May 23, 2013
“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)
When the disciple’s asked Jesus this request they were not just asking Him the ‘how to’ of prayer. They were amazed at the large amounts of time Jesus prioritized for prayer. They were asking something like ‘teach us what you know about prayer that we obviously do not know that causes You to spend so very much time in prayer.’
STEP NUMBER THREE: Spend much time in prayer.
When you must know the will of another human being, what is the first step you take? Our first thought is usually that we must meet with that person and have a conversation with them. When a man is in love and decides he wants to marry a woman, his first thought is that he must meet with her and have a conversation with her.
When we seek to know the will of God, our first thought should be that we must meet with God and have a conversation with Him. Prayer is a conversation with God. If you do not know how to pray, think of prayer as simply meeting with and having a personal conversation with God.
Jesus responded to the apostles with a prayer that was not as much a prayer as it was an instruction about how to pray. When you are alone, use that prayer as an outline for your conversation with God. You will find yourself applying the second and third steps I have shared with you for knowing the will of God when Jesus instructs you to pray:
“Your kingdom come; Your will be done.”
May 18, 2013
“Prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all His demands and moves towards the goal of spiritual maturity.” (Romans 12:2 JB Phillips)
When someone questions me, a pastor, about the will of God, they might be referring to a fork-in-the-road decision or sometimes the issue has been the broader question, “How can I know the will of God for my life?” While answering that question many times over many years, I have come up with twelve steps I believe you should take when you are seeking divine guidance. These twelve steps are not a precise formula that will immediately and clearly lead you to the specific will of God, but they do focus some issues that should be visited, or bases you should touch, when you are trying to establish an alignment between your will and the will of God.
THE FIRST STEP: Believe there is such a thing as the will of God for your life.
“Every time a tiny sparrow falls dead from a tree, God goes to the funeral!” Observed a preacher from another generation, referring to the teaching of Jesus that not one tiny sparrow falls dead from a tree apart from the Father’s plan. The application Jesus makes is that since two sparrows are sold for a penny and we are of far greater value to God than a sparrow, if God has a will regarding the details of the life and death of a sparrow, then we can be sure He has a will regarding every detail of our lives (Matthew 10: 29-31).
According to the Bible, God is our Shepherd and our Father. God is personal and has a plan for our life we can know and experience.
May 4, 2013
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word…. It is good for me that I have been afflicted…I know, O Lord, that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.” (Psalm 119: 67, 71, 75)
Many believers like me can resonate with these words written above. Although this is not always the explanation when God’s people are afflicted, it very often is. I have been living with a chronic illness since 1978 and I have been paralyzed since 1984. It was my affliction that moved me to do the life’s work God was calling me to do for Him.
God tells us in His Word that He chastens those He loves (Revelation 3:19). Although the goodness of God can lead us to repentance, for most of us it is the chastening of our Lord, knocking on the door of our life that moves us to open the door and invite Him into the practical areas of our life. Like Jonah, it is only through divine intervention that our “I will not” is converted to “I will.”
As a “Type A” obsessive-compulsive, workaholic pastor I left before I got there and people could not keep up with my fast walk. For someone like me to be slammed down in one place, unable to move anything from the neck down, it was an overwhelming intervention.
It took two years to even begin moving toward accepting my limits. When the acceptance came it was a supernatural miracle of inner healing. It took twenty years, but I eventually reached the point where I could tell the Lord I loved Him for cutting me back and improving the quality and quantity of what He wanted me to do for Him.
Can you resonate with the perspective of this ancient hymn writer?
April 27, 2013
“Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” (1Timothy 4:16)
Although it sounds contrary to what we have been taught as believers the Apostle Paul wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy, that there are times when he should join the Me First Club. When you find something great in the Scriptures how many times is your first thought the person who simply must hear this truth?
In this prescription for spiritual growth Paul writes that Timothy should place the Scripture down on his life, and then hold his life up to the Scripture. Paul promises Timothy that if he will continuously do this as a spiritual discipline, he will experience salvation himself first and then lead others to salvation.
There are at least three times when committed disciples should put themselves in first place; when we are judging, when there is sin to confess, and when it comes to our own needs. Many disciples have become casualties in the spiritual warfare because they neglected these priorities.
There is a sense in which if we do not save ourselves we cannot save anybody else. When the oxygen masks appear on a commercial air flight, mothers with babies are instructed to place the mask on themselves first and then on their baby.
If you are a spiritual leader don’t apply Scripture to others that you have not first applied to yourself. Think of the priorities being taught here as concentric circles. You are the innermost circle. The other circles represent those with whom you share God’s Word after you have joined the Me First Club.
Save yourself and then watch God work as He saves others.
April 16, 2013
“We don’t know what to do but our eyes are on You.” (2 Chronicles 20:12)
No matter how gifted we may be, sooner or later we will hit a wall of crisis where we simply do not know what to do. The Scripture quoted above is taken from an historical context when the people of God were overwhelmingly outnumbered and they simply did not know what to do.
The earthly half-brother of Jesus wrote that when we do not know what to do we should ask God for the wisdom we confess we do not have (James 1:5). He promises us that God will not hold back but dump a truckload of wisdom on us.
Years ago I received a telephone call from my youngest daughter when she was a first year student at the University of Virginia. With many tears she informed me that she had fallen down a flight of stairs and was sure she had broken her back. At the hospital they had discovered mononucleosis and seriously infected tonsils that needed to be removed. She concluded her “organ recital” litany: “Finals begin tomorrow and I just don’t know what to do, Daddy!”
Frankly, I was touched that my very intelligent young daughter believed that if she could just share her litany of woes with me and tap into the vast resources of my wisdom I could tell her what to do when she did not know what to do.
According to James that is the way we make our heavenly Father feel when we come to Him overwhelmed with problems and tell Him we just don’t know what to do. That’s why a good way to begin some days is:
“Lord, I don’t know what to do but my eyes on you!”
April 14, 2013
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.” (James 5:16 NLT)
When Alcoholics Anonymous started it was called “The Saint James Fellowship” because it was founded on this verse. The founders later changed the name to include people of all faiths and those with no faith. While millions of secular people apply the truths of this Scripture and experience healing, it is a shame that many believers never make these healing applications.
When you meet with another believer do you keep your sins in the closet? Do you give the impression that you don’t have a problem in the world? Do they do the same? That does not burden you to pray for each other. But if you trust them and share some of your sins with them they would be burdened to pray for you. They would also more than likely have what I call “reality contact” with you by sharing their sins and that would burden you to pray for them. The result of these mutual prayers would be mutual healing.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who wrote extensively about spiritual community, put it this way: “Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So they remain alone with their sins, living in lies and hypocrisy… He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone.”
A paraphrase of James 5:16 is that honest prayers explode with power! It is a strategy of the evil one to isolate us into self imposed solitary confinement. Never let him isolate you into being a closet sinner; instead, find healing in confessing your sins and praying for one another.
April 2, 2013
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
This past weekend many heard the Good News that Jesus died and rose again for our sins that we might live forever in resurrection power with Him. Have you ever heard of the Gospel in reverse? The verse I quoted above sounds like a funeral dirge because it begins with Paul’s announcement that he is crucified with Christ.
But, actually in this verse Paul exclaims three times that he lives! He lives by faith in the Son of God. He lives because Christ lives in him, and he lives because he is crucified with Christ. To summarize and paraphrase, in this verse Paul is declaring the Good News that Christ died so he might live and now it’s his turn. Paul must die so Christ might live His life through Paul.
When our holidays roll around we hear that it should be Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter every day of the year. If you want to have a perpetual Easter, realize that what was true of the Apostle Paul can be true for you and me.
Jesus consistently challenged His followers to take up their cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9: 23). In addition to the literal meaning this could have had in that culture, by application to take up your cross daily means to “crucify” all the personal hopes, ambitions and plans you had for your life asking Him to have His will for your life.
Christ died that you might live. Now it’s your turn.
March 16, 2013
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
The great Shepherd psalm of David is the most familiar chapter in the Bible. It is loved by Jews, Catholics and all the shades and grades of Protestants. Psalm 23 is the greatest description ever written of what the relationship between God and man can be.
After declaring that his God makes him lie down in green pastures and leads him beside still waters David also declares there to be times when he finds himself in a valley that is so dark it is like the shadow of death. However, he is comforted by the staff of his Shepherd. He is referencing the confidence he has in the ability of his Shepherd to lead him through that valley, not just to that valley.
He is also comforted by the rod of his Shepherd. The rod of a shepherd was a defensive weapon used to keep predators away from the sheep. David is saying here that he has great confidence in the ability of his Shepherd to protect him from anything he might encounter in that valley.
The bottom line is that David knows his Shepherd God can not only lead him to a valley but through that valley.
Are you in a valley right now? If you are, realize your Shepherd God wants to lead you through that valley. Trust His perfect ability to lead and protect you all the way through your valley.
Faith nearly always involves choices. The choice is yours. So, which is it going to be? Is it going to be “To it, or through it?”
March 5, 2013
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11: 6)
The truth is when I first came to faith and to the ministry I was struggling to know God. Providentially I had several spiritual heavyweights who mentored me to God. They shook things down for me into three basic and absolute propositions that made sense to me then and still do today.
Their first proposition was that God is there. I have not struggled with that proposition. I began by reflecting on the many, many ways God responds to the very many prayers I pray to Him there.
Their second proposition was that God is real. I found that when I related myself to God He responded by relating Himself to me. That inspired me to believe that He was not only there, He was very real when I related to Him and made personal contact with His divine presence.
When I found myself sharing with God the intimate dimensions of my personal, private and even secret life He responded to those prayers. I realized that I had come to believe in a personal God. That was the third proposition of my mentors: God is personal.
They wanted me to believe in and come to know a God who knew the numbers of hairs on my head. By the grace and providence of God I have come to know that personal God. I can believe Him when He tells me He has a plan for my life which when followed will make me a unique person distinct from every other living person.
Will you believe in the God who is there, real and personal?