Praying Is The First Step

Jeremiah 37:3
“And Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the priest, to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, ‘Pray now to the Lord our God for us.'”

Zedekiah was an ungodly king who refused to heed the word of the Lord, and continued to lead Judah down the road of destruction. Instead of following the word of God, he followed the dictates of his own heart. Instead of listening to the prophet, he surrounded himself with counsellors who gave no regard to the things of God, and even attempted to silence Jeremiah for declaring God’s word. I find it interesting that a man who seems to care very little about God, petitions the prophet to pray for him and the nation. On the one hand, this could be a positive thing. Prayer is the way we access God and begin a relationship with Him. John explained, it is by receiving Christ through faith that we become a child of God. The problem with Zedekiah is,  he was not praying to confess his wrong and commit his life to the Lord, but saw prayer as a means of fixing his problems, without ever making any changes to his life.

This is a pretty common practice. We think of prayer as a magic force that will make everything better. However, prayer is actually a means of communicating with God, who in turn, communicates back through the pages of His Word. How many times have we heard politicians or celebrities asking us to pray in the difficult seasons of life? Whenever tragedy hits a nation, people call out for prayer. The problem is, they see prayer as the ‘easy button’ that will fix everything, instead of seeing prayer as the way to start a relationship with God, who will give us instruction that will in fact fix the problem.

In Jeremiah’s case, as soon as the problem was solved, Zedekiah once again returned to his old ways, and even had Jeremiah put in prison for his message. I think we need to realize, prayer alone is not the answer. Asking God to fix our life is just the first step, we must move on to surrendering ourselves to Him, and live in accordance with His word.

Pastor Jim

 

Treasure 

Colossians 2:3
“. . . in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Knowledge is a word which speaks of information. We increase in our knowledge of God as we read the Word of God and walk with Him daily. However, wisdom is another thing all together. We might define it as “the proper application of knowledge,” or more simply as, “knowing what to do.” How many times have you faced decisions in life where you were not sure what to do, because you have not been that way before? Wisdom is acquired by experience, by careful observation of the experience of others, or by receiving it from heaven.

Notice, Paul writes “All wisdom is hidden in Christ.” We can find great comfort in knowing, while we might not know what we are doing, Christ has been that way before and can provide direction through the fog of life. Notice also, Paul says this wisdom is hidden in Christ. It is not something hidden from us, so we cannot have it, but something hidden so we will seek after it. The primary purpose of salvation is to know God, and wisdom is hidden in Him so we will seek Christ more. The question is, how do we access the wisdom that is hidden in Christ?

James 1:5
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

The first step is to pray. We are exhorted to understand, that through prayer, we can cast all burdens at the feet of Jesus. Sometimes, the greatest burden can be facing situations for which we have no answers. Parenting can certainly be like that. As the children grow, we are constantly walking down roads we have never traveled before. We want desperately to make decisions that will positively impact our children for the kingdom of heaven, and ensure they have a bright and successful future. The problem is, we often do not have a clue as to what we are doing. It is encouraging to know, “in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom”. The secret to receiving His wisdom through prayer, is to be willing to do things His way. Sometimes, we do not seek the mind of God, because we have already determined we do not want to do what He says.

Deuteronomy 4:6
“Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”

Prayer is where we ask questions, and the Word of God is where we find answers. Sometimes, we will pray for things, then spend our time thinking up a solution, without considering what God has written to us in His Word. Israel was told, if they followed the teaching of the Word of God, it would lead to wisdom, and the people around them would be shocked at how smart they were. You see, doing what God says, even when it might not make sense, will always lead to the wisest roads. Other people, when the fruit of those decisions come to light, will be shocked at how smart you seem, all because you chose to do things God’s way.

If you are in need of wisdom because you are on a road you have never traveled before, or perhaps you went the wrong way in the past, the key is to lay your life out before the Lord in prayer. Then sit before His Word, and allow Him to write your road map for you. Using a concordance can be helpful to look up the subjects you are facing, and is a great way to learn to think and act Biblically.

Pastor Jim

 

Request

Esther 5:2-3
“So it was, when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, that she found favor in his sight, and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther went near and touched the top of the scepter. And the king said to her, “What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you—up to half the kingdom!”

Esther was given access to the king. She was allowed to make a single request that seemed to be limitless. With all the wealth of the Persian kingdom at her disposal, her request was for the salvation of her people. Imagine if you had access to a wealthy and powerful king, who allowed you to ask for anything up to half of all he possessed. What would your request be? Now stop imagining. If you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, the Bible promises you have access to the King of Kings. You can make constant requests before God. You have continual access to God and are exhorted to come regularly to His throne.

Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Whatever our needs are, we are invited to come to the throne of grace and receive. The Apostle James declared, one reason we find ourselves in want, is because we simply fail to come to the throne and ask. Jesus explained, we should ask consistently and persistently, until our requests are answered. If your need is physical, spiritual, emotional, if it has to do with provision, strength, guidance, comfort or anything else, the answer will be found at the Throne of Grace.

When Esther approached the throne, her request was for something bigger than any personal problem she was facing. Her request was for the salvation of her people. While it is necessary to spend time at the Throne of Grace praying for our personal needs, it is also important that we spend time praying on behalf of those who have not yet received Christ. Make a list of people that you know personally; people from your family, work, neighborhood, and places of recreation. Pray daily for their salvation. Pray for their hearts to soften to Christ, and pray for opportunities to share Christ with them, and invite them to church.

Pastor Jim

 

Be Prepared 

Nehemiah 2:8
“…And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me.”

The walls around the city of Jerusalem lay in rubble, and the people who returned to rebuild the Temple had become discouraged by the enormous task, and the constant attack of their enemies.

If we were writing this story, I wonder who we would choose to be the hero? I wonder where we would look to find a man or woman who could lead a discouraged group of frightened people to complete a job. A job that would have both immediate, and long lasting impact for the kingdom of heaven. Since God wrote the story, we can be sure the solution will be found in what, at first glance, may seem like the most unlikely of places, but in the end will reveal His incredible wisdom and forethought. God’s solution to this problem was Nehemiah, a man who served as the cupbearer to the king.

Being the cupbearer might not have afforded Nehemiah the skills needed for construction, or the ability to ward off the constant threat of hostile neighbors, but it would give him access to the king, that many others could never achieved. This daily access to the throne room would one day pay off when the king surprised him with a personal question regarding his emotional condition. This was the open door Nehemiah had been waiting for, and he poured forth his three fold request before the throne. He asked to be sent to Jerusalem, that the king would send letters to protect his travels, and that the king pay the enormous expense of his travel and the building project.

It was not just his position that prepared him for his future ministry, but it was what he did with that position. Nehemiah knew what to ask the king because he had spent months in continual prayer for Jerusalem and its inhabitants. It was the prayer life of Nehemiah that prepared him for the call of God.

You may have a sense that God wants to use you, but you are currently in a role that seems so far removed from the work of God. Instead of feeling frustrated, take this time to be seeking the Lord for what He wants to do in and through you. As time goes on, you will find that He not only calls you to His perfect service, but uses whatever station you are in right now as part of the process.

Since God loves and wants to reach the whole world, it is necessary that His saints be stationed everywhere.

Pastor Jim

 

A Big Misunderstanding 

Judges 11:30-31
“And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, and said, ‘If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.’”

As commander of the armies of Israel, Jephthah is leading his soldiers into a heated battle against the people of Ammon. As the battle approaches, we find Jephthah crying out to God for assistance. It is a good thing to pray, but we find his prayer is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of God. Jephthah thinks he has to barter for the favor of God. “If You will help me I will give you…”

This is a very common misconception. Long before I knew Jesus, or had ever read a page of the Bible, there were times that I found myself praying. I never prayed out of gratitude for how wonderful my life was, but I did pray when I found myself in danger. My prayers would sound much like that of Jephthah. I asked God to get me out of the problem I got myself into, and I would promise to stop some behavior I inherently knew to be wrong. Later, when I heard of the grace of God in sending His Son, and the love of Christ in dying for me, I came to understand that I don’t need to barter with God.

Grace is unearned favor. By definition, it is not something we can earn, buy or trade up for. If you are facing a dilemma, don’t make a deal with God. Instead, cry out to the One who loves you and died for you. Often, God will use our difficulties to reveal behaviors that should not be in our lives. The proper response is to look to His grace, confess and repent.

Pastor Jim