Monday, August 25, 2008

Looking into the Unseen

I recently had the privilege to participate in Celebration NW. It was inspiring to be gathered with other folks from the Newfontiers family of churches. It was a great event with activities for the whole family and punctuated with great teaching. Terry Virgo spoke in the first two sessions and spoke of the need for truth and a commitment to walk in it. John Lanferman spoke on prayer and made a stirring point that caused me to sit up and take notice. He said “A church that does not pray, is happy with what they can accomplish through the flesh.” I am struck how many times we don’t stretch our faith and reach for the really big things in God. There is a reality that we are in a spiritual conflict, and the enemy of God is doing every thing in his power to thwart the plans of God. There is no way that we can accomplish the vast mission that we have been given without prayer. How quick we are to give up when we don’t see immediate answer to our prayers. I was reading in Daniel 10 where Daniel had been praying for 21 days with out seeing any result. Then an angel appears and tells Daniel what is to come. What strikes me is that we get a glimpse of the struggle that takes place in the spiritual realm. The angel says that God had sent him the first day that Daniel prayed but a angelic principality withstood him. For 21 days the conflict raged, until God sent Michael the arch angle to intervene. Many teachers have built large amounts of doctrine on this account and that’s is not my intent here, but I do believe this account gives us a peek behind the curtain of the natural to see the battle that rages in the heavenly. How many times do we pray and not see an immediate answer and our faith fails. We begin to doubt God and His intent for us. If we understand that there is a very real adversary, and that our chief weapon is to pray in faith, we will see things happen! We can be confident in the fact that God hears our prayers and moves on our behalf. In my own heart I have committed to pray big prayers, the ones that seem impossible, that only God could pull off.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Prayer and Forgiveness

I have been giving a lot of thought to prayer and have been pressing into increasing my personal prayer life. This has led me to look at forgiveness as it relates to prayer. Jesus linked forgiveness to prayer on more then one occasion. In Mark 11:24-25, "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted you. 25 "And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions. "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions." Many times we look to this story for insight into faith yet Mark tells the story to lead into profound moral teaching. The power of faith is linked to having a clean heart in regard to others. So profound was Jesus’ teaching upon His disciples that all would write of the same truth. Peter like us was perplexed and troubled by the extremeness of Jesus’ remarks. Jesus remarks required a generosity of spirit that seemed unreasonable. If we forgive, we will be forgiven, if we don’t forgive, we will not be forgiven was more than Peter could fathom. Peter asks for clarification and receives even a greater challenge. Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matt 18:21-35) Paul would later write that we should model forgiveness because of Christ and his work in us. He would point out in Col 3:12 how we were chosen by the grace and mercy of God and we were to act like Christ. James in his direct and (some would say harsh way) lays out the importance with no wiggle room whatsoever. “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13) With all this emphases on the subject of forgiving it begs the question of what does it mean to forgive. As a verb it means to stop blaming or to absolve from payment. As an adjective it means inclined to show mercy. It is a position of moral strength that lives above the circumstances of life. All relationships has great possibility of offenses. Yet there is a way to live above the fray. We gain insight when we look at motivations for not forgiving. • Vengeance – We have a secret desire to punish or see people hurt. • Self-protection – We build a wall so that the offender no longer has access. • Manipulation- Victim status gives opportunity to rally support and pity. All of these are corrupt and lead to the ensnaring world of bitterness. Our life becomes consumed by the offense. Unforgiveness is described as unwilling to be placated or appeased or moved by entreaty, grim determination or harsh and severe. In our desire for justice or vindication we can hinder the grace of God in our life.

How do we identify an unforgiving spirit in ourselves? First we examine our thought life. Do we review an offence over and over again? Do we have fantasies of vengeance? Are we judgmental? Second we evaluate our current relationships. Do we hold people at a distance? Do we tend to keep score? Do we justify our actions towards others? Do we harbor a grudge? All of these are symptoms of unforgiveness. Lastly we must ask the Holy Spirit to reveal problem areas of our heart. If we recognize ourselves any of the above attitudes we must take responsibility and move toward real change.

How does one forgive those who have hurt us or offended us? It starts with seeing the need and working to bring our hearts and mind in agreement with God. Meditate on His love and faithfulness toward you. Realize how much Christ has extended Himself to you. Think of the result of your sins and the extravagance of grace given to you. Grace can be described as God’s unmerited favor designed to draw His enemies to Himself. He sought you even when it was your actions that led Him to the cross. Seek to understand God’s involvement in your life. Evaluate your life today in light of God’s faithfulness. Recognize God looks at the larger picture and he is committed to your development. Ask for the Holy Spirits help and repent of bitterness and resentment. Think of simply canceling the debt that another owes to you.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Prayer and Other Thoughts

It is my belief that in these last days God is restoring many of the truths that believers in the early Church understood and practiced. The Lord’s desire has always been that His church would be equipped to do the same work, with the same heart that moved Him to lay down his life for the world. We are called to invade this earthly realm with the supernatural reality of God. We are alive with the Spirit of God by His mercy, we have a testimony that Christ is alive. We have experienced His touch, His love and forgiveness. We have the inward witness of the Holy Spirit. We know the transforming power of God!! We are to be the agents of heaven invading the kingdom of darkness. All that because of the new life we have received in Christ. With that new life comes a new call. Peter in his epistle would write...

"you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for {God's} own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Pet 2:9)

How do we proclaim? How do we make Him known? How do we bring the reality of a living active Savior to this world? I believe it is by being willing and by moving forward on Holy Spirit-revealed strategies.

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, (Eph 6:18, NAS)

Prayer and fellowship were significant parts of the culture of the early Church. Much of the believer’s life was centered on meeting together and prayer. It was an exciting time; there were those who actually witnessed the death and resurrection of Jesus. They knew He was alive and had a hope that He was going to do something great. They were a people who experienced God. The Holy Spirit was active. They moved forward by the leading of the Spirit of God, revealed in prayer.

The Spirit teaches us how to pray. Of all the responsibilities of the believers, this is one by which we can’t go wrong. If we are interceding for others we are participating in the leading of the Spirit. Prayer releases the resources of heaven to accomplish what we have been commissioned to do. In a real sense it causes heaven to invade earth.