God Answers Prayer

When I hear people talk about when and how long it takes for God to answer prayer, it puzzles me.  In Philippians 4:6-7, it says when we pray that the peace of God will keep our hearts and minds. The minute we turn to God and have a conversation about something that is going on, that peace is available. If peace is going to keep our heart and mind it has to arrive pretty quick.

Prayer is not one sided. The listening part is pretty important. Too often, however, we shut off the dialogue too soon. We don’t allow God to prepare us for receiving the results of our prayer. People wait forever thinking that is just all you have to do.  Unfortunately, that prayer scenario seems to drift away from them and then they roll back into the ‘God is distant’ theology.

God answers prayers all the time. His first response gives us peace and then he starts the process of addressing the specifics.  Actually that is pretty exciting. There will be necessary information concerning the prayer to pay attention to either from the word or through the gift of holy spirit. Our job is to dig in an humbly learn. There could be a series of steps and it may take some time.  God will help us grow to take those steps by providing necessary information, wisdom to take action and things to avoid, including the world wisdom and people who promote it. Honestly, if you have to talk to someone, God is the best listener and the Bible is the best reading.

20 My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings 21 Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. 22 For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh. 23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. 24 Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. 25 Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. 26 Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established (firm, solid). Proverbs 4:20-26

We should guard our communications either from our own heart or what we receive from others. In this day of FaceBook, Twitter, and messenger we are exposed to a plethora of contacts and viewpoints.  Something may sound so good and yet when you think about it it may resemble ‘fast-food’ theology rather than a true Biblical nutritious truth. Clever adages and culture proverbs often are short-lived in their effect. Good solid truth is very satisfying and relational with our God.  There is no mistaking the difference and it starts the moment we decide we want to do life his way and recognize that it is the best way.

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Prosperity Gospel ~ True or False?

In John 10:10, Jesus Christ made a statement about the benefits of understanding why he came:

10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10

In the context of that section in John, Jesus used the easily relatable ‘gate of the sheep’ analogy. Jesus Christ is the door to the fold. He is the ‘way’ to the abundant life. On the opposite side there is a thief that steals, kills and destroys. God wants us to live abundantly and His word keeps us within his desire.

I have read many articles on the ‘prosperity doctrine’ both for and against. Each side has a propensity  to veer off biblical logic to the extreme of its own side. Christianity is not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme nor is it ‘church mouse poor theology’:

8 Remove far from me vanity (uselessness) and lies (deception): give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient (what is prescribed) for me: Proverbs 30:8

The Bible is full of wonderful principles on prosperity that apply to many of God’s promises in general. It is full of practical, sound, powerful and successful precepts that we can trust from the very heart of God:

2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. 3 John 2

God wants us to prosper!  Every individual is different in what he or she needs. What is needed by one person may be different from another person’s need. Poverty, however, is like an armed robber on the highway of life. (Proverbs 6:11, Proverbs 24:34) God has given us the power to be individually successful through his Word and the gift of holy spirit.

18 But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. Deuteronomy 8:16.

God loves us! He gives us ‘the power to get wealth’ (makes us heroes of strength). Deuteronomy is written to the Old Covenant believers where the spirit of God was upon certain people who led God’s people. A New Covenant came on the Day of Pentecost with the gift of holy spirit. The gift equips all believers with distinct power tools.  If a man or woman practically applies God’s word  and utilizes the power God has given each one of us, he or she will be abundantly blessed in all categories, not just financial ones. Our effort as believers is to dig the gold of the Word faithfully and consistently apply it.

The world will try and talk us out of it. It is full of stumbling blocks that are thrown down to deter us.  Sometimes, when something breaks down or we hadn’t counted on a certain bill for us to pay, our hearts may sink into thinking that we have done something wrong and fear rears its ugly head. Don’t rely on the stock market, news media,  the ‘experts’ or government. It doesn’t hurt to try to get the best information we can, but we should run it all by God, the 100% reliable source.

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. I Corinthians 1:25 (Check out the rest of I Corinthians 1)

Things happen, but that doesn’t change God’s promises. Going to God and giving it to him is standing on the promise that perfect love casts out fear. We have God’s ability to overcome and we are not to believe the lies of condemnation that we have failed somehow.  I used to think debt was sin. It is hard to believe that God wants us free economically when one is so worried about sin. When, in my own life, I dumped the sin conscientious and looked to God, the most amazing things happened.

Going to God frees us.  Just knowing how much he loves us and how much he is willing to help us is the best place to be in our hearts.

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Falling Short or Overshooting God

The way I read verses today is different from the past.  I now remind myself of God’s true intentions toward his kids as I read. The way I used to read Proverbs 28:13 was with fear.

 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. Proverbs 28:13

Presently, I find a verse like this delightful! It is an opportunity to advance. Because of  previous teaching and differences in interpretation, it is hard to get to the heart of what it means to sin. When a person approaches the Word of God based on love and that there is no darkness with God, simple truth is refreshing and beneficial.  For us, it is like untangling a mess of yarn  to be able to use to knit together something we can use.

The ‘covering of sin’ is a natural human reaction. Yet that means that even though sin is hidden, it is still lurking about. Acknowledging sin and tossing it aside does more than cover, it brings freedom to our hearts.

Sin is falling short and maybe even overshooting the mark of God (this is a biggie because sometimes subtly we think we can do more; remember the serpent?).  Regardless, missing out on God’s best for us is not what we should want to do. It limits God and it is faulty thinking on our part. God doesn’t control us either; it is free will choice whether we check in with him or not. Our goal should be to hit the center of his will for us. He wants us to live in advancing abundance.

We see no greater example of what sin can do than that of what happened in the garden of Eden with the first humans, Adam and Eve. When they messed up, God sought them out and explained what had happened because of the serpent’s influence and the consequences of listening to those influences. In Genesis chapter 3 there are various reactions such as,  arrogance, guilt, and blame, exposed. When God called out to them, Adam answered:

“I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” Genesis 3:1

We should never be afraid of God. We don’t have to hide from him either.  Sadly, that is just what people do. If it gets bad enough they just rearrange their righteousness for themselves and maybe even their thoughts on the existence of God altogether. That is tragic!

God is a God of compassion and mercy, he loves us better than we can love ourselves. When we are having difficulties, the remedy is just a prayer away. Instead of hiding or making excuses we can ask for help from God and at the very moment we have peace that  things will work out.

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Righteously Correct

In a mature individual, boldness, assertiveness and leadership are necessary tools of love. I John says there is ‘no fear in love’ and ‘perfect love casts out fear’. Perfect love comes from God, along with power and  a sound mind (II Timothy 1.7). As a person matures in life, power, love and a sound mind are essential to a happy, peaceful, joyful life.

There are only two sources of power, namely good and evil. Evil can exert its tentacles in very subtle ways. Evil loves power in a greedy self-serving way.  When left unchecked evil will eventually show its full colors in its insatiable quest for more.

The godly kind of power grows with learning, humility and recognition of love. I Corinthians 13 sits like a diamond between two chapters outlining the existence and use of the power of God through the gift of holy spirit. This kind of power is fulfilling and peaceful.

We should never be afraid to be assertive with the truth, but we need to be assertive from the power base of God. Ephesians 6 talks about ‘putting on the whole armor of God ‘.  Christians are not wimpy; they are bold and fearless when they recognize that God has their backs in righteous correctness. That is what it means ‘to grow up into him’ (Ephesians 4:15).

‘Political correctness’ functions to stunt maturity; righteous correctness causes growth. Poor leaders demand loyalty, Great leaders encourage interaction, learning and respect. Poor leaders dampen innovation, great leaders encourage it. Great studies on leadership abound in the Bible. Compare the interactions of Moses and Pharaoh, David and Saul, Jesus and the Pharisees. Much is written about their interactions.

We learn to be assertive with confidence and  and love.  Assertiveness tempered with patience allows people time to unwind their own thinking. Gossip has no function in relationships; neither does thinking evil or ‘vain imaginations’.  Certainly, we need to recognize evil when it is in front of us and seek God’s solution in handling it.

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Recently, I was going over an old word study I had done on the word ‘approved’ (Greek = dokimos) that was used in II Timothy 2:15:

15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

I picked that word to study because of a deep down yearning to be approved by God and not ashamed. It was the first real word study I ever did and I struck gold on the first try!

The first use of the word ‘dokimos’ is in Romans 14:

17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. 19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

Paul was addressing a situation that had arisen in regards to the eating of meat that had been devoted to worship sacrifices in the temple. Some believers enjoying their new found freedom from the rituals were offending those who had not reached the same level of understanding of their new freedom in Christ.

In the religion that I was raised in, meat was not supposed to be eaten on Fridays. I remember one specific incidence that happened while we were flying to the Philippines. I have often thought back on it as great teaching moment for a scrupulous 11 year old in loving God. Flying far above the sparkling Pacific Ocean through a beautiful blue sky on a gorgeous Friday afternoon through white fluffy clouds, I was totally enjoying the view when the stewardess came by and put a plate of steak and vegetables on my tray table. I was mortified. I told her it was Friday and she smiled back and told me it was no longer Friday and that we had just crossed the International Date Line. I remember thinking that that was pretty cool because I was hungry! I was free to enjoy to meal. God is so much more than rituals involving ‘meat and drink.’

We have been set free  because of Jesus Christ’s once and for all sacrifice.  Sacrifice has been replaced by righteousness, joy and peace.   We all know what peace and joy are and no one ever complains about an atmosphere of peace and joy.  The misconception of righteousness in some circles might evoke shame which is  totally opposite as to what it means. Righteousness is the Christian’s right to God’s heart without condemnation.  God wants the best for our lives; he created the universe with that in mind. Love and righteousness go hand in hand.  Love is at the creamy caramel at the center of righteousness.

When we have the love of God at the center of our lives will carry love peace and joy to others. These are the foundation blocks of service to God and others. The word ‘dokimos’ was used  as a term in metallurgy to describe the actual amount of precious metal in an ore . An assay or a test was used to discover the true genuine worth of an ore. Righteousness, peace and joy are the precious core of genuine relationships. This is acceptable to God and gets the approved stamp from others.

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The Day Of Atonement – The Scapegoat

Recently the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur was celebrated. It is a day that in some religious circles, people atone ritually for their sins and shortcomings. Leviticus 16 is a chapter in the Old Testament that details the ceremony of atonement.  Part of that service is the the choosing of two goats, one to be killed in sacrifice and a second goat to be used as a scapegoat:

8 And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat. 9 And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. 10 But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.
And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year. And he did as the Lord commanded Moses. Leviticus 16:8-9, 34

According to current psychological lingo, a ‘scapegoat’ is a vulnerable person on whom others project their negative feelings upon to distract from their own vulnerabilities and mental anguish. It means that there is a transfer of guilt or blame, or other negative feelings on someone else.

In the Bible ‘scapegoat’ is used as a “type” of Christ. The word is used 4 (a number that represents the world) times in the Bible.  The sin offering in atonement is Jesus Christ and it is a one-time offering for all the sins of man.  He became the scapegoat for the world. Jesus Christ was loaded with our sin anguish and guilt and he carried it off into the spiritual wilderness. Our minds have been relieved from the heavy weight of dealing with the negative aspects of this world.

4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried (loaded up with and carried away) our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. Isaiah 53:4

After a long day of wrestling with the perplexities of life we can lay our heads down on the pillow and instead of  replacing all the negatives of the day with counting sheep or goats, we can rejoice in the work of Jesus Christ  and rest easy and wake up engulfed in ‘sonshine’ when we wake up.

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Pains of Mind

Isaiah 53 is a beautiful section full of detailed prophecies and exquisite language worth digging as a fathomless supply of rich treasures  It was written many hundreds of years before the time that Jesus walked this earth. Verses from Isaiah 53 are quoted several times in the Gospels and New Testament and have significant meaning especially in our practical experiences of life.

Verses 4-5 of this chapter and subsequent verses prophecy of the purpose and coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ  exposed the adversary and his effect on a person’s life.  Jesus Christ is the solution and answer. Life is full of pressures, twists, disappointments, problems along with the successes, excitements and  blessings. Jesus Christ as God’s son is our way in dealing with both sides of life successfully.

4 Surely (Truly) he hath borne (‘nasa’ lifted, carried and taken) our griefs (‘choli’ – used 24x {3x as griefs and 21x sickness or disease}, and carried (‘sabal’ – carried the load for us) our sorrows (‘makob’ – sorrows, pain, grief, pains of mind) yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

Isaiah says that they would look at him as someone who ‘was stricken, and smitten of God and afflicted.’ Jesus did battle with the forces of evil, not God. He did it for all mankind.

But he was wounded (pierced through) for our transgressions, he was bruised (crushed, humbled) for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes (blows that cut in) we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5

I have been working the Hebrew word ‘makob’ found in verse 4. Everyone experiences ‘pains of mind’. The word is used 16 times in the Old Testament. Two of them are in Isaiah 53 in verse 4 above and verse 3 where Jesus is described as a man of sorrows. Jesus was fully acquainted with the effect of sorrow and mental pain and he relinquished his pains of mind to his heavenly Father. In verse 4 above, we read that he will load up and carry off our anguish and mental pressures. He can do that when we remind our brain cells  to do just that. Projected fear and worry have no right to freeze our minds because of the finished work of Jesus Christ. We as sons of God and joint heirs with Christ have rights because of his sacrifice for us.

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