Prayer

     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.
     

Attitudes and Actions

In Matthew 5:20 Jesus called his disciples to a spiritual level higher than that of their religious leaders. He was asking the disciples to grow beyond those who led their times of worship and taught in their synagogues.

To the disciples this must have sounded impossible. Those religious leaders very carefully followed the law of Moses and the many interpretations thereof. They were the theologians and seminary professors of their day. They wrote the Sunday School literature and scriptural commentaries. They tithed, attended all the festivals, gave special offerings, prayed three times every day, fasted several times each year, and sacrificed at the correct times and in the appropriate manner. How could these “working stiffs” ever exceed such righteousness?

They could love their neighbors!

Jesus did not fault the actions of these leaders. Their actions were impeccable. But He knew their hearts (Luke16:15). He called his followers to a set of attitudes that were more pleasing to the Father. He called them to love others. 

If God were to call us to judgement today, would we want him to judge us on our actions or our attitudes? Which come closer to the meeting his standards?

What should be our primary attitude toward God? Love! (Matthew 22:37)

What should be our primary attitude toward people?  Love! (Matthew 22:39)

What actions should we take to show God we love Him? Obey Him! (John 14:15)

What actions should we take to show others we love them? Serve them! (John 13:4-5)

Alone With God

Being alone with God is more than being isolated from others, reading the Bible and praying, sitting quietly and meditating on spiritual things and trying for a few minutes to strengthen the relationship we have with Him.

Being alone with God means being without our “stuff,” entering his presence emotionally, intellectually and spiritually naked. Then allowing Him to change us as He sees fit.

It is possible to be alone with God even when in a crowd, but such intimacy is more likely when there is no one else around. We must cease to be concerned with family relationships, vocational success, recreational pleasure, health, prosperity and all else we consider important in this life. Until we reach this degree of trust these things go with us when we enter his presence. They are unnecessary baggage.

Each time we pray, we should begin with the request for the Holy Spirit to empty us of everything except an awareness of His presence.

Guidance

Dear Lord, give me the humility to ask for your guidance, the patience to wait for it, the sensitivity to recognize it, the wisdom to understand it, the faith to trust it, the courage to carry it out and the gratitude to praise you for it.

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Every blessing I have been given I am expected to pass on to others. These include grace, mercy, patience, sympathy, empathy, tolerance, listening, forgiveness and second chances.

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Each day my challenge is to allow the Holy Spirit to change or reinforce everyone of my attitudes, likes, dislikes, plans, opinions, memories, hopes and fears. To do this I must be sure I deny self and permit the Spirit total access to all I am.

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I must not allow God to become the “elevator music” that forms the largely ignored background of my life. Instead, He must be the blaring symphony, the hard-driving beat that is clearly heard and seen in every part of my life.

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I want God to control our relationship, oversee our companionship, begin and end our conversations.

After Salvation, Sanctification

After the event we call salvation (born again, redemption) God wants to begin within each of us a process called sanctification. This involves each of us ridding ourselves of sin and allowing God to change us. The result of this process is that we will be more Christ-like in our actions, attitudes, desires and motives.

Our part in this process is to make a life-long series of decisions to stop doing certain things and start doing other things. It involves both omission and commission. God’s part is to give us the wisdom and courage to make the proper choices. He is always faithful to do his part if we want Him to and allow it.

Both our worship of God and our service to God are impaired by a lack of sanctification.

There are several Biblical examples of people who were faced with specific things that had to be cleansed from their life before sanctification could take place.

For Gideon it was fear....Judges 7
For David it was lust....2 Samuel 11
For Peter it was rashness....Luke 22
For Zacchaeus it was greed....Luke 19
For Nicodemus it was religion....John 3
For Paul it was tradition and pride....Acts 9
For Martha it was domestic business....Luke 10
For the rich, young ruler it was money....Matt 19
For Jonah it was intolerance and bigotry....Jonah 4 

Before we can become a person God will richly bless and effectively use in his service, we must allow the Holy Spirit to carry out the sanctifying process in our lives.

What needs to be added or subtracted in your life in order for you to become more sanctified?

Letting God Have Control

Dear Father, from this moment on, for all eternity, I give you control of

All my houses, all my land, all my hopes, all my plans.
All my pleasures, all my fears, all my joys, all my tears.

Where I go, where I stay, what I hear, what I say.
What I eat, what I drink, what I like, what I think.

What I give, what I keep, when I work, when I sleep.
Where I shop, what I buy, how I live, when I die.

What I wear, how I look, what I text, what I cook.
When I pray, when I sing, when to let go, when to cling.

All my strength, all my health, all my pleasures, all my wealth.
What I do, what I see, what I let bother me.

When I stand, when I bend, when I back away from friends.
When I whisper, when I shout, when I quietly "back out".

What I hate, what I love, when to talk to you above.
How to serve and obey every moment of each day.

All things tiny, all things grand, things I do not understand.
In my life, Lord, take control of my body, mind and soul.

Acting On Faith

The second chapter of James deals with the importance of acting in ways that demonstrate our faith. Faith that is not put into action is basically dead (James 2:17)

The question is “Faith in what? What must be the basis of the faith we display through our actions?” Certainly we need to have faith in the Bible and we need to have faith in God’s promises. But the deep, unshakable faith we must show to the world is faith in God himself.

Abraham had faith only in Jehovah God (Genesis 12:1-3). He had no scripture to read and none of the New Testament promises such as “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20) or “I will come again and receive you unto myself” (John 14:3). Abraham’s faith was in the person of God, the character of God.

To develop such faith we have to know and understand what He has told us. We must search the Scriptures. We must sit quietly and listen for His still, small voice.

Then we must allow the Holy Spirit to teach us to believe His words. (This has been described as letting knowledge go from the head to the heart.) The Spirit will give us concrete, every-time, every-place, in-every-situation belief that all his words are true.

Such a belief will then enable us to act in obedience to those words and show our faith. This is the type of faith demonstrated by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3. It had it’s basis in their personal relationship with God.

Our faith must be only in the God that created the universe and allowed his Son to die on the cross. The closer we are to him, the more we will have the faith that enables us to base our behavior on his words.

Love All Others

It was early in the morning. The day was clear and clean and new and fresh. I was alone with God.

I asked Him, "Father, what do you want me to do today?"

He answered, "Love others."

I thought for a minute and then said, "OK. Which others?"

"All others," He replied.

"Wait a minute," I said. "You don't really mean 'ALL others,' do you?"

"All others," He repeated.

"But Father, there are a lot of 'others' in my life that aren't very loveable. Some of them don't deserve being loved."

"All others," He said again.

"But Father, I don't even like some of the people I'll be with today."

He answered, "I didn't say like them, I said LOVE them."

"But Father, some of them certainly don't love me. Can I wait until they love me first?"

"No, my child. Love them first. Show them that you love them. All of them. Starting today."

"But Father, they are really not worth loving. No one can love all of them."

"I do," came the reply.

At that point I had no more objections. I left my devotional time still unsure I could love as He was demanding, but I knew I had to try.

Feed His Sheep

In John 10:14 Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep…” When He told Peter to feed the sheep, He was giving Peter the responsibility for the care and feeding of the flock.

The sheep belonged to Jesus. He had a personal relationship with each of them. He knew them by name and He loved them . But his earthly ministry was almost over and He was passing the shepherd’s staff to Peter.

He did not ask Peter if he wanted to be a shepherd. He simply gave Peter an assignment He knew was within Peter’s capability. Because Peter loved his savior he was expected to be obedient to the task.

God calls each of his children to help tend his sheep. He intends for each of us to help care for a flock and each of us to receive care from someone else. Such interdependence among Christians will result in the effective spreading of the gospel.

As we each give and receive care, God is glorified in our lives. If we choose not to perform our shepherd’s duties, others suffer. If we refuse to listen to the guidance of the Good Shepherd, we suffer.

Our motive for being a shepherd must be our love for him. We must love others because He loves us. We must serve others because He served us. We must give our time and energy to others because He gave his life for us.

It is dangerous for us to try to serve those He has put into our care if we do not love them. We are likely to become discouraged, resentful and angry. Such emotions disrupt our relationship with him.

It is dangerous for the flock because our attitude will lead them away from him and the blessings He has for them. They will sense our insincerity and rebel against his leadership.

We must always remember they are his sheep, not ours. We must love and feed them because we love him.

Deny Self

"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself..."   Matthew 16:24

To deny self means to deny
          self-importance
          self-competence
          self-direction
          self-motivation
          self-accomplishment
          self-glorification
          self-determination
          self-approval
          self-justification.

To deny self means to realize we are nothing apart from Jesus. Such a realization may come as a shock. It is not natural to surrender control of our lives to someone else. The very basis of our culture, our democratic way of life, lies in the belief that each person is in control of his own fate. Denial of our right to decide our own course goes against everything the world has taught us.

To live and function within this state of denial, we must constantly abide in Jesus. Only such abiding will enable us to accept his decisions and become all he wants us to be.