His Kingdom. Not mine. I had a rude awakening last week as God gently reminded me of this reality. I woke up feeling anxious with a “to-do” list for the day that seemed completely impossible. I went through my prayer time and definitely felt some of the heaviness lift as I offered praise and thanksgiving for Him being Sovereign, Mighty, and In-Control. But somehow I managed to get through the Confession part of the study that day without recognizing my anxiousness and self-sufficiency as something I needed to repent of; I seem to be having a constant struggle with walking out by faith what I know to be true in my head.

So, I start my morning routine and as I am reading the boys their morning devo’s, God graciously spoke to my heart and revealed the root of my anxiety. I was reading Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones, and she writes, “In the beginning, God sang everything into being—for the joy of it—and set the whole universe dancing. God was in the center, at the heart of everything.” That was all I needed to read. “God was at the center, at the heart of everything.”

I looked at the corresponding illustration in the book by Jago and I heard God whisper to my heart, “Angie, who is at the center? Is it you?” In that moment, though I sensed my smallness, I also felt such relief and peace. It wasn’t about me. God was at the center. The world was not revolving around me (Lord, help us all if that were true) but was spinning and circling around the Sovereign One, Creator of All, our Perfect, Holy, and Righteous King.

As Laurie taught an In the Garden lecture, she reminded us that Jesus modeled this same heart posture in the Lord’s prayer:

For His Name,
For His Kingdom,
For His Will.

There is no me or I in this, and we can be so thankful! I have seen and experienced first hand that when my heart posture and actions become about my name, my kingdom, and my will everything becomes a mess. So thankful for this prayer study and the daily reminder to start my day on my knees, to remind not only my mind, but also my heart and flesh that it is about Him, His Kingdom, His Name and His Will. And that, my friends, is the dance around our Glorious Father that I want to be a part of.

This post has been contributed
to the Thistlebend blog anonymously.

by Susan Sampson

Give us this day our daily bread.

I am so thankful to the Lord for the word “lean.”  Laurie shared in a lecture that our overarching theme is placing our trust, faith, and focus on God.  She explained that trust means “to lean on.”  Can you hear the song, “Lean on Me”? It’s actually a helpful reminder.

She read several verses from different translations that included this word “lean.”  One that stood out to me was Psalm 56:3: “When I am afraid I will lean on thee.”  But the verse that my mind immediately went to when I heard the word “lean” was Proverbs 3:5-6: ” Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not LEAN on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Oh how desperately I needed to be told to stop leaning on my own understanding and start leaning on my Lord!  It is interesting how we have heard of so many of us who have struggled with our flesh in this study?  Not wanting to bow; not wanting to spend so much time in the study; not wanting to read the same thing over again; and I could go on.  I am so amazed by our good and all-wise God!  He knows exactly what His children need.  We need less of us and more of Him.  We must decrease and He must increase.  He is showing us how much of our dead flesh still remains and how to put it to death.  What a precious gift of grace!

I so need a Teacher!  That is one way the Lord has been revealing himself to me through this study, as my good Teacher.  Every day I need my Teacher to give me my daily bread.  I need to hear the same instruction over and over again.  I need to be reminded to ask the Lord to help me watch over my heart with all diligence; to be reminded to fix my eyes on Jesus and by God’s grace turn from my sins and run the race of faith; to be told again and again to lift up my eyes to my precious loving Lord.  I need to be instructed to bow because otherwise I wouldn’t!  I have prayed (as I’m sure many of you all have) for the Lord to give me a heart like Christ, to make me more like Jesus.  I know this study, In the Garden, is one way He is answering the cry of my heart.

This study is truly God’s gift to us.  It is the Great Shepherd’s way of caring for His sheep.  Ladies, our wool is thick and it’s shearing time!  I know some of you have read the book by W. Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.  I highly recommend it.  The author is a modern day shepherd.  Listen to his description of the sheep’s wool and the shearing process:

Wool in Scripture depicts the old self-life in the Christian.  It is the outward expression of an inner attitude, the assertion of my own desire and hopes and aspirations….It is significant that no high priest was ever allowed to wear wool when he entered the Holy of Holies.  This spoke of self, of pride, of personal preference — and God could not tolerate it.  If I wish to go on walking with God and not be forever “cast” down (a sheep is “cast” who has turned over on his back and can’t get up without the shepherd’s help), this is an aspect of my life which He must deal with drastically.  Whenever I found that a sheep was being cast because it had too long and heavy a fleece, I soon took swift steps to remedy the situation.  In short order I would shear it clean and so forestall the danger of having the ewe lose her life.  This was not always a pleasant process.  Sheep do not really enjoy being sheared, and it represents some hard work for the shepherd, but it must be done.  Actually when it is all over both sheep and owner are relieved.  There is no longer the threat of being cast down, while for the sheep there is the pleasure of being set free from a hot, heavy coat.  Often the fleece is clogged with filthy manure, mud, burrs, sticks, and ticks.  What a relief to be rid of it all!

We are sheep.  We need a Shepherd, we need a Teacher, we need our Savior.  We need to hear the truth over and over and over again.  I thank the Lord for sanctifying us; shearing our fleece; giving us our daily bread; hollowing us out so we can hallow His name!

Please join me in thanking the Lord for His amazing grace.  For a Father’s good and perfect wisdom and timing.  For a Father’s tender loving care for His children.  For our Great Shepherd who loves us so much He is willing to sheer our sin infested fleece.  For our good Teacher’s perfect wisdom.

Praise our good Lord who we can lean on…

by Angie Thomas

The Lord brought this verse to mind this evening as I began to write the weekly email and it was exactly the encouragement my heart needed: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:4). Isn’t that such good news, friends?  He started the good work and He will complete it.  I needed the encouragement as I felt like I was stumbling and struggling through the first “official” week of our prayer study.

I have been thinking about Laurie’s bike analog a lot.  When we were teaching my middle son to ride his bike, he was petrified of falling.  He would peddle a few times and be doing awesome, but the minute he started to think he was going to fall or wipe out he would just jump off the bike…bail.  This went on for days.  He just did not trust or believe that he could ride without the training wheels.

How about you? Do you feel like bailing on this whole prayer study already because it is challenging and awkward and maybe even down right painful?  It can be painful to be asked to do something that we aren’t immediately “good” at or that comes easily.  It is painful to be asked to pray for an hour or so, six days a week.  It might mean you have to give up your favorite show or time on social media in the evening. It can be painful to drag your half-awake body out of bed in the morning and not just go snuggle with your coffee and favorite throw blanket, but actually lay yourself out on the floor.

May the Lord give us faith to believe that the temporary discomfort we may be experiencing is achieving for us an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs what we are experiencing now. He is able to give us the grace needed to not only participate in this study, but thrive and grow immensely in intimacy with our Father.

My prayer is that we would not bail or become discouraged, but would remain and cry out to Him in our discomfort, pain, and perhaps even our apathy, and ask for His grace to persevere, to press on.  I love Paul’s promise in this verse: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5).

God’s love being poured into our hearts!  May that be the reality we all experience every morning at the foot of His cross and the entrance to His Throne Room! May we not just “learn to ride our prayer bikes,” but by the end be popping wheelies and riding with no hands.