Are you really “Praying” for others?

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When you tell someone you’re praying for them – do you?  How earnestly do you do so?  Is it a fleeting moment?  Do you write their name down and pray for them daily?  I’m guilty of saying “I’ll pray for you” and casually mentioning a name in a quick prayer.  But is that enough?

Tonight’s post is taken from the blog site “My Utmost For His Highest: Daily Devotionals by Oswald Chambers” and this specific post can be accessed here:  http://utmost.org/intercessory-prayer/

Intercessory Prayer

You cannot truly intercede through prayer if you do not believe in the reality of redemption. Instead, you will simply be turning intercession into useless sympathy for others, which will serve only to increase the contentment they have for remaining out of touch with God. True intercession involves bringing the person, or the circumstance that seems to be crashing in on you, before God, until you are changed by His attitude toward that person or circumstance. Intercession means to “fill up…[with] what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Colossians 1:24), and this is precisely why there are so few intercessors. People describe intercession by saying, “It is putting yourself in someone else’s place.” That is not true! Intercession is putting yourself in God’s place; it is having His mind and His perspective.

As an intercessor, be careful not to seek too much information from God regarding the situation you are praying about, because you may be overwhelmed. If you know too much, more than God has ordained for you to know, you can’t pray; the circumstances of the people become so overpowering that you are no longer able to get to the underlying truth.

Our work is to be in such close contact with God that we may have His mind about everything, but we shirk that responsibility by substituting doing for interceding. And yet intercession is the only thing that has no drawbacks, because it keeps our relationship completely open with God.

What we must avoid in intercession is praying for someone to be simply “patched up.” We must pray that person completely through into contact with the very life of God. Think of the number of people God has brought across our path, only to see us drop them! When we pray on the basis of redemption, God creates something He can create in no other way than through intercessory prayer.

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Dear God –

AndGodLa

I love this letter to God from a child –

“Dear God, I think about you sometimes even when I’m not praying.”

So simple, yet so overwhelmingly powerful.  But is it true for you?

How would your day be radically transformed if this statement was true for you?  So often, we only think about God:

1.  When we get ready for church
2.  When we are at church
3.  When we pray for a meal
4.  When we tell our child that God doesn’t like what he/she is doing
5.  When something good or bad happens
6.  When/if we pray, study the Bible

But how would it change your day if scattered throughout, you just stopped and thought about God’s love?  God’s grace?  God’s mercy?  God’s awesomeness?  God’s power?

There’s a difference between thinking about God and praying to God.  I think about my wife and my daughter often, but I’m not speaking to them.  I think about them because I love them so much, and they occupy my thoughts throughout the day.  Does God have that same impact on you?

Read this verse – and think about God.

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:8-14)

 

Personal Spiritual Growth: 30 Day Challenge

Here at the Granny White Church of Christ, we are going through a journey of personal spiritual growth. We began yesterday with an emphasis on getting to know God on a deeper, personal level.

The best way to grow a relationship with anyone is through a conversation, and that’s what we emphasized yesterday, is to have a conversation with God. I issued a 30 day challenge to the family of GW. Here are the details :

Find a time during the day when you can talk and listen to God.

Start by praying – saying hey to God, acknowledging Him as your creator, your Father, your Friend. Spend time thanking Him for all He has done and continues to do –

Then, grab a blank journal, and pray “God, I am here for You – Please show me who You are.”

Open up your Bible to the Psalms, one of the greatest places to really get to know who God is, and begin to read.

The goal is not massive marathon reading – but quality reading. You may just need one or two verses to stop and focus on –

But as you read – look for an attribute of God that really grabs you. You’re simply looking for something that’s true about God. A part of what He is. A part of His heart. One of His names.

Maybe you’ll learn more about His mercy, or His love, or His holiness.

Maybe you’ll learn more about how He wants to be Your Shepherd.

Or how He wants to protect you.

And when something really captures you – write it down in that notebook, and write the verse down as well.

And then I simply want you to think about that part of God’s character, and what it means to you.

And after you think about that for a while, write your thoughts back to God. Maybe its time for you to write a new Psalm to God. Or it could just be a random gathering of words and sentences directed from your heart to His.

Or maybe it reminds you of a song, from the Hymn book, or a devotional, or the radio – write the words to that down as well.

Whatever you do – make it personal. Make it intimate.

There’s no right or wrong way to make this happen. You might write two words. You might write two pages. You might draw a picture.

What you’ve just done is had a conversation with God. Now carry that conversation with you for the rest of the day – keep it going. – and by doing this you’ll grow in getting to know God better.

(ideas are adapted from Louie Giglio’s book “The Air I Breathe”)

Satan vs. the Family

Last week, we heard of a tremendous act of both courage and responsibility in a woman by the name of Stephanie Decker. As tornadoes whipped through her Marysville, Indiana home, she did the only thing she knew how to do – protect her children at all costs.

When she saw that things were getting rough, she took her kids into the basement, wrapped them up in a blanket, and help on tight by placing her body over them. She had one leg that was nearly severed and another that was crushed. At one point, she saw a brick coming at her daughter, so she maneuvered her back in a dodging motion so she would take the hit and not her children.

They emerged with their lives, but she was severely injured. She lost one leg over the knee and one just above the ankle. She had seven broken ribs and also suffered a punctured lung. The children, they were absolutely fine. Not a scratch on them.

This woman did what I would hope any mother or father would do in this situation. Protect those who can’t protect themselves. Do whatever you can to spare them from physical harm. Don’t let the weather and the elements affect them in any way. That’s what most of us would do.

What’s interesting is that we face storms and trials like this every day, but not nearly as many parents defend against them. Satan is constantly attacking our families. Satan is always throwing storms our way, shooting darts toward us daily. We would do just about anything to protect our families and friends from physical harm, but what about spiritual harm?

Just like you would run into the road to knock your child out of the way of an oncoming vehicle, we must be prepared to do the same thing against Satan every day. Why is it we’re so eager to protect against the physical problems and challenges in life, but we’re not nearly as willing, or even aware, of the dangers we face daily from the evil one.

Pray for your family and friends.

Pray that God will shield them from Satan and his attacks.

Pray that God will be victories and Satan will be defeated in all things.

May we have the courage, like Stephanie Decker, to wrap our friends and family up tight in prayer and devotion. May we step in front of the darts that Satan throws our way to protect them. May God be praised in all we do.

Praying for Guidance

Proverbs encourages us to stay on the path of wisdom, and to be careful not to start “to the right or the left.”  In 4:25-27 it states: “Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”

Is this a problem for you?  Ask yourself these questions while thinking about your attitude and behavior in life:

– What is your influence on others?  Whose life have you genuinely touched and changed for the better in recent years?

– What is your direction and purpose?  If you continue to work of the next ten years as you are currently working, what will you have gained?  What will your life look like on its current path in ten years?

– Are you honoring God?  Can you cite three things that you have done in the last year that you believe have clearly brought glory to God?  What are some ways in which you have honored Him at work, in your home, and in your community?

– Are you avoiding evil?  What one thing have said “no” to in the past year in order to “remove your foot from evil” (Proverbs 4:27)?  What did it cost you?  What did you gain?

– What is your testimony?  What one characteristic would you say clearly distinguishes you from non-Christians in your workplace, school, neighborhood, etc.?

My Prayer for 2012

As I think back on the year we have just finished, I can’t help be be ever so thankful to God for what He has blessed me and my family with.  Our God is an amazing God, and there is truly none like Him.

Even though God is not confined by space and time, we here on earth are bound by its limitations.  The start of the New Year is probably not that big of a deal to God.  For various reasons, however, we as humans are infatuated by the end of a year and the beginning of a new one.  

For many of us, it gives us a chance to put something behind us.  For some, its a time to make resolutions for the new year.  While thinking of how I want to start my 2012, my mind goes to Colossians 1:9-14.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  And we pray this in order that you may life a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in ever way:  bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all peer according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

I look at this and wonder about a lot of things, namely:

1.  What would our lives look like if in the past we had taken time to pray this prayer for ourselves and each other?

2.  What could our 2012 look like if we do the same?

When was the last time you prayed for God to fill you with the knowledge of His will?  Not just a tiny bit, but filled!  Wouldn’t you love to be filled with the practical knowledge of God’s will?  Wouldn’t you love to understand even more what God has in store for you in your life?  Instead of guessing, why not pray that his will be revealed in your life?

In verse 10, Paul prays that the Colossians will also bear fruit in every good work.  Not just one good work, but in every good work, so God will be glorified!  Are  you being fruitful?  Are you willing to pray for God to help you bear more fruit for Him in 2012?

He also prays they will grow in their knowledge of God.  Think of the impact you can have on your life and others if you pray to grow in the knowledge of God, and pray the same for others!  How will you daily increase in your knowledge of God this year?

Finally, Paul prays they will be strengthened with all power so we can have endurance and patience.  There is a power to experience, a glorious wondrous power to experience, if allow God to do so.  Remember, Philippians 4:13?  I can do ALL things through Christ.

He also prays for their patience.  Were you lacking in patience in 2011?  Maybe its time to step up and pray for more of it.  I know I need it.  Patience is so hard to have, that maybe it would serve us well to pray for more of it!

God, will you bless us in 2012?  May you help us to desire to be filled with your will.  May we be filled with your wisdom and spiritual understanding.  In 2012, may we walk in a way that is worthy of wearing your name.  

May we bear good fruit this year.

May we grow in our knowledge of you.

Will you please give us the endurance we need to make it through this year?  We know there will be constant attacks from the evil one.

Will you give us patience with each other, with the world, with everyone we come in contact with?

Bless us in these ways, so we can share in your inheritance!

Josie, The Turtles, and God


Today, we received some rain in Houston. This may not seem like big news to some, but its HUGE to us here. Read a post from my wife’s blog below, and then read some thoughts below that.

Oyster Creek
There’s a park here in Sugar Land called Oyster Creek Park. It has a fantastic running trail that weaves in and out of wooded areas along the creek for about 4 1/2 miles. I used to run over there all the time, but now I’ve gotten lazy and just run in our neighborhood. It had been a while since we’d been over to the park, so this morning Josie and I loaded up on the bicycle and rode over there to play on the playground and see the turtles. We played on the playground for a while and ate a snack, then got back on the bicycle to go a little further down the trail to the bridge where the turtles swim. I was shocked as we got close enough to see that the creek was COMPLETELY dried up. We haven’t had significantly measurable rain in the Houston area in over 250 days, so I don’t know why I didn’t expect this. It was really sad. There used to be hundreds of turtles swimming around in the water. We did see one turtle out in the middle of the trail, obviously looking for water. If I’d known somewhere to take him, I would have. The whole place smelled like death and there was a big group of vultures in the middle of the dried-up creek bed.
But at least it presented a “teaching moment” for Josie. I told her we needed to pray and ask God to send some rain so the turtles can swim again. She said “Okay, tonight when I go to bed and we say our prayer, I’ll ask God to send rain for the turtles.” So, then I got to teach her that we don’t have to pray just at mealtimes or at night before we go to bed. I told her that God can hear our prayers anywhere at anytime. So, we said a prayer right there while riding on a bicycle together. Then she asked me “Where is God?” and I was relieved when she accepted the answer, “God is everywhere! He’s all around us!”. Not sure if I’m ready for deep, theological questions yet!

Majority of the state of Texas is in a severe drought. The city of Houston is starting to regulate water usage. People can only water their lawns on certain days and at certain times. We’re encouraged to take 5 minute (or less) showers, which I’d be happy to do if they could increase the water pressure so I can rinse the soap off faster! Unfortunately, meteorologists don’t see an end in sight unless we get a tropical storm this direction. So, please pray that God will send some rain (even in the form of a tropical storm!) to Texas!

Last night when I said goodnight to Josie, she said “I’m sorry the creek is all dried up and the turtles don’t have anywhere to swim.” I told her to pray to God for rain so the turtles could swim again. She said with a smile – OKAY!

She woke up this morning, and at breakfast she busted out into a spontaneous prayer, and again, prayed for rain for the turtles.

Oh how faithful God is, because he sent some rain this way after a sweet and devoted faithful girl prayed to Him for rain. How great is our God indeed.

A Simple Prayer

On Sunday, my sermon was on Matthew 6:9-13, which many people call “The Lord’s Prayer”.  After reading it and looking at the context, it might be better described as “The Disciple’s Prayer”, for this is an example of how we should pray.

Before the sermon, I showed this little video clip –


If you’re like me, I struggle with my prayer life.  When do I need to pray?  How long do I pray?  What do I say when I pray (in the verses right before the Disciple’s Prayer, Jesus says “The Father already knows exactly what you need before you ask Him!!”.

There are 6 petitions made in this prayer.

1.  Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed be Your Name:  We need to treat God with highest honors, and set Him apart as Holy.  We must show adoration for God.

The word used for Father is the word “Abba”, which was the everyday language used by Jesus.  It was the word used by Jewish children when they spoke to their fathers, but it was also the same word adults used when addressing their fathers.  In a sense, it means “daddy”, but in another way it conveys authority, warmth, and intimacy of a loving father’s care.  We are invited to share in the intimacy that God the Father had with God the Son, and that’s really cool.

This also addresses where God is located, in Heaven.  That’s what sets him apart from your earthly Father.  He has sovereign rule over all things.  It also reminds us that He is holy, sanctified, and set apart.  We need to begin our prayers acknowledging who He is and what He is.

2.  The second petition is “Your Kingdom Come”.  Christians are called to pray and work for the continual advance of God’s kingdom.  It refers to the reign of Christ in the hearts and lives of not only believers, but in his body, which is the church.  We must increasingly reflect his love, obey his laws, honor him, do good and proclaim good news.

3.  The third petition is “Your Will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.  This probably refers to God’s revealed will, which involves conduct that is pleasing to him as revealed in Scripture.  Psalm 40:8 says “I desire todo your will, your law is within my heart”.  We must desire to act in accordance to his will by obeying his commands.

The first three petitions are giving us the priorities in prayer, so we are less likely to pray selfishly or frivolously.  The next three are more personal.

4.  The fourth petition is “Give us this day our daily bread”.  This first of the personal petitions reminds us of our needs, and that we get those needs from God.  By implication, this does not just refer to bread, but all our physical needs that we require.

5.  The fifth petition is “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”.  The word debt here is interchangeable with the word sin.  When we sin, we create an obligation to God that can never repay.

6.  The sixth petition is “Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil”.  Since God does not tempt us (James 1:13), this implies that we are to pray for relief from testing.  Trials and hardships will come to all believers.  James 1:2-4 tells us that believers should count it all joy when trials come for we will be strengthened by them.

We also must be aware there is a spiritual battle going on every day in our lives.  Satan does his best to win us over, and we must remember to ask God for protection from Satan.

Jesus ends with reminding us to forgive others as we have been forgiven.  We must always remember there is direct relationship between having been forgiven by God and the forgiveness that we extend others.

So, pray to God, remembering to acknowledge who and what He is, and then and only then take your requests before Him.  May we all do a better job in communicating with our God!

All I Can Do

Sometimes, all I can do is pray.

And today is one of those days. I can’t really tell you why, but today is filled with much prayer. For me, for my wife, for my daughter, and several other key people in my life.

Nothing is wrong. I’m not making a major change in my life. I’m not getting out of ministry. If anything, after last week at Pepperdine and their lectures, I’m more inspired and rejuvinated in my ministry efforts. Getting OUT of ministry is indeed the last thing on my mind at the time.

No one is sick, at least no one in my immediate family. Sure there are sick people that I am praying for, but I am confident God has them under His loving care.

God, in His infinite wisdom, created us with a need to have relationships, both with Him and with others. Recently, I have learned what it is like to be alone. Even though it was on just a temporary basis, I realized that I have come a long way in my life. Back in 2001-2003 I lived alone. I was a bachelor in Houston TX, doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I didn’t have any restrictions in my life. If I wanted to go to McDonald’s at 2 a.m., I could have done so. If I wanted to go on vacation over the weekend to Mt. Rushmore, I could have.

But you could not pay me any sum of money to go back to that life. Sure, it was fun. Yes, I cherish those times with the students and friends and teachers in my life.

However, there were 2 key components missing in my life at that time. God, and my family.

Okay, let me rephrase that. God wasn’t missing. God was and is always there for me. I just treated him as an afterthought. I went through the motions. God was a part of my life, but was not my life. I didn’t think of Him much outside of my lesson plans to teach Bible, putting together chapel for Westbury, or the trips to the church building. At that time of my life, God was just there, and that was about it.

The other key component missing was my wife, and now here recently I have learned – my daughter, Josie. Sure, I had friends there, and my day was occupied by my students, but I had no real relationships. I bounced around from group to group, never allowing myself to get too terrbily close to anyone.

Fast forward a few years to present day. I think God puts us in our own personal deserts at certain times, so we will be forced to take a step in a different direction, hopefully being towards Him. My steps toward having a closer, more intimate relationship with God, came about as a result from the other relationship in my life – Kristen. To take it a step further, it went even farther when Josie came along.

Being forced to be by myself this past week caused me to gravitate towards God a bit more. Its amazing how it really is true that when you shut up for a bit, and allow God to speak, that He actually has some really good things to say.

And now, all I can do is pray, for without prayer, I do not have God in my life. Without God in my life, all other relationships I have just don’t mean as much. Without God in my life, my career, my lifestyle, my passion and drive is gone. Without God, the miracle of my daughter being born into my life disappears. Without God, there would be nothing, so all I can do is pray, and let him be a part of my life.

And I pray that you will allow Him to be part of yours as well. All I can do is pray that you will see that. All I can do for you is pray. All that I am, all that I have, all that I will be is because of Him.

How’s Your Prayer Life?

Lord willing, in two weeks I’ll be preaching a sermon about prayer at the West University church.

I feel somewhat inadequate to preach on prayer.  Probably because its one of the things I struggle with the most in my private life.  Sure, I can lead a public prayer.  I can say one as long as short as you’d like me to.  However, when it comes to personal prayer life, it is definitely waning.

Maybe that’s because I get so caught up in life, that I forget to pray.  Maybe, its because prayer takes time, and I feel like I don’t have time.  Maybe, its because I feel I don’t need to have conversations with God.

Or maybe, its simply because I just don’t pray.

I am placing an informal, private poll below on prayer life.  I would love for you to just check one of the following options below.  It would really help me in my sermon prep if you could comment on either this blog post or on my facebook post about your prayer life.  If you don’t want to comment, that’s fine, but please at least place a vote in the poll below.

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