A Special Prayer Request

Dear friends,

 

In the two years I’ve had this blog, I have never done this before, but today I am asking for your prayer. With a subject like spiritual warfare being the topic of focus for me, it is no surprise that the year has been wrought with more obstacles than I care to recall. In spite of that, choosing God’s word—the truth—has allowed me to continue to experience a spiritual freedom amid the difficulties.

 

Over the past two months, though, my health has deteriorated significantly, to the point where even doing basic things like grocery shopping is an overwhelming task. It’s been frustrating, to say the least, because I pay careful attention to my diet and physical activity. In fact, despite feeling so ill, I have continued to work out nearly every day and stay disciplined with my diet.

 

I had not been to a doctor in over a year, but after the fatigue, sickness, and chest pains increased, I relented and made the trip to see my primary care physician. While I haven’t been given all the details yet (mainly the “why”), I found out that I have a major Vitamin D deficiency. I had no idea that something so “simple” could cause so many problems! But because I have a heart arrhythmia as well as arthritis, the lack of vitamin D was making those issues worse, causing the constant chest pain (and at the age of 30, feeling like you’re having a heart attack every day is pretty scary) and bone pain/muscle fatigue. Come to find out, a Vitamin D deficiency can exasperate pre-existing conditions, and even cause heart failure (eek!). Anyways, I am now on treatment for the next several months (massive doses of Vitamin D that has its own icky side effects) but the process is long. It could take two months to a year to get back to “normal”.

 

My request is simply this: please pray that God touch my mind with His healing hand, because throughout all of this my concentration and productivity have been completely sapped. As a freelance writer, I only make money when I am writing, and I haven’t been able to write anything for publication in over six weeks. I have barely managed to keep up with this blog, and the material that I need to prepare for my life groups. I know God’s approval of me doesn’t depend on my performance (thank GOD!) but it’s hard not to feel discouraged (I know, I’ve gone back to my Deadly D’s list many times over the past weeks!) because of the lack of progress I’ve made with the projects I’ve been working on. Normally, I don’t like to bring attention to my personal physical issues, but right now I need you and your prayers more than ever. I’ll be a guest on a radio show later this month, and I really need to be mentally alert and attentive to the questions, so I can wisely give an answer for the reason of the hope and new life I’ve been given through Christ.

 

“Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, and persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”~2 Corinthians 12:10

 

Thank you so much for your faithful support of this blog and for being committed to the truth of God’s word.

 

In Christ,

Rebecca Aarup

 

PS-

A special thanks to my friends Cheryl Lutz, Nancy Falcheck, and Melissa Fastrup, who have faithfully lifted me up in prayer and encouraged me through all of this. Your support and friendship is priceless and I am especially grateful that you never passed off my problems as “no big deal” but recognized the difficulty and acknowledged the struggle I’ve faced. Few things are more discouraging than, in the face of your pain, being told “it could always be worse!” None of you have ever treated me that way, and I thank you for that!

 

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So, what is YOUR word?

psalm143“What will you do?”

As I’ve heard sermons, read books, and sat through lectures throughout the year, I’ve heard the voice of the Spirit resounding loud and clear, “So, what will you do about it?” God has strategically batted that ball back to my side of the net over and over—spurning me to embrace an active faith, and it makes me uncomfortable. But then I remember a prayer I uttered, albeit not well-thought through at the time, for God to make me uncomfortable. Really, that prayer should be right at the top of the list of “things you don’t ask God”, right behind praying for patience or a spirit of forgiveness. Well, I’ve learned my lesson—God answers prayers for sure, especially the character building ones.

At the start of 2012 a friend of mine posted a blog about a challenge (read it here: MY One Word), a challenge to ask God about what “word” to focus on for the following year. That sounded neat, so I gave it a go. I cheerfully got on my knees and asked God what my special word for the coming 2012 year would be, I anxiously listened, hoping to hear prosperity, success, purpose, or anything along those lines. Instead, after a few moments of silence, I heard “perseverance”.

“Um, Lord, really? I mean…really?” Some of my friends were getting words like “go” and “action” and I got perseverance? I didn’t like it; I wanted to take back the prayer. What was God thinking, anyways? I had always been somewhat known for starting things and losing interest over time, eventually abandoning the project or idea. But looking back on 2012, I can see how God used the trials of one of the most difficult years I have faced to break my pride, provide me with ultimate spiritual freedom, as well as teaching me self-discipline and yes, perseverance.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to start a new year, because even though it’s just another day on the calendar, somehow turning the page and writing a new number (2013) just feels like a fresh start. I’m looking towards 2013 with great expectation—expectation in God’s revealed will (HIS Word) and not my own clever ideas. I still haven’t prayed about the new word for next year, but I’m not as scared about it as I was last year. Looking back I know that no matter what, God knows what He is doing and I can really, in fact, trust Him in all things, even the hard, painful, and uncomfortable things. That no matter what the situation, His character is constant, even if I’m not feeling like it is.

His character is constant, yes, perhaps the biggest lesson I learned this year. My character? Not so much. Which is why the prayer, “Lord, change me” has been cried out more times than I can accurately recall.

So, mingled in with words like illness, death, betrayal, loneliness, slander, hatred, consequences, loss, depression, despair, relapse, and uncertainty have been the words of truth—healing, restoration, freedom, hope, peace, purpose, fulfillment, grace, mercy, understanding, and love. All of the awfulness has actually taught me how to be an optimist of sorts. An optimist in God, not in myself. An optimist in His character, not in my ability.

I’ve asked, He has answered, and none of His responses were as expected. Through all of this I am learning that maybe, just maybe, He really does know better than I do.

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” Palm 143:10

What theme has God brought to your year? What “lesson” have you learned through trials or blessings? Post your comment here or join the discussion on facebook.

__________________________________________________________

profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is an author and freelance writer. She is also a health columnist for The Christian Online Magazine, a contributing writer for Encourage 365, creater of S.E.R.V.A.N.T. Sisters women’s ministry (online), and has written devotionals/studies/articles for a variety of publications. She just released a new Bible Study The Word: Six Lessons from Psalm 119 which is available as a free download on her website or in print form from Amazon. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Arizona with her husband Chris and 5 year old, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by subscribing to her blog (it’s free) and following her on twitter and facebook.

One Click Prayer-Stop

There is one particularly disturbing trend I’m seeing more and more of. The messages on Facebook that say “click ‘like’ to pray”. I heard somewhere that social networks would be the end of society, and while that may be extreme, there could be some truth to it.

What’s even more disturbing is the number of Christians who click “like” to pray. Is this what our prayers have been reduced to? If we click “like” does that somehow count as a prayer now? As if the temptation to play games for hours on end, read statuses, stories, and cartoons isn’t bad enough, now we can “send up a prayer” by clicking a button?

I wonder if this isn’t part of the reason revival is waning in the hearts of Christians. They’re too busy looking for a button to click.

There is a button, but it can only be activated on our knees. We need to stop finding things to click on and start talking to God. He’s here waiting for us to finish our puzzles and pinterest and spend time with the Him-the only one who can effect change.

You’re tired of tragedy, dissention, arguments, and injustices? There is a simple solution that doesn’t involve clicking buttons but does involve a radical heart transformation (revival):

“If my people will humble themselves and pray, and search for me, and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear them from heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

The Heavens Declare-Or Do They?

Suggested Reading: Psalm 97

“The heavens proclaim His righteousness, and all the peoples see His glory.” Psalm 97:6

“How could anyone deny Your existence, God?” I wondered as I gazed at the morning sky.

He didn’t respond with, “Yeah, I know!” In fact what I heard surprised me.

“You know, it’s a matter of science,” the voice said, “it’s just light streaming through drops of water reflecting a prism of color.”

God was giving me a glimpse of how unbelievers see things. I see Glory; they see science. It made sense in a way it never has before. I’ve always known science explains many things that awe and inspire, but I’ve always attributed that science to God. The conversation I had with God opened my eyes to how deceived people are.

It’s not as simple as I think it should be.

I’m more motivated now to show grace to my unbelieving friends-instead of criticism. Most of all I’m inspired to pray for them and be a stronger witness with my life. They need to see my life transformed, not hear my words of condemnation. Speaking truth in love requires a fine line of discernment, but its possible with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The heavens absolutely declare the glory of God but my unbelieving friends may never see it if I don’t consistenly walk the walk.

Prayer: Jesus, forgive me for not loving in action and truth as you’ve commanded. ( 1 John 3:18) Unite my attitude, actions, and speech harmoniously to declare a greater testimony of your grace than the brightest rainbow in the heavens.

Lessons From the Vacuum Cleaner

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Isaiah 6:5

Jesus and I don’t usually talk when I’m cleaning, but today was different. Monday has been my “cleaning day”, with few exceptions, since we moved to our new home last October.

Today was no different. Lucky for me, my husband had just bought a new vacuum cleaner (Why do you do that to us, husbands?) It had been sitting nicely in the corner for a week and he complained yesterday that I hadn’t used it yet. Today was the day!( Now, our previous vacuum had been out of commission for a few months, and I had spent several weeks on my hands and knees picking up the noticeable pieces of garbage.)

For some reason God decided to make His presence evident in the mundane task of vacuuming. In fact, during my 5 hour clean-fest, He revealed countless spiritual illustrations.

The most striking one revolved around the dirt in my carpet. As I vacuumed room after room, making several trips to the garbage bag dumping the vacuum canister, I was brought back to that day in April. The day my life changed. The day I spent 4 hours repenting.

For 4 years I had been on my hands and knees picking up the big pieces of sin from my spiritual carpet until that day in April where God ran His vacuum cleaner over my soul. I hadn’t been off the deep end running amok in all sorts of depravities. No, I had spent the last few years reading, studying and soaking in every bit of God’s word that I could. I served in my church, and was learning how to serve my husband. I was growing. You would never have thought I needed to spend a day repenting of much. I know I didn’t.

When that new vacuum rolls over the dirty carpet, so much is revealed that was invisible to the naked eye.

Just like my living room carpet, I was unable to pick up the finite pieces of dust with my hands. And so it is for most of us. We walk through our lives with our 15 minute devotions in the morning and ten minutes of prayer at night (twenty minutes if there’s a crisis) picking up the big things leaving the particles behind.

Like he did with Isaiah, God desires to sear our hearts with the hot coals of his presence. The problem is we take Him for granted. We take his truth for granted. We take his holiness for granted. We think we’re so much better than we are. Meanwhile, our spiritual carpet collects bags of filth until one day we have an encounter we’ll never forget. God brings us to our knees, rolling over us with His vacuum, sucking out all the junk. He won’t let His children rest comfortably with dirty hearts.

And then it’s done, right? One painful day of brutal honesty and we’re good.

You’d think after 5 hours of cleaning I’d be satisfied with the state of my home, but as I walked through the rooms admiring my labor, I noticed the base-boards. Oh yes, still more work to be done, and by the time I get around to the base-boards, the piano will need dusting, more laundry will need to be cleaned, and I’ll probably be vacuuming again.

Just like our carpets continue to collect dust and dirt, our spiritual lives do the same. He reveals only what we can handle at the moment. The more he purges, the more we notice new areas that need cleansing.

If Jesus walked into your spiritual house today, would you be embarrassed? Well I’ve got news for you. He’s already there, he is present with you at all times whether you “feel” it or not. Does his holiness astound and confound you? Could you claim to be as holy as the prophet Isaiah? Even as righteous as he was, when in the presence of Almighty God, he couldn’t stand his spiritual state.

Today, the lesson from the vacuum cleaner reminds me to stand amazed at the person of Christ and to seek His cleansing frequently, remembering what I am without Him.

“All our righteous acts are like filthy rags…Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the Potter; we are all the work of your hands.” Isaiah 64:6&8

Enough…..

Yesterday was one of “those” days.  I sank into that darkness and allowed myself to be there. Overwhelmed by my circumstances because I chose to be overwhelmed. Did God make me overwhelmed? Did He design me to worry, and carry my burdens alone? No. I see that, I saw that, yet I turned from that truth and chose to wallow.

“As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.” Psalm 119:143 

This morning as I lay in my bed, awake far earlier than I needed to be, I became acutely aware of God’s presence.  He wouldn’t let me go back to sleep. So I got up, made my coffee, and sat and listened. What, God, what?

“I’m giving you an opportunity.”

Me: “Is that so? I’m not sure ‘opportinity’ is the word I’d use.”

“I’m giving you an opportunity to trust Me, an opportunity others don’t always recognize.”

Me: “Ohhhh, I see. I thought I did trust you?”

“Your behavior gives you away. You don’t believe; you doubt. You say Psalm 119:143 over and over, yet it’s not true. It’s not real to you, it’s what you want, but you don’t have it….yet.”

Me: “I want it to be real! I want to believe it and live it!”

“Remember, it is harder for the wealthy to enter My kingdom, easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle, actually.  You truly learn to trust Me when I am all you have, when I am your only hope, your only comfort, your only companion. When your friend leaves you, when money is gone, when your child is ill, when you are ill, and when you cannot fix any of it yourself, then you learn to trust. I am teaching you how to trust. Will you learn?”

Me: “It hurts, so much.”

“You are not alone. I have never gone anywhere. You choose to walk away from Me when you don’t believe.”

Me: “Teach me, I am ready to learn! Thank you for giving me this opportunity, I don’t want to waste it! I confess my unbelief!”

Nothing changed in my circumstances, but He began to change me.  In class this morning we talked of Truth. How I needed that! We act what we believe! The light bulb deep down flickers as we discuss….

We live our whole lives trying to be what God already made us. Who am I? I am a new creation, with a new heart, a heart that he turned from stone to flesh the moment I became His. That’s who I am; yet I live my life as if I need to attain that. Do this, be better at that…but I’m failing! Of course I am failing, because I am trying to be what he already made me! What I need to do is walk in the truth of what He said I already am. Live the truth of His word. I cannot do this unless I allow Him to grab hold of my heart. I cannot do it by grabbing Him, He has to call me, speak to me, and open my eyes to who I am in Jesus, and what His heart is towards me.

My new friend passes me a paper, “God just spoke to me for you”.

Paper reads:

“Paying bills in the spirit, paying bills in the flesh.

Faith vs Flesh

The battle begins at the first look—Thinking there is more than what I have in front of me.

Humble and grateful for all that I have, lots or little.

Are we thanking Him?

Thank you Lord for paying this bill. Asking Him to guide you to the rest.

What has God placed on my plate?—-What am I doing with what God has given,

protected and nothing

sharing a little

making a difference

giving what I’ve been given.”

My eyes were opening. On the way from class to the worship service I prayed….

Grab my heart, make me to see.

First the music….

He is mighty to save….

Yes, He is, I know that….and then He grabbed me…..

 “These sufferings, this passing tide, under Your wings I will abide, and every enemy shall flee. You are my hope and victory. Praise the Father, praise the Son, praise the Spirit three in One; clothed in power and in grace, the Name above all other names.”

Weeping….I can’t even sing anymore. My friends behind me lay hands on me and pray. My friend next to me holds my hand. They know, they understand my pain and they care. But even if they didn’t, I know He would be enough.  He is enough. He is all I need.  My hope and victory is the Name above all names! I have victory, I don’t need to try to get what I already have! Eyes are open!

Then the sermon…..

“All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.” Acts 4:32-35

Wow! I couldn’t think of anyone in my life that unselfish and sacrificial, including myself! No, in my case I try and try and try to make it work in my own power. What little (and I mean little) I have I feel like I need or else….

I won’t be able to pay my bills

I won’t have my physical needs met

I won’t be able to feed my child

Or will I? No, I only think I am doing those things, when in reality I was never doing those things. It was always God, not me. And I was ungrateful because I thought I needed more! No God, it’s not enough. I need a “best” friend  an ‘ana duo’ like she has, I need health, I need food, I need money for bills…..Or do I? I am trying to get what I already have….Jesus. He is all. I need nothing else.

At that moment, when God changed my vision, I realized I had too much. I wanted to get rid of it. Oh how selfish a creature I am! Attempting to hang tightly on to what…scraps of money that isn’t “enough” to do what I need it to do? How ridiculous! I have the richest Ruler of all living in my heart, directing my steps, is He not fully capable of making provision? How dare I think “it’s not enough”! Oh when those scales fall off it’s marvelous! Freeing! No longer do I need to worry about getting this tumor removed, paying rent, or having a friend who understands me. I don’t need to make it happen, or force anything. God has intentionally placed me where He wants me, and that is where I want to be!

Give now.

Me: “Ok, how much?”

Sacrificially. I will take care of you.

When you hear Him so loudly, how can you not trust?! He was right in front of me. It was easy, all of a sudden, to give it away. It was never mine to begin with. Contentment that is not forced…that is a treasure. No longer am I trying to be content, because I realize IN HIM I have contentment already. No more trying, just resting. I don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t know how He will work it out, I just know that He will. And it has nothing to do with me. I just needed to quit trying so hard to do His job. I needed to pray, “Grab my heart….open my eyes.”

I picked up my sweet girl from Sunday School and found another answered prayer. A teacher she had been having trouble with for months, afraid of and refusing to be around,  well Samantha was in her class and happy! So long I had prayed for that, and somewhat given up on the request. But there it was, a miracle before my eyes! And those who knew the situation knew it was a miracle!

“And you doubt Me.” 

Me: Thank you, Jesus. Thank you….

Home now….Not even yelling spouse or crying child will bring me back to the “self” I had been lost in.  Home is wonderful, the home He provided. It is enough because He was there….

He is here.

That is all I need, I have enough.

He is enough, and no one could make Him be enough except for Him.

Effective

Effective

“I pray with all my heart.” Psalm 119:145 NLT

It’s impossible to talk about the word of God and not mention prayer. The Psalmist says that he will not only obey with all his heart, seek with all his heart, but also pray with all his heart. This, of course, implies that we could pray with less than our whole heart. What would that look like?

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men….But when you pray, go into your room and close the door and pray to your father, who is unseen.” Matthew 6:5-6

Jesus knew there were many people who loved to give lip service and be seen and admired by men. He strongly urged his disciples to avoid this kind of prayer at all costs. While there is nothing wrong with praying in public, we do it every Sunday in churches all over the world, there is something wrong with praying to impress others. It shows a division of heart. The intellect is involved with fancy words and long elegant speeches, but the rest of the heart (acting out the truth with the will, for example) is not on board or backing up the prayer. Jesus also warned us:

“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24

Prayer is a form of worship, just as much as singing songs, Bible study, or tithing. We are told that no gift should be offered when we are not right with our brothers and sisters in Christ. How many times have we persisted in prayer, study, and singing while knowing we were bitter against someone else or they were bitter against us? We are admonished to do all we can to keep peace and unity in order for our offerings to be accepted. We cannot change how people feel about us, but we can make every effort to make things right. 12 step programs often refer to this as “making amends”. While the person we seek to restore fellowship with may not accept our offer, we must make the effort in sincerity of heart in order for God to be honored and our gift to be accepted.  Perhaps when we pray and God is silent, it is because He is waiting for us to act in obedience to his revealed will.

“The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them.” Psalm 34:17

The word righteous in this passage comes from the Hebrew root word meaning “cleanse”, “clear”, or “morally right”. Thus, the believer who is pure in heart or cleansed is the just believer whose prayers are heard. I don’t know about you, but I want my prayers to be heard! This is a powerful motivation for keeping my conscience clean before God, and others. What good does it do to spend an hour in elaborate prayer when my prayers are not being heard?

A few years ago my brother in law was diagnosed with leukemia. There was a sinking feeling that it wasn’t going to turn out well, and deep down in my spirit, I knew the outcome, though I certainly believed that God could bring healing if it was His will to do so. This was a life-changing event for me. I knew God could heal, I knew God had a plan, but I also knew I was called to pray over the situation in earnest. God brought me to James 5:16b over and over again.

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

The word righteous here is translated “holy”, “just”, or “innocent”. I realized that if I wanted God to hear me, I needed to have a clean heart before Him. Realizing that there are so many needs today for health, healing, freedom, truth, enlightenment, and wisdom (among many other things) was also a realization that praying for these things was a useless endeavor if my heart was not right with God. I was wasting my breath. I clearly remember this time of my life because God used it to motivate me to holiness, and being sold out to Him in living my faith.  Many times my prayers begin with confession as I come into the presence of a holy God and am reminded of my own ungodliness.

In order to have an undivided heart in prayer, we need to seek cleansing and purity before God. In order to be an effective prayer warrior, we need to ask God to convict us that we need a change of heart. God is the only One who can reveal to us faults we otherwise cannot see. I have experienced this truth time and again when asking God to cleanse my heart. There have been grievous sins committed on my part that I never even realized were sins until God opened my eyes to it! Once he did, I was horrified at my attitude! But unless I had asked him to search me and show me what needed fixing, I would have ignorantly gone on with an undivided heart probably wondering why my prayer life wasn’t as effective as it could be.

Just to be clear; I am not saying that the only way our prayers will be heard is if we are perfect. I am saying that God is clear in his word of what will hinder our prayers from being effective; willful disobedience, sin in ignorance, or a divided heart. I don’t want to be guilty of any of these things, and I pray you feel the same way! Let us obey, seek, and pray with a whole heart. Let us seek to be right before God in all we do, and keep a clear conscience in order to be the most effective prayer warriors that we can be!

Prayer

As I come into your presence, Lord, I ask that you reveal to me any secret sins I have hidden in my heart. I want to wholeheartedly serve you and I want to pray with a heart that is united to fear you. I want to be an effective prayer warrior; even more so I want to be right and have a clear conscience before you. Search me and cleanse me, give me a heart that understands your holiness and give me displeasure for the things that will divide my heart. Thank you for being merciful and loving to show me where I need cleansing!