The Effects of Earnest Prayer

My husband started off last night’s sermon in the first chapter of Titus. That particular passage held no special meaning for me but the page in my Bible was the beginning of a whole new life.

You see, several years ago I was in a mess. Not the drug-fueled haze of my youth or the anxiety of a drawn-out custody battle but rather the turmoil of what’s known as the Snowball Effect.

We’ve all experienced this at some point in our lives. One thing happens, then another, then another…and suddenly, you’re trapped in an avalanche that you never saw coming.

Mine started when the kids left home. When you have kids close together in age, the time between the first one leaving home and the last one leaving home passes by in one big blur. And when you have said kids at such a young age, the adjustment from kid to mom to empty nest feels like your entire identity has been erased. Suffice it to say, I had the empty-nest blues.

Then came a move that I wasn’t ready for. It had taken me four years to adjust to leaving my hometown and it was time to move again. My new teaching job was already difficult when I got news that I needed a major surgery.

Before I knew it, I was in a very dark place. Misery may love company but company doesn’t love misery. Family and friends backed away as the black cloud of gloom surrounded me, making me feel even more depressed. (It’s easy to see when you are out of that fog, but it’s hard to understand why you feel abandoned when you are in it.)

While recovering from the surgery, I made the decision to leave teaching and took a job as a full-time children’s librarian. That job brought me such joy and being out of a failing school district relieved a great deal of stress.

But like anything, it was two steps forward and three steps back. I was still a victim of my own making, creating chaos where there should’ve been none and still biting back daily tears of regret as I rued the time I’d wasted when my kids were younger.

I was so blinded by this grief that I forgot from where my joy came.

I’d like to tell you that one day I woke up, started praising the Lord, and life became perfect.

But it didn’t happen like that.

What did happen was that I was dusting my bedroom one day and I picked my Bible up off my nightstand. All of a sudden, it occurred to me that the only time I’d even touched my Bible in months was when I dusted. Sure, I talked about God but I wasn’t talking TO Him. Task-oriented, all I wanted to do was finish my cleaning so I could watch television. But I had enough conviction that I flipped open the Bible, where it landed on Titus, and wrote, “Lord, help me. The only time I pick my Bible up is when I dust.”

I didn’t write any more; I didn’t follow up with a prayer. I didn’t join a Bible study or start reading scriptures. That’s all I said. That was all I HAD right then.

But it was enough.

That short, sincere prayer started the wheels of Heaven moving.

I’m not even sure I attributed what happened next to my little prayer. All I knew was that I started seeing light where there once was darkness. My body got stronger and my mind got clearer. I started praying again. Within six months, my husband was offered another church and I was asked to be a full-time outreach minister. This time, I was ready to go wherever He wanted me to go.

My life changed to one of service, joy, and peace. Being a full-time minister, especially in today’s times, is one of the most rewarding jobs I could have. I have the pleasure of serving side-by-side with my husband and I have been able to pursue my long-held passion for writing. I love our laid-back country life with our front porch rocking chairs and our loyal dogs, and in just a few months, Grandbaby #11 will make his appearance.

I’m not sure what trajectory my life would’ve taken without that prayer, but thankfully, I don’t have to find out.

Sometimes a simple, earnest prayer is all it takes…

How to Be a Good Minister of Christ….

Do you ever wish that you could minister to others the way your pastor does? Or your neighbor? Or your best friend?

2 Corinthians 3:6 tells us that we are ALL able ministers. Here is a quick little guide to help you become the light that leads others.

First, and most important, Jesus tells us is LOVE. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. John 13:34

You can’t pick and choose who you love, who you give grace to….you must love the neighbor who brought you the casserole when you got into a car accident as much as the drunk driver who hit you.

1 Timothy gives us even more direction as ministers of Christ. Let’s break down Chapter 4, verses 1-6:

1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

It is sad to me to have personally seen two men of God who were instrumental in my early walk with Christ to turn their backs and God and profess Buddhism or atheism now. I don’t know what happened in their lives, but I can only pray that they see the error of their ways and come back to Christ.

What infuriates me, though, is seeing “evangelists” preach the gospel and then tell viewers they can have the same blessings if they are obedient to God and send money right away. I’m not talking about 9.99 for a book or video. I get publishing costs. I’m talking about the ones who tell you not to worry about going in debt by sending $100 or $1000 because God will wipe your credit card debt away because you were faithful. SCAM ALERT! Salvation is free. God’s blessings are free!

Minister to those freely. Give freely. Don’t be swayed by those who don’t speak the truth and don’t speak anything but truth when you talk.

Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

“Do as I say and not as I do.” Yeah, right. What kid ever obeyed that? It is the same with us as ministers. We can’t act one way in church and another outside of church and expect anyone to see Christ in us.

I did business with a man for five years. He asked how the church was, asked us to put people on our prayer list, talked about God every time we placed an order. When the quarantine came and we were unable to order anything from him, his language changed considerably. The sarcasm and profanity-laden conversation completely changed my view of him. I’d always felt like I was talking to a fellow Christian. One conversation and his torch was snuffed. Now, the truth is, I don’t know if this guy was just really struggling as so many of us did during the shutdown or if the quarantine conditions caused his true colors to come out. But it didn’t matter. We found a new distributor because of it. The same will happen with you. You cannot minister to others and pop off with a bad attitude one day and expect people not to notice.

Do you have to be perfect? No. But you do have to remember there are consequences when you do not guard your words and actions around others.

3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

Let’s be frank here. We are bigger than ever. The additives, the preservatives, the supersized meals…there are more fat people in America than ever. I struggle with my weight too and it’s frustrating. It’s obvious that a plant-based diet is good for the body. There’s no doubt that an Old Testament diet is good for you as well. But this is NOT a point of salvation. God gave us meat to eat. It’s not wrong to eat it; it’s not wrong to abstain from it. It’s only wrong when you make it biblical issue. Basically, you can dine with The Beverly Hillbillies’ Granny as long as you receive your roadkill with thanksgiving in your heart.

(To address the forbidding to marry part: Timothy is referring to priests who said it is better to remain alone and devoted to God than to marry. His response is that it is not biblical to forbid marriage in the priesthood.)

If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.

There you have it! In a nutshell, to be a good minister of Jesus Christ, you should speak the truth, let your light shine before men (even when darkness is rumbling in your mind), and don’t get caught up in religious rules that don’t affect salvation.

Oops I Did It Again…. (Lord, forgive me)

When I first joined my husband in full-time ministry, I was certain I was heeding a call. And with that certainty came a faith that made no obstacles seem insurmountable.

Of course, that kind of faith is a little easier when there are no actual obstacles.

After the first couple of months, doubts set in. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I need to go back to teaching. (Fill in the blank there, you always want to go back to the familiar.)

I called a good friend in ministry and questioned my next steps. Do I go back to teaching? Do I keep waiting? Our savings is almost wiped out. I was the widow woman with enough left for just one meal.

Do you believe that you are doing what God called you to do? she asked. Absolutely, I replied. I’d never been more certain of anything in my life. But I also knew He could perform miracles and I guess I expected a money tree to sprout up next to the crepe myrtle.

Her reply changed my soul. I can’t tell you what to do but I can tell you two things: Where God leads, He feeds. And where He guides, He provides.

I tucked those promises away deep in my heart and watched amazed as He did just that. We would balance the checkbook with $3 left and a $500 check would arrive unexpectedly. We would eat the last of the sandwich meat and someone would bring a truckload of groceries. They were lean times but there was a lesson. He wanted me to learn to LEAN on Him.

Eventually, He provided in a way that allowed for us to bless others. But every now and then, I start seeing things with carnal eyes instead of remembering my eyes of faith. Like in the midst of a pandemic when everyone’s income, including our own, dropped. Churches aren’t receiving stimulus checks…they aren’t filing for loans. They are just having to trust God. I sometimes forget that part when I’m looking at the bottom line.

The problem there is, JESUS is the bottom line! He knew our needs. And once again, just as we needed it, He provided.

WHY do I ever doubt?

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19