Renewed Passion For Prayer

If I were to ask you if we should we pray for our friends in need, I think I’d probably get a universal “yes.” Even non-Christians might say we should “send good thoughts” or “best wishes” to our friends.

But if I were to ask, “How long should we pray for them?” we might get a lot of different answers. 

What about if we’re praying for a friend to get a job (and he gets it), or a friend to be healed (and she is), or a marriage to be restored (and it is)—do we stop praying then? 

Psalm 20 and 21 appear to be companion psalms: with Psalm 20 being David’s prayer of petition, and Psalm 21 being his prayer of praise. But there is also something quite interesting in each of these psalms about the placement of the word Selah. 

Remembering that Selah means some sort of pause, I find it very interesting where David tells us to pause in both of these psalms. In Psalm 20 we see the prayer request “may” either 6 or 7 times in the first five verse, but the Selah pause is right in the middle of them. Why would David start making his requests to God, tell us to pause in the middle, and then continue making his requests? 

I believe this Selah means to “pause and consider” that… 

  1. God invites us to participate with Him in fulfilling His plans. 
  2. God loves us so much that He wants to hear from us. 
  3. God is powerful enough to grant what we ask of Him. 

It’s as if in the middle of all of his petitions, David says, “Hold on a second. Do you realize what we are in the midst of doing? We are actually communing with the All-Knowing, All-Loving, All-Power Creator and Sustainer of the Universe!!”

In Psalm 21 David is offering up a prayer of praise for God’s answers to his prayers (note the similar language in Psalm 20:4 and 21:2), and once again he tells us to Selah pause right in the middle of those prayers of gratitude. 

I asked earlier, “When do we stop praying for a friend or for ourselves?” Is it when we get the job, or experience the healing, or have the breakthrough or restoration? What if the job, the healing, the restoration was just the beginning of what God wanted to do? The Selah in Psalm 21 is an accentuation: an explosion into so much more!! 

David prayed for victory in battle, but gave him an everlasting victory; David prayed for long life, but God gave him eternal life (21:4); David prayed for blessings on his battle, but God gave him His eternal blessings (21:6).

Jesus said our Heavenly Father has gifts for us beyond our asking (Matthew 7:11), and the Apostle Paul said the same thing in Ephesians—

Now glory be to God, who by His mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. (Ephesians 3:20 TLB)

These two Selahs tell me: 

Don’t quit praying when times are tough. 
Don’t quit praying when you’ve prayed a long time. 
Don’t quit praying when it seems like God has answered. 
Keep on praying. Always. About everything!

 

Please join me this coming Sunday as we continue to look at the Selahs in the Psalms. You can join me in person or via Facebook Live. 

The Blessing Of Quiet Humility

“When you’re full of yourself, God can’t fill you. But when you empty yourself, God has a useful vessel. Your Bible overflows with examples of those who did.

“In his gospel, Matthew mentions his own name only twice. Both times he calls himself a tax collector. In his list of apostles, he assigns himself the eighth spot.

John doesn’t even mention his name in his gospel. The twenty appearances of ‘John’ all refer to the Baptist. John the apostle simply calls himself ‘the other disciple’ or the ‘disciple whom Jesus loved.’

Luke wrote two of the most important books in the Bible but never once penned his own name.

Paul, the Bible’s most prolific author, referred to himself as ‘a fool’ (2 Corinthians 12:11).

King David wrote no psalm celebrating his victory over Goliath. But he wrote a public poem of penitence confessing his sin with Bathsheba (see Psalm 51).

“And then there is Joseph. The quiet father of Jesus. Rather than make a name for himself, he made a home for Christ. And because he did, a great reward came his way. ‘He called His name Jesus’ (Matthew 1:25).” —Max Lucado, in You!

Check out my book review of You! by clicking here, and you can read some other quotes from this book here.

What Is Church?

All across the world on Sunday morning, people met for church? But what exactly is church? Is it a place we go to? Is it something that only happens on Sundays? 

The Greek word for church is ekklesia. It meant an assembly of citizens. Luke used the term when he recorded a government official saying, “If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly” (Acts 19:39). But in the New Testament, it came to mean “a community based on a special religious idea and established in a special way” (Dr. Marvin Vincent). It can also mean either a local group of Christians or “the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth” (Dr. James Strong). 

Church never means a building. Nowhere does the phrase “go to church” appear in the New Testament. Instead, church carried the idea of a living, growing organism because church was wherever a follower of Jesus was. Sometimes the church met collectively in one location, and sometimes individual believers were out in the community. But wherever the Spirit of God went, church was happening. 

If church is not something we go to, it’s also not something that takes place only one day per week. Look at what Jesus did on the Sabbath day: 

But we also see Jesus doing all of these things EVERY day of the week. 

For Jesus, neither the day of the week nor the location determined the way He lived. Peter summed it up this way, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). 

In fact, before they were called Christians the church was simply called “the Way” letting us know that the church was a way of life, not a day of the week. 

Based on how Jesus lived and how the Apostle taught, I think we can see the Church Way like this: 

In other words, EVERY day and in EVERY place the followers of Jesus were being enriched in their own lives so that they could reach out to the hurting so that they could come to know Jesus personally so that their lives could be enriched so that they too could reach out to others, and on, and on, and on it goes! 

Limiting “church” to a specific location or to a specific day of the week is way too small-minded. Church as Jesus intended it was a powerful force that would set people free EVERY day and in EVERY place from the power of the devil and introduce them to God’s eternal life! 

God’s Gift To The World

You are a gift. You are God’s grace gift to the world. 

Max Lucado said it this way: “You are you-nique. 

God made you on purpose and for a purpose.

God implanted unique abilities in you from conception (see Psalm 139:13). And check out what God said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew and approved of you…” (Jeremiah 1:5). Before you were even conceived, God already knew all about you AND He approved of you! 

Why did God implant these unique abilities in you? Because He knew of the unique opportunities you would face during your lifetime (see Psalm 139:16). Because God is for you, He gave you all that you would need to successfully face every opportunity that came your way. 

Every one of us has been given these grace gifts of unique talents and opportunities, The Bible says, “to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it” (Ephesians 4:7). If God is for you, and God is for me, then that means that you have been gifted to be a blessing to me and I have been gifted to be a blessing to you (Romans 12:3-6; 1 Corinthians 12:4-7).

Let me state it again: every one of us has been entrusted by God with unique talents in order to successfully face the unique opportunities that He knew we would face. Jon Bloom reminds us, “Some are given more, some are given less, but all are given much.” 

So what do we do with what we’ve been entrusted? There are two possibilities: (1) We can invest our talents and abilities in a way that glorifies God, or (2) We can squander the talents God has given us. 

How do you squander the grace gift of your life? 

  1. Not discovering it—I have a gift?
  2. Devaluing it—I’m nothing special.
  3. Overvaluing it—I’m super-important. I don’t need anyone else.
  4. Laziness—I don’t want to mess it up, so there’s no need for me to invest my gift.
  5. Short-sightedness—My gift is just for me, so it doesn’t matter what I do with it.

I hope we can all say what Erma Bombeck wrote: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left but could say, ‘I used everything You gave me.’”

How do you honor God with your you-niqueness? I can tell you in just three simple words—You be you! 

If you will just be who God made you—not downplaying your talents, not wishing you had someone else’s talents—that’s when you will feel fulfilled, and God will be glorified, and the rest of the world will be blessed! So…

YOU BE YOU! 

Is It Really The 11th Hour?

When we’re down to the last minutes before a crucial deadline, we often refer to it as “the eleventh hour.” 

Have you been there? You’re sweating it out, wondering if God is going to come through for you. Or perhaps thinking about what you might need to handle yourself in order to meet the deadline. And then God comes through for us, and we let out a deep sigh of relief and gratitude. 

But why a sigh? Were we worried that God wouldn’t come through? Did we think God’s supply was limited? And what made us think that it was “the eleventh hour” anyhow? 

What we often think is the eleventh hour is really God’s first hour! God is never late. He’s never scrambling to come up with what we need. We might be the ones “scrambling,” but God never is. He always has the perfect resources at the perfect moment. 

We should know this because the Bible tells us: God who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32) 

Jesus tells a story about an eleventh-hour situation in Matthew’s Gospel. Men were waiting around to work for the day when a landowner came along to hire them. He hired some guys first thing in the morning and agreed to pay them a full day’s pay. He hired some other workers at 9:00 AM and promised to pay them fairly, and then he hired even more workers at noon and at 3:00 PM, also promising to pay them what was fair. Finally, he hired some workers at 5:00 PM—literally at the eleventh hour—without any mention of pay. 

At the end of the day, every single worker was paid a full day’s wage. Every single one of them. Jerry Bridges notes why this is significant: 

“Each worker, regardless of how long he had worked, received a day’s wages. He received not what he had earned on an hourly basis, but what he needed to sustain his family for a day. … Those eleventh-hour workers were hired because they needed to receive a day’s wages. They had been standing all day waiting for someone to hire them so they could earn money to support their families. They needed to work more than the landowner needed their work. He hired them, not because of his need, but because of their need.” (emphasis added)

You see, God knows what you NEED and He generously supplies that NEED right on time.

Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” The problem comes when we start looking down the road wondering what’s going to happen tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day (see Matthew 6:11, 31-34). 

God’s favor toward us is out of all proportion to our work or sacrifice. He gives exactly what we need, exactly when we need it. 

If you’re feeling anxious—like the clock is ticking down to the eleventh hour—perhaps you should recall how God has provided for you in the past. Then discipline your thoughts from running ahead to tomorrow as you pray, “Give me this day what I need.” 

Here’s a prayer I’m praying—

“God, I remember the wonderful deeds You have done for me. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about Your mighty works in the past. Therefore, I ask you today for my daily bread. Let my heart be on guard against scrambling as though I were in an eleventh-hour situation. You are my all-loving, all-gracious Father. You know what I have need of even before I ask. May my attitude be one of assured contentment in your abundant, right-on-time supply. May you be glorified as others see this confidence in my attitude.”

10 Quotes From “You!”

Max Lucado has given us a collection of short passages that will reaffirm to you how much God values YOU! This book could be a great pick-me-up for you, or a life-saving helper to your friend who is in crisis. Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“Since you are God’s idea, you are a good idea. What God said about Jeremiah, He said about you: ‘Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work’ (Jeremiah 1:5).” 

“God ‘personally formed and made each one’ (Isaiah 43:7 MSG). … And if you aren’t you, we don’t get you. The world misses out.” 

“You are a custom design; you are tailor-made. God prescribed your birth. Regardless of the circumstances that surrounded your arrival, you are not an accident. God planned you before you were born. The longings of your heart, then, are not incidental; they are critical messages. The desires of your heart are not to be ignored; they are to be consulted. As the wind turns the weather vane, so God uses your passions to turn your life. God is too gracious to ask you to do something you hate.” 

“God never called you to be anyone other than you. But He does call on you to be the best you you can be.” 

“God promises no applause for self-promoters. But great reward awaits God promoters: ‘Good work! You did your job well’ (Matthew 25:23 MSG).” 

“Don’t confuse God’s love with the love of people. The love of people often increases with performance and decreases with mistakes. Not so with God’s love. He loves you right where you are. He loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way.” 

“Enough of this self-deprecating ‘I can’t do anything.’ And enough of its arrogant opposite: ‘I have to do everything.’ No, you don’t! You’re not God’s solution to society, but a solution in society.” 

“When asked to describe the width of His love, Jesus stretched one hand to the right and the other to the left and had them nailed in that position so you would know He died loving you. But isn’t there a limit? Surely there has to be an end to this love. You think so, wouldn’t you? But David the adulterer never found it. Paul the murderer never found it. Peter the liar never found it. When it came to life, they hit rock bottom. But when it came to God’s love, they never did.” 

“There are two extremes of poor I-sight. Self-loving and self-loathing. … Self-elevation and self-deprecation are equally inaccurate. Where is the truth? Smack-dab in the middle. Dead center between ‘I can do anything’ and ‘I can’t do anything’ lies ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13). … Not self-secure or insecure, but God-secure—a self-worth based in our identity as children of God. The proper view of self is in the middle.” 

“Each time we do our best to thank God for giving His, we worship.” 

A.L.I.V.E.—The “I” Is For It Is Finished

Throughout history, lots of martyrs have died for what they believe. But only One had been resurrected from the dead to prove that what He believed and taught was true.

Jesus, however, is not a martyr. His life and His work weren’t cut short. Calvary didn’t happen to Jesus, but He came specifically to die on a Cross. He knew what was going to happen to Him. Check this out…

So we can know Jesus is alive by His “It is finished” declaration from the Cross—

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” … When He had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”

Actually His “It is finished” wasn’t just a statement, it was a yell that reverberated throughout the countryside. The Greek words Mark uses are megas phōnē, which sounds a lot like our word megaphone. Jesus wanted to make sure everyone heard Him, and then look at the result:

Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed His last. And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

The curtain that separated God’s presence from mankind was torn in two. The writer of Hebrews notes, “Our High Priest offered Himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then He sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand.”

What do you conclude from all this? C.S. Lewis offered this challenge:

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great man or a moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool… or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”

Jesus told us that He would die, how He would die, when He would die, why He would die, and that He would be resurrected. If you heard all of these claims before His crucifixion, you might think He was a lunatic or a braggart. But after His It Is Finished! declaration, we have only one logical conclusion: Jesus is exactly who He said He was. It was out of love for you that Jesus laid down His life and picked it up again. Will you put your faith in Him today?

We are working our way through 5-parts of this series: “I can know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of….” We’ve already covered:

%d bloggers like this: