Sunday, November 11, 2012
How's your prayer life? It's an honest question. I'm not trying to be facetious. If you're a Christian, your relationship with Yeshua is THE most important relationship of your entire life. More important than your spouse, your children, your family, your friends. In fact, Christianity is nothing BUT relationship with Yeshua. The True Gospel of Christ has NO religion whatsoever.
If you think Christ is all about religion, you've been talking to the wrong Christians. Or you're mistaken about the Gospel.
"Religion" is a list of do's and don't's. A set of rules. Things that are expected of you. Appearances to keep. Hypocrisy. "Holier than thou". Judgment. Bigotry.
A true Christian enjoys a relationship of FREEDOM in Christ. Our Lord has released us from the bondage of a Law we have no hope of keeping ourselves. Through Christ's perfect life and sacrifice, we are now freed from that bondage to live lives of GRACE. Grace is freely given to any who ask Him. Why? Because Love is unconditional! If you have a condition on love, it is no longer love. "I'll only love you if you lose another 10 pounds." "I can only love blonde women." "If you're not rich, I can't love you." "I love you because you'll be a very handsome older man."
Who says that?! I mean honestly? Only shallow people who don't know the meaning of love, right? So if we, who are not God, know that true love is unconditional, how much more is the God of Love's affection for us unconditional through His Divine Grace?
By definition, if love has conditions, it is not love. Love is unconditional. Therefore, God Himself, in order to teach us that His love is unconditional, had to show us a love act of such "shock and awe" that it absolutely proved once and for all how He feels about us -- and He did that at the cross. God's Own Law showed us that no human being is justified in His sight by works of the Law, because it pointed out our sin (Romans 3:20). Therefore, only HE, a perfect, sinless Being, had any hope of upholding it. And that's exactly what He did for us.
Then He imparted HIS life to us at the cross, taking OUR lives upon His shoulders and taking our sins to His grave. The cross forever unites us to Him, which is wonderful news, because He rose again on the third day! Now that we are united to Him, we will likewise rise again at the Resurrection.
That is the True Gospel. When you realize that love has no conditions, it frees you, because you know God doesn't love you due to your performance, but simply because He loves. God IS Love.
But getting back to your prayer life...now that you know Christianity is a relationship with Yeshua and not a "to-do list", how do you pray?
"God is great, God is good, thank You, God, for this food..."
Do you do that much? Or do you just bow your head when someone else prays?
Are you frustrated because God never seems to answer your prayers? I've noticed through my experiences that people don't pray because they feel God rarely (or never) answers them. Some people have even asked, "If God knows everything, then why should we pray? Wouldn't He already know what I'm going to say or ask for?"
The short answer is yes, He already knows. However, we pray, not to continuously petition God for a need, but to talk to Him, to enjoy Him, to LOVE Him.
How often do you talk to your spouse throughout the day? Would you have a strong marriage if you never talked? Why is it any different with your Heavenly Bridegroom?
Now, here's where some Christians have a disconnect with regards to their prayer life. They seem to think reading the Bible is spending time with God. They think singing praise is spending time with God. Or maybe going to church. Or small group. Or book club. Or a mission trip.
Those are all wonderful ways to be in God's presence. But I can be in my husband's presence all day long and never TALK to him. Being in his presence doesn't make our marriage any stronger. What makes a strong marriage is communication.
And Yeshua desires an open line of communication with you! When's the last time you came before Him without asking Him for this or that? How about the last time you just came before Him to say "Hi"? When have you just talked about your day? Shared your hurts and happiness?
When have you simply admired His creation? When did you stop and thank Him for your blessings?
Here is the secret to a successful prayer life. The secret to having your prayers heard and answered, the key to hearing God's voice, can be found in James 4:8 - "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you."
If you treat the God of the Universe like a doormat, not thanking Him for every good and perfect gift you have, or like a genie in a bottle, pulling Him out only when you need Him, then He only honors you with the same measure of honor you give Him.
What husband honors a wife who ignores him? What husband draws near to a wife who only wants him around when she needs something from him?
A healthy prayer life is exactly how you abide in Yeshua. He even told us this. If we abide in Him, He hears us and gives us what we ask of Him.
Why did He tell us to do this? Why must we remain in Him? Because He is a God of LOVE, and the God of LOVE deeply desires a relationship with you, wayward believer! When we are close to Him, when we abide in Him, we are more in tune with His will. And when we're in tune with His will, we're less likely to pray for a flashy car, and more likely to pray for peace, humility, and love. Drawing near to God strips away our selfish tendencies because our focus is on HIM, not on ourselves.
When we begin to abide in Yeshua, we begin to really LOVE Him. Most believers would say they love God. But you can love your roommate. You can love your co-worker. But you're not madly, deeply in love with them.
A healthy prayer life is like tuning the rabbit-ears of your heart to pick up the signal of the Most High. Once you're "tuned in", life seems to have new meaning. I absolutely and 100% believe this is what the Scripture means in Song of Songs 8:4 - "Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." Folks with healthy prayer lives are those kind of Christians who are "different", they have a quality you admire, there's something "otherworldly" about them. You want what they have. God rests on them like a dove.
This isn't some mystery, folks. Draw near to God and He draws near to you. This is why some folks say things like... "We have a God-shaped hole in our hearts..." It's actually kinda true! God created us to commune with Him. And we're not satisfied until we do. The amazing thing about it all is that once you start seeking Him, the more you want to seek Him. The more you find Him, the more you want to find Him. It's mind-blowing, how tuning into God makes one "hunger and thirst" after righteousness.
And Righteousness personified is YESHUA.
A relationship with God goes far beyond salvation itself. A person can be saved and not have a healthy prayer life. It's actually not a requirement of salvation. The only requirement is to confess with your mouth and believe in your heart (Romans 10:9). However, the believer with no prayer life is quite literally ROBBING THEMSELVES of the ABUNDANT life! And in all honesty, who DOESN'T want to know the One who saved their soul?! Christ's work on the cross is THE most important thing to happen to you in your entire, eternal life! How could you NOT want to know this amazing God of amazing Love?
There is no time like the present to begin your prayer life with Yeshua. He needs no pomp and circumstance. He did away with religion, remember? Tell Him anything and everything. Make "Pray without ceasing" your mantra. Be constantly tuned in. It's a discipline to carve out time from your busy day to pray. But that's why we're called "disciples".
Don't be the one to tell Almighty God you didn't have time for Him today. Get to know the One who lived and died for you.
Friday, November 2, 2012
Is it odd to proclaim that I have a love affair with my God? Am I weird to confess it? Does this make me a "Jesus Freak"? One of those crazy Christians who's a little off balance, a little out of touch? Well it can't be because I'm single and long for a man. I'm quite happily married. And it isn't because my husband isn't living up to his end of the marriage, because I have no reservations in that regard.
There is nothing missing in my life that I'm conveniently filling with Yeshua. In fact, He fulfills my life. It's sad that a lot of folk today look upon a Christian who's all in for Christ as an "abnormality". Even fellow Christians might think zealous people are overdoing it. This is not to say that a quiet, comfortable love isn't acceptable in His sight either, however, what I am saying is that the overwhelming love of Christ...changes you.
Yeshua had Two Great Commandments. We always remember the second one -- Love Thy Neighbor. It comes up frequently when there's talk of intolerance, racism, sexism, or any other hot-button issue comes into play. And it is quite poignant and to the point. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. What a novel concept! We should all be so lucky to be recipients of that kind of love.
And yet, all too often, we forget the first commandment -- Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. (Luke 10:27)
Before we're told to love our neighbor, we're told to love God, above and beyond anything else on earth. Loving God above all things means abiding in Him. Studying Him, reading His Word, and spending time with Him in prayer. The more we learn about the love of God for us in His Son Yeshua, the more we fall head-over-heels in love with Him. The more we wonder and marvel at His grace, the more we stand stunned at what our God has done on our behalf. The more we see His beauty, the more we're blown away by His loveliness - the more we want to get to know Him.
That's when He sets your heart on fire. It's no longer enough to wonder about Him or to think about Him, you've got to study Him and seek Him and talk to Him. You've got to get to know Him, because if He's truly as wonderful and amazing as you are learning He is, then He has no equal in the whole of creation. He is the consuming fire that burns up all the wood, hay, and stubble, leaving behind nothing but purity, compassion, faith, patience, goodness, kindness, and above all, LOVE.
And the more you learn of Him, the more you see His love for you. It is reciprocal. It is a relationship. And it transcends the Bible itself to become real to you in your every day life. When you know and abide in God, He leaps off the pages of Holy Writ and becomes absolutely glorious. And you begin to see His beauty everywhere you look. I liken it to someone you find attractive. They are handsome or beautiful. But the more you get to know them, the more you fall in love with them, and the more they become the most lovely person in the world.
Relationship with God is like THAT.
Those who don't have this kind of relationship think it's quite odd indeed. But those who do have it, BASK in Him. The more you know Him, the more you abide in Him and live your life by His commandments, the more you understand His sovereignty and His infinite Glory. The more beautiful He becomes. It's overwhelming to realize just how much He loves us.
Most folks believe the Song of Songs is a book about lovers. And it is. But the wording is so strong, about a king coming to sweep his "ordinary" shulammite bride away, we can clearly see the allegory for Christ and His Church.
In Song of Songs 8:6-7, we see a powerful picture of Christ's longing for us.
"Set me as a seal on your heart, like a seal on your arm..." -- Keep Me forever in your heart, and declare Me publicly forever on your arm. I love the beginning of this verse. I love the aspect that the heart is secret and personal, but the arm is open and public.
"For love is as strong as death, its jealousy as unyielding as the grave..." -- Christ ultimately died to bring us into His Glory. His Love was the only thing strong enough to conquer the grave. His jealousy over us, that He was unwilling we should perish and be lost to Him forever, proved once and for all that it's as unyielding as the grave.
"It burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love, rivers cannot wash it away." -- God's love burns for us, how amazing is that? In fact, God's love is so powerful, so total, so unrelenting, and so completely overwhelming that not even water can quench it, not even roaring rivers. God is an eternal flame. Nothing can quench Him.
Oh, to be loved so completely! So amazingly! So eternally! Why do I love Him so very much? Why do I dedicate all my energy and strength to loving Him and spending time with Him and learning of Him? Because I have come to know and understand His Love, His blazing fire, His mighty flame... for ME.
All my life, I've never once seen nor experienced a life that truly abided in Yeshua. I've seen fanaticism, and that can often be mistaken for abiding. But fanaticism is taking things to extremes, crossing uncrossable lines, and turning God into an idol of your own creation rather than worshipping and loving the One True God of Scripture. Those who twist Scripture to fit their fanaticism know nothing about loving Christ. If they truly knew the love of God, they would keep His commands. And in a heart that truly loves, there is no room for hate and anger, mistrust and unforgiveness.
But a Christian that rejoices always? A Christian who prays without ceasing? A Christian who gives thanks in all circumstances? Who does that? Who can continue praising God just as fervently on the bad days as on the good days? Who can truly say "My help comes from the Lord"? Who's faith is so rock-solid they can look Satan in the eye and say, "Do your worst"? How many people can pray with such power that their prayers are answered? Or pray with such humility that their prayers are answered? Who can stare down adversity and say, "Thy will be done, Lord, on earth as it is in Heaven"?
THIS is abiding in Yeshua! And I've never seen it in ANY Christian my entire life. That is why I wish to BECOME a Christian who abides in Him, as a branch abides in the Vine. If I've never seen anyone live like this, I want to BECOME the one who does. I want people to give Christ glory when they see my walk with Him, because there's just something "different" about me. I LOVE God and PRAISE His holy name, unrelenting, without remorse, with complete abandon, and yet...I'm not a fanatic. I want to be the spark that lights my brethren on fire.
Because I LOVE Yeshua, with all that is in me. And if He put me here, it was for good reason. He created me to live for Him. Love is not cold. Love is not lukewarm. Love is HOT and it BURNS with a passion to ignite a burning love for God within every beating heart that is home to the Holy Spirit. The very temple of God.
Yeshua, teach us how to love You and know You so well that we become unshakeable in our faith, unwavering in our resolve, and solid rocks upon which Your Church can stand. Lead us to the shelter of the Most High so that we may rest in the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1) In Your holy Name, Amen.