Getting Cranked Up: Morning Prayer

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“In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” – (Psalm 5:3 NIV)

I get up early in the morning five days a week for work. And, honestly, my first thought is often more about coffee than God! But, I do grab my Bible and journals as I make my way to my first cup. I have to be at work early so I have very little time to waste.

As I was reflecting on morning prayer recently – I came to this conclusion; that my experience in morning prayer is much like trying to crank up an old car. Sometimes I feel like just when I’m getting ‘cranked up’ – its time to leave and go to work. Other times, I enter into prayer easily and quickly. But, the key to prayer is; consistency, and endurance, even when we feel nothing.

The men and women of God in the past and the present that I admire most, are people who value prayer. Effective prayer warriors have this in common; their prayers are saturated with Scriptures. Praying God-breathed words will transform our vocabulary and our thinking. And, it helps us to pray the will of God more effectively.

It’s vitally important to study the prayer life of Paul and to follow his example in prayer. He prayed for the spiritual transformation (which is on-going) of the Church. His prayers were positive and not focused on the negative. It’s understandable for us to pray against evil, because it is all around us. And Jesus (who is the chief Apostle and High Priest of our faith) taught us to pray for deliverance from evil.  The Apostle Paul taught us about the nature of our adversary and how to stand in the power of God against evil.

Below are a few prayers from the book of Ephesians that I pray for myself and others on a regular basis.

Ephesians 1

Heavenly Father, I ask for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that I may know Jesus better.

I ask that you would enlighten the eyes of ____heart. So that they may know your glorious inheritance and great power that you’ve made available to your children.

Ephesians 3

Heavenly Father, strengthen me with power through your Spirit in my inner being. Help me to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. And fill me with all the fulness of God. Amen

Praying Scripture: The Lord’s Prayer

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In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven. 
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.  – (Matthew 6:9-13 NKJ)

“Six brief, single-sentence petitions compose this prayer. Each verb is an imperative, a call for action. Prayer is not passive. Prayer is not resignation. God is active. As Jesus prays he enters the action of God. As he prays with us, he implicitly invites us into the action. As we pray with him we volunteer ourselves into the action.” (1)

The most effective way to learn how to pray is found in the Bible. Many of us struggle in our prayer lives because we’re not familiar with the language of prayer. To develop a good vocabulary for prayer, we first need to examine the prayers of Jesus.

Historically, the Christian Church has prayed the Psalms, the prayers of Jesus, and of his Apostles. Scripture provides fuel for the fire we need in our inner being, and it’s effective in both corporate and personal prayer times.

Jesus is our High priest and gives us his model prayer as an example of how to pray in God’s will. When we pray what some call “the Lord’s Prayer,” there is a sense in which we are praying with him.

It’s one of the few biblical prayers that most people in the history of the Christian Church, and today, know by heart. But often we take this powerful prayer that Jesus taught his disciples for granted. We’ve become so over-familiar with it, that we often repeat it without comprehending its’ power.

We need the revelatory work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts to reveal to us the power that is released as we pray, “The Lord’s Prayer.” Through this prayer, Jesus is inviting us into action, as we ask for God to be glorified and the advancement of his Kingdom.

This is also a prayer for our daily needs to be met, the forgiveness of sins, and protection from evil.

So, we need to pray it every day.

(1) Eugene H. Peterson. Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers (Kindle Locations 1903-1905). Kindle Edition.

Practicing Ressurection: Eugene Peterson

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“Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Eugene Peterson’s Five “Conversations” in Spiritual Theology)” by Eugene H. Peterson –

“Following Jesus’ resurrection, his followers had forty days to be present with him and listen to his voice, listen to him “speaking about the kingdom of God.” They needed every single day they had with him in order to thoroughly assimilate the here-and-now, flesh-and-blood, body-and-soul, on-the-ground details and implications of resurrection, not only for Jesus but for themselves – resurrection not only as a promise of life beyond death but as a presence now. Hallucinations can’t be maintained for forty days. Dreams don’t last forty days. Religious hysteria cannot be sustained for forty days. Those forty days grounded Jesus’ resurrection as a life to be lived on streets, in homes, with families and neighbors – a life they, his followers, will live. And not as a private “spiritual” experience, but historically in the company of all of Jesus’ followers in workplace and politics, in the carnage of war and the quietness of worship.”

Start reading this book for free: http://a.co/5QjRstz

A Prophetic Picture

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“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” – Jesus (Revelation 2:4 NASB)

‘I gave her (Jezebel) time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality.” – Jesus (Revelation 2:21 NASB)

The old Church pictured above is where the Church in America is headed if we don’t return to our first love. This is a physical picture of  a spiritual reality. A picture of the damage done by allowing spiritual apathy to invade the Church.

Without spiritual renewal the visible Church will become overrun with weeds and deteriorate beyond recognition. Many have become numb upon hearing of the fall of mega-church pastors and the sins of so many Catholic priests.

God is exposing those demonic things that have been hidden in the darkness. And He’s doing this so that we would cry out for mercy, turn from our sins, and receive forgiveness. God even gave Jezebel time to repent. (Revelation 2:21)

But the hour is late and Jesus is calling his Church to return to our first love. We are called to walk with Jesus and allow him to teach us as he opens the Word of life to us. Our hearts need to burn like the disciples who walked with Him on the Emmaus road. (Luke 24:32)

It’s time to give up on Church growth techniques that have no transformational power to change us. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and following him will restore our souls. We must simply accept the call to follow Him again.

Spiritual Barrenness

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“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”  – Isaiah 40:29 ESV

 

Some of you who may be reading this post are going through a season of spiritual barrenness. All of us feel a distance between God and ourselves from time to time. I’ve been recovering from shoulder surgery over the past four months. And, during this time I’ve been limited to what I’m able to do, physically. Also, most of my recovery time has taken place during the winter months.

The lack of physical activity in our lives often causes depression. The same is true when we don’t feel like we are engaging spiritually with God. This is called spiritual depression. God gave us the four seasons in nature as a gift so that the earth can flourish. God deals with his children in much the same way.

During those times when we don’t feel God’s nearness, we often discover how much we’ve actually matured in our faith. When we find ourselves in the mist of a spiritually dry season, we need to seek God daily out of obedience. We need to remind ourselves that our spiritual journey is a marathon, not a forty-yard dash.  And we must consistently sink our roots deeper into God’s word, until we can once again discern his presence.

My Doctor prescribed exercises so that I could regain my strength, and to recover from the effects of surgery. God likewise has prescribed Biblical meditation and prayer to sustain us during seasons of spiritual barrenness. There is a sense in which God does surgery on our souls. He wants to heal our broken-ness but we must first acknowledge our need.

What seems dead and barren in the winter months will ultimately (like springtime) turn into renewed life. We must keep approaching God daily until our season of barrenness ends. While our outer bodies will eventually waste away, our inner persons’ spiritual growth is unlimited. God is calling his people to remain faithful during hard times and to not lose hope.

Spiritual Transformation And The False Self

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“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” – (Matthew 3:2 NIV)

Repentance is actually a good word, even though it seems to have taken on a negative meaning these days. It’s a gift Jesus offers to us, so that we can turn from those things that hinder our relationship with Him. To have a vibrant and meaningful relationship with God requires us to be honest about our failures. To know God rightly, we must know our own weaknesses and limitations. It’s up to each one of us to make a practice of inviting the Holy Spirit to search our hearts.

Many times when we pray we offer our ‘false selves’ to God. But, He’s never fooled by these vain attempts to cover-up who we really are. It’s our natural tendency to avoid the searchlight of the Holy Spirit from exposing our hearts.

God loves the real you, but he can’t transform your false self. Just like Adam and Eve in the garden, we tend to hide from God when we sin. Real inner transformation of the heart begins only after we stop hiding from Him.

Much of what we call Christian values can be carried out in our own strength. Those acts of outward righteousness can merely be learned behavior. But the inner transformation of the heart is a supernatural act of God. This necessitates a complete turning to and dependence upon the Holy Spirit. Kyle Strobel sums this reality up well:

“Only in the grace of God can we open the depths of our depravity before him. Unfortunately, many people try to live in the grace of God and project a false self to him (Ps 32:3-4). Many try to know God without allowing that knowledge to penetrate to the depths of their hearts. Rather, our call is to have a healthy self-awareness so we can hold open our failures to God: how we praise him with our mouths only, pray to him out of guilt and use relationships to build ourselves up rather than glorify Christ. Without the self-awareness to unveil how much of our Christian practice is built on our flesh, we inevitably fail to recognize how our “virtues” are simply vices in disguise.”

Strobel, Kyle C.. Formed for the Glory of God: Learning from the Spiritual Practices of Jonathan Edwards (p. 98). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

 

The Blood: Andrew Murray 

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“God Has No Other Way of Dealing with Sin or the Sinner Except Through the Blood For victory over sin and the deliverance of the sinner, God has provided no other means or thought than the blood of Christ. Yes, it is indeed something that surpasses all understanding.

All the wonders of grace are focused in the blood: The incarnation, by which He took upon Himself our flesh and blood (John 1:14)

The love that spared not itself but surrendered itself to death (Romans 5:8)

The righteousness, the forgiveness by redemption through his blood (Ephesians 1:7)

The substitution, the righteous One atoned for the unrighteous (2 Corinthians 5:21)

The atonement for sin (Hebrews 2:17)

The justification made possible renewed fellowship with God (2 Corinthians 5:18)

The cleansing and sanctification to fit us for that fellowship (Ephesians 5:25-27)

The true oneness in life with the Lord Jesus, as He gives His life (John 17:11, 21) T

he eternal joy of the hymn of praise, Thou . . . hast redeemed us unto God (Revelation 5:9)

All these are but rays of the wondrous light, which are reflected upon us from the precious blood of Jesus. “

Enjoying The Trinity

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“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.” – 2 Corinthians 13:14

God doesn’t need us, but thankfully, He desires us. He has never been lonely, nor has he ever needed a relationship outside of himself. This Divine community that theologians call the Trinity experienced perfect union and fellowship, before the creation of the world. The mystery of all mysteries is that: the One true God is made up of three distinct persons. One God-three persons. For reasons I can’t comprehend, God desired to create people to enjoy him, and to take dominion over the earth.

Our union with Christ grants us access into the throne-room of God by the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ presence at the right hand of the Father guarantees that he hears our prayers. But, our communion with God serves a greater purpose than to just answer our prayers. Answered prayer is good, but experiencing God as Father is the ultimate joy.

I realize the reality that we can enjoy God is a foreign concept to our religious minds.

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is not a hard taskmaster. We get a glimpse of the Father in the life of the Son. In fact, Jesus said that his yoke was easy and that his burden was light (Matt. 11:30.) And, that if you’ve seen Him you have seen the Father(John 14:9.)

The Father sent Jesus to earth to reveal his heart to those who would become his children. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit so that we could be filled and indwelt with the very life of God. May we all learn to enjoy the mystery of our Trinitarian God. As we look forward to the redemption of our bodies (Rom.8:23.)

“But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (I Cor. 2:9)

Divine Reality

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…that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – (Ephesians 3-16-19 ESV)

 

The love of Christ surpasses our understanding. This kind of spiritual comprehension is revelatory in nature. It supernaturally touches both our mind and emotions. God’s love fills us with unspeakable joy.

Recently, I was pondering on the possibility that many Christians today are avoiding God. And, that we often seek to hide from Him behind our religious activities. I was reflecting on the endless Bible studies and sermons that speak to our intellect, more than to our hearts. All of these activities are important, but the goal of spiritual knowledge is to come to know God more intimately.

The Scripture was meant to teach us sound Biblical doctrine, and to renew our minds. But, it takes the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to bring about spiritual transformation in our lives.

God has given us the Holy Spirit, but it’s our responsibility to learn to fellowship with Him.

I see two major drifts in certain spiritual movements, that trouble me. One group focuses on a demonstration of the power of God. And that’s a good thing, as long we allow the Holy Spirit to deal with our character flaws. Also, a more intellectual movement that seeks to study Biblical theology, at the expense of God’s presence. Obviously, there are exceptions in the body of Christ to both of these groups.

It’s not sufficient to know what the Apostle Paul knew, without experiencing God as he did. Our study of Biblical doctrine will only come alive as we seek to experience God for ourselves. I thought the quote below by A.W. Tozer concerning Paul summed up my point well. It speaks of those who study truth but neglect to seek God’s presence.

“For them, the truth becomes a veil to hide the face of God; for Paul, it was a door into His very Presence. Paul’s spirit was that of the loving explorer. He was a prospector among the hills of God searching for the gold of personal spiritual acquaintance. Many today stand by Paul’s doctrine who will not follow him in his passionate yearning for divine reality. Can these be said to be Pauline in any but the most nominal sense?”

Tozer, A. W.. Keys to the Deeper Life. Pioneer Library. Kindle Edition.

Social Justice And The Gospel

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The Scripture

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. – (1 John 5:19 ESV)

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free..” – Luke 4:18 NIV

“I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” – (Luke 5:32 NLT)

The Issue

The whole world lies under the power of the evil one. That’s why Jesus came; to set spiritual captives free. The perfect life, atoning death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ makes all of this good news. In fact, its great news when we consider that all of us, except for Jesus, are broken and sinful people. No one has ever been able to deliver themselves from sin – we all need a Savior for that. We are not capable of doing enough good works in our own strength to earn our own salvation. Being born into this world without sin makes Jesus uniquely qualified to reconcile us to God.

This good news, that seems to be too good to be true, comes with a catch. Or better yet a commitment. This commitment starts on God’s end. By His divine power, he enables us to grow in godly character. He is committed to us. But, regardless of what some may say – Jesus requires total commitment to his Lordship to inherit his Kingdom. I’m not talking about works-based righteousness, actually, its grace empowered living. He clearly taught that those that lose their self-absorbed lives, will find true life in Him. In other words; you can’t receive his forgiveness, without acknowledging his Lordship. This is real and radical Gospel-centered Christianity.

As subjects of the Kingdom of God, we must take on his worldview – all of it. We are all terribly flawed people, but God is patient with us. Jesus is not asking for perfection from us, just a desire and willingness on our part to obey him.

I contend that both liberal and conservative politicians use the name of Jesus to manipulate sincere people to advance their political agendas. It’s imperative that we ask the Holy Spirit for discernment to know when we are being used for political purposes.

In the Bible, we see the social justice side of Jesus that demands justice for the poor and the oppressed. And the fact is; if you don’t see this side of God in the Scripture, you have been blinded by a materialistic and distorted view of God’s Kingdom.

On the other hand; if you champion the cause of social justice for the oppressed and overlook what the Bible teaches about sexuality and the taking of innocent life,(through abortion or any other unjust killing) you are living in deception also.

The fact is; taking up our crosses and following Jesus on the narrow road of life, involves suffering and self-denial.  Jesus bought us with the price of his own life. So, we don’t have the right to live sexually immoral lives anymore. Nor do we have the right to ignore the plight of those in poverty.

God is gracious to forgive us when we ask him, as long as we don’t justify the kind of behavior he forbids. We are now a new creation in Christ and are called to do good works. Which means we seek to alleviate the pain of humanity in the power of the Holy Spirit and live holy lives as we work in his name.

Prayer

Father, help us to be who we say we are – real Christians. In Jesus name, Amen.