This Confidence

I have always been amazed at the audacity of the faith healers and the “name it and claim it” folks who just lay hands and pronounce the name of Jesus over people as if it’s some kind of magic formula. I can understand such confidence if In fact Jesus does want to heal a person. In fact, if Jesus wants to heal a person, does He really wait until some human being comes around to pray a prayer of healing?

This is bothers me about faith healers and those who claim to have the gift of healing. They always say they can hear from Jesus or the Spirit and know what God wants them to do or where to go. I have a hard time with it because that is an awful lot of inside information. Would God take us into His confidence, and only those equipped to hear Him? Why would God choose only certain people? Why not everyone And remove all doubt as to what He wants? Why speak to only a few? Is that how God works? God works in secret? No one can challenge the faith healer because he alone has heard the word. No one should doubt him because God spoke to him. I have trouble with this.

Maybe I am confessing my lack of faith. Or I just don’t get it. I thought God spoke to the prophets and the apostles and completed His revelation to them. I thought that completed revelation was compiled into one book, and that book was sufficient in itself to equip the man of God for every good work. Why is there a need for new revelations? Why does God need to continue to speak when He has already spoken? Am I missing something?

Is God’s word true or not? Is God’s will sufficiently revealed in the Bible, or does there need to be something more? Did the miraculous gifts end with the Apostles, or do they continue to this day? Can God choose to heal someone? Absolutely. Does He? Yes! But can I demand that God heal? Can I put myself in the place of God and say someone is healed? May it never be. I don’t know if the person is suffering because of unrepented sin, because of God’s punishment, because that person is being tested, or some other reason. How can I put myself in His place when it is His will they be tested for a time?

We see suffering as inherently bad. But it is suffering that produces endurance, and that is a gift of God. Should I go an pronounce healing and deny someone the blessing of endurance through suffering? Perhaps God has something better in mind that healing. We have such a skewed view of suffering. It isn’t evil. It just is. And it is a tool, especially for those of us in this privileged nation, for God to use to purify us and produce in us jewels worthy for His kingdom. When we see a slight headache as suffering, maybe we need to endure for a while, instead of asking for the healing.

Something you may notice in the Scriptures. Healing is almost never for the sole benefit of the ailing. It is most often a benefit and a sign to the community, who see the power of God at work and come to faith. Yet today, healings are rarely done outside the community of believers. Outsiders can only hear about the lame who walk again, and only rarely come to faith because of it. What changed? Do believers still need to be convinced? Hmmm.

If your faith depends on seeing signs and wonders performed in your midst, then you don’t really have faith. Faith is believing is something unseen, not something you see everyday. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Pray for healing, be confident that God wants the best for you, but leave it up to God to work out His will in you. As the Lord wills, so we will do. Stop demanding things from Him, and let Him work in you to the pleasure of His will. That is a mature faith. If God says it, we trust in it and believe in it. But always give room for God in your prayers.

Lord, I know many of us would like to be advisors rather than followers. In our limited vision, we think we know what’s best. Help us to see things as You do, help is to grow in our faith. For we walk by faith and not by sight. Help us follow You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

On Things Above, Not Below

There is a favored saying among New Age and occult religions, “as above, so below.” That is to say that the patterns of heavens are echoed on earth, and if you can manipulate the patterns here on earth, they can be manipulated in the spiritual realms. New age and occult practices are about power and control, especially of things that “normal” people cannot control, like fate and luck. Sometimes people misapply this standard of reasoning to Christianity, thinking that things like prayer are a means to power, or “if I believe it strongly enough, it will happen.” But that’s not Christianity. That’s heresy. God will not be manipulated. Anything who things they can or have been they can has been taught a false teaching. “That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.”

So how does it work? We might persuade God to act in our best interests. God has been known to change His mind on things. But the change is illusory, as God is watching us to see how much prayer and effort we pour into prayer. God does not change, but He sees your effort before you start. He knows your passion. But He will also wait until you have it to Him. God sees your prayer. He always has your best interest in mind. Just because God doesn’t give you what you wanted, doesn’t mean it wasn’t the best for you. God takes the long view. He sees the hundred little things that affect you as a person. He sees every twist and bend of your life’s decisions before you make them. And yet God waits for your impassioned prayer, proof that you carry out on your internal faith into your life and actions, before He acts.

But this verse shows us our guiding principle. Things above and below are very different. And instead of trying to make our life below as good as it can be, let us try to focus on things above. Such focus will inevitably lead to blessing below because God loves us and loves to bless us. Just be reminded those blessings aren’t about a fat bank a account of a big house. They are salvation and peace in Him in the name of Jesus. Everything else is gravy. No amount of money on earth can give you peace.

Lord please help me focus on things above today. Remind me that my mind and heart are better spent on heavenly truths, than earthly pleasures. Thank You Lord for my salvation in Jesus Christ. It is truly the best blessing of all. Show me those today that I can encourage with this same blessing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Thoughts and Prayers

While it is always in vogue to mock Christians, non- Christians were unusually brutal in mocking the Christian habit of sending “thoughts and prayers” when disaster happens. Yesterday saw the death of a celebrity basketball player. Though I have not seen then, I have no doubt that many sent “thoughts and prayers” to the family. Is there anything wrong with that?

That is the subject of today’s text, for the Psalmist asked the Lord about it. He was concerned both for the words of his mouth (prayers) and the meditations of his heart (thoughts) would be acceptable to God. As a Christian, we better be sure that the thoughts and prayers we send are likewise.

What the non-Christians mock is hypocrisy. It is very easy to type “thoughts and prayers” and go on about your day. It would be a sad thing to offer both and do neither. To which the non-Christian rightly responds that you have done nothing. In fact, it is worse than nothing. Because you have offered to intervene before the King of the Universe on their behalf, praying for their comfort and peace, and done neither. It is akin to apathy to say such a thing of love and compassion and then forget it. Words mean things. If your words are empty, then your faith is hollow.

If you offer thoughts and prayers for the hurt and grieving, then follow through. Pray for that family. Put their needs before you and meditate on them. What if it was you. What would you need right now? Pray for that if you cannot offer it yourself.

Dear Father, if we have been hypocrites when it comes to interceding for others, please extend Your grace to us, but also with our repentance the reminder of this lesson. We have an important role in this world. From our lips the world hears the gospel message. Let that message be pure and undefiled. Let it be free from denominational dogmatism. Let it flow purely from Your grace into the hearts of men. Help us to be more like You dear Father. Help us today we pray, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

The Stubborn Neighbor

When Jesus gives this statement in Luke 11, He precedes it with a short story about neighbors and hospitality. As Jesus tells it, a man has a late-night visitor from a far country and wants to offer him traditional hospitality by feeding him after such a journey. But it is now on him to find food at such a late hour. He goes to his neighbor’s house and knocks on the door. He continues knocking despite his neighbor’s protests of being in bed and his family being in bed. Nevertheless, the first man’s persistence gets the door open and the bread transferred.

Then Jesus tells us this short statement about persistence in prayer. Since Matthew doesn’t include the short story about the door, it is a bit of a mystery. What door is He talking about? With Luke’s addition, it seems obvious that the door is a reference to the door in the parable. This is a door that is shut to you and will only be opened with persistent knocking. However, I don’t think there are any similarities intended between God and the sleeping neighbor. Psalm 121:4 says He does not sleep. The point here is persistence in prayer.

There will be times where it will seem God is not hearing your prayers because He is not answering them right away. Jesus is not condemning the nature of the requests here. In fact, Jesus is encouraging the continued asking, knocking and seeking. Your request may not be something God wants to fulfill right now. It may not even be something He intends to fulfill, but you are encouraged to present it with persistence anyway. We are to be an everpresent Sheldon knocking on God’s door because when we pray, we don’t have time for sin, temptation, or anything that will trip up our walk with God. God intends for us to pray without ceasing, even if our prayers are petty, tiny, or lame.

As parents, we can get annoyed with our children because of their constant requests for things and activities. As parents, we need to work, have projects that we are working on and so forth. But with God, we are His agenda. We are His work, His project, His world. If every waking moment was spent asking God, He wouldn’t mind. He loves spending that time with us, even if we are angry with Him, for even then, every moment we spend with Him makes us more like Him.

Father God, coming to you today and every day is a special appointment. You make our world, our whole life meaningful. And when we come to you with a request once or a thousand times, You still listen. You care what we have to say, no matter how silly we think it is. We learn to talk by talking to our parents. Surely it is the same with you, that the more we pray, the better we are able to speak to You and listen to Your words. Would you listen again to Your people this day? Would You listen to our every petty word and silly request? Would You help us to be more like You Lord because You are awesome and full of majesty? Would you please hear Your people pray today? In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Prayer and Petition

Need something? Ask. That’s basically what God is saying here. Just ask for it. Have a problem? Lift it up to God. He will hear your request. There is no promise here of satisfying that need, but in every request there is surrendering your right to worry about it when you ask God about it.

Is it any wonder that we have an epidemic of anxiety in this world? Did you wake up this morning worrying about something? Are you anxious about today? As much as depends on you, you do what you can. But we trust in an Almighty God. He sees around the corners. He looks ahead in time and can see what’s coming. He knows what the circumstances will be and prepares ahead of time for what you will face. There is nothing that catches God by surprise.

So if God prepares the future for your arrival, then He knows what you will need before you do. If you are going through a test right now, it is because you are being tested for something in the future that you will need today’s lessons for. My hope and prayer for you is that you will learn on the first try.

We were not put on this earth to be happy. That is not our purpose. Sorry. Our purpose is to be joyful followers of Him, finding our true joy in obedience to His will. We were made to conform to the image of His Son. We are most happy when we see His face in the mirror. God is the highest and and best good, the standard of beauty, and the epitome of joy. If you are striving to be happy in this world, you will fail. You can only be truly happy when you are fulfilled in Him.

Dear Father, we come to you this morning with heaviness in our hearts. We come upon another Monday, with the worship of Heaven still fresh in our ears. We pray Father that you would look upon our downcast faces and grant us joy. Show us a glimpse of hope for the joy You posses so that we may long for that true joy. May You fill us Lord today with that hope and direct our steps to walk in Your direction. May we lift up to you today our prayers and petitions of our ordinary life that You May transform our everyday tasks into works of eternal significance. We ask these things today in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Faith and Strength

If I only had enough faith. Then I would be as strong as … who? Whose faith do you envy? Whose faith do you look upon as better than yours? I’ve seen a lot of people who say they have great faith, but much of it is misplaced. I was called a few years ago to the ER where a family stood waiting. When I arrived, they promptly asked me to raise the dead. Their loved one had just passed and they expected this particular representative of God to raise their deceased loved one. I think they were of the delusion that all one needs to do is ask, and God will give whatever you ask for for, if you ask for it in faith. Sadly, neither my prayers nor theirs were enough to raise the dead that day.

There is a popular notion in our area that faith merely needs to be claimed, merely apprehended by a word of faith and it will become reality. It is a poor understanding of God’s purpose. As Han Solo once said, “That’s not how the Force works.” That’s not how faith works either.

If we have have a request of God, we make it known to Him. We lift it up in prayer. We can pray for as often as we like. He is not obligated to satisfy that which does not fit into His will. His chief goal is that all come to the knowledge of the truth. How does your prayer fit into that? Not every prayer will fit. Some have to be “No” and others may be “wait.” But none will be “Yes sir, right away sir.” God is not at our beck and call. We ought to be at His, and He just might be more likely to answer if we are.

In fact this verse and it surrounding passage fees more like the latter. If we are serving God in all that we do and say, our will is more like His. And the things we ask for are more in line with what He wants, and He is more likely to answer as we ask. Faith is just asking God for stuff when you want. It is living your life as He wants, so that as you are carrying out His will, He is more likely to supply you with the strength you need to carry it out.

Lord, help me today to live my life according to Your will. Help me recognize in my own life those things I need to be rid of so that I can fill those places with You. Lord I am but human. I can’t see and know all things as You do. Help me Lord each day to make my life more in line with Your blessed will do that I will have that strength to carry it out. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

Slow or Patient?

Would you say the Lord is slow or patient? Tolkien once wrote from the mouth of his wizard Gandalf, “A wizard is never late. He arrived precisely when he means to.” I believe God is a lot like that. God is never late. He works precisely when the time is right.

If you’ve ever been praying for something, like relief from stress, pain or suffering. If you’ve been praying for direction or hope, you may have felt that God hasn’t heard you. You may think that your prayers aren’t going anywhere because you haven’t had any change in your circumstances.

But this is where God’s promise is needed. If God is not slow in keeping His promises, then we definitely need to know it. What we do find is that He is patient. Why is He being patient? Because He is waiting for repentance. For this let a man examine himself. For what do you need to repent of right now? What sin in your own life are you holding on to so that God is waiting? Are you begging God to love and act in your life while still harboring a secret sin that you know He doesn’t approve of? How can God lead if you are not willing to follow Him?

What you describe as God being slow or hard of hearing may well by your own sin for which He is patiently waiting for your repentance. Are there areas in your own life to which He has clearly spoken and you have yet to listen? Perhaps.

Father God, please accept our humble repentance today. We acknowledge that there may be areas in our lives to which You have already spoken and in which we have failed to act because of our own sinfulness. We repent today before you of this sin and ask for your forgiveness. We pray Dead Lord that you being to our minds those areas in our lives to which you have clearly spoken that we may also repent of our sins there as well, as our memories are not always good. If you would be gracious to us in this, then may you give the answer to our long-sought prayers and prepare us for the way forward. We thank today for these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.