Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Prayer Meeting

As we continue to look at Jeremiah 29:10-14 we remember God's Promise (vs. 10) and Plan (vs. 11).  Now let us think about a meeting with Him which is Prayer: "In those days when you pray, I will listen.  If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me.  I will be found by you,' says the LORD, 'I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes." (vss. 12-14)  

The LORD's promise and plan for us ultimately lead to prayer.  Discerning His word to us and fleshing it out in out lives calls for us to seek Him in the closet of our heart.  Prayer is a relationship with almighty God and His great desire for us is that relationship.  If we have any desire to get out of those things in our lives that hold us captive(fear, anxiety, bitterness, discouragement, depression, doubt, aimlessness, sickness, etc.) then we must seek a relationship with God.  And if that is what we really want, we are promised that we will have it.  Prayer is not simply giving God our shopping list.  Prayer is listening to God and talking with Him.  Sometimes I think that the LORD puts us in difficult situations just so we will at least talk to Him.

Notice in these verses, God does not promise that He will give us exactly what we ask.  He first of all promises the relationship.  That alone is all we really need.  Then He says that He will deliver us from bondage.  We may not know what holds us captive but He does and He reveals it to us in prayer.
We are talking here about the ultimate will of God for all of us--to have a vital and loving relationship with Him.(see Jn. 17:3, I Cor. 1:9), Phil. 3:1-14, I Jn. 1:1-4)  As it says in the Westminster Catychisim, the chief end and duty of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

  Prayer is about knowing Christ and having fellowship with Him.  To understand how this works we can look at the life of Jesus on earth.    He spend a lot of time in prayer.(Lk. 5:16)  His disciples were so impressed that they asked Him to teach them how to pray (Lk. 11:1  the only "how to" question they ever asked Him)
 He said that He only did what He say the Father doing. (Jn. 5:19.  Now if Jesus, the Son of God, needed to pray, then surely we do too!

Jesus was the express image of God(Heb. 1:3).  He maintained that image through His intimacy with the Father.  The Bible teaches that our relationship with God causes us to become more like Him(His image:  II Cor. 3:18, rom. 8:29,30)  the only way I know to have a relationship with someone is to spend time with them.  That spending of time with God is ;prayer.

Our rest from our struggles is in Him.  Being in Him is being with Him.  We are brought home when we are with Him and in Him.  He is our Sabbath rest.  And we have a promise that He has a plan for us that will give us fulfillment  and bring us to Him in prayer so that we can be with Him.   So, let us seek Him and He will be found.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Here's the Plan

When I was a boy we lived in the Washington DC area and my father worked downtown for the government.  Three or four times each summer he would announce that he was going to take my brother and me to a Washington Senators baseball game.  Before he left for work, he would let us know that he had a plan.  The plan was that when he came home,  we would eat supper and go to the game.  We would either drive to the ball park or to the streetcar station and catch a ride, then see the game.   My Dad made a promise and it involved a plan.   The plan involved how we were going to get there and what we were going to do.  Most promises have plans.

In Jeremish 29:1-14 we see God making a promise to the people of Israel (vs. 10) to bring them back to the promised land.  His promise included a plan:  "For I know the plans I have for you...they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."  God's plans for all believers are plans for good.(Rom. 8:28)  You may feel like the Israelites, that you are in exile and forgotten by God, but He has plans for you.  He is on your side!("If God is for us, who can be against us?  Rom. 8:31b)  The good He has for you includes a future.  As you read ahead in that Jeremiah passage, you see that the future involves prayer.  God Himself is in our future!  He wants an intimate personal relationship with us, in which we call on Him and seek Him.  We have received the Holy Spirit as a down payment on an eternity with Him.  His Spirit helps us now in that relationship.(Rom. 8:26--oh well, just go ahead and read Romans 8:18-39)  The person of God is always in our future.  Whatever we must go through, we will go through it with Him.  Our hope is to be in this relationship forever.  It is good to think of heaven as beautiful sunsets, amazing music, and constant euphoria, but the greatest thing about it is having loving relationships with others and most importantly with God Himself.

I have heard it said that everyone, in order to be mentally  healthy needs three things:  1)Something to do;  2)Someone to love; and 3)Something to look forward to.   If we will trust His promises, He will lead us into His plans which involve a wonderful relationship.  Even now, but even more so in heaven, we will have a job to do(that we love), Christ and others to love, and a firm assurance that there is always something good in our future.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Promise, Plans, and Prayer for 2012 and beyond

God says through the prophet Jeremiah, "You will be in Babylon for seventy years.  But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and i will bring you home again.  For I know the plans I have for you" says the LORD.  "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  In those days when you pray, I will listen.  If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me."   (Jer. 29:10-13, NLT)

My next three blogs will deal with the themes of the above word from the LORD:  Promise, Plans, and Prayer.

I am a far better promise maker than I am a promise keeper.  I must confess that in my humanity, weakness, and sinfulness I have, at times, failed to do things or not do things that I promised God, my wife, my friends, and my churches.  How many of you who are married can honestly say that you have, at all times, love, honored and served your spouse?  Because we are human we cannot keep all the promises we make.

But we have a God who will not, indeed cannot break his promises.  When a promise is made two things are very important.  The promise is important but the one  making the promise is even more so.  The most important thing is who is making the promise.  I can promise to give you a million dollars but I do not have the resources (or the inclination) to keep my word.   So, if the one making the promise cannot deliver, what good is the promise?  We can count on the promises of God because He is God!  

The LORD has made a lot of promises.  One of the biggies was the promise of a promised land for the Israelites.  Another was the promise of the Holy Spirit for followers of Christ.  There is a sense in which Israel entered the promised land and that Christians have received the Holy Spirit.   But the Bible makes it clear that Israel did not completely take all of the land(Hebrews 4:1-11).   They did not have enough faith to totally claim all that God had for them.  When a person receives Christ as Savior, he or she receives the Holy Spirit.  But we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit(Eph. 5:22).  So, if we are commanded to be filled, it stands to reason that we may not have received all that God has for us in the Holy Spirit.  

The Holy Spirit is a promise made by Jesus(Lk. 24:49 & Acts 1:4).  He is a down payment on all that the LORD eventually will give us(Eph. 1:13,14).  In a sense, it can be said that God has placed inside of us a little bit of Heaven.  We can't have it all yet, but we can have enough to live an amazing life filled with His plans and based on our relationship with Him.

The God of the universe has promised that we will have a relationship with Him whereby  He will listen to us and bring us into His land of promises.  If you feel as if you are in exile now--that God has forsaken you (no sense of His presence, terrible circumstances, financial worry, health concerns etc.) trust the Promise Maker-Keeper who loves us and gave His Son for us to demonstrate how much He cares.