Faith and Obedience Must go Hand in Hand

We pray because prayer changes us.

I grew up in a home where we practiced prayer. I can recall visiting my grandparents and reciting this prayer, “Come Lord Jesus, be our Guest. And let this food to us be blessed. Amen.” It was what we did. It was our family ritual. We said grace before our meals and before our bedtime.

However, I believe there is much more to prayer than what is sandwiched between “Dear God” and “Amen.” Over the years I have discovered that prayer is much more than making a list of demands to get what I want. It is much more than a therapy session. It is much more than asking God to perform, and then feeling disappointed when He doesn’t answer. I’ve learned over the years that there is more to prayer.

Prayer is not to get what I want out of God, prayer is to get what God wants inside of me.

Broadly speaking, prayer is “asking God to be glorified in the midst of our needs.” In the midst of our sin. In the midst of our difficult circumstances. In the midst of our good things; the things we are thankful for.

Prayer is opening up our lives to complete, utter dependence on an invisible God, acknowledging who He is and what He has done.

It is not limited to Sundays or a certain day of the week. It is not restricted to a schedule or timeline. It is not exclusive for pastors or elders. It is not limited to a memorized list of words.

Prayer is an act of surrendering our lives to God and being present to do His will. Anywhere. Any time. I’ve heard prayer described as “spoken faith.” It takes faith to pray. Otherwise, we are simply saying words blindly in the dark. We become no different than those who hopefully wish things will go their way. Without faith, we are no different than those who believe in the stars or good luck charms or genies in a bottle. Faith is what makes our prayers different from the prayers of other religions or do-gooders.  According to Mark 11:22, we have faith in God. God is the focal point of prayer. We pray so our will WILL align with God, our Heavenly Father. Faith is an essential ingredient. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” (NLT).

It is faith that propels our prayers.

Our faith grows as we begin to experience God. When we hear God speak, our faith takes root. Romans 10:17 reminds us, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” But it doesn’t stop here…there is more to it than simply hearing the Word of God. There is a required response on our part. We must obey. Obedience is “faith in action.”

Hebrews 11:8 says, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” What did Abraham do by faith? He obeyed. And we too must obey. We pray. We listen. We obey.

Why is prayer so necessary? Because the act of surrendering to God does not come easily or readily. Our flesh fights the will of God. We do not want to admit that we are broken, messy, needy people. There is a war raging inside of us bellowing loudly, “I’m good. I can figure life out on my own. I don’t need God.”

But it is through prayer that God is reproducing His heart in us. It is through prayer that we come to a deeper, richer understanding of who God is. It is through prayer we realize that our dependence is on God and God alone.

We pray because prayer changes us.

Sue Allen

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Start Living For God Today

We should stop pretending to love Jesus while inwardly craving other desires.

If God really is who He says He is and heaven and hell actually exist, would you live any differently? Would any of your priorities get rearranged? Would you start seeing this world from a different lens? Would you tell others about Jesus…instead of hemming and hawing around? I often contemplate such questions as I struggle to pull myself from my comfortable, safe, little world.

We should stop pretending to love Jesus while inwardly craving other desires.

Religion apart from God is dead; it is merely an effort to clean our outer shell. Possibly without realization, we are trying to make ourselves look good and fit in with the crowd. Possibly without personal reckoning, we are hoping to feel good about who we are.

God sees through the superfluous and cuts right through to our heart. He is not concerned about fancy new toys or the Who’s Who List of your city.

God is after you.

During the time of Jesus, there were some superficial believers…their names are the Pharisees and Sadducees. They spent their time combating Jesus and playing games as “Goody Two Shoers.” They thought they had all the right answers, convincingly laying down arguments. Jesus sees right through their camaraderie and points out their issue with pride.

This sect of the Jews seemingly were seeking after God, but in reality were self-seeking. They didn’t see their problem with sin, and likewise, didn’t admit their need for a Savior. They thought they knew God because they could rattle off facts. They were full to the brim with head knowledge. We must be careful not to fall

We must be careful not to fall into the same trap…God wants to transform us completely.

A stern warning is given to those who dilly-dally with God. Those who talk the talk, but don’t come close to walking the walk. Those who say they love God, but their lives don’t come close to showing it. In Isaiah 29:13, God says, “This people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me.”

Church, I think it is time for us to stop pretending.

And church, I think it is time for us to really know God.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

Abraham was “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” Romans 4:21

To live a surrendered life requires obedience.

To live by faith and fixate our eyes on the heavenly realm requires prayer.  To live this way, I must ___________________________ (fill in the blank). Ask yourself, are you willing to pray, “Father, glorify your name” (John 12:28)?

Start afresh today by making your relationship with God your top priority. Place Him at the center of your life. Honor Him in all that you do. Allow Him to mold and shape you. Living for God means putting ourselves in the passenger seat and allowing God full access to our lives.

Sue Allen

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Why Is Confession Important?

Why Is Confession Important?

Elijah was human, just like us. He ate food. He worked. He bathed. He did chores. He had responsibilities, and emotional highs and lows. He sinned. He wasn’t perfect. He was made of skin and bones, having a nature like us. Yet, he was a man who sought after God.

“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” James 5:17-18

The reason James mentions the name of Elijah is not so we can elevate Elijah to some supreme, super hip, ultra status. Elijah is mentioned to remind us that he was human too. And he prayed fervently. And God heard and answered his prayers.

How would you describe you current prayer life? Any chance the word fervent comes to mind?

Mr. Webster defines the word fervent as “having or displaying a passionate intensity.” In other words, it is something that I am serious about. It is something that in my heartest of hearts, I deeply desire.

That is much easier said than done.

I may want to be a girl who prays fervent prayers,

But there is a wrestling match going on in my head.

Even though I want my focus to be on Jesus, there are thoughts racing through my mind. Chores to be done. Errands to run. Kids to be fed and hurried out the door. And anxious thoughts twirling all about. If I’m going to be a girl who is serious about prayer, then I need to be radically changed.

What if we start here…admitting that we need God’s help? Telling God that we are desperate for Him.

In Jesus’ very first sermon, he reminds us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). It is actually a blessing to be dependent on God. When we change our perspective and see God as our source, we suddenly realize the necessity of prayer. When we see that we are nothing without Him, our eyes are opened to our great need.

We all fall short. We all sin. Unbelief comes knocking at our door. At its core, every sin reveals something that we do not wholeheartedly believe about God. And despite our shortcomings, we serve a gracious God with a bold promise. “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16a).

Confess your sins.

Pray for one another.

You will be healed.

We are ordinary people who serve an extraordinary God. May He be the focal point of our prayers. May we see confession as a priority in order to get over our ultra ego…and to realign our focus on God. More often than not, the problem is not that we think too little of ourselves, the problem is that we think too much.

“The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.”
― Timothy J. KellerThe Freedom of Self Forgetfulness

Confession is a necessity because it helps us see our great need for God. Without needs in our lives, we would become self-sufficient, ignoring our need for a Savior. God has provided needs in our lives as entry points into our lives. Go ahead…admit that you need help.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

How has confession been good for you? What sin has it revealed? How has it drawn you closer to God?

Sue Allen

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How to Overcome a Mediocre Prayer Life

How to Overcome a Mediocre Prayer Life

As believers, it is easy for us to fall into the trap of mediocrity. To think of prayer as a spiritual discipline “I have to do.” Prayer can become monotonous, routine, boring, crusty, and old. It can become a chore. And when we find ourselves in this stuck place, we must renew our perspective on prayer.

Prayer is a privilege, not a tedious task or mind-numbing inconvenience. We have the honor of being called into a relationship with God Himself, made available to us by the tremendous sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. We have the joy of getting to know God personally. As we read His Word, we have the opportunity to respond. When He speaks, we can experience Him more.

In its simplest form, prayer is a conversation with God. We must remember that God was the initiator of this conversation. It is God who spoke the world into existence (Gen. 1:3). It is God who chose you before the world began (Eph. 1:4). It is God who gave us His son, Jesus (Jn. 3:16). And it is God who causes us to be born again (1 Peter 1:3).

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to eternal glory in Christ, will himself RESTORE, CONFIRM, STRENGTHEN, AND ESTABLISH YOU.” 1 Peter 5:10

This is a direct and personal promise of God and it is about time for some of us to believe it! We serve a God who bestows unceasing grace upon our lives. He covers our lives with unmerited favor through people and circumstances. He blesses us with daily bread. In good times and bad. In sickness and health. Till death do us part.

God is our Creator, Sustainer, Provider, Rescuer, Eternal Father, Author, and Finisher of our Faith, and much, much more. He is worthy of our praise. He is worthy of honor. It is God who has first called us into relationship, and it is this same God who wants to hear from you. Let that sink in for a minute. Yes…God wants to hear from you!

Prayer starts with the revelation of adoption. Before the foundation of the world, God determined to set you apart and call you His own. Ephesians 1:5 says, “He [God] predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” It is life changing to understand the privilege we have been afforded. We are able to call the One who holds the sun and the moon and the stars and the planets in orbit…we are able to call Him “Daddy.” We are able to crawl up into his lap and just be ourselves.

The veil has been torn. We have access to our heavenly Father.

The benefits of being a child of God are unimaginable. You are a child of God! As part of the family, He has given you access. You no longer are treated like the rest of the world. Instead of being viewed as a sinner, your slate has been wiped clean. Because of the work of Jesus on the cross, you have a secure future and eternal hope. No longer do we need to walk in the ways of this world, but rather we can “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1).

It is amazing grace that has saved us. We once were lost and now we’re found. We’re blind, but now we see. God, who is righteous and holy, desires to have a relationship with wretched sinners like you and me. When we have a proper view of who God is and who we really are—we become overwhelmed by our standing.

He is your Daddy.

You are a child of God.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” 1 John 3:1

In this verse, John commands us to “See” the kind of love the Father has given us. We are being called into a deep, rich, never-ending, unfathomable kind of relationship, and to experience Him for ourselves. Allow God’s amazing grace to resonate within you. Ask God to open your eyes to let you see.

Sue Allen

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How to Overcome Distractions in Your Pursuit of Jesus

How do you make spending time with God a consistent priority?

The phone rings. Recognizing the number, you do not hesitate to pick up and answer the call. Going in, you think it will take a maximum of 2 minutes of your time. But seconds drip into minutes and before you know it, an hour has ticked by.

You have a moment to spare as your kids are playing at the park nearby. You think you’ll quickly check-in and see what is happening on Instagram for merely a drop of time. And then, you find yourself scanning and secretly craving you could have someone else’s life.

The alarm clock buzzes and you wind-up hitting snooze a couple of dozen of times. You are so weary and tired. Another day dawns, and you step out of bed, wishing you could linger a little longer. Nothing goes right as the coffee drips on your brand new outfit. You wonder why life is so hard.

We chase after things. Some really nice things. Like people, and jobs, and cool stuff. We burn ourselves out running to keep up, wondering when will our lives slow down. We cram our calendars full with activities and commitments. Nothing seems easy to give up. When will we realize that our time on earth is short? When will we see what is truly worthwhile?

“As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; or the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.” Psalm 103:15-19

Distractions come bombarding through our door, grabbing for our attention. How do you make spending time with God a consistent priority?

As real life presses in, we may find Jesus being squeezed out. The demands. The pressures. It all seems overwhelming. How can we make time for God when we have other expectations? Many of us try to manage it all, setting aside Sundays for church and religion. But if we want to truly know God, we will have to allow Him to move in, invading our private spaces.

Allowing Jesus to become your top priority isn’t always easy or comfortable. You may think He is taking up too much room, or forcing you to change your habits. The more you know God, you will see…He is jealous for you like no other. He is loyal and faithful and will never abandon you. He will love you more than you can ever love him return.

“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9:23-24

The pursuit of Christ may cost us the things we hold dear, the very things we hold close to our chest. It may cost us friendships and fat wallets and extravagant vacations. There are so many little, phony gods competing for our attention. Every day we will have distractions pop up in our lives, there really is no way of escaping.

Considering God’s command to “Have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3), how can you proactively fight distractions?

We all are looking for this life to matter and have to daily fight the temptation of distraction. We invest our time in our family and friendships and build up our nice and neat reputations. It is a fight to believe in an invisible God who loves you unconditionally. God is intentional in His love towards you.

“For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” 2 Cor. 11:2

God loves you with an unconditional, unfathomable, committed kind of love. A love that is unimaginable. If God is willing to betroth us to His very own Son, don’t you think it is time for us to give Him our all?

We need to be intentional in our spiritual walk. We need to seek Him wholeheartedly. And here is a suggestion for where to begin…to start talking to God more regularly. Take out a few notecards and jot down your prayer requests and praises throughout your week. Set them strategically where they will serve as a reminder to you to pray. If you don’t have notecards, consider writing your requests on your daily calendar or set a reminder on your phone.

Consider placing them here:

Your bedroom mirror

A chalkboard in your kitchen

In your car to jog your memory as you wait in the car line

By the kitchen sink

 

Let’s start 2017 on the right foot. Let’s be faithful by seeking God with all of our heart, soul, and mind. Let’s be women intentional about praying.

Sue Allen

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Why God Should Be Your First Focus

How often do we make excuses, promising God we will spend time with Him another day? We surmise our lives would be holier if we had a more comfortable life, a more spiritual spouse, more intellectual and obedient children, more fashionable clothes, or more time to relax all alone. We decide God can wait. After all, we have more important things to do.

Shopping galore.

Presents to buy.

And some holiday parties to attend.

However, when we reflect back on human history, we see a couple named Adam and Eve who had everything they needed. They lived the perfect life. And in the midst of Eden, which was abundantly good, they sinned and fell apart.

We do not sin because of irritable people or unexpected circumstances. We sin because we are inherently bad. Sin is not a by-product of what we have or do no have. Sin is an overflow of the condition of our heart.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

I have four children, ranging in age from four to nineteen. Crazy, I know. This past summer, our younger lil’ dude thoroughly enjoyed riding his bike around the neighborhood. He seemed ready to take the training wheels off and ride into the wind. From his outer appearance, he looked prepared. He was muscular, athletic, and strong. And so, we gave it a try.

Here has been my observation with all four of my children. We have been unsuccessful in teaching them how to ride a bike until they came to the decision on their own. They had to want it for themselves. They had to give up control and be willing to take a few tumbles. It was a deliberate act of their will saying, “I am ready to ride.” Otherwise, as parents, we epically failed. All of our bribing, prodding, encouraging, and pushing did not work until the moment they chose do to it alone.

In the same way, until we make a conscious and personal decision that we want to follow hard after God, we will be tossed around with the wind. We have to want to listen to the Holy Spirit, giving Him full control. Our culture surrounds us with distractions and makes a mockery out of God. We have to determine in our hearts whom we will serve. It is a daily decision. Moment by moment.

Will we say yes or no?

In Scripture we find a story of a man who was willing to stand all alone. He didn’t rhyme with the crowd or try to harmonize. He willingly beated to God’s drum. He didn’t get caught up in the circumstances surrounding him, nor become overwhelmed by his peers. He kept his eyes intently focused on God, and aligned his heart to the will of God.

When we surrender our hearts, passions, and dreams to our Father God above, it will blow us away what God will do. His plans are so much more than our petty little ideas. He dreams big and orchestrates details. He is worth living for!

“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

The choice remains. It’s up to you. Who today will you serve?

Sue Allen

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How to Experience More of God

What is standing in the way of you and God today? Is there anything you love more than Him?

As I glance down at my bathroom vanity this morning, various perfume bottles catch my eye. Appearing in all different shapes and sizes, each one individually uniquely designed. And although the bottles are quite captivating, the real treasure remains inside. The bottles were created to hold something, much like you and I. In many ways, we ourselves are like Mary’s alabaster jar.

Throughout Scripture, we as believers are often symbolized as clay jars or empty vessels. God Himself has poured His presence, the Holy Spirit, into our lives. We are His dwelling place. However, we often misunderstand God’s intention as we idly let time tick by. We were not created to be a decoration, sitting as a display up on a shelf. His intent was to be poured out, spilling lavishly on those around.

“Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” John 12:3

What does God want from you?

God’s ways are contradictory to our way of thinking. To be filled, you must first be emptied. God can’t fill a pot if it is already full. Unfortunately, we tend to fill up our pots with things that don’t really matter. At least, not for eternity.

Pause for a moment to reflect on your schedule. Will your current activities matter a week from now? A year from now? For eternity? As you consider all the things that are consuming your time and energy, is there anything you need to let go or re-prioritize?

God loves a surrendered life. A heart leaning entirely on Him. After all, if God truly does exist, don’t you think we should let Him determine how we live?

The woman who recognizes she is nothing without God will empty herself of everything she once trusted. The things she once placed her identity on no longer matter. She willingly becomes destitute in spirit, trusting God to do a work on her inside.

“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:25

God patiently gives us space so that we can experience more of Him. Throughout our lifetime, He wants us to know that His love will never run dry. He is always enough. There is always more!

If we never experienced illness, we would never know Jesus as our Healer.

If we never mourned, we would not comprehend the Holy Spirit as our Comforter.

If we never had a need, we would never know Jesus as Jehovah-Jireh, our Provider.

If we always relied on ourselves, He would never become our Savior.

If we never were in a jam, would we see Him as our Rescuer?

If we could always find the way on our own, would we trust Him as our Good Shepherd?

If we had all the answers, would we see Him as the Solid Rock, our strong foundation?

You see, it is only because we are insufficient in our own might that we find our way to Jesus. He is pulling us close, drawing us near, hoping we will see we need Him. He is working in us to write a better story.

Jesus is yet another example of how we are to lay it all down. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords leaves His Heavenly Kingdom. All power lies in His hands. Angels sing out, “Hosanna, Hosanna.” Bowing down and worshiping Him around the clock. He has everything at his fingertips, and yet willingly put it all aside. He made Himself absolutely nothing, taking the very nature of man (Phil. 2:7). He became a humble servant.

If Jesus willingly emptied Himself, how much more should you and I?

Our focus cannot be on the jar itself, for the true treasure remains inside. It is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). And here is a great paradox…the more you let go of “you” to God, the more “you” you do become. You find yourself in laying your life down. You find your greatest treasure is living for Him!

“In a well-furnished kitchen there are not only crystal goblets and silver platters, but waste cans and compost buckets—some containers used to serve fine meals, others to take out the garbage. Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing.” 2 Timothy 2:20-21

Sue Allen

What is standing in the way of you and God today? Is there anything you love more than Him?

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What Does God Really Think About You?

What Does God Really Think About You?

God is so loving, so gracious, so kind, He never allows us to just settle. Mediocrity will never do. The lukewarm will be spewed from His mouth (Revelation 3:16), while the rest will be considered hot or cold (and cold ain’t no good, either). You see, He wants us to see the ugliness of our sin and then see our need for Him. We are helpless without Him. He wants us to yearn and long for more, drinking in more of His grace.

Maybe you’re afraid to go any further with God. You are afraid of what might be exposed. You’re afraid that you might crater because you already feel weak and frail. For that reason, I want you to know, that your identity is secure in Him and Him alone. He loves you more than anything in this world. He already knows you. He knows every hurt, every longing, every dream, every hope…and every sin (even the ones you may not see). He knows the sin that is spewed out in the open, and the sin that is hidden deep in crevices within.

As your Creator, He knit you together in your mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13-16). He knows the exact number of hairs on your head (Luke 12:7) and the day that would be called your birthday (Jeremiah 1:5). He has wonderful plans for you (Ephesians 2:10) and will never ever leave you alone (Hebrews 13:5). You are God’s masterpiece, a beautiful work of art. You’ve been created with purpose, designed to give God praise.

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Revelation 4:11

“Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43:7

God did not create you to sit back and be amused at your follies, but rather the complete opposite. He takes great delight in you, and you have been created to bring Him glory. In Christ, God has set you apart and declared you holy, and now is finishing His work.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

In the creation account, God created a Sabbath day and then declared it holy (Genesis 2:3). This day of rest was to be set apart for God, reminding us of all God has done. Further on, in Leviticus and Exodus, God gives us another example by declaring the tabernacle and each article within as holy. These furnishings were to be used exactly as God directed, and detailed instructions were given as to the precise care and cleaning of each item. Exodus 40:9 says, “Then you shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and shall consecrate it and all its furnishings; and it shall be holy.”

In the same manner, the priests were chosen and set apart (Exodus 40:12-13). But wait, it doesn’t stop there. You too, as a believer, have been chosen by God and declared holy. You are His. Repeatedly in Scripture, we see God declare someone or something as holy, and then we see Him bring it about. The tabernacle items were declared holy, and then cleaned thoroughly. The priests had strict rituals to follow in order to enter the Holy of Holies. The same is true for us today. What God has declared as holy is holy indeed, and now He will continue to work it out.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9 (emphasis added)

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”” 1 Peter 1:14-16 (emphasis added)

We may justify our actions and motives to ease our discomfort, but the Holy Spirit continues to prod. He is not causing discomfort and pain and suffering in our lives without eternal purpose in mind. Instead, He is making you holy one moment at time.

Cleansed.

Pure.

White as fine linen.

Because you are His bride.

This declaration of holiness on your life is not a command; it is a divine promise. You are holy. A work is being done in your life right now. God considers you a work-in-progress. He isn’t finished with you quite yet, so hang on, dear sister, hang on. It will be worth the ride!

Sue Allen 

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Are You All In?

Are you all in for God?

What will it take for us to be all in?

When God’s truth starts sinking in, resonating deep within our soul, we get it. We no longer serve God out of obligation or duty to perform. But rather, we are changed. We respond to God out of love for what He has done for us. And when we are fully, radically, saturated with God, we obey. Not because we have to. But because it is what we long to do.

As believers, God is calling us to be all in. To give our lives in complete surrender. To allow Him full access to the deep, dark recesses of our soul in order to do a transforming, life-altering work. It is through our challenging circumstances and desert experiences that God creates a thirst that only He can satisfy.

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?”

Psalm 42:1-2 (ESV)

God lives in you. He wants to use you to bring glory to His name. Yet, we all wrestle with the plague of an uncommitted heart. We give our attention to a thousand other things before we give our attention to God. Our time. Our energy. Our money. Our love.

Anything but God.

How sad.

Throughout Scripture we read accounts of people who gave their lives in complete surrender. They willingly gave God their all, realizing there may be a cost to pay. However, they didn’t wrestle with the odds. They didn’t hold back. They waded into the deep water regardless of what others would say, and sometimes that meant going it all alone.

In 1 Kings 18:20-41, we see a story of Ezekiel challenging the worshipers of Baal. He asked an imposing question, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”

Startling, really, to think how penetrating this question is for us still to this day. How long will we go limping along? Will we choose God or the things of this world? To be honest, there is no in-between.

As much as we would like to relate to Ezekiel in the story, in reality, we are much more like the worshipers of Baal. We chase after the things of this world. We seek after temporary things. Things like approval of others and looking young and beautiful and stock piling money in the bank. Oh the things we chase which provide only temporary relief.

Elijah challenges the 450 prophets of Baal to place a bull upon the altar. However, rather than setting it to fire, they were asked to call upon the name of their phony god. And for hours they called and called and called. To the dismay of the prophets, nothing happened. There was dead silence on the other end of the phone.

Elijah then builds his altar, placing the bull upon it. Astonishingly, he soaks the sacrifice in water. When the meat is super soggy and overflowing with water, He calls upon the name of the Lord. God answers his prayer and sends down a fire from heaven, fully consuming the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust. Not a lick of the sacrifice remained, nor did any water remain in the trench.

“And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” 1 Kings 18:39

I wonder what it will take for us to believe. What will it take for us to be all in? Being a disciple of Jesus is not always easy. There will be times when you will be left standing alone. And the thought of alienation sends many of us running. We avoid the call of the Lord. We think the cost isn’t worth it. We weigh the odds. And the thought of surrender holds us back. We’re not convinced God is telling the truth. We are afraid to give Him our all. We live life paralyzed.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

The reason this verse seems so extreme, so radical…too far…is because we are not sold out. We have taken a worldly view. We have bought into the ideology that we are not all that bad. After all, when compared to others we are pretty darn good.

It is easy to become robotic in our Christian walk. Go to church. Read our Bibles. Check the box. We can live the life we think we are supposed to by adjusting our outside behavior. However, if we are not applying God’s Word to our heart, we slowly become bored.

God is not after your goodness. God is not after external modification of being a good person. God is after your heart. God wants you all in!

Sue Allen 

Read more from Sue at: sueaallen.com 

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Does God Still Heal Today?

Does God still heal today? | www.liftupyourday.com

Recently, I returned home from a short-term missions trip with members of my church. We traveled to Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Haiti has battled a slew of problems, including political instability, a poor economy, and an extremely young population exacerbated by a high birthrate and lower life expectancies.

Our team traveled to the rural village of Neply, Haiti, and worked with an organization called MyLifeSpeaks. My husband and I have been involved with mission work in Haiti for the past four years (and our youngest son is adopted from there). Since my husband is a physician, his skill set comes in quite handy.

But as for me, I tend to keep away from all of the blood and guts and queasy medical stuff. So while some of the team members worked wearily at the medical clinic, the rest of us kept a safe-distance away and conducted a VBS, worked with the elderly, cared for the orphans, fed the hungry, and spoke truth to the Restaveks (children who are slaves—Yes, sadly, this does exist legally in other parts of the world).

About a month prior to our trip, we were made aware that the public hospitals were shutdown due to lack of funding. To put it in perspective, imagine that the doors to your local trauma center closed down. No emergency room. No care for the poor. So now everyone re-routed to the nearest minute clinic in town. To put it mildly, the medical clinic in the village was seeing record-setting numbers and had a long line out the door.

Prior to departure, our team participated in a 14-day prayer guide, which challenged all of us to pray for God to use us in mighty ways like we’ve never seen before. A week prior to our trip, a friend of mine asked me how many miracles of healing we had seen in the village. Reluctantly, I answered, “None that I am aware.” And then conviction settled in because in all honesty, we had never asked God. Whenever a sick person came through the door, we immediately sent them to the village medical clinic for treatment and care.

But could it be that “You do not have because you do not ask” as instructed in James 4:2?

I confessed my doubts and fears to a couple of close friends and asked them to pray that I would have bold faith during our upcoming trip. Miracles. Really?

I didn’t want to limit my Lord.

Upon arrival, one of the missionaries asked me to pray for a woman with a bleeding disorder. She had been denied surgery due to her severe asthma, restricting her ability to be put under anesthesia. As an American, the news seem far-fetched and not fair. No options available? No way to be healed?

A miracle was her only hope and the prayers of my friends encouraged me to take a step of faith. This particular moment is what we had been praying for. Opportunities to stand up and boldly come before the throne room in prayer.

I knew it wasn’t any coincidence. I knew that God had ordained for our team to be there. And what was incredibly reconfirming is that weeks before our trip, God had laid it on our team to share the story of the woman with a bleeding disorder found in Luke 8 as part of our VBS story time.

Does God still heal today? | www.liftupyourday.com

I felt the Holy Spirit leading.

And yet I was bit scared.

Would God really come through?

Tuesday afternoon a group of us went to pray for this woman and boldly asked God to completely heal her. We asked God to strengthen our faith, because like some of you reading this today, we also struggled with doubt. Unknown to us, others from our team had already prayed for her that morning while serving her and assisting with her laundry. And then the woman was miraculously healed! And not only her, but also an elderly woman with Parkinson’s disease was prayed for by our team members and the severe trembling in her hands completely stopped.

Photo of our team with Fifi, who was miraculously healed.
Photo of our team with Fifi, who was miraculously healed.

 

It would be easy to discount my story as some random coincidence. Or something that God only does for people afar. But what God revealed to me…

Maybe I don’t see miracles today is because I don’t ask Him any more.

One of Satan’s most effective tools is to cause us to doubt that God is still able. But what if we started to stand on God’s promises and truly believe that with God, all things are possible!

Are there areas of your life where you doubt God’s provision? If so, search Scripture and stand on a promise…Yes, Lord, you are faithful.

Sue Allen 

Read more from Sue @sueaallen.com

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