Pray With Purity

 

Pray with purity.

The heart is a mystery. Jeremiah 17:9 says it is deceptive above all things.  Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard it, for everything we do flows from it. We may not think so, but sometimes we may have a wrong agenda when we pray for others. We shouldn’t pray that others become the person we want them to be, so they’re easier to deal with, or fit our criteria of holiness, but who He wants them to be. He works differently in every heart and although we may not see immediate fruit or repentance in others, we can’t judge others growth by our timetable or results. We see only others’ actions or hear their words, but God knows the depth of their heart and true motivations. They are not to be remade in our image. They are already made in His. Our prayers and love will bring that truth to the fore.

Psalm 51:10 asks the Father, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 139:23-24 has a similar request. It says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” We don’t always know our sins, or true motivations.

Just because we’re praying, we may think that we are more holy than those who rarely pray, but the Word teaches us to always examine our heart. What are our true motivations when we pray what we pray for? Yes, it’s good to pray for our ministries, but are we praying to be successful in the world’s eyes, or praying to be more recognised, or praying to have a “better” ministry than others in our church? If we are not closely communing with our God, our prayers will reflect our limited view. In John 15:7, Jesus says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” When Jesus says, “if,” we need to pay attention, because He is paying attention to the state of our heart when we approach Him. We can not hide our motivations from His sight. When Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6, the first few words are all about His name, His kingdom, and His will. We must first humble ourselves in His presence and be sensitive to the Spirit. Be flexible, and pray for God’s agenda, not ours.

We must recognise too, that our prayers will not always be the same. They shouldn’t. Sometimes we may cry and intercede, at other times we may be silent and listen, or dance with joy at His glory, or repent and seek to know Him more intimately. Just like every conversation and interaction within our friends is not always the same, neither should our prayers be. Intimate friendships aren’t built on repetition. They are thriving, living conversations. They are valuable and varied. They key is to come before Him in humility.

We must first listen and then pray according to His will. Your friend may desperately need a better job, because their current one is filled with strength and challenging colleagues, so do you ask God for a new, stress-free job for them, or do you ask Him to strengthen them to be a good witness in their workplace? Firstly, we must seek His will, and then we pray in accordance with that. We can’t give God advice when we pray. God sees what we don’t. Trust that His will be done, regardless of the situation.

Yes, God wants what’s best for us, but what we consider to be the best is often based on temporary conditions. Max Lucado once said, “If God has to choose between your eternal safety, or earthly comfort, which do you hope He chooses?” Remember, God is far more interested in your growth than your comfort. Look at every great person we know of in the Bible; Paul, Daniel, Job, Esther, Jesus, and so many others. They were rarely comfortable, but they were powerful, because they clung to God during their pain and suffering. He led them through it, and made them better for it. They learned to rely on the eternal God regardless of temporary circumstances. God will do what is necessary to achieve our ultimate salvation, simply due to the fact that He loves us that much. He wants to spend eternity with us. Yes, we will suffer but that’s not all we will do. If we humble ourselves and allow His plan to come to fruition, we will be refined, transformed and become even better vessels for His glory.  Pray in line with God’s perspective, and ask Him to forgive and change us if we pray, even subtly, that our will instead of His be done, for salvation is much more valuable than satisfaction.

“But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Psalm 19:12-14

“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.”

1 John 3:2

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To Know You

to know You

Really, it’s that simple. Knowing Christ means surrendering to Him, and His ways. Loving Him means obeying Him.

Jesus came to declare that religion is dead, but He is alive. We are alive too – really, fully alive as He says in John 10:10. It was the Pharisees that Christ spoke against, with all their rules and strict moral codes, as that kind of thinking and living constrains. It doesn’t set free. It blinds eyes and brings frustration, not freedom.

When Jesus was asked what the greatest command was and how to live forever, He responded with a pretty definitive answer, quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18.  The account is mentioned in Matthew 22, and Mark 12.

Luke 10:25-28 puts it this way:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

Jesus could have launched in to a lengthy diatribe with a long list of required actions, but what he describes are actually the results of a life of active faith, in communion with the Father. Just to avoid any confusion, he then gives us the parable of the good Samaritan straight after this, and in so doing He defines who our neighbour is (anyone in need, not just those we want to help when convenient or uncostly) and gives us a standard with which to measure our love for them. “Love your neighbour as yourself.” At first glance, it may seem a strange thing to say, but we know that Jesus obviously knows exactly what He’s saying. Don’t we all love ourselves? Actually, no. Not really. Not all the time. Our love for ourselves as a Christian must flow from the security that we are His; that we have a purpose, and that we are loved and forgiven. God’s love for us is not swayed by how many people we bring to church or how passionately we evangelise. We must realise that we are loved by God because He first loved us, even before we knew Him or did anything remotely related to church or ministry. Armed with that love, we are then able to love others. If we love ourselves based on our performance, we will love others in the same way too, and that kind of love isn’t transformative for anyone. The love we have for others and ourselves, must be based on who He says we are, not what we do or don’t do. Learning to forgive ourselves is vital to the Christian walk. When we confess and repent, God forgives us, so there’s no need to carry around the burden of shame or condemnation. His love frees us to love with His love.

Of course, love is also an action. If we love without allowing it to stir us to greater compassion, then we are not loving as He does. Love is not a theory. It is a daily practice.

This call to love God in freedom rather than outward, measurable methods may seem odd to some, because as the Pharisees revealed, (as did the Israelites with making a golden calf to worship), our human mind sometimes wants to worship what we can see, rather than the invisible God. Loving Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind requires we hold nothing back. He didn’t for us. It means loving God with our emotions, will, choices, desires, resources, time, etc. Love until there’s nothing left of us, so we can be filled with more of Him.

As John the Baptist said in John 3:30, “He must become greater; I must become less.”

Knowing Him and loving Him are not boxes to be ticked once accomplished. They are lifetime goals without an end. Like our Father, they are eternal.

“Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

Colossians 2:20-3:2

“Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”

1 John 2:4-5

Praise Be

Praise Be

Psalm 56:8 says this – “Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll — are they not in your record?”

Other translations call it a book, or a bottle. It’s a startingly powerful reminder of God’s love for us. He sees the tears that flow from our suffering, our sorrow, our shame. He sees what we hide from others. And you know what? He records it, but for what purpose? Because He sees, and He cares. We are not forgotten.

John 3:16 is the most famous verse in the Bible. Even people who don’t believe it, know it – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” How many of us know the verse after that though?

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17 is integral in the way that it connects to John 3:16. Verse 16 tells us that Christ died so that we shall “have eternal life.” Verse 17 tells us why, because it begins with “For.” There’s always a reason why God does what He does. Christ died to give us eternity, because He came to save, not condemn.

Verse 16 and 17 tell us what Christ came to do, and what He came not to do. He came to save you. He did not come to condemn you. Have you ever been in heated argument with someone and they bring up all your past mistakes? They do that to remind you of the fact that they think your previous actions are much worse than theirs. They may not be relevant to the discussion at hand, but they use it as ammunition from a place of insecurity to condemn you and make you feel worse than they feel. They seem to remember all your sins and errors with alarming clarity, but struggle to recall the positive aspects of your character and the times of sacrifice and selfless love. Thankfully God does not treat us like that. He looks at us through the blood and righteousness of Christ’s sacrifice. He views us with the hopeful gaze of a Father. He sees who we are becoming and doesn’t condemn us for who we used to be.

Psalm 103:11-12 declares, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

I once heard a preacher say that the reason God chose to use the phrase, “as far as the east is from the west,” to describe the distance between our sins and how far God has removed them from us is because east and west can not be measured. There is a North Pole, and a South Pole, but there is no distinct location for east and west.

Don’t grab a compass and go looking for your past transgressions. They are forgiven. They are forgotten. They are erased, and they’re not coming back. You won’t find God’s voice if you go looking for your sins. You’ll find it when you let go of all the condemnation and fear and injustice and you accept the fact that God accepts you. You are His son. His daughter. His vessel. His beloved. 2 Corinthians 5:17 declares that you are a new creation. “The old has gone, the new has come!” I love the fact that Paul uses an exclamation mark, to emphasise the point with joyful victory. Your old self is gone! You’re made new! Don’t reflect on your old self. God doesn’t. Don’t remind yourself of how bad you used to be, twenty years ago, or twenty seconds ago, unless it’s to praise God for how much His loving forgiveness has transformed you. Don’t do the devil’s work for him. Forget the past. That’s not you anymore.

1 John 3:8 says that the reason Christ came was “to destroy the devil’s work.” Satan’s work is condemnation. Christ destroys the voice that reminds you of your wickedness and sins. Christ’s voice speaks forgiveness, and He left us a perfect example to follow. We must not condemn ourselves, but forgive ourselves as well as others. We must speak to ourselves, and others, the complete freedom and acceptance that God speaks over us.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:9

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

Psalm 103:8-12

Think About What Is True

Think About Such Things

Philippians 4:8-9 says this:”Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” It’s interesting that Paul tells his brothers and sisters in Philippi (and of course, all believers) that God’s peace will be with us, after we’ve meditated upon things that are true, noble, right, etc. There may be nothing about the circumstances we’re facing that appears to be overflowing with excellence or praise, but once we choose to think about things that are, then His peace comes upon us. In the preceding verses, Paul tells us that the same result happens when we give God our cares. He states, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7). In effect, he is stating that God’s peace (that is far above human understanding) is not dependent on circumstances, but is dependent on our choice to seek Him, regardless of our circumstances. His peace won’t just magically fall upon us like confetti at a wedding. It appears after we choose to give Him our fears, and accept His truth and victory. It’s that peace that Daniel discovered when he faced potential death in the fiery furnace, and again when he faced potential death when facing lions. The first recorded martyr Stephen also had such peace when he stood firm in his trial with a face “like that of an angel” (Acts 6:15) and his death by stoning when he was filled with the Holy Spirit and prayed (Acts 7:55-59). Both men experienced circumstances that didn’t seem excellent or praiseworthy, but they looked beyond the harsh truth of their current reality to see God’s greater heavenly reality, and see it they did. Of course, that same reality allowed Christ to be crucified for the forgiveness of our sins.

In the list of things that Paul urges us to think about, the first one is truth, and that’s because truth is the foundation upon which all other virtues stem. If we don’t first know God’s truth, then whatever is noble, right and pure will not be centred in truth. They will be a distortion. If our version of truth is different from what God declares as truth, then what we see as noble, right and pure will also be different from what God declares to be noble, right and pure. We must know His truth first, and what is His truth? Essentially, truth is found in God alone.

In John 7:18 Jesus says,”Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him,” and in verse 28, Christ states, “he who sent me is true.” It’s simple. What is truth? God is truth – His compassion, mercy, justice, power, love, forgiveness, etc. All of God is truth. Discover who He is and we discover what truth is. John 4:23 reminds us that God seeks those who worship Him “in Spirit and in truth,” and in John 14 Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as the “Spirit of truth.” The centrality of truth is also emphasised in the armour of God in Ephesians 6. The belt of truth is mentioned as the first piece to put on, and then righteousness, peace, and faith, come later. God is not a god of disorder. Truth comes first for a reason.

In Paul’s encouragement about what we think about, we come to learn that our life begins with our actions, and our actions begin with our thoughts. James 1:15 warns that evil desires give birth to sin. It is a process that begins with what we think about; a lustful glance that lingers too long, continual pondering about some injustice against you, etc. Troublesome, distracting and evil thoughts will come into our mind, but we are not helpless against them. When they occur, give them to God immediately. 2 Corinthians 10:5 urges us to, “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” When we think about what is true, and noble, and right, as God (not ourselves or the world) define them, our life will change. We will make choices in line with those virtues. It’ll be easy for us to forgive, to “abstain from sinful desires,” and to find our joy and fulfillment in Him alone. Think about who God is, and we will begin to be a mighty vessel for His glorious purposes.

“I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.”

Psalm 119:15-16

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

Colossians 3:1-3

 

That I May Be In Them

I have made you know to them

Those powerful words belong to Jesus as He prayed to the Father. John 17 is the longest recorded prayer of Christ. In John 16, He spoke of the Holy Spirit to His disciples, and in John 18, He was arrested, followed by His trial, death and of course, resurrection.

John 17 reveals a vital moment in Christ’s life. He knew what was coming, and His heart was that His disciples (which also includes us), would grow to greater heights in relationship with the Father. They are powerful, heartfelt words; words of immense truth and freedom. Jesus always prayed passionately, and Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 7:25 unveil a glorious truth for us about Christ’s prayer life, because it was not confined to His time on earth. He still prays for us – now. He is at the right hand of the Father, and He lives to intercede for us.  Jesus is praying for us, even when we are not. Wow.

Jesus’ prayer is that we may know the love of the Father, and that Jesus Himself will be inside us, not as a temporary house guest, but as a permanent resident. Whatever we think, or say, or do – He is right there with us. That revelation must change what we think, say and do. We are never alone.

Do you think any of Jesus’ prayers have ever been, or will ever be, denied by the Father? Of course not. We pray for what we desire. Jesus longs to be in us, so that’s what He prays for, and continues to pray for. The victory is ours, because it is an answered prayer. Let’s rejoice for Christ is with us, He is for us, and He is also IN US.

“He must become greater; I must become less.”

John 3:30

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

1 John 4:4

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

God’s Favour

You'll never see

We can receive many wonderful things when we pray. By spending time with our Creator, we can know His joy, victory, presence, mercy, forgiveness, etc, but what about His favour? We know God is a generous Father who rejoices in giving good gifts to His children, but a life that is aligned with God’s purposes will see God’s results. Just because we read all the books and know all the strategies and have all the experience, doesn’t mean God owes us anything. He’s not waiting for us to fulfill the Top Ten Methods To Grow Your Church until He actually grows our church. Of course, we should learn all we can. We are called to be wise, not naive, and we are tremendously blessed with a multitude of resources to aid us. However armed with knowledge we may be though, we must arm ourselves in a far greater way with His presence. Knowledge about spiritual growth, without seeking the One who can truly grow us spiritually is a massive missed opportunity.

We must realise that our plans may not succeed as we’d hoped, or may not succeed at all, for many reasons. The main one may be not due to lack of trying, but lack of praying. Press in, and ask Him to bless the work of your hands. Do our best and then present it at the foot of the cross, for God to make it into something far greater. With His favour upon your ministry it will be mountain moving, and life changing. He will go before you, and will open doors no-one and nothing else could open. It will be undeniable that God alone has changed circumstances, and hearts. Seek the Giver, not the gift. The Redeemer, not the result. Hunger for Him, not what He can do for you. Seek Him and let Him do what He does best. His ways are not our ways, so let Him amaze you. He wants to surprise you, and after the impossible has occurred, He wants you to say to the amazed witnesses in your life, “My God did that.”

“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” “

Matthew 19:26

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Hebrews 11:6

“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, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Ephesians 3:20-21