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Spiritual Unemployment

I’ve been in too many grocery stores where it seems that a tornado went through and rearranged everything randomly so that I could have a “fun” challenge to find what I was looking for that day. Maybe you’ve shared my experience? My thoughts…? …Where are all the workers? Why are they not doing their jobs!!! How about trying to find an employee to ask a question at a hardware store? Yep, same question. Where is everyone? I need help after all!

Now, before you get too sucked into a handful of bad memories, think about some history. Maybe your history. Have you ever been in a job where you felt overwhelmed, felt that management should provide more workers to get the job done? What happens all too often today is what? Yes, the company cuts the workforce even further and expects you to work EVEN MORE! Crazy and infuriating, correct?

The fact of expecting more from workers is in the blood of our nation historically. This attitude is a failing and not a strength. Maybe you disagree, but I doubt it.

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”LordofHarvest2_987450940

Jesus recognized the problem that we are all too well acquainted with! This passage from the end of Matthew 9 is regarding Jesus sending out the disciples. Whether you are a Christian or not, you most likely know that Jesus did a lot of work over a short period of time (3 years or so). If he hadn’t, then there would be no way the Christian faith would still be around today. Or am I wrong about that theory?

Let’s think this through. Jesus did turn a lot of heads and did die for ALL sin, so I’m not belittling the sacrifice. I am going to say that it wasn’t really Jesus who propagated the Christian faith. It was the workers. Read that passage again. Jesus tells his disciples to pray for workers to be send out. Doesn’t Jesus know that he IS sending out his Disciples? Of course he does! Jesus knows that there needs to be a lot of workers!! Note that in this instance he didn’t say to pray for those that needed help…he said to pray for workers. I don’t think we do this…and we wonder why there are billions of unbelievers and starving people around the world.  Hmm.

So, are you a worker? Do you pray for workers to go into the “harvest fields”? You see, in our culture we have failed to study, to really read the words of Jesus in many ways. We sit at home, we read about other people doing the work, we wonder why things aren’t getting better…. We are sickened at the disarray of the Church, sad that more people have not come to faith in Christ, and lost as to how to do anything about it…

In much the same way, we are baffled at poorly kept grocery shelves, no help to find the garage door part we need and having to do the work of three people. Do you see any links here?

  • We need to pray for workers to enter the mission field, Jesus said to do this.
  • We need to stop and listen and be a part of the solution
  • We need to look in the mirror at our culture to see exactly why our faith is so weak.

You may be employed at a job, but are you spiritually unemployed? What are you going to do about it? You might want to consider starting to pray. After all, in many places like South Korea they fill stadiums up at 4am to do nothing but pray. What are we missing?  They fill stadiums just to pray.  We ARE missing something.

Thanks God and to David Platt whose book Radical inspired my thoughts today.

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The Great I AM

-Before the power and the presence of the Great I AM-

You know many of us are pretty pitiful as Christians.  We believe (hopefully) in God who is out of this world powerful and his mere presence makes

mountain  4-The demons run and flee-

just

-At the mention of his name, King of Majesty-

Do we understand that?  Really?

-The mountains shake before him-

Is there –any who can stand-?

Too often I think we actually sit back and think that “WE” actually have it all figured out!  “WE” have the solutions and “WE” just ask God to watch us do “OUR” wonderful works. Bless us God!!!!!!!!!!!…….we say.

So, let’s get this straight…-Before the power and the presence of the Great I AM- we are going to simply do what we want or do what we think that God wants, THEN pray about it and ask for God’s blessings, AND wonder WHY things didn’t work out?  Some of us get upset with God when something doesn’t work out.  We pray to the Great I AM asking him why?!?  WHAT IN THE WORLD DO WE EXPECT?!?

“But seek FIRST his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

“You do not have because you do not ask God.”

“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

Yes, -the demons run and flee- through the power and the presence of the Great I AM.  Mountains shake…but do we first ask God what he would have us to do, OR do we first make OUR plans, then seek God’s approval?  Do not let PRIDE, because that is what it is, get in the way of putting God first!  Do not let pride deceive us into following wrong motivations.  God should be #1 because he is #1.

-Lyrics between “-“ marks in italics are from the song “The Great I am”.  Take a listen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_VR-zwp2KA

One God, One Mediator

I’ve been reading the same short chapter over and over this week.  Maybe it was an experiment.  I really felt that God would place something on my heart.  I felt He would make something in this text really stick out.  Well, it worked.  It may be controversial.  I will be obedient and share.  Who do you pray to?

From 1 Timothy Chapter 2 (NIV)

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone–
for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
This is good, and pleases God our Savior,
who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
who gave himself as a ransom for all men–the testimony given in its proper time.

Obviously, Paul is discussing prayer here.  He’s writing to Timothy.  It’s actually a great model to remember.  We must pray for our leaders, for everyone, but that is not what is on my heart.

I have long been uncomfortable with some other denominations & Catholic family & friends praying to Mary or to a dead relative to “intercede” or “deliver” a prayer to God.  Jesus was and is the mediator.  We are even told in Romans 8:26 that the Holy Spirit will “intercede” or “correct” our prayers when we don’t know what to say.  So, we have Jesus as the only mediator, we have the Holy Spirit in us, yet some pray to dead humans?  I don’t get it.  We can pray directly to Jesus and the Holy Spirit will help us in our prayers.  Why not pray to The Creator?  Seems like a much better option.  Kind of like if the President actually asked you to call him on his personal cell phone anytime and he would listen.  Would you instead call an aide, or your Congressman?  Actually, that’s probably a bad example as I wouldn’t call our current President, but that’s another issue.

To me, praying to others like Mary has always felt like ignoring your bosses open door policy and instead writing an email to the secretary.  Does that make sense?  I really don’t mean to offend anyone, yet I do challenge you to think about it.  To me it feels like setting an idol up in front of you that you are more comfortable with instead of praying to God who you cannot see.  My thinking says if you ask your dead relative or Mary to help you, then you are replacing God with something else.  That is clearly idolatry to me.  If you argue semantics and try to justify praying to someone other than God/Jesus, then I think you really need to study this subject from a biblical standpoint.  I know I’m not perfect and may be missing something, but I don’t think so.  Again, I challenge you to think about this, that is all I hope to stir up. However, feel free to post a comment for discussion!

Prayer: Is there a right way to pray?

If there has ever been a question that many, many people struggle with, think about or simply don’t know, it’s, “How should I pray?”

First, let’s consider just exactly how prayer is defined.   Webster’s says:

1 a(1): an address (as a petition) to God or a god in word or thought [said a prayer for the success of the voyage] (2): a set order of words used in praying b : an earnest request or wish
2 : the act or practice of praying to God or a god [kneeling in prayer]
3 : a religious service consisting chiefly of prayers —often used in plural
4 : something prayed for
5 : a slight chance [haven’t got a prayer]

I like Webster’s but it misses the mark.  Looking at these definitions it’s no wonder why people struggle with prayer.  Consider this definition.  Prayer is communication with God.  Prayer is no different than calling up your best friend and having an open, honest & deep conversation.  Yes, that means it’s a two-way conversation.  You may be thinking, “Um, are you saying God will be verbally talking to me?”  Ha!  If you find this occurring regularly, that’s great, but you may want to seek professional help…just in case.

No, hearing God’s voice is not an expectation, but moments spent listening for His prompts, nudges and moments of clarity are very real.  Too often prayer becomes a list of requests.  I want, I want, I want.  We sound like whiny kids.  We need to revamp our attitude surrounding the discipline of prayer.  Webster’s definition doesn’t help us since it pretty much just points to requests (I want).  Imagine talking to your best friend and only speaking about your “I want”s.  Let me know how that conversation goes.

Some people get caught up in where to pray.  You can pray anywhere.  What works best for you?  Figure that out and you will have your answer.

We have the following points to consider so far:

  1. Prayer is a two-way conversation
  2. It’s not just about “I want…”
  3. It involves a component of listening.
  4. You can pray just about anywhere.

Some of you may be stuck on the “I want” thing.  Maybe you’ve never prayed anything other than a quick “Thank you God, please help me pass this test, make good money, have good health and be lucky. Amen, Oh, and thanks for my food!”  HEY!  If this is all you’ve done, you’ve gotten past just listing your “wants”!  You actually spent time in “thanksgiving”, thanking & praising God for things.  Great!

Here’s a quick acronym to help you expand your prayer time into a real conversation.  P.R.A.Y.

Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield.

Praise God by thanking Him for whatever is on your mind.  Praise Him for creation.

Repent of sins you know you’ve committed.  Say you are sorry and mean it.

Ask God for those “I want” items, but remember that we are to treat others as if they are more important than ourselves.  This may help you to rid yourself of the “selfish” types of prayers that are so common.  Either way, “present your requests to God”!

Lastly, yield to God.  This is where you just STOP.  Sit in God’s presence.  Write a bit in a journal about whatever is going through your mind.  Doing this stage last is typically good since by now you are most likely relaxed and calm.

Is there a “right” way to pray?  Maybe, but our models for prayer are pretty wide open.  The best question is, “Is there a wrong way to pray?”  The answer is most definitely YES.  The Bible warns us in a few places.

The Message Bible presents Matthew 6: 5+ in a very fresh way.  Check it out.

5“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?

 6“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

 7-13“The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply.

Last, we get this warning from James 4:1-4

 1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Once we get past the wrong way to pray and we settle into a simply, intentional prayer time, we can find success.  When you plan to spend time with God, expect His Spirit to be there.  God will reward you when you are sincere with your efforts.  To truly pray in the Spirit you must learn to truly have a conversation with God, on His terms.  Be humble, be open, be honest, be intentional.

Prayer: Why’s it so hard to get into?

If you pray at all, you’ve been there.  You know, that place where you’ve been going over the bills, thinking about your spouse and trying to understand your kids and finally saying “Amen!”…

Yes, that place that is anything BUT quality time with God.  What is there to do?  I’ll give a few things to consider this week and next week, and then you will hopefully have an answer.

The two questions we’ll consider are:

  1. How can I get into an attitude of prayer?
  2. Is there a right way to pray?

This week I’ll look at “How can I get into an attitude of prayer?”

I like this topic for a few reasons.  First, I’ve thought about it a lot and taught about it a lot over the years.  Second, I struggle with it too, so I truly know and understand the problem.  Let’s look at the problems associated with getting into an attitude of prayer and go from there.

Right off the bat, we think of our own mind as a problem.  We can’t stop thinking about everything that’s going on in our lives!  In reality, our own mind is just one of many potential DISTRACTIONS.  Also, we deal with TIME.  We are so busy that it feels like pulling teeth to find five minutes of free time!

So, distractions are up first.  To start, we must realize that some of us are natural planners and others typically go with the flow.  For the planner, you may have an advantage in overcoming distraction.  You may simply plan for a time of day to be your prayer time.  Us “go with the flow people” have to work hard to plan.

  1. Know yourself – are you a morning person? Night owl?  Do you easily sit still, or do you squirm all the time?
  2. What are your common distractions?  Your responsibilities?  Sports?  Your environment?

From knowing answers to these two points, you can start developing a simple plan.  You can formulate a good WHEN and WHERE component to your prayer time.  Having this knowledge in place with help you get into an attitude of prayer by more easily overcoming common distractions.

Time is the next component.

  1. Can you sit still?  Do you fall asleep if you sit still for more than 10 minutes?  Do you claw your eyes out if you sit still more than 10 minutes? J
  2. What is a reasonable amount of time to pray?
  3. Is your day so full you don’t have any time?  If so, simplify something to open up 5 or 10 minutes and start there.  The key is raising prayer on your priority list.

Okay, let’s say you have a time (the morning) and a place (the couch before the family wakes up).  How do you continue the process of getting into an attitude of prayer?  Here are some ideas.

  • Make a list of items you CAN pray for, remember that prayer should be Spirit led, so don’t treat it like a TO DO list.  You may have broad prayer topics or specific prayers.
  • Start with quiet time, meditation.  Listen to the silence.  Listen for God’s promptings.  If your mind won’t stop running in circles, write down all the things you are thinking about.  Doing this simple task with allow your mind to settle down.
  • Use the common acronyms PRAY or ACTS to guide your prayer time.

[PRAY – Praise time, Repentance time, Asking time, Yield Time (listening)]

[ACTS – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication (Asking)]

These guides can help you get focused and help you more quickly get into an attitude of prayer.

In the end, if you have a plan that addresses these areas of distraction and time, you will be ready to get right into an attitude of prayer.  It will take practice.  Persevere!

Next week, I’ll talk about “Is there a right way to pray?”

If you pray at all, you’ve been there.  You know, that place where you’ve been going over the bills, thinking about your spouse and trying to understand your kids and finally saying “Amen!”…

Yes, that place that is anything BUT quality time with God.  What is there to do?  I’ll give a few things to consider this week and next week, and then you will hopefully have an answer.

The two questions we’ll consider are:

  1. How can I get into an attitude of prayer?
  2. Is there a right way to pray?

This week I’ll look at “How can I get into an attitude of prayer?”

I like this topic for a few reasons.  First, I’ve thought about it a lot and taught about it a lot over the years.  Second, I struggle with it too, so I truly know and understand the problem.  Let’s look at the problems associated with getting into an attitude of prayer and go from there.

Right off the bat, we think of our own mind as a problem.  We can’t stop thinking about everything that’s going on in our lives!  In reality, our own mind is just one of many potential DISTRACTIONS.  Also, we deal with TIME.  We are so busy that it feels like pulling teeth to find five minutes of free time!

So, distractions are up first.  To start, we must realize that some of us are natural planners and others typically go with the flow.  For the planner, you may have an advantage in overcoming distraction.  You may simply plan for a time of day to be your prayer time.  Us “go with the flow people” have to work hard to plan.

  1. Know yourself – are you a morning person? Night owl?  Do you easily sit still, or do you squirm all the time?
  2. What are your common distractions?  Your responsibilities?  Sports?  Your environment?

From knowing answers to these two points, you can start developing a simple plan.  You can formulate a good WHEN and WHERE component to your prayer time.  Having this knowledge in place with help you get into an attitude of prayer by more easily overcoming common distractions.

Time is the next component.

  1. Can you sit still?  Do you fall asleep if you sit still for more than 10 minutes?  Do you claw your eyes out if you sit still more than 10 minutes? J
  2. What is a reasonable amount of time to pray?
  3. Is your day so full you don’t have any time?  If so, simplify something to open up 5 or 10 minutes and start there.  The key is raising prayer on your priority list.

Okay, let’s say you have a time (the morning) and a place (the couch before the family wakes up).  How do you continue the process of getting into an attitude of prayer?  Here are some ideas.

  • Make a list of items you CAN pray for, remember that prayer should be Spirit led, so don’t treat it like a TO DO list.  You may have broad prayer topics or specific prayers.
  • Start with quiet time, meditation.  Listen to the silence.  Listen for God’s promptings.  If your mind won’t stop running in circles, write down all the things you are thinking about.  Doing this simple task with allow your mind to settle down.
  • Use the common acronyms PRAY or ACTS to guide your prayer time.

[PRAY – Praise time, Repentance time, Asking time, Yield Time (Listening)]

[ACTS – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication (Asking)]

These guides can help you get focused and help you more quickly get into an attitude of prayer.

In the end, if you have a plan that addresses these areas of distraction and time, you will be ready to get right into an attitude of prayer.  It will take practice.  Persevere!

Next week, I’ll talk about “Is there a right way to pray?”

Yeah, right!

Okay, now the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional.  That makes as much sense as saying an American at McDonald’s can’t order french fries.  According to a federal judge, the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional.  Apparently, it’s a violation of the 1st Amendment covering Freedom of Speech…huh?  [Let me add to that last sentence…”or it somehow violates the Establishment Clause” -See comments below] Let’s think about this a moment.

The 1st Amendment was passed way back in the late 1700’s, you know, when the people who founded this great country actually wrote it.  A few days after it’s passage, guess what, my sources tell me that the National Day of Prayer was first enacted.

Hmm, I’ll walk you through this…The founding fathers passed the 1st Amendment.  They then asked for a day to be designated as a day of prayer.  Wouldn’t you think these guys would know if the thing they were asking for was “unconstitutional” and violated the 1st amendment in which they just wrote… In considering this federal judge’s actions, it just seems utterly foolish to have missed this point.  I think “reinterpreting the constitution” has jumped to the next level!

The day where Christians get tossed in jail like the disciples and apostles did is closer than you think.

Bad Advice?

sermon-1There are some people who are completely blinded to what scripture says.  I can honestly say this because I too was blinded to it for a big chunk of my life.  I’ve been down both roads.  When people honestly feel Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is bad advice, then one must look in the mirror and realize they are missing something.  I was, I did, and it’s rather funny and sad at the same time.

Let’s look at a couple of Jesus’ teachings here and look into what seems to be missed by those opposed to some of the ideas presented.  Jesus says in Matthew 5 “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”  “Sons” is plural and a straight forward reading indicates that the hope is that the enemy will be changed.  We have free-will, we can choose to oppose God, but in the end God repeatedly encourages us all saying that he “doesn’t want anyone to perish”, “he knows every hair on our heads before we are born” and “he knows we have free-will and that we will sin”.  The arguments that God is a hypocrite because he sends his enemies to Hell is ignoring two things.  One, God has provided a free path to Heaven and…Two, God loves us and is teaching us how to save others from Hell.  If God wanted robots, there would be no free-will and thus no need for any of these teachings.

 Next, we look at “acts of righteousness”, giving, etc.  Jesus’ taught us earlier that we should live our lives as a Christian.  In a way that is apparent that we are not living against the manner in which God’s prideprescribes.  The sin that got Satan tossed out of Heaven was Pride.  Jesus builds on this sin of pride by clarifying for us a few things.  He says, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them…”And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.” Can you see that Jesus clearly emphasizes “to be seen by them” in the first statement?  If I say, “I’m going out in my new clothes to be seen”, it’s pretty clear that my purpose is to be prideful about the clothes I have that are better than everybody else’s… DON’T DO THAT.  It’s doesn’t mean don’t perform acts of righteousness.  It means do them with the right attitude.  Also, Jesus notes that praying to yourself is wrong.  WHAT?  Yes, Jesus says that “they love to pray…to be seen by men.”  That’s not praying to God, that’s being prideful and saying, “Look at me and my new clothes!  Don’t you wish you had some like these?”  That would also be breaking a law called “Idolatry”.

So, some people may not understand that the Creator of the universe knows about how the mind he created could be a bit self absorbed at times, prideful.  God knows he gave us free-will, so it’s not a surprise, it’s not a mistake!  God had a choice, make us robots or teach us how to handle free-will.  It’s still a choice.  If this still doesn’t make sense, think of these verses:

Proverbs 11:2
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

1 Corinthians 1:18
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.