Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Vital Signs of the Saints - Prayer

So this morning I was convicted of a truth that I would like to share with you. I have often quoted Dr. John Alexander, who once said, "Prayer is not only a PART of the work. Prayer IS the work."

As I reflected on that statement this morning I was convicted of the reality that I do not pray near enough. I'm not talking about hoisting up words to the Almighty so that He can rain down melodies from Heaven. I'm talking about the continual openness to the Lord aligning my heart with His vision and mission. Jesus never allowed the business of a day to overshadow the mission and vision that He communicated to His followers. In Luke 4, as Jesus read in the Temple, He said His intentions, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed me 1) To PREACH the GOSPEL to the poor; He sent me 2) To HEAL the brokenhearted, 3) To PREACH DELIVERANCE to the captives, and 4) RECOVER SIGHT to the blind, 5) To FREE those who are bruised, 6) To PROCLAIM the acceptable year of the Lord. This mission is wrapped up in the vision statement of the Lord Jesus Christ: "To give My life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28).

What does that have to do with prayer? You might remember in Matthew 9:35-38 that Jesus was moved with the multitude because were like "sheep with no shepherd." Notice that Jesus did not instruct the disciples to become Rambo Christians who would assassinate the multitude with the Gospel. Rather He said, "Pray..."

The categorical distinctive here is the recognition from the Son of God that ministry is God's job from first to last. Our spreading of the Gospel is contingent on the vibrancy of our relationship with the Lord that begins and ends with aligning our heart with His will through prayer. Jesus prayed. Was that to cover everything on somebody's wish list? NO! It was the supernaturally natural partaking of a relationship with the Father. It was the surrender of His heart that overflowed into the outpouring of God's Spirit, who ultimately then completed the work. Notice the overwhelming love of the Lord, revealed in Isaiah and read by Christ, makes the Almighty somehow completely "other"-focused, while remaining true to Himself as Yahweh, the Self-Existing, All-Powerful, I AM that I AM, I am God All By Myself One and Only. Thus, we see Christ-like humility in the total submission of His will to the Father, and therefore we receive what we ask, when we prayer in that same character of submissive obedience.

Adrian Rogers said it best, "If you have a problem with prayerlessness (that is, you don't pray enough), it is not prayerlessness that is your problem. Pride is your problem." Have we learned to do life without God? Have we learned to write, preach, teach, sing, serve, record albums, train, etc. without the overwhelming presence and essence of Jesus consuming our entire lives?

If you want to know the answer to the questions above examine your life of prayer. Do you find yourself spending unhurried time with the Lord, basking in His presence? I'm not talking about pontificating or levitating in a room somewhere with your legs in the Criss Cross Applesauce or lotus position waiting for God to blow out the windows. Rather, I am talking about the supernaturally natural communion that is VITAL to the Christian's spiritual heartbeat. I'm talking about the openness that see God's agenda in the midst of the phone calls, sticky notes, and daily planner. If not, I can guarantee that you are living by something other than faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary. His death gives us access into God's presence. And there we find rest for our weary souls.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Process - Romans 13:10

Many times, the Word says Jesus worked "as He went" (Matthew 9:9; 26:21). This reminds me that the process is just as important as the end result. Today, you may be in the middle of great pain or great promise, great conflict or great celebration, great rivalry or great revelation. Enjoy the process of learning to walk by faith and not sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). As you walk, the only answer for questions about your walk may be "Jesus, and that's my final answer!!" Example. Why do you want to leave your job? Jesus! Why are you so excited? Jesus! Why do you spend money with so much purpose knowing where every cent goes? Jesus! How is it that you long for a future reality that you have never seen? Jesus! Where will the money come from? Jesus!! Why are your eating habits so healthy? Jesus!

Think about this. Whatever concerns you is something God can totally take care of without you. God can pay your bills without you. He can go to work without you and do a much better job. God can take care of your pet without you. He can care for your friends and family, AND He can take care of the church without you. He can command soldiers and bring them to faith WITHOUT you. But there is one thing God CANNOT do without you and that is have a relationship with you. Without [put your name in this blank], God CANNOT have a relationship with [put your name in this blank]. That process of relationship is top priority. Have you ever stopped to think of the vastness of the universe, in relation to the brevity of our lives? God is the Author of the Universe, and out of all the things and beings He could've chosen to show the greatest extent of His love, He chose humans. The LORD loves you. He is not in Heaven saying, "Gee, I hope this puny human never figures out that I really want him/her to know Me or that I want to bless her/him with the abundance of my Being." Our LORD desires so desperately to give us the Kingdom [His reign and rule by way of relationship] (Luke 12:29-31). How fresh is your relationship? Do you have a crush on Jesus? He definitely has a crush on you. Why? Because He made you and me for Himself (Proverbs 16:4; Colossians 1:16-17; Revelation 4:11).

This week can be really good or really bad. Remember, the ultimate purpose of our lives is to know and love God as much as He loves and knows us. Live in that purpose knowing that NOTHING you do is haphazard. Every phone call you make, trip to the supermarket or bank, meal, and/or meeting is for the purpose of getting to know the LORD as you walk with Christ. Spend time in His presence. Therefore, as you study, take exams or give exams, pay bills, go to work, sit in your office, plan activities, etc., please remember that your focus determines your perception of reality. What is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity? The difference is focus, attitude, and outlook. Who are you trusting to get you through this week? Where is your heart focused? Do you love Jesus more today than yesterday? Is your relationship fresh? What metaphor would you use to describe your relationship with Jesus?

“Four steps to achievement: Plan purposefully. Prepare prayerfully. Proceed positively. Pursue persistently.”
– William A. Ward

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

More Potty Training - HEBREWS 12:1-2

You may remember from a previous blog that my son is potty training. You might also remember that I said he loves having fun, playing games, and enjoys his toys. He’ll play by himself in his room for hours on end. He doesn’t like to stop for anything. We introduced this whole “going on the big boy potty” concept, and his world is upside down. Got that fresh in your mind.

Okay, so, yesterday, I walked into the house after work and heard, "I gotta go potty, Mommy." I heard those memorable dancing footsteps of a boy who waited waaay too long. Then I heard, "Uh oh, Mommy." I knew that an "accident" had occurred. I ran to the bathroom and there was my son with a small trail of something behind him. I proceeded to give my son that prophetic exhortation of being focused and aware of when he needed to go potty to keep from having "accidents." His 2 year old response was, "It's okay, Dadda, it was just an accident."

To be honest, it didn't hit me until about 2:00 AM as I wrestled in my bed, having some unrest in my heart, that the "accident" had become and "incident." My son is too young to recognize the severity of learning to potty train now because perhaps in his mind it is "okay." After all, it's just an accident.

If you are like me you have heard the statement, "I fell into sin," or "I slipped into sin." The reality for many of us is that we hardly ever recognize that James says that sin is the part of the equation right before death. Long before that, we are led astray and enticed. You see, Simeon loved playing with his sister and his toys so much that he neglected to let go of the waste in his system. For those who would say, "He's two, it's only water." Hey, Hebrews 12 talks about the sin "and the weights that so easily set us back." And think, for the next 30 minutes, he couldn't play with his toys, because we needed to clean the carpet, rinse him off, and give that prophetic exhortation. Even Jada's world was cracked up by his "accident" because she couldn't play in his room at that time either. But that didn't stop either of them from crying. It was like they were begging to go into the room. I mean, who cares that urine is soaking the carpet or that it is on toys that often end up in my 15 month old daughters hands and (if you know that age of children) mouth. If you think THAT'S nasty, keep reading.

I stressed the importance to Simeon of staying focused and aware, being vigilant and alert, and it didn't hit me until 2:00 a.m. that the exhortation was to me as well. I can get so distracted with family, work, sports, relaxation, teaching, writing, fundraising, etc. that I neglect to check my own heart. I get led astray and enticed, and before I know it, I am spiritually having an "accident." Yet, sometimes we say, "Well, it's okay. Nobody is perfect." It's like we're immaturely begging God to let us go play in the room where the stinch of our sin saturates certain relationships and memories. And some of those toys that are poisonous spiritual urine end up in our immature hands and mouths. And that "accident" becomes an "incident."

Oh that we would live each day as mature believers, getting the waste out as soon as we feel it coming, being proactive and vigilant, aware and focused.  How can we do that? The writer of Hebrews answers that question so eloquently, by "...looking to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith..." Where are your spiritual eyes today? Is God's only way to get you to look up by knocking you flat on your back? Just remember, you can't be focused on Jesus and on the world at the same time.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

Monday, March 8, 2010


A little boy was running around the house, and his mom told him to sit down for breakfast. He did so, and upon sitting he screamed, "What about my treat?" "What treat? Where did you get that idea?" his mother asked. "From you," he said. "When I do good you give me something." His father chuckled and said, "You have the wrong idea about mom." With a very loving, patient, and instructive look, the mother said, "He's right. Can't you just be good, for nothing, like your father? He does not ask for a treat."

Isn't that the idea we have about God sometimes? We think He only acts in reaction to us. Do you know the story of Job? Job was a god-fearing, upright, and innocent man. Everybody knew it, for even God testified to Job's excellence (Job 1:8). In one week Job lost everything; everything, except faith. Faith IS NOT the ability or capacity to change things into the way we want them. Rather faith is the courage to face things as they are. We have this concept of God that MUST change, for faith IS NOT just receiving from God the things we want, but accepting from God the things He gives. Through Job's trials, he learned that God was ALL he had, ALL he needed, and at the end, ALL he wanted (Job 42:1-5). The striking conclusions we arrive at when suffering, seemingly for no reason, are: 1) God is NOT who we think He is. 2) Faith/Trust/Confidence coupled with communication is key to ANY relationship. 3) We find out the TRUE nature of LOVE.

Why did Job serve God? Was it because of the blessings? No. Health and wealth? Doubt it. Prosperity? Not likely. Rewards? Uh-uh. Understanding? Definitely not. Job served God for nothing. He loved God for God, not because of what God could do. That's what you and I want. Isn’t it? We want someone to love us for free, without strings attached, for nothing. God wants that too (John 4:23-24). When you encounter the fiery trial of suffering and evil, you see what kind of faith you have. Will you be faithful to God right now, even though it may seem like He is not faithful to you? Are you helplessly in love with Jesus? I've learned that love is that passionate commitment that's left after ALL has been stripped away or given away (Job 1:20-23). If we love the Lord, we will keep His commands (John 14:15). If we center our lives on keeping His commandments rather than love, we will never come to know the delight in the duty.

Each day, each of us can express the depth of Christ's love to the world and to our Father. Christ's love requires unconditional obedience to the Lord and unconditional openness to the Lost, for Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners because of His great love (Matthew 20:28; Luke 19:10; John 3:16-17; Ephesians 2:1-10; I Timothy 1:15). 

“Only when we give joyfully, without hesitation or thought of gain, can we truly know what love means.”
- Leo Buscaglia -

Friday, March 5, 2010

Potty Training - Phillipians 3:7-14

As many of you know, there comes a time to take off the diaper and begin what has been conveniently called “Potty Training.” I always wondered why the word “training” was a part of that phrase. I never thought days (weeks) would go into teaching and practicing pulling up a pair of underwear. But now, I understand the “training” part of that phrase in a way that I personally never thought I would. The good news is it’s my two-year-old son training, not me. Or is it?

My oldest son is A LOT like me. He loves having fun, playing games, and enjoying his toys. He’ll play by himself in his room for hours on end. He doesn’t like to stop for anything. Well, since we have introduced this whole “going on the big boy potty” concept, his world has been drastically affected.

So there we were playing just 4 days ago, my son was having the time of his life, when all of a sudden he looked at me with the face of immanent concern, and I knew he needed to potty. He was so distracted playing that he either neglected to tell me or didn’t even recognize his need to relieve himself. Either way, when he finally said something, we were 3 seconds from what has been so gently called an “accident,” as if wetting yourself is like breaking an expensive glass vase at a neighbor’s house while throwing a football or wrecking your car in a snow storm on your way to Wal-Mart to get more butter on a night when the authorities have advised everyone to stay home. Like a complete moron, I asked my son, “Do you need to go potty?” He crossed his legs and began to shuffle to the bathroom, which answered my question. Urgently I ran behind him, helping him pull down his pants and get on the potty. About half a second after I sat him down he began using the restroom and I began my prophetic delivery of “training,” exclaiming with urgency, “Son, when you have to pee, you need to get to the potty as quickly as you can. We are trying to teach you to go on the big boy potty, so you don’t grow up peeing on yourself everywhere you go. Do you understand?”

In an instant, it hit me, as I realized, we are NOT training him to potty just to keep him from wetting himself later in life. Rather, this is a vital step to maturity. I think we would all agree that if a person still wets him or herself after a certain age/time, there is an issue with that person’s maturity level. In the same way, God’s sanctification process in our life is a vital step to maturity. God does not require us to let go of certain relationships, habits, jobs, friends, churches, doctrines, actions, feelings, thoughts, etc. just to keep us from sin or waste. He does it so that we might grow into the fullness of who HE has made us to be. It’s about maturity. It’s about knowing Jesus more deeply. Paul understood that fact as he wrote to the Philippian Church.

As we continue to mature, we must constantly ask if there are areas of our lives where we have not learned the basic principle of potty training, that is, counting all things but “dung,” that we might gain understanding of who Christ truly is. In what way are we living completely distracted by the things of this world, so much so that we either fail to recognize or we outright neglect our need to communicate our areas of weakness to the Father?