Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pray Specifically

I have a new set of CDs from Chuck Swindoll on the Book of Daniel. He has run this series on his radio program for the past couple of months, but I kept missing parts of the lessons, so I just decided to order them so I could hear the whole thing.

The series had (of course, being from Daniel) quite a bit to do with prophecy, but the whole series (both halves of the book) was so relevant to the difficulties of today.

As you may recall, Daniel was taken into captivity with the Israelites as a young man, and rose to great prominence in the land of Babylon (much like Joseph’s captivity in Egypt.) The first half of the book of Daniel is (you might say) “practical” and the second half is “prophecy.” (Personally, I believe that Daniel wrote the whole book - but that’s another debate for another day…)

Again, what really struck me about the radio series was it’s relevance to today.
Rev. Swindoll spoke of elections, and of praying for the nation in times of great difficulties. He talked of wars and terrorist attacks and financial woes. I actually thought we were getting the sermons, pretty much, as he preached them.

Then I got the set in and found that the sermons were originally preached, just before the elections, in 1976! Wow! Thirty-two years ago… The similarities were eerie!

One thing he said really struck me, though. He said, “As Christians, sometimes our answer to difficulties is to look for the Rapture. Just ‘take us out of here’ we cry. But instead, our answer should be, as Daniel’s was, to pray.”

And so I urge you today… pray, pray, and then, pray some more. And don’t pray “generically”; pray specifically! If you don’t pray specifically, how are you going to know when God answers?

And, if you don’t know when He answers, how can you have faith in prayer, and how can you praise His Holy Name?

Precious and Gracious Lord; Father of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and by adoption, our own Abba, Father… we fall on our knees before You and pour out our hearts to You this morning.

God, we specifically name those things that create such terrible weights on our shoulders, and we pray, Lord, that You would lift our burdens.

For each of us, the “names” of the burdens may be different, but the pain is the same; the concern is the same; and the paralyzing fear of uncertainly is exactly the same. We just don’t know what to do next. Show us, I pray.

Lay out a path of direction that is so clear, that it could come from no other but You. And give us peace, Lord. Give us an assurance, an encouragement that our prayers are being heard, even if it’s going to be a long time until the complete answer comes, give us “something” to hold onto until that day. Give us… that peace that we so often hear of… that surpasses understanding.

Father, my personal prayer is for those that I wish (and that each of us wishes) would pray this prayer, but we just can’t seem to convince them to pray. We all have those, Lord; our friends, our family, our brothers and sisters in Christ - who just don’t seem to “get it.”

We pray that their eyes will be opened; we pray specifically that they will hear Your Voice when You call out, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

And we pray specifically that (this person) will respond.

In Jesus’ Holy and Perfect Name - Amen! (and Amen.)

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Is the Bible Relevant to Today's Life?

Biblical Relevance?

The headlines read:

Terrorist Attacks Continue

Economy in Ruins

Many Losing Jobs and Homes - Moving to Find Work

People in Despair

Lack of Faith in God Evident

These are not headlines from your local newspaper. They are from (if there was one) “The Bethlehem Times” during the 12th century BC, during the time of the setting of the book of Ruth.

I recently heard someone on the Bible Broadcasting Network begin a series on the book of Ruth, (95.3 if you’re in the Knoxville, East Tennessee area or ) and I realized, “You know, I’ve never really delved into the book of Ruth!”

I’ve studied and written about Esther, but not Ruth - and since I’ve started this study, I’ve been amazed at what I’ve found. You think prophecy describes today? You should read the opening chapter of Ruth.

You might title the book of Ruth, “How Difficult Times Affected One Family.”

I’m convinced that Elimelech (whose name means “God is my King”) really believed what his name signified. But, he was a “devout” man, caught in desperate times.

If you could ask him, he would tell you, “No, I didn’t want to move to Moab, but I had to provide for my family. Ya gotta do what you gotta do, you know…” And so he went…

Little did he know that he would never set foot back in his hometown again; nor would his sons…

I intend to write a more in-depth study on the book of Ruth, but my number one goal as a Bible teacher is to give you (what I call) “the ‘want-to’s”.

I want you to “want to” read this for yourself.

If you’ve never studied the book of Ruth - or it’s been a while - read it today. Watch how God’s Hand of providence directed this one family, during a time of national unease, to fulfill His Will.

The key for us is this: He’s done it before… He’ll do it again… Look for it!

Father, I lift up those reading my blog, or on my mailing list. The older I get, the more I realize that every… single… person… has areas of their lives that desperately need prayer. And so I ask, Lord, hear the cries of their hearts - those spoken cries, those unspoken cries, and those cries that don’t even have words to bring them to light.

You promised that Your Spirit would connect with our spirit and take our groans and utterances right to the Throne of Grace - and so we pray for that very thing.

Fill us with the assurance of Your Presence as we live in these increasingly difficult times. And lead us to make right decisions, based on Your Promises and Your Word, and not on what we “think” we need to do to provide for our families.

Help us Father, to remain steadfast and faithful, and to seek to know You better through Your precious Word.

In Jesus’ Name - Amen.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Conversion Isn't a "One-Time" Event

Isn't it funny how we use words differently inside and outside of the Church?

When we say the word "conversion", if we're "inside" the church, we immediately think of "salvation."

But, if we're "outside" the church, we may more readily think of something like "conversion van" for instance. We think more of something that has been altered or changed in someway to make it useful for another purpose.

A recent S.S. lesson was on Saul's conversion, and it got me to thinking that, in actuality, conversion is a long drawn-out process, that involves a lot of changes.

For instance, the men we call the disciples were converted from their "jobs" to "followers of Christ." Then they were "converted" to disciples, then apostles, Church Fathers, and then most of them, to martyrs.

Actually the opposite of conversion is stagnation. When we stop changing, and growing, we are useless.

In Philippines 3:12-14 (NLT) Paul says, "I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,

I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us."

In my own life, I've undergone many "conversions." First I was a child, a daughter; then a student, (then a believer) an employee, a wife, a mother, a business owner, a writer a caregiver, a mother-in-law, and a teacher. And now, I am undergoing yet another "conversion" for which I am in daily prayer.

What about you? Have you undergone "conversion" in the "Biblical" sense? That's first and foremost. But then, what about in the fuller sense of the word? Are you undergoing conversion?

If not, are you in danger of becoming stagnant?

Father, I lift up those who genuinely seek conversion; those who seek to so change daily as to serve You in the fullest sense of the word; those who "forgetting the past, are looking forward to what lies ahead."

I pray Lord, that they... we may press on to reach the end of the race, and receive the heavenly prize for which You, through Christ, are calling us.

In Jesus' Name - Amen.

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