04 July 2012

Reverent Submission

I know the last blog I wrote was about prayer, but I feel like this topic needs extra emphasis.  In my last blog, we discussed how the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.  And the key action we focused on was becoming more righteous.  This post will also be objective based or purpose driven one.

Hebrews 5:7 reads, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.”

The first thing I want to focus on is how Jesus prayed.  It says he prayed with loud cries and tears... I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember the last time I prayed like that.  As Christians, that should be concerning and at the very least, thought provoking.  When we decided to follow Christ, we not only made a commitment to follow the rules Jesus laid out, but also strive to follow Jesus‘ actions.  I’m not saying we should all go out and make a big scene the next time we pray in church, but I do think we should all consider the way we pray and how awesome our God is.

The next key section is how Jesus was heard.  It says right at the end He was heard because of his reverent submission.  Reverent literally means “showing great respect and admiration” and submission means “when a person or group allows someone or something to have power over them.” So when you put 2 and 2 together, Jesus’ prayers were heard because he showed great respect and admiration towards God and allowed God to have power over Himself.  These are two concepts that I see lacking in the Church today...

In Hillsong United’s song, Rescue, it says “falling on my knees in worship, giving all I am to seek your face, Lord all I am is yours. My whole life I place in your hands, God of mercy humbled I bow down, in your presence, at your throne.” This should literally be how we behave towards God: falling to our knees, placing our whole life in his hands, and bowing down in humility.  As I’ve been reading through the old testament, I’ve connected a phrase that sums up how we need to be: God-fearing.

This concept is becoming one of my long-term goals. That I need to be so God-fearing, or reverent towards God, that my only response can be falling to my knees in worship. To seek Him earnestly in prayer, with tears and loud cries.  And if you’ve forgotten from my last post, this is on top of my pursuit of righteousness (for powerful and effective prayer!). Above all else, I am seeking to follow God with my whole heart. 

Challenge accepted.

22 February 2012

Prayer Power

"Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops." James 5: 13-18

There is one part of this passage that I would like to pick apart and examine: "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." There are many times in my life where I am frustrated or just in need of prayer and I end up feeling as though my requests haven't been dealt with.  Before I jump in to what I'm about to say I need to be clear, I do know that God has his own method for answering prayer that doesn't always mesh up with ours.  He also has His own timing to do so.  I also understand that God's will is going to get done above all else. So leaving those cases aside, I'm going to try and talk about the times in between.

Its so easy to give up and get discouraged during the hard times: to say that God doesn't care about our problems in day to day life.  It is at critical times like these when we must take a serious look at our own hearts, minds, and actions.  Perhaps the reason that we are not praying powerfully and effectively is because we aren't living RIGHTEOUS lives (righteous, as defined by merriam-webster : acting in accord with divine or moral law: free from guilt or sin).  We are just expecting God to clean up all of our garbage for us (which He can do).  As we know from our own salvation though, God not only wants to save us, but to PARTNER with us as well (go and make disciples of all nations...= our part [along with sanctification]). I believe this is just one of the mediums in which God works, partnership, and I believe prayer is no different.  As it says in James, it should be an expectation that if we want to pray effectively then we should go out of our way to live righteously. And of course God can do it all on His own, he doesn't need us in the slightest... But he WANTS us.  So the next time that we get flustered over the fact that our prayers haven't been answered, remember to seek after God's righteousness (as opposed to 'righteous' in man's eyes).

And finally, there are other factors involved in prayer, sometimes healing is needed among other things, so  I'm not implying a 1 to 1 ratio of "righteousness to effective and powerful prayer." I think that in any circumstance however, righteousness definitely helps.  Are you living the righteous life that God desires? Ask yourself. Ask your friends. Ask your pastor. Unless the collective answer is a resounding "yes," it seems as though we have got some work to do.

13 December 2011

Give God the Glory

As Christians, we are supposed to live our lives seeking God.  Day after day, picking up our crosses and following in his footsteps. As I'm sure many people have realized, myself included, this can be a difficult task.  There are times in my life that I have felt under appreciated or not valued and wondered "when is God going to bless me?" I mean, I read my bible, pray earnestly, go to church, and try and share my faith with others, so when is God going to bless me (despite the fact that he does in ABUNDANCE)? This is when Satan grabs a hold of us and tempts us with the pleasures of this world.  He uses our self righteousness and sense of entitlement to bring us down, hard. I don't have to tell you this though, I'm sure its happened to you at some point.  I am going to tell you what God has been laying on my heart lately.

Many Christians are under the impression that after a while, or after they've been good enough that they are entitled to something (I know this for a fact based on how people talk, pray, update their facebook, etc). The (and me) wonder 'when is it about me?"  Surprisingly, there actually is a time when it is about YOU.  I guess to be more precise, there WAS I time when it was about you...  When Jesus died on the cross it was about YOU.  When he bore YOUR sin so YOU wouldn't have to die.  When he cleaned up the stains from YOUR sins; past, present, and future it was about YOU.  Jesus suffered the most gruesome death known to man so that YOU could potentially have a fulfilled life and afterlife.  That was when it was about YOU. At ONE single moment in all of history. That's it. At that moment, even before your birth, you were on Christ's mind.

From that point on, we owe our lives to him.  Ever millisecond of every day that we spend on this earth, we should be glorifying God for sending His son in place of us. We should be so grateful at His act of service that it should even compel us to tell everyone we ever meet (great commission for all you scholars!). So often we lose touch of the reality that this earth isn't our home and that our rewards are not meant for this earth. God doesn't owe us anything, period.

Thankfully for our sinning hearts, the story doesn't stop there.  Despite our permanent debt of gratitude to God, He still blesses us while we are here, immensely!  Simply by the fact that you are reading this blog, God has blessed you with the ability (and responsibility!) to access the internet.  We have homes filled with food, running water, plumbing, electricity, insulation, furniture, and plenty of space (if you disagree on the last one, look at the living space of people in other countries). We even have so much wealth that we give it back to charities, churches, and friends; so much food that we go on diets; and so much spare time that we have a million ways to entertain ourselves within the confines of our own home (debate all you like, its true).  Not that we should feel guilty about the things our Father has blessed us with, but that we should be responsible stewards of our gifts.  I guess the main point is that although we don't ever deserve blessings, God still gives them to us abundantly. As a response we need to give Him ALL the credit and glory for everything.  So keep in mind, there was one and only one time when it was about you (and me), so now give God the glory!

09 November 2011

Stephen's crazy life.

So... I wrote this super long blog about my thoughts, but I felt that all could be summarized by this short paragraph.  These past two weeks have been extremely stressful, in that time, God has shown me (like it says in Matthew 6) that stressing over earthly things is not worth it.  Earthly things will all fade away... What education I got, where I went to school, where I worked, and how I did on my exams won't matter when I die.  The only thing that matters is how well I represented God to the people I came in contact with during my stay here on earth.  Yes, I still want to succeed and be the best that I can be, but when workload becomes a stumbling block instead of a means to glorify God, it needs to be prioritized differently. So therefore my goal as well as my challenge for you is not to sweep God under the rug or give him a sliver of your schedule; devote yourself to Him and make it your purpose in life to follow His footsteps.

06 October 2011

Thing I've Come to Realize #3

"Thing I've Come to Realize #3":            Perspective changes everything.

Perspective changes everything, especially when it relates to impatience.  We all get impatient from time to time whether it is waiting for an elevator, internet download, the car in front of you, your order at Starbucks, or a response from someone. Sometimes these things are a minor annoyance, but sometimes (typically when we are having a bad day) they really stress us out. The epiphany that I had was an attempt to put life into perspective (an activity I do quite often!).  All I did was counted... Sounds simple right? It really was. As an example, I counted the time that it took the elevator that I just missed to get back down to my floor. It took less than 30 seconds. After that, I just thought how short 30 seconds really is (less time than it takes for me to get out of bed in the morning). I’ve started doing this with other things and I realized that even things that seem to take an eternity really don’t take that long.  It my sound dumb, but it was a liberating experience and it helped me to be more patient. I recommend you try it sometime, just PAUSE.................................. put life into perspective instead of being impatient.

11 September 2011

Thing I’ve come to realize #2

“Thing I’ve come to realize #2”:            It’s not just about doing your best, its much more than that.

The concept of doing your best all around, teachers, parents, coworkers, and peers use the phrase “do your best” on a daily basis as when motivating others. When I stopped to think about it I realized that many people sell themselves short by “doing their best”.  For example, when someone is doing a task and asked why it is not being done a certain way or in a certain timeframe, a common response is, “well… I’m doing my best.”  That statement may be true some of the time, but I am willing to wager that many people say it as an excuse for laziness. Personally, when I think of doing my best, I think of finishing a task, but not only that. I think of finishing it to a higher standard than my own, in minimal amount of time, and having a good attitude about it.

When I stopped and examined what my expectations for “doing my best” were, I realized that I was including a higher standard that was not my own into the equation. If I was left to my own devices I would probably do an average job, take my good, sweet time, and depending on the job, have a crummy attitude while doing it. “My best” isn’t really “my best” if viewed this way because I have the capacity to do so much better (and so do you!). This is why I came to the conclusion that it’s more than doing your best.  I believe that some sort of higher standard needs to be put into practice or we are not pushing our personal envelope. In my case, Christ is my motivation to perform at a higher level (if you want to know WHY Christ motivates me, ask). Some people insist on constantly comparing themselves to their peers, national averages, and worldly standards (which I am guilty of as well), but I want to challenge all of us to seek motivation through God’s unfailing love, not by people’s judgments of you.  To be quite frank, YES, this does take effort, but the reward of hard work is far greater than the temporary relief of our apathy.

08 September 2011

Things I've Come to Realize

I think I’m going to start a series blogs entitled ‘Things I’ve Come to Realize.’ In these blogs I will be sharing tokens of wisdom that I’ve acquired, epiphanies that I’ve had, and things that have been on my mind along with the context that accompanies them. For your convenience as the reader and my sanity as the writer, I’m going to number the ‘things I’ve come to realize.’

“Thing I’ve come to realize #1”:            I shouldn’t get upset about things that I cannot control.

 I was thinking about this recently.  How often do we as humans get ‘our panties in a bunch’ over things that happen to us?  My conclusion was: a lot… too often, perhaps.  I was talking to a friend recently who is going through tension in her family.  The tension was bad enough that she told me, “my parents are trying ruin my life.” (highly unlikely in reality, but this shows the severity of her emotions) It turns out that her parents made decisions that directly affected her, but did not take time to ask for her opinion.  I’m sure if we were in her shoes we’d feel hurt, angry, neglected, and probably have a similar response. Do I think this gives people an excuse to have a negative reaction to those situations? Definitely not. Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of this just as much as the next person, but this is one area in my life that I am trying to turn around.  If you think about this rationally, what do you get out of an intense negative reaction (ie. Name calling, false accusations, pointing fingers, etc) when life throws you a curveball? Absolutely nothing in my opinion. At best you will get stressed, angry, and worried about the issue (again, this is under the assumption that the problem is something you cannot control). 

The idea that I’m trying to pitch is that instead of these negative reactions in uncontrollable situations, we should give the issue to God.  I believe in a God that is all knowing, all powerful, all loving, and highly personal.  If a situation gets me so worked up that I am no longer acting normally or rationally, I’m telling God that I don’t trust Him to take care of me the way he has promised. I would be saying that my imperfect, finite knowledge is better than His.  I would essentially be calling Him a liar for breaking His promises and asserting my own plan in His place. Not only that, but I would also be allowing the situation to dictate my emotions.  Emotions are not something easily controlled, but I do believe they are controllable. I’m sure you can draw your own conclusion from here, but first I want to leave you with a message that I got from a fortune cookie of all places.  It reads “The best way to navigate through life is to give up all of our controls.” I taped this on the inside cover of my bible as a constant reminder that I need to give up uncontrollable circumstances and my emotional responses to them to God since He’s in undoubtedly in control, not me.

05 September 2011

For those who ask, "why?".

Why am I writing this blog?
I have two reasons in mind. First is, as you probably know, I have a lot to say, that much is obvious.  The second reason is, writing a blog seemed like a good idea at the time. The time being 3:00am...