Life on the front porch

Faith, life, kids & bikes


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What will the church look like on the day Jesus returns?

God’s vision for the church is found in the story of Rebekah

I was excited to bring encouragement to a local congregation recently because the scripture from the Old Testament was the story of Rebekah. I knew that this woman was an example for the Jewish people, of service and hospitality. Rabbis, pastors & scholars have used this woman’s story to describe God’s people on the day of the return of the Lord. In the generation that sees God’s messiah return, a faithful people will be found that reflect the story of this mother of our faith.

Perhaps you look at the churches in your city or at the people of faith in your social circles and, like me, you wonder, “Is this really what Jesus had in mind when he came preaching, healing & loving? Is this what Jesus died for?” The current reality seems bleak, the church weak and many people of faith can’t be distinguished from everyone else by their life and entertainment choices. Two voices come to my mind:


I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ.” – Ghandi
The best money has never been on the church. Yet the church has outlasted every economic and political system.” Gary Best


 

God, in the story of Rebekah, is telling us our story. You’ll find this gem in Genesis 24 and it’s the longest story told in the book of Genesis (longer than Noah, creation or Joseph). There a number of perspectives on this, but today let’s just look at this story as a shadow of our story. Continue reading

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Four disastrous beliefs that hold us back from enjoying Jesus

I remember many years ago being asked to speak at my parents’ church and to fit into the preaching schedule as they were going through the book of Colossians – lucky me, I got to talk about the 2 most guilt inducing topics in the church – prayer and evangelism.

Of course, we don’t all feel guilt about prayer or evangelism, some of us have just gotten so discouraged or put off that we are calloused to the call. Here’s what Paul, the missionary pastor, expected of his congregations:

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison-
that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

Can I suggest that we (the list comes from my own experience and errors) have believed dangerously wrong ideas about prayer that keep us from enjoyable times of interceding? Which of these have you fallen into?

Do you trust God like you trust slot machines? photo by Yamaguchi先生

1. Prayer is God’s slot machine. We put prayers in and hope that we get what we want out of it. Prayer is unpredictable but we just keep hoping that we’ll hit the jackpot.

2. Prayer is a magical language. We try to get our words just right, our theology perfect, use words we never use in conversation and even copy the inflection and hand movements of our favourite “power pray-ers”

3. Prayer is like yoga. We use God and prayer as a relaxation technique. Not that it isn’t restful, but that’s not the purpose.

4. Prayer avoidance. Many of us just leave prayer to the intercessors. We’re “not very good at it,” so we avoid it. We’re not convinced that it does much good even though we are happy to have someone else praying for us.

One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.” – John Piper

Time has never been the most significant reason that we do not pray.

What if there was another reason that pastor Paul calls us to pray? What if this was more than a religious exercise and an opportunity to join God in his work? Prayer is the work that Jesus is doing right now, at this moment and he joyfully invites our voluntary partnership.

Song of Solomon 2:10 “My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.”
– Jesus is calling you and me to rise up and do what He is doing

Hebrews 7:25 “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
– And Jesus is living to make intercession for us.

My response:

1. Stop believing disastrous things about prayer.  Repent to God and move on.

2. Decide to dig in and ask God to help you enjoy prayer.

3. Schedule it.  For today and tomorrow and the next day.


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A final thought on my career in prayer

Last night as I scrolled through my Facebook page I came across a disturbing post.  When I woke up this morning I was still thinking about it and began to think, “What can I do about this?”  Can I visit this person, should I start a class, should I get some friends and go do some prayer ministry?  Do, do, do, do!  It sounds like a song, but it’s not a heavenly song.

Prayer: A Holy OccupationThe Holy Spirit then reminded me of what I’ve been writing – that prayer is the greater work.  When Jesus said that we would do greater works than this, he meant that we’d have unfettered access to the throne room of heaven.  We can know his hear heartbeat and ask anything in confidence and we can know that he answers our prayer.

So now the test.  Will I take a short 5 second prayer (which counts) or will I dig in in confidence, boldness, patience and power like I’ve been encouraged to do?  Will I start my prayer with a bold declaration of who God is and stay in the place of prayer until breakthrough.  Sounds exhausting!  And what if the situation doesn’t change?  What if I don’t feel anything?  How long should I stay there?

“Pray because you have a Father, not because it quietens you, and give Him time to answer.”

“The only way to keep right is to watch and pray.  Prayer on any other basis than that on which it is placed in the New Testament is stupid, and the basis of prayer is not human earnestness, not human need, not the human will, it is redemption, and its living centre is a personal Holy Spirit.”

“Waiting means standing under, in active strength, enduring till the answer comes.”

“Watch for God’s answer to your prayers, and not only watch, but wait.”
 The task of intercession is to humbly let go of what I think should happen and turn over to God, what he wants to happen.  And so, this morning, I agree in prayer.  You are Almighty God, nothing is too difficult for you.  Step in, make your fame glorious!  Jesus, I love you and I love your name.  Break the power of my friend, bring her dreams of you in the night. Encounter her with healing and salvation.  Bring someone near to her that will faithfully recount your story of love and redemption.  Almighty God, you can do this, you have done this many many times.  Today again. Healing and encounter!
Amen
Here are the Characteristics of a Believer who overcomes in prayer from my reflections with Oswald Chambers.  Hope you enjoyed as much as I have.
Patience: To wait on the Lord
Power: Strength and endurance to pray
Purpose: What is the end of my prayer? What is God desiring to happen because I pray?
Boldness: What has Christ done for me?
Childlikeness: What is my relationship to God looking like?
Communion: When, in my schedule, will I meet with God?
Concentration: Where will I go to meet with God?
Discipline: What is the One thing that God will do through me?
Honesty: What lies am I believing about God, prayer, others?
Faith: Who is God and what is He like?
Work: What is my discipline of regularly throwing my shoulder into the work of prayer?
Communion: Do I long for God’s nearness?  Do I hunger for His holiness?


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“Prayer does not fit us for the greater works; prayer is the greater work.  We think of prayer as a common-sense exercise of our higher powers in order to prepare us for God’s work.  In the teaching of Jesus Christ, prayer is the working of the miracle of redemption in me which produces the miracle of redemption in others by the power of God.”
– Oswald Chambers

What is my work in the life of prayer?  Even the things that I must do in prayer require the grace of God, so with God’s grace, there are 3 requirements of me to live a life of prevailing prayer.  Here’s my alliteration: To pursue passionate prevailing prayer I must practice and pursue patience, purpose and power.

Patience:

Here’s what I want to remember in growing in patience, I am a waiter, not just waiting.  I am God’s servant, towel over my arm, eyes on Him, ready to respond to what my Lord requires.  I want to quickly and easily do what I’m called to do.  Patience in prayer is taking the role of waiting on the Lord – learning the rhythm of His grace.


Honesty in prayer (Pinocchio had an advantage)

Three things I desire quoteTruth. You’d think it was reasonably easy to figure out!

When it comes to truth and lies Pinocchio had a bit of an unfortunate problem (a nose that grew every time he lied) but I think it would be so helpful I had his nose. If every time I lied my nose grew I’d be very motivated to be truthful; but it doesn’t seem to work for me like this. I can tell lies and get away with it or not even know it. In the same way I can pray with great sincerity but not be honest with God.

Maybe you know someone like me.  Here are some of the lies I say in prayer (thanks Oswald Chambers):

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