Paul’s last voyage was not a pleasant one. From Caesarea he was being sent to Rome as a prisoner to be tried before Caesar. The storm encountered was causing the ship to break apart as it ran upon the rocks near the beach of Malta.
Before running aground, where the bow stuck and the stem was being broken by the surf, the prisoners could have escaped by throwing out the anchor and letting down the lifeboat. This could have been Paul’s chance to avoid being carried to Rome. But, he knew what was happening was within God’s plans for him.
The following night, after Paul was arrested, “the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.” Acts 23:11
Then, during the storm, Paul stood to encourage all who are in the ship, “Take heart for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, Do not be afraid Paul, your must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you. So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on some island.” Acts 27:22-26
Paul trusted God’s plan for him; he trusted His Word, and he was obedient to the will of God. His was the example of the obedience of faith he preached in the gospel to the Roman Christians.
God’s plans for us may be that we go through the storms and waves of this world. The relationship we are in may break up, and seemingly all hope is lost, but in faith, we must stay in the ship. Our relationship with God may encounter upheavals; our fellowship with other believers may run aground, but we are called to obedience to stay in the ship and endure through the entire course, even if that means that we are heading toward the end of this life.
Paul survived his last voyage with other prisoners and soldiers. Undoubtedly, they were non-believers, not knowing the promises or power of God to save His people. Paul is the example for us, even in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation to shine as lights in the darkness.
Cutting Away the Lifeboat
“Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it go.” Acts 27:32
God is able: and He promises in His Word never to leave us nor forsake us. At times He may have to cut away the ropes of anything that might help us to abandon ship.
His church is that great ship that is often run aground, but He has not forsaken her. Many leave the ship, and often have a difficult time finding it again.
Marriage and family units are vessels that have to bear the storms. Many find these relationships on the rocks, but when we rely on God’s promises, His presence and power as Paul did, we experience His working through the upheavals. He can restore these ships, sometimes to better relationships than they were before.
We may be the only one with faith, courage, and perseverance to stay with the ship, knowing the God to whom we belong and worship. We may be the only light that God chooses to save a whole family from darkness and disaster.
We accept this reality with humility, not pride. It can be a heavy burden for us, but in time it will produce the joy that He intends for us. Wherever we are is where God places us; to testify of Him.
A most unusual discovery in our study of the words “Ask, Seek, and Knock” is that Jesus expresses only one thing for each of these.
In Luke 11:13, He says to “ASK for the Holy Spirit.”
In Matthew 6:33 He commands us to “SEEK the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”
In Luke 13:25 He mentions those who wait too late to “KNOCK at the door.”
We must be born of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8) in order to see, to seek His Kingdom, to knock and to enter His kingdom.
We find in the following verses the diligent seeking and the urgent knocking.
In Luke 11:6-10 is the widow’s persistent asking, seeking, and knocking until the master of the house opens the door to her request.
“Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:” Luke 13:25-26
The strait gate leads to the master’s house. But when He has shut the door, man’s knocking and crying, Lord, Lord, will be to no avail.
We who are born of His Spirit will continue to ask Him to lead us. We walk and live by His Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25) and continue to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Unless we knock at the door of His heart in His timing, He will not know us, and the doors of heaven will be shut.
“And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came;
and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage:
and the door was shut.”
When Jesus Knocks
The Book of Revelation records Jesus’ words in the letter to the church at Laodicea.
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20
Knocking indicates a separation (a door that must be opened from the other side) between the person knocking and the person on the other side. There is a need and the only fulfillment of that need rests in the promise of someone who can provide that need.
Does the door swing both ways? Had Jesus knocked at the door of the heart of those who were left out?
“Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) Hebrews 3:7-12
By His Holy Spirit and His Word, Jesus knocks at the door of our sin and unbelief. He calls us to put away our sin ~ to repent and believe ~ to allow Him to lead us out of the bondage of self and sin.
The Doors of Wisdom
“Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.” Proverbs 8:34
The Doors of Heaven
They are “the doors of heaven” Psalm 78:23,
In Revelation 4:1, “a door was opened in heaven” to John where he saw and recorded what would come to pass.
Jesus is the Door to the Kingdom of Heaven
“Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you,
I am the door of the sheep.”
I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved,
and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
A Door of Hope
“And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt.” Hosea 2:15
The Door of Faith
“And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.” Acts 14:27
In this brief study of Jesus’ words, we learn that asking, seeking, and knocking are descriptive of the work of prayer by His people, for His kingdom. His Holy Spirit brings us to repentance and faith in Him so that as we continue to ask for His Spirit, we are led to seek His kingdom and His righteousness and to knock at the door of His heart for all He has promised.
We understand that this practice is not just for us individually, for our own needs, but in unity with His people ~ the body of Christ ~ for the needs of others. Intercession involves a greater degree of fervency, diligence, and urgency as we pray continually at His throne of grace.
The prayer life of a Christian is a daily dwelling in His presence. He dines and sups with us continually as He opens His Word and His promises to us and proves His presence and His power in our lives.
In Christ, we dwell in the throne room, in unity with His Spirit ~ knowing His power to accomplish all He desires for our good and His glory.
“And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together
in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:”
We ask what we will because we ask in faith according to His will, seeking His glory in all things, continually knocking at the door of His heart as He intercedes and presents our petitions to our Father.
“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,
neither have entered into the heart of man,
the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
1 Corinthians 2;9
We are continually filled with his grace, nestled in His goodness, and wrapped in His glory. In Christ and Christ in us, we are kept by His power now and forever.
Dear Father, we cannot thank you enough for all you have prepared for us and given by your grace. We are unworthy stewards of your blessings but you have entrusted us with the knowledge of your Word and your will so that we know what to ask, what to seek and where to knock. Continue to draw us to Christ by the power of your Spirit, to dwell in Him and receive your heavenly blessings as well as all our earthly needs. We praise and bless you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
and I will cause the shower to come down in his season;
there shall be showers of blessing.
I will not make this a long post ~ only to bring awareness again of the need for prayer and supplication.
I don’t know what the weather is like in other parts of the world, but we are in a drought here in Georgia, with record highs in the 90s even in October.
In our last post, I presented the remedy for spiritual paralysis. We can apply the same solution for a spiritual drought. We must pray fervently for mercy from God, our Father, and Creator ~ to send His Holy Spirit in power. We need the outpouring of His Spirit to bring awareness of our need.
We need Him not only for physical rain on this earth and relief from the heat. We pray for Him to bless hearts with His presence and fullness.
We need His power to draw His people to His Word. We need a hunger for His Word. We need a thirst for His Spirit to apply the Word to our hearts and lives.
The Welsh Revival
I am always moved when I remember the Welsh Revival of 1904-05. I cannot recall if it was from the book about this revival or a different awakening ~ but the thing that moved my heart and prayers was a scene resulting from the moving of the Spirit.
Crowds were so large that the meetings were held outside. When a downpour came, no one left. They tried to protect their Bibles from the rain, but they would not move from hearing God’s Word.
I would have loved to have been there. Even today, the Word of God is so precious I could listen to it preached all day, every day. I pray this for God’s people.
Showers of blessing begin with a love for Him, for Christ, His Word, and His Spirit.
and the earth shall yield her increase,
and they shall be safe in their land,
and shall know that I am the Lord,..”
We were beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel……
It was mid-2006. Mother had continued to decline in the four years she lived with us. Her physical condition was adding its toll to her dementia. We had done all we could since my dad died of cancer several years before. While caring for her, we kept two of our granddaughters two days a week ~ a joy and a respite for us and Mother.
But, something had to give.
Her month in a nursing home before she died did not make life any easier. Even so, we hoped this would end our adventures with adversity. No so. Five weeks through the settling of her small estate, Jerry had emergency by-pass surgery on his left leg.
A month later, his leg had to be amputated. After three years of not healing, he had a third surgery to remove the graft inserted for the by-pass. The stump finally healed seven months later and for a short while he used a prosthesis with a walker. But it is still painful.
For the last two years, he has not driven a car, walked, or worn a shoe because of issues with wounds that would not heal. His heart disease and diabetes are not our best friends.
Why am I rehashing these affairs? One reason is to witness of the fulness of God’s grace during trials in this life and to compare the lives of God’s children to the children of Israel as He delivers us from our bondage to self and sin and brings us through this wilderness to His promised land for us.
A Worse Scenario
God’s people had been in bondage four hundred years when the Lord sent Moses and Aaron to Egypt. Their case before Pharoah to deliver Israel only made their condition worse. Not only were they still required to make bricks, but they had to find their own straw. They could not understand how the Lord was working for their freedom.
“Then, as they came out from Pharaoh, they met Moses and Aaron who stood there to meet them. And they said to them, “Let the Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us abhorrent in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.” Exodus 5:20-21
Like the people of Israel, we cannot see how the Lord is working on our behalf until we get past a breaking point. Adversity is His means of proving His presence and power in the lives of His children, enabling us to live in the assurance He gives and to praise Him every day.
“My brethren, count it all joy
when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this,
that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
But let patience have her perfect work,
that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
More and more, we are learning what Paul meant when he said, “I have learned to be content.” Jesus becomes more precious with each trial, endears us to Him and excites our hope for eternal life with Him.
It is in the “something has to give” times that He fills us with His grace and shows His mercy ~ growing us in the process to understand the truth and reality of His promises. Christ in you ~ the hope of glory is experienced in every turn of this life, bringing us closer and closer to Him, His glory and His joy.
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time
are not worthy to be compared with the glory
which shall be revealed in us.”
Dear Father, as we are still learning what it means to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, we pray your Holy Spirit to prove us to be yours. Fill us with your grace and make us know your goodness and mercy that follows us all the days of our lives; that we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Suggested Reading: TWO FULL PLATES ~ Learning to be a Caregiver
“And we know that all things work together
for good to them that love God,
to them who are the called
according to his purpose.”
The answer to years of prayer for our oldest grandchild, Ansley, was witnessed two days ago.
She grew up in a Christian home, attending church with her family, (the oldest of four sisters). In sixth grade she made a profession of faith, but was not baptized. Through high school she strayed from God and her roots of faith. She and Dustin married and, after their first daughter Samantha was born, she wanted the same Christian home for her daughter and step-son that she remembered as a child. But, it wasn’t until a crisis at the age of 25 that she was led to repentance, renewal of faith and baptism.
“In January, our daughter Emery was born in an emergency C-section due to complications in the eighth month; she passed away in February after four weeks of fervent prayer. It was during this time that God proved the promises of His presence with us. Without faith in Him, I don’t know how anyone can survive the loss of a child, but I have complete peace knowing she is, without a doubt, in heaven with Him. While Emery was in the NICU, I put my complete trust in God, and I knew I couldn’t wait any longer to make my faith public through baptism.”
And so, we continue to see the Lord working His goodness in our family. Of our six grandchildren, Ansley is the last one to be baptized. We still wait and watch how He is working in each one. But we must remember not only Romans 8:28 ~ that God works everything together for our good ~ but the reason for all things that happen in our lives, which we find in the verse that follows and explains His goodness.
“For whom he did foreknow, (those who are called according to His purpose) he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:29
As disciples of Christ, we follow in His footsteps, taking up our individual crosses daily (Luke 9:23) accepting the trials in our lives as our Father’s means of making us like His Son and so preparing us for eternity with Him (Romans 8:18). Ansley’s is a gracious testimony of God’s Word and His Spirit, working through times of crisis to bring us to Him, to teach us and prove His promises, whereby we grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and are being conformed to His image.
Our gracious heavenly Father, how can we thank you? There are no words, no expressions of our faith, that can match your overwhelming love, by which you bring us to you, to love you, to worship, trust and obey you. All is the power of your Word and the work of your Spirit in our hearts and lives. You are the God who hears the prayers that you put in our hearts, and who answers them to your own glory and our joy. We praise you, we adore you, we love you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Being awake at 2:30 this morning is a good time for me to write about the subject of sleeplessness. I was in bed since 10:00 P.M. so I have slept. After 78 years, I am experienced and have learned to live with the occasional nights when it is difficult to fall asleep; or when I wake up early in the morning.
How we handle each of these episodes depends on how we view this state in our lives. At times, when younger, there were many different things going on that kept me awake; and I would worry, not only about the things, but about the sleeplessness.
First, I believe that it is a result of the condition of our world, which is enough to keep everybody awake. Maybe we should all stay awake and pray for God to “rend the heavens, and come down; as the melting fire burneth; and make His name known among the adversaries” (Isaiah 66:1).
Our culture should not, however, keep us, as God’s children, awake and anxious.
Sleeplessness should not be the norm for the Christian. Going through bouts of insomnia has been a learning and growing experience for me. God’s word and Spirit have become more powerful in and through me during these times. They have strengthened me to survive and thrive even when I have not had a good night’s sleep. Many mornings I had to accompany with piano for a worship service after only a little sleep. Colossians 1:9-14 became real as I meditated on Paul’s prayer for those of the early church. He prayed that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Verse 10 in bold print was the word I needed for the day. Sleep may have sufficed for me to serve, but sleeplessness was a means of grace to lay hold of God’s power. I have experienced more strength from Him when I needed it, than from a regular night’s sleep.
I can speak here from a time when I was younger, plagued with insomnia; before my conversion. My whole life was planned around my own desires. Things were not working in my life as I had hoped. There was no peace in my heart; sleeplessness was simply my nighttime restlessness. The days were not much better than the nights.
The Whole Picture
In this short treatise I will attempt, by God’s grace, to address causes and solutions to this problem. Not being a professional counselor or physician I speak only as I have learned.
How we sleep depends on how we live. How we live does not depend on how we sleep. Many excuses come from our not getting enough sleep. Enough is not the same for every person. Some do not require as much sleep as others.
We should not be envious of those who can sleep anytime, anywhere, at the drop of a hat. They are blessed in some ways that we are not. But, we may, in our being awake, be blessed in other ways. Christ may return while we are awake. Those who are sleeping may miss His first call.
So, at this point, let me encourage you, the reader, to look at your state of sleeplessness as God’s means of doing something in your life that you would not experience, otherwise. God has a purpose for your insomnia, as for all things. For the Christian, “everything works together for good, for those who love Him. For those whom He foreknew He predestined to be conformed to the image of His dear Son” (Romans 8:28-29). God speaks to every dilemma in our lives. It is all part of His working for our good and for His glory.
Awakeness and Awareness
Remembering that there is purpose in our being awake or sleeping, let’s look at some possible reasons for our not being able to sleep when we want to. My list over the years have included occasional indigestion or illness, busy schedule, uncertainty, difficulty in relationships, finances, new plans, grief, overstimulation, unforgiveness, anger, jealousy, or other unconfessed sins. Any of these, and others that you may know, easily displace the peace that God gives us as His children, in Christ.
Our awakeness may be the time for awareness of what we need to address in our daily living. God speaks in all ages and stages. We should ask for His wisdom; for what He wants us to know at every stage. If we are not sleeping, we ask Him to make us aware of what we need. If we cannot change what needs to be changed we pray that He bring the changes; or enable us to accept what cannot be changed.
We can break down my list and look at everything separately; but we will soon come to the same conclusion. In everything God has His plans for us. Awareness of what is keeping us awake is the first step that brings us to the Lord. Presenting these of which we are aware to Him, wrestling in prayer, we will soon be tired and resting in Him. Peace comes when all is given to Him.
Awareness of His Presence
It may be that these times are God’s planning for you to experience His presence. In the stillness and quietness of the night there is a solitude with which most people are not acquainted. It is this sanctuary that God uses when we are not otherwise silent before Him. God can sometimes meet us here, when we are nor available during the day. It may be to teach us not only to rely on Him for all things, His plans, His will, His way, but to establish a relationship that carries through the day and night.
Many nights I wake and wait for His presence; to know what special blessings He wants to give; for songs in the night come, especially when I am at peace with Him.
I have learned that all that I am is His, my waking and my sleeping. He never sleeps so we can have that sweet fellowship anytime. When I stopped fighting the sleeplessness, stopped counting sheep, and starting looking for Him to speak to me I no longer was concerned about sleeping.
As I have gotten older I realize that patterns make a difference in our days and nights. Even if we are at peace, trusting God in all things, in obedience of faith in all that we know; how we plan for sleep helps. I do not sleep well when my evening has been hectic. Overstimulation of any kind, talking on the phone for an extended time, caught up in a project, or anything unusual, will keep me from sleeping. Reading God’s promises, prayer before bedtime and the review of a hymn or Psalm that we will sing next Lord’s Day is part of worship before bedtime.
Overeating at dinner or going to bed on an empty stomach are not good habits for me. What I eat makes a difference. By this age I know what my body will tolerate. I know my limitations of food and drink.
A dark room seems to be best. Light tends to wakefulness. It is similar to prayer, in that we are shutting out the world and any artificial light. Jerry has always gone to bed earlier, and I get to bed as early as possible. Establishing a regular schedule makes it is easier to get up early, even if I don’t get a good night’s sleep. Even now, I may lie back down and have a nap before the dawn of this new day, Lord willing. Either way, my day is dependent on His strength, power and glorious might ~ His Spirit in me ~ “Christ in me, the hope of glory.” When we truly understand and experience this truth, sleep does not matter ~ only Christ.
Precious heavenly Father, Creator, Redeemer and sustainer of all living things, so make Christ real in our hearts and lives that we rejoice in Him, even in our sleeplessness. In every waking moment, make us to know your presence, use all our time to fill us with your grace. Wrap us in the glory of the one who lived for us, died for us, was raised for us, and now reigns for us, continuing to teach us. Help us to remember this life as preparation for eternity with you. Fill us with your Holy Spirit of love, joy and peace, for your glory and our joy. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.