Book Club

Fervent by Priscilla Shirer

Thoughts Inspired by Fervent

Fervent, by Priscilla Shirer, is by far one of the best books I have ever read in terms of is applicability to life. Below are posts from our journey, newest to oldest, through this amazing book in early 2016. I pray you are blessed.

Resources mentioned in our Fervent series:

          

Was Blind but Now I See

originally posted April 11, 2016

Exploring Fervent Chapter 9, “Your Purity: Staying Strong in Your Most Susceptible Places.”

I have a confession to make.

I was tempted to skip over chapter 9, “Your Purity: Staying Strong in Your Most Susceptible Places.” In fact, I nearly jumped right over it to chapter 10, “You Pressures: Reclaiming Peace, Rest, and Contentment.” After all, I was raised in the church. The number of sermons, talks, and videos I have heard and seen about “purity” is high enough that surely there is nothing left to learn. Besides, American culture is nothing if not pressure-filled and stressful. Peace, rest, and contentment sure seemed like a better place to spend my time. So I thought. But I was wrong.

In “Your Purity” author Priscilla Shirer eloquently points out that maintaining purity is not just about avoiding “big” sins. It is about walking with a pure heart, free of the corruption that so easily raises a barrier between us and God, sabotaging our prayer time and sacrificing our relationship with the Father for a temporary indulgence in something we often excuse as “no big deal.” The truth is, each of us have an area of weakness, a chink in our armor, where we are often tempted and where we all too often fall.

Just as a parent rushes to rescue a child from a dangerous object he or she is about to pick up or step into, the Lord, our Daddy-God, warns us through His Holy Spirit with both urgency and love. Yet we, just like young children, look at the destructive thing as a harmless object of delight. This is where the enemy strikes at our purity. 

Ignoring the voice of God in small things builds a separation that “weakens your praying - which in turn weakens your power” (page 122).

As Shirer so wisely points out, “without this close contact with the Father, we become convinced that our careless behavior, our decisions, our habits, our general sense of what qualifies as worthwhile entertainment is somehow OK, that it’s ‘not so bad.’ Yet all the while the enemy’s carefully crafted options of impurity chip away at our spiritual reserves and effectiveness” (page 124).

Whether it is indulging an unhealthy eating habit, letting our thoughts wander or linger where they ought not, or whether it is some other hidden sin, all sin keeps us from walking in communion with our Lord. It’s time to see purity for what it is: a vital element of our walk with Christ and our battle line against the enemy of our souls.

What are your areas of weakness? How do you resist the enemy and guard your purity?

Affiliate Disclosure.

Fear Not

originally posted April 8, 2016

Have you ever known you were “supposed to do” something? I mean, a deep down inside kind of knowing that you just couldn’t shake off, even though it may have been something that seemed impossible, impractical, or uncomfortable? Sometimes we are given assignments from God that cause fear to rise up and paralyze us, leaving us unable or unwilling to take the next forward step.

It is this kind of fear - fear of failure, fear of what others might say or think, fear of not being ready, fear of having made the whole thing up - that author Priscilla Shirer tackles in chapter 8 of Fervent, “Your Fears: Confronting Your Worries, Claiming Your Calling.”

Shirer lifts up an example of a friend who is normally strong, bold, and courageous in the Lord who was given an assignment that left her feeling like she was stuck in a sea of excuses. Thankfully, her friend was eventually able to step out in faith and obey, with positive results that have left her blessed. But not everyone’s story has a happy ending. I have known numerous people over the years who have struggled with a call God had on their lives. Some have obeyed. Others ran or flat out refused, allowing the fear tactics of the enemy to block the path the Lord had so clearly prepared.

I have to admit that, although I have stepped out to follow some seemingly crazy directions from the Lord, I have, at times, struggled to obey. About thirteen years ago God called us to leave our home state and go to a place a few hours away where we knew no one, had no jobs, no church, no ties. At the time, it was an easy decision. Our oldest daughter was a toddler and our slightly under 1,100 square foot home was pretty easy to pack up. So we took wise counsel from mature Christians, prayed and fasted, and drove down to look for a place to live. 

Within one weekend, we had a home to move into. The person who bought our house watched me place the sign in the yard on that very first day. By the end of one month’s time, all the details were in place. Except for a job. But God was faithful. Miraculously, our tiny savings stretched through an entire summer, with both my husband and I finding work as we split our final $20.00 between diapers and food. It felt amazing to walk by faith.

Fast forward to about a year ago, and the story was a little different. God was again asking us to lay everything on the altar, allowing Him to sift and prune and even move us if that was what it took to align us with His plan for this season in our lives. He has blessed and prospered us in this new place. Our children have grown up here and have close friends. Our church family was truly that, our family. It was much more difficult to let go this time around. Yet, holding on would have been placing things, people, and our own wills above the Creator of the Universe. In the end, we surrendered it all. He moved us into an entirely new place in our lives, and though we are in the same physical location, we are also willing to go wherever He leads. 

Hundreds of times in scripture we are told not to fear, not to worry, to trust the Lord. What has He called you to do that was a tough “yes” or sounded crazy to others around you?

Affiliate Disclosure.

 

All Things New

originally posted March 14, 2016

“Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

                                                      -II Corinthians 5:17b (KJV)

We know we’re forgiven. We know that He has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. Yet, the nagging memories float to the surface in our most vulnerable moments, and with those memories comes the guilt over every wrong choice we made, every right choice we didn’t make, and every better choice we didn’t even recognize until years later. This is the focus of Fervent’s chapter 7, “Your Past: Ending the Reign of Guilt, Shame, and Regret.”

In “Your Past” Priscilla Shirer shares her own struggle with a particular road that had become a symbol of her past failures. It was on that road that the enemy accused her, stirring up past hurts, struggles, and shame. It was also on that road that Jesus whispered to her hurting heart, “Priscilla, wipe your tears away. That road is behind you now. I have other roads in store for you in the future, roads I’ve been preparing for you. Just as you’ve passed this exit of shame, so you now are beyond the pain that accompanied it. I make all things new” (pg. 97).

I love the way God chooses to use the very source of our pain to remind us of His great love and grace. Every moment of weakness, every poor decision, every outright rebellious act, is covered by the blood. Though we may have to walk through some of the consequences of those past choices, we do not have to live out our lives under the weight of guilt and regret. His grace is sufficient! It is deep enough, wide enough, tall enough, strong enough, and freely given enough to remove every stain.

It is His grace, the source of our salvation, that should also be a source of love, joy, and worship. From what has He delivered you? Rejoice! “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” -II Corinthians 5:17.

For me, this chapter served as a strong reminder that I am only empowering and emboldening the enemy when I dwell on the past. Not only can I  not change a single thing that has already happened, but also there is no need to, because “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” He has already used my mistakes for His glory! (Romans 8:28).

This is why He tells us in Isaiah 43:16, “Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past.” They have been changed, even as we have been changed, for His glory and for our good. 

Share in the comments how He has transformed your past mistakes into something new, good, and only-God-could-do!

Affiliate Disclosure.

Pictures of the Gospel

originally posted March 7, 2016

"Pictures of the Gospel," that's what our families are to the rest of the world, and according to Fervent's author Priscilla Shirer, the enemy wants those pictures to be tarnished, ripped up, and "smeared in the mud of failure" (p.78). With today's divorce rates, even among Christian households, it would appear that he is succeeding far too often. This has to stop, and it can through the power of strategic, focused prayer.

Strong families play an important role in the preservation of values within any group of people. Although this is a commonly known fact proven out by thousands of years of human history, I had never really thought about why this is so. Family groups in and of themselves are not the source of this strength. Rather, it is the hope and unconditional love they represent, the core of the Gospel message lived out publicly, that is the true treasure of society. A peace-filled Christian home can be a picture of the Gospel for both those outside looking in as well as for those already in the Kingdom seeking reassurance that the power of God really can redeem and restore.

Evidence of the truth of this concept is woven throughout scripture. Peter encourages women with unsaved husbands to be submissive, that "they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives" (1 Peter 3:1). Even the nation of Israel began with the setting apart of one family that God's blessing might be witnessed and experienced by all of humanity.

This is why our adversary fights so hard to destroy the foundation of every family, and none more so than those who openly claim a relationship with Christ Jesus. He chips away at marriages by highlighting everything each dislikes about the other, often resulting in our vain efforts to change the other person.

I absolutely love what Shirer has to say about this tendency. On page 79, she reminds us to "quit trying to be the Holy Spirit in your relationship." A few lines later comes the sage advice, "respect [your husband] and then leave the rest to the Lord." A word of wisdom that is easier said than done. Still, it is one that is vital in every relationship where we struggle for control. The only person over whom we rightfully have control is ourselves, and even that, for a believer, must be surrendered to Christ. 

Families are supposed to be teams, partnerships, working together to achieve a shared goal. If our goal is to dismantle and remake our partner, the cost of our "victory" may be a household that is no more than a pile of brokenness and rubble. This is exactly the image the enemy would love to spread before the world. "See!" he wants to call out. "There is nothing to this Christianity nonsense. Christians are just as messed up as everyone else!" And, apart from the redeeming love of God, he would be right. But because of His love, we can lay aside our personal differences and instead pursue together the One who can make all things new.

From this central relationship of husband and wife to the the natural extension to children and the broader family, we must be diligently fighting through strategic prayer.

Shirer shares a perfect illustration of this through a story about her son and a very specific form of attack the enemy used against him over the course of several years. Deliverance and victory came through persistent prayer and consistent speaking of the truth of God's Word over and into the situation. This was not done in isolation, but rather in partnership with her son, a practice that helped build his faith at the same time it countered the enemy's attacks. Here again, we see the power of unity. As Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 18:19-20, "Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."

What about your family? Is there a specific issue or attack you are battling or have already defeated? What is/was your strategy in prayer? Is/Was there a specific verse from scripture that has helped you? Please share in the comments below!

Affiliate Disclosure.

 

The Real Enemy

originally posted March 4, 2016

“Pull the curtain back, open up your spiritual eyes, and remain continually aware of the one who’s truly behind a lot of the stuff you’re always blaming on your circumstances, your upbringing, your boyfriend, or whoever.” (Fervent, pg. 43)

Who is it that frustrates you most? For me, that question has had numerous answers at different points in life. The one constant, however, has been the nagging sense that I was fighting a battle to topple a wall that was impossibly immovable. In each situation, I can now look back and see that my efforts to bring change were focused, not on the real culprit, but on the very people with whom I should have been joining forces in prayer, using spiritual weapons and taking authority over the enemy’s wily schemes.

In “Your Focus,” Fervents author, Priscilla Shirer, uses excerpts from Ephesians 6 to remind readers where the true focus of our fight should be: “against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” 

Without focusing on the real enemy, we can find ourselves frustrated, angry, and even bitter toward people, wondering why our prayers and attempts to change them aren’t working. We often set our expectations to unattainable heights, yet people are fallible… just like we are. Why do we expect anything other than mistakes? Why do we offer any less than the grace we ourselves have been given?

Speaker and evangelist Leif Hetland uses the example of three chairs. The first chair, the one we should all aspire to stay parked in, is one of peace where we host the presence of God and see things from a heavenly perspective, viewing people the way they can be rather than in their fallen (or even irritating!) state, and seeing circumstances as opportunities to see God’s hand at work and His plans unfold. Easier said than done. Yet the concepts of the chair and of focus in battle are much the same.

Instead of grabbing at the circumstances swirling around us, being overwhelmed in the chaos, unsure of where to begin, we must learn to be still and allow God to show us the root of the issues we face. So often we take a band-aid approach, putting out the small fires set by symptoms rather than going after the root and ending the conflict once and for all.

God has given us weapons designed for fighting in the spirit realm: the armor detailed in Ephesians 6 coupled with the ultimate weapon, prayer. We are instructed to pray “at all times in the Spirit” (Ephesian 6:18). I

love what Shirer says about Kairos, the Greek word translated “at all times.” The word refers to “specific times, precise occasions, and particular events.” This implies focus and specificity in our prayers. The phrase “in the Spirit” is also key. The battle is being waged in the spirit realm. If we are to win, our spirits must be praying in unity with the Holy Spirit who can direct our prayers with the broader picture in mind.

Looking back over your life, when can you see you were “fighting” spiritual battles by fighting in the physical realm?

Share a time when you effectively used the weapons God has provided (or wish you would have!). When we share our victories and the lessons we have learned with other believers, it builds the faith of our brothers and sisters and strengthens the Kingdom. I can’t wait to hear your stories!

Affiliate Disclosure. 

Pivotal Moments

originally posted February 16, 2016

Let's Talk About It: a discussion of Fervent Chapter 3

The time came for the altar call that Friday night as the monthly Aglow meeting drew to a close, and I knew it was the opportunity I had been longing for. As the speaker made the invitation, she called up all those who were seeking to receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost and to operate in the gifts to the Spirit.

For months, I had been praying earnestly to see in the spirit realm, to have my eyes opened to the true battleground around us. Spurred on to seek a deeper understanding by books like Frank E. Peretti's This Present Darkness and by testimonies of family, friends, and pastors I trusted and treasured, I had determined in my heart to go beyond a surface-level Christianity into the fullness of whatever God had for me.

As I stood there with two of my cousins, the presence of God descended like a heavenly garment; enveloping, filling, and overflowing. Hours went by, or minutes. Time had no relevance as those of us praying began to be lost in worship, basking in the presence of the One who created us.

The tables and chairs were cleaned and stored. The dishes were washed, and the food was packed to various cars. And still, we prayer and sang and wept in the Spirit. Finally, my grandmother, sensing our reluctance to disrupt the intense encounter, offered to take us to her house where we could continue in her "upper room."

And so, away we went to spend the night in the special place she had prepared for just such occasions. We sang, we praised, we prayer, and we shared. It was a glorious night.

There have been other times where passion for the Lord has lifted me beyond circumstances, caught up in His glory. There have also been times when that passion has run dry, times when I longed to feel anything beyond the wall that seemed to stand between my heart and the God of angel armies.

Scriptures such as Jeremiah 29:12-13, Hosea 6:3, and Psalm 51:10 contain promises and prayers that draw us back to the One who deserves all of our devotion. We never have to walk without passion for God. His love never fails, never runs dry, never forsakes; He's as close as speaking His name.

What are some pivotal moments or encounters with the Lord that fuel your passion for Him? What are the scriptures that have given you a deeper love for or more fervent desire to know Him?

Affiliate Disclosure.

 

Spiritual Heroes

originally posted February 15, 2016

Let's Talk About It: a discussion of Fervent chapter two.

"Opening in Prayer"

I love the picture on page 9 of the the hands of Fervent's author, Priscilla Shirer, and her grandmother's, touching gently over a written prayer list. It carries the idea of a legacy of faith passed down, a torch handed off to the next generation running the race.

For Shirer, this spiritual hero who passed on what she had learned was Annie Eleen Cannings. For me, it was a precious lady named Chloe Glasgow.

My great grandmother.

Many hours of my childhood were spent soaking in her wisdom and marveling at her ability to truly walk with the Lord, friend with Friend.

She taught me to love the Word and to weigh all teachings against its Truth. She taught me about knowing both His voice and His presence. She shined a light on her own struggles with specific sins and shared how the Lord revealed both the tendencies and the way of escape.

In the slightly more than a century that she walked on this earth, she touched countless lives, inspiring generations of leaders from all walks of life. Although she has long since gone home to be with the Lord, she remains my inspiration to always be growing in fellowship with the Father, to always be moving into deeper places of faith and understanding.

Who is your spiritual hero? Please share in the comments below. Let's celebrate those mighty men and women of God who have played such a powerful role in bringing us to this place in life and faith!

Affiliate Disclosure.

 

Diving Into Fervent

originally posted January 4, 2016

You and I are in a battle. Not with each other, no, but with a far more elusive and cunning enemy. One that distracts, casts suspicions where they don't belong, and attacks through misinformation, often leaving us fighting tooth and nail against the very people with whom we should be linking arms and charging forward.

Know your enemy, use the right weapons, and develop a strategy of attack- these are the lessons millions of movie goers took home after watching the 2015 box office hit War Room. I know quite a few ladies who left the theater determined to empty at least part of their closets and set up war rooms of their own, places where they could battle for their families and their futures from a position of unwavering strength, fully engaged in prayer and confidently applying the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

Like New Year's resolutions, however, inspiration from a movie quickly fades without a plan of action. How many Christians, I wonder, were moved enough by War Room to truly make lasting changes in their approaches to both prayer and life?

In Fervent, our first Book Club selection for 2016, Priscilla Shirer, one the stars of the film and a brilliant inspirational writer, lays out a "woman's battle plan for serious, specific, and strategic prayer."

What better way to launch 2016, and this book club, than by gaining insight, instruction, and wisdom in fighting for key areas of life? And guys, don't sit this one out just because the target audience is women. There is plenty in this book for you, too. Passion, Identity, Family, Past, Fears, Purity, Pressures, Hurts, and Relationships are all explored with numerous applicable scriptures and suggestions for developing effective prayer strategies specific to your life's circumstances and calling.

From the opening chapter, "This Means War," to the perforated prayer cards on the final pages, Fervent is designed to fuel the fires of passionate, faith-filled prayer that moves beyond defending from "enemy sniper fire" and "through Almighty God [enables you] to push into enemy territory and take...stuff...back."

Pick up your copy of Fervent today and join in the discussions as we dive into this life-changing book together!

Affiliate Disclosure.

Resources mentioned in our Fervent series:

          

 

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