In a few short minutes of discussion with a fellow pastor this morning, I realized that I regularly ask myself “Why should I?” when it comes to praying. I may not verbalize that phrase to myself but I definitely say it. I say it when I have a headache and first grab a pill. I say it when I am short on finances and immediately send out an email blast to my prospects. I say it when my kids won’t obey and I quickly punish them with something I know will hurt them. With the exception of a few specific environments, I typically don’t address needs with prayer first. Instead I think of what I can to do to fix or provide.
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. James 4:1-3
In the verses above, James is basically saying that my problems fester because I am not asking the right questions, to the right Person. “Why should I” is easily answered with “because God wants me to” and “because God knows what’s best”. God wants me to be fully dependant on Him, not myself. God may direct me to the headache medicine, a new client, or grace instead of wrath. Or God may say no. And even if God says no, I can rest in that because God saying no means that he has something better for me down the line or knows this won’t be good for me in the moment.
I wonder how much hurt, heartache, and frustration I could have avoided over the years but not saying “Why should I”? Prayer is so powerful and yet it is the most under-utilized tool in my life. I am committing to more prayer and I encourage you to do the same.
6 Comments | tags: christian, faith, God, Jesus, plans, pray, prayer, religion, salvation, saved, sin, trust | posted in Christianity
In many Christian circles highly pressured calls to salvation are the norm. Sometimes they are done in the midst of a church service as an altar call. Other times they are public evangelism efforts. Even others, people push to get every person they share the gospel with to pray a prayer of salvation.
In many of these instances I have personally witnessed people being encouraged, excited, enticed, and even coaxed to respond to the call being given. Too often, the purpose of these things is to
feed the ego of the person giving the call or wooing the crowd get people to make a public proclamation of what they just heard before they leave the presence of the one giving the call. Now before I ruffle every feather of every person reading this, let me clarify a few things:
- I believe that when done in proper biblical context, public calls to salvation are very necessary for sharing the gospel
- I believe men like Greg Laurie are gifted to share these kinds of messages and encourage heartfelt responses to the gospel
- I believe there are many other men and women with similar gifts that do so with great awareness of their actions and opportunities
So why did I start with negatives if I believe in the three statements above? Because way too often we think we are the final word in unbelievers coming into a personal relationship with Christ. We put so much emphasis on our responsibility to share the gospel and on the need to bring all to salvation that we miss the greater point. Here is a wonderful example from scripture where I think you will see where I am going:
Early in John chapter 4, Jesus meets a woman at a well. As they are in conversation, Jesus makes it pretty clear that He is the Messiah (“I who speak to you am He.” John 4:26). Now let me say this. I do not think that Jesus was weak in His evangelism. He was solid and knew how to tug on all the right strings when necessary. So here Jesus is, the super-evangelist, and the women gets away without praying her prayer. Yup, in John 4:28 it says that she left her water jar and ran into town to tell a whole bunch of people what happened. But there is no evidence to show that she actually came to salvation. As a matter of fact, I think there is more evidence to the contrary. In verse 29 of the same chapter she is quoted as saying “Can this be the Christ?”. So she didn’t personally believe. Jesus had a chance with this woman right in front of her to get her to proclaim Him as Lord and He let her go (because He is perfect and knows perfectly what to do). Additionally, after the woman runs into town to tell all the people what she had heard, John records this from someone in the crowd:
“It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4:42
They no longer needed some person (the woman in this case) sharing their information, because God Himself allowed them to personally know who Jesus was.
So why then do we push so hard to get people to the “decision”? Is it for ego’s sake? Is it because we believe this is what we are called to do? Or is it something else? I think we need to examine our hearts and determine why it is we believe what we believe about the way in which people come to salvation. For me, I hold to the firm belief that God does ALL THE WORK before we ever share with that person as well as during the time we are sharing and after we are done. Now this definitely doesn’t mean I should just sit and do nothing. It means that:
- I can freely share without the worry of “doing it right”
- I can continue loving that person and believing God can save them even if they reject me
- I do not have to get creative in order to share the gospel (ok, sometimes getting creative is fun)
- I do not have to stretch or distort God’s word in order to lead unbelievers to Christ (yup, people do it)
- I get to be blown away by the fact that God would use me to assist Him in doing a work that He can do all Himself
So go and share the amazing news of the gospel. Share it freely and trust that God has prepared you (and that person) for whatever may come as a result.
There is no pressure in that!
2 Comments | tags: christian, faith, follower, God, gospel, great commission, Jesus, mission, no pressure, plans, religion, salvation, saved, trust | posted in Christianity
“I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat.” Mark 8:2
It is interesting for me to read in Mark chapter 8 that Jesus allowed the people following him to go without food for three days. They must have been starving and would have loved if he would have given them food on day one. But he didn’t.
How often is that like us (ME)? We want God to answer NOW. We face certain trials and ask God to remove them right away. We posses a great need and want God to provide it right away. When God doesn’t answer immediately, we get frustrated, weary, and even upset with God. The worst part of all is that it begins to put a wedge in between us and God. The wedge doesn’t come from God’s side (He never does that) but from ours.
My encouragement is this:
Ask of God always for everything your heart desires (see Matt 7:7). Then just wait and be patient. This is not an easy task and one that I personally struggle with. But when I struggle with my patience I read of the lives of Moses and the Israelites searching for the promised land, the life of Paul (especially in prison), and even these people following Jesus in Mark chapter 8 (starving for food). None of those circumstances were satisfied overnight and in some cases, it didn’t happen for many years. And like them, we may wait a long time for God to meet our need(s).
But God will provide. And the best news of all is that even if we don’t get what we want in this present life, Jesus will make it worth every second we waited once he returns.
Leave a comment | tags: christian, faith, God, Jesus, mark 8:2, patience, plans, pray, provision, wait | posted in Christianity
I think every Christian has walked a path in which they started second guessing whether it was God leading or them pushing. We pray and seek God’s wisdom. We ask for advice from trusted people in our circles. We slowly step down the path. Then there comes a time when it isn’t going the way we thought it would. Now what?
I am there right now. Through much prayer and advice, I followed a path I felt God orchestrated. But as I am walking, I am doubting myself. Did I want it so bad that I thought I heard God’s direction and now I should stop? Or was it really God leading and I just need to keep going?
This blog post is just me thinking out loud. I actually hope to hear from readers. Share your experiences and offer any advice you believe to be sound.
As for me now, I sit and wait. I pray harder. I trust my initial decision was right and not only will God continue to lead me down this path, but He will rid me of my doubt.
I am so thankful to know that God’s will for my life is perfect. Even when I don’t have it figured out, He already has!
1 Comment | tags: christian, doubt, God, plans, trust | posted in Christianity
I was having a conversation with a Christian friend tonight about the trials we are both going through. As business owners, we are seeing some very tough times. I personally cannot seem to get off the ground and he cannot sustain consistent revenue. It would be easy for either of us to question God. We go to church, we read our Bible, we pray every day, and we live our lives for Jesus. Here is where I quote Jeremiah 29:11 (below). So why isn’t God hooking our businesses up? Well when it comes to Jeremiah 29:11, the translation that’s often quoted isn’t really accurate. Let me show you a comparison.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. NIV 84
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. ESV
We all want to quote the NIV because it sounds so much better. “Plans to prosper”. Prosper relates to success which we relate to finances. The problem is, that that translation just isn’t accurate and gives us a false sense of who God is. God loves us and God provides for us. But providing doesn’t mean abundance of wealth when it comes to God. The better translation shows more accurately that God wants to give us peace and comfort in Him, in spite of what our success looks like.
Once I begin to understand who God really is, I see that His purpose is to show me that my life is amazing regardless of my success. And even greater, when I don’t have success and all the goodies that come with it I have more time to focus on Jesus. All my “stuff” used to bring me joy, now my Jesus brings me joy.
Without a doubt, I’m better off this way!
1 Comment | tags: better, christian, God, Jeremiah 29:11, Jesus, plans, prosper, trials | posted in Christianity