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.
     

Loving Others ?!?!?!

Loving other people is dangerous. Loving other people can cost us time and money. Loving other people can cause us to travel to frightening places and spend time with frightening people. Loving other people can result in us being with “others” when we would rather be with “our own.”

For children of God, is loving other people a command or an option? Mark 12:31 answers that question for us. And that love for others is to be demonstrated by doing  and sharing,  not just talking and preaching. It expects us to love individuals, as well as groups.

Such love is impossible for us to achieve and maintain unless we are Spirit-filled and Spirit-led. The “filling” will provide us with the desire to love and the “led” will  show us how to love. When we feel we are unable to do either of these we need to emulate the love of Jesus and daily choose the life-style described in I Corinthians 13:4-7.

If, for some reason, we want to measure the extent of our love, we need to go to that passage and substitute our own name for the word “love.”  (Go ahead and try it. I’ll wait.) Isn’t it wonderful to know that even though we don’t yet love like Jesus does, He loves us anyway and the Holy Spirit will continue to teach us.

 

 

Burden Sharing

One of the most attractive aspects of Christianity, one of the most cherished promises of Scripture, is in 1Peter 5:7 (Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.) Over and over , we go to the Lord in prayer, acknowledging that the cares of our life are over-whelming. To the best of our ability, we follow the instruction of this verse and give God our concerns.

And, faithful to His word, He lifts those burdens from us. He allows us to continue our daily life with optimism and freedom from fear.

Then our daily prayers can begin and end with expressions of gratitude for this load-lifting, burden-removing promise. We praise Him, privately and publicly, for His faithfulness.

But Galatians 6:2 puts new light on burden-sharing when Paul tells us we are to “Bear ye one another’s burdens.”

Burden-sharing is to be horizontal as well as vertical. Just as the Father helps us carry our load, we are instructed to help others carry the weights their life has given them. Our motive for this should be our love for them. Our willingness should be indicated by an attitude and question of “May I help you?” toward everyone we meet…and really mean it.

We hesitate to become burden bearers because we fear we will be overwhelmed by the load someone might pass to us. We don’t trust Paul’s assurance that “I can do all things through Christ which  strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13). Such lack of faith often prevents from being obedient to his command.

We must learn to trust that our Father will not give us a heavier load of our burdens, or the burdens of others, than we can carry with His help.

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?

Importance of Intercessory Prayer

How important is intercessory prayer? Do our prayers for others actually help?

Study Jesus in Gethsemane (Matt 26:35-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46). In His time of greatest agony He asked his friends to pray for Him. Think of it. The God who created all the universe was hurting so much He asked for the prayers of his closest friends.

But before He asked for their prayers, He asked for their companionship. He asked them to go a little farther, stay awake a little longer, pay a little more attention, give a little more of their energy and time on his behalf.

And they did so, for awhile. Then they went to sleep.

All too often we say to a hurting neighbor or acquaintance “I’m sorry things are so tough for you right now. I’ll keep you in my prayers.” Then we turn and walk away, unwilling to give a bit our our time and energy to help ease their pain. Our lack of action shows how we refuse to let the problems of others intrude on our own comfort zone.

Oh, such prayers do help, if we actually remember them. We can certainly be of assistance by praying. But if we, like the disciples, are called on to go a little farther and give practical aid and comfort, are we willing to do so? In our Christian growth have we allowed God to develop in us a sense of “disruptive compassion” – the willingness to let the needs of others disrupt our normal pattern of life?

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.

Repentance and Forgiveness

God offers to both forgive and forget our sins so we may be restored to a right relationship with Him. This offer comes as a free gift because He loves us, not because we have earned it.

Before we can take advantage of this gift we must have an attitude of repentance toward our sins. We play no role in the offer of forgiveness, but we must do our part in the application of it to our individual lives.

We cannot repent of our sins unless we are aware of them. Therefore, when the Holy Spirit creates such an awareness within us and shows us our need of repentance He is not trying to crush us under a load of guilt. He is trying to help us reach a position where we can receive the Father’s forgiveness.

The prodigal son (Luke 15) and the adulterous woman (John 8) were each aware of their sins and thus each received forgiveness through God’s grace. The prodigal’s older brother and the woman’s accusers remained unforgiven until they recognized and repented of their sins.

So when a passage of Scripture or a sermon causes us to feel guilty, we must refuse to be angry and resentful. We must not start the internal rationalizations that blame others for our shortcomings. Instead, we must praise God for his efforts to further sanctify us by allowing us to travel down a hallway called Grace through a door name Repentance into a room labeled Forgiveness.

With gratitude and humility we need to make this journey every day.

The Outward Joy of Worship

My relationship with Jesus gives me daily strength that may or may not be accompanied by a feeling of euphoria. My relationship with Jesus gives me joy and peace that may or may not be accompanied by the need to sing and shout. My relationship with Jesus gives me confidence and a sense of security that may or may not be accompanied by a mountain-top sense of revival and rapture.

Corporate worship should lead me to new heights of spiritual excitement, but it should also reinforce my existing levels of spiritual belief. It is not a wasted worship experience that says “You are on the right track. You are headed in the right direction. Keep fighting the fight. Stay on course.”

Should I ever become satisfied with the level of my devotion to Jesus? Of course not! But is it wrong for me to be pleased that I am growing in Him? I don’t thing so.

I don’t feel a time of corporate worship must be deemed a failure if I am not transported to the throne of God and emotionally thrilled by the activities that transpire there. If I approach Him in my own quiet way, if I take joy in my time with my brothers and sisters, if the Holy Spirit reinforces my devotion and submission to Him I will feel my time has been well-spent.

There are times of corporate high, holy excitement. The valleys are endurable only because of the mountain tops. But it may be unrealistic to think that every Christian can attain a mountaintop every Sunday morning. And undue efforts to attain such worship levels may prevent other desirable worship experiences.

When Strangers Visit My Church

They don't want to know about our preacher.
They don't really care about our teachers.
They're not concerned about our parking lot.
They don't care how many elders we've got.
The don't care about the size of our choir.
They don't ask "How tall is your spire?"
They just want to know, "Do you love me?"

They don't care about our preacher's degree,
Or if the donuts and coffee are free.
They don't care about our building's size,
Or if our deacons are gals or guys.
They don't care about our recreation,
Or our theology of creation.
They just want to know, "Do you love me?"

So when they come to visit us here
We must meet them with a smile or a tear.
Quietly, sincerely without a fuss,
Let them know they're important to us.
A pat on the back. A "We're glad you're here."
Will help us make it completely clear,
That without any doubt, we love them.