Saturday, November 8, 2008

Irresistible Invitation:  Responding to the Extravagant Heart of God                   

Day 33: Essential Characteristics

 

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.  Acts 2:42-43

 

Can you imagine what it would have been like to be a member of the first church?  According to Acts 2, sometimes in a single day, some three thousand people heard the gospel and were baptized.  This was the beginning of the mighty church of Jesus Christ that would turn the world upside down.

 

Maxie writes today about essential characteristics of the church.  To start with, a church must be able to learn.  “The early church was made up of people who had come to a sure knowledge of salvation through Christ’s death and resurrection and had received the living presence of his Spirit.  Those first Christians were sure of who they were, because they were sure of Christ.”  They were willing and able to learn, to follow the doctrine of Christ.  Our faith must continually look forward and not remain static.  The riches of Christ grow going forward over time.

 

The next essential characteristic of the church is that it prays.  An Acts 2 church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayers” (Acts 2:42).  The Pentecost church “had the vibrant, vital presence of the Holy Spirit, and it invested their prayers with even deeper meaning.”  Maxie is convinced that the church is not as effective today as it could be if we would spend more time on our knees.

 

The next essential characteristic of the church is that it shares.  The early church was a sharing church.  “All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need “(Acts 2:44-45).  They were radical people…”  As we know, the system they put in place didn’t work, and they gave it up before the end of the 1st century.  It failed, not because it wasn’t God’s way – but because of sin. 

 

The next essential characteristic of the church is that it is a fellowship.  “Almost everything that happened in the early church took place either within the fellowship or grew out of the direction and power received from the fellowship.”   They gathered in homes, they broke bread, they shared about their lives and prayed together.  We know it is true today: small group interactions change lives and change the way a church functions.  “We all need a support system; without it, we can’t stay alive spiritually.”

 

The Heart of the Matter

-         When you hear stories about the couples who gave up the comforts of their suburban neighborhoods for the challenges of poverty-stricken communities, how does that make you feel?  Inspired? Challenged?  Uneasy?  Why do you think that is?

-         Where do you personally find fellowship in the body of Christ?

-         How is your congregation like/unlike the early church?

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Irresistible Invitation by Maxie Dunham - Day 32

Irresistible Invitation:  Responding to the Extravagant Heart of God                   

Day 32:  The People of God

 

Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God.

1 Pet. 2:10

 

 

We have just considered the “body of Christ” as a New Testament image for the church.  “The people of God is also one of the prominent images in Scripture.  Listen to the words found in 1 Peter 2:9-10

 

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God, once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

 

We, the church are the people of God called especially to fulfill God’s purposes.  Peter applies all of the Old Testament images of the people of God to the New Testament church; “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.”  These images ground the church in the history of Israel.  Having heard the promises of God and knowing full well both the discipline of God and the great mercy of God, the people of God knew that that they had received a distinct calling.  This calling, which we hear just as clearly today in the church, is to “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

 

According to Dunnam, “when this image is alive in our congregations, we know we are a part of God’s history.  When we are firmly grounded in that knowledge, our evangelism, mission, and worship become part of God’s working out his purpose in history.”  Then, we the local church become a kingdom community!

 

There are many important characteristics of “the people of God,” but the most important image is fellowship: “we belong.”  We belong to Christ and we belong to each other.  We are part of a kingdom people with roots that stretch back to creation and whose ancestors include Abraham and Sara, and our hope lens forward to a time when all of God’s people will be gathered in the kingdom for a heavenly banquet.  When this image comes alive in our congregations then we begin to look more like “the church.”  It takes more than hearing the Word and participating in the sacraments for Christians to grow.  A deep fellowship for mutual encouragement, examination, accountability and service is essential. 

 

Effective evangelism happens when the congregation becomes a living witness, when we are moving from seeing evangelism as a special program, inspired preaching or individual Christian testimony to the church and its fellowship being evangelism.  When the fellowship of the church comes alive by the presence of the Holy Spirit, inspiring and empowering people to care for one another, the fellowship is redemptive within itself, and it draws people in. 

Our witness is in word and deed, in our speaking and in our actins.  Our witness is also the quality of our fellowship.  The quality of our fellowship in the Christian community is a profound ingredient in proclaiming the wonderful deeds of the one who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.  There must be a quality about our life together that will reach out and invite –

 

The Heart of the Matter

 

--What has God taught you through the fellowship of other Christians?

--Why might congregational evangelism – the idea of the church itself being the witness – be as important as individual evangelism?

-- What does it mean to you to love your neighbor as yourself?

 

 

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Irresistible Invitation by Maxie Dunham - Day 31

Irresistible Invitation:  Responding to the Extravagant Heart of God                   

Day 31: What Defines Christian Community?

 

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. 

1 John 4:7

 

What is it that makes a home be home for us? 

 

Maxie Dunnam, on Day 31 quotes poet Robert Frost: “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”  So it is in our Christian churches, our families of faith.  We’ve already talked about church as being a home of grace, the place where wonder dwells.  The only requirement for joining a church is that you are not worthy to be a member.

 

God is gracious, in spite of our faults, and we have all been assigned a place in God’s family with a room in God’s home.  It’s been God’s plan all along, for we need to be together receiving God’s grace.  Once we are home, in our community, we find that we begin to trust people who are different from us.  Maxie likens this to the dynamic that occurs at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.  “In that setting, you’ll find people from many different ethnic groups: Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, Caucasians.  There will be rich and poor folks, men and women, young and old.  All have one thing in common: they are battling an addiction.  The primary dynamic of the meeting is humility and trust, expressed in statements like, “Hi, I’m Tom, and I’m an alcoholic.”  That beginning point of humility and trust breaks the grip of alcoholism.  If grace can happen in an arena like AA, it can certainly happen with the church, as well.”

 

Maxie goes on to talk about God Addiction.  He asks what it takes to become a true Christian community.  His answer: “First, I believe, is a complete obsession with God.  If we are not completely obsessed with God, we fall short of what should define us.”  Maxie knows some people will not appreciate that language, but he clarifies that “God should be so real to us that we pulsate with the unshakable conviction that in God we live and move and have our being; that in God lies all truth, love, goodness, and beauty. 

 

In talking about the prophet Jeremiah, Maxie wrote that he was so “God-driven that he couldn’t break his fixation even when he wanted to.”  Here is a verse from Jeremiah chapter 20: “But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.  I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot (v. 9).

 

In addition to being obsessed with God, Maxie writes that he also thinks a Christian community should be happy and holy.  And holiness is not about rules and regulations.  “Holiness that centers on rigid rules and regulations turns us into ‘sour saints,’ .. constantly stressed out in seeking to keep the law.  Sour saints ain’t no saints at all.”

 

For holiness to be happy, it must be connected with the Holy Spirit.  Our strength comes from the Holy Spirit, and that holiness bring us happiness. 

 

Holiness should also be contagious, like C.S. Lewis’ phrase: “the good infection.”  Lewis used the phrase in his book Mere Christianity in talking about the Holy Spirit.  We should have a sense of the dance of the trinity, a dance that we participate in with them.

 

When we come together as church, as Christian community, the New Testament makes it abundantly clear that the early Christians saw themselves as already part of a new creation.  Maxie says that “by coming together, they were shaping a new pattern for the human community, a pattern of love and sharing which reflected the very life of the Trinity.”

 

In his book Christian Wholeness, Tom Langford expressed it this way:

 

“Our strength, as Christians, comes from our relation to God and to the people of God.  We are directly related to God, and in that relationship we find our ability to move to action and to live for others.  Indirectly we receive the strength of God through sharing in Christian community.  This is a sharing which empowers, guides, corrects, and renews our ability to be and to serve.

Emphasis upon Christian strength is often neglected for fear of abuse, and the strength given by community is often neglected because it is so meagerly realized in contemporary experience.  Yet the church is the Body of Christ; it is the special embodiment of the Holy Spirit.  The church is the community graciously given by God to persons who need and who intensely seek community.  Into our solitary, isolated style of living there comes a concrete community of persons who are willing to bear one another’s burdens, enhance one another’s living, to be together in joy and in sorrow, in hope and in hurt, at ordinary moments and in critical junctures of human experience.

In the context of the church, strength comes from lives which are bound together.  The chief binding is not that of a desperate clinging to one another in a dangerous and frightening world. … The deeper truth, however, is that person in Christian community are bound together by a common love, by a common worship, and by a common mission.  The church is the community of persons who are in community with Jesus Christ.  It is a community of persons precisely because there is a common center for their lives.”

 

 The Heart of the Matter

-         On a scale of one to ten (ten being the highest), how “addicted’ would you say you are to God?  Why is that?

-         In what ways could holiness be contagious?  What about joy?

-         Is your congregation bound by common love, common worship and common mission?  In what ways can you individually improve – or detract from – the situation?

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Irresistible Invitation by Maxie Dunham - Day 30

Irresistible Invitation:  Responding to the Extravagant Heart of God                   

Day 30:  The Body of Christ

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

1 Cor. 12:27

 

 

On this day Maxie encourages us our role not as the dwelling place of wonder but at Christ’s body in the world.  He writes; “As Christ is the Incarnation of God, so the church is to be the continuation of Christ’s presence in the world.”  The most prominent image of the church in the New Testament is the body of Christ.  We can think of Paul’s words to the church in Corinth, “you must show that you are a letter from Christ…written not with ink but with the Spirit of the Living God…” (2Cor. 3:3)  We must remember who we are and whose we are, precisely the body of Christ through whom God intends to become the head over all there is, it is Christ whom every power in the universe must reckon.  Those of us who make up the church operate not out of human wisdom and strength but out of Christ’s wisdom and strength and in so doing we are a new creation, a fellowship of Resurrection Life. 

 

This image of the church as Christ’s body in the world then is one that speaks primarily of serving.  In order to be the body of Christ in the world is to truly be his presence in the world.  What does that mean, it means for instance that we are the eyes of Christ in the world, and through the eyes of Christ there is nothing that can cause division, no East or West, no black or white, slave, free or male or female.  Through Christ’s eyes we see the dignity and worth of every human being and the churches job is to respond lovingly to the needs those individuals may bring, in Christ’s eyes every person is one for whom Christ died, no matter what.

 

In addition when the church speaks it speaks with the voice of Christ, speaking to people in all manner of human condition.  War and peace, inflation and the national deficit, the spending of tax monies, where people live how they work, abortion, pornography, adultery, immigration, no matter the plight, it is of concern to the gospel.  Nothing is off limits for Christ.  The church must speak fearlessly and compassionately the Good News of God in Christ to every person, wherever he or she may be.  But that is not enough the church must also heal with the hands of Christ, the ministry of the Church is a ministry of redemption and healing, as was Christ’s.

 

The Heart of the Matter

 

--What does it mean to you to be a part of the body of Christ?

--In what ways has the church represented the body of Christ to you?

--If you were to be honest, how do you do at seeing others through the eyes of Christ?  Why do you think that is?

 

 

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Irresistible Invitation by Maxie Dunham - Day 29

Irresistible Invitation:  Responding to the Extravagant Heart of God                   

Day 29: The Dwelling Place of Wonder

 

And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church. … Eph. 1:22

 

Maxie titles this day’s devotion, “The Dwelling Place of Wonder.”   It’s an interesting title, difficult to grasp at first.  The dwelling place of wonder…  The place where wonder dwells…

 

I wonder what you wonder about.  Bills, maybe. Children’s education, maybe.  Addicted loved ones, maybe.  Struggling with an adulterous affair, maybe.

 

Using the word another way, I wonder what it is that you find wondrous.   Or, more specifically, what is it that is wondrous about the church.  Does it seem wondrous to you to think that the church is the place where the gospel dwells?  Does it seem wondrous to you that the church – with all of it brokenness – is the body of Christ, that contains the heart and soul of the gospel?  It does to me.  But it’s true.

 

As the dwelling place of the gospel, the church is also where grace abides.  We use the word a lot: grace.  Sometimes we feel it, experience it.  It’s the cornerstone word of our faith.  And our churches are the homes of grace. 

 

Maxie Dunham shares a story that embodies the concept of grace.  He writes about an article printed in Newsweek many years ago.

 

“The article was about Hubert Humphrey’s memorial service.  Hundreds of people came from all over the world to say good-bye to their old friend and colleague.  But one guest was shunned and ignored by virtually everyone there.  That person was former President Richard Nixon.  Not long before, Nixon had endured the shame and infamy of Watergate.  Humphrey’s service brought Nixon back to Washington for the first time since he resigned from the presidency.

 

Before the service, people were avoiding Nixon like the plague – no one would talk to him or even acknowledge him.  Then, a very special thing happened, perhaps the only thing that could have broken the ice.  Jimmy Carter, who was president at that time, came into the room and was about to be seated.  When he saw President Nixon standing against the wall, all by himself, Carter walked over to him as though he were going to greet a family member.  Nixon stuck out his hand to the president, but to the surprise of everyone there, the two of them embraced, and Carter said, “Welcome him, Mr. President!  Welcome back home again!”

 

Commenting on the scene, Newsweek reported, “If there was a turning point in Nixon’s long ordeal in the wilderness, it was at that moment in that gesture of love and compassion.”

 

Maxie asks us: “Isn’t that what the church is all about?  It’s that home of grace where we, too, can be greeted with an embrace and feel that we belong.”

 

Maxie wonders, and I along with him, what our churches would be like if we posted huge signs saying “Welcome to our home of grace.”  Who do you think would show up if we really could say and really did mean the following:

 

-         Welcome home, you who are weary and heavy laden; welcome home!

-         Welcome home, you who are sinking under the onslaught of life; welcome home!

-         Welcome home, single mothers, forsaken by selfish men; welcome home!

-         Welcome home, young people who love rock music, whose body piercings say more about seeking and desire to belong than protest and rebellion; welcome home!

-         Welcome home, you who are poor, both the working poor and those who have given up altogether; welcome home!

-         Welcome home, you who have spent your life seeking success but have yet to find significance; welcome home!

-         Welcome home, you millions of baby boomers who are coming to retirement age but don’t know what to do with yourselves; welcome home!

-         Welcome home, immigrants – legal and illegal – who desperately need safety and a place to belong; welcome home!

-         Welcome home, you who do not feel at home anywhere; welcome home!

 

Maxie reminds us: “The church is meant to be the home of grace, a home for all.  If it is not a home for all, it is not a home at all.”

 

The dwelling place of wonder…

 

If we aren’t able to grasp this concept, then we may have lost our confidence in the gospel… because the wonder of it all “is that the gospel is still a saving, reconciling, healing power.”

 

And before we think we can get safely out of this day’s devotion and back into the safety of our day, Maxie goes one step further.  “Though we may think we’re doing a good job of letting our lights shine before others and offering a welcoming presence, consider this: larger national samples of unchurched people have indicated that most have never been invited to church by a Christian.  Not only that, but most unchurched people have said that they’ve never been told by a Christian what it means to believe in Christ, and never been invited to embrace Jesus as their Lord and Savior.”

 

Do we still have confidence in the gospel?  “The good news is that through Christ, God has done for us what we could not do for ourselves.  Our responsibility, now as much as ever, is to be Christ to others, to extend that sense of wonder, that hand of welcome, and that message of grace.”

 

The Heart of the Matter

-         Be honest: how do you feel about the idea of the church as the home for all?

-         Is it difficult for you to share with others what God has done in your life or to invite them to church?  Why do you think that is?

-         How did you end up in your current congregation?  Did you first come because you believed it could be a home of wonder or grace?  If someone invited you, take a moment to thank God for that person now.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Irresistible Invitation by Maxie Dunham - Day 28

Irresistible Invitation:  Responding to the Extravagant Heart of God                   

Day 28:  Choosing to be Whole

Create in me a pure heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Ps 51:10-12


Have you ever looked up the definition of integrity?  One definition is “the state of being complete or undivided.”  According to Dunham it is a challenge we all face in life and in our Christian journeys.  Most of us, says Dunham find ways to divide ourselves but in truth our life in Christ calls us to wholeness.  He reminds us of Maslow’s study of healthy people as the model of what people could be and notes that Jesus was indeed one of those healthy self-actualized people. 

 

In this light we can begin to understand what Jesus is all about, that in fact Jesus did not come to tear us up and scatter the pieces but to help us get it all together.  The purpose of Christ is to help us find our true self and celebrate it.  Sadly for many of us when we look in the mirror what we see is not all that we would hope to be.  The good news for each of us is that it doesn’t matter what is there, God offers forgiveness as well as the choice to put whatever it is in our past and not part of our future.

 

In those times when we find our days – or ourselves – to be meaningless, when we feel complacent, we have to remember that there really is more to life than we have known thus far.  God – through Christ—frees us from meaninglessness by providing a sense of purpose, a sense of mission, a sense of responsibility, a feeling of self-worth a basis for relationships and a reason for being.

 

Christ frees us and fits us:

The full measure of Christ means that he comes to both free and fit us for kingdom living.  The key is in giving ourselves to Jesus and allowing our sin to be taken away.  In the process, however, we are as holy as we want to be.  This week have you asked yourself: do you want to be holy?  Are you willing to yield?

 

Claiming the promise:

Do you recall the grand promise?  It’s on worth committing to memory:  “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”  It is so easy to settle for less than is promised and far less than is possible.  Yes we can do even greater things, but only if we remember that we are more than we think we are and that there are things that we can do and be, but will never do and be apart form Jesus Christ.  Ha this study had an effect on your faith in any area?  If so how?

 

The surest path of all:

Remember Paul’s one sentence autobiography?  “I have been crucified in Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”  This commitment to Christ shaped every decision Paul made and determined every step he took.  If we identify with Jesus in the same manner as Paul we must also identify with Jesus’ suffering.  We can’t sidestep challenges just because we serve Christ.  However, we know that, suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character hope.  In what ways could Jesus e with you in a time of suffering?

 

The hands and feet of Jesus:

When the gift of the Holy Spirit fell upon the early followers it changed their lives forever, it has the very same effect today.  Part of the maturation of our relationship with God calls us to disciple others with the help of the Holy Spirit and to be disciplined as well.   Is there anyone in your life that you currently disciple?  Is there anyone who disciples you?  If the answer to either question is no, consider asking God to open your eyes to the people around you.  Certainly there are both people who need your wisdom and people who have wisdom of their own to give you.

 

Communion through conversation:

Prayer is not about telling God what to do; it’s about giving God the chance to meet our needs.  Remember that god really does want to give us good gifts and that one of those gifts is our relationship with him.  Have you been considering your prayer life a privilege or a duty?  Have you established a regular practice of coming before God?  If not what’s keeping you from it and how can you overcome those challenges?

 

Planted by water:

We can know the will of God for our lives.  We know it through Scripture, through wise counsel of godly people and through the Holy Spirit.  Once we hear that direction we are obligated to follow in order to walk in the fullness of Christ.  How could/would your life be different if you sought consistent guidance from God? 

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Irresistible Invitation by Maxie Dunham - Day 27

Irresistible Invitation:  Responding to the Extravagant Heart of God                   

Day 27:  Planted by the Water

 

…in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Prov. 3:6

 

There is no place in life’s journey’s where we need more light then at the fork in the road; in that place where we have to make a crucial decision about which direction we are going to take.  Thankfully we are given the promise of God’s word, according to Psalm 119. God’s word is “a lamp to our feet and a light for our paths.” (v105)

 

We do have the right to ask, seek, and know the will of God.  However once we know it, nothing but obedience will do.  But how do we know God’s will?  The first and primary condition is complete surrender and obedience, which prepares us to receive instruction and guidance about the will God has for us.  According to Dunham there are three seeds “which when planted in the soil of obedience and humility, produce the fruit of God’s will in or lives:  1.) Scripture study, 2.) Christian conferencing, or deliberately and honestly sharing with godly persons for both instruction and discernment; and 3.) divine conviction brought by the Holy Spirit.”

 

As Christians, we believe that the Bible contains everything we need for salvation, for growth and discipleship, and for teaching, correction, and training in righteousness.  Scripture has everything we need to be equipped for every good work. 

 

The second resource for knowing God’s will is Christian conferencing.  Remember that Jesus promised that wherever two or three are gathered in His name he will be there also.  Therefore, gathering with people who believe in Jesus Christ and in God’s will for their lives and for ours is a dependable way to seek the will of God. 

 

There is a special application of God’s will for each and every one of us and gathering with fellow Christians to discern God’s will is indeed an important way to seek our that will but there is another powerful possibility that we must not over look and that is the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  On many occasions the Holy Spirit plants firmly in our minds and hearts certain convictions about the will of God.  The Holy Spirit’s work may come in many different ways; it may be an intuition, an idea that seems to come out of nowhere, the word of a friend or a chance encounter.  These possibilities happen in the context of our sincerely wanting to be in God’s will and we are willing to submit to His guidance. 

 

Remember, though, once we have discerned God’s will we are responsible for what we know - and knowing and doing God’s will help us to be like trees planted by water, producing fruit in due season.  The good news is that God’s will for our lives is better than anything we can imagine.  Its as if God flings down a bunch of keys in front of us and encourages us to open every door.    Which one will you choose?

 

The Heart of the Matter

--In what ways has God offered you guidance?

--Do you relate more to the tree planted by the water or the bush in the wastelands?

--Is there anything God has revealed to you about your life that you have yet to take hold of?  What’s standing in your way?

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Irresisitible Invitation by Maxie Dunham - Day 26

Irresistible Invitation:  Responding to the Extravagant Heart of God                   

Day 26: Communion Through Conversation

 Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

Your kingdom come, your will be done

On earth as it is in heaven.

Matt. 6:9-10


Prayer: our communion with God; our opening our hearts and cares to one who cares more than life itself.  If you’ve been on the receiving end of a multitude of prayers, you may have sensed the power it brings.  If you’ve been on the end of your desperate, heartfelt prayers not seeming to be answered, you may have felt a sense of futility about prayer.  If you’ve had miraculous prayers answered, then you may have felt that awkwardness – the desire to claim the miracle and the uncertainty of how to say so in front of those who haven’t found the miracle they prayed for.

 

As Maxie says in today’s devotion: “To be sure, there is mystery.  Not all people for whom we pray are healed.  What we need to claim is simply this: redemptive and wholeness-giving things happen when we pray that do not happen if we don’t pray.”

 

When we view prayer as a mandatory discipline, a requirement to “check-in” with God, we have lost that sense of awe and wonder, that understanding that prayer is our chance to commune – regularly – with the divine.  The one who created us and all that is.

 

Maxie reminds us that we need to remember that Christian prayer is not about “telling God what to do.”  Rather, it’s about sharing our needs, making our desires known.  And then it’s about surrender.  After we share our desires, we leave it up to the wisdom of God to decide what needs to be done.  We let go of our will and rely wholly on the will of God.  Just because 21st century medicine and technology doesn’t always save our loved ones from struggle or death doesn’t mean we stop using it.  “Shouldn’t it be the same for prayer?”  We pray because it we amazingly can.  We pray because we can “actually talk with God” and because God hears, listens and responds to what we have to say. 

 

Don’t miss the enormity of this.  The God of the universe is ready to commune with you, to communicate with you.  Like a shepherd who misses even one lost sheep; like a homemaker who sweeps the house for one lost coin – “Your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost” (Matthew 18:14).

 

“Take a few minutes right now to think about that.  God cares for each one of us as individuals.  Is it hard for you to accept that?  Do you believe it?  Have you been praying as though you believe it?”

 

Remember the parable about the person who goes to the house of a friend at midnight and asks for bread.  Here the ending of this parable: “I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs” (Luke 11:7-8).

 

We are to be bold, we are to be persistent, we are to know that we can call on God at any time.  Jesus wraps up the story in Luke with these words: “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Luke 11:9-10). 

 

We must remember that prayer is a privilege and not a duty.  “We are free to pray.  The privilege is open to all of us.  The privilege is communion with God, feeling God’s presence, and being aware of God’s guidance.”  We need to always remember that “prayer is relationship.  It is being with God.  It is meeting.  It is a personal relationship in which you and God move from a hello of politeness to an embrace of love.  It is communion.  All other dimensions of prayer must take second place to this.”

 

And “relationship becomes meaningful and real the moment you being to single out a person from the crowd.  Prayer becomes real when it is no longer a relationship in the third person but in the first and second persons, when God becomes more than the remote “Almighty,” and becomes the singular and unique ‘Thou’ or ‘You.’”  

 

“When we discover a personal relationship with God, prayer goes beyond being a shop where we go to bargain and barter for the gifts of God.  It becomes the home of the Father with whom we live, where all the treasures of God’s love and concern are ours for the receiving.”

 

The Heart of the Matter

 

-         How would you describe your prayer life?

-         Describe a time that God directly answered a prayer.  How did that make you feel?

-         What steps could you take to make your prayer times even more personal and relevant to your life?

 

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