Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Lifestyle of Prayer

Another Bible Study wrapped up tonight after 6 weeks of talking about what it truly means to live a praying life. We discovered that 6 weeks is entirely too short, but here is a very brief overview of what we discussed. I especially enjoyed hearing from you women each week in sharing your God stories and how He is working in and through you as you seek intimacy with Jesus through a vibrant prayer life. 1. God is sovereign. He will do what He wants, when He wants, with whomever He wants. (Isaiah 31:2, Daniel 4:35; 5:21, Psalm 115:3, Job 2:10; 42:2) He will even use pagan people or nations to bring about His will in the lives of His children. (Romans 9:17-18) 2. He has chosen to use man to accomplish His will and purpose here on Earth. He has chosen to use the prayers of man to unleash the power of His Holy Spirit on the Earth. (Exodus 32/Ezekiel 22, James 5:17-18) Our prayers will not change God’s mind, but they are necessary to bring about God’s perfect will in our lives. 3. The same Holy Spirit that had a part in creating the Universe lives inside each born again believer. (Ephesians 1:13; 3:14-21, Acts 1:8) We have the choice to either “feed” the Spirit or “starve” the Spirit in our own life. (Galatians 6:8, I Thessalonians 5:19) The vast majority of Christians today never tap into this supernatural power of God in their prayer lives and so never experience the extraordinary workings of God in their daily lives. 4. Many people say that they pray and wonder why it doesn't seem God is listening. Sometimes we just don’t acknowledge that He’s working because it’s not the way we wanted Him to work. Other times however, God doesn't hear our prayers. If we are holding on to sin the Bible says God won’t hear our prayers. (Psalm 66:18) Further, He says that if we don’t forgive others, He won’t forgive us! (Matthew 6:15) Many of us miss out on a deeply intimate walk with the savior because we hold a grudge or can’t let go of a sin. The one prayer God always hears is the one of repentance (I John 1:9). Confess your sins often, be sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit to take care of sin quickly, and always forgive others readily. 5. We are told by Christ that our prayers ought to be according to His purposes and not our own concerns or desires. (John 14:14, James 4:3, Matthew 6:25-34) We accomplish this by delighting in the Lord (Psalm 37:4), abiding in Him (John 15:7), and by seeking His face (2 Corinthians 3:16-18). As we draw closer to God through Bible reading, Study, meditation, and memorization as well as through an unceasing daily prayer life, we begin to experience prayer as it was meant to be experienced…. Inspired by God, powered by the Holy Spirit, and according to the name of Jesus Christ. After we understand these truths and allow God to transform our prayer lives, then we can understand how with a tiny bit of faith we can move mountains (Matthew 17:20, I Corinthians 13:2), and how we can ask ANYTHING according to Jesus’ name and He will do it! (John 14:14) Prayer begins with getting to know God, trusting His ways, and living in obedience to Him. It results in the almighty purposes of God being played out through and among the lives of His children. I encourage you to study this further, beginning with the scriptures listed here. Allow God to lead your prayer life as you read His word. Look at everything with an eternal perspective, seeking first the Kingdom of God. Then experience Him as He transforms your life!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pick a Side

"A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." James 1:8 I was awakened around 4 am this morning with this verse and a string of thoughts about it on my mind. Now that I'm wide awake, I decided to get up and do a little studying and writing. So, I started by looking up James 1:8 and reading it's context. Basically, James has just started out his letter and begins by urging his readers to take joy in trials, pray for wisdom, and have unwavering faith. The entire letter is very in your face, a "truth hitting you right between the eyes" kind of message. (my favorite kind!) It seems very important that before looking at this extremely bold letter, you must decide to be all-in. I looked up the words "double-minded" and "unstable" to get a little clearer understanding. "Dipsuchos" is the greek word for "double-minded" and I found that it's derived from two words; Dis, meaning twice and psuche, meaning soul or mind. The literal meaning of this word is two-spirited, vacillating in opinion or purpose, inconstant, wavering.... double-minded. Do you know anyone like that? Have you been someone like that? (I have, it's not pretty!) Do you say one thing and do another? Claim you have faith but live apart from it? One foot in the Word with the other in the world? Trusting God in theory, but not in practice? Revelation 3:15-16 "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth." Matthew 6:24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. The word "unstable" comes from the greek "akatastatos" and also means inconstant, unsettled, unsteady. It's synonyms are "one that cannot be restrained", insubordinate, unruly. Show me a person who is wavering between the Word and the world, and I'll show you a person who is rebellious, finds conflict around every corner, manipulates relationships, justifies every action, blames everyone else for their problems, and can't control their own emotions. (This does not mean she is not emotional. I firmly believe God made our emotions and I love the fact that I am a "feeling" being. I also believe that the unstable person let's their emotions run them instead of letting God run their emotions.... but that's a study for another day). Bottom line: Pick a side! God wants "all-in" Christians, not fence riders. If you are unstable, wavering, inconstant, etc. take a second and confess that to God. Take a good look at your heart and life and make sure you're not trying to keep one foot (or even a toe) in the world or in self-serving. Staying in the mode of instability deeply hurts you and everyone who loves you, so "woman" up and make a choice. Joshua 24:15 - "Choose this day whom you will serve.... but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!"

Monday, December 3, 2012

Hosea's Adulterous Wife

Last night, our ladies group started to study the book of Hosea as the beginning of a study on "Revealing the Heart of God" through Hosea, Amos, and Jonah. I love the book of Hosea and truly appreciate the questions and discussion that the ladies bring. If you missed last nights study, PLEASE take time to read this and read the first 3 chapters of Hosea and bring me your questions before jumping in next week in chapter 4. Hosea was a prophet of God to the Northern Kingdom of Israel around 750-722 B.C. The first three chapters of the book are a constant parallel between the life God told Hosea to live as an illustration of the life Israel was choosing to live with her God. It's important before getting into this to note that all throughout scriptures, God uses the marriage relationship as a picture of the covenant between God and Israel and also as the picture of Christ and His church. The people of Israel kept returning to their pagan lifestyles and their false gods despite all that God had done for them. We first see God telling Hosea to take a wife of harlotry and to have children of harlotry. Gomer was likely a prostitute involved in the worship of Baal. They have three children who God names for them; Jezreel("God Scatters"), Lo-Ruhamah("No Compassion"), and Lo-Ammi("Not My People"). God was showing a live illustration to His people through the life of His prophet Hosea. Through these names He is telling Israel what is going to happen if they continue to live this life of sin. When we walk away from God there are ALWAYS consequences that affect us and others. God doesn't want us to continue in our sin, but He will not tolerate it either. At the end of chapter 1 into the first verse of chapter 2 we see that God's heart is always for restoration. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God desires that ALL would come to repentance. So we see the heart of God telling Israel his plan for restoration and in 1:11 and 2:1, we see him reverse the names of the three children. He desired for Israel to repent, turn from their gods, and stop playing the harlot against their God. Chapter two shows us that God will not let the sin of His children stay hidden. You cannot hide in your sin. Not only that, but God will take away everything if He has to in order to call you to repentance. We see also the purpose of Gomer leaving her husband again to return into adultery. Verse 5 of Chapter 2 tells us that she falsely thinks that these other men provide her with things she wasn't getting at home. Of course, we know that everything given to us is of God. We have nothing at all without His provision. Just like in a marriage, finding our needs being met by other men is adultery, so seeking any other means to meet our needs other than God is adultery against Him. God says if we continue in this, He will strip us bear and take away everything that gives us comfort and security until we have no choice but to look to Him. He does this because living in disobedience HURTS and we don't even realize it until it's too late. He would much rather "hurt" us His way so that we can be healed, then to let us go further into sin which will always destroy us. The rest of Chapter two springs back into His plan for mercy and restoration. If we choose Him and LEAVE our sin then he says he "betroth's us FOREVER". In the case of Israel He promises to be their God, to restore them, to be their husband and not just their task-master. To wrap up the relationship, chapter 3 shows us a beautiful picture of the redemption we have in Christ. To "redeem" literally means "to buy back". Hosea's bride left him and their children to go back into prostitution. She got so deep into this life of sin that she finds herself sold into slavery. The going rate to buy a slave of her status in that day would have been about 30 shekels of silver. This is significant because we see that Hosea, at the command of God, went to buy her back out of her sin and slavery. He paid 15 shekels of silver plus 1.5 homers of barley, signifying that he must have had to scrape together everything he had to get this sinful bride back to continue in their marriage! This purchase was unselfish, sacrificial, and showed complete unconditional love. Just as Christ died for us WHILE WE WERE IN SIN. (Romans 5:8) We were once living in the slavery of our own sin, dying and on our way to an eternity in hell. God desires a relationship with you and He loves you so much that even in the midst of your sin, He sent His only son to earth to die on the cross in order to pay the ultimate price for your sin. This is redemption and this is the picture God was portraying to Israel in the book of Hosea. Much like Jesus telling the adulteress woman at the well to "go and sin no more", Hosea says to his bride in 3:3 to stay here many days and do not play the harlot or have another man, and by the way, I will be faithful to you. In some ways we feel bad for Hosea, that God would require something so horrible of him just to get a point across, but it's so important for us to remember that it's not for us to know the mind of God. Look at the big picture here and never forget what God did for us through His son Jesus Christ. If you've never turned from your sin, then let Jesus become your savior today and commit to a life of obedience to God! If you choose to stay in your sin and walk farther away from God, realize the gravity of that decision. God will expose your sin and strip away the things you think give you security. He is not willing for you to die in your sin, and He will do anything possible to show you that you need Him. I asked the ladies to be conscious this week about when they find themselves turning to someone or something else for their provisions, confidences, or emotional security other than God. Then, as soon as you recognize it, confess it immediately and acknowledge God as the only source of these provisions. I think we'll find we do this a lot more often then we even realize! I know we talked about a lot more than this on Sunday night, so read Hosea chapters 1-3 and if you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask! If I don't know the answers, I will find them with you. :o)