Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Prayer God Will Always Say Yes To (third in a series of ten)

I’ve been talking about prayers God will answer all the time, because they are things He’s said He desires to give to us, and desires to do for us. If we search for Him with the earnest desire to find Him, God will make sure we do. If we want to be His instrument of love and mercy, and to help someone, God will show us who to help.

And if you and I are feeling afraid, then we can ask the Lord for courage, because it’s something He very much desires for us to have. Over thirty times in scripture, God says to have courage, to take courage, to be strong and courageous.

When you say to God, “Please give me courage,” you’ll find that one of the first things God will likely do is give you the nudge you need to start moving, to apply what He’s given you to do in His word, and through prayer, to follow the wisdom He’s shared with you.

Often times fear gets us to stop moving, and once you and I are standing still it’s pretty hard to get going again, we convince ourselves it’s too hard, it’s too scary, it won’t work, it’ll turn out bad. That’s physical, or emotional, or spiritual inertia. But the wonderful thing about God’s little nudge, is that once you and I get moving, even if it’s the tiniest little step, the next step is a little easier, and the next one a little more easy. That’s momentum!

And that’s just the start. Once God gives you courage, it doesn’t just end there. Your courage can grow every time you face what you fear, trust God, and do what’s rght, according to His word. Like all virtues, courage is a muscle that increases in strength every time you exercise it.

It takes time to overcome fear, There are bound to be setbacks, bound to be disappointments and so on. But every time you are willing to pray for courage, and use what God gives you, you will discover a bonus gift – perseverance. The apostle Paul said that God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. That’s because when we’re weak, we’re in a perfect position to receive abundant grace from God.

So if you’re feeling very afraid about something this morning, you are in a wonderful place to discover just how much God has for you, if you ask Him with the determination to put into practice what He gives you.


These thoughts on prayer are taken from the Catholic author Anthony DeStefano's delightful book, "Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To: Divine Answers To Life's Most Difficult Problems."

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Prayer God Will Always Say Yes To (second in a series of ten)

What prayer do you think God might answer the fastest, a prayer that is so effective you can get your answer sometimes even within the hour? In fact, handle this prayer with care, God answers it with such speed, consistency and reliability.

“God, please use me to help someone in need.” “God, please make me an instrument to carry out some important mission of mercy for you.”

Be ready. This person may be someone you know, a friend or neighbor or family member. Or they may be someone you don’t particularly like, or who doesn’t think too much of you. You may not know this person, but God will make you aware of your need, and His intention that you should help.

This has been God’s intention all along for His people – believers are described as being members of one body, with the Lord Jesus Christ as the head. God intends to take care of us through each other, and to bring love and mercy to the rest of the world through us. That’s what it means to be God’s hands and feet – we are ready and actively looking for people to go to and things to do for them.

When you and I pray this prayer we are really following the pattern that God Himself uses all the time. We’re modeling ourselves after God. God calls us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves – meaning to take care of each other as well as we take care of ourselves. Jesus said the world would recognize us by the way we love each other. “God, please use me to help someone in need.”

At the heart of love is self-giving, doing for others, finding joy in expressing God’s giving as He gives to me. This prayer ties into the essence of Who God is, God is love. We are really asking God to come into our lives and act through us. When you and I are serious about that, sincerely asking God to make us an instrument of His love and mercy to someone else, then the act of praying will become the act of loving your neighbor.

When you and I help someone we reduce the amount of suffering in the world, we become part of the process of God working things together for good.

Now you might be thinking “I need someone to pray that for me! I’m the one who needs help!” But here’s a really wonderful truth. Whoever loses her life for Jesus sake will gain it. No matter how many problems you and I have, there will always be opportunities for us to help someone else in some way, and we will discover there is real joy in that. When you get into this, you will discover that your problems will seem a little smaller, because you were God’s instrument of love and mercy, and lessened the suffering in someone’s life.

And you will also discover another aspect of the truth that what you sow you will also reap. If you sow to the Spirit, in love and mercy, and a willingness to serve, looking for ways to help others, that will also be your harvest in life.


These thoughts on prayer are taken from the Catholic author Anthony DeStefano's delightful book, "Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To: Divine Answers To Life's Most Difficult Problems."

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Prayers God always Says Yes To

If you were to read through the apostle Paul's letters you would see him stopping at regular intervals to pray, to praise God and worship Him, and sometimes just to shout “Alleluia, Amen!”

Philip Yancey opens his book on prayer with this quote: “When a doctoral student at Princeton asked, ‘What is there left in the world for original dissertation research?’ Albert Einstein replied, ‘Find out about prayer. Somebody must find out about prayer.’”

Yancey goes on to explain that every faith has a form of prayer, every ancient faith, and every remote tribe enjoins deity in some kind of prayer. Prayer is universal because it speaks to some basic human need. According to the Gallup poll more Americans will pray this week than will exercise, drive a car, or go to work. But as Yancey began to interview people here’s what he discovered. People consider prayer to be very important. They pray every day. But for how long? Maybe 5 minutes.

He asked, “Do you find prayer satisfying?” ...Not really. He asked, “Do you sense the presence of God when you pray?...Occasionally, not often. Many of the people the author talked with found prayer to be more of a burden than a pleasure. They found prayer to be one of the most important things in life, so they felt guilty about their failure, blaming themselves.

Sometimes it feels like God doesn’t answer prayer. Why didn’t God cure my mother’s cancer? Why doesn’t God send me some money so I can pay these bills? Why hasn’t God given me a friend when I am so lonely? Why didn’t God save my sister’s marriage? What’s going on? In the face of all our problems you and I want to know why God so often seems silent. If God exists, and He’s really listening, then why doesn’t prayer seem to work sometimes?

In my continuing study of prayer, I came across a delightful book written by the Catholic author, Anthony DeStefano, "Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To: Divine Answers To Life's Most Difficult Problems." In this series of ten posts, I will take what I think is the best of what DeStefano has to say -- what continues to bless and enrich my own time of prayer with our Lord.

Prayer does work, all the time, but sometimes you and I are not asking the right questions and we’re not looking for the answers that God is giving. Sometimes the answer is something we don’t want to hear. Sometimes God says no when we’re at our most vulnerable. Sometimes God says no to us when we’ve been on our knees, pleading with Him in tears. It seems like God says no an awful lot, doesn’t it?

Part of the reason for these refusals is that you and I might be looking at prayer in a distorted way. We’re using the consumer mentality which has a list of things we’ve decided are good and we should have. So long as we have this mentality, we’re going to be upset every time God says no to a request.

God is going to give you and me what we need, not necessarily what we want. He has our ultimate good, our eternal good, in mind, as well as His glory and His ultimate plan for all creation. Every request is weighed against His glory, and this good.

So let’s look at prayers that God will answer yes to every time, prayers that really truly work, prayers that will always be for ultimate good, for spiritual life and growth, that serve God’s purposes in your life, and His plan for the world.

These prayers will meet certain fundamental spiritual needs that you and I have, they will never conflict with God’s will for us. God will always be happy and delighted to say yes them, and once granted, our lives are going to change.

Curious what these prayers are? I’ll give you ten of them, and the first one is:

God, show me You are there.

God says that when you look for Him, and you really want to find Him, He will make sure you see Him (Jer 29:13; 33:3) Philosophers have managed to prove God exists through logic – Aristotle, Plato, Descartes, Immanuel Kant, Pascal, and many others. Some of their proofs are famous. But in the case of faith, God is not an argument, or a concept. He is a living being Who desires relationship with you. The question is, do you desire relationship with Him? If you do, for real, then pray “God, show me you are there” and see what happens next.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Thinking About The Orthos...

Spending time in the discussion going on recently on the Forum page got me to thinking about the orthos. Alan Hirsch is the one who got me started. His book ReJesus laid out three orthos, and the way he talked about them made a huge amount of sense to me. Here's what I got --

1) Orthopathy, the way of the heart: The Pharisees wanted to check Jesus out, objectify Him, line Him up against their understandings of the faith, and because of this they were judged for the hardness of heart, for holding themselves back from what God was doing in Jesus.

Without heart we cannot comprehend God. The heart can embrace what the mind cannot. In biblical Hebrew, in order to know something, one doesn’t observe it but one must come into contact with it. Closely allied with this way of knowing is the role played by passion or affection in spirituality. Passion requires participation, involvement, faith. “If passion is eliminated, faith no longer exists” (Keirkegaard).

We have to engage our heart to truly understand Jesus, but also to become like Him and to follow Him over the long haul. The emotional connection with God provides us with distinctive insights into God what cannot be gained from any other source.

2) Orthopraxy, the way of action: When we respond to God in actions done in His name, we meet Him in a new and fresh way. We are never alone when we do a holy deed because we partner with God in the redemption of the world. It is considered a sacrament, in the Hebraic faith, to act on God’s word, and by the prompting of God.

The key to this form of knowledge is obedience. “All right knowledge of God is born in obedience” (Calvin)

Caution!!!! Theoretical knowledge of spiritual truth is never commended in Scripture. The Bible always aims at responsibility and responsiveness toward God. It is part of the conditions of God’s covenant. The command to obey is not because God wants to have it over us, but because it always confers knowledge of God that cannot be gained by any other means.

Something goes seriously wrong with our capacity to integrate or even comprehend Scripture if we do not obey but just study it. Nowhere does Jesus call us to worship Him in the Gospels; what is clear is that He does demand obedience.

3) Orthodoxy, the way of belief: Right knowledge so that we have right belief is an essential element of any discipleship in the way of Jesus.

Putting it all together: It is in the nexus between orthopraxy, orthopathy and orthodoxy that a true and full appreciation of God is to be found. When one area is favored over the others...
a. Orthopraxy, we become tireless (and tired) activists, burning ourselves, and others, out while relying on our own efforts to please God

b. Orthopathy, we become impractical mystics or experience junkies, so focused on contemplation and personal spiritual experience that we become of no use in the kingdom of God

c. Orthodoxy, at our worst we are arrogant bibliophiles, no different from the Pharisees, worshiping our doctrine and our theological formulations over a genuine encounter with the Jesus revealed in scripture.

This is what the Shema aims at and what Jesus directly affirms as being at the heart of discipleship and knowledge of God. We are to love God with all our heart, mind, will and strength.

(I got the above from Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost from “ReJesus,” and Athol Dickson from “The Gospel According to Moses”)

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation

Friday, January 1, 2010

Satan/the devil and demons...and what to do about it

The apostle Paul ends Ephesians with the assurance that, in God’s mighty power, Satan’s schemes can be successfully withstood.

It is a fact that an angel named Lucifer was accompanied by a large angelic force in a rebellion against God. Isaiah 14 describes the thoughts that went on in Lucifer’s mind, “I will make myself like the Most High.” He was the most powerful, the most beautiful, of all the angels, his name meant “light-bearer,” “shining one,” “Son of the Dawn,” so he aspired to be like God. Not in God’s love or grace, not in God’s wisdom and mercy, but but by possessing all of heaven and all of earth. He wanted to rule it, he wanted to take over the universe.

God cast him out of heaven; Jesus said He saw Satan, which means “adversary,” fall like lightening from heaven. He is called the prince of darkness, the father of lies, the accuser, the beguiling serpent, a murderer. The Bible describes him as a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. He is fierce, powerful, evil and all the more dangerous because he is a spiritual being, you and I can’t see him. From the beginning Satan has been only for himself, he owns the world and receives worship from it, leading the whole world into sin and corruption, using the world to oppose God.

A third of God’s angels, now called demons, fell with him and have made this earth their dark world. Satan continues his rebellion against God, seeking in every way to usurp God’s position as king. As soon as he had successfully enticed the first man and woman to disobey God, he took ownership of the world and now receives worship from it. The Bible talks about demons with the primary purpose of possessing humans. Jesus acknowledged that the world, that people themselves, are occupied by a strong man who possesses them. Satan’s rod is death, and he leads the whole world into sin and corruption, using the world to oppose God.

Satan opposes God’s work by imitating it, and in this way minimizes the power and glory of God in people’s view.

Satan is a counterfeiter who has an imitation gospel that exalts people instead of God; a counterfeit righteousness that calls evil good, and good evil (check out Romans 1 on that), and counterfeit minsters for his counterfeit religions. In fact, Satan is one day going to produce a counterfeit Messiah who will deceive the whole world into thinking that he’s their savior, because he’s going to work miracles, and perform signs and wonders.

Paul pointed out that even though the pagan gods the idols represented didn’t actually exist, demons do exist, and they were behind all the pagan worship practices. If we are to take Paul at his word (and since it is scripture, at this point, taking him at his word would be taking God's word) then people who involved themselves then, and to this day, with false religion are really worshiping demons and are operating under demonic direction.

The New Testament describes demons as causing a physical or mental ailment such as blindness or self-torture. They have supernatural knowledge, superior strength and an ability to foretell the future. In the New Testament, they recognized Christ as the Holy One of God, and were afraid of Jesus, they had to obey His authority.

From the beginning of His ministry, Jesus was driving out demons from demon-possessed and demon-oppressed people. In Matthew 9:34 the Pharisees had begun dismissing this by saying that Jesus had been driving out demons by the permission, or power, or both of the prince of demons. Now Jesus met their accusations head on.

Both the Pharisees and Jesus acknowledged that Satan was a real person, the prince of demons whom they referred to as Beelzebub, which meant “lord of the flies” in Hebrew, and was meant as a mockery of the actual title “Prince Baal.”

It’s not enough to drive Satan out. Jesus said there must be someone who replaces him as the owner of the home, as the possessor of the person, otherwise Satan will just move right back in again, and matters will be even worse. The new owner has to be stronger than Satan. The new owner is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. Demons are real and powerful, although they can’t possess a Christian because of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Still, Christians can be harassed, tempted, accused, be oppressed by and fall under the sway of demons.

Spiritual warfare is very real, human beings are the battle ground, and a number of you are experiencing it right now. Satan is completely opposed to everything of God, and he knows his time is limited, he’s read the same book you and I read. God created hell to contain Satan and demons at the end of time, and it is Satan’s goal to take as many people with him as he can. When you and I were born again, we became sworn enemies of Satan and his hordes. He can’t control you and me, but he will do everything in his power to neutralize us. Satan is particularly interested in destroying all that belongs to Jesus. If you are doing something for Jesus, in His name, then Satan will oppose you.

Because you and I are on the front lines of God’s great rescue plan, you and I are also in the cross hairs of Satan and his demons. Watch out for spiritual opposition, disguised as bad luck, unfortunate coincidence, crazy unexpected stuff and so on.

1) He will find your soft places, where you are weak, and tempt you into sin
2) He will find your unguarded places, where you consider yourself strong, and tempt you to sin
3) He will accuse you when you do sin, convincing you that your ineffective, a hopeless case, not worth redeeming
4) He will deceive you into believing his words instead of God’s words
5) He will deceive you by speaking in voices other than his own, often using the sound of your own voice
6) He will attack you on unexpected sides
7) Satan’s attacks are just as often physical, since the spiritual and physical realms constantly intersect – sickness, calamities, fights between people who love each other, flat tires

Yet although Satan is a formidable enemy, he is not invincible, he is a created being with a creature’s attributes. He is not omnipotent, as God is. He can’t do everything; in fact he can only do what God will permit. He is not omnipresent; he can’t be everywhere, tempting everyone at once, although he roams the earth and a third of God’s angels have joined forces with him. He can only tempt one person at a time. Above all, he is not omniscient; he only knows what God lets him know. He can insert thoughts in your mind, but he can’t read your mind. If you want him to know what you’re thinking, you’ll have to say it out loud. Satan is loose, but limited, and he is a defeated foe. Jesus has already triumphed over him at the cross.

But how can you and I stand firm against an enemy like Satan, even if he is defeated? After all, he’s out on parole. The Bible says “Submit yourselves to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you.” But sometimes a person tries to resist evil without first submitting to God, and Satan pays no attention to that. Only God has the power and the authority to hold Satan back.

Our struggle is against the spiritual forces of evil, that’s why prayer is the most powerful weapon, it’s spiritual. And you and I, those who have been born again, are the only ones who can successfully withstand this powerful enemy, because we are the only ones who can put on the armor of God. You and I have to first be in prayer, and be connected closely to God through His word before we are able to withstand the temptations, doubts and fears that Satan can inspire in us.

Just as Moses prayed for God’s power to intervene, so you and I can go every time to God for His power, and He will give it. Your most potent weapon is the truth, God’s word, know it and have it in your mind. Your protection is Jesus’ life within you, His righteousness, and your radio is prayer.

What part of you has been left uncovered recently? Which piece of armor do you need to become more familiar with? Paul finishes this letter with peace, love with faith from God, and grace to all who love Jesus. Along with knowing and applying God’s word, along with fervent prayer, add encouragement to your armor – who do you need to encourage today in the Lord so they can withstand evil?

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