Friday, September 9, 2016

The Face Softener

As one who looks in the mirror and still sees dark brown hair, despite the ever-increasing number of silver strands, I'm more interested in face-softening products than ever before. I have a few favorites, but I'm not sure how effectively they hold off the ravages of time and sun.

(In case you're wondering, I do know how silver my hair has become, but I have the heart of a brown-haired girl, and I'm still claiming it.)

This morning, I saw an astounding bit of information in Daniel 9. Daniel had been studying the writings of Jeremiah, realized the during of the captivity was scheduled by God to be seventy years, and that the allotted years were almost up. 

It was nearly time to go home to Jerusalem.

There was one problem. The people hadn't repented. They'd been taken captive and made homes and built lives in the new land. 

They'd adjusted, but they hadn't changed.

If they were to go home, changed hearts were needed, so Daniel set about to do the work of repentance. He wasn't just confessing his own sins. Daniel repented on behalf of everyone.

Over and over, he used the phrase, "We had not obeyed." I read those words and prayed with him. "Our nation has not obeyed either, Lord. We, Your people, have not obeyed."

He went on to pray, "We have not sought your face..." There's a footnote next to this phrase that says, "softened the face of". The word used here is chalah and literally means a continuous rubbing that smooths a surface, removes rough edges, makes it shine.

There's a beautiful word picture tucked into this little phrase. When we sin and God "sets His face like flint" against us, in judgment and discipline, our genuine, humble repentance is as precious to God as a caress against His face. He responds to repentance by "softening" His face. The hardness smooths.

It's the kind of change that comes over a father when his much loved child runs up, grabs his leg, and says, "I love you, Daddy. I'm sorry I messed up." As parents, we know what we would do for that child. Smile. Bend down. Hold him tight. 

We would soften.

In that same way, God responds to our genuine repentance with face-softening of His own.

Like the exiled nation of Israel, we have piled sin upon sin. We haven't turned from our evil ways, and we, as a people, deserve any judgment God sends. 

But God...

God responds to humble, repentant hearts. If we humble ourselves, turn from our sin, and repent, He will not fail to respond. He will not fail to soften His face, and His heart.

Repentance softens more than God's face. It softens our face, too. But that's a topic for another day.

For this day, let's repent on behalf of a people who aren't willing to repent for themselves, just as Daniel did. Today, let's pray, with him, "We have not obeyed. We have not sought Your face. We have not asked you to forgive. But we do today." 

We deserve judgment. We deserve the consequences we are likely to reap, but it may be that our prayers will be the ones that soften His face toward our nation.

"As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Thy truth." Daniel 9:13 nasb
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Pagans, Persecution, and the Prayers that Saved a Nation
Here's the link to the prayer guide: The Prayer List

Here's the link to my Global Outreach page: Leanna Hollis MD

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Pagans, Persecution, and the Prayers That Saved a Nation

Occasionally, I'll read one of the Bible stories I learned as a child and realize the telling has left out some of the best parts. The story of Daniel and the lions' den is one of those stories.

In case you've forgotten, Daniel was from Judea and in exile in Babylon. He'd been there since he was a youth. All his life, Daniel was faithful to God. He obeyed the rules of God, because he had a relationship with God. Three times a day, he knelt at his window, facing toward Jerusalem. He prayed and gave thanks to God.

Daniel didn't begin to pray in times of emergency. Prayer was his lifestyle, and everyone knew it. What they didn't know was that Daniel's faithful prayers would save their nation.

Daniel had risen to a high position. He was one of the top three men in the country, charged with protecting the king's interests. He was the best of the best, but lesser men became jealous. (Leanna's paraphrase coming up)

"I'm sick of Daniel. He's such a goody-two-shoes. Always praying to that invisible god of his. We can't get away with anything when he's around."

"We should get rid of him."

"Yeah, right. The king adores him. He'd never let us get rid of him."
"We'll have to trick the king."

The men began to scheme. They would get the king to issue a law that no one could "petition" any god except Darius, the king. The king signed it into unbreakable law. 

"We've got him now!" they thought. And they were right. Daniel didn't care about man's laws. He was busy obeying God's laws. He kept right on praying at the window. Three times a day. Just as was his habit.

It didn't take long. The men had him arrested and dragged before the king. By this time, the king realized he'd been tricked, but it was too late. All he could do was obey his own foolish law. 

They threw Daniel into a lion's den and covered it with a big stone. 

In case you've wondered, there is no stone big enough to stop the wonder-working power of our God, the stone-maker.

Here's where it gets interesting. When they threw Daniel into the lions' den, dread filled the heart of the king. The only likely outcome was that Daniel would be eaten by the lions.

But God.

The king had watched Daniel for years. He knew Daniel had something he didn't, and that something was Daniel's God. In an instant, he understood the truth. 

Although he'd set himself up as an idol for the entire country, the king leaned over and spoke powerful words to Daniel. 

"Your God will deliver you."  

Not He might deliver you. Not I hope He can. The king took a stunning leap of faith and declared, for all to hear, "Your God WILL deliver you. No doubt about it."

The king wasn't done yet. I believe he'd seen Daniel fast. He may not have understood why Daniel fasted, but he must've understood there was power in it. The king fasted food, entertainment, and sleep all that night. I image he spent that time praying for Daniel. 

Praying to the God he'd denied until the moment Daniel plummeted into the lion pit.

He was at the stone early the next morning and started shouting. "Daniel, did your God deliver you?"

Daniel called back. "Yes. He did!"

They hauled Daniel out and threw the troublemakers in. There was no angel of God to deliver them.

The best part was still to come. Because of Daniel's faithful obedience to God, and God's miraculous deliverance, the king issued a new decree. From that time on, everyone (including the formerly-pagan king) would fear and serve the God of Daniel.

"I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel; for He is the living God and enduring forever. And His kingdom is one which will never be destroyed, and His dominion will be forever." Daniel 6:26 nasb

When we live our lives according to God's ways, when we have a deep and intimate relationship with Him, people can tell it. When we have a powerful prayer life, people know it. 

They will respond to our faith-life in one of three ways. Either they will ignore it as unimportant (as some people likely did with Daniel), or they will fight against it (as his enemies did). 

There's one more possibility. Some people will ponder what they see and, at a divinely-orchestrated moment, they will embrace the truth we've lived out.

Those pagans-turned-believers may not have the power and influence of Darius, but they may have a greater influence than we realize.

Daniel prayed at the window for years, never realizing that, one day, those prayers would end up bringing a entire pagan nation to God.

Today, let's examine ourselves and our own faithfulness. Can people around us tell by our obedience and our prayer life that we serve the All Powerful God? Let's be sure our lives point others to our Lord. 

God used Daniel's faithfulness to bring a nation to Himself, and He can do it again, if we will only obey. Let's be the one He can use.
photo courtesy of

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's blog post: The Waring Horn Vision and the Ultimate Victory

Here's the link to the prayer guide: The Prayer List

Here's the link to my Global Outreach page: Leanna Hollis MD

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Spiritual Warfare: The Warring Horn Vision and the Ultimate Victory

Most of us know the story of Daniel. He was one of the Jewish exiles carried to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. He turned down the fancy food to have plain vegetables and water. He and his friends thrived on the simple fare.

The rest of Daniel's life was lived in that simple but faithful way, and God honored him for it. God spoke to him through dreams and visions.

One night, Daniel had a particularly terrifying vision filled with beasts and horns and arising kings and the flaming throne of God. There was one king that waged war against the saints of God and steadily overpowered them. 

It was a discouraging, frightening vision of things to come. What did it mean? Daniel wanted to know, so God sent him an interpretation that included these beautiful verses:

"But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever. 

Then the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Holy One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him." Daniel 7:26-27 nasb

There's a fair amount of spiritual warfare in this job of "Director of Intercessory Prayer and Outreach". The dread of it threatened to keep me from doing what God had called me to do. I've experienced "warfare" (as described in Ephesians 6) many times, and I don't care for it. I didn't want to do it again.

The enemy of our souls does not want us to pray and he'll do whatever he can to stop us. He especially does not want us to talk to our Lord about helping those on the front lines of evangelism, about spreading the light of the gospel in the darkest places on earth. 

Those are the kind of prayers God loves and answers. Those are among the requests that move God's heart. Our enemy knows that, and works steadily against them.

But God.

God knows all about our enemy, and He maintains dominion, even over the evil one. He uses the warfare waged against us to strengthen us and draw us ever closer to Him. 

It's not wasted. 

One day, God will put an end to our enemy's reign on earth. He will end the dominion of evil, and annihilate it forever. 

That's what Daniel saw. The war was terrible. The beasts were terrifying. The lead up was awful. The end of evil, however, was so glorious that all that went before was worth it.

If you're facing a spiritual battle (and who among us is not?), take heart. 

God sees.

God knows.

At just the right time, in just the right way, God will intervene.

There will come a time when all pain, and suffering, and evil pass away. There will come a time when the enemy's dominion is annihilated forever.

Once, the evil one seemed to have won the victory. For three long, terrifying days, he probably gloated. One early morning, though, the tomb was opened and Christ arose. He conquered sin and death. He defeated the enemy.

We serve a risen Savior.

We serve a conquering King.

We serve a victorious Lord.

So no matter what we face today, let's remember Who we serve. 

Our enemy will fight against us, but the victory belongs to the Lord. Knowing that, we cling to Him. Take our needs to Him. Rest in the assurance that God is on the throne. And He always will be.

No matter what we face, He will never leave us or forsake us. He is still God.
photo above is of the traditional tomb of Jesus that now stands empty, a reminder of His great victory.
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Wading in the Deep Water

Here's the link to the prayer guide: The Prayer List 

Here's the link to my Global Outreach page: Leanna Hollis MD

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Wading in the Deep Water

The prophet Ezekiel had a vision in which he saw the temple where the glory of God dwelt. As he walked around the House of God, water flowed from the building. The further he walked, the deeper the water became. Eventually, the water became a river that was so deep, he was forced to swim. 

Fruit-bearing trees lined the banks of the river. The fruit never failed. Their leaves never withered. Instead, the leaves were for healing.

This same imagery is repeated in the Revelation. It's a picture of the living water that flows from Christ Himself and represents the gospel of his sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection that demonstrated His power over sin and death.

The river of living water doesn't make a great ocean in the building, but it flows from the House of God outward. The good news of Christ was not meant to be contained in the church but to spread ever further. Like Ezekiel, we are to follow it as it flows, so that converts can become disciples.

The water gets gradually deeper. Matthew Henry wrote, "There are some places so shallow that a lamb may wade through them, and others so deep than an elephant may swim in them." 

When we begin our journey with Christ, we learn the simple, easy things. It is only when we have grown stronger in our faith that we can "swim in the deep" to learn the more difficult lessons of life. 

Ezekiel's vision is a vivid picture of our life of faith (at least the way our life of faith should be), ever moving through the world with the refreshment and healing of Christ, ever growing in depth.

I often forget that Ezekiel's vision was given to him at a time when he was a captive in exile in Babylon. His was not a comfortable, prosperous life. His life was hard and he was far from home. It should serve as a reminder that, no matter what our circumstances, we can still be a vital part of the work of God.

I read through the vision twice this morning and wondered how well my walk of faith demonstrates the river of life at work in the world around me. How well do I share the love of Christ? How well do I bring the healing only Christ can give to those who are sin-sick? How deep am I willing to go in my walk with Christ?

This week, let's do something bold and daring. Let's follow His river of love wherever it goes. Let's willingly go, gladly disciple.  Let's wade into the deep water with Christ.

"Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing." Ezekiel 47:12 nasb
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Adding the Prayer on Top

Here's the link to the prayer guide: The Prayer List 

Here's the link to my Global Outreach page: Leanna Hollis MD
#Jesus #Christian

Monday, September 5, 2016

Adding the Prayer on Top

My pastor tends to preach in "series". Recently, we had a series on the "I AM" statements of Christ. That was followed by a series titled "I am Hope Church", designed to help us understand who we are as the church, the body of Christ. 

Every week, Pastor Scooter has issued a challenge. If you accepted and performed the challenge, you could earn a t-shirt. (We don't have a works-based faith, but we do have works-based t-shirts.) The first week, the challenge was to share your testimony with someone inside the church and with someone outside the church. 

I was already scheduled to speak at a nearby church, so that one was easy for me. At Wednesday night Bible study, we had an opportunity to share our testimony "inside". I hopped up, shared, and earned my t-shirt right off. (Yes. I have a long history as an overachiever.)

There have been several challenges. One week, the challenge was to do something nice for someone and pair it with asking, "How can I pray for you?" I was out that Sunday, so I missed the sermon, but I didn't miss the challenge. 

A young man helped me by doing something I didn't know how to do for myself. When we finished discussing it, he asked how he could pray for me. I told him. I asked how I could pray for him. We prayed.

All day, I thought about how sweet he was. How blessed I felt when he prayed for me. How it was so much more like the church Christ intended.

When I do a "good deed", I (in a way) use my own strength and resources. When I pray, I enlist the strength and resources of God Himself, and that's infinitely better than anything I have.

This week, why not accept the Pastor Scooter Challenge for yourself. Find a need and meet it, then ask how you can pray for the person you've helped. Don't just ask how you can pray. Pray. Right then.

It's like the icing on the cake. The sweetest part of all.

"Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." James 5:16 nasb
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Baptism Excitement

Here's the link to the prayer guide: The Prayer List 

Here's the link to my Global Outreach page: Leanna Hollis MD

#helpinghand #pray

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Baptism Excitement

An unexpected thing happened at church a couple of weeks ago. My Sunday School teacher was out of town, and I was supposed to take his place. Since there was only one other person there that day, he decided to go to a different class. 

"It's a good class. Don't you want to go?" 

"No. I think I need to sit here and pray through some things." After he left, I opened my Bible to read and pray. After a few minutes, someone opened the door. A young couple was with a man who said, "Harold met them a few days ago and said they should come to this class." (Harold's the husband of a longtime friend, and he never meets a stranger.)

I invited them in and we had the sweetest time ever talking about salvation and reviewing the story of the Prodigal Son. They didn't have Bibles, so I gave them two of the ones we keep in the front foyer. "You need a Bible. You can have these." 

They used them during church but put them back as they left. "You can have those."

"No. We want Bibles of our own." 

They were back on Wednesday night with beautiful new Bibles they'd bought. 

Harold invited the young husband to accompany him to lunch and to Bible study. Like Harold always does, he talked about Jesus, about being saved, and about being a disciple. 

Wednesday evening, I waved as they walked in the door. "How was your week?"

Their smiles were as bright as floodlights. "Great. We got saved today!"  They told me all about it. As I listened, it was clear. Harold had invited them to accept Jesus, and they'd said yes.

It was the best news imaginable, and they were excited to share it with all who would listen, so they told everyone. We had a party of congratulations as people welcomed them to the family of God and hugged them. 

Pastor Scooter's smile was nearly as big as theirs. "We're having baptism Sunday. You want to be baptized then?" Yes, they did.

The only time I've been more excited about a baptism was my son's. I've thought about it all week long. Imagined that moment when Pastor Scooter asks them, "Who is Jesus to you?" and they answer, "Jesus is my Lord and Savior." 

They weren't living "bad" lives by the world's standards, but they were living "lost" lives by God's standards. In two short weeks, God has turned their lives right side up. It's been exciting to watch their transformation.

They've shown me, in a fresh way, how quickly a life can be changed by the power of Almighty God and the blood of Jesus, as well as the absolute wonder of a heart made clean by the forgiveness of God. They've reminded me of the miracle that happened when my sins were forgiven and my heart was washed white as snow.

The most amazing part of the story is how it began with a smile and a simple conversation as Harold went along his way. People hungry for God responded to someone who knew Him well and was willing to share.

That's how we change the world, body of Christ. One smile at a time. One conversation with a stranger along the way. People we will meet today are hungry for Jesus. They're waiting for someone to introduce them. Let's be that one. 

"And Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" Acts 2:38 nasb
photo above is of the traditional empty tomb of Christ

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Jesus Compliance
Here's the link to the prayer guide: The Prayer List 
Here's the link to my Global Outreach page: Leanna Hollis MD
#salvation #evangelism #Jesus