How God Wants Us To Pray!

-He Wants Us To Repent!

So, let me tell you what I believe God wants us to do if our prayer life looks like the typical Christian! I believe He wants us to repent of our prayerlessness! I believe He wants us to denounce all our human efforts & admit our total helplessness when it comes to getting God’s work done in our human strength! And, I believe, that in order to accomplish that, He wants us to change some habits in our lives— He wants us to ADD TIME to PRAY into our schedules! That means we might need to actually move some other things OUT of our schedule! And, then, He wants us to pray with absolute dependence on Him!

-Pray Over A Crisis Of Faith!

I believe all these things, about prayer, based on the many and various texts of Scripture on the subject! Take Acts chapter 12, the first 5 verses, for instance. It begins:  “About that time King Herod cruelly attacked some who belonged to the church, and he killed James, John’s brother, with the sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter too, during the days of Unleavened Bread.  After the arrest, he put him in prison and assigned four squads of four soldiers each to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. So Peter was kept in prison, but prayer was being made earnestly to God for him by the church.” We can draw a prayer principle from that reading. When trouble comes our way, God uses our crisis of faith, in His Sovereignty, to get us engaged, with Him, in prayer!

-The Human Way We Pray!

There’s something dreadfully human about the way we pray when life is great! When the job is secure, when the marriage is healthy, when there’s plenty of money, when life’s great… WE DON’T PRAY! That says, “We got this”, doesn’t it? We have the false sense that the job’s secure, the marriage is healthy, and, there’s plenty of money because, “We got this!” Because we’re so good at living life! We credit ourselves for the good life. But, God knows how self-deluded we are! When Israel entered the promised land— AFTER God had miraculously delivered them from slavery to Egypt;  AFTER God had dried up the Red Sea so they could safely cross;  AFTER God had fed them with manna & quail in the desert;  AFTER God had preserved their clothing & sandals for 40 years in the wilderness— He knew they would be tempted to take credit for their good life. He warned them!

-Be Careful Not To Forget The Lord!

God knew how Israel would respond to His going before them & dispossessing the land from wicked nations & handing over to them homes, and cities, and land that they hadn’t earned. He warned them: “When the Lord your God brings you into the land He swore to your fathers… a land with large & beautiful cities that you did not build, houses full of every good thing that you did not fill them with, wells dug that you did not dig & vineyards & olive groves that you did not plant—and when you eat & are satisfied, be careful not to forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery” Deut. 6:10-12. What do we have that God has not given us? But we get comfortable & forget, don’t we?

Advertisements

Prayer That Views God As Sovereign!

-Why Do We Ask “Why”?

Whenever we experience something painful, it’s so typical for us to ask “WHY” isn’t it? Why me? Why do I have to go through this? Hannah’s story, in 1 Samuel, is particularly eye-opening! When she found herself unable to conceive & have children,  it would have been normal for her to ask, “Why am I unable to have a baby?” The Scripture addresses that “WHY” question:  “…the LORD had KEPT HER from conceiving…because the LORD had KEPT Hannah from conceiving…” 1 Samuel 1:5-6.  God takes credit for her inability to conceive! While doctors may have come up with a “medical reason” to explain it, God’s Sovereign control was actually behind the human “medical reason.”

-Praying In The LORD’S Presence!

Hannah responded to her condition by going to the source— “…she continued praying in the LORD’S presence” v.10,12.  Above all our human problems & conditions is God’s Sovereignty! Now, I know that many believers just don’t wanna credit God with that much Sovereignty. They’d rather say that God “ALLOWED” it; but, He’s not really the “CAUSE.” And, they believe they’re “protecting” God’s reputation in doing so! But, listen, if God is not Sovereign over every event & over everything else than you either have to believe that Satan is just as powerful as God; and, there really is a “BATTLE” going on between good & evil; and, God might not win! Or, you have to believe that man’s “FREE WILL” is Sovereign & trumps God’s will!

-Sovereign & Omnipotent!

I believe that the Scriptures tell us that God is both Sovereign and omnipotent! And, in Exodus 4:11, when God said to Moses, “Who made the human mouth? Who makes him mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, Yahweh?” that God was taking Sovereign credit for such things as blindness, deafness, and the inability to speak! In His absolute wisdom, He uses the pain & suffering, we endure in this world, for our good & for His glory! It was because Hannah saw her inability to bear children as part of God’s Sovereign plan, that she prayed with a motivation for God’s glory. She saw her negative circumstance as God’s opportunity to bring Himself glory!

-God’s Sovereign Plans For Your Kids!

All the years of barrenness helped Hannah realize something that many parents never comprehend— that children aren’t just for PARENTS! They are for the LORD! God has HIS design for your kids! And, they ultimately belong to HIM! Are you more into your plans for your kids; or, His plans? Hannah’s not bargaining with God, in her prayer! He doesn’t bargain with anyone! Out of her painful experience God had changed her. He had used her suffering to prepare her heart to give her child to God, Who gave it! “After some time, Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, because she said, I requested him from the Lord… though the boy was still young, she took him to the LORD’S house at Shiloh” vs. 20-24. Hannah saw it as her great privilege to give her son to the Lord for His purpose!

 

Daniel & His Faith Community

-A Place For Spiritual Transformation!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

I have personally witnessed great spiritual transformation in the lives of believers when they changed ONE thing—they began living in the community of faith! They got involved with other believers! They joined a Small Group; and, they began to share their lives & do life together! When King Nebuchadnezzar, of Babylon, demanded that his wisemen & counselors reveal the meaning of his dream—and, what he actually dreamed—Daniel responded, to the crisis, by taking it to his faith community! “Then Daniel went to his house and told his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah about the matter” (Daniel 2:17).

-We Weren’t Created For Isolation!

Don’t try and wing life on your own! God didn’t create us for isolation—He created us in His image…He of the triune community! He created us for community with Himself; and, for community with each other! “Without guidance, people fall, but with many counselors there is deliverance” (Prov. 11:14) Daniel did more than just hang out with his friends—he prayed with them! He urged “…them to ask the God of heaven for mercy concerning this mystery, so Daniel and his friends would not be killed with the rest of Babylon’s wise men” (Daniel 2:18).

-The Community That Prays Together!

Earlier, in the passage (v.10), the King’s counselors and advisors had told him that he was demanding something, from them, that “…no man on earth could do.” And, they were right! But, Daniel knew that a man fully connected to God, through prayer, could move God to do what “…no man on earth could do” & God responded! He answered their prayers & did the impossible. He gave Daniel the dream & the interpretation: “The mystery was then revealed to Daniel in a vision at night” (2:19).

-Praise: The Appropriate Response!

And, Daniel responded with praise (2:19-23); or, the only appropriate response when we’ve experienced a movement of God! He praised God’s name; or, His character & reputation! He praised God for His wisdom & power; and, for His Sovereignty over the times, the seasons & the nations! He praised God for the gift of wisdom & understanding that He shares with men! He praised God for revealing “hidden things” like dreams; and, for the grace He had personally extended him!

-How God Uses “Impossible” Situations!

Daniel’s story shows us that God uses the “impossible” situations, in life, to expose counterfeits—the Babylonian religion was the idolatrous worship of demons! God is beginning to kick out the props holding up the King’s “faith” in his counterfeit idols. God also uses the “impossible” situations, in life, to introduce Himself— “Here I am, King! I’m the one you’re really looking for!” Daniel answered the King: “No wise man, medium, diviner-priest, or astrologer is able to make known to the King the mystery…but, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries” (2:27) God also uses the “impossible” situations, in life, to sanctify & grow His disciples! With every obedient step, that Daniel took, he was growing more confident in God! Life is rarely just about YOU—it’s intertwined in the lives of others!

 

Daniel & The God Of The Impossible

-An Impossible Circumstance In Babylon

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

I’ll never forget where I was on Friday, February 22, 1980 when the United States Olympic Hockey team shocked the world by beating the powerful Soviet Union team 4-3 on their way to an Olympic Gold Medal! It’s the hockey match that will forever be remembered as the “Miracle On Ice” because no one gave the U.S. team a chance of beating the Soviets. Daniel also faced an “impossible” circumstance in Babylon; and, after God delivered the miracle finish, Daniel was quick to deflect all the glory away from himself & redirect the praise to God.

-Anxiety & Panic Will Suffocate You!

This story—in Daniel, chapter 2—will encourage you as you face all the “impossible” circumstances in your own life! Daniel fleshes out how a believer can handle the stressful things in life & all the things we worry about! We all find ourselves, from time to time, in a situation we perceive to be “impossible.” The anxiety & the sense of panic can be suffocating. When chapter 2 opens—in Daniel’s book—we find Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar dealing with a case of insomnia over some dreams he had experienced (vs. 1-3). So, he brings together 4 distinct groups of people to help him make sense of the dreams. These would be like his “wise men” & counselors—the “diviner-priests” were scholars who claimed the ability to forecast the future; the “mediums” alleged the ability to communicate with the dead; the “sorcerers” practiced incantations or the casting of spells; and, the “Chaldeans” were students of astrology who studied the stars & other heavenly bodies to determine the future.

-An Impossible Demand!

The narrative continues (in v.4-9) when the King gives them an “impossible” assignment. He demands that they give him not only the meaning of his dream; but, that they also tell him what he actually dreamed! Now, we have the luxury of reading Daniel’s entire story in one setting; but, there are actually months & years involved! God is at work in the King’s heart. He’s using the King’s relationship with Daniel to challenge the King’s “world view”; and, his faith in Babylon’s idolatrous religion! We’re starting to see some cracks in the King’s belief system! There’s a parallel application for us—don’t assume you know what’s going on in someone’s heart!

-Caution: God At Work!

Don’t write off a person simply because of the words they say; or, the way they’re currently living their life! Daniel’s story confirms that God is at work; even, when it seems “impossible” that someone—like King Nebuchadnezzar—could ever come to faith! In vs. 10-13, the “wisemen” & counselors are unable to tell the King what he dreamed! This is Sovereign God, behind the scenes, planting seeds of doubt in the King’s mind. God intends to draw a clear distinction between the false gods of Babylon; and, the true God of Daniel! When King Nebuchadnezzar responds with a “…tell me what I dreamed & the interpretation; or, I’ll have you all killed…” the stage was set for Nebuchadnezzar’s introduction to the God of Creation!

 

I Am Not The Church! We Are!

-Jesus Sanctifies Us Through His Church!

Jesus uses His Church as a significant means to produce His intended changes in our lives.  Now, for many professed believers, in America, that is dissident because the Western Church has been such a huge disappointment & embarrassment. The problem has never been with Jesus’ Church; but,  with the human operation of His Church! We’ve “institutionalized” it when Jesus created it to be “communal.”

-What The Church Should Look Like

The Apostle Paul sets up what the Church should look like in his letter to the Church of Ephesus—I think we forget that this is written to a specific, local Church! He writes to “…the faithful saints in Christ Jesus at Ephesus…”; and, 9 times in 6 short chapters he refers to them as the “Church”—“ekklesia” is the original Greek word; and, it literally means a “called out assembly.” God calls out His Church of Jesus-Followers from the people of the world; and, the point of their being “called out” is to “assemble” in “community”; or, “communally” like a family; and, to meet each other’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

-The Church Does Life Together

Just take the time to read through ch. 4 of Ephesians; and, don’t read it through the glasses of your “American Church culture.” The “you’s” are NOT to be read as individual “you’s”—it’s “YOU”, the CHURCH, the community of believers doing life together! “I urge YOU (the Church of Ephesus),” Paul says, “to walk worthy of the calling YOU (the Church of Ephesus) have received…” It’s a corporate calling—YOU, the Church of Ephesus, have this calling TOGETHER! Paul says they ought to be so entrenched in their calling, TOGETHER, that the fruit of the Spirit is evident in the way they do ministry as a BODY—v.2 “with…humility…gentleness…patience & love…”; v.3 there should be unity in their community that’s Holy Spirit driven “…with a peace that binds US.”

-The Local Church Is One Body

Read it in context—the “US” is the Church of Ephesus! And, the Church of Ephesus is ONE BODY (v.4); and, Paul doesn’t break the body down to it’s “individual” parts until we get to v.7, “…now grace was given to each one of us…” And, this “grace” came to each individual—in the Church of Ephesus—in the form of a GIFT (v.8) from Jesus, our Messiah & Savior, to build up their local Church in Ephesus!

-Jesus’ Goal For His Church

In ch.4, v.13, of Paul’s letter to the Church of Ephesus he writes, “…that we (the Church of Ephesus) reach unity in the faith and the knowledge of Jesus growing in maturity…” Because of our “American Church Culture” we read into that our “individual” walk with Christ; but, that’s NOT the context of Paul’s words! Their individual spiritual maturity was not to be a “solo” act! Paul is saying that the goal was a spiritually mature “Church community”—a Church no longer resembling a bunch of immature little brats (v.14); but, mature believers speaking the truth to each other in love (v.15).  In the next verse, Paul tells them it’s the “whole body” (the Church of Ephesus) that ministers to their “whole body.” So, here’s the application—Jesus intends to use our local churches to sanctify us as individuals! We grow spiritually in the BODY!

 

God’s High Regard For His Name

-He’s The God Of The Impossible!

There’s a great story, in 2 Chronicles 14, about a “good” king named Asa. That’s significant because Israel & Judah had a lot of “bad” kings.—“…Asa did what was good and right in the sight of the LORD his God…” v.2 says.  But, as God often does, in the lives of His saints, He uses “trouble” to grow our faith. In v.8, we read that “…Asa had an army of 300,000 from Judah bearing large shields and spears, and 280,000 from Benjamin…”; and, then “trouble” shows up— “…Zerah the Cushite came against them with an army of one million men and 300 chariots…” Do the math! Judah was in a mis-match, a humanly impossible situation! And, what was King Asa’s response? “Asa cried out to the LORD his God, and said, “LORD, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O LORD our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!” v.11.

-Why Don’t We Pray First?

Why do we tend to make prayer our last resort? Isn’t it our predisposition to try & work things out in our own wisdom 1st? We have a penchant for gritting our teeth; and, trying to work things out in our own strength! Only after we’ve exhausted all human resources do we finally pray about it! Why? Are we afraid we’re bothering Him? Waking Him up? Scripture says, “…He never sleeps, He never slumbers…” I want to challenge you to go back to v.11 and reread Asa’s prayer—this is a model prayer for getting God’s attention!

-Circumstances? Or, God’s Glory?

While his prayer was about his “circumstances,” it wasn’t really about his “circumstances”! It was a prayer about GOD! It was a prayer expressing concern for God’s GLORY! “This battle isn’t about me God,” to paraphrase Asa’s prayer, “It’s about YOU! There’s no one besides YOU! YOU help those without strength! We depend on YOU! Your NAME is at stake here! Don’t let a mere mortal hinder YOU!” God DOES NOT help those you help themselves! That’s a human LIE! He helps those who are weak & depend upon HIM! Asa understood that God’s ultimate goal in all He does is to magnify HIS GLORY!

-God’s Glory: Our Greatest Concern!

How do you define God’s “Glory”? It’s kind of like His “BEAUTY”—God’s “BEAUTY” is in His perfection; in His character; in His moral excellence! “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone” James 1:13. God’s highest goal is to preserve & display His infinite, awesome greatness & worth. That’s His GLORY! There is NOTHING of higher value! If God should have greater affection for anything He created, He would be unjust—He’d be an idolater!  So, here’s the principle—King Asa prayed right because his greatest concern was for God’s GLORY; not, for victory in this battle!  Our prayers should always be a request for God to bring GLORY to Himself through His answer! His GLORY, through the answer, is more important than our need!

 

 

How God Gets His Work Done!

-He Doesn’t Need My Wisdom!

The Church of Corinth was one messed up church—they struggled with sexual immorality; and, they fought over the Lord’s Supper; and, their doctrine on the resurrection of the dead was problematic! So, when the Holy Spirit provoked the Apostle Paul to write a letter & call them out, he reminds them of the 1st time they met when he had introduced them to the Gospel:  “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified….my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

-Don’t Sanitize The Gospel!

I’m not intending to read into the text; but, it seems like maybe they’ve become embarrassed over the Gospel. Perhaps they felt pressured to make the Gospel more appealing to their cosmopolitan neighbors by down playing the cross, the shed blood & the atonement. If so, there’s probably an application here for the western Church—have we digressed so far from our calling that we feel compelled to sanitize the offensiveness of the cross? Have we become so “seeker friendly” that we’ve become “Gospel unfriendly”? Do we crave the world’s approval so badly that we feel compelled to “market” the Gospel by packaging it in a more user-friendly format?

-God Only Blesses His Plan!

It seems, in the reading of this letter, that Paul is intent on changing some faulty thinking! They needed a doctrinal cleansing on HOW God gets His work done—He doesn’t need our help! He doesn’t want us to figure out how to DO CHURCH in our wisdom or strength! He will only bless HIS SOVEREIGN PLAN! Paul seems to emphasize interactive discipleship over “church programs”—life on life interaction! “…I came TO YOU…I was WITH YOU” he said in vs. 1,2.  Paul also emphasizes the power of God over human performance—human method’s will come & go; so, focus on the power of God to minister through us!

-Do Ministry By God’s Grace!

If our ministry focus is on US—how WE need to GET BETTER at it; or, how much effort WE need to put into it—WE will be ineffective at it! We’ll become neurotic & self-absorbed over whatever ministry we’re involved in because our efforts will center on us & our abilities rather than God & His power to do the spiritual work—that ONLY HE can do—in someone’s life! We’re talking about doing ministry by “legalism” vs ministry by “Grace”; and, GRACE wins every time! When we perform ministry in the strength of the flesh it puffs us up; and, gives us the allusion that we’re helping God out! He doesn’t need our help!