Monday, March 30, 2015

The Unsought Treasure

"The knowledge of God is the most glorious treasure anyone could possess, yet in most civilized countries there is but one institution engaged in promoting that knowledge, and even that institution is not working very hard at it."  -- A. W. Tozer

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Everything is Love in the Overflow

"I walked out over Boston Common before breakfast, weeping for joy and praising God. Oh, how I loved! In that hour I knew Jesus, and I loved Him till it seemed my heart would break with love. I was filled with love for all His creatures. I heard the little sparrows chattering; I loved them. I saw a little worm wriggling across my path; I stepped over it; I didn’t want to hurt any living thing. I loved the dogs, I loved the horses, I loved the little urchins on the street, I loved the strangers who hurried past me, I loved the heathen, I loved the whole world."   
--  Samuel Brengle, Salvation Army leader and evangelist, sharing about his personal immersion in Holy Love  

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Face Your Fear

Fear is a terrorist, lurking in the shadows of our hearts -- waiting to attack at any moment. 

Fear keeps us from achieving success. It destroys our dreams. It dashes our hopes. Immeasurable damage is caused by this small four-letter word.  As we run the race of life, fear is a rope that tangles itself around our legs, causing us to stumble, to falter, and to fail.

Theologian, Paul Tillich, stated that our fears put frightening masks over people and things. They appear to be more dreadful than they really are. When we remove the mask, the terror disappears.

Strangers are not so terrible when we view them as fellow human beings. The future is not nearly so fearful when we see it as it is -- realizing that life will go on.

"There is nothing to fear," quoted Franklin D. Roosevelt, 'but fear itself." It is the greatest enemy of courage, progress, and enthusiasm.  As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy -- and he is us!"

So, how do we attack fear head on, rather than waiting for it to attack us?

1. Trust in Your Creator.
The 23rd Psalm says, "I will fear no evil because you are with me." This presence brings calmness and eliminates anxiety. 

2. Practice Courage. 
Do the courageous thing -- even if it scares you to death! "Build dikes of courage," said Martin Luther King Jr, "to hold back the flood of fear." 

Meet your fears with a reservoir of courage, and they will melt away like April snow!

3. Love Sincerely. 
True love casts our fear. If you love others, you will not fear them. If you love life, it will not terrify you.

4. Keep Moving Forward. 
Do not allow small fears to discourage and defeat you.. Move ahead! Keep plugging away! Dare to take a chance! 

Life is too short to remain handcuffed to anxious stomach-churning thoughts. Break the chains, be bold, and conquer your fears today!  As Zig Ziglar said, "F.E.A.R. means Forget Everything and Run or Face Everything and Rise."  The choice is yours!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Praying the Seven Last Words of Christ

It is significant that Jesus prayed from the cross. While experiencing the worst torture a human being could endure  – he prayed.

 Most of us, in such moments of anguish, would succumb to the suffering. Our prayers would be diminished to one word: “Help!”  Reflecting on the worst moments of my life, I must admit “Help!” is the most sincere prayer I’ve ever uttered.

 Yet, Jesus went beyond a prayer for help at Golgotha. His prayers from the cross reveal the intensity of his pain – yet, a deep love pouring from his heart. Instead of being consumed with himself, he turned his focus to God and others.

 The old adage states, “We all have our cross to bear.” In our moments of anguish, we can look to Jesus, and see how he responded in his darkest valley. A review of Good Friday events shows that Jesus did three things:

1) He pressed into prayer.
2) He poured out love.
3) He surrendered all to God.

 What an example for us! In deep sorrow and suffering, we, too, can press into prayer, pour out love, and surrender all to God.

 The prayers of Christ from the cross serve as an excellent model for our praying during this holy week:

 1) Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)

 Are you holding bitterness and resentment in your heart? Who has wronged you? Are you struggling to forgive? If you can’t bring yourself to forgive them, ask God to do the forgiving for you. Forgiveness is for our own benefit. Carrying resentment is like swallowing poison and hoping the other person will die.

 2) Today you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)

Who is lost, broken and hurting? Pray for those who are suffering from their own decisions. Rather than judge them, love them. Remember we all need grace, and our past mistakes do not necessariy dictate our future. Focus on the life beyond this life, and how God’s love draws us to where we need to be. Trust those who are wandering to God’s care.

3) Behold your mother. (John 19:26-27)

Are you so consumed with your own pain that you are neglecting those closest you? What do your dearest loved ones need from you? Do you know how they’re doing? Pray for them. Love them deeply. Show them your concern.

4) My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Mat. 27:46, Mark 15:34)

Admit your deep despair and loneliness. Where and when do you feel rejected and forsaken? This prayer comes from Psalm 22. Remind yourself that Psalm 23 follows immediately. We are never alone. In the darkest valley, God is with us.

5) I thirst. (John 19:28)

What is your deep seated thirst? What do you think you need to survive? Thirst for praise? Thirst for acceptance? Thirst for significance? Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

6) It is finished. (John 19:30)

What needs finishing in your life? What have you begun, but not completed? What is God’s calling for you – his unique mission? Are you following it? If not, what stands in the way? What parts of you are still “under construction?” Be patient with others, they are still under construction too. “Be patient with me. God is not finished with me yet.”

7) Into your hands I commit my spirit. (Luke 23:46)

What do you need to release into God’s hands? Have you been trying to control outcomes and other people? Let them go. Release them into the hands of your loving father. Are you concerned about your future? Your past? Are you confused about your present situation? Are you struggling emotionally? Spiritually? Relationally? Physically? Surrender all to God.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Prayer of Thomas Merton

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow if death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone." 
 -- Thomas Merton

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Purpose of Theology is Doxology

"We should never forget that the purpose of theology is doxology; we study in order to praise.  The truest expression of trust in God will always be worship to praise God for being greater than we know."
--  Geneva Study Bible note

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Six Steps to the Throne

My sermon this morning, "Six Steps to the Throne", was inspired by a chapter from In The Day of Thy Power, by Arthur Wallis.

In 2 Chronicles 9:18 we read that there were six steps to the throne of King Solomon.  And in our prayer life, there are six steps to the throne of God:  The King of Kings.

Step 1:  Abiding in Christ

John 15:5-7
I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

This means being connected to Christ -- living in Christ - being at home with him.  There is a huge difference between saying prayers and being a person of prayer.

Two ways we become disconnected:  Disobedience (Ps, 66:18) and Neglect.  Is Jesus your spare tire or your steering wheel?

Step 2: In the Will of God

1 John 5:14-15
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Bobby Richardson, baseball great, once prayed, "Dear God, your will.   Nothing more.  Nothing less. Nothing else."

Will of God should not be used to excuse our doubt and unbelief.  It is a great statement of faith!
How do we discern God's will?
A.  Scripture -- God's Word is always His will.
B.  Leading of the Holy Spirit - If we ask, He will show us.

Step 3: In Faith

Mark 11:22-24:
Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Faith is bold confidence and quiet trust:  laying hold of God, and believing His promises.

Step 4:  In the Name of Jesus

John 14:13-14: 
 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

The name of Jesus is not a little tag or magic incantation at the end of a prayer.  It means praying in the authority of Jesus.  There is power in his name!

"Amen" doesn't end the prayer -- but shoots it out!  "So be it!"

Step 5:  In the Spirit:

Jude 1:20-21: 
 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

Wesley Duewel calls the Holy Spirit our indwelling prayer partner (Jesus is our enthroned prayer partner.)

The Holy Spirit draws us to prayer, energizes us, convicts us, brings a prayer burden (especially in emergencies), and provides vision for future direction.

Praying in the Spirit means praying in holy love.

Step 6:  In Unity:

Matthew 18:19: 
Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.

Not in unison but in harmony with one another.  We may have differences, but our hearts are in harmony.

Disunity, resentment and unforgiveness hinder our prayers.