Issues of Life Archive 111-120

Issues of Life #111

Life at the Next Level #21

Personal Spiritual Growth XI

 

"My house will be a house of prayer”   Luke 19:46

 

    In the journey toward spiritual growth, it is obvious that prayer is one of the chief elements. I have had cause over the past few years to travel to different states, minister in different churches and have had interaction with many local and trans-local ministries. What I have witnessed in the practice of personal prayer is pretty alarming to say the least. While everyone agrees that prayer is important and should be a priority in the lives of individual believers and in the practice of churches, what I have seen is that there are few believers who are really committed to it. My experience with the priority that many churches place on prayer is even more disturbing. James said it this way, “You have not because you ask not”. John Wesley, a great Christian leader from another generation said, “God does nothing except in answer to prayer”. Watchman Nee, one of the greatest Christian leaders China has ever known says it this way, “If we fail in prayer, we fail in everything”.  And one of our pastors here at Trinity, Buddy Suthers says it the best that I’ve heard yet, “If prayer is anything, it’s everything”.  I totally agree with all these quotes. Jesus emphasized prayer at every juncture. It was a vital part of His life and it should also be a vital part of ours’. People who pray, and make it a priority, hear God! Isn’t it funny how that works? People who pray have great insight into what God is doing in their life, their church and in the world. Churches that have made prayer a priority are influencing the culture, winning souls to Jesus and advancing the kingdom of God.

    The benefits of prayer are too many to list in this article but it’s clear that the Christian life cannot be lived to its absolute fullest without one engaging in personal prayer. Jesus said, “When you pray”, not “if you pray”. God has destined our life to be full of incredible exploits in the name of Jesus. We appropriate these things through prayer! And besides, prayer is God’s chosen means of communicating with us!


 

Issues of Life #112

Life at the Next Level #22

 

Personal Spiritual Growth XII

 

    If one is serious about personal spiritual growth, prayer is one of the key things that must be considered as an essential element. Personal prayer is our way of communicating with the Father. It is through prayer that we are to offer our petitions to Him. The Bible says, “In all prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known to God.”

    It is interesting when doing a study on prayer to look at the Greek word for prayer. The Greek word is proseuke (pro shoo’ kay). When we look at proseuke, a broader and deeper meaning for prayer emerges. Proseuke means, “to offer all that you are to God”. One of my favorite examples to explain this word is when John the Baptist was beheaded. Jesus went to be by Himself to pray, or to proseuke. I believe that Jesus had to deal with all the emotions that we would have had to in that situation. He loved John the Baptist! I’m sure that Jesus had to deal with the temptation to retaliate. Anger would have also been something to deal with for any of us. Unforgiveness could have also been a very real attitude to deal with. So Jesus ‘offered all that He was to the Father’. He did not yield to the temptations that confronted Him as we often do. He gave them to the Father. He passed the test and in doing so left us the perfect example as to what we should also do when facing similar circumstances. To proseuke is to die to the feelings, attitudes and actions of the flesh. When we die to the flesh, we live to God! It’s a good sign that we are becoming like Him!

    When Jesus came back from His time with the Father, the Word records that He had compassion on the people. He resisted the temptations that were facing Him and yielded to the Spirit of God that dwelt in Him. The Father rewarded that correct heart attitude by overflowing His heart with compassion. When we are overcome with compassion toward others, God’s Spirit that lives within us is able to move in unprecedented ways. Let us take our personal prayer to a deeper level….from just asking the Father for things to offering all that we are to Him!


 

Issues of Life #113

Life at the Next Level #23

Personal Spiritual Growth XIII

 

“My house shall be called a house of prayer” -  Jesus

 

    When prayer becomes a priority…stuff happens! People who pray have an incredible propensity to hear the Lord. They have great insight into what God is doing and there is power in their lives. So, just what are the steps to begin the process of learning to pray effectively? Actually, getting started is pretty simple.

    We should begin to set aside time to spend with the Father in prayer. If it is going to be a priority, then we must make it a priority. Just waiting for the time to spend in prayer won’t work. Oh, it might work for a day or two but, if you’ll let him, the enemy will make sure that you’re busy enough that you don’t have time to pray. Most folks have good intentions but the hectic nature of our lives prohibits finding the time for quality and productive time in prayer. Many people try to pray just before going to sleep at night. If that works for you, by all means….do it! But it doesn’t work for me. I’ve tried it many times only to drift off to sleep without really having an effective time of prayer. It is best to set aside a time and arrange for a place where interruptions are not an issue. Shut off your cell phone, clear your mind and allow the Holy Spirit to prepare your heart for prayer.

    Another thing that I think helps immensely is to converse with the Father just like you were talking to a friend. I’m not into professional sounding prayers. I’m not into impressing someone else with how I pray or what I pray for. I’m interested in really conversing with the Father and pouring out my heart to Him in a practical way. Most people are worried that their prayers don’t sound professional enough. I say, “Who cares!” You choose which one that you want…..To sound professional or to be effective. There are many more things to consider when planning for prayer but don’t forget to

 1) Make prayer a priority  2)  Set aside a time to spend with the Lord in prayer  3) Don’t worry about how you sound. Remember, you’re talking to your Father! He wants to hear your voice…He wants to answer your prayers!


 

Issues of Life #114

Life at the Next Level #24

Personal Spiritual Growth XIV

 

“My house shall be called a house of prayer” -  Jesus

 

    Personal prayer is vital to the process of spiritual growth. There are many benefits to those who are committed to press in to the Lord through prayer. I am somewhat nervous about the fact that many believers are not committed to prayer. The Bible says that, “You have not because you ask not”.  Problem is, there are many needs in our lives that go unmet primarily because we didn’t ask the Father for His provision. God likes for us to ask. His Word says that He knows what we are going to ask for even before we ask, but He still wants to hear it from us. It grows our faith when we ask God for something and then, by His provision, it becomes a reality.

   There are plenty of practical steps that we can take to grow in the area of prayer. One of these practical steps is to pray specifically. My experience is that when I pray in generalities, God answers in a ‘general’ way. But when I pray specifically, God answers specifically. If you need four hundred and fifteen dollars for your car payment….pray for four hundred and fifteen dollars. When God answers in a ‘specific’ way, it’s an incredible faith builder for us.  Another practical step is to get someone to join you as a ‘prayer partner’. It seems to work for almost anybody to have someone (could be more than one person) to agree with in prayer. A prayer partner brings accountability into your prayer life. It’s harder to miss prayer when you have someone who is going to ask you about your prayer life. There is also an increase in the power of prayer when “two of you agree”. Jesus said that, “when we agree as touching anything and ask in faith and in His name, He’ll do it”! Pretty plain talk, and it works.

Prayer is rooted in relationship. It is us, as His children, petitioning the Father to bring us those things that we ask for. We must overcome the temptation to stop praying.


 

Issues of Life #115

Life at the Next Level 15

 

    It’s obvious that prayer is a vital ingredient when a person is committed to grow spiritually. There are many facets of prayer and many Scriptural elements to look at and consider when one begins the study of prayer.

    Prayer changes things! There’s no doubt about it. We were put here on the planet by a sovereign act of the Father to change our surroundings in a positive way. We are to cooperate with Him to advance His kingdom here on earth. If we are going to do that, we must be in communication with Him so we can know exactly how to get it done. We must hear His voice to know when and how to move.

    How can we discern the voice of God? Must we always struggle with what we believe we hear in our spirit? Most of us do wrestle, to some extent, with the things that we hear. We often wonder, “Is that God or is it me?” Be at peace! It’s a normal response. Everyone, I believe, goes through this process in trying to decide if it is God or something else. Jesus said, “My sheep know Me and they hear My voice.” Hearing God is a learned response.  We are taught to hear Him by the Holy Spirit Who lives in us. It’s something that we will get better at over time….if it is made a priority with us.

    So, in prayer, we must place the value of listening up there as important as asking God for things. It’s hard to hear what someone is saying when we’re talking. We should always remember; we are His children. He loves us with an immeasurable love. He wants, maybe more than anything, to communicate with us. It’s what any father would want but much more so, our heavenly Father! Let’s set our heart to ‘listen’ to what the Father is saying to us.


 

Issues of Life #116

Life at the Next Level #26

 

    Preparing for spiritual growth is an important topic indeed. In fact, the individual’s commitment to grow spiritually is more important now than it has ever been before. I believe that’s true because we are entering a time of extreme upheaval in the world. I’m not necessarily one to be consumed by the talk of the end times but it is clear that we are definitely closer than we have ever been. I believe that we are living in a time when casual Christianity is not going to cut it! God is calling us to a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him. I recently heard a prophet say, “We have become way too familiar with a God we barely know.” I agree. We have made casual Christianity the thing to do in America. After all, we reason, there’s no sense in being a fanatic about it. So in our effort to “not get carried away” with the ‘religion’ thing, we have given up the joy and benefits of authentic Christianity. We have given up the reality of what it’s all about! So, what we really need are some modern day heroes of the faith! We need a company of people who are not intimidated by the pressures of the world, a company of people who are willing to live the Christian life full blast. We don’t have too many heroes to pattern our lives after in this day and time. Oh, there are plenty of those out there who are definitely good people and that are following the traditional path that has been set before them. But where are those who are breaking ‘new ground’? Where are those who take their orders directly from the Lord Himself? We need some great leaders who are not here to please people but to please the Father. We need leaders who will die to building their own kingdom to see God’s kingdom established. We are living in a very strategic time. Who will rise up?


 

Issues of Life #117

Life at the Next Level #27

 

“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.”

2 Peter 1:5-8

 

    There are many other areas to consider of spiritual growth other than prayer but as has been stated before, prayer is a vitally important component for our growth. Another thing to consider is spiritual character. The above verses lay out a plan and pattern for spiritual character. There are eight ingredients listed. The bookends on these eight ingredients are faith and love. The Word says that, “without faith it is impossible to please God.” It says concerning love, “Though we speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not love we have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.”  Faith and love are mentioned again in another context, “these three things abide, faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love.” Faith and love set the tone for the Christian life, a life that is to be lived by faith. And love; well the quality of love that the Bible talks about is ‘agape’, or unconditional love. Agape love is the quality of love that we freely receive from the Father. It is the deepest and most impacting kind of love. It is the kind of love that melts even the coldest, hardest hearts. It is the kind of love that the Father desires to produce in us through the Holy Spirit. We, as parents, have a natural unconditional love for our children. But every other relationship outside that takes work to perfect. Even in a marriage, it takes the work of the Holy Spirit to produce that unconditional love in us. We are well on the way to having unconditional love produced in us if we are engaged in relationship with the Father. It’s His love toward us that changes and transforms us.

    Love and faith; these are two foundational ingredients in the Christian life. The entire Christian life is based on faith. And the good news is that we each have a measure of His faith resident in us. We have enough faith to believe in Jesus as our Savior. That’s how our Christian life begins. Our faith grows and matures as we walk with the Father in this life. God is the author and finisher of our faith. Spiritual character is necessary if we’re to show Jesus to the World.


 

Issues of Life #118

Life at the Next Level #28

 

“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.”

2 Peter 1:5-8

 

    Spiritual growth requires growing in character. One of the things that the world hates about Christians is that we don’t display solid character in our daily lives and affairs. Because of that we have lost credibility with our culture. We must regain that credibility if we are to touch our World for Jesus. Character has been defined as, “doing the right thing when nobody’s looking.” I like the definition. It is the acid test for personal character.

    Faith and love are the bookends of spiritual character. Peter records virtue in order after faith. Virtue is a word that means moral excellence. As Christ is formed in us and as we are being conformed into His image, moral excellence, or virtue is produced in us. We leave our old ways and our old nature and take on the very nature of Jesus. As we do that we are changed morally. We have a higher standard of conduct and conversation. Even our thought life takes on a greater moral standard. True Biblical virtue is important so that the world recognizes that the change that is being wrought in our lives is actually being completed by the Holy Spirit. It is a great witness to the world when we have genuine spiritual character. We, as believers, owe it to the world to show them an accurate example of what true Biblical character consists of. They need to see us walking it out.

    Another component of spiritual character is knowledge. Knowledge speaks to us of knowing about Jesus and the things of the Lord. There is a difference in knowing about Jesus and actually ‘knowing’ Him. Knowing about Him is important and the Book is full of facts about the life and ministry of Jesus. But ‘knowing’ about Him is not a substitute for knowing Him. It is the knowing of Him that actually brings about revolutionary change in our lives. So, knowledge in both forms is important. Let’s commit ourselves to know about Jesus but let us not forget to take the next step to know Him. We can know about Him by reading about His life in the Bible. But we can only know Him by giving Him access to our lives. Virtue and knowledge are vital ingredients in the quest for spiritual character. Are you letting the Lord produce these qualities in you?


 

Issues of Life #119

Life at the Next Level 29

 

“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.”

 2 Peter 1:5-8

 

    Character is never unimportant! But life at the next level requires an even greater emphasis on it. Character could be described as the moral fiber that makes up the individual, and while morality is important and to be commended, it is not holiness. Morality, the acting out of good morals, can be achieved by anyone who makes a strong commitment to it. Holiness, on the other hand, can only be produced by the Holy Spirit. True spiritual character, like holiness, must have the breath of the Spirit on it for it to be valid and genuine.

    Self-control is a very important element in the pursuit of spiritual character. It is what it implies, control of self. This may be one of the greatest challenges in our lives. The control of self sounds easy enough but we all know that it is a battle of epic proportions. We may have the best of intentions but find ourselves falling in the very thing that we were determined to conquer. As we grow and mature we find that we are unable to have control over ourselves. Again, we find that living the Christian life apart from the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, is absolutely impossible. Self-control requires us to make a decision to cooperate with the Father’s work in our lives, and then walk it out, day by day with His help, in our lives.

    Perseverance is also a very important ingredient of spiritual character. Perseverance is the ability to keep going in the face of adversity. It is the ability, tempered and brought to maturity by the Holy Spirit, to look through current unpleasant and painful circumstances to the prize that lies ahead. The trait of perseverance enables the individual to avoid discouragement that threatens to stall our walk with the Lord and thwart His work in our lives.

            If we desire to live a successful Christian life and display the character that brings honor to the Father, self-control and perseverance cannot be ignored.


 

Issues of Life #120

Life at the Next Level #30

 

“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.”

 2 Peter 1:5-8

 

            When God moves us from one level spiritually to another, everything changes. There is a greater emphasis on all that we do. For instance, a small sin or compromise at this level could be the very thing that brings us down at the next level. Responsibility to the call of God increases in life at the next level. We can no longer play around with the call on our lives. It is increasingly more important the further that we go in the Lord.

            Spiritual character cannot be neglected if we are to mature in the things of the Lord. Godliness is a natural by-product of being filled with the Holy Spirit. The Bible states that we are “being conformed into the image of Jesus.” We are being made like Him! The Father is not trying to make our appearance like Jesus. He’s not trying to make our voice sound like Jesus. No, it’s our heart that He is interested in transforming. The heart of Jesus is the goal of our “being conformed”!  Godliness simply means that we are becoming like Him. When we compare ourselves to ourselves, we don’t look too bad. But to compare ourselves spiritually to someone else is a grave mistake. We are not to compare ourselves to our Christian brothers and sisters. We are to compare ourselves to Jesus. When we do that, we can clearly see that we have a ways to go to be like Him. True godliness is tangible proof that we are becoming like Him.

            The world is watching to see if we have genuine character. We have everything to gain…..and everything to lose!

 

 

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