I Believe In Prayer

Praying for Branch County and Beyond

Archive for the month “February, 2012”

Day 20 – Following Jesus Into Adventure

John 5:17-20

             In 1958 the American writer Barnaby Conrad was badly gored in a bullfight in Spain. The actress Eva Gabor was having lunch with Noel Coward in a New York restaurant when the two were overheard talking about the incident. “Noel, dahling,” said Eva, “have you heard the news about poor Bahnaby?” He vas terribly gored in Spain.”

            “He was what?” asked Coward in alarm.

            “He vas gored!”

            “Thank heavens. I thought you said he was bored.”

             Are you bored? You don’t need to be. God is already working all around you – at home, at work, at church, in the restaurant and at the store – and you can join him. In fact, he invited you to join him for blessing, for purpose . . . for adventure.

            Adventures are a wonderful thing – in books; but in life it’s another matter. They stretch and discompose you. But what a great thing to go on an adventure with Jesus as your companion.

            Think of the adventures Jesus experienced: There was the attempt made on his life when he was but an infant (Matthew 2); there was the wilderness survival experience; the storm at sea; the riot at Nazareth – and many more. He faced enemies, demoniacs, diabolical politicians and crazed mobs.

            We think that if we are in God’s will we will be protected from risk, but it was not so for Jesus. He watched what His Father was doing, saw where he was working, and joined right in (John 15:19-20a). Doing so sometimes led him into adventure, but never into boredom.

            If your Christian life is boring, perhaps you haven’t been following Jesus’ lead. If you will watch what the Father is doing, see where he is working, and act when he shows you what to do, you’ll be off on the adventure of your life. And you’ll have Jesus as your companion.

          “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)



Day 19 – Bold Sacrifice – 3

Acts 20:22-24

 22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. (Acts 20:22-24, NIV)

What is the test that affirms we are being compelled and led by God’s Holy Spirit in where we go and what we do for Christ and His Kingdom? Surely Paul must have wrestled with the dangers of going to back to Jerusalem – fellow-apostles pleading with him not to go there.   Paul reveals something interesting and important here. In every city that he had entered in His years of ministry the Holy Spirit had warned him about the reality of persecution and hardship.  Though Paul was stubborn, he was continually faithful to His fulfill His calling to preach the gospel of salvation. Why? He was a changed man, Christ had not only opened his eyes, Paul was transformed by the light of Jesus’ grace and glory. When a person is made new in Christ there is nothing more gratifying and meaningful than to pass this on to others. Paul could face adversity with bold faith, counting sacrifice a privilege as long as others could also taste and see that gospel of God’s grace in Christ means everything and is worth our complete devotion. 

How unselfish and sacrificial are we in our view of the Christian faith? How often do we complain when the going gets tough, or when the consequence of sharing the gospel of Jesus involves rejection or persecution? Paul teaches us that the Holy Spirit will warn us, but will also encourage us to expect such treatment. We learn from Paul that such adversity can build our character, faith, and deepen our resolve and reliance upon God. After all, the most effective witness reveals a God who is bigger than our words and greater than our circumstances. This is a good lesson in a time of history where many people have flocked to the safety of Mega-Churches or have opted out of the church because of competing demands of time and resources. Being a disciple of Jesus means picking up your cross in order to follow Him, this will be true until we cross the finish line in our faith’s race.

 If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)


Day 18 – Bold Sacrifice – 2

Paul – Acts 20:22-24

             Acts chapter 9 records the account of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to, as we refer to him, “The Apostle Paul.” Three days after appearing to Paul, the Lord called Ananias to pray for Paul in order that he might receive his sight, be filled with the Spirit, and be baptized. Jesus tells Ananias that Paul is a “chosen instrument” to evangelize the Gentiles and that he will “suffer much” for Christ’s name. Years later we find Paul (Acts 20) traveling through Ephesus on what will be his final pilgrimage to Jerusalem. There he will be imprisoned, and then be transferred to Rome where he is eventually executed.

            Paul has lived out his commission; fearlessly preaching the gospel throughout Asia Minor; courageously facing staunch and often violent opposition to his message.  Picking up in verse 22, we find insight into Paul’s willingness to sacrifice all for Christ, and the courage with which he did. First, he was compelled by the Holy Spirit (Note:  Acts 1:8); second, he had a realistic view of the Christian life. Remember, Jesus called his disciples to take up a cross, not a couch, and follow Him (Note:  Mt. 16:24 – 26). And third, Paul lived with a sense of destiny. He had a mission to fulfill, an assignment from God which was of more value to him than his own safety or security. For these reasons, he was willing to boldly sacrifice all for the cause of Jesus Christ. 

            What if the church of Branch County were to live with that same sense of courageous commitment? What if you and I were to fully yield to the compelling presence of God’s Holy Sprit within? How might that embolden our witness? What if we were to reject social status, creature comforts and cultural conveniences in favor of sacrificially serving Jesus Christ daily out in our community? What difference could that make? And what if, like Paul, we esteemed God’s purpose for our lives of ultimate value and lived accordingly? We also have a mission to fulfill, one that will require bold sacrifices day in and day out. A mission well worth the investment of all we have to give, and a mission that will impact lives, not only on earth but even in eternity.

 “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race

and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.” (Acts 20:24)


Day 17 – Free, But Not Cheap

2 Samuel 24:18-25

             This portion of Scriptures revolutionized my life and set me free from “Wimpy Christianity” that values me above all else. David is nearing the end of his tenure as the King of Israel sins against God and decides to hold a census. Out of that sin, God sent a plague over Israel and the only way to stop it was for David to offer a specific offering to God in a specific place. A man named Araunah owned the site and David needed it to save Israel. Because of the seriousness of the moment Araunah offered it to him for free, just as any reasonable believer would for his king.

            David’s reply to him is the transforming part of the whole story. David said “I will not offer burn offerings to the Lord my God with that which cost me nothing.” Think of that statement, would it be the easy – cheap path for David or the one that was real? We all too often choose to serve God through the path of least resistance based on our good intentions. Every time we do that, we dishonor the relationship we have and treat the blood of Christ as a common thing. It is so easy to go through the motions, to “phone it in” and call that close enough in our relationship with God. Unfortunately, as a wise man once said, “the path of least resistance is what makes both rivers and men crooked.” David chose the Bold Faith kind of worship before God, one that demands his highest and best.

            For us today, on this side of the cross, it remains for us to personally decide to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God. Love demands that we give our highest and best everyday in worship because our heart constrains us to do no less. When the opportunity comes to volunteer, or give the larger of the two bills in our wallet to the cause of Christ we generally hear two inner voices. The bold one says “go for it, live all out because He did it for me,” and the wimpy one says “someone else will do it, you’ve done enough, give the lesser amount because you need the bigger one for your own purposes.” It’s time to step up, stop giving excuses for your wimpy desires and live the only life worth living, a life of Bold Faith. That’s the only way we will experience the promise that says He will honor those who honor Him !

 I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing. (2 Samuel 24:24)


Day 16 – Bold Sacrifice

David – 2 Samuel 24:18-25

             Boldness and sacrifice were not foreign concepts to King David. They were a way of life! From the time Samuel anointed him King, the Holy Spirit had come upon him; two fruits of which were courage and sacrificial service. Commitment to God’s plan, and the willingness to risk his own life were trademarks of David’s 40 year dynasty as “Gods Anointed” over Israel.

            2 Samuel 24 records an encounter between an elder King David and the prophet Gad.  He had come to announce judgment upon Israel in the form of a plague.  The wages of sin, both then and now, is death!  Seventy thousand Israelites would die in the plague. 

            Picking up the text in verse 18, Gad instructs David on God’s sole remedy for sin – sacrifice. (Note:  Hebrews 10:8 – 14). As the story continues, Araunah the Jebusite does what you would expect any loyal citizen to do, he offers King David use of his “goods and facilities free of charge.” David’s response is consistent with how he has lived out his life – “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” Sacrifice implies cost. It always requires personal expense or extra effort, not out of surplus, but out of scarcity; or, there is NO real sacrifice. 

            In what tangible ways has God called you to sacrifice for Him? Have you been so bold (courageous) as to volunteer to give of your time, your energy or your finances in a way that has cost you personally? Or do you tend to give from what’s left (i.e. that which cost you nothing). Do you look for “deals” in serving Christ or like David, are you glad to pay “full price” to honor the Lord your God. Bold Faith will manifest itself through bold sacrifices. Ask God for both the willingness to do so, and creative and effective ways to serve Him sacrificially.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find;

knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)


Day 15 – Expectations

Luke 14:25-35

             Mistaken expectations can leave us confused and even put us in harm’s way. A newspaper photographer in Los Angeles got a call from his editor, who told him he wanted pictures of the fire that was raging out of control in Palos Verdes. The editor told him that there was a plane waiting for him at the county airport and that he needed to get the pictures and get back in a hurry. They were needed for the evening edition. 

            The photographer raced off to the airport, and found everything just as his boss had described. He jumped into the plane and yelled, “Let’s go!” The pilot took off and within minutes they were within sight of the raging fire. The photographer then instructed him to swoop down near the flames so that he could get some pictures. The man looked surprised and asked, “Why?”  The reporter snapped back, “Because I’m a photographer and that’s what photographers do: they take pictures.” After a moment or two of complete silence, the pilot stuttered, “Does that mean you’re not the flight instructor?”

            If we enter the Christian life with the expectation of ease and comfort, we shall be disappointed. Jesus does not call people to pursue success but to follow him. Following him will eventually lead to “fullness of joy . . . and pleasures forever more,” but along the way we will encounter our share of difficulties: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” said Paul and Barnabas bluntly (Acts 14:22).

            If we expect God to make life easy and keep us out of all troubles, we will inevitably feel that he has let us down. But if we expect him to be with us in trouble, to glorify his name and work ceaseless good in us and through us – that is, if we trust in him – we will never be disappointed.

 “The one who trusts will never be dismayed.” (Isaiah 28:16)


Day 14 – Bold Faith Together

Acts 4

The third and fourth chapters in the Book of Acts contain stories about action (“Acts”) for God in Christ by Peter and John, and the consequences they suffered for taking those actions. The believers respond to the threats against Peter and John by praying for more boldness – and praying together. That togetherness deserves to be highlighted, a togetherness which also can be seen in the way this passage is couched between two scriptures, Acts 2:44-47 and 4:32, that show us a cooperative early church. But before going on we must know what is meant by the term “boldness” here.

The Greek word for boldness, in our English letters, is parrhesia, and it can mean several things. It has much to do with speaking out loud publicly, and might be considered the opposite condition of, and maybe the antidote for, being afraid to talk in front of crowds – one of our society’s greatest fears. Yet, this boldness in speaking is not something coerced, but has an air of freedom to it; not quite casual but certainly open, unambiguous and plain-spoken. Undergirding it all is a confidence and assurance, connected with an authority and even license that actually comes from somewhere beyond the individual.

Of course, the ultimate authority and power for this boldness is the Lord. Yet, I want to accentuate that our authorization and strength additionally can come from being the People of God together, with common direction and purpose. That’s what attracted me in the first place to this community-wide emphasis on bold faith, and why I continue to support it through our congregation. It can cause us to encourage each other publicly, from congregation to congregation, to unambiguous boldness in faith. The outcome is something far beyond our individual and personal faith expressions, creating a community in Christ, in which the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Oh sure: we may have our differences. Yet, like the believers in Acts, let’s continue to pray for each other in our communal authentication of bold faith in others, in order to show the world around us the love of Christ in action!

 We ought always to thank God for you … because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. (2 Thess. 1:3)


Day 13 – Bold Obedience

Acts 4

             The theme of bold obedience rises to prominence in Acts 4. It shows up specifically in the lives and ministries of Peter and John the Apostles. In fact, the book of Acts is itself an account of the apostles and disciples of Jesus boldly walking in obedience to the Great Commission. There is a principle at work here: in order to get the results that Peter and John saw, one must be boldly obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit. 

            Isn’t this the same Peter who, just prior to Jesus’ death, denied Him three times?  We find him now preaching with power and boldness, while being used to perform supernatural works.  He was most definitely different; he had been transformed by the person of Jesus Christ and empowered with boldness through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

            We find a second principle here: when people are boldly obedient to the Lord they will in fact face opposition. Peter and John were arrested and brought before the religious leaders of their day because of their bold obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised us that as we follow Him in bold faith and act according to His word, great things will accompany us. However, He also promised that we would be hated and rejected by a world that cannot comprehend spirit truths.

            There is a third principle demonstrated in these early believers: their bold obedience was not only visible as they ministered to others and as they stood before their opponents, it was evident in their personal lives as well. In Acts 4 we’re told they sold everything, sacrificed it all, and fully trusted God. What would the church look like today if we as believers would take God at His word and boldly walk in obedience to Him and Him alone?  

Present your bodies as living sacrifices,

             Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. (Romans 12:1)


Day 12 – Elijah

1 Kings 19

                  Elijah was, like many of us, a man of contradictions. There were times when he expressed great faith — and times when he was full of fears. He was powerful as he faced the false prophets of Ahab and Jezebel, and he was compassionate when he raised the dead son of the widow who had provided him food and lodging. The Bible shows both sides: Elijah acting as the instrument of God’s miracle power; and Elijah falling victim to the natural human fears that afflict even the strongest person of faith!

                 Elijah ran and hid in a cave when Jezebel determined to take his life.  The Lord appeared to him and asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He did not the answer the Lord’s question, but instead stated how he had “been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty,” and how the Israelites were being unfair to him. The Lord told him to go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord. The Lord then sent a great and powerful wind, and an earthquake, a fire, but the Lord was not in them. Finally He came in a gentle whisper, and Elijah went out, pulling his cloak over his face. The Lord showed Elijah that He does not always work through all those harsh methods, represented by the winds and earthquakes and fires, but the He was also kind and patient and could speak to His servants through a gentle whisper.

                 May we all gain courage to be bold for God, despite our human weaknesses and moments of doubt, knowing that He personally cares for us and will send His angels to minister to our needs, along with gentle words of comfort!

 “After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire.   And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” (1 Kings 19:12)


Day 11 – Bold Obedience to the Word of God

Jeremiah 20

             Have you ever just been completely fed up? You’ve determined you cannot take it anymore? Your life is just overwhelming.

Jeremiah found himself in this situation. Even though he was chosen before his birth to be God’s man, the message God gave him to share was very unpopular. He told the people and leaders of his day that God’s wasn’t going to overlook their sin anymore.  God’s judgment was coming and their cities would be overthrown. Jeremiah was laughed at, mocked & abused.  He was ignored, put in stocks, & thrown in a mud pit. Every time He spoke of the things of God he suffered.  So Jeremiah had had it. He was determined to keep his mouth shut.  He would just not talk about the things of God and his life would be OK.

This is a great temptation of Christians in our day and time.  We’ll just keep our mouths shut and not speak the Word of God to our friends and neighbors.  We don’t want to be thought of as weird, odd, pushy, and even a little crazy.  So we keep our mouths shut so that we will not suffer from ridicule and mild persecution.  Who wants to be mocked or be a laughingstock?  What is needed is a BOLD obedience to the Word of God.

Jeremiah burned on the inside like a fire because of the truth and burden of the Word of God.  So in spite of the ridicule and persecution he would undergo, Jeremiah open his mouth and boldly spoke the Word of God to his generation.  He had to be obedient to the Word of God.

Is this not true for us too?  We must boldly proclaim the word of truth to this wicked and perverse generation.  We must boldly hold out the word of life to the spiritual dying souls of our generation.  We may suffer for it but Jesus said we could be glad when this happens because we would be like the prophets of old.

Pray for God to put a fire in your bones to know His word, to spread His word, to be boldly obedient to His word.  This prayer for such a fire is the desire to be filled with a sense of need and urgency.  Our generation needs us to be a people of BOLD OBEDIENCE.

 “But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.  I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” 

 (Jeremiah 20:9)


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