Every time I pray I am attending a family reunion because my Father and Brother are both there.(Hebrews 2:11) My Father provides the entertainment by singing (Zephaniah 3:17). What song is He likely to sing? What about the lyrics below, sung to the tune of "Jesus Loves Me". Child I love you. This you know. In my Word I've told you so. Little one, to me you belong. You are weak, but I am strong. I'm God. I love you. (3x) My Spirit tells you so. Many worship leaders decry the lack of passion and emotion in times of corporate worship (song services). But few seem to be troubled by such absence. James 5:16 says that one requirement for effective prayer is fervency. Can I pray fervent prayers if I don't care about the subject of my prayer? If fervent can be understood as "emotional attachment" I need to allow the Holy Spirit to lead me into a more caring attitude. This certainly applies to my prayer "Father, make me more like Christ." The purpose of my praying must be to converse with God, not convince God. And, like any effective conversation, both parties must listen. After I am done talking in my prayers I must sit and continue to meditate on the things the Holy Spirit brings to my mind. Prayer that is the most pleasing to Him is prayer that is Holy Spirit initiated and guided. Being Spirit sensitive will increase the effectiveness of my prayers. How should I judge the effectiveness of these prayers? By how much I am changed by my prayers. There is truth to the saying that "Prayer changes things", but the things that should be the most changed is the person doing the praying.
Last night, in a dream, I saw Jesus. Not Jesus the God, but Jesus the man. I was surprised. He looked normal. Not unusual. Just normal. Short and stocky, Strong and solid, with Black curly hair. Almost instantly I realized I was Disappointed. Here was Jesus, and He looked so very Human. Then I met Him and Shook His hand. And there, Face to face, Arm's length away With His hand in mine I first looked Into His eyes. And immediately I knew I was meeting More than a man. In His eyes I saw Love. Total, open, complete Love. Love with no exceptions Or limits. Love that does not Have to be earned Or even returned. Pure love. Enormous love. Powerful love. Tender love. Giving love. But in those eyes I also saw Compassion and Acceptance and Forgiveness. I saw calmness and Understanding and Power. I saw peace and Courage and Purpose. Then I knew I was also looking Into the eyes of God.
Are you in a desert right now? Are you living in a harsh environment, surrounded by unpleasant people and unfair expectations? If so, don't despair! God has often used such situations to prepare his people for great acts of service. He used the desert to prepare Moses to lead the Hebrew nation out of slavery. He sent Jesus into the desert after the first public proclamation of his divine mission. Paul spent time in the desert after discovering his life goals were completely wrong. God dictated a completely unique agenda for each of these journeys. They were not a time for vacation or amusement. Jehovah confronted these men with themselves and with Himself. Each had to wrestle with God's view of his own past and future. Each was forced to acknowledge the Creator's rightful place as provider, ruler and commander. Yet each emerged with an understanding of God's will for his life and a dedication to follow that, wherever it led. Are we willing to emotionally and spiritually go into the deserts He provides and spend time one-on-one? Are we willing to allow Him to show us our mistakes and weaknesses so that we can be changed? Are we ready to accept our total nothingness and acknowledge His complete power and wisdom in all parts of our lives? He knows when we need to be removed from the daily rush and pressure of our schedules. After He has our attention He can show us who He is, who we are, what He wants to become within us and what we can become for Him. Such insights are often seen more clearly in the school room of the desert. Until we fully and gratefully accept our dependence on Him we will not be ready to serve Him. When He puts us into the empty, harsh places we must accept his way of doing things and learn from the Master Teacher.
When we visit the Grand Canyon we approach it with some degree of reverence and look cautiously into it’s depths. We are impressed with the beauty, majesty, size and age. We realize we are engaging only a small part of the canyon with only a small part of ourselves. After a short visit we walk away, get in our car and move on.
But that is not experiencing the Grand Canyon. We don’t go to the bottom and allow ourselves to be surrounded by it. We don’t permit all our senses to become attuned to its sounds, colors, scent and sights. We don’t explore the side canyons and hidden pockets of splendor. We don’t sit still in the deepest recesses and view the animals and wild flowers. We don’t return throughout the year to view the seasonal changes.
If we really wanted to know the Canyon intimately we would read books about it and hire a guide for each visit. We would physically discipline ourselves to become strong enough to hike from one end to the other. We would stay there for days at a time.
But we don’t. And as a result of our look-over-the-edge-and-move-on visits we know it about like we know God.
We hurry into and out of God’s presence, perhaps impressed with a limited sense of his wisdom, majesty, beauty, size and power. We commit a small part of ourselves to peer cautiously into his Word, all the time knowing there is more. We stop short of a full sensory encounter then walk away content or even feel a little proud of our efforts.
We do not take the time and make the effort to experience God. We do not immerse ourselves and surround ourselves with Him. We refuse to explore the lesser-known facets of his personality. We do not develop the stamina and self-discipline necessary to know his heart. Expecting immediate answers and solutions, we visit Him and then move on before some of his most beautiful, valuable truths can be received. We do not allow the Holy Spirit to be our guide. We may feel his presence for a few minutes but we don’t become intimate with him. We approach God with a tourist mentality.
How can we correct this? We must make forming an intimate relationship with him the number-one priority of our lives. This will require a commitment of our time. Such relationships can not be rushed. We must establish regular times of prayer and Bible study, disciplining ourselves to concentrate of spiritual matters. The joys of experiencing God are available only to those who long for more than a quick, easy, occasional visit.
As God’s children we give Him many things. We give him our intellect as we study his Word and memorize passages of it. We read theological literature and get exposed to the thoughts of religious leaders of the past. We allow Him to shape our minds.
We give Him our money. We tithe, donate to mission offerings, support building programs and contribute to programs that support the homeless and unfortunate of our society. He has access to our money.
We gladly allow Him a reasonable amount of our time. We attend Sunday School and worship services each Sunday. We go to choir practice and prayer breakfasts and home Bible-study groups. God is allowed to guide us during large chunks of our time.
We make our physical strength and abilities available to Him. We spend two Saturdays a year helping out at “Repair and cleanup” day at our church. We help neighbors with yard work and other chores when necessary. We help rebuild homes and churches in hard-hit areas after weather disasters. God can use our hands and feet.
But a part of us that we tend to withhold from Him is our attitude. We balk at allowing Him to control, and maybe change, our feelings and reactions toward church staff, family members, people of other races, those in certain economic levels and members of various political parties or religious groups.
In Mark 2:22 Jesus taught the futility of putting new wine in old wineskins. It may be that our attitudes are the old skins of our day and the new wine is further revelations of Himself that the Holy Spirit cannot show us because of our mental rigidity.
Inflexible attitudes cause us to whine when God expects us to shine. Which of our attitudes are we refusing to yield to Him?
My friend lived in a large city I had never visited. Recently I was driving past there to a meeting. I called my friend and we met for dinner at a restaurant near the interstate.
As we were parting in the parking lot I received a phone call and I was told the meeting was postponed one day. I suddenly had an extra twenty-four hours.
My friend invited me to spend the night in his home. I accepted and asked how to get there. He responded “Just follow me.” And with that he drove off.
I hated every moment of that forty-five minute drive. I kept my eyes glued to his tail lights, afraid a stop light or another car would come between us and force me to lose sight of him. If that had happened I would have been in serious trouble. (I did not have GPS.)
As we were in the middle of this game of “follow-the-leader-or-else” I realized it was similar to our challenge of staying in contact with Jesus. Sometimes He leads through strange, dangerous territory. It is my responsibility to maintain contact with Him or I will get lost.
Since I had never been in that city before, there were billboards new to me and buildings that enticed me to take a “second look.” I was tempted to become a tourist rather than stay on my friend’s bumper. In the same way, following Jesus requires us to develop some degree of tunnel vision, focusing only on Him.
Jesus says “Follow me.” Our reaction must not be “Where?” or “Why?” or “What will we see?” or “When will we get back?” It is up to us to reply “okay” and get prepared to enjoy the trip.
The blessings God has for me today may be delayed until I share the ones He gave me yesterday.
Jesus loves me so much that He became like me so I can become like Him.
Fear provides faith an opportunity to grow.
When God evaluates my behavior He is easy to please and impossible to satisfy.
Passionless people pray powerless prayers.
Stillness is a part of worship. If we will be quiet while we worship, God will hear us.
I must be aware of the needs of others before I can show them I care about those needs.
Faith should say to God “I will try to do the impossible and accept the uncomfortable.”
If I say “Jesus, I give you all my life to use as you want” I should also say “Satan, you cannot use any of my life any time for any thing.”
Self-pity is a sin because it is based on the concept that God is not doing as good a job of taking care of me as He should be.
If there’s anyone in this world that I don’t love, I am disobeying Jesus… And disobedience is sin.
God came to us – Immanuel – so we will not be afraid to go to Him.