Day Thirty-Eight of 40 Days of Prayer for FRC


Father,

Thank you for your omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. You are powerful, always present and all-knowing. Your ability to be with us intimately and collectively no matter where we are on earth is amazing! You blow us away with who you are. There is none like you. This is why we can trust you, and we can wait on you.

I pray for a pastor for our church. We wait on your answer. We want what you want; we do not want this man before your timing is clear. As we wait for your precious answer, be with us, teach us, grow us and refine us. Make us the body you want this pastor to lead. Match us to your will and match him to your will. Marry us together like you would a man and woman, so we are one in will, one in mind, and one in direction.

Prepare us for the many that need salvation and for the many that need to take the next step of discipleship. Prick hearts to serve you. Mend hearts that have sinned against you. Help us all to be a body that brings you the most glory. And in all, give us contentment in the waiting for not only the pastor but for the growth of our body as well. When we feel impatient and want to run ahead of you, stop us. Make no escape route available. We want to be refined by your Holy Spirit’s fire; we want to be yours and yours alone. Dismiss from us the need to count numbers, and make us faithful to your provision. Our faithfulness will reap a harvest. Help us to stay focused on faithfulness! It was the faithfulness of the first church that added to their numbers. They were faithful to the teaching of the word, to the breaking of bread and sharing in the suffering of the saints, as they gathered with one another in love. Make us a New Testament church.

In Jesus name,

Amen.

 

Scrutinize Me


Sarai had a problem with waiting. She found it quite difficult to keep persevering in the promise God had for her and her husband, Abram. Abram was promised a son that would not only come from his own body but from his wife’s as well. However, in the waiting, Sarai devised a plan to run ahead of God and get an heir for her husband’s estate. She asked Abram to sleep with her slave girl, so they could produce a descendant to carry out the line of Abram’s family. While this was culturally accepted, it was not God’s will for Abram and Sarai. 

Waiting is a difficult position to live in. It requires an unnatural quality that people do not have. We are an immediate gratification brood, indeed. And all the more so for those who live in America where immediate gratification can actually be obtained. But then there is God, who can thwart this very ability in our easy-to-obtain society. He can hem in on us from behind and before. Like the besieging of a city in battle, God can close off all escape routes that thwart his plan to make us wait and persevere in the waiting tabernacle of grace. After all, in the waiting for God’s promises, we do experience his most precious gift – his grace. His grace holds us back from having now what will be better if we wait for it. This can either lead us to pout, give up and fall away from God, or we can pray – pray without ceasing.

Knowing us so well, God scrutinizes our going out and our lying down. He is familiar with all our ways. He knows what we need and when we need it. His plan is broader and bigger than what we even ask for. In God’s plan, he wants to bless us with all of his favor; but because we are an impatient people, we often are willing to settle for the lesser blessing. Why? We hold the immediate gratification higher than the will of God – which is called idolatry. The lust of our flesh causes us to settle for the good and not wait for the best. In our settling, we may leave our situation gratified for the moment, but we will also be left longing for the greater favor. The “what if I had waited” question will plague us forever.

When Isaac was finally born to Abram and Sarai, I wonder if Sarai had that question rolling in her mind, “what if I had waited.” Or the regret, “I wish I had waited.” For now she had to deal with a problematic step son and a jealous slave girl. Often, the problems in our life are results from choosing to move ahead of God, instead of simply waiting on him.

In hindsight, I am grateful for the times that God intervened and made no escape route possible for me when all I wanted to do was move forward. He said, “No” and made me wait. I don’t always understand his timing, or his plan, but I do know this: his delay and the waiting bring a better blessing!

In the waiting period, God is doing two things: by prayer, he draws us into closer relationship with him and by scrutiny; he sifts away our choices and decisions so we can have his. These go hand in hand with each other. The closer we are to God the more our desires become his.

Andrew Murray says on the act of persevering prayer, “Above all God wants to draw us into closer fellowship with him. When our prayers are not answered we learn that the fellowship and love of God are more to us than the answers of our requests, and then we continue in prayer” waiting for his plan.  Amen! It’s the relationship that grows from the waiting period. But God also sifts…

With intense pressure, He sifts us during this time. Referred to earlier, I reiterate Psalm 139:3, “You (God) scrutinize my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.” During the waiting period we also experience scrutiny, meaning that God sifts away at our own choices and decisions refining his purpose in our hearts. He prepares us for the answered prayer when the timing is right. The timing is only right when our desires are his desires. To prune away the chaff, it takes cutting, fire and waiting. If we have the answer to our prayers before his purposes enter our hearts, we can squander the blessing and make a mess of the gift, just as Sarai experienced.

Wait on the Lord for his due timing. He will answer your prayers! Walk along this journey with him and patiently learn as you go down today’s path. He will teach you. He will guide you. He will bless you. Wait, I say it again, wait for the greater blessing and allow him to scrutinize you and sift away the lust to have now.

Genesis 16; Psalm 139:1-12; 1 Thessalonians 4:17

 

Day Thirty-Seven of 40 Days of Prayer for FRC – Abundance


…Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).

Israel is a great nation on a small piece of land. The smallness of its land has nothing to do with this people group’s place before God. They are the chosen of God. Why? From this nation, God brought forth (in poverty) The Babe who is the Almighty King of kings, Lord of lords, and Savior of the world. Small packages do not mean the gift lacks great value.

Therefore, do not judge your life on the possessions you have acquired or the things that surround your life. Life does not stem from things that burn up in the fire. Life is made beautiful by the refinement from the fire.

Our greatest achievement is our place before God. Without the King of kings, we stay a useless life of ashes. With the King of kings our life is greater than any quantifiable possession had on earth.

Abram, the patriarch of the Jewish nation, was not promised favor from the Lord because of his belongings or even because of his great behavior of obedience. Abram was materially rich; God asked him to leave all that surrounded him, and go to a place where God would show him. He walked away from prosperity to live as a nomad, a wanderer without earthly significance. Yes, Abram had things, as God provided for him, but his things were not the reason God said, “I will make you into a great nation; bless you, make your name great; bless those who bless you, curse those who curse you and give you this land for your offspring.”

His blessing came, because Abraham responded to God in faith; he believed God, therefore, his faith was credited to him as righteousness. His faith gave him the abundant favor from our God. His faith even gained him a new name. Abram meant “exalted father, but the new name of Abraham means “father of many.” God’s favor took Abraham’s influence beyond his current existence. Additionally, the “ha” in Abraham’s new name represented the “I will” part of God’s person. “I will” marked he rest of Abraham’s life, hence “I will bless you…”

While our life does not consist in the abundance of our possessions; our life does consist in the abundance of our faith in Jesus Christ. All of life hangs on this one small act of faith. The “I will” in Abraham’s life also marks our own life, for our belief profits us a wealth of heavenly riches which consist of the grace, wisdom, knowledge of our God, the power of the Holy Spirit and uninterrupted presence of the Lord that God promises us.

Father,

I ask that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, will give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we can know him better; I also pray that the eyes of our hearts will be enlightened to know the hope which our God has called us to; to know the riches of his glorious inheritance for the saints; I pray that we will know his incomparably great power – power that works God’s mighty strength exerted in his Son, Jesus Christ. Increase the abundance of our faith, Lord – not our possessions on earth. May this Christmas season and beyond dawn a new day of “ha” faith for us all!

In Jesus name, Amen.

Genesis 12:1-9; Ephesians 1:17-20; Romans 4:3

Be Careful What You Ask For, You Just Might Get It


God promises that if we delight in him, he will give us the desires of our heart. (Psalm 37:4). In Psalm 37:4, the word “desire” means ‘to petition and request’ something. Additionally, whatever we ask in Jesus’ name, God will give. If we ask, it will be given to us; if we knock, the door will be opened. If we seek, we will find. God directs these promises specifically to the desires of our heart. However, there is a stipulation that is tied to this promise – the source.

Psalm 37:4 begins with “Delight yourself in the LORD…” and God will give you the desires of your heart. To delight is to pamper oneself in the Lord; to literally make God the One we indulge in. Making God our cocoon allows us to want the right things – his things. To desire from God’s perspective allows us to be successful in his plan. “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this; he will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn…” (Psalm 37:5-6). This type of desire is given to us… but there is another desire that we are given over to.

The more a person watches T.V. they will desire what is commercialized. Ever notice that when you begin watching a movie, you are not hungry, but then after seeing commercial after a commercial about eating, your stomach begins to ache for food. This is called craving. This is the lust of the flesh at work. Before you know it, you are eating food you originally didn’t want, you weigh ten pounds heavier and live in regret. This same craving can be seen in our finances, our belongings, our sexual lusts, etc. The more we saturate ourselves with the world, the more our source of longings becomes what the world wants.

The definition of this kind of desire is to long for what is forbidden. We might mistakenly see the word “forbidden” as something good that is being withheld from us, but the word actually means to prevent. When we are forbidden to do something, we are being prevented from what hinders us from God’s success.

Repeated cravings for the things of this world put bigger barriers between the good that God wants to give us and the bad that the world uses to destroy us. It’s important to notice the difference between these two meanings of desire. One stems from God’s heart, the second stems from man’s. God is good, but man is not. Therefore, if our desires are rooted from the wrong source, we can expect a curse not blessing.

Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it. Over time God will answer our desires. He will either give to us (blessing) or give us over to (curse). To give one over to is a sentencing phrase used in a court of law. In Romans 1:24 we see God speaking to the second definition of desire: “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies…”  Paul is saying that God sentenced those to the very desires they wanted; they were inwardly focused and longed for the things of the flesh, therefore, they would suffer the consequences of their wishes.

How do you know if your desire is God’s or an evil one? Our best test is the word of God! Saturating ourselves in God’s heart and steering away from evil lust helps us develop God’s desires. Many people claim to be wise, but they are really fools. The test is whose truth they listen to. Fools exchange the glory of the immortal God for desires that serve man. Is the desire you have serving your flesh or making God great? Is it man’s appeal that you are after or is God’s heart? The difference between the two is one is temporary, while the other is satisfying; one brings pain, while the other brings joy; one tears down, while the other builds up.

When our children were young and Christmas time came around, we cut the T.V. off unless it was a Christmas special. Why? We wanted to prevent (protect) our children from the materialism of Christmas and keep Christ in the season. We focused on Christ as the reason for Christmas and we planted the desire to give to others instead of getting for self. Did we give gifts to our children? Yes, we did. But the best gift we gave them was God’s desires not the world’s. This one little change in saturation turned our children into thankful children (adults now) where otherwise, I believe we would have created a monster difference.

If you are unsure whether your desire is holy or evil, ask the Lord to help you discern if there is any hurtful way in you, and ask him to lead you in the everlasting way. Look at what you are saturating yourself with. Is it God’s truth or the world’s wants? It’s important to answer this, because whatever it is, you just might get what you ask for.

 

 

Christmas – It’s the Most Bitter-Sweet Time of the Year.


While Christmas is a time we celebrate the birth of a babe, we also somberly realize that Jesus’ birth came about because truth was nowhere to be found. The Lord looked and was displeased with what he found on earth – no justice – no one righteous – no one to intervene as sacrifice for the wickedness of man. So, from God’s own arm, he achieved salvation for us.

What’s interesting is that Christmas is about a birth and a death. Jesus was given unusual gifts in which one represented his kingship, another, for his worship and lastly one for his death.  Myrrh was given for the embalming of his body at the time of his death. Can you imagine being given a coffin, death certificate and embalming fluid at your son or daughter’s baby shower?  Heaven forbid! However, heaven did not forbid these gifts for his son, because it was this birth that marked the beginning of saving people from their sin and bringing about permanent peace on earth and good will to all men.

Jesus came like a pent-up flood and was driven along by the breath of the Father. Truly, Jesus’ birth was a great invasion into man’s indifferent evil ways. His invasion took place in a poor family and his life on earth began in a stable. His surroundings did not include pastel colors, sweet baby powder smells, and a rocking chair to soothe his cry. Feed, dung, and chill was his welcome.  The filth of sin and wickedness was his blanket, for he came to live among us, suffer and die for us.

His suffering didn’t just include a barbaric beating or a wretched whipping. That would have been horrible enough, amen? No, his suffering went farther than any human can imagine. There is no comparison on earth to what our Savior endured. How could any human endure such brutality? How could he see this suffering all the way to the cross? With an unrecognizable human body, with blood thickly plastered against his frame, and with hammered nails in his feet and hands, he still had strength enough to say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It could not have been human strength that survived him to this point. If it were, we would not have needed him as our Savior.  So, how did he endure?

It was Jesus’ own righteousness that sustained him!  “He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak” (Isaiah 59:17).  (I don’t think we fully realize the power in God’s righteousness! Indeed, his righteousness is more than a blog!) 

Christmas is the most bitter-sweet time of the year. It represents life and death. Sadly, so many can totally understand this; as many experience losing loved ones at this time. But Christmas is also a time of hope. Without the righteousness of Christ, he would not have been able to endure an impoverished beginning and a ghastly end to his mission. It was and is his righteousness that sustained him. And we now have access to that same righteousness. We have the same breastplate that armors us for battle. We can wear the same helmet of salvation; we can wrap ourselves in the same zeal that our Savior wore.

Life can be bitter-sweet; however in this duel experience, we have power – power to overcome whatever trial that makes its way upon us. It is true, that if we shun evil, we become evil’s prey. While prey we may be, God’s Spirit does not leave us. The same righteousness that endured Jesus from birth to death and life again is still enduring inside us. His righteousness is his greatest weapon. He always wins! Put on this breastplate and have total confidence in its protection…”for God is our hiding place and he will protect us from trouble and surround us with songs of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7).

Psalm 32:7; Isaiah 59:15-17, 19, 21

Day Thirty-Six of 40 Days of Prayer for FRC


Father,

Your heart gives to the oppressed, the broken-hearted, the downtrodden and the lonely. You have made a place for these people in our church family. Your word says, “You are gracious to the lonely and afflicted…and you set the lonely in families, and lead the prisoners with singing.” Your heart is what we ask for, Lord. Give us your heart of love. A love that bears all things, trusts all things, endures all things. A love that will go to the ends of the earth to help those in desperate need.

Forgive us when we are selfish and can’t see what you see. Open our eyes to see the hurting around our life. We all live in different places, but in each place there are people who need you and need your unfailing love. Lord, my heart breaks for the child being abused in this moment and the one who is hungry and cold. They should only know love, yet they are learning evil. They should know peace, but all they know is pain. Grant them freedom and give them your unfailing love that can bring light to their darkness.

I pray for the people of our church to have a special sensitivity to those in their midst that are without hope. Open our hearts to receive the homeless, the hungry, the cold, and the hopeless. Warm these with your love through us.

Cleanse us of self and make our cares your cares. Break us to the point that we will give, so we are free from the pain selfishness inflicts.  Help us value others more than ourselves.

In Jesus name,

Amen

Psalm 25:16; Psalm 68:6; Isaiah 1:16-17; 19; Philippians 2:3-4

 

What Gift Can We Give Ourselves this Christmas?


As a culture, at Christmas, we are very bent on buying gifts for our family and friends. This is good. We are giving and modeling our God whose heart is giving. But the question I pose today, “Does God want us to give ourselves a gift?” Yes, He does! This gift may look a little different than what you expect.

Isaiah tells the people of Judah to Wash and make yourself clean. Take your evil deeds out of God’s sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow….if you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land…” (Isaiah 1:16-17, 19).

The gift God wants us to give ourselves is an intentional heart for what God loves. When we repent of our selfishness or even our indifference, and cleanse our heart of the infractions of this world that conflict with what God loves, we prepare ourselves to stop our sin, learn what’s right and seek the true reason we celebrate Christmas.

We begin to develop Christ’s mindset; our heart becomes bent toward others and is less concerned with self-gratification. Suddenly, as we hurry to buy that last-minute gift, our eyes open to the homeless whom we might have missed. We stop, we give, we love. Swiftly we look for ways to help the mother who has no husband to help her. We give to the hurting child who has nothing. We start to organize our finances so that helping and serving others is our priority. We discover we can live on less and give more.

We learn that eating the good things of the land means to develop a godly influence in our community. We clean our heart, replace it with God’s cares, help those whom he loves, and celebrate the heart of our God that now lives inside us!

What gift can we give ourselves this Christmas? God’s heart!