All posts in Prayer

The Journey

There is a new commercial out by the transportation company Lyft.  It says that “It’s not where you’re going that matters; it’s how you get there!”  I wonder about that…  It seems to me that both the journey and the destination are important, but for very different reasons.

The Journey

Man Standing At Beginning Of Winding Road — Image by © Images.com/Corbis

One of my dearest friends in the world is suffering right now and has been for an extended period of time.  He is stressed financially and at 65 years old has little hope of recovering, save a miracle.  His family is in conflict and can’t get along; The hurricanes of recent have messed with his house. His insurance it threatening to cancel and he just found out that his wife has breast cancer and she only gets 2 weeks of paid absence from work; not to mention that they have a $6k deductible on their health insurance.  He has asked me, “Can it get any worse?”  Yes, it can get worse, but it sure doesn’t feel like that is possible from his perspective right now.  Plenty of people have it worse off, but this is a very heavy load and it makes a person wonder about the efficacy of prayer and whether God really cares.

The Destination

On the other hand, if all we ever worried about was what goes on in this fallen world, then we would be very short-sighted, wouldn’t we?  Paul said it best when he said,

“If in this life only we have hope, we are of all creatures, most miserable!”

~ 1 Corinthians 15:19 ~

For many, the hope of eternity with God is all they have to justify the suffering in this life.  However most Americans, even in the worst situation, live like kings compared to the rest of the world. And if you are a Christian, you believe that God is preparing a place for us where we will be eternally happy, safe and secure.  Consider these great promises from the very lips of Jesus:

“In my Father’s house are many mansions … I go to prepare a place for you that where I am, there you may be also.”

~ John 14:2 ~

And the Apostle Paul assured us …

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard the things which God has prepared for those who love Him!”

~ 1 Corinthians 2:9 ~

This brings up a foundational question:  Do you love God?  We don’t need to waste our time asking whether He loves us, because He already told (and showed) us that was the case.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but has everlasting life.”

~ 1 John 3:16 ~

So why do we suffer?  Volumes have been written on this subject, but let’s consider a few answers and see if they satisfy our need to understand God’s ways:

  1. This world is fallen …
  2. We may need correction …
  3. We are being prepared for our future assignment …
  4. Suffering builds our faith …
  5. Others are watching how we react …
  6. Suffering may be the first necessary step to getting to success …
  7. The answer from God is either No or Not now …

Now look back on some of your sufferings and ask yourself if those thoughts help in any way?  If they don’t, then I would offer an additional thought to consider that we can only take in by faith:  If we knew what God knows, everything would make sense; therefore trust God!

Do you consider God trustworthy?  That is what it all boils down to … Is He as good as His Word?  Your answer to that particular question is the most important decision you will ever make.  God loves you and demonstrated that on the cross of Calvary.  That is a hard fact you can take to the bank.  Trust in God and in the end you will be glad for every step He has taken you on in your journey; no matter how rocky the road.  I can personally attest to God’s faithfulness in my life and hope you can too.

Scripture tells us that King David was a man after God’s own heart.  Here is what he was thinking as he went through some very troubling times in his life.  I pray it will help you as it has helped me when I had to look up to see bottom.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

~ Psalm 23 (NIV) ~

 

 

EASIER SAID THAN DONE . . .

I have been a full-time vocational minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ all of my adult life.  But there has been a deficit in my effectiveness that is just now coming into view for me.  I have always had an easy life and many of my philosophical beliefs have never really been tested personally.  My ‘pat answers’ looked good on paper but they had not been truly tested in the Lion’s Den of experience as they were for my namesake.

In my 60’s now, I am excited about the last phase of my life.  I’m not quite a senior but getting there fast.  I am not playing it safe and I do not plan to ‘retire.’  Instead I am pouring it on as I round the corner heading into the straight-away for the finish line.  I hope to do it in style and finish as well or better than I started this race.  I am running with reckless abandon and taking risks I have never known before.

As a consequence, I am experiencing a lot of the bumps along the road for which I have been giving easy answers for many years.  It’s a pity that it has taken me so long to become tenderized to the genuine suffering of others.  It’s not that they don’t believe or have faith.  It’s just that life can be very hard and unyielding at times; for some – all the time.  I’ve still got a lot to learn in my ‘old age,’ but thank God I am learning it now.

Here is my hard-earned philosophy:

1.      Be slow to speak, but quick to listen.

3.     Learn to hurt with others.

4.     Don’t make excuses or just offer to pray for others, but help with your hands.

5.     Practice what you preach.

One thing is for sure; living the life of a Christ-follower is easier said than done, but it’s the only life truly worth living!

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ~ Matthew 7:22-23

COMMON SENSE

What is the difference between a lack of faith and good old common sense?  That’s a question I have been struggling with for some months now as the Lord stretches me and grows me in this area of my life.

First, a little background which might help you relate to my battle…

For months I have been waiting for some business ventures I have been working on to fall into place.  My reason for these ventures is to fund Kingdom work, but I have been frustrated at every turn.  Is that blockage because God is testing my resolve to do His work or because Satan wants me to quit?  I don’t know…

Deadlines have been missed time and time again and always with the promise that, “everything is ok” and “it will happen real soon.” So little by little I have run out of time and resources as I have waited for things to materialize.

Friends and family have shown concern and interest but not in as sincere a way as I would have hoped.  I’ve felt like the Psalmist who said “no one cares for my soul!” This has taught me a lot about showing compassion to others in a meaningful way.  Even those who have helped me have seemed to be reluctant and controlling.  To be perfectly honest, I just don’t get it and it hurts!

One other important point to bring into the mix:  All along I have stayed engaged in ministry and never set that aside just to focus on business.  I believe my success will never come if money becomes the controlling force and therefore I will minister to others with all my heart even when I am up to my eyeballs in business opportunities.  Ministry always comes first for me.

Now to the theological question…

When do we cross the line from being a person of faith over into being a fool?  This is my conclusion.  I am a sinful man and know I will certainly get it wrong some times.  But just like Peter who stepped out of the boat by faith, if I start to falter and go down into the water, Jesus will be there and reach out to save me (Matthew 14:28-31).  I have no doubt of that whatsoever! I have chosen to be a fool for Christ (I Corinthians 4:10) and ‘if I perish, I perish!’ (Ester 4:16).  Job said it best; “Though he slays me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).  I believe that I am seeking God in this endeavor.  I have put it all on the line with no reserve.  And even if I am wrong and this is just my idea of how to serve God but not His too, I believe He will step in and keep me from harm because He loves me and knows my heart (Daniel 3:17-18).

So then what’s the difference between having faith and abandoning our common sense?  The answer for me is that my trust in His character and provision, no matter what the outcome, require me to abandon common sense and be a man of faith. I will follow my heart to attempt great things for God and will go down swinging if need be.  But I will never give in to the notion that God is not sufficient for my every need. And if I fail, I know that He will help me get back up and together we will keep going hard at it until He takes me home.

HABITS and PRAYER

“IF YOU MAKE PRAYER YOUR HABIT IN THE BEGINNING, YOUR HABITS WON’T PREY ON YOU IN THE END”

I want to ask you 5 Questions:

  1. H – Heart.  What’s inside?
  2. A – Arriving.  Are you on the way?
  3. B – Battle.  Are you fighting alone?
  4. I – Intimacy.  Do you know GOD intimately?
  5. T – Transformation.  Are you a new creation?

We are creatures of habit and our habits reflect what is going on inside us; what we value and what we choose to make a part of our life.  We may have certain genetic propensities that make our choices more difficult but God is able to give us victory in this life and the life to come – if we will ask in prayer!

REMEMBER:  Prayer means to ask.

Hebrews 4:15-16

“For we do not have a high priest who is not able to sympathize with us but was in all points tempted as we are yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

God commands us to develop good habits

2 Thessalonians 1:11

“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.”

But our nature is fallen and we also develop bad habits

Romans 5:8
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. “

So my first question is “do you know God?”

– not, do you know about God but “do you know him personally?”

If the answer is “no,” I am going to help you solve that problem

PRESENT GOSPEL VERY SIMPLY and INVITE TO RESPOND AT END

If the answer is, “I’m not sure,” we can find the answer by looking at the fruit of our life…

If the answer is “yes, but I’m not following him as I should,” I’m going to ask you to decide to make a change (right now) as you listen to my words

2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

[Let me just take a moment here to distinguish theologically between your STATE and you STANDING before God –

-Your STATE is your current condition before you are fully sanctified

-Your STANDING is how God sees you now based on His promises and how you will be in heaven when you are fully glorified]

My second question is a little tougher to answer

– do you know God intimately?

  • Are your thoughts about him continually?
  • Do you pray?

Psalm 50:15
“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor Me.”

  • Do you desire to serve him?
  • Are you willing to make sacrifices to be his follower?
  • When you fail do you immediately come to him for forgiveness and restoration?
  • Do you find yourself seeking out others who want to be obedient to Christ?

James 5:16

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

Our prayer subject is “habits”

But you see we can never behave as we should unless we are changed from the inside out. Our hearts must be changed

Jeremiah 17:9

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure…

Who can understand it?”

And even after we have surrendered our heart to God, we must moment by moment surrender ourself to obedience

1 Corinthians 9:27

“But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

I’m not talking about the intolerance toward certain behaviors, but SIN; breaking God’s commands.  Are you deliberately and intentionally living outside of God’s favor?  Are you telling yourself that you can get away with “that” because times are a changing or God doesn’t care?

There is no easy path to discipleship –

Jesus calls us to follow Him … and die

Luke 9:23
“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

Your habits are a reflection of your heart and your heart is a reflection of your relationship with Christ … and yielding to the control the Holy Spirit over your life

MY TESTIMONY

I am 60 years old and have been a Christ-follower most of my life but It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I began to grasp the concept of surrendering my life to the power of the Holy Spirit.

  • How about you?
  • Have you given yourself to Jesus?
  • Have you fully surrendered to His Spirit?
  • Will you do so now?
  • Will you recommit yourself to be his devoted follower?

Earlier I said that the fruit of our life reflects what is going on inside

It’s very important to understand this in the right way.  We do not change our habits by strength of discipline or hard work but God changes our habits by first changing us from the inside out

STEVE McQueen STORY – “Can I still drink beer?”

Mark Twain said it this way, “habit is habit and not to be flung out the window by any man, but to be coaxed downstairs a step at a time.”

Take the first step now as we pray and surrender yourself to God’s Spirit in your life.  Tell a friend about your struggle and work hard to overcome those things which so easily entangle you.

Hebrews 12:1

“… So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us.”

Let’s Pray

Summarize in closing prayer

  • Heart.  It all begins with what’s inside. What is the source of your power?
  • Arriving.  Heaven is for arriving but are you on the way?
  • Battle.  The fight is not yours.
  • Intimacy.  How well do you know God?
  • Transformation.  If we are in Christ, we are a NEW creation – because God says so.

See the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TuGPj9oLIQ#t=32

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Daniel Southern

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