Incline My Heart

by Carol J. H. Kobulnicky

Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!  Psalm 119:36 ESV

O my brethren, do not seek to find in circumstances the explanation of prayerlessness; seek it where God’s Word declares it to be, in the hidden aversion of the heart to a holy God.  —A. Murray

Conviction.  There it is. I’ve been distant from God the past several days. Not to say I haven’t prayed at all—I have.  But it hasn’t been relational, joy-filled time spent with God.  That’s the kind of prayer the Lord desires for us.  That is the kind of prayer in which God transforms.

Never underestimate the power of a single verse of Scripture and/or a simple quotation.  Reading this from a daily calendar I have, prompted me to head first to Psalm 119 and then to research who this man was.  

The word “heart” is used 15 times in Psalm 119, and it refers to what rules the entire person—where our desires come from, our intellect, our feelings and our will.  Inclining my heart to God’s testimonies, to His Word means I’m going to align my will with His. It is casting myself on Christ to be transformed and to do His will. And it’s something we need to continually do. 

Andrew Murray (1828-1917) was a faithful servant of God whose life prayer was, “May not a single moment of my life be spent outside the light, love, and joy of God’s presence.”(1)  His faithful service includes 60 years of ministry in South Africa, including founding, and teaching in, theological seminaries for men and women, as well as writing more than 200 books and tracts on Christian ministry and spirituality.  

When I think about what fruit my life is bearing, I agree with Murray that to do so requires that I continually cast myself on Christ.

Father, help me to incline my heart fully to Your testimonies, to what you say, to Your Word—to cast my life on Christ. Forgive me for times when I blame circumstances and allow them to pull me away.  Help me to truly delight in You. May not a single moment of my life be spent outside the light, love and joy of Your presence.  In Jesus’s Name. Amen.

(1) Andrew Murray: Leading student in Christ’s school of prayer. Christian History. Christianity Today online. URL: https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/innertravelers/andrew-murray.html

Is God Your Intimate Friend?

Exodus 33:11 Thus the LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.

In a recent personal time with the Lord, I was considering what it means to “submit” to Him. As I often do, I wrote the word “SUBMIT” down the side of my journal page and sought some words as an acrostic. This is what I wrote:

S tay

U nder the

B est shade

M aking God your

I ntimate friend and

T rusting Him

This really started me thinking about what it means to have God as an INTIMATE Friend. The dictionary tells me that “intimate” means, “closely acquainted; familiar, close.” I asked myself, “Am I closely acquainted with God?”

A few weeks ago, the Lord spoke to my heart and said, “I am the Fountain without a cap.” I understand that to mean that I can be as closely acqainted and intimate in our friendship as I desire. That really thrills me, but I also realize my responsibility in this friendship.

When I want to develop an intimate relationship with a human friend, I spend time with them. I have often sat across the table from friends in a restaurant and spent several hours sharing life. That has fostered intimate friendships.

I want that kind of friendship with God and even more so. It is amazing to me to think of the God of the universe calling Moses aside privately for some “face” time. (see the verse I shared above) It is even more amazing to me that He wants the same kind of relationship with me. I don’t know about you, but I can say that this very exciting for me!

Prayer: Lord, it is hard to fathom that You want an intimate friendship with me. You created me so that You could have fellowship and I long for that fellowship, too. Help me to know how to really foster an intimate friendship with You. I love You, Lord, and I thank You for the gift of eternal life that You purchased for me at the cross. I’m asking to know You more, In Jesus’ Name! AMEN!

Be Still and REALIZE…

(Gina Writing…)

Psalms 46:10 TPT

10 Surrender your anxiety. Be still and realize that I am God. I am God above all the nations, and I am exalted throughout the whole earth.

As I was spending some time with the Lord recently, I felt drawn back to Psalm 46:10. This is a scripture that I have loved over and over again throughout my life’s journey. It reminds me that “busyness” can get in the way of my friendship with God.

When I looked at this scripture again, I felt very moved by the wording of the Passion Translation. The words, “Be still and realize” really jumped off the page into my heart. My take away is this: In order for me to have a greater realization of Who God is, I must be still. It’s that simple!

I looked up the word “realize” and here is the definition of this common word:

realize[ˈrē(ə)ˌlīz]

VERB

become fully aware of (something) as a fact; understand clearly.

I want to understand more and more about God every day and I am asking Him to help me to be still so that I can REALIZE Who He is! I encourage you to take some intentional time soon to just be still with God

Prayer: Lord, forgive us for the places where our “busyness” robs us of a greater realization of Who You are. Teach Your Church how to come into Your presence in stillness so that we can be more fully aware of You. Thank You for welcoming us to Your throne room. Thank You, Jesus, for dying for us so that we are able to come boldly to the throne of grace to find mercy and grace for our every need. Thank You for loving us! Amen.

Are You Fighting Discouragement in Prayer?

Let’s be honest! There is discouragement around us every day in this world. The world is a broken and dark place that needs the redemption of Jesus. We are here to bring the light of His gospel, but sometimes we get battle-weary and we fight discouragement.

I was driving into Laramie awhile back and the song “Another in the Fire” came on the radio. I knew that I had heard this song before, but that particular day these lyrics really spoke to me:

There was another in the fire
Standing next to me
There was another in the waters
Holding back the seas
And should I ever need reminding
Of how I’ve been set free
There is a cross that bears the burden
Where another died for me

What a great reminder of the presence of the Lord with us every day. When we are discouraged, He is right beside us. We are never alone. As you pray, I suggest you meditate on these promises:

See the source image

Prayer: Lord, thank You for Your presence every moment of every day. Please elevate us above the discouragement so that we will not be consumed. This world is a crazy place these days, but our hope is not in the world. Our hope is in You! Thank You, thank you, thank you for loving us and calling us Your own. Empower us to do Your work here as salt and light. We pray in Your Name, Jesus! Amen.

Weekly Corporate Prayer times:

Sundays, 9:15am, church sanctuary

Wednesdays, 8:30-8:45am via conference call; 712-770-4928, 775792#

Love Never Fails

by Carol J. H. Kobulnicky

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  —1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

Years ago I heard a message based on a passage we might think of regarding love—1 Corinthians 13. That Sunday morning, the speaker took a different angle and I found myself recently returning to it. He offered the suggestion that when reading this passage (1 Cor 13:4-7) we consider replacing any reference to love with our own names. Anyone who tries this, is immediately faced with the likelihood of being faced with a convicting falsehood. “Carol is not proud….Carol is not self-seeking….Carol does not delight in evil.”

Am I never proud? Am I not self-seeking? Do I ever delight in evil?

Writing this out in a journal, replacing “love” and “it” with my name became a time of prayer and confession.  Allowing the Holy Spirit to convict me of all that I wrote that is not yet true, I was moved to seek forgiveness.  

The passage continues to declare that “Love never fails.”  Meditating on this, I could not bring myself to write this as if it applies to me! Instead, I allowed this truth to wash over me—knowing and trusting that God is love, and that it is His love that never fails. 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, Your love never fails. You are so patient with us, so kind! Your love shown to us in Christ demonstrates this unfailing love. We confess the many ways we fall short of this declaration of what love is—help us to see it as an exhortation to love in this way. Thank you for your forgiveness, and for the help of Your Holy Spirit to conform us more and more into the image of Your Son, Jesus. It’s in His Name that we pray. Amen.

See the source image

Praying Scripture

—Carol J. H. Kobulnicky

I first encountered the idea of praying Scripture over 20 years ago when I picked up a copy of Kenneth Boa’s 1997 book: Face to Face: Praying the Scriptures for Intimate Worship.  At the time, my only experience with the beauty and power of praying Scripture was through formal church liturgy—something that I found can become rote and have less meaning if one is not intentional.  Because of the authors’ rewriting and positioning of Scripture as prayers (he follows the format and basic content of the Lord’s Prayer through much of it), I realized how easily I could open my copy of Scripture and simply, but powerfully, pray it back to God.

The other day I took some unstructured time to pray.  I didn’t know what I was going to pray, but I felt called to set more time aside and I brought my Bible.  As I waited on God, I found myself reciting a memorized verse from Psalms.  It was simply: “Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Ps 8:1).  I opened my Bible and began to speak the words of the Psalm aloud.  I then prayed them back (aloud) to God and found my heart worshipping Him who set His “glory above the heavens”. 

I soaked in the words—familiar words that I’ve read many times before.  But, as we know, the Word is living and active.  It spoke to me in new ways that day.  Declaring the truth that God has ordained praise “from the lips of children and infants” (v. 2), moved me to pray for the Emmaus Kids’ Klubhouse. Acknowledging that God, in His glory and majesty, has crowned us with glory and honor, I remembered the verse in Psalm 103 that states “He has crowned us with love and compassion.”  I found myself talking to God about what His Word said. The slow meandering journey through Scripture took me to Colossians 1:15-20 where I declared aloud the supremacy of Jesus Christ, and then Isaiah 61 where I was reminded of Jesus’ reading the first couple of verses in his synagogue, declaring that the prophecy was fulfilled that day (Luke 4).

When I set aside time to be with God, I don’t always take so much unstructured time to allow myself to be led by the Holy Spirit through His Word.  But, when I do, I am incredibly blessed.  The time spent was time in prayer AND worship.  The two are hard to separate when you pray the Scriptures, and of course, why would we want to?  

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your Name!  Thank you for ordaining praise from the lips of children!  Help us to never be a stumbling block to their growing faith in You.  Thank you for crowning your people with glory and honor, love and compassion!  Help us to lives of obedience, and to stand in awe of you, so as to display Your splendor.  Dear Lord, help us to realize more and more how blessed we are when we set aside time with You.  Holy Spirit, lead us as we pray Your Word back to You—declaring truth, seeking Your comfort, learning more about Your character and who You desire for us to be.  Amen.

Contact the Rhythms of Grace Intercessory Prayer Team: rhythmsofgrace721@gmail.com

Does Prayer Really Matter?

Gina writing…2-1-2021

I was going in a different direction with this week’s blog, but yesterday as I was doing my morning prayer time, I was struck with the idea, “Does Prayer Really Matter?” As I look at scripture, I find that prayer seemed to matter very much to the early church:

Acts 1:14 “They all joined together constantly in prayer.”

Acts 3:1 “Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer.”

Acts 4:31 “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken.”

Acts 6:4 “And (we) will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.

Acts 10:9 “Peter went up on the roof to pray.”

Here is a more recent story about how prayer really did matter and made a difference:

Jeremiah Lamphier began a noonday prayer meeting for laymen in downtown New York City on September 23, 1857. He sat alone for the first twenty-five minutes, but by 12:30 there were six men present. The following week twenty men attended. Within six months, more than ten thousand businessmen were attending.

The Holy Spirit began to call people to pray. Many people were converted in the prayer meetings, and others found victory in their walk with God. It has been estimated that in America, “In just two years, over a million converts were added to the churches of all denominations. Over a million converts were added to the churches of Great Britain,” God wanted to bless His church, and the wind of the Spirit blew across the hearts of the people of God, calling them to prayer.

-Adapted from The Prayer FactorAdventures with a God Who Hears and Answers by Sammy Tippit. 

My prayer this week is that Emmaus Road Community Church will truly become a “prayer-driven” church. We are sensing a move of God taking us there! Let’s keep moving with Him!

Prayer: Lord, we see that prayer really does matter for Your Kingdom affairs in the earth. Please pour out Your Spirit upon Emmaus Road Community Church and make us the prayer-driven church that You desire. Prayer matters to You, so help it to really matter to us! In Jesus’ Name, the NAME ABOVE EVERY NAME, we ask. AMEN!

contact the Rhythms of Grace team: rhythmsofgrace721@gmail.com

Reflecting on Laments

By Carol J. H. Kobulnicky

I spend quite a bit of time in Psalms.  God uses that book in particular to remind me of God’s character as well as how I am not alone in what I experience in this broken world.  That book contains a fair number of laments in which the psalmist cries out to God for Him to act.  (See also Lamentations of course.)

Included in Psalms are statements that are untrue of God as well as questioning of God’s actions and motives.  On the surface, this could seem heretical, but the psalmist does not make these statements or ask these questions in a vacuum.  They are made within the context of the entire psalm, and in some cases, within the context of multiple psalms.  We, of course, can read them within the context of the Bible in its entirety.  Desperate exclamations and questioning is juxtaposed with reflection upon who God really is: just, compassionate, and able.  The questioning of God’s true character and action is intense.  An example is found in Psalm 77:7-9, where it is written:

“Will the Lord reject forever and never again show favor? 

Has his faithful love ceased forever? 

Is his promise at an end for all generations?

Has God forgotten to be gracious?

Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

The psalmist does not leave it there.  He goes on to intentionally remember the deeds of the Lord that show Him to be faithful.  The psalmist chooses to meditate on all of God’s mighty works (v. 12).  He professes God’s holiness (v. 13), acknowledges His role as redeemer (v. 15), declares His absolute power over the earth (v. 16-18) and reassures himself and us that God is leading us in this world even when we cannot see Him (v. 19).  

When we find ourselves grieving this broken world, we may need to lament and cry out to God.  In the height of great emotions, we may ask or say some pretty heretical things, but I’m convinced God understands. One writer suggests, “God welcomes our lament to help us hold to him. He knows that our tendency is either to pretend everything is okay (while we suffocate on the inside), or walk away from God, believing he doesn’t care.”  Indeed, lamenting “invite(s) God into our pain, so that we can know his comfort” (Risner, VR. Laments Help Us Hold Onto Him, Desiring God article, Nov 2, 2016; URL: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/lament-helps-us-hold-on-to-him).

We need to follow up any lament (spoken or unspoken) with remembering God’s faithfulness, holiness, mercy and power.  We are not limited to the scriptures to see it.  We can look at all of the ways God has provided for us as individuals, our families, our communities, and yes, our nation.  

Lord, we are struggling with the brokenness of this world.  There is so much pain and hurting, and so much that can unsettle us.  We sometimes ask, “Where are you?”  Yet we know You promised to never leave us or forsake us.  We must be intentional to remember Your goodness, faithfulness, mercy and power!  You are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  You are our Good Shepherd, You lead us to green pastures, beside quiet waters.  Restore us, O Lord. In Your mercy, Amen.

A Great Word of Encouragement from our Christian Astronomer, Chip Kobulnicky

Gina writing…1/17/2021

I don’t want to say too much because I feel that Chip Kobulnicky expresses things so well in this brief video. I hope you’ll take a moment to watch (3 minutes, 38 seconds in length):

I love hearing the perspective of a Christian scientist. I pray you will take these words to heart!

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to truly be inspired by what Chip shared. Help us to fill our lives with more life-giving activities and fewer world-driven activities. Inspire us to take prayer everywhere! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

This week’s prayer point: Prayer is a pathway to joy because it involves us in a love relationship with God. ~Alvin Vandergriend

God is Always At Work

To listen to the podcast, click here!

Gina writing…1/10/2021

Philippians 1:6

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

This past week as I was adding things to my “to do” list, I realized again that the list never comes to an end. There is always something to add when I complete a task. That thought led to me to think about the work that God is doing in those who have placed their faith in His Son, Jesus. His work does not end when we accept His gift. It only just begins there and will continue in us until we see Him in glory.

The same is true in our prayer life. God is working always to deepen the communion that we have with Him through prayer. Look at the example of the disciples in Luke 11:1-3: (emphasis mine)

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “LORD, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

I can imagine as the disciples were watching Jesus’ pray, they realized that they had much to learn and that He had much to teach. Have you asked Jesus to teach you to pray lately? You can ask Him that many times over and still never know all there is to know. My prayer life has changed radically over the years as the Holy Spirit has caused me to mature. I hope that you won’t give up on prayer because you think that you aren’t doing it correctly. Our Heavenly Father loves to hear from us and He is always at work to help us to become the disciples that He needs to fulfill His Kingdom plan.

Prayer: Lord, as we seek You, we ask You to teach us to pray! Teach our Church community to pray and to seek You in all things. We repent for times when we have been very self-reliant and have not asked for Your wisdom and provision. Forgive us, Lord and create a deep desire in our hearts, by Your Holy Spirit, to have greater communion with You. Thank You, Lord, for Your continuing work in our lives. In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Prayer Point:

Faith in a prayer-hearing God will make a prayer-loving Christian. ~Andrew Murray