Tuesday, October 17, 2017

101. Growing in Prayer – Does God Answer our Prayers?

We learn to pray in and through the Holy Spirit, in and through God, in and through Christ Jesus (the Word).  We learn to pray through gifted teachers and pastors sharing God’s truth, and most of all when we seek God through the power of the Holy Spirit and ask Him to teach us to pray. 

Let us think about the meaning of in and through.  “In Christ” happens when in obedience to the atonement; the Holy Spirit justifies us in saving grace and we are being sanctified as the Holy Spirit continues work in us. As His child we then have the right, privilege, and honor to always be face to face with our Father (Ephesians 2:18) through prayer.  In other words, as we are reconciled in Christ, we are a new creation and we submit in obedience to Christ living in and through us to accomplish His Will here on earth.

Ephesians 3:12, In Him and through faith in Him we may enter God's presence with boldness and confidence.

2 Corinthians 5:20-21; 20Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21For He made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (NKJ)
Oswald Chambers says, “The cross represents only one thing for us—complete, entire, absolute identification with the Lord Jesus Christ—and there is nothing in which this identification is more real to us than in prayer”.[1]

In faith and obedience Abraham offered his son for sacrifice (Genesis 22).  God gave the Lamb.
In Egypt the Children of Israel groaned because of their bondage. (Exodus 2:23).  God gave Moses to lead them from bondage.

Because of the sinfulness of the Israelites at the foot of Mt. Sinai, Moses pleaded to God’s honor not to kill them. (Exodus 32:12).  God relented.

Hannah in bitterness of soul and anguish prayed for a son. (1 Samuel 1:10).  God gave Samuel.
Nehemiah asked God to go before him as he requested the King to allow him to return to Judah. (Nehemiah 1:11).  God went before Nehemiah as he journeyed with safe passage and supplies to rebuild the gates and walls.

King David prayed in repentance, seeking forgiveness and restoration.  (Psalm 51).  God forgave.
Hezekiah prayed for healing (Isaiah 38:2).  God gave Hezekiah 15 more years.
Daniel prayed for deliverance after 70 yrs captivity in Babylon (Daniel 9).  God’s people were delivered to their land.

Mary, Mother of Jesus, submitted to God, Let it be to me according to your word”. (Luke 1:38) and seeing Elizabeth, Mary burst into song and worship. (Luke 1:46).  Jesus, Savior of the world, was born.

Paul prayed for the Ephesians to be rooted in God’s love that they could comprehend the mystery of God’s love.  (Ephesians 3:19).  God’s love grows in each of us today.  Does God answer prayers?  Yes He does.  Sometimes His answer is NO.  God's "No" is not rejection, but redirection.  Sometimes “No” is preparation.

All of these scriptures are examples of prayer.  Prayer is offering our most prized possession; groaning in the bondage of life’s experiences; pleading forgiveness; crying out in bitterness of soul; asking, lifting our repentance; seeking healing for ourselves and others; deliverance; submission; bursting in songs of joy and praise

Prayer is obedience!  All are examples of faith moved to action believing.  In our obedience we develop discipline.

[1] His Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Champers, August 6

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

100. Growing in Prayer – Is Prayer a Gift?

I recently read about the Bethlehem millennial celebration held in 2000.  I think the celebration in the City of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, holds great significance.  In 1999 the authorities launched a $200M project for millennial celebrations and renovations with the expectations of 200M pilgrims attending.  It sounded like a very exciting and stirring moment as the clock struck 12:00 a.m., January 1, 2000, and then inched past into a whole new century.  It was a rich moment, one with rich symbolism.  As the new century was ushered in, birds were released as a sign of their collective hope for peace.  Yet in the reality of that moment it was far different.  The birds were released, fireworks were exploding and in the chaos of the noise and flashing light, rather than flying peacefully away as a flock, the birds became confused and frightened and flew helter-skelter all around the square, never really going anywhere.[1]

This can be a great metaphor for our human condition.  We flap around in our lives, confused and sometimes frightened, never completely comfortable with where we are flying.  It is though the connections are not right just as the birds became disconnected.  It was night…birds don’t fly at night, and here the world around them was exploding with noise, fireworks, and bursting light. 

Do we not feel at times that same desperate feeling those birds experienced.  The confusion and chaos of our world today is enough to make anyone a bit tilted.  The domineering element of our society’s rush and a mind set, “it should have been done yesterday”; our government in utter chaos….liberals and conservatives pulling against each other rather than come together in cohesiveness, the work force has no security, homes are splitting up, churches are struggling, pastors are fearful of boldly speaking God’s truth because it is not politically correct.  In this millennial search for sanity there is an answer – God’s answer.

Doyle and I would like to share the journey we have been walking now for a number of years…the journey into prayer.  Because of the shear tragedy in our lives we turned to God in prayer because He was the only one who heard the deep cries of our heart.  Through this journey we began to discover and understand in our heart an incredible relationship.  Prayer is an intimate time with our Lord God and with our Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus…..a time of praise and worship, a time of thanksgiving.  Prayer is a life-line to the unknown, an anchor in the “wing flapping” chaos of life, intimacy and closeness with our Lord and Savior, learning and experiencing the heart of Jesus (John 17) and our brothers and sisters. 

I am going to make a statement in which many may disagree, but hear me out.  Prayer is not a gift.  Our pastor (as well as many other pastors) preaches on prayer as a Gift.  I ask you, look at the Gifts of the Father for basic life purpose and motivation (Romans 12:3-8); Look at the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the power by which we come together in unity of our gifts to serve one another (I Corinthians 12:8-10); and the Gifts of the Son to facilitate and equip the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11).  It does not mention prayer as a gift.

Prayer is taught, studied, learned, exemplified and experienced.  It is a spiritual discipline.

Pray in the Power of the Holy Spirit for those in darkness.

[1] Knowing God (Making God the Main Thing in My life”, Kimberly Dunnam Reisman, p. 72

Monday, September 25, 2017

99. Growing in Prayer – Pray Without Ceasing……

16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  --1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Nick Gholson was our son-in-law married to our middle daughter, Jenee’.  After a long battle with cancer he died October 13, 2013 at the age of 66.  He was a lifelong resident and Times Record News Sports editor in Wichita Falls, Texas.  He worked for the Times Record News since April of 1972 covering many sporting events including local games, MSU games, national bowl games, Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers and even the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

We share with you today an article he wrote in September 1999.  Unfortunately, it is being passed around by e-mail with the attribution of Paul Harvey, probably to give the piece more credibility. Who knows, maybe Paul Harvey wishes he wrote it, but he didn't. Regardless, it's an outstanding piece.

Here is the 1999 editorial by Nick GholsonPray without ceasing or cease praying? 

I don't believe in Santa Claus, but I'm not going to sue somebody for singing a Ho-Ho-Ho song in December.

I don't agree with Darwin, but I didn't go out and hire a lawyer when my high school teacher taught his theory of evolution.

Life, liberty or your pursuit of happiness will not be endangered because someone says a 30-second prayer before a football game.

So what's the big deal? It's not like somebody is up there reading the entire book of Acts. They're just talking to a God they believe in and asking him to grant safety to the players on the field and the fans going home from the game.

"But it's a Christian prayer," some will argue. Yes, and this is the United States of America, a country founded on Christian principles. According to our very own phone book, Christian churches outnumber all others better than 200-to-1. So, what would you expect--somebody chanting Hare Krishna?

If I went to a football game in Jerusalem, I would expect to hear a Jewish prayer. If I went to a soccer game in Baghdad, I would expect to hear a Muslim prayer. If I went to a ping pong match in China, I would expect to hear someone pray to Buddha. And, I wouldn't be offended. It wouldn't bother me one bit. When in Rome...

"But, what about the atheists?" is another argument. What about them? Nobody is asking them to be baptized. We're not going to pass the collection plate. Just humor us for 30 seconds. If that's asking too much, bring a Walkman or a pair of ear plugs. Go to the bathroom. Visit the concession stand. Call your lawyer. Unfortunately, one or two will make that call. One or two will tell thousands what they can and cannot do.

I don't think a short prayer at a football game is going to shake the world's foundations. Christians are just sick and tired of turning the other cheek while our courts strip us of all our rights. Our parents and grandparents taught us to pray before eating, to pray before we go to sleep.

Our Bible tells us to pray without ceasing. Now, a handful of people and their lawyers are telling us to cease praying. God, help us. And, if that last sentence offends you, well..........just sue me. The silent majority has been silent too long. It's time we let that one or two who scream loud enough to be heard, that the vast majority don't care what they want. It is time the majority rules!

It's time we tell them, you don't have to pray. You don't have to say the pledge of allegiance, you don't have to believe in God or attend services that honor Him. That is your right, and we will honor your right … but, by golly, you are no longer going to take our rights away. We are fighting back. . .and we WILL WIN!

God bless us one and all, especially those who denounce Him. God bless America, despite all her faults, she is still the greatest nation of all. God bless our service men who are fighting to protect our right to pray and worship God! May [2017] be the year the silent majority is heard and we put God back as the foundation of our families and institutions. Keep looking up...... ‘In God WE Trust.’ “ 

[1] Nick Gholson, Times Record News Sports Editor, Wichita Falls, Texas

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

98. Growing in Prayer – Signs of Times

10Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand”.  -- Isaiah 41:10

This last Sunday our Pastor preached on Isaiah 41:10.  It has been a scripture I have claimed mightily for several years now.  It is one of things that one doesn’t remember exactly how it happened, but God steps in and gives encouragement when circumstances become what we cannot handle.  It was a time of despair that I experienced in one month’s time.  My beloved husband had prostate cancer surgery; on the same day my mother had a stroke which paralyzed her right side.  In the same month we lost my precious nephew in a helicopter crash and on the same day I had to move my Mother to a nursing home.  During that time God gave me Isaiah 41:10.  Four months later I wrote in my Bible:  “God did; God does; God will”.

I offer Isaiah 41:10 to the many souls who have suffered through Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.  There are years of recovery from these storms.  Already we have seen the resiliency of humankind.  Thousands helping thousands!  Our message to each of you is the prayers of the faithful that have been lifted before our God and Father.  Even in the torrent of wind, water, and damage we can find the miracles of God.  Nature is a force beyond our control, but believing faith in prayer can move mountains (Matthew 17:20).

We have fires in California and the Northwest; An 8.2 Earthquake in Mexico and felt in Guatemala; N. Korea threating, unrest throughout the mid-east and around the world.  We live in fearful times and the One living God promises, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed”.  The one living God promises in Jeremiah29:11-13; “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. ……”

Throughout Scripture we find repeated references to God’s people seeking after Him.  Implied in these passages is a quest for God that includes a level of intensity beyond what might be termed ordinary prayer.  The word ‘search’ along with the phrase ‘with all your heart’ suggests an earnestness that borders on desperation”.[1]

Jesus warns us in Matthew 24:4-14 this time will come.  “. . . . . . 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places…..”

I John 5:5 tells us, “Who is it that overcomes the world?  Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God”.  We can rest in God’s promises through faith, prayer, and living.  20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”.  Galatians 2:20

[1] Dick Eastman, B.A., D.D.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

97. Growing in Prayer – II. Christ Centered

Continuing on in the same vain as last week, “Christ Centered”, we want to explore deeper.  To be Christ Centered is not only denying self, but to dedicate self to other relational experiences with Christ.  I recently read in a devotional from Wisdom Hunters this quote, “Self-denial is never an end in and of itself, but is a means by which we gain entry into life itself”. 

An example of self-denial and “entry into life itself” is the recent news worthiness of hurricane Harvey in Texas.  Thousands are displaced as thousands come to their aid denying self in the name of goodness and righteousness.  These people who have come to the aid of the desperate are truly the hands and feet of our Lord Jesus.  Those who are not involved in the physical saving lives and recovery but from their distance work diligently in monetary, food, clothing and cleaning supplies are just as much a servant of denying self as those on the scene.  They are supplying the needs of the rescuers and the rescued.

Our staff member, Steve Rosser, tells us in Compass’ Core Value, Christ Centered, “Serving the Lord is not always a direct behavior toward Christ but many times we serve him by serving each other, and serving those in need (Mathew 25-----“Then Christ will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  “Serving others to serve Christ………”

Many of those who have suffered through the carnage of this hurricane….rescuers and rescued will grow in their relationship with our Savior and God or they will become believers in the One and only living God as they experience the force of nature beyond their control.  I can’t help but think of the words, “There are no atheists in a fox hole”.  When we are in dire circumstances in the “fox hole” of life, we seek the One and only great healer to human tragedy and we discover I can do all things through Christ Jesus (even the devastation of nature).  AND, we turn to prayer as we seek and call upon the Lord.

As Steve[1] closes his words to the Compass business meeting, “So in order for us to be a Christ Centered ministry we must individually desire and pursue a Christ Centered life encompassing: Knowing Christ, Being His Disciple, Fellowshipping with Christ, being a servant to others, and finally having the mindset or attitude of Christ Jesus himself.  In fact one of the closing statements under our Christ-Centered Core value says………We recognize that true fruitfulness of ministry only flows out of a relationship with Him

In closing though there is much more to say, to be Christ Center, it is essential that we live the character of Christ Jesus.  Part of living the character of Jesus is to pray unceasingly, 18 Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”.  –Matthew 18:18

[1] Steve Rosser - Associate Director Texas Compass

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

96. Growing in Prayer – Christ Centered

24 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me].”  -- Matthew 16:24

We in Compass – finances God’s way have Core Values we dedicate our service to God.  These Core Values are CHRIST-CENTERED, HOLY SPIRIT LED, BIBLE-BASED, PRAYER-DRIVEN, and DISCIPLESHIP FOCUSED.

We have a Business Meeting by telephone in Compass every two weeks where the staff from all states involved call in.  One part of that meeting a staff member gives us focus on one Core Value.  This last week one of our staff focused on “Christ-Centered”.  He did such an excellent job with this Core Value I am using several meaningful excerpts from his presentation.

In using the Christ-Centered Core Value, he reflected, “it became clear to me that while we are a Christ Centered Ministry, we can only be a Christ-Centered ministry if we are Christ Centered in our own lives, or might I say Christ-Focused or even Christ-Like in our own lives”.[1]  

How do we focus completely on Jesus our Savior?  Scripture tells us in Matthew 16:24, we must deny self, set aside all selfish interests and take up Christ’s cross with a willingness to endure whatever may come in our service to His children in His name.  Taking our faith moved to action even to the suffering of Christ.

“First, we need to know Christ.   We need to be believers in who Christ is what he has done for us and acknowledge our dependence on Him as personal savior and as Lord of our lives.  The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10 “ I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”  And this knowing is a reciprocal relationship with Christ.  John quoted Christ in Chapter 10,My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.’  So knowing implies an intimacy with Christ and a necessary response from us and that is ‘they follow me’ which is the second characteristic of a Christ Centered person.”[2]  I might add here “knowing” is “understanding” in the HEART!

To be a follower of course means to be a disciple meaning not only one who learns what his teacher has to say but the disciple should also be committed to living out the teachings of their teacher.”  As Steve continues with Matthew 16:24, Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny them self and take up their cross and follow me.”  Steve adds, “This requires a mind shift and a behavioral change (dare I say a heart change) in order to truly be a follower of Christ.  At times, I struggle with this as I often want to revert to my human ways of living out my life.  Relying on my own flawed and biased experiences, depending on perhaps what I perceive as knowledge and skills I possess and maybe even following selfish motivations.  As a Christ Centered person though, I must seek Christ’s view and strive to follow in His steps.[3] 

Do we not all struggle with denying self and being totally with Jesus in Character and it does take a heart change, for Christ looks at the heart.

It is true in prayer in praying the effective prayer, we become Christ Centered, we forget self, and become one with Christ, knowing Him through our time, talking to Him, studying His Word being in relationship with Him.  We pray in the Name of Jesus by the blood He shed, in His Word and His Will seeking Him to intervene here on earth as in heaven.

I will continue next week with Steve Rosser’s thoughts.

[1] Steve Rosser - Associate Director Texas Compass
[2] Steve Rosser - Associate Director Texas Compass
[3] Steve Rosser - Associate Director Texas Compass

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

95. Growing in Prayer – The Simplicity of Jesus

But I am afraid that, even as the serpent beguiled Eve by his cunning, your minds may be corrupted and led away from the simplicity of [your sincere and] pure devotion to Christ. For [you seem willing to allow it] if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted. You tolerate all this beautifully [welcoming the deception].—II Corinthians 11:3-4 (AMP)

 We are very concerned about our Nation.  At our age we see the futility of the human animosity and loathing that is crisscrossing our nation.  It is destruction of a Godly Nation.  We need and strive to reach the hearts of people in prayer.  This is a call to prayer for the Saints to join together in the power of the Holy Spirit to pray for our Nation. 

We, too, join Paul as he warned the Corinthians do not be deceived by the “cunning of the serpent” as Eve was; do not be “corrupted and led away from the simplicity of [your sincere and] pure devotion to Christ”.  Many in our Nation have been led into violence against their fellow man/woman by their intolerance and by the intolerance of people who have been elected to serve the people of this Nation and self-appointed leaders.

We quote Richard J. Foster from his book, “Prayer, Finding the Hearts True Home”.  “God has graciously allowed me to catch a glimpse into His heart, and I want to share with you what I have seen.  Today the heart of God is an open wound of love. He aches over our distance and preoccupation.  He mourns that we do not draw near to Him.  He grieves that we have forgotten Him.  He weeps over our obsession with muchness and manyness.  He longs for our presence”. 

We have the One, loving, living God who mourns for our sinful nature and our choices. 

The simplicity of our sincere and pure devotion to Christ is in our faith that chooses to believe God’s Word above and beyond the circumstances of the evil that is being perpetuated by the sins of people.  Faith is not in denying the circumstances of our Nation; rather, it is in our faith moved to action believing in the Jesus of simplicity, love, and living in agreement with His Word.

Prayer is not an activity, but a relationship. God has ordained that prayer will be the conduit through which His intervening, earth-changing power flows from heaven to earth.  Prayer is what sets God's will in motion on the earth.[1]

God’s power is always available to us, but if we don’t use the key of prayer, we can’t appropriate this power for our lives[2]; and for God’s Kingdom here on earth as it is in Heaven.

In all truth and reality it is as simple as that.

[1] Jennifer Kennedy Dean, prayer speaker and author
[2] Jack Hayford, The Power of Praying Together