Posts Tagged ‘Praying’

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Welcome to the Party: When Christians Put the Caucus Before the King…

November 5, 2012

 

Photo Credit: Here

Have you ever been to a thanksgiving or Christmas dinner that has erupted into shouting or anger looks over politics and political parties?  You would think that being in the presence of family these differences would subside.  And yet they often intensify.  It is not difficult to look across the political arena and see Christians at party conventions fighting and acting very un-Christian-like when it come to the party platform.  Should this be the case?  I would argue no.

If you are a Christian you are a citizen of God’s Kingdom, and your allegiance to that kingdom and your membership in that family should supersede any partisan differences that may exist between you and another person.  What you find with individuals who get caught up in political anger is that they have lost perspective and have come to primarily identify with their political party.  So when you attack that party and its stances, they interpret it as an attack on their very being.  For non-believers political stances may be all they have, and that may be their identity; but for believers we must locate and root our identity in Christ and our allegiance to His kingdom.  As Kingdom citizens, when our positions are attacked we should not return in- kind, in anger or in rage.  Rather we should respond with grace, humility, and honor, confident that our Kingdom is not of this world and our self-worth is not identified with a caucus but with a King who has reigned and will reign forever over the kingdoms of this world.

In his recent book How Christians Should Vote?, Tony Evans answers two questions regarding Christians and political parties, both of which are helpful as we navigate the desire to identify our political ideologies with our faith.

Q: In your book, you says Christians should be like NFL referees when it comes to politics in that they should represent a kingdom perspective rather than identifying primarily with a political party. How can we really know what God’s will is on issues like health care or immigration law?

A: “I believe that there are biblical positions on every issue, but no party fully represents all God’s views consistently on all God’s issues. Christians are going to vote differently because they will prioritize issues differently. My concern is that we’ve so aligned ourselves with the parties of this world that we’re missing the kingdom of God. The proof of that is that we’ve let political parties divide the kingdom of God. My illustration regarding referees is simply to say that while they sometimes vote for one team and sometimes vote for another team, they’re obligated ultimately to neither team, because they belong to another kingdom called the NFL. So, we should never let the party divisions interfere with the unity of the church, causing the church to lose its influence in the culture.”

Q: And yet, white evangelicals are very much identified with the Republican party and black Christians are often identified with the Democratic party. How do they come to such different perspectives on issues?

A: “It’s more priority of issues. For example, the white evangelical community will emphasize right to life in the womb. The black Christian community will emphasize justice to the tomb. For me, those both are one issue, whole life, not term. Since that is one issue with two different locations, Christians can agree on the whole life issue even though they vote differently, and come out with a whole-life perspective that if we were unified both parties would have to interface with and take seriously. Because they can split us up along party lines, we do not have a single voice on the issues that represent the kingdom of God.”

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During This Election: The Future Context of our Voting…

November 1, 2012

 

As Christians we are to pray for our nation, we are to pray for our governments and our leaders, we are to give them the honor that they are due.  We recognize that no one comes to power apart from the sovereign providence of God.  While we hope that our leaders lead wisely, our ultimate hope is set on what is to come.  We are not; moreover we cannot place our hope in earthly things, but only in what is to come.  We set our hope fully on the revelation of Jesus Christ that is to come. (1 Peter 1:13)  At His appearing the kings of this world will bow and all that is wrong about the world will be made right.  So when you are prone to discouragement about the state of American and world politics rest in the knowledge that our systems are but a faint imperfect shadow of what is to come.

Revelation 21:1-5

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5. And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

John in his book of Revelation gives us a glorious picture of what the future will be like in chapter 21, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

There will come a day when there will be a new heaven and a new earth, the difficulties of this world will pass away.  On that day, our leader will be a Lamb, seated on a throne, whose only agenda will be to make all things new.  As we pray for America and for our leaders we must pray in light of that coming day of glory.

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During this Election: The Current Context of our Voting…

October 31, 2012

As Christians we are to reside in the world, but we are to be set apart from it.  That is what it means to be a holy people of God, to be set apart for the purpose of reflecting God’s glorious light amid a dark world.  This is the context of our earthly citizenship, that we are to love the Father but not the world or the things in the world.

1 John 2:15-17

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world-the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions-is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

John instructs us in 1 John 2:15-17 that Christians,  “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world-the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions-is not from the Father but is from the world.

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”  It is easy to put all our hope in the political process, we can easily trust that politicians have all the answers and that their ways are the only ways.  But Scripture is clear that we are not to be enamored with the ways of this world.  This world is fleeting, God’s kingdom is eternal.

We pray for our leaders, we pray for our governments, but we do so knowing that the world is passing away.  But if we do the will of God we will abide forever.

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The Heart of a Prayer Warrior…

October 8, 2012

When considering prayer in general and the Lord’s Prayer in particular, we should consider what kind of heart utters this prayer, and what kind of heart refuses to pray.

What Kind of heart prays this prayer?

An obedient heart. Jesus begins the passage by saying, “When you pray, pray like this…” it is an assumption that we will pray, and that we should pray. Paul encourages us in Thessalonians to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing give thanks in all circumstances…” An obedient heart asks how it should pray and when given the answer, it prays accordingly.

A humble heart. Jesus instructs his disciples that there are two ways to pray, you can pray like the Pharisees, who stand on a street corner, praying for the benefit of other people, in being seen, they have their reward. The other way, is not ‘me’ centered but God centered. Jesus says, in verse 6, “when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done is secret will reward you.” It takes humility to ask for the basic necessities of life. To admit that you need food, or clothing, or the basics. And yet we’re commanded to ask, and promised that when we do our Father who knows our needs, will meet those needs.

A servants heart. Do we ask merely for ourselves? Or do we ask that we might be enabled to serve Him, who gives so much to us? If we meant the first part of our prayer that God’s will be done on earth, then we must be ready to serve His will, and so we ask that he give us the time to work, and the sustenance necessary to live and serve.

What kind of heart doesn’t pray this prayer?

A proud heart. Some people have a difficult time asking for help. Implicit in this prayer is the fact that the person praying must put aside his/her pride and admit that they need help. They are asking for the most fundamental elements of life; a day to live, and food to eat. Often we do not have because we do not ask. James records as much in James 4:2,6,7a when he says “you do not have because you do not ask…God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble, submit therefore to God…”

A self-sufficient heart. “I don’t need God. I earn my bread, I don’t receive any handouts.” This is when I proud heart meets the means to supply ones needs. Often when we have been blessed with a lot, or we enjoy the fruits of many years of hard work and labor we begin to feel very self-sufficient. It becomes very difficult to admit that while we may work very hard, all we have comes from God, “he owns the cattle on a thousand hills.” (Ps. 50:10)

A selfish heart. When we ask that God give us our day and our daily bread, we are admitting that what we have comes from God, that it belongs to Him. But we are possessive, our stuff is our stuff, our bread is our bread. If you have children, or have been around children you will quickly see the human tendency toward selfishness. They can not get food apart from their parents, but give them a cookie, and then try and take it away and see what happens. One second they had nothing, the next they receive their gift, and they completely forget that they RECEIVED it. And you hear the word so common to children. MINE. We have to realize that we are children asking our Heavenly Father for bread. And when we receive it, we must acknowledge that it came from Him.

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Why should we pray the Lord’s Prayer?

September 21, 2012

Christ came so that we would have life, not only a good life but an abundant life.  Part of that abundant life is found in the discipline of prayer.  In Matthew 6 Jesus is in the middle of His “Sermon on the Mount,” a conversation concerning the role of the blessed in relation to: each other, to society, to the Law, and to God their Father.  Present were His disciples, 12 men in the presence of the Light of the world, yet still in the dark about how to live a blessed life pleasing to God through, working, fasting, giving, and praying.  This is where Jesus said; Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth…You are the salt of the earth… The light of the world… Love your enemies… when you give, sound no trumpet before you… and when you pray, Pray like this…

Prayer is a given for the followers of Jesus. Jesus tells his disciples “when you Pray..”  not “if you pray” or “should you pray” but when.  It is an assumption that the disciples will pray and that we will and should pray.  Jesus here, is instructing them how to pray.  We seek advice on “How To” do almost everything.  A quick search of Amazon.com reveals over 950,000 titles on How to do everything.  There are 20,000 books on how to do home improvements, 57,000 books on how to use electronics, 15,000 books on how to play sports, 5,200 books on how to take care of babies.  And Just in case you are curious there are 48 nonfiction books on How to Pray, by various authors some Christian and some of other faiths.

In Matthew we have the ultimate expert instructing us on how to pray.  Jesus was one with the Father, (John 10:30) and even with that unique oneness relationship He could do nothing apart from the Father.  Prayer was essential for Him as He lived his life, and embarked upon His Work.  If He had to pray, how much more are we in need of God’s help through prayer?

Jesus knew How to approach the Father, He was perfect without sin, He knew that we must learn to ask God for what we need.  Later in the next Chapter of Matthew, 7:7-11 Jesus describes the response of a father to the need of his children, “which one among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?  If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in Heaven give what is good to those who ask him!”  “ask and it will be given to you; and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

Why is this prayer important?  It is literally God’s instruction to his disciples and through them to us on how to approach Him in prayer, what we should say and what our attitude should be when we approach the Father in Prayer.