Saturday, April 26, 2014

"Just Keep Praying"

"Just Keep Praying"  James 5:16-18, April 27th , 2014

A.  Why is it so hard to Pray?

1. Inappropriate view of Life.

> When we attribute God’s providence to coincidence.
                   “That wasn’t God Working, that was just chance”

>>Everything cause and effect. No outside forces.

2. Inappropriate application of theology
Omniscience – “God is all Knowing”   Matthew 6:32
“If God knows everything already, what profit is there in telling Him these things through prayer.”

The Answer:  “God does not ask us to tell him our needs that he may learn about them, but in order that we may be capable of receiving what he is preparing to give.”  Augustine

>Sovereignty - God is in charge of everything
If everything is foreordained and no one can change God’s mind or decree, why pray?
The Answer.          James 4:2
Prayer is a God-ordained means to reach a God-ordained ends. The means are never separated from the ends. Prayer gives us significant participation in the outworking of God’s plan.

3.  Practical Frustrations
Talking to an invisible (and seemingly silent) God
Laziness.  Prayer takes work. With the effort it takes, it is easy to skip it.     
Activism. Sometimes we feel like we are doing nothing when we are praying.       
We get disillusioned with unanswered prayer, We think too narrowly about how God answers. We don’t like taking NO for an answer.
Self-sufficiency. Praying only when we get into a jam.

4. Satanic Opposition.
The devil does not want you praying.....  Ephesians 6:10-13

B.  What does God-pleasing prayer look like?
1. It acknowledges God’s options.
>Grant as requested
>Grant,  but in a different way.
>Grant, but at a different time.
>Refuses to Grant.

2. It avoids some negative conditions
>Wrong attitudes  Prayer that is self-serving, superstitious
Matthew 6:5-7
>Wrong Motives -  motives focus on the why we do something.
James 4:3
>Wrong life-style    Proverbs 28:9 ; Mark 11:25;1 Peter 3:7 What else does
3. It focuses on positive conditions
 “God -honoring prayers are shaped by a proper recognition of who He is and springs from a sincere and trusting heart that seeks only that which he Wants to give.”  Randy Roberts
>Faith     Hebrews 11:3
>Getting in line with God’s will1 John 5:14-15
>Obeying God   John 14:15
>In the name of Christ   John 14:13-14
In the name of means in the authority and power of that name. It is not to be a superstitious  addition
>Importunity   Genesis 32:26

C.  Finally  Remember
>If you are feeling guilty about prayer,   DON’T. Start from where you are at.
>If you are feeling comforted about prayer, DON’T. Presumption is not                                            helpful. Thinking you have it all figured out.
>Remember: it is much more important to DO PRAYER, than it is to FEEL GOOD OR FEEL BAD about Prayer

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Life lessons from Chuck part 2

Life Lessons from Chuck Part II for Lehi Rotary October 23rd,   2013

I.  Don’t waste your pain. Don’t deny it.  Learn from it. Medicating your pain with alcohol, drugs, etc... will only make it worse.  We don’t tend to make positive changes until we hurt enough. Time does not heal all wounds. Time only heals when issues are dealt with in constructive manner. Ignoring an issue never solves it. Some issues can’t be solved (i.e. there is no coming back from sexually abusing a child).  We can redeem the past, but not change it.

II. Don’t try to explain away (and thus minimize) the pain, suffering, and loss of others.
Job’s friends were helpful until they opened their mouths. Their wrong thinking:  “All suffering is punishment for sin. Job is suffering. Therefore, Job is a sinner.” Your presence, not your explanations, is what will bring comfort.  The Lord never condemns Job for sin. Ultimately, it was God’s presence which satisfied Job.  Bad thinking: if only I knew “why”, then.......

III. To respond well to a difficulty, don’t waste your time assigning blame; its needlessly stirs up negative emotions. It also needlessly wastes energy that could be used to address the problem.
An “out of the box solution” is not helpful if can’t be evaluated by the good judgment of others.

IV. There are unresolvable tensions in the world.  God’s sovereignty - Human responsibility.
Acts 2:23-24.   Christ’s death was part of God sovereign plan, but the people who crucified were fully responsible for what they chose to do. There are such things as genuine accidents.

V. There are other difficult issues in theology.  The Trinity. The Bible teaches it, I believe it, but I also don’t understand it.   Is God is Immanent (over all)  or is God Transcendent (through all and in all)? Answer:  God is both. When you loose the tensions clearly presented in the Bible, you get distortion. There is tension between grace and law. Law can be distorted with “If I do this, God owes me that.”  Grace can be distorted as a license to sin. An unresolvable issue is unresolvable.
VI. Cute does not last, but character does. [Liz Taylor in 1960 vs 2000].  Be around people who are going to encourage you to think about and do the right thing. (think Rotary 4 way test).  Being honest does not mean you have a license to be cruel. Most of life (including marriage) is a calculated risk, but it is worth it. Not making a decision is making a decision. Avoiding risk is still a risk.

VII. Wisdom does not come from the amount of knowledge a person has. Wisdom comes from skillfully using the knowledge you have to face the specific situation you are in. Wise choices improve the chances of success but does not guarantee it. In the Bible wisdom is the practical and successful application of God’s truth to life’s experiences.

VIII.  Don’t spend a lot of time comparing yourself with others. Its gets too depressing (for most of us anyway) and it is unproductive.  Be honest with yourself in life.  Strive for excellence, but remember that excellence is doing the best to “your ability.” Avoid woulda, coulda, shoulda.

IX. Hurried decisions tend to be poor decisions. If someone is pushing you to make a decision quickly, walk away more quickly. Putting off needed decisions tends to reduce your options. Seek the advice of people whose character and competency you trust.

X. Regarding finances, what you do with what you have is more important than how much you have.  Money is a tool, it is not an end.  Security does not come from money. Security comes from knowing God’s will and purpose for your life and seeking it. Very few people handle wealth skillfully that did not earn it (consider lottery winners and professional athletes).  We can know what a person truly values  by looking at where they place their time, talents, and treasure.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

“Life Lessons from Chuck” Part I

Summary of “Life Lessons from Chuck” Lehi Rotary meeting June 20th 2012

1. We don’t truly control our lives. Many things in our world are out of our control (Think of natural disasters, the weather, the economy, illnesses, etc..).

2. Life is a gift from God.  Life is also a combination of the many small choices and the few big ones we make. Life is more our response to what happens, then controlling it. We are ultimately responsible to God for the gift that is our lives. A peaceful home is also a gift from God.

3. Most parents (and children) are annoying and have limitations; therefore, if they are not evil, cut them some slack. Give and accept grace from each other. The ‘parents curse’ is real: “I can’t wait till your kids do this to you.”

4. We forgive as we recognize and embrace God’s forgiveness in our own lives.  Keep letting go of anger and bitterness until you stop taking it back.                       

4. Don’t tell small children things that produce needless fear; instead, focus on word of comfort and wisdom.

5. You should not be defined by your background, but by the choices you make.

6. We tend to learn more from our failures, than our successes. Failure is generally not fatal.

7. We work toward maturity as we own out own attitudes and actions.  Don’t blame anyone else for your life after you are 18.  

8. We tend to find what we look for in life. Consider the Bible’s comments on Reaping and Sowing. Galatians 6

9. A true friend wants what is best for you. Seek to be that kind of friend and seek others who will be that kind of friend for you.

10. Good decisions making requires good information.  Get the best information that you can. God’s will is for you to make wise decisions. Not making a decision is still making a decision. While you shouldn’t deny feelings, don’t let them control your life. Feelings can change, while  wisdom steers a steady course.

11.  When in doubt, read the directions. When in doubt about the morality of an opportunity or a situation, don’t do it. When you violate your conscience too many times, it becomes seared and a poor guide.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

“When God says No”

“When God says No” 

*Many of theses thoughts are from an article by  Lance Witt.

Sometimes we clearly see God answer a prayer with a timely “yes.” Sometimes we have seen God, answer yes, but in a different way or time than we had hoped for or expected. Occasionally, time gives us a greater perspective on life and we can recognize and value how God worked.

I have seen God heal relationships and marriages in response to prayer and I have also seen God NOT heal relationship and marriages in response to prayer.

Sometimes, we can appreciate a “NO” answer to our prayers.

My father-in-law when he was a young man briefly dated a woman that either he or she ,or God just sovereignly ended the relationship. Years after he had married his current wife, he found out that this woman he had briefly dated had been married several times. He was relieved that he had avoided some major potential problems in his life.

The apostle Paul in a well known, but undefined struggle said, 

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (ESV)
8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Why doesn’t God answer our prayers in some very specific circumstances that each of us have in our minds?  God is all loving, the Bible say that. Since He is,  why doesn’t he answer our prayers?

Some of us here have specifically prayer for certain things that we clearly know are within the will of God. It is always God’s will to pray for someone to be saved. To pray for healed relationships with a prodigal child, restored relationship with family or spouse.
It is appropriate according to James to pray for physical healing.

When you pray for those things but do not seen life change, you may be asking yourself,
Is the Lord mad at me?
Is there something wrong with me?
Do I not have enough faith?
Are my prayers making any positive difference?
Are my prayers just  bouncing off the ceiling?
You and I have seen God positively answer other people’s prayers that we are also praying.  Sometimes God even seems to be working positively in the lives of those who don’t know Him. Those emotions become very raw over time and we cry out from the heart, “It’s not fair.” You may try to keep as the English refer to a “stiff upper lip.” Fortitude in the face of adversity -- when your heart is flooded with painful emotions and unanswered questions.

The book of Job helps us to probe this issue. While it is likely the oldest book in the Bible, every thing it says is relevant to the human condition now as was it 4000 years ago. The Bible called Job a righteous man. He also experienced great success and material prosperity. He was greatly respected and admired by many people. But there was something going on in the spiritual realm that he was not aware of.
 God allowed Satan to affect Job in a horrific way.

One day Job lost 7,000 sheep, 3000 camels, 5000 oxen, 500 donkeys, “all his servants were killed, and then the crowning blow was that all 10 of his kids were killed in a freak accident.”
“Shortly, Job lost his health and his entire body from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head was covered in boils. Over night, one of the most wealthy, well-respected, and righteous men on earth was reduced to nothing.”

Job’s wife advice was to curse God and die. Throughout most of the chapters of Job God is silent.
Job and his friends then wrestle with trying to understand his circumstances.  He friends became unhelpful once they opened their mouths.

In this struggle to understand and respond to the suffering some helpful principles come out.

When God says No to your prayers,

I.  Affirm what you know to be true about God

Job 19:25  For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.

II. Look to Jesus in your struggles.

 Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

III. Don’t mistake the silence of God for the absence of God.
Job 34:29  When he is quiet, who can condemn? When he hides his face, who can behold him, whether it be a nation or a man?—

IV. Remember that God is not obligated to explain himself
Job 38:1-4
1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3 Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.
When God says No to your prayers,

V. Take comfort in knowing that God is at Work

Job 33:12-14
 12 “Behold, in this you are not right. I will answer you, for God is greater than man.
 13 Why do you contend against him, saying, ‘He will answer none of man’s words’? 1
4 For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it.
VI. Do not let your pain distort your view of God.
Job 13:15   Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.

VII. Always keep God’s eternal purpose in your mind
1 Corinthians 15:19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

VIII. Trust in God's control and purposes for your life
Job 23:10  But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.

Joni Eareckson Tada who is now 64 has spent the last 47 years paralyzed.
"A sacrifice of praise will always cost you something. It will be a difficult thing to do. It requires trading in our pride, our anger, and most valued of all, our human logic. We will be compelled to voice our words of praise firmly and precisely, even as our logic screams that God has no idea what he's doing. Most of the verses written about praise in God's Word were penned by men and women who faced crushing heartaches, injustice, treachery, slander, and scores of other intolerable situations".

She has some interesting closing words here.
"It's ironic. In heaven, where I will be able once again to wipe my own tears, I won't have to."

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Star Trek and the Gospel

In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn Spock dies at the end of the movie saving the Enterprise. In his dying breath he tells the deeply troubled Admiral  Kirk, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” This closing is the lead into Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. The story focuses on how after learning that Spock has an eternal soul, Kirk, McCoy and the other Enterprise crew members risk their careers and  lives so that Spock’s living essence, his soul,  can find eternal peace. At the end of movie Spock asks Kirk why they  did this.  He responded: “The needs of the one outweighed the needs of the many.”

This has a parallel with the Gospel which expresses God’s greatest concern in the universe, which is where souls are in  relationship to Him. By command and extension it expresses that our greatest concern should be is for where people will spend eternity.

An outline of a verse  which expresses this:

John 3:16
   God                           the greatest Giver
   so loved                    the greatest motive
   the world                  the greatest need
   that He gave             the greatest act
   His only Son             the greatest gift
   that whosoever         the greatest invitation
   believes in Him         the greatest opportunity
   should not perish       the greatest deliverance
   but have eternal life   the greatest joy

The Gospel is  “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” I Cor. 15:3-4. Eternal life, the present reality and ultimate joy of God’s presence, is received through trusting Jesus Christ alone. That is Good News! He wants us to respond to it and to share it with others