Monthly Archives: May 2012

Drawing closer to God

You can have a closer relationship with God. Most people want to, but don’t know how to. On any given Sunday, if a preacher asks for those who want to be closer to God to come to the front, the altars would be filled. They flock at the opportunity on a Sunday, but don’t execute it on Monday.

James 4:8 says if you draw near to God, He will draw near to you. The problem is that we don’t draw near to Him, but we expect Him to draw near to us first. That’s not what the scripture says. It is our responsibility to make the first move. It requires more than you responding to that call on Sunday. It requires action on Monday.

Here are some ways I have found to help me draw near to God and in return, I have found that He has drawn close to me.

1. Set aside time for Him

In Psalm 5:3, David tells God that in the morning he prepares a prayer for him. David picked out a time for his meeting with God and he prepared for it. If you want to get close to God, make time for him. If you wait for an opportunity to meet with Him, it will never happen. Tell your schedule what to do or your schedule will tell you what to do. I have found that keeping a consistent time for meeting with God has helped me to draw closer. Before I would do it when I had time. I wasn’t consistent and I wasn’t hearing from Him as often either.

2. Separate yourself from distractions

Jesus said in Matthew 6:6 to go into your most private room, close the door and pray to your God. While there is a place for public prayer, intimacy comes from getting alone with Him and closing the door to other distractions. If you can’t find that place in your home without distractions, look for it elsewhere. Some people find it in a field, a golf course before it opens or in their car. Turn off your phone, the radio and tune out your thoughts so that you can be available to Him.

3. Give God time to talk

Back in Psalm 5:3, David says, “I watch and wait for you to speak to my heart.” Prayer is a dialog. Yes, David prepared a prayer for God in the morning, but he also waited on God to speak to Him. Drowning out thoughts and distractions while you wait is tough. You have to bring every thought captive and simply wait for God to draw near to you.

By doing these 3 things, I have found that I have become closer to God. In return, He has come closer to me. It takes consistency and execution each day. It isn’t easy to do, but if you want to truly be closer to him, you need to take the first step. What step(s) can you take today to start that journey?

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Escape the gravity of dangers

As my son is becoming more independent, I’ve noticed that dangerous things seem to have a gravitational pull on him. He can be in an open area and immediately he will head for something dangerous. I constantly have to walk in his path to steer him from things that will do him harm. He usually fights me and tries to walk around me to get to it. I keep blocking him until he gives up, but then he usually sees something else that has the potential to be dangerous and heads for it.

I’ve found that we are no different spiritually. Our inner man gravitates to things that are not of God. It tries to get us to go places and do things that are dangerous for our souls. God sends the Holy Spirit to warn us and to block our path, but we try to elude him and his warnings. We then see something else that grabs our attention and head straight for it. He constantly tries to guide us to what is right, but we fight him each step of the way.

In Romans 7 & 8, Paul describes this battle perfectly. In 7:15 he says that he wants to do what is right, but doesn’t do it. I find myself in this predicament often. I know what I’m supposed to do and still the battle rages to get me to do something else. My mind comes into play and wants me to do what is wrong. I, like Paul, don’t want to do what is wrong, but I find myself doing it anyway. In verse 21, Paul said it was a principle of life that we do that.

So how do we overcome that? What did Paul do? Romans 8 seems to have the answer.

1. Do not accept condemnation

Condemnation is different than conviction. Condemnation brings shame and guilt. That is usually put on us by others or ourselves. It brings us down and makes us feel like failures. Conviction brings life and change. It is the job of the Holy Spirit to bring conviction and to steer us from spiritual dangers. When we still do what is wrong, he is there to remind us and to guide us to repentance and forgiveness.

2. Understand you have received freedom

After the Civil War, a lot of slaves stayed with their masters even though they were free. They didn’t know where to go or what to do with the freedom they had been given. We are not much different. We were born into the slavery of sin and once we were forgiven, we didn’t know how to act. We still revert back to that nature that we grew up in. Shake off those chains and walk in the freedom that you have been given. Verse 2 of chapter 8 says the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin. Walk, think and act like someone who is no longer bound by the old chains of your life.

3. Be controlled by the Spirit

Verse 5 of Romans 8 says that we are dominated by the sinful nature when we think about sinful things, but when we are controlled by the spirit we think about things that please Him. When we think on the things of God, we act on those things and they lead to life and peace.

Controlling what you think is a difficult task, but can be accomplished through the help of the Holy Spirit. Understand that you are no longer bound by the things that had you before so you can now live and act in a way that you know is right. Don’t fall for condemnation, but accept conviction and make the changes. What things are you allowing your mind to think that are keeping you from doing what you should do?

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Winning God’s Approval

In Luke 18, Jesus tells the story of two men praying in the temple. One man, known to be very religious, prayed near the door where everyone could see and hear him. He thanked God that he wasn’t like other people who were sinners. He also listed off all he did for God in this prayer. There was another man, not known to be religious. He was away from others and wouldn’t even lift his head toward heaven as he prayed. He begged God for mercy and forgiveness. Jesus said of these two, that the man who was praying for mercy was the one who was justified, not the religious man.

Jesus didn’t call us to be religious. He called us to be humble and to walk in his ways. It’s easy to get caught up in doing things for God so that others will notice, but that is not what he is looking for. Each time that happened in scripture, Jesus said that they had their reward. We win God’s approval and the lost by being humble and doing what he asks.

Here’s a few ways you can do that.

1. Be humble

Constantly God reminds us that he rejects the proud and exalts the humble. It’s one thing to let others know what you are doing for God so that they can assist and another to let others know so you can feel superior. God looks past the outside and into our heart. He knows our motives… and so do others.

When we do things for God, we don’t have to broadcast it. People, especially non believers, are paying attention. They may never say anything to you, but they are watching all the same.

2. Practice more than you preach

There are enough people out there preaching more than they practice. I Timothy 4:12 tells us to be an example in what you say, how you live and in your love, faith and purity. Actions speak louder than words. Sometimes people can’t hear our message over the actions of how we live.

What would the world look like if we practiced more than we preached? St. Francis of Asisi said that we should preach at all times and use words when necessary. Simply said, live like you should and you won’t have to preach them a sermon to reach them.

3. Don’t get diverted

Everything in this world wants to pull you away from what you are supposed to do. It all competes for your time and energy. I Timothy 4:16 says to keep a firm grip on both your character and your teaching. If you do, both you and those who hear (see) you will experience salvation.

Set up an accountability partner to help you stay the course. If you know there are areas where you easily get off track, be open and honest with someone to help hold you accountable to keep a firm grip in that area. You will both profit from it.

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Renewing your thoughts and attitudes

I wonder if a butterfly ever goes back to thinking like a caterpillar once he has undergone chrysalis. Does he ever think, “Man, I had it good when I had to crawl everywhere and ate leaves”? Or does he look to his new life where he can fly, go places faster and eat the sweet pollen from flowers and think he’ll never go back to crawling? I’m guessing the latter because I’ve never seen a butterfly eat leaves or crawl around.

I wonder then why we often go back to our old way of thinking and doing things once we receive Christ. We were set free from a life shackled and earth bound to a life of a high calling in Christ Jesus. Scripture says that all things have become new and we are new creatures. We have to put away our old way of thinking.

Ephesians 4:23 says that we should let the spirit renew our thoughts and attitudes and to put on our new nature. That’s easier said than done since our sin nature still lies within us. It wants to come back out and do things that it used to do before we accepted new life in Christ.

1. A few ways to help do that are:

Change your environment

You can’t change your thinking and your life until you change your environment. The butterfly has to flap his wings and leave the leaf so he can find his new life. You are called to come out from among them and to be separate. If you never leave your old life, you will never be what God intended you to be.

You have to find new friends, new places to hang out and feed yourself good things. It’s hard to leave things behind, but if they are holding you down, you have no choice. You were meant to fly. Spread your wings and trust God to help you find friendships with Godly people.

2. Change what you put in your mind

The butterfly no longer eats what he used to. His appetite changed and so did his tastes. As a Christian, your spiritual appetite and tastes must change. You can’t watch the same things, listen to the same things and feed your mind the same things that you used to. It is unhealthy now for your spirit.

I’ve learned that when you change your eating habits, eventually you will no longer crave the foods you used to. The same thing happens spiritually. When you change what you take in to your mind and spirit, eventually it will no longer want the things it used to.

3. Embrace your new life

Your life should not only bring glory to God, but also light to others. When you see a caterpillar and a butterfly, you think two different things. One is destructive to plants and is ugly. The other brings life to other plants and is beautiful. Your life should have that kind of change.

You are called to live and walk in the light. You are to bring life to those around you and not destruction. People should be able to see a difference in you once you have accepted Christ and notice the change. Embrace who God has called you to be and strive to live the life you were meant to live. If you do that, you can’t help but to fly!

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Showing Love

Love is a crazy thing. It makes us do things we would not normally do. It doesn’t let us sit back and hold things in. It makes us do something. It wants to let everyone know how you feel. It can’t be contained or bottled up. It oozes out of you to the point that everyone can see it.

God has called us to love others that way. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he had two things for them: love God and love your neighbor. We find it easy to follow the first part of that, but difficult to love our neighbors. When you truly love God, you end up loving people.

The world is looking for the church to show them love. For years Christians have spread a message of condemnation and not love. We have failed to show them the love of Christ. Only by loving them can we reach them. Jesus said he did not come to the world to condemn it, but that through him the world might be saved.

Everything he did was showing love to others. He went to the houses of people that made the religious leaders of the day attack him. He hung out with people and loved people that didn’t deserve it according to the rules. His ministry was not about going around judging and condemning. It was about loving others. We say that God loves the sinner, but hates the sin. Can we look past the sin to love the sinner?

The message of the Pharisees was all about legalism and trying to show God you loved him by following an impossible group of laws. Jesus message was that when you show love to others, you fulfill the law. When you try to follow all the laws, you end up not doing for others because you are focused on yourself.

Scripture says that true religion is caring for orphans and widows. It is doing for others, not for yourself. Jesus said that when you did things for the least among you, you have done it unto him. It is having a servants heart and doing for others. Doing for others is not an option when you love God. Faith without works is dead and loving without action is dead.

God loved us so much that he did the craziest thing of all: He sent his only son to the world to show us how much he loved us. He allowed him to be sacrificed so that we could be with him. What can you do today to show that kind of love to others? Showing that kind of love opens doors for you to share the message of Christ with others. When you can love others in spite of their sin or what others may say, you will see a harvest.

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Extend grace not judgement

I love to watch the show “Holmes on Homes”. In this show, Mike Holmes goes to houses that people bought, finds problems with the house and then repairs it free of charge. It often costs him money personally that show doesn’t pay for. He finds people who didn’t do their homework when hiring a contractor or when buying a home and later find that nothing was done right. He comes in, does a thorough inspection to find everything that is wrong and makes all the necessary changes.

It costs him time and money to make it right for these strangers. I watch the show in amazement not only because he does a great job, but because of the grace he extends to these people. He doesn’t walk through and tell the homeowners what they should have done. He simply points out the problems and then finds the solution. He lets the audience know what should have happened so we don’t make the same mistakes.

My nature is to quickly point out someone’s mistakes and to tell them how they should have done it. That’s not how Jesus operated though. He extended grace to people who didn’t deserve it. People who were outcasts and out right sinners were brought to him for judgement and every time, he responded with grace.

I noticed 3 things he did each time that we can do for others.

1. He conversed with them

At the well with the Samaritan woman, Jesus started the conversation with her. He didn’t wait for her to talk to him. It was against the culture for him to speak with her because she was a woman and because she was considered a unclean. When the disciples came back, they were shocked that he was talking to her.

Who has God placed in your life to talk to? Have you kept your distance because of what others might say? There are plenty of people who are hurting because everyone has kept their distance from them. They need a friend. They need someone to talk to. They need someone to offer living water.

2. He didn’t judge

When the Pharisees brought the woman caught in adultery and wanted to stone her, he simply said, “Let whoever is without sin cast the first stone.” I love that it says starting with the oldest, one by one they laid down their stones. There is not one of us without fault or sin somewhere in our life. I think we like to find fault in others because it makes us feel better about our own faults.

Jesus said clearly in this story, “I did not set myself up to judge or condemn.” If he didn’t, then why do we? Condemnation brings death. Love brings life. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. I will give you living water. I have come to bring life and that more abundantly.” How can you bring life to someone who needs it today instead of condemnation?

3. He extended grace

Grace is something we all want, but rarely give. He knew the woman had been caught in adultery, but said, “Neither do I condemn you.” He knew the woman at the well had been married five times and was now living with a man out of wedlock. He still told her, “Ask of me and I will give you living water.”

Jesus looked past the externals and circumstances of people to see who they really were. He didn’t judge them for that. He extended grace because he knew they needed it. When we receive it, it makes a difference in our day and in our life. You may have been wronged by someone, but Jesus calls you to extend grace to them anyway. Don’t be quick to receive grace from others and slow to give it. We all need grace.

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4 Steps to praying effectively

Last December, we had a severe thunder storm that caused flash flooding.  As I watched from my office window, my boss called crying.  She was on the road in front of the office.  Her car had quit running when a bigger vehicle passed her causing water to come over the hood of her new car.  She wanted help getting it out of the street.
When I ran out the front door, her sister and several other coworkers were standing there with an umbrella watching her try to start her car.  I handed them my wallet and phone and waded out in the knee deep water to her car.  Two other men got out of their cars and helped me push her car into the parking lot.
Once we got her parked, I grabbed an umbrella so she could carry her computer in.  It was then that I noticed I had lost my wedding ring.  I waded back into the water being soaked by the pouring rain looking for my ring. After searching for about 10 minutes, a friend came out and held an umbrella over me to keep the rain from disturbing the water and giving me a clear view of the bottom.  We searched the path of the car for about 30 minutes.  I couldn’t find it. The lightening and thunder were getting worse.  I decided it was too dangerous.
We went back inside devastated. I couldn’t believe I lost something so precious while I was helping someone else.  My friend looked at me and said, “Chris, we can find it.  Let’s go try again.”. This time I got on my hands and knees crawling through the parking lot.  The water was up to my nose as I looked at the bottom and felt everywhere I could with my hands.  We searched another half hour in the rain to no avail.
I stood up, walked to the curb and said, “It’s not here. I give up.”. When I dropped my head in defeat, I looked down and there, through the water, I saw something gold and round.  I immediately dropped down and reached into the water.  It was my ring! We need to seek God and to pray the way he and I looked for that ring.
James 5:16 says, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”. We need to not just ask God for things, but desperately seek Him for an answer.  We often throw a prayer up, don’t hear anything and then give up.  Ask him like a child asks for something.  They don’t give up because they know you will give in and give it to them.  Seek God for an answer knowing he will give it to you.
There are four things I learned from what happened that day with my ring.

1. Continue to seek Him even in the storm
Don’t give up because of the rain, lightening and thunder going on in your life.  You need to continually seek him despite your circumstances.  Learn to hear his voice through the storm. Block out the distractions and noise that tells you, “He can’t hear you. He won’t answer you. You aren’t good enough.” As a child would continue to beg and plead and throw themselves on the floor to get something, be that desperate with God.  Spend time asking Him.

2. Get a friend to believe with you

In Exodus 17, the Israelites were fighting a battle.  When Moses had his hands up, they were winning.  When they dropped, they began to be defeated. Moses grew tired of keeping his hands up so Aaron and Hur came along side him and held his hands up.  Friends can provide you with strength to keep praying when you are tired. They can hold that umbrella over you to protect you in the storm.  You are not alone so don’t fight alone.

3. Get on your hands and knees

I love what Mark Batterson says: Work like it depends on you. Pray like it depends on God. I must do something while waiting for my prayer to be answered. I’m not saying go out and solve it for God. I’m saying act in faith while you wait.
There is the story of a woman with an issue of blood in Luke 8 who wanted Jesus to heal her.  She couldn’t get to him because there were so many people trying to get his attention for their answers.  She didn’t let the circumstances keep her from Jesus. She got on her hands and knees to crawl through the crowd to touch the hem of his clothes.   We need to get on our hands and knees before God and to spend time at the feet of Jesus to get what we are asking for.  Press in despite the obstacles keeping you away from Him.

4. Admit you don’t have the ability to do it

In II Corinthians 12:9, we find that it is in our weakness that His strength is made perfect and that His grace is sufficient.  It’s when we realize that we can’t do it on our own that we reach that point of desperation in Him.  That produces an effectual, fervent prayer that has great power and produces wonderful results. His grace will be sufficient and strength enough to carry you through.

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