Christianity 201

May 1, 2015

Keeping the Passion for Prayer

Today we pay a return visit to Pastor Jesus Figueroa, who was born in Tijuana, Mexico and today pastors a 700 member church in Los Angeles. He begins with a variety of translations, then some devotional thoughts, and then related verses. Each day’s writings are posted in both English and Spanish. I strongly encourage you to read this at his blog, Word for Today, and then take some time to look at other articles. Click the title below to read:

Watch With Me One Hour

Topic: We Must  Not Lose Passion In Prayer

40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour?

Matthew 26:40 (NKJV)

Daily Reading Plan

1 Chronicles 1

Bible Versions:

Matthew 26:40 (NIV) — 40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.

Matthew 26:40 (MSG) — 40 When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour?

Thoughts Of Devotion:

Scripture teaches us that it is possible to one lose our passion for prayer. You can get to a place in your spiritual life where you no longer desire to be in communion with the Lord. In this occasion we see how Jesus’ disciples were at a point in their lives where they allowed sleep to steal their prayer time. Jesus had to exhort them. Read what Matthew 26:41 says, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

The burning desire in prayer is so important and essential if we are to achieve an intimate communion with the Lord. It’s a very sad situation when sometimes our flesh is weak and we lose the privilege of prayer. Although our spirit is always ready, the battle with our flesh will always be present. It reminds me of what Galatians 5:17 says, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” I wonder, in how many occasions have we allowed our flesh to steal the blessing of prayer through sleep, distractions, and many other things that continually wish to rid us of our spiritual blessings?

It is only when we remain alert and vigilant in prayer that we will see the glory of God! In Luke 9:32, it tells us of another occasion in which they “DID” remain awake, ” But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him.” Today the Lord wants us to enjoy His glory, great victories over the temptations that come into our lives, but for this to happen we have to be fervent in our spirit and not let our weak flesh win. Blessings!

Foundational Scriptures:

Matthew 25:5 (NKJV) — But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

Luke 9:32 (NKJV) — 32 But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him.

John 6:63 (NKJV) — 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.

John 6:63 (NKJV) — 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.

Galatians 5:17 (NKJV) — 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

Psalm 103:14 (NKJV) — 14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.

May 15, 2012

Sometimes Spirituality is Messy

NIV Luke 18:35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”

38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

from Messy Spirituality by Michael Yaconelli (bio):

…Religious institutions do not like surprises and especially dislike a spirituality which threatens the status quo. Threaten others with a loud and boisterous faith, and you will be politely (at first) asked to quiet down; dance your faith instead of sitting still in your pew, and you will be asked to leave; talk about your faith with passion, and you will get expressions of concern about the inappropriateness of your emotions.  Allow others to see your brokenness, and you will be reprimanded for being too open; hear the music of faith, and you will be warned of the danger of emotional instability…

…All of us tend to seek comfort, to structure predictability, to eliminate the new and different from our experience. The word messy strikes fear into the hearts of the comfortable. According to the comfortable, God does what he always does. “God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow,” which they interpret as “stays the same.” There are those in the church who honestly believe God is a nice and neat God. One quick run through the Bible gives you a different picture. The God of the bible is the master of surprises: frightening clouds of smoke and fire, earthquakes, windstorms and firestorms, donkeys that talk, pillars of salt, oceans splitting apart, using a little boy to kill a giant, the Messiah in swaddling clothes and dying on a cross. No one can follow God and be comfortable for too long…

…When Jesus and his followers show up, it isn’t long before people start pointing fingers and calling names. Jesus was called all kinds of names: wine-bibber.., Sabbath breaker, blasphemer. Over the centuries religious people have refined name-calling to an art. The name most commonly used today? Unspiritual

…According to his critics, Jesus “did God” all wrong. He went to the wrong places, said the wrong things, and worst of all, let just anyone into the kingdom. Jesus scandalized an intimidating, elitist, country-club religion by opening membership in the spiritual life to those who had been denied it. What made people furious was Jesus “irresponsible” habit of throwing open the doors of his love to the whosoevers, the just-any-ones, and the not-a-chancers like you and me.

Nothing makes people in the church more angry than grace. It’s ironic: we stumble into a party we weren’t invited to and find the uninvited standing at the door making sure no other uninviteds get in. Then a strange phenomenon occurs: as soon as we are included in the party because of Jesus’ irresponsible love, we decide to make grace “more responsible” by being self-appointed Kingdom Monitors, guarding the kingdom of God, keeping the riffraff out (which, as I understand it, are who the kingdom of God is supposed to include.)

Michael Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality (Zondervan, 2002) pp 40-48

September 29, 2011

Worship Consists of a Life Well-Lived

Jim at Not For Itching Ears recently posted this as a question… Worship: Is it a Life Well-Lived or a Chorus Well-Sung?  I think you already know the answer, but…

We love to discuss those things we are passionate about, don’t we?  Be it our favorite football team (THE Washington Redskins), politics, sports, movies, cultural issues.  Heck we even argue about beer!   Remember the Miller Lite commercials?  For years, Miller Lite drinkers, including the likes of Rodney Dangerfield and John Madden, bickered back and forth on our TV sets.  The argument?  What made Miller Lite such a great beer.   Some said the drink tasted great. Others said it was less filling.  Though they were very entertaining commercials, it makes one wonder:  Don’t we have anything better to discuss than beer?

Of course we do!  Over here at Not For Itching Ears, we’ve been spending a lot of time talking about a topic that is higher up the food chain:  Worshipping God.  If you read these posts (millions of people do each hour)(just kidding), then you know I have been searching and studying and thinking out loud a lot lately.  I don’t know why.  Everywhere I go, every conversation I have, many of the sights I see cause me to reflect on what it means for a Christian to worship our great Redeemer.   The two facts that seem to be fueling this journey are these: 1)  Worship, generally, is not a song we sing, though we can worship God while singing.  2) The church seems to be defining worship as a song we sing.  I think that approach is crippling the church and robbing God of true worship.

Is worship a song that is well-sung or is it a life that is well-lived?

The Bible teaches us that true worship involves the laying down of our lives, and everything that entails.  In turn, we offer our lives back to God, to be lived for Him, His glory, and His alone.   Scripture is full of admonitions like the one Paul gave the church at Ephesus:

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life WORTHY of the calling you have received.”  Eph 4:1 NIV

This word “worthy” literally means “to bring up the other beam of the scales” so that things are equal.   If you put a pound of tomatoes on one side of the scale and a one pound weight on the other side of the scale, the scale will be even.  If everything is working the way it was designed to work, the scale would be perfectly level.  That is the idea here.  The Ephesian believers were being exhorted to conduct their lives in a  way that matched or equaled what they professed.  They were being exhorted to live out their faith.  We might say they were being told to practice what they preached.  With our mouths we say we believe in the Gospel,  will follow Christ anywhere, and want to love Him out loud, but do our lives balance that out?  Or, is one side of the scale higher than the other?  That’s what Paul is talking about here

The more I consider worship, the more I realize that this is EXACTLY what worship looks like.  It is a life laid down.  You and I proclaim God’s worth in every choice we make.   Let’s face it, living for Christ 24/7 is no easy task.  Life is full of temptations, large and small.   Every moment of every day we are bombarded with situations that cause us to choose who we are living for:  Ourselves or our God.  When we choose to follow God and obey His word, we are declaring that what He values is what matters.  We are professing with our deeds that His way is worthy of following.   Isn’t that the essence of worship?  The overwhelming weight of scriptural testimony leads to only one conclusion:  Worship is not what my mouth says, it is what my hands do.  At least that what God likes in a worshipper.

When I put my own life on that scale to see where my life stands, I don’t like what I see.   Like the Ephesians, I need to be reminded that my life should be spent following the master.  To worship Him, we should strive to live lives that are worthy of the King and his message.

Isn’t THAT much more involved than simply singing a few songs?

Many will counter and say that worship can be both a life well-lived and a song well-sung.  Just like Miller Lite could be both great tasting and less filling.  And I agree!  However I believe the church would do well to emphasize the true character of worship:  a life laid down.  When the body of Christ becomes gripped by this understanding of worship, the Gospel will spread like wildfire.

For more on this topic see our series called: Forget About Singing, God Wants Us To Worship Him His Way

~Jim Greer

October 26, 2010

Renewal Means Being Made New

I had an interesting conversation today with an older guy.  I figure him for late 60s or early 70s.    When the conversation ended he left, but then he returned and said he just wanted to share a verse with me.   He then quoted II Cor 4:16 to me from the KJV:

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward [man] is renewed day by day.

Most of you would know this better from the NIV:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

He then went on to tell me that he has been told, and has felt that he is “getting younger.”   He said he felt more rejuvenated, and more energetic than at any time in his life.

This is not the first time an older person has told me something like this.   A woman told me that she’d noticed that the new hair growth on her head was coming in darker, replacing the grey hairs.

I told him — and I hope this didn’t sound too new age — that he was simply filled with fresh passion about his faith and that he was drawing on the energy from that passion.

That’s the kind of faith to aim for; a faith that is vibrant and exciting and informs the other areas that make up you:  your social interactions, your emotions; and even your physical body.  (Compare with Luke 2:52)

There was once a skit by the comedian who played Father Guido Sarducci in which he talked about a planet where people reached a certain age and then started getting younger.   The punchline was something to the effect that “you didn’t know if someone was coming or going.”    It’s not applicable here except insofar as it introduces “outside the box” thinking.    Renewal — if you really think about it — is just that; being made new.

The idea of “getting younger” goes against the basic rules of science, but with God anything is possible.     The man I met today said he is “getting younger” and frankly, I have no reason to believe he is not.