Pray for Peace

September 19th, 2014

“If My people pray . . I will hear from Heaven and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV.

The problem is obvious; the solution is spiritual; America needs a revival.

My thoughts and comments today encourage that you “pray for peace.”

Ours is a troubled world, merely reflecting men’s empty hearts. Discouragement comes easily; feelings of helplessness flourish. Jesus described the preceding signs of His return as, “wars and rumors of wars . . nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Matthew 24:3-14 NIV. Luke describes that time as, “. . distress of nation with perplexity . . men’s hearts failing them from fear . . When you see these things coming to happen, look up and lift up your head for your redemption draws near.” Luke 21:25-28. Such distress anticipates divine intervention.

No one need convince you of either the lack of peace or the need for it. We live in a world with multiple international conflicts – splintered by social injustices, geopolitical tensions, international animosities, irreconcilable ideologies, and religious fanaticism – wanting peace but having little idea from where peace comes. See Isaiah 59:8 NIV. Simply stated, the original and only source of true peace is the “God of peace.” Read Hebrews 13:20-21. Peace is born in a right relationship with God.

A Biblical response to our troubled world is this: “If My people, who are called be My name, will 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.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV. What my heart hears and rejoices over is God’s gracious promise, “I will hear . . I will forgive . . I will heal their land.” There is much wrong in our nation, in every nation really, but nothing that our God cannot heal.

However sincerely, addressing the symptoms – social issues, inner city violence, redistribution of wealth, government entitlements – will not address the real problem. There is a sickness of soul and a spiritual malaise that only God can heal. The problem is obvious; the solution is spiritual; America needs a revival. You and I bear a Godly responsibility and are invested with a spiritual authority as intercessors for ourselves, homes, cities, states, nation and world. Read 1 Tim 2:1-5 NIV.

Why do we not pray confidently for God to “heal our land?” Our nation’s problems, as well as the world’s, appear so severe and a Biblical solution seems far too simple. Our failure to meet God’s clear requirements – humility, prayer, earnest seeking, and turning from wickedness – results in our benign neglect or simple disobedience preventing God from healing our nation as is needed. Our Father’s desire for our land is: “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” Isaiah 32:17-18 NIV.

Using the example of Elijah, James asserts, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” Read James 5:16-18 NIV. What God wants to do begins with what you have been called to do. Prayer is simple to do but powerful in its effect, in the one who prays as well as the concerns for which you pray. See 1 Thessalonians 5:16 /Luke 18:1/Colossians 4:2 NIV/Romans 12:12/ Matt 21:22.

Today, my prayer for you is: dare to pray with bold confidence in God’s power.

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Earlier this week, I was moved to write this devotional after watching a YouTube video by Reba McEntire of her song, “Pray for Peace.” Take a few minutes to watch this simple but moving prayer, set to music. Since my tech support was not available as I prepared this, you will have to do it the non-tech way – COPY and PASTE this YouTube web address into your browser . .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A29S6cn0nig&app=desktop

The Process of Progress

September 16th, 2014

“Old things have passed away; all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV.

Exchanging the expendable for the expedient is the process of progress.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the process of progress.”

Life is a process of perpetual change. It is a delusion that things can remain as they were or are. They never do, nor should they. Paul envisioned the boundless intention of God for your spiritual development while warning of the tragedy of stunted development, “Until we all come . . to a [maturing] man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we be should no longer be children . . but may grow up in all things into Christ.” Ephesians 4:13-15. Anything less is inadequate and unworthy of the grace God has shown to your life. Progress is not at all sudden; it is deliberate and incremental.

SIGN 2 (3)

Growing is natural; remaining the same is not. Without necessary change there would be no process for progress. If your life remained static, you would be less than you could and should be. I often reflect on the unconstrained potential that redemption restores to any and everyone who comes to Christ in faith. “As many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become the sons of God.” John 1:12 KJV. What expansive potential is held in those words, “given the power to become.” What you become in Christ has so much to do with your choices and desire. “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

John later wrote, “We are already God’s children, and we can’t even imagine what we will be like when Christ returns. But we do know that when Jesus comes, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He really is.” 1 John 3:2 NLT. Now the power of the Spirit is at work in you until the day the transformation into Christ-likeness is complete.

There are elements of your Christian life that are accomplished, finished works of grace. Yet there are also dimensions of Christian life that continue in the process of your becoming less of what you were and more than you had ever been. When you have done all that you are to do, God has not yet completed all that He will do. Read Philippians 3:12-14 NIV. You and I remain a glorious work in progress. “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 NIV.

Paul wrote, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17. Wonderful, new things await you in Christ, being released as you willingly relinquish your old ways. Meditate on Ephesians 4:21-32.

Redemption occurs in a moment of transformation; Christ-likeness is a lifelong process of conformation. Read Romans 8:28-29 NIV. Writing about his Christian liberties, Paul said, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” 1 Corinthians 10:23 NIV. Exchanging the expendable for the expedient is the process of progress.

Today, my prayer for you is to never accept the good as a substitute for God’s best.

Worry and Fear

September 11th, 2014

“Casting all your cares upon Him for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NKJV.

Unattended, worries and cares ultimately become anxieties and fears.

My thoughts and comments today are about “worry and fear.”

This date seems to have permanently marked our national consciousness. With the horrific and sobering terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the American assumption of safety and invincibility was sorely shaken. The national psyche was greatly changed and this date has become a metaphor for anxieties and fears. Daily life has been forever altered; borders are seen as vulnerabilities. We feel less safe in our cities or homes. Those insecurities added worries and cares where we previously gave little thought. Yet today, no one enters an airport without some measure of anxiety, if only from the added security procedures necessitated. Again, our world finds itself dealing with extreme religious and ideological differences that threaten our safety.

Whatever the calendar date or international tensions, everyday life holds uncertainties. Worries and cares are not reserved for major events. “Do not worry about your life . . who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Read Matthew 6:25-34 NIV. Worry is an exercise in futility.In the classic children’s book, Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne, there is a character, Eeyore, who is generally characterized as pessimistic, gloomy, and depressed. Eeyore always expected the worse, assuming to foresee anything that could go wrong. Learn from Eeyore; that is a sad and unhappy way to live, for you and others around you. Unattended, worries and cares ultimately become anxieties and fears.

I am not certain how much difference, if any, there is between worries and cares. Both obviously refer to concerns that are unsettling to one’s thoughts and emotions, and they could and would share a common origin. For my purposes, I differentiate this way. Cares are worries that refuse to be resolved or released.

Whether it is worry at the moment or cares that become more rooted with each day, both are disquieting to your spirit and destructive to peace of mind. No one is completely free from them, but there is something you can do about them, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NAS.

What will you do with your worries and cares? For either or both, God’s answer is simple, “Casting all your every care upon Him for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7. It really is that easy. Give it away. Your heart doesn’t need it; your friends don’t want it. God will take it. In Paul’s classic discussion of God’s love, he wrote, “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from His love . . Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away.” Romans 8:38 NLT.

Today, my prayer for you is to know that God cares for you and everything you care about.

The Sacred Quest

September 9th, 2014

“Your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:8 NKJV.

Spiritual attainment requires serious intention.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the sacred quest.”

A meaningful Christian life is not found by curious or casual inquiry. Any serious pursuit of God requires sincerity and priority. God is neither elusive nor is the path to Him concealed, but the opposition to your doing so is intense, internally and externally. There is a sacred path reserved to those for whom life without God is not enough; it is a path for the decisive and determined.

When Jesus’ description of suffering and sacrifice fell unpleasantly upon the offended ears of those who looked only for easy paths, the crowds dwindled and Jesus asked His disciples if they would also turn away. I love Peter’s prompt response, “Lord, to whom shall we go, for You only have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68. What you believe to be of inestimable value and for which there is no suitable substitute is worthy of whole hearted passion.

David pledged, O God, You are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for You . . My soul follows hard after God.” Psalm 63:1 NIV/8 KJV. Spiritual attainment requires serious intention. Things of spiritual value do not come cheaply; their very cost measures their eternal worth. God Himself described David as, “a man after My own heart who will do all My will.” Acts 7:22.

In Jesus’ story about earnest, undiscourageable persistence, He defined the heart’s quest as a simple, progressive process. Read Luke 11:5-10. (1) “And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you . . for everyone that asks receives.” Asking is an elementary step for a life that desires God’s best. Jesus said, “Your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him.” Read Matthew 6:8-13. Prayer is the process of uncovering your real needs and discovering God as their true source of supply. Asking is not to persuade God to be benevolent; asking prepares you to be receptive.

(2) “And I say to you . . seek, and you will find . . he who seeks, finds.” There is a natural progression in your earnest pursuit of God that is both purposeful and passionate. Here the element of effort is included. As you persist, the Spirit examines your true desires and faith. Of yourself, what are you willing to give, or give up, in your quest for God?

(3)“And I say unto you . . knock, and it will be opened unto you . . to him who knocks, it shall be opened.” A further progression of spiritual intensity involves the element of perseverance. Persevere in prayer and faith; if you can be distracted or discouraged, you will be. “And you will seek Me and find Me when you will search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:12-13.  This is Jesus’ reasoning, “If you then know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

David’s personal affirmation and expectation was, “You are my God; earnestly I seek You . . My soul will be satisfied!” Psalm 63:1/5 NIV. The soul which is content and confident in God will be satisfied with God.

Today, my prayer for you is to seek the Lord wholeheartedly, whatever sacrifice that requires.

God’s Love and Yours

September 5th, 2014

“Love . . always looks for the best.” 1 Corinthians 13:7 MSG.

Love looks for what others will not give the time, or care enough, to see.

My thoughts and comments today are about “God’s love and yours.”

I have found in life that you usually find what you are looking for. If you look for people’s faults, you will find them plentiful, eventually seeing little else. The reality is that we all have enough of those, if someone looks for them. But is that love? In your relationships, look for reasons to love. If you expect others to look past your own peccadilloes, learn to look beyond theirs.

The challenge in a relationship is learning how to keep in view the things you saw at love’s origin. Along the way, you notice more and more distractions that are other than expected. Those are probably smaller than and less than what they begin to appear, but a wrong focus will cause another’s graces to be overshadowed by their glitches. Then comes the temptation to fix others’ shortcomings, much to their displeasure as well as the detriment of your relationship.

When someone seems oblivious to the imperfections of the object of their love, others may say, “Love is blind.” I would argue that love is not blind at all, but simply chooses to overlook what is contrary to that love, and instead, “Love . . always looks for the best.” 1 Corinthians 13:7 MSG. Love looks for what others will not give the time, or care enough, to see.

That alone explains God’s amazing love and grace. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. Imagine; God sees your sinfulness yet loves you, in spite of it. In contrast, our humanity waits until love has cause and justification. God’s simple justification for love was the depth of your need and the expanse of His own love. Read Titus 3:4-8/Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV.

Many years ago, Dottie Rambo wrote a touching song of testimony that declared, “He looked beyond my faults and saw my needs.” Jesus’ love has an amazing power to transform a human heart and rescue a ruined life. I love this paraphrase of Paul’s words contrasting our ruined lives with God’s immeasurable grace, “Christ presented Himself for this sacrificial death when we were too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway . . but God put Himself on the line for us offering His Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to Him.” Romans 5:6-8 MSG.

A man of wealth and authority came to Jesus, sincerely seeking the path to eternal life. Read Mark 10:17-22 NIV. Moments later he would walk away because the price seemed too high. Writing Peter’s account of the occasion, Mark observed, “Then Jesus looking at him, loved him.” Mark 10:21 NIV.  Others may have seen his wealth and position and might have received or rejected him on that basis, but Jesus saw so much more. Jesus saw a heart searching for real life, and loved him – even before he made his choice, and even though he chose wrongly. God’s love precedes your choice; today, your choice can release God’s love into your searching heart.

Today, my prayer for you is that you love enough to expect the best of others, and yourself.