How Do You Start A Conversation With God?

pray-through-the-bibleLast week I asked you to imagine how your relationship grew with your best friend. You probably found that this special friendship was formed during hours and hours of talking.

I’m going to guess that at first your conversation was a little on the superficial side. You talked about “tame” topics like sports teams, or your job, or the city you lived in. But at some point you took a huge riskyou became vulnerable by sharing something really personal. Perhaps you shared a time that you got hurt, or something that makes you anxious, or maybe a big dream you carry around in your heart. But if that friend is still your friend, that means they treated what you shared reverently. They didn’t laugh at you, belittle your hurts or dreams, nor did they share with others what you said.

The relationships became deeper and more special because you now knew each other on a more intimate level.

Prayer is a conversation with a Friend. Of course that Friend is God, so some people wonder, “What do I talk to God about?” The simple answer is anything and everything!

Time and time again God calls us to come closer to Him (see Isaiah 55:1-3), to discuss with Him things we don’t understand (Jeremiah 33:3), or to be assured that He is intimately tuned in to what’s happening in our life (Psalm 139:17; 1 Peter 3:12).

How do we get there? A good place to start is with our Bible. Dwight Moody said:

“The two first and essential means of grace are the Word of God and Prayer. … If we read the Word and do not pray, we may become puffed up with knowledge, without the love that buildeth up. If we pray without reading the Word, we shall be ignorant of the mind and will of God, and become mystical and fanatical, and liable to be blown about by every wind of doctrine.”

Scripture was written to point us to Jesus. So we don’t read the Bible just to read it; we read it to get to know God.

We don’t want to know the Word of God; we want to know the God of the Word. 

A great place to start is in the book of the Psalms. Many of these were written as prayers, so it’s a good way to start our conversation with God. You can also search in the New Testament for all the places that biblical writers said, “I pray…” or “This is my prayer….”

I share a personal example of this in this video, especially if you want to fast forward to the 36:00 minute mark.

Don’t just read through the Bible this week—pray through the Bible. Use it as a means to have a conversation with the very Best Friend you could ever know!

I encourage you this week, as you think about this topic, to get together with an earthly friend and discuss these questions:

  1. How can I use my Bible as a “conversation starter” with God?
  2. How can I get into the regular practice of talking to God as a Friend?

Thursdays With Oswald—What Makes Life Worth Living?

Oswald ChambersThis 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.

What Makes Life Worth Living? 

     Think of the devastations and havoc throughout the world just now. What is going to make up to the people who are broken? To say that “every cloud has a silver lining” is a kind lie. Unless a man can get into a relationship with the God Whom the Bible reveals, life is not worth living. …  

     Solomon says whether you are wise or foolish, upright or not, a king or tyrannized over by a king, successful or a failure, in society or solitary, stubborn or sagacious, all alike ends the same way. All is passing, and we cannot find our lasting joy in any element we like to touch. It is disastrous for a man to try and find his true joy in any phase of life, or in the fulfillment of ambition, or in physical or intellectual solitariness, or in society; he will find his joy only in a personal relationship to God. …

     When once a man is there, he receives a hundredfold more of all he gave up to get there, and he never demands an infinite satisfaction from those other relationships. The man or woman who does not know God demands an infinite satisfaction from other human beings they cannot give, and in the case of the man, he becomes tyrannical and cruel. It springs from this one thing, the human heart must have satisfaction, but there is only one Being Who can satisfy the last abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.

From Shade Of His Hand

As a Christian, you have an opportunity to show people how much joy there is for a life in Christ. And then Peter tells us to be ready to tell people the Source of your joy (see 1 Peter 3:15-16).

Do you have the spiritual courage and moral backbone to show and tell? Chambers says, “The Christian faith is exhibited by the man who has the spiritual courage to say that that is the God he trusts in, and it takes some moral backbone to do it.”

Let’s do this!

Thursdays With Oswald—Get Rid Of Jargon!

Oswald ChambersThis 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.

Get Rid Of Jargon! 

     The New Testament is not written to prove that Jesus Christ is God Incarnate; the New Testament does not prove anything; it simply confirms the faith of those who believe beforehand. Christian evidences don’t amount to anything; you can’t convince a man against his will. … 

     Creeds are the effects of our belief, not the cause of it. I do not have to believe all that before I can be a Christian; but after I have become a Christian I begin to try and expound to myself Who Jesus Christ is, and to do that I must first of all take into consideration the New Testament explanation. “Blessed art thou, Simon bar Jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven.” … 

     Jesus Christ did not come primarily to teach; He came to make it possible for us to receive His heredity, to have put into us a new disposition whereby we can live totally new lives. … The Sermon on the Mount is impossible to a man, and yet it is what our Lord taught. Jesus Christ did not come to teach man to be what he cannot be, but to reveal that He can put into him a totally new heredity; and all He requires a man to say is—“I need it.” … Jesus Christ cannot begin to do anything for a man until he knows his need; but immediately he is at his wits’ end through sin or limitation or agony and cannot go any further, Jesus Christ says to him, “Blessed are you; if you ask God for the Holy Spirit, He will give Him to you.” God does not give us the Holy Spirit until we come to the place of seeing that we cannot do without Him (Luke 11:13). … 

     We have been taken up with creeds and doctrines, and when a man is hit we do not know what to give him; we have no Jesus Christ, we have only theology. For one man who can introduce another to Jesus Christ by the way he lives and by the atmosphere of his life, there are a thousand who can only talk jargon about Him.

From The Shadow Of An Agony

Oswald Chambers is reminding Christians that we only learn more about Jesus by confessing “I need You!” Then the Holy Spirit can begin to reveal real-life truths to us from God’s Word.

Peter reminded us that in order to be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks a Christian the reason for the hope they had, we must first make Jesus the Lord of our life (see 1 Peter 3:15). Creeds and doctrines and theories are of no help to a friend who is in trouble. Let’s not be one of the thousands “who can only talk jargon about Him,” but let’s really know Jesus as Lord, so that we have something real and tangible to pass on to our friends.

Get rid of the jargon! Go deeper in your personal relationship with Jesus Christ!

A Unique Look At “Church”

gods-people-are-the-saintsHave you ever noticed that nowhere in the New Testament do we see an “order of service” for a church congregation? It’s simply not there.

Neither is there a list of acceptable songs, or the design of a church building, or how or when Communion is served, or even what clothing the pastor is supposed to wear. Yet we modern-day Christians seem to spend a lot of time not only arguing about these non-essentials, but even (gasp!) evaluating the “churchness” of a church based on these things.

It’s understandable, then, when someone says, “I enjoy being a Christian, but I really don’t like going to church.” Or even insisting that they can be a Christian without attending a church.

But here’s where those statements miss the mark: “Church” was never intended to be merely a group of people who met at a designated address once a week.

The Church that Jesus described—and the Church the apostles were a part of—was a living organism. It was fellow followers of Jesus Christ interacting with each other as they worshiped the Lord.

The Apostle Peter describes a gathering of Christians in just one verse. In this verse he gives five descriptors of how Church should be done. To stress the point that every gathering of Christians is unique, three of Peter’s five descriptors are found nowhere else in Scripture.

  1. Live in harmony with one another (the first unique word)

One translation has this as “one mind.” Paul has a similar thought in 1 Corinthians 14:20. The bottom line—get on the same page working toward the same goal. What’s that goal? Pointing people to Jesus!

      2.  Be sympathetic (the next unique word)

A definition we may better understand is “empathy.” This world literally means to “vibrate with others.” Be on in tune with what they’re going through that you can feel it just like it was happening to you.

      3.  Love as brothers

This is the Greek word philadelphos, which means to treat other Christians like they’re from the same womb as you.

      4.  Be compassionate

That is: be strong enough to step into other people’s stuff. Keep on increasing your capacity to carry a bigger load for someone else (Galatians 6:2).

      5.  Be humble (the last unique word)

The King James Version translates this “courteous.” Not just being strong enough to help, but gentle enough that your help will be accepted.

Let me repeat: The Church is not a physical address where we gather once per week. YOU are the temple of God’s presence, which is why Jesus said if just two of His followers get together, He is right there with them. That’s right—two Christians can have “church” wherever they happen to meet! 

Don’t just go to church, BE the church. Don’t miss an opportunity to encourage, pray with, instruct, or learn from another Christ-follower whenever and wherever you happen to meet.

Christlike Wives And Husbands

like-jesusTime after time Peter calls Christians to live a counter-cultural lifestyle. The most countercultural example we have ever seen is Jesus Christ.

Peter shows us how Jesus—in the most excruciating situation possible—lived. Heading into the torture of crucifixion

  • He was submissive to His Father’s will
  • He remained focused on the future glory, not just the immediate pain
  • He continued to be a servant-hearted leader
  • He spoke to those around Him respectfully
  • He extended mercy to His tormentors
  • He prayed for (and purchased with His blood) His tormentors’ forgiveness

Peter then tells Christian wives and husbands they are to behave in the same way as Jesus. Wow!

More specifically Peter challenges Christlike wives to be:

  1. Submissive to their husbands—I like how the Amplified Bible says this in verse 1: “subordinate, not as inferior, but out of respect for the responsibilities entrusted to husbands and their accountability to God, and so partnering with them.
  2. Christlike in their behavior.
  3. Distinctive by their purity.
  4. Reverent to God, by honoring the image of God in their husbands.
  5. Beautiful from the inside out.
  6. Consistently doing what is right
  7. Not swayed by fear—“do what is right without being frightened by any fear [that is, being respectful toward your husband but not giving in to intimidation, nor allowing yourself to be led into sin, nor to be harmed]” (v. 6 AMP).

Likewise Peter challenges Christlike husbands to be:

  1. Submissive to their wives—remember the in the same way phrase? That applies to the men too. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. … Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:21, 24).
  2. Considerate of her—the King James Version says, “dwell with them according to knowledge.” That word for knowledge means to study your wife and know what she likes and doesn’t like.
  3. Respectful in the way he treats his wife.
  4. Treating her as a partner and heir in your spiritual heritage.
  5. Understanding the part she plays in your spiritual development—“The same goes for you husbands: Be good husbands to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life of God’s grace, you’re equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don’t run a ground” (v. 7 MSG).

Here are two questions I think Christian wives and husbands need to seriously consider: Are you thinking about your role as a husband or wife in biblical terms or cultural terms? If you are thinking in cultural terms, are you willing to try it God’s way?

Our Christian marriages should be “alien” to the way the world operates; they should be counter-cultural. That kind of marriage is what points people to a relationship with Jesus!

Countercultural Marriage

my-thoughts-or-gods-thoughtsThe Apostle Peter uses an appropriate term for Christians living on Earth: “Aliens and strangers.” This means that those who call Jesus their Lord are to live a counter-cultural lifestyle. Not a lifestyle that changes with the popular culture, but one that stays true to God’s Word.

There probably has never been a more controversial subject in any day or culture than marriage and the relationship between the sexes. Why are these terms “controversial”? I suspect it is because we are naturally bent toward being pragmatic people.

In pragmatism, the outcome determines meaning. If I find something easy to do, convenient for me, and I seem to get applause from those around me, then what I did must be right. However, if it’s challenging to stick with something, and seemingly only a few people approve of how I do it, then it must be wrong. That is letting culture determine morality, instead of letting God determine it.

As Peter begins to address the topic of marriage, and the interaction between spouses, he uses two similar phrases—“Wives, in the same way … Husbands, in the same way (vv. 1, 7).”

In the same way as what? Actually, if you look at the five verses that come before this you will see that it’s not what but Whom. Those verses are talking about our example in Jesus. Peter points out that Jesus showed:

  • submission to God’s purpose—His prayer was, “Not My will, but Yours be done.
  • longsuffering—He did not retaliate nor threaten His persecutors, but for the joy set before Him, He endured the shame of the Cross.
  • servant-leadership—At the last meal He had with His followers before being crucified, He washed their feet, and told them He had given them an example of how they were to serve others.
  • respectful behavior—Jesus willingly suffered the penalty for the world’s sin. He fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which said He remained silent before His accusers.
  • mercy—This always means not getting the penalty we deserve. Jesus came to save us when we were the least worthy of His love.
  • forgiveness—As the spikes were being driven through His wrists, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.

Pragmatism looks at God’s design and says, “Yes, I understand that, but….” Pragmatism tries to find an “out” or a “loophole” that let’s someone change a definition or skip out on doing something God’s way.

If anyone ever had the authority to say, “Yes, Father, I know what You want Me to do, but look how they’re treating Me” it was Jesus.

A wife with a difficult husband may want to say, “Yes, I know I’m supposed to submit to my husband, but….” A husband with a nagging wife may say, “Yes, I know I’m supposed to treat my wife with consideration and respect, but….”

But Peter says, “Wives and husbands, exhibit the same submission, longsuffering, servant-leadership, respectful behavior, mercy and forgiveness toward your spouse as Jesus exhibited toward you!” 

So the question we need to ask is: Am I thinking about marriage—a husband’s role, a wife’s role—in counter-cultural biblical terms or in popular cultural terms?

If I find I am thinking culture’s thoughts, am I willing to try God’s way?

Join me next Sunday as we look at this passage again, and see how a wife and husband can love and serve each other in a God-honoring, counter-cultural way.

Vegetables And Dessert

a-testimony-to-othersHave you ever noticed that kids would prefer to eat dessert more than vegetables? Well, maybe you’re an adult and you still feel the same way! But “veggies before dessert” is still a good motto to live by.

Why?

What happens if you eat only dessert? Do you eventually get healthier or are you setting yourself up for some unfavorable health conditions? What about if you only eat vegetables? The flavor may not be as good, but at least you’ll be getting healthier.

Jesus told His followers to expect the “veggie” times in time. He said, “In this world you will have trouble.” And He told us, “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of Me.” There were no ifs or maybes in those statements!

As Christians living on Earth, the Apostle Peter calls us “aliens and strangers.” That means that both our attitude and our lifestyle should be, well, alien compared to Earthlings. Especially when we’re in a veggie time of life.

Jesus was the Perfect Man. He never said anything wrong, and He never did anything wrong. Yet He was insulted, persecuted, and eventually killed in the most horrific way imaginable. But here’s the amazing thing: Jesus went through all of this without retaliating or threatening judgment on His persecutors. Peter said that the way Jesus went through this was intended to be an example for us.

The writer of Hebrews agreedLet us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him Who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart

Notice it says, “for the joy set before Him.” Other translations say “because of the joy awaiting Him” or “He never lost sight of where He was headed” or “He never lost sight of the joy ahead of Him.” In other words, Jesus knew what God’s plan was from before the beginning of time, so He—as Peter said—kept on entrusting Himself to God.

We have to do the same thing!

I have to confess something. When I quoted the “veggie” part of a couple of verses earlier in this post, I left off the “dessert” part…

  • “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven….” (Matthew 5:10-12)

The way you handle your vegetable times—disease, insults, financial setbacks, outright persecution—can be a testimony to others. The way you go through these trials could help others turn to the Shepherd and Overseer of their souls.

Are you in a trial now? Keep on entrusting yourself to Him Whose plans cannot be thwarted

It might seem all “veggies” now, but you are getting healthier, and the “dessert” you cannot even imagine is on its way!

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