Follow by Email

Thursday, April 30, 2015

DEVELOPING PRAISE

I have written quite a bit here on praise in the past few years. But in fact I am convinced that I have not written nearly enough about it. Jesus began His model prayer for us with a crescendo of praise. "Hallowed be thy name." I think it is important to note that Jesus is not simply giving us a mechanical order for the words of our prayers like the helpful A.C.T.S. of Prayer, Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. He is saying praising God is to be preeminent in our character and the prayers that rise from it.
I recently heard a marvelous sermon on this by Tim Keller. He noted that neither confession nor petition can be right when praise is not preeminent in our thoughts. I highly recommend that you take the time to listen to this sermon.* I think you will find it to be uplifting and life changing even if you already understand this principle.
But this leaves me at a difficult place. How do I develop a heart that desires God's praise and glory above everything else? I have several suggestions of things we can do to affect our character in this way.
·     First, ask God. I begin my morning prayer time each day by asking God to help me long for His glory above all things. I draw this from the implication that God's Spirit must produce every good thing in my life. However, I have not found a direct command or even an example of this in scripture.     From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
·       Think about all the reasons we have to praise God. Meditate on His majesty and power. Consider His wondrous grace and infinite love for you. The Bible is full of commands, examples and helps for this. Still, this is not my most important or biblical suggestion.
·       The most important thing you can do to inculcate praise into your heart and life is to exercise praise. The scriptures are replete with examples and admonitions to praise and worship God. Jesus told us the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart. We are to lift up His name in praise. And you can be sure that when you worship the Holy Spirit is near. You would not be worshipping if He were not prompting. And you can sense His work in you as you praise God. As I begin my prayers with praise I note that my whole perspective changes. Sometimes I am even able to praise God for what I have been worrying about. This is God transforming my heart in the act of praise.
·       Let me add one more word which is actually part of the exercise of prayer. Regularly engage in corporate worship. I find corporate worship reinforces my private praise. It is no small thing to begin my personal devotions armed with a hymn or scripture song that I learned at church. And my attitudes are often lifted as I remember worshipping together with others who lifted their voices with me in the family of God.

I would like to attach this prayer trailer for the movie War Room to some of my blog posts. It is certainly worth watching. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXgC_HLLcCQ





Wednesday, April 22, 2015

MEDITATING IN PRAYER

For many years I have at least occasionally memorized Scriptures and meditated on them some. And I begin my daily devotional time by praying over life verses that God has pressed on me. But I have recently discovered a type of meditation that has surprised me by how much it has blessed me. I have written a series of poems through the Gospel of John. I put those poems on my phone between the scripture verses I pray over each day.
I have repeatedly been overwhelmed by God speaking to me through these poems. I am not sure why this is so. It probably should not surprise me. I have known for years that poetry written by parishioners is used in worship in much of the world, from house churches in China and Central Asia to youth services in Eastern Europe and South America. Of course all of these poems that I am using are written on specific scripture. And I wrote them on insights I got from meditating.
Here is one written on a familiar verse. This is how the poems appear in the book with lines to make notes from meditation on the scripture before you read the poem and then after. I am aware that meditation or anything that takes time may be alien to our fast paced societies. But I urge you to give it a try. I am convinced you will find it more rewarding than you ever dreamed
CONTINUING IN MY WORD
John 8:31 & 32

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

If you continue in my perfect word
Hearing with all the hunger of your heart;
If you receive it like a baby bird
Straining to take nourishment from the start,
Being faithful in your daily reading
Every nuance and instruction heeding;

If upon its meaning you meditate,
Soaking up every heaven given thought,
And on each tiny truth you ruminate,
Knowing every word is divinely wrought,
Every hunger in your soul exceeding
As continually your heart is feeding;

If my words you continue to obey
Living out every loving thing you've heard,
And in my daily fellowship you stay,
So you are saturated by my word,
Bearing fruit your growing faith is seeding
Holy truth in every garden breeding;

Then you will come to know and understand
All that you longed for, but you couldn’t be.
Then all the chains that bind the mind of man
Will be broken, and the truth will set you free,
Every blinding prejudice conceding
As in His conquering train He's leading.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I know that God can speak to others in these poems just as He speaks to me. People have told me that He has done so by the few poems I have made available. However I have begun to wonder if there is not something to meditating on poems you write yourself. Most of you may be convinced that you could never write a poem. And I may well be overstepping my bounds by suggesting that you try. But if you have written a poem by meditating on a scripture until God speaks to you, He will speak to you again and again and more and more as you meditate on the poem.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

PRAYING FOR OUR ENEMIES

How are you loving your enemies? It should not surprise us that Jesus Himself applied this impossible command with a prescription for prayer.
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.[i]
I recently read something on the web from a man who works as a Christian apologist that severely attacked Bill Nye (the science guy). I wrote a comment about loving and praying for Bill Nye. The man wrote back somewhat offended thinking I was saying he should abandon his ministry. I admit that that I may not have been as kind or loving as I should have been to the apologist with my public comment. But it is crucial for believers to base our polemics in the love of Christ.
This requires prayer because it is impossible in human strength. I need to regularly pray for God's power to love my enemies. I need to ask God to help me love members of ISIS and radical Islam.  And this needs to be specific. I need God to help me pray by name for my Muslim Medical Doctor and the News anchor who will twist the News to get people to support same sex marriage. And yes, the television personality who would lead my grandchildren into sin and unbelief.
And I don't know about you, but I have trouble figuring out how to do and even think about this. I need God to show me how to love, my family and friends. How much more do I need Him to show me how to love my enemies?
I just saw a great interview on this on http://www.radical.net/blog/ . I want to recommend this blog to all serious Christians. And certainly more pressing to the point of this subject, I want to recommend this particular video whose link is http://www.rosariabutterfield.com/ This video and others on this site are particularly on loving my homosexual neighbors, but they establish the principle of prayerfully loving real people.
I discipline myself to pray for many people that stretch my prayer life. I have wondered if I should make a special prayer list for my enemies and for enemies of Christianity in general. At this point I have decided not to pray for them in a specific list. First, I have enough trouble praying for them when they are mixed with people who are not as difficult to pray for. And I need to see prayer needs as a mixture of growth and joy. And the greatest of these elements often flow out of the love for the same people. Father put Your love in me for enemies all around us.







[i] Matthew 5:44,45

Thursday, April 9, 2015

UNDER THE FIG TREE

Have you spent time under the fig tree? Do you remember the account in the first chapter of the Gospel of John about Nathanael's first encounter with Jesus? The Lord made a declaration about Nathanael's character that someone who had not met him couldn't know. Nathanael was shocked. Of course we understand how the Son of God would know us intimately, but Nathanael had to ask Jesus how He knew. Jesus' answer stirs my heart. He simply said, "I saw you under the fig tree." That convinced Nathanael that Jesus was God. Can you imagine what had happened to Nathanael under the fig tree? Are you spending time under your fig tree?
I have just been polishing a poem on Nathanael's encounter for a book of poems I have written through The Gospel of John. I have been wanting to introduce this book to you who read my blog before it is released, mostly so you would begin praying for it. So I am presenting this poem to you in advance.
Before and after each poem I have a place for readers to make notes. Here I have lines printed before the poem. But after it I have given some of my own insights.
  
UNDER THE FIG TREE
John 1:48
Nathanael said to him, How do you know me? Jesus answered him, Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What did Nathanael hear underneath the fig tree
As the heavens drew near in his secret place?
Did he think of Hagar and the God who could see?
Did he shrink like Moses from seeing God's face?
Did he shake in the trembling silence of his awe?
His heart quake at God whispering His call?

Jesus sought another who would another bring.
So He brought up Phillip with his gentile name.
Phillip hailed Nathaniel, "We've found the coming King."
 Nathanael assailed Nazareth before he came.
Can any good come from such a backwater place?"
Phil could only offer, "Come see Him face to face."

Jesus told Nathaniel as he came into sight,
"Behold an Israelite without any deceit"
"How could you know me?" was his startled reply
"I saw you bow neath the bush when you took retreat.
Nathanael was amazed. His heart could only sing
With His soul ablaze, You are the King of Kings!

Because I said I saw you, have you now believed?
Greater pause you'll take as the Son of Man's revealed.
Only a glimpse of heaven have you now received.
Youll wince at my glory as before me you kneel.
You will yet rejoice to see angels descending,
With a voice like thunder the heavens rending?
______________________________________________________________________________
God does know you no matter what. But Jesus pointed specifically to a time Nathanael spent alone with Him.
I suspect Jesus' declaration about Nathanael confirmed what God was doing in his life. What declaration will Jesus make from your time alone with Him?
What will He yet reveal of Himself to you? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

PRAYING IN THE TIME OF SPIRITUAL ATTACK

A lady asked to speak with me this past Sunday. She shared something that did not surprise me at all. “I need you to pray with me,” she said. “I have been under spiritual attack, and I don’t know what to do.” I sympathize with her. In fact, I have recently been under great spiritual attack. And others have shared similar concerns with me in the past few months. I wonder if the enemy is intensifying his onslaught. Revelation 12:12 tells us that at some point our enemy will be filled with fury because he knows his time is short. Is this such a day?
It is interesting that we are shocked by this experience. The scripture warns us that this is going to happen. 1 Peter 4:12 reads,
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering,
as though something strange were happening to you.”
I think it is obvious that we need to pray when we come under spiritual attack. Ephesians 6:11-18, a classic scripture passage on spiritual warfare, concludes with the admonition,
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”
Let me point out from this passage several reasons prayer is so important. Prayer in the Spirit of God is crucial in connecting with the promises of God. In prayer we remind ourselves of His faithfulness, His mighty power and His nearness to us.
We benefit spiritually from fellowship with God. I love Philippians 4:5 that tells us to let our gentleness be evident to all because the Lord is near. It is important to know that a major purpose of the world, the flesh and the devil in spiritual attack is to make you anxious, to take away your peace and hope, to disrupt this major witness of the difference that can be seen in us because of the Spirit of God working in our lives. This whole passage rings with the music of prayer. Verses 6 and 7 read,
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
It is by prayer that we put on our spiritual armor. It is by prayer that we guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. In prayer we are reminded of God’s purposes that the enemy will interrupt in any way he can. Finally prayer binds our hearts to other believers who need our prayer as they face the same kinds of attack.