The Lake Elsinore Fire, Fear and Faith. The fire is raging. Fear and anxiety are growing, but God is in control. With thankful hearts, we pray.
The fires have been raging for 3 days here in Lake Elsinore. Dark smoke and ash are everywhere. Sore throats and massive headaches are a constant. We were told a little while ago, that voluntary evacuations were underway. The stress of fire and evacuation are difficult to endure, emotions are high. After all, who really wants to lose a home. Fear, dread, and anxiety are common among us and our neighbors. Many have started evacuating. This fire is not easy for anyone, especially for a family of Eleven. As planes above dropped fire repellent, I kissed my wife and said, “It is time for you to go”. With tears in our eyes, I hugged my wife and nine children good bye. I gave a few words of wisdom and encouragement, before giving each one a kiss. I reminded everyone how much I loved them. With smoke all around, I gave a tearful wave and then saw our ash covered, family, van drive away. They mean the world to me. The breaths are weak when they are not around. I promised them I would leave the moment it was mandatory. Our dog, Sasha, stayed as my sole companion to help me watch and pray. In these moments of fear and anxiety I find peace.
Isaiah 41:10New King James Version (NKJV) “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
A year and a half ago, I managed to convince my beautiful wife that we could possibly own a home. It started out as a prayer; asking God to provide for us a home, then it moved to faith. It was a dream and a hope. The wife and kids needed a safe place to live. I also wanted a home that was free of criticism for my oldest son, Jeremiah. Jeremiah has White Matter Syndrome. He likes to scream for no apparent reason and to put holes in the wall, as a way of expressing frustration. He lacks the necessary communication skills and understanding that most of us have. He has a difficult life, filled with love and support. Most Landlords are not to tolerant of their property getting torn up. We live in an era of harsh, judgmental attitudes, so renting was difficult. It was my hope to free my wife and kids from the stress of perfection, a refuge where they could be at ease and call their own. A home where a kid could mess up and it was ok, because it was ours.
God in His goodness, agreed. After a hard search and a miracle loan approval; we moved into our new home in beautiful, Lake Elsinore. Our family loves it hear. The home is not perfect and it needs some work, but it is a place of love, joy and laughter. Lake Elsinore is a wonderful community. We have fantastic neighbors; who put up with our large family. They have shown us such kindness and grace. The church we found is so loving and welcoming. It has been a blessing to live here.
We don’t want to lose our home; but we will trust God. God has given us much, with thankful hearts, we will pray. We will pray for safety, our homes and the firefighters, who are putting their lives on the line for us. God bless those hard working fire fighters. Give them strength and endurance. May the good Lord bring us back to our homes, safe and sound.
Proverbs 3:5-6New King James Version (NKJV)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
1 Peter 4:12-13New King James Version (NKJV)
12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
Suffering for God’s Glory
Last week I talked about some of the difficulties that my family was endured. (Ramblings of Death, Illness and a Baby) It seemed that problems were coming at us faster than we could handle them. It was not just the big ones, (See the link.) but all the small ones that added to our stress and anxiety. The little things are the ones that just put you over the edge. The air conditioner failing, garbage disposal breaking and the dog deciding that the BBQ would make a great chew toy. It is in these moments that one wonders, “God where are you?” It is in these moments that you need encouragement. During trials it is critical to know your Bible and trust what it says. God uses His word to encourage us. Encouragement in trials is key to relieving the stress you are under.
2 Corinthians 4:16-17New International Version (NIV)
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
Surround Yourself with Hope
The world has become so negative. We are surrounded by destructive words, behavior and images that demean our self worth and break us mentally and spiritually. This is why we must combat the enemy who wishes to destroy us. There are 5 ways that we can build our lives with a foundation of hope and encouragement.
PRAY: If you do not regularly communicate with God, you are making a big mistake in your life. God is our Heavenly Father, He loves us and wants to hear from us. He is an awesome and perfect Dad. These two verses say it best.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. (1 John 5:14)
He shall regard the prayer of the destitute, And shall not despise their prayer. (Psalm 102:17)
READ YOUR BIBLE: The Bible is God’s love letter to you, it is filled with hope and encouragement. How will you know God if you don’t read it? God has a plan for your life. Reading the Bible gives you clarity and peace. Memorize verses so that you will remember them in the middle of a desperate moment.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105)
GO TO CHURCH: God created us to be relational, Church is a place where we are called to encourage one another, but also a place to be encouraged. Christians are called to care for one another. In the passage below, we are called to assemble together.
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
ENCOURAGING PEOPLE: We need to surround our selves with people who encourage us in our walk with God and in life. Look for people who use encouraging words that build you up and show you grace. Become one of these people, by building others up you will establish hope in your life through difficult times.
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)
POSITIVE SOCIAL MEDIA: Social media can either depress you or it can be a reminder of spiritual growth. If you look at my social media, I use it to encourage others with a daily reminder of God’s Goodness. I also surround myself with other like minded individuals. In the past month, so many people have inspired and encouraged my wife and I to keep enduring through these difficult moments. We have felt the prayers of thousands and have seen them answered.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
Give Praise to God
Although the last month was difficult I had so much to be thankful for. God brought a music album that encouraged me. It is from a friend of mine, Aaron Michael, so check it out. (https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/promises/1337486248)
We had a church that prayed for us, and family who supported us. I also had a special friend (Jill) from Instagram; who every day would send encouraging messages and prayers into our lives. I must also give praise to God, who is amazing. God healed my dad, so he and my mother were able to celebrate their 63 wedding anniversary. On that very same day, my son Josiah was born. He was born healthy and my wife is in amazing health and good spirits.
To the follower of Jesus, encouragement is a #proofofyourfaith.
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
Psalm 34:17-19New American Standard Bible (NASB)
17 The righteous cry, and the Lord hears And delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
Sickness has spread through out our house today. I would like to say that today’s post was going to make a lot of sense, but I may be under a deep delusion since I have obtained some sort of flu bug and am writing this with a fever. I planned on writing some epic peace on the power of prayer, but am not sure if my concentration will hold long enough for me to be coherent. It seems that every time I do have a “brilliant” thought to convey; my mouth interrupts my brain with a desire to run to the bathroom, or I am called by one of my children; to save them from the porcelain demon. Epic blog post this will not be, but rather one of ramblings.
James 1:2-4New American Standard Bible (NASB)
2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Every week I gather my notes, bible verses and convictions which are bound in prayer. I then begin my endeavor to share the love of Jesus with you. This week has been turbulent for me. My wife is due any moment with our new son to be, Josiah. His name in Hebrew means, “Jehovah has healed.” I sure pray that this is prophetic.
In all seriousness I really do mean that. For years I have prayed earnestly for my other son, Jakob; to be healed from a vaccine poisoning that he had as an infant. I have also prayed for a healing to my depression,(Depression and The Christian Faith) and with all the excitement of a new baby, we received word that my father has taken quite ill and their is the chance that I may not get to say, “Good bye.” It is impossible to be in two places at once, and definitely not a good idea to be sick with a flu and fever. This has left me torn and stressed. My desire is to be with my dad and comfort my mother, but my wife really needs me. I cannot wait for this demonic trial to stop tormenting me, but all in the good time of our heavenly Father. My trust will always be in the hands of my Father and His plan for my life. He is a good, good Father.
James 1:17New American Standard Bible (NASB)
17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
Yes I do not blame God for my trials, I blame Satan. He is the one who comes to kill, steal, and destroy. He is the father of lies. The greatest lie he tells us, “This is all God’s fault.” I will not be persuaded by that liar. I do thank God for the opportunity to learn from my trials. I also ask God for more joy. It is from joy, that God grants inner peace so that Jesus can do His work of endurance and maturity. Trials after all are a #proofofyourfaith
Thank you Lord for the trials I face. Thank you Father, for teaching me patience and mercy. I know you love me and I know that you are there. You never leave or forsake me. Grant me strength to love, as you have loved me. Let me endure to the end, reaching towards you, falling into Your arms Jesus. Then this race will all be worth it, just to be with you, eternally.
Do you know what it means to Worship God? Does your behavior, life, exemplify your worship of God?
A while back, I blogged about. The God We Should Worship. It brought up a discussion with a friend, who asked, “Do we know what worship even is?” Many worship leaders don’t even understand what the purpose is. A pastor told me that in his search for a worship leader they had hundreds of applicants who could not define the purpose of worship.
Praise and worship are more than singing, they bring the follower of Christ to a place of reflection on their life in Christ, His blood stained sacrifice and His resurrection. Simply put, it points us to the cross of Jesus. It directs us heavenly into the throne room of God. Worship and praise focus us on the awesomeness of God, His Love for us and His redemption of mankind from their sins. It overwhelms us with the knowledge of God’s love for us. The worshiper elevates God’s greatness above their own-self, acknowledging the glory of the creator. Their worship points to Christ and the truth of His Word. Christ centered worship enters us into the presence of God with heartfelt gratitude for what He has done. It is full of thanksgiving and humbles us with a contrite spirit. Scripturally sound worship, penetrates our soul with the word of truth, shedding us of the strife of life.
Godly worship empowers us in our walk with Christ, transforming us through the holy spirit. It engages us to act with love to those around us and finally it provides trust in God’s sovereign will for our lives. It testifies to God’s greatness.
Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things,things planned long ago. (Isaiah 25:1)
Worship guides us: In the recognition that every good and perfect gift comes from God. Praise gives thanks for those gifts bestowed upon us by God.
I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good besides You.” (Psalm 16:2)
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17)
Worship guides us: In the recognition of our sin and of Christ’s perfect act of redemption on the cross. Praise gives thanks for the Fathers Grace and His plan of salvation.
When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.
Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works. (Psalm 73:21-28)
Worship leads us: To the knowledge of total surrender to God’s sovereign will and grace. Praise provides a heart of gratitude that all things work out for His will. Worship is about surrendering your will to God, letting him speak to you and allowing Him to alter your thoughts, emotions and mindset. Worship can move us into His presence changing our lives forever. Surrendered worship fills you with more love, compassion and grace for others. It waters the fruits of your spirit, transforming you into a new creation, removing the guilt, shame and condemnation.
Then Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; My horn is exalted in the Lord, My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, Because I rejoice in Your salvation. “There is no one holy like the Lord, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God. Boast no more so very proudly, Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; For the Lord is a God of knowledge, And with Him actions are weighed. (1Samuel 2:1-3)
Worship shepherds us: it cultivates behavior that attests or testifies to the saving power and eternal hope that we have in Christ Jesus. Praise showers God for His enduring love that He has for us.
Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:15-16)
Worship is not about you!
It is a sad commentary, but worship for some is about being entertained. Worship needs to draw us to a place of righteousness. It is directed towards God for all that He has done for us.
In the end, worship can never be a performance, something you’re pretending or putting on. It’s got to be an overflow of your heart….. Worship is about getting personal with God, drawing close to God. –Matt Redman
Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12: 29-31)
In the same way, that we should love God; we should also worship Him. With all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. True worship is bound in the Christ centered love that we give to Him, who first loved us, and the active love we show to others.
Consider Jesus. Know Jesus. Learn what kind of Person it is you say you trust and love and worship. Soak in the shadow of Jesus. Saturate your soul with the ways of Jesus. Watch Him. Listen to Him. Stand in awe of Him. Let Him overwhelm you with the way He is. –John Piper
Worship and praise are not just to be done in a church building. Do them in your home, in the quiet places; where your soul can soar heavenward as sweet incense to God. Sincere, Godly, worship and praise are a proof of your faith.
Old weary Me. A poem by Stephan Caraway. How do you view your percieved failures?
Are you conquering life or just surviving?
The response from last weeks blog post has been amazing. (Destroying the Message of Guilt and Shame) The emails that I have received and the private messages, from Facebook, Twitter to Tumblr, have moved my heart. God is doing something incredible. My hope is for healing to take place and for your identity in Christ to become clear. A few weeks ago I posted a poem, I Need to Know the Cost. Once again I am not a poet; with that said, the good Lord inspired my heart to write this a few months ago. I thought it was an appropriate follow up to last weeks post. I love to get your feed back, I will respond to your comments. You may also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Old Weary Me
By Stephan Caraway
So weary am I for this life I’ve tried,
So clearly in strife, all hope is denied.
With failures to last, in shame do I live,
A haunting past, with nothing to give.
The chains are heavy for old weary me.
In pain, I cried could You break them free?
Then with a whisper I heard Your voice,
In love You gave me a heavenly choice.
Not just to survive; but in Christ I would thrive.
In joyful tears, you removed my fears.
God’s love so true, I surrendered to you.
Forgiven at last, from my sinful past!
Now I live a conquering life,
No longer living in sinful strife.
Raging a war at the devils gates,
Leaving behind those burdensome weights.
Fighting and praying to set the captives free,
Telling the story of God’s love for old weary me.
So I set my mind on Christ above,
Looking to God’s gracious love,
on the Holy things that are heaven bound.
To hear God’s call, His voice to sound,
Well done good and faithful son.
Your cost is paid by the crucified one.
Praise to Him who saved my soul,
In Christ’s bloody, loving toll.
The cost, I cannot truly bare,
His love I must surely share.
I rejoice and sing for that, which God did win.
Salvation from that virus sin.
One last note: Special thanks to insanitybytes2.wordpress.com. Her kindness in sharing my last blog post was amazing and heart felt. She demonstrated selflessness and love. Her writing does not come from vanity or a desire to seek fame, but from compassion and a desire to help others.
Reading the Bible needs to be at the forefront of what we do in life.
“So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32 NASB)
A while back, I posted The God We Should Worship . The purpose was to bring some clarity to the incorrect understanding that Muslims worship the same God as Christians. The central argument is that Christians worship Jesus because He is God, the Triune God. This is the core of Christian belief. We get this theology from the Bible. Jesus made this claim several times. Muslims view Jesus as a mere prophet whose teachings they regularly ignore. The differences between Islam and Christianity are apparent. One only needs to read the Bible to know that there is no grace of God in Islam. Grace is a character of God that he reveals in the Bible. Through the scriptures, God reveals Himself to us. I have found myself in awe of God as a result of seeking Him. One gets to know God by studying the Bible, memorizing scripture and praying. The more I know Him, the more I love Him. The more I love Him, the more I desire to be in His presence. I love him because he first loved me. For God is love. It is in His love for me that God reveals His Divine character of truth through His word.
Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him”.(John 18:37-38)
The whole world claims we want truth, honesty, integrity, and transparency. The fact is that most people don’t even seek it. They personally don’t want truth to interfere in their daily lives. They don’t want truth to destroy their misguided conceptions of life. Most people would rather believe lies about themselves. They live in the guilt and shame of their failures. They can’t comprehend that God could love them. The truth of God’s word, tells us that He loves us. Those who truly seek truth become doers of truth. The person who does not apply the word of God to their lives is failing to live a Christ centered life. If you are not reading God’s word, you can’t apply it. If you are not reading and applying the Bible to your life; your Christianity is worthless.
“Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (James 1:21-22 NASB)
Are you of the truth? Do you hear the voice of Jesus? Jesus told Pilate, that everyone who is of the truth hears His voice. If you don’t read God’s love letter to you, how will you distinguish the truth from a lie? Are you listening to the stranger’s voice? Examine your life for a moment. Is your Christianity weak? Do you struggle with your walk with God? Are you focused on loving Jesus or are you living in doubt? There are things that you can do to draw closer to God.
Ask God for help. Seek His wisdom.
Read the Bible everyday. This is critical. It’s good to have a plan. Write down what you learn. I journal through my Bible Everyday
Memorize scripture. Take time while you are standing around and memorize scripture. (I use an app called fighter verses.)
Pray. Write down your prayers and your answers . If you have a hard time praying, pray through the scriptures. (Try the Psalms)
God loves you! Let God’s grace shine on you. Seek His truth.
The cross shows us our value to God. It demonstrates God’s love for us and how precious we are to Him.
We despised him and rejected him; he endured suffering and pain. No one would even look at him— we ignored him as if he were nothing. “But he endured the suffering that should have been ours, the pain that we should have borne. All the while we thought that his suffering was punishment sent by God. But because of our sins he was wounded, beaten because of the evil we did. We are healed by the punishment he suffered, made whole by the blows he received. (Isaiah 53:3-5)
I do not consider myself a poet, that word belongs to those who dedicate themselves to that art. This past year, I have had some amazing times with God and have been inspired to write some of my thoughts down. I am confounded by God’s love for me. It overwhelms me at times and leaves me drenched with love, understanding and awe. On one such occasion, I wrote the following poem:
I Need to Know the Cost.
I need to know the painful cost,
of the blood He shed upon His cross. So gruesome a price Christ did pay, His life, our sins He did slay.
Unworthy of Him who bore my sin.
All for love my soul to win.
His body so broken, His flesh torn to shred.
My life to be saved, with his blood that was shed,
I need to know the epic cost, of the life Christ gave upon His cross.
Lead me to the everlasting way; that my heart will never stray. Fix my eyes on the eternal one, so Christ can finish this race I run. So precious is your love for me, in Jesus name I am free. Grow your love in me; still more, so others will see the cross you bore.
Oh Holy Communion remind me still,
of the precious blood that was spilled. Repentance I need for my sorrowful sin.
His body so broken for my soul to win. How precious is the life Christ gave, by grace and love, my life to save. I need to know the painful cost, of the life we hung upon that cross.
Lead me to the everlasting way; that my heart will never stray. Fix my eyes on the eternal one, so Christ can finish this race I run. So precious is your love for me, in Jesus name I am free. Grow your love in me; still more, so others will see the cross you bore.
2016 was one of the most difficult years for me. It was a year in which I faced incredible stress and heartbreak. It was also the year that I faced my depression.
I have not been able to blog for quite a while. A few of you have contacted me to find out why. This last year I have had to deal with my depression. I ignored it to long, and I believe that God finally made me face it. I actually believed that my relationship with God was at its best point in my life. I was enjoying daily devotion time and really learning so much. But God wants us to face the truth about who we are. I wanted to deny my depression, after all how can a Christian be depressed? For me this is what I struggled with for the past few years. I wondered if I was failing God. I would agonize, “Where was the Joy that was supposed to come with being a follower of Jesus?” Instead of dealing with the depression, I would make excuses, blame others, or just live in denial. This year my depression took an ugly turn. It came in so hard and deep that I could hardly function. It suffocated me. All the things I enjoyed in life were gone, I could not see any optimism or hope. I would find my self weeping for no apparent reason. These struggles would often lead to emotional out burst of anger, fear, anxiety and deep sadness.
My wife finally had enough and let me know that she was no longer going to tolerate me if I was not going to get help. She began to detach herself from me and our marriage. Over the last few years I had failed to realize what a toll my depression had placed on my wife. I had ignored the pain she had to endure.
In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7 NLT)
Depression is not a sin
The first thing that I had to realize was that depression was not a sign that I was failing God or that God did not love me. There are many examples in the scripture of people who fervently loved God, but suffered from depression. Elijah and David as well as the Apostle Paul all endured periods of great depression. Philippians seems to be a letter written specifically for those enduring depression. The word Joy is one of the most underlining themes. It is full of encouragement and reminders of God’ faithfulness. One of the Psalm’s that has helped me the most is Psalm 143. This passage has become a rock for me durring the last year. I find myself praying this Psalm to God at least once a day.
Once I realized that my depression was not a sin, I did have to come to grips with the fact that the results of depression can lead one to sin, in the way they treat others. Some of the sins that I struggled the most with were fear, anger, selfishness, pride and intolerance. As I look at this list I am filled with great shame. I never realized the pain I was causing others. A person who is dealing with depression often fails to see the sins that are doing the most harm in their lives. This is why it is important to get help.
Stop blaming others and circumstances and just get help!
My life is extremely stressful, so it was alway easy to blame my behavior on stress, or on someone else. When I finally agreed to get help it opened my eyes to a lot of things that I had been ignoring. It also helped me to understand what was contributing to my depression. It turns out that my liver is a major contributor to my depression. So along with medication, I have had to change my diet. This is not easy for me because I love to cook. I have gone to a gluten free, dairy free and night shade free diet. In other words a twig and tree bark diet.(It is really not that bad; but there are so many foods that I had to give up.) I have had to give up tomatoes and potatoes and all peppers as well as bread and dairy. The diet has been brutally tough; the food I am willing to sacrifice, but my marriage and devotion to Christ, I am not. I have had to learn to cook in a whole new way. It has actually helped both with my depression and relationships with my family. My children have become quite excited about trying the different dishes that I prepare. My wife and I have become much closer and have really developed much better communication skills.
God wants us to grow in Him. My counselor reminds me every session of Psalm 139:23-24. It is a verse that every follower of Christ should pray and meditate on each day:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.
You may not realize how your behavior is effecting others, so please seek help, repentance, forgiveness and most of all, trust in God’s plan for your life.
“No one can believe how powerful prayer is and what it can effect, except those who have learned it by experience. Whenever I have prayed earnestly, I have been heard and have obtained more than I prayed for. God sometimes delays, but He always comes.”
― Martin Luther
Recently I wrote about what to do in the midst of The Crazy Chaos of a Busy Life… Prayer is the most important tool we have. Most people fail to use it effectively, if they use it at all. The following passage explains a few of the attributes effective prayer should have.The follower of Christ should not wait for difficult times to pray, We should pray in preparation for them.
Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, Give me legal protection from my opponent.’For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man,yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.”And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said;now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night,and will He delay long over them?I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8)
Prayer is effective communication with a responsive God who has the desire to have a relationship with you. E.M. Bounds once said, “The [prayer] closet…is the battlefield of the Church; its citadel; the scene of heroic and unearthly conflicts.”The fact is that many Christians take prayer for granted. Why are we failing to pray? A pastor once told me, that the most difficult event to get people to come out to was a prayer meeting. He mentioned that he would be lucky if 10 people showed up out of his thousand member church. We wonder why there is so much evil in the world, yet we fail to pray. In this technology era of texting and twittering there is very little deep emotional conversation that takes place. In the same way that it affects the natural world it is also affecting the spiritual world. Recently, articles ranging from CNN to The Huffington Post discuss the dangers of losing face-to-face communication. ( Too Much Texting Could be Harming Your Relationship ) This lack of communication is also affecting the way people are praying to God. Are your prayers becoming like a twitter post to God? Are your prayers enduring and full of conviction or are they soulless babble?
Let see what Jesus wants us to learn about prayer.
Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,(Romans 12:12)
God wants us to have enduring prayer times. Luke basically gives the parable away by telling us what it is about. We are to pray at all times and not to lose heart. Pretty simple idea, so why do we have such a hard time with it. Texting allows us to cut out the chit-chat, it keeps our interactions brief and to the point. We have even reduced whole sentences to a simple emoji. Because of the influence of social media and technology we are failing in our interpersonal communication. In this same way, we have reduced our prayers to simple sound bites. God wants enduring prayers. A person who is devoted to prayer, perseveres through difficult situations and rejoices in the hope that God provides.
We need to devote our selves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.(Colossians 4:2)
He wants us to have deep conversations with him, prayers that take time. God wants to hear our problems, sorrows, our brokenness, our praise and gratitude. This takes time. God wants our time. The problem with society is that if we don’t have a result from our communication we move on. Our impatience and our need for results drives us away from God. God is not going to solve your problems with a Twitter response and an emoji. He wants to transform your life and behavior into something beautiful. What excuses do you use to not pray? Is your prayer effective? Are you enduring in your prayer time? God wants you to be persistent in prayer. Is your love for God evident by the way you pursue Him? A person with a committed prayer life has direction and purpose. That person is led by God to level ground.
In my distress I called upon the Lord, And cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.(Psalm 18:6)
God wants heartfelt prayers. God wants us to pray from our heart. God wants us to reveal our deepest pain to Him. The widow was crying out for justice. She was praying with conviction. Do you pray this way? Abraham Lincoln said this,“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”
Because God loves us, He wants to hear our concerns, our problems, our needs and our joys. God is love. He knows what is happening, but He is relational. It is when we communicate our thoughts to God that He reveals a better path for us. He opens our heart to his will. It is through this time of heartfelt prayer, that love grows inside of us. God is the source of this love, it is His perfect gift to you. Do your prayers flow with love?
By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life. (Psalm 42:8)
Enduring prayers of conviction breeds faithfulness to God. Jesus reveals the character of God in this parable. Persistent prayer reveals justice for the oppressed who follow Him. God is faithful to those who are faithful. The word Elect is used to describe those who follow after God.
The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (James 5:16b).
This is not our righteousness but the righteousness of Jesus Christ that abides in us. It is not a matter of just believing in God, but it is the constant state of mind to be chasing after God. I would often ask myself, “How can I expect to have an enduring and persistent prayer life if I fail to have an enduring and persistent relationship with Christ?” For most of my life my prayers were short and brief. I just wanted to get to the point. I always wondered why my relationship with God was so weak. I now realize that I had it backwards. My Prayer time was what grew my relationship with God. I needed to humble myself before God and confess my wrongs to Him. Prayer is communication. Can any relationship grow without enduring and persistent communication? Just ask any marriage counselor and they will tell you that without good communication your marriage will fail. The same is with your relationship with God. To have an effective relationship with God you need to pray and your prayers need to be persistent and enduring.
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.(Psalm 145:18)
Does your prayer time carry your faith in difficult times? Jesus ends the parable with a question. He is referring to His second coming. When He returns, Jesus asks, “Will he find faith on the Earth?” Is your faith evident by your prayer life? Do people refer to you as a prayer warrior? America needs revival. The Church needs revival. The only way for revival to come is through enduring and persistent, heartfelt communication with God. This is what prayer needs to be. It is time for the Church to pray. It is time for the followers of Jesus to be driven to their knees in prayer. We need to bring our brokenness, our tears, our confessions to the cross of Jesus with enduring prayers. Oh men and women of God I plead with you; pray, pray and pray some more.
The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer (1 Peter 4:7)
Christ took our sins and the sins of the whole world as well as the Father’s wrath on his shoulders, and he has drowned them both in himself so that we are thereby reconciled to God and become completely righteous.–Martin Luther
But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate,that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Timothy 6:11-14)
My life has been a series of struggles. I have always wanted to follow Jesus but for many years I just lived in failure. Then through a series of encounters with God I began to understand. A few years ago this passage revealed the hope of having victory over my failures to consistently follow Jesus. My hope was not found in my actions, but in the holiness of God and what Jesus did on the cross. It is all about God’s love for us.
The people of Ephesus struggled, like most people today, with doing right by God’s standard. The fact is that Christians are not perfect. We sin just like everyone else. The difference for Christians is Jesus. When we choose to have a relationship with Him and acknowledge our wrong doings, He wipes our sins away. Through Christ, God forgives us. It is all about Jesus, His love, the price He paid, His Righteousness and His Kingship. Paul understood that his disciple Timothy was not perfect. He knew that Timothy would struggle with his faith. The struggle is actually good. It is when we are not bothered by our sin that darkness prevails. God knows that we are flawed by sin. That is why Jesus came. God loves us and wanted us to have hope, the hope of being saved from our failures that separate us from God. That Hope is in Jesus Christ.
So why do Christians seem to struggle with repeating the same sins over and over again? It is in this passage that Paul gives Timothy some very important keys to overcoming the sins that abuse us and drag us away from God.
…that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:22)
The first key is to run from your old life. We need God’s strength to do this. Paul tells Timothy to flee from from wrong doing. He even advises Timothy earlier in the letter to avoid false teachers, people who lead you astray. This can be extremely difficult and even painful. This means that you need to allow the Holy spirit to remove everything that distracts you from having an effective walk with Jesus. Paul wrote in Romans:
Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:7-8)
Think of it like this; while you were at work, if you took personal calls through out the day that kept you from doing your duties, would your work performance be effective? Could it possibly impede your production and lead to termination? Of course it would! It is the same for your Christian life. Confess to God, what you know is wrong. Get rid of relationships, habits and activities that keep you from God. Ask God what distracts you from him. Pray that God will break those habits and activities that drag you back to your old life. Rely on the Holy spirit to guide you.
Early in my marriage I realized that I had a serious problem with video games. They kept me from praying, reading my Bible and they were wrecking my relationship with my wife and kids. My video game friends and I talked more than I did with God or my family. I realized that I had put games before God and my family. I was selfish. Today if you walk in to my home you will not find a video game console. Every once in a while I find myself tempted by the illusion of that old life, but the fulfillment I have in Christ is far more satisfying. Run from your old self and pursue Jesus and what He has for you. Let Him Give you rest.
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17)
The second key is to pursue the gifts God has for you. Paul gave Timothy the next key in overcoming sin. He says, “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness”. Let’s be blunt here, if we could achieve these on our own we would not need Jesus. Humanity is flawed and depraved and we cannot achieve perfection. We are devolving into a crueler, more violent species. Society is imposing less restraints upon us, while encouraging our worst instincts and behavior.
This is why we need God. Throughout the world no matter the country or race people seek God. It is in our genetic code to desire a relationship with him. God wants us to be better than we are. That is why Jesus came and gave his life for us. It is God, through what Jesus did on the cross , who provides our righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. None of this can be achieved by us. It was achieved on a blood stained cross by the perfect Incarnate Christ. So Paul is telling Timothy to pursue Christ’s Righteousness, Godliness, Faith, Love, Perseverance and Gentleness. God gives them to those who follow Him, who pursue Him. They are the perfect gift and they only come from Him. Pray and ask God to help you! These gifts come through sorrowful repentance and prayer.
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:7-8)
The third key is to take hold of Jesus. This is where things get really exciting. Paul tells Timothy to “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called”. Eternal life comes from one source, Jesus. Jesus is eternal life. Take a look at the passage below:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:1-6)
From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He was calling people to follow him. We are not to follow some ideals, or a political leader or even a pastor. We are to follow Jesus. My dad always told me not to put my faith in him or to place my salvation in his arms. He warned me that one day he would unwillingly let me down. “Follow Jesus,” my father would say. “He will never let you down.” (Note: My father has yet to let me down, but my actions did hurt him quite a few times. I have always seen Jesus in him.)
Jesus is perfect. He is without sin. He experienced the violent, cruel world of humanity. He came into this world willingly, to give us life. If we want an abundant life that is eternal, then we must take hold of Jesus. Jesus is life. He can give life to our weaknesses. Are you following Jesus or are you just a fan? Are you leaving the old life behind like bad garbage? Do you really know Jesus? Ask your self, “Do people see the love of Jesus in me”? Take hold of Jesus grab onto him. Surrender everything to him. He is the one who defeats sin, not us. He is the one who raises us up when we fall. It is when we experience the power of Christ in our lives and his transforming love, that we should share what God has done.
The right hand of the Lord is exalted; The right hand of the Lord does valiantly. I will not die, but live, And tell of the works of the Lord. The Lord has disciplined me severely,But He has not given me over to death. (Psalm 118:16-18)
The fourth key is to share publicly what God has done for you and be accountable.
Paul reminded Timothy about the confession he made publicly. There were many witnesses to the declaration that Timothy made, to follow Jesus. Testifying to what Jesus has done builds your faith up. It keeps you accountable. Yes it does put a bullseye right on your back, but that is the whole point. Jesus put your sins on his back and nailed them to a cross so that you could have life. Be bold in testifying to what Jesus has done. Let everything in your life point to Jesus, every word and every action.
But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. (1Peter 3:15-16)
** Authors Note: Sorry for this long post. It has been in the works for 4 months. This may sound like a doing and striving post, but it is not. It is all about Jesus and what he has done. It is His work on the cross. You may be exhausted with your life. Let Jesus take your troubles let him give you rest. May God bless you and give you the endurance to run the race! Take hold of Jesus! God Bless.