Prayer

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

Prayer is simply put our conversations with God.  This is something that a lot of Christians miss on (including those who have been a Christian and even those who are in ministry).  Prayer is designed for us to keep in touch with our Heavenly Father and something that is essential to the life of a Christian for their spiritual wellbeing.

Let me describe it like this…many of us have email, cell phones, maybe even a networking page such as myspace or facebook…but do we use the same things that go into our keeping up with those to keep in touch with God?  There are a lot of us who couldn’t get through our everyday life without the email or cell phone, but we try to get through the day without calling Home.  By Home I don’t mean calling your parents or calling your family…what I mean is praying.

One thing that comes to mind is this…how many times have we forgotten our cell phone at home? On most occasions when this happens we turn around and go back to get the phone because we can’t bear to go 10 minutes without being able to call someone or text someone.  But on the same note, how many times have we turned around to get our Bibles, or because we forgot to read that morning, or even because we forgot to pray?  I would venture to say that that number is significantly lower for the Bible than the cell phone.  We have become so wrapped up in the instant connection that we have to the world around us that we can’t see ourselves ever getting by without these modern technologies.  We do this, but if we would apply those same principles to our lives when it comes to keeping in touch with our creator we would find that our lives can and will be much easier because we’ll have a feeling for what God is doing in our lives.  We have this desire to stay in touch with the world, but we have lost our desire to stay in touch with the Creator of the world…this is something that we as Christians have to right!

As Christians we are called to a personal, intimate relationship with God.  This relationship is one that should mimic the life of Christ Himself.  By looking at the life that Christ lived, we see that prayer was a major part of His life, no matter where He was or what He was doing.  He would take 2-3 extra days at times when traveling to get away from it all and spend time with His Father.  When faced with the biggest decision of His life, prayer was the first thing He looked to, not the last.  In the garden, Jesus got away, left the disciples, and spent time with God…not to change God’s mind, but to ensure His father that His will would be accomplished.  If prayer and scripture were not important in our lives, then why was it so important to Jesus?  If it weren’t so important in our lives, why would Paul tell us to “Pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:17)?

Could you develop a relationship with a family member or a significant other without communication?  NO…and you can’t develop a relationship with God without it either!  So what we need to do as Christians is focus on prayer, devote ourselves to the reading of Scripture, and base our lives on pleasing the one who gave life to us.  Prayer is the first step to a lasting relationship with God.

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These Things We Do…

As I write this I reflect on the week that I have just come off of…a week of serving, a week of love, a week that I honestly did not want to end. I had the honor of being able to join a group from Heaton Christian Church on a Mission Trip to New York City to work with the New York City Relief Bus. I wasn’t sure what to expect heading in, but I knew that God had opened the door for me to be able to experience Him on a different level, and I was definitely not disappointed.

The one thing that I took away from the week more than any other is a couple of things that I experienced that were unexpected. First, the battle cry, “These things we do, that others may live!” These eight words struck a chord in me that has echoed through my mind for days…words of truth that I realized was much more than just words being spoken out of habit. Every encounter that we have here on earth can be a spiritual battle, and this opened my eyes that the things that we do in life need to be done so that others may live.

It may not be that we want them to live in the physical sense all of the time; yes, when it came to the relief bus we were working with folks who had next to nothing. We were giving them food and necessities that many of us take for granted. But on a deeper level was the love with which it was given, a love that included a message…a message that God loves you, no matter what you have done, no matter what your circumstance, no matter where you are in your life; God sees and meets you where you are! A message that says, “I want you to have an abundant life in Christ.” This is something we all need to see and experience in life.

Second, was a statue. A statue of Jesus, seated with nail-scarred hand out reached, sitting under a sign that had Matthew 25:40, “What you did for the least of these you did for me.” It really struck me in a way that I can’t explain, but left me wishing I had even more time to spend talking and sharing with those who I encountered during the night. It was humbling to see the reaction to a simple gesture that we take for granted. Seeing someone cry because they have not felt loved for weeks or months, but just simply sitting down and listening to them and loving on them the way that Christ would opens a door to share the true Gospel message…a message of love, because God is love!

I can’t even begin to explain how NYC has changed me in how I view others…we could all be in that situation, hurting, needing to be loved on. We cannot just walk by someone who is hurting, Jesus didn’t, he met them where they are and shared love with them. Love isn’t always a word you say, it isn’t in the things you can buy, it is a natural thing that happens when you allow yourself to open up to what God is trying to do through you. He is love! He wants us to show Him to others through His love; He wants us to love others the way He loves them – He wants us to meet them where they are.

That doesn’t mean that you have to go to NYC, it might mean that you have a next door neighbor who is hurting and just needs a listening ear. It might be that someone has fallen on hard times and just needs to feel like someone cares…it may be that someone needs to be loved on because they are feeling beaten down and just need to know that there is hope beyond the struggle they are dealing with…maybe they just need to meet Jesus and they will see it in you.

“Dear Friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God because God is love” 1 John 4:7-8 (HCSB)image1

Picky Christianity

Many of you may wonder what I mean by the term ‘Picky Christianity.’ The term popped in my head as I began to think about how many who call themselves Christians today. I believe many miss the point today when it comes to what the Bible means to us as believers.

What seems to happen today is a selective view of the scripture by many believers as they try to find what works for them and begin to search to find ways to make the Christian life what they want it to be rather than what it is intended to be. Too many today are looking to fit the Christian walk into their own box rather than using the Word to guide them through their lives.

I want to give a couple reasons why we need to take God at his word and stop trying to find ways to adapt the scriptures to our own beliefs; rather, we need to learn to use them as guideposts for life and allow the Word to work through us in the form of Christ living in us.

First, as Christians, we must live as Christ lived, and the best way for us to do that is to know who Christ is. To know Christ we must be familiar with His word and allow Him to live through us. He wants to guide us with His Spirit as we allow Him to fully take control and take us where He would have us to be.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” – Jesus (John 14:6)

Second, we must take the scriptures as truth and make them our life. The Word is Jesus Christ (John 1). We find many verses that tell us about who Christ is, who we are, and what the purpose of the scripture is in our lives.

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17 KJV)

“Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You. Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” (Psalms 119:11, 105 NKJV)

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1, 2, 14 NKJV)

Christ is the Word, and we live to the fullest when we know the Word, hide it in our heart, and trust the Word was and is divinely inspired and given to all for instruction. Today I encourage you to take the word as a whole and not pick your way through life.

“For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18, 19 NKJV)

Letting Go…

One of the hardest things that we as Christians have is letting go of the past to grasp the blessing of the present and future.  Many people struggle with releasing the past because of the comfort level that is associated with it.

The difficulty that we have with this is a much broader spectrum than just holding tight to certain relationships and habits.  It is a deep desire to hold tight to whatever makes us feel secure.  I’m not saying that walking with Christ isn’t comfortable, in fact, there is more comfort there than anywhere else in life.  What I am saying is that until we are able to fully release what holds us back, we will never be able to realize the full comfort that God can give.

I have mentioned before the plans that God has and shares with us.  I have mentioned what kind of faith it takes to move mountains, make the sun stand still in the sky, and walk on water.  This is the same faith that we must grasp hold of when moving forward in Christ.

Too many times we, as Humans, become comfortable in our lives; be it in relationships, career tracks, living situations, etc.  We too often turn down the calling that God may have on our lives because stepping out on faith may put us in an uncomfortable situation at times.  Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is being sure of what you hope for, and certain of things you do not see.”  Our hopes are always for a brighter future and pursuit of God’s plans, but the second part of this verse may be one of the toughest concepts to grasp in the Christian walk.

Our hopes can only get us so far, we must take hold of the things that we do not see.  For us to do that we must let go of what is normal, what is comfortable, what is routine at times; and embrace with faith the things we may not see.  We have to allow God to work, with full faith that He is in control, and that even though we do not necessarily see him, we will see the results.

To fully grab hold of the blessings that God is ready and willing to bestow, we must let go of anything that can keep us from getting a full grip on those blessings.  God wants to give us anything we want in accordance with His will, but it is our job now to embrace that and move forward.

Take a look at your life today.  Are you holding fast to something that may be temporary?  Are you searching to find answers in the world when God is waiting to provide blessings?  What is holding you back today from being what you are called to be as a child of God?

Let go…