Archive for the Category »prayer «

Nehemiah Prayers
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“Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?”  SO I PRAYED TO THE GOD OF HEAVEN.  And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor…”

Nehemiah stood before the king and was given a moment, a brief quick moment, when the King lent him his ear and asked his desire.  I love the truth tucked right between Nehemiah 2:4a and 2:5, you know the part I capitalized up there!  Why do I love it so?  I love it because in a brief moment, the blink of an eye, right where he was, right as he continued on, Nehemiah cried out to the Lord in his heart and asked for the Lord’s help before he opened his mouth to answer the king!

The gift of prayer is beyond words and beyond comprehension!  I am thankful to have grown up in a church where prayer was foundational.  I went to college where prayer was foundational.  In my family prayer is foundational.  I feel I have been blessed with the rich soil of a comfortableness with prayer.  I am not an expert, by no means!!  I have a lot to learn!  I would not even say praying is something I do well.  I would say prayer is something I am thankful for, something I love, something I am willing to do for myself and for others, something I will do out loud with others or alone in my heart.  Prayers, long or short, are a treasured gift!  The Lord says talk to me, seek me, come to me, and I will listen!

Nehemiah did not have time to form a wordy elaborate prayer.  He must have taken a deep breath and in that moment cast himself before the Lord asking for help.  How very beautiful!

I am looking for Nehemiah prayer moments this week, times when I need to take a deep breath, cast myself before the Lord to ask for help and then answer.

 

The Power of Accountability & Friendship!
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In the last 12 years there has been one constant tool the Lord has used in my life to bring growth in my spiritual walk…friendship and accountability!

Twelve years ago I started meeting with a small group of ladies for accountability, not Bible study, but accountability and prayer.  Each week we openly shared with each other how we were doing in our walks with the Lord.

Each week we answered the following questions using the acronym SOAP:

Scripture (How have I done with reading God’s Word in the last week, what am I learning?)

Outreach (How am I doing loving on others and reaching out to them?)

Accountability (What area of my life do I need to be asked about, where am I struggling, or where do I need a gentle push to get something I know needs to be done…done?)

Prayer (What do I need prayer for?)

It would be impossible for me to describe how much this faithful meeting impacted my life and spiritual walk.  Having to share with others how I am doing every seven days really helped me develop some life habits I had been longing to develop.   I work well with accountability!  I don’t mean the in-your-face discouraging accountability but the cheerleader you-can-do-it kind.  I don’t need someone to beat me up, I need someone to say “Mandy, you can do this and you need to.  I am going to ask you about it again next week.  Oh, and I love you.”

Another acronym that I have used are the M’s: Master, Marriage, Mothering and Ministry.

Master (How am I in my walk with the Lord, my master?  How are my daily times with Him?)

Marriage (This is a question focused on me as a wife.  What and how am I growing as a wife?  This is NOT a time for me to gripe about my husband, there never is a time for that!  What areas of wifeliness do I want to work on?)

Mothering (How is my relationship with my kids?  Are there things I need encouragement to do in relating to them and taking care of their needs?)

Ministry (How am I reaching out to others?  Where am I using my god given gifts to bring him glory?)

Let me state this clearly: For me kind accountability from friends who I know love and support me has been life changing!


A little over a year ago I heard about Hello Mornings, an online accountability challenge for women.  Knowing the value of accountability I wanted to know more.  Hello Mornings is a gathering place for women who long to be consistent in their seeking of the Lord, planning their days purposefully and exercising.  The challenge runs for 15 weeks.  Through different social media avenues or email a group of ladies work to encourage and hold each other accountable to spend time with the Lord daily, to plan out their days and to exercise.

I am on my second session of Hello Mornings, and it has been encouraging and helpful in setting patterns in my life.  The two groups I have been a part of have functioned using a private Facebook group.  On the group page ladies check in and give an account of how they are doing, some do so daily, others weekly.  There is honesty in those posts and encouragement in the comments, it is great!

Accountability can come in many forms.  If you have not given this a try, I would ask “why not?”…it is well worth it!

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism or Christian?
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So if the Christian church is “advertising” the gospel is it the best approach to push the “buying point” as saying a prayer of repentance and belief, and then follow that up with the “now you are in the family of God” proof-texting? Trust me, this is an honest question and not a leading question. And I don’t want to make it “hard” to believe in Christ. And as Mike said on Wednesday, I do not see any evidence in scripture that there is anything other than Christ’s death and resurrection which accomplishes salvation, which is attained by faith, and that there is not some separate step of “Lordship” that goes after salvation, etc. But I, along with scores of others, have led many in the process and have often ended with something like:

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” –John 10.27-29

or, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” –Romans 8.16

Not only have I led people in this, I have trained hundreds of teens and adults to share their faith in this way.

Then I read a very well done study and well written synopsis of the culture of Christianity in American teenagers by Christian Smith and Melina Lundquist Denton, titled . Through their study they write a strikingly precise summation of what I have observed in the general culture of teens and what I think can be applied to age groups much older and still be on target with reality:

“in the ecology of American adolescents’ lives, religion clearly operates in a social-structurally weak position, competing for time, energy, and attention and often losing against other, more dominant demands and commitments, particularly school, sports, television, and other electronic media.” (p161)
“…we suggest that the defacto dominant religion among contemporary U.S. teenagers is what we might well call ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.’ The creed of this religion…sounds something like this:

  1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about onesself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.
    (p162-163)

How is the good news of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God ending up with a result like this!? I know there are various contributors, some of which I have already talked about in the faith-science dichotomy and truth approach. But a large contributor is our focus on a one-time decision prayer, life insurance policy type salvation experience. If you are a Christian today and someone asks you how you know or why you are a Christian, please don’t say “because when I was 5 (or 25) I prayed a prayer…” or if you do say something like that it is only the first half of the first sentence which then goes on to talk about how the living Spirit of God is at work in your life yesterday and TODAY. (Oh, and doubts are fine! I think that is one of the greatest things about faith, doubts can be and should be aired out and wrestled with)

I don’t find a story in the Bible where a person is given assurance of their salvation based on a prayer they prayed in the past. I find reminders of individuals belief of the belief of a community of people, but no assurance. In fact when these reminders of belief are given it is often followed up with the telling of how they are still being “faithful” or “fruitful” in their belief. Additionally, Paul urges us to live, “as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.” (Colossians 2.6) It seems that the greater biblical support refers to a continual faith-living, believing, or fruitful life as assurance of our salvation.

So I don’t think it is wrong to encourage that one-time prayer of salvation, and the followup “family of God” / “Now you’re ‘in'” encouragement, I just think it is incomplete. But I want to be careful, because I don’t think the “completeness” of it is to then say, “now you need to obey the law…” which will tend to be a legalistic earn your salvation approach. I do think we need to follow that up with something like, “now, daily, allow this faith to be worked into every area of your being, to the very core of yourself. You will find new ways that your faith applies to your life and community. You will be continually transformed and you must allow the Spirit of God in you to change you and display God’s character through you.”

Finally, I leave you with an approach that we take with our children (which I learned in part through some great conversations with a great reformed theology friend and is really pretty basic to scripture teaching) As our children are growing up we have treated, talked with, taught them that they are part of a believing community, the Church. As they are growing up they can choose to believe (accept) or reject that. I recognize that a child doesn’t express much independent faith when they are young and therefore are heavily influenced by our belief (this is actually the beauty of family as God designed). As each one has expressed faith in Jesus Christ for salvation we celebrated! They were born again! (The kind of beginning that John commented about yesterday) But we then watch and continually look for opportunities to encourage them to affirm their faith and express belief in new ways. Two of ours have expressed enough independent faith for us to encourage them to be baptized. As the grow and in these reaffirmations they will mature in their faith and our prayer is they will grow beyond Mom and Dad’s faith holding them up to understand the even greater cloud of those who have gone before, test their doubts, strengthen their faith and bring others along with them. We certainly share with them about a future of eternity in God’s full presence, but we more often talk about what it means for them to have faith today and how that can change their character (at Tommy commented earlier this evening) and make a difference in the community in which God has put them.

Well, a much longer conclusion that I intended, and a little different ending point than I set out toward 10 days ago. I still would like to come back to the faith-science discussion as I have many more thoughts related to that; but it will wait for another day (probably not tomorrow 🙂 )

Born and Born-Again
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When my wife and I were having our first child, we determined that it was pretty important to make sure that she and our daughter were provided for if I were to die unexpectedly, so we researched the options and I took out my first life insurance policy. I set it to withdraw the monthly premiums automatically from my bank account and don’t think about it any more. The only time I thought about it was when I changed my bank account and received a letter from the company to make sure the premiums continued to get paid. I am concerned that this is a similar story to how many experience “praying to receive Jesus.”

We saw yesterday that the word “believe” is the central instruction on being “saved” from our condition of separation from our eternal creator. So, what is it to “believe”? It seems that in our times it is mostly understood as “think the right thoughts” or “know the right information” or “agree with a set of expressed truths”. But this is not what it is primarily about. “Believe” in the Bible comes from the verb form of the word for “faith”, but our English language doesn’t have a verb form of faith. To believe something is faithing. Active faith is belief. Certainly one must know something about the specific truth to believe it, but it is not merely knowing something, it is acting on our knowing. These actions can be big or small, but it is active.

The most concise chapter in the Bible about faith is Hebrews 11. Read how it begins: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the people…” and the whole chapter goes on to list action after action of people believing.

It is the orientation of one’s life and actions around the person of Jesus, his death and resurrection, and forgiveness of our sins. By the way, I think this is why baptism is mentioned so many times (though not always) with “believe”, it is active faith, a public proclamation. In an excellent, and exhaustive work on faith, Paul Tillich expresses this even more emphatically:

“Faith as ultimate concern is an act of the total personality. It happens in the center of the personal life and includes all its elements. Faith is the most centered act of the human mind. It is not a movement of a special section or a special function of man’s total being. They all are united in the act of faith. But faith is not the sum total of their impacts. It transcends every special impact as well as the totality of them and it has itself a decisive impact on each of them.” (Paul Tillich, Dynamics of Faith, 1957 ; p4-5)

Secondly, the Bible doesn’t instruct us to just say a prayer to receive Jesus and we are done. I have been wondering if people walk away from Christianity because they did the prayer thing and it has no further impact on their life. Like a life insurance policy, just make sure the premium gets taken out of the “bank” once a week by going to church (or at least twice a month). To be fair, I admit that this isn’t the teaching of most churches, but it has become too familiar in the action (belief) of peoples’ lives in American Christianity.

Furthermore, I am even more concerned about this in Christian believers’ households because the angst of many parents until their child “prays to receive Christ”, after which they stop the continual teaching, mentoring, and encouraging their child because “now they are ‘IN’ for eternity”. I celebrate BIG TIME when a child expresses faith in Christ, in fact one of my nieces took that step on Christmas Eve! But let’s treat re-birth (born-again concept from John 3.16) in the same way we treat birth. Could you image, parents give birth to their baby and then just let life happen, because now their born? Life wouldn’t “happen” very long and these parents would be in jail shortly after the baby’s life ends. After birth, we nurture new life, we continue this in such a way until they are able to live independently. This is a strong burden of mine after 18 years of working with teenagers, many of whom give a testimony of praying to receive Christ at a young age and yet are no different than their peers who have never had such an experience. Believers, we must disciple our children in a continual conversion process and a series of commitments at various life stages and crises.

It is reported that one of the greatest influencers of converts in recent history, Billy Graham, said, “Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ” (multiple internet sites attribute this saying to Graham, but I was unable to find any source citation) It is important to emphasize both an instantaneous conversion (although many times imperceptible) as well as an ongoing transformation.

Tomorrow I will bring this series to a close with an additional part of this point and a then bring it back around to where I started 9 days ago.

 

 

 

What Is The Church “Selling” With The Gospel?
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Where in the Bible does God tell us to pray a prayer to ask Jesus into our heart?

I don’t find it either…

You would think that something so vital to the gospel that the church preaches would be there, apparent for all to see. What are we “advertising” to a world of people? What are all the revival rallies and evangelism efforts seeking to get people to “buy”? If the problem is that humanity is separated from God by our sin and will therefore be separated from God for eternity, what must we do to be saved?

Before my fellow Christians start throwing things, let’s go to 3 passages that get us the closest I have seen to “praying a prayer to ask Jesus in our hearts” and then consider a proposal as I briefly share some of my experience.

Acts 2.37-39 “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.””

This comes after a powerful sermon preached by Peter. People are convicted, they want to respond and Peter tells them to repent & be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins, and the Holy Spirit will be given to them.

Acts 16.29-34
“And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.”

This time we see a jailer who is about to loose his career when he thinks all the prisoners have escaped, so he is ready to kill himself on his sword. Paul and Silas assure him that all the prisoners are there and he is so relieved that his life is spared he asks how to respond. He is told to “faith in the Lord Jesus”. I love it that later that night they are all sitting around the dinner table rejoicing that the jailer believed in God…why, because he was ALIVE, he didn’t kill himself and his family was joyful.

Romans 10.9-11,
“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” …13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” “

Here we have a command to say with our mouth, and faith in our heart that the resurrection of Jesus happened. Then it ends with a statement assuring that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Now, as I said, these are the 3 that, in my opinion, get us the closest to what we hear so often of “pray to receive Christ” or “pray to ask Jesus into your heart”. My point is not so much about whether we should encourage/lead someone in a prayer to receive Jesus, but I do have concern about what that person has been told or thinks he/she is doing?

Ok…I’m going to push the “pause” button here for today. My recent posts have been lengthy and some weighty, but more importantly, before I further develop what I am thinking, I would love to hear from the readers on what I have said thus far. Tomorrow, I will publish my developing thoughts and experience.

Two parting questions –
Where else does the Bible instruct us on praying a prayer to be saved?
How is the presentation of the message of the church heard concerning how someone must be saved?

Mandy’s Monday – Inquiring
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Intentionality in prayer has been on my mind recently. It started when last week I asked myself…“How can I make prayer a greater part of my life?

As I read in Scripture this week I found it so amazing and so simple that David inquired of the Lord and the Lord answered him!  You can find this account in I Samuel 23.  David wanted to go to war against the Philistines and he inquired of the Lord about this plan.  So simple and yet we often go about our plans and actions without this crucial component that in itself is a simple act.  I need to seek the Lord and ask him what he desires for  my day, for my year, for my life…  When David inquired the Lord answered!  His answer came very clearly through a prophet or direct revelation to David himself, so at times I can think “if only God spoke directly to me as He did in the Old Testament, I could follow him better.”  However, I love the way the Lord speaks to us today directly through his written word.  We have the written word of God, a letter straight to His church, to His people.  I can read it at any moment and see His heart and His passion…His plan, His ways.  I once heard that when we memorize God’s word we give the Holy Spirit vocabulary to speak in our minds. (a quote from Elizabeth Elliot I believe)   I love that!  When making a decision in life I want the first thing I do to be to inquire of the Lord, not pull out my iPhone to check my calendar.

I plan to continue my prayer pondering and intentionality to make it greater in my life.

1. How do I need to rearrange my schedule so that my prayer times are more attainable?  (In other words how can I make sure I am spending time in concentrated/dedicated prayer?)

2. I am always motivated by trying something new. What new prayer tool can I give a try? (prayer list, prayer calendar, prayer journal, praying through my Facebook news feed, iPhone prayer app...)

Several years ago I began using Lisa Whelchel‘s book The Busy Mom’s Guide to Prayer.  I have found it to be a wonderful prayer tool.  For awhile I stayed away from the book due to the title.  I did not want to read something that indicated I thought my life was too busy for prayer.  But I got over my little hang up and found this guided prayer journal to be very helpful.  Lisa lays out 20 days of prayer prompts.  Each day includes a topic, Scripture passage and prayer prompt for the following six categories: Praise, Self, Husband, Children, Personal Influences and Reaching Beyond.  As I work through the book over and over I cover my family with Scripture based prayers…I am praying the Lord’s heart and will over my family and others.

I am inquiring of the Lord and asking that He answer me.  I am not David and I don’t live in Old Testament times but the God of David is still God today and He desires for me to seek Him in prayer…that I will do!

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