Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Cross Story

It was a busy Tuesday morning and I almost forgot that I promised a friend that I would go pray with her dad that day. Russ’ health was fading fast as complications from a long journey with Parkinson’s was coming to end.  I jumped into my truck and headed to the home of this dying man.  As I sped through the church drive, a sobering thought hit me. “I’m rushing through my day to go pray over a dying man.  I have spent no time in thought or prayer preparing my heart to enter this sacred moment in a man’s life.”  I stopped the truck and confessed my lack of attention for this man’s situation.  I asked God to slow my heart, my mind and pace.  I prayed, “God, I don’t want to wing it!  I need your grace. I need your Word.” 
As I pulled into the driveway, an idea came to mind. “I need to bring this man a cross!”  I backed out the drive and retraced my route back to my computer bag I had left at my office.  I carry a couple handmade wooden crosses in my bag that were specifically designed for situations just like this.  Let me explain.
I have a dear friend. His name is Trent and he’s a man in his late 70s. Over the years, God has called him and his wife into a unique prayer ministry.  It’s a prayer ministry for people they will probably never meet this side of heaven.  Trent has a work shop in his garage and here he cuts, sands, stains and polishes crosses.  These crosses are specifically cut to have soft, rounded edges and they are all the perfect size to gently and comfortably fit into someone’s hand.  A small, simple and detachable card is placed with the cross reminding the recipient of some of Jesus’ comforting words.  It also informs the receiver that the extensive sanding and polishing of each cross provides Trent and his wife the time to pray for those who give these crosses and for those who receive them.  When I first met Trent, he brought me a box filled with these crosses. He offered them for me to give away to anyone that God leads me to pray with.
I entered the home of this dying man with cross in hand.  I was greeted warmly by his wife and daughter as they showed me to his room.  Russ was struggling, every breath labored.  His time to leave this life was getting close.  I showed his wife the cross and explained to her what it was and who provided it.  She took the cross and placed it in his contracted, tension-filled hand.  You could see him squeeze the cross and though he couldn’t speak, it seemed he liked the cross in his hand.   I prayed over Russ and his family.  We cried some and chatted about the hope we as believers have in the middle of the most difficult times in life.  His wife commented on how good it was to be a Christian on days like these. 
That night, Russ’ daughter called to inform me that her dad had just passed.   She said, “Phil, you need to know that he clung to that cross until his dying breath.”  As I put down my phone, my mind went back to those hurried moments, rushing through my day and through a church parking lot to go wing a prayer for a dying man.  I became very grateful for a God who not only loves me but also this precious family enough to slow me down before he put me into a very sacred moment.  I became very grateful forTrent who prays in faith for people he’ll never meet.  But most importantly, I renewed my gratitude for the power of the cross, not just that little handmade cross in Russ’s hand but the Cross that Jesus willingly wore so that we could have life, so that we could have hope. 
- Phil Niekerk

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

No More Words

Have you ever had a burden on your heart for something that just won’t go away?  You pray, yet month after month, or year after year things remain the same.  Something that can cause deep pain or sorrow, and you don’t understand why God does not answer your plea for change.

I think of the story of Hannah in I Samuel 1.  Year after year she felt the emptiness of her womb, and was tormented by her husband’s other wife for the fact she had no children.  It says “the Lord had closed her womb…” God did that.  Why? Why would He allow this woman to suffer this?

 But God was using the pain in her circumstances to align her prayers and passion with His desire and passion. 

It says is I Sam. 3:1  ... “ In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.”

The priest’s sons were wicked and it was a dark time for Israel.  God desired a man-child to raise up as a prophet to be His voice for all of Israel. 

God orchestrated the events in Hannah’s life to bring her to where she was, spiritually, mentally and physically, and in her anguish she pours out her heart in obvious deep pain.  We read in I Sam. 3:10-14

 ”In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord.

And she made a vow saying, “O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life… As she kept on praying to the Lord…Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk.”

And God heard her prayer and granted her a son whom she brought to Eli to raise as a prophet.  And think about it, if Hannah had plenty of children, she would not have had the passion to pray as she did.  If it wasn’t such a deep pain she wouldn’t have been praying so passionately until she had no more words utter from her lips.  Eli would not have noticed her if she simply stood there and prayed a simple prayer.  It took the deep pain to bring out this passionate prayer.  The desire of her heart answered and God’s plan was set in motion for the nation of Israel.

And look at your own life.  What are you passionate about?  Often something we are passionate about is caused by an experience in our life.  God is orchestrating in your life as well.  He uses the good and the bad to gently guide you, to place a burden on your heart that coincides with the very burden God has on His own heart.  We pray “may we be in tune with Thee.”  Yes, that is what He is doing, using both our joy and our sorrow.  He is doing that within each of us individually as well as collectively as His body of believers.

Seek Him, rest in Him, allow Him to gently guide your heart to be in tune with His heart.  It’s a beautiful mystery how He uses our prayers to allow His will and might to be poured out from the heavens to this world.  He uses our prayers of joy when we praise Him from our lips, and He uses our prayers of suffering that are empty of words.  God can use our dark times just as much if not more than our light to change the world.

 No More Words
No more words, No more feelings, just being…
Sounds are muffled, light is dim, mouth is dry,
Eyes blur from hot liquid crystal, vision distorted.

There is pain…,
Pain in each breath, pain in throat, pain behind the eyes,
The eyes ~ window to the soul…
There is pain in the soul.

 Head turns upwards,
Eyes close and slowly re-open.
Blue sky, swaying green leaves.
Lips whisper, “…God…”, the sound is an inaudible croak.

  This plea, that comes from deep inside.
Then the sobs come, body writhing,
Trying to relieve soul of pain…
When body is spent, quiet returns.

 And the quiet is not empty.
There is a gentle Presence in the silence.
And with no words, and with no feelings, body and soul are just being…
In His presence.

It is amazing to us how You desire to use us to pour out Your glory.  Mold us, Lord.  Align our hearts and our prayers with Your will.  May we be willing to allow You to use ALL circumstances in our lives to tune our hearts to You, give us the passion You desire to burn within each of us.  Help us to say from deep within our souls, Lord, not my will, not my comfort, not for me, but Thy will be done.
In Jesus Name (our true example)

- Sue Parrott

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Thinking about Giving Up?

During a season in which I joined a 40 days of prayer which focuses on seeking God and waiting on Him, I had also been fasting. I knew when God called me to take this extra step that it wasn’t going to be easy.  Food has long been a stronghold in my life and I knew God wanted to strip away all that might hold me captive.

I had expectations of what my prayer and fasting would be like. I thought there would be a heightened sense of God’s presence and somehow He would be more tangible, more real.  I thought I would see Him around every corner, in the hidden places and in the light.

But to be honest, God had remained silent. I had not heard His voice, had not experienced any great miracles (except that I remained faithful in my fasting, which knowing my proclivity to food is actually quite miraculous).   I received no clear direction as to what He wanted me to do or where He wanted me to go. In fact, the road had been littered with tragedy. The problems had seemed bigger and my God seemed quieter.

It had been so easy for me to find an excuse to call it quits and throw in the towel.

But Noah kept building the ark when there wasn’t any rain. The Israelites continued to circle Jericho even though nothing had happened. Paul kept preaching The Way even though it meant imprisonment. Daniel kept praying even though he was destined for the lion’s den. Nehemiah pressed on building the wall even in the face of much opposition.

So why should I give up?

I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. Psalm 40.1 (NLT)

What if Noah had given up building the ark? What if the Israelites had only circled Jericho six times? What if Paul had let fear keep him from preaching the truth? What if Daniel had given in to peer pressure? What if Nehemiah had turned tail and run back home?

They would’ve missed out! And their faith? Would’ve been small.

Instead they were able to witness the mighty power of God. And their faith? It was SUPERSIZED!

What about you?  Are you tempted to give up or give in? Are you wondering if God is really there? Is He listening to your heart cry? Does He really care about little insignificant you?

Are you tired of waiting?  Tired of being still?

Don’t give up. Don’t Give in. Keep pressing on. Keep praying through.

Cling to His promises.  Let God grow your faith. If you throw in the towel now, you might just miss seeing His great power at work in your life or in the life of someone you love!

He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.
Psalm 40.2-3 (NLT)

Lord, I am weak, feeble minded, poor in spirit. I want to quit. Give up. Walk away. But You call me to trust even when I cannot see. So I refuse to give up. Strengthen my resolve. Give me hope. Grow my faith. I look to You. Don’t let the Devil get even an inch.  You are my God and I praise You. Amen.

- Kristi Huseby

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Waiting is Hard Work

I want to briefly dissect a really radical example of a posture of waiting on the Lord.  This is going to be a little intense, so hang on…

From Daniel chapter 10.

Daniel had a vision concerning future events and began to cry out to God with fasting & mourning, many believe because of the lack of interest by the people of Israel to return to their homeland from their captivity in Babylon to rebuild the temple.  He prayed, and did not hear anything from God as he fasted and cried out….for 3 weeks!  21 days.  Remember that.

After 3 weeks of waiting, the Bible records that on April 23, while still in prayer, Daniel had another
In this vision Daniel saw an awesome man, an angel, and he was terrified, in fact, he says “My strength left me, my face grew deathly pale, and I felt very weak”.  When the man began to speak, Daniel fainted and lay face down on the ground.  Then look what happened…

“Just then a hand touched me and lifted me, still trembling, to my hands and knees. And the man said to me, “Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.” When he said this to me, I stood up, still trembling.”  God wanted Daniel to simply listen.

Then this!

Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia. Now I am here to explain what will happen to your people in the future, for this vision concerns a time yet to come.”

This should blow your mind!  Daniel begins to pray and wait on the Lord with fasting and mourning, he hears nothing for 3 weeks, then an angel sent from God shows up and says that he responded immediately to Daniels prayer the moment he began to humbly ask for understanding, but he was blocked by a demon prince who desperately did not want Daniels prayers answered!

Observe Daniel’s continued posture before the angel sent from God.

“How can someone like me, your servant, talk to you, my lord? My strength is gone, and I can hardly breathe.” Then the one who looked like a man touched me again, and I felt my strength returning. “Don’t be afraid,” he said, “for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!”
As he spoke these words to me, I suddenly felt stronger and said to him, “Please speak to me, my lord, for you have strengthened me.”

Now he’s ready to hear what the Lord has to say!  Are we ready yet?  Tired of waiting?

We do not know what is happening around us in the spiritual realm as we begin to humbly ask God for his direction and our understanding.  The reason we wait, is because we trust God.  He knows what is happening in that realm.  His work is being accomplished in that realm.  The key to our success in becoming spiritually mature lies in the complete and humble reliance upon the Spirit of God within us and among us, working diligently on behalf of “those who are very precious to God”.  Do you want to be one of “those”?  I do.  Desperately.  So much so that even the angels are amazed by the intensity of God’s passion for Doug Bishop.  Wow.  There is a realm of intimacy and power in our humble seeking and waiting together in prayer, that I believe is going to ignite a fervor among us the likes of which we have never experienced in our lifetimes.  There will be resistance.  It’s happening in the spiritual realm as we pray.  Are we willing to watch and pray?  Are you so desperate for God’s Kingdom to be established in the earth that you plead with him for understanding of his plan for you and for the church?

I want to challenge you on this.  Waiting is hard work.  We’re not waiting in a bored, eye-rolling, deep sighing, inactive manner like some new-age yoga class.  If that’s what you’re doing, stop it.  It also doesn’t mean cramming little prayers around your busy life and giving God the crumbs in your overbooked schedule.  Waiting on the Lord means coming into his presence with trembling knees and pleading with him to reveal his plan and purpose to us.  Sometimes that plan is to give us rest and relief.  If so, great!  Savor it!  But it also means recognizing the majesty and awesomeness of Almighty God who has a very specific plan for his church in this broken world.  More specifically, it means that God has a very specific plan and purpose for Ada Bible Church, in broken West Michigan and beyond.  If we’re busy with our own agendas, we’ll miss it. Are you waiting on him?

We serve a “hands-on” God who is looking for you to help you.

“The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”  2 Chronicles 16:19

God, break our hearts for the things that matter to you.  Remove from our desires the things that really don’t.  Help our priorities to line up with yours, and give power to our prayers so that we redeem every moment you have given us.  Allow us, as Daniel, to be counted among those in whom you delight.  Give us a willingness and determination to wait for you. Touch us, strengthen us, encourage us, and pour out your favor and protection on us as we humbly seek you today.  In Jesus name, Amen.

-          Doug Bishop

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


I hate feeling empty.  Do you?  When I’m empty, I feel hopeless, worn out, used up, exhausted and alone.

In Ruth 1:20-21 (NLV) Naomi says, “Don’t call me Naomi. . . Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me.  I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty.” 
We are given only a glimpse of the heartache and sorrow that brought Naomi to the point of such emptiness and despair.  What must it have been like for her to travel home to her native land empty?  Did her heart break a little more with each step she took?  The pain she experienced, as she traveled farther and farther away from the family she buried, must have been excruciating.

When Naomi arrived in Israel, she was exhausted, broken with nothing left to give emotionally, mentally, physically or spiritually.

Have you ever felt like Naomi?

I experienced a time of intense emptiness after the break-up of a close friend.  I didn’t want the friendship to end and I worked with everything I had in me to hold on to the last remaining remnants of our relationship but it slipped through my fingers like sand and I was left with a gnawing emptiness that wouldn’t go away;  a pain in my gut that never seemed to lessen.

I hated feeling empty.  Everything inside me screamed this is wrong.  I wanted to rid myself of the pain as quickly as I would a pair of rancid socks.

But without the emptiness how can we be filled?

Think about it, if we’re already full, how can God fill us?

What if emptiness is a good thing?

What if it is part of God’s plan for you, for me?  What if God is calling us to a place of emptiness as we wait on Him?

When we are empty of our arrogance, our own dreams, and our plans . . . God is able to fill us with His dreams, His plans, and His purpose.

The emptiness I experience drives me to my knees and creates a space for God to fill.  Emptiness brings my heart into a place of complete surrender.

Our faith, as believers, is anchored in emptiness.  The empty tomb is the cornerstone of our faith.  We serve a risen Savior, who died and left the tomb of death, never to return!

We have a lot of things in this world that cause us to become empty – empty bank accounts, wayward children, broken relationships, the death of a loved one, poor decisions, regret . . .

Will you embrace the emptiness . . .  and allow God to fill you with His Spirit?

Lord, I confess that emptiness is not what I want.  I would do just about anything to not feel its pain.  But it’s part of Your plan and so I choose to embrace it.

Empty me of the selfishness inside
Every vain ambition and the poison of my pride
And any foolish thing my heart holds to
Lord empty me, of me, so I can be filled with You  - (Chris Sligh)
Do Your work in me.  Have Your way with me.  Accomplish Your plan through me.  I’m Yours!  Amen.

- Kristi Huseby