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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The greatest thing...

My life as a believer and disciple of Jesus Christ has not been without highs and lows, periods of inexpressible joy and deep heartache and sorrow.  I have noticed one thing that as I walked through these seasons of ups and downs, a specific aspect of the God’s nature and character, a new, or at least a better-understood truth would seem to surface and overshadow the rest.  Until we are alone, we not able to truly grasp the depth of Christ as friend, or
... until everything around us seems to be falling apart, that we grasp that Christ is our Rock,
... until the situation is hopeless that He is our hope,
... until sick that He is our healer.

God uses all the circumstances of our lives to reveal Himself to us and to learn to trust Him and to have a more intimate relationship with Him.  Sometimes when we in the process of learning, that particular part of God’s character may seem to the “most important of all the rest.”  We begin to see it everywhere and in almost everything. God’s Word seems to shout out this truth from almost every page. If we are not careful, we will begin to minimize other aspects of the nature of God because now we have “found the key that unlocks all other secrets.” 

It reminds me of when I was young, my grandfather bought a new red pickup and was so proud of it, he loved to drive it around the small rural community in which they lived. Not long afterward, something very interesting happened. Soon he began to notice that there were a bunch of red pickups around the town that he had never even noticed before. In a similar way, once we discover a new truth in the Word, it is not unusual to begin to see it “everywhere” and wonder why everyone else doesn’t see it as well. If we follow down that path, we will begin to see others as immature, or at least not as far along in the faith as ourselves who have this superior knowledge. [Paul and the early church had to deal with these issues as well, but that is not the central focus of this post.] Such prideful thoughts and actions will only lead to grief until we confess and forsake them. 

If we fail to grow and only continue to focus on the truth we have learned, then our growth will become stagnate.  As someone has said, “if all you have in your hand is a hammer, then everything begins to look like a nail.”  God’s nature and character is much greater than we can imagine and we must keep on deepening our relationship with Him so we can continue to grow in Who He is. Focusing on only one aspect is like saying that the most important part of a wrench is the part that fits on the bolt; however, the truth is without the handle the part that fits the bolt would be useless. A wrench is not a wrench unless it has both; they were never intended to be separated.

As finite creations, we are incapable of grasping it all, so our loving Father feeds us with the different foods and in the forms that are best for us and give Him glory. The process is not without pain, but it is not without joy, either. Just as there are changes in our physical growth, our understanding of God develops with the seasons of our lives.  Our growth and development does not minimize the importance of the former truths we learned, ut reveals that our infinite and almighty Creator is beyond our comprehension. When God opens a door to reveal more of who He is, we need to remember that it is just a door and not confuse it with the entire building.

Let me break this down just a little more. When we come to Christ, we are overwhelmed with all that God in Christ as done to redeem us; the grace of God is beyond our capacity to understand.  Later, we may begin to focus on the depth of the cost that Christ suffered, or the power of the resurrection and victory over death and hell, or consummation of time itself and spending eternity with God in heaven.  The emphasis we give as we grow in Christ to these truths [and many others], does not lessen the importance of those we are not emphasizing, but highlight the fact that we are simply incapable of grasping it all. The truth is that the only way that we could grasp it all would be if we were God, Himself. We need to rejoice in His greatness, not lament our limitations.

What is the takeaway from this?  
1. We get to know God deeper as we go through difficulty and problems of life, since they are the classroom in which we are to learn God’s nature and character as we study His Word.
2. As we have various seasons of life, childhood, youth, young adulthood, parenthood or singleness, older adulthood, and the various responsibilities and challenges that accompany each stage, we will have seasons in our spiritual growth and understanding.
3. We should not stop and focus on just one stage, but welcome other stages as they come. [Many times a new one will begin before the last reaches its end.]
4. We dare not look down on others who are going through other stages that we might have already gone through, but love and encourage them.
5. God is beyond our understanding, but He desires for us to get to know Him, trust Him and share this truth with others.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Lord, Teach Us to Pray....

     Of all the things the disciples could have specifically asked the Lord to teach them, it is worthy of note that it was how to pray.  Perhaps they were so accustomed to hearing lofty prayers aimed more at those around them than the God of the universe, that when they heard Jesus pray, they realized that they were listening in on an intimate conversation with His Father and they longed to have that kind of relationship.  Developing our prayer life is one of the most important aspects of our relationship with the Father as well.

     Even though I am still in the "learner stage" of prayer, I occasionally I am asked by a student or others to share some prayer helps. The materials below are some material on praying Scripture that I have used for a number of years as part of my morning devotional time. These are only suggestions and I am certainly not saying that this is best or only way to pray, just that is something that has been helpful to me over the years.

     The first section is just a listing of names and attributes of God divided into 31-day sections.  I like to meditate on the names or attributes of God for that day; for example, on the 8th  I meditated on the fact that God is "true", that Jesus is the "Door or Gate for the sheep,"  and that He is my "Friend;" on the 9th  I meditated on the fact that He is "Just," the "Branch", and the "Lawgiver."

     Then I pray through some daily requests that I pray for myself and my family. You certainly could add or subtract anything there; these are just issues in my own life for which I am praying. This section ends with the prayer that God would place someone in my path, on my heart, and that He would grant boldness in sharing.

     The following section is something that would need to be added by each person: Family, Church, Pastor, Staff, Deacons, Friends, Missionaries, Works, lost ones for which you are praying.  Following that section are 50 passages that you can use as part of your prayer, or that have blanks in which you can add specific names. You might want to use only one per day, or several, depending on the amount of time that you take for your prayer time.                 

Meditating on God’s Character
1. Loving 1. Lawyer [Jer. 51:36/Lam. 4:58]        
2. Kind         2. Good / Shepherd         
3. Merciful 3. Alpha and Omega        
4. Gracious 4. Holy / Holy One [Is. 43:14]
5. Patient 5. Defender [Is. 43:14]                      
6. Forgiving 6. Bread of Heaven                     
7. Faithful 7. Lord of hosts, Lord Almighty 
8. True           8. Door / Gate for the Sheep
9. Just 9. Branch [Zech. 3:8]           
10. Righteous       10. Priest & King [Zech 6:13]
11. Unchanging       11. Sun of Righteousness with
12. Creator [Is.43:15]     Healing in His wings [Mal.4:2]                                           
13. Sustainer       12. Fortress [Ps. 18:1/43:2]
14. Refuge       13. Shield & Stronghold [Ps. 94:22]
15. Strength       14. Compassionate [Ps 103:8]   
16. Rock               15. Infinite              
17. Teacher                           16. Ruler 
18. Guide       17. Impartial  
19. Corrector / Discipliner    18. Trustworthy 
20. Light / Lamp [Ps. 18:28] 19. Substitute
21. Way                20. Tree of Life          
22. Truth        21. Son of Man / Son of God      
23. Life                22. Mighty God / Almighty      
24. Wonderful Counselor      23. Author of Life
26. Everlasting Father        24. The Upright One
27. Prince of Peace        25. Source of Joy
28. Healer                              26. I AM         
29. Rewarder                         27. Savior           
30. Our Rest                          28. Bread of Heaven
31. Eternal / Everlasting       29. Lord of lords
                                              30. Cornerstone
                                              31. Great High Priest

1. Liberator
2. Helper
3. Ransom
4. Judge [Lam. 4:58]
5. Wisdom
6. Redeemer
7. Protector [Ps. 121]
8. Friend
9. Lawgiver [Is. 33:22]
10. Ever Present
11. Supplier / Provider
12. Commander
13. King of kings
14. [add  others...]

Daily Requests
Father, I love You, thank You, and praise You. I lift up Your holy name. Bind and rebuke Satan from my spirit, mind, will, emotions, thoughts, hopes desires, fears, body, habits, responses, words and every inclination toward evil.

I ask for Your wisdom and insight, Your nature and character, Your health and safety, Your love and discernment; to be sensitive to Your Holy Spirit and alert to Your wisdom and ways; that You would grant peace, provision, protection, perseverance, power to resist evil and temptation, an awareness of Your presence, Your patience and positive response, a passion for Your purposes, and to please You above all else. Rest in You, claim Your favor, Your grace, Trust You.

To be able to hear You speak, believe, and obey; that You would bless, enlarge territory, that Your hand would be with us, keeping us from evil and helping us to abide in You; that all that is said and done would bring glory to You.

I claim Your Word in Philippians 1:6, “You who began this good work will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Help watch eating and exercise; to not provide Satan with an opportunity of temptation by my own making or design; to watch and guard my tongue — every word said and to guard my eyes against every glance, every thought, every written word, & protect from bad choices, to choose Your will and obey. To use time wisely. May all choices be directed by Your Holy Spirit.

Develop in me right thinking, renewing my mind [Romans 12:1-2 & Philippians 4:8]. Prepare me for spiritual warfare [Ephesians 6]. Help me realize that You are with me, helping me want to obey You and then helping me do what You want [Philippians 2:13]. Father, grant that I might have the mind of Christ [I Corinthians 2:16]

Put someone in my path, place someone in my heart, and grant the boldness to share the Gospel.
Pray these for Family, Church, Pastor, Staff, & Deacons, Government, Friends, Missionaries, Work, lost people, & others on your heart.

Scriptures to Pray
Phil. 4:6-7  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
James 5:16  Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
Romans 8:26-32  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Matthew 7:7-8  Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
May the God of peace equip ____ with everything good for doing His will, and may (he/she) work in him what is pleasing to Him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20a, 21.)
May ____ be wise in the way (he/she) acts toward outsiders; making the most of every opportunity. Let (his/her) conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that (he/she) may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:5,6)
God, fill ___ with the knowledge of your will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that (he/she) may live a life worthy of you, Lord, and may please You in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to Your glorious might so that (he/she) may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to You, Father, who has qualified (him/her) to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. (Colossians 1:9-12)
That the Spirit of the Lord will rest on ___the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord and (he/she) will delight in the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:2,3a.)
So then, just as _________received Christ Jesus as Lord, may they continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as they were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7)
And this I pray: that _________'s love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that __________ may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)
Lord, I ask that you, God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, give __________ the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that __________ may know you better. (Ephesians 1:17)
May ____________be strengthened with all power according to Your glorious might so that ____________may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully give thanks to You, Father. (Colossians 1:11-12)
But since we belong to the day, let (help)___________ be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. (1 Thessalonians 5:8)
May __________ be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that their labor is not in vain in the Lord never wasted or to no purpose. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Help ___________ not to be weary in well-doing. Show them that if they don't get discouraged and give up, in due time they will reap a harvest of blessing. (Galatians 6:9)
O God, liberally supply all of __________'s needs according to your glorious riches, and may your limitless grace be theirs today....and every day. (Philippians 4:19,23)
Enable __________ to keep up their courage, firm to the end, along with joy and trust in the Lord. (Hebrews 3:6)
May __________ cry unto you for the help they need. Whenever their heart is faint and overwhelmed, lead them to the mighty, towering Rock of safety, for you are their refuge. (Psalms 61:2)
Lord, we should be bearing fruit, reproducing Christians. This is the way you are glorified. Give ___________ the desire to bear much fruit for Your honor and glory and then provide them with the ability to do so. (John 15:2,5,8)
Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ. May ____________ do so. (Acts 5:42)
May ___________ have the commitment of Paul I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace. (Acts 20:24)
May ____________ proclaim your Word to others today. May they have a sense of urgency to do this 'in season and out of season' (whether the circumstances are favorable or unfavorable.): (1 Corinthians 9:26) Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Timothy 4:2)
Give to __________friendship and fellowship with other Christians. Help them to realize that But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. May ___________ so live today. (1 Peter 3:9)
Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. (Philippians 2:2) Pray this for the Pastor, Church Staff as well as for the whole church.
May ____________ be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)
In every decision ___________ makes today, help him to have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)
Instruct __________ to forget those things that are behind and reach forth unto those things which are before, to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3: 13,14)
Let the word of Christ dwell in ____________ richly as he teaches and admonishes others with all wisdom, and as he sings psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in his heart toward God. (Colossians 3:16)
Help ___________ to be just and fair to his fellow workers, remembering he has a 'boss' in heaven. (Colossians 4:1)
Help ___________ to feed the flock of believers placed under his care. May he oversee the flock...and may he be an example to the flock.  (1Peter 5:2,3)
May __________ be directed at all times by the Holy Spirit, knowing when to 'go' and when to 'wait', and when to change plans entirely. (Acts 16:6,7)
Health and Safety
Enable __________ to lie down and rest in green meadows and lead them beside the quiet streams. Restore their failing health. (Psalm 23:2,3)
O Lord, keep on guiding ____________ with your wisdom and counsel. If their health fails or their spirits droop, be the strength of their heart...forever! (Psalm 73:24,26)
Lord, protect ____________ as you would the pupil of your eye. Hide them in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 17:8) [36] You are our refuge. Provide _____________with your protection. Never let them be defeated. (Psalm 71:1)
May no harm befall ____________, no disaster come near their dwelling. Command your angels concerning __________ to guard them in all ways. (Psalm 91:10-11)
When doubts fill the minds of _________, when their hearts are in turmoil...quiet them and give them renewed hope and cheer. (Psalm 94:19)
2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
John 15:4-5 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in Him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Isaiah 40:31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 43:1-3 But now, this is what the LORD says he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior...
Isaiah 55:5-6,11 Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. ... so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Psalm 46:1-2, 9-11  God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, ...He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire. Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 103:8-14  The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
Psalm 34:4-9  I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him, he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing.
Psalm 5:3, 11-12  In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous;   you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
Psalm 56:3   But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.
Psalm 4:8   In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.
Romans 15:5-7 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and  Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.