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Prayer

Oswald Chambers explained prayer by saying, “We are based on the platform of Reality in prayer by the Atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not our earnestness that brings us into touch with God, nor our devotedness, nor our times of prayer, but our Lord Jesus Christ’s vitalizing death; and our times of prayer are evidences of reaction on the reality of Redemption, so we have confidence and boldness of access into the holiest. What an unspeakable joy it is to know that we each have the right of approach to God in confidence…”

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Prayer Expresses a Relationship

D. Martin Lloyd-Jones wrote about prayer: “What, then, is prayer? …I suggest that we must inevitably come to the conclusion that prayer, to the Christian, to God’s man, is something natural and almost instinctive; prayer is something which is expressive of the relationship between the child and the Father.”

 
 

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Putting Off What You Could Do Today

Nearly everybody says procrastination is bad. You shouldn’t put off what you could do today, because you may not have tomorrow to do it. True enough, but there’s an art to procrastination. You need to learn when to act and when to hesitate. Some things are better left alone for a while.

I found this true in the pastorate. Certain people would tell me a friend was in the hospital and about to die and ask me to visit. Off I’d race to be of whatever good God wanted to do with me in the dying person’s life. When I got to the hospital, the patient was sitting up in bed, eating a meal, and was very talkative. I soon learned to put off a quick visit, and check the matter with the hospital. Procrastination doesn’t always produce a bad result.

Don’t get we wrong. We shouldn’t procrastinate in everything, nor all the time. If two people are feuding, and you have a legitimate reason to bring them together to work out the problem, perhaps you should do so, quickly, before the feud spills over to other relationships. Then again, it might be wise to wait, allow time for the combatants to settle their differences on their own. Which should you do? Every situation is different. This time you may decide you should help; the next time you may decide not to assist. How do you decide?

Shouldn’t you decide as a Christian always decides the big issues of life? By prayer, by looking into the scriptures for light, and by conversing with a trusted but uninvolved third believer.

Prayer is direct conversation with God. It primes the relationship with wisdom, as water primes a pump to flow. Through prayer, you begin to discern the Lord’s mind. He will help you decide whether or not to put the difficult task off.

Scripture often guides by bringing up a subject that’s bothering us. Now I don’t mean using a concordance to look up procrastination or delay or some related word, then reading what’s said. That may help, but probably won’t. I mean the disciplined, regular reading of God’s word becomes, for a Christian, another conversation with God. I’m amazed how often my reading through a whole book of the Bible raises an issue that I’m dealing with in my life. If procrastination happens to come up while you’re reading the gospel of Mark, and you’re questioning whether to delay something, you’d better listen up. God’s giving you his advice.

Talking to another Christian can often solidify what your prayers and Bible reading have said. She may offer the same advice as scripture gave you. This is confirmation. This is wisdom. Her voice is a second testimony that you’re on the right or wrong track. Listen and move ahead, trusting God with the outcome. But what if her advice is contrary to what you read in the Bible? Give her a fair hearing. Think about what she says, compare scripture again, pray, then decide. But don’t procrastinate too long. You may miss an opportunity to bring good to a bad situation.

Procrastination calls for wisdom from above and within you.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in FaithLife

 

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Displeasing People

Sometimes I displease people, and sometimes people displease me. The result is unhappiness, annoyance, irritability, even anger. It happens all the time with each us every day or so.

When we’re involved in a project or experience that raises our enthusiasm and gets us deeply involved, we become passionate about it. We believe our ideas about what to do are good, even among the better ideas expressed at a meeting or in an encounter. We begin to expect everyone else to follow our wise thoughts. When they don’t, we’re displeased with them or with the outcome. Irritating! to them and to ourselves!

Displeasure is always a two way street. If I’m unhappy with the way another person behaves, it’s more than likely because I’m proud of my own behavior. If he assumes that our project should follow his plan, it’s more than likely that he’s upset with my actions or thoughts, or at least, with what he perceives to be my unwillingness to listen to his input. Unhappiness cuts both ways.

We should all want to be less displeasing to the people around us, especially if we belong to Jesus Christ and have pledged ourselves to follow his lifestyle. But not even Jesus managed to please everybody! The Pharisees and Sadducees were irate with him regularly, yet they were after the same thing as Jesus—they wanted people to follow God’s way more closely.

If I decide not to irritate people, I must make it a deliberate choice. I have to decide not to upset others, then I can make sure I’m not blatant as I express my opinions or push for my agenda. I can listen carefully to what others propose or to what they’ll commit themselves to accomplish. I can weigh the reasons why they express themselves as they do and look for the wisdom in their proposals. If I’m viewed as cooperative and willing to bend, others will find me a pleasure to deal with. Plus, more of what I think we should do will actually get done, even if not in the way I suggest.

Yet there are people with whom I will disagree or circumstances where I will agitate others no matter what I do or say. Then I will have to judge whether I should dig in my heels and not budge or should lift them up and be carried along with the flow. Either alternative can be good and wise and productive. The point is the work gets done without people getting frustrated or being displeased with others.

When displeasure does occur, it’s also important for me, and the others involved, not to grow dissatisfied with each other as people. We should come away maintaining our friendship. How can we do this? By using the best principles of Christian discipleship. We can forgive. Forgiveness short-circuits displeasure. We can pray, which means recognizing that no individual among us has the best answers all the time. Ultimately, we depend on the heavenly Father to dispense his wisdom through our collective “bargaining” process. As we discuss, choose, and carry out his plans, we will succeed. We will also come away feeling a great pleasure in our fellowship and mutual service in Jesus’ name.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2011 in FaithLife

 

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A Persuasive Prayer Discipline

When life is on the line, we humans are urgent in our praying. Aren’t you insistent as you ask God’s help during illness or a sudden financial problem? Don’t you drag out your persuasive language skills? Perhaps, if the danger is great, you even revert to the old prayer language of “thee” and “thou knowest”! Urgency in prayer is usually reserved for dire circumstances.

According to the story of Jonah, when the prophet finally obeyed the Lord and went to Nineveh to warn the city of God’s impending judgment, its king declared to the people: “…let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish” (Jonah 3:8-9, NIV). The Ninevites’ prayers became urgent because God threatened to undo their lives.

In ordinary worship services, our prayers are tame, often reduced to writing and printed in a bulletin or projected on a screen. A genuine beseeching tone slips out of them. We sound halfhearted or trivial. When the pastor allows worshipers to speak personal concerns, the same requests flow in the same words from the same people as always, or the impromptu prayer is merely the speaking of a sick person’s name. No urgent request!

How often and when might you describe your prayer as a truly critical request for the Lord’s prompt response? How frequently do you plead with him? Do your appeals burn within you before you ask them? Do they flow with a pressing desire for an answer?

In The Purpose of Prayer, Edward M. Bounds explained, “We must be thoroughly in earnest, deeply concerned about the things for which we ask, for Jesus Christ made it very plain that the secret of prayer and its success lies in its urgency.”

After his parable of the friend at midnight, Jesus made clear how our petitions must be made. He said, “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need” (Lk. 11:8, NIV). The words “shameless audacity” might be translated “persistence.” Jesus knew that human requests of God ought to possess a vitality, an imperative tone. They should be urgent prayers, and if they aren’t, why should God listen to them?

Resolve now to develop a persuasive prayer discipline.

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2011 in FaithLife

 

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The Glue in the Joints

The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians explaining the strain he felt: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many” (2 Cor. 8-11, NIV)

Paul was able to endure severe pressure because of two things. He did not rely on himself, but God. He also relied on the prayers of others. This is a root lesson, a rudimentary principle, about living the Christian life that all of us believers know. Yet we undervalue it in practice too often. We cannot rely on ourselves; only reliance on God is sufficient. Plus, we need the prayerful help of others.

I have nothing within me that can carry me through crisis and temptation and pressure from others and any other stress. Under my own power and with all the intensity I can muster, counting on my internal gifts and abilities, I may survive for a time. I may even look as if I’m successful at bearing up, to an outsider. But inwardly the turmoil takes a terrible toll. Eventually, I submit, surrender, or just sag into disaster. I haven’t the resources to last until the end.

For this reason, God in Christ must become my source of stamina. He has to be my encouragement in distress. He alone has the wisdom, the necessary provisions, and the wherewithal to pick me up when weariness etches itself on my heart. He cares enough to let me bear some of the burden, but little of the genuine weight of it. His hand lifts more of it than I realize. He guides me through the maze and brings me safe to the other side. God has the will and authority, power and interest in me to raise my spirits from the dead if they should succumb. He can keep me going when I haven’t the desire nor the muscle to continue. I must rely on God.

But the prayers of others are a second tool God places at my disposal. I have to seek the petitions of Christian friends to succeed, as I have to offer my prayers for them if they are to prosper in the labor God sets within their hands’ reach. Prayer is a key to Christian service. None of us pulls through a rough patch in our work unless we’re borne up on the folded hands of our companions in grace. Why? Because in the knowledge that others are praying for me, I will find the encouragement to stand back up and carry on. God knows my mind and heart will trust him only so long. For this reason, he gives me others who are more tangible to lift my spirits, to direct my plans, to bear my burdens by their prayers. Prayer is essential to faithfulness because it connects me to other believers, and discipleship is never… never… never a solitary affair. I’m never a successful Christian servant if I serve alone. I need the body of Christ because I’m part of the body of Christ.

As a table is made of a horizontal surface with four legs holding it up, so Christians support one another. Yet the legs and table top have to be attached by screws and glue. Prayer is the glue in the joints!

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2011 in FaithLife

 

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In All the Seasons

Autumn…one of the lovely times of the year! We enjoy cooling nights and crisp mornings, the changing trees. I’m always excited to watch the shifts that take place as flowers and produce lose their colors and whither. Taking apart a garden can be as rewarding as planting one, because you sense that a goal was reached, a project was completed. There’s a satisfaction born out of the completion of one season and the beginning of another.

And fall signals a new beginning! I know most people dwell on the loss of leaves and the harbinger winds of winter, but I see the fresh days of autumn as a beginning. How so? Well, I don’t live in Arizona or Florida because I like cold weather. In my heart, not in my bones—they ache more ever year! But the crunch of leaves, the graying clouds, the nip in the air tell me I’m alive. They tell me God lives! He superintends the passage of time. It isn’t Mother Nature who oversees the changes of autumn. It’s our God, the Creator! As he sprouts leaves and buds in the spring, he snips them away in the fall. Without the changes of autumn and winter, spring will be bleak. So I congratulate the Almighty on his wisdom in creating all the seasons!

Isn’t this how he has arranged your life, too? There are seasons of happiness and of sorrow, times of challenge and of ease. Your life doesn’t remain stationary, fixed in an inadaptable form. Your life has movement and structure, new shadows and old lights that recur often and make you know that you live, and that life is worth the complexity and simplicity of every moment you breathe. God the Creator is good to give you a dynamic, moving life. He gives you the opportunity to probe the depths of his love for you in all the seasons of your life.

Tell him how grateful you are!

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2011 in FaithLife

 

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