Articles for Encouragement

God Knows Even When You Don’t – So Pray!

Three public restroom stalls with green writing that says "Jesus Loves You" represents the place I prayed a prayer for a stranger only God knows.

As Christians, we pray every day. We just do. We pray for ourselves, our families, and our fellow Christians, as well as a variety of other people and situations that present themselves in our lives each day. God knows us and guides us, many times by those very prayers. So, when something happened at the school where I teach a couple of weeks ago that made me feel helpless in and of myself, I did the only thing I knew to do. I prayed. And that prayer made a difference for a stranger I may never know beyond the name I gave to her when I spoke to God: “Green Marker Girl.”

Disturbing Messages

I teach in a public high school in the DFW area. The school is well run, and the problems that come up on campus are dealt with swiftly in order to stop a snowball effect that can and does happen when discipline is ignored in schools. Restrooms are cleaned regularly, and stalls have always been kept pristine – until two weeks ago. It started with one stall in the girls’ restroom in my hall. The words were disgusting and written in green marker on the door of the stall I usually use. The next time I came in and used a different one, I noticed the same green writing. There was another dirty message about sexual activities done to a certain boy on campus. 

I called down to the office and left a message for the school secretary to have someone come upstairs and clean the walls. The four letter word used is pretty common to teens, but some of the other words this girl was writing might be “educating” some of the young freshmen who also use the facilities. The secretary was out, though, so nothing was done. By the next day, every stall I went into had green writing. After school, I talked to the night janitor myself. I specifically asked him to clean the stalls, and he did. 

No End in Sight

For a few hours the next day, the walls were clean and perfect once again. And then they weren’t. Green Marker Girl had struck again. This time, the writing came with smears of bodily fluids and messages of activities done there producing said mess. I was disgusted and distraught. Cleaning the stalls didn’t work. Cameras are not allowed inside the restrooms for good reason, and the cameras in the hall itself wouldn’t help catch someone who could come in with the marker hidden in a purse or backpack. There was really no way to stop this girl from writing on every stall, every day.

And then I thought a little more about Green Marker Girl herself. What must this girl’s life be like that she felt the need to do this? What demons must she have to prompt her to act out in a way that was so beyond normal behavior even for troubled teens? I had no idea who she was or even how to help, but God knows. So I prayed for her.

Prayers Make The Difference

I prayed for her to feel conviction, that God would impress upon her how wrong it was for her to be putting messages where other girls could be tainted by perversion. I also prayed that God would allow her to feel His love and peace, that she would know and understand that God loved her. Even if her situation was rough, I prayed she would think to turn to Him for comfort instead of acting out in such a way. Every time I came into the restroom, I would think of her and pray. The janitor cleaned the writing again that night. And then the writing stopped.

The stalls in my hall’s restroom have been graffiti-free this whole past week, but my prayers have continued. I keep praying for Green Marker Girl to know and feel the love of Jesus and for God to send people into her life to lead her closer to Him. I even pray that one day I might meet her as a sister in Christ in eternity.

We Are Never Helpless

Psalm 121 says that we should lift our eyes and look to the Lord for our help. He is the Maker of heaven and earth, and He is also actively involved in our lives. My personal prayer each and every day I walk into the school is for God to see me as one of His “guys on the ground” on my campus. Just like in Acts 18:10 when God told Paul that He had “many people in the city,” God knows where His people are, and I want Him to consider using me when He sees a need at my school. I want Him to send people and situations my way so I that can help others and bring glory to Him. 

We don’t have to know all the details in a given situation. Names are not important to a God who knows everything. We just have to pray to be in the right place at the right time for God to use us and to keep lifting people up to Him. We are never helpless. He is our help. And He can and does move on behalf of our prayers.

Interested in more articles about prayer? Check out Make God’s Will My Will: A New Way to Pray. It’s a “God wink” story that teaches a new way to pray to get what you want. Or, see God Answered the Prayer I Did Not Pray. In it, God teaches me a lesson about leaning on Him for strength.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Articles for Encouragement

Three Simple Instructions From God to Us

Three check marks indicating the 3 instructions from God in Hebrews 3-4: Listen, Obey, and Trust.

I don’t know about you, but I like things simple, and I love the bottom line. Recently, I was pondering the boundaries between Christ’s finished work on the cross and my own personal responsibility as a believer. After all, we can’t just get saved and then put our feet up on the couch and watch Netflix. There are some things that God requires us to do in order to show our faith and endure to the end, but what? The Bible holds instructions from God to us. In it, He reveals His will for our lives.

I believe God boiled this particular issue down for me into three clear steps when I was reading Hebrews 3-4 one night in my prayer closet, and this comforts me immensely. Life is complicated, but as hard as things get sometimes and as weak as I can be, if I can just follow these three instructions from God I will know that I’m doing His will. All we really need to do is to listen, obey, and trust. 

We Must Listen

Paul begins Hebrews 3 by addressing the brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling. True, he is talking to Hebrew believers of that time, but he’s also talking to you and me. He tells us what the Holy Spirit says. It starts with “Today, if we will hear His voice.” God’s sheep hear His voice. That’s the mark of a child of God. When we hear Him speak to us, we know we are His. But as anyone who is a parent knows, it’s not enough that our children hear us speak to them. We want them to listen to what we are saying and understand the message behind the words. As God’s children, we must be sensitive to the times when He talks to us. We must be diligent to pray until we understand clearly what He is saying and follow the instructions from God

We Must Obey

Next, the Holy Spirit draws a parallel between the exodus of ancient Israel and now. He says, “Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.’” Moses took the children of Israel out of Egypt and into the wilderness. Jesus Christ took us out of Satan’s kingdom and into His own. While on earth, we are basically in the wilderness. This is our “day of trial” since we haven’t hit the Promised Land, or Heaven, just yet.

As partakers of the Holy Spirit, we are the temple of God on earth. He speaks to us, and we listen to Him. Then comes the hard part sometimes: we have to obey what He is telling us to do. Even when it’s inconvenient, even when it doesn’t fit with our idea of what should be happening in our lives, and even when we just flat out don’t want to do it, we must be open and willing to obey God simply because God knows best. Otherwise, the consequence is a hardening of our hearts. We will be less able to hear Him the next time and further away from the path where we need to be.

We Must Trust

The last part of the Holy Spirit’s message is scary. “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’” The vast majority of children of Israel never entered the Promised Land because they didn’t trust in God to supply their needs. They took one look at the giants inhabiting the land of Canaan and decided that the wilderness wasn’t such a bad place to be after all. Only Joshua and Caleb, the two who believed God would give them the victory, were alive to see the day when God would lead their children into the land flowing with milk and honey. The rest perished in the wilderness in judgement for their unbelief.

Our belief is now the very thing that will get us to our Promised Land, an eternity with our Lord and Savior. We must have faith in His finished work on the cross, His blood shed for us and our transgressions. But we can’t just trust that He saved us. We also have to trust that He will supply our needs in our wilderness here on earth. He provides for His own, and we are commanded to cast our cares upon Him for He cares for us. That faith and trust in Him then becomes a resting of sorts.

Hebrews 4:11 says “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.” Diligence is careful and persistent effort. It takes some doing to consistently redirect our thoughts away from ourselves and our problems and onto the one who holds our lives in His hands. We rest IN Him now, and one day we will rest WITH Him in eternity.

A Confirmation of the Lesson

While they aren’t always simple to achieve, those three little words are easy to remember. About a month after I believe God gave me this lesson, I found myself pondering yet again. This time, I was wondering about my “job” on earth. Was I doing enough for God? Was I making a big enough impact for the Kingdom? Am I pleasing to the Father? Then those three words popped into my mind again. So, I asked myself: “Was I following the instructions from God that He gave me?”

To the best of my ability, yes, I believe I was. A few minutes later, I opened my Bible app on my phone for my morning verses. There I was in Hebrews 3 again. God was confirming the lesson right on time just the way He often seems to do. God DOES speak to His children. And, when He does, we just need to listen to His voice, obey His instructions, and trust His provision for both our lives and our hereafter.

If you like to look at scripture, try Twinkly Trash: A Closer Look at Job . In it, we see a special lesson about what God thinks is true treasure. Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Articles for Encouragement

Hope For Lost Loved Ones: God’s Mercy in Trials

A sign of hope pointing forward and despair pointing behind. We can have hope for our lost loved ones when we trust in God's great mercy.

There is hope for lost loved ones when we understand God’s great mercy. Like most everyone in these last days, I have unsaved loved ones, friends, and acquaintances whom I pray for daily. Still, they remain hostile to the God and dead in their sins. They are blind to the bleak future ahead of them that we see all too clearly. For so many of them, I have been praying for so long. It was starting to feel like nothing was happening or would ever happen to change their stony hearts. Then one day I read the story of King Manasseh of Judah. I realized that all my loved ones needed was a “Manasseh moment,” and God’s great mercy would handle the rest.

King Manasseh’s Idolatry

King Manasseh of Judah was a wicked, idolatrous man. We find him in 2 Kings 21:1-18 and 2 Chronicles 33:1-19. He was the son of Hezekiah, one of the very few kings in the Old Testament who “did what was right in the sight of the Lord.” Manasseh knew better. Hezekiah was obedient to God. He tore down the high places where people sacrificed animals and even people to demon gods, but Manasseh built them up again. Instead of worshiping God, Manasseh erected altars for Baal and Ashtorah and served them. He put statues/carved images of them inside the temple Solomon had built to honor God. He even sacrificed his own son as a burnt offering to Molech, another demonic idol.

According to Jewish history, he also had the prophet Isaiah cut in two because he didn’t like what he prophesied from the Lord (as alluded to in Matthew 24:51). He also practiced witchcraft, consulted mediums to talk to the dead, and encouraged his people to do likewise. Manasseh “shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another.” God warned Manasseh and the people through His prophets, as He always does, but they didn’t listen. “So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria. They took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon” (2 Chronicles 33:11).

He Repents In Times of Trial

“Bad king gets justice” might have been the moral of the story here, but God wasn’t finished with Manasseh just yet. This next part is what gives me such great hope for those I know and love. See, when Manasseh was in distress, when he had nothing left but leg irons and a hunk of floor in Babylon, he remembered God. He cried out to Him for favor, and humbled himself before the Lord. The Bible doesn’t record what was said in that prayer, saying only that it was “written in the book of the kings of Israel.” But, you can find it in the Apocrypha of the King James Bible or online with a quick search.

Scholars may debate the authenticity and quibble about phrases that are more metaphor than literally biblical, but it’s worth looking into if you have the time. Here are the phrases that speak to me. “But you offer me, the sinner, the chance to change my heart and life… In me you’ll show how kind You are. Although I’m not worthy, You’ll save me according to Your great mercy.” God offers chances, and He saves, not because we are worthy, but because He is merciful. That is why there is hope for our lost loved ones too.

God Restores His Life

God did save Manasseh, both his soul and his life. He gave him back his kingdom, and “Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.” No empty confession, Manasseh’s words of humble repentance and submission to God went straight to his heart. His first order of business when he was back as king was taking down all the demonic altars and high places in Judah. He restored worship of God alone and told Judah to serve God. Unfortunately, Judah had some bad habits by then. The city would be judged again, but Manasseh himself had truly turned to God.

The final words of that apocryphal “Prayer of Manasseh” are these. “I will praise You continuously all the days of my life, because all of heaven’s forces praise You, and the glory is Yours forever and always. Amen.” His life had been changed forever. In a moment of affliction, he humbled himself before God, and God heard him and received him to Himself.

God Can Restore Our Lost Loved Ones Too

Only God knows if Judah’s sins of idolatry came anywhere close to that of the current day United States. What we do know is that God’s watchmen have been warning us for quite some time. Judgement is on its way. There will be a time of hardship. Starbucks may be closed, Netflix and Facebook may be offline, and food and water may become as valuable as gold. Our loved ones will be in distress. Now is the time to talk to your people about the Lord’s great compassion. Pray for them to have a “Manasseh moment,” a moment in time when they cry out to the Lord and humble themselves in genuine repentance to the Lord. The Bible shows us clearly that there is hope for lost loved ones. He hears and saves – not for them or even for us, but – because of His great kindness and mercy.

Interested in more articles about prayer? Check out Make God’s Will My Will: A New Way to Pray. It’s a “God wink” story that teaches a new way to pray to get what you want. 

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.