Jesus, The Personal Savior.

Intimacy is important in relationships & in our prayer life. Do you know Jesus? Is your Christianity defined by the tattoo inked on your body? God wants more. He wants to engage us in a deeper relationship.

Have you ever been asked the question, “Are you a Christian?” This is a common question; that is asked to determine religious affiliation. Many Americans casually call themselves Christians, as if they are fans of the religion. The question that should be asked is, “Do you know Jesus?” or “Are you a follower of Christ?”.

“Now as soon as they had come out of the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Him about her at once. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭1:29-31‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

As we look at the beginning of this story we are reminded that there was an intimacy in the relationship between the disciples and Jesus. The disciples knew Jesus, followed Jesus and spent time with Jesus. They had just finished visiting the synagogue and were heading to the home of Simon Peter and Andrew, where they planned to fellowship and eat. Here is where the story begins to develop into an intimate portrait of what having a relationship with Jesus can be like.

According to Luke, a doctor, Simon’s Mother in law was with high fever. (Luke 4:38) In those days a fever was deadly. There was no Tylenol or Advil to help with the reduction of fever. In fact the rituals of the time were quite barbaric in dealing with a high fever. She needed a miracle.

What separates the fans of Christianity from the followers of Jesus Christ, is spiritual intimacy. We should know our Savior beyond “Just Faith”. There are two lessons on intimacy that we can learn from this passage of scripture.

1. The disciples knew Jesus well enough to know that He would hear their petition and that He would respond to their needs.

Do you know Jesus like this?

2. We need to go immediately to Jesus with everything.

Most people go to God only when they need something. The scripture tells us that the disciples immediately went to Jesus and told him about Simon’s mother in law. Notice that they did not go to others and ask them to talk to Jesus, they went to Jesus directly. I am not saying that you shouldn’t ask others to pray for you. What I am saying is that you need to go to Jesus first and immediately. The relationship with Christ is a personal one. One that is not hung on a banner or wrapped around a cross on your neck. It is a daily communication between you and your savior. It is one of intimacy. The Disciples knew Jesus, because they spent time with Him and listened to His teachings. This is why we must spend time in Gods word, the Bible. Everything we need is in the love letter that God has given us. Read His love letter!

Another example of prayer is from Daniel:

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Daniel 6:10

and Ephesians:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18

When communication is constant and direct it leaves little room for wondering if that person is real, and what they want. The same is with Jesus. Relationships that fail usually do so because of a lack of communication. When we purposely draw near to God, He draws near to us. A transformation comes when we move from faith to believing and from believing to knowing. When we know God, we will be filled with understanding and peace. We will know His will because we are constantly dwelling in His presence. Do not be afraid to go to God with your pain, your grief, your sins and your needs. Let God know your suffering. King David did this better than anyone, The Psalmist often shocks me, in how he confronts God. It is reverent but very direct; yet David with all of his sins and crimes was called a man after God’s own heart.

Once we go to God in prayer we learn from Mark that Jesus is there to comfort us. Notice in verse 31, it says that Jesus took her hand. The taking of the hand is a sign of comfort. When we go to Jesus immediately with our daily concerns and needs, He comforts us through the Holy Spirit and guides us. Jesus gives us the ability to endure any situation.

When my daughter Hannah was younger, she loved to sit in the front seat of my car and hold my hand. I once asked her, why she did this and she told me it was because it made her feel safe and good. When you pray, ask Jesus to take your hand and walk you through your prayer life.

Jesus is always with us. The Holy Spirit is our comforter. God is the Father that we need. So reach out to Him and pray. A prayer life is a #proofofyourfaith.

Letting God Interfere with your Depression and Faith.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭

In the past few months, Southern California has been hit with the news of tragic suicides of several local pastors. Some were well known while others from small churches were not. The pain that their deaths left is unimaginable. As someone who suffers from depression, I had to ask, was I next?  Could my depression bring me to the point of taking my own life? There are times when depression has paralyzed me. It is in those times that I have clung to scripture and Jesus to help me. I have done some serious soul searching and praying. There are steps that you can take to aid in your battle with depression. The first step is to recognize your depression. I outlined this in a previous blog: Depression and The Christian Faith. The next step is to prioritize your life and eliminate the distractions. I wrote about this in my second post: Depression and the Christian Faith (Pt. 2).

My family and my amazing wife have really supported me with my depression battle. They have reminded me to take my medication, focus on the pleasant moments, and helped me to change my routine when drowning in depression. The biggest area of support that they have provided is to ensure that I have significant amount of time to spend with Jesus. It is during my devotions that I became friends with David. He has quickly become one of my best friends. David understands me, he also suffered from depression. Yes I am talking about David the Psalmist. His Psalms clearly outlines the personality of one who battles depression. David clearly understands depression. He also gives us a spiritual method in which we can battle depression.

The first battle: Be honest.

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭42:1-3‬ ‭NASB
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?””

David is honest with God, he tells God that he wants to die, that he has done nothing but cry. His tears asked the question, “Where is God?” David loved God which is evident by his many psalms. He admits that in his darkest hour, he questioned if God was near.

In the midst of despair, we often question God. This does not anger God. It actually causes God to react to your prayers and pain. God wants us to communicate with Him. He desires intimacy. Admitting that you may harm yourself is not a weakness, it is a sign of strength. Tell someone how you are feeling. God puts people in our lives to help us in our struggles. Do not bottle things up! Expose them to the light

The second battle: Remember your Joy.

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭42:4‬ ‭NASB
“These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.”

‭‭David reminds himself of the days when he had joy in his heart, when he was thankful and loved God with his whole soul. It is important to keep reminders of what brings you joy. Is it your children? Is it love of family? You need to know what brings you real joy, it needs to be something of substance and long lasting. When you figure this out, start being thankful for them. It is impossible to be thankful and depressed at the same moment. I keep a list and read them to God daily and thank Him. Ironically my list has grown quite large.

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The third battle: Seek God’s help in righting your wrongs.

Psalms‬ ‭42:5‬ ‭NASB
“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.”

David questions what has caused this disturbance in his soul. Is there unforgiveness that is eating you up? Do you feel shame for something that was not even your fault. Are you carrying guilt around as a baggage that weighs you down. Talk to someone, seek help. David thanked God for the help of His presence. His hope in God was restored because he knew God was there. David praised God for bringing him full circle to a place of restoration. We need to learn forgiveness. Each of us makes mistakes in life. Nothing is ever to big that God cannot forgive. He loves us. Allow Gods love to shine on you.

The forth battle: Allow God’s love to surpass your depression.

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭42:7-8‬ ‭NASB‬‬
“Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me. The LORD will command His loving kindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life.”

Depression often comes in waves. David reminds us that as deep as our depression gets; God gets deeper. God calls out the deepest sorrows in our life. David encourages us, that with every wave and cycle that we experience, God’s love will be more powerful. Our Father in heaven commands His love to be poured over us in the daytime and He gives us a song for the night. David prayed to God for help and he trusted God with his life.

Do you pray? How often? Have you surrendered your life to Jesus? Give God your burdens. Let his love pour over you.

David was a great king. He had his lows and his highs. He referred often to God, as his rock. David often spoke of God’s loving kindness. He saw God as a father, a good shepherd and a friend.

But more important…

God called David, “A man after His own heart.”

In our weaknesses God sees our strengths. Isn’t it time that you see yourself the way God does? God’s love for us is greater than our faith.

Please leave a comment and if this post helped you, hit the like button below.
God Bless you,

Stephan

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The Lake Elsinore Fire, The Aftermath

The recovery from the fire is more of relief and thankfulness. Our community changed for the better. The fire gave us a new hope for the people of Lake Elsinore.

I must apologies to those who were eagerly awaiting Part 2 of “The Spread of Lawlessness (Part 1)“. Due to the events of the Lake Elsinore fire, I felt it was more important to support my neighbors and friends with my writing, The Lake Elsinore Fire, Fear and Faith. The second part will come soon.

The events of the fire that ravaged the surrounding hills of Lake Elsinore, left many of us with anxiety and doubt. Many evacuated their homes, wondering if they would ever return. My wife and children were among those who left voluntarily, due to the smoke and toxins in the air. Our home was at risk to the fire, but our main concern was the health of our young children. The joy of seeing them return the next morning filled my heart with thanksgiving and praise. My wife was relieved that our home was in one piece; but I could see her eyes worn with exhaustion and stress.

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:13‬ ‭NASB‬‬)

As neighbors and friends returned to their homes, the impact of the fire could still be felt emotionally and by the senses of the body. Ash can be found in every crevice and crack and the smell of smoke still hangs in the air. Those who stayed, felt the lingering affects of sore throats and headaches, but no one complains.

As the ash begins to clear and the skies turn to blue, one thing is evidently clear; our firefighters did a job that was legendary. They held the line against our ravaging foe.

It is a story of miracles, with all the acres that were scorched and burned, no one lost their home. Deprived of sleep and exhausted from the heat; our beloved firefighters did their job, valiantly.

The tears that flow from Lake Elsinore are those of joy and relief. Other blazes around the state have not been as blessed. So to all the brave men and women that saved our homes,”Thank you”!

With every fire there comes new growth and something to learn. Something amazing happened to the people of Lake Elsinore. We put aside our anger and poisonous speech to help each other in our time of need.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (‭‭John‬ ‭13:34-35‬ ‭NASB‬‬)

I saw neighbors talking to one another; building relationships on their streets. When one needed help another was near to provide aid. We put down our tablets and phones long enough to come out of our homes and talk. We worked together and organized a city. The enemy was not each other, but the fire that burned. Prayers were made and friendships developed, all thanks to a fire that raged.

People put aside their anger over race and politics to reflect upon their neighbors well-being. Some talked of organizing neighborhood watch’s, some of block parties and celebrations. Names were exchanged, handshakes were made. Some drank coffee together and others had a beer.

This was exciting to see, what may have turned ugly, united us all. Lake Elsinore has changed. It has united with a love of community. The fire may have purified us all. We put aside all the negative attitudes to love and help each other.

The lessons we learned, needs to be shared. Our politicians and those in the media need to stop their negative rhetoric. Both sides of the political aisle are guilty. The media is just as complicit. All forms of media must stop fanning the insidious flames of hatred. Nobody wants to see a civil war divide us all. Violence leaves us all with heartbreak and loss. So to those of influence, who dance in the realm of politics, please change your speech and find a way to common ground. If we do not change our ways, soon the smoke we see; will come from war.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:15‬ ‭NASB‬‬)

 

Ramblings of Death, Illness and a Baby

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
~Psalm 9:9

Psalm 34:17-19 New 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 1:2-4 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 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 1:17 New 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.

Amen

Keep Your Life Calm With Love

Let’s be honest with each other; the world today needs love and needs to know God’s love.

13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14

Everyday I hear the comments from liberals and conservatives wondering why we can’t get along. Interesting enough each group blames the other. Each side claims the other group is rude, angry, intolerant and full of hatred. I realized some years ago, what ails America is a lack of love. This is why we are a sick nation. I am not talking about tolerance, I am speaking about genuine selfless, patient, love. All sides of the hostile American political system are missing this. In the above passage, the word flesh is to be understood as your selfish desires. Paul, who wrote Galatians, was stating that all of God’s laws were directing us towards love. Those who love God, let His love fill their lives through Jesus. It is through His love for us that we are able to love one another. Christ demonstrated that love by willingly sacrificing His life on the cross for us. Those who really follow Jesus as their savior understand this and live by it. Yes, I am making a clear distinction between those who follow Jesus and those who claim to be Christians. Jesus also made the distinction.

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

What does the love of a true Christian look like?

Paul makes that clear as well; we are to serve one another. It does not require a rocket scientist to figure this out, but love that serves does so without a self motivated agenda. It is compassionate, patient, forgiving, and gentle. True love never speaks a harsh word, it never responds out of anger or hurt. The one who serves others encourages and builds up. This was demonstrated to us by Jesus. This is how we, who claim to be Christians, should act. Study the death of Jesus. Show me the harsh words He uses. You will not find them, because Jesus came to serve. Jesus came to love.

45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

Paul does give a warning in the passage from Galatians. It is the warning that every American needs to hear. It is a message to every person who claims they are good. It is a warning to the prideful and the arrogant. Read it carefully.

15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. Galatians 5:15

There seems to be a push by many Americans for violence. Violence will not solve anything. It will result in the death of millions. Innocent people will suffer, especially children. Violence, anger, hate will consume and destroy us all. This is why we need to love. Love never fails. Love always wins. So love deeply and love often.
P.S. To the people of Singapore I love you and am praying everyday for you. May the love of Christ fill your hearts with joy and peace. May you endure to the end. Run the race with everything you have until you fall into the arms of Jesus.

I Need to Know the Cost

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.

© 2018 Stephan Caraway. All Rights Reserved

Final Thoughts: Since we are approaching Palm Sunday, ask yourself the following: Is your love for Jesus real, is your praise genuine or are you just a fan?

A big Happy Birthday today to my hero, friend and the best sister in the world. You  inspire me with the way you live a conquering life for Jesus. Happy Birthday Rebecca!

Enduring and Persistent Communication…

“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

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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)

Is There Proof that You Follow Jesus?

The gospel of a broken heart demands the ministry of bleeding hearts…We can never heal the needs we do not feel. Tearless hearts can never be heralds of the passion. — Dr. John Henry J. H. Jowett

Cleveland National Forest--Skyline
Does your life bear fruit? –Cleveland National Forest.

Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance. (Matthew 3:8)

Jim has become a good friend of mine. I have had the privilege of watching him grow in Christ. Early on he struggled with his decision to follow Jesus. He would not follow through on commitments and he would often slip into the bad habits of his old life. It was a challenge to lovingly encourage him. I did not want to come across as judgmental. The reminder of my own failures gave me the patience and love to build him up in his faith. God kept reminding me not to “fix” Jim. The Job of life changing transformation belongs to Jesus. My Job was to point to Jesus and to encourage him.

One day Jim was with a client and out of the blue, the client turned to Jim and asked him, “How long have you been a follower of Jesus?” Jim was stunned. He later asked me, “How did he know?”

That leads me to a few questions that I have been asking myself for the last few years. Do the people I know, see Jesus in my life? What evidence is there that I am not just a “Christian”, but an active follower of Jesus? What is the Proof of my faith?

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

Which of these sins do you struggle with? When looking at this passage, there are a few of these sins that we can cross off our own”naughty list”. But lets be brutally honest about the ones we tend to ignore. Do your Facebook rants make you look like Jesus or the Devil? Do you love to create arguments or do you create peace? Does Jesus approve of your sex life, or do you toss him aside for a moment of lustful pleasure? Does your behavior prove that your really love Jesus, or does it prove that you are a fake Christian?

A few years ago, God convicted me that my political discussions on social media were doing more harm than good. I was more concerned about convincing people to follow my political view instead of following Jesus. Politics had become an idol. I had more faith in a political solution than in a spiritual one. With a deeply repentant heart I gave up the belief that “great men” could solve America’s problems. Man is flawed and needs God. Only through repentant sorrow can God change the heart of a nation. The only way to save America is for her people to turn from their own selfishness and rush towards the cross of Jesus with a repentant heart.

Paul warns us that if we continue to practice the deeds of the flesh, that we will not inherit the kingdom of God. So what should the proof of our faith be like?

It is a faith that bears fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24)

This is what a follower of Jesus demonstrates on a daily basis. These are the gifts that God gives us when we allow him to change us. They are the character of Christ that shines  from with in, as a beacon of light to a dark world. The Christian turns hurt into God given love. When trials overwhelm the day, God provides our joy and peace. We show patience to the impatient. We are to be good and kind to those who are not. We are faithful to those around us, because of God’s faithfulness to us. We should exhibit gentleness to a violent world and self-control in the face of an angry one. The true Christian places his desires and passions at the foot of the cross. These gifts come when we seek God and ask him to transform our lives. They are the fruit that we bear and the proof of our salvation in Jesus. If you lack these characteristics in your life, ask God to help you with them. God knows that we are flawed, and  in spite of our flaws He loves us.

The real proof of your faith is found in love and the fruit that you bear. Are your friends overwhelmed by your love? Do they know you, by Christ in you? Do they see God’s love in you?

 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

 

When God is your Rock

God will never, never, never let us down if we have faith and put our trust in Him. He will always look after us. So we must cleave to Jesus. Our whole life must simply be woven into Jesus.
–Mother Teresa

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
    my salvation comes from him.
 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2)

Is your soul weary? Are you facing troubles that you do not have the answers for? David had a clear grasp on what to do. He allowed his soul to rest in God. When the war clouds gather over your life and the storms you face seem overwhelming, stop and be still in the presence of God. Even Jesus took the time to rest in the presence of God. So what does this mean and how do we get this calm respite in our turbulent lives? In my own life I have been pushed to the edge of my trust in God’s righteous plan. In the darkest moments of loss and pain, God has overwhelmed me with His love, peace and hope. Here are some of the ways we can learn to rest in God. They will provide a foundation and prepare you for the attacks that will come. Remember, God loves you. He is our Rock!

 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:16-17)

A restful soul knows where their help comes from. Self reliance and rugged individualism are idealistic themes running through our American society, but they should not be the ideals of a Christian. We need to realize that everything good comes from God. The Psalmist understood that all of his help comes from God. Many a person says they rely on God but few are willing to surrender all of their will to him. Sure, we believe in God’s salvation for our sin. Do we really trust God for everything else in our life? We need to keep our eyes on Jesus all the time. The moment we are distracted, that is when we become panicked and stressed. Is your prayer life filled with panic stricken prayers of desperation, or are your prayers in preparation for those difficult trials?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

A restful soul has a heart of thanksgiving towards God. Is it really possible to find joy in painful situations? The book of Philippians in the Bible, is often referred to as the book of joy. It has so many thoughts of peace and Joy and contentment. What most readers never realize is the circumstance in which the writer, Paul, found himself. Paul was in prison, not for some bad criminal behavior, but for following Jesus and for spreading the gospel. He was standing trial for his faith and knew that his death was imminent. It was in the midst of all of his difficulties that Paul wrote Philippians. Paul never complained or grumbled about his circumstances; in fact he writes this letter with such thanksgiving and rejoicing that it floods the reader with the incredible hope that we can have in Jesus. Reflect on these words from Paul. See how his soul rests in God.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.(Philippians 4:4-7)

A restful soul meditates on God’s Word. Everybody and their pastor tells you to “Read the Bible”.  I want to suggest something deeper than just reading your Bible. Let Scripture reveal Scripture. Do not try to manipulate the word of God. The Scripture will prove itself out. The Psalmist wrote, “I will meditate on Your precepts And regard Your ways.” Throughout the Scriptures there is this theme to meditate on the Word of God. This is a prayerful reading of God’s word. As you read each passage, ask God to reveal His understanding to you. This leads to an interactive meditation between you and God. The Holy Spirit will guide you to a greater understanding of God’s plan for you. God will transform you, granting you a stable peace with the endurance to pass any trial.

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1:2-3)

The Follower of Jesus has a relationship with God. He denies himself. It is in this selfless relationship that we allow Christ to reign at the center of everything we do. Our prayer time and Bible reading need to open us up to what God has planned for us. The Christian should be grateful for everything that God provides. When we live in the will of God, we will not be shaken by scary events. It is in these moments that we take up our cross and cry,”Here I am Lord, I am ready”! Paul was ready to face his death. His every thought was focused on the will of God. This is why he was so joyful and content.

Is God your Rock or are you looking at the storm? Keep your eyes on Jesus. Get rid of your distractions and be a tree planted in the living waters of God’s love for you. May God bless you as you devote yourself to Him. Live with thanksgiving in your heart and rejoice at the trials you may face. I leave you with these words of Paul to reflect upon.

 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)