Monday, November 16, 2009

Be the Church with a Praying Heart - Week 3

What would your life look like if you could not communicate to God? If you were no longer able to pray?

What time in your life did God answer your prayer in such a powerful way that you knew without a shadow of doubt that it was only God?
How so?

Today we will look at how Jesus describes the attitude God the Father has toward His children when they come to Him in prayer. In Matthew chapters 5 and 7 we see Jesus delivering His first major sermon, the sermon on the mount and when we get to Matthew 7:7-11 Jesus begins to tell us about prayer.

Matthew 7:7 Jesus says rule number 1 to having a powerful prayer life is..."Ask." Now I know some of you are thinking...."duh", or, "I went to public school and even I know that." Why did Jesus begin with "ask"?

1. Consider the time at which Jesus is preaching. At this point in history no one, except the priests prayed directly to God. If you had a prayer request you would wash the camel, put on the robe, and drive to the temple. Once there you would find a priest, make your request and hope that he prayed to God on your behalf. For the most part a personal prayer life with creator God was unthinkable. What Jesus was teaching in this sermon was scandalous. "You mean me, a mere man, unholy, unclean....pray directly to Holy God? That's blaspheme!" That's revolutionary and that's Jesus.

Hebrews 10:19-22 says that through Jesus we have a new, living way to God, that we can now enter into the presence of God, that we no longer need an earthly priest to access God, that Jesus is now our high priest. Jesus begins with "ask" because what He is saying is revolutionary. Revelation 21:22 Jesus says, "Behold I make all things new." This means wherever Jesus shows up He brings life. He makes us new, 2 Corinthians 6:17, and He gives us a new way to pray.

2. Jesus begins with "ask" because so many times we don't!

Here are ten common reasons why people often fail to pray.

1. Feel guilty - God is busy, this is selfish
2. They don't believe it will help.
3. They don't believe God will listen.
4. They don't believe God will answer.
5. Afraid God will say no - "better to ask for forgiveness than permission..."
6. Afraid God will say yes.
7. Think their prayers don't really matter.
8. Think that prayer in general isn't important.
9. Think prayer takes too much time or not enough time to pray.
10. They are bored of the same, tired, wish-list prayers.

Jesus begins with "ask" because more often that not we don't!

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says we should pray without ceasing. As the church, as Christians, as children of God we need to recognize the power and importance of developing a prayerful heart and life.

Jesus said that God answers our prayers, He answers them abundantly, and that God answers our prayers wisely.
#1. God Answers our prayers. Matthew 7:7-8

"For everyone who asks receives." God is our Father (vs 11), we are His children, God loves us, takes great delight in us and loves it when we come to Him.

In verse 7 Jesus commands us to ask, seek, and knock which literally translated reads more like...keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. So when we pray we should be confident and bold knowing that God our Father is listening, He is a giving God (Matthew 7:7-11 uses the word give five times), and He answers our prayers.

#2. God not only answers our prayers but He answers them abundantly.

Matthew 7:9-11. Jesus compares us as earthly parents to God as the ultimate parent. You and I give good gifts to our children and we sin, we have false motives, we have done and do bad things so when God gives it is so much more that we could ever imagine because He is without sin, He is holy, He is righteous. Unlike our imperfect, earthly fathers, God is our perfect Father. He never gives with a grudge, with a "fine...take it!" mentality or a leave me alone heart. God never gives half-hearted or imperfectly. In fact James 1:17 says that God gives good and perfect gifts.

You may have questions...."How do you know God gives good gifts? How can you say that"? I know this to be true for two reasons: 1. I can look into my own personal life at the many times God has answered my prayers and 2. I can look toward Calvary. You want to know if God really does give good and perfect gifts? Look at the cross. God didn't give us another religious system or another set of rules to follow. Instead He gave His one and only perfect Son, Jesus to die in our place for our sins and He didn't hold anything back. If God does nothing else for us He has given us more that we could imaging or ever deserve.
#3 God answers prayer and He does so abundantly with discernment.

Matthew 7:11 God gives us good things and just like your parents who did not give you everything you wanted to protect you and because it was not practical, God gives to us wisely. God will not give us answered prayers that will harm us. God does not give us snakes or stones. God is all knowing, all powerful, and all seeing and He is not just focused on the right here and the right now but sees throughout all of eternity and just like a good Father He answers yes, no, or later.

Here are some simple prayer helps I would like to leave you with.

1. Read and pray scripture to rejuvenate your tired, routine prayers. Try the Psalms or Proverbs. What you will find is that your prayer time will begin to meld into worship time.

2. Make time to pray.

3. Ask - be bold, specific, and continual in your prayers. Keep asking, seeking, knocking knowing that God hears your prayers, God answers your prayers, and God answers your prayers wisely.

Will you make an effort this week to pray?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Be the Church with a Biblical Mind - Week 2

Have you purchased a GPS unit? Why did you buy it? I don't do much traveling but have always wanted to purchase one ever since I found a website where I can download Mr. T.'s voice as the one giving the directions [link] . How cool would it be, "turn right fool!" or "I pity the fool who don't turn right in 400 yards!"

What is your funniest, "Honey, I think were lost story?" Or, "Honey, why did you throw away the directions story?"

Why are clear concise directions important when you go on a trip? Well they...
- help you get there - keep you from getting lost - save money - help you avoid trouble - help save time - help avoid arguments - helps make the trip more enjoyable

Psalm 119:9
The Psalmist asks the question, "How can a young man keep his way pure?" You and I might ask, "how can I live the good life?" The ad agencies would ask, "How can I young man live the Miller High Life?"

But the Psalmist is not asking how can I - live a safe life - live a comfortable life - live a life of leisure - live a life filled with stuff...that's not what he is asking. "How can I keep my life pure?" This is his question and in his asking we learn that there are two ways we can live our lives:

1. A life that is pure and pleasing to God.
2. A life that is impure and displeasing to God.

How can you and I live our lives such a way that we don't contaminate them? Think of a fifty-five gallon drum filled with crystal clear, pure, cold rainwater. Think of how that water refreshes, think how good that water tastes, think of how that water satisfies. Now go to your most unhappy place, the worst gas station you have ever visited. Think of the rancid, stopped up toilet that hasn't been cleaned for days, imagine the smell as this "soup" has been baking all summer. Now, take a dropper and pull one drop from the toilet and put it in your rainwater. Not very appealing now is it? One drop into fifty-five gallons pollutes the whole thing.

How do we avoid the pollution, the rot? How do you and I live so that we are: - a good friend - a good employee - a good husband/wife - a good dad - a good follower of Jesus?

How do you and I live so that we can one day stand before King Jesus and hear, "Well done good and faithful servant"...not "depart from me, I knew you not."

Psalm 119:9 Says that we keep our way pure by guarding it. By putting up our defenses, posting guard, installing video cameras, putting another deadbolt on the door, turning on our alarms....this is serious stuff! We guard that which is treasured and valuable and we guard when we know we are going to be attacked.

1 Peter 5:8 says that the devil is looking for the weak, the stragglers of the heard, those who are isolated, alone, those who have let their guard down. Jesus said in John 10:10 that the thief comes only to "steal, kill, and destroy." Jesus has great plans for your life Jeremiah 29:11 as He is using all things to conform you to His likeness. Satan also has plans for your life and they are to - attack you - destroy your life - to steal your joy - to kill your relationships.

Proverbs 4:23 says, "Above all else, guard your heart for it is the well spring of your life." Everything comes from your heart, how you think, how you act so don't let anything in that could contaminate your heart...above all else...guard it!

But how?
Psalm 119:9 By guarding it according to the word of God.

Jesus builds His church for His plans and purposes. To Be the Church of Jesus we are commanded to assemble on a regular basis [link] to challenge, motivate, encourage, and to stir one another to love and good works.

In Acts 2:42 we see the church devote themselves not only to regular assembly but to regular study and learning of the Bible. An important part of Being the Church is thinking with a Biblical mind. For us to Be the Church Christ desires our minds must be set on and obedient to the word of God.

The Bible must be the authority for our living - to prevent heartache - to avoid trouble - to prevent loss - to prevent confusion - to keep from getting lost - to direct us on how to be a better husband/wife, friend, employee, follower of Jesus - to make the trip more enjoyable - to keep our way pure - to learn how to live a life pleasing to God with a Biblical mind.

You and I have to guard our lives according to the word of God. Hebrews 4:12 says that the word of God is a sword, think Scottish Claymore.

Remember the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4? What happened? Jesus went to the dessert to fast for forty days. At the end of the forty days when Jesus was at His weakest Satan came to tempt Him. How did Jesus respond? Jesus rightfully and powerfully unsheathed the sword of the word of God and hacked Satan to pieces!

You and I have this powerful weapon in our arsenals yet many of us fail to practice with it, carry it, or use it in times of danger. Charles Spurgeon [link] once told his congregation "There is enough dust on some of your Bibles to write damnation with your fingers!"

Using Psalm 119:9-16 I want us to look at a pattern of how we can develop and maintain a Biblical mind.

#1 Make a daily choice to live the word. Psalm 119:10-11
The Psalmist says "With my whole heart I seek you." This is a conscious, deliberate, decision to follow Jesus, not a half-hearted attempt. Matthew 6:24 Jesus said that we cannot serve two masters. Jesus wants us all in and in Revelation 3:16 Jesus said that lukewarm, half-hearted, Christians who straddle the fence make Him want to puke.

Is the Bible God's word? Genesis to Revelation? Do you really believe the Bible is what it says it is? Is the Bible to sole authority for your life? Does the Bible shape how you live, how you treat other people, how you spend your time, money, energy, and resources?

Everyone has a worldview...the question is do you have a secular worldview or a Biblical worldview?

Our worldview shape our thinking, shapes how we act, and how we relate to each other and to God. Will you make the conscious decision to live in the word of God daily? Will you let the Bible shape and define your mind?

#2 Make a daily choice to learn the word Psalm 119:12
Here are eight steps instructing you on how you can begin today to learn the Bible.

1. Schedule time for it - if you don't put it on the calendar it won't happen.
2. Pick a book of the Bible and work your way through it beginning to end.
3. Take your time - I usually don't read more than a chapter at a time.
4. Begin each session with prayer asking the Holy Spirit to open your eyes and to give you
understanding as to what you are about to read.
5. Use a journal to jot down important thoughts, repeating words, commands, promises.
6. Summarize what you just read in ten words or less. This will help you retain what you just
7. Write out any applications for your life.
8. End with prayer thanking God for His grace, asking for forgiveness of any sins revealed.

#3 Make a daily choice to love the word Psalm 119:13-16
Loving God's word does not come natural to us and is a choice. Loving God's word is us submitting our will to His and doesn't come easy yet once you begin what once started off as something hard, difficult, quickly becomes something ingrained in you, something you miss when you aren't able to do it, and something you love.

To love God's word verbalize it - Psalm 119:13 - know it inside and out...begin memorizing it.
To love God's word meditate on it - Psalm 119:15 - chew on it, think on it, think deeply over it
again and again and again. Don't just let it pass or do a quick scripture drive by.
To love God's word contemplate it - Psalm 119:15 - realize that we are under the authority of
God's word...never in authority over it.
To love God's word delight in it - Psalm 119:16 - enjoy God's word, look for answers in God's
word, and see Jesus in God's word Luke 24:44.


On a scale of 1 - 10 how would you answer the following? 1 = strongly disagree and 10 = strongly agree

1. The word of God is the authority for all my life.
2. I wish the word were more central to my core beliefs and decision making.

Will you respond right where you are by committing today to - live by the word - learn the word - and love the word?

Will you respond?

How will you do it?

Post any words of encouragement, advice, prayers in the comment section below.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Be the Church - Week 1 Assembly Required

Why do you go to church?
Why do people stop going to church?
On a scale of 1 - 10 how important is church attendance?
What is the primary reason for us to gather together as a church?

In May of 2009 Parade Magazine [link] conducted a survey of over 1000 people asking questions about their religious beliefs.

Of the 1000 respondents 45% stated that they were religious. Out of that group - 30% responded that they attend service once or more a week - 20% stated they attend once a month or a few times a year and 50% responded as rarely or never attending at all.

In Matthew 16 Jesus stated that He would build His church upon the foundation of Himself and in Acts 1:15 we see the early church led by Peter, about 120, praying to Jesus, singing to Jesus, gathered together to hear the word of God preached. In Acts 2:41 we see 3000 people added to the church, added to the kingdom of Jesus.

Over the next six weeks we will look at what it means to "Be the Church."

What should our thinking look like?
What should our prayer life look like?
What should our giving look like?
What should our focus be and what should our mission be as the church?

Today however, our focus will be on answering the question: "How important is it that the church assemble today?"

Let's begin with looking at some common reasons as to why people don't regularly attend church.

1. Don't like organized religion - this is funny as I don't like disorganized religion.
2. Takes too much time or isn't convenient for me. Both of these are self-centered and are what Eugene Peterson refers to as the new trinity of my holy feelings, my holy needs, and my holy wants.
3. Not commanded and no longer serves a purpose. People who believe this say things like....I can worship God anywhere, I can read and learn about God on my own, I can serve God and give anywhere, and you can and you should. The problem with these statements is that they assume the primary purpose of church attendance is to worship God, that church is a place to give money, or that church is the vehicle for learning and service.
4. Pride - I don't need church, I don't need other people, I am fine.
5. Still others would say:
-God does not exist, if He does exist He is impersonal, distant, and cold
-The gospel is foolish - A virgin with a baby? God become a man? Really?
-Church is a waste of time

Is assembly of the church important? Critical? Even commanded?
What's the answer? Where does the truth lie?

Hebrews 10:19-25

There are two promises found in this passage (Hebrews 10:19-21) 1. God has made a way through the blood of Jesus and 2. God has given us a great high priest in Jesus.

God does exist. God is very personal and He knows all and sees all including all the things we have done against Him in thought, word, deed, and inaction.

Because God is holy, righteous, and just all sins, all injustices, all crimes must be paid for or punished in order to make things right.

Romans 6:23 states that the payment for such crimes against God is death. Someone or something must die. Hebrews 9:22 states that under the law without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

"Under the law" meaning the Old Testament where God established His laws, His order, the detailed instructions for sacrifices for sin.

Leviticus 16 outlines the steps necessary for the day of atonement, the one day where a sacrifice was made for the people for the sins they had committed the previous year. The day of atonement was the one day the high priest would enter into the temple and enter through the curtain into the Most Holy Place to be before God. Before doing so the high priest had to cleanse himself through bathing, had to put on the special, holy garments, and had to offer a blood sacrifice for himself. Once purified the high priest would enter into the Most Holy Place through the curtain and stand before the mercy seat, before the Ark of the Covenant, and before God to make a blood sacrifice for the people's sins. So serious was this task that the priest would tie a rope around his waist so that if he did anything wrong in the presence of God ans was struck dead his body could be pulled out.

There is only one problem with this though...Hebrews 10:3-4 states that our sacrifices are imperfect, that they never take away our sins, and in fact act as a reminder over and over and over again of our sins and of our need for a savior.

Hebrews 10:19-21 says that Jesus is our one time, perfect sacrifice for all of our sins, Hebrews 10:12. Jesus lived without sin, a perfect life and died in our place for our sins so that we could be forever reconciled to God. Upon completion Jesus took His seat of prominence at the right hand of the Father and He sits resting upon His finished work until the appointed time of His return. By the blood of Jesus we can confidently go before God and by His body the curtain that once separated man and God has been ripped in two (Matthew 27:51). What once was a sixty foot, foot thick boundary between us and God has been forever removed by the new and living way, the flesh of Jesus. Jesus is also our great high priest.

Based on these two promises - 1. God has made a way through the blood of Jesus. and 2. God has given us a great high priest in Jesus. We have three commands to follow:

1. Hebrews 10:22 Draw near to God.
Some will say....God does not exist and if He does He is distant, cold, impersonal.
James 4:8 says "draw near to God and He will draw near to you."
The writer of Hebrews says we draw near to God with:

- a "sincere heart - this means undivided allegiance to Jesus.
-with "full assurance of faith" - full trust in Jesus in all areas of our lives including our
marriages, our children, jobs, money, time, possessions
-with "hearts sprinkled"- free from the guilt of past sins
-with "bodies washed"- not externally like the priest but internally cleansed by the blood of
Jesus....not just a showing on the outside but through regeneration of the Holy Spirit.

2. Hebrews 10:23 Hold Fast
Some will say....the gospel if foolish.
1 Corinthians 1:18 says that "the message of the cross is foolish to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." Don't give up, don't give in, hold fast, preserve, keep your faith.

So what about our question? How important is it that the church assemble today? Is it critical? Is it commanded?

3. Hebrews 10:24-25 commands that we stir one another up and continue to meet together.
If your answer to the question of "What is the primary purpose of church attendance?" was to worship God, to serve God, to learn about God or to give to God you would be wrong. We do worship and serve God in church and we do learn about and give to God in church but the primary reason we gather is found in Hebrews 10:24-25 and that is to stir one another up.

Hebrews 10:24 says we are to stir one another, to challenge each other, to get in each other's grill that when we assemble we are to think about ways to spur one another on in our faith.

When was the last time someone lovingly called you to the carpet for your faith? When was the last time a brother or sister challenged you, stirred you up about your walk with Jesus?

"This is too legalistic" or "this is none of my business" you might be thinking...really? We are to be accountable to one another and we are commanded to do this.

Hebrews 10:24 says "let us consider" let us think about, come up with ways to push each other over the finish line. Think in terms of a campfire that is dying down. You can still see the hot embers inside but the fire isn't putting off much heat or much light. All it takes is a little fuel and a few pokes and WHOOSH! You have a roaring fire!

Hebrews 10:25 says don't neglect or abandon meeting together. Use this time to encourage or to give courage to one another as each day that passes is one day closer to the return of the King.

Do you see evidences that the end is near? Evidences pointing to Christ's return? Then don't neglect meeting as this should drive you closer together.

Assembling together as the church is commanded, Hebrews 10:25, by scripture and it is critical to our spiritual health.

Would God have you increase your frequency of meeting with other Christians? Is Worship, Bible Fellowship, Small Groups?

Is there someone God would have you stir up? How? Note? Phone call? Visit? Email?

Will you do it?