus' Name, Amen.