Prayer Changes Things

I heard someone bemoaning certain issues the other day and after a while they concluded “All we can do is pray.”  Over the years I have heard that catch phrase a lot and I think that there is a general misunderstanding about prayer.  We too often think of prayer as casually tossing something to God or maybe even passionately and urgently laying something at His feet beseeching Him to change a situation.  Having pled our case, we stand up, wipe our hands and walk away.  Now, please hear me.  I believe in prayer.  I have seen some wonderful answers to prayer. (There are always answers to prayer, we usually only consider those answers to be wonderful if the answer is what we want! But that is another post.) As I was saying, I believe in prayer. Prayer changes things, we should pray.  Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6-7

Phil 4:6   Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Prayer is a good thing, an effectual thing.  It can bring us peace to the burdens and concerns on our hearts.  I think though that too often we drop off our list and walk away and there is no real peace because we have the wrong idea about prayer. Prayer is not meant to align God’s will up with ours but rather to line ours up with God’s.  Praying is like throwing a lasso around a mountain. We can pull and pull as hard as we want but we will never pull the mountain closer to us.  We can however pull ourselves closer to the mountain.

I know we get told “let go and let God” and I understand the sentiment behind that expression.  But there are some things that we are burdened with that we shouldn’t just give to God in prayer and then walk away.  If we do, we won’t have that peace that Paul talks about because God will not give us that peace and nothing will change because God placed that burden on our heart so that we might be His instrument affecting the change.  He drove us to Him in prayer not so that we could just drop off our burden, wipe our hands and walk away but so that we might be equipped, encouraged and inspired to deal with that burden and allow Him to affect the change through us!

It’s true.  God condescends to use us in this world to reveal His mercy, His comfort, His truth, His love, His goodness, His righteousness, His justice and any number of other attributes.  The Almighty receives great glory by using weak, flawed, mistake prone people like you and me….people who need and have a Savior.

Burdened about starving children? Yes pray for them, but how can you directly help them through giving or serving in some worthwhile organization?

Have a heart for single moms?  Is there a ministry at your church or in your community where you can help?  Is there such an individual in your sphere of influence that you can reach out to?

Worried about a relationship that is on the skids?  Have you prayed and asked the Lord to help you have the necessary conversation with that other person?  Do you need to seek or offer forgiveness?

Worried about the decline of attendance in your church?  Do you call people you haven’t seen in a while, do you embrace, engage and welcome visitors, do you consider yourself to be on mission in your community?

Whatever problems, burdens or worries you have, you should let them drive you to God in prayer.  Prayer is how we communicate with our heavenly Father, share our burdens, cast our cares upon Him and line ourselves up with His will.  We receive peace and answers.

Yes, prayer changes things. And God still works miracles and yes, sometimes He moves mountains. But perhaps the biggest miracle is that when I pray, He often moves me.

 

Posted in Christianity, Church, faith, God, Philippians 4:6, Philippians 4:7, religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Growing and Learning

The girls

I was blessed with the opportunity to spend some time with my daughter and granddaughters the other day.  Avery is 5 and Haley is 3 and they are such a joy to be around.  This week I was really struck by how much they are growing up.  Haley who is the youngest has always been a little bit shy and reserved but lately she is talking more than ever.  She is no longer just echoing the words and phrases of her big sister; now she is telling her own stories and coming up with her own phrases.  She also started learning how to write her name.  She is learning so much.  And that Avery is so smart too. She can do math and she just wrote a letter for me to deliver to her Uncle Eric and Aunt Amanda.  In just a couple of months she will start kindergarten.  And she started swimming underwater all by herself this summer!  I love to see the way the girls are growing and maturing.

As I was thinking about how fast they are growing, I reflected on the fact that growing and maturing is God’s plan for all of His Children.  If you are a Christian you are expected to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.  You are expected to mature in your faith.  We should not be surprised when that happens in a Christian’s life, we should be surprised when it doesn’t.  In Hebrews 5:12 the author is writing to some people who were demonstrating a lack of spiritual growth.  He said

Heb 5:12   For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

Now, there is nothing wrong with milk.  There is a reason they say, “It does a body good.”  We expect babies to drink milk and to need a certain diet for a certain period of time.  But we also expect them to grow and we become worried if they don’t grow, mature and reach certain milestones.  That should cause us to pause and reflect.  Are we growing and maturing in our faith?  We expect a baby in the faith to act like a baby, but if you have been a Christian for a while some growth should have occurred.  You should no longer act like a baby or need to be treated like one.  How about you, are you growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ?  I hope so.  If not, ask the Lord to help you in this matter.  I know that He will answer your prayer.  Until next time, stay strong in the faith.

Posted in Christianity, Church, faith, grandchildren, Hebrews 5:12, inspirational, Learning in the Lord, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Be Prepared

I was working in my study the other morning and the Lord impressed upon me that I should leave for work earlier tnan usual.  This would give me some extra time to talk to someone on His behalf on the way.  Who?  I did not know.  I hopped in my car and I was on my way.  As I drove I prayed about where I was to stop and who I was to talk with. This gas station?  No, the tank was nearly full. The donut shop?  Nope, there would be no donuts this morning.  I finally decided to stop at a coffee shop that I frequent on a semi-regular basis.  I figured I would go in and buy a cup of coffee and prayerfully let the Lord lead the conversation.

When I pulled up in the parking lot, through the window I noticed a new guy working the counter.  He must be the one I am supposed to visit with!  I eagerly got out of the car and as I did, my heart sank.  I had left my billfold at home and I didn’t have any money to buy any coffee.  I got back in my car and drove off. I figured the Lord was trying to teach me a lesson.  I had left the house without my billfold, I was unprepared to do what He wanted me to do.

Then it dawned on me. He did not ask me to leave early so that I could buy coffee.  He asked me to leave early so that I could speak to someone on His behalf.  I did not need any money to do that.  What was it Simon Peter said?  Oh yeah, “Siver and gold have I none, but what I have I give to you…”

I turned around and drove back!  I went in and the man asked how he could help me.  I told him I didnt have my billfold and I shared my story and asked him if had any prayer requests.  You guessed it, he did.  I talked to him briefly about God’s faithfulness and promised to pray for him. When I left he offered me a free cup of coffee and some other goodies which I respectfully declined.  The lesson for me was not that I should not leave my house unprepared but that I should always leave prepared to do exactly as God has asked me to do.

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Following Him

This is a great time to be a Christian!  The need for us to pray for others and pray for our country is greater than ever before.  The opportunity for us to live our faith, love our neighbors, and lead our lives in a way that brings honor and glory to God and which overcomes the negative stereotypes that some have of Christians is, in my opinion, at a pinnacle.  It is indeed a great time, an important time to be a follower of Christ.  Jesus spoke of what it means to be a follower of Him in Luke 9:23.

Luke 9:23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

Jesus told His disciples that following Him would involve commitment and self-denial.  Foxes had holes, the birds had nests but the Son of Man had no place to lay His head.  Would they follow Him even if it meant their lives had to change, even if it involved sacrifice?  Yes, they would follow Him and yes, they would live a life of commitment and sacrifice.

Jesus’ words in Luke 9:23 are still for those who would be His followers today.  All of His words are for today.  If we would follow Him we must commit to Him and submit our wills, our wants and our lives to His Lordship and leadership.  We must deny ourselves.   Christ asked His followers to trust Him, to commit to Him, to deny themselves and follow Him.  That is not a message that resonates today.  We live in the midst of a culture that for the most part promotes comfort over commitment and self-indulgence over self-sacrifice.  And to make matters worse, these values of the culture have impacted the church.

“Give up who I am, what I want, how I feel?”  That is not a message that resonates today… not even in the church.  “I love Jesus and Jesus loves me and He loves me enough not to ask me to _____ .”  You fill in the blank.  I am afraid that we have taken that great hymn “Just as I am” and made it into some kind of anthem which declares that Jesus loves me just as I am because I am a pretty amazing dude.  Who wouldn’t love me?

No, that song does not speak of how amazing I am or you or anyone else is.  It speaks of how amazing the Lord is because He loves me just as I am.  And yes, Paul tells us in Romans 5:8 that God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  “While we were yet sinners” please notice that.  He loved us when we were at that point…but He doesn’t want to leave us at that point.  Paul also wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “If anyone be in Christ they are a new creation, old things have passed away and all things have become new.”

Yes, God loves us as we are but He does not leave us where we were!  He sends the Holy Spirit to indwell us and empower us so that we can learn, grow and move forward in spiritual maturity.

God equips us to be able deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ.  God gives us the ability to say and mean, “For me I won’t worry about my comfort or convenience, I will serve you Lord.”  God will give us the ability to walk in His will and His ways.  God will give us the ability to be kind, tender hearted and compassionate, forgiving others just as Christ Jesus has forgiven you.  He will help us to be His followers at a time when He needs loving, godly ambassadors in this world.  The Lord is ready to work in us and through us…if we follow Him.

Posted in ambassadors, Christmas, Church, faith, following Christ, God, inspirational, Just as I am, Luke 9:23, religion, Romans 5:8, sacrifice, self denial, take up my cross | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fixing a Fence Post and the Golden Rule

The other day I noticed that the fence in the backyard was leaning.  I went to investigate and it turns out that the rail had pulled away from the post…again.  The same thing had happened after a storm a few weeks ago and I hammered it back into place for a quick fix and until I had more time to properly address the situation.  I guess with having the day off that day and with the fence leaning again, this was that time.  When I examined the situation, I discovered that the next post over was rotten at ground level and was the cause of the problem.  It no longer supported the rail and because the fence was not perfectly lined up it was pulling the rail away from the other good post and causing the entire fence to lean.  It would have to be replaced.  I sent a text to the neighbor who lives behind me about the situation and received a quick reply back informing me that he had moved.  So I drove around the block and knocked on the door to explain the situation to the new homeowner.  There was no answer so I left them a detailed note with my name and phone number and asked them to give me a call.

I drove to Home Depot to pick up the concrete, the fence post and some other supplies for the job and by the time I got back home I still had not yet heard from the new neighbors.  I was thinking, they are probably out of town for the Fourth of July, they probably won’t even read my note for a couple of days, I should just go ahead and do this.  Then I got to thinking, what if there are kids or someone else at home?  How are they or whoever left them at home going to feel about some stranger coming into their backyard unannounced?  I decided that if my kids, grandkids or wife was at home I would not want some dude putting a ladder over the back fence and making himself at home in my yard without clearing it with me first…even if he was fixing the fence.  Then I remembered the Golden Rule.  Jesus said in Luke 6:31

[Luk 6:31 NET] 31 Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.

I decided that the fence could wait for a couple of days.  It was a good decision.  I got to spend the morning shopping with my daughter and granddaughters at Sam’s and we had a great time.  And my new neighbor called me a few hours later.  We had a great conversation!  She thanked me for the note and we talked about our families.  I am so glad our introduction started out like that rather than, “Who are you and what are you doing in my yard!”  Following the Golden Rule worked out pretty good for me.  You know, I bet it would work out pretty good for all of us and our country too.  Jesus really knows what He is talking about.  We would all do well to listen to Him, to follow Him and pay attention to what He says.

Posted in Christianity, faith, God, inspirational, Luke 6:31, religion, the Golden Rule | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Washed Clean – Like Drawings on a Sidewalk

I spent some time with the grandkids today and as I was walking home I noticed some of their pictures on the driveway drawn with sidewalk chalk.  I guess that makes it driveway chalk.  Anyway, I love seeing those drawings that they make.  I love the temporary masterpieces they have crafted recently of homes, flowers, and butterflies.  I haven’t had many opportunities to see these great works of art lately because they have been washed away so quickly by all the rain we have been having this spring.  Every time I consider how quickly these pictures are washed away by the rain, I am reminded of how God can so easily wash away our sins when we turn to Him in submission and repentance.  The Bible says in Titus chapter 3

Titus 3:5 He (God) saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

My salvation does not rest on my work or any good deed that I may try to offer unto God.  I have been rescued by the love and mercy of God.  God demonstrated His love for me in that while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me.  If my salvation depended on my righteousness, then my unrighteous deeds could never and would never be erased.  Even if someone would view my bad deeds as relatively harmless, any deed outside of God’s will is sinful and any such deed causes a break in my fellowship with Him.  I cannot erase those unrighteous deeds no matter how small they may seem to you or me; and I cannot restore my fellowship with God.  I cannot do it…but Christ can!

Christ who gave His life for us can forgive us of our sins if we turn from our sins and turn to Him and ask Him to be our Savior.  We can be justified by His grace.  It can be “just as if” we never sinned.  The unrighteous deeds in our lives can be washed away like chalk drawings on a sidewalk in a summer rain.  God will pour out His mercy and His power into our life through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit through His Son Jesus Christ!  We not only have our sins washed away but we have our fellowship with God the Father restored and we receive eternal life!  And God equips us and empowers us to begin to live according to His will rather than ours.  Will we have trials?  Yes.  Will we have temptations?  Yes.  But we also have the Lord walking beside us, helping us to overcome those trials and temptations.  The Lord is with us!  Let me tell you, He will work in you and through you and together you will paint a picture that will last for eternity.  It will be a picture of victory, of perseverance and living by faith!  It will be one that will withstand the winds, the rains and the storms of this life.  It will be beautiful to behold!  I hope that you have a wonderful week.  Until next time, stay strong in the faith.

Posted in Christianity, faith, God, God's Mercy, inspirational, religion, salvation, Titus 3:5, Washing away our sins | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some Thoughts on the Shooting in Charleston

I know that it has been a tough week for many people.  The people of Charleston who were affected by the church shooting are particularly on my mind.  We all need to keep them in our prayers as they deal with this horrible tragedy.  We also need to pray for those whose minds are blinded by the evil one, whose hearts are filled with hatred, and whose hands seek to sow terror, division and strife in this land.  Their deeds reflect the mindset of their own master who comes to steal, kill and destroy.  I pray that the Lord would bind the hands of these evil doers in the midst of their plans and that He would break down the stronghold of hatred and evil in their minds.  I pray that He would open their hearts to know His love.

I pray that as the Lord binds their hands, I pray that He would strengthen the bond among His people.  I pray that God’s people would rise up together in love, harmony and unity.  I pray that brothers and sisters of all types, nationalities, colors, ethnic backgrounds, and any other type of distinction that man can devise would walk together in a Godly way more closely than ever before.  We are the people of “ONE LORD, ONE FAITH, ONE BAPTISM. (Eph 4:5)”  We are Children of the Most High God.  We stand with you Charleston.  There is no place for racism or unrighteousness!  There is no place for terrorism and turmoil!  There is no place for hating or hassling someone just because they are different!  It is time for the Church to be the Church.  It is time for Christians to act like Christians.  Lord help us to be known as Your disciples because of the love that we have for one another.  Lord help us to overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21).  Lord please be with the people of Charleston.  Lord, comfort them.  Hold them.  Strengthen them and let them know the peace of your presence.  And Lord, help us to reach out to them and others in a meaningful way.  Amen.

Posted in Charleston Church Shooting 2015, Christianity, Ephesians 4:5, faith, ministry work, No place for racism, No place for terrorism, Overcome Evil with Good, religion, Romans 12:21 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment