HOW AM I VIEWING LIFE?

4E1F7C54-D7CC-45F9-8F8C-3D095314501DMATTHEW 16:23: “Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (NLT)

‭‭OBSERVATION: How am I viewing life? This is the question I find myself wrestling with as I read this verse from Matthew. From Jesus’ words to Peter, it appears there are really only two perspectives. We can view life from a human point of view, which is influenced by sin, self, and the enemy of our souls. Or – we can view life from God’s point of view, which is influenced by surrender, God’s Word, and the Spirit of God.

To most of us this is nothing new. Yet, if we simply glance over these two points we miss the most important lesson we can glean from this passage. That is the subtlety of how easy it is to slip from one to the other. One moment we can find ourselves walking in the counsel of God’s Word, and in the power of the Spirit. The very next moment we can find ourselves succumbing to the influence of the enemy. How does this happen?

In the sixteenth chapter of Matthew we see both happen to Peter. In Matthew 16:15-17 we see Peter being commended by Jesus for his confession of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

  • “Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.”‭‭ (Matthew‬ ‭16:15-17‬ ‭NLT‬)

This revelation, the ability to see things from God’s perspective, did not come from Peter, but from the Father in heaven. Jesus was emphatic – “You did not learn this from any human being.” This was one of the greatest moments in Peter’s life. What a great moment it is in our life when we receive revelation from the Father – the ability to see as He sees!

Yet, in the same setting, as Jesus begins telling his disciples that He would have to suffer and die, Peter experiences one of the lowest moments in his life. Peter, like many of us, was a bit impetuous. He dove into things before praying about them, and before thinking about them. This is exactly what he did when he rebuked Jesus.

  • “But Peter took him (Jesus) aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭16:22‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

This rebuke did not emanate out of an evil motive, it emanated out of Peter’s love for Jesus. Peter could not imagine his Lord suffering at the hands of evil men. And being a man of action, he was going to let Jesus know it would not happen on his watch. And here is where we see Peter fall into the subtlety of human thinking – right after ascending to the heights of godly thinking. It can happen in a moment – if we fail to understand our susceptibility to this pitfall.

How did Jesus respond after rebuking this “thought” of Peter’s? Jesus knew Peter loved him, and He loved Peter. Yet, He loved Peter enough to rebuke his comment and make Peter aware of its origin. When we begin to follow human thinking, we are walking in the pathway of the enemy’s influence. Human thinking and reasoning always leads us away from the things of the Spirit. Jesus was not simply going to correct Peter, He was also going to guide Peter. How could Peter, and how can we, avoid the pitfall of human thinking? How can we walk in the fullness of the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit?

There is only one answer. It is the Cross!

  • “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭16:24-26‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

The cross was what Peter was rejecting in his rebuke of Jesus’ prediction of His death. Yet, it was only the cross that would bring God’s redemption to man, and offer man the ability to walk in the wisdom and fullness of the Holy Spirit. This is not simply a call to come to salvation in Jesus Christ. This is a call to a daily walk of surrender and obedience to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The Cross represents both our salvation from sin, and our call to walk in the fullness of the Spirit. It is our constant reminder that we must moment by moment, day by day, give up our own way (human thinking), and walk in His way (godly thinking).

  • “As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.” (‭‭Galatians‬ ‭6:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Lord, this morning, and every day, let me walk in the full revelation of the Cross!

In Jesus Name!

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WHAT IS THE KEY TO SPIRITUAL GROWTH?

MATTHEW 13:11-12: “He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.” (NLT)

‭‭OBSERVATION: What is the key to spiritual growth? Why does it seem like some people continue to grow in their faith, while others remain spiritual babes in Christ? I think it has more to do with our ability and willingness to hear then it does with our aptitude.

I can remember when I was a teenager. Like most teenagers, I had the uncanny ability of knowing everything (or so I thought). My mother and father would try to share wisdom from their life to help me avoid the pitfalls they had experienced. I would smile and think – “They just don’t understand.” I was not willing to hear. And what was the result? I repeated many of the same mistakes they were trying to warn me about.

We all have the ability to hear, but many times we do not have the willingness to hear. To be willing to hear requires humility. Humility recognizes that we are not the depository of all knowledge. In fact, as we grow in humility, we also grow in our need and willingness to listen. And Jesus said – “To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge.” However, Jesus also warned – “But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”

When we moved into our house we had four trees planted in our yard. Three of these trees took root and grew strong and tall. The other tree, in the very center of our front yard, stayed the same size for over 10 years. Each year I would prune it, fertilize it, and hope that it would begin to grow. However, it never did. It remained the same size it was, year after year, no matter what we did. Then one year we had a great hail and windstorm, combined with a great deal of rain. It blew against the little tree, and knocked it over.

When we had the tree replaced, the landscaping company was able to simply pull out the tree with almost no digging. You see, the little tree never established a root system. All the while there was something in the little tree that caused it to ignore the water, ignore the fertilizer, and keep its root system bound in one area. What was the result – it never produced any foliage beyond when it was planted, and ultimately even the foliage that it had was lost in the storm!

This is an illustration of what can happen to our spiritual lives if we do not have a humble heart that is willing to listen. Pride, defensiveness, sin, past hurts, and fear, all try to keep us root bound. Yet, if we want to grow spiritually, if we want to know God and experience the fullness of His Kingdom, then we must have a humble heart that is willing to hear. And when we hear, we then need to follow that hearing with active obedience! Yet, it is the hearing that comes first. The Word of God must take root in our hearts before we can produce the fruit of the Spirit through a life of obedience.

Lord, give me a humble heart that is willing to hear. May I be willing to listen to the still small voice of Your Holy Spirit each and every day. And may I also be willing to listen to the godly men and women that you have placed in my life as they speak words of life from Your heart into mine!

In Jesus Name!

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BEFORE I CAST THAT FIRST STONE…

E6F9EB51-2FB1-4C7A-B7DD-85F435D0E5CAJOHN 8:7-12: “So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (NKJV)
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OBSERVATION: Do I really want to throw that stone? Recently the news has been filled with mounting allegations of misconduct against a multitude of high profile individuals in both the entertainment and political field. It is easy to rise up and take sides and pick up stones to cast at the individuals we deplore the most. However, we might want to pause a moment before we cast that first stone.

There is one thing I have learned about throwing stones – no one wins! It blurs the lines of mercy and of justice. And it blinds us to our own sin, by clothing us in a false sense of self righteousness. This is not to say that crime should not be punished. However, we have seen what happens when even law enforcement forgets the principal of mercy in justice. The result is a sort of vigilante justice that lacks both.

This is exactly the situation Jesus found himself in when he came upon the woman caught in adultery. Her accusers had already passed sentence – without a proper trial, and without mercy. When Jesus came upon this situation, He stooped down and began writing in the dirt. There is no Biblical text that tells us what He was writing, but when He paused He said – “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” Jesus then resumed writing in the dirt. What happened? One by one her accusers dropped their stones and walked away.

Many have postulated that Jesus was writing their sins in the dirt, or perhaps names of those who stood around the woman accused, who had also sinned with her. Whatever it was, it was enough to bring them to conviction and cause them to drop their stones. I think we need to take a moment to ponder this before we are quick to throw stones.

Mercy with justice is misguided love.

Justice without mercy is misguided cruelty.

We need mercy and justice working together.

Before I received Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and Lord, I did not have the capacity to extend mercy. I could show mercy selectively to those I wanted to, or those I liked. However, to extend mercy toward someone I viewed as an enemy was not even in my radar. Yet, that is exactly what God has done for each one of us through Jesus Christ!

  • “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:6-8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

We deserved justice for our sin. God sent His Son to extend His mercy. We were positioned as enemies against God. God sent His Son to position us as sons and daughters of God through faith. Paul was a zealous Pharisee who took pleasure in imprisoning Christians and witnessing their death. Yet, God extended His mercy to Paul on the road to Damascus and redeemed his life. When we forget to walk in the mercy of God, we always end up perverting the justice of God.

Our justice system was established upon Biblical values. One tenant of these values that is a hallmark of our justice system is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. This is where mercy precedes justice and judgment. When we we pass judgment, even before we have all the facts, and pick up our stones – we all lose. There is not one person alive who does not desperately need mercy. It is time to throw down our stones and put mercy before judgment. It is time to look to our own hearts before condemning the hearts of others!

Lord, in this day of anger and rancor, help me to walk in Your mercy.

Lord, help me to thrown down my stones.

In Jesus Name!

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THE KIDDIE POOL…OR…THE RIVER OF GOD?

9ECA7CD7-46B2-419E-826C-243235285DDF.jpegMATTHEW 3:13-17: “Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires. ” So John agreed to baptize him. After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” (NLT)

OBSERVATION: Am I ready to be used by God? What are the prerequisites for living a dynamic Christian life? In all of life there are prerequisites. If you want to go to college, you have to graduate from high school. If you want to find employment, you must have the right qualifications and pass the prescreening and physical. If you want to go to the fair, you need to have a ticket. Life is filled with prerequisites. Why should our Christian life be any different?

However, the prerequisites of the Christian life are not the same as those of our everyday life. First, the Christian life is a gift, not something we earn. Paul reminds us in the book of Ephesians,

  • “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:8-9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Jesus died on the cross for our sins while we were still positioned as enemies of God. He rose from the dead victoriously, and now offers a new life of forgiveness and right standing before God to all who believe. This is not something we earn, it is something that is given to us by God’s Grace. Yet, having received by grace through faith, we are now called into a new life of obedience and service. This is where the prerequisites begin. The first one is an answer, the second one is a gift.

The answer to our salvation is water baptism. Jesus, perfectly sinless, and without need for repentance, went to be baptized by John the Baptist. At first John pushed back. He said – “I have need to be baptized by You.” Yet, Jesus insisted saying – “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” Jesus was showing us the initial answer of the believer to God’s call of salvation. Having believed, the first prerequisite to living a dynamic Christian life is to follow Jesus Christ in water baptism!

  • “Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins….”. ‭‭(Acts 2:37-38a‬ ‭NLT)

Many today have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, but they have not answered God’s call of discipleship with water baptism. This is both a public confession of our new found faith, and the beginning step of discipleship. If we want to continue on the pathway of a dynamic Christian life we need to follow Jesus in water baptism.

There is still one more initial prerequisite. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit in power! It is very important to note that Jesus did not begin His ministry and works of miracles until He fulfilled all that God required by entering into water baptism, and then by receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit in power! This is the same call that Jesus gave to his disciples before His ascent into heaven.

  • “Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (‭‭Acts 1:4-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

They were all believers. They had the Holy Spirit living within their hearts (see John 20:22), yet they had not received the baptism of the Holy Spirit in power. This outpouring of the Holy Spirit in their lives was necessary to live a dynamic and sacrificial life in fulfilling God’s call. Without out it they would be spiritually anemic at best. However, with it – they would turn the world upside down!

  • “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

The same is true for us today. We need to follow Jesus in water baptism, and we need to be baptized (immersed, filled to overflowing) with the Holy Spirit. This begins our walk of the dynamic (dunamis) power filled Christian life. It lifts us up from our inabilities and filled us with God’s power and possibilities. And once filled – we need to come to the Lord each day and ask to be refilled.

In other words, we need to live in the stream of God’s power – the river of His Spirit!

Each day we have a choice. We can live within the restrictions of our human strength and limitations (wading in the river), or we can live in the unlimited potential of God’s Holy Spirit (diving into the river until we are submerged!).

  • “The man brought me outside the wall through the north gateway and led me around to the eastern entrance. There I could see the water flowing out through the south side of the east gateway. Measuring as he went, he took me along the stream for 1,750 feet and then led me across. The water was up to my ankles. He measured off another 1,750 feet and led me across again. This time the water was up to my knees. After another 1,750 feet, it was up to my waist. Then he measured another 1,750 feet, and the river was too deep to walk across. It was deep enough to swim in, but too deep to walk through.” Ezekiel‬ ‭47:2-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Lord, I don’t want to live my life wading in the kiddie pool – I want to be submersed in the river of Your love and power. Pour out Your Holy Spirit upon me anew in an overflowing way. Help me to enter into the deep resources of Your Grace through obediently walking in Your footsteps and fully relying upon the Holy Spirit’s leading in my life. And let me always proclaim this wonderful promise to all –

  • “Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away —all who have been called by the Lord our God.” (Acts 2:38-39‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

In Jesus Name!

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THE CHICKEN…OR…THE EGG?

ZECHARIAH 9:9-10: “Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion; cry out, daughter of Jerusalem! Look! Your king is coming to you. He is righteous, and he is able to save. He is humble, and is riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will banish chariots from Ephraim and horses from Jerusalem. War weapons will be banished, and your king will speak peace to the nations. His dominion will extend from sea to sea, and from the River to the farthest portion of the earth.” (ISV)

OBSERVATION: What came first – the chicken or the egg? We have all heard this familiar saying before, but how does it apply to our spiritual life? This wonderful prophetic passage from Zechariah gives us insight into this important question.

Zechariah wrote about the coming of Messiah into Jerusalem hundreds of years before this event happened. We all are familiar with the fulfillment of this prophecy when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on His way to the festival of Passover, when He would willingly give His life for the sins of the world. The story is one of the most familiar in the Bible, as it is found in all four accounts of the Gospels. It is the literal fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy.

Yet, Zechariah’s prophecy is twofold. This is where we see that answer to the “chicken and the egg” question. The first part of the prophecy deals with with humble entry of Israel’s king. The second part of the prophecy deals with the victorious rule of a triumphant king who will speak peace to the nations as he extends his dominion from sea to sea. The Jews at Jesus time failed to see this as two prophetic words. They jumped to the chicken – before they understood the egg!

What does this have to do with our lives? Everything! This is the same error we make so often. We jump to the destination, and neglect the journey. We want to enter into the blessing of God without the cross. We want the fruits of life without the difficulty of plowing the soil and planting the seed. There is a truth in these verses that we must not miss. Death always comes before life! Suffering always comes before victory! Planting always comes before the harvest!

Jesus rode into Jerusalem to die. The crowd thought He was entering Jerusalem to take His position as King of Israel and defeat all their enemies. Rest assured, He will do that when He returns. However, before Jesus could deal with their enemies, He had to deal with their sin. And the only way He could deal with their sin (and ours), was to become the unspotted Passover Lamb, and die in our place. The cross was necessary – before the empty tomb!

Recently I overheard a conversation between two college graduates. They had completed their four year degree and were talking about their career paths that lay ahead. The one said emphatically – “I am not going to take some low paying job! I have already put my time in. I deserve a high paying job!” This epitomizes the attitude in our current culture. It is a mixture of a sense of entitlement, and a general ignorance of the reality of life. It is putting the egg before the chicken!

In our spiritual lives the application is our sanctification – our call to become more like Jesus. We want to go from a newborn Christian – to being mightily used by God – without any sacrifice. This is complicated by the church often elevating famous Christians into places of prominence and leadership the minute they are saved – before they have any time to grow in their faith. And what often happens? The same famous Christian who rose so fast – falls just as fast. Maturity is not instantaneous – it is the work of the Spirit and the cross in our lives.

We must learn to embrace the humble king – before we are ready to walk with the Mighty King! Even the great Apostle Paul spent 14 years in obscurity before he began any fruitful ministry. Moses spent 40 years among the sheep. And Jesus spent 30 years growing up and practicing His trade as a carpenter. We need to become like Abraham who through faith and patience inherited the promises. God is always more interested in what we are becoming than in what we are doing. Our spiritual maturity and fruitfulness is more important than our ministry or position.

This is the wonderful truth of the twofold prophecy of Zechariah!

This is the answer to the question of the chicken and the egg!

Lord, grant me the grace to wait upon Your timing in my life for the fulfillment of the dreams and visions that You have placed in my heart. Help me always to remember that what I am becoming is more important than what I am doing. Help me to be content where I am, and to always walk “after” the Spirit in where You are leading!

Help me to keep the egg – before the chicken!

In Jesus Name!

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A LESSON I LEARNED FROM A SQUIRREL…

A4C01401-EA43-47A3-BB9F-06BA581F6E11JONAH 4:10-11: “But the LORD asked, “You cared about a vine plant that you neither worked on nor cultivated? A vine plant that grew up overnight and died overnight? 11) So why shouldn’t I be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 human beings who do not know their right hand from their left, as well as a lot of livestock?” (ISV)

OBSERVATION: Do I have a heart for souls? The story of Jonah brings this question front and center. Jonah was called by the Lord to go to Nineveh, the Capital of Assyria, and the impending enemy of the Northern Kingdom. He was not called to go there on a leisure trip, but for a defined and divine purpose. Jonah was called to go to Nineveh to call the Assyrian Capital to repentance.

When we think about the story of Jonah, we usually focus on the aspect of his running away from God, being swallowed by a great fish, and then coming to repentance in the belly of this fish. However, I think one of the most telling aspects of the story of Jonah is his reaction to the vine that gave him shade. Even though Jonah repented, went to Nineveh and proclaimed God’s message – he was not happy with the outcome. The king, and the people of Nineveh repented. This made Jonah furious!

  • “Greatly displeased, Jonah flew into a rage. 2) So he prayed to the LORD, “LORD, isn’t this what I said while I was still in my home country? That’s why I fled previously to Tarshish, because I knew you’re a compassionate God, slow to anger, overflowing with gracious love, and reluctant to send trouble. 3) Therefore, LORD, please kill me, because it’s better for me to die than to live!” Jonah 4:1-3, ISV

Completely bent out of shape, Jonah made a shelter to rest under. He was throwing himself a pity party. What did the Lord do in response to Jonah’s attitude? The Lord caused a vine to grow up and give him shade. This pleased Jonah, as it afforded him personal comfort. But at dawn the Lord allowed a worm to destroy the vine. The sun beat down on Jonah’s head, and he quickly returned to his mood of self loathing and despair. Jonah cared more about a simple vine then he did about the repentance of over 120,000 people, and the protection of multitudes of livestock.

This morning on my way to the airport a squirrel started to run across the road. There was not much traffic, so I stepped on my brakes and honked my horn. The squirrel stopped in his tracks, and ran the other way to safety. I yelled at him for being so stupid, and then I patted myself on the back for saving a squirrel. I was so proud of myself I even posted this on Facebook. Some of my pastor friends kidded me, saying – “I didn’t know squirrels had souls.” Then it hit me – they don’t! And as I read the story of Jonah on the plane as I flew to Nashville, I wondered – do I care more about squirrels than I do about the souls of men?

I am not simply using this story to be cute. I am dead serious with this question. The vine in Jonah’s story could be anything. For a pastor it could be his or her church, or position. For all of us it could be our jobs, our family, our possessions – all the things that take up most of our attention. And, truth be told, if we were asked to give up something in order to see thousands of souls saved – would we? Or, would we catch the next train to Tarshish? This really has me searching my heart this morning.

I want to be captivated for souls! I want to give my life to the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! I want to be willing to give up whatever the Lord requires so that His heart becomes my heart. And I don’t want to pick and choose the harvest field that I feel comfortable in. I want to enter the harvest field that He calls me to (even if it is my Nineveh!).

I think we all could agree – it is easier to obey the Lord than to be swallowed by a giant fish. That fish could be anything in our life that tries to consume us. Jesus called each one of us to go and make disciples of all nations. The Great Commission is the call of every believer, not just the call of the pastor, evangelist, apostle, prophet, or teacher. It is a call to put on our “Good News Shoes” and be ready to give a defense to anyone who calls into question the hope that is within us. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through our lives in faith and boldness. A life, a community, a city, our world – stand in the balance waiting for someone to tell them the Good News!

  • “But how can people call on him if they have not believed in him? How can they believe in him if they have not heard his message? How can they hear if no one tells ⌊the Good News⌋? How can people tell the Good News if no one sends them? As Scripture says, “How beautiful are the feet of the messengers who announce the Good News.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭10:14-15‬ ‭GW‬‬

Lord, fill me anew with Your Spirit today. Give me a renewed boldness and passion for the lost. Let my heart be captured by the things that capture Your heart. Set me free from the things that try to consume my time, my attention, and my obedience.

In Jesus Name!

(If you would like to read more about the “GOOD NEWS”, please go to iTunes, Barnesandnoble.com, or Smashwords.com, and download the free Ebook – “GOOD NEWS – The Gospel of Jesus Christ from Genesis to Revelation”. For easy searching simply type – Kirk L. Zehnder – in the search bar.)

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WILL MY PRAYER EVER BE ANSWERED?

6475F0F4-C0D5-4220-84DC-0FF9AC61D569DANIEL 10:12-14: “Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.” ‭(NKJV‬‬)

OBSERVATION: Will God ever answer my prayer? Have you ever felt that way? You pray in faith, you wait upon the Lord, and many times it seems like the answer is never coming. What is going on? Isn’t God listening? Doesn’t He care? What can we glean from the delays in Daniel’s prayer?

Daniel set his heart to pray and fast for three solid weeks!

  • “In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” (‭‭Daniel‬ ‭10:2-3‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

The first mistake we often make concerning prayer is we think prayer is simply a one time event, and then the answer will come. We have lost the virtue of persevering and prevailing in prayer. Many today claim that this is an old fashioned concept that is both devoid of faith, and unnecessary. If we have enough faith, all we need to do is offer our prayer to God, believe, thank Him for it, and receive. Yet, this concept of prayer neglects to acknowledge that prayer is part of our spiritual armor and warfare!

  • “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—” (‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:17-18‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

The next insight we gain is that persevering prayer always leads us to a focus and revelation of Jesus Christ! You can never come before the throne of God, spend time in His presence, without encountering and worshipping the glorified and risen Christ. In fact all prayer should be Christ centric!

  • “Now on the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, that is, the Tigris, I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz! His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude.” (‭‭Daniel‬ ‭10:4-6‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

When Daniel encountered the glorified Christ, as John did in the book of Revelation, he fell to his face as one overtaken by a deep sleep. A hand of a messenger (angel) then touched Daniel and lifted him up. When we encounter the presence of Christ, we are overcome by His glory. Yet, the Lord invites us into His presence, He lifts us up, and reminds us that it is a safe place to be. It is in His presence that we receive revelation about the true issues of life, and we understand the dynamics and delays of prayer.

  • “Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.” (‭‭Daniel‬ ‭10:12-13‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

There is an invisible spiritual warfare that is going on all around us in the heavenly places. Paul spoke about this in Ephesians 6 as he taught us about the importance of our spiritual armor and the need to persevere in prayer!

  • “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:12-13‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

Now this is where we need to be careful. Many have taken these Scriptures and made detailed maps naming the spiritual hosts of darkness over the nations of the world. While this sounds sensational and exciting, it really is not our role. Note that the warfare is in the heavenlies, and not on earth. And also note that the messenger that spoke with Daniel was unable to resist the prince (spiritual demonic being) of the kingdom of Persia himself. He had to wait for the Archangel Michael to assist him. Wisdom and caution is needed here. God calls us to suit up in our spiritual armor and pray! I think it is best to leave the heavenly battle to God’s heavenly armies!

Yet in this battle of prayer, we see some wonderful truths that give us insight to the delay in our prayers! Note that the Lord heard Daniel the very first day that he began to pray – and that the answer to his prayer was dispatched immediately! If that is true, then why was Daniel led to persevere in prayer for 21 days? Because our prayers are engaged in partnership with God’s heavenly army! It was during these 21 days that the angel battled against the prince of Persia, and that the Archangel Michael was dispatched. The victory was won while Daniel persevered in prayer!

Yet, the answer to Daniel’s prayer did not come on the 21st day – but on the 24th day!

  • “Now on the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, that is, the Tigris,” (‭‭Daniel‬ ‭10:4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

During those three days, it might have seemed like an eternity to Daniel. He had fasted and prayer for 21 days! Surely the answer should have come! Yet, it did come, in God’s timing, and in God’s way. There is not a single prayer that we utter that falls to the ground. All of our tears shed in intercession are stored in a bottle before His throne. God always answers, and God always hears. Our call is to persevere in prayer, to prevail in prayer. This is the call to faith.

It is never a lack of faith to keep praying until the answer comes. Rather, it is a lack of faith to stop praying when the answer is delayed!

Lord, forgive me for the times I have given up and ceased praying. Cleanse me from the false pretense that Your answers are always immediate, and that if they don’t come on my time table, they will never come. Grant me the grace to persevere in prayer until I prevail in prayer, by the power of Your Holy Spirit!

And in all my prayer, may Jesus be the center of all!

In Jesus Name!

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