praying_in_the_spirit1

I love how the old testament has so many things that happen in real life that picture something supernatural and spiritual.

Take for example when the Israelites were in the wilderness, fleeing from exile, heading towards the promised land and they were hungry.  Their reaction always amuses me – they were slaves in Egypt, treated terribly, forced to work in extreme conditions, oppressed and persecuted, yet here they complaining and wishing they were back in Egypt where I quote “here we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”  Now from reading previous chapters of the conditions they faced I’m not sure their filter was accurate.  They’re painting their past like it was satisfactory and forgetting that they belong to the God of miracles who split the sea to set them free.   And I confess I have read it and gone silly Israelites, you are so stupid, how could you forget your God, oh ye of little faith.

Until God reminded me, that I too am like a silly Israelite, forgetting my God, oh me of little faith.

We have moments in our life when the journey when hardship comes from left field, or things aren’t working out like we expected and we forget that the God who does miracles is with us and for us and at work doing a zillion things behind the scenes but we might see only 3 of them.

Gods solution to their complaining met their needs on a practical level but also on a spiritual level.  God provided manna that would fall every morning – like a supernatural bread that would appear around them – that they were to gather every day.  They were to gather just enough for that day for themselves or their families.  There were of course some that tried to hoard but when they went to open their manna pantry the next day their manna had rotted and was filled with worms!

Everyday they had to gather the manna for that day.

Everyday they had to find their satisfaction in God.

Everyday they got a tangible reminder that God is with them and for them.

Everyday they got a reminder that they are special to God.

Something in real life that reveals something supernatural and spiritual.

Everyday we have to gather the manna for our day.

Everyday we have to find satisfaction in God.

Everyday we need that tangible reminder that God is with us and for us and that we are His children and that He loves us with a never ending love.

Now we’re not heading out the backdoor to the lawn to pick up the days kai, our manna is time spent with God, in His word, in prayer, in worship and its not filling our bellies but filling our spirits and souls with peace, hope, grace and wisdom that being in God’s presence gives.

Jesus said in Matthew 4:4 that we do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from God.

The passion bible puts it like this: Bread alone will not satisfy,[d]
but true life is found in every word,
which constantly goes forth from God’s mouth.”

 

In exodus 33 we read about Moses who spent time every day with God:

 Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses. 10 Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent. 11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.  Exodus 33:7-11

 

Wow.  The Lord would speak to moses face to face as one speaks to a friend.

There is that same invitation for each one of us to draw close to God.  James 4:8 says that if we draw near to God, he will draw near to us.

Our behind the scenes reel needs to be full of manna moments, these times when we draw near, every day moments with God that will shape our faith, our character and our influence.

 

I learned pretty quickly that as a Mum two of the qualities you need an overflowing abundance of is wisdom, followed by grace.  In fact I needed every fruit to the max that the Holy Spirit offered at all times.

Hebrews 4:16 says Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

It is in our behind the scenes reel that we need that help and mercy.  Our times of need.  When we are weak.  When we are empty.  When we are stuck.  When we are frustrated.  When we don’t know what to do or the next step to take.

Now you might not be a mum, but as a member of the human race I am sure you can think of situations that took you to depths over your head where you found you were completely reliant upon God for hope and strategies.  God uses these moments to transform us, to teach us, to draw us to Him.  He uses the people in our world often to refine us – chucking us in the fire to remove in impurities just like gold becoming pure.

I love how James 1 says that when we feel like we lack wisdom we can ask God for it and He will give it without judgement.

In fact there are ways that in our everyday with Jesus moments, the manna times, the times when we like Moses draw aside to spend time with God when God is at work infusing us with His wisdom to live our best life and to navigate whatever comes our way.

 

This year I learnt this awesome thing about worship and how it physically transforms us and gives us gains in the wisdom stakes.

2 Cor 3:18 says And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory,are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

 

 

Take your hand and hold it out

Take a walnut with no shell

Place it here

That’s our THALAMUS where our sense of self comes from

Take an almond

That’s our AMYGDALA that’s where fear and aggression come from in our brain

Roll your hand up and over

And that is the limbic system of our brain.

Now take 4 sheets of notebook paper and crumple them up and wrap them around your fist

That’s our NEOCORTEX

Up front 30% is the PREFRONTAL CORTEX that’s where we get logic and reason, wisdom, decision making.  Did you know your prefrontal cortex wont be fully developed until you are about 25!

Over here by your thumb on both side you have the ANTERIOR CINGULATE CORTEX which is where we get affection and love and friendship and cats on the internet

Back further above our ears we have the PARIETAL LOBE which help us know that there are things around us, location of stuff – it contains hard data such as how many steps we took from the door of church to our seats.

 

Stuff happens in our brains when we worship God.  There have been neuroscience studies that show through brain scans that people who worship God for real have a different brain than people who don’t worship.

Insights into how the brain works have gotten much more sophisticated in the last decade thanks to the emergence of new tools to image living brains. We have machines now that let us watch living brains in three dimensions without surgery or autopsy. This technology allows brain scientists to study believers as they pray, meditate, worship and experience God.

People who regularly focus on God’s love through prayer and meditation change.  Our brain changes.  They experience less stress, and they even experience a reduction in blood pressure. Their prefrontal cortex, the part of their brain associated with focus and attention, becomes more active over time, helping them avoid distraction and be more intentional.

Psalm 119:98-100 says : 98Y our commandments make me wiser than my enemies, For they are ever mine. 99I have more insight than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation. 100I understand more than the aged, Because I have observed Your precepts.…

Worship makes us wiser in our brains physically because it grows our prefrontal context!  God is lavishly giving us wisdom as we spend time with Him – His wisdom is part of the fresh manna we receive.

When we worship we also have more activity in our anterior cingulate cortex. That’s the part of our brain associated with love, compassion and empathy. Focusing on God’s love makes us more loving and less angry.  It physically is a hub for the fruit of the Holy Spirit to grow.   It’s easier for us to forgive ourselves and others.  In fact it acts as a buffer between that fear centre – the amygdala – and the prefrontal cortex – to help us be more resilient and brave.

Here’s something else cool…. When you know that God is loving and kind the anterior singular cortex lights up and they experience love and grace for themselves and God and others and when they frequently worship their thalamus becomes asymmetrical which means one side is bigger and they see the world as more hopeful and loving – it changes your brain!  Experiencing worship as a connection to a loving God reduces anxiety, depression, and stress, and increases feelings of security, compassion, and love.

Ok this might blow your mind….  The bible that we are seated in heavenly places and to keep our eyes fixed on the things above….  So did you know that the parietal lobe – the part of your brain responsible for location location location – shuts down when you pray and worship – its like you leave the location you are in and takes you to another place… interesting!  Even more interesting is that this ONLY happens to real Christians when they pray – they have scanned non-Christians and atheists and nothing happens in that zone of the brain.  But for Christians there is a brain connection with God!

Need wisdom – draw aside with God everyday.

Need fruitfulness – draw aside with God everyday.

Need grace – draw aside with God everyday.

Need anything – you get the picture – draw aside with God everyday.

 

 

 

Another thing that happens when we are spending regular time with God is that our perspective changes.

I know that especially when my kids were young time would blend into one big mash up of wake, nappy, feed, play, sleep, repeat until the end of the day, then repeat again and again and again.   Things such as sleep routine and behaviour stuff would feel like it was all consuming.

But the big picture was that as parents we weren’t just raising happy children but our objective was to raise awesome adults who would be stable, productive, secure, who know God and live their best lives.

There were time when the kids were younger and like last week, because hello, tween and teenagers, when I’d be praying and stuck with my eyes fixed on today and God would lift my head and remind me to have vision and think big picture.

 

When we read the end of the book of Ruth we see a grandmother bouncing a newborn on her knee, a newborn destined to be the greatest king of Israel.

I often remind myself when I read the bible to try and forget whats on the next page.  We know the end of the story.  As we begin reading the book of Ruth, we know that she becomes David’s grandmother.  But the book begins with her husband and sons dying and their land in famine.   That could have been the end of the book right there if Ruth wasn’t living for the bigger picture.  We retrospectively attribute vision and purpose to her actions but can see that as she made the choice to follow her MIL to a new land, with a new faith that vision empowered her to make decisions that ultimately led her to new hope, new relationships and a new life.   Contrast that to her MIL who was stuck in the tragedy, and I just want to say that grieving is so necessary and so right and that I’m not dissing Naomi in any way, but who renamed herself bitterness and declared that God had left her and pretty much embraced depression and woe is me.  There are seasons and times when we need to stop and process but in that even we need to keep our heart fixed on God, who is good, even in this.

 

 

Vision lifts our eyes from the struggle of the now to the perspective of heaven.

Vision can be defined as: “a clear sense of purpose regarding what God wants to do through your life”

It reminds us of the promises of God.

It reminds us that we are His children, loved by Him.  This perspective chases away that orphan feeling that says I have to do it on my own, that I have to work it out, that I’m all alone and that I cant cope and cant do it.

It reminds us that Romans 8:28 is true:  So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfil his designed purpose.

 

Vision is found in the everyday relationship with God as we read His word, discovering what those promises are, what those truths about who God is and His heart towards us.  If we don’t have that regular time we don’t have those truths stored up.

Christine Caine says what you store up in the silence will come back to you in the storm.

During the holidays Jen and I renewed our first aid licence.  We’re like james bond, but we save lives.  The whole point of doing a first aid course is that if you come across an accident or if someone collapses right now that jen and I would leap into action and know what to do because we have trained and practiced and know what steps to take.   In the same way when we spend time with God and read His word and worship and pray we are preparing our hearts to navigate any and every situation.

 

Remember that scene from The Karate Kid in which Mr. Miyagi made Daniel wax his car? and paint his fence?

The lesson of the Karate Kid has stuck with me since I watched it when I was about 12.  If you havent seen the original – then do it.  It’s not just a movie but it’s a metaphor for life.

The point of the mundane “housework” wasn’t to teach Daniel how to clean and paint, it was to teach him the specific movements and elements that he would then use as karate moves, defeating the roadblocks in his life and achieving his goals.  There was a big picture, a vision and a purpose for every single mundane action and moment.

 

Daniel spends weeks doing this repetitive, boring task, without understanding why. Over and over again, he paints up and down, and waxes on and waxes off until he reaches a breaking point.  He didn’t come to Mr Miyagi to be a slave but to learn karate!  He thought that Miyagi was using him and wasting his time.

“But Miyagi shows him what he’s been doing has been preparation for all the moves he’s going to learn. In fact, he’s already learned them — without realizing it. Daniel learns an important lesson here. And so do we when we commit ourselves to the work, not just the fruit.  There is no “awesome” and “mundane.” There is only the work that must be done. There are three lessons we learn from this Miyagi-style teaching:

Sometimes, practice doesn’t feel like practice.

You’re practicing even when you don’t realize it.

All of life is practice — even the boring parts (in fact, especially the boring parts).

Vision is lived out in the everyday moments, in the practice.

Whatever you’re doing, don’t believe the lie that says you’re doing nothing. No, you’re practising something. It’s just a matter of how intentional you’re being and what the big picture is.  In the everyday moments vision will sustain us towards the goal, the end in mind.

Vision sees the provision of God.  It sees the heart of God towards us.  It silences the fear and stands by faith.  It is lived in the everyday.  It expresses itself in everyday actions and words.

 

 

 

Once the kids could talk we learned that they watched us very closely and were little mirrors into our souls.  I overheard Caleb once telling his sister, “I am so not impressed with you right now “ and both said PARRRRK with 25 rs in them until they were about 6.

In fact there have been many moments as a mother when I’ll be talking to my kids and have that realisation that I have morphed into my own mother!

It has been said that we are first missionaries to – not the world – but to our families.

Our kids watch us to see how to worship, how to behave, how to know God and how to make Him known.  If it is real for us it is more likely that it will be real for them.

We are legacy creators.

Which brings us back to Exodus 33 – where moses is meeting with God face to face as you would a friend.

The passage says that the people of Israel would come out and watch and worship God but more importantly Joshua was right there, front row seat, watching and encountering God right alongside Moses.  Moses was like a spiritual father to him, creating a legacy of what it means to walk with God everyday.

I love how Joshua then stays behind after Moses goes – and we see the fruit of that in his leadership – Moses took the people up to the promised land but it was Joshua who was anointed to take them into the promise.  I think the two are linked.

As Christians our lives tell a story about the reality and goodness of God.  It can encourage people to make God real in their lives too.  As a mother my heart is that my kids will go further than I will, accomplish bigger dreams than I can dream and that they will stand on my shoulders to get there.

That is such a challenge, to me to live out my faith everyday.  For me to seek God’s wisdom everyday.  For me to be transformed everyday, to be fruity everyday so that my kids and those in my world see the best of who God is.  Its not about ME looking great but about God being great in my life so that people see Him through the way I live.

 

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