Monday, March 11, 2019

Daily Personal Prayer

Mark 1:35 is used often to support personal prayer time that is intentional, void of distractions, and interruptions. It tells of Jesus spending “alone time” with God. It says, “Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up and slipped out to a solitary place to pray.”
We need our own prayer time. We need our “alone time” where it is just “me and God” and nothing else. I am more convinced, than ever before, that there’s no way any of us can reach our full spiritual potential as Christian men and women without developing an intentional, strong, deep life of daily personal prayer.
True love demands union. True union with God comes only through the life of prayer. I honestly believe God is not going to fully satisfy your spiritual needs, and you are not going to be entirely pleasing to Him, unless you make the time and the effort to have a strong, deep life of daily personal prayer.
Your relationship with God depends entirely on how much and how well you are willing to pray. When you hear the name of great “saints” such as A.W. Tozer, Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, and Billy Graham, we must realize “the saints became saints” because they understood the incomparable power of prayer!
They knew that prayer has the power to change our lives and the lives of others — and they proved it with their lives. So, ponder this: Am I truly convinced that there is power in my prayers? Or am I just praying out of a sense of duty? Have I just considered prayer as a one-sided conversation where I only “ask God for stuff?” 
Have I ever thought of prayer as an intimate conversation and do I honestly expect God to “show up” to meet with me? Psalm 145:18, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Jeremiah 29:12, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”
Will you take a moment to reevaluate your prayer life? Is it becoming routine? Do you find yourself doing more “asking” than “seeking and listening?” Do you keep a prayer list or perhaps a journal?
Whatever your method, seek to do it more….to include more….to remember others and your Church, more. Sacrifice more time and seek the face of God in prayer. And, if necessary, like Jesus, get up early, while it is still dark, to find that solitary place.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Season of Lent

Romans 5:8 “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” It is truly amazing to know that God didn’t first put us on a 30-day trial period to see if we could “handle being a Christian” before he would save us.

In fact, he sent his Son, Jesus, to us with the risk knowing there was a good chance that he would be rejected and not one, single person would accept his offer of salvation. It was quite a sacrifice. It is what we focus on during the season of LENT.

LENT comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “Spring.” What happens in Spring? Well, for one, we “Minnesotans” are at least hoping the Winter snow melts away. But, most importantly, the earth comes back to life! Grass becomes green, trees bud and the leaves return, and flowers grow and bloom.

That is what Lent is about…about making sure we are spiritually and mentally prepared (ready) for the “coming back to life” of Jesus after he died on the cross! It is making sure we have made a conscious decision to acknowledge our sinfulness, to repent, reconcile our hearts with Jesus to be our Lord and Savior.

Lent is a 40 day period that starts on Ash Wednesday (March 6, 2019) and ends on the Saturday before Easter Sunday (April 20, 2019). We use this time to focus on the condition of our soul and the current depth of our relationship with God. We, like Spring, want our spiritual lives to “come back to life” now and after we die. So, we use the time of Lent to focus on our mortality and our sinfulness with special attention placed on self-denial, penance and prayer.

We use the time to learn about all the things Jesus went through…all the things he taught us…all the things he suffered so that, if we want to, we can be “born again” and begin to come alive spiritually with Jesus, and to anticipate living in his presence forever in heaven. Christ in us and the Holy Spirit empowering us, we can begin to live victorious lives each and every day as people of God.

If you are not sure where to start, I suggest getting the New Testament book of John, and begin making your way through chapters 11-19 to hear about the Lord’s passion and death…this will give us a better understanding and greater reason to celebrate and be joyful on Easter Sunday when we hear about how Jesus rose from the dead, defeated death, walked away from the grave and now lives again….forever!

So, for the time that remains in Lent, let us think about Jesus and all that he went through and offered up for us in order to die on the cross for us. Let us be mindful that we will not live forever in our human earthly bodies…but because of Jesus, just like the grass, trees, and flowers in Spring time…after we die, we’ll “come back to life” in Heaven with Jesus where we’ll live forever and never, ever die. That is very good news!

Monday, February 25, 2019

How is Your Faith?

Sometimes the Lord does things in our lives whether or not we have faith. That scares me, at times, to think that my lack of faith (or effort) could cause God to “go on ahead without me” and accomplish a task or mission despite me. That God loves me so much that despite my response, He will still take care of me and have my best interest in mind.
Having faith is extremely important in the life of a Believer. Jesus emphasized that time and time again to us in Scripture. For example, Jesus told the father of a demon-possessed son: "Everything is possible for anyone who has faith" (Mark 9:23). The father realized that Jesus was calling him to exercise a deep, trusting faith. So he exclaimed: "I do have faith! Help the little faith I have!" (Mark 9:24)
In that situation, Jesus called not only the father to faith but also Jesus' disciples and the large crowd with them. Jesus said:  "What an unbelieving lot you are! How long must I remain with you? How long can I endure you?" (Mark 9:19)
Jesus felt frustrated with those who did not have or exercise faith. Jesus promised: "I assure you, if you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you would be able to say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible for you" (Matthew 17:20).
We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). "Without faith, it is impossible to please" God (Hebrews 11:6). But Jesus questioned: "When the Son of Man comes, will He find any faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8)
Let us cry out to God: "I do believe! Help my lack of faith!" (Mark 9:24) Don’t doubt. Don’t despair. Why focus on your circumstances and allow them to shake your faith as if God is somehow making sport of your situation for the sheer pleasure of making life miserable for you?
We know God better than that! His love for us is unconditional and he has promised to “never leave us or forsake us.” (Hebrews 13:5) Put your focus squarely on God. Trust. Have faith.

Monday, February 18, 2019

The "Zacchaeus Principle"

One of the many beloved “Sunday School” lessons involves the “wee little man” named Zacchaeus. In Luke 19:1-10, we read the story that he wanted to see Jesus. He climbed up in a sycamore tree to see over the heads of the crowd due to his small stature. Despite the immense crowd, Jesus singles him out, approaches the tree, and engages Zacchaeus in conversation.
The dialogue was convincing as we see Jesus helping Zacchaeus to come down out of the tree. As the story ends, Jesus walks with Zacchaeus to his home. Once there, more fellowship, discussion and a meal is shared.
Most importantly, in verses 8 and 9, we hear the impact of Jesus in his life. Zacchaeus has a change of heart. He amends for his past and presents a course of action in which to prove the sincerity of his confession and repentance. Jesus affirms that change by saying “Today salvation has come to this house….”
Interesting, to me, is what Jesus said next in verse 10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Jesus did not say we are to “judge” the lost, “criticize” the lost or shame the lost into a confession or try to manipulate Scripture in order to “scare them out of hell.”
There is nothing “militant” in the Bible that authorizes us with “attacking” a non-believer in hopes to corner them and then interrogate them into making a confession of being a sinner in need of repenting and “asking Jesus into their heart.”
My “Zacchaeus Principle” is just the opposite. It is FIRST getting “Zacchaeus” (unbelievers) to want to come “down, out of the tree.” We get them “down, out of the tree” by approaching them in friendship, compassion, and willingness to associate with them and engage them in conversation.
 It’s taking them to dinner or having them over for dinner. It is taking interest and showing interest in who they are and where they are in life. Showing genuine compassion for one’s neighbor, meeting felt-needs, and showing a consistent pattern of behavior to gain trust.
By engaging Zacchaeus with genuine love, concern, and attention, Jesus was able to “reach” down into the heart and soul of Zacchaeus. Having an encounter with Jesus will change your life.
We are to do the same. Lead others to Christ by engaging them and becoming involved in their life with genuine care and concern. Building trust and showering them with the attributes of Jesus will lead them to Christ.
Don’t be in a hurry. The Bible doesn’t say we must “win them” on the first encounter. We are not called to win debates or arguments either. Bombarding them with Bible verses and trying to convict them with shame will usually never work. Be like Jesus and engage with the unsaved using the “Zacchaeus Principle” to help them down out of the tree!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

What is That to You?

Sometimes, if we’ll be honest, things in our lives become challenging if we do not receive recognition, affirmation or guidance from others. Humanly speaking, it can be challenging to “keep on, keeping on” day in and day out….month after month….year after year without any indication that we are “being successful” or “making a difference” of some kind. It can even be hurtful if “nobody seems to notice.”

What makes this even more hard to swallow is when other people (doing almost the same things as we are) are getting immediate recognition….accolades….noticed…singled out for an award or “featured” in the newspaper, newsletter of website.

I can understand how this could come across as “unfair” and even discouraging when we compare ourselves to the results that others are getting. It can be crippling to become bitter and resentful. It can be damaging to get to the point of feeling like we need to just give up or quit (or even leave the Church) because we aren’t getting the recognition we feel we deserve. Well….Peter was no different. I think he struggled, too!

I wonder if he struggled with jealousy, inadequacy and other “feelings” when comparing what he was doing against that of the other 11 Disciples. There is one instance, in particular, that I am thinking about. It involves the “beloved” Disciple, John.

I wonder what he honestly thought about John since the Bible indicates John was, for a lack of a better term, "the favorite" (beloved). I think Peter’s “worry” finally became too much to bear because he literally “blurts it out”….and, of all people, it is to Jesus.

In John 21:20-23, Peter, walking with Jesus, turns around and sees John following close behind. Peter, obviously becomes upset and concerned, and asks Jesus, "what about him?" Did he expect Jesus to be fair? Perhaps, to not show favoritism?

I have to admit, there is a fear in feeling insignificant towards the natural abilities of others. It is unnerving to feel "outclassed" as well as a day-late and a dollar-short with what I am capable of offering in comparison to what others get recognized for.

Jesus sternly warned Peter (in regards to worrying about John), "What is that to you?" The one thing Jesus was most concerned about for Peter was simple: "Follow me!" In other words, Peter needed to worry about Peter….and no one else. Peter needed to focus on what Peter was supposed to do….not John; or anyone else.

I need to focus more on advancing my relationship with God who is the source of blessing the fruitfulness of my efforts. I need to promote a better focus on my ministry with my Lord who is the One responsible for “reaping the harvest” of what I “plant and sew.” I need to be focusing on my abilities, gifts and talents and where I can most use them for God’s glory.

In regards to my colleagues, neighbors, family and is not a competition. In Christ we are all on the same team. We’re not each other’s enemy or competition. God has designed their steps for a different pace and their abilities for a different approach towards ministry.

In that, as with Peter, I stop wasting so much time worrying about what others are doing. Galatians 6:4, "Let everyone be sure that he is doing his very best, for then he will have the personal satisfaction of work well done and won't need to compare himself with someone else." So, let us just worry about ourselves and be the best we can be…for the cause of Christ.


Monday, February 4, 2019

What Will Make You Quit?

One of my favorite quotes from Rev. Jerry Falwell is this: "You don't determine a man's greatness by his talents or wealth like the world does, but by what it takes to discourage him." 

I pose this question: What does it take to make you throw in the towel and quit? Are you easily swayed by intimidation? Do you quickly retreat at the first sign of opposition? Are you soundly defeated when it appears you're outnumbered by the opposition? Do you quickly become silent and refuse to speak up when it becomes evident you are the minority amongst a vocal majority?

It has always been said that "The greatest way for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing." It is time for us, as Christians, to guard ourselves against cowering in fear and allowing the godless to run all over us. Of course we don't literally "fight back" or become rude, obnoxious, and hateful in actions or words. We always maintain our composure, our testimony, our godly example.

We must understand that fear is but the ammunition of the terrorist, the chord in which evil uses to choke our message and the noise Satan uses to drown out the truth. When you are tempted to succumb to the fear of threats, opposition, and intimidation of others, remember it is not your battle to fight! As 2 Chronicles 20:15 says, "This is what the Lord says to you, 'do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's.'" 

Give God room (and time) to deal with those who cause trouble in your life. As God commanded Joshua following the death of Moses in Joshua 1:9, "This is my command -- be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." 

We can stand our ground and make our point and even state our position, but we must do so with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). We must stay grounded in the truth, know our Scriptures, and stay close to Jesus in a loving, personal and intimate relationship. And, as we do so, don't ever quit...never!! Now, take your towel, fold it, and put it back in the linen closet where it belongs!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Approach to Evangelism

I believe one of the greatest fears amongst Christians is the one thing we are called to do most often: evangelize! I think the reason most Christians find it so hard is that they have this idea that to evangelize “properly” you must "bombard them with everything" all at once to “win them to Christ” on the first encounter.
Evangelism, instead, is not an “all at once” cold-sell approach, but a process of allowing God to work over a period of time through your personality, talents and faithfulness to draw someone into His kingdom.
It is through our constant actions and attitudes that God builds the bridges that allow us to share the Gospel when the opportunity presents itself. It cannot be forced. It must be allowed to come in its proper time and place. The time will come and we must be ready.
The saying is true: “People will not listen until they have first been heard and people will not care unless they first see that you sincerely care about them.” Because evangelism is a process, we must understand that it may take weeks, months, or years to see someone give their life to Christ.
1 Peter 3:15 tells us to “give the reason for the hope that you have, but do this with gentleness and respect.” The word “gentleness” describes the characteristic of the Christian that trusts God to do the work of changing a person’s attitude toward the Gospel. We aren’t called to win arguments and debates as if God needs us to defend him. That’s not what “winning” someone for Christ means.
Whether our efforts are accepted or met with hostility, we must always be polite and respectful when communicating the good news of Jesus Christ. Our words and body-language must exemplify a sensitive and loving spirit so that others will be receptive to listening to all we have to say. Let your love and honest concern shine through....this will peak their curiosity and set the opportunity for you to share your faith. Keep evangelizing

Daily Personal Prayer

Mark 1:35 is used often to support personal prayer time that is intentional, void of distractions, and interruptions. It tells of Jesus ...