Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Did you make any resolutions or commitments for 2016?
How are you doing?
What would it take for us to talk over a cup of coffee next December and in answer to my question about how the year went for you, you replied “I think I just lived the best year of my life.”?
Such a response would not be based upon circumstances playing out well for you but rather how you experienced God and what He effectively did in you, maybe in spite of your circumstances.
Maybe you were hurt but forgave well. Maybe you had a significant loss but you persevered well. Maybe you had a fearsome situation but you trusted God well. Get the picture?
Let’s walk together this year, with Christ, for all He purposes to do.

Monday, March 16, 2015

There’s More to Patrick Than Parades and Green Beer

In the 5th century barbarians began invading and overthrowing the fading Western Roman Empire. Roman civilization was destroyed and replaced by small kingdoms ruled by illiterate, barbaric warrior-kings. Some have referred to this as the Dark Age.

It was at this same time that Patricius, a British boy was seized and kidnapped and enslaved by a group of Irish slave traders. Patricius had given up on the religious ways of his parents but during the 6 years of his enslavement he began to pray.

One night he was awakened by a voice that said, “Your ship is ready. Though unsure of the voice or exactly what it meant Patricius set out for the sea. Two hundred miles later he found a ship bound for England and escaped back to his family.

In time Patricius fully came to faith in Jesus and sometime later felt called to return to Ireland as a missionary named Patrick.

To shorten an inspiring story, within Patrick’s lifetime, barbaric warriors cast aside their swords of battle and the slave trade ended. The culture was transformed into one that cared for the poor, the oppressed and the illiterate. A culture of compassion and education was developed.

Irish monasteries became centers for not only copying the Bible but many other works of literature. Much of the literary work of Europe during this age was preserved by the monasteries which also taught Latin, music and painting.

By the early 7th century there were about 700 monastic communities across Great Britain so that some historians contend that the Irish saved civilization. The monastery became the center of culture.

The late Chuck Colson contended that this is how Christianity is meant to function in society-not just as a private faith but as a creative force in the culture. The inner life of faith must shape our actions out in the world. In every choice and decision we make, we either help to overcome the forces of barbarism—whether medieval or modern—or acquiesce to those forces; we either help build a life-giving, peace-loving ethos, or fan the flames of egoism and destruction.
For a fun, 2 minute history of Patrick check out this video--


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Prayer as Intercession to God

In all of our praying the most important aspect is listening to God. This is especially true when it comes to intercessory prayer.

In the prior four posts we have focused on speaking to or with God regarding WHO God is (Praise), WHAT God does (Thanksgiving), and HOW God has determined life is to be lived (Confession).

Intercession is praying on behalf of others, calling upon God to intervene in the lives and circumstances of others. This immediately raises two questions—

1. How do I know what to pray on behalf of another?
If they are sick should I pray for their healing or for God’s grace to help them suffer the ordeal well? If they are experiencing poverty do I pray for God to supply their needs or to deepen their faith as they know God to be their true treasure?

Some would just say, “Pray that God blesses them and leave it up to Him as to how He wants to bless them.” That’s not a bad way to pray. I have prayed that way often.

However, there are those other times where God is looking to speak into our lives so that we join Him in His work in others. In other words, sometimes God wants us to not pray generally, “God bless him” but to pray specifically as God informs us to pray.

I’ve prayed for people to be healed. I’ve prayed for people to die and for Jesus to receive them into heaven. The reason I prayed so specifically was because I was “impressed” by God’s Spirit how to pray. Thus, listening is crucial for prayers of intercession.

There are many things already revealed to us in Scripture that we know to pray for others and thus we do well to pray consistently what we know. I prayed for my sons to come to saving faith in Jesus, I prayed for God to mightily contend with their hearts through adolescence for right living and I prayed for their courting and marriage to their future wives, not only through the years of their lives but even before they were born.

How do I know what to pray for others? God tells us through Scripture and through prayer.

2. Why do we intercede when God can do whatever He wants?
God involves us in His work in the lives of others because it is part of His discipleship plan for us. Paul Billheimer said it this way: “Prayer is God’s on-the-job training for us.”

Training for what? Billheimer contends that God is developing us as priests who will make a difference in the lives of others here and now, and God is developing us as His “bride” who will co-rule and co-reign with Him throughout eternity.

Intercession is worship (demonstrating our confidence in the goodness and greatness of God), work (joining God in His mission), and warfare (participating in God’s defeat of evil and the evil one).

How is it going for you three weeks into a new year of deepening your connection with God?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Prayer as Confession to God

Confessions are often associated with something negative. In the context of sin confession has to do with admitting guilt or admitting wrong.
Confessions are also associated with something positive.
For example, one confession that I frequently state for myself is that of three Hebrew young men who lived in the Babylonian empire of the 6th century BC. When refusing to compromise their faith and their commitment to God for the sake of appeasing King Nebuchadnezzar they were sentenced to die in a fiery furnace. You may remember that the king offered Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego a second chance to compromise their faith and offered to change their sentence from death to life.
The 3 Hebrews replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need a second chance. Our God is well able to deliver us from your fiery furnace. But even if He does not we are not going to compromise our faith.” (Daniel 3:18)
I’ve had health challenges. I know that God is able to make me well. But even if He doesn’t I’ll not quit trusting Him.
I’ve had financial challenges. I know that God is able to meet every financial need I have. But even if He doesn’t I’ll not quit trusting Him.
I’ve had opportunistic challenges. I know that God is able to help me seize and succeed in the opportunity. But even if He doesn’t I’ll not quit trusting Him.
What’s the “fiery” ordeal in your life? Do you know that God can handle it? Do you know that in His wisdom He might not? Can you still trust Him even when God doesn’t come through for you in ways that you want Him to?
Another confession that has become a constant refrain for my life is from the ancient Queen Esther. Remarkably, miraculously, in the 5th century BC a Jewish peasant girl living in exile in Persia was elevated to queen of Persia. Was this a matter of just being the luckiest girl on earth or was there some divine purpose behind it?
Reading the story shows that God is at work because the entire Jewish race is threatened with total extinction. God has been at work so that Esther would become queen and intercede on the behalf of her people. However, even though God is at work that doesn’t mean that Esther is without risk.
At one point in the story Esther’s cousin Mordecai tells her that she must approach the king and plead the case of the Jews so that her people might be delivered. Mordecai says, “This is why God has made you queen.” Esther replies, “It’s not that easy Mordecai. I’ve not even seen the king in a month. He has hundreds of women in his harem. If I try to see the king without the king having summoned me then he can have me executed. Mordecai tells Esther it is a risk that she has to take.
Esther prays about it, senses that it is what God wants her to do and confesses, “If I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16) Now there is a “happy ending” to her story. The king does receive her, hears her request and delivers the Jews from annihilation. But she doesn’t know how the story is going to finish. However, she was willing to take a life risk and trust God.
Have you felt God call upon you to take a stand at work that could cost you a promotion or even cost you your job and you pressed forward confessing, “If I perish, I perish”?
Have you felt God call upon you to take a stand in your social circle concerning a moral or ethical position that could result in ridicule or loss of friendship and you pressed forward confessing, “If I perish, I perish”?
Some of you have taken a stand about your faith within your extended family that had different beliefs and it resulted in you losing favor with your family or even being cut off from your family. You were confessing, “If I perish, I perish.”
As you deepen your connection and communication with God, prayer as confession to God will be key. What kind of confession are you impressed to make today?

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Prayer as Thanksgiving to God

Some of us were taught as children to pray—

“God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food.”

There is much wisdom in that simple prayer.

Praying thanksgiving is a key means of knowing God and communicating with God. But thanksgiving is more than superficially saying, “Thank you”.

Most of us were also taught as children the obligation of giving thanks. Aunt Susie gives you a birthday present and even if it was officially weird, your mother would ask you, “What do you say?” with an expectation of hearing you utter the magic words.

If we do an obligatory statement of appreciation to God we risk missing the experience of knowing Him. Go back to the “child’s” prayer above. Is God really great? Is God really good? How do you know?

When our thanksgiving is birthed out of awe we have a keen sense of His presence, the fullness of His Person, and in contrast the unworthiness of our receiving benefits or favor from God.

But we live in an “awe-killing” world. The recent movie on Moses went to great lengths to give naturalistic explanations for awesome works of God. We take for granted the awesome splendor of snow-capped mountains, powerful rushing rivers and the stunning beauty of sunsets.

If God is Creator then we learn something of Him when we examine and reflect on creation. God is an artist who loves beauty and shares the joy of His artistry with His friends. And if we notice God’s handiwork we’ve just been nudged by His Spirit to take it in.

When I drive across the floating bridge and squint because the sun is glimmering over Lake Washington with a majestic Mt. Rainier in the backdrop I have to whisper, “Thank you God for letting me live in the Northwest and having eyes to behold this sight and a heart that is alive to Your activity around me.”

In that prayer/conversation I’m not just communicating with God; I’m communing with God; I’m enjoying God; I’m celebrating God. And the marvelous outcome of praying thanksgiving is that the more I do, the more I know and experience God.

In this day, let us practice noticing God, acknowledging God and responding to God with praise and thanksgiving.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Prayer as Praise to God

Prayer is communicating or conversing with God. When you communicate with other people you make use of a variety of types of communication, sometimes asking questions, sometimes encouraging or challenging or even correcting others. So it is as we communicate with God.

There are 5 major types of communication or prayer we express:

     Praise is honoring or celebrating God for WHO He is.
     Thanksgiving is recognizing God for WHAT He does.
     Confession is agreeing with God about what is right or wrong with your life.
     Intercession is calling upon God to help in the need of someone else.
     Petition is calling upon God to help with your personal needs.

Additionally and most importantly the remaining part of communication with God is LISTENING (more about that in a future post).

Many of us have familiarity with petition or even intercession, where we are asking God for things. There’s nothing wrong with that and in fact God invites us to ask Him for things (Mark11:24). Deepening our communication with God will require that we grow in our ability to pray in additional ways.

Today I’m encouraging you to focus on praying praise, that is, reflecting on the wonderful nature of God and telling Him what you think and believe about Him.

However, don’t mistakenly think that God needs us to praise Him as if He were someone trying to do His best and we’re tasked with lifting His esteem. God doesn’t need our praise or our worship or our honor (see Acts 17:24-25). We need to praise and worship God. It does something to us and for us to rightly recognize God or celebrate God.

I play basketball at a local YMCA. Recently a new guy showed up and wanted to play and it was obvious that he had seldom played the game. Within a short time I found myself irritated because I felt he was ruining the game. In my frustration I sensed God nudging me to encourage and affirm this guy when he did something right. When I began to praise him for doing something well my heart was becoming open to him; praising someone was undoing the hardening that a critical spirit was forming in me.

Rightly praising God softens my heart, redirects my focus from the irritating things to the Indescribable One and moves me from “huffing and puffing” an existence to freshly breathing in Life.

As we journey together today, with every few steps speak aloud or in your heart words of praise toward our great God.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Deepening My Communication with God

Assuming that you would like to be able to sense God’s presence and with your heart “see” and “hear” His movement and activity around you better in the coming year, where would you begin?

My recommendation would be to deepen your ability to communicate with God.

When my communication with my wife or with friends is significantly good, I also seem to gain a capacity to sense what’s going on with them and thereby gain more intimacy with them. The same is true with my relationship with God.

Where is God leading you in 2015?

What aspect of your character is God prioritizing for greater development?

Who is it that God knows you to be?

Why does God have you in this world?

How are you to live so that at the end of life you hear from God, “Well done”?

These questions may seem intimidating or for some even impossible. Yet these are the kinds of things that God is pleased to speak into our minds and hearts (thoughts and feelings). He is more committed to our transformation than we. What becomes essential is that I grow in my ability to understand and experience God.

The Lord gives us the grace for our personal growth. What is our part?

For the next several days I will be posting some of my experience and practical ideas that I believe will offer a little boost to you moving forward in your relationship with Jesus. I invite you to join me in a journey and conversation; think of us walking and talking together.

I hope you’ll join me.