Friday, September 25, 2015

"LORD, TEACH US TO ____."

Do you want to know Christ's daily routine when He was here on earth? "Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives," (Luke 21:27). It is no wonder Scripture records - "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written." (John 21:25)

His teaching astonished the people (Matthew 22:33). His teaching amazed the peopled so much because He taught with authority (Mark 1:22). His teaching was "hard" at times and difficult to "accept"After Christ spoke about Himself as The Bread of Life, "many of His disciples said, 'This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?'" (John 6:60) 

However, from all the astonishment, from all the amazement, from all the difficulty the Disciples encountered with the teachings of Jesus - there was one thing they asked to be taught. Daniel Kolenda says it like this - 
  • "They never asked, 'Teach us how to do miracles, or to be dynamic communicators, or to be highly effective and successful. The one thing about His life that was so compelling and appealing that they wanted to imitate was His prayer life." (Unlocking the Miraculous Through Faith and Prayer)
Luke 11:1 records that one of the Disciples inquired about this subject of prayer. 
  • "One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.'” (Luke 11:1)
Why is prayer so important? I am sure there are a myriad of answers, but consider my three (35,000-foot-level) observations.
  1. Prayer is so important because it keeps our Focus On God. Questions can go to God alone. Answers can come from God alone. Direction/counsel can come from God alone.
  2. Prayer is so important because it is The Most Healthy Way to Vent. God understands. He knows all things to begin with. However, He became flesh in Christ Jesus and was tempted in every way, but did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
  3. Prayer is so important because it is a powerful way to Continually, Intimately and Respectfully Commune with God. Prayer is not only a set time during a day. Ephesians 6:18 and 1 Thessalonians 5:17 encourage believers to be connected to God in prayer - continually. During these times of connection with The Lord, prayer and supplication are naturally a part. However, do not neglect The Lord's track record of faithfulness and worship Him for that.
I have found that from this continual quality time with God will come answers from Him, a changed heart/attitude, and the right things to pray about. Mr. Kolenda emphasizes my third outcome  - "God loves it when we pray the things that are on His heart more than our own. One of the highest purposes of prayer and intercession is to help bring His Kingdom into the earth so that He will be glorified."

Prayer is respectful communication with God. Prayer is motive-driven. Is your motive going into prayer - what can I get from God in this session? Consider Luke 6:38 - "Give and it will be given to you, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap." Wow! What do you think would happen if we gave to God a willing heart to pray what He desires. I believe God would then bless you according to His will, knowing your desires (Psalm 37:4). 

James and John chime in on this point. James says - "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." (James 4:3) John says - "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him." (1 John 5:14-15) 

"With God, the supernatural is natural and the impossible is possible. Christianity is intended to be a supernatural existence from beginning to end, and the demonstration of God's power should be the norm." (Kolenda) Likening your effective prayer walk with God to the job of an ax-man/lumberjack, Daniel says,
"the sharpness of your ax is as important as the strength of your swing. My friend, it is possible to live FOR the Lord and work FOR the Lord and yet make very little eternal impact. It is possible to spend your days vigorously spinning your wheels without ever bearing 'fruit that remains'. If you want to live a powerful and effective Christian life, you need to spend time with Jesus. It is in intimacy with the Lord that your 'ax' will be sharpened, your faith will increase, and you will begin to move on the supernatural plane."

So, I speak to myself as well as encourage you - of all things that could have been requested, request of God what the Disciple requested of Jesus - "Lord, teach us to pray."



Tuesday, September 22, 2015

ONE OF A KIND

There is a saying on my computer that greets me every day, it says, "Stop hating yourself for everything you aren't. Start loving yourself for everything that you are." This message was recently confirmed to me through one of my favorite Christian authors - brother Rick Renner - in his monthly newsletter I subscribe to.

In Rick's exhortation, he mentioned 2 Corinthians 10:12. The verse reads - 

  • "We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." 

Mr. Renner explained that although this verse addresses believers in Corinth who thought themselves spiritually superior, "there is a principle in this verse that the Holy Spirit used to help set me free from the spirit of inferiority that tried to plague me as I stepped out to obey God's call on my life. And it is exactly the point I want to get across to you today. God intentionally made you different from others. You are actually a result of His divine design. Your mannerisms, insights, and style that are different from others may be the very qualities that make you uniquely positioned to fulfill a specific need." So, on the encouragement of 2 Corinthians 10:12 - stop comparing yourself to others.

Rick accounts for our shortcomings and challenges, but provides hope and direction when he says - "Of course, we all have areas in our lives that need to be changed, and God will show those areas one at a time. But if you will simply quit comparing yourself to others today — if you will stop disparaging the very qualities that cause you to stand out from those around you — you will open the door to freedom from a spirit of inferiority so that your unique gifts can begin to shine brightly as God intended."

His encouragement to me and now mine to you reminds me of another verse that praises God for my design and nobody else. Psalm 139:14 says, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." So, as Mr. Renner says, "embrace the uniqueness that made [makes] me [you] shine differently from others." Discover, celebrate and implement the qualities that make you unique. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

YOUR UNIFORM


Whenever and wherever personnel from any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces wears their uniform, civilians know to whom they belong; the military knows to whom the soldier belongs; the soldier knows to whom he/she belongs.

Listening in on a discussion recently, I learned if you are serving in one of the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces one has to be found wearing an appropriate uniform at all times. For civilians, this is a great way to spot those who serve and thank them or if we needed their help in anything - ask for assistance. For the military branch, this is a great way to visually locate and identify their soldiers for use. For the soldiers themselves, wearing the uniform could be a psychological and heart-felt stamp of identification with the military in public.

Should you decide to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are automatically enlisted in Christ's Armed Forces. The uniform and armor should never come off - just maintained, cleaned-up and renewed by the Holy Spirit in prayer periodically. Our countenance, our attitude, our behavior and our words are our uniform. They should represent The Captain of The Host, His Majesty - King Jesus appropriately. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul had this to say - "Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer." 2 Timothy 2:3-4 Paul continues with this representative-portrait of Christians by calling them "ambassadors" in his second letter to the believers in Corinth - "We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God." - 2 Corinthians 5:20

Are you wearing your Christian uniform appropriately?

Friday, September 11, 2015

IN THE THUNDER


Have you ever watched a movie and found yourself wanting the bad guy to meet his demise in a fierce and long-suffering manner? That desire was usually precipitated by the villain's malicious and/or hateful actions to the good guy(s) of the movie. In the movie of this world that we call Life, the bad guy, Satan has been acting maliciously/hatefully for some time now. I am so ready for Christ Jesus, the ultimate good guy, to deliver what Satan deserves. Scripture descriptively speaks about this in Joel.

Joel 2:11
The Lord thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty is the army that obeys his command. The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?

Joel 3:16 
The Lord will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the heavens will tremble. But the Lord will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel.

While I highly anticipate this kind of thundering from The Lord, there is another kind of thunder that gets my attention also. There are some cute sayings about the thunder we hear in storm-clouds. I have heard some say, "It is angels moving the furniture around in Heaven." I have also heard, "It is angels bowling." Whatever cute saying you have heard about the sound of thunder, Scripture likens it to the voice of God. 

You will often find me stepping out on my front porch when a storm is approaching, not only to assess the severity, but to listen to the thunder. I stop and imagine it as God's voice speaking to me. You might think I'm crazy, but observe what God said to David in Psalm 81:7 says - 
  • "In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud; I tested you at the waters of Meribah."
Then in John 12:29, Jesus speaks to God the Father and Father God audibly replies.
  • "The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him."
Other verses that speak to God's voice as thunderous are.......

Job 37:4
After that comes the sound of his roar; he thunders with his majestic voice. When his voice resounds, he holds nothing back.

Job 37:5
God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding.

Job 40:9
Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like his?

Psalm 18:13
The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.

Psalm 68:33 
to him who rides across the highest heavens, the ancient heavens, who thunders with mighty voice.

I am also familiar with "the still small voice" or "gentle whisper" that 1 Kings 19:12 mentions as another pitch to God's voice. However, I will always ponder the words of my God - In The Thunder.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

ROOM FOR HIS MAJESTY


I don't know how they do it, but I know some people and have some friends who keep a tidy house/apartment/condo.......dwelling all year long. Some places resemble a museum quality of cleanliness. To those individuals and efforts I simply say, "Wow!" The tidiness of their homes at all times got me thinking. Besides the owners desiring a clean and well-kept house for themselves - was there anybody of significance/importance they were expecting to visit them soon? Maybe it is to be ready for anybody at anytime, but I have been in places where I felt like somebody else of higher reputation was expected to arrive later on.

The idea of always keeping your House tidy and in order for the company of His Majesty, King Jesus is what I want to communicate to you today. God's Word through Paul says, "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;" (1 Cor. 6:19) So, you are not only a house, but a House of God, a Traveling Temple of the Holy Spirit. I believe this calls for extra diligence in keeping our body, inside and outside, clean, tidy and free from corruption.

There are numerous ways to go about cleaning your physical house as well as one's mind, body and spirit. I will submit three ways.

  1. Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.
  2. Know thy triggers to stumbling and stay away from them.
  3. Make a room ready for His Majesty, The King, to reside daily.
I love the idea of having not only a room ready for Christ, but my whole house ready for Jesus to dwell daily. However, if I am proud and ignoring what I know will lead me to sin, The King's Room awaits it's readiness. The King still walks my/His property and hallways of the house, but His Room is not prepared because of #1 & #2 being neglected. Some houses need different degrees of tending. Some tidying, some reviving, some renovation and some restoration. Wherever you are in your walk with Christ Jesus, I encourage you to make Room For His Majesty - The King.

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me." - Revelation 3:20

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

I MAKE IT MY GOAL

I am at a point, albeit a different angle of approach than Paul, of saying - "I would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord." (2 Corinthians 5:8) There are many factors that contribute to this, like the predictability of my daily life, but I still come to this conclusion.

Before this verse, Paul uses very descriptive language to portray the condition - "For while we are in this tent [body], we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling..." (2 Cor. 5:4) This talk sounds like Paul knew exactly how I felt - "we groan and are burdened". One thing is for certain, God knows. 

After the 2 Corinthians 5:8 declaration, Paul says a lot when he says the word "So". I interpreted that word to mean - since we have not left to be with His Majesty yet. The actual verse reads - 
  • "So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it." (v.9) 
If you place my interpretation in the place of "So", it reads - "Since we have not left to be with His Majesty yet, we make it our goal to please Him, whether in the body or away from it."Boy! That got my focus off my problems and paused my desire to leave this world really fast. Did you catch that? First, we are still here, have work to do and it will be good to have the Master find us dispersing "food" in God's house at the proper time when He returns (Matthew 24:45-46). Secondly, our focus, "our goal" is "to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it."

In addition, verse 10 elaborates on this focus. The Holy Spirit, through Paul, says - "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." Meaning that the good works still to be done for The Lord will be judged and rewarded and if I will change my focus, He will take care of my concerns/burdens. How often I forget Christ's invitation - “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." He mentions "rest" twice in this one verse.

In order for me to acquire "what is due us [me]" and to fight off a stagnant lifestyle, Paul writes - "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2) Notice that after your mind is renewed (Greek word is anakainosis meaning renovation) you and I are freed to "test" and "approve" God's will. The original Greek word for test is dokimazo meaning examine or prove. And the original Greek word for approve is euarestos meaning fully agreeable or well-pleasing. You combine these and we find, after renovating our mind, we will be able to prove/examine and observe the fully agreeable will of God.

The Lord informed me that this change in focus - from concentration on the problem to more knowledge of it and more focus on Him, the Problem Solver - all starts in the mind (Ro. 12:2) and allows me to know His good, pleasing and perfect will - and do it. I obviously have more pleasing work to continue and it is good to know should I be called home I will have opportunities to please my Lord and Savior there also - "So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it." (v.9)

"Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Hebrews 13:20)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

THE BANK.....THE CURRENCY


"And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."
-1 Corinthians 15:14

I would dare to venture that many, if not most, of us have yards and houses that need work on at least a weekend basis if not a daily basis. Assuming you are one of these people, like I am, allow me to submit an analogy.

Someone comes to your door, makes some observations about your yard/home and offers to pay for renovations. What is the catch? You just have to accept The Currency. For this situation, it is dollars. Let us say you accept. The great bonus is that the payment not only accounts for the lifetime treatment of the outside of your yard and house, but it also covers the inside of your home and all it's furnishings. The noticeable thing however is that your generous Provider went bankrupt supplying you that service; that gift. Hearing about this you wonder and fear - would He be able to come through on those promises? Fear not! A well established Bank supported Him and after a few days brought His business back.

If that Bank did not support Him and bring His business back after a few days, then all you and I would have is a well-intentioned Provider who went bankrupt in His devotion toward us. 

I hope you see that like the yard/house provider God provided payment for what was wrong with our "house" (life) - sin (rebellion). For our part, He simply asks we accept His Currency - His Blood and His Love. For His part, Father God (The Bank) gave His Son (The Payment/Provider) the authority/power to pick His life up again and He did. Thank God for the Bank that never runs out of The Currency - Love and His Blood.

Again - "...if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." However, He is Risen....He is Risen Indeed!