Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Maintaining a Vibrant Prayer Life

Why do we as Christians come to God with a list of requests if we come at all to Him in prayer?  Is it because we live in a society filled with messages of self?  Could it be that we are so self-centered that we don’t even realize we have made even our spiritual pursuits about ourselves? Also, could it be that we really don’t believe that prayer matters all that much, and that is the reason we don’t regularly pray?

Our sermon Sunday was encouraging us to develop a vibrant prayer life.  To do this, you need to remember that prayer is not a magic spell you cast to get circumstances to work out in your favor. Nor is it a list of things you command God to do for you. I firmly believe that prayer is simply communicating with God regularly.  It is the best part of our walk with Him.  It is where we engage in communication with our Creator. Prayer is a wonderful way to align ourselves and our perspective up with God. Prayer is where most of our battle against the enemy is won.

As I talk to God in prayer, I remind myself of who He is, what He has done, how big and able He is and how wonderful and good He is. That is praise. By the time I have done this, the List of requests that I had seems to diminish in size and scope.  It brings perspective to my requests and to my circumstances.  So often during my prayer time, I am the thing that changes more than my situations. After a time of praise, I spend some time thanking Him for all He has done for me. That is gratitude. In Psalm 100:4, we are told that we enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.  These two things are so powerful to help align our thinking, our will and our perspective. It is the best part of our time with Him.

After we have aligned our thinking, we can bring all our requests to Him.  We can trust Him to lead us to the BEST answer. It may not be what we want to hear, but it is what will be best. We can bring everything to God in prayer. Our anxiousness, our hurts, our disappointments and even our faithlessness. You want to know a secret, He already knows, but we still need to bring it to Him. The act of submitting our requests and our confessions to Him, is our way of giving God access to these parts of our lives.

Prayer matters and is effective. Prayer strengthens our faith.  The more we talk to the Father in prayer, the more we believe Him. The more we believe and trust Him, the stronger our faith becomes.  It was counted to Abraham as righteousness because he believed God.  We know that He believed because when God told Him to go to a place God would show him, Abraham went. Many other evidences in Abraham’s life demonstrated his belief.  Faith is simply demonstrating in action what we believe to be true.  We may say that we believe that God answers prayers, yet we do not pray. Then do we really believe He answers prayers.  If we believed that, wouldn’t we take things to Him in prayer.

  • 1.     Start this week by setting aside time to pray regularly.
  • 2.     Consider journaling to help you focus.
  • 3.     Spend time in your prayer exalting God to remind yourself of who exactly it is you are talking to. Also, this will help you remember what an honor and privilege it is to be able to talk to Him in such a personal way. (This is the best time of prayer I promise… It is the time when perspective comes and we realize for our own sake our own insignificance compared to God, yet how significant we are to Him)
  • 4.     Spend time thanking God for all He has done. Starting with what Jesus did for you on the cross.
  • 5.     Submit your requests, petitions and intercessions to Him.
  • 6.     Demonstrate what you say you believe by acting out in faith and pray. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Encouragement for the Day: Choices and Their Consequences

Encouragement for the Day: Choices and Their Consequences: In Genesis 4:1-13, we see Abel who was humble and obedient, and Cain who was self-focused and self-centered. Even when God confronted Cain ...

Choices and Their Consequences

In Genesis 4:1-13, we see Abel who was humble and obedient, and Cain who was self-focused and self-centered. Even when God confronted Cain with his self-centeredness, he refused to be broken over his sin and we see the consequences of his action. He kills his brother and God issues to him the payment for his sin. Of course, Cain's response is typical of a hardened heart.

"Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear."

Recently I was reminded that our victory comes when we realize we are in control of our choices. Satan cannot make us choose sin, nor can anyone make us choose to be disobedient. Ultimately God is in control, but He gave us the freedom to choose. I believe He gave this to us so we would be able to freely choose Him or not. God didn't want to force us to choose Him although He is what is BEST for us. Just as we would never want to force someone to love us, we want them to choose to love us.

I remember several years ago watching as a dear family member CHOSE to walk in the bondage of sin. Yet, she would blame everyone else for her consequences or even for her choices. At that time, I told her that you can be a victim or a victor, but you cannot be both. We experience victory over our sin and situations when we take responsibility for where we are, and we acknowledge our part in our consequences. This requires self-awareness, a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit's conviction and LOTS of HUMILITY. What follows this is freedom! Freedom from sin. The consequences however of our sin may linger for a lifetime. God sent His Son to die so that we could be set us free from sin, I don't think our consequences were necessarily part of the deal. Does that mean you will deal with them the rest of your life? Possibly. It may be a broken relationship that never is restored, it may be your lost health; Sin has consequences and some last a lifetime....  but whatever the consequences, you can move on and begin again. You can have victory.

Although we do not deserve it, grace has been given to us because we believe Jesus is our right standing with God.  (He is our righteousness) We have been given mercy, although we deserve eternal separation from God because of our sin. We have been given Jesus Christ by our faith to be all that we need to access our Heavenly Father. Why would we choose anything other than Jesus? In this right standing, we have been given TRUE PEACE! To be right with God is to be at peace, and to be at peace is to be filled with JOY.

Today let's choose to do the following:
  • Choose to be broken over our sins.
  • Take responsibility for our sins and consequences that resulted from it.
  • Stop blaming others.
  • Cooperate with the Holy Spirit.  
  • Practice humility. 
  • Become the victorious warriors we were designed by our Creator to be!!!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Humble in Transition

Have you ever noticed that you can always count on change?  Some people embrace change and even look forward to new and fresh.  However, there are those who do not like change and even dread it.  Whether you want it to come or not, change is coming. 

Sunday, we looked at Proverbs 3:1-8 where our youth pastor, Byron, showed us there are a few principles for us to help us deal with our transition in a healthy way.  The scripture reminds us to not forget what we have learned and to hold to the truth. Byron even went on to say that we need to bind it to us. We are to trust God with all that we are.  We are to put God first.  In doing that, He will lead and guide us if we will let him.

To put God first, we need to be humble which was the last principle Byron mentioned.  Our wisdom is usually the thing that gets us into trouble.  As we learn to lean on God, lean on His wisdom, we begin to see His way, His will and maybe get a glimpse of His plan.  But let’s face it, that is not easy.  I have found the biggest obstacle of walking upright with my Lord is getting over myself.  Crucifying my flesh is so difficult.  There is a way that seems right to me, but it leads to death and destruction.  If I go through a season of change and grow weary, tired, feel forgotten or betrayed, it is possible I am not humbling myself, and I am leaning on my own understanding. 

All the self-centered wisdom, way and plan is just plain and simple pride.  To deny myself, I must be God-centered instead. We don’t want to be prideful, remember scripture says pride goes before destruction or a fall.

To be humble it is helpful to keep an accurate assessment of self and God.  Scripture says the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God. If we are convinced that God is our creator and that He knows all things, then He should rightfully hold a place in our lives as supreme authority and knowledge/wisdom.  When we lean on our own understanding we are far from humble, and we are sending a message to God that we know better than he does on our situation. 

Whether you are going into, in the midst of, or coming out of a time of transition remember to make an accurate assessment of self and God.  Seek Him for His will, wisdom and plan. He will direct you through this transition and prove to be faithful, reliable and true. 

Pray for God to help you today in these areas:
  • ·        See God more clearly, and seek Him for His wisdom
  • ·        Lay down your pride and choose to humble yourself

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Reflections from a Sermon about Hacksaw Ridge

I wrote a devotion after hearing a sermon over a week ago. It is listed below.

After hearing the message and writing the devotion I rented the movie Hacksaw Ridge. As I watched it, I began to realize that the movie was based at the location where my grandfather was when he was killed in World War II. It prompted me to do much investigating and I was so blessed to find the many details that was available to his story  that I didn't know.  But below is the devotion written about the sermon.
Picture from Life Magazine

“I can’t hear you Lord,”  [loud explosions all around and total chaos]
“What do you want from me?”
A distant cry for help…

“Help me save one more.”
The sermon Sunday morning began with a movie clip from the movie “Hacksaw Ridge”.  While the story was very applicable to the message to come, my mind was already going.  I began to converse in my heart and mind with the Lord as I processed the statement from the movie. 
We are surrounded by many lost people who are dying in their sin as well as the wounded people all around us.  The movie clip reminded me the body of Christ’s need to head into the explosions of this life to help rescue those wounded in battle.  However, we do not do it on our own.  We do it as we cry out to our Lord to HELP us save one more.  We need Him to identify them, to find them, and to be able to help them.

As I was reflecting upon this point I began to mull over the idea of what we would need to do before moving out on such a mission.  We need to focus on God and not the mission.  We need to be immersed in the reality of the love of God for us.  We need to see what great love He has lavished on us that we are now called the children of God.  The love is there, but we need to be aware of it and enter it. We need to meditate upon it.  The outcome of this effort will help produce our motivation and spur us on to overwhelming love for those who are lost and wounded.  We will not serve any purpose in our own sense of duty or obligation.  For that matter, none of us respond well when someone is serving us out of duty or obligation.  We must serve them out of our love. 
As we proceed through the week, let’s begin by contemplating just how much God loves us, reminding ourselves that God thinks about us; we are on His mind.  He loved us so much that He sent His most loved son to pay for our sin so that we could be in relationship with the God of the universe.  Wow, meditate on that level of payment and sacrifice.  Allow that to settle over you today.  Then meditate on those who have not received this gift.  Ask God to put a face on the thought.  Once you have a face, begin to ask God to give you His eyes for that person.  Begin to pray for that person and ask for an opportunity to share the love of Christ with them.  Do it humbly, lovingly yet urgently.   Maybe start by asking as Pastor Michael mentioned he had done, “I’ll be praying later today, how can I pray for you?” 

Each one of us is invited to this wonderful relationship.  What if God wants you to be the living invitation He is writing to someone today?  It is God’s will that they RETURN to HIM!  It is His will that they be reconciled with Him.   Once each one of us are reconciled to God, we are to be about the Father’s business of reconciling others with God.  So, dwell on the love of God until you are filled with such love it begins to spill out onto this broken world.  Be the invitation sent with love from the Father to His lost sheep.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Are the Angels Bored

Are we boring our angels?

In the Old Testament, there is a story of Elisha and his servant in  2 Kings 6:8-23.  As an army approaches them, the servant is concerned. Elisha tells the servant "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them."  Elisha prays the servant's eyes would be able to see.  God
opened the servant's eyes so the he could see all of the chariots and horses all around to help them.  As this heavenly army of warring angels were ready to go to battle on Elisha's behalf, I believe we too have angels that are available to go to war in the heavenly realm on our behalf.

If that is true, what things would deactivate their activity in our lives?  I believe our own disobedience is a factor, our unbelief, our refusal to surrender to the Lord our God, and the lack of cooperation on our part with the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

As a result, I wonder if angels are standing around with weapons in their holders and shields dangling to their side as they are bored silly.  I wonder if they stand by thinking "man I could help you with this battle or that trial if only you would obey, believe or just not resist the movement of the Holy Spirit."  I wonder if they are dumbfounded by our lack of cooperation.  I wonder if they are puzzled that we would have so much protection available to us, and yet we refuse to do that which would bring us victory.  I wonder if it is frustrating to them to stand by and watch while the people of God are defeated by the enemy when they are placed on the sidelines.

This is like a great team playing in a big important game, and the coach deciding to bench the 1st string.  No one would expect victory in this case.

Can you imagine if believers would release the angels to active status.  To call up the first string team to play on their part.  I wonder how much easier our trials would be, and how different our lives would be.  The war that exist in the heavenly realm is real.  I believe we will be most effective in our bringing about victory if we will choose to do what we know is right, walk in truth, obey the word of the Lord; follow, surrender and cooperate with the leading and prompting of the Holy Spirit.  I believe our lives would be entirely different.  We would unleash a powerful force on our behalf, and I believe we would begin to walk in the victory that is ours because we are children of God.

So if we do indeed have available to us an army of angels to war on our behalf in the heavenly realm, let's stop boring them, and walk in a manner that releases them to do what they are designed to do.

No More Sterilization of Religion

One simple request if you are a believer in Jesus.  We live in a time where we are educated, dignified
and clean.  When we pray, worship and meet together in the name of the Lord, are we too educated, too dignified and has our cleanliness made us sterile?

Imagine for a moment the cost that God paid for us to be believing Christians.  That cost was to pay a price that we could do to do for us a thing that we could not do.  We cannot set our own selves free.  We can not make things right with God without the sacrifice of Jesus.  That should set up ablaze within.  We should be jumping for joy.

Even though I am not advocating making a spectacle of ourselves, I am advocating we do not become too dignified to worship a Lord that has done such a great thing for us.  I also do not believe we should be cleaned and sterile.  God has cleaned us up by Jesus and it is to create an environment for life.  A sterile environment is to kill all things.  We are to have life and have it abundantly.

So let's just hold on to this truth about what price was paid for us.  Remember what it cost Jesus and never take it casually.  Sing praise to Him with abandoned and get rid of the dignified persona and remember nothing grows in a sterile environment.  

So maybe we can be a little messy in worship, and even sing a little louder in our praise.  We can mess up while we pray... but pray anyway.  Allow ourselves to be moved by the thought of a God who loves us so much that He sent His Son from a place where they were in perfect unity, the Son was praised and adored as royalty and descended to earth to put on flesh to become our sacrifice in order to pay for our sin debt that we couldn't afford to pay.  He did this through the hours of torture and humiliation; rejection by many, the vilest of men taunting Him. All of that led to His agonizing death on a cross to pay for our debt so we may be filled with the Holy Spirit and join in unity with our God and Creator.  That ought to make our hearts sing.

Let's leave the sterilization process at the hospital where it is appropriate. but say NO MORE STERILE, DIGNIFIED, POMPOUS WORSHIP, PRAISE, PRAYER OR RELIGION FOR ME!  That is not what Jesus died to give us.  So do not settle for that.

The world does not need dignified, sterilized religion ...  It needs to know that Jesus loves them and we need to know that too.  We need a vibrant relationship with the King of kings and the Lord of lords.