Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Unanswered Prayer……..Part II

“We know that God does not listen to sinners. We know if anyone loves and worships God, and does what He wants, God listens to him”.   John 9:31 NLV

Paul was a righteous man, right?   Why wouldn’t God answer his prayer?

By the way, have you noticed that we call prayer “unanswered” when God says “No”?   Isn’t “no” an answer?

Why do you think that is?   Could it be because we feel entitled?

Sometimes God says, “No” even to righteous people if they ask with wrong motives.   James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures”. (NASB)

James also teaches that some people’s prayers are not answered because they are wavering; “…. when you pray, you must believe and not doubt at all.  Whoever doubts is like a wave in the sea that is driven and blown about by the wind.   If you are like that, unable to make up your mind and undecided in all you do, you must not think that you will receive anything from the Lord”. (James 1:6-8 GNT)

Pride can also get in the way of answered prayers.  Job 35:12-13 tells us, “…. they cry out, but He does not answer because of the pride of evil men.
Surely God will not listen to an empty cry, nor will the Almighty regard it”. (NASB)

In the Gospels, Jesus told a story about a prideful, self-righteous person whose prayer was not answered.   Jesus said, “The proud Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: “I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there!  For I never cheat, I don’t sin, I don’t commit adultery, I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.  I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God.  For the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honored”.  (Lk 18:11-12, 14 NLT)

 Job also teaches that God does not give the hypocrites what they ask for; “For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he may gain much,
If God takes away his life?  Will God hear his cry
when trouble comes upon him?”  (Job 27:8-9 NKJV)

Paul was not perfect, but I have no reason to question his motives or accuse him of being prideful or hypocritical, so why didn’t God remove the thorn in his flesh?

I know God cared for Paul.    He wrote, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope….” (II Thes. 2:16 NIV).

The apostle John wrote similar words, he said, “….so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.   Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”  ( I Jn 4:16 NIV)

So why didn’t God, who loved Paul give him what he asked for?

Because……….He had something better for him instead of a thorn-less flesh.           He chose to give him what he needed--------His grace!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Unanswered Prayer

Unanswered Prayer

“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.  Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!  Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops”.  James 5:16b-18 NLT

James teaches us that God will honor our prayers.

Do you have the courage and faith to pray like Elijah did?

Every Christian knows the joy of answered prayer.   Regardless of how long you have been saved, I know you have had at least one prayer answered.  If you have been a Christian any length of time, you have also experienced the frustration of unanswered prayer.

We have all read verses like, Jer. 33:3 (NIV) “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know”.   Or Eph. 3:20 (NIV) “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” and we have claimed them for our needs.

But when the dust settled, your need remained and God had said, “no”. 

How can that be?    Did God go back on His promises?

Paul admits that he too experienced the frustration of unanswered prayer.    Three times Paul asked God to remove a thorn in his flesh and three times, God said, “no”.

Aren’t you glad that He sometimes says, “no”?    I mean, what kind of shape would our life be in today if God said, “yes” to everything we ever asked Him?

Why does God say, “no”?

Some people we expect God not to answer----people like rapists or murderers.  John 9:3 (NIV) says, “We know that God does not listen to sinners.  He listens to the godly man who does his will”.   Proverbs 29:9 calls the prayers of a lawless person, “an abomination”.

In another place in Proverbs, the Lord said, “But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me”.   (Prov. 1:24,25,28 NIV)


“God has no use for the prayers
of the people who won't listen to him”.   Prov. 28:9 The MSG Bible

The children of Israel had a prayer life that rendered no power, it only resulted in frustration.   On the same level of this frustration, were the helpless prayers of the prophets of Baal. 

In I Kings 18:22-25, Elijah sets the terms of competition to help the crowd decide whom they should serve.  The prophets of Baal were to prepare an altar then call upon their god to consume the sacrifice with fire.   Elijah was to do the same.   They would declare the deity that responded to be the true God.

Elijah put himself in an “all or nothing” situation.   At the end of the competition, everyone would either call him a fraud or a true prophet.   They would either worship Baal or Yahweh.   He did not formulate a win-win situation.   He put everything on the line!

The prophets of Baal did not bring down fire.   First, they had many people praying, four hundred and fifty, to be exact.    Second, they prayed a long time, “from morning until noon”.    Third, they were exuberant in their prayer, “they leaped about the altar”.   Fourth, they made a great deal of noise, “they cried aloud”.   Fifth, they made sadistic sacrifices by “cutting themselves with swords and lances”.  YET, their prayers were helpless, their god did NOT respond, and God’s prophet mocked their efforts.  (I King 18:22-28)

 It does not matter how many “prayer partners” are praying, how long you pray, how exuberant your prayer, how much noise you make, or how much you personally sacrifice, a helpless prayer to a deaf god is ineffective.

Elijah, God’s solitary prophet facing the multitudes of false prophets prayed a prayer that God honored.

Elijah’s honored prayer was the result of a deep trust in the God he served.   After Elijah prepared the altar, he closed all escape routes.  Instead of putting dry kindling wood under the sacrifice, he poured gallons of water over it.

Faith-praying is praying for things big enough that God is not ashamed to get involved.   Elijah soaked the altar, he then prayed.   The only way that sacrifice could catch on fire was by the hand of God.

“Hear me O Lord, hear me…..”   After this short, humble prayer, God responded: “Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.”  (vs 31-40)

After God answered this prayer, the people worshipped Him and the false prophets died.

How is your prayer life?

Are you like the children of Israel praying the wrong prayers, with a selfish motive?

Or are you like the prophets of Baal, sincerely praying, but to the wrong god?

Or are you like Elijah, faced with impossible odds and circumstances, boldly asking God to intervene?

Let us pray that God might again send down His fire from heaven to ignite our lives and ministries.   May our prayers burn with a passion for those around us that need Jesus, and may our prayers be honored.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

God or Baal?

“If you refuse to obey what you have been taught,
your prayers will not be heard”.  Prov. 28:9  NCV

Will God allow us to pray to Him and be materialistic at the same time?

Does God allow materialistic prayers?

Actually, no!   It was very problematic for the children of Israel.  Among their problems was the breaking of the first commandment in Exodus 20: 3, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”  Also in Deut. 6:4, He said, “Hear, O Israel!  The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!”   

When people are open to everything, they have no real commitments, and cannot enjoy either allegiance with God or Satan.   Sadly, modern Christians face this same problem.   While striving to serve God, they bow down to the god of materialism believing that the modern day “Baal” can bring happiness.  They do not enjoy godliness because their carnality strips them of the joy of their salvation.

This attitude causes the Christian to constantly pray for an easier life, more wealth, and happiness without suffering.   In this type of prayer, the Christian views God as a genie in a magic lamp.   They feel that if they rub their lamp hard enough, long enough, and often enough, they can force God to accomplish THEIR will.  

Elijah had a word for those of his generation who were “faltering between two opinions”.   “……Elijah came unto all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions?   If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him…..””  I Kings 18:21 NKJV

Notice that Elijah did not ask the people to base their decision upon who could bring them prosperity, happiness, or health.  He challenged his listeners to base their decision upon one factor: who is truly God.

Elijah has a word for today’s Christians.   Clearly, his words echo through the centuries to ask us: “How long will you falter between two opinions?” 

We must choose our allegiance based upon who is God.   Our motivation for following God is not because He can get us into heaven, or because He can bring joy into our life, or because He will provide us with every wish and desire, but because HE IS GOD!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pray with faith….

“You must have faith as you ask Him. You must not doubt.   Anyone who doubts is like a wave which is pushed around by the sea.  Such a man will get nothing from the Lord”.   James 1:6-7  NLV

We must have faith in God and if we are faithful and obedient to Him then He will hear and answer our prayers, otherwise we will receive nothing.

Jesus said in Mark 11:24, “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”   So we must have faith if we expect God to answer our prayers.

Since Jesus is our advocate with God, He says in John 14:13, “….whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”   Our requests to God must be in the name of or by the authority of Jesus.

Another requirement of God answering our prayers is we must be forgiving of others.  Jesus also, said in Mark 11:25-26, “…..whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.   But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”  

How important it is to be forgiving of others?  

Could the Lord be any clearer as to what will happen to us if we are not forgiving?

The Lord will not forgive us and we will be eternally lost.   According to Isaiah 59:2, it is our sins that “separate us” form God so we cannot go to heaven.   We must develop a forgiving attitude toward all people so that God will be forgiving of us so we can go to heaven.

How we treat others can also affect the way God hears our prayers.   In I Peter 3:7 we read, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prays may NOT be hindered.”   Our prayers can be hindered by the way we treat our family, relatives, friends, acquaintances, or strangers.

A heart of prayer…….

“The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right,
and his ears are open to their prayers.
But the Lord turns his face
against those who do evil.”   I Peter 3:12  NLT

When we pray we must humble ourselves and not be self-righteous.   Jesus gave a parable which illustrates this requirement very well.

In Luke 18:9-14 we read; “…. Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else:  “Two men went to the Temple to pray.  One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else.  For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery.  I’m certainly not like that tax collector!   I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed.  Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’  I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God.  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

The attitude we have when we approach God in prayer and worship is very important.  If we approach God with an attitude of showing great pride and arrogance in ourselves and brag on how great we are as prayer warrior, then God will despise this kind of prayer.

Our prayers must be like the attitude of the tax collector.   What Jesus is trying to teach us here, is that when we approach God in prayer we must be humble, not proud or self-righteous, but modest, unpretentious and our prayers must be from our heart.

Our prayers should not be to impress others, because God will not be impressed with such prayers.   Jesus said in Matthew 6:5, 7: “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them.  I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.  When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do.  They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again”.

The only reward someone who prays a prayer like this receives is the recognition from men because God will not heed his prayer. We are also warned not to use vain repetitions, such as repeating something over and over.  This type of prayer makes one a hypocrite because it is pretentious.

Do you know anyone who likes to brag about how much they pray, how often, how hard or how zealous they are about prayer?

They are simply bragging and trying to impress you with their own self-righteousness.   They want you think they are so close to God that they are your connection to God.

Almost daily we read on “fb” where someone is patting them self on the back about what a great prayer warrior they are or how much time they spend in prayer and worship each day.

They want others to know, just like the Pharisees, how super spiritual they are.   They love to tell others how they go into their prayer closet and do NOT come out until God releases them.   They are pompous, arrogant and self-righteous! 

To me, a true prayer warrior NEVER brags about how much time they pray or worship or puts the spot light upon them self.   They quietly pray and guard their prayer time.

They pray because of their relationship with God.  They humble themselves before God, seeking Him and praying for others in secret.  Their heart is focused on Jesus and His Kingdom.   Not their egos or accolades!

In fact, most of the prayer warriors that I have met never revealed who they are or how much time they spend in prayer or where they spend it. 

 God reveals who His faithful and humble prayer warriors are. 

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land”.  II Chr. 7:14 KJV

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Prayer……accepted or rejected?

“Those who are of a perverse heart are an abomination to the LORD,
But the blameless in their ways are His delight”.   Prov. 11;20 NKJV

In Romans 10:1 the apostle Paul says, “My friends, how I wish with all my heart that my own people might be saved!  How I pray to God for them!”

Our prayer must come from the heart!

Prayer to God is only reserved for those who are obedient children of God.   We are told this in John 9:31, “We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will”. (NLT)

Sadly, there are people whose prayer God will not hear.   Why?   Isaiah tells us the answer; “It is because of your sins that he doesn't hear you.  It is your sins that separate you from God when you try to worship him” (Isa. 59:2 GNT).     

To allow anything or anyone to separate us from our relationship with God, so that He will not hear our prayers is a very serious matter.   It is a sad situation for those who try to pray to God and He will not hear them.  But it is their own fault, because they are not obedient to God.  

 Proverbs 28:9, “Surely the prayer of someone who refuses
to listen to God’s teachings is disgusting” (GW).   God looks with disgust at the prayer of one who is not faithfully following His will.   What a horrible situation it is for us when our prayers become disgusting to God.   Could anything be more hopeless?
We also read in I Peter 3:12, “The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right,
and his ears are open to their prayers.  But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil” (NLT).   

The Lord desires to hear the prayers of His faithful children and His eyes are watching out for them.  What a wonderful blessing this is!

What is an abomination to God?

“He who turns away his ear from listening to the law,
even his prayer is an abomination”.  Prov. 28:9  NASB

The term “abomination” means anything that offends the spiritual, religious, or moral sense of a person and causes extreme disgust, hatred, loathing, and that which is deserving to be abhorred. 

 There are five different words translated abomination in the Bible.   The predominant meaning is, “to stink, to be loathsome, uncleanness”. 

The original words are expressive of the greatest disdain on the part of God which can be found in Deut. 18:9-14 (The MSG) says, “When you enter the land that God, your God, is giving you, don't take on the abominable ways of life of the nations there.  Don't you dare sacrifice your son or daughter in the fire.

 Don't practice divination, sorcery, fortunetelling, witchery, casting spells, holding séances, or channeling with the dead.  People who do these things are an abomination to God.  It's because of just such abominable practices that God, your God, is driving these nations out before you.

 Be completely loyal to God, your God.  These nations that you're about to run out of the country consort with sorcerers and witches.  But not you.  God, your God, forbids it”. 

Many of the practices of some of the Eastern Religions and of New Agers come under these headings.

Oppressive treatment of others and a haughty attitude are considered as “abomination” in Proverbs 3:31-32.   As well as a “perverse heart”……one who is obstinate in that which is wrong, is mentioned in Proverbs 11:20.

A list of six “abominations” is also given in Proverbs 6:16-19:

“There are six things which the LORD hates,
Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:
Haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
And hands that shed innocent blood,
 A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that run rapidly to evil,
 A false witness who utters lies,
And one who spreads strife among brothers”.

Prayer is even added to the list of “abominations” as referenced in the opening scripture.

Again, an “abomination” refers to something the Lord “hates”-----something totally out of harmony with His character or purity and love.    If we take the biblical record as a whole, we find that pride and self-sufficiency are mentioned more often than any other qualities as being distasteful to God.

Pride feels no need; therefore, there is nothing even God can do for a self-sufficient sinner.  That is why Jesus said that He came to save sinners and not the “righteous”. 

Given that the Bible is clear that there is “none righteous,” Christ’s statement indicates as clearly as any other that a self-righteous spirit excludes a person from the Kingdom of God. (Eccl. 7:20, Rom. 3:23)

Jesus actually used the key word “abomination” in describing such a spirit.  Luke gives this account; (Jesus speaking) “…. He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.  For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Lk 16:15 NJKV).

Friday, November 18, 2011

“Be strong and courageous”

“Sinners run away even when no one is chasing them.
But those who do what is right are as bold as lions”.  Prov. 28:1  NIRV

Boldness is something desired by almost all believers.  Frequently, you hear someone pray for boldness.  

The first believers in the early church prayed for boldness and God answered in a mighty way.   The whole building shook with the power of God, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the Word of God with boldness.

“The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures.   They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus”.    Acts 4:13 NLT

What does it mean to be “bold as a lion”?  

One aspect of boldness is confidence.  Not arrogance.  Not self-assurance.  Our confidence must be in Jesus and His ability not in ourselves.

God gives us the desire and the ability to obey Him and do His will.   Bold Christians are “Can Do” people.  They look for ways to get things done.

Another aspect of courage is exhibited in our walk with God.   The prophet Elijah, Daniel, Peter, John and Paul are a few examples who exhibited great courage in their walk with God.

The story of Joshua and Caleb at the border of the Promised Land revealed great courage when they did not agree with the other ten spies.  They said, “Let’s go up at once and possess the land, for we are well able to overcome it.”

God said in Num. 14:24 NIV, “But my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it”.

Joshua boldly led the nation of Israel into battle to possess the land.  God said to him in Josh. 1:8-9, “Have I not commanded you?   Be strong and courageous.   Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Fearlessness is another aspect of courage.    It means you do not hesitate; you are quick to obey God.  You are quick to act on His Word and do what He says.

When the Spirit of God is stirred up and activated within you, you can live free from fear.

Holy boldness will only operate within the framework of love and humility.

“Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them.  Nothing will injure you”.               Luke 10:19 NLT

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline”.  II Tim. 1:7 NLT

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Courage to Repent

“For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, his Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control”.   II Tim. 1:7 GNT

Do you remember the story of the Prodigal son?    Remember how he disrespected his father by taking his share of the inheritance while the father was still alive?  He then wasted it on the things of the world.

But after he hit rock bottom, he realized the error of his ways and he got up and went back to his father’s house.   He said to his father, “I have sinned against heaven and against you I am no longer worthy to be called your son.   Make me like one of your hired men”.

But that is not what his father did, instead, he said to his servants, “Bring the best robe and put it on my son.   Put my ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.   My son is alive!  I prayed for him to come back to me day after day and now I have him back safe!”

That’s how God treats each and every person who comes back to Him.   No matter who you are or what you have done, you can still come back to Jesus!

True repentance is not just about feeling sorry for yourself, because you did something wrong.  It is feeling sorry enough to change your life.   It means saying, “I am sorry for what I have done and I am not going to do it anymore!  No more giving in to the same old sin!   I am making a change in my life starting right now”!

There are two Greek words in the NT for repentance.  The first one is “metanoia” which means to change your mind.  When you repent you are changing your mind about your sin and you are changing your mind about Jesus!

In Acts 2:38 when Peter says, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you,” he is using this word.   He is saying that if you want to be right with God, you have to change your mind about the way you have been living.

The second Greek word is “anastrepho” which means to turn around.   Changing your mind about your sin is not enough.  You have to turn your life around and stop sinning.    In John 5, when Jesus heals the crippled man by the pool of Bethesda, He says, “You are now physically healed, but you are not spiritually healed.  You need to stop sinning or something worse is going to happen to you.”

Once we confess our sins, we also need to forsake them forever.  

“You will never succeed in life if you try to hide your sins.  Confess them and give them up; then God will show mercy to you”.  Prov. 28:13  GNT

“My heart will not be afraid…..”

“The wicked run when no one is chasing them, but an honest person is as brave as a lion”.   Prov. 28:1  GNT

It is amazing how much the Bible has to say on courage. 

Joshua 1:6-7 says, ““Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them.  Be strong and very courageous.   Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you.   Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left.   Then you will be successful in everything you do”  (NLT).

Again we are reminded in Joshua 1:9 with, “This is my command—be strong and courageous!   Do not be afraid or discouraged.   For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (NLT) 

One way we can deal with fear is to remember our position.   The Bible tells us the righteous are bold, not the wicked. 

The first step to courage is to remember who you are in Jesus Christ, to remember that in Him you are strong and victorious! 

We must confront our fears.   You will be gripped with fear until you decide to confront it.   Fear will win every day until you stand up, look that fear straight in the face, and say, “You are not going to win over me anymore.  By the help of God and with the power of the Holy Spirit within me, I am going to win!”   You will never win until you rise up and confront the thing that is dragging you down.

Courage is nothing more than seeing the fear and taking action against it.

God has given us a sound mind so that we can look at our problems.   He has given us power so we can overcome, and He has given us love so we can respond in His character.

A healthy mind is absolutely essential to getting free from fear.   The Bible says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”    There is a negative side to this and a positive side.   The negative side is that you have to cut the negative people out of your life, those who are dragging you down.

You have to sensor your input so you are not listening to people who are feeding your fears.   The positive side is found in Romans 12:2: “Be not conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”.  

Put the Word of God in one ear and the fear will go out the other ear.    Fill your mind with the Word of God, and you will not have time to dwell in the depths of overcoming fear.

You have to live in such a way as if the fear did not exist.   I John 4:18 says, “Perfect love casts out fear”.    You can either have the love of God or you can have fear generated by Satan, but you cannot have them both dominating your life at the same time.

Courage is facing and dealing with the impossible situations of life and still believing in God, still rejoicing in His goodness.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—
so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
so why should I tremble?

 When evil people come to devour me,
when my enemies and foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.

 Though a mighty army surrounds me,
my heart will not be afraid.
Even if I am attacked,
I will remain confident”.   Psalms 27:1-3 NLT

Monday, November 14, 2011

What is Courage?

“The wicked run away when no one is chasing them,
but the godly are as bold as lions”.   Prov. 28:1 NLT

The dictionary defines courage as: “The ability to face and deal with a dangerous or difficult situation”.   

There are two parts in this definition----first…… to face and then to deal with…

It is interesting to read modern day writers on the subject of courage because they give you some interesting definitions.   For instance, Gen. George Patten defines it this way: “Courage is fear that holds on for one more minute.”

Captain A. Riddenbacher states it as: “Courage is doing what you are afraid to do.  Where there is no fear, there is not courage”.

Think about the definitions.   It is the ability to face and deal with a dangerous or difficult situation.

How much courage do you have?

Would your friends call you a courageous person?

Most of the popular images of courage have to do with men and women fighting on a battlefield.

I do not deny in the least of those things are part of what courage is all about; however, if that is all that courage means, most of us are left out because most of us will not ever literally be on a battlefield.

To me courage is made up of four elements:

Bravery in the face of danger.         “I will NOT be afraid”.

Steadfastness in the face of opposition.      “I will NOT give up”.

Action in the face of resistance.          “I will NOT be intimidated”.

Optimism in the face of despair.            “I will NOT lose heart”.

 “I have given you the power to trample on snakes and scorpions and to defeat the power of your enemy Satan. Nothing can harm you”.    Luke 10:19 CEV

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bold as a Lion Part II

“The wicked are edgy with guilt, ready to run off even when no one's after them;
honest people are relaxed and confident, bold as lions”.  Prov. 28:1  MSG Bible

Our first example of someone being pursued by a guilty conscience is Adam in the Garden of Eden.   He sins against God and acts wickedly, believing the serpent instead of God. 

Gen. 3:8 says that Adam and Eve “heard the sound of the Lord walking in the garden in the cool of the day”.   Not stalking, not pursuing them, He is just walking. 

Verse 8 goes on to say: “And the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden”.   Then the Lord called to the man and said, “Where are you?”  Adam said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid”.

Never before did Adam have to flee at the arrival of God and now he flees when no one is pursuing him.  Why?   Because his conscience condemns him and he feels it in the presence of God.

“The wicked flee when no one is pursuing.” (Prov. 28:1)   This is teaching us that we have a conscience given by God, and that our conscience is committed to getting our accounts settled------to making things right when we have done wrong.

In fact, this God-given conscience is so committed not to let us rest with unrectified wrong that it will create pursuers out of nothing.    A guilty conscience will turn shadows into phantoms and ambulances into police cars and innocent inquiries into indictments and doorbells into threats and parents into cross-examiners ….etc.

A guilty conscience will create pursuers out of anything unless we drown it with alcohol, or numb it with drugs, or silence it with endless blasts of music or harden it with constant denials.   The wicked are people who will not make right what they have done wrong nor set their hearts to do right.    While the grace of God persists, they flee when no one pursues.    Woe to the wicked that cease to hear the footsteps of God in the garden.

The righteous are not so.   The verse in Prov. 28:1 goes on to say, “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as lions.”

Who are the righteous?  

Who are the lion-hearted righteous ones?

One answer can be found in Psalms 32:1-2, David said, “Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!
 Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
whose lives are lived in complete honesty!” (NLT)

The righteous are the ones who trust in the Lord----the ones who have faith and bank their hope on the mercy and power of God.    These are the ones whose sins are forgiven.

They are free from fear!  Their consciences are “sprinkled clean” from an evil conscience.  Their hearts no longer condemn them and they are right with God, because of His grace.  

Their boldness with God and man shows the worth and the value of the gospel of God’s grace.   (Heb. 10:22, 4:2,6  I John 3:21)

“Many sorrows come to the wicked,
but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord.                                      
 So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him!
Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!”    Ps 32:10-11 NLT

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bold as a Lion Part I

“The wicked run away when no one is chasing them,
but the godly are as bold as lions”.    Prov. 28:1 NLT

Apostle Paul said in Phil. 1:27-28 that Christians are called to live a life that shows the worth of the gospel.

Then Paul said that one of the effects that the gospel has on the life of those who believe it is fearlessness.  “Lead a life worthy of the gospel so that when I come I may find that you stand firm, unafraid of any of your opponents” (Phil 1:27-28). 

In other words, one of the ways that our lives show the worth of the gospel is when the gospel makes us bold and courageous and unafraid.

Proverbs 28:1 is a powerful confirmation to that truth.  There is a correlation between the wickedness and fear on the one hand, and righteousness and courage on the other hand.   The gospel is a message about how wicked people can get right with God through Jesus Christ so that they have a righteousness that makes them as bold as a lion.

When Proverbs says that the “wicked flee when no one is pursuing,” and “the righteous are bold as a lion,” it does not mean that there are no bold wicked people, and no times when the righteous become timid.   It means that in general there is something about wickedness that leads to fear and something about righteousness that leads to boldness.

The reason we know this is because, for example, in Prov. 14:16 it says that the fool “rages and is bold”.    So the point of Prov. 28:1 is not that the wicked cannot ever act in bold and reckless ways.  In fact for the sake of more wickedness there is often an utterly foolish willingness to take crazy risks.

What is it about the wicked that makes them so often flee when no one is pursuing?  We can answer that question from our own experience and from biblical examples. 

The answer is: a bad conscience.   

We flee when we are not even being pursued because we have a bad conscience.  There are enough bad things we have done in our memory, that a voice inside tells us someone is after us even when they are not.  

Guilt is the parent of fear.   Our conscience creates the pursuer that ought to be there when he is not there.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Testing of the heart

“He will sit as a refiner
and a purifier of silver.
He will purify the Levites
and refine them like gold and silver.
They will belong to the LORD,
presenting a righteous offering”.    Mal. 3:3 CEB

When God has thoroughly purged and purified His people, that which flows out of our heart in worship and adoration to Him, however the expression might be it is a holy offering to the Lord, that He might be glorified.

God made Jesus “to be a sin-offering” for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.  Only He who “knew no sin” and therefore was totally righteous in Himself, could become an offering-----could pour out His life for us, impart it to us and transform us into His own sinless image. (II Cor. 5:21)

The ultimate state of being is------“Your people also shall be all righteous” (Isa. 60:21).   To this end therefore is the refining process.

“……. I will put into the fire;
I will refine them like silver
and test them like gold.
They will call on my name
and I will answer them;
I will say, ‘They are my people,’
and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’”  Zech. 13:9 NIV

He will refine us until from every cell of our being, we can cry out, “The Lord is my God” and it will be an offering in righteousness……. “in spirit and in truth”.

In order to bring forth a people who can say with a pure heart, “The Lord is my God,” it will necessitate that He purge out all of our allegiance to other gods.   It is amazing how many “other gods” we have served in the past, in spite of the commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me”.

Because of Israel’s continuous idolatry, as punishment and discipline, they were sent into captivity and then the king of Assyria brought other people in and placed them in the cities formerly inhabited by Israel.

The result of this was; “So the people feared the Lord, but they worshiped their own gods also. They followed the way of the nations from which they had been taken away” (II Kings 17:33 NLV).  Their hearts had not been changed, so they only had an outward form of reverence for God, while in their heart and daily living they served other gods!

It is a unique thing that every time man gets into extreme pressure or some drastic trouble, he will call on the Lord, give some reverence to God, and yet all the while retain a servitude to all of his own gods.    Man’s will is often his god!

“The bellows fiercely fan the flames
to burn out the corruption.
But it does not purify them, for the wickedness remains.
 I will label them ‘Rejected Silver,’
for I, the Lord, am discarding them.”  Jer. 6:29-30 NLT

The Lord tries the heart----this is something that only God can do, and He has some very unique ways and workings to make practical applications.  We talk of fiery trials, the furnace of affliction, till it almost becomes a mystical thing; but here we are faced with a very literal experience. 

“So is a man to his praise”.   How do we act when praise is directed our way?  If we retain it for self to glory in, it will become dross.   But if we immediately, in heart and mind offer that praise to the Lord----knowing that it is Christ within us that enables us to live and do, then “no flesh has glory in His presence,” and our hearts remain pure before Him.

But there is another side to this “so is a man to his praise,” and that is when there is NO praise directed our way---that is a refining process also.   The lack of a compliment can be as trying as knowing how to receive one, for if we allow self-pity, bitter thoughts, etc. to fill our mind because we were not praised---that certainly indicates the dross of self within. 

How we react to praise, or the lack of praise, reveals the character in us, for both ways serve as a refining fire.

“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold,
but the Lord tests the heart”.  Prov. 17:3  NLT

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Praise Test………

“Gold and silver are tested in a red-hot furnace,

but we are tested by praise”.   Prov. 27:21 CEV

Praise brings with it unseen dangers.   It may cause us to believe we are better than we really are.   It may blind us to our own weaknesses and it may lead to a place where we no longer think we need God.

Praise may cause us to end up in the crucible, a fiery finance where our motives will be severely tested and all that is false in us will be completely exposed.  At that moment it is difficult to remember that gold and silver are purified by passing through the fire.   Though the image is often applied to trails, it also applies to our victories.

The spiritual truth behind this proverb is not hard to see.   Satan often attacks us at the point of our strength, not the point of our weakness.  

After all, why should Satan attack only in the point of your self-perceived weakness?    If you know you have a weakness that is the very area you will guard most carefully.   If you know you have a problem with anger or with laziness or with lust or with gluttony, will you not be on guard lest you fall?

But it is not so with your strengths.  You take those areas for granted.  You may feel that you are strong in areas and there are no temptations for you.  Watch out!   There is danger ahead.   When a person takes any area of life for granted, that is the one area Satan is most likely to attack. 

At this point we do well to remember the Jewish leaders who believed on Jesus but would not confess Him for fear of the Pharisees.   “They loved praise from men more than praise from God” (Jn 12:43).   

Praise is wonderful to receive.  But when we love it too much it can lead us away from God.

“He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross.  He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord”.  Mal. 3:3 NLT

Praise will reveal a spirit of…………….

“As the refining pot for silver and the furnace for gold [bring forth all the impurities of the metal], so let a man be in his trial of praise [ridding himself of all that is base or insincere; for a man is judged by what he praises and of what he boasts]”.     Prov. 27:21 AMP

Silver and gold were identified, separated, and refined from impurities in a fining pot or furnace.   There the trail of great heat separated base metals from precious metals.   Then end result of the hot trial left the pure metals that were ready to be used for fine jewelry.

Praise is a fiery trial for man.   If a man has a weak character, praise will make him proud, conceited, and overbearing.   If a man has a strong character, it will not affect him at all.   He will continue in his modest and humble life, giving glory to God and being thankful for any good that he might be able to do for others.

Praise creates a severe test of your soul.   Praise will reveal what kind of person you are.   It will prove a spirit of humility or a spirit of pride.  

Do you crave the praise of man?

Those taught by the Holy Spirit will recognize the great danger in praise.   We should dread praise more than a rebuke, for the one bears the good fruits of humility and instruction, and the other may work our ruin by the most pleasant poison!  

A seed of pride lies active in the most sanctified soul and just a little praise can be enough to water it into a rapid and extensive growth that will choke our fruitfulness.

David, after killing Goliath, could have written his own ticket!   Public opinion would have secured him the throne; after all, he had been anointed king (I Sam 16:1-13).   But he told Saul he was just a son of Saul’s servant, Jesse the Bethlehemite.

When offered Saul's daughters in marriage, he thought the honor too high to consider (I Sam. 17:58, 18:17-24).  

Satan was puffed up by his exalted position and aspired to be like the most High and he is a perpetual example of the danger of pride and the Lord’s severe condemnation of it (Isa. 14:9-15).

But contrast Jesus, who left the throne of glory to become a servant among mortals (Phil. 2:5-8).   He even requested that His glorious miracles not be spread abroad, for He was not the least interested in the praise of man (Mk 7:36).  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Excessive Praise!

“If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning,
it will be taken as a curse”.    Prov. 27:14  NIV

When is a blessing a curse?

When it is flattery!   Excessive blessings, compliments or praise are actually a curse, for there is a false or foolish motive behind them.   The person has already deceived you or is about to deceive you.   Godly men and women are not moved by flattery, nor do they give flattery to others.

 In the above verse the man praises his friend with a loud voice.  The sound level indicates an insincere display rather than a holy and noble compliment.   He intends for the friend and others around to hear the blessing!   He is using a blessing with a hidden motive rather than a friendly edification.

God hates flattery.   Flattery is a compliment or praise to get another person to believe or do something wrong.  

Wise people do not give flattering titles to men though it is very popular today in religious circles (Matt. 23:6-12).    Some ministers demand flattery from others by using a fancy title as “Father” or “Bishop” or “Apostle” or “Deacon” …..etc

Paul never used flattery when in Thessalonica, which is totally contrary to the manipulating and egos that is so popular today (I Thess. 2:5).   

In a marketing era, image is more important than content, appearance than performance and perception than reality; so it is easy to approve flattery.

Wise men ignore most bad things said about them and they ignore all good things said about them.   One act of true kindness is more meaningful than many exuberant blessings.   

Correction is far more valuable for prosperity and success than any compliment.  It is a duty for Christians to think soberly of themselves, but this is hard to do, if you enjoy the praise of man.

All praise is not sin.  Praise to get a person to believe or do something wrong is sin. To manipulate with praise or flattery is sin.

Praise severely tests a person’s character.  Most people are vulnerable to flattery; they believe the praise is true and they will compromise to get more of it.

“The purity of silver and gold is tested
by putting them in the fire; the purity of human hearts is tested
by giving them a little fame”.  Prov. 27:21 MSG Bible

Monday, November 7, 2011

A test of our character……

“The crucible is for refining silver and the smelter for gold,
but a person is tested by the praise given to him”.    Prov. 27:21 GW

I think praise is important when given with the right motive.   We all need encouragement and even affirmation.   A timely “praise” is so uplifting to our spirit.   But as important as it is, praise can be a two-edge sword.

The crucible is the mechanism through which silver is refined and prepared, where the application of extreme heat forces the impurities to rise to the top.   The furnace serves the same purpose for gold.  Scripture says that we are tested in the furnace by the praise we receive.

Praise will test our character by bringing out the truth in how we see ourselves.

How we receive praise bears witness to how we really assess our own self-worth and more importantly, from where we derive our worth.   On one hand, we can receive praise as affirmation.   

If we know that we have worth because we have been adopted by the King, we understand that nothing we can ever do will increase or decrease our worth.   We are able to take praise at face value and enjoy the affirmation for a job well done.

On the other hand, we can receive praise as approval.   Rather than hearing, “The work you did is good,” we hear the words, “You are good” and “I approve of you”.  The actual words of praise did not change only our interpretation and application of those words.   The person who lacks genuine appreciation of their worth is always seeking to find it in the approval of others.  Sadly………there will NEVER be enough praise for them.

Let’s be honest.  We all like praise!   It makes us feel good and like anything that makes us feel good, we can begin to desire it, even crave it.   But what we do with that desire will reveal a lot about our character.  

A person with high integrity will remain faithful to all that God prompts them to do.   They will do what He tells them to do when He tells them to do it and how He tells them to do it-----all with little or no concern for the praise they will or will not receive.

A person of lower integrity will be so drawn by the lure of praise as to set aside the things of God.   They become addicted to praise and that praise becomes a drug just as intoxicating as any street drug.

In the midst of praise do we agree with the adoration?

Do we begin to get puffed up, thinking we have arrived?

Or……….do we recognize the truth about ourselves?

Do we press on to become the person God desires or do we become stagnant in thinking we are the good one……..the one everybody loves the most?

“Those who correct someone will,
in the end, find more favor
than those with flattering tongues”.    Prov. 28:23  CEB

“It is better to warn a man than to pretend to praise him.
In the end he will be more pleased with you”.   Prov. 28:23 NIRV