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Articles Prayer & Fasting

Overcoming Through Humility

We must understand ourselves correctly from Scripture.  We are not mostly the good we hope to be, but mostly the evil that exists in our sinful nature.  When we were saved we were made into a new creation with the ability to choose to do good, not the inability to do wrong.  It still takes work to be able to do good, but before our justification we had no ability to do so.

Our sinful nature is what comes out by default in us.  It takes work to overcome it.  James tells us this in his epistle over and over again.  Chapter 4 is his treatise against fights in the church.  As Paul says in Philippians 2:21, “All seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus,” it is hard to find even a believer who is not in this life for themselves.  Paul could only think of one: Timothy.  And James tells us that all the fights and wars within the church are because of covetousness and jealousy.  By default, our nature will fight and kick and scream to get what we want.

James tells us that the things we want are available to us if only we ask, but that a good amount of time that even when we do that we ask with wrong motives.  He’s speaking primarily about material goods when he says, “so you can spend it on your pleasures.”  We can have confidence that God will gently correct us if our prayers are asked amiss if we truly submit our heart to His will, but often we are like the thousands who, during Jesus’ ministry, only came to hear Him because they heard He fed the multitudes.

James calls all this what it really is: friendship with the world, our old nature in other words.  As much as we give in to our old nature, we make ourselves enemies of God.  But like James says, “He gives more grace.”  If we humble ourselves before God, He will give us MORE grace than we already operate under to overcome our old nature that rises up in us.

If we submit to God and resist the devil, God will draw near to us.  How do we do this?  Through devotion.  Only through spending time with God, daily, can we hope to overcome this fallen nature.  By spending time in prayer and reading scripture can we draw our hearts nearer to God so that He will draw nearer to us.  He can purify us!

James tells us that one key to truly drawing near to God in this way is to willingly submit ourselves to mourning and weeping.  When we ask God to show us our frailty, our weakness and our miserable state of sinfulness can we attain to understand how to overcome.  If we willingly take on sorrow and mourning for ourselves and others will we begin to understand our state.  That’s a state God can work with.  He won’t leave us in that mournful state, but He will fill us with true joy instead of the helpless substitute we so often settle for.  When we give up the joys we think we have and submit our hearts humbly to God we will learn new joys that we never could have imagined.

So we must give ourselves to greater humility.  And there’s no greater way to embrace humility than to give up our fake joy and embrace the weakness and wretchedness of our sin.  When we do so, we have nothing to be proud of anymore.

Such a state of humility is one that God will reward with more of His presence.

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Articles Written Word

The Importance of God’s Word

As we begin 2011 it is important to reenlist into the fundamentals of our Christian faith.  It is so easy as our year progresses in business and a multitude of distractions that we lose sight of the things that are important for keeping us “rooted and grounded” in the love of Jesus.  Studying His written Word is too important not to consider each January 1st.

Studying the Word, praying and fasting are the threefold cure to what ails the church in America and the world, but we’ll just talk about the importance of the written Word of God right now.

So many people may start reading the Bible only to quit after a few weeks because they don’t see the value they’re getting out of it.  This is the most disastrous thing you can do this new year is to take up the Bible only to set it down again before February rolls around.  We must not look at the Bible as something that’s going to give us instant microwave-style gratification.  Over time as we fill our hearts and minds with God’s Word we are filled and equipped in ways we can’t discern at the time.  That’s what should be your resolution this year–not that you’re going to begin reading the Bible; but that you’re not going to quit.

Daniel went to Mr. Miagi in the movie The Karate Kid to learn karate from  a master.  The first thing Mr. Miagi had Daniel do was wax his car every day.  After a few weeks of tedious toil doing seemingly menial tasks for Mr. Miagi Daniel had enough and complained to him about not learning karate.  Miagi threw his first punch at Daniel and he blocked it immediately.  Daniel’s “wax on, wax off” routine had been training him in ways he didn’t understand until the first punch came at him.  He’d actually been training his muscles to respond in a new way all along.

In the same way, reading our Bibles is an exercise in disciplining our spiritual muscles to learn new ways of responding.  We may not perceive the value or what we’re getting out of reading our Bible, but after a year of reading when we’re attacked by our enemy it’s amazing what will come out of us.

When Satan attacks us we’ll have a response from scripture to fight off temptation.  We won’t even know where it comes from right then, but when our hearts are full of the Word of God we can defend against anything thrown our way.

So set your heart this year to read your Bible.  And don’t even think about whether or not you’re getting anything out of it until January 2012.  Or maybe January 2013.  Or, better yet; January 2020.  Just keep reading, studying and praying through scripture and you won’t be the same person for long.

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Articles Prayer & Fasting

The Importance of Corporate Prayer

These days our churches in America have great worship times. We have lots of gifted teachers scattered throughout our land. So why does the church in the West lack any power over sin? Why is the divorce rate the same in and out of the church? Why are 25% of women in the church having abortions? (It’s actually probably higher than that)

50 years ago, corporate prayer meeting were a much more natural part of church life in the United States. Today, very few churches have any corporate prayer meetings, and often times when they do they aren’t really prayer meetings at all, but another “church service.” What I mean by that is there are still a few holdout churches that have Wednesday “prayer meetings,” but the meetings are prayer in name only.

Corporate prayer is one of the most important aspects of church life, but has been all but disregarded in the Western church. We have lots of teaching and lots of good worship these days, but why do our churches still lack power over sin?

The apostles told the other disciples in Acts 6:4 that they couldn’t spend time feeding widows (a great endeavor) because they had a very clear mandate as the primary leaders of Jesus’ church. They had to devote themselves “completely” to prayer and the Word. They took their mandate before God so seriously that they lives radically differently because of it.

Most leaders in the body of Christ today wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if all they did was spend time praying and studying the Word. Most of their congregations probably wouldn’t either, for that matter. But if the American church has any hopes of seeing God move in power in this country, marketing and slick services will have to take a back seat to the more important things that Jesus requires of us right now. Marketing and slick services aren’t necessarily bad, but if that’s what a pastor spends most of his time doing, he’s not fulfilling his mandate before God.

But enough about those “bad old pastors”, what about you? If you want to change your church, your city, and your nation, what are you doing? How much time do you spend in prayer on a daily basis? What kinds of things distract you from fulfilling your mandate before the Lord. If you fall into the 15-minute-a-week in prayer category (or even 15 minutes a day) you’re not going to ever go very far in your life in God.

If our salvation is real, why wouldn’t we dedicate our lives to the one who saved us by giving him the time before Him that He’s due?