Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pray Without Ceasing

1Th 5:17 - Pray without ceasing.
Gal 5:25 - If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Acts 17:28a - For in him we live, and move, and have our being;

How is your relationship with God? How much time do you spend praying, communing with Him or studying His Word?

Many of us make the mistake of thinking our relationship with God primarily happens on Sunday morning. On Sunday morning, we do our best praying, we hear a great Word (if we attend church), we shout for joy, sing good songs and work ourselves up to an enthusiasm about God rarely seen during the week .

Not all of us are like that of course. Some of us already pray regularly - either at night or in the morning when we arise. And some of us go even beyond that - we regularly study devotionals, read the Word and play gospel or Christian music on a regular basis.

But it still comes back to the question - how is your relationship with God?

I've said in many other postings that our relationship with God is built like any other relationship. We spend time with Him, we talk to Him, we listen to Him and we simply enjoy His company. As you get to know Him better, you understand Him better and accept and love Him for the God you know Him to be. No one can tell you anything about God without a thorough reading of the Bible to confirm what they are saying and you trust that He'll lead and guide you into all knowledge.

But there is still a further level into which we can travel in our relationship with God. It's the all the time, unceasing, kind of relationship. The kind of relationship where prayer is automatic, your thoughts are constantly on what He would have you do in a given situation and you almost subconsciouly converse with Him all that time, discussing your day, reviewing His Word (the Bible) and communing with Him in your downtime and the lulls in your day.

Do you know what I mean?

Where before you've even consciously considered praying, you find yourself finishing a request to God to help your friend, give you strength or that His will be done (since that is always the best option) in any given situation. Where you no longer have to remind yourself to study His Word on a regular basis, because you automatically check the Bible any time you hear something with which you don't agree and you've bookmarked Bible websites at work, home and school so that you can check them quickly and in a hurry. Where, finally, you no longer pray before you do something, but you realize moment to moment what He would have you do and act accordingly. It's that level where it's no longer what you know but who you are. You don't have to work on being a Christian - you just have to express the Christianity that is inside of you.

Are you at that level? Would you like to be?

Give that some serious thought as you continue your journey with God. Use the above scriptures as references and begin to integrate more of God in every aspect of your life. Walk in the peace and life He has so graciously offered you. Enjoy your life, live it to the fullest and let your life be the fullest expression of the blessings of God.

Try it out today and let me know how it goes :)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Devotional - Finding Contentment

Heb 13:5 Be ye free from the love of money; content with such things as ye have: for himself hath said, I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee.
2Co 12:9 And he hath said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
1Ti 6:8 but having food and covering we shall be therewith content.

How many of you have ever felt like you just didn’t have enough? Not enough paycheck to pay all your bills. Not enough love to make living worthwhile. Not enough career to love your current job. Not enough God. Not enough time. And, most resoundingly, not enough money.

We all know that the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Titus 6:10). But many times we’ll feel wracked with longing for a better job, more money, a bigger house or a better car. We feel like we don’t have enough.

Jesus said he came to give us life and it more abundantly (John 10:10). So we automatically assume that abundant life comes with more material things as well. Sure, we all want peace and contentment, but we’re willing to settle for being the person in our family who makes the most money, has the nicest clothes or can afford to travel the world. What’s abundant life without being able to impress your friends with your importance? What’s the point of having money, we often hear, without having the power that comes along with it?

What’s life really about? Is it about what you have or is it about what you need? Because I bet as you’re reading this, all your needs are met. You have enough to eat. You have some place to sleep. You can get around either with a private car or public transportation.

You have a job that allows you to pay most or all of your bills. You have some type of roof over your head. You are whole and well and able to take care of yourself. Your most basic needs have been met.

Yet it still often feels like it’s not enough.

God calls us to contentment. A popular definition of contentment is being happy with the things you’ve got (and not thinking about the things you don’t). Are you content with the things you've "got?" Or do you find yourself wishing for more?

God’s definition of contentment can be found in the above three scriptures. In Hebrews 13:5, He tells us to be content with such things as we have, for He is always with us and will never forsake or leave us. In 2Cor 12:9, He tells us His Grace is sufficient for us, the sufficient in this scripture being the same in meaning as the contentment in Hebrews 13:5. Finally, in 1Titus 6:8, we are told to be content, having food and clothing to cover our bodies. The "content," "sufficient" and "content" listed in preceding three scriptures share the same meaning, namely: to “be content, be enough, suffice, be sufficient.(Strong's Concordance)” In other words, God is telling us that because He is with us (and will never leave us), because His Grace is sufficient for us and because we have food and clothing, we should be content.

How does that make you feel? Does knowing that you should lessen your desire to have material things or do you think you are entitled to the material things as well? I pose this question because it’s an important distinction to make.

If you find yourself still not very content, what steps can you take to become more? How can you truly settle down, focus on the now and find contentment with the things that God has given you - right now, today?

A hint can be found in the second scripture, where God tells us that His Grace is sufficient for us and that His power is made perfect in our weakness.

Our true contentment can only come when we lift the responsibility for being strong from our shoulders and allow His strength to overtake us. In other words, the more we pretend we can do it all ourselves – and draw on our own resources – the less likely it is that His power will lead, guide and empower us. The more we do in our own strength and power, the less room His Grace has to work its magic in our lives - guiding us towards the contentment that He has promised us.

The take-away from this is that contentment comes with the head knowledge that we are to be that way because of our relationship with God, but is more firmly established the more we lean on God in the face of our weakness. We are simply not designed to be strong, all the time, on our own. By allowing His Grace to take root, expand and fill our inner spirits, we are also accessing that ever-so-elusive contentment that comes with carrying our problems to God and allowing His peace to settle on our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:6-7).

Contentment, then, does not come from self-sufficiency, the love of money (or the things it can buy) or by operating solely on our own strength. Contentment comes from recognizing that God is our strength, relying on Him and turning aside from our love of material things to develop a soul-satisfying relationship with Him. We were designed to be this way – in sync, in love and in step with our Creator. Develop your relationship with God and increase your level of contentment today.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Devotional - Be All Things

1Co 9:19 For though I was free from all men, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more.

1Co 9:20 And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, not being myself under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;

1Co 9:21 to them that are without law, as without law, not being without law to God, but under law to Christ, that I might gain them that are without law.

1Co 9:22 To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak: I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. (ASV)

We need to become all things to all people. In our modern-day, Westernized society, the emphasis is on being unique and individual. Unlike collectivistic cultures, we Americans value and honor those whose primary concern is themselves, their interests and their lives. We give them labels like ‘mavericks,’ ‘lone wolves,’ and the like. And that’s all fine and good.

But we’re in the business of winning people to Christ. We’re in the business of demonstrating the God that has made such a difference in our lives. We are in the business of modeling Christ-like behavior to those whose view of religion may be tainted and scarred by the world around us.

We need to be all things to all people. As Paul states so rightly above, he was free, but chose to be in bondage to everyone (figuratively), so that he might win those to Christ. He became a Jew to the Jews, a law-abider to those who honored the law and a lawless person to those who scorned the law. He also became weak to those that were weak! All in an effort to become someone with whom everyone could relate so that those individuals might be won to Christ.

I know how important we consider our own individuality to be. But, as Paul points out above, it is equally important to be able to become chameleon-like in our efforts to reach out to those who may not be exactly like us. Have you ever noticed how quickly a mother will reach out to another mother? Or a teenager trusts his or her peers more than an ‘old’ person?

You’ve got to get it into your mind to use whatever you need to in order to gain the trust of those who are around you. This is not a popularity contest. This is a real life and death effort to pass on the good news of the Bible to those who so desperately need it.

You may not even need to mention the words “Jesus,” “God,” or the “Bible.” Once people are around you long enough, believe me, they will be very curious about what makes you tick, why you seem so happy in the face of adversity and how they can get in on the good life that you appear to be living.

We need to be all things to all people to win those people for Christ. Explore your options, put yourself out there and build trust and rapport with those around you who are so in need of the knowledge of the Word of God.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Devotional - Strength, Courage & Wisdom

2Co 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

It’s okay that you’re not perfect. It’s okay that some days you have are bad. And it’s okay that you’re not going to get everything right, all the time.

Some days you’re going to hit it out of the park. Some days you’re going to get nothing but fouls. And some days you’ll just barely manage to get to first base.
God’s Strength is made to be shown through your weakness. It’s meant to show you that you need Him. You hit a wall, you make a mistake, you show your weakness and, bam!, you find yourself getting down on yourself, thinking negative thoughts and contemplating how stupid you are. And you finally release your thoughts to God and you begin to pray and His Spirit surrounds you and that’s when you realize: This is why I’m weak. This is why I need His strength. Know why? Because if you didn’t have weak moments, you probably wouldn’t call on Him as much as you do. So you need your weakness to demonstrate to you just how much you need Him. To remain close to Him. To draw on His strength, which was tailor-made for what you’re going through. And, number two, you need these weak moments to realize you are not capable of doing this alone. If you could accomplish all that you needed without Him, there would be no need to have God. There is a God, however, you do need Him and you NEED Him to do what you have to do.

God’s Strength is made to be shown through your weakness. It’s meant to show others where you strength REALLY lies. Your weakness – and His rescue – make others realize that they quite possibly need Him, too. If all people saw were all your triumphs – and not the growing experiences that got you there – they would mistakenly think that YOU have all the answers and you know that is patently untrue. You know that you only are what you are because God has given you strength. And your weakness to others demonstrates the same to them.

So REJOICE in your weakness. Know that you’re not perfect, you’re never going to be perfect and it’s perfectly okay – no, WONDERFUL – that you’re not perfect because it all demonstrates the MAJESTY and GLORY of God. It reminds you of how much you need God, how futile it is to think you can do anything without Him and even helps others to realize just how much they need God, too. You WILL BE WEAK. So let God handle it. And all will be well…