Spiritual Hygiene

www.bible.com/72/1th.5.17.hcsb

This command from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is good spiritual hygiene for the Christian. If you are constant in prayer, you will have little time for temptation. As Christians, because we have within us the Holy Spirit, the presence of God is within us constantly. I cannot really understand what that means. Do we comprehend the gift that that is? Never before in the history of man had any people ever been given the promise of their God being present in them. This is the same Spirit if God who hovered over the waters at Creation. That presence swells within us. How could we not be in constant contact with Him?

This command is as much a recognition of our new normal as it is a command. You are always in the Lord’s presence. You always carry His Spirit, not just a portion because God cannot be divided up into little pieces. You carry the presence of God within you at all times. There is no place that you go that God is not already present. You do not need Temple or Church to find the presence of God.

So imagine how much more meaningful it is when you do find that gathering of saints at your church. Whose meaningful encouragement and mutual support only reinforce your awareness that God is present with you.

I want to encourage you today to pray constantly. Talk to Him always. He will never leave you.

God bless!

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Alert in Prayer

www.bible.com/72/col.4.2.hcsb

Being the National Day of Prayer, this seems appropriate today. The NDP always sneaks up on me, especially this year being so soon after Easter. I almost always forget to plan for it. Usually I have a 12 to 24 hour prayer chain going on at church, but not so this year. I don’t have that kind of pull where I am now.

This verse does stand by itself in the text of Colossians. It precedes a more general instruction to pray for Paul as he is facing public trials while in prison. We assume this is written while he is in prison in Caesarea (but possibly Rome). Because of this independence in the text, we can treat it by itself.

Paul recommends to these Colossians that they need to decor themselves in prayer. In that, to stay alert in prayer, and to include thanksgiving as part of that alertness. So, being alert for opportunities to be thankful to God.

The idea of being alert in prayer seems an odd juxtaposition. If anything, Prayer takes me away from the concerns of the moment and offers a respite from the pull of the world. I usually close my eyes in prayer. That is not a position of alertness.

So what is Paul talking about here? There a couple of possibilities.

First, that Paul is calling for a posture of alertness while in prayer. To be aware of your surroundings and those around you. Don’t let Prayer be an opportunity to be caught unaware. So, pray with your eyes open.

Second, always be alert for opportunities to pray, especially to be thankful. Make prayer a priority in your daily walk. Pray when you get up and when you lie down and as you go about your daily life. Always be looking for reasons to pray, and pray often.

A possible third may be this: Be aware of when your prayer life is faltering and don’t let prayer get away from you. Always be alert to the condition of your prayer life.

As Christians, we ought to follow this command, for this holds true for all, not just the believers at Collosae. God be with you today as you stay alert in prayer.

Humility Before Our Namesake

www.bible.com/72/2ch.7.14.hcsb

This verse needs little commentary. But let me provide some context. The voice is that of God, speaking to the people of Israel after Solomon has finished offering prayer over the Temple. This response was given to Solomon in a vision (yes, Solomon has seen God personally, something his father had only glimpsed through prophets). The qualifier for the prayers of humility suggested here is that they be made at the Temple. In other words, prayers made at this newly dedicated Temple or toward it, prayers of humility and repentance, are the prayers that this verse refers to specifically. This Temple no longer stands. It is no longer possible to satisfy the technical requirements of this prayer.

Now the promises of this prayer are two-fold. God promises to forgive sin and heal land, the land of Israel. As Christians, we no longer pray at a Temple for forgiveness of sin. We go to the One crucified and call on His name. We are cleansed through His blood. We receive forgiveness of sin by calling in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. As far as the Temple is concerned, Paul says in 1 Cor 3 that we are God’s Temple, the Church that Jesus establishes and upon whom the gates of Hell shall never prevail. We are a Temple that cannot be destroyed, because we are built on better promises. Everywhere we go, we are taking the Temple with us. But our Temple isn’t tied to a particular land, but the world to come. Technically, the promises of this verse do not and cannot apply to us, not if our redemption is through Jesus Christ.

Well, that’s a bummer, isn’t it? Because Christians have been using this verse for years as a point for prayer for our nation in the hope that we would see political and social change. We can still pray for those things, as we do so through 1 Tim 2. I don’t think God’s desire to see men change has diminished. It has only grown as the population of men has grown. Let this verse inspire us, but don’t depend on this verse to save our nation. Is it not nations that are saved, but people. Jesus didn’t die for America, but for her people. He died for you. His blood cleansed you and all who call upon Him. Call upon Him today.

God bless you.

Private Prayer

www.bible.com/72/mat.6.6.hcsb

I wonder if God has had enough of our public prayers? This scripture seems to run counter to popular culture. I run into folks who ask for prayer and seem content to let someone else pray for them. I don’t think that is what this verse is talking about. I think what God is addressing in this text is the kind of prayers said by people who want to be known to their prayers, or their holiness, or some other pretentious piety. I can imagine God is really sick of that kind of praying. To keep us from that temptation He sends us to the closet to keep us out of the spotlight and in the Spirit. God has so much more reserved for those that are earnest in prayer.

This is not a verse to say to keep our faith private. A recent change in language is a freedom of religion to a freedom of worship. The intent is to put our worship behind closed doors, to make our practice of faith private, and many Christians are content to do so. That is a misapplication if this verse. Faith is to be practiced and public. Christians should never have to apologize for being Christians. In fact, we should expect persecution for practicing our faith in the public sphere. And so it goes.

God bless you today!

Entitled?

www.bible.com/72/mat.6.11.hcsb

There is a sentiment among our younger generations that we are entitled to three squares a day, a home to live in, free education, and a job when you graduate college. Whether you agree with that sentiment or not probably shows how old you are or what your political persuasion is. It doesn’t make you a good person or a bad person, but it does affect your attitude towards the providence of God.

In this verse, we come to closest to the idea of entitlement when it comes to daily needs. Hear me out. Asking for daily bread (or if you read it in a certain voice, it sounds like a demand), was a simple request, but it called for a great deal of faith. You see when Jesus uttered these words, people lived from day to day. We may live paycheck to paycheck, but they didn’t know for certain that tomorrow would bring a meal. Among the poor and often hungry people He ministered too, asking for “daily bread” was a pipe dream. It requires extraordinary faith to trust in a God Who would provide daily needs like that. They didn’t doubt they would need to work for it, so this Prayer included the idea that the work needed to pay for the bread would also be requested. Also then the health to be able to work, and the ability to do the work. Daily bread was about God’s provision. They didn’t think God would drop manna from heaven, but that He would provide the circumstances so that they could get their bread as they needed.

We have often expanded this to include all daily provisions, and provisions for the day, as we have no assurance of tomorrow. But for these hearers it meant a lot to have the assurance that today God is looking out for me. We have that assurance too. God is looking out for your needs today. And yes, we need to be praying that dependence upon Him. When we pray this prayer, we remind ourselves both of His provision and our need for it. God honors such humility. Don’t be afraid to ask.

God bless you today!

Effective Prayer

www.bible.com/72/jas.5.16.hcsb

Ever feel like your prayers are ineffective. I know I do. I heard a long time ago that God offers three answers to prayer: yes, no, and wait. It’s hard to tell the difference between the third and the first two sometimes. I know there are many who feel like their prayers don’t reach past the ceiling, that God isn’t listening at all. I do know from 1 Peter 5 that sometimes God leaves us alone for a while in order to test our resolve. But there are others who don’t pray enough or at all.

This verse stresses righteousness for powerful and effective prayer. It presents this in the context of forgiveness for sin. Here is a definite contrast between sin and righteousness. Those who have sin, confess it to a fellow Christian. Allow that Christian to pray for you (this is in light of the previous verse about being physically ill). And pray for one another. James poses here that physical illness may in fact have something to do with spiritual sin. And that confession and prayer have the power to effect healing.

There are some illnesses, we call them psychosomatic, that directly link one’s emotional state to their physical well-being. When you feel uneasy, your stomach starts to churn. When you are under stress, you get a headache. Tell what guilt does? Tell me what shame does to the body? Sometimes, extended shame and guilt lead to unexplainable physical illnesses. When the doctor can’t figure it out, maybe it calls for confession and prayer. That’s why we include Chaplains in our healthcare system, just to make sure all of our bases are covered. Include your pastor and your church in your health care. It might make a difference.

Just s thought for a Wednesday.

Just Ask

bible.com/72/jas.1.5.hcsb

I hate asking anyone for anything. I hate to be a bother, or to inconvenience someone else. If I can’t do it myself, I feel really uncomfortable and pushed out of my comfort zone.

So when I come across a verse like this, it is uncomfortable. My prayer life isn’t the best anyway, but here is God calling me to talk to Him and ask for something, wisdom. Granted, I have taken him up in His offer and asked for wisdom, for I find as I’m getting older, I don’t know everything, not like when I was a teenager. Maybe that’s wisdom, and proof that God has been answering my prayer all along.

But asking for help usually isn’t in my vocabulary. I’ve found that this is an act of humility, as admission that I cannot do this on my own. I struggle with pride, and get down on myself when I discover again that I am not all that I think I need to be. Asking God for help is humility, admission of fault, but absolutely necessary for our growth in Christ. So I recommend you ask of God early and often, before you’ve decided that you can handle it. Even if you can, you invite God the event, and He will help you see things you are blind too, bring others alongside whom you will need. Simply acknowledging that you are not sufficient for a task, even if you think you are, is an invitation to God to work alongside you. And God seeks to work out His good, pleasing and perfect will in you as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling. (Phil 2)

When I post these, I try to do it first thing in the morning, when my thoughts are fresh with the assistance of a hot cup of coffee. If you are reading this, I hope it has been a benefit to you. These little nuggets are a journal of sorts, for my part anyway. I find just sitting down and distilling thoughts into words very helpful. I would encourage you to do the same if you haven’t already. It has been helpful to my faith as I hope it has been to yours.

God bless you all this morning.