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Monday, March 20, 2017

HUNGERING FOR GOD

Do you pray because you hunger for God? Or do you want what you are praying for more than you want God? I recently heard someone tell about being so desperate for something she wanted, that she spent days hunting for things she was doing wrong to repent of so God would  answer her prayer. And she said God did answer.
Do you hear the theology behind that? The notion that we need to get as right with God as possible so he will give us what we really want is not Christian. It is typical religion. You can find this thinking in every religion and cult group. Pharisees would have wholeheartedly endorsed this theology. But Jesus did not teach this kind of devotion. He taught some things that might be mistaken for it. He taught us to pray for what we want and need because He loves us. And He certainly taught repentance because we need it.
But we are to be devoted to God because we love Him. We should be willing to give up what we want in order to draw nearer to our Lord, rather than trying to draw nearer to God, so He will give us what we really want.
Suppose you passed on and left an inheritance for your daughter. And she fell in love and got married. Shortly after they were married her husband discovered he couldn't get his hands on the inheritance. And he told her plainly he was leaving because he really didn't love her, he only wanted her money. Would she feel used? How would you feel in that situation?
I made one of the most important commitments of my entire life as a young person at youth camp. Several years later at the same camp a friend asked me to come off alone with him because he needed to get right with God. One of the first things he told me was if he came home from camp without making a decision for Christ, his dad wouldn't let him get his driver’s permit. Would it surprise you that that his decision didn't make any difference in his life that next year?
How might it change your prayer life if you prayed because you needed God and wanted Him more than you wanted to be healed, or needed help in trouble, or whatever you want God to give you?


Monday, March 6, 2017

PRAYING YOUR SABBATH

I believe we have to some extent lost the concept of observing the Sabbath in these days. I believe we still need a Sabbath rest. Hebrews 4 indicates that Jesus is now our Sabbath. Whatever other applications there are to this truth, it certainly means we rest in our relationship with Him. And the most important facet of observing a Sabbath rest is prayer.
By prayer we come to intimacy with God. It is worth something to devote a day once a week to prayer. I don't think I should never have recreation on my Sabbath. But recreation shouldn't take precedence over prayer.
A Sabbath should include some physical rest. Jesus taught and healed on the Sabbath. But He also took His disciples off for an occasional vacation. But I can pray while I am resting physically.
Are you praying a Sabbath rest?
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Monday, February 20, 2017

FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS

I want to address Prayer Warriors and those of you who long very much to become prayer Warriors. In the Old Testament book of Esther Mordecai spoke to his niece the queen, saying  “Who knows perhaps you have been raised up for such a time as this.”
You have been raised up for this very day. I am not qualified to determine exactly what kind of era we are living in. The beginning of A Tale of Two Cities may well apply to our age. It is the best of times and the worst of times. We are enjoying the rich blessings of God. We may be on the verge of apocalypse. But it really does not matter what unique day we are living in. God has raised you up to be a prayer warrior in these days.
God may have raised you up to be a prayer warrior in days in which we are so blessed that it is difficult to find time to pray, when there are so many distractions entertainments and blessings to enjoy. You may have to sacrifice watching your favorite your favorite television program or going to a game where your favorite team is playing an archrival. These may be days in which God raises up an army of people who love him more than the things He gives us. Instead of taking long relaxing vacations people take could go on mission trips to pray for people in other countries. This may be a day when people pray despite allurements the enemy throws in front of us.
While I certainly believe this is partially true. I am also convinced that you are raised up to pray in times of great moral crises. You and those around you will face heartache and trials. I believe we are going to see terrible judgment in these days. In fact, prayer movements in history have accompanied or preceded judgment. A case in point is the great prayer revival of 1858. It preceded the Civil War that God brought upon our country because of the sin of slavery. People were able to endure those days, many went to heaven, because of that revival.
I believe the return of Christ is imminent. If that is the case, we are about to enter into the greatest tribulation the world has ever seen. And we may have been raised up to pray that the greatest spiritual awakening the world has ever seen will come about simultaneously.
Now, whether the return of Christ is near or not, most of you know that you are going to face severe difficulty and heartache in your life, and your family, in your neighborhood, in your city, in your nation. This is your day! In John 12:27 Jesus admitted that His heart was troubled. And He asked rhetorically if He should pray to be delivered from those days. “But,” He said, “for this purpose I have come to this hour.” You are hear for this very purpose. God has raised you up for such a time as this.

Monday, February 6, 2017

PRAYING FOR THE HEARTS OF PEOPLE

I have been much alarmed over the violent, blasphemous and obscene language in books and other entertainment, on social media, in politics, and in daily conversation in these days.
Of course the problem is deeper than the coarseness of our speech. In Luke 6:45 Jesus said “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
I see a lot of medical professionals in these days. I pray for each one. And I want to witness to them. Several times I have them use bad language with me. And while I continue to pray for them, I make a point not to comment on their fault language. I want my witness to be the gospel. It alone deals with the heart where the real problem lies.
While I believe God will speak to them through me, God must strike the heart. In Isaiah 6 the prophet told about God meeting him in the temple. God speaks thunderously to our hearts. Isaiah cried out,."Woe is me, for I am ruined, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, for I have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts."
I want to be open a to soul shaking, life changing encounters with the living God. I always need Him. And I am praying for our nation, for our leaders, and for individuals I come in contact with to be open to a life changing encounter with Almighty God! Nothing less than a personal encounter with God will change our hearts. Nothing else will change what comes out of our mouths.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

PRAYING THE LOVE OF GOD

I recently finished the rough draft of a book on AGAPE. I have to admit that writing it has been a thrill. One of the things that God pressed on me is that agape, the love of God, the love the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have lavished upon one another from before time, is at the heart of our bond with God. And agape needs to be the driving force of our prayer. Let me point out some natural expressions of the love of God that should shape our prayers.
Prayer for the Needy
God cares for the poor. He loves them with a special love. (James 2:5) You can pray in general for ministries to the poor. Thank God for them. And of course real agape and real prayer will give to such ministries. But that is not enough. You can pray for people you may pass every day. You may see them on the side of the road or in the grocery store. You may very well see them in church. And you can pray for opportunities to get the know some of them personally, and find personal ways to pray for each of them.
The neediest people you will ever meet are people who are lost without Christ
Prayer for the Lost
God cares for the lost. Jesus began His teaching in Luke 15 with this parable. Which one of you who has a hundred sheep but loses one of them will not leave the 99 in the open field to go after the one lost sheep? When he finds it, will he not put it on his shoulders with joy? Coming home he will call his friends and neighbors saying, “Celebrate with me because I have found my lost sheep!” Jesus concluded, “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
Are you praying daily by name for people who do not know your Lord? I assumed many of us would have to look for needy people. But that is not true about lost people. God has placed you in the midst of family members, neighbors, coworkers and acquaintances who need Christ. He has trusted them to you. Pray for a clear witness to them. Pray for softened heart. Pray for every need they have. Pray for His power in their lives.
Prayer of Forgiveness
As Jesus hung on the cross He prayed, “Father, forgive them.”  Who do you think He was praying for? He was certainly praying for the Roman soldiers who were carrying out His crucifixion. I believe He was praying for the multitude shouting, “Crucify!” I believe He was praying for the men who had condemned Him. But He was also praying for me. His whole crucifixion was a powerful prayer for God to forgive me and you. That prayer was a declaration of the will of God from before the foundation of the universe.
Are you praying for God to forgive those who have sinned against you? They probably include people whom you love, people who are close to you. They will include people who hate you. They will include people who hurt you deeply, and people who are not at all sorry about it. This kind of praying requires spiritual growth. And it will be a major factor in your growing more and more in the love of Christ.


Monday, January 9, 2017

WHAT WILL YOU PRAY FOR THIS YEAR?

Have you thought about what you pray for most? Have you paid attention to the prayer requests lifted in your church? Thinking about what you pray is a recurring theme of my blogs, and something I believe is terribly important.
Most of our prayers in public ask God for healing or for God to get us out of some difficulty. I'm afraid many of our private prayers ask God for things, possibly some new toy that we want. But those were not the prayers lifted by the early church, or the great prayers of any age.
The church in Thessalonica endured great persecution from its beginning in Acts 17. In his first letter to them Paul wrote that in spite persecution they welcomed the message. But Paul did not ask God to relieve them or deliver them from persecution. At the end of the third chapter Paul prayed that the Lord would increase and overflow with love for one another and every one, and to make their hearts blameless in holiness before our God at the coming of our Lord.
I am reading The Hiding Place again for the first time in many years. I was pleased to see in my copy a preface by Elizabeth Sherrill. Elizabeth and her husband, John, co-wrote The Hiding Place with Corrie Ten Boom. In her comments Elizabeth listed some things she had learned from Corrie.
“Handling separation; Getting along with less; Security in the midst of insecurity; Forgiveness; How God uses weakness; Dealing with difficult people; Facing death; Loving your enemies; What to do when evil wins.”
These are similar character traits to those Paul prayed for the churches. My suggestion is that you examine your prayers and shift them from comfort to character. What great things is God waiting to produce in you this year?

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Thunder of Christmas

The Angel of the Lord came like thunder to the shepherds’ hillside on the first Christmas Eve. With his startling voice, he had to tell them not to be afraid. "Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all people!  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord!" The heavenly host must have flashed like lightning in the sky. "Glory to God in the highest, peace good will to men."
You may not imagine that you could ever have the same thunder and lightning for the darkness of these days. But this power is available to you. The thunder of Christmas is the presence and power of God. God has put His power in your hands. You come to this Christmas with the thunder and lightning of prayer.
You can pray for people all around you crowding into stores scrambling for gifts. You can pray for your neighbors. Pray for each of your family members. God has allowed you to know their needs more intimately than others.
You may know someone who is alone this year. Your may know someone grieving over a lost child or the loss of their life-long marriage partner. You may love children and others who are too caught up in the materialism of our celebration to be touched by the meaning of Christmas.
You may know children whose lives are hard, especially at Christmas. Many of them live in countries other than your own. Pray for ministries to them. You can hold a Christmas Child shoe box in your hands and pray personally for the girl or boy who will receive it.
If you start praying like this you need to put your faith God who came down at Christmas. Some of you who are reading these words do not know Christ personally. You must put your faith in Him. You cannot have God's power in your life or even His forgiveness without the grace Jesus bought for you on the cross. And those of you who know Him personally will need to spend time alone with God in prayer and the Scripture to saturate yourself in the perspective and promises of God's love. Otherwise, you will be overwhelmed by the spiritual conflict.

The thunder of Christmas and the power of prayer only come from God Himself. If you have not come to know Him, and if you are not spending time in His presence you will not have power to unleash on the world you live in.