Friday, November 22, 2013

I got an A+ and didn’t have to take the test

As a veteran teacher, I see things differently than some people.

I work all day long with high school students.  As long as they can remember they have been being evaluated for their performance.  It has been ingrained into their minds to do well and get the A.  Sometimes effort and behavior play into that grade but mostly it is performance.  Did you get an A on the test?

Growing up that was extremely important to me.  I strove to get the As. 

Sometimes it is easy to forget that God doesn’t work this way.  He’s got a completely different system.  It isn’t about performance, effort, or behavior.

He’s already graded me and I got an A+.  Why? … because of what Christ did for me.  I simply had to accept what Jesus did for me and apply it to my life.  Now the pressure is off and I can relax.  Because my position in Christ is secure, I can feel the freedom. 

I am free to grow.  I am free to live.  I am free to obey.  I am free to fail, and then start all over again.  The final test has already been taken and I passed.  Jesus took it for me and because He passed, my name is written in the Book of Life .

It’s called grace


“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”  
Ephesians 2:8-9

“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”  Romans 6:14

“And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”  Romans 11:6 

“Grace, then, is grace,–that is to say, it is sovereign, it is free, it is sure, it is unconditional, and it is everlasting.” ~ Alexander Whyte

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I surrender …

When I consider my Christian life, it comes to one primary goal …. living in surrender to Christ.  That isn’t easy!  In fact, sometimes it is very difficult.

Feelings are the worst.  It is sometimes very difficult to choose facts over feelings.  My flesh sends up feelings that I have a hard time suppressing.  Then they quickly take over my logic, reason, and truth.  They cause me to try to justify my actions, to consider my rights, and then they stir up within me anger and bitterness.  They are a very real threat to me.

What I need to do is focus on the facts.  Truth is found in facts.  Jesus said the truth would set me free.

The key – surrender.

My surrendering determines how sold out to Jesus I am.  It also is an indication of my love for Him.

I asked God why He made me with such deep feelings.  I guess it is so I would continually draw near to Him….so I would desperately need Him.  I need Him in control.  I need Him to direct my paths.  I need Him to guard my heart.  I need Him to guide me in truth.

My emotions require constant management.  That keeps me in need of constant surrender to Him … every minute …. every day.  It’s work, but it is worth it.

Surrender is essential.  It’s a constant practice of confessing sin and disobedience and attempting to live in obedience and truth. 

When I am fearful … Lord I surrender.

When I am angry… Lord I surrender.

When I am weak and my faith begins to waver… Lord I surrender.

When I am jealous… Lord I surrender.

When I am hurt, angry, bitter… Lord I surrender.

When I am prideful… Lord I surrender.

When I want to be in control … Lord I surrender.

When I am selfish … Lord I surrender.

When all I can see is my failure … Lord I surrender.

When I doubt your goodness … Lord I surrender.

When I doubt your love … Lord I surrender.

When I think the whole world is against me … Lord I surrender.

Surrender slows down my world.  It clears my mind.  It allows me to experience God’s presence in my spirit.  It reminds me of the facts – the truth.  It empowers me.  It gives me clarity.  It silences the needs/desires/wants of my flesh. 

“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”    ~Psalm 139:23-24

“Direct my footsteps according to your word;
let no sin rule over me.” 
~Psalm 119:133

Monday, November 18, 2013

Safe Life

Did Jesus come to save us so we could live a safe life?

Respectable Christians living in respectable homes, attending respectable churches, wearing respectable clothes, raising respectable children, working respectable jobs, and wearing respectable fake smiles....

We hold tightly to our things, our possessions.

We hold loosely to our God....

It's more important for us to look good than to actually be good ....

God told us to be holy because he is holy (1 Peter 1:16) but we are more concerned with what we have, how we compare to our neighbors, and what others think about us.

We are living so contrary to the teaching of Jesus.

Our purpose in life is not safety, not happiness, not health; it is holiness.

We have too many desires and interests, and our lives are being consumed and wasted by them.  Many of them may be right, noble, and even good but they are taking our focus off our purpose – holiness.

Holiness means absolute purity of our walk before God, the words coming from our mouths, and even the very thought in our minds— placing every detail of our life under the scrutiny of God Himself.

Holy living is not safe living.  Someone will be offended.  Someone won’t speak to you.  Someone will think you are a “Jesus Freak.” 

However, holy living pleases God.

So what’s it going to be – safe living or holy living.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Prayer is an expectation

Still doing a lot of thinking on the topic of prayer.

It is believed that many Christians pray less than 7 minutes daily, even though they know that prayer is a vital Christian Discipline. Why might this be so?

Sometimes the problem is primarily a lack of discipline. Prayer is never planned; time is never allotted just for praying.

Often we do not pray because we doubt that anything will actually happen if we pray. Of course, we don’t admit this publically.

A lack of sensing the nearness of God may also discourage the prayer.

When there is little awareness of real need, there is little real prayer.

Some circumstances drive us to our knees. But there are periods when life seems quite manageable.

Although Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), this truth hits home more forcefully at some times than at others.

When our awareness of the greatness of God and the gospel is dim, our prayer lives will be small.

Another reason many Christians pray so little is because they haven’t learned about prayer.

Reasons why we don’t pray

1. Lack of knowledge

We don’t understand it

God is sovereign but He asks as to pray. Why does He need me to pray?

We see our prayers go unanswered. We pray for a long time and don’t get an answer.

2. Self-sufficiency

We think we don’t need it.

While we’d never say that, we live like that.

We think we’ve got it all together.

We think we can handle it.

We are self-sufficient. We live as if we don’t need God. We can go for a whole day (or even days) without prayer. Perhaps we bless the food but we don’t really communicate with God anything past a rote recitation. Going a whole day without prayer is like telling God that you didn’t need Him today…. that you did fine on your own.

3. Pre-occupied

We don’t have the focus for it. We are preoccupied with ourselves instead of thinking about others. We don’t even really know the needs of others.

We are preoccupied with our comfort instead of discipline.

We can’t get up a half an hour early to pray but we can for things we want to do.

We are preoccupied with all the “stuff” going on in our lives instead of our inability to live the Christian life in our own power. It can even be “good stuff” that takes our attention.

Solutions to these problems

1. Overcoming the lack of knowledge.

Recognize that our ignorance is insignificant. It doesn’t matter if we don’t understand prayer. The fact that I don’t fully understand prayer is not a reason to not pray.

Realize that you don’t have to be an expert. You don’t have to be smart.

James 5:16 “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective”.

You just have to be righteous. As long as you are saved, you are righteous. At the moment of new birth you were given the righteousness of Christ.

You have all it takes to have a powerful and effective prayer life.

You need to balance the idea that you have all it takes to have an effective prayer life with realizing that your knowledge is insufficient.  God knows all things.  While your prayer life can be effective, you still need to be submissive to the will of God.

In Luke 1:1 the disciples said “teach us to pray”; they didn’t say teach us how to pray.  We need God to teach us to pray.  Then in Luke 11:2, they prayed for God’s will to be done on earth. Little children pray for what they want, not what they need.  Pray for what God wants and not what you want.

2. Overcoming self-sufficiency

Realize that prayerlessness is sin.  It is also a sin not to pray for others.

1 Samuel 12 – The people wanted a king. They asked Samuel to ask God for a king for them.  Look at verse 23 – Samuel says that it would be a “sin not to pray for you.”

Self-sufficiency is sin.  Our competency comes from God.

2 Corinthians 3:5 “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.”

John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

3. Overcoming the Preoccupied Life

Your source is the Holy Spirit.

Andrew Murry - “The flesh can say prayers well enough. Calling itself religious for doing so and thus satisfy the conscious. But the flesh has no desire or strength for the prayer that strives after intimate knowledge of God, that rejoices in fellowship with Him, and that continues to lay hold of His strength.”

It is possible to pray in the flesh. We try to muster up our own desire and discipline to pray. Ultimately we will fail because it can’t be done continuously in the flesh.

Come before God and be honest. Tell Him you don’t have the desire, discipline, ability to pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to do it through you.

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 – “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Colossians 4:2 - “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”


A couple of final thoughts:

E.K.Bailey said “Prayer is an awesome instrument for getting God’s will done on earth not for getting my will done in heaven.”

Peter Briscoe said “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance but it is plugging into God’s will.”