Prayer is a glimpse into the soul

*image from Faithgateway

Of all the things Jesus’ disciples could have asked of Him, it was prayer that they wanted to know how to do the most. And there was no greater teacher. Jesus’ life was a display of what it meant to be in tuned with God. It was intentional. It was humble. Jesus often sought solitude in order to be alone with God. He used prayer to regain strength and resolve. If prayer was so essential in the life of the Messiah, so to it must be in His followers. If we are to walk as He walked, it all starts with prayer.

Have you ever stopped to study the prayer that are in the Bible? There are so many great examples from the patriarchs, the prophets, king David, Jesus, and His disciples. I truly believe that they are in the Bible for us to learn from. They show us a heart devoted to a calling. They show us people in love with God. They show us desperate need for the One who saves. They are anything but a rudimentary activity worked in as part of the Christian’s day.

When we pray, our soul connects with our Maker. When we pray, spiritual forces are put into motion that we struggle to comprehend. When we pray the depth of who we are and what we stand for is laid bare before God. When we pray our love for others is proved genuine or superficial. Take a look at this prayer from a Christian woman who was confined to a labor camp in Siberia:

O God, accept all my sufferings, my tiredness, my humiliations, my tears, my nostalgia, my being hungry, my suffering of cold, all the bitterness accumulated in my soul. Dear Lord, have pity also on those who persecute and torture us day and night. Grant them, too, the divine grace of knowing the sweetness and happiness of your love.

Let’s pray with more passion and power brothers and sisters!

Don’t limit God

Since when did the followers of Jesus stop believing in the extraordinary? Why are preachers out there promoting a concept that God doesn’t still perform wonders and miracles? Aren’t we still worshiping the same God who stops the raging storms, heals the broken body, who mends wounded hearts, who redeems wayward souls, and who orchestrates our lives in such a way that cannot be explained otherwise?

“And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.” Mark‬ ‭16:17-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Why are brothers and sisters getting criticized by their fellow Christians for praying that God raise their child from the dead? Did Jesus stay in the grave? Did Lazarus? How about the son of the widow Zarapeth? Or the Shunamite woman’s son? Jesus raised the widow of Nain’s son and Jairus’ daughter. And it’s not like it all ended when Jesus ascended into heaven. Just take a look at Tabitha and Eutychus. The Bible is full of accounts where God raised the dead, most of the time using the prayers and intervention of His saints. Yet there are many in the fold who simply don’t believe God does that anymore.

“He alone is your God, the only one who is worthy of your praise, the one who has done these mighty miracles that you have seen with your own eyes.” Deuteronomy‬ ‭10:21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In an article posted in May of 2017 in Medical News Today, the concept of the Lazarus phenomenon is expounded on. Several examples are given of people who are clinically dead come back to life many hours or even days later. There have been as many as 38 reported cases in the last 38 years. That’s just in the postmodern world where these cases are reported. You know it has to be happening in other parts of the world too where we never hear about it.

“And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” Acts‬ ‭4:29-31‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The point is. God isn’t done with miracles. Why on earth would we stop asking Him to move in amazing ways? It takes faith to believe our God still opens eyes, unstops ears, and raises the dead. And it takes courage to proclaim it.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians‬ ‭3:20-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Do you desire to know God?

Perhaps one great way to start off this new year is to ask ourselves whether or not we are desiring to know more of God. This works for everyone from the seeker who is still uncertain about things to the Christian who has believed since childhood and everyone in between. God is endless. Therefore the journey to know Him should never end.

Where do we even begin to answer that question? Is it whether or not we go to church? Maybe how often we read the Bible? Or even how many Christian books we read? Could it be the number of devotions we do? All of those things alone do not necessarily point to someone who is desiring to know God. There is a vast difference between knowing about God and knowing God.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭3:17-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The one faithful indicator that we want to know God is how connected we are with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the spiritual breath of God. It is what brings us into new life. It is the way our life and His can overlap. When Jesus spoke about abiding in Him in John chapter 15, He was alluding to the connecting force of the Spirit.

Let’s think about it on a personal level. I can know about my wife. We can talk regularly. Same with my kids. We can live under the same roof and spend our passing moments together. But even in all of that, I can still not really know them. Unless I invest quality time in knowing them, and asking the hard questions, and seeking to know their hopes and dreams, their fears and failures, and their struggles and successes, I won’t ever truly know them.

“”Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Matthew‬ ‭7:21-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The same is true with God. I can know lots of facts about God and still not know Him. I can do lots of things for God and still not know God. The passage out of Matthew 7 is one of the hardest hitting in the entire Bible. In my opinion of course. But it’s exactly what I’m talking about. These people called Jesus Lord and even did things in His name, but they had no idea who He really was. Their faith was superficial. It wasn’t about Jesus at all. It was all about themselves.

If our pursuit of God is really only about us knowing facts about Him and doing good things then it serves no more than to promote a godly image of ourselves and soothe our religious appetites. The true marker of desiring God is wanting to be with Him. Like actually connected with Him. In everything. That means allowing our individual identity to fade away and be replaced by the overlapping nature that comes with having His Holy Spirit reside in us. It means living empowered, living in hope, living in joy, living in peace, and being transformed continually. If we aren’t changing and becoming more like Jesus then we aren’t truly desiring God.

Am I content with knowing little about God? Because the only way to know God is through his Spirit, and if I don’t desire more of the spirit and being in contact with the spirit and living my life abiding in spirit then I don’t desire to know more about God. How about you?

Peace in Christ loved ones!

A new path

Look back over the last year and a half is someone depressing when it comes to taking care of myself. I’m not huge on New Years resolutions but something has to change. I could make excuses all day. We had a new baby join the family, my business has taken off, my two older children are in school now, I have lots of new responsibilities at work, etc…But when it all comes down to it, I’m just not making it a priority to take care of myself. I don’t want to be dramatic but if I want to make it 50 I better reverse course immediately. I’m driving myself into the dirt and not feeding myself with the right fuel. Too much soda, sweets, and fast food and not enough vitamins, nutrients, water, rest, and exercise. I get lazy with taking care of myself when I’m busy taking care of my family, business, and over 160 high school kids. But laziness will be the death of me.

I’m putting my foot down. Enough is enough. I’m tired of feeling drained and depleted. My life won’t be slowing down any time soon but I can make the choice to refill my body and soul with the right stuff to keep running strong. I will choose to study and meditate on the Word more. I’ve already started studying the book of Mark and a memorization of scripture with my good friend Matt. I will work out consistently, eat better, stop and rest more, do more of what I enjoy with those random minutes of free time. I will do better in every area.

A man without self control is like a city broken into and left without walls. Proverbs 25:28 ESV

A year from now I hope to be celebrating with all of you are fighting the same fight. The fight for self control. The fight to no longer be controlled by indulgences. I hope to celebrate victory through more health and wholeness. That is my new path. One that I hope to never leave.

The Proverbs Messiah

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The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.

Proverbs 8:23 KJV

The entire first proverb focuses on the persona of wisdom. From the very beginning of the story in the Bible, God has been wanting us to choose His wisdom instead of seeking to gain it for ourselves. Adam and Eve were the first to fail in that choice by laying hold of the fruit in order to gain wisdom for themselves, apart from God. The results were devastating. Proverbs one reinforces that notion once again. Contained within the choice of God’s wisdom as compared to worldly wisdom, is also the choice of following Jesus or rejecting Him. You see, God’s wisdom is not just a concept. Jesus is God’s wisdom.

…but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1 Corinthians 1:24 NIV

The Messiah is so much more than a person. He’s the embodiment of God’s wisdom. The way He lives…the way He loves…the choices He makes…everything about Him…contains the wisdom of God. We can reject the Messiah and try to lay hold of wisdom ourselves, but it will destroy us in the end. Or we can choose Jesus, and follow in His example, and that way is life. Need further evidence of the connection?

By wisdom the LORD laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place…

Proverbs 3:19 NIV

Here, wisdom is the source of God’s creative genius. No surprise there. But couple this passage with one out of the first chapter in Colossians and the meaning explodes with importance.

He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

Colossians 1:15-16 ESV

Jesus created everything. God’s wisdom is the way to life because it is the source of life and so is Jesus our Messiah.

When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Colossians 3:4 NKJV

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters!

There should be no stress when celebrating Jesus

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Time and time again, I hear people talking about the stress of the Christmas season. I don’t understand. Aren’t we celebrating the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us in the person of Jesus? What is stressful about that? Could it be all the things that people do that have nothing to do with Jesus is what makes this time of year stressful? To keep our eyes of the Savior should alleviate all stress and anxiety. Celebrating the birth of the Messiah has nothing to do with black Friday deals, credit card debt, Santa Claus, putting up trees, and having the perfect party or family gathering with all the right food. If we would only give up the things that don’t celebrate Jesus, we would find so much freedom.

Worship the LORD with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy.

Psalm 100:2 NLT

The Problem with Abundance

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Every time I see devotions and books about abundance, I get a little wary. Especially with the acceptance of the prosperity gospel (which is no gospel at all) by so many. I’ve heard many messages that demonstrate a misunderstanding of Jesus’ proclamation in John chapter 10 that He came to give us abundant life. So mix that idea with their goals of gaining wealth and health. All you have to do is look at the life of Jesus and His teachings to know that the life of a disciple of Christ is not a life focused on the material or yourself whatsoever. That’s not too say God won’t bless people with financial provision, careers, healing, etc…God loves His children and knows what they need and when. But some of us can’t handle money. Some of us need to walk through valleys in life. Some of us need to struggle to learn dependence on God. He knows the faithful stewards and He knows how to mold His children.

I’ve come to realize, in my short 37 years of life, that there is a simple equation that can be applied universally across humanity. Abundance produces apathy which results in atrophy. I’m not using the word abundance in a spiritual sense but in a physical sense. When Jesus said He came to give us abundant life, He was referring to a spiritual reality, not materialism. Life experiences have taught me the pitfalls of physical abundance. So have my studies of history, and more specifically, the Bible.

“Take heed lest you forget the Lord your God, by not keeping his commandments and his ordinances and his statutes, which I command you this day: lest, when you have eaten and are full, and have built goodly houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna which your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’

Deuteronomy 8:11-17 RSV

Before Israel entered the promised land, God warned them not to forget Him once they had the “good life”. What did they do? They forgot Him. Quickly too. It only took one generation. So did the future kings of Saul and Solomon. Once prosperity hit, they were corrupted. When our sense of need for God dissipates our devotion naturally follows. Abundance generally produces a desire for more abundance. People don’t want to lose what they have. The more they have, the more effort and worry they’ll put into maintaining it. The more we do that, the less mental capacity we have for God. The more time we strive to maintain a way of life, the less time we have to spend with God. The more we have, the more prideful we can become. Pride makes no room for God. Apathy creeps in. The more apathetic we become, the more our faith atrophies. The longer this process continues, the more dangerous the outcome. For Israel, and their kings, it took tragedy and destruction to get them back on track. My story isn’t too far from that. I have had to lose in order to win in life. Even now, I feel a pull during the “good times” where nothing is going wrong and financially we’re well off. That pull is towards comfort and away from convictions. I can easily lose sight of what matters most during those times. It’s easier to not fall on our knees in prayer when we feel like we’re keeping ourselves standing tall.

Learning these lessons has really changed the way I pray. I don’t pray for anyone to be wealthy, especially myself. The opposite of poverty is enough, not wealth. All we need is enough. All we should ever want is what God knows is best for us. He knows what we can handle. If we’re not generous in our poverty, there’s no way we’ll be generous in prosperity. If we’re not faithful with our time in hard times, why would we be in good times? God is so good. And good things are going to happen to us. But we can’t let the good times and the good things derail our faith. That happens when our love for prosperity outweighs our love for the Giver. No matter our present circumstances, our need for Him never changes.

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NASB

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters