Hi! Welcome back to the Disciplers blog. I’m glad you took time to stop by. The Thanksgiving meal is over, friends and family have headed home, and the hype of Black Friday is dying down as many look forward to Cyber Monday. It has been a busy time, and I pray that for you it has been a blessed time of thanksgiving with those you love and cherish.
I know that for one of my dear friends it has been a time of thankfulness for the things that many of us take so much for granted: things such as life itself, being able to breathe, and to speak a few words. My friend, Clint, spent Thanksgiving in a hospital room hooked up to a ventilator and a feeding tube. Many weeks ago, Clint was diagnosed with West Nile virus that had led to an inflammation of his brain and total paralysis of his body. The doctors prescribed IVIG treatment and after days of anxious waiting, Clint began to show tiny but hopeful signs of improvement. Now it is a time of patience, prayer, and hope as he continues to slowly gain strength and get better. He still cannot breathe on his own or eat, but he has some limited movement and can speak, quoting Scripture to encourage those who visit him. Some of the first words he shared with his precious wife, Nancy, were, “my body is broken but my soul is strong.”
Those words keep coming back to me. They keep passing through my thoughts and settling in my heart. This morning as I walked my dog, Luke, in my neighborhood, I was thinking of Clint and praying for him. The song, “It is Well with My Soul” kept coming to mind, and since there was no one around to hear, thinking of Clint, I sang it to the Lord.
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
(Horatrio Spafford, 1873)
It had been a rainy night and the clouds were just beginning to lift. As I sang and prayed for Clint, suddenly a beautiful rainbow appeared across the valley. To me it was an affirmation that God was hearing and honoring my prayers. I know that the One who is sovereign over the rainbow is also sovereign over our souls. Clint’s body is weak but God is powerful to heal. More importantly, Clint’s soul is well! His soul is healthy and strong and a boon to his body as he praises and glorifies God through reciting the Scriptures he has stored away in his heart and in his memory.
This Thanksgiving, one of the things I have been blessed to give thanks for is my physical health and strength. But, as Clint has shown me so clearly, much more important is the health of my soul! The soul is what sustains us in times of sickness, sorrow, satan’s buffetings, setbacks, and stumbling -- and the world is full of those things. So I would ask you today about the state of your soul. Can you say with assurance, “It is well with my soul?” It seems that so much time and money is spent on physical fitness and appearance these days. But how much time have you spent lately nurturing your soul? I think we too often get our priorities mixed up. I know I have at times. I want to encourage you today to pause and consider the condition of your soul. Think of Clint whose soul has been nurtured and strengthened through the years of his relationship with the Lord. How can you begin today to care for your soul and make sure it is well?
As you turned your calendar this month and November was spread out before you, were you overwhelmed with the reality that the holidays are looming on the horizon? If so, you may have experienced a bit of panic as you thought of all the tasks that lie ahead. Or perhaps you were filled with joy at the thought of getting together with loved ones, delicious meals, happy parties, and family traditions. Perhaps you remembered that Thanksgiving will be a time to give God thanks for all the bounty of your life and Christmas will be time to give thanks for the greatest gift of all, the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I hope you remembered that.
But does this season of the year ever get so busy that you forget the real meaning, the original meaning, for your celebrations? Do you get carried away with the festivities and caught up in the social whirl? Maybe you even complain sometimes about the busyness that sweeps you along like a rip current. But what if there were no family get-togethers, no parties, no homemade meals, no gifts to shop for, no trees to decorate or cookies to bake or lights to hang on the front porch? What if all this was suddenly snatched away from you?
I find it hard to even imagine what it would be like if I were not allowed to cook for Thanksgiving dinner, go Christmas shopping, make fudge for my neighbors, put up the porch lights, smell the fragrance of a pine tree in my living room, or even share a “Merry Christmas” greeting as I do my usual errands around town. But if I were a prisoner in a correctional institution I could do none of those things. Have you ever stopped to consider what it would be like to be incarcerated, especially during the holidays? Please take a few minutes to stop and think about it. Then take some time to pray for those who do not have the freedom to shop for gifts for their children or visit their family or cook up special treats for friends. Consider the loneliness of being behind bars during the holidays and the despondency, depression, despair, and suicidal thoughts that often result. Consider that there are 2.4 million prisoners in the United States experiencing that today as you read this blog.
Those who lead Disciplers classes for the incarcerated see the problem first hand and they pray passionately for God’s beloveds and all lost souls behind prison bars. One faithful leader tells us, “These prayers are vital, for it is the prayers of the ‘Outside Church’ which the Lord will use to help enable and empower His ‘Prison Church’ to experience victory! Imprisoned Christians live on a most unique mission field -- a mission field where Satan has always maintained many strongholds. However, the One who lives in God’s beloveds equips them with divine power to destroy those strongholds! On the battlefield of the mind, God’s beloveds can destroy every argument and lofty opinion that Satan raises against the knowledge of God as they choose to take every thought captive to obey Christ! Lord, remind them that they have that choice!”
So I would like to ask you to take a few moments a day out of your busy schedule this holiday season to pray for the lost and lonely souls behind bars. Christ died for them. Would you deny them a few moments of prayer? The prayer requests below are directed primarily toward Christian prisoners, that they may find victory and be examples and extensions of God’s love and mercy to the rest of the 2.4 million incarcerated souls. May God lead you as you pray.
1. Pray that the Holy Spirit might enable God’s beloveds in prison to focus on all their blessings in Christ instead of the physical and material blessings that are lost because they are incarcerated. May their hearts be filled with joy at the thought of their spiritual blessings (see Ephesians 1:1-14). May they have a desire to share those blessings with others as they remember they are children of the King and have great riches because He is their inheritance
2. Pray that even though their problems loom huge in front of them, they would see God as their sovereign Problem Solver, recognize His power over the enemy as being real, and rest in Him.
3. Pray that God would move in the hearts of family members of the inmates, compelling them to visit and encourage their imprisoned sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, husbands and wives. May visits by friends and family be a reminder to the inmates that God remembers them and cares.
4. Pray that God would Scripturally equip and empower His imprisoned beloveds so they may not be reliant upon prison volunteers but have ability and joy in encouraging and exhorting each other. In this way, may they be a light to other inmates and have opportunity and power to offer comfort to those who are lost.
5. Pray that the Lord will allow His Scripture to run rampant through the minds of those in His “Prison Church” so when Satan attacks they immediately remember God’s words to strike down Satan’s lies.
6. Pray that God would encourage the inmates with new purpose by revealing to them the power they have to encourage themselves and each other through prayer and Scripture. May the enemy’s distractions be used by God to deepen their commitment to Himself, leaving them with the desire to be wholly dominated by and devoted to their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
7. Please pray for the children of those who are in prison. Pray that God would protect them physically, emotionally, and spiritually and shower them with His mercy and compassion.
8. Offer your own prayer, as God leads, for all prisoners and their children. May the power of the Holy Spirit be unleashed to touch their lives so they may live every day, NOT JUST SOMEHOW but TRIUMPHANTLY!
Hi! Welcome back to Disciplers website and to our blog. I’ve been wanting to share with you how God has worked in my life through a Scripture verse that was given to me many years ago. I was in San Antonio, Texas attending training for the position of class administrator and substitute teaching leader of my Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class in Honolulu. On the last night, our training class was taken out to a delicious dinner. Beautiful tables were set with fine linens, china, fresh flowers and hand-printed place-cards designating where we were to sit. During the course of the dinner we were told that each of us had a verse written especially for us on the back of our card. The Scripture passage I found on the back of mine was puzzling at first, but over time that verse has led me forward and established me in the word and will of God in ways I never could have imagined. My verse was Numbers 18:20. It is the Lord’s word to Aaron and the Levites before they entered the Promised Land: You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance.
I tucked that place-card with the verse into my Bible and carried it with me to church and Bible study for many years until somehow it must have slipped out. Lost. But I marked the verse in my Bible and over the years I've often thought about its meaning for my life. One day, as I was studying to teach the Disciplers’ lessons on “Egypt to Canaan,” I came across a statement in a commentary: “When God divided Canaan among the twelve tribes of Israel, Levi did not receive a share in the land. God said, I am your portion and your inheritance, (Numbers 18:20) and with those words, Levi became richer than anyone else.” (I’m sorry to say that I do not have the source of that quote. I jotted the words down in my Bible but the author has been lost to me.) It was the last thought in that quote that opened my eyes and really began to change my perspective. The tribe of Levi had no material inheritance in the land, no material wealth, but with God as their inheritance they were incomparably richer than anyone else. From that moment on I have prayed and desired for my heart to be set upon the riches of God far away and above anything on this earth. My eyes were opened to see what real riches are. My riches are God Himself. He has saved me. He has given Himself for me and to me. He is the sovereign Creator and Controller of the universe. How could my heart long for anything more than Him. Should I not be so eternally grateful that I could never stoop to desire anything less than my Creator, my Savior, my Lord?
Sometime later, as I was reading through my Bible, a passage in Psalms caught my eye, O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance (16:5-6). This passage was a confirmation and an encouragement. Yes! I have a good inheritance and I would not seek another. The Lord is my life, and by His purpose and His grace my life was a part of His plan before time began (2 Timothy 1:9). You might say that His plan was written in my DNA.
So as that verse in Numbers was given to me, I now give it to you, the one whom God has led to read this blog today. As a child of God, He is your inheritance also. Are you letting other things or other people crowd your True Inheritance out of your life? He wants to be your life, that’s why He chose you. Will you yield to Him? Will you embrace His plan for you? It is written in your DNA.
I have been involved in Disciplers since 1987, as a discussion leader, teacher, writer, and now as director. I am profoundly committed to the stewardship of this ministry which God has entrusted to me for a time. God’s word is the chief joy of my life. I cherish my personal time in the word, and I am filled with gratitude to be able to share His word with you, my fellow disciples in Christ.