Three Foundational Truths about Prayer

Let’s review a post I made a few weeks ago; First, prayer unleashes the power of God into a given circumstance. Second, prayer is an invitation to experience the boundlessness of God. Third, prayer takes the battle out of our hands and places it into God’s hands. Fourth, prayer can be launched in an instant, at the speed of thought.

In this post I will address three foundational truths of prayer and the repercussions of those truths. First, no Christ-follower’s spiritual life will rise to stay above the level of their personal prayer life. Second, no church’s corporate prayer life will rise to stay above its members’ personal prayer lives. Third, no church’s effectiveness will rise to stay above its corporate prayer life.

Effective prayer is different that merely praying at meals, praying for the sick, praying for God’s blessings, or praying for our needs and wants. Effective prayer is really spiritual warfare. Prayer makes the difference in the battle. In Exodus 17:8-16 there is a story of Joshua fighting the Amalekite army while Moses was praying with Aaron and Hur at the top of a hill over-looking the battle. When Moses held up his hands in prayer Joshua and the Israelites were winning. When Moses grew tired and dropped his hands the Amalekites were winning. So Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ arms so He could pray with his hands lifted.

In verse 13 it says, “So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword”. The word translated “sword: is the Hebrew word “peh”. It is can be translated “testimony, mouth, speech, command, edge (as in edge of a sword)”. Of the five ways “peh” can be translated, four of them have to do with speaking. Joshua did not win because of his men’s skill with their sword. He won because of the prayer of an old man standing on the hillside over-looking the battle. In Revelation 12:11, it says, “They overcame him (the enemy) by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus) and by the word of their testimony.”

I believe prayer changes things. Every documented revival or spiritual awakening in history had its origin in prayer. Satan uses laziness, complacency, apathy, a lack of discipline, etc to cause the church to lay aside as a weapon. Prayer is a gift from God without substitute. It is the key to the unlimited resources of God. Satan does mind what we do as long as leave the power of Almighty God out of it. Prayer in the hand of faith is the key to the immeasurable, unimaginable resources of God. Like Judson Cornwall stated, “Empty hearts, prayer-less spirits, tired bodies, undisciplined minds, unopened Bibles, and careless attitudes have ruined more worship services then all the demonic activity of Hell.

Five Foundational Truths of Surrender

In this article I want to write about the five foundational truths of surrender. Though surrender may not be a very popular topic, when it comes to Christ-following it is an absolute necessity. Jesus is the perfect example of surrender. In Philippians 2:5-8 Paul challenged us to make our “attitudes the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in the appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death….even death on a cross.”

The phrase that stands out to me is “did not see equality with God as something to be grasped”. That pretty much sums up surrender. Willful disobedience is our way of saying that we have a right to disagree, debate, and disobey God. Surrender is how we rightly align our heart, mind, attitudes, and behaviors with God. Even the most compliant of us have a tendency to struggle with complete surrender to God. Though surrender is never easy, it does become easier once we understand some basic principles of surrender.

There are five foundational truths of surrender;

  1. God is good. God is always good. Sure bad things happen. Life is tough. Some days even seem impossible to survive. Yet God promises to never leave us of forsake us. He doesn’t promise there will not be those impossible days, but He does promise to walk through them with us.
  2. God is in control. Life happens. When it is bad we want to blame God. But God loved you so much He gave us the ability to choose. We can choose disobedience, etc…and reap the consequences of our choices. Some times things that are completely out of our control happen….but don’t be confused, God was not caught by surprise. God is in your tomorrow already.
  3. God knows more than we know. Don’t feel bad…..He is God for heaven sakes! The wisest, most highly educated person has a limit to their knowledge. But God’s wisdom and understanding is without measure or limitation.
  4. God can do more with what we have that we can. God doesn’t need your stuff, He wants you. He wants all of you, and He realizes that many times our stuff come between Him and us. We have a tendency to seek our stuff first….but as we seek God first He will manage all of our details (Matt 6:33).
  5. Everybody surrenders to something. Even the most independent, rebellious people in the world surrenders to something….why not make it God? Everything God does is to provide for you and protect you.

Really, when you get down to the bottom line…. Surrender, as it relates to Christ-following is simply an issue of love. In John 14:15 Jesus said it this way, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

Do You Take God at His Word?

Every word from God contains the power to accomplish what He said.  The bible is not just a book to be read, it is a living, active, power-filled document. When the logos of God becomes rhema from Him transformational power is released.

When God makes His written word come alive in you it is filled with the power to deliver what it was meant to deliver. The question is; “Do you take God at His word?”

You Have to Know It to Use It

One of Satan’s master strokes against a follower of Christ is to get them to believe they don’t need to read the bible, or that it is boring, or that it doesn’t apply, or that they can’t understand it, etc.  Because don’t know it, we struggle being able to use it when it is needed most.

Satan is not afraid of you repeating the words of someone like me, but he is terrified of the Word of God that you choose to believe.

Scripture is alive and active! (Heb 4:12)  Reading it, knowing it, and understanding how to apply it, WILL transform your life!

What Are You Chasing?

God is the magnificent One of heaven! He is the One who spoke everything into existence. The One who knows the number of hairs on your head, the number of grains of sand on the beach, the number of days remaining in your life. He is the God… always has been, is, and always will be! Yet why, throughout time, has mankind sought to somehow lower God to some level that we could control, manipulate, or somehow manage?

The past couple of articles I have written about a simple four-step process that I believe best describes the “intentional” effort required to walk in a vital relationship with God. Christians talk about “loving” God, but “loving” God is actually the third step in this process. I believe the problem is that we neglect the first two steps in the process. Step #1 – Seek God; Step #2 – Know God; Step #3 – Love God; Step #4 – Enjoy God;

Picture a clock in your mind. 12:00 is seek God, 3:00 is know God, 6:00 is love God, and 9:00 is enjoy God. Then as we continue repeating the cycle we find that the more we seek Him, the more we will know Him…. The more we know Him, the more we will love Him…. The more we love Him, the more we will enjoy Him. Enjoying Him makes us want to seek Him more, so you can know Him better, so you can love Him deeper, so you can enjoy Him more.

Graphic - Seek:Know:Love:Enjoy God

To say it a different way, the process works this way: We should first seek God with all our heart (Jer. 29:13; Matt 6:33). Then, as we diligently seek Him we will get to know Him. Then, as we get to know Him we will naturally find ourselves falling deeper and deeper in love with Him. Then, it really gets exciting when we realize that we actually enjoy God (not just the stuff He does, but Him).

Remember, Christ-following really is an issue of love. The only way to get to the point that we actually love God is to seek Him. There is no shortcut. Relationships built on shortcuts fail. Relationships built on a foundation of trust succeed. It takes time to earn trust in a relationship, and it requires mutual seeking of one another. I believe that the struggle many people have with following Christ, obedience, surrender, life-change, etc is that relationship with God is built around shortcuts, not actually seeking and knowing Him.

What are you chasing? Titles? Free time? Money? Well-behaved kids? Position? Power? Retirement? Control of others? Control of an organization? Control of your own life? A good reputation? Respect? Rest? Security?… on and on the list can go. Maybe it is time to stop “chasing” stuff and a shortcut to a relationship with God, and start actually seeking God.

Learning to Love & Enjoy God (Part 2)

As a review from last week’s article; there is a simple process that I believe best describes the “intentional” effort required to walk in a vital relationship with God. Christians talk about “loving” God, but “loving” God is actually the third step in this process. I believe the problem is that we neglect the first two steps in the process.

This simple, easy to remember process has four steps; Step #1 – Seek God; Step #2 – Know God; Step #3 – Love God; Step #4 – Enjoy God; Then continue repeating the cycle. The more you seek Him, the more you will know Him…. The more you know Him, the more you will love Him…. The more you love Him, the more you will enjoy Him. Enjoying Him makes you want to seek Him more, so you can know Him better, so you can love Him deeper, so you can enjoy Him more.

Graphic - Seek:Know:Love:Enjoy God

The process works this way: We should first seek God with all our heart (Jer. 29:13; Matt 6:33). Then, as we diligently seek Him we will get to know Him. Then, as we get to know Him we will naturally find ourselves falling deeper and deeper in love with Him. Then, it really gets exciting when we realize that we actually enjoy God.

Jesus said, ”Seek first God, His kingdom, and His righteousness, and all these other things will be added as well.” (Matt. 6:33) Then He would follow a statement like that with a question like “Why do you call me Lord, and not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)

Foolishly, the average person has the tendency to do it backwards by chasing first after so many other things before a personal relationship with Christ. So many folks claim to know Christ, but the way we live and the choices we make seem to place question marks around the subject. We seem to skip over bible verses like 1 John 2:6, which says “Whoever claims to know Christ must walk as Christ did.”

What we chase is evidence of where our heart actually is, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21) God desires that we “seek Him with all of our heart” (Jer. 29:13). “All”, as in completely undivided, with singleness of purpose. Then God’s promise back to those who will seek Him first, with all their heart is, “all of these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33).

God can handle the details of life. What He wants is us. He does not want to compete for our love and obedience…He won’t “compete”… He is the one and only real God who desires that we have a real life changing relationship with Him through His real Son, Jesus….He doesn’t “complete” with the thousands of false “gods” we establish in our lives….there is no competition.

Scripture God pleads with us to seek Him first and foremost. As we seek Him, we get to know Him better. The better we know Him and His ways, the more we will fall in love with Him. As we find ourselves falling in love with Him we will realize we truly enjoy Him. Seeking first God is the path to freedom and peace. God offers each of us a personal relationship, forgiveness, hope, and restoration. Begin truly seeking God first today, and see what you have been missing. He will handle all the details.

Learning to Love & Enjoy God

Do you love Jesus? Do you enjoy God? Most people who call themselves followers of Christ do not actually love Jesus. They will say they of course, but Jesus would say that our struggle with obedience is actually an issue of love. Jesus said it this way; “If you love me, obey my commandments. Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them. All who love me will do what I say.” (John 14:15-27)

Graphic - Seek:Know:Love:Enjoy God

There is a simple process that I believe best describes the “intentional” effort required to walk in a vital relationship with God. Christians talk about “loving” God while choosing disobedience and apathy over and over again (I think Jesus would take issue with them…John 14:15-21), but “loving” God is actually the third step in this process. We talk about loving God in the same sentence with loving our homes, trucks, and various kinds of food. I believe the problem is that we neglect the first two steps in the process.

This simple, easy to remember process has four steps; Step #1 – Seek God; Step #2 – Know God; Step #3 – Love God; Step #4 – Enjoy God; Then continue repeating the cycle. The more you seek Him, the more you will know Him…. The more you know Him, the more you will love Him…. The more you love Him, the more you will enjoy Him. Enjoying Him makes you want to seek Him more, so you can know Him better, so you can love Him deeper, so you can enjoy Him more.

The process works this way: We should first seek God with all our heart (Jer. 29:13; Matt 6:33). Then, as we diligently seek Him we will get to know Him (not merely his deeds, but His ways… not simply facts about Him, but Him!). Then, as we get to know Him we will naturally find ourselves falling deeper and deeper in love with Him based on our knowledge of who He is. Then, it really gets exciting when we realize that we are not only “in love” with God, but that we actually enjoy Him (not just the stuff He does, but Him)!

I use a clock graphic (seen above) to help me understand how the cycle works. So many people want to say the love Christ, yet they don’t actually know him because they never seek him.

Most people love short cuts! Ever got lost trying that new “shortcut”? We do the same thing with our spiritual development process. We have a tendency to want to “love” God without really “knowing” Him. How can we truly love someone we do not know? How can we “know” God without first “seeking” Him? Though they may want to deny it, the average church go-er talks about loving God, but honestly has little concept of what it means to truly love Him…which is why we struggle so much with issues of obedience, surrender, and life change.

Christ-following really is an issue of love. It is about loving God enough to surrender everything to Him. We should “make ourselves nothing,” and “take on the very nature of a servant”…. Because that is what we are! Press in to know God! Walking with God in vital relationship is not an accident. It is the product of intentional effort. Is it worth the effort to you?

Where is God During Tragedy?

Difficulty, difficult days, and difficult seasons of time are a normal part of our lives. I encouraged you to remember who God is, to remember what God can do, and I encouraged you to allow God to keep working through and through you regardless of the circumstances surrounding you.

Tragedy is something we have no control over. It comes will no warning and as no respecter of person, circumstance, title, or age. When tragedy arrives everything else stops. Our schedules no longer matter. Our to-do lists no longer matter. Time seems to stop and freeze. Our minds become numb with disbelieve and denial. The reality of the tragedy simply overwhelms our minds.

Tragedy comes in all forms and scopes; national, regional, community, personal, and even private. In the case of a community tragedy like a tornado, hurricane, etc… the entire region is touched and pauses to hurt and help. If it is a personal tragedy, our close family and friends are touched and pause to aid us. And there are times that the tragedy is very private and few people realize what the individual is coping with that day.

The reality is that every single day tragedy occurs somewhere around us. People die, find out they have a terminal illness, lose businesses, have house fires, are abused, throw away their potential through addiction, etc. Everyday people ask the question, “Where was God when “blank” happened?”

An equal reality is that our loving God is always there in the midst of the tragedy. Life happens! Scripture says, “It rains on the just and the unjust”. We want to live our lives as we choose, then call on God to help us on an emergency basis, and to protect us from anything bad or difficult. God is not some sort of genie in a bottle wanting to grant us our three wishes.

In Revelation 12:12 God himself is quoted, “ Rejoice you heavens, and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows his time is short.” There is a real enemy who according to Jesus in John 10:10, is here only to kill, steal, and destroy. God has sent Jesus to provide live and live to the fullest.

When tragedy hits, remember that God is there with you. You are never alone. He will provide peace and strength in the midst of your storm. Trust Him. Even you don’t understand. Even when you can’t His hand, trust His heart. God will use every single that happens in your life, good and bad, to make you who He wants you to be! Let tough times, the storms or life, and even tragedy to draw you closer to God. When all is said and done, God will always prove to be faithful!

Your Perspective Makes the Difference

“Dear Mom and Dad, I’m sorry to be so long in writing. Unfortunately, all my stationery was destroyed the night our dorm was set on fire by the demonstrators. I’m out of the hospital now, and the doctors say my eyesight should return — sooner or later. The wonderful boy, Bill, who rescued me from the fire, kindly offered to share his little apartment with me until the dorm is rebuilt. He comes from a good family, so you won’t be surprised when I tell you we’re going to be married. In fact, since you’ve always wanted a grandchild, you’ll be glad to know that you’ll be grandparents next month.”

“P.S. Please disregard the above practice for my class in English Composition. There was no fire, I haven’t been in the hospital, I’m not pregnant and I don’t even have a steady boyfriend. But I did get a D in French and an F in Chemistry, and I just wanted to be sure you received this news in the proper perspective.”

Your perspective makes all the difference in the world, and it influences how you respond to problems at work, problems at home, problems with your health. Paul says that as Christians we can rejoice even in tough times because we have hope and because we know that God is working in our lives. “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.” (Romans 5:3)

Believe it or not, suffering can be productive! It does accomplish something. Problems have a purpose. Your trials and difficulties have value. Just as in childbirth so it is in other areas of life, it is easier to handle suffering when you know there is a purpose in it, and that it is not just in vain.

Now, what exactly does our suffering produce? First, Paul says our suffering produces perseverance (Romans 5:3). The Greek word for perseverance literally means “the ability to handle pressure.” That’s what perseverance is — the ability to handle pressure, to hang in there, to never give up but to keep on keeping on. When we make it through a difficult time without giving up, our character and confidence are strengthened, enabling us to handle even more pressure when it comes in the future.

Next, Paul says perseverance produces character (Romans 5:4). This word occurs only a few times in the Bible, and it means “proven reliable.” God uses the problems in your life to produce perseverance and character. And internal character, not circumstances, produces joy. Then, Paul says, character produces hope (Romans 5:4). Remember, in the Bible, the word hope doesn’t mean “I wish” or “I want.” It means confidence in Christ’s power. Instead of destroying our hope, problems are designed to increase our hope!

Problems don’t automatically produce perseverance and character and hope. Some people go through tough times, and all that happens to them is they become bitter, angry and uptight.  Perseverance, character and hope are produced in us only when we choose the right attitude.

And what is the right attitude? Joy is the right attitude. James echoes Paul’s teaching on this subject: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2-3). Notice again, joy comes “because you know.” It’s always a matter of perspective. James continues, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (v. 4).

What is Prayer?

Prayer simply means communication with God. Communication with God is like communicating with a person, is a two-way process. Prayer changes things. Every documented revival in history had its origin in prayer. Satan uses laziness, complacency, apathy, a lack of discipline, etc….to cause the church to lay aside as a weapon. Prayer is a gift from God without substitute. It is the key to the unlimited resources of God. Satan does mind what we do as long as leave the power of Almighty God out of it. Prayer in the hand of faith, is the key to the immeasurable, unimaginable resources of God.

Prayer unleashes the power of God into a given circumstance. God could, but rarely forces Himself into your world. He desires for you to invite Him into your life and circumstances. In John 16:24 Jesus said, “Until now you have not asked anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be made complete.” God knows your needs, your thoughts, your intentions, your motives, God knows everything about you, yet He still desires to be invited to participate with you. By communicating with Him (prayer) we can simply invite Him to work in, around, and through us so He can make a difference in, through, and around us. Ephesians 3:20 says “God can do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us”.

Prayer is an invitation to experience the boundlessness of God. We serve an unlimited God who is not bound by anything except His own will and purposes. By inviting us to talk to Him (prayer), God is inviting us to partner with Him in His Kingdom work. As we see God answer prayer, meet needs, restore relationships, set people free from addictions, and bondages of all kinds, we begin to realize that there truly is nothing that is impossible to God.

Prayer takes the battle out of our hands and places it into God’s hands. In Zechariah 4:6, God said. “It will not be by might, nor power, but by My Spirit”. The things God desires to accomplish will not be accomplished by our might, our strength, our wealth, our experience, our wisdom, nor will it be accomplished by our power, our work ethic, our endurance, our fitness, our energy. The God-sized things God wants to do will only be accomplished by His Spirit!”. “God can immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.

Prayer can be launched in an instant, at the speed of thought. Communicating with God can occur any place, at any time, in any posture, in any situation. Prayer isn’t just for the church setting. Prayer does not have to wait until you have 20 minutes to spend. Prayer is merely an intentional thought away. As fast as you can think it, God hears it. Prayer should be seen as on on-going conversation with God. Over the years we have uses “Amen” to end the prayer. Since I believe that we should have an on-going conversation with God (Pray without ceasing. 1 Thess 5:17) I rarely say “Amen” in my personal prayers. That is as silly as saying “good-bye” to someone who will be with you for the rest of the day.

Take a few moments today, as you drive, work in the yard, take a walk, stare at the computer, or watch TV to thank God for all He has given you or to ask Him for the wisdom you need, or just tell Him how amazing He is to you. The God of all creation is waiting to hear from you, don’t leave Him hanging