by Angie Thomas

I was deeply moved as we prayed together on our knees the other week.  It was so powerful to hear all the prayers of praise and thanksgiving as we poured out our hearts to Him.  I believe it was a taste and a glimpse of what it will be like when we are in the presence of our Lord and Savior someday.  John describes it in Revelation 4 like this:

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”
  (v. 9-11)

But how do we transition from these powerful moments, where the Spirit is almost tangible and certainly palpable, to our own quiet places of prayer?  Because the way to those places is almost always paved with sacrifice.   Can you relate?

Let me share my experience the first week of the study.  The alarm clock goes off for me to wake up and spend time with my Father.  My body is aching, yearning for more sleep, and the discussion in my head begins, “Surely just a few more minutes won’t hurt? Surely the Lord will understand?”  I doze off for another ten minutes to be awakened again by the alarm.  Still…there is nothing in my flesh that desires to get out of bed at that moment.   But in the darkness I whisper, “Jesus, help me.  My spirit is willing, but my flesh is SO weak,” and somehow this confession is met by a sweet filling of the Spirit and though still groggy, I am able to move my feet to the floor and ask Jesus to help me stand up.

Somehow, I stumble to my chair where my favorite blanket awaits me and I curl up, thankful I have made it this far.  I would still like to be in bed, but I do desire to have my heart renewed by the Lord.  I pull out my Introduction to In the Garden and begin to read.  I am soaking it up, giving lots of mental ascent to what I am reading…then the warm fuzzies stop.  I am asked to kneel.  I literally sit there for about 5 minutes, debating about whether or not I really need to get out of my chair, from underneath my cozy blanket and pray.  Again the debate in my mind ensues, “Jesus doesn’t really care where I pray, why does it matter? He hears my prayers from anywhere.”  Again, I have to pray for the grace to just submit to what I am being asked to do, even if I don’t understand.

And as I sit there on my bedroom floor, face to the ground and knees to the earth, I realize why it is so important for me to kneel.  Because He is Creator, and I am the created, He is King and Ruler and I am humbly His child, because of His grace and Christ’s sacrifice.  And the concerns and worries I had about the day begin to appear small and manageable to my Great Lord.  And even though my time with my Abba is interrupted by my crying baby, I am so thankful for those moments stolen away with my Father, half-awake, and blessed by His presence.

So may we cry out to our Abba when we are faced everyday with the decision to enter into our study and time with Him in prayer.  Will we simply ask Him for the grace and the faith to be obedient, to follow Him on this journey?  He isn’t asking for performance but dependence.  Will we trust that even when it is uncomfortable or sacrifice is involved, He is worth it?


by Susan Sampson

Jesus, I want to love you.

But I can’t.  Only you can enable me.  “Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).

This is how the Lord used the lecture to speak to my heart and encourage me greatly.  I have always struggled to read the Sermon on the Mount.  I am a list maker.  So initially it seems this is super helpful.  Ta-da!  Jesus has given us a list!  I love lists.  I love to check things off of my list.  It makes me feel a sense of accomplishment which in turn makes me feel good about SELF.

But in the lecture we were reminded of how Jesus began teaching His disciples on that mount.  He spoke vitally important truths that cannot be rushed through in order to get to the list. He began what is arguably the greatest sermon ever preached with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3).

For myself and I’m thinking for many Christian women, these words have remained largely pushed to the side.  We continue to focus on the list.  And even when we read the list, we know there’s no way we can do it.  But we still try.  In our own strength, we try and try and try.  And the weight gets heavier and heavier.  Paul diagnoses us perfectly in Galatians.  “Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3).

So what are we to do with this pressure?  This weight?  This burden?  We have two choices.  Continue to rely on self, walking in self-righteousness or go back to the beginning where we hear Christ say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  We must turn in prayer to the Lord and confess our bankruptcy.  There is nothing in us that is lovely except Christ alone!

I am not good enough and never will be.  I can’t live up to these standards.  I’ve been trying to.  I’ve been building, constructing, and crafting my house on self-righteous sand!  And now, by God’s grace, I see the cracks in the foundation.  Praise the Lord for His grace!

“All I Have is Christ.”  I was running my hell-bound race and He rescued me by grace!  I didn’t choose Jesus, He chose me!  He looked upon my helpless state and had mercy on me.  He lifted me out of the miry pit.  He set me free from the power and penalty of my sin.

I was on death row.  Awaiting execution.  A just punishment that I deserved for the crime of cosmic treason.  But our King was merciful.  Out of the riches of His love, He took pity on me.  In the greatest demonstration of love the universe has ever seen, the King sent the Prince, His only Son, to take my place.

Though I was His enemy, the Prince loved me and humbly and willingly agreed.  He took my hand and said, “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away” (Song of Sol. 2:13).  He gave me a “beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit” (Isa. 61:3). 

And then He went back into the executioner’s chamber and sat down in my seat.

“And I beheld God’s love displayed, You suffered in my place.  You bore the wrath reserved for me, now all I know is grace.  Hallelujah!  All I have is Christ.  Hallelujah!  Jesus is my life.”

The Lord knows me.  He knows I’m a sinner and He loves me right where I am.  He understands I’m weak.  He loves watching His Spirit at work in me.  He wants me to know His great love for me so that I can walk in His love and be a vessel of His love.

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). 

“Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone, and live so all might see.  The strength to follow your commands could never come from me.  Oh Father, use my ransomed life in any way you choose.  And let my song forever be, my only boast is you.”

Jesus, we want to love you!  Lord, help us run to you.  Help us run into you, into your perfect love.  “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (Prov. 18:10). 

You are love and your love is safe.

S – surrender all to Christ

A – Ask Him to give us grace and a desire to please Christ over self

F – Focus on Jesus, believing He loves us

E – Entrust our hearts and lives to the Lord, trusting Him for the outcome

Learning to trust His love,


by Angie Thomas

Worry.  It is a subtle, insidious sin.  It is like a black ninja that stalks us wherever we go.  For most of us, it is like a bad habit that we know we should kick, but feel powerless to overcome.  We can acknowledge that it wreaks havoc in our lives, causing stress and anxiety, and is often rooted in fear, and yet we don’t take it seriously.  We buy into the bad mantra of  “Everyone is doing it, so why can’t I?”

It is interesting to contemplate, because Jesus frequently reprimanded the disciples for their fear, worry, and lack of faith.  For example, there was the time when they were on a boat with Jesus and a horrible storm developed and they were afraid for their lives and cried out to Him.  After he calmed the storm He turned to them and said, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (Matt. 8:26).

Another time Peter started walking to Jesus on the water.  He had his eyes fixed on Jesus and was walking on water! But the second he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to look at the wind and waves instead, he began to sink.  Again Matthew 14:31 says, “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’”

I believe Jesus’ words to us today would be the same.  “Why are you so ridden with worry and fear? Dear daughter, you have so little faith.”  I don’t know about you all, but I am tired of “little faith” and the lack of joy and confidence in my Lord that is a consequence of my sin of worry.

It is a stinking battle, girls, but one we must cry out to God for His grace to fight.

The Lord has allowed many situations that would cause me to worry, but He also graciously led me to this simple yet powerful truth in Psalm 18:1: “I love you, O Lord, my strength.” It has served as a reminder to my heart and mind in those daily battles to choose worship over worry.

When my baby wakes up in the middle of the night with a fever, I love you, O Lord, my strength.”

When I am looking at our finances and medical bills and there is a stark deficit, I love you, O Lord, my strength.”

When I feel like I am failing as a wife and mother, I love you, O Lord, my strength.”

When my heart is hurting for a friend in a difficult situation, I love you, O Lord, my strength.”

When my to-do list is mounting and my time is dwindling, I love you, O Lord, my strength.”

My dear sweet sisters, I pray Jesus will lovingly and tenderly give you the courage and wisdom to stand up and fight, by His grace, this deadly foe of worry.  Our friends and family will see our joy, despite our circumstances, and the beauty of the Gospel will be powerfully proclaimed in our lives!