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.

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.

Living out God’s Purpose through Positional Christianity

 

Positional Christianity

Okay, I know I haven’t been blogging as consistently as I should. I started out with a series on how to become a Battle Ready Christian, but since then I have only been blogging about once a month. Life got busier for me, and I just didn’t have time to think of a new topic to write about every week.

So, rather than just blogging once every few weeks, I am going to go on hiatus until the first Monday in January (Jan. 5). Between now and then, I will pray about what the Lord would have me say, write a blog calendar, make this blog look as awesome as I can, and work on some other projects.

Recently, God spoke four words to me, which He said I am to make the focus of this blog. Those four words are prayer, praise, hope, and healing. In that order. So, I am going to blog on one of those every week. The first Monday of the month I will blog on prayer, the second Monday on praise, the third hope, and the fourth healing. On those months that have a fifth Monday, I am not sure what I will do.

Why those words in that order?

Every Christian must go through and remain in these four positions to receive the fullness of Christ. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me (Lk 9:23).” Being a disciple of Christ means we need to decide daily that we are going to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him.

The Position of Prayer

When we pray, we become intimately acquainted with God. The fullness of this intimacy allows us to move into a position of understanding our authority in Christ. It is from this position of our authority in Christ that we are able to prepare ourselves to fully praise God. That doesn’t mean we can’t praise God until we have an awesome prayer life. It just means the more we pray, the more we will come to know God and want to praise Him.

Though, never think you can go from one position to the other and leave that position behind. You must remain in each position, while you move into the next position, or else you will fall out of your position in Christ. You must get into and remain in these positions daily.

The Position of Praise

My pastor once said, “If you’re not happy, maybe your problem is you’re too focused on yourself.” Go ahead. Try to praise God and keep your eyes on yourself. Prayer moves us into a position of realizing our authority in Christ, from where our natural response is to praise Him for His nature. We can praise in private, but praise is best expressed as a public declaration of our realization of Christ in our lives.

The Position of Hope

When we begin to pray we begin to take our eyes off of ourselves, and we begin to praise Him. The more we begin to praise Him, the more we will begin to hope in Him. Prayer and praise are both conscious decisions to develop an intimate relationship with God by taking our eyes off of ourselves. Hope is also a conscious decision. Though, while the positions of prayer and praise are conscious decisions to develop more intimate relationships with God, the position of hope and healing are positions of enjoying the benefits of developing an intimate relationship with God, which is to receive the fullness of Christ.

When we take our eyes off of ourselves and fix them on God through prayer and praise, we stop wallowing in self-pity and begin to hope in God. This position of hope is the position from which we will begin to realize God’s healing in our lives.

The Position of Healing

Notice I said “realize,” not “experience.” You are healed! You are healed by the blood of the Lamb! By the stripes on Christ’s back! You just need to realize it. Think of it like when you first met your significant other. At first, you hoped they liked you, then you got to know each other, and the more you got to know that person the more you realized they did like you. We begin by hoping God will heal us, but the more we hope the more we realize He has healed us.

Though, God’s healing in our lives will manifest itself at different times physically, financially, or relationally, I am talking about spiritual healing. This is the position from which a person begins to not only understand and live out the fullness of Christ in their lives, but it is also the position from which a person begins to live out their purpose in Christ.

Understanding Positional Christianity

So, it is this last position–the position of purpose–that I will not write about in this blog. God didn’t tell me to include it. I may use that 5th Monday to write about how the first four positions will cause you to move into a position of purpose. Though, the first four positions are positions of preparation, whereas the position of your purpose in Christ is the position of God carrying out His good work in you (Phil 1:6).

Though, know that God only moves those into this position of purpose who are faithful to move into and remain within the first four positions. That doesn’t mean we won’t get knocked out of position on occasion. It means the more and more we learn to get into and remain in a right position with God the less and less we will get knocked out of position and the faster we will get back into position when we are knocked out of position.

The future of #OBHBlog

God is still working on me. I am no further ahead than anyone else. Though, they are becoming more  and more infrequent, there is still the occasional day when I don’t pray. There is still the occasional Sunday when I am not in the mood to praise God. There remain times when I need to remind myself to take my eyes off of my circumstances and set them on the hope that is before me (Heb 12:1-4). And I still sometimes forget I am healed.

Though, those days are becoming less and less, and the more infrequent they become the more God is able to move me into that position of purpose for which He created me. So, as God teaches me how to move me into that position of purpose, I will pass on what I learn. I also welcome you to pass on what you have learned in the comments. Through that collaboration, I hope to create a community in which we can learn and grow together!

Have a very blessed Thanksgiving, joyful Christmas, and happy New Year!

Walking with Victory in Christ

Christin victory in Christ

walking with Authority in Christ

Imagine Joshua walking ahead of the tribes of Israel, after he’s conquered all of the lands of the promised land. Behind him, crowds are celebrating their victories. He doesn’t realize they’re there. He’s deep in thought.

All of the sudden, a baby starts crying. He turns around and realizes thousands of people still followed him. He stops and looks at the crowd. They collide against one another like a train slamming on its brakes.

Angered by the sight of thousands of people squandering the land they received by the shedding of the blood of mighty men, he says,

How long will you neglect to go and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers has given you?” (Joshua 18:3)

The Christian’s Call to Arms

Thousands of years later, Jesus stood with his disciples, and said,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:18-20)

Joshua vs. Jesus

  1. A bunch of nomads followed Joshua; prostitutes, tax collectors, and other sinners followed Jesus
  2. The promised land was won by the shedding of blood of might men; Jesus won the victory by the shedding of His blood
  3. Many of the Israelites continued to follow Joshua even after their victories; Jesus’ disciples followed Him after He rose again.
  4. Joshua told the Israelites to “Go and possess . . . . ;” Jesus told His disciples to “Go and make . . . .”

Go and possess

What did Christ die for that Christians could “Go and possess”? “Make disciples . . . Baptizing them . . . teaching them . . .”

For thousands of years, the Jewish people looked for a Messiah who would be a conquering warrior. They expected a savior who would lead them into victory over their oppressors. Perhaps, when Jesus came back again, they thought, ‘If this guy can conquer death, He can conquer the entire Roman military.’

Just as the Israelites lost sight of the victory they won by the shedding of innocent blood, the disciples lost sight of their victory in Christ by the shedding of His innocent blood.

John 15: 16

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, and whatever you ask the Father in my name He may give you.

By the time we read the words in Joshua 18:3 it was a different generation than the one that marched around Jericho. The generation that marched around Jericho  had a victory mindset. This generation had no purpose or direction in life, so they continued to follow Joshua.

In the same way Joshua tried to convince this generation to live with a victory mindset, Jesus needed to convince a handful of people who lived among a “wicked and adulterous generation . . . . (Matt. 16:4)” to not just go back to their day to day routines. The disciples lost sight of the victory they had in Christ, so Christ reminded them of their victory in Him (Matt 16:19; 18:18).

The Land

What is “the land” Jesus died for? He says “all nations.”

Those people who watched the Israelite armies march in authority and victory trampling other nations decided they’d rather be part of the victory than part of the defeat. The Christian’s call to arms is about walking in the victory of Christ. It is about knowing that as you walk in that victory, people around you will see your testimony, want the victory you have, and join you in that victory.

To call Christ’s final words to His disciples “The Great Commission” doesn’t do his words justice. To commission someone is to give them authority for a particular action. Christ wasn’t giving His disciples authority for a particular action. He was challenging them to change their mindsets. He was telling them to live in the victory He gave them through His death and resurrection.

Are you living in victory? What do you need victory over?

God’s Will is not Your Discontentment

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Do you have a big, life changing decision to make? Are you praying that God will show you His will? If you answered ‘Yes,’ I’d like to throw a few wrenches in your faith system.

Pursue God’s Passion

Ladies, on your anniversary, would you want your husband or boyfriend to ask you if you’d like Him to buy you that gift you’ve been hinting at? Or would you want him to love you so much that he would just know your will?

In the same way, God wants us to love Him so much that we don’t always have to ask Him what His will is. That doesn’t mean don’t pray. Certainly, just as you should talk to your spouse before making big decisions, you should talk to God. But it means you’re talking to Him everyday. And the more you talk with Him the more your will aligns itself with His will.

Sometimes, that won’t be easy. It might mean handing that $10,000 check to your church that you were going to use for a down payment on a house, moving to a new city to plant or help plant a church, or forgiving your spouse for their unfaithfulness and working with them to restore your marriage. Whatever it means, know that God’s will for you is always that He be glorified.

Ps. 37:4:

“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”

If you are delighting yourself in the Lord, the Lord’s will is that you continue to delight yourself in Him. If you delight yourself in Him, He will give you the desires of your heart because the desires of your heart will be to continue to delight in Him and Glorify Him.

Pursue Your Purpose

More than 20 years ago, I heard God calling me to become a pastor. Seven years later, I went on to study for my degree in Pastoral Ministries.

In the middle of my Junior year, I became discontent. I began to question if I had heard the voice of God correctly. I began to pray that God would show me if His will was for me to continue my pursuit of a Pastoral Ministries degree.

Earlier in the semester, I found a spot in a large city park that was kind of off the beaten path, where I went to pray. One day, I laid two large branches perpendicular to each other and left them there. I decided if the winds blew the branch that lay east to west toward the north, God wanted me to stay. If the branch moved to the south, God wanted me to leave.

After a few days, I returned to ‘My Tent’ and saw the two branches unmoved. God said, “I will bless you wherever you go.” I decided not to continue down the road of discontentment.

That night, I called my parents and had one of the most difficult conversations any son could ever have with his parents. I went on to pursue my degree in Literature, and now I am pursuing my call into the ministry through writing.

When God gives us a passion, He expects us to pursue that passion.

Heb. 11, 12 – Two great chapters on pursuing your passion.

Your Pain is not Your Purpose

Sometimes, God allows us to get into situations we can’t change, or we have little power to change. That does not mean God wants us to remain in those situations, or in those situations as they are. It means we need to rely on Him to get us out of that situations, change the dynamics of those situations, or change our attitude within that situation.

If you were an athlete and sprained your ankle, would you think, ‘Maybe it’s God’s will that I live with this pain,’ or would you go to the hospital? We sometimes experience pain because of our wrong choices or other’s wrong choices, but God’s will is not for us to continue to live in pain.

Though, in your pain, God wants you to become so intimately acquainted with Him that you find contentment in Him. The more content you become, the more He will show you the way out of that situation, how you can change the dynamics of that situation, or how you can change your perspective toward that situation.

Phil 4:12

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

Paul was in prison when he said that. He developed such an intimate relationship with God that he rejoiced in his incapacitation, and He trusted God to get him out of that situation in His time. Paul found contentment in that situation, but he knew God’s purpose was not for him to remain in that situation.

I once heard someone say, “God’s will for your tomorrow is that you live for Him today.” Do you want to know God’s will for you? It’s that you live for Him today. It’s that you glorify Him with your finances, your job, your marriage, and everything else.

The Miracle Maker and the Passion of Remaining Desperate

mountainsIn Mark 5:25-34, Mark tells the story of the woman who suffered from the issue of bleeding for 12 years. I don’t think he does this woman’s story justice. I’m not saying his words weren’t God-breathed or infallible. I’m just saying if I told the story I’d schedule an interview with the woman, find out her life story, write an article, and sell it to the Jerusalem Chronicle. Of course, 10% would go to the local tabernacle and another 10% to the disciples’ ministry fund.

It’s not every day a woman with a 12 year long history of hemmorhaging is instantaneously healed. At least not today. Perhaps miracles were so commonplace wherever Jesus went that Mark only told the story as an aside rather than as a feature article. But if I wrote an article about the healing of this woman, it might go something like this:

One evening, the family of a woman who suffered from internal bleeding wrapped her resting body in a burlap sack, laid her over a donkey, and travelled by night through the desert. Their priest said her sickness indicated demon possession. Her family couldn’t risk her demon infecting others, so they journeyed to the River Jordan. They laid her resting body by a Palm Tree, prayed over her, and then left her in the cool of  the night.

For the next several years, she went from city to city begging for food, making sure not to stay long enough for people to discover her hemorrhaging and judge her demon possessed. After more than 10 years, she found solace in a cave outside of a town. She hid in the cave, so the town’s people wouldn’t drive her away.

Early in the morning, before the sun rose, while merchants set up, she went into town and stole food. Before sunrise, she disappeared and went back to the cave. She started out traveling into town every few days, but soon she could only find the strength to go once a week. Two outcasts, who dwelt in a nearby cave, said they would bring food to her if she would guarding their cave from animals and wash their clothes.

One morning, when they returned, they told her they saw Jesus of Nazareth and His disciples walking toward the town. The hemorrhaging woman wanted to go see the man some called “The Miracle Maker,” but she couldn’t travel that far in the hot sun. Only one of her companions could go with her, so they wouldn’t leave the caves unattended. But just one of them couldn’t carry her across the desert. She could only see Jesus of Nazareth if she managed the strength to cross the desert alone.

That morning, risking her health, she walked across the desert. Many times, fainting only to wake and realize the trail of blood she left attracted beasts of the fields and birds of prey. Using her staff, she managed to beat off the Hyenas, Vultures, and other animals that tried to feed on her. Thinking about all of the anger festering within her from years of feeling unwanted by her family and those who claimed to be the righteous of God, she wept tears stained with blood.

By the time she got to the town, she had lost so much blood that she collapsed from exhaustion. The trail of blood, once no thicker than a snail’s trail, now looked like a crimson carpet rolled out for Kings. She pulled her body with her weakened arms. Grains of sand entered her bloodstream, causing the pain from the intense heat of the sun to become unbearable.

Almost unable to move, trying to scream out for Jesus,  the din of the crowd and shouts from those who saw her and yelled, “Leave us, Devil woman!” drowned out her bloodied gasps. A group of men tried to carry her back to the desert, but they could not stand the putrid smell of her decaying body long enough to get within 20 Cubits of her.

Somehow, well into the afternoon, while Jesus taught outside of the synagogue, she managed to find enough strength to crawl through the crowd. That morning, before she left, her companions told her if she could not manage to reach Jesus she might die in the streets. Knowing the risks of death from the loss of blood, she answered “If only I can touch His garment, I will be healed.”

Saying those words from the moment she left her cave until this moment, she reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. He looked up and said, “Who touched me?” Fearing the crowd might drive her away because she interrupted Jesus’ teaching, she tried to hide from His wandering gaze. Aware of the overwhelming stench, the crowd looked around for the source of the odd odor. Realizing the source of the putrid aroma, the crowd began to back away from her. Two shepherds covered their faces with their headdresses and dragged the woman’s blood stained, almost lifeless body to the foot of Jesus.

Laying there, in the dusty street, fearful of His response, the woman buried her face between her outstretched arms. Jesus, ignoring the stench, knelt, lifted her head, and said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” In a moment, after 12 years of suffering, her wounds closed, the blood dried up, and she felt no more pain. Smiling, her tears of mourning became tears of joy. She stood and embraced “The Miracle Maker.”

Toward the end of my interview, I asked the woman who once cried because of the loneliness that festered within her from years of abandonment if she felt anymore anger. Smiling, she looked at me, leaned forward, and said:

“For many years, I dealt with an issue far greater than that of hemorrhaging. I dealt with an issue of bitterness that entangled me with such an intensity that demons did not need to possess me. I allowed the bitterness within me to possess me. The day Jesus healed me, all of the bitterness left me. Jesus gave me the power to forgive. I lost so much of my life, not because of the years of physical suffering, but because of years of allowing my hatred to embitter me.”

Now, just a few years after the afternoon this woman looked into the gentle eyes of ’The Miracle Maker,’ she travels to the same towns where people once called her wretched filth or demon possessed. She tells them of Jesus’ love and of His healing power. But more than that she tells them of the power within each of us to receive Jesus’ forgiveness from sins and to forgive those who persecute them.

Why I chose to dramatize this story:

One morning, God spoke two words to me: “Remain desperate,” and then He brought the story of the woman with the issue of blood to my mind. I don’t know if she was cast out by her family, or if she had to crawl across a desert to get to the town just to touch Jesus’ garment. I’m sure there are Bible scholars who could tell me there’s evidence that she lived with her family on the outskirts of town. I am sure the story does not go exactly how I told it.

However the story goes, I do know she remained desperate. I am sure she not only remained desperate for healing from her issue of bleeding. I am sure she also dealt with years of from loneliness that caused her to become embittered. I am sure she was embittered toward her family and those who persecuted her. I am sure she had become embittered toward God for allowing her to go through 12 years of suffering.

Though, she chose to remain so desperate for physical and emotional healing that she reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. I believe the greatest issue she needed healing from was not the issue of bleeding, it was the issue of loneliness and bitterness that had consumed her.

What physical, financial, or emotional issues are you dealing with today? Are you remaining desperate? Are you so desperate for Christ’s healing that you would cross deserts to reach out and touch the hem of His garment? Do you have enough faith that you can say, “If only I can touch His garment, I will be healed,” and then go through unbearable pain to reach out to Him?

Whatever issues you are facing today, God would say to you, “Remain desperate.” Cry out to Him. And if your prayers are muffled by the distractions of the world, do not lose faith. That’s when you need press in through the crowd, and reach out to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment.

Becoming a Battle Ready Christian – Living a Life of Prayer

young_prayer_by_abureauphoto-d36t6qd.jpg

Last week, while writing the first version of this blog, I received a phone call. The caller said I might not remember him. He said his name and told me he was a freshman in the church youth group where I volunteered at that time. I hadn’t seen him in more than three years, but I couldn’t forget him.

Every week, I drove more than 20 minutes from my house to his house and then another 20 minutes to church. After church, with one or two more kids in tow, I drove them home and then brought him home. If you think of a Y, I lived at the top of one end of the Y, I went to a church at the top of the other end of the Y, and he lived at the bottom of the Y. With the extra kids to drop off after the youth group, the round trip took close to two hours of driving.

At the youth group, the larger group split off into smaller groups. I sat with a small group of young men, they told me about their weeks, we did a Bible study, and we spent time in prayer. After a while, that young man stopped coming to the youth group.

Many years before I knew that young man, I went through an internship in another church. One of the requirements was that I and the one other intern arrive to the church by 7 AM and pray in the sanctuary for an hour. Every morning, we walked into the sanctuary, put on a worship CD, sat in silence on opposite sides of the sanctuary, and prayed.

The pastor took us through the book The Hour that Changes the World. It taught us to pray for an hour by devoting five minutes to various aspects of prayer. For instance, it taught to spend the first five minutes giving thanks to God, then five minutes in praise, then five minutes in intercession, and so on and so forth.

For several years after that internship, my prayer life went through ebbs and flows. Much of that time I had no prayer life other than praying over meals, at church, or in Bible studies. Sometimes, I went through seasons when I prayed more fervently. During those seasons, I prayed by using the principles of prayer I learned. Many times, school, work, something else caused me to get out of the habit of prayer.

Now, I practice the habit of prayer every morning. But, now, as I practice the habit of prayer, I am learning to develop a life of prayer. I believe when Paul told Timothy to “Pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:17),” he was telling him to develop a life of prayer by practicing the habit of prayer every morning. I believe there is a three-step method for developing a life of prayer, but that method takes a lifetime to perfect.

Developing a Life of Prayer

  1. Learn and develop a method of prayer
  2. Practice that method of prayer until it becomes a habit of prayer
  3. Practice that habit of prayer until it becomes a life of prayer

After I told the young man that I remembered him, he said he was not in a good place spiritually when I knew him. He said he got his life right with God, graduated valedictorian from his high school, and enlisted in the Marines. He told me he tried to pray and read the Bible everyday, but he admitted it wasn’t always easy.

I encouraged him to choose his principles, make God the center of those principles, pray and read his Bible every day, and allow those God-centered principles to guide his life and determine the person he would become. After we said goodbye, I read over the first version of this blog. I hadn’t thought of it during our conversation, but I realized the last line I wrote was,

“The principles you live by are the principles you teach the next generation.”

Before any other principle, a “Battle Ready Christian” practices the principle of prayer until they live a life of prayer. Jesus taught his disciples a method of prayer in Matt 6: 9-13, but He didn’t expect them to sit and recite ’The Lord’s Prayer’ every morning for the rest of their lives. He taught it to them so they would develop a life of prayer.

I do not believe it is when a person chooses to become intimately acquainted with God that they will develop a life of prayer. I believe that is when their faithful habit of prayer will begin to become a life of prayer. This is the place where I am. I believe it is when a person realizes God wants to become intimately acquainted with them that they will move further into living a life of prayer. But I believe it is not until a person fully realizes the weight of the truth that God wants so much to be intimately acquainted with them that He sent His only begotten Son to die for them (John 3:16) that they will fully live a life of prayer.

May we all, like the Apostle Paul, cry out, “I want to know you and the power of your resurrection (Phil. 3:10),” until we are so intimately acquainted with God that we understand the full weight of the words, “For God so loved the world . . . .”

Amen!

Becoming a Battle Ready Christian – Wielding Weapons of Warfare

Sword Fight

When I was younger, I would get into doctrinal debates with other Christians. We debated over scripture for hours, trying to convince each other that our doctrinal positions were correct. Not only did we risk a division in our friendship, but we also risked division in the body of Christ and hindered the furthering of the Kingdom of God. I learned many years ago that using the Word of God for such purposes is detrimental to Christianity.

In last week’s blog, I compared the role of a Battle Ready Christian to that of a sniper. Snipers can’t do their jobs unless they bring their rifles and other weapons of warfare. And they don’t use them to target soldiers on their side.

In the same way, Battle Ready Christians carry weapons of Warfare—the Sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17; Heb. 4:12), which is the Word of God. That doesn’t mean carry your Bible with you everywhere you go. It means know the Word of God well and use it in the way God means for to be used. While it is sometimes necessary to use the word of God to restore a Christian found in sin (Gal. 6:1), a Battle Ready Christian does not use the weapon of their warfare for selfish purposes. Here’s how you use the Sword of the Spirit.

Using Weapons of Warfare

2 Cor 10:4-6

  • Pull down strongholds
  • Cast down arguments
  • Cast down whatever exalts itself against God
  • Brings every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ
  • Punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled
In vs 4, Paul tells his audience that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. If the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, then Battle Ready Christians cannot be carnal, and they do not focus on the carnal.

Carnal Christians

I Cor 3:1-4

  • Are babes in Christ – V. 1
  • Can only receive milk – V. 2
  • Marked by envy, strife, and divisions – V. 3
  • Behave like mere men and women – V. 3
  • Are doctrinally prideful – V. 4

Of those two lists, which one describes you? Do you know the word of God well enough that you can use it to pull down strongholds, cast down arguments, and use it for God’s glory? Or do you use it for your glory? Battle ready Christians study the word of God and use it to build the Kingdom of God, not to tear it down.

If you haven’t opened your Bible in a while, other than in church, read it. If you read and study your Bible, but you use it to build your ego and not the Kingdom of God, stop. You are using the Word of God for selfish purposes (Phil. 2:3). That doesn’t mean don’t have discussions with Christians and even non-Christians about your differences in beliefs. It may even mean that you will have to use it such a way that causes offense. Christ, the Apostle Paul, and many others chastised others with the word of God. But make sure you are using it to build the Kingdom of God and not your ego.