Friday, April 26, 2013

Prayer Changes Things!

Prayer is something that we as Christians all know we are "supposed" to do. The Bible tells us that our prayers are "powerful and effective," in James 5:16. If we truly believe what we claim to believe, should we not pray more? If we truly believe that our prayers carry power, and that they truly have an effect, shouldn't we pray more. If we believe that in prayer we are approaching the all-powerful and all-loving God, who has the power to do anything, should we not go to him more often? And, actually expect something to happen? Instead, far too often the extent of a Christian's prayer life consists of thanking God for their food. God does not want us to have some prayers in our life, he wants us to have a life of prayer! A life that realizes the need for God to intervene. A life of constant intercession for the lost. A life of dependence on God and His power. This is what having a life of prayer looks like.

Many issues within the American church and the lives of Christians stem from prayerlessness. If we as the church would just get on our knees before the Almighty God and ask for His divine intervention, God would move in a mighty way! If those of us within the church would develop a real life of prayer, a move of God would take place like we have never seen before. Instead, we are too caught up with the things of this world. Not necessarily sin, but other things that distract us from God and what really matters. If Facebook is a larger part of your life than prayer is, we have a problem.

We wonder why we don't see the power of God in America like we read in the Bible, or hear about in other countries. Why don't we see God perform miracles on a consistent basis? I believe the answer lies in our prayerlessness. Yes we pray for our sick. However, God does not want us to throw up a few prayers here and there, God wants us to have a life of prayer. It is only when we develop a life of prayer that we will truly witness the awesome power of God.

Then there is faith. Do we truly believe that our prayers do something? That they are "powerful and effective?" Or do we just pray every now and then because that is what good Christians do? Let's start truly believing what we claim we believe, and let our prayer life reflect it! God will move if we seek Him in faith. Not seek Him because it seems like the right thing to do, but seek Him because we believe he will move in power. For, our prayers truly are "powerful and effective." Our prayers change things. Our prayers access a power greater than us, and greater than anything in the universe. Our prayers call upon the omnipotent God to intervene. 

Our prayers do things. When we pray, things happen. We often get discouraged when we don't see our prayers being answered. When in reality, our prayers do so much more than we will ever be able to see. Our prayers truly are "powerful and effective." Let's start believing that! Let's start believing that God does not merely have the ability to answer prayers, but that he IS going to answer our prayers. Let's start believing what the Bible says, and believing that our prayers really do change things. Let's stop blaming God for the lack of answered prayers, and start taking action by coming before God consistently in faith.  

Our prayers are truly "powerful and effective." If you confess to be a Christian, I challenge you to develop a life of prayer. Find a time to prayer every day. Beyond this daily prayer time that you set aside, pray throughout your day. Pray when you wake up. Pray when you go to sleep. Pray on your way to work or school. Pray when you want to. Pray when you don't want to. I urge you to do this for the sake of this world. This world needs Jesus. We can change things through our prayers. Let's go!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Seeing is Believing?

Philosophy. As boring as the word may sound, philosophies throughout history have had a large impact on people. Many times without people even noticing, philosophies have been embedded and infused into cultures. Simply put,  a philosophy is a way of thinking. There have been many different ways of thinking throughout history, many of which are contrary to the Word of God. We as Christians need to be aware of these philosophies. Sometimes we wonder why it can be so difficult to be a Christian in America today. I hope to shed some light on a certain way of thinking that has been implanted in our culture, and that very much affects our thinking and analysis process.

There was a guy that lived in the 300's B.C. named Aristotle. I am sure you have at least heard of him. He had the idea that we can only know something is real if we can experience it through our fives senses. For example, in examining whether or not the electronic device that you are using is real, we must ask these questions: Can you see it? Can you hear it? Can you feel it? Can you taste it? Can you smell it? Your computer or smart phone is only real if you can experience it through your senses, or at least one of them.

A very simple way of putting this way of thinking, or philosophy, is a phrase that every person has heard before in reference to Santa: "Seeing is believing." It's the idea that if you cannot see something, or experience it with your senses, it's not real! This is an idea that is very much alive in America and the world today.

Now, this is where we run into a problem. For in Hebrews 11:1 we read: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and CERTAIN of what we DO NOT SEE." Faith is a central focus in the Bible. Our relationship with God hinges upon our faith. Faith is believing in something you cannot see! Or, experience with your five senses! Generally speaking, we can't physically see God, hear Him, taste Him, smell Him, or touch Him! However, faith is still believing, even when our five senses deny His existence. This is completely contradictory to Aristotle's philosophy.

Aristotle was Greek, which meant he first influenced the Greeks. However, his way of thinking soon spread to other people within the Greek empire. The Greek way of thinking was infused into the lives of the people over time. Therefore, when the New Testament was written, this philosophy of Aristotle was everywhere. Paul even addresses this way of thinking in relation to the message of the cross, in 1 Corinthians 1:20-25. Read this, and it will make a lot of sense considering Aristotle's way of thinking:

From this passage we see that mankind's wisdom will fail. The Greeks and the Jews are both pointed out here. The truth is, their ways of thinking were not much different from one another, because the Jews had been infused with much of Greek culture. It says in this passage that the Jews were demanding "signs" from God. They wanted to "see" before they "believed." I think this is true for much of us and other people today. We want to see with our eyes what God can do before we believe. While that does happen, and many people do believe because of what they have seen (i.e. Miracles), God tells us to believe even if we have not seen! That is what true faith is!

What we believe goes against the wisdom and philosophies of man, specifically this philosophy of Aristotle. We have wisdom from God. Therefore, let us stand on God's wisdom, not on the wisdom of this world. For, man's wisdom is foolishness compared to God's. The world rejects what we believe, and we should expect that! 1 Corinthians 1:18 says that "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing." If you are a Christian, God has opened your eyes to His wisdom; to truth, and reality. However, we all have people around us who still consider our beliefs to be foolish. This should be expected that they see it as foolish, but we need to pray for them. Each of us believers were once lost, but now we are found! We at one time believed the wisdom of this world, but now we believe the wisdom and truth of God! Be encouraged by this today, but may it humble you as well. Stay strong in the faith, and do not let the wisdom of this world sway you from truth.

Friday, April 12, 2013

"Be Holy, For I am Holy"

In 1 Peter 1:16, we are given the command by God: "Be holy, for I am holy." While this command is quoted here in the book of 1 Peter--which is in the New Testament--this original command from God to be holy is actually found in Leviticus (11:44-45 and 19:2)--which is in the Old Testament. Contrary to popular thought in Christian and church culture, just because something is in the Old Testament that does not mean we should disregard it. Being holy as God is holy somethings that God commands us to do. However, what does "holy" even mean? What does it look like? We have this command from God, how do we go about living it out?

"Be holy, for I am holy." First let's look at the word "holy." The simplest definition of this word is to be set apart. From this, we can gather that God is set apart, and that we are then called to be a people that are set apart.

The idea of God being holy--and set apart--speaks of his very nature. God is so set apart from everything and everybody else, that when we compare God to others, no one can compare. For example, let's look at God's creation versus some of mankind's creations. This is just one aspect that reveals how God is holy, but let's take a look to help us better understand the idea of God being holy.

Man has built some amazing things. From the pyramids of Egypt, to the great wall of china, to the empire state building, and even to the more recent technological advancements, we are able to see the incredible intelligence and ability that people have to create some amazing things. Now we compare man-made creations to what God created...

God created the entire universe, which includes billions of galaxies, which each include billions of stars, which each include their own planets, included in those planets is earth, which is filled with millions of species of plants and animals, as well as human beings, who are made up of trillions of cells. Oh, and by the way, God created mankind in such a way that we have the ability to think, and create things on our own. If God can create a human brain that can do that, just think of how far above us he really is! The truth is, God is holy. This example helps us see that. He is set apart from us puny human beings!

Now let's turn to ourselves. We are also called to be holy, to be a people set apart. This world is at a place where it accepts and practices many different lifestyles and practices that go against the standards of God that we find in Scripture. Just because the world accepts something, this does not mean we as Christians should. We cannot let the culture influence us in a way that pulls us away from the standards of God. Issues like drunkenness, sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, pornography, deception, and many other things are everywhere around us, and very much accepted by our culture. However, we are called to be a people set apart for God. If our culture accepts something, that does not mean we should!

If our lives do not look different than those who are unbelievers, we have a problem. If God did not have the ability and the intelligence to create things in such a way that makes our creations as people look pathetic, then in regards to that specific example, he would not be holy. And with us as Christians, if nothing separates us and sets us apart from the rest of the world (outside of going to church on Sundays), we need to examine our lives and see where we are going wrong. We should be different than the world, and we SHOULD disagree with the world when it comes to morality.

My challenge to you today is to examine each part of your life. Are your actions, your thoughts, and your attitudes any different from unbelievers you know? If not it's time to change some things. Otherwise, don't bother calling yourself a Christian, because all it is doing is giving a bad name for Jesus. It's time that the church stops blending in with the culture and starts to do what we are called by God to do, thus following the command: "Be holy, for I am holy."