Looking Ahead into the New Year…

Biblical Prayer, Essentials, Start Here, Woman of the Word

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Hello again! Here we find ourselves at the close of another year and looking ahead to the next. So much, I am sure, has transpired in your life this past year, whether good or bad, it has been used to get you to this point in your Christian journey. Looking back on my own life, the trials and blessings that took place in 2018 were not something I ever would have chosen for myself or for those around me, but I give all glory to God for His wisdom and foresight into what is necessary in fashioning me after His design.

As we begin our lives in 2019, let’s take a moment to reflect on where we are at in our relationship with the Lord and what we would like to see happen, or be different in our lives. Personally, I would love to know what God’s vision is for my life and what He is calling of me to do at this particular moment before I proceed to make my own “resolutions”.

In church yesterday, our pastor spoke on Revelation 3:14-22 which Jesus addresses the church of Laodicia. He spoke about having the Lord anoint our eyes with His eye salve to give us His vision for the New Year. This was so encouraging to me, and I sure to many of those in attendance. And yet, it left me wondering if, will God truly give us a vision for the future? What happens when it seems like I only have a small task to accomplish, does that mean God is displeased with me? Why doesn’t God give us the complete picture for our lives all at once?

The beautiful thing about our Lord is He is faithfulness to minister to His children and to reveal His will and plan to us if we are, not only willing to hear Him, but to obey Him as well! This morning in my personal devotions (going through a new “read the Bible in a year” plan) I was in the book of Joshua chapters 1-5, where God is leading Joshua to become the new leader of the Israelites. The passage in Chapter 1, where the Lord encourages Joshua to not be afraid and be of good courage three times. He promises to never leave nor forsake him (Joshua 1:5), and that he must meditate on the Word of God day and night that he would be able to observe to do all that is commanded in it (verse 7). This is the same promise we have as the church today, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my Helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?'” (Hebrews 13:5-6)  With this incredible promise, we can proceed in our walk with the Lord with such confidence in God’s faithfulness and His promise to be with us as we seek to please Him by reading and obeying His Word.

After this promise was given to Joshua, God commanded him to do some pretty radical things in bring the Israelites into the Promised Land. What the Lord brought to my mind this morning as I was reading and praying, was that God only revealed each subsequent step of His plan to Joshua only after he obeyed the first command given to him. We read in Chapter 1 verses 10 through 16, Joshua making plans to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land. He addresses the three tribes who were given the land, the Ruebenites, the Gadites and half the tribe of Manassah,  on that side of the Jordan, to go to battle with their fellow Israelites to help them possess the land on the other side of the river. I love the passage in verse 16 where, after the three tribes agree to go with them and as they do, they remind Joshua to be strong and of good courage, thus repeating God’s command He gave to Joshua in Chapter 1.  He served under Moses as he led the Israelites out of their bondage to Egypt, and saw the many miracles performed through Moses. Now, Joshua is faced with leading these people into the Promised Land, after his leader and mentor had passed on from this life. I am sure Joshua was grieving the loss of his teacher, and wondering what the Lord had in mind for him and his people.

The passing of another year reminds us of where we were, the things we learned and the failings of our flesh, and looking ahead to the unknown. It is important to not get stuck in the past,  but to look on to the future with the assurance of God’s presence in our lives.  Much like Joshua could have been stuck looking to his past and how much better things were when Moses was there. The pressure of performing wasn’t there and he could trust Moses to make the tough decisions. We need to not remain in our current state in our walk with the Lord. Our goal should be growth, to not be the same person we were the year before, and embrace the calling placed on our lives for this season.

Joshua faced many uncertainties, as he looked ahead and saw the insurmountable obstacles that were in his way. Instead of focusing on the things around him, he began his new ministry with obedience and reliance on the Lord, a recipe for success for any believer. He began the preparations for crossing over the Jordan River even though he didn’t know how the Lord would do get them across.  Two spies were sent out to search out the city of Jericho directly on the other side of the river, and were sovereignly protected by the Lord through the harlot, Rahab. While they were there, they heard of the terror that the people of Jericho had towards the Israelites,  and knew of the miracles performed by God on their behalf. (Joshua 2:9-11) When the spies returned to Joshua with their report, I’m sure it bought comfort to him.

The Bible tells us in Chapter 3 verse 1, that Joshua rose early in the morning to prepare the people to cross over the Jordan, no delaying, but acting swiftly and doing all that God commanded him to do. After Joshua prepared to cross, the Lord spoke to him again, promising to exalt him in the sight of Israel as Moses had been, but only after the Levites took up the ark and stood in the Jordan. What would have happened in Joshua complained and questioned God’s method? “God, how are we going to get across? What about the cities on the other side? Aren’t You going to tell me what I need to do?” How often do we question God and fail to take Him at His Word? I know I do more than I’d like to admit.

Is there a “river” that you need to cross in your walk as a believer?  Are struggling to obey Him? Are there fortified cities of depression, fear, or anger standing in your way even after you cross over that prevents you from proceeding? I challenge you dear sister or brother, to step out into the unknown, into that river, and only then will you be given the next set of directions from the Lord. Once the Levites, with the ark of the Lord, stepped into the Jordan, the waters were cut off from their source and the people were able to cross over on dry ground (Joshua 3:15-17), a truly amazing feat made possible only by our Lord.

After this, we find God speaking to Joshua again. He commanded him to gather 12 leaders from the tribes to collect 12 stones, and set them up as a memorial for future generations of God’s faithfulness. They were to tell their children of how the waters of the Jordan stood still and the people crossed on dry ground (Joshua 4:1-7).  Let’s think of a way we can apply this to our lives today.  Let’s think of these 12 stones as the 12 months of the year and that you could write down the blessings in your own life and set them us as a reminder. These 12 stones, or months in our case, served a great purpose in not only the lives of those setting them up but also for the generation’s to come.  These memorials are also called “Ebenezer stones” referenced in 1 Samuel 7:12, “And Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Jehovah has helped us now.”.  It is essential for us, who know the Lord, to have reminders for ourselves of God’s faithfulness in our lives. Let’s be laying the groundwork for spiritual success for this next generation through encouragement and prayer. Otherwise, they will be getting their purpose and vision from the world and the enemy of our faith.

For this coming year, my friend,  I pray that you would be obedient to the task or tasks the Lord is calling you to do, even if it doesn’t make sense to you, to trust the natur eand goodness of our Heavenly Father (Proverbs 3:5-6)  It is often only after we step out in faith that the Lord reveals the next part of His plan to us! Let us also pray that the Lord would show us the Ebenezer stones He would have us set up in our lives as a memorial of God’s love and faithfulness to us each month of this coming year.

God bless you in this new year and in your relationship with the Lord. Let us make sure we fix our eyes on the Author and Finisher of our faith and not be pulled to the right or to the left, for when we do, we will find rest for our souls and success in our lives.

 

 

What is Essential in the Life of the Believer: Part 2

Biblical Prayer, Essentials

fullsizeoutput_253In order to grow as a Believer (aka Biblical Christian), we read in “What is Essential in the life of the Believer ? Part 1” the Word of God is required.  In reading the Bible we are hearing directly from the Lord on daily living and how to keep ourselves pure in these dark days.

What else is an essential in our lives to have a well-balanced walk?

The next topic we will dive into is that of prayer. Unfortunately, today there are many abuses of prayer and how to pray. Some new terms we are hearing such as “contemplative prayer”or “centering prayer,” “IHOP (International House of Prayer),” “breath prayers,” etc., seem like they are of God. However, when you look deeper into these practices, you find that they are far from what biblical prayer looks like. If we agree that the Bible is the ultimate authority, we need to look to it alone for our standard. Let’s look at several verses dealing with prayer in the Bible and pray that we come to the conclusion of why prayer is essential in our life and how to avoid these pagan type religious acts.

Luke 11: 1-4: “Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples’. So He said to them, ‘When you pray, say,’ Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” This is one of the most famous passages in the Bible addressing prayer by Jesus. We are given this template for our prayers where we are to approach our Holy God with the fear and reverence as He alone deserves. By using this model, we see that the main purpose in our prayers is having God’s will done here on Earth and not our own.

So often we desire God to act according to our plans or timing which goes against the reason prayer is needed in the believer’s life. 1 John 5:14: “Now we have this confidence that we have in Him, that is we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”

Prayer needs to be continual to keep us from falling away. Ephesians 6:18: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”  Matthew 26:41,  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane in John 17 serves as a further example of what biblical prayer looks like. Jesus prayed that His Father’s will would be done and that He would be glorified in Jesus ultimate act of love, dying on the cross. He prayed for His disciples and that God would keep them as He was getting ready to pass from this life. Jesus also prayed for those who were yet to know Him, that is you and I. His selfless life that He lived here is such an amazing display of love.  In Luke 5:16, we learn about one of the secrets of Jesus success here on earth, “So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” It was this continual communication with the Father that allowed Him to be so affective here on earth for God. If Jesus, part of the triune God, needed to be in constant prayer with the Father, how much more is it necessary for us?

We have talked a little on what prayer should look like, but now let’s discuss the ways the Lord says we are not to pray. Some people like to be seen as “holy” or want to be seen more religious than others, so they make a point to pray only when they have an ” audience.” In Matthew 6:5-8 we read,  “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” I don’t believe this means that we are forbidden from praying in public as Jesus Himself would pray in public (John 11:41-42 at the raising of Lazarus from the dead). The real issue here is the heart we have when we approach praying. Are we seeking to be seen and promote our own name in the eyes of men, or are we seeking to elevate the name of God and bring all people to Him?

I think it’s important that we discuss for a little bit about contemplative prayer and why it is unbiblical. The practice of contemplative prayer begins with “centering prayer,” a meditative practice where the person praying focuses on a word and repeats that word over and over for the duration of the exercise. This mirrors the eastern practice of using a mantra to clear your mind of any distractions.  By doing this, it supposedly will enable the “prayer” to hear God more clearly.  After the centering prayer, the person praying, is to sit still, listen for direct guidance from God, and “feel” His presence. I must emphasis the “feeling” aspect here. That is the motivation, unfortunately, for some people that profess to be Christian but lack any solid foundation or have ever had a salvation experience.  As I had mentioned earlier, God doesn’t want us to use “vain repetitions” in our prayers as the pagans do (Matthew 6:7).

We need to exam ourselves and our motivation whenever we approach prayer.  Let’s do a quick rundown of all that we discussed about biblical prayer and why it is essential in our lives as believers.

Essential of Prayer Overview:

  1. Prayer is our direct line of communication with God (Proverbs 15:29, 2 Chronicles 6:21 ,Jeremiah 29:12)
  2. Prayer is to get God’s Will accomplished here on earth (1 John 5:14-15, James 4:3)
  3. It helps keep us from being anxious (Philippians 4:6-7, James 5:13)
  4. Prayer allows us to ask for forgiveness from the Lord in order to make us right with Him (2 Chronicles 7:14)
  5. It changes us to be more like Christ (Romans 12:2)
  6. Prayer is necessary in order for us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44)
  7. It is necessary to keep us from being deceived (Matthew 26:41)

Thank you my dear sister in Christ for learning with me of why prayer is essential in the life of the believer. If you have any addition verses to add to this, please do so in the comment section! I look forward to you joining me on my “How to have a Bible Time” mini series. I am going to present you will several different approaches to having this precious time with the Lord, and I pray it will inspire you to either begin your Bible time or to encourage you in your time. God bless.