my reading was in Acts 17 this morning and this verse stood out to me:
I have been touching on some practices in our lives that will bring us closer to God and make our lives more fulfilling spiritually. The last two articles dealt with prayer. The value of prayer practiced correctly and diligently cannot be over-emphasized. That is our direct link to our power source. However, the effectiveness of prayer is directly related to how grounded in scripture we are. One of the reasons prayer doesn’t work for us is that we are asking for the wrong things, at the wrong time and in the wrong way. By being rooted in scripture we can avoid those pitfalls.
I know that we are all busy, but if you are too busy to start your day with the Lord then you are TOO BUSY. I would highly recommend you read about the lives of George Mueller and Susanna Wesley for some great insights on why daily time with God is a must. They, along with Martin Luther, all agreed that they had so much to accomplish each day they could not afford to neglect their time with God first thing in the morning. And these saints typically spent two hours in prayer! That is probably unrealistic for must of us. I understand that it is hard to carve out a few minutes during the day, but often they are there and we just aren’t aware of them. More effective use of your time can help find a way to set aside the time needed for daily devotions. Something I like to have counselees do is keep a time chart for a week or two. This chart consists of days of week across the top and then down the side there are blocks of time in half hour increments. Their task is to keep track of everything they did, when it was done and how long it took. I can’t tell you how many people, after doing this exercise, discovered that they wasted huge blocks of time through little things here and there throughout their day. You should do this exercise to reveal to yourself how you might better manage your time.
Starting a discipline is the hardest part. The simpler it is, the easier it is to start it and keep it going. So I challenge you to find a Bible you can mark up (maybe an inexpensive gift Bible that can usually be found in various dollar stores) and a notebook. You will need some marking tools — pink, blue and yellow highlighters are good so you can do some simple color-coding; blue, black and red ink pens (or a 4-color pen made by Bic or InkJoy) for making notes and a ruler if you like straight lines. I also like to have index cards handy so I can jot down a verse or a principle to take with me through the day. Find a shoe box or tote bag to keep all these things in so they stay together and will be at hand whenever you need them. Keep them in the same place all the time so you won’t misplace them.
Pick a book of the Bible. It is more effective to read through the Bible systematically, so work through a book at a time. Start off with small sections. Most Bibles have the passages broken up into paragraphs either through indenting or by a paragraph mark (a funny looking capital “P”) by a verse number. Start off just reading a paragraph at a time. When you get ready to have your devotions, get off by yourself as best you can. Limit distractions. Turn off the TV, radio, your phone, etc. Start your time with a simple prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for your precious Word. Open my heart and mind so that I can hear Your Spirit speak to me through these scriptures today and give me something that will challenge and encourage me and that I can share with one other person today.
Read the paragraph. Do you notice any warnings or commands? Mark those in yellow. Do you notice any promises? Mark those in pink. Is there anything about God’s character or His acts/responsibilities? Mark those in blue. If questions or insights or cross references come to mind (or you want to jot down a reminder to look something up) write it down in the margins in your blue or red ink pen. I like to alternate so I can tell they are separate thoughts. Use your black ink pen to jot down notes in your notebook. You may use an exclamation mark to draw your attention you think really stands out in this passage and a question mark to remind you where you had a question about something. I would also pick something to designate a particular verse that stood out to you — it can be an “X” a check mark, etc. But pick one thing to stand for that and jot it down in the front cover of your Bible so you can remember. Jot the verse down on an index card and take it with you. You might get some insights about the verse as you go through your day and you can jot them down on the backside of the card. Don’t forget to transfer any notes into your notebook at the end of the day. Also, don’t forget to jot down who you shared an insight from your devotions with that day too.
This process should only take about 10-15 minutes. Close your time in prayer too:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the message you gave me just now and help me carrying with me through my day. Make me aware of things you bring into my life today to help me put it to use or understand it better, In Jesus’ name, Amen.
If you spend your day in church on Sunday you can skip devotions that morning, but I encourage you to spend some time in the afternoon looking back through your notebook about what you saw, new insights you gained and how God used what you read through your day and week as a whole. Jot down new insights you gain through that process in your notebook.
As you grow and want to do a little deeper practice you can start mixing your highlighters to add the colors of orange, green and purple. Always highlight in yellow first to keep your yellow highlighter tip from picking up the other colors. Highlight over the yellow with pink to make orange. I like to highlight things that indicate Spiritual power (such as works of Spirit or Christ) in orange. Highlight over the yellow in blue to make green. I light to highlight things that will bring about spiritual growth in green. Highlight over the pink with blue to make purple. I like to highlight things I see as the Christian’s duty and birthrite in purple since we as Christians are a royal priesthood. But don’t rush things. Only add these new highlighting colors as you gain confidence and can add more time to your devotions.
This is my simple method. If you need one even simpler, just skip the highlighting all together, but do keep notes about questions you have as you read and verses that stand out to you. Take time through the day to try to look up other passages to help you with your questions or ask a pastor or other spiritual instructor about them.
You may ask, why do I need to do it daily? Reading our Bible daily is to our spiritual body what food is to our physical body. You would not typically go days on end without ever eating a meal. Why? Because you will become weak and sickly, you will begin to die. This is also true spiritually. The Bible is our spiritual food. If we skip meals for days on end we will be spiritually weak and sickly. Our spiritual power begins to die. Most predators, when looking for food, will pick out the weak and sickly animals to prey upon. Why? Because they are easier to catch and put up less of a fight. They are basically helpless to fight back. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” Satan hunts the same way. If you are weak spiritually, he will target you. Don’t get me wrong, he goes after the healthy ones too, but it takes more work to get at them, and if he can bring down a weak one — someone who LOOKS spiritually healthy on the outside, that can shake people who are strong and make them vulnerable too. Many people can look spiritually healthy because they know how to talk the talk, they may even be active in the church. But take warning! People can be eat up with cancer on the inside and not even look sick. It is the same spiritually. You must be eating your spiritual food on a daily basis to have a strong and healthy faith that will stand strong in trial and temptation.
One challenge I have noticed in my own life is that I will start having a really rewarding period of devotions — for a week or two — and then something will happen that will get me out of the habit; such as getting the flu, or going out of town with hubby for his job, or some kind of emergency. The hardest part is getting back into the routine. But be faithful about it! Keep trying. Don’t let multiple failures or setbacks discourage you. Keep trying until you get it re-established. Satan doesn’t want you being faithful in spending time in God’s word, so he will do all he can to get you out of the habit. The rewards will be worth it!
Last week I shared biblical principles why prayer often doesn’t seem to work for the average Christian. Another one key reason my husband pointed out last week after I wrote my article is James 4:3, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” We have fallen into the habit of praying for things that are not in God’s will, asking for things that God has already told us in His Word that are wrong, and petitioning for things that are selfish or not good for us. When I say “selfish” I am referring to those requests that would fall into the James 4:3 category — requests motivated by carnal appetites and not emotional or spiritual concern.
After posting my article there were several memes that popped up on Facebook through the week that went right along with what I had written. That is an indication that the article was timely for many people and the idea needed to be reinforced. One that really stood out said, “Prayer is asking God to align you with His will rather than asking Him to be aligned with yours.” Take a moment to evaluate your prayer life. Which one does yours fall into? In my own life experience I have to admit that prayer has been taught as a way to get what you want from God — that you have to pray to show your sincerity before God will answer those requests. These things were not said outright — but how prayer was handled, that was definitely the message that came across. Pastors will preach on “the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,”(James 5:16) and the widow in Luke 18 who pestered a judge to give her a righteous judgment; challenging us — in effect — to wear God down to have our prayers answered. Others will pull out isolated verses to teach that if we have enough faith we can ask for whatever we want and get it because God wants us to be happy and prosperous. Well, God does want us to be happy and prosperous, but in spiritual things, not material. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21) You have heard to the old addage, “You’re so heavenly minded you are no earthly good”? Well, the opposite is more frequently the case — we as Christians are so earthly minded we accomplish nothing for the kingdom of God. Prayer is where that can change, if we approach it with the right motives and in the proper spirit.
One of the things that opened prayer up to me in a new and revitalizing way was Becky Tirabassi’s Prayer Partner journal. In it she walks you through a process of making prayer an interaction with God rather than a laundry list of requests. The big change was taking the time during prayer to sit and LISTEN for God to respond. You are not involved in a conversation until you give the other person a chance to talk and interact with you. Not only does that mean that you pause to give the person a chance to respond, but you have an attitude of expectant openess and receptivity. I saw a meme a couple weeks ago that stated, “The biggest communication problem is that we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.” In order to have effective communication we have to LISTEN. Listening is not just hearing the words, it is hearing the words, mulling them over, evaluating them and processing them. That takes time. When is the last time you took time to listen for God? If you don’t slow down and make an effort, it won’t happen often. “Be still, and know that I am God….” (Psalm 46:10). Did you notice that there was a comma after “be still”? That is a pause, and I believe it is for emphasis. Being still means taking the time to stop and just BE with God. In 1 Kings 19 it tells of Elijah standing on a mountain and God did all these great things — a powerful wind, an earthquake and a fire — but it stated that God was not in any of those things. After all those things there was a still, small voice. I have noticed in my own life that there are “big things” that happen in my life to “get my attention” and if I don’t slow down and take time to connect to God I miss that still, small voice that tells me very important things. So, if there are some big challenges or trials in your life right now, take the time to daily spend some serious time with God — taking in His Word and then sit quietly and listen for Him to speak.
I realize that this is a radical concept for many Christians and that it would be helpful to lay out a way of doing this new kind of prayer. So, I will share my own practice with you. This is a good place to start, but eventually you will adjust things so that it works better for you. We are all individuals and God relates to us individually, so start off with this program but adapt it to your own style as you get comfortable in the practice.
Adoration — adoration is recognizing WHO God is, not what He has done, given you, or is capable of doing. He is eternal. He is all-knowing. He is love. He is judge. As you focus and ponder on WHO God is it helps being you in proper perspective of how to approach Him. Humankind tends to focus on extremes, this is why predominantly in our society people see God either as a tyrant or a good fairy. People cannot reconcile the idea of a God who must pass judgment on people, but who also claims to be the epitome of love. That is why getting to know God from his scriptures is so important. Something that will help you glean facts about WHO God is would be a devotional journal where you jot down those things as you find them in scriptures. Start a list of names of God, descriptions of God, with their verses to draw upon when you start your adoration. Another way to spend your time in adoration of God is to listen to sing some songs. You will need to pull together a collection of songs that focus on WHO God is, not what He has done or what we have gotten from Him or expect to receive from Him. Sadly, a great many of treasured hymns do not fall into this category. There is a time and and place for those, but for adoration we want to focus on WHO God is. Once you spend time focusing on who God is you become very aware of how fall short you fall of pleasing Him or being like Him. This leads you naturally into the next step.
Confession — confession is when we admit to how we have failed God and repent of the attitudes, words and actions in our lives that do not measure up to His standard — Himself. Take the time to sit quietly and ask the Lord to reveal to you things you need to admit and change in your life. Put them out there, sincerely repent, and move on. True repentence means you work to change those things in your life, but you are not expected to do it on your own. Along with repenting ask the Lord to enable you to change and show you how.
Thanksgiving — once you are forgiven there is a natural repsonse, and that is being thankful. Thank God for His forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” If we repent, we are forgiven, and that is something to be thankful for! But this should also be a springboard to be thankful for the blessings you have in your life. Think of all that God has done for you, acknowedge it and thank Him. Even in the midst of trials, there is something to be thankful for. Things can always be worse. If you need to, ask God to show you the blessings He has given you, the things He has done for you. Sit there quietly and let Him show you, and thank Him.
Supplication — I like to use “supplication” as the term for praying for yourself and the concerns that are close to your heart. Philippians 4:6 says, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Being “careful” is a word that has kind of lost it’s true meaning today. When the word was first used it referred to being “full of care” or concern. Basically it is saying, don’t worry about things that are of concern to you, take them to God! He already knows about these things, but in talking to God about them, spilling them out to Him, is actually therapeutic and will help you release them and minimize their “control” over you. For supplication, you should focus on yourself personally. We don’t not spend enough time praying for ourselves. Actually, some of us have been taught NOT to pray for ourselves. We as humans need to talk about what is weighing on our minds and what we struggle with. Not all of us have people we can comfortably discussed the deepest conerns of our hearts with. But with God we can! Take this time to focus on yourself. I suggest you use the B-L-E-S-S acrostic I will explain in the next section. This is also a time where you can just pour out your heart and speak your mind. Picture God sitting in the room with you and talk to Him as if a physical person were there; this will help make it more real to you. God is already right there with you, you just need to bring it home to your realization.
Intercession — the next step in prayer is to pray for others. We read in Paul’s letters of how he regularly prayed for those he cared about — most specifically those he had established in the faith. We all have family and friends we care about and want to help bear their burdens. Certainly we should help out in any physical way we can when one we love is in need, but there is only so much we can do. The greatest gift we can give them is to pray for them. It can be challenging to know what or how to pray for that person. I came across an acrostic that helps me:
B — body: pray for physical needs. Any concern related to their physical body and well being would fit in here; health, shelter, food, etc.
L — labor: pray for their work and responsibilities. Any job or responsibility they have.
E — emotional: pray for their emotional well-being.
S — social: pray for their relationships. Relationships (whether familial, friend or romantic) have a huge impact on us. We are social creatures — some more than others. How we relate and interact with those closest to us will effect us. Pray for godly relationships and that the individual would become more godly in their relationships.
S — spiritual: pray for their spiritual well-being. As you learn what God expects of us as Christians, pray for those attributes to grow in this person. Pray that they would desire a deeper relationship with God, that biblical principles would become more prevelant in their life. Any spiritual aspect that God brings to your attention, pray for this person.
Using this acrostic will help cover yourself or whoever you pray for in a thorough way. Be sure to temper your requests with things you know for sure is God’s will. In areas where you are at a loss as to what God’s will is, be sure to pray for His will to be done.
Listening — after praying just sit quietly and “bask” in the experience of having been in God’s presence. Try to block out everything from your mind — all the concerns you just prayed for, upcoming responsibilities, etc. — and just focus on God. Kind of go back to that attitude of adoration. Something that helps me is to sit there and visualize myself climbing up into his lap and being enfolded in His arms. In this state, just jot down the first thought that comes to mind. I usually sit there until three thoughts/statements come to mind. There is usually a message for me to focus on that day. I was really surprised when this started happening for me. It was such a new idea that I could actually hear from God. One thing I did learn was that He spoke to me in His own Words. Verses I had memorized, hymns I had song all my life, concepts I had gleaned from Bible study — these were the words that God brought to my mind to speak to me. So, it is very important to be reading from God’s Word and applying it to your life regularly.
Following this format helps turn prayer from a ritual or exercise into a relationship-building experience. I keep a journal where I write out these things, especially the messages I glean during the listening portion of my prayer. This gives me a record of growth as I learn and adapt to what I’m shown. You can do it completely verbally, silently or written. Or you can just jot down portions — such as the things you have to be grateful for that the Lord shows you, and the messages given to you as you listen.
This will certainly be new to you and take some time to adapt. Depending on how much time you have to devote to this, start out spending 2-3 minutes on each main point. Three minutes on each of the six points will only be 18 minutes. Or, adjust time differently — such as one minute in adoration, confession and thanksgiving then more for intercession and supplication. Spend at least one minute in listening. Adjust your times as you grow in this practice until you find the right balance for you.
What I like about this format is the acrostic is A-C-T-S-I-L, which said quickly sounds like “AXLE.” An axle allows for the free turning of a wheel which allows movement. I like to picture a time spent in this kind of prayer as a motivating factor in accomplishing positive and spiritual things in your daily life — an “axle” to your day, so to speak, that will help provide forward movement.
Spending regular time in God’s word can be a challenge. Next week I will share ideas on how to get the most out of short times in the Bible and how to grow your interest in reading the Bible for yourself.
Lately it is becoming obvious that Christians don’t understand prayer. I understand why it is happening. First and foremost, we aren’t taught about what prayer really is. We are taught “how” to do it. But even then, we are just being taught what someone else was taught, etc. and some valuable truths have been lost along the way. Kind of like what boot camp was in World War II — here’s a gun, this is how you shoot it, off you go to the front lines. Well, there is so much more to combat than that, but we were playing catch up. Prayer is being handled the same way.
Probably twelve years ago I attended a Bible conference where I sat in on a seminar about devotions. The woman would get a binder and pray about a topic God wanted her to study, then she would study that for a year. Every tidbit she would come across about that topic she would put in her binder. I found the idea intriguing. I wondered, what topic would I study if I did that? Unbidden the word “prayer” came to mind. I admit, I dismissed it at once. What is there to study about prayer? Prayer is dull and boring. It’s an obligation, a duty. I tried to bury the idea. But God kept bringing it to my attention. Finally I decided to make a study of prayer. A web group I was involved in picked that time to go through Becky Tirabassi’s book Let Prayer Change Your Life. I had the companion journal already, having picked it up several years before in college. It was in our storage room, but God led me right to where it was and I was ready to participate. While going through that study I started reading everything I could find in the Bible on prayer — examples and teachings. It was not long before I realized that the idea I’d always had about prayer was very, very wrong.
A couple years later I was involved in a women’s Bible study group and we started a study on the Acts of the Apostles. This study took us through the Acts and the Epistles in a chronological way to see how the church started and grew. I was feeling particularly defeated in my life at that point and though this would be awesome because I could discover the secret to the power the Apostles had that made them so bold and affective for God. I knew it was the Holy Spirit, but how do you tap into him and gain that power in your life? It only took three chapters for me to realize it was a dedicated life of prayer that hooks you into that power. And not the kind of prayer I’d been doing for years, but a practice of prayer that built a relationship with God in my life.
I learned that we approach prayer as a duty and with the attitude of if we want a chance of getting what we want we have to pray for it. Have you heard Psalm 37:4 before? It says, “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” People immediately grab that verse and say “If I keep the ten commandments God will give me whatever I ask for.” Well, yeah, it’s easy to get that idea from that one verse. What about the next one? Psalm 37:5 says, “Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” Psalm 37:7a says, “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him….” See, we can’t take ONE verse and build a doctrine on it. When we do we propogate error and false teaching. But it is easy to do because people WANT to hear things like that. The problem is, it is taught, people live their lives accordingly and then when they don’t get the things they “think” were promised to them then “God let them down” and they have a crisis of faith and maybe even walk away from God all together. God didn’t let them down, their faulty understanding did. Also, that faulty understanding frequently leads them INTO all sorts of temptations and compromising circumstances that they could have avoided if they had properly understood what the Bible teaches.
Look also at what Psalm 40:8 says, “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” If you take all these verses together you begin to see that the important thought here is being close to the Lord and knowing his statutes in your heart. If you are so “delighted in” (devoted to) the Lord then you will be searching the scriptures day and night to get to know Him better, to know what He expects of you and what He wants for you. His teachings are “written on your heart” — that means that they are part of you and govern your thoughts and actions. Here are some more verses:
Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.
With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.
With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth.
I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.
I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.
I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word. Psalm 119:9-16
The Bible is not a collection of disjointed musings and teachings. They all build upon each other. Everything is related. Why does Psalm 37:4 say that God will give you the desires of your heart? Because if you are truly devoted to God and are consistently studying His Word they will begin to work on your heart and bring your desires in line with what God wants for you. He enjoys giving us the gifts he has planned for us, gifts that are in our best interest, but not always what our carnal hearts want. That is why we have to bring our wants and desires in line with what God wants for us, then we will get those gifts.
John stated it very clearly for us in 1 John 5:13-16,
“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
If we are a Christian, we have the right to make requests of God. We even have an obligation to do so. However, we will only receive what we ask for if it is in line with God’s will for us or the situation we are praying about. We see it exampled for us in Christ’s life:
And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.
And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy;
And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.
And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.
And he said, Abba, Father, all thingsarepossible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. (Mark 14:32-36)
Even Christ made a request of the Father that was not in the Father’s will for his life, but He tempered it by saying, not what I want, but your will be done. The first part of the prayer was his flesh speaking, the second part the part that was surrendered to the Spirit making it an acceptable request to God (Romans 8:26-27)
So,when you pray do you ask for what you want, practically demanding it because you’ve been led to believe that God owes you whatever you ask of Him? Friend, that is dangerously arrogant. It is no different than your two year old coming up to you and demanding you let him go play in the street or to play with matches. When we demand the things we want from God it is no different than playing in the street or playing with matches before we knew how to do it safely. Just like you would never let your two year old do those things because you know he is not mature enough to do those things and foresee the dangers the lie in wait for him, God sees and knows the same things about what you ask of Him.
A couple of years after the Acts study I came across a couple excellent books on prayer (prayer has continued to be a pet study project of mine). They were written by Evelyn Christensen who started a sort of prayer revival in some circles in the sixties or seventies. One book is actually kind of hard to find, but I think every Christian should read it. It is titled, “What Happens When God Answers Prayer.” She points out that many times the reason we do not get the answers to the prayers we pray is because God has already given us the answer in scripture and we are actually praying for something that He has already shown us it is wrong to ask for. For example, we know God says it is wrong to commit adultery. So, if you are praying that someone you have feelings for, but who is involved in a committed or legal relationship with someone else, would leave that person or would become available to be in a relationship with you, that is adultery! God will not honor or grant that request because it goes against His teachings. It also goes against the other person’s free will.
Another way we abuse prayer is by seeing something we want and making plans or taking first steps to get it, and when a roadblock comes up we ask God to bless our efforts and give us what we want. We should have prayed BEFORE we took any action, and prayed that God would reveal to us if we should pursue it or walk away. Or, someone or something crosses our path that is appealing to us and we say, “God I’m going to pursue this and see where it goes, but if it isn’t what you want for me then make it obvious to me or cause it to fall apart.” Well, this is just setting you up for heartache and disaster. If it is something you desperately want, while you are “pursuing” it you are getting emotionally invested in it, and if it falls apart you will be hurt and worse off than if you never went after it in the first place. I had to learn this lesson the hard way before turning the situation completely over to the Lord, and once I did I received something better than I had ever dreamed of. It is worth the wait. God wants to give you His best, but you have to be patient and you have to be in the right place emotionally and spiritually before He will bring it to pass.
As a Christian we should not make any plans without first asking God to direct our paths. If you don’t get a clear “go ahead” then DON’T. Also, you need to “try the spirits.” Satan knows how to trip us up. He doesn’t always throw bad things in our paths. He knows what our weaknesses are. If you are lonely, he is going to put people in your path who seem good, but are wrong for you at this stage in your life. He can even make circumstances appear to be “falling into place” (Christians frequently mistake this for God’s will, esp. when it is something they desperately want) for you and lull you into a false sense of providence. Oftimes it is too late when you realize that this person or situation has gotten you in a bad place, and maybe even compromised your testimony for life. This is why you need to rely on godly friends. If you feel the need to hide from your friends anything you are engaged in until you are “committed” then that is a sure sign you are doing something wrong. Surround yourself with godly friends who just don’t talk the talk, but you see them walking the walk. Do they give you consistently sound biblical counsel? Cling to these friends and do not make a move without praying about it first and seeking their counsel. If it is of God, then you will get confirmation in your prayers and your friends will be supportive.
If you are struggling with getting answers to your prayers, the first thing you should do is spend more time alone with God in His word and pray that if there is anything in your life that is hindering your prayers that God would reveal it to you. God can only do this, though, by scripture and through godly friends. So, when you pray this, devote more time to reading God’s word and to spending quality time in spiritual discussion with your friends and ask them if they can see anything in your life that may be hindering your prayers. Once these things are revealed, take steps to correct it. Remember Psalm 119:11, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Also Psalm 66:18, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:” If it is pointed out to you, by God and others, what you are doing wrong and you do not change it, that is the same as “regarding iniquity” in your heart and your prayers will be hindered and anything you try to do for the Lord will be in your own strength. Don’t handicap your life! It’s tough enough as it is. Don’t make things tougher for yourself.
After you deal with anything in your life that is displeasing to God, then devote yourself to knowing what God wants for your life. You can’t know specifics by reading the Bible but you can know generalities, and if you know those they will help you recognize specifics when they come into your life. I have a devotional plan that will help you turn your time of prayer from a dull laundry list of requests into a truly intimate time spent getting to know God, but I will save that for next week. In the mean time, begin evaluating your prayer life and asking God to show you what you need to do to draw closer to Him, preparing for the activity you will be presented next week.
P.S. I was discussing this article with my husband when he came by for lunch and am obligated to share one of his favorite verses on the topic (he is quite partial to the book of James). The verse he reminded me of was James 4:3,
“Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”
Hubby and I were chatting on the way to work this morning about music and the condition of our churches. Hubby was wondering if the songs we sing are an indication of our condition or if our condition is influenced by the songs we sing. I think it’s a vicious cycle.
What happens when someone is depressed? Let’s say someone’s boyfriend just walked out on them. What does that person usually do? Probably spends hours listening to “their song(s)” and fixating on what they lost. What does this do for their mood? They get more depressed. Now, what if we change this scenario? If this person instead would put praise and worship songs on and sing along, what would happen after a few hours? I am willing to bet you that their attitude and perspective would change. Yes, they will still grieve for the loss, but it will be in a more proper perspective and they would not be in the depths of despair. When we take time to praise and worship God it takes our attention off of us and puts it on God, where it belongs.
The churches in our area are largely dead. There are a handful of people in them and they are all older. These people resist change (we’ve never done it that way before!) and they tend to sing songs at the same tempo as a death march that focus on getting to the other side. These same people, in a defeated tone of voice, wonder why they can’t get anyone to come to church. Well, young people want some action, some pep, some life. When they come to a church and everything feels like death and defeat, they won’t be back. Also, young people like change. It never fails that once some young people come in and want to change something, the elder people get in a huff and stonewall them, which leads the young people to leave.
I want to share a secret with you. If you never experience change, you will die. Growth is change. In resisting change, you could very well be resisting growth, in which case you are choosing death. Not all change is good. But even beneficial change is uncomfortable (remember growing pains?) but that discomfort has to be endured to get beneficial growth. No pain, no gain, as they say.
Most churches I have been to focus on those songs that focus on how wonderful it is going to be “over there.” Yes, that is true, but by focusing on the other side you are missing opportunities right in front of your face. Ever hear the saying “So heavenly minded you’re no earthly good?” Well, if you are here on earth, it’s because God has a purpose for you. He has something He wants you to accomplish for Him while you are here. If you are focusing on getting to heaven, you are going to miss the opportunities He puts in your way. Do you want to get “over there” only to have Him pointedly ask you “Why did you not do….?”
Step back and evaluate what is going on in your church. What songs do you routinely sing? Is the focus on God and who He is, or on you and what you are going to get from God? Or is it focused on what you’ve already gotten from God? The problem is, those songs are focused on YOU. They are selfish songs. We need to regularly be focusing on songs that help us exalt God and put our circumstances in proper perspective. Yes, I’m going to experience growing pains on this side, but that pain means I’m learning and being profitable to God, so I need to focus on Him and how He will bring this about for good — not only for me, but for those whose lives I touch. Change the climate of your congregation and try to make it one that is favorable for growth. If someone suggests change, don’t write it off. Pray about it, search the scriptures, and think of ways that you can compromise to help bring the change about in a way that will help both sides in a biblical way. Move from being a funeral parlour to a maternity ward. But change has to start with you.
Psa 8:1 To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of David. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
Psa 8:2 Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
Psa 8:3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
Psa 8:4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
Psa 8:5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
Psa 8:6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:
Psa 8:7 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;
Psa 8:8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
Psa 8:9 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
Let me post a hypothetical to you. You are married. However, you don’t talk to your spouse. Instead, you call and talk to his parents and friends to find out what he wants and would make him happy. You ask them what his opinion about things would be. You give them messages to deliver to him. The only time you go to your spouse is when you are in trouble and have to have an answer or help with something right away. What would your relationship be like? Could you honestly say you knew your spouse? Or, would it be closer to the truth to say you were using your spouse?
Well, friend, that is precisely the kind of Christians we have today. They call themselves Christians, and most probably are, but they are living an impotent spiritual life and don’t understand why. They go to church (at least once a week), they read devotionals — either from those booklets handed out in Sunday School class or online — and they plaster their facebook wall with pithy and convicting memes. But they have no power in their life and each day seems to be a struggle. Everyday cares weigh on them more and more. They pray, but don’t feel that their prayers get past the ceiling. While they are being a “good person” they don’t integrate Biblical principles into their daily living. Why is this happening? Because they are practicing Osmosis Christianity.
Being exposed to isolated scriptures on a frequent basis does not truly build up your Christian life. Remember how I said that the wife in the hypothetical statement went to other people and not her husband to find out what he wanted? Well, when you rely only on Sunday sermons and devotional booklets for your “scripture intake” that is exactly what you are doing. You are relying on a middle man. You would not have allowed a third person to go out and pick a husband for you, so why are you allowing a third person to tell you what God wants you to do with you life?
Don’t get me wrong, there is a place and a need for pastors and teachers in the church. However, Christianity is a RELATIONSHIP not a religion. If it’s a religion to you it isn’t doing you any good. God is your father. He wants a personal and intimate relationship with you. He doesn’t want you relying on other people to read His love letter to you and tell you what to do. He doesn’t want you asking other people to come and plead your case before him. (Please, this doesn’t mean not to ask people to help you pray about something, but they should only be HELPING you, not doing all the work for you.) He wants you to take the time to meet with Him each day just like you would steal away with excitement to have a tryst with your true love. In fact, you should view any time you can spend with Him in this way. Christ is your spiritual husband. Are you being a loving, doting and faithful wife to Him? How much time do you spend talking to Him? No, I mean actually talking to Him, not asking Him for things. How much time do you spend listening to Him? If you treated your actual husband the way you treat God, how long would your marriage last?
What it comes down to, is that if you are not making time to spend with God everyday where you read scripture for yourself, let the Holy Spirit impress on you God’s message for you today, and spend time praying where you converse with God (not just ask Him for things) and listen to Him, you are an Osmosis Christian. You are relying on minor brushes with scripture to protect you from Satan’s lies and attacks. You are playing a dangerous game. If you haven’t spent enough time in God’s Word for yourself, you will never recognize Satan’s lies, because he always hides them in a kernel of truth.
People who deal with currency for their job have to know how to spot a fake. You might ask, how does one train to spot counterfeit money? What they do is STUDY the genuine article, that way when a forgery comes across their desk is stands out like a sore thumb, it’s instantaneous. Are you able to recognize false teaching when you come in contact with it? Oh sure, the cults that are waaaaaaaaaay out there you can spot a mile away, but what about those who seem just like you? There are churches everyday that were founded on sound doctrinal principles who bring in a new pastor who slowly starts introducing them to minor things they’ve never heard before and in no time, he has brought them into false doctrine and set himself up as “king” in that congregation because he “enlightened” them to new truth. It is happening because Christians are getting lazy and relying on others to tell them what is right and wrong, who to trust and not trust, who to call as pastor and who not to.
These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. 1 John 2:26-27
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. John 16:13-15
Several years ago I was attending a Bible study for women. Our study was going to be on the Acts of the Apostles, where we went through Acts and the Epistles in roughly chronological order to see how the church was built up. I was excited to go into this study because I was at a point in my life where I felt very defeated and hoped that by doing a detailed study of the apostles, who had been filled with the Spirit and did remarkable miracles, that I would discover the secret to living an empowered Christian life of victory over those things that constantly picked at me. It didn’t take long (just the first three chapters of Acts) to learn that there wasn’t a secret. What was required was hard work — on my knees in prayer. I began doing an in depth study on prayer. I probably studied prayer as a pet project for seven years — off and on. I realized that I had a very mistaken view of prayer. I saw prayer as a way of asking God for things. But eventually I came to see it very differently. I mean, how long would your marriage last if the only time you talked to your husband was to ask him for things? So, if the only time you talk to God is to ask Him for things, how do you think He feels? He wants so much more out of your relationship with Him, and when you put more into it He rewards you with more than you could ever hope to imagine, or dare to ask for.
What it comes down to is that you will not have an empowered or rewarding Christian life if you rely on others to “feed” you. There is a joy and reward you cannot imagine in going to God’s Word for yourself and allowing the Holy Spirit to show you new things that God intended just for you at that particular time. You will never experience that relying on others to do your study for you. You have to make a commitment and then follow through. You have to get your hands dirty. Osmosis Christianity doesn’t work.
The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious. Proverbs 12:27
The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat. Proverbs 13:4
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
I hear a lot of people claiming to be Christians complaining about the state of society, politics, etc. and venting righteous indignation about how as a whole the world is turning away from God and sanctioning irreverent and immoral behavior. There was a huge outcry over the Supreme Court’s decision about homosexual marriage. Now, I too was disappointed over that, but probably not for the same reasons as most. To me it showed how ineffective we have become as Christians. It’s our fault this is happening.
Okay, you are probably ready to stone me at this point, but let me make my argument.
People who do not know Jesus as their savior do not have the benefit of the Spirit to work on their heart and mind — also known as conscience. Unsaved people are going to do what comes naturally, and that is unrighteous behavior. The unsaved can’t help themselves. Here are some scriptures to show you what I mean:
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14
Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
Rom 1:19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
Rom 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Rom 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Rom 1:22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
Rom 1:23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
Rom 1:24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
Rom 1:25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
Rom 1:26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
Rom 1:27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
Rom 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
Rom 1:29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Rom 1:30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Rom 1:31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Rom 1:32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Rom 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
Rom 3:11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
Rom 3:12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Rom 3:13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:
Rom 3:14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
Rom 3:15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:
Rom 3:16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:
Rom 3:17 And the way of peace have they not known:
Rom 3:18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.
In Genesis 1:24-25 God set up how nature was going to work. Each creation will bring forth after it’s own kind. That means that dogs will give birth to dogs, not fish. Man, too, will bring after his own kind. Now, when man was first created, he was in the image of God. He shared God’s nature and was perfect and immortal. However, when he disobeyed, his nature changed. His nature became damaged and corrupt. Now when Adam and Eve had children they brought forth after their own kind — fallen man. Man has struggled with the rampant disease of sin every since. Only the saving power of Christ through the Spirit can heal that diseased nature.
Think if it this way — if something begins to rot, that rot is going to spread until it completely destroys the object. Unless there is an intervention from an outside source, the rot will take over completely. This means cutting out the rot and treating it with something that will prevent new rot from moving in. This is what happens when we become saved. The rot is removed. We cannot do it ourselves, we are helpless. The Spirit comes in and cleans it out for us.
We are surrounded by a world that is sick from the rot of sin. We should not be surprised when it wants to justify and sanction such behavior as premarital sex, adultery, abortion and homosexual marriage. However, we cannot change our world by standing on a street corner and telling them they are wrong. We can’t hope to change the world by battling the symptoms of their malady. We have to attack the source of the problem — the sin nature.
Our society is getting farther and farther from God. Why is this? The simple answer is that we as Christians are failing in our duty. As I look around I see countless people claiming to be Christians who hold many of the same values and opinions as the world at large does. Sin is being overlooked in church. There are denominations that are ordaining homosexuals as pastors. The church lacks power. The church lacks power because individual Christians lack power. Every congregation is only as strong as their weakest member.
So while the immorality of our society should stir us to righteous indignation, we need to be focusing it in the right place — ourselves. We are failing God because we are not the vibrant, sold-out servants he needs us to be. We are failing because our churches are compromising on his Word. There is more world in our churches and Christians than there is doctrine and gospel. We need to start cleaning house.
2Ch 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
…and let it begin in me.
I have heard this chorus a few times but can’t seem to track down the song and the music. Interestingly, it has the premise of revival spot-on.
For several weeks now, I’ve heard Christians complaining about the state of society, the fiasco that our government is, the apostasy that we see all around us. It is disheartening and sickening. Longingly they speak of seeing revival in our land and invariably quote 2 Chronicles 7:14,
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
But all I’m hearing is talk. You can’t talk a revival into happening. You can’t cajole a revival into happening. People have to buckle down and work at it. Sincerely. With all their heart, soul, mind and strength.
Of course, when someone speaks of revival I’m not quite sure what they mean by that. Well, actually, I’m afraid I do. They want to see their church filled and people getting saved. That isn’t a revival. People getting saved and the church filling up are RESULTS of revival — they are the spill-over of true revival. I believe we haven’t seen true revival in many, many years because we have been looking for the wrong thing. Someone says, let’s have a revival, and they book a popular evangelist and start knocking on doors and trying to strong-arm people they think need to be saved into coming to church for the evangelist to preach them into conviction. I ask you, where do you see this in scripture??
Let’s start off with some definitions:
revive: to return to consciousness or life
Okay, so according to Merriam-Webster a revival is the act of bringing back to consciousness or life. So, that would mean that in order to be revived, something would have had to be alive in the first place. Let me share a big secret with you (at least it seems to be) unsaved people aren’t alive. In fact, they are “unborn.” Spiritually speaking, “life” is eternal life in Christ. The unsaved have never been born into eternal life, so therefore, they can’t be revived. This is why I stated earlier that people getting saved are results of revival, not revival itself. When Christians experience revival, they get on fire for God, they have renewed joy in their salvation, they reach out in love to others and people get curious about what’s going on. This opens the doors for the unsaved to find Christ, when they see a change in Christians they can’t understand or explain.
So, revival has been on my heart and mind quite a bit the last couple of weeks. I’ve been feeling like I need to work on a booklet on that — attempting to educate Christians about real revival and how to experience it in their lives. Because, until individuals start getting serious in their relationship with God and letting Him have control, we won’t see revival. It starts in the saved and then the saved take it out into the world.
I don’t know about you, but as I look around society today I see a lack of respect. I kind of touched on it in a round about way with my last entry — the fact that people do not respect authority any more — but it goes deeper than that. People do not respect authority or other people’s rights and possessions because they have no respect for themselves. Society was not this way 100 years ago. What happened?
Well, I submit to you that what happened was the undermining of the authority of God’s Word in our society. Contrary to what society wants you to believe, man does not have an inherent wiring to do good if given the right circumstances. People try to say that everyone knows what is right and wrong and if put in a positive environment they will choose what is right. Sorry, but we don’t see evidence of that. Without an outside authority (such as the Bible) society decides what is right and what is wrong, and basically that means that the majority decides. Every so many years, there is a cultural shift, so that also means that there is a shift in belief about what is right and wrong. Just look at what has been going on in the last 60 years. As the Bible is farther removed from acceptance in society there is a definite and consistent eroding of moral standards. When man makes the rules, the rules keep changing according to what he wants to get away with. That is simply human nature (which, surprisingly, it laid out for us in scripture: Romans 3:10-12)
Compare societies. Look at the Arab world. The Middle East is just one huge warzone. Why? Because it is their culture to fight. They are brought up with the mindset of might makes right. If people were right that everyone, deep down, knows what is right and wrong, and what is right and wrong is reflected in American society, then why doesn’t the rest of the world cultures look just like us? Because there is a flaw in their theory. Man does not naturally know what is right and wrong, that is why a Savior had to be sent to earth and the Bible had to be written. So man would know God’s laws and standards and know how best to live their lives and rule their society. We can see that as we drift farther away from the Bible being a supernatural final authority for man, society continues to fall a part.
Why is this? I submit to you that it is because as we ignore the Bible’s authority on our lives the more loss of respect there is for ourselves and mankind in general. If you hold to the Bible’s standards then you hold human life in high regard. In the Ten Commandments we are told that murder is wrong (Exodus 20:13). In Genesis 9:6 God tells Noah that someone who murders another person is supposed to be put to death. Why? Because man is made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). So, if someone murders someone else, they have attacked God’s image and deserves to die. This is a provision showing us how precious God sees human life. The Bible actually gives man an esteemed place in God’s creation. We are stewards of creation (Genesis 1:28, 2:15). We are to teach His precepts to the next generation (Deuteronomy 6:5-8). We are to tell the world about the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). I mean, how much more meaningful can your life be than to know you are made in God’s image and have an awesome task to fulfill for Him? Not only that, but every human being is made in God’s image and is charged with the same task, though we are all gifted in different ways to fulfill it (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12). If we view ourselves and mankind in this way we will have respect toward one another.
However, man has chaffed against the guidelines God has given us. Due to his sin nature he wants to engage in sinful pleasures without guilt. In order to do this he has had to get himself out from under God’s authority. The major way this has been done is through the theory of evolution. If man was not created by God, then he is not bound by God’s laws, he is a law unto himself. At first that might have seemed good to man, but the downside in believing in evolution is that ultimately that means that man is just a mutant animal with no eternal destiny. Life now has no purpose. The mentality of “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die” takes over and life no longer has a sacredness about it. If we are just animals, then no human has any more value than any other animal. Violent crimes such as battery, rape and murder are justified if it meets the needs and ultimate purposes of another individual. Endangered animals have more protection than humans. Eagle eggs are protected by Federal Law, but that same law allows us to murder millions of innocent unborn babies simply because they are unwanted or an inconvenience to the mother. This is where we are today, since the introduction of evolution and acceptance of it as “fact” in our society. The farther we move from scripture and God the less respect we will have for human life and the world around us. We are on the slippery slope, folks, and going downhill fast. Our only hope is to turn back to God and His statutes.
And it begins with you and me.
And by “single” I actually mean “individual.”
For the last three weeks I have been working on a “combat guide” for a friend. She had told me that her church was really growing — that there were people joining the church either by salvation or transfer — for the past several weeks. The church was encouraged and there was expectancy. I warned her to have her guard up, because that is when Satan will launch an all-out attack. I had seen a very similar situation unfold in my home church approximately twenty-one years ago. I was away at college at the time, but came home about a month later after the fall-out. In January of that year people began getting saved and joining the church, and others simply started coming. It was growing and there was an excitement. Then, there was a power struggle between the pastor and the deacons which spilled out to envelope the congregation. One lady began spreading gossip about the pastor and tried to tear down his character and testimony to the congregation and community. It got very ugly and the pastor resigned. Half the church left. My family was in the half that left. I had been in that church all my life, and I was nineteen at the time. The church has struggled ever since. I hoped that by warning my friend, they could avoid something similar.
Then I got to thinking, prayer is the key to fighting the enemy in these situations, so I figured sharing articles I’d come across in how to pray for your pastor would be helpful and I shared those. But then I remembered a sermon I had heard a few years ago about armourbearers in the church. The preacher introduced the concept of people rallying around their pastor, being sold out to his vision for the church, and having his back through prayer and proactive behavior to combat the things which so commonly undermine his effectiveness, such as criticism, gossip and murmuring. He called this being an armourbearer and patterned it after the example of armourbearers we see in the Old Testament. This spurred me to write a booklet about the concept of being an armourbearer for your pastor and how to conduct an effective prayer ministry based on that concept. I finished the rough draft a day ago and it is now being reviewed by a couple people. In it I deal with some spiritual warfare ideas and combat strategy, so therefore my Marine hubby is also proofreading and offering feedback.
The crux of the whole issue is, we as individual Christians do not recognize true biblical authority. In the past sixty years our society has become increasingly antagonistic to any kind of authority in their lives. Children are being raised with absolutely no respect for themselves, let alone for anyone else, and do not show anyone what used to be considered common courtesy. Several years ago my husband and I were Junior Varsity AWANA leaders and our class consisted of kids from the bus ministry. The kids would come in and inevitably go to the chalkboard to begin drawing. Well, after I caught one of the kids erasing an assignment from the board (we were in a room used by the Christian school at the church) in order to draw, I came in the next week and hid the chalk in the teacher’s desk. The first week it worked. Finding no chalk at the board, the kids simply sat in their seats and talked. The next week, a girl came in and when she saw there was no chalk at the board she went to the teacher’s desk and started opening drawers. Well, I kind of lost it at that point, firmly raised my voice and said, “What do you think you are doing?” It froze the girl in her tracks and then she said she was looking for the chalk, as if she had every right to have chalk. I proceeded to tell her that you simply do not go through another person’s things without permission. She asked if she could get some chalk and I told her no, because the classroom and the desk didn’t belong to us, we were simply borrowing the space for class. She was not very pleased, just a bit embarrassed, and sat down. But from that time on I didn’t have any kids going through desks and cabinets. I was honestly appalled that a kid would walk in and start going through a teacher’s desk. I was raised that you stayed out of things that weren’t yours and you didn’t have permission to be in. Not so with society today. This girl felt she had every right to do whatever it took to get what she wanted, and that is the opinion of people today.
Unfortunately, secular philosophy has made it’s way into the church. There is no respect for our government leaders. Granted, many of them make it extremely hard to respect them, but we need to at least respect the office and show them the deference due. Many Christians dismiss any obligation to respect or heed secular government leaders because “we are not of this world,” but the Bible tells us in 1 Peter 2 that we are to be obedient to the leaders of the land for our testimony’s sake. The problem with lack of respect for our secular leaders is that the attitude seeps into how we view the leadership in our local churches. In most churches I am aware of, a pastor is usually called by having two or three men come preach for the congregation and then a vote is taken. So, in a way, the calling of a pastor is similar to a popularity contest. Whoever gets the most votes is called. Well, as in any election, those who voted for the man are pleased to have him as pastor, but those who didn’t are not. From that moment there are those who will begin looking for things to nit-pick about. They will murmur and complain about the slightest thing, complain about everything in general, and basically attempt to sow discord. If they aren’t happy, they don’t want anyone else to be happy either. Things get worse if the pastor actually seems to be leading the church toward growth and vitality. The disgruntled people are then used by Satan to try to tear down the man of God and stop the work that is being accomplished. In military terms, a soldier in one army acting on behalf of a foreign power is a traitor, and once caught he is court martialed; depending on the severity of the offense he could be dishonorably discharged, imprisoned or executed. In spiritual terms, if you are working against the man God has placed in your church, you are working against God himself, you are an agent of Satan and God will deal with that (Romans 12:19, Romans 13)
By no means are we supposed to sit back and blindly follow any man who is in leadership of a congregation. We do have a responsibility to verify that what he is teaching is in line with scripture. In Acts 17 we are given the example of the Bereans listening to Paul present the gospel on a daily basis, and then going to scripture for themselves to verify what he was teaching them was in line with God’s revealed truth. AND the Bible says that they were noble for having done this. So it is our responsibility to verify through scripture that what he is teaching lines up with God’s whole counsel, but what do we do if we see something that doesn’t seem right? In Matthew chapter 18 we are given a procedure for dealing with disputes in the church. Verses 15-18 tell us that we should go to the individual first. If things are not settled satisfactorily we need to go to one or two other people and then all of you approach that individual. If things are not taken care of at that point, then you take it before the congregation. Now, in 1 Timothy 5:19 we are also told to not receive an accusation against an elder except in the presence of two or three witnesses, so when dealing with a pastor or other church leader that needs to be taken into account as well. However, you need to make sure it is an issue that is serious enough to pursue this, not just a clash of personalities or difference of opinion. It should be only taken to this level if it is an area of doctrinal error, violation of God’s standards (such as immorality) or illegal activity.
The problem is that we as individuals too frequently equate our preferences or opinions on the same level as doctrinal error. We need to learn how to submit to our godly leaders in the church, lay aside our pet ideas and get behind the vision our leadership has, and let God do wondrous things in our churches. He still is a God of miracles, but He is limited by our disobedience and unbelief. Are you ready to let God’s power flow through you and revitalize your life, and potentially your church?