It’s Not Whether You Win Or Lose…

…it’s how you play the game.

These guys know how to play the game!

Thursdays With Oswald—Venting In Prayer

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Oswald ChambersVenting In Prayer 

     When you are worked up to a pitch emotionally, read some of the Psalms, and the Spirit of God will gradually teach you how to form a spiritual nous*, a mind whereby you will not only understand but will slowly and surely get to the place where you can express your spirit, you will have a totally new language. 

* To read what Chambers means by the Greek word nous, click here. 

From Biblical Psychology 

Sometimes we’re too timid in our prayers. We think we need to hold back, or not really say what’s on our mind. After all, some of the language we may use might be too offensive for God’s ears.

Have you ever read some of the Psalms? As Oswald Chambers suggests, this is a great place to form your prayer vocabulary. David really “lets loose” in some of his prayers, calling his enemies all sorts of names, and basically saying, “Go get ‘em, God!”

So you don’t want to say those kinds of things to God? Don’t you think He already knows what you’re thinking? Wouldn’t it be much more effective to “vent” in prayer—in the safe presence of your loving Heavenly Father? It’s really only after you “get it out” that the Holy Spirit can help you work it out.

Express yourself—vent in God’s presence instead of the presence of those who are troubling you—and then listen to how God’s Spirit will help you slowly and surely get a brand new perspective on your situation.

Who Is Jesus?

JesusSome call Him Savior. Some call Him a moral teacher. Some call Him a prophet. Some only call His name as a curse word. Regardless of what people call Him, Jesus is almost universally known.

Despite what people call Him, and as much as people claim to know about Jesus, there are still so many questions that swirl around—

  • Who is this Man?
  • How can someone be both God and Man at the same time?
  • Did Jesus just show up in Bethlehem, or was He around earlier?
  • Was He really perfect? Could He really live His whole life without sinning once?
  • How could He die and yet come back to life?
  • Better yet: why did He have to die at all?
  • Does it really matter whether or not He was resurrected from the dead?

As we approach this Easter season, more and more people’s thoughts will be turning toward this Man. Please join me beginning this Sunday as we consider this simple, yet profound question: Who Is Jesus? The answer to that one simple question will be life-changing!

Drifting

It’s a funny story that I love to tell, but my wife doesn’t enjoy so much (please forgive me, dearest!).

We were visiting my father-in-law in northern California and he took us sailing on a huge sailing ship. Being novice sailors, Betsy and I were excited to learn and to experience all of the thrills of hoisting sails, coming about, and the like. After we had been in the Monterey Harbor for awhile, heading out toward the Pacific Ocean, it was Betsy’s turn to pilot the ship. I was busy with all of my other sailing responsibilities, when I looked up and said, “Weren’t we headed toward the ocean? Why are we heading back toward land?” Betsy had thought she was keeping the ship pointed straight, but in all of her concentration, we had slowly made a 180-degree turn.

Sir William Edward ParryA similar thing happened to Sir William Edward Parry, the famous English naval officer and record-setting explorer of the Arctic. He made one of the first attempts to reach the North Pole and, in doing so, set a record for pushing farther north than anyone else, a record that was his for nearly fifty years.

On one of his trips to the Arctic, Parry and his men were trekking across the ice toward the North Pole. Admiral Parry stopped to calculated their position by using the stars. Hours later when the exhausted explorers stopped to rest, Parry again calculated their position and discovered something he could hardly believe. After hours of heading north, they were actually farther south than when he made his previous calculation! Fortunately, Parry quickly discovered the problem: they were on a gigantic ice floe that was moving south faster than they were sledding north. Much like Betsy’s experience on the sailing ship, the ice flow was so big and moving so slowly that the arctic team’s loss of position was barely perceptible until Parry recalculated.

This is why recalculations and realignments are so vital for Christians.

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Corinthians 10:12)

Let a man thoroughly examine himself…. (1 Corinthians 11:28)

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (Psalm 139:23-24)

Don’t ever assume you’re still on the right course. Stop, listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice, recalculate your position by the perfect standard of God’s Word, and make the adjustments you need to. Otherwise, you may end up someplace you never intended to go!

11 Quotes From “The Secrets Of Intercessory Prayer”

The Secrets of Intercessory PrayerJack Hayford’s latest book is reenergizing the way I pray for my family members. If you want to know why prayer for your family is so powerful, if you’re feeling a bit discouraged in the seemingly unanswered prayers for your family, or if you just want to “take it up a notch” as you pray, The Secrets Of Intercessory Prayer is for you (you can read my full book review by clicking here). These are a few quotes that especially caught my eye from this book…

“Prayer in all regards takes a new frame of reference when we understand the war between God’s Kingdom and satan’s dark hordes. This battle, insofar as it involves earth, is one in which God has called us to engage, enlisting us as ‘knee-soldiers’ whose prayer-call for the ‘incoming’ of God’s Kingdom will welcome a barrage of God’s power to break through the darkness and bring deliverance to people we know.”

“Let this truth grip you with hope: If the promise of God concerning His coming Messiah, His own Son, was interrupted by the failure of humanity (in this case, the later generations of David’s offspring) and God bridged and reconnected that ‘cut-off,’ then He wants us to understand this as a power-principle for prayer. Just as God navigated that failure and brought the tender plant out of the stump that had been cut off, so He is inviting you to pray and believe that He will do the same in your relationships.”

“Let the Holy Spirit shine a searchlight in your own heart and cleanse anything that restricts the power and liberty of your intercessory role in the family. I know that I am neutralized for effective prayer to the degree that negativity characterizes my attitude toward anyone for whom I pray.”

“We refuse to sustain that spirit of death and separation through any kind of ‘labeling.’ …Without such integrity of heart before God we may unwittingly be preventing our families and friends from receiving the flow of God’s life and love.”

“Praying for those we love is not a substitute for their need to hear God’s Word of truth—the Gospel. But many of those we find resisting already know it, and for them the ‘pushiness’ of a relative deepens resistance. On the other hand—as you abide in continual prayer—the truth that they may most need at the present is a sense of your acceptance of them, even as they understand that acceptance is not approval of sinful behavior. While it is painful to see a loved one persist in sin, especially if it is self-destructive, God’s Spirit has spoken or is speaking to them about their need to turn to Him. Our prayer for them is pivotal in this regard. But it is also our job to leave God’s part for Him to achieve, as only He can.

“The greatest tool of evangelism when it comes to loved ones is to be genuinely loving and friendly to them without the taint of manipulation. …Winning people to Christ is not conquering them or verifying yourself. It is about showing so much of Jesus that they cannot resist Him.”

“The deeper we move into the last days, the greater the need for our young people to have the shelter and the shield, the presence and the power, the wisdom and the discernment of the Holy Spirit! …The literal word for perilous used in the Greek text of 2 Timothy 3:1 describes the last days as ‘evil, ferocious, lion-like and demon-filled.’”

“Here is a key point for us to embrace as we persevere in prayer for our loved ones: Jesus wants to minister through us.”

“We are capable of compromising our discipleship under Jesus’ Lordship, not by the values we hold but by the spirit in which we respond to those whose values offend Him. …If I am unwilling to pray with a heart of passion for sinners who indulge in the perverse, the shameful and the corrupt and who do it with glee, will my passion be driven by my anger or by my sense of God’s broken heart for such warping of one of His own creation, for such satanic bondage in a being He longs to know the beauty of His original purpose?”

“Instead of yielding to fatalism, hear the call: ‘Keep praying, even when tough stuff happens,’ and do this by invading the difficult with thanksgiving, because the truth larger than the problem is that God’s power can transform any mess when He is invited into it.”

“That is what the will of God is for us: to lift up praise to Him with gratitude for His nature, which does not plan the evil, the injurious or the painful, but who—in these things—is the only One able to address them in love, resolve them in wisdom, provide for them in grace and transform then by His power. Give thanks in song for that!

Did God Send Me Into This?!?

Stormy seasHave you ever experienced this? You are certain that God has spoken to you. You’ve launched out in obedience, things are sailing along smoothly, and then <wham!> a storm threatens to swamp you. And you begin to second-guess what you thought God said to you. You begin to wonder if perhaps you misunderstood the directions God spoke: “Did God send me into this?!?”

Ever been there?

The disciples of Jesus must have felt that way. Jesus says, “Let’s get into the boat and head over to the other side of the lake.” The disciples obeyed Jesus only to have a huge storm come crashing down on them, to the point that their boat was about to be swamped (see Luke 8:22-25).

What were they thinking then? What would you have been thinking? Perhaps you might have thought, “Did I miss something God said?”

I love this thought from Oswald Chambers—

You say, “If I had not obeyed Jesus I should not have got into this complication.” Exactly. The problems in our walk with God are to be accounted for along this line, and the temptation is to say, “God could have never told me to go there, if He had done so this would not have happened.” We discover then whether we are going to trust God’s integrity or listen to our own expressed skepticism. 

God knows what He’s doing. He knows what He needs to accomplish.

Too many times I get focused on the destination, while God is focusing on the process. I often will learn more about my faith, and about the power and faithfulness and love of my God, during these storms than I will in an incident-free journey.

If you are on a journey on which God sent you and your boat’s rocking, don’t second-guess what God said. Keep your eyes on Jesus, and watch to see what He’s developing in you during your stormy trip.

The Secrets Of Intercessory Prayer (book review)

The Secrets of Intercessory PrayerI have always appreciated Jack Hayford’s heart of compassion. No matter the topic he is addressing, I always feel like his words are soaked in God’s love. In The Secrets Of Intercessory Prayer, Pastor Hayford lovingly addresses a topic that weighs heavily on so many people’s hearts: the eternal destination of our family members.

As a pastor myself, one of the most frequently requested prayer need people share with me is the salvation of their loved ones. It can be so gut-wrenching to feel like someone you love is on a path toward destruction, and seemingly all of your efforts to get them off that path are ineffective. The subtitle of this book is Unleashing God’s Power In The Lives Of Those You Love. What a powerful thought!

I, too, have family members for which I pray on a daily basis, and I found this book to be so encouraging and invigorating. Not only did Pastor Hayford help me see what my prayers are accomplishing in the lives of my loved ones, but his challenging words reengaged me to pray with even greater purpose and intensity.

This book is not so much a how to pray book as it is a why to pray book. If your heart is burdened to pray for your children, grandchildren, parents, or other loved ones, I am confident that The Secrets Of Intercessory Prayer will reignite your prayers and refuel your faith.

I am a Chosen Books book reviewer.

Love Is… (part 3)

Love Is… worsheet 3True love—or the Greek word agape—is a hard-working verb. It’s not mushy. It’s not puppy love. It’s not even romantic. It’s a love that is determined to love another no matter what! It’s the kind of love God extended toward us when we weren’t doing anything worthy of His love, and it’s the kind of love Jesus told we as us His disciples would be known for.

We just wrapped up a series called Loving The Unloveable where we explored what the Bible says about how we are to live out this agape love, especially to those who seem “unloveable.” We went through a list of 15 facets of this love spelled out in 1 Corinthians 13.

You can read about the first five facets by clicking here.

You can read about the second set of attributes by clicking here.

Here are the final five—

Love is protecting

  • The King James Version says love bears all things. So we need to ask, “What does love bear?”
  • The Greek word means: “protecting by covering with silence.”
  • In other words, we bear with the insults of an unloveable/unloving person by refusing to talk about them in a negative way.
  • Agape doesn’t talk about people (unless it’s a conversation with God); agape only talks lovingly to people. Agape protects their reputation.

Love is trusting

  • Love has a high confidence in success. Not my success, but God’s success. So we keep believing for a breakthrough; keep trusting God to accomplish something; keep doing our part in pointing out the best (or the best that is yet to be) in others.

Love is hopeful 

  • The Amplified Bible says: love’s hopes are fadeless under all circumstances.
  • So we work now, but we are always looking forward to the future with joy and full confidence.
  • Think about a farmer: After he plants the seed, he doesn’t see it any more. But his outlook remains hopeful. So he waters a seed he cannot see. He fertilizes a seed he cannot see. He works the ground for a seed he cannot see.
  • Our acts of love may be planting a seed, or fertilizing, or watering. Every part is vital; no part can be skipped. And we remain hopeful of a harvest.
  • Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

Love is persevering

  • I love the Greek definition: “enduring through every circumstance without ever weakening.”
  • Never let your love waver. Keep on being patient, and kind, and forgiving, and all of the other characteristics of agape listed in 1 Corinthians 13. All of them are irreplaceable and effective! 

Love is maturing

  • Love continues to grow up.
  • Agape is creative, never stagnant or stuck in a rut. Agape finds new ways to express itself.

Here’s where the real test comes in: How will you apply these attributes of love to someone in your life? More specifically: to someone you think is “unloveable”?

I know you have someone in your life that you think is unloveable. With that person’s face clearly in mind, how will you fill in the blanks:

  1. I can protect their reputation by…
  2. I believe God is working in this…
  3. I need to not give up in this area…
  4. I must remember this…
  5. I can how my love more maturely by…

If you would like a downloadable PDF of this worksheet, click here -–> Love Is… worsheet 3

If you would like to download the previous worksheets, click here and here.

They All Agree

It’s extremely rare that a 19th-century pastor, Jesus Christ, and a noted atheist would all agree on something. But as we wrapped up our series on love today, I had to share these quotes (the added emphasis in the quotes is mine)—

Henry Drummond“Never offer men a thimbleful of gospel. Do not offer them merely joy, or merely peace, or merely rest, or merely safety; tell them how Christ came to give men a more abundant life than they have, a life abundant in love, and therefore abundant in salvation for themselves, and large in enterprise for the alleviation and redemption of the world. …Only this fuller love can compete with the love of the world.” —Henry Drummond

“If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! …By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you truly love one another. —Jesus (Luke 6:32-33; John 13:35)

Bertrand Russell

“Nothing can penetrate the loneliness of the human heart except the highest intensity of the sort of love the religious teachers have preached.” —Bertrand Russell

It’s My Honor

My honorIf you grew up watching Sesame Street, you might remember one of the songs that went like this—

One of these things is not like the other things

One of these things just doesn’t belong

Can you guess which thing is not like the other thing

Before I finish my song

I sort of feel like that when I consider this list:

  • Melchizedek
  • Aaron
  • Jesus
  • Me

If you’re a pastor/priest to your congregation, perhaps you feel like you don’t belong on this list either. But consider this verse of Scripture—

No one takes this honor [of being a priest] upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was. (Hebrews 5:4)

God called Melchizedek. God called Aaron. God called Jesus. God called me. God called you, my fellow pastor. It’s honor to be called by God to serve in this role!

We have the honor to represent the people to God, and represent God to the people.

We have the honor to instruct people in the ways of God.

We have the honor of living our lives transparently before people, so they can see a living example of one who sins, confesses, repents, and receives forgiveness; one who is growing in his/her knowledge of Jesus Christ; one who is becoming more Christ-like.

We have the honor of offering up loud cries of petition and intercession for others (see Hebrews 5:7).

We have the honor of humbly and reverently submitting ourselves before God; of learning obedience through suffering (v. 8).

We have the honor of sharing Christ—THE best and perfect priest—with others. He alone is the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him (v. 9) and we have the honor of telling others this amazing news!

My friend, if God has called you, you belong on that list. Discharge your priestly duties with all reverence and humility to God. It is your HONOR to serve God and others this way.

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