Sunday, July 31, 2011

Regaining Our Balance

Regaining Our Balance
I Thessalonians 4:13-18
The passing of a loved one is always a traumatic experience.  It doesn't take long to learn that the major part of working through the grief experience is private and personal.  When we are blindsided by a loss in life, how can we regain our balance?
The goal of Griefshare is to lead people to “The new normal.”
To display a balance that has not happened means you are stuck in grief.

I. Recognize that Responses to Loss Vary Individually.

There are no such things as identical losses.

We will grieve as deeply as we love.

To choose to love is to choose to grieve.

Response to loss is also dependent on the total circumstances of our lives.

II. Recognize the Importance of Grief

Grief is a normal response to the loss of any significant person, object, or opportunity.

Grief is the one pain that heals all others, the most important of all pain.

Grief is how God reboots the computers of our lives.

Many professionals describe grief as a tangled ball of emotions.

Grief is necessary. It is a prerequisite to healing.

Grief is a process not governed by limits of time or emotion.  

III. Recognize the Power of a Godly Perspective. Psalm 116:15

We hold these promises:

         1.   An Eternal Body - II Corinthians 5:1

         2.   An Eternal Home - John 14:1-3

         3.   A Condition of "Blessedness" - Revelation 14:13

IV. Recognize that God is Leading Us Through The Valley.  Psalm 23

A.    God's promise is His presence with us as we move through the valley.

B.    Relationships are key to experiencing the healing.

              1.     Get into the Word of God

              2.     Get into the Presence of God

              3.     Get into the People of God  

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Picture of Our Eternal Comforter:

Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news, lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, "Here is your God!" Behold, the Lord GOD will come with might, with His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him and His recompense before Him. Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.  Isaiah 40:9-11

The Picture of Our Eternal Comforter:  (Excerpts from Dr. Charles Stanley)
People live for only a short time, and the world will one day pass away. But the Lord is everlasting—He always has existed and always will exist. This is the significance of “I AM,” the name which the Lord revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14. Not only is God everlasting, but so is His Word. Its principles are not only powerful, they are eternal. 

Sovereign: “Behold, the Lord GOD will come with might, with His arm ruling for Him. Behold,
His reward is with Him and His recompense before Him.” (Isaiah 40:10) At all times, He is in control of every situation. From our limited perspective, it may not look as if He is sovereign.  We don’t always understand His purposes for allowing difficulty and trials. However, we can turn to Him with confidence in the midst of heartache or trouble, knowing that He has the power to change everything.

A Shepherd: “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arms He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.” (Isaiah 40:11)  A shepherd cares for and protects his flock. When Jesus spoke about being the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), He was revealing the heart of God the Father. The Lord desires to carry us through hardship and difficulties in life.

Omniscient: “Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as His counselor has informed Him? . . . The nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust” (Isaiah 40:13, 15).  God is transcendent—He reigns over all that exists. We can only see to the horizon, but He observes the entire world at once.  Isaiah wrote that the Father can measure the oceans and the heavens with the palm of His hand (v.12).

His wisdom and knowledge are more than we can comprehend. There is nothing He does not know (v.13). You may wonder if God has forgotten about you or is unaware of your needs. But He does see your situation; you and I never have to inform Him about anything.

Omnipotent: It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.” (Isaiah 40:22-23)  We worship an all-powerful God. He controls the authorities and rulers of this earth—He sets them up and brings them down. Nothing compares to the Lord; man’s arrogance and accomplishments fail to impress Him (v.25).  He not only created all the stars, He knows them each by name (v.26).We are foolish to turn to worldly things for comfort when we can rely upon our all-powerful God.

Tireless:  Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. (Isaiah 40:28)  Humans run out of energy, but God never does. We can approach Him with the same situation over and over, and He still listens to us patiently.

Scripture to Claim:
For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God, (Psalms 18:31)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Enduring Word of Comfort

...for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For, "ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS, AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS. THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF, BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER." And this is the word which was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:23-25)

The Enduring Word of Comfort
Not only did Isaiah speak of an everlasting comfort, Isaiah spoke of the everlasting Word of God.  When all other claims to truth have had their say, the Word of God will stand alone in the end.  Everything else changes; philosophies come and go, but God’s Word remains the abiding Truth.

The lie of the Nazi’s came and died. The lie of godless communism came and died.  One of the training areas for a Russian mission team was the Hotel Gorbachev.  In the convention room, the team held worship services with the backdrop of a huge mural with pictures of Marx, Lenin and the other communist leaders who had denigrated the Christian faith and the Word of God.  But now communism has fallen.  And in the same place young communists were trained on the tenets of atheism, Christians are now worshiping together and being trained in evangelistic techniques — at the invitation of the Russian government.

Not all that long ago, many philosophers and theologians were saying that God was dead, and predicting the death of the church.  Today almost no one can remember the names of those who made those predictions, let alone the titles of their books, but the church of Jesus Christ is thriving and God is still very much alive.

A young musician once went to see his old music teacher. During the visit, his elderly mentor took a tuning fork and struck it on the end of the table. He said. “That is ‘A.’” From the floor above them they could hear the voice of a singer rehearsing. “She sings sharp,” the old teacher said with a smile. He struck the tuning fork again and paused as he lifted it and said, “She is sharp, but this ‘A’ — always has been, always will be — 440 vibrations per second. It will still be ‘A’ 5,000 years from now.”

This is God’s Word. It was God’s Word yesterday; it is God’s Word today, and it will be God’s Word 5000 years from now. Kingdoms will rise and fall. Ideas will come and go. The values of the world will change, but God’s Word will remain the one constant in a world of change and confusion.

Isaiah told of an everlasting comfort, and he told of the everlasting Word of God.  Even the young were beaten down, weary and defeated.  But those who placed their hope and trust in God did not lose heart, and they did not lose strength — regardless of their age. Their hearts and minds soared as they thought about what God was going to do.  As new strength and courage entered their hearts it began to affect their bodies.  They gained a new enthusiasm for life and a new strength to go on. But you never gain that strength unless you are willing to wait on the Lord.

Scripture to Claim:
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.  Isaiah 40:28-31 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Source of Comfort

A voice says, "Call out." Then he answered, "What shall I call out?" All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40:6-8)

The Source of Comfort (6-8)
When the heart is prepared, comfort can be accepted.  To accept God's comfort is to bring it into your present situation and let it quiet your soul.  What choices did the exiles have when they heard the message of comfort?  In every life situation we have three choices in seeking comfort.

1.    Trust In Our Ways - Proverbs 3:5-8 - Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.

Restlessness that stems from trusting in ourselves plagues us.  Why?  Because we know our weaknesses and that we are still vulnerable.  Our continual seeking for security in ourselves looks is much like the grass that withers and soon fades away with no comfort to be found.

2.    Wallow In Doubt & Despair - 2 Corinthians 4:8-9  We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

To doubt God is to find no comfort in God.  Doubt and despair ruin lives which refuse to accept the God of all comfort.  Doubt brings fear, not hope and security. 

3.    Believe the Promise of God's Word - Jeremiah 31:13 Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

Comfort is found in God and His promises recorded in His Word.  Remember  2 Corinthians 1:3-5  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.

"God may not act when we want Him to act or in the way we expect Him to act,
but God's word is true and His promises will come to pass in His own time and way."

In contrast to man's feeble attempts of securing comfort, God's Word stands as that beacon shining into the darkest night, giving light as a hope of making it home.  God's Word is going to accomplish the act of comfort in someone's life today.  Is your heart prepared and accepting of God's comfort?

Scripture to Claim:
Isaiah 55:11  So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Prepare For Comfort

A voice is calling, "Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. "Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley; Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, And all flesh will see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." (Isaiah 40:3-5)

Prepare For Comfort (3-5)
We know these words from the cry of John the Baptist as he came from the wilderness to declare the coming of the King of Kings.  Now in those days John the Baptist *came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, "THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!'" (Matthew 3:1-3)

In ancient times, when there were no superhighways.  History tells us that months before a kings arrival a king’s entourage would set out on a journey.  The call would go before them: “Prepare the way for the king. Make a straight way in the wilderness and a highway for the king.”  The people would run before the king to remove any obstacles and fill in the rough places in his path.  They would build a road and fill in small valleys and dig through the hills so the king’s progress would be smooth and unhindered.  Their reward was to see the king coming in all his royal splendor.

The salvation and deliverance which would bring comfort to the people would be in the one sent by God to lead them home.  The people in great distress would be comforted in knowing of His coming.  In this passage, God is on his way to his people who are now in slavery to a foreign nation. He will come to them and deliver them from captivity — bringing them home on the highway which has been prepared for him. The picture is one of God coming to bring his people back to himself and to their home in Jerusalem.

The idea of comfort here is not like the comfort we usually think of. Our concept is more likely related to being “comfortable.”  A nice recliner by the fire in the winter or a cool fan in the summer heat.  But “comfort” comes from the two Latin words: com-fortis – literally translated it means “with-strength.” God’s way of giving comfort is to provide the strength to do what needs to be done. As His strength comes, grief and sorrow go.  The situation may not have changed, but we have a new ability to face it and deal with it.

The people to whom Isaiah was speaking needed strength to face the journey home.  Once there, they had the huge job of rebuilding the temple and the city. They were going to need a lot of strength.  God was comforting and encouraging the people so they would be able to carry out his will. Sometimes God’s comfort comes by forcing us to change and grow. Someone has said, “The Spirit of God comes to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

We must prepare our hearts to receive comfort.  Prepare the way with repentance and faith!  What road needs to be built in your life in order to prepare the way for God's comfort?

Scripture to Claim:
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord
is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Comfort for the Broken

"Comfort, O comfort My people," says your God. "Speak kindly to Jerusalem; and call out to her, that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity has been removed, that she has received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins." (Isaiah 40:1-2)

The book of Isaiah is divided into (at least) two parts.  The first 39 chapters deal with impending judgment on God’s people, and the second part deals with forgiveness and deliverance.  The first 39 chapters deal with sin, but the last 27 chapters deal with a Savior — 66 chapters in all. 

Note: Many people see Isaiah as a small Bible, for there are 39 chapters in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament — 66 books in all. The Old Testament often deals with the sin of the people of Israel, and the New Testament deals with the Savior which came from Israel.  There is a distinctly different tone and message beginning here in chapter 40.

As Isaiah wrote the first part of his book, disaster had not yet come to the nation.  But Isaiah wrote the second half of his book to the people who would be in exile having been taken away to Babylon.  He was prophesying about a time that was yet to come when the nation would be destroyed and then reborn.  So, the message of the prophet Isaiah was one of, "I've got bad news and I’ve got good news!"  An age-old adage says, "A preacher’s job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."  Isaiah was now to share words of comfort and assurance.

Comfort for the Broken  (1-2)
Judah thought God had forgotten them and their situation.  But Isaiah suddenly turns his message to speak of God’s compassion and sure deliverance.

Comfort is Strengthened With Assurance - "Comfort, O comfort My people," says your God.
In Calvin Miller's book, The Legend of the Brotherstone, we have a story of love and comfort during a difficult time. The mother of a small boy has died. The night following the funeral the boy, Kyrris is trying to go to sleep while staring into the terrible darkness. Although he has asked to sleep with his father, he still cannot see anything in the blackness of the night. Doubts return. "Father ... father ... It is so dark! Are you alive in the darkness?" "I am alive" answered his father. "Father, are you looking at me?" His father replies, "I look your way my son."

God calls on us to look to Him and find His presence for our comfort and strength.  He is saying, "I'm looking your way."  

Comfort Begins with Cleansing - "Speak kindly to Jerusalem; and call out to her, that her iniquity has been removed, that she has received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins.
It is interesting that the Hebrew word Isaiah uses for comfort is also a word which can be translated “repent.”  The word and its root have the idea of breathing deeply.  It can therefore mean to breathe deeply with sorrow for your sin, or to breathe deeply as you comfort and console someone.  Because they have breathed deeply in repentance, God has breathed deeply as he consoled and comforted them.  Isaiah shares the good news that the consequences of their sin have been completed.  Now they could begin healing.  The cleansing power of consequence is strong.  God will not often remove the consequence for it is a teacher and a cleanser.  In moments of hopelessness we need to remember, God has not forgotten us, nor our plight in this life.  He wants to bring words of comfort.

Scripture to Claim:
Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice, and be gracious to me and answer me. When You said, "Seek My face," my heart said to You, "Your face, O LORD, I shall seek." Do not hide Your face from me, do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation! (Psalms 27:7-9)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Eye in the Storm

Mark 4:35-41

The Sea of Galilee is a sparkling jewel in the northern part of Israel.  For the disciples who were caught in a sudden storm on the sea, Jesus did an astounding thing.  There are sudden storms that rock our boats in life as well.  From their experience we learn some things that can help us in the sudden storms that come in our lives.


I.        Bad Storms Happen to Good People - v.37
Although the Son of God is on the boat, it is no guarantee against a sudden storm.
The fact that we live in a fallen world with fallen people means we will deal with trouble in life.
II.      Storms Bring Waves of Doubt - v.38a
Panic overrides reason and perspective.
When God does not act as we think He should our initial reaction is to question His power.

The Doubts of Fear and Panic

1.       They Doubted His Concern - do You not care
2.       They Doubted His Commitment - we are perishing
3.       They Doubted His Course - Let us go over to the other side."
III.    Storms Serve to Turn Us to Jesus - v.38b
Storms Force Us to Choose; Fear or Faith?
When fear comes, faith is challenged.
Fear and faith coexist.  Psalms 56:3
When the storm comes in our lives, the Savior is looking for us to look to him.

IV.    Storms Cannot Cover the Sound of Our Cries - Isaiah 59:1

V.      Storms Don’t Last Forever - v.39
It shall come to pass (Acts 2:17 KJV)

VI.    Storms Affect More Than Just Us - v.36

VII.  Storms are Subject to the Sovereign - v.41
That boat could not sink because God’s plan for the world was on it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

You Need a Set Time for Prayer

In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.  Psalms 5:3

Daniel prayed three times a day.  He made and kept regular appointments with God.  You would do well to do the same thing.  If our body says to us, "Three times today you shall go with me to eat," why shouldn't we say to our body, "Three times today you shall go with me to pray."

We should not look upon prayer as just a routine to be endured.  It is not like punching a spiritual time clock, so that we get credit with God.  It is rather a means of continual communion with him. That's why we need to make and keep regular appointments in prayer.

The Bible says that we are to pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17).  This means that we are to be in an attitude of prayer at all times.  There are several things that you can do to help fulfill this teaching.  Let your life guide your prayer life.

The psalmist had a habit of praying seven times a day. He said, "Seven times a day do I praise thee" (Ps. 119:164).  That’s not a bad habit.  You may find it helpful to mark your days into shorter segments so that you might be constantly coming to him in the midst of the activities of life. It can help us live in moment-by-moment fellowship with God.

You might pray the first thing on arising in the morning and the last thing before retiring at night. That would be twice.  Then you could pray before each meal.  That would be five times.  Then you could pray at midmorning and at midafternoon.  A prayer break, like a coffee break, might give you a spiritual pickup throughout the day.  This would be a total of seven times each day.

You might decide to pray every time you miss a green light and are forced to wait at an intersection.  That could give you prayer ministries like you’ve never had before.  Besides it would be a whole lot better than fretting and fuming at the loss of time.

When you see a hospital it could remind you to pray for the sick.  A funeral home could remind you to pray for the bereaved.  A school could remind you to pray for little children. When you see the flag it could remind you to pray for our government.  When you see the church it could remind you to pray for the work of God and our missionaries.  These reminders could keep us on our spiritual knees throughout the day.

However, these expressions of prayer without ceasing are not to be substitutes for a definite time of prayer.  Most of the great men of God have had a specific time when they met with the Lord each day.  You need to be able to say that you have a definite time of prayer.  In setting a time for prayer it is not the amount of time that you set aside that is most important.  It is the fact that you discipline yourself to keep the appointment.  The amount of time will soon take care of itself.

Samuel Chadwick said, "Hurry is the death of prayer." So find a time when you can be fresh and unhurried and keep that regular appointment with God.  And, above all, don't be a dropout. Even if you don't feel that God is listening, keep praying. God's hearing does not depend upon your feelings. He hears you whether you think he does or not. Remember that when you use the hot line to heaven you never get a busy signal. So don't be a prayer dropout. Stay with it and God will bless you with spiritual growth and power.

Scripture to Claim:
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)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

You Need to Find a Place for Prayer

“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5-6)

Daniel also had a place for praying.  The Scriptures tell us that it was in his apartment, by the window, facing Jerusalem.  Jerusalem and the Temple in a very special way represented the presence of God.  At the dedication of the Temple Solomon had prayed for God to bless all who prayed toward the Temple as the place of God.  The LORD said to him, "I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.  1 Kings 9:3  No doubt Daniel found great comfort and strength in looking toward Jerusalem as he offered his prayers to God. This was his place of prayer.

Prayer can never be relegated to just one place.
·        Jonah prayed from the belly of the big fish.
·        Peter prayed from a rooftop.
·        Hezekiah prayed from a bed of affliction.
·        Hagar prayed while in the wilderness.
·        Jairus prayed on the street.
·        Paul prayed while he was in jail.
·        Jesus prayed while on the mountaintop.
·        The thief prayed from the cross. 
·        And you can pray anywhere, anytime. 

Any place a Christian finds himself able to focus on God can be a place of prayer.  However, it will help our prayer life if we have a definite place where we meet God on a regular basis. 

The closest Jesus ever came to telling us where to pray was when he told us to enter into our closet for prayer (Matthew 6:6).  He was not emphasizing the location of prayer.  He was instead stressing the importance of attitude and atmosphere of prayer.  The advantage of entering into a quiet place is that it shuts out the distractions of the world.  In that place we can do some other things to help our focus:

·        For one thing, you can pray out loud. This helps your concentration.

·        Use a prayer list. This keeps your mind on the track.

·        Keep a notepad and pencil handy. Then when extraneous ideas or tasks flood into your mind, you can jot them down, put them out of mind for the time being, and get on with your praying.


Sometimes in our busy, hectic world it is difficult to find such a place.  However, it is essential that we find a quiet time and place to be alone with God.  You may have to follow the habit of Jesus, who got up a great while before day and went into a solitary place in order to be alone with God (Mark 1:35).  He lived in a much less hectic day than ours.  However, he found it necessary to say no to sleep in order to say yes to a quiet time with God.  You may have to do the same thing.

Scripture to Claim:
Be still, and know that I am God."  Psalm 46:10

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Effective Prayer is Habitual in Practice

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. Daniel 6:10

In this brief excerpt from the life of Daniel, we see the essential ingredients of a strong prayer life. If you want to build an effective prayer life, you need to follow the practices of Daniel. His life teaches us about building an effective prayer life.

When Daniel heard the decree of the king, the Scriptures say that he went to pray "as he did aforetime."  Daniel's prayer life was not just an emergency measure. It was not something that he did when problems greater than he could handle arose. Prayer was a long-established habit of his life. And so he was simply doing what he had been doing all along. Prayer was his way of dealing with life.

A crucial question for every believer is this: How will I handle life and its problems?  Our life is not to be lived at the mercy of moods, pressures, or crises.  It is to be lived in complete dependence upon God. So we too should make prayer the habit of our lives.  The Christian's motto ought to be: "Life is precious; handle it with prayer." Our first inclination ought to be to pray.

I cannot overestimate the importance of good spiritual habits in your life.  We are all creatures of habit, so we need to establish some good ones.  When we think about habits, we usually think of bad ones that we need to break. However, there are some good habits that we need to establish.

Every great servant of God including Jesus has had them. The Scriptures say concerning Jesus, "And, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day" (Luke 4:16). Going to the synagogue was a habit in the life of Jesus.

What are the spiritual habits of your life? Do you know what it is to have a time and a place of prayer like Daniel?  
·        Martin Luther said, "Prayer is a powerful thing, for God has linked himself thereto."  
·        Alfred Lord Tennyson said, "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of."  
You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you can't do more than pray until after you have prayed.  If prayer is not the habit of your life, then I urge you to begin now. It is the key to spiritual growth.

Scripture to Claim:
Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, and He will hear my voice.  He will redeem my soul in peace from the battle which is against me, for they are many who strive with me.  Psalms 55:17-18

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Prayer & Discipleship Part II

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:14-16

The right to come before the Ruler of the Universe was provided by the death of Christ on Calvary.  It is a privilege bought and paid for by His sacrifice.  But prayer is not only a privilege, it is also a duty, or a responsibility. Jesus said that men ought to pray because he knows what prayer can do: Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, (Luke 18:1)  The word "ought" implies a moral obligation.

Prayer can comfort a troubled spirit. It can bring insight to a confused mind.  It can strengthen a weary life.  It can save a soul. And because prayer has such great power, men have a moral obligation to pray.  The alternative to praying is to faint.  It is to fall out and melt away in the difficult task of living.  Prayer then is the source of strength that enables us to stand up to life.

Prayer is a power, but it is not a substitute for work.  It is not a substitute for plowing a field, seeing a doctor, or studying for a test. It is not a substitute; it is a supplement.  It is a request that God will do more for us than we can do for ourselves.  It is a request for a miracle.  When my child is sick, I don't just pray, or just take him to a doctor. I do both. I want what antibiotics can do, but I also want what God can do.

Prayer then grows out of the conviction that God is my father and that He stands ready, willing, and able to help me in all of the circumstances of life.  One of the tragedies of most modern disciples is that they are trying to live without prayer. That's why we are weak and anemic in our spiritual lives. We have neglected communion with God.

We cannot have God's power in our lives unless we pray.  So, developing a strong prayer life is essential to a victorious Christian life. As we will see this week, the essential ingredients of an effective prayer life are seen clearly in the life of Daniel.  Daniel is one of the great men of the Old Testament.  He lived a beautiful and exemplary life.

He was taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, when he conquered Jerusalem.  Because of his intelligence and promise, he was taken to the king's court and trained for diplomatic service.  God blessed his good life and humble spirit and he rose to prominence and favor.  However, he soon became a victim of jealousy by other men in the kingdom.

These men observed his life for a period of time.  They realized that if they were going to discredit Daniel it would have to be at the point of his religion.  So they persuaded the king to pass a decree to put to death anyone who prayed to any god except the king.  Daniel heard about the decree but he was not deterred by it.  He had been a faithful follower of Jehovah all of his life and the decree of the king was not going to change his habit of praying three times a day.  For this, he was threatened with his life. 

Interestingly our lives are threatened with the loss of joy, peace and wisdom from the lack of prayer.  Possibly Daniel’s example will help us all develop a more disciplined and effective prayer life.

Scripture to Claim:
The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; and His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life.  Psalms 42:8

Monday, July 18, 2011

Prayer & Discipleship

"Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 'Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 'Give us this day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 'And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]' (Matthew 6:9-13)

Two spiritual practices are indispensable in reaching Christian maturity. The first is prayer; the second is Bible study.  These are like the two wings of a giant bird.  If you keep both of them going, you can soar to spiritual heights.

The single most important factor in growing to Christian maturity is prayer.  Its importance cannot be overestimated.  It is the difference in Christianity being merely a form and it being a force.  Every great servant of God has been a person of prayer.  Not just repetitious sayings made at proper times but intimate conversations with Holy God.

Too many spend too much of their energy on trying to achieve righteousness.  We are the consummate “I can do this myself” generation.  We pride ourselves and praise others who are highly independent.  Here is some news for you...the Christian life is a life of dependence.  It is not believing in Jesus and then “doing the best you can.”  It is not an "Operation Bootstrap" where only the people most disciplined and gifted survive.  It is not joining the church and getting a “do-it-yourself” kit.  It begins by confessing our complete inability to save ourselves and continues with the confession of our desperate need for God’s power and righteousness.  It is living in constant fellowship with and dependence upon God. 

Prayer is the life connection Through Him there is strength and help and victory.  Prayer is your connection with God. 

The importance of prayer can best be seen in the life of Jesus. Jesus on his knees is the greatest argument there is for prayer.  As someone has said, "God had only one son who lived without sin. But he has had no sons who have lived without prayer."  Jesus was constantly in prayer. He prayed before he ate, before great decisions, and in the garden of Gethsemane. Sometimes he prayed all night long.  His was the most beautiful life ever lived.  And it was punctuated with prayer.

The disciples were so impressed with the prayer life of Jesus that they asked him, "Lord, teach us to pray." (Luke 11:1)  They had heard him preach eloquent sermons, but they never asked, "Lord, teach us to preach."  They saw him perform amazing miracles but they never said, "Lord, teach us to work miracles."  They recognized that the secret of his great life was in his communion with God through prayer. That's why they said, "Lord, teach us to pray."  In response to their request Jesus gave them and us the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:5-17).

Scripture to Claim:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”  Matthew 7:7-8

Devotional Archive