Tag Archives: prayer

Hidden Your Word in My Heart

The Theme of this long Psalm 119 invariably relates to the WORD of God – the writer has repeatedly term such as: testimonies, precepts, ordinance, statutes, Word and commandments. I have been doing some research on the topic of “Spiritual Formation” – it basically boils down to sanctification working in the life of the believer; years ago we would have called it discipleship. With in Spiritual Formation is the premise of incorporating such things as fasting, prayer, bible reading , reflection and solitude. All this doesn’t sound like anything new. So why the new emphasis? Because while people are doing those things, their lives are not changed. Anyone can read and get head knowledge; but there should be a change in behavior. While I was doing my doctoral work and project, I had to remind myself of the tangible results I wanted to see in people after the project was done. Three things specifically I was looking for were cognitive learning, affective or change in the person, but finally a lasting behavioral change which indicated the incorporated what was learned into part of their lives. As Church people go – we can read and learn plenty of facts and stories of how God changed people or events; and at the same time miss completely the affect/effect it is supposed to have on us. The Psalmist continually talks of reading, meditating and incorporating the Word of God into his life. More than a ritual or routine approach to the Bible. The Word of God is powerful, it does have a divine effect on our souls when it is read and folded into our daily practice/living of life.

While it is wonderful to read how the Psalmist garnered the Word of God; depended on it for soul sustenance; I am not so sure that happen today in our hectic fast paced world. Do we read the bible, learn of God’s working; yet fail to see the significance the Word should have in our walk in this world.

Spiritual Formation has been called a movement; even has a Latin name attached to it lectio divina – “divine reading.” A Benedictine philosophy for spiritually nourishing the soul.  When investigating the Spiritual Formation one finds that while it presents a “normal spiritual growth process” it becomes almost like a monastic style of living without the monastery. I don’t mean to be critical of this “movement” but shouldn’t we already be doing these things?

I work and have a great interest in Church Revitalization, often in churches that are declining, drifting or dying one can find there is a “coldness” towards what the bible says and a desire to do what the Church says. I have written in one of my bibles, this book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book! This pretty much sums up the Believer’s life. Even pastors must be cautious not to just read the scriptures for a “message” and to spend time for personal growth and discipline.

James 1:22 admonishes the believer not to be just a hearer but a doer also. To read the bible and not ask “what does this mean to me, and what changes is the Word indicating I must make;” is like Paul says “we look into a mirror and when we turn away, we forget what we look like.” In preaching classes, the preacher is always reminded tell the hearer what scripture says, but be sure to communicate what you want them to do – application in other words. If over the course of time the Church/individual has only read the Bible without applying it, hasn’t this become nothing more than a futile exercise of religion? The Believer is to have “Christ fully formed in them” – the Life of Christ is the difference maker for the sinner and the believer – His life [Jesus] being lived out Through Me – Galatians 2:20. If a person is trying to live the Christian Life without the power of the Living Christ in him/her – can’t do it. Only Jesus can live the Christian life!

The believer has been given the Written Word, the Spoken Word and the Indwelling Word. All three are essential to the Spirit Filled life. SO why is the movement of “Spiritual Formation” catching on with Christians? For the first time the are being “formed into the Son of God by the power of the Word and sanctification process. More of Jesus in more of me!

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Repentance and Renwal = Revival

Psalm 51 is my focus this week. Our church just had a week of revival services. It was well attended and the Gospel was proclaimed clearly and delivered with passion. The seeds of revival have been once again planted in the Church. I have learned that almost nothing in the Kingdom of God happens by accident. This is most certainly true of Revival. I have asked several different audiences ranging from churches to pastors, if they had ever experienced revival. To my dismay, almost always the answer is no. I can remember years ago when revivals were held for a minimum of two weeks. I often wondered why two weeks? The Answer makes all the sense in the world. The first week is to revive the church members; the second week is to bring the lost/unredeemed to Christ. The point is revival is for the Church and if it occurs, then there will be an awakening to the lost.

In our Psalm 51, we find that David has been approached by the prophet Nathan, that story is unfolded in 2 Samuel 12 in the aftermath of David’s adultery and murder with Bathsheba and Uriah. It was almost a year before Nathan approaches David, and then only at the prompting of God. Everyone knew that David had sinned grossly before the people. Yet no one said a thing until Nathan is sent by the LORD. Known sin is makes miserable believer and brings public discredit upon the LORD God.

David repents having been confronted about his sin. The remorse in Psalm 51 is evident. David is call “a man after God’s own heart,” yet he is both an adulterer and a murderer. If revival is to occur in our personal life and the life of the Church, there must be a confrontation about the known, yet unconfessed sin towards God. David himself tells us the “against you, You only have I sinned and done evil in your sight.” [[verse 4]

David knows the LORD, He also knows the misery he has dealt with in his bones because of unconfessed sin; for it was ever on his mind. God is merciful and compassionate. There is a genuine repentance about his sin; there is evidence that David turned away from his iniquity. David did not have “kings privileges” to go into Bathsheba. Pastors and believers know what God requires of them – holiness. David was not tricked with Bathsheba; in fact David had shirked his duties as king, for he should have been on the battlefield.

There are a number of requests David makes of Yahweh – wash, purge, purify, create, deliver, restore, make me, blot out, and cleanse me from my iniquity. Iniquity is that sin which we deliberately do, knowingly. David has come clean about what he has done. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 we find how revival occurs. “If my people who are called by name, humble themselves, seek my face, turn from their wicked ways and pray – then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land.” This is not so much a formula as it is a description of what happens when revival occurs.

Repent and believe and you will be saved. Repent and turn from evil and sin, and you are revived. Both require prayer, humility and repentance. For a believer our sin causes breach in fellowship – sins have been forgiven already, but “new sins” break fellowship with a daily walk with God.

After David repented and was restored – the Joy of his salvation returned. As a result of his Joy – David said I will tell others, I will teach them of your ways. A witness returns to the believer! Out of repentance and renewal revival comes. The Church returns to its task of sharing the Gospel and the Lost are saved!

I wonder what it will take for the Church today to become humbled? I have said many times “that unless the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of change, nothing will happen in our lives or the life of the Church. Let us be the sacrifice that David indicates God will accept – verse 17 – a broken and contrite heart you will not despise. May revival began today!

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Vain Religion

James nick named “old Camel Knees” [because he had worn callouses on his knees from praying]  is the half-brother of Jesus. He is an after the resurrection believer. He and his siblings did not believe that Jesus was the Christ. We don’t want to confuse this James with the James that is martyred in Acts, that person is John’s brother, the sons of Zebedee.

There are so many topics covered in this short book, yet the value of the book is unmeasured. There is often a thought that James is advocating salvation by Works, which would be contrary to Paul’s Gospel of Grace. These two men are not in competition, but is cooperation. Paul speaks of Salvation, whereas James speaks of sanctification. James writes to a Jewish converted audience. His emphasis on faith without works and works without faith fits into the Jewish ritualistic religion. Faith is seen in the good works of the person. We work because we are saved, not to be saved. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:10 – that God has prepared beforehand good works that we should walk in them. Jesus was confronted with the question of how could people see that He had the power to forgive sin with the Lame man in Mark 2. But so that the audience knew that Jesus is the Son of God, He told the man to rise up and take his mat and walk. The faith of belief is seen by the things we do. There is a fine line for us because many people do good deeds, but they may only be humanitarians at heart not believers.

The topic of trials and tribulations is a straight forward encouragement to the hearers. This is difficult in western Christianity, for we feel that we have done a noble thing if we have avoided persecution. Nothing could be further from the truth. If our lives are lived out correctly, then we will [should expect] trials and tribulations. I often have to be reminded that it is only when I am hurting or struggling with life/walk that I grow the most. As a child I wanted to be tall, but I would have to experience growing pains to do so. If we are to grow to the full stature of God [Eph. 4:12-13] then there will be pain involved. Matt 5:10-12 informs us that in is suffering for the sake of the Gospel, not fall-out from our own inconsistent behavior.

2 Timothy 3:12 and Jame 1:12 have been verses recently that I have clung too. There is must about our world that hurts and scars us as believers, but we must have the proper perspective, if the world persecuted Jesus, then we also will be persecuted. The issue in Western Christianity is we don’t want to suffer for our faith – what a contrast to our brothers and sisters dying for the faith in the Middle East!

So much of James is counsel for us about how to live, so that our religion will not be in vain. How to control the tongue is an often used passage when gossip and slander become issues in the Church. It is sad that the Church seems to kill it own.

James talks about prayer in chapter 4; he points out the reason we do not get answered prayer – we ask not for the Kingdom of God’s glory, but for our own comfort. This chapter has strong admonishment for holiness for the believer.  James offers a great example of how strong prayer is as a weapon against evil when he speaks of Elijah’s prayers. Prayers are strong for the healing of the sick, against the wickedness of evil and Satan and dealing with conflict. Obviously there must have been members that were at odds with each other because James continually speaks of not complaining and quarreling with each other.

Finally, James gives the exhortation to be patient. James 5:7-11 specifically challenges us to live our lives under the timetable of the Lord.  God is not slack as some men count slackness, but is patient towards us, wishing that none should perish but that all would come to repentance. James 1:12 – Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

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