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Horizon Prayer Guide

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Photograph taken by Ed Kight

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world,  but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:1-2

This guide is to help you focus your day and your prayers around the Lord and the needs of Horizon Church. It is divided into three sections so it can be used during the three meals that you are fasting. However, this is just a guide, so feel free to go at your own pace during your day. I suggest you skim through the guide the night before or in the morning to see how you want the day to go. Keep in mind if you’ll be with the littles all day, at work or school, or on your own.  Think through what your day will look like and how you can be present with the Lord. Be intentional about your time.

If you’re like most people, you will feel hungry all day and your body will clamor for attention. Don’t try to ignore it; it’s impossible. Listen to your body and its needs. Thank the Lord for this amazing creation and how it works. Use the rumblings as a reminder to pray throughout the day and then give the hunger pangs to the Lord, asking Him to sustain you.

HOW TO BEGIN

journal

Journal

This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you.”

Jeremiah 30:2

You may want to have a notebook, laptop or journal with you to write down your prayers, scriptures that the Lord brings to mind, promises, insights, etc. Even if you’re praying as you go today, you can write down what comes to mind. God can speak in the car, a cubicle, a shower, or a grocery aisle.

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Photograph taken by Natalie Romano

Space

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:1-3

Think about where you will be during the day and where you want to pray. God can create green pastures in the midst of chaos. Ask Him where He wants to lead you. Maybe get outside, take a walk, or sit on a park bench. Maybe find a prayer space in your cubicle, the bathroom, your car, the middle of Starbucks, or the shower.  The beautiful thing about prayer is that it can happen anywhere at any time.

 

 

worship

Music

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;  where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.

Psalm 65:8

Some of us find music is a gateway into the presence of the Lord.  Others prefer to start with quiet or a combination of both.  If you prefer music, here are some suggested songs that can be used this morning or at any point during the day.

Rescue Lauren Daigle

You Know Me Amanda Cook

Your Love is Strong Cory Asbury

I Shall Not Want Audrey Assad

Be Still Hillsong Worship

As you listen to the music, ask the Lord to teach you how to pray, to speak to you today as you pray, to feel His presence flowing through you, and to give you insight as you bring Horizon’s requests before Him.

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Photograph taken by Anna Arpasi

Quiet

Be still and know that I am God.

Psalm 46:10

Begin by quieting yourself before the Lord. Breathe slowly and intentionally. Remember that the word for Spirit is pneuma or breath, so the Holy Spirit is as close and intimate as our breath. Breathe Him in as you sit in His presence.

Suggested prayers to repeat as you breathe are the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” or “Come Holy Spirit.”

As distractions and thoughts come, acknowledge them without judgement and then let them go.

Repentance

From that time on Jesus began to preach,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Matthew 4:17

Ask the Lord to show you where you need to repent, not just where you need to ask forgiveness for sin but where you need to realign your thinking with Jesus and the kingdom of heaven. Ask him where you need to recalibrate, reset, or reorient your mind, spirit, body, and soul around Him.

Prayer

 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

When you feel ready, begin to present before the Lord any personal requests or praises that have bubbled up as you were quiet. Lift them all up to Him, surrendering them all to Him. Take time to listen to His response. It may come as a physical feeling of peace or love, there may be words that He gives you, or it may be a quiet confidence in His faithfulness.

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Photograph taken by Steve McDonald

MORNING

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Please pray about the following requests for our community at Horizon.

Horizon Prayer Requests

Link Groups: Pray that our link groups are welcoming, safe, and loving communities for any who visit or attend. Pray that we grow together in depth of the knowledge of the love of Christ for ourselves, each other, our community, and spheres of influence. Pray that we love each other well. Pray that we always look for ways to serve and share the love of Christ, not just with ourselves, but also with our neighbors, co-workers, friends, family, and city.

Loch Raven Village Link Group led by Dan & Ashley Francis, Matt & Kristina  Kok, Tim & Katie White

Towson Central Link Group led by Ryan & Kira Casey & Angela Stanford

Parkville West Link Group led by  Lauren Raymond & Tyler and Alyssa Bello

Timonium North Link Group led by Mark & Missy Stephenson, Steve & Beth McDonald

Katie Laughlin: Katie Laughlin has made great strides since her brain injury more than two years ago. As she begins to communicate more by writing and with her eye gaze device, we have a more clear picture of her inner struggles. Please pray first and foremost that Katie would be ministered to and encouraged by the Holy Sprit. We pray that she would be free from fear and anxiety. We pray for more communication in all areas, writing, voice, and eye gaze.  While her communication has increased, her physical improvements have plateaued. We pray for significant breakthroughs in both physical therapy and occupational therapy. We continue to pray for her husband, Nevin, kids, Ephram and Vera, and extended family. They never dreamed this road would be so long and painful.

Healing: Pray for the people in your life (your family, your work, your link group, friends at Horizon) who need a dramatic breakthrough in physical healing. Step out in faith and pray something risky, something big, something only God could accomplish. Now think through those in your life who need a breakthrough in emotional healing and pray for them in the same way.

“…for I am the Lord, who heals you.”

Exodus 15:26

 

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Photograph taken by Emily Kulp

MIDDAY

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

Psalm 25:5

Check in with yourself. How has your morning gone? Sometimes when we take away food, other issues bubble up like anger, sadness, loneliness. As you come before the Lord, quiet your soul. How does He want to speak into you and those emotions?  Write down any thoughts that come to mind.

As you go into prayer, you may want to repeat what you did this morning (journaling, listening to music, quieting your mind) or try something different.

Please pray for the following requests for Horizon Church, asking that the Leadership Team has insight, discernment and wisdom in making decisions. You may want to write down your prayers and any insight the Lord gives you for the church.

Horizon Prayer Requests

Purchase of New Property: Horizon is on the brink of purchasing property for the first time in its history. Pray that the process goes smoothly. Pray that all the details are considered and the Leadership Team operates with wisdom and discernment moving forward. Pray that Horizon can be a blessing to the group we are purchasing from and a blessing to the community in which we will now own property.

Financial Provision: Owning land and buildings requires much more money than Horizon has had in the past. Please pray for God’s continual financial provision. Pray that Horizon would have enough to expand and grow and reach new people for the Kingdom of God.

Wisdom for Future Use of Property: We want to be creative and innovative in the way we use this new property in the future. We don’t want to use it in the way a typical church has used property and buildings in the past. We need God’s wisdom as to what it looks like for the future of the church to thrive by using property with wisdom and innovation.

Increased Move of the Spirit: In the last couple of years, there has been an awakening of the gifts of the Spirit at Horizon. More and more people are being ignited in powerful gifts that are being used for God’s glory. Pray that this continues and that as we are filled more and more by the Presence of God, it would overflow to the people around us. Pray that this move of the Holy Spirit not only completely transforms our lives and our church but also the region around us.

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Photograph taken by Brody Bond

EVENING

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me…

Psalm 42:8

Check in with yourself again. How are you feeling? What are you learning about yourself? The Lord? Prayer? You may be feeling exhilarated, peaceful, angry or miserable. It’s all part of the process.  Again, give it all to the Lord and let Him love you and teach you through all of it. Write down what you are learning.

As you go into prayer, think about what worked about the morning or midday. Ask the Lord to show you how you can incorporate prayer on a daily basis. This evening, you can repeat what worked earlier or try something different.

Please choose several of these organizations that Horizon supports and pray through their requests. Pray for Towson, the United States, and the world as you feel led.

Ministries that Horizon supports

Nicaragua 

Feeding Centers: There are so many starving children in Nicaragua and the feeding centers are literally keeping many of them alive. Horizon gives a quarter of our missions budget to this program. Pray for more resourcing and for systemic change in the region.

Araminta: (http://aramintafreedom.org/)

Youth For Christ in Loch Raven (Rob and Noreen Douglas): (http://www.yfci.org/    

Hopesprings:  (http://hopesprings.org/)

ACTC: (http://www.actconline.info/)

Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU) at Towson University (http://www.towsoncru.com/

Our Community and World

Towson:  Pray that Horizon begins to have a greater impact in Towson. Pray that God’s Kingdom would come on earth (in Towson) as it is in heaven. Pray for Horizon to have open doors in the neighborhoods, in the business community and in the local government in Towson so that we become a conduit of God’s transforming power in this region.  Pray that Horizon becomes a “city on a hill” that brings light and love to our entire community.

Baltimore Region:  Our city is hurting and is in desperate need of hope and love. Pray that God unites the Church in Baltimore to address the deep needs and longstanding injustices that have harmed our city. Pray that God raises up Nehemiahs, Esthers, and Daniels to bring restoration to our city. Pray that Horizon would know what part we play in that restoration.

The United States

Pray over a region in the world that is on your heart.

Thank the Lord for being with you and all that you learned today. Thank Him for hard things that teach us about who He is and who we are. Thank Him for hearing your prayers and answering your heart’s cry. Thank Him for His presence in your life.

Thank you so much for participating and praying with us today. You are an integral part of what makes Horizon such a beautiful community.

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you  and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.   

Numbers 6:24-26

The Lie That I Am Defeated (Part 3)

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Photograph by Kara Brown

[W]e also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

 

We cannot be defeated as Christians if we truly agree with the tenants of Christianity. We have eternal life to look forward to, in a place where there is no suffering. While we suffer on Earth, Jesus has given us his supernatural peace to carry on with life throughout all of its adversity.

We witness people in our own lives, or read about people like Paul, who suffer tremendously yet never let themselves truly feel the weight of it. They never give up. Many have an incredible perspective on life and are not easily troubled when future problems arise. These are people who have survived war, disease, poverty or abuse. They have amazing stories to tell and have been made strong through their experiences. They are like those mentioned in Zechariah 13:9, of whom God declares, “I will put [them] into the fire. I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them.”

Paul’s model for life is a means by which we will never be emotionally or spiritually defeated in this world. To “glory in our sufferings” is radical; it sounds almost masochistic. However, Paul notes that doing so, being counter to the ways of this world, is what refines us. From suffering we gain perseverance; from perseverance we build our character, and from character, we produce hope. Paul’s idea, when examined closely, is not entirely outlandish when we think of the fruit that suffering produces. And such is the strange thing about the difficulties of life. In the moment, they may affect us and we may ask why they happen. In the long-run, however, they very often turn us into the people we were created to be. We have another Biblical truth from Paul to hold onto: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28). The paths of our lives may not always go where we expect them to go, but, if we follow God, good does come of them.

Try to conceptualize, as we approach Good Friday, that Jesus experienced the ultimate form of suffering for you. There was the physical agony of having his wrists and feet pierced, of slow suffocation, and of six hours hanging by nails on a cross. With this physical pain, came the emotional suffering, the taunting of the onlookers and the doubts in the faces of his followers. Finally, shortly before death, He bore the shame of every sin, past, present and future, of mankind, and felt the condemnation and judgment of His father. But, just as he appeared to be defeated, lying dead in a grave for three days, he returned in a more powerful, glorified body. True defeat was not possible for Jesus. Have peace in the knowledge that we, as his brothers and sisters, are immune to it as well.

 
By Mark Zipp

The Lie That I Am Defeated (Part 2)

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Photograph by Anna Arpasi

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

 

Peace. Man sought it in Jesus’s time, went wild for it in the 1960s and will continue to search for it until the end of time. People find religion, practice meditation and feed addictions in an effort to acquire it. In the chaos of life, true peace can be the thing that helps us through our darkest times and helps us move on. As long as we have peace, we are not truly defeated. How many times have we all heard someone say, with regard to their own personal tragedy, “I have made peace with it” or “I am now at peace?”

When we feel defeated, there is no peace. There is hopelessness. There is depression. There is a feeling of emptiness or failure. However, we are by our very nature as Christians unable to be defeated. With Jesus, we have conquered the world and the laws it operates by. We have hope for the life to come, where there is no sin, no sickness, no disorder. Jesus, after all, has promised us a home in Heaven: “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2)

In the meantime, however, we are trapped on Earth where so much can go wrong. Thankfully, we are given the Holy Spirit to guide us. Still, suffering will play its role. We will have loved ones die. Our marriages may fail. We may have chronic health problems. Suffering will try its best to strip us of our joy. It will try to make us less effective, more complacent and more doubtful of our abilities. There will be times when we lose hope. Jesus gives us something else to combat the negative feelings that come naturally in a fallen world.

At the Last Supper, after washing the disciples’ feet and predicting His betrayal, Jesus tells His disciples many things. He tells them He will be leaving them, He promises them the Holy Spirit and He warns them of a dangerous future, one in which they are persecuted for their beliefs. Yet in this revelation of their suffering, there is no claim of defeat. On the contrary, Jesus speaks as one who is victorious: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

The disciples have just been made aware of their future suffering for following Jesus. Jesus even mentions the prospect of death, when we warns them that “the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God” (John 16:2). And yet, in revealing this knowledge, Jesus has also promised them the peace to carry on with their lives.

This peace is one that transcends the rational mind. We may suffer tremendously and yet have peace in it, even defying the logical reasoning of a “normal” human brain. Paul describes it in Philippians 4:7 as a “peace…which surpasses all understanding” and one which “will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” It protects us, then, both spiritually and mentally, from any sort of attack that would otherwise render us defeated. This kind of peace is that which Paul receives during his ministry, one which allows him to cope with whatever dangers each day may bring. Despite his sufferings, which included being “in prison,” “three times shipwrecked,” “beaten with rods,” “pelted with stones” and “cold and naked” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27), Paul declares himself victorious. He has, as he puts it, “learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11).

Jesus’s declaration that he has “overcome the world” is not just about defeating our sin, death and eternal damnation. It is also a victory over the ways we view the world as our corporeal selves. Since we are born anew, we think differently. This new mindset on life is created, in part, by this supernatural, all-encompassing peace, which was seen in Paul throughout his ministry. Jesus, at the Last Supper, vocally gifts it to his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). His peace, then, is something that we cannot attain by earthly means alone. It is not “give[n] as the world gives.” It is a peace that, sadly enough, cannot be acquired by non-believers.

As this world tries to defeat us, we all must be keenly aware that we are in a battle of the mind and spirit. While we wage war for our spiritual and mental health, we must remember the true identities of the two forces competing for our lives: Satan, the father of lies, and Jesus, the Prince of Peace. The devil will say or do anything to weaken you, but, in response, Jesus will bring a peace that can also combat anything. That is his promise. This Lent season, consider this powerful peace that we, as God’s elect, are graciously given.

 
By Mark Zipp

The Lie That I Am Defeated

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Photograph by Ed Kight

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

1 John 5:4

 
Many of us have been through a lot in life. Health issues, failed relationships and various problems in and out of our control can leave us feeling like we’re done with everything. All sorts of questions run through our minds: Why is it always me? When will it end? Is God ever listening? Some of us cannot find the strength to carry on with life as we used to. We have trouble getting out of bed in the morning. Even simple activities seem like a struggle to involve ourselves in. We may think back longingly to the days when we were living life at our best, when we were wholly there. Now we are only a portion of what we were. Our lives become defined by feelings of defeat, despair and hopelessness.

At some point in our lives, a lot of us will buy into this lie: that we have been defeated, that we’re done, that we’re of no use. This lie, and countless others we willingly believe about ourselves, comes from the devil, whom Jesus describes as “a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) Lies become truth when we believe them enough; we start to take on their every detail. They become more and more powerful as they begin to take hold. Remember back to your childhood, when a bully said something cruel about you. You often found yourself wondering if it was true. In some cases, you may have even started to own that idea about yourself.

To believe that we have been defeated is particularly deadly. It not only makes us miserable and less productive in a worldly sense, but it also makes us less effective in doing God’s will, in fulfilling our purposes in this world. With defeat comes a doubt in our abilities, a feeling of weakness. We also become ineffective out of sheer loss of energy or will. We are just so tired. How can we joyously declare the Good News in this world, when we are emotionally and spiritually drained? How can we proclaim God’s triumph in our lives, while also declaring that we, internally, have been beaten? We begin to feel like the liars.

1 John 5:4 offers some powerful truth that combats this lie. According to John, “everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:4). Does this mean that we, as Christians, always win in life? Hardly. Christians suffer in large and small ways all of the time. In some ways, we suffer all the more because we are constantly under attack by the devil. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, states, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (Philippians 1:29). Suffering as a Christian, then, is inevitable. It is part of our calling.

While suffering exists, it should never be allowed to defeat us. A Christian life appears contradictory in a sense: it is one of finite, but potentially significant, suffering, but also one that triumphs over the things inherent about the world in which we live: sin, condemnation and, ultimately, death. John’s proclamation in 1 John 5:4 tells us how to achieve this victory, declaring, “And this is the victory that has overcome the world – Our faith” (1 John 5:4). Faith? We’ve all heard mantras like “Just have faith” or “Trust in God.” At our lowest points, ideas like this may not appear very helpful. However, faith is more than just a mindset or opinion. It has lasting power.

Faith is what connects us with God, what builds our covenant with Him. It directly leads to our salvation. As Paul writes, “For it is by Grace that you have been saved, through Faith – and this is not of yourselves. It is a gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is this faith, then, that makes us “born of God,” as John describes it in 1 John 5:4. Our salvation, gifted generously by God through our faith, is our ultimate victory over this world, which will be realized in the life to come: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Our faith gives us the victory. In the end, we cheat death just as Jesus did. In the meantime, our faith will also sustain us on this Earth. Through our faith and relationship with Jesus, we are promised a peace — one which is supernatural — to continue on through our hardships here on Earth.

This Lent season, as we approach Jesus’s sacrifice on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday, focus on the power of your faith, how God shows us grace through it and how it can be refined and renewed.

 

By Mark Zipp

The Lie That I Am Broken Beyond Use

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Photograph by Natalie Romano

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.

Psalm 126

 

“We want to avoid suffering, death, sin, ashes. But we live in a world crushed and broken and torn, a world God Himself visited to redeem. We receive his poured-out life, and being allowed the high privilege of suffering with Him, may then pour ourselves out for others.”  

Elisabeth Elliot

 

I belonged to a small church group in the early 80s lead by a couple, Dan and Peggy, who had moved to Maryland from Bryan, Ohio. A group of about 20 to 30 of us would meet at their house every Friday night. Danny had this old, beat up guitar that sat in the corner of their living room just collecting dust. Occasionally someone would attempt to play it, with little success. Dan had taken it to a friend who repaired old instruments. He determined that the guitar was beyond repair. The bridge was cracked, the neck warped, and the body was brittle. It didn’t even look like a normal guitar. Instead of the typical round sound hole, it had F-holes like a violin. It appeared to be useless as an instrument. It was broken. It had no value.

Now Dan and Peggy had friends from Ohio who would visit from time to time. One of these friends was Phil Keaggy. If you’ve never heard of him, Phil Keaggy has frequently been listed as one of the world’s top guitarists by Guitar Player Magazine. He’s pretty good. During these visits, Phil would often pick up that guitar while in conversation, almost absentmindedly. He would make some adjustments and in no time, through his hands, the most amazing melodies would be coming from that old broken guitar.

We know that being broken is not always a bad thing. Our pride, our selfishness, our bitterness — these require some death, and that form of breaking is a good thing. Yet there is another kind of broken. As in the case with the old guitar, sometimes life seems to have beaten everything out of us. People try to help, even an expert may try and fix us, but nothing changes. We are deemed useless. What can we ever do but occupy space? Then, the hand of a master takes hold of us, makes some adjustments, and beauty that we could never imagine before flows out of us. In some small way, this an image of the Gospel. In the hands of our master, we are made right in what we are. He makes us new, but not in ways we choose. No longer a dust collector, but an instrument for peace, for healing, for love. We are made usable to play God’s song in our brokenness because of who is holding us, playing his song through us.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

2 Corinthians 4:7-12

 

Unsure, hesitating he cracks. He smiles through closed eyes. Pressing on there lies a song.
His heart now sings. The deeper chords rejoice. He’s now his Master’s voice.
For sure there’s a breaking of heart. In time his reward is to see The Lord his King.
The Creator brings the song of life his choice. He’s now his Master’s voice.

Phil Keaggy: His Master’s Voice

 

By Phil Hartman

 

The Lie That I Am a Burden

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Photograph by Kara Brown

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

Matthew 11:28–30

 
In the last two posts, we challenged the lie that we are just fine on our own and don’t need anyone. It is quite the opposite; we were created for relationship and desperately need God and each other. So, if we are dependent on God and reliant on other people, then don’t we run the risk of swinging to the other side of the pendulum and becoming a burden? If we let go of our self-sufficiency, then won’t we be too needy? Too difficult? Too exhausting? Too much to bear?

I’ve gone on overnight biking and hiking trips both by myself and with others, and I can tell you from experience that my back and shoulders were a lot happier when I had fellow adventurers alongside me. On my own, I have to carry the tent, food, sleeping gear, stove, clothes, and other necessities by myself; but with others, the items can be divvied up amongst all of us. You might think it would be easier to pack and carry only what you personally need, but the reality is that when you go it alone – even though you only have to carry your stuff, it is significantly harder because you’re carrying all of it. Though collectively there is more to carry when you go with others, the load is lessened because not everyone needs to bring their own tent, food, sleeping gear, stove, clothes, etc. — the burden is shared.

So it is in the Christian life. Paul exhorts us to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Have you ever considered that letting others help carry your burden allows them the opportunity to obey God – to “fulfill the law of Christ?” Paul, if anyone, experienced great physical and emotional need — and with that, experienced great joy as other believers helped fill these needs and share in carrying the weight. It started at the very moment Paul encountered Christ, as he was made blind and had to rely on his fellow travellers who “led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus” (Acts 9:8). And this is only the beginning. Throughout Acts and the epistles we see over and over again the way Paul relies on the Church family, the people he has come to love dearly, for material provision, companionship for the journey, steadfast prayer when he was imprisoned, encouragement in the face of persecution and for assistance in the labor of spreading the gospel. Paul, speaking about the church at Corinth says, “I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people” (2 Corinthians 8:3-4). The privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. If we do not let others share our struggles, we are robbing them of the privilege of serving the Lord in this. Perhaps what you believe to be a burden is in actuality a blessing.

We cannot bear each others’ burdens if we’re unwilling to let go of our own. As Christ-followers, we must both share others’ burdens and be willing to accept help carrying our own. On one of these bike adventures my friends and I opted to hitch up a trailer, carrying the majority of our gear, to one of the bikes. Yes, only one person at a time could drag the trailer behind her bike; and, yes, it was a heavy load. Had that one person carried the trailer the entire time, she surely would have worn out early on. Instead, we shared the load: When one of us became weary, we hooked the trailer to another girl’s bike; and only in this way did we reach our destination.

Yet, as Christians, we needn’t throw our struggles onto only each other. In fact, if we only rely on others, we run the risk of overwhelming them and frustrating ourselves when our needs aren’t met. That is why we are told, “cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22). No weight is too heavy, no load too unmanageable, for our Lord. He has said, “Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you” (Isaiah 46:4)” He made us, he knows our limitations, and he promises to sustain us, carry us, and deliver us.

Today, if you struggle with the lie that you are a burden, counter it by recognizing that you are a blessing. Be a burden-bearer by blessing others and helping to carry the load of others. Additionally, cast all of your cares on the Lord, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7) and allow His children – your brothers and sisters in Christ – to be burden-bearers to you…“and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

 
By Lauren Raymond

The Lie That I Am Fine on My Own

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Photograph by Brody Bond

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2

 

“Me do it all by myself!’

“Leave me alone, I don’t need you in my life!”

Any parent of a toddler or teenager has likely heard some variation of the above. And to either response, the parent likely looks at the child with competing love and sadness — knowing the child is seeking independence, but that she can’t yet do it on her own. It’s futile to argue with a stubborn child as they fight against inevitable dependence. Better to wait and be ready to tie the shoe when the toddler gives up or to drive the teen to soccer practice when he realizes he needs a ride and does not yet have a license of his own. The loving parent will patiently be there waiting with a warm embrace, eager to help when the child recognizes their reliance and comes back.

I can imagine our Heavenly Father viewing us similarly — His heart breaking when we make our lives so much more difficult than need be by trying to live them on our own; yet ever present with loving, open arms when we fall flat on our faces and once again remember our utter dependence on Him. He gives us the free will to walk away and still He is always ready to welcome us back.

Dependence on God isn’t just something we need when we are experiencing hardship. It is the daily reliance and choosing to trust Him in all things. It is recognizing that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). God is constant, even when we are not. His goodness and His love never waver, even when ours do. His Presence is never absent, even when we wander away in rebellion or a faulty sense of self-sufficiency.

In Joshua 1:9 the Israelites are told “be strong and of good courage, do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” And yet so soon after receiving this encouragement, they question God’s faithfulness and try to move forward without Him — the one who is always with them and will never leave nor forsake them. After total dependency upon the Lord who delivered them from Egypt, who parted the Red Sea, who provided them daily food in the desert, who destroyed their enemies in the land He had promised to give them, who led them through the wilderness without ever leaving them — after such an extensive narrative of constantly relying on his faithfulness — the Israelites try to do it on their own. As the book of Joshua continues (check out chapters 6-8!), it details the destruction of Jericho, the formidable walled city blocking access to the promised land. It is a victory that can only be attributed to God. Without His hand, these unyielding walls could never have crumbled at the mere sound of some shouting, and the Israelites would have just tired themselves out by marching around the city in vain for seven days.

Just after this victory, perhaps ignorantly crediting it to their own strength, the people act as if they are fine on their own and, without the Lord’s direction, attempt to plow through the next obstacle. The little village of Ai was nothing compared to the fortress of Jericho; so the people of Israel, boasting in their victory and confident in their own power, opt to send only a fraction of their army to take down the small village. What ensues is not a second easy victory for Israel but quite the opposite; it is members of the army being killed while the rest are chased back to camp by the people of Ai.

How often do we act the same? We see God work in the most amazing ways when we are incapable of doing anything. And then, in our hubris, when we feel like everything’s going well, we go off on our own, without seeking God and trusting Him.

Thankfully for us, just as it was for the Israelites, we have a loving Father that does not leave us in our defeat. Over and over again He takes back his stubborn, prodigal children, gently reminding us that He is with us and longs for us to wholeheartedly depend on Him and His plan. He promises us that when we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us (James 4:8). For the Israelites, after sulking about their defeat and questioning God, they eventually acknowledge their reliance upon Him and seek out His will. This time, when they go up against Ai with the Lord in the lead, the story ends differently. The Lord reminds the people to “not be afraid or dismayed” and “the Lord their God delivered Ai into their hands” (Joshua 8:1,7).

In what ways do you tend to operate from your own strength instead of seeking the Lord? Isaiah 31:1 says,”Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD.” (Note that the Israelites did not learn this lesson overnight; hundreds of years later and they’re still struggling with the same thing. So have grace with yourself when you don’t master this trust thing on your first go around.)

In what areas do you rely on self-sufficiency and believe you are just fine on your own? What are your “horses, chariots, and horsemen?” Consider these and bring them before the Lord, surrendering your own pride and sense of competence. Thank our good Father for His constant presence and ask Him to continue to lead you as you learn to rely on him.

 

By Lauren Raymond

 

The Lie That I Don’t Need Anyone

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Photograph by Emily Kulp

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

 

In a society where independence and self-sufficiency are praised and relying on others is often seen as weak or needy, it is not surprising that so many of us buy into the lie that we are just fine on our own and don’t need anyone else.

But it is exactly that — a lie. We were created to be in community. We can’t even make it through the second chapter of Genesis without being hit by this truth as God directly says: “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:18). It is not good for us to be alone. God designed us this way; and so He immediately remedies Adam’s aloneness by creating Eve and telling them to multiply. Just like the land and the sky, and the sea and the stars, relationship was an intentional and essential part of God’s creation. How often, though, do we resist the blessing of community by letting our own stuff, like pride and fear, get in the way?

Ironically, for many of us, claiming to be fine on our own is rooted in a deep longing to be connected. As noted in earlier posts, we crave to be fully known and fully loved. Yet along the way, this desire has been warped by experiences with others that may have caused hurt and fear — leading us to retreat into ourselves, walling others off, vowing never to be hurt again. We convince ourselves that it is safer to be alone. That it is fulfilling. That there is greater freedom in solitude, and greater control; with no risk or uncertainty. Oh, how easily we are deceived!

I chose to write about this lie in particular, not because it’s something I’ve mastered, but because it is one I often succumb to and need to counter with truth. I have always taken a certain pride in appearing to be independent: I frequently decline help. I am stubbornly single. I even sometimes put myself in unsafe situations to prove that I can go it alone. I wrestle with the longing to pack up and move somewhere new – ”to have an adventure” – which is really more a euphemism for escape and avoidance. And yet God, over and over again, leads me to stay, to connect, to belong. It is not good for us to be alone.

We are far from being fine on our own. We need each other, especially for the hard times that are certain to come. I picture boarding up a house for a storm and hunkering down inside in an attempt to protect yourself. Sure, you may feel safe and secure for a few days, even weeks maybe, but you cannot stay hidden away in that boarded up home forever. Eventually, you’re going to run out of food and fuel; and unless you want to starve or freeze to death, you will have to crawl out and interact with others — survival depends on it.

Just as we physically cannot survive entirely independent of others, neither can we carry ourselves emotionally and spiritually. We need others to come alongside us and help bear the load. To encourage us when we’re struggling. To spur us on when we’re ready to give up. To speak truth into our lives when we are blinded by lies. To love us, even when we act the most unlovable.

Is it scary to lean on others in this way? Yes. Are you vulnerable and sometimes left feeling exposed? Sure are. Might you be hurt or rejected? Yup. Is it worth it? Most definitely.

 

By Lauren Raymond

The Lie That I Am Defined by My Sin (Part 2)

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Photograph by Anna Arpasi

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.

Isaiah 1:18

 

I am a secret adrenaline junkie. I’ve bungee jumped, whitewater rafted through Class V rapids in the Nile River and jumped off platforms only to be caught by a harness attached to a cable. In thinking through what I enjoy about these things, it’s not the wind in my hair or the view from up high. It’s the knowledge that I had to let go of something to experience what was in store.

I’ve volunteered at a camp where campers can sit in a seat and be pulled up high where they are released into a giant swing. The campers need to pull a cord in order to experience the full ride of the swing. Many times, I would have to encourage them to pull the cord. After many hesitations and failed attempts, the campers would finally let go of the cord that was holding them back to fully experience the freedom and joy of the swing.

The same is true for us — at some point there has to be a decision to let go of defining ourselves by our past sin and grab hold of the future that Christ has for us. I’ll be honest and tell you that I used to, and still can, live under the weight and shame of past or present sin. I don’t think I’m alone in having that experience. Even though we are here in the present, everything about us can be stuck in that moment, in the past sin. If you are going to lay hold of the future — the promises of God for your future — you must let go of letting the past define you. There are some wounds that go deep and leave such scars that moving forward is going to seem impossible. We allow past sins to define us, instead of allowing what Jesus did for us to direct our future.

Your past prepares you. God chose the ordinary, the weak, the outcast, the young, the small, the dependent, the former prostitutes and murderers, the doubters, the persecutors and the ill-equipped. As a woman who has felt shame from her past, I understand how you feel. But if you are a follower of Jesus, you are made new. Your past no longer defines you. Jesus has forgiven you and made you white as snow. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18)

You see, God is gracious, merciful and forgiving. Do you honestly believe God is gracious? Do you really believe He is merciful? Do you think He is abounding in love, or do you think His love has run out? Our past should enable us to fearlessly, “confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy for our failures and find grace.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Being vulnerable — sharing our need for a Savior — points people to Jesus and not ourselves. And He is who they need to be looking at, not us. Let’s be real — raw, I guess you could say. Let’s compare less and connect more. Let’s let go of the sin that so easily entangles and fully experience the riches of His love.

 

By Angela Stanford

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