God’s Community

February 16, 2016
  • Is up close and personal with all types of people–not just those we prefer, but every person in the room
  • Shoulder to shoulder walking, sometimes running, sometimes picking up those who have fallen
  • God’s love is felt in the atmosphere
  • It is loving and accepting and warm
  • People are secure and freely themselves
  • There is no condemnation, no fear
  • Shame is never a tool used to motivate, neither is punishment, intimidation, manipulation, religious bullying…
  • It is transparent and honest and vulnerable and open
  • It is willing to grow together and sometimes fight together–together, not against each other
  • It is so close people call each other brother and sister–even the most unlikely are joined together in this family
  • There is no favoritism, God is not partial, neither is His family
  • Unity permeates every relationship because of the extreme level of commitment to one another; extreme!
  • The central focus of all activity within the community is unmistakably JESUS
  • Everyone and everything points to JESUS
  • Everything in the community gets it’s purpose from JESUS
  • The community lives and breathes and does everything with eternal purpose
  • Sacrifice is understood as Jesus’ example for us to follow
  • Willingness to get down in the dirt and wash people’s feet permeates the culture.
  • There is deep respect and honor for everyone in the community–and it’s tangible.

Is this an illusory ideal? Nope! This is the community we read about in the New Testament. This is the family God is wanting to build us into. When we are allowing God to transform our hearts, our churches will look more and more like this. But, if there is distance in our relationship with Jesus and we are not allowing His life to affect ours, there will be distance in our relationships with people.

Allowing Jesus to transform our lives, transforms our churches. Seeking to live up close and personal with Jesus, will make us want to live up close and personal with His–our–family.

When Presidents Pray

February 15, 2016

By the President of the United States of America:

A Proclamation

For a Day of National Humiliation Fasting and Prayer

Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and Just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation:

And whereas, it is the duty of nations, as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the LORD:

And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People?

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to invite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the LORD, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and restoration of our now divided and suffering country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our LORD one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-seventh.

~Abraham Lincoln

Praying is like breathing. God wants our praying to be as easy and as natural as breathing and as non-stop, continuous, do-it-without-thinking as breathing is. We never stop breathing. We should never stop praying.

Paul said, pray without ceasing, Thessalonians 5:17. Paul knew the vital thing in the life of a Christian was to pray. Prayer is as vital to our spiritual life as breathing is to our natural life. 

Jesus’ life was a life of prayer. Jesus assumed we would pray. Matthew records Jesus teaching on prayer and three times in a row Jesus said, when you pray, Matthew 6:5, 6:6 and 6:7. Then in verse 9 Jesus said, this is howbegin by giving glory to God.

The gospels record that Jesus prayed constantly, for extended periods of time, and He went to solitary places to get alone with God, the Father.

Here are just a few instances:

  • Jesus went up on a mountainside by himself to pray, Matthew 14:23.
  • Jesus prayed all night, till shortly before dawn, Matthew 14:25.
  • Jesus got up very early in the morning… went off to a solitary place, where he prayed, Mark 1:35.
  • Jesus spent all night praying, Luke 6:12.
  • Jesus was praying in private, Luke 9:18.
  • In the gospel of John Jesus thanks God for always hearing Him, I know that you always hear me, John 11:42.

If Jesus made such a priority of prayer, shouldn’t we? 

Prayer is communication with God. Communication is two way. We speak and listen. God speaks and He listens. God will use many ways to grab our attention. We just have to have our spiritual attention tuned into to seeing and hearing Him.

As a baby grows in their ability to communicate with their mom and dad they learn many verbal and non-verbal tools of communication. A baby’s language skills develop very naturally through continued use. Our prayer–our ability to communicate with God–develops the same way, naturally through continual use.

As a baby grows up, communication is as natural as breathing. In the same way, our prayer life grows up and is as natural as breathing: something we do without thinking, a continual conversation with God, a worshipful attitude all day long. Even the busiest day can be filled with a constant communication with God that is prayerful and worshipful.

Prayer is not difficult. It might begin as a discipline to create the habit, but prayer never stays a discipline, at least if the desire is to truly know God and surrender to Him. Without surrender, prayer will be difficult. Surrender is the key word here.

Prayer quickly becomes a delight, because God gives ever-increasing revelation of Himself and we realize we are spending time with the Creator of the heavens that the earth. And God is the initiator of the relationship in the first place, so…

Prayer becomes our natural response to God’s heart that is constantly calling to ours. As we grow closer to His heart, prayer is the natural communication that flows back to Him expressing our thanks and worship. Much of our prayer becomes less about asking Him for things and much more an expression of thanks and worship. Our Father knows what we need before we ask Him, Matthew 6:8. This doesn’t mean we don’t ask for things, it simply changes what we ask for, and how we ask.

God longs jealously for a deep relationship with us. A relationship only grows as deep and intimate as the communication allows. We only grow into a deep relationship with God through continual prayer–and surrender.

God’s promise to us is, everyone who asks, receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened, Matthew 7:7. No time spent seeking God is ever wasted or lost. He responds to us by giving even more of Himself to us. If we seek Him, we will find Him, Jeremiah 29:13. God gives Himself lavishly. He wants to be known by us. He has made the way easy for us to know Him, through continual prayer.