The Outpouring of Praise

The Needs of a Generation romantik-003

A few months ago, on my way to get something to eat before my Bible study, I prayed God would show me someone’s needs. That He would give me the opportunity, wherever I ate, to speak into someone’s life.

A short time later, I stopped at a Chick-Fil-A, walked inside, and was welcomed by a dining room of at least 50 children. The Lord spoke to me, “I am showing you the needs of a generation.” Hope needs to be restored to this generation, and that’s where praise comes in. I admit I am writing this blog as someone who needs to read this blog as much if not more than you.

Perhaps, you are thinking you are all for praising God if it can restore hope in your life. Praising God only for the potential benefit of it restoring hope in your life is praising God out of selfish ambition and vain conceit. Our praise must restore hope in others. If it only restores hope in us, then we are guilty of hiding our light (Matt 5:14-16).

When Your Praise is Containable

When you praise God in Spirit and in Truth, you cannot contain that praise. You must share your joy because God’s goodness becomes too great for you to keep to yourself. If your praise is containable, your praise is too small. The outpouring of praise causes others to know your joy through evangelism, your giving, your devotion to God’s word and the house of God, and a noticeable difference in your life.

The abundance of praise in a person’s life overwhelms that person so greatly that they cannot contain God’s goodness. They must share God’s goodness with others, so others may receive God’s joy and hope may be restored to them. Our praise should restore hope in others because they see an overwhelming hope in us. (Phil 4:7).

Praising with Crazy Love

A few weeks after that night at Chick-Fil-A, I went to the library to return some books. I walked around to see if I could find any interesting books. Perusing the small section of Christian books, I noticed Crazy Love by Francis Chan – A book about how our love of God should pour out onto others.

God spoke to me, “Check out that book.” I told God that I wanted to read something else. God said, “Check out that book.” I told God I would check it out next time. Then, God said, “Look! We can sit here and argue about it, or you can check out that book.” So, I grabbed the book and checked it out. Let’s just say the book changed my entire perspective. Praise is an outward expression of love, but your love isn’t “Crazy Love” until your love is over capacity and pours out onto others.

Paul says in I Cor 13:2 “If I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” Those words are challenging enough, but they become even more challenging when you remember the words of Jesus in Matt 17:20: “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” That’s intense!

Praise Smaller than a Mustard Seed

Perhaps, you have faith that God can move whatever mountain is in your life. Maybe you’ve seen Him heal people of Cancer, restore marriages, pour out financial blessings, open the eyes of the blind, and more. Those things will certainly cause a person to rejoice in God and praise Him for His marvelous works.

Though, if the outpouring of your praise does not culminate in the Crazy Love”  of sharing your love and joy of Jesus with others, then your praise is smaller than a mustard seed. Praise restores hope to the praiser, but the culmination of praising God in Spirit and in Truth restores hope to the lost, lonely, friendless, and forgotten.

Living Out Your Praise

As I said, I am writing this blog from the perspective of someone who needs to read it. I am a selfish man, and my selfishness is best expressed in that too often I praise God in the house of God. Yet, so often, I choose not to see others as God sees them. I am guilty of ignoring the needs of a generation.

After I read Crazy Love, I became so convicted of my selfishness that I bought a second Bible specifically for evangelism. I highlighted scriptures in John, Romans, Hebrews, and elsewhere that talk about salvation. And now, when I go to a coffee house, I make sure to carry that Bible with me for others to see.

I want others to see my praise. I wonder if it were so that no one else saw my praise because I chose to ignore the needs of a generation that God would also choose to ignore my praise. How do you live out your praise in such a way that you are seeing and fulfilling the needs of a generation?

Come back next week to read more on Positional Christianity and how hope flows into healing.

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The Flow of Prayer into Praise

God said . . . Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 7.57.43 AM

In order to understand Positional Christianity, you must understand that there is a flow to it. Prayer flows into praise, praise flows into hope, hope flows into healing, and healing flows into purpose. God did not think the world into existence. He spoke the world (I am using the term “the world” to speak of the universe and all that is within it) into existence. And from His words flowed forth creation (Gen 1).

So, if there is a flow to God’s words, there must also be a flow to our words. Though, before God spoke the world into existence, He had to think what He wanted. There was no world before He created one, so He had to know what He wanted, think it, and then speak it. His words were an expression of His desires and thoughts.

Intimate Communion with God

In the same way our praise is the outpouring of our intimate communion with God. That is the words we speak aloud in praise, and the good works we do, which He created for us to do (Eph 2:10), must be an outward expression of our intimate communion with God. If our words of love and honor to God, as well as our acts of service to God, do not flow forth from our intimate communion with God through prayer, then our alleged praise to God has little meaning.

Now, imagine if God told the angel Gabriel he could create a world and creatures to serve him (In other words, imagine Mormonism was true, with the Angel Gabriel in place of the demon Moroni). Imagine that we were that creation and we read a Bible given to us by Gabriel. Imagine this Bible said Gabriel created the world; though, the God who created the Angel Gabriel spoke forth and tried to create a world, but He did not have the power. What would you think of that God? You would probably think such a God who cannot see His words fulfilled through the creation of what He spoke is powerless.

Praise through Words and Works

Now, understand this is why James said, “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (James 2:17).” If God had thought that He wanted to create a world and even tried to speak the world into existence, but that world never came into existence, we would think the faith of such a God dead. So, our praise, which is both our verbal expression of our love and honor of God and our action to glorify Him by serving Him and others, must flow forth from our prayers. The creation of the world was an expression of God’s desires and thoughts, and so also words of praise and acts of service must be an expression of the desires of our hearts that we gain through intimate communion with God. If we pray and our intimate communion with God does not flow forth into our praise through adoration and honor of God, as well as acts of service to God directly and indirectly by serving others, then our faith is dead.

If a man gave a woman whom He did not know, know anything about, or ever spent time with flowers, and then claimed that he loved her, his action and his words would have little meaning. She would think, ‘He cannot love me because He does not know me, my desires, or my needs.’ His expression of love and his act of giving her flowers would have little meaning. They would be self-serving, and could not be an expression of love or honor to her, because he would not have spent any time getting to know her, her needs, or how he could serve her.

So also our words of love and acts of service to God must flow from our times of intimate communion with God. If we do not spend time in intimate communion with God through prayer, then our attempts to adore Him and give Him honor are little more than out of “selfish ambition or vain conceit (Phil 2:3).” This is why the Apostle Paul said, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal (I Cor 13:1).”

Praise without Prayer

Now, the question is do you go to church on Sunday and sing worship songs, and do you feed the homeless or give to the poor? That is great. But do spend time in intimate communion with God? Do you pray? I am not talking about 15 minutes a morning, of which 10 of those minutes is reading a daily devotional and scriptures to go along with it. Do you enter into His presence daily?

So, from what position do you praise God? Do you praise Him from the same position as that of the Samaritan woman at the well, who was more concerned with show (John 4:19)? Or do you praise Him from the position of wanting to know Him, which flows forth from your time of intimate communion with Him (John 4:24)?

Once a person begins to praise God in spirit and truth, their praise will begin to flow into hope. Praise that does not flow out of spending time becoming intimately acquainted with God through prayer cannot flow into hope. It can exist, but it will not flow into hope. Though, that person may praise God outwardly through verbal expressions of love and honor to God, and serving God and others, they will not gain hope and will remain stale like the waters of the Dead Sea until they enter into intimate communion with God.

 

Tell me, how is your prayer life? Do you notice that the more you pray, the more your times of intimate communion with God flows into wanting to praise God? Do you think you can praise God in Spirit and in truth without a strong prayer life? Share any thoughts you have with me.

Freedom to Run in Christ

The Power of Prayer freedom_sunrise

Over this past weekend, my church, as we do on the last weekend of every January, had “Freedom Weekend.” It was the last weekend of how my church starts every new year. The first weekend is “Shredder Weekend.” On that weekend, we write down things from the previous year that we are leaving behind in the old year. The next weekend is “Vision Weekend,” and on that weekend we write down our visions for the new year.

On both of those weekends, after the speaker finishes their message, each person who has written down those things they are shredding or their visions, they go forward to pray with one of the pastors or church leaders. The power in this is that for many centuries during old testament times, covenants were made by two people cutting an animal in half and then walking through the two halves.

Of course, on Shredder Weekend, when a person goes down for prayer, they bring down their pieces of paper and put them into paper shredders. Then, the pastor or church leader prays for them. That next weekend, then, is the weekend when every person walks through into a new vision for their new year.

Then, there is faith weekend, which is a weekend to prepare the church for “Freedom Weekend.” During Freedom Weekend, which was this last weekend, after the speaker finishes their message, the speaking pastor leads the congregation in a prayer of healing and deliverance. Then, again, people go down for prayer with one of the pastors or church leaders.

On that weekend, when the people go forward, they do not bring any paper with them. Rather, the person praying for them asks them what they need prayer for, and that person confesses to them what they need deliverance from. The deliverance and healing experienced on Freedom Weekend is intense to say the least. Chains are broken, and people are set free.

Our Freedom in Christ

Yesterday morning, before church, when I was praying, God said to me, “You will not receive freedom from rather you will receive freedom to.” What He meant is that I am a free man by the blood of His son, as are all of His sons and daughters, but my healing yesterday was my freedom to experience all that He has for me. It was a time for every person in the church, in Christ, to experience Freedom to be whole, Freedom to be healed, Freedom to be delivered, Freedom to experience the wholeness of the new man or woman they are in Christ, and Freedom to lay hold of eternal life (I Tim. 6:12-19). It is possible for a person to be a Christian and to be free in Christ but to not realize, enjoy, or abide within that freedom.

Now, maybe you’re wondering what the significance of Freedom Weekend is. James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Each person who went forward confessed their sins and received prayer from a righteous person. Therefore, the  powerful and effective prayers of that righteous person led to the healing of those people who received prayer. It is now the day by day decision of the person who received prayer and healing to continue to walk in that freedom.

One thing the pastor who spoke last night said was that even after we are delivered from our past, that does not mean we cannot go back to our past. Just as a person who is released from prison must make a moment by moment choice to not go back to those places, people, and habits that caused them to become imprisoned, we, as those who are free in Christ must not go back to those places, people, and habits that caused us to fall into bondage.

For the remainder of this year and beyond, I will continue to relentlessly pursue God, not that I may experience healing, for I am healed, but so that I may remember who I am in Christ and dwell within the healing I received by the blood of the Lamb.

 

I encourage you to run with me.

 

Isaiah 40:31

But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

It’s God’s Turn to Speak – Listening through Prayer

God’s Speaking to You God, Santa Claus

Guess what! God still speaks! And He is speaking to you. You just have to learn to listen to Him. Though, in order to hear Him, you need to be faithful to listen to Him.

Prayer isn’t about sitting on God’s knee and just telling Him want we want. We want to make our requests known to God (Phil. 4:6), but that is only one aspect of prayer.

He wants to have a conversation with you. He wants to have an intimate relationship with you. He is speaking to you.

Listening to God through Prayer

So, how do we learn to listen to God? Here are some tips.

  • Choose a specific time and place to meet with God
  • Make sure it’s a quiet place and quiet time
  • Play quiet worship music like Jesus CultureKari Jobe, and Bethel Music
  • Play worship music throughout the day
  • Read scripture and meditate on it
  • Study and memorize scripture
  • Don’t limit God’s voice to just your prayer time
  • Go to church (God speaks through faithful leaders)
  • Read authors like C.S. Lewis, Gordon McDonald, Jurgen Matthessius, and John and Lisa Bevere
  • Listen to podcasts of Christian leaders like Francis Chan, Jefferson Bethke, and John Piper.

Learning to listen to God isn’t just about a quiet time with God. It’s about creating an atmosphere of worship, where God is welcome and we are available all of the time.

When I first realized I could listen to God, I thought hearing from God meant sitting in a quiet place in silence for long periods of time until I heard this big, booming voice. I would pray, and then I would sit and wait for God to speak. Sometimes, I would hear God within a few minutes, and sometimes I wouldn’t hear him for almost an hour.

Though, I realized it wasn’t God who wasn’t speaking to me, it was me who wasn’t listening to God. Let me explain. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to listen to God. It’s that there were too many distractions. I was too preoccupied.

Intimacy with God through Prayer

As I matured in my walk with God, I realized hearing from God was about cutting out those things that distracted me. That meant everything from choosing an hour that I could spend with God to constantly listening to praise and worship music to getting rid of my television and any other distractions.

Developing an intimate relationship with God means entering the solitude of the presence of God, abiding in His presence, and allowing His presence to become our reality.

What are your tips to listening to God? Share them in the comments.

Becoming a Battle Ready Christian – Preparing Your Mind for Battle

Battle Ready Action Figures

Battle Ready Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Do you know what a battle ready action figure is? It’s just what it sounds like. It’s an action figure that’s ready to fight battles.

First, let’s get something straight! A doll is not an action figure, and an action figure is not a doll. C’mon parents, how many times has your kid reminded you of this truth!

Dolls vs Action Figures

  • Dolls carry combs and mirrors. Battle ready action figures carry weapons of warfare!
  • Dolls pluck and tweeze their eyebrows. Battle ready action figures shave with a machete!
  • Dolls get mani-pedis at the spa. Battle ready action figures don’t care if they break a nail (or a tooth)!
  • Dolls consider fitness fashionable. Battle ready action figures muscles’ have muscles (and working out is a survival skill!)!
  • Dolls scream when they see bugs. Battle ready action figures raise a battle cry when they attack!

Now chances are in your everyday life, you’re more like a doll than a battle ready action figure. That’s okay, so am I. The closest I’ve ever come to shaving with a machete is shaving with a razor with a dull blade and no shaving cream. The good news is even though you may be a doll in your day to day life, you can be a battle ready Christian.

Are you a battle ready Christian? You’re in the middle of a war zone, so I hope you’re battle ready. If you don’t think you are, know that Christ equipped you with everything you need to become battle ready.

In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul talks about putting on the full armor of God. He begins with the word, “Finally,” which always sums up an argument or line of reasoning. In this case, you need to go back to the fourth chapter to read the beginning of Paul’s line of reasoning.

Ephesians 4:17-24

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.

18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.

19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned

21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;

23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds;

24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Paul tells his audience not to walk in the futility of their their thinking. They need to identify and overcome the futility of their thinking.

Identifying the Futility of Your Thinking

  • Your understanding is darkened (V. 18)
  • You are alienated from the life of God (V. 18)
  • You are ignorant (V. 18)
  • You have hardened your heart (V. 18)
  • You’ve lost all sensitivity (V. 19)
  • You gave yourself over to all sensuality (V. 19)
  • You indulge every kind of impurity (V. 19)
  • You are full of greed (V. 19)
  • Your old self is being corrupted by deceitful lusts (V. 22)

Overcoming the Futility of Your Thinking

  • Put off your old self (V. 22)
  • Be made new in the attitude of your mind (V. 23)
  • Put on your new self (V. 24)

In Ephesians 6, before Paul talks about the Armor of God, he says, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10). He’s telling them that before they put on the full armor of God they need to be battle ready. They needed to put off their old self. They need to be made new in the attitude of their mind. And they need to put on their new self.

Are you battle ready? Have you put off your old self? Are you renewing the attitude of your mind? Are putting on your new self? What’s holding you back? Become battle ready! Before a soldier goes into battle, they are trained to be mentally prepared.

Training to Be a Battle Ready Christian

  • Find and get involved in a good church
  • Get on your knees and pray
  • Study the word of God
  • Memorize scripture

There is so much more I could say on the topic, and I welcome discussion in the comments below. I guarantee you the more you do these things, and make them part of your daily and weekly preparation in Christ, the more battle ready you will become. Come back next week. You won’t want to miss it. I’m going to keep writing about Becoming a Battle Ready Christian.