Category Archives: Prayer

Why worry?

Scripture is full of great questions. Jesus knew how to ask some real zingers. This is one of the hardest for me to grapple with in my everyday life.

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? (Luke 12:25)

Honestly, I tend to worry too much. Prayer should be my default response, but sometimes, I find it so easy to worry instead. I am getting better. I am taking so much more to my Heavenly Father in prayer than  I did in the past. But it is a struggle.

In Jesus’ question, we see the futility of worry. It accomplishes nothing. It tends to hurt ourselves and the situation we care so much about. Worrying can’t even give us an extra hour in our day — actually it robs us of precious time to actually act and pray.

I am resolving to worry less and pray more. Who’s with me?

 

Closer

There is a big difference between knowing about God and knowing God. And there is also a big difference between God with us and God in us. And that difference is closeness. In John’s Gospel, Jesus told the disciples that as great as it was for Him to walk and live among the people, there is something greater than the physical proximity of Jesus standing right next to us. And that is the Lord putting the Holy Spirit within His people. But too often I don’t recognize how glorious this really is. And I know that I am not alone. While the hearts cry of many Christians is closeness to God, we don’t understand how close we already are if we simply take hold of the reality by faith and silence distractions and other pursuits in our lives.

Prayer for Intimacy
Holy Spirit, forgive me for seeking after everything else but Your voice.
Open my eyes to see the wonder of what angels longed to see — God’s Spirit dwelling in His people.
Cause me to burn with passion for the things that move Your heart and bring You glory.
Keep me from distractions and unbelief that would rob me of Your best realized by faith.
May I be a vessel for Your fire so that I can be pure and holy.
May my prayers be an incense coming up to Your throne, moving against the realms of darkness.
For the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective. And Jesus, You have made me righteous.
Refine my desires to be what matter most, create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.
For God, You are a consuming fire.
Amen!

Hearing the Voice of God

Through the years, I have definitely struggled to know the heart of God and understand when He is truly speaking to me about something. I wonder, “Is that really God or is that just bad Taco Bell that I ate last night?” I have even asked, “Why does God sound sarcastic?” I have also thought, “That must be God because I would never think something like that.”

I recently spoke at the Mix  youth group retreat on hearing the voice of God. And as the Lord frequently likes to do, He gave me an opportunity to practice what I preach the morning that I was supposed to speak. I woke up and spent some time listening and praying. The idea kept coming up that I was supposed to sing “Jesus Loves Me” over the middle school and high school students at the retreat as I started my talk. But I wondered why that would be a good idea. After all, these are teens. They will think Jesus loves me is for little children. Plus, I thought, “What does that have to do with my topic?”

Sure enough, the Lord used another Christian to confirm what He had spoken to my heart. A good friend and brother in the Lord walked up to me and said that he felt impressed to remind me that many of these teens struggle to hear God’s voice because they have the wrong notion of who God is. They believe that God is angry with them or is a harsh, demanding Father. This friend said that they need to know that Jesus loves them before they can listen to the voice of God.

This was the confirmation that I needed to hear. I explained my struggles that morning and set up song. I told the crowd that this was a demonstration of hearing the voice of God and taking a small risk. As I sang, I believe that something broke over the hearts of many in the room that morming. One student came up and said what I did was liberating. Others said they just felt God’s love all over what I was saying.

Here are some of the key points that I shared that morning. May these little insights help you discern whether the voice in your head is really from God or some other source.

Things to consider when testing a voice….

1.) Does this sound like something Jesus would say? Does it line up with the Bible?

2.) God speaks to us through someone us. Many times this is to confirm or put perspective on what God has already been laying on our hearts.

3.) God isn’t usually urgent or in a rush. Jesus even took His time when it came to healing Lazarus.

4.) God’s voice may surprise us. It might unsettle us. Just ask little Samuel, the first time that he heard from God, the Lord spoke a harsh word about Samuel’s spiritual mentor.

5.) God may not work in us or speak to us in the same way that He does with other people.

6.) God’s voice will prepare us for the future although He doesn’t usually give us all the details.

7.) Does this voice agree that Jesus came in the flesh? (1 John 4:1-6) The voice of God will lift up Jesus as the source of live and God’s revival power. Jesus came down as a man and can relate to your experiences.

8.) The voice of God never calls us to do something that only God can do.  For example, God will not push you to change your heart. Instead, He will ask you to yield to His power and then maybe go act in a way that aligns with this heart change.

9.) God knows where we are and won’t test us beyond what we can bear in Him.

10.) God’s voice will always be calling us to Himself never driving us away. God’s voice may  sound harsh at times, but it is always inviting us to greater relationship and truth.

11.) God may convict us of sin, but He won’t condemn us for it.

12.) God’s voice frequently will call us to action or rest. God may call us to take a leap of faith. Or quite the opposite, He may tell us to rest from our labors and trust in Him. Both of these require faith because we have to let go and trust God with the situation.

Tool Kit

God does not leave us empty handed to fight battles against sin, evil spirits and darkness.

No, God gives us tools.

But if you don’t us those tools, you will lose battles that really should be won. In reality, the hard work has been done. After all, Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished!” And Jesus meant what He said.

So if you have just experienced a breakthrough or victory in your life, don’t be surprised if sin, temptation, lies and demonic influences come back. But if you use the tools in your tool kit, the enemy doesn’t stand a chance. The Bible says, “Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.

So, what you waiting for? Open up that tool kit and get busy…

Here are the tools that Jesus has given His Church …

1.)    Listening prayer – By quieting the noise around us and taking authority over the influences in our lives, we can position ourselves to hear from God. Too often our prayers focus on talking and don’t involve enough listening. If you listen for the “voice” of God, He will reveal His will as well as His love and affirmation. The Holy Spirit will identify areas you need to surrender, things you need to repent of and actions steps you should take in faith.

2.)    Confession and repentance – If we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. The Lord also helps us repent by His power. Repentance is sweet although too many people think of it as something to be avoided or feared. Repentance frees us from the power of sin and gives us hope to be different.

3.)    Surrender – By letting go of the things that hold us back, we can be free to become who God always intended us to be. Surrender helps us come to the point where we rely on the power of Jesus to change our heart. It is the launch pad where we ask for the Holy Spirit to empower us to develop godly character and values. Surrender is the path to success in the kingdom of God because it recognizes our weakness and taps into God’s strength.

4.)    Break Agreement with Foundational Lies – You are not your sin. You are not the sum of your thoughts. Actually, many of the thoughts that pop into your head don’t reveal your real mind about a situation or person. This thought doesn’t become yours until you accept it as truth and make it part of your worldview. If you make agreement with a
lie, you look at yourself, God and the world in a skewed way
. Many times we make agreements with lies about our identity, which robs us of the dignity that God has given us. We are beautiful and beloved in God’s sight. What lie have you believed about yourself? Break your agreement with that lie, deny it and speak the truth over your life. This is more than just the power of positive thinking. It is the power of having a Christ-like mind.

5.)    Forgive Again – When we forgive others, we set ourselves free and provide the potential for future reconciliation with that person. By holding a grudge, we sit in judgment on the other person. Even if they have wronged us, there is power in forgiving that person in our hearts. That doesn’t mean we trust them or allow somebody to hurt us. But it does cancel the debt and allows us to view the person without having the feeling that we are owed something. Jesus told His followers to make a habit of forgiveness because the measure to which we forgive impacts the freedom of our heart to receive God’s forgiveness.

6.)    Life Together – You are not in this battle alone. God has positioned people around you to help. While we should first rely on God to be our source of strength, there is nothing wrong with calling in some reinforcements. Sometimes we need other peoples to listen to us, give a shoulder to cry on, provide advice, serve a need or pick us up when we are down. You may need to reach out to other believers because your need may not be obvious to others. Don’t be afraid to seek help. Admitting you need help is a sign of strength not weakness.

7.)    Worship – The best kind of worship comes when we are facing a trial or recently experienced a loss. We could give up or curse God. But instead, we worship Him in song or prayer. That is the revelation of a heart that truly values and glorifies God above everything else. Worship causes our hearts to soar and helps build faith. It also positions us to receive from God and stand firm despite opposition. It fills our love tank and honors God. This mindset realizes that we praise God because He is worthy. We shouldn’t praise God just for all the things He had done to bless us. Even if all the blessings from God evaporate, we should still worship God alone. Worship will calibrate your life to focus on God and others.

8.)    Serve – It is hard to be down about your problems when you are helping other people with whatever hardships they face. Instead of looking inward, we can find strength, purpose and stress relief when we reach out to help others in the name of Jesus. May you find somebody who is worse off and bless them. That will keep you busy and help you avoid the trap that can come when boredom leads to sin.

9.)    Develop Spiritual Gifts – Rely on supernatural gifts to help you battle evil spirits and darkness. This requires believers to request gifts from the Holy Spirit and step out in faith to activate them as prompted by God. These gifts are to be grounded in love and should be used to glorify and bless the Church.

10.)                        Practice Generous Assumptions/Speak Words of Life – Your words can land you into trouble or liberate your situation. Speaking kindness to somebody who is angry can soften their wrath. It can position their hearts to forgive and seek reconciliation. Also, if we assume the worse, we tend to get bad outcomes. The reverse happens if we think good thoughts and practice generous assumptions about others. This calls us to look for the good and hope for the best. But thinking the worst drives you to look to be offended and ignores the good things about a person or situation. This attitude blocks hope and sows seeds of further disharmony.

What is the Gospel?

I wonder if I have at times become “so familiar” with the Bible and especially the Christian Gospel that I lose sight of its epic, boundless quality. Can you have heard so many sermons that you begin to think there isn’t much new to be learned about God? Or does this reveal a faulty mindset that has lost its way? If God is beyond description, why do we look at His Word as something less than supernatural, epic, and majestic? The Bible (God’s book) is beyond whatever else we might read on a daily basis. I was thinking about this tonight after Pastor Tim Matthews spoke on the parable of the sower and the seed from Matthew 13. He challenged the youth group to dare to study the Scriptures, soak in it and live it. Beyond looking for good principles to apply, Pastor Tim encouraged us to seek to be transformed. He challenged us to be good ground that would produce fruit in God’s Kingdom.

The Bible is not a self-help book. I admit that on many occasions I have taken the “I already knew that” attitude toward something found in Scripture. But the strange thing is I may not have been living by the light of that knowledge. Many times I needed to hear something again that I already supposedly knew.

So I feel led to revisit the basic Christian message, commonly known as the Gospel. What is it really? Is the Gospel just ten basic beliefs about God and His relationship with mankind? Is the Gospel merely about statements of faith? Or is it something more — an ethic, a call to become like Christ? Is the Gospel something that ever changes? Or is it something that only changes us? Is the Gospel fully realized now or a forward looking hope for a better world? Is the Gospel even really about mankind? Or is its core preoccupation mainly God and His glory revealed to humanity?

These questions have led me to develop what I am calling the Gospel Challenge. I am encouraging anybody who has a relationship with God through Jesus to take 30 days to wrestle with what the Gospel is based on Scripture and your own reflection as you pray and listen for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. May you look to see how the Gospel is lived out in your world. Specifically, I am encouraging other Christians who know me to take up this challenge.

It starts with reading the Bible daily while looking to see what your reading reveals about the basic Christian message. You should ask questions like, “What does this story show us about God? or How does this passage depict God’s Kingdom?

Second, you develop a list of key beliefs explaining what the Gospel is and how it should function in our daily lives. What really is this Good News that we are called to share with the world? I am starting with a simple computer document that says, “The Christian Gospel is….”

Third, refine your list and share some insights with others to see what they think. I intend to ask other believers, “If you had to explain the Christian message in 3-5 minutes, what would you say?”

Fourth, wrestle some more with the concepts that arise as you study, pray about the Christian message and discuss the Gospel with others. The last part of the challenge is to come up with a basic Gospel statement or creed and attempt to live according to these beliefs on daily basis.

So who is with me? What does the Gospel really mean to you? I welcome others to post on my blog their thoughts on what the Christian Gospel is and how it functions in the world.

Amazed at Great Faith from the Most Unexpected Place – Praying the Emotions of Jesus Day 7

Luke 7:9  (NIV)

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”

Prayer

Jesus, You have seen it all. There are few things that truly amaze You. Yet, the thing that gets Your attention the most is a life of great faith – the stranger who has no reason to believe and yet does any way. From the most unexpected places comes a man who demonstrates faith beyond reason.

A solider who knows what it means to be in authority and under authority, he knows that You don’t have to be physically present for a miracle to occur. He knows that there is power in your mere words alone. For by Your words, You formed all of the things on the earth. While the religious leaders of Israel rejected Your power, this Roman centurion recognized Your authority and called on You to restore his greatest treasure – his only daughter.

Just like the Roman Centurion, may I live a life of great faith. While all others doubt, may I believe. May I speak words of faith in the face of death and great loss. No matter the circumstances, may I know that You have the power to redeem all things. Like the Centurion, I am a stranger in this world. This is not my homeland. And yet, my I have faith to believe in the impossible despite the wailing cries of others who see no hope. Amen!

Tired/Weary – Praying the Emotions of Jesus Day 6

John 4:6 (ESV)
Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

Prayer
Jesus, You know what it is like to be exhausted from a long journey. Far from easy, Your life consisted of many endless trials, challenges and homeless nights. Walk, walk, walk – Your constant travels kept You on the move. Even though You are God, You were also human. Jesus, Your body was just as limited by physical exhaustion as the next person. You can relate with my fatigue after a busy day at work or school. You know what it is like to fall asleep from exhaustion or desire nothing more than to take a nap.

I am comforted by the fact that You can relate with my limitations. Yet, You show that it is possible to live a righteous life if each step is kept in tune with the Holy Spirit. Overcome by life, help me Lord. I am tired. May I seek a drink from the well that contains Your Living Water. May I be refreshed in the middle of the noon-day sun. May I seek rest under the shade of Your love.

Cause me to rest and enter Your best. For when I am spent, You can sustain me. As I come to the end of myself, I discover there is plenty of strength in You. Amen!