Prayer with Praise

I had the privilege of going with my dad last weekend to a church in which he ministers on a regular basis.  On the rare occasions that I do go with him, I always find the people very warm and welcoming.  The presence of the Lord is always experienced, and we usually find humor in some situation to enjoy.

As my dad preached, he began discussing the frequency in which God’s people often forget to praise God during prayer.  “You need to offer something sweet,” my father said referring to praise.  Instead of simply asking God to do this or do that, we need to praise Him for who He is and thank Him for the past prayers that He has answered.

Praise in Battle

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Most of us are familiar with the story of King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah in 2 Chronicles 20.  The people of Judah were facing some deadly enemies.  Immediately, the people sought the Lord, which is always the first step that should be taken in any crisis.  People began to hear from the Lord, and the consensus was that God would deliver them as He had before.

King Jehoshaphat appointed singers to go in the front line of the battle, singing, “Praise the Lord for His mercy endures forever.”  Their enemies became confused and began slaughtering each other rather than the people of Judah.  After all was said and done in the battle, the people of Judah took spoils from their enemies.

The Results of Our Praise

When you and I offer praises to God, even when it is the last thing we wish to do, we will find that our situations are not as big as they seem.  We will find that our spiritual enemies flee because they become confused.  We will find that we are taking spiritual spoils from our enemies

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According to Isaiah 43:19, the Lord does new things.  He makes a way where there seems to be none.  The entire chapter of Isaiah 43 is filled with reasons to praise God.  Throughout the chapter, God promises to bring His people victory over their enemies.  Most of all, He declares His love for us.  He vows that He has blotted out our sins and transgressions.  He is holy and cannot allow sin in His presence, yet, He redeems us from our sin through Jesus Christ and calls us righteous in his sight

 

What Will You Offer?

Although it is perfectly fine to offer your petitions and requests before God in prayer, it is vital to remember to offer something sweet.  Do not simply use prayer as a “give me, give me” session.  God is so much more than our personal genie.  Use your prayer time to give honor and praise to God.  Use scripture when you are not sure of what to say.  The Psalms and many passages in Isaiah offer many words of praise and worship.

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Jesus gave us an example of how to pray in what we know as the Lord’s prayer.  The model prayer begins with praise then goes into various petitions then ends with an acknowledgement of who God is.  Certainly, we do not want to become legalistic in our prayers, but we do want to take time to offer praise to our God.  He is worthy!

A Call to Prayer

The subject of prayer is one that has been widely explored in Christian circles, yet no one could ever say too much on the subject.  Prayer is how we speak to the Lord.  There are varying types of prayers such as prayers of praise, thanksgiving, petition, and intercession.  It can be the highlight of our day, or, sadly, it can become a mundane, repetitious act that we perform out of obligation.  It is sad to say that, with many people, it often becomes the latter rather than the former.

The Purpose of Prayer

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Certainly, no one could say specifically why God has ordained prayer in the manner that He has.  Yes, He wants a relationship with us, and, of course, prayer draws us closer to Him through Jesus Christ.  However, there is a mystery to prayer.  In Daniel 10:12, we are told that Daniel’s prayer was heard the first time he made his petition, but some type of war in the heavenly places delayed his answer.

In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah desperately desired children.  She poured out her heart to God, and her request was granted.  It would also be interesting to note that the priest thought she was drunk.

In the New Testament, Jesus had some things to say on the subject.  He gave His disciples instruction as to prayer.  A pattern was given, yet, He warned them to avoid vain repetition.  Jesus was not saying we could not repeat prayer requests because He told the parable of the unjust judge and the widow.  The widow persisted in her request for the judge to relieve her of her adversary.  The judge finally granted her request because of her persistence.

Prayer Is Spiritual Warfare

Persistent and strategic prayers are a part of our spiritual warfare.  After Paul explained each part of the armor of God, he concluded his discourse by making a reference to prayer.  Although we do not totally understand it, prayer moves the heart of God.  Prayer changes circumstances.  Prayer makes the impossible possible.

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Of course, we can not take any credit.  The glory belongs to the Lord.  He established this way of communication for which I am completely thankful.  Although God is sovereign, He gives us choice.  We must choose to participate in our relationship with Him.

Back to Prayer

When God’s people pray, mountains are moved.  Nations are spared of judgment.  People are saved, delivered, and healed.  There was a time when people prayed for long periods of time, not caring who heard them.  While I am not saying that you have to pray for a certain amount of time, I do believe we need to sacrifice time to pray for our nation, our world, our leaders, and each other.  Sometimes, it means spending less time on another activity.  Whatever the cost, we must be willing to spend time in prayer.  Jesus did, and He is our example.

 

If you do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ, you can have it today.  Romans 10:9-10 (MEV) states the following:  “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved, for with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth is made unto salvation.”

Overcoming Racism in the Body of Christ

Racism is a sensitive issue at this time in United States history.  Many people of varying races often use what is called “the race card” to manipulate a desired outcome.  Although this happens frequently, the fact is that racism is still an issue in the United States today after all the movements and education on the subject.

My Personal Experience

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During my lifetime, I have developed friendships with people of various races and cultures.  I praise God for these relationships.  They teach me great lessons and make positive contributions to my life.

Recently, I visited Washington, D.C. to attend a conference for educators.  Of course, a friend and I took the time to tour as much as possible.  Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area has people of many races and cultures.  Personally, I think this is wonderful. How can we reach people with the gospel of  Jesus Christ if we never see them?  (Incidentally, this has nothing to do with the subject of illegal immigration. That is a topic for another discussion.)  What troubled me is the amount of distrust and even hatred I could feel being directed my way from some of these people.  I began to become defensive in my own mind which made me feel even more uncomfortable.

I praise God for His faithfulness in sending conviction my way when my mindset is in the wrong place.  The Holy Spirit spoke to me and asked me when I would be the one to walk in love.  I was stunned and deeply convicted.  Of course, the Holy Spirit is always right.  Someone has to take the high road.  Someone has to show love.  What I did next is completely against my natural personality.  I began smiling at these people who were starring at me as if I had no right to be in my own country.  When possible, I spoke to them.  Some returned my smile or my greeting.  Others did not.  That day, I was reminded of a valuable lesson.  God’s love is unconditional. God loves even when the love is not reciprocated.

The Solution

The only way to overcome the issue of racism is the same as any other sin issue–Jesus Christ!  Does the Lord care about racism?  Of course He does!  All humans are created in His image.  He did not create us all to look exactly alike or think exactly alike.  Our God loves variety, and He commands us to love each other.  We can appreciate the differences of others, yet be confident in who we are in Christ.  How?  Follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

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Racism has been used as a political talking point.  The race card has been used and abused, but we must not forget that there are still cases in which people are very racist.  Through prayer and walking in the love of Christ, we can pull down this stronghold.  No, we will not reach everyone, but we can start somewhere.  Why not let the solution to this worldwide problem start with you?  Reach out to someone of a different culture or race.  Allow them to see the love of Christ in your life.  The Holy Spirit has ways of tearing down walls that divide people.  Let’s yield to Him!

“There is no Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male and female since you are all one in Christ Jesus,”  Galatians 3:28 CSB.

What Heresy Is and Is Not

While it is true that heretical teachings are rampant in this day and time, far too often, Christians are quick to use the “heresy” label on anything with which they disagree.  The Bible is clear that we are not to tolerate false doctrine; however, we are also admonished not to label people heretics concerning certain matters.

The Definition of Heresy

christ like pixabay (2nd pic)Heresy is defined as a belief that is contrary to religious doctrine, more specifically, orthodox religious doctrine.  1 John 4 also defines what is false.  When you look at the scriptures in 1 John in context with Romans 14, you will find that a doctrine can only be declared Biblically heretical when it attacks the deity of Jesus Christ; suggests that salvation can be obtained by any other way than the Way, Jesus Christ (John 14: 6), or twists specific scriptures in the Bible to justify an act that is clearly a sin.  Examples of this would be abortion, changing the Biblical definition of marriage, or stating that sexual sin is now acceptable to God.

Now that the definition of heresy is clear.  We should be careful whom we label a heretic, or apostate.  Many of God’s people are quick to state that certain people are false teachers simply because of a disagreement about doctrine that does not pertain to salvation.  You might be wishing I would give some specific examples.  Wish granted!  I am getting ready to do just that.

Heresy:  What It Is and What It Is Not

Although I support ministers who are women, I have no right to label as heretics those who disagree with me.  There are many Christians who do not believe women should preach or teach in the church.  I disagree, but that does not make those with whom I disagree unsaved.  Why?  There is no denying the deity of Christ nor claiming another way of salvation in this belief, so, we can agree to disagree.

Another example of what is not heresy is the following:  I believe that all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 12-14 and Ephesians 4) are for today.  I have been blessed to see these gifts at work, and working in order, in the body of Christ.  However, those who believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased with the Apostles are still my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Why?  Refer to the previous paragraph.

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The following is an example of heresy:  If a minister preaches another way to heaven, or another means to obtain salvation other than Jesus Christ, I can declare that preaching or teaching to be heretical because it goes completely against the Word of God and the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

Another example of heresy would be for someone to teach that Jesus Christ is not God.  The Bible plainly declares His deity in John 1 and Colossians 2:9.  The deity of Jesus, aka The Word in Flesh, is also declared throughout the Old Testament.  It is fair and right to declare attacks on the deity of Jesus Christ heresy.

Agree to Disagree

On issues such as the gifts of the Holy Spirit, women ministers, the doctrine of Oneness, etc., we can agree that we disagree yet continue to love each other.  Why?  Jesus clearly stated in John 13:35 that our love for each other would be how the world would know we belong to Him.  Love is the answer for what divides the body of Christ.  Love is what points people to the way of salvation–not squabbling over doctrine.

UnityWe are living in what I believe is the season of Christ’s return.  People are hurting and searching for something that is real and lasting.  All that will fulfill people’s longings is Jesus Christ.  Point people to Him.  The rest can be sorted out later.

If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you can know Him right now.  Romans 10:9-10 states the following:  “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

 

Contending for the Faith

Jude 3 contains a well-known phrase that many ministers use for sermon titles.  This one-chapter book of the Bible exhorts us to contend for the faith.  Next, the brief epistle reminded its readers that many false teachings were spreading to a dangerous level during the time period in which the book of Jude was written.  False teachings and apostate doctrines are alive and well today.  Some of the most dangerous of those are prevalent in the western portion of the world, especially in the United States.

What does it mean to contend?

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The Greek word that is used for contend is epagonizomai meaning to struggle for, to combat.  The word is a verb indicating an action that is to be taken.  In other words, we are to be willing to fight for our faith.

When looking throughout the Bible concerning spiritual warfare, it is imperative to note that our struggle is not against people.  Unfortunately, people are involved when we have to stand boldly for the faith in loving disagreement.  Often, people take our disagreement with them to mean we lack love.  Although there are cases in which that may be true, a genuine child of God, learns to disagree yet still love the people involved.

Contending in Deed more than Word

Although standing boldly for the Word of the Lord often requires us to speak boldly, our actions should speak louder than our words.  If we say we believe in a certain principle, we should stand by it.  Saying one thing and doing another is one sure way to make faith-contending less effective.

When we have to speak against the actions of a person, or a group of people, it is important to do so in love.  In Ephesians 4, Paul admonishes his readers to speak the truth in love.  Speaking the truth without love often does more harm than good.  Truth coupled with love brings change.  However, it is important to note that if you have spoken the truth in love, and people are still offended, you have done no wrong.

Beware of a False Gospel

What I am about to write is without malice because I love my country.  I am thankful to live in the United States of America.  With that being said, it is vital that I make it clear that we in the western portion of the world often are used to being comfortable.  Confrontation and boldly proclaiming the gospel demand that we come out of the comfort zone.  The disease of political correctness is plaguing the Christian church in America.  Pastors and teachers will not speak out about controversial issues such as abortion, questioning one’s gender, and so on.

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By remaining silent, we are allowing the gospel of comfort to spread rather than the true gospel of Jesus Christ.  The true gospel saves sinners and sanctifies them.  The agape love of God loves the sinner, but when the sinner comes for salvation, He loves the individual too much to leave him in his sin.  I do not believe we have to beat people down, but I do believe we have to let them know that God has a much better way.

The book of Jude closes on a positive note.  Verse 24 reminds us that Jesus Christ is able to keep us from falling.  Our boldness and ability to contend for the faith comes from Him and not ourselves.  When I am reminded of that, it brings comfort because I am not able to stand boldly without Him.  Neither are you, but the good news is that you don’t have to stand alone.

For a more in-depth study on the book of Jude, check out the study guide I have on Amazon.

Breaking New Ground

Recently, I told my church that I believed God was bringing us as individuals as well as a body of believers into a new season.  Without even realizing what has happened, my church seems to be breaking new ground spiritually.  What do I mean by breaking new ground?

Leaving Comfort Zones Behind

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One of the first steps to gaining new ground from the enemy in the spiritual realm is to be willing to leave your comfort zone.  Often, as Christians, we tend to stay where we feel comfortable and safe, but is that truly Biblical?  In Amos 6:1, the word states the following:  “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion and trust in the mountain of Samaria…”

Our trust has to totally be in Jesus Christ, not in things of the world.  When we leave what is comfortable, we are sending a clear message to the demonic realm that we trust completely in God.  That act of faith moves the obstacles in the spiritual realms causing us to gain ground.

Gaining and Breaking New Ground

Some of the ground we gain is territory that we previously possessed yet gave up to the enemy out of fear or complacency.  However, when we break new ground, we step into realms with Jesus Christ in which we have never been.  Although this might seem scary, it is exactly what we were meant to do.  God never intended for us to stay in the same place.  He intended for us to grow and mature spiritually.

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Breaking new ground requires leaving some things behind.  Bitterness, resentment, sexual sin, gossiping, and other sins cannot come to the new level God in which God wants to take you.  In order to be effective for the kingdom of God, we have to be free from distractions.  2 Timothy 2:4 states plainly that in order to be victorious over sin and the demonic realm, we have to avoid being entangled in sin and other distractions that keep our focus in the wrong place.

A New Thing

I believe that in the days we are living in, God wants His people to stand out.  When I say stand out, I do not mean that we should obnoxiously stand out and draw unnecessary attention to ourselves.  This type of behavior does not glorify Jesus. However, we can stand strongly and boldly and without apology for the truth of God’s word and His kingdom and do so in love.

Although God’s character does not change, He sometimes operates in what we perceive to be different ways.  These ways are not truly different of His person.  We simply have not known some of His ways because we have dwelt too long in the comfort zone.  Isaiah 43:19 declares the following:  “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it?  I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”

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If we are not careful, friends, we can fail to know the new thing God is doing.  That is why the question is asked “Shall you not know it?”  Don’t miss what God has for you because you are afraid to leave something behind.  Don’t allow fear of what people think to cause you to miss God’s best for you.

God is bringing His people to a new level, not to make us look wonderful, but to glorify Jesus Christ in all the earth.  He wants to use us to point people to salvation before the return of Jesus Christ.  Will you be part of the new thing God is doing?  Step out of your comfort zone and break new ground!

Love Is…

On my personal Facebook account, I belong to several bible study groups.  Mostly, I enjoy the posts in these groups, that is, when I have time to look at them.  Over the course of the weekend, some people in one group I belong to were arguing over the pagan origins of Easter and whether or not Christians should celebrate it.

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I could detail every argument that was made in this post for you, but that would take too much time.  Instead, I am going to address what I believe to be an extremely important point.  The point is love.

Pride

At the root of most arguments is pride. As Christians, it is easy to take pride in our knowledge.  Of course, we need knowledge.  God’s people perish for lack of knowledge; however, when the display of knowledge supersedes love, then it is nothing more than pride.  In 1 Corinthians 13:4, the word of God states that love is not proud.

When I observe these arguments, I often am tempted to add a few words myself.  Sometimes, I have.  It is then that I must question my own motives.  Do I really want to help people who might be misguided, or do I want to appear “right”?  Of course, there are some issues that are worthy of debate, but most issues are a matter or pride.

Are Religious Celebrations a Sin?

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When I have studied the origins of Easter, I can not deny that there is a pagan influence in the original celebrations, yet, I can say that what I am celebrating is not the Easter Bunny, but the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In my own heart, I know what I am celebrating.  When I am thanking the Lord for His sacrifice and victory, the Easter Bunny does not cross my mind. However, my children participated in egg hunts when they were smaller.

If you believe your children should not participate in egg hunts, then pay heed to that personal conviction.  If you have no problem with it, that is good also.  In our pursuit of righteousness, we must remember that our righteousness comes from Jesus Christ, not our acts or deeds.  There are some matters in which we must be led by the Holy Spirit.  Any holiday or celebration could become an idol to some depending upon the condition of the heart.  What we must bear in mind is that it is the Lord who knows the heart.

Love is the Answer

If you truly believe fellow Christians are sinning by observing the death, burial, and resurrection on Easter weekend, then pray for them.  God is surely able to convict His people of wrongdoing.  Berating people and involving himself in heated arguments is not what Jesus would have done while on this Earth.

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If you truly believe celebrating Easter is just fine, then proceed.  The point is to walk in love and avoid needless arguing.  Read Romans 14.  Paul encouraged believers to take the high road of love with others and follow their own personal convictions for themselves.

Personally, I celebrate and give praise for the death, burial, and resurrection of my Lord Jesus Christ frequently, not just at this particular time of year.  I do this because He has changed my life.  He has changed me!  He has turned around impossible situations in my own life.  He has made me more than a conqueror.  No matter the time of the year, the love of Jesus is worth celebrating!

Truth and Deceit

I want to begin this post by apologizing that it has been so long since my last post.  With so many viruses going around, my husband, children, and I have taken turns with illnesses.  In addition, my children are both involved with school sports. I am not attempting to bombard you with too many of my life’s details, but I want my readers to know that my absence has not been from intentional neglect.

If we are all honest, we have all told what is known as bold-faced lies.  Many of us have omitted information that needed to be in our stories or statements, and, truthfully, many of us have added information that was not accurate to our stories and statements.  However, to be fair, we have omitted facts when relating events to people simply because all the details did not need to be told.  Those omissions are hardly a sin.  People do not want to know every detail of every story we tell.

Wisdom Versus Deceit

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The bible is very clear about walking in lies and deceit versus the truth, but sometimes the line between simply using wisdom in what we tell and willfully operating in deceit can be a fine one and even a bit blurry.  Not only does the Bible tell us what is expected of us, but the Word of God also gives strategies for living out His instruction.  Often, we are not looking for those strategies, or, we do not realize that we have come upon something that is meant to serve as an application.

Romans 12:2 is a perfect example of such an application.  We are told that knowing God’s will is accomplished through being transformed by renewing our minds.  In other words, changing our thinking is a key to victory over sin.  The book of Proverbs in the Old Testament is full of practical wisdom in every day situations.  The Holy Spirit is meant to guide us as well.  John 16:13 states that the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth.  Wouldn’t it be logical to assume that since He guides us into all truth that He will guide our words? Of course!

In other posts, I have explained ways to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit.  In a nutshell, prayer and time in Word bring about that sensitivity.  Applying what we learn and obeying God makes us even more sensitive to His voice.  Jesus told the disciples (Matthew 10:19) that they had no need to worry about what they would say when they were facing persecution.  They were assured that God would give them the words to say.

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1 Peter 3:15 states that we must sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts in order to know how to answer everyone about the hope we have.  The word sanctify means “set apart”.  We must set apart time with the Lord and esteem Him higher than all else in our lives.  In doing this, we will be guided as to how to answer people about various issues with truthfulness, yet, without too much information.

Truth Brings Freedom

There are times in my past in which I walked in deceit with those around me.  If I felt it was needed, I would manipulate details in a story to make myself appear favorable.  Mind you, I was a born-again believer at this time.  Trust me, the Holy Spirit convicted me.  I did something dangerous with that conviction.  I did not listen to it.  Eventually, I hardened to the sound of His voice.  A time of repentance had to be taken to soften what was hardened.

Since that time, I have found such freedom in being truthful in all matters.  Of course, I still seek guidance from the Holy Spirit because I tend to blurt out too much “truth”.  Ephesians 4:15 states that we must speak the truth in love.  Love coupled with truth brings just the right amount of information.  Giving too many details, or, speaking truth too harshly can do more harm than good.  Thank God for His word and for giving us His Spirit to guide us.

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As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we want to live with integrity.  Doing this allows others to see Christ in us.  It also maintains good relationships with others.  If you are in the habit of being deceitful, ask the Lord to help you today.  He will never fail to answer.