Prayer is Responding to God’s Truth in Faith

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There are many statements in the Bible that inspire, comfort or challenge me, but there are two which startle me, one in the Old Testament and one in the New.

The first one is Isaiah 59:16. It says God was astonished. That’s incredible! It’s not that He was surprised, He’s omniscient, all-knowing. He was astonished, because there was no one, no one at all, who would intercede in prayer for the nation of Israel.

In the Gospels, Jesus wondered at the unbelief of the people of Nazareth. He was limited in what He could do there, no miracles except healing a few people, because they did not believe in Him.

When we’re in Heaven, how many of us will be astonished and wonder that we did not take and use one of the greatest gifts we have been given? Prayer is that gift. Prayer is taking the truth God has told us and responding to it in faith.

John records Jesus’ talk to His disciples, and to us, on the night before He died. Some of the sweetest promises and teachings in Scripture are found there. Have you ever read His last teaching before Calvary? Jesus invites His disciples to pray seven times. Seven times!

If you peruse those chapters, you will see how eager Jesus is that we take this treasure, how He yearns to bless us through it, to give us joy, to give us “according to the riches of His glory.”

When Scripture says something once, it’s important. If it’s repeated two or three times, pay attention. But seven times? Surely that’s something we need to take to heart! Prayer is important. It’s how we communicate with our heavenly Father. It’s how we thank Him, how we confess our sin and unburden ourselves, how we praise God and worship Him, and how we ask Him for the things we need and want.

If you read the Bible, you cannot help but see that we live in a world embroiled in a spiritual war. While prayer is a spiritual weapon, it’s also the one thing that girds together and empowers all of the other spiritual weapons.

Prayer is essential for us to live victorious lives.

 

I’ve heard this analogy made about those who have put their hope in Jesus Christ:

It’s like a man who’s inherited land. He goes out to claim his inheritance, and moves onto the land, builds a home there and enjoys it greatly. But there is a neighbor nearby who is an enemy. He knows that there is incredible wealth in that land, just under the surface and he doesn’t want the man he hates to have anything more than he already enjoys. So the evil neighbor does whatever it takes to keep the man from exploring or digging about and finding the treasure just under the surface of his inheritance.

I’ve been with Jesus in the “school of prayer” for decades. There’ve been times when I lived in defeat and depression. I didn’t realize that while I received my salvation by faith, that I was to live out my salvation the same way. I’d fallen into thinking legalistic thinking, and my prayers were weak cries for forgiveness for all the ways I failed to measure up. Although I knew a lot about the Bible, I had stumbled away from grace and was living in my own power. I was effectively sidelined.

Praying is fighting and we need to know two things:

what weapons are ours and who the enemy is.

 

Jesus said that when we pray, we are to ask in His name and we’ll receive. We ask on the basis of His merit, because of the perfect life He lived. That perfect life has been applied to our account. We have the very righteousness of Jesus Christ, not because of our success in living, but because of His. That means we’re always acceptable to the Father. We can enter into His presence at any time because of Jesus.

We have authority in this world, and in prayer, because we are united by faith with Jesus Christ. That authority is your inheritance, your portion. You don’t have to do anything to earn or deserve it, you received it when you trusted Christ for your salvation. Listen, “you’ve died with Christ and have been buried and raised with Him and seated with Him in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and ever name that can be named.”

Every believer is positionally seated at the right hand of God on that throne with Jesus, no matter how poor, how rich, how attractive or old you are. Each of us is meant to be more than conquerors in this life-yet how few take up this gift, this blessing, this weapon!

Picture a Roman soldier dressed in the full armor of God. Imagine some huge, muscled man with all of that armor being buzzed by a fly. Wouldn’t it be incredible to see him swat at it and begin to cry? What would you think if he collapsed in tears because a fly was harassing him?

That’s where too many of us are in our lives, freaking out over things that God is ready to take care of for us, if we’ll just turn to Him in prayer and give it to Him.

Others of us aren’t freaking out, but we’re asleep. We do life, we have fun and we don’t think much about God, except on Sundays. Why do we allow ourselves to be lulled into spiritual slumber? There is a spiritual war going on and the follower of Jesus is to be like a soldier, alert and at the command of the leader.

Why do we allow ourselves to live defeated lives, when Jesus offers us an abundant life here and now? Not a life of riches, but of richness; not a life of high position, but of honor before the only One who really matters. Why do we allow ourselves to drift through life, asleep at the wheel, when we can be living a life of great excitement and joy with our Savior?

Praying is fighting. We give up too easily. We fall into the “once and done” mentality. We don’t just pray about something one time, intercede for that loved one once, or twice, or for a year even. We continue on in prayer, believing, with faith.

When someone is fighting an infection, the doctor doesn’t give one dose of antibiotic and leave the patient to heal on his own. He continues on with the treatment. The reason why we don’t see more answers to prayer, is that when we meet with obstacles or we don’t see answers right away, we become discouraged and quit praying.

Expect to meet obstacles. The Bible says that our struggle, our wrestling, is with the rulers and powers, the world forces of this darkness, of the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Do you think you will go unchallenged when you pick up the great weapon God gave us? You will feel too tired to pray. You will have things crowd in on your thoughts as you pray, you will be tempted to doubt. You may even experience direct attacks from the enemy.

It’s not just you. Many believers over the centuries have faced the same obstacles to prayer. Continuing on with prayer despite those obstacles is called “praying through.” Praise God in your prayers, thank Him for what He has done, sing even, and you will find the obstacles will not keep you from praying and taking what God has for you.

Philip Brooks said this about the Christian and prayer:

Don’t pray for an easy life! Pray to be stronger men! Don’t pray for tasks equal to your power; pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be a miracle.

Take up prayer. Pray in Jesus’ name. The devil will yield only to whom he must-and he must yield to Jesus. Pray along with what’s in God’s will; what’s in His word is the place to start. Take what Jesus offers with thanks and humbleness-all that we have in Him was bought at great cost. Take up prayer with the authority you have as a child of the living God.

Jesus said that we would be able to do the things He did, and greater!

Do we believe Him-or will He wonder at our lack of faith?

What Do You Do When You Fall?

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It is such an embarrassing thing to fall, isn’t it? . .

 

The last time I fell, it was painful! I was working out at the gym with my oldest daughter, Lindsey. We were warming up by walking on treadmills. It was funny, because we’re a bit competitive at the gym, and we each kept bumping up our speed to be faster than the other. A bank of TV screens was on the wall in front of us, and as we walked, I noticed a woman on a news station with a hairstyle I really liked. So I turned to Lindsey, who is a gifted stylist, and pointed to the woman. We started talking about her cutting my hair the same way. I got so excited about the new hair style that I stopped walking to emphasize the length I wanted my hair cut. Stopping, while on a treadmill going four miles an hour, is not a good idea! The bruises and scrapes on my right leg prove it.

 

That was a public failure, and a humiliating one! Believe me, the same thing happens to me in other aspects of my life. It can happen to us spiritually. It’s one thing when our fall is in private, but another when it’s public. I wish I could tell you it never happens, but it does. What do we do about it?

 

The worst thing we can do is try to cover it up. We look foolish and demean the Savior we follow when we don’t own up to our mistakes. 1 John 1:9 tells that we need to confess our sin and that God is faithful to cleanse us. If our failure was private, then we are done. But for those public sins, we need to make a public admission of our guilt. It is hard to admit doing wrong. However, saying we acted in a manner that does not line up with who we are in Christ  frees us from the chains of guilt. It opens the door for us to make amends to those we’ve injured. When we respond to failure with humility, others often respond with grace and mercy.

 

There are examples in Scripture of those who fell into sin and tried to hide it, like Ananias and Sapphira. Their attempt to cover up public sin ended up costing them their lives. That tells me God considers my response to my sin a serious thing.

 

Scripture is clear that every one of us battles sin and there will be times we fall in that battle. When we do, it is best to remind ourselves that because of Jesus Christ, there is a way back -and take it!

 

The House

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Adapted by Dawn Morris from a sermon by FB Meyers

Luke 11:21-22: “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.”

I want to tell you the story of a house. I know something about it, because I’ve lived in one like it for years. This magnificent looking home has three stories. Some say it was built for a king, though now there’s little evidence of it.

The first floor of this house is the most used. At the far end is the kitchen, in which the occupant spends quite a lot of time. Next to the kitchen is a party room filled with everything you need to tune in or tune out. Next to the party room is a room stocked with games and movies and all sorts of electronic amusements for the benefit of the tenant. Across from that room is the bedroom. Behind the bedroom is another room, which is usually closed, with the shades drawn down, because the things done there are done in secret. Things, which the apostle tells us, it is a shame to even speak about.

On the second floor of this house is another set of rooms. The first room, on the right, is the archive. In it sits a scribe, always at work recording the past. Next to the archive is the library, or the room set aside for thinking. However, the books that line the shelves of the library are not real books. There is the outward appearance of a book, but inside there is little or nothing but empty pages or risqué’ stories the owner wants hidden. Across from the library is a room set aside for imagination. There’s a painter there who is always embellishing the walls with magnificent creations. As quickly as he finishes, his work is erased and he begins his painting again. Next to the imagination room is a room that celebrates friendship and love. Its walls are filled with the pictures of men and women and little children. Next to it is the money room, where a machine churns out money day and night.

The rooms on the third floor aren’t often used. The center room is sublime, more splendid than any other room in the house. In the very middle of it is a throne, which I’m sorry to say, is covered with stains and dust. Indeed, this whole room shows signs of neglect and is filled with dust and cobwebs. On one side of this throne room is the hall of judgment, in which great decisions are made. On the other side is the hall of conscience, surrounded by mirrors and glasses, and in these a person can see himself reflected at any angle and on every side. At the far end of the third floor, there’s a room called the room of hope. It looks over a river to a city far away high in the clouds, a sort of observatory. On the other side of the room of hope is a chapel, a place prepared for worship, for high and holy service.

As I said, this house was build by a great king for his own residence, and indeed, you can still see his monogram there-though in many cases it is spoiled and worn. But one of this king’s chief servants rebelled against his master and threw off his authority over him. This rebel broke into the splendid home and has appropriated it for himself.

The house is an analogy. You are the house, with the three stories of your nature. The first floor is your body; the second floor is your mind; the third floor is your spirit. The body touches the world. The mind or soul is the part of you that thinks and makes decisions.

On that third floor is a throne room, which is meant for God. There in the hall of judgment, you should come to make decisions in conformation to His will. There you are to visit the room of conscience, where you can see and know yourself, and the chapel, where you should worship.

In too many cases, the house of your nature, which was built for the home of the eternal God so that He might live in you, has been snatched away from Him and handed over to God’s enemy-Satan, whom Jesus describes as “the strong man, fully armed.”

Satan is stronger than Adam in his innocence, than Moses in his meekness, than Job in his patience, than Peter in his courage and fervor. The strongest and fairest of the children of men have fallen before the masterfulness of Satan and the demonic host that follows him.

This house can be found in three possible conditions. It can be a peaceful place under its wrong owner. It can be empty for a time, when the wrong owner leaves, but the rightful one does not return, or it can be a home that is kept by the triumphant, true owner, who keeps it safe from any intruder.

In the first condition, the strong man keeps his house and all his goods are at peace. Everything seems good. There is charm and enjoyment and plenty to keep the occupant at ease.

When this occupant hears his neighbor cry out to him about God and eternity and implores him to repent and trust in Jesus Christ, he responds in irritation.

“Why don’t you just leave me alone? I am not afraid of God. I don’t need your religion. Why are you trying to force it on me? I am happy and my life is good.”

The house in this condition is at peace, but it’s a false peace. It’s the peace of a man sleeping in his bed, unaware that his house is about to burst into flames that will presently involve his ruin. The wrong owner “keeps his goods safe.” His goods.

That evil one says of you, “That one is mine. I have him. I will drag him down to the place prepared for the devil and his angels.” He watches and keeps this palace day and night with untiring watchfulness. He holds you fast and you are at peace.

He is armed with a lie. Your soul is happy although things are so bad! It’s the worst sign. It’s like the person afflicted with leprosy who ceases to feel pain. My friend, the worst thing about you is that you have ceased to suffer. If only your conscience pricked you; if only sometimes you felt uneasy; if only you woke up at night and thought you’d be lost; if only there came on you a dread of sin and the judgment seat of God! Then there’d be some hope for you. If this is you, if you are past feeling these things, then you are, of all people, to be pitied.

The strong man keeps his palace. When the babe inside stirs because of the baying of the hound of Heaven, the strong man sits with his foot on the side of the cradle and keeps it rocking. When the soul stirs up and says, “Maybe I’m lost,” the strong man says, “Hush; that man is an alarmist. There is no truth in the Bible. There is no Heaven to seek-no Hell to dread. Think of your money and the things you can observe with your senses. Don’t worry about those things.”

That’s the lullaby with which the strong man hushes the soul back to sleep. Yet in spite of that, sometimes the soul wakes up and says, “I’m not satisfied. I can’t rest. What if there’s a God and a future and I am not prepared for it?

The strong man then replies, “Hush, hush, go to the movies! Go buy yourself a gift! Have a drink and enjoy yourself! Do something that makes you happy, but put away those thoughts. You’re too hard on yourself! You only live once. Enjoy your life! Don’t worry. Be happy!”

The occupants of this house are at peace, but not because they’re justified, not because they’re washed in the blood of Christ, but because their conscience has been crushed under the devil’s foot until sensibility has been crushed out and mortification has set in.

The second condition this house can be in is striking. The Lord says that sometimes the strong man goes out. Mind you, he is not turned out, but he goes out. He goes out, but Christ does not come in.

There are people like this house. They’ve reformed, but aren’t regenerated. The devil has driven a man or woman so far he’s afraid they’ll wake up. The prodigal in a far country is becoming restive. The devil says, “If I don’t take care, I will lose this one, so I’ll drop him for a time and then I’ll get him back more safe than ever.”

Like men play with fish on their lines allow them to swim off, letting the line run out as fast as it will, so demons play with those in their influence. When the fish gets tired, the man can do as he wants with the fish and land it easily in his net. That’s how the evil one is with some men. You don’t feel his pull just now, but he hasn’t let go. He’s giving you breathing space, but he’ll soon catch you in his net.

This is the person who says he’s turning over a new leaf. He gives up his bad behaviors for a time. He goes to church for a while, says he likes the sermon or the Bible study and gives every sign of having become a religious man. He gives away a portion of his income. As the Lord says, his house is empty, swept and garnished. All the worst evils are swept out of his life. He buys a big Bible-too large to use, but nice to look at. He invites the pastor over to dinner. There is so much about this man to show he has turned his life around. But mind you, the only goodness which is going to stand in eternity is the goodness which we receive ready-made from the Son of God!

Plenty of people sit stitching a robe of goodness, which they hope will stand when they pass the judgment seat of God. But the only robe, which will stand the scrutiny of the judgment throne, is the one that Jesus Christ wove on the cross; and the one that He only gives when you are born again. When He comes in judgment, the robes people try to stitch together themselves will be shown to be nothing but filthy rags.

So here’s this second house, in outward appearance, clean. But there is no indwelling Christ, and so the devil comes back. He looks in the windows of the house and can see no trace of Christ. He shouts through the keyhole, “Is Jesus here?” and there’s no answer except the echo of his own voice. He goes to the back door (for the devil is mortally afraid of Jesus Christ) and asks, “Is Christ here?” No. The house is empty. The only power in this man’s life is his own resolutions. The devil knows he can easily break them down; and he walks in. It may be after one month, seven months or seven years. Then this demon goes off and calls seven other devils worse than himself, and they enter in, and the end of the man’s state is worse than at the beginning.

There’s a third condition in which this palace may be found. If you listen carefully, you can hear music and the voices of the angel escort. One stronger than the strong man is on his way. Stronger, because He met Satan in the wilderness and overcame him; stronger, because all through His life He met demons and cast them out; stronger, because in His hour of weakness on the cross, He took a man from the very jaws of hell and carried him to Paradise; stronger, because He went up to Heaven triumphant over the powers of hell.

Jesus comes! He comes to you now and He stands before the door to the house and He knocks and calls you to surrender. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man will open the door, I will come in.”

The strong man is there and Jesus is there. It’s at this time that the occupant must decide what to do. The devil is holding him nervously and tenaciously, but he can’t hold him permanently against the Lord.

This one will get free. The curses are being removed from his lips. The evil thoughts are going to cease from his heart. He will be delivered absolutely from the passions, which held an unholy riot in his soul. The Lord knows the banqueting room and worship hall have sometimes been filled with things that make all heaven shudder. All of that will be ended now. Christ will set him free, cleanse and purify his soul, so that he will hate the things he now loves and will love the things, which now he cares nothing for. He will be translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s love.

But Jesus waits outside. The devil’s in occupation and Jesus waits outside. He must have a sign from the man that he wants Him. That’s all. Jesus will do the fighting, the saving, but each person must indicate that they desire Him. It’s the hour of choice.

When Jesus comes into the house, He drives out the strong man. He will drive out lust and unclean desires. He will drive out the love of sin. He will cleanse and keep your heart if you just give Him access to every room of the house. Don’t keep even a closet for yourself. Don’t try to make your heart clean for Him. He was born in a stable and He can make even a stable a palace.

Have you been born again? Have you put your trust in Christ? Have you come to see that all of your good deeds are worthless and the only thing that can make your soul safe now and forever is Jesus? Jesus on the throne on that third floor; Jesus as Savior, King and Friend.

If you don’t know Him that way, I beg you, don’t go to sleep tonight until you have opened that door to Him who is standing and knocking. Jesus is not like the strong man. He doesn’t come to steal and destroy. He asks, and waits for you to respond. When you do, He comes in and He puts a seal over that door. You are His, and He will keep you forever.

 

Radical Saint

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I had the opportunity last month to speak at two retreats. The socio-economic back grounds of the two groups were very different. One group of women was definitely suburban and pretty homogenous. The other group of women was an odd mixture of privileged women, who were well educated, and underprivileged women who had grown up fast and hard.

Speaking to groups has not been something I chose to do, but it is something God has called me to do. Not in my comfort zone behind my computer keyboard, or chatting with a friend over coffee, but in front of people. Why? Because he wants me to talk about Jesus. As I stood nervously before the second group, I thought about how I looked to the younger women. Foreign. Churchy.

I noticed one of the women I’d been introduced to earlier sitting in front of me. She was noticeably pregnant and had broken shackles and the words “Set Free” tattooed on the back of her hands. I recalled how I’d made a quick judgment about her when I first saw her, based on her appearance, until I overheard her tell another woman, “I was a radical sinner and I want to be a radical saint!”

I was ashamed at that moment, because I was in the presence of a sister who loved her Savior so much that she had tattooed what He’d done for her for all the world to see-right out there in front- on her hands.

Encouraged by her boldness, I began speaking about the same Savior. I didn’t have a tattoo to show, so I showed them what Jesus has done in my heart, and what He’s still doing. I want to be a radical saint, just like the sister who has “set free” tattooed on her hands!