Tag Archives: prayer

Without Ceasing (Jude)

Do you pray in the Spirit? What does that even mean? Jude encourages us to build ourselves up in our most holy faith and pray in the Spirit. (Vs 20).

As I was sitting here thinking about this and asking God for insight, I looked at the verse printed at the bottom of the page in my journal:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)

I’m sitting here at the kitchen table with my sister. I’m very aware that she is here. If I have a thought, I can share it and hear her response. Her presence next to me is a comfort, and brings me joy.

I think praying in the Spirit is similar to that. It’s an awareness of the Presence. It’s the natural impulse to share a thought or ask a question, or just to stop and listen. It’s intentional communication with the Spirit who lives in me.

It’s the choice to love God with all my heart, down deep in my soul, not just an emotional feeling of love. It’s loving God with my thoughts, my intellect, my careful reading of His Word.

Paul puts it like this: “Pray continually.” Or in another translation: “Pray without ceasing.” (I Thessalonians 5:17) That is God’s will for you and me.

What a privilege to have the Spirit of God living in me. May I never take that for granted, but always be aware of the Presence. May my thoughts and words include Him, intentionally, lovingly…

Without ceasing.

Church (Acts 3)

That early Church is a model I think the Church in 2020 needs to revisit. Let’s see what the Church looked liked after Pentecost:

  1. They devoted themselves to studying God’s Word. They didn’t do book studies or use Bible helps. They devoted themselves to Scripture. Today we use videos and music, programs which are viewed as important as God’s Word, and sometimes more important. I remember disagreeing with a pastor of mine concerning his focus on the kind of music we were singing. I felt his focus was in the wrong place. His words, said with smirk, “Oh, you’re one of those people who think preaching is the most important part of a worship service.” I think the early Church thought that was the case, according to this chapter in Acts.
  2. They fellowshipped, enjoyed meals together. We Baptists are famous for our pot-luck dinner. But that’s been stopped in 2020. Have we lost an important aspect of being God’s Church?
  3. They devoted themselves to prayer. I learned to pray as a teenager by attending Wednesday evening prayer meeting. I started out with sentence prayers, then felt more comfortable praying aloud. Today, I doubt there are many teenagers attending prayer meetings. My own church schedules Youth Group during our prayer meeting. Prayer meetings aren’t fun. Most churches don’t even offer them any more. I know there are prayer warriors among us. But would you say the Church is devoted to prayer in 2020? They were in the early Church.
  4. They were filled with awe. They saw answers to their prayers. I don’t think the emphasis here is on the miracles the early church saw. I think the emphasis is on the awe they had for God Himself. Yes they were no doubt in awe of the miracles, answered prayer, changed lives. But I wonder if we have lost our awe of God and replaced it with a friendship? Have we become so familiar with God we’ve ceased to bow before His holiness? When was the last time we have stood in awe of WHO God is, and not just because of what He does?
  5. They were together, like minded, and they cared for the physical needs of each other. Today’s Church is often involved in good causes outside the local church, while some of our own number are hurting. That’s not the example of the early Church. Yes, we are called to go to the uttermost parts of the earth, but not before we take care of those closest to home.
  6. They met together as a group of believers every day. Some people today find it hard to get to church for an hour a week, and woe to the preacher who preaches past that hour. We’ve eliminated Sunday evening services, Wednesday services, and offer online and alternative meeting times to make it “convenient” for people to go to church. People stay home and allow their kids to stay home if the service isn’t entertaining enough, or the music not rocking enough. Is that what we see here in the early Church?
  7. They were friends outside of the four walls of the local church. Here’s why that is important:
  8. They enjoyed the favor of all the people, not just church-goers. They took their love of God and love for each other into the community and demonstrated Christian relationships and joy. The result?:
  9. The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved! The example presented by those early believers drew lost people to God.

That early Church was the Church within the walls of their meeting places, and outside them. They were devoted to God and obedient to His will. They worked together, worshiped together, grew together, and people noticed.

Makes me wonder what people are noticing about the Church in 2020.

Scripture Fulfilled (Luke 23, John 18-19)

Many times in the Gospels, the writers say something like, “this was done so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.” The question is, does this mean God manipulated circumstances in order to fulfill an Old Testament prophecy, or did God give the Old Testament prophets a glimpse at what would happen in the future as the result of choices people would make, and He wants us to make that connection to prove He is Almighty God?

Is it fore-knowledge or causation we see here?

I think the beauty of this idea of Scripture being fulfilled is in the fact that God sees the end from the beginning. And because He exists outside of time, He is able to say what will happen before it happens, because He has already seen it happen.

He didn’t need to cause something to happen because some Old Testament prophet predicted it hundreds of years earlier. The prophet predicted it because it happened. Remember, God sees life on planet Earth in the past. What we do tomorrow is already in the books.

But that doesn’t mean He is not present today, or that we need not pray or obey Him because the end is already known by Him. It means God sees what happened as a result of our prayers, and what happened as a result of our lack of prayer. He sees what happened as a result of our obedience today, tomorrow, next month, next year. And He sees what happened as a result of our disobedience.

We still have a responsibility to Him. He sees the future, but we certainly cannot! Your story is still being written one minute at a time in this life. And the choices you make during those minutes determine the ending He already sees.

Immediate (Mark 8)

I find it interesting, and personal, that it took Jesus two tries to heal the blind man in Mark 8. Or did it?

Some people had brought the man to Jesus for healing, and Jesus took him by the hand and led him to a private spot. This was not going to be a public display of God’s power. This was personal.

Jesus spit on the man’s eyes and laid hands on him. But the man was only partially healed. He confessed he saw, but not clearly. Jesus touched him again, and he was healed.

Now I know Jesus could have absolutely healed him immediately – with a word. (He’d healed people immediately many times before.) So why was this healing a two-parter?

I think it’s something to consider in our day of instant gratification, impatience, entitlement, and self-absorption. We pray and, knowing Jesus is able to answer, we expect immediate results. We don’t want to wait, and we certainly don’t want our request answered in stages.

Then, what if the end result isn’t exactly what we’d prayed? What happens to our faith? What if, when the man in Mark 8 realized his sight wasn’t fully restored the first time, he left in a huff, if his faith was only as good as the immediate? He would have missed the complete healing.

I think of a fellow-blogger who was diagnosed with ALS 24 years ago, is confined to a wheel chair with a mind that is sharp, and a body that will not move. I didn’t know him back then. But I imagine he and those around him prayed for healing. I imagine those prayers are still being brought to God. Those prayers were met in other ways, besides a physical healing. If you want to know more about his journey, check out Unshakable Hope.

Our Good News club is looking at the life of Joni Eareckson Tada. She’s another example of a believer whose physical body was not healed, although there were a lot of prayers to that end. The answers to those prayers came in stages, and the end result looked much different than those praying imagined. But both of these people have ministries today they would not have had if they had been healed of their physical challenges.

As I think about these people, the man in Mark 8, others I’ve prayed for without seeing the results I wanted, I have to ask myself if I really trust God even when my requests aren’t fulfilled in my timing or in the exact way I’ve prayed?

I find it’s not about the outcome of my prayers, but the faith I have along the way. of course I believe God can do anything. He could remove Covid from the world right this minute. That’s not what God wants me to see today, though. God wants me to see Him, to trust Him, to have a faith that is not shattered if answers to my prayers aren’t immediate.

If God answers my prayers in stages, I pray that I will have the patience to see Him working in my life and in the lives of others in the situation with me while we wait. I pray that if the outcome isn’t what I demanded, I will trust Him enough to know and do what’s best for eternity.

I think God is reminding me today to pray, to trust, to have faith that He does all things well, and to rejoice in every step of the way.

4,000,000 answers to prayer

I just want to say something about COVID 19. The virus is credited with taking about 152,000 lives here in the States. Most of those deaths were from underlying medical conditions complicated by the virus. But whether it’s one or 152,000, it is tragic when someone dies.

Many of us are praying that God will stop the spread of what we have come to regard as a deadly plague. We cry out that God would have mercy and heal us. Some question why God hasn’t put a stop to it already.

But yesterday as I was praying I felt God remind me that there are 4 MILLION people who have been healed of this virus. 4 MILLION answers to prayer. Where is our praise for that?

I’m not suggesting we stop praying about this disease. I pray not one more death will come as a result of the virus’ complications, and I am certainly not minimizing the loss of lives connected to COVID 19. But even as we pray for healing, let’s not neglect to praise our merciful God who has spared the lives of millions during the past few months.

When the “powers that be” try to throw fear into us, let’s rest in the merciful God we serve. Let’s praise God for 4,000,000 answers to prayer.

Key To Victory (2 Chronicles 32-33)

The King of Assyria was coming with a vast army to take Jerusalem by force. King Hezekiah built a dam, repaired the wall around Jerusalem, and replenished the army’s weapons. He assembled his troops, then said something to them I think we might need to hear ourselves:

Be strong and courageous! Our enemy has only the arm of flesh, “but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” (32:8)

Scripture tells us the Assyrian army was defeated in a miraculous way.

Man can assemble their strongest, bravest, and wisest. Communism, riots, looting, murders in the streets, corruption in government, an entertainment and news media industry backed by evil, can join forces. But the arm of flesh can’t win over the arm of God. Not even a virus can defeat our God.

But let’s not forget before Hezekiah said these words here in chapter 32, before God defeated the Assyrian army, Hezekiah had humbled himself, repented of sin, and Israel was once again worshiping God.

Oh, God can heal our land. I am 100% sure of that fact. But the key to victory lies right in your lap and mine. Are we willing to do what we need to do before God even hears our cries for help? Are you and I ready to confess our sin and repent, to take a stand for the God of Truth? Are we humbled before, and committed to God alone?

Our society, our freedoms, our lives are facing a powerful arm of flesh. Will you join me in serving in God’s army of obedient soldiers in our battle for Truth? The key to victory is God, and we can join Him in this battle when we stand with Him through His Son, Jesus.

 

 

 

 

…so that He will not hear. (Isaiah 59-63)

Once again I read God’s Words and see life in 2020 America. Read chapter 59 and see if you don’t agree. Hands are stained with blood, no one pleads his case with integrity, acts of violence are in our hands, they rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood, truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.

Isaiah could be a reporter for a cable news network today and say the same thing.

But like always, God has a way of making His Word personal. And He never lets me off the hook. I first read these chapters with our society in mind. But I got finished and realized God rarely talks to me about “them.” So I asked Him to speak to me about my walk with Him today, and started to read the chapters again.

God slapped me with 59:2. It’s MY iniquity that has separated me from God, MY sins that hide His face from me so that He will not hear my cries for help. Where do I get off thinking I can live my life to suit myself, AND expect God to jump when I call? How much nerve does it take to ignore God until I need Him, then blame Him when things go south?

Maybe you should ask yourself the same thing.

I know you can’t expect a non-Christian to act like a Christian. But I think it’s time we Christians started acting like true Jesus-followers. It starts with confessing our own sin every time God brings a sin to our attention. It involves loving our neighbors, doing good to those who harm us.

But it also means putting on the armor of God and standing on the Truth of Scripture. No compromise. No picking a verse here and there to support our own agenda. No “living and let live.” Being a true Jesus-follower means going to war. It means holding each other accountable, telling people about their sin problem, and introducing them to their Savior.

God doesn’t hear us while we hold on to sin. God doesn’t hear the Church, and God doesn’t hear me unless and until I deal with my sin problem by repenting and asking Him to forgive me.

Do I want God to heal our land, erase the virus, stop the riots in the streets and the insanity in our government? Do I want Him to hear me?

Then I had better deal with my own iniquity, my own sin. I can pray all day and all night long, but if I am living with sin He will not hear.

Pray For CEF (2 Kings 11)

Joash was seven years old when he became king. That’s like a second grader. Granted he had adults like Jehoiada the priest calling the shots. But Joash was king.

I am reminded that God can and does use children in His kingdom. And God needs committed adults to guide them.

I have been a Good News Club volunteer for a few years, and I am convinced that children can understand God’s Word and make conscious decisions to ask Jesus to forgive their sins. Every week I see God move in young hearts and change young lives. It is an amazing ministry right there in our public schools.

My heart is burdened for Good News Clubs and CEF (Child Evangelism Fellowship, of which GNC is a ministry). There is something going on in leadership that has led to some people leaving the organization. Some have gone voluntarily, some have been relieved of their duties.

The thing is, it’s not a theological difference that is causing this discord. All the people involved are committed to the Gospel of Jesus. All of them want to see children have the opportunity to hear God’s Word and enjoy a relationship with the Savior.

I don’t know the details but I know they need our prayers. Satan would love nothing more than to stop us from going into our schools to tell children the truth about Jesus. This program is claiming eternal souls for God, and our enemy wants it stopped. And I believe he is working from within to accomplish his evil goal.

Is it the sin of pride? Is it the need for control, or a divisive spirit? Is it unwillingness to  listen? I don’t know. I can’t imagine one side of the issue is totally right and the other totally wrong. I just see it causing a serious division. And it breaks my heart.

Will you pray with me? I’m praying God will deal with sin in the hearts of all of us involved in this important ministry. I pray that God will break hearts, will prompt both sides to reach out to each other in love. I pray that there will be healing and that the cause of Christ will go on.

I don’t know how long Good News Clubs will be legally allowed to meet in our public schools. But I will be really mad if we implode because someone has drawn a line in the sand. I can’t believe this brings joy to my Lord.

Please pray for CEF.

The Wrong Questions (2 Kings 8)

Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, was sick. Was he dying? He wanted to know, so he sent a message to Elisha asking, “Will I recover from this illness?” Elisha answered the king, “Yes, you will recover from the illness.” But God had shown Elisha that the king would die anyway. He would actually be murdered in his sleep.

Do you remember Wile E. Coyote? The cartoon character would manage to navigate through a trap set by the roadrunner, only to have an anvil fall on his head. He would successfully get through a roadblock, only to be hit by a speeding truck.

I think that describes many of us. We pray that God will protect us from a virus, but we have not addressed sin in our lives. We ask God to bless our children, but we don’t talk to our children about Jesus. We pray for a better job, or a happy-ever-after-marriage, while our eternity is in question. We get so caught up in the present we forget there is something much more pressing, and that is our heart’s condition before a Holy God.

We may survive this virus only to be thrown into the lake of fire if we try to face God without Jesus.

I don’t think it’s wrong to pray about our health or our circumstances. In fact, the Bible tells us to pray about everything all the time. But let’s be careful to ask God the right questions.

Remember Jesus asked what good it does someone if they gain the whole word, yet lose their soul. (Mark 8) The answer to that is – none!

As we pray about this virus, our families, our nation, let’s first of all ask God to cleanse our hearts, forgive our sins. Let’s call on Him to do a work in our lives that will translate into action for His sake.

Because if the only thing we are asking God is for protection from COVID 19, we’re asking the wrong question.

 

The Desires of Your Heart (2 Samuel 13-15)

Some people are never satisfied. They are always looking for more, dreaming bigger, lusting for that person or job or possession they believe would guarantee happiness. Sometimes that “want” becomes an obsession, and they begin to compromise, deceive, use people and manipulate circumstances in order to get that which is the focus of their desire.

But often, once their dream becomes a reality, they are left empty, unfulfilled, and may even end up despising that very thing they had sold their soul to have.

That’s what happened when Amnon finally had sex with Tamar, after his obsession with her ended up with rape. He certainly didn’t find the happiness he thought he’d enjoy once Tamar was his. In fact, all he felt was hate.

God is asking me to consider the desires of my heart. Where are my thoughts, my dreams directed? For what am I working; what is it that I believe would make me happy or successful or fulfilled?

If my focus and desires are centered on what God wants for me, I won’t have to make myself sick over an obsession, or some person I am sure would make me happy, or a job I think I need in order for me to feel good about myself. In fact, if my “obsession” is to be as close to God as is humanly possible, everything else will fall into place without my compromises or manipulations.

Psalm 37:4 says this:

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. (emphasis mine)

Give you.

Now, what this isn’t is a magic formula to have Junior fall in love with you, or for you to get that raise you know you deserve. But here is what is so cool about God: If we delight in Him, if we walk with Him, communicate with Him, enjoy our position as His beloved child through the blood of Jesus, God will give us exactly what we delight in.

Himself!

And with that comes everything He wants us to have and be and enjoy in this lifetime. We will realize that what He wants for us is so much better than we can ask or even think. He will give you the desires of His heart.

Wow.