Ready to Listen

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Ever feel like you are talking to a brick wall with some people? You are talking and they are nodding, but they aren’t really hearing you. We suffer from isolation because of this. We feel like no one listens to us, to our wants and fears. We feel alone because no one truly understands us or gets who we really are.

It doesn’t help that the cell phone has become the medium of choice for conversation. Whether people prefer to type out their conversations with others, or a person sitting next to you is too busy with their phone to listen to your words, phones have helped to isolate us further. Ironically it is the phone which is taking away our ability to communicate.

This verse tells us that God is always ready to listen. I know the difference between hearing and listening. It’s a distinction we have in the English language between hearing the sound and listening to the content. But I don’t think that God ever just hears us talking. I believe God listens, both to our words and the murmurings of the spirit within us. He knows us better than our closest friend. He knows us better than our wives.

And this is the confidence we have. We know that when we talk to God, He has the time to listen to us. This ought to be an encouragement to prayer. I hope it is for you. As Christians we are never alone. His presence goes with us everywhere. As the Psalmist attests, if I go to the depths of the sea, you are there. He will never leave us.

So may I offer this: make time for God today as he has made time for you. It’s ok to put down the phone. Speak to the One who listens to you. You will feel better.

God bless you today.

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Drawing to God

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“Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord, to thy precious bleeding side.”

So the words of that precious hymn roll through my mind this morning after reading this passage. I noticed as I looked down to the shareable pics that Youversion presented me with, that all of them dropped the last half of the verse. I suppose it is more comfortable to see God as one of invitation only without preparation on our part.

It leads some to believe that God accepts you just as you are. That you don’t really need to change, but just believe and arrive in God’s presence as a dignitary of some kind, and it is you gracing God with your dignified presence.

I know this is unpopular to say, but we are sinners. He is perfect and righteous, blameless and holy. Something we don’t talk about much in Christian circles any more is holiness. It seems that modern Christians are all about grace and love and peace, but ignore God’s demands on personal holiness. “Be holy as I am holy.” This is what the whole verse more striking. Certainly we want to draw near to God, but rarely do we hear there is a dress code to visit the Almighty. This isn’t about wearing a tie to church, but about appearing before Him wearing be garments of righteousness provided by Jesus Christ. Jesus tells a parable about a man thrown out of a wedding banquet because he is not wearing the wedding garment. He is thrown out because he was not prepared for the occasion.

Now, I don’t think we need to employ the holiness police at the church door. That’s not what this is about. This is about preparing the heart when we intend to enter the Lord’s presence, either by public worship or private prayer. Hands are cleansed with water. Hearts are cleansed by the blood of Christ. There is an “holy attire” when entering the Lord’s presence and we need to prepare for it.

For today and everyday, cleanse your hands and purify your heart. You are in the Lord’s presence.

God bless you today!

Can’t Get Away

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Have you ever tried to run away from God? Jonah tried it once, ended up in a huge fish. He remembered something David had said, “even though I make my bed in Sheol, you are there” and prayed to the Lord. Guess what, God heard him. You are never too far from God that He cannot bear you. You cannot run so far that He isn’t there. And God is always attentive to the prayers of those who earnestly seek Him. Do you feel like you are far from God this morning? Open your lips and speak His name, “Jesus, I need you today.” He says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

One Voice in a Choir

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I have to believe that millions of people are probably praying at the same moment I am. If I am listening to someone talk to me, I have to devote attention and focus to keep up with their dialogue. If not, I get hopelessly lost and have to ask them to repeat themselves. But God in His ability to be fully present in all places at once, can hear my voice in this choir of prayer. He can devote absolute attention to my voice, as if I was a soloist, and hear every word. He not only listens to my words, by the voice of my heart, which speaks more truly to Him than my lips.

Jeremiah 17:10

10  I am the LORD who searches the heart, who tests the inner depths to give to each person according to what he deserves, according to the fruit of his deeds.

May my lips match the words of my heart.

Pray Big!

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“Do you pray enough?” Most Christians answer, “No, of course not.” None of us pray “enough”, and even though the New Year dawns, our prayer life is not likely to improve without serious and committed effort. Sometimes it is making time for prayer. For others, it is praying that is the problem, because we don’t feel like prayer really accomplishes anything. I can tell you this, because I have felt the presence of God in prayer, and that prayer takes time.

When I pray, I need to be praying at least five minutes before I am able to tune out the world and truly focus on God. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” That’s actually good advice for a prayer warrior. Prayer takes time to be able to transition from worry on what you are doing next to truly putting yourself before the presence of God.

Next, you’ve got to understand what prayer really means. It’s not just a post-it note to God with a list of things you need. It is a multi-faceted conversation with the Creator, the Savior, and the Provider. When come face to face with the Almighty, you realize that you have His ear, and can really ask for anything. No job is too small for God. Even in situations where you see no good end, you can talk to God, and know He can do something good. God is bigger than our imagination. You’ve seen His world. Imagine what He can do with your problems. Very soon you realize that your problems are in fact very small.

I look at our church, and I see possibilities. You might see a small church with little potential, because we are a “small church”, but I see a powerhouse of the Almighty. God can do amazing things in a place where He is honored and worshipped; where He is allowed free reign, with no one holding back their talents, willingness to serve, or their imagination. Small churches are only small to people who can’t see them as God does.

Call me optimistic if you want, but when you understand God’s statement to the apostle Paul, “My power is made perfect in weakness”, I think you’ll count your blessings that our little church appears weak on the outside, but on the inside is filled with the Spirit of God.

Pray big, pray big dreams, pray for big crowds, pray for big ministries, because God can do it. Pray big because the life of our church depends on it. Dream big, because God can give His dreams to you, to work out in this place for His glory. Don’t tell God what He can’t do here, because He’s liable to prove you wrong. Are you ready to pray?

The Master’s School of Prayer

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One of our great and sacred privileges as Christians is that we can pray to God directly, without having a priest to mediate for us. We already have a high priest, Jesus Christ, whose blood opens the way for us unto God, a way through the Holy of Holies so that we can boldly enter the throne room of God and speak to Him. “Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.” (Heb 4:16) We don’t take this privilege lightly, for many of us know exactly how important this is, and know right away that we don’t know enough about it to do it the right way. We are afraid we will do it wrong, and thus our spiritual lips are silent, for fear we might offend God trying to do the right thing.

However, using that logic, we undoubtedly were offended when our children first started to talk to us, and used sounds and parts of words, rather than fully conjugated verbs and proper nouns. Surely our children were afraid to speak in our presence because of our insistence on the proper declension of pronouns and the proper use of adverbs and adjectives. OF COURSE NOT! We were delighted that our children began to speak at all! We wanted them to speak, even to use “dada” and “mama” to get our attention. We craved to hear their voice.

So it is with God. God does not expect us to pray like the prophets or the apostles, because we are neither. We are His children, and He yearns to hear us speak His name in prayer. He yearns to hear the voice He made speak back to Him in worship.

And prayer is exactly that: it is a time of worship where we speak back to God. Prayer is our opportunity to speak to the One who made us.We are turn to the Master Teacher to teach us what prayer is all about. We not only look at the prayers He suggested to us as a model, but also the prayers He offered as examples of what our prayers should be like.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
(Mat 6:5-15)