Are you growing concerned?

Are you becoming more aware of the news?  From financial issues, and suffering of those around us, to the world events – horrific news, startling, and possibly very overwhelming.

My husband and i have been a part of the prayer team of our church, and so we find ourselves filtering things through soft and purposeful conversation with God.  Painful bodies, fearful moms, unemployment, disobedient children, struggling marriages, and on and on.   Our needs as people are very great, and our dependence is growing greater and greater on God himself to provide and meet the needs.

But i must tell you that while i know our needs are important they seem to pale in comparison to our brothers and sisters around the world who are giving their lives for their faith in Jesus.

As I stand to sing worship choruses these past Sundays I realize how privileged we are to gather publicly, to give voice to our hearts cry of worshiping our great God without fear of imprisonment, beatings, death.  So as i close my eyes, and lift my heart and my voice to God I find myself lifting those believers around the world to Jesus, and ask for his presence in their lives.

Remembering Al and Eileen – We have friends who are Pakistani nationals, and have lived around the world. They are believers in Jesus.  And these last 10 years their government has not permitted them to leave their nation.  They are surrounded by 99.5% of their fellow citizens who believe in radical Islam, or tribal factions.  They have a life that is constantly one word or one action from death.  Al told us the last time he was visiting in the states that we need to pray for the believers in Pakistan like this:

  • Lord grant them wisdom to know your word, your heart, your spirit
  • Lord grant them favor with their neighbors that those who do not know Jesus might see his love extended through your people in that place.
  • Lord give opportunities to love, help and share your word with those who do not know
  • Strength, courage, boldness, fearlessness, God’s favor.

As the news continues to churn out photos and video of Christians being executed for believing in Jesus I can;t just stand in church and sing a worship chorus.  I am compelled to cry out for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted.  And i am compelled to cry out against the acts of injustice, shocking violence, of global bullying on a massive scale.

The rising tide of hatred and hostility of Christians is joined by the growing antisemitism that is playing out in the world.  Many are saying these are times much like that of pre-WWII, where people were being fed propaganda, believing ideology that was filled with venemous hatred, doctrines of demons.

America is not the same nation it was 5 years, 10 years, 20 years ago.  The news media is whipping up a hostility toward Christianity, our government is embracing poor judgement, and the leadership of our nation is growing sketchy.  Being a Christian is becoming a dangerous decision, with frequent news of charges pressed, court cases, etc for simplly living out our faith.

The winds of change are blowing.  Are we there in prayer, standing firmly asking our Great God and King to meet us, change our hearts, accept our repentance, and heal our land?

I am growing concerned – not of God, because i know he holds everything in his great care, but i am growing concerned that fellow believers seem to have little sensitivity to the great need to pray, to seek God with everything in our souls, and to ask for the needs of our fellow believers that are hurting.

“Father, forgive us for our self focus.  Forgive us for not praying for our rulers, our government, or leaders.  And forgive us for letting your word slide from our lives.  We repent today, and ask you to fill our  hearts and minds with your spirit, your word, your strength.  And we bring our brothers and sisters who are being fiercely persecuted to you.  Please be their strength, glorify yourself in your people, strengthen and embolden your church to stand in the presence of evil, and know your plan is to bring many to salvation.  

We pray for those who are the persecutors… may they come to know they are persecuting your people, and that you know every thought and act.  May you show yourself to them in dreams, visions, and manifest fear in their very souls.  We ask for their salvation, we cry to you to turn your enemies to repentent believers.  In everything may we sense your spirit, your provision, your protection and your love.  And may the world sense this too.  Amen”

Blessings and Curses

Been doing alot more reading, and study in preparation for something later in the month… and the thought that words have power keeps echoing back through all that i read.  Words can build us up, or cut us down.  Words, not just letters on a page, but audible sounds that we recognize as language can be spoken to bring life, or take it.

We are all guilty of either speaking things that are not life, or receiving such things.  The bible calls anything that is negative, and destructive a curse.  Curses have power.

So i ask you today – what was spoken over you, to you, about you, by you?  Were the words uplifting, inspiring, and a shining example that you followed to this point?  Or were they words that limited you, sensitized you to some area of life, words you grew into, or words that prophecized that you would never amount to anything.

I think we need the good ear of Jesus as we bear our hearts before him, and take time to remember these curses… not to give them more power but to share them with Jesus, and turn them over to him… clean house, get rid of them.  Like those boxes of stuff we all accumulate, curses sit heavy on our hears and minds.  They reduce the capacity we were designed for. They limit who we have become.  And they ought not.

 

So what have you been called?  What were you told you would never be free of?  In my life it was weight… i was often told i would never be anything but fat.  As a child, as an adolescent, and certainly as an adult.

It is a falacy to recite that kids ditty “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  Names hurt… they sting deep into the core of our being.  They break down who we are designed to be.  They limit.  The give life to curses.

So today, in the name of Jesus i give you Jesus, all of the curses spoken over me by others. spoken to myself, and those lived out.  Your body was broken and poured out for our sins.  You were called cursed for hanging on a tree… I send these curses to you and ask that you wash this life clean, break every curse, and the grip they have had on my life, our lives…. amen

Taking God at his word

cropped-sky-line.jpg

I love our Wednesday evening group called “Going Deeper”.  Its a recap of the sunday sermon, with opportunity to  think through the message, and apply it to life.

We have been working through the core message of our church, and sunday was the message of us as community…. upholding each other, strenghtening each other , and encouraging good works.  Wow, is that ever needed in this age we live in where the rest of the world is busy trying to carve out everything they can for themself, and leave little for anyone else.

And wednesday we worked through reading Romans 12.  Romans 12 is perhaps one of the most endearing and powerful chapters God has used in my life.  The first two verses are like the high and holy experience of yielding, surrendering, and allowing God to teach, mold, change us into his very people.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Present yourself – not just go, but be in the moment – engage in the process of yielding yourself to God.

Living Sacrifice – what a comparison to the old testament where animals were killed, butchered and then presented as sacrifices.   Someone told me long ago that living sacrifices are difficult because they move, and crawl off the alter.  I can say that has been true of me, how about you?

Reasonable service – it is what God wants of us.

Be not conformed – don;t be like the world

Just so we don;t have a doubt he clarifies, be transformed – and more clearly be transformed by the renewing of our mind.  Renewal is for a purpose – to prove what is good and wonderful about God.

So the group continued to read Romans 12 – and we walked through those passages about not being puffed up, swelled with pride and thinking we are more than we are… and the gifts, the variety of gifts are there to work together to strengthen the body.

Romans moved on to the verses about how to behave, think and be.  Perhaps i have been hanging out in the kingdom for a long time because these verses, although some are challenging, are becoming more and more ingrained in my life, programmed in my thoughts and actions.  I want to honor god by doing good, blessing others, and even doing good to those who have not been like that to me.

But our group stopped.  And in honesty someone actually said “I dont like those verses, and i dont think they work in my life…. my problematic situation has not changed… and i have prayed for years. ”

It stirred in my heart again that hope that she would have the faith to trust God for his timing.  And I ernestly prayed that God would prove her words wrong by moving in that situation, bring change, ease strife, just show up.

I wanted to give her the faith God has given me to believe and trust in his word… even those extremely challenging, life transforming passages.  Especially those passages.   But why should we take God at his word and live by faith?

Why?  Because faith is required by God… it is far to easy to believe because we see it, and so illogical to the world to believe what we do not see.  But it is God’s way.

Why? Because as we trust in small things God strengthens us to trust more, and go deeper.  He challenges us to get to know his character, to know his word, to grow in grace and truth.

Why? Because it is God’s way to transform our minds, renew them with his thoughts, his ways, his timing, and his outcome.

In my life God has used Romans 12 to remind me that I must begin by yielding myself, dead to my own self and alive in Christ.  I must then work on that relationship with God – always allowing his word to wash over my soul and strengthen me, renew me, grant me peace.

It is only then that I can grow in my use of gifts to the church and ministry to the world.  And that ministry must be lead and guided by his word and his spirit.

Thank you father for your word, and for the gift of community – Thank you that we have others to walk with through this life, to bear each others burdens, and to rejoice with.  Thank you for the measure of faith you have given each of us.  May you expand our hearts to accept more of your word, and to believe without doubt. Father, thank you that this journey to heaven is not easy, but thank you that you are there to walk with us through each step.  Grow us stronger, deeper, and fill us with your wisdom, your fruit, your joy.  May we yield ourselves to you, and may you use our lives to build the body of Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven.  Amen

Nehemiah Chapter 1

“The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and [certain] men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province [are] in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also [is] broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.

 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned [certain] days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven, And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou may hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned. We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commanded thy servant Moses.

 Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commanded thy servant Moses, saying, [If] ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: But [if] ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, [yet] will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.

 Now these [are] thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand. O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer. – Nehemiah 1”

 

The book of Nehemiah offers us a fresh glimpse of God’s heart and his provision for his people. 

Background:  Nehemiah is a jew, in captivity in Babylon.  He held the title of “Cupbearer to the King”.  In our postmodern American mindset this seems to be a small detail, but actually it was not. I turned to Wikipedia for clarity of this title:

cup-bearer was an officer of high rank in royal courts, whose duty it was to serve the drinks at the royal table. On account of the constant fear of plots and intrigues, a person must be regarded as thoroughly trustworthy to hold this position. He must guard against poison in the king’s cup, and was sometimes required to swallow some of the wine before serving it. His confidential relations with the king often gave him a position of great influence. The position of cup bearer is greatly valued and given to only a select few throughout history. Qualifications for the job were not held lightly but of high esteem valued for their beauty and even more for their modesty, industriousness and courage.”

His job was one that put his life in danger every day.  But apparently with the job came the thankfulness and recognition from the King, as well as financial reward.  Later in the book of Nehemiah we will see how he had resources at his disposal, and capabilities that were beyond the ordinary.

 Nehemiah is one of the jews held captive in Babylon.  He would have been a contemporary of Daniel and Ezra, remembering being taken from Jerusalem by force, and held by the conquering forces of Babylon.  Like Daniel, he found his way in this foreign culture.

 Meaning of the Name:  In the bible when a name is mentioned often there is a deeper meaning to the name itself.  Nehemiah comes from two Hebrew words – Nechem means to sign, to feel deep emotional connection, the comfort.  Jah is the title of God as Lord.  Putting them together his name means The comfort (or sigh) of God.  Fascinating that as we read through the book over and over again we see how God offers comfort, and provision for Nehemiah and the Jews who return to rebuild Jerusalem.

 Chapter 1:

Chapter one opens in the Jewish month of Chisleu (also written Kislev), roughly equivalent to November/December of our calendar.  Nehemiah was in the palace when men of Judah came. He was eager to learn news of his home.  Can’t we all relate to being away from home and hungry to hear about our home town, how things are going and what the latest news is.) That is when Nehemiah hears of the destruction and the people are living in deplorable conditions in Jerusalem.  It is his reaction that is important to note:

A, He grieved and mourned.   – The news was personal, affected him deeply

B. He fasted – The news affected his desire to eat.  Perhaps it was just being overcome with grief, or perhaps it was for spiritual purpose.

C. He prayed – He spent days before God, bringing his concern to God first

 

His Prayer:

   Recognize who God is.

  • Lord God of heaven
  • great and terrible God
  • Keeper of covenant
  • Keeper of mercy

State the purpose

  • Pray for the children of Israel
  • Confess the sins of the people
  • Reflect on promises of scripture
  • Praise God

Remind God who his is praying for

  • God’s servants
  • God’s people
  • Redeemed by God’s great power and mercy

Ultimate purpose – To desire to fear God’s name: and prosper

Nehemiah was moved by the news that his home, and his people who are living there were in desperate straights – walls broken down, gates burned, people being persecuted.  We begin to see the character of Nehemiah .  He is a powerful man with access directly to the king, and he could have easily just approached the king about this on his own but his choice was to first grieve and mourn for the news, then take it to God knowing God would work out the details and provide for the restoration of the city and the safe provision of his people.  Nehemiah identified with the situation, clearly understanding it, and clearly communicating it back to God.

Reflective questions:

  1. When I hear of something that demands action do I first go to God?
  2. How do I allow news to affect me?  Do I grieve when bad news is given?
  3. Do I recognize how powerless I am on my own to change things?
  4. Am I willing to bring the situation to God and wait for his provision and timing?

Nehemiah had clear understanding of the situation – He was given good intelligence, was well informed of the situation, so he could pray

Nehemiah realized that before he could ask God for help he must confess the sin of the people, his people, to God.  Confessing takes courage to agree with God on what is wrong.   All of us fall short of being obedient to God – whether it is fear, doubt, ignorance or indiscretion – we each make choices that head in the wrong direction.  Nehemiah took the time to confess sin – the sins of his people to God.  In our day these might be corruption of government, violence, crime, abortion, lack of love for or care for one another, and a sharp turn from honoring God in our culture.  It is painful to identify yourself with sin of a culture… but in confessing the sin, Nehemiah reaches back to scripture and reminds God of the promise that as we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us of these sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  It is a work of God, a response to honest confession.

Nehemiah also confesses sins of generations – not just his generation’s sin, but those of previous generations.

Generational Sin – The bible speaks of the idea that sins can be passed down from one generation to the next.  A real example might be a family where alcoholism is present, and dad models this to his children.  The children grow up believing that abusive drinking is normal, and they continue the pattern, model it to their children, and on and on.  Generational sins and patterns are attitudes, actions, beliefs, behaviors, and/or habits that we have inherited from our family or relatives. We then “enter into” the same sin pattern and make it our own. It is usually repeated throughout our life as well as by individuals in successive generations.   I found this quote on a website that gave more clarity to the idea:

“When a person has sinned, that sin stands in need of being confessed. If the person doesn’t confess it, then his children must confess it in order to break the generational pattern. Like an “outstanding” debt, the person’s sin “hangs out there,” impacting his descendants, until it is addressed through confession and cleared away. We are not required to take responsibility for our ancestors’ sins, but we are to acknowledge and confess their sin. (We agree with God that they were wrong and that God was right.) God asks us to accept responsibility for our own sin and to repent and be humbled. Understand that the passing down of iniquity (sin) is just that – the passing down of iniquity (sin). My parents’ sin does not become my sin, until I have made the choice to sin myself in the same way.”  http://www.restoringyourlife.org/

Reflective Questions:

  • How often do I look at our nation and the world and confess the sin that is apparent?
  • Am I willing to tell God how we as a people have strayed from his ways, precepts, laws?
  • Have I taken a careful and prayerful look at my family history?  Is there something that is unconfessed, or a pattern of sin that needs to be broken?
  • Do I believe God’s word, and accept the truth that if I confess sin it will be forgiven by God?

Anglican ways are not my ways.

prayerair

Every Tuesday we have a prayer meeting that is called “Freedom in Cleveland” and it is held at the house next to the church.  Every Tuesday there is a big group of spiritually hungry people that come, eager to grow, to pray together, to see the power of God moving in our lives and those of this corner of the world.  And weekly there have been different guest speakers in to share an aspect of prayer.  It has been a great time set aside to learn, to pray, to grow, and to allow the Lord to knit our hearts together.

With the guest speakers also has comes variation in how faith is practiced.  Different perspectives on prayer, the way it is practiced, and variation on how to pray.  Last night the delegation came from Akron, and from an Anglican church.  The leader of the group was a woman wearing a “roman collar” and black clothing.  She brought a delegation from her church that is her prayer team.

The topic was to be inner healing.  Inner healing is a wonderful topic… and in my heart i was looking forward to something powerful, self examining, scripture to search the heart, clear the rubble, and bring fresh clarity of God working in my life.

But her talk began with a list of rules for how to interact, touching, not touching, who can pray and when…. and slowly the confusion began to fill the room. Rules…. a whole page of rules.  (From my years of youth ministry I know rules are good… set the groundwork well, and the ministry can function)  But this is a prayer meeting, and we have come to pray, to seek God, to hear from heaven.

She is from the Anglican church.  She brings a view of faith based on vials of holy oil, blessed by a bishop, and holy water, with special prayers said to make the water holy.  Shades of my russian orthodox roots were creeping into my thoughts.  I watched the room, realizing that some of the newer believers were fascinated, others looked very confused.  Our church does not talk of holy water, or special prayers to bless  water, and we do not have bishops who concoct a mixture of oils that they bless and pass out to their congregations.  In some instances I have seen the pastors anoint someone with oil for healing, but generally that is rare in our church.

My theological hackles were in a bunch last night.  Not for the idea of using holy oil and holy water, but for the discussion about how a bishop has to prepare and bless this.  I did not realize how “eastern” the Anglican church is in their approach to faith.  So last night i spent some time visiting church history to understand from where Anglicans have come, and why they approach faith the way they do.

The Anglican Church is best explained by this wikipedia post:

The faith of Anglicans is founded in the scriptures, the traditions of the apostolic church, the apostolic succession (“historic episcopate”) and the early Church Fathers.[1] Anglicanism forms one of the branches of Western Christianity; having definitively declared its independence from the Roman pontiff at the time of the Elizabethan Religious Settlement, in what has been otherwise termed the British monachism.  Many of the new Anglican formularies of the mid-16th century corresponded closely to those of contemporary Reformed Protestantism and these reforms in the Church of England were understood by one of those most responsible for them, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, as navigating a middle way between two of the emerging Protestant traditions, namely Lutheranism and Calvinism.   By the end of the century, the retention in Anglicanism of many traditional liturgical forms and of the episcopate was already seen as unacceptable by those promoting the most developed Protestant principles.

In the first half of the 17th century the Church of England and associated episcopal churches in Ireland and in England’s American colonies were presented by some Anglican divines as comprising a distinct Christian tradition, with theologies, structures and forms of worship representing a different kind of middle way, or via media, between Reformed Protestantism and Roman Catholicism — a perspective that came to be highly influential in later theories of Anglican identity, and was expressed in the description “Catholic and Reformed”.[7] Following the American Revolution, Anglican congregations in the United States and Canada were each reconstituted into autonomous churches with their own bishops and self-governing structures; which, through the expansion of the British Empire and the activity of Christian missions, was adopted as the model for many newly formed churches, especially in Africa, Australasia and the regions of the Pacific. In the 19th century the term Anglicanism was coined to describe the common religious tradition of these churches; as also that of the Scottish Episcopal Church, which, though originating earlier within the Church of Scotland, had come to be recognised as sharing this common identity.

So Anglicans have retained a Catholic-like approach to faith, even though great movements such as the Methodists came out of their pews.  The catholic or Eastern Christian perspective adds a layer of ritual, of stiff tradition, of saying prayers that were penned millenia ago.  Tradition is good, but it felt so heavy, like faith alone was not enough… this holy water, holy oil, and the like began to frustrate my heart.  I love the traditions, and yes, saints of old have much to share with us about God, but I have learned that God speaks mostly through his Word, the Bible.  I prefer to put my focus on his word and ask His Spirit to speak fresh through his Word.

Holy Oil is something i grew up seeing used in the Russian Orthodox Church.  I understood the value of using this as an outward symbol of God’s inward work.  But I am not certain i understood the origins or basis of its use in the Christian Church…back to research

The idea of ‘Chrism” or holy oil dates back to writings of early church fathers (Theophilus (d. 181) and Tertullian (d. 220)) who spoke of using holy oil to anoint the sick.  Cyril of Jerusalem states that the “ointment is the seal of the covenants” of baptism and God’s promises to the Christian who is anointed. Cyril taught that being “anointed with the Holy anointing oil [Chrism] of God” was the sign of a Christian (Christos means “anointed”), and a physical representation of having the Gift of the Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost), and it retains this meaning in Catholicism and Orthodoxy today. He says, “Having been counted worthy of this Holy Chrism, ye are called Christians, verifying the name also by your new birth. For before you were deemed worthy of this grace, ye had properly no right to this title, but were advancing on your way towards being Christians.”(On the Mysteries 3.5)

OK, The early church modeled their use of oil after old testament passages, in fact dating to Mosaic law and dedication of priests and holy places to God- and my thoughts turn to an old testament passage where Samuel is visiting the sons of Jesse to select the next king.  When David is brought to Samuel God confirms this is the one, and Samuel pours a vial of oil over his head to consecrate him for this purpose.  In fact the old testament gives a lengthy recipe for the oil and its purposes:

 Moreover, the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,  “Take also for yourself the finest of spices: of flowing myrrh five hundred shekels, and of fragrant cinnamon half as much, two hundred and fifty, and of fragrant cane two hundred and fifty, 24 and of cassia five hundred, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and of olive oil a hin.  You shall make  of these a holy anointing oil, a perfume mixture, the work of a perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil.   With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony,   and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense,  and the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the laver and its stand.   You shall also consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them shall be holy. 30 You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister as priests to Me.   You shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations.   It shall not be poured on anyone’s body, nor shall you make any like it in the same proportions; it is holy,and it shall be holy to you.   Whoever shall mix any like it or whoever puts any of it on a layman shall be cut off from his people.’”

Whoa… stong words… so holy oil was to have sanctified purposes.  It was not to be used frivolously under penalty of death.  I turned to the commentaries to fully understand this passage.  David Guzik, of Calvary Chapel writes a clarifying entry about this:

a. Make from these a holy anointing oil, an ointment compounded according to the art of the perfumer: This oil was used for anointing the priests and the articles pertaining to service. It was regarded as a sacred compound that could not be imitated nor used as normal perfuming oil.

b. It shall not be poured on man’s flesh: Since oil is emblematic of the Holy Spirit, we see that the Holy Spirit is not poured out to enhance our flesh, but to glorify Himself.

c. Nor shall you make any other like it . . . it is holy, and it shall be holy to you: This shows that the work of the Holy Spirit is never to be imitated. There is to be no place for encouraging a fleshly imitation of the gifts or operations of the Holy Spirit. To do this denies the holiness of the Holy Spirit, regarding His work as something we can do just as well on our own.

So Holy Oil had Holy Purpose….i get that too.

Having spent my childhood exposed to holy water, and blessing of homes, cars, pets and graves I get the idea.  It has always been a visible symbol of the invisible work God does.  As we pray he sees and hears us, and responds.  So holy water was a throwback to my youth.

But i return to Martin Luther’s take on faith – “Sola Scriptura! Sola Fide! Sola Gratia! Solo Christu! Soli Deo gloria!” Scripture alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Christ Alone, To God Alone is Glory! – and all of these other things are not bad, but if they thwart your faith perhaps they are not necessary.  Luther, Calvin and most of the reformers rose out of the confusing state of a corrupt church that was selling indulgences, flagrantly overlooking some gross sins, and bringing confusion to the simplicity of belief.  That church had drifted from the framework of God’s Word, adding, embellishing, and finding ways to hide behind the power that was the church.  Having been saved, and come to know the Lord I don’t want all that extraneous stuff. I want to know Jesus better, deeper, without the rigid stiffness of ritual and tradition.

My theology of God is solidly built on God’s Word, and the ways God has worked in my life these 28 years I have walked with him.  When i was a young believer i was admonished to search for the common doctrines.  If we agree on the uncompromising truths of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection, of his redemption on the cross, of his virgin birth that is great.  But how we practice our faith may vary, and we can agree to disagree.  In the case of our visitors last night we shall disagree on the rigid structure of their view of faith.

There is one more thought that lingers on my mind today.  I have been a believer for 28 years, and would say i am seasoned and growing in my faith.  It is difficult sometimes to sit under teaching that is so different than what i have known to be accurate and true.  I worry that some of the young believers in our group will get a different interpretation of faith based on the Anglican perspective.  Several people looked confused, seemed sidelined by such foreign concepts.  To that end i express concern, and offer prayer that their faith will not be sidelined for confusion.  That would not be good. The enemy of our soul would love that.  It ought not be so.  The responsibility of the older believer is to step in, respond to confusion and correct misunderstandings.  Thank God I have some idea of church history, and a working knowledge of the differences between their ways and ours.  One person seemed relieved to know that there are different ways to practice our faith, and that Anglicans choose a more ritualistic way.  But we need to be careful of what is presented, and think through how it might impact new and young believers.   Lets promote growth, not confusion.  And truthfully it all starts in prayer.

 

Appointments to pray

“Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.” Corrie ten Boom

If you are not familiar with Corrie ten Boom, she was a dutch girl who was taken into the Nazi death camps during WWII.  She survived however her dear sister did not.  The legacy of her life was a living message of forgiveness, and of prayer.  While she could have stayed angry, unforgiving, and have chosen to have a seared counscience, she chose the greather thing, to forgive those who treated her horribly, and to show the world a living example of Jesus and his love. 

She offers great advice… if we don;t schedule time for prayer we will not be likely to do it.  So pencil in time… perhaps only 10-15 minutes, but spend that time praying.

great quotes on prayer – Part 1

“God shapes the world by prayer. The more prayer there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces of against evil …” E.M. Bounds

Don;t we need more time spent taking to God about the issues of our lives, the concerns about our families, friends, coworkers, neighbors?  And how would our world be different if we each spent more time bringing our concerns to God first!

Thinking more about prayer

“You may as soon find a living man that does not breath, as a living Christian that does not pray.”  Matthew Henry

Prayer has been on my mind so much these days.  As a constant companion, prayer offers a way to work through, talk through, think through the rough and tumble life we live.  I talk to God because He is:

  • More trustworthy than anyone, God listens, and gives his wisdom.
  • Better than a counselor or shrink, He gives us clarity, purpose and hope because his plans for us are for good.
  • Stronger than anything or anyone, He can overcome any obstacle, and tells me he will never allow us to be seperated
  • Wiser than the most wise human, His counsel is always right and always good.
  • Loving and merciful, He will tell the truth, and walk with us through anything, holding back the wrath we all deserve
  • Gracious, He gives us what we do not deserve
  • Able to move mountains, He is able to change even the most bleak situation, or change our thoughts about it.

Over the years of my life prayer went from something written down by the ancients that we memorized and repeated…. like the lords prayer, and the catechism.  Good words, sincere words, filled with great truth.  But they have moved to a fluid conversation with the God of the universe.  I think God delights to hear us pray these written prayers, but I bet he smiles when we just talk to him with our heart opened, and the facts spread out, not holding back with the raw emotion that comes with this life.  

“Satan trembles when he sees the weakest Christian on his knees.”  William Cowper

That said, I have made a decision to take more time to pray, and to write more about prayer… what i have seen and what i am learning.