A “Hallelujah!” Lifestyle

David shows us a picture of a man who made prayer the cornerstone of all he did. He’s quick to cry, “Help!” when he’s in trouble, and he doesn’t hold back when he’s crying out to God.

But he also shows us that prayer isn’t just for times of trouble. Prayer should be an ongoing conversation with God so that we can get to know His heart. God knows what’s going to happen (Isaiah 46:10), and He wants us to ask Him to make things clear to us (Jeremiah 33:3).

In Psalm 145, David challenges us to lift up our praise to God, as well as our prayers. This psalm of praise teaches us that we don’t have to only praise God for what He’s done—although that’s a great thing to do—but we can also praise God simply for Who He is!

In this psalm, David says God is…

…worthy of praise (v. 3a) 
…great beyond comprehension (v. 3b) 
…majestic (v. 5)
…awesome (v. 6)
…abundantly good (v. 7)
…gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, rich in love (v. 8)
…good to all (v. 9)
…mighty (v. 11)
…everlasting (v. 13)
…strong (v. 14)
…righteous and loving (v. 17) 
…near to us (v. 18)
…fulfilling (v. 19)
…watchful (v. 20)

Let’s not be known just for our petitions, but for our praise.

Let’s not be known just for our “Help!” but for our “Hallelujah!

Please join me in our continuing look at the Prayers Of David.

Prayer Is The Battle

When I was growing up and struggling with a problem, my Mom would always challenge me with one simple question—“Have you prayed about it?”

This is a great question because it helps us keep the main thing the main thing.

Typically we have three substitutes for prayer—

(1) Ignoring the problem. We’re like the board of directors that was facing falling sales and falling profits, but their solution was to just wait for something magical to happen.

(2) Talking about the problem. Christians often call this “a prayer request.” We take 10 minutes to give our friends all the gory, depressing details of our situation and oftentimes say “please pray for me” as we walk away. Solomon said, “Talk is cheap, like daydreams and other useless activities” (Ecclesiastes 5:7).

(3) Working to solve the problem. This isn’t in the Bible, but many times we act as if it is: God helps those who help themselves. Instead, God wants us to call on Him so He can reveal things to us (see Jeremiah 33:3).

Something that is in the Bible is this: “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” But there is a condition for this, and it’s the part of the sentence that comes before the asking that makes all the difference—

If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you (John 15:7).

Oswald Chambers said, “We are apt to think of prayer as a common-sense exercise of our higher powers in order to prepare us for work; whereas in the teaching of Jesus, prayer is not to fit us for the ‘greater works,’ prayer is the work. Prayer is…the means whereby we assimilate more and more of His mind, and the means whereby He unveils His purposes to us.”

Prayer IS the work!

We don’t ignore the problem, and we don’t just talk about the problem. But neither do we pray and then work on the problem. Prayer is the work!

It can’t be stated enough: Prayer doesn’t prepare us to work, prayer IS the work.

Even the Apostle Paul identified this in his teaching on spiritual warfare. In language similar to what Jesus said in John 15:7, Paul says, “Be strong IN the Lord and IN His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God SO THAT you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10-11).

Paul doesn’t tell us to ignore the devil’s schemes, nor does he tell us to talk about them. But neither does he tell us to put on God’s armor to fight against the devil’s schemes. He tells us to put on the armor of God so that we can pray (see Ephesians 6:18-20).

The armor of God is NOT to fight in, but to shield us while we pray!

PRAYER IS THE BATTLE … PRAYER IS THE WORK

When you are facing a difficulty, don’t ignore it, don’t just talk about it, and don’t go to work fighting it. Listen to the Holy Spirit asking you, “Have you prayed about it,” and then drop to your knees and PRAY!

This principle is illustrated so wonderfully in the life of David. We’ll be looking at David’s prayers over the next few weeks, and I hope you will join me in learning that prayer is the battle!

Thursdays With Oswald—God Has A Plan For Your Life

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.

God Has A Plan For Your Life

     “Before I formed thee…I knew thee…” [Jeremiah 1:5]. There are prenatal forces of God at work in a man’s life which he may be unconscious of for long enough; but at any moment there may break upon him the sudden consciousness of this incalculable, supernatural surprising power that has got hold of his life before he has got hold of it himself.  

     Another force at work is the prayers of other people. You are born into this world and will probably never know to whose prayers your life is the answer. … Our lives are the answers not only to the prayers of other people, but to the prayer the Holy Spirit is making for us, and to the prayer of Our Lord Himself. …  

     When once Paul realized God’s call and knew the meaning of his life, there was no competitor for his strength. Is there anything competing for our strength in our devotion to the call of God?

From So Send I You

Isn’t it amazing to think that not only has God had a plan for your life before you even arrived on earth, but that your life is an answer to prayer?!

The Apostle Paul lived the first part of his life oblivious to God’s call. But once he had his encounter with Jesus, his whole focus and passion changed (see Acts 9:15-16; Galatians 1:15-16).

What about you?

  • Have you realized that God has a plan for your life?
  • Are you living like you are an answer to prayer?
  • Is there anything competing for your attention that is keeping you from being “all in” for God?

Thursdays With Oswald—Becoming Bread

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.

Becoming Bread

     It is the plough that prepares the ground for sowing the seed. The hard way through the field is the same soil as the good ground, but it is of no use for growing corn because it has never been ploughed. … 

     “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The way through the field which has been battered hard by men’s feet is an illustration of the human heart. The human heart should be the abode of God’s Holy Spirit, but it has been trampled hard by passions until God has no part in it, and the plough has to come into the desecrated place. … 

     Standing corn has to be cut down and go through the process of reaping, threshing, grinding, mixing and baking before it is good for food; and sanctified souls must be told that their only use is to be reaped for God and made into bread for others. It is time we got away from all our shallow thinking about sanctification. … 

     The sound of millstones is music in the ears of God. The worldling does not think it music, but the saint who is being made into bread knows that his Father knows best, and that He would never allow the suffering if He had not some purpose. … 

     “Be content, ye are His wheat growing in our Lord’s field. And if wheat, ye must go under our Lord’s threshing instrument, in His barn-floor, and through His sieve, and through His mill to be bruised, as the Prince of your salvation, Jesus, was (Isaiah 53:10), that ye may be found good bread in your Lord’s house” (Samuel Rutherford). … 

     When by the sanctifying power of the grace of God we have been made into bread, our lives are to be offered first of all to Jesus Christ. … The saints who satisfy the heart of Jesus make other saints strong and mature for God. 

From The Sacrament Of Saints

Do you want to be useful for God? Then you must let Him prepare you to be bread that He can use to nourish others. Chambers reminds us that this preparation process entails the painful processes of ploughing, reaping, threshing, grinding, mixing and baking. But God knows best! He only allows this pain so that He can use you to bless others.

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?

Don’t Settle For Low Expectations

isaac-newtonSome of the greatest discoveries and revelations came about because people were curious. They refused to just go along with what they had always been told, what they grew up believing, or what the conventional wisdom told them was impossible.

Archimedes had his “Eureka!” moment because he refused to believe that it was impossible to measure the volume of an irregularly-shaped object.

Isaac Newton formulated the laws of gravitation because he curiously wondered about why apples fell perpendicular and at the same velocity.

The Apostle Peter saw a vision from God with animals, but didn’t stop there. His openness helped him realize that God didn’t have “favorites.”

Far too many people live their lives cursed with low expectations. They say, “That’s all there is.” and they put a period on it.

God wants us to soar above those low expectations! He tells us things like:

  • Come now, let us reason together… (Isaiah 1:18).
  • Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know (Jeremiah 33:3).
  • Are you listening to this? Really listening? … The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you… (Matthew 13:9, 11)

great-expectationsBut we are trapped in the curse of low expectations when we put a period on things, when we refuse to learn more, see more, hear more.

  • Most people—“That’s all there is.” (period)
  • What if we changed it up—“Is this all there is?” (question mark)
  • Perhaps you might get—“There is so much more!” (exclamation point)

For example, Paul uses the word “mystery” multiple times in his letter to the Ephesians. He explains that a mystery is something hidden from those who have it all figured out (the “period” people), but is revealed to those who will ask God (the “question mark” people). Only the “question mark” people get to see the “exclamation points” God has for them. Things like…

  • God has a plan, and it is His pleasure to reveal it to me (Ephesians 1:9-10; 2:10).
  • God’s revelation is fully revealed to me in His Word (3:3-5).
  • Faith in Jesus makes Christians co-heirs and sharers in all God’s promises (3:6).
  • I have access to God’s inexhaustible riches, His immense wisdom, and I may approach Him with freedom and confidence (3:8-12).

Don’t stop with “.” but go on to “?” and experience “!

With great expectation, read God’s Word, approach His throne, dig into His riches, wrestle with the difficult things, learn more of God’s purpose for your life. He wants to give you so much more “!” 

4 Terrible Ways & 4 Great Ways To Study Your Bible

Isaac Newton Bible study.001There are two Greek words in the New Testament that have to do with trying to figure things out. One of them leads to less knowledge, and one opens the way for greater learning. Not surprisingly, Jesus never used the first way, but He confronts people who try to.

The first Greek word is defined as learning through self-calculation. In other words, I try to get at the right answer by either teaching myself, or by talking with people who don’t know any more than I do. This way leaves me in the dark.

For example, notice the phrase “discussed among themselves” in Matthew 16:7 and Mark 11:31. These are people who wanted to try to get answers without going to someone who could teach them. So that leads to four terrible ways to study your Bible—

  1. Approach your Bible with a know-it-all attitude.
  2. Try to figure out what the Bible is saying all on your own.
  3. Try to be your own Bible teacher.
  4. Grade your own tests as to your answers being right or wrong.

These are not only terrible ways to learn, but they are the exact opposite of what God desires. God says things like, “Come, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18), and “Call to Me and I will tell you things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).

There is another Greek word which means to learn by having a conversation with someone more knowledgable than myself. So that means four great ways to study your Bible are—

  1. Ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate Scripture to you (John 16:13).
  2. Study the Bible in a daily systematic way (Acts 19:9).
  3. Don’t take anyone else’s word for what the Word says (Acts 17:11).
  4. If you’re confused, ask God to make it clear to you (Jeremiah 33:3).

Luke records an important story for us that took place on the day Jesus was raised from the dead. Two men were walking along “discussing these things with each other,” but not consulting the Scriptures. The result: they were sad and confused. Jesus join them on their journey (although they didn’t recognize Him at first), and took them to the Scriptures that showed them the answers for which they were yearning. They even said, “When He talked to us from the Scriptures, that’s when our hearts burned within us!” (see Luke 24:13-32).

You can try to figure life out on your own, and you will probably end up stymied like the religious leaders in Mark 11, or downcast like the disciples in Luke 24. Or you can ask the Holy Spirit to show you truths from the Scriptures, and have your eyes opened, like the two disciples after Jesus met with them. I think the choice is obvious!

Join me next week as we continue our series How To Study Your Bible.

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