Thursday, April 15, 2010

There is a cost...

Pic taken at Forsyth Park, Savannah GA.

Beautiful day outside on this Thursday, April 15.

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the sky is blue...and oh yes the cars, sidewalk and mostly everything else are full of pollen. As I looked around today with my itchy eyes and sniffling tingly nose I thought...there is a cost for everything. Trees release their pollen and then bloom beautifully. But, in the meantime...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Shout it from the Roof Top!

We are...

Wonderfully created; Uniquely designed; Purposely planted;

Lovingly accepted; Mercifully forgiven; Graciously strengthend;

Prayer: The Art of Communicating to God

What is prayer?

Are there hindrances that keep my prayers from working?

Will God answer my prayers and if so; when?

Prayer that works and is effective requires Faith, Hope, Belief, Trust and Patience which are just a few of the vital virtues needed when communicating our thoughts, needs and thankfulness to God through Jesus Christ. Prayers that are are likely to receive answers are those in accordance with God's plans, purposes and timing which fulfill His will in the temporal and eternal with your life.

Relationship with, righteousness through, and repentance to Jesus Christ are important factors for answering and understanding the above questions. Humanity desperately seeks to walk this journey of life with ease and without suffering thus we pray for relief. Yet, it is the experiences, suffering, and obstacles that keep us growing, praying and close to God. The grace of God enables us; while our communication through prayer keeps us close and connected to God through Jesus Christ. Prayer maintains the connectedness which offers strength and enrichment to our lives.

Okay so what is prayer?

Prayer is the communication to God prompted by the power of the Holy Spirit within the believer through a relationship with Jesus Christ to articulate our deepest thoughts and reveal a heart of thankfulness. It also connects the believer with Christ to God. Sometimes, we can approach God with repetitious prayers (Matthew 6:7) and carnal (fleshly or self-pleasing) requests that look to meet our plans and purposes while they may not be according to His will. Sometimes we expect God to answer us with what we want when we want it instead of trusting Him with our life and what He deems good, just and purposeful.

How do we make prayer work?

The prayer of a “righteous” man is powerful and effective (James 5:16). Simply stated, the prayer of a man/woman who is right with God (being sincere and prays according to God's will in Jesus Name) is powerful and effective. Being sincere before God should be quite simple but it can become complex if the one praying is prideful and unrepentant. Confessing our weaknesses and our sins to God with a continual heart of repentance keeps the communication of prayer honest and open with God through the power of the Holy Spirit given by Jesus Christ.

An individual who is right with God is an individual who lives a life of worship, love, forgiveness, faith, belief, conviction and repentance of sinful thoughts and actions. Having a desire to bless the Lord with the purpose of the prayer that is given as a petition unto God is essential. A prayer has power because of the pure heart within the believer. The effective or working prayer is one that brings glory to God and edifies the relationship with Christ to enhance God's will and purpose in the life of the believer.

Likened to an earthly father answering yes or no to a child who asked to do something that might hurt them or alter the good course of their life in the long run; the father sees the big picture while the child wants the temporal satisfaction of the moment. Surely, God is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipresent (everywhere all the time). Thus, God knows and sees the big picture in the life of believer. This is why it is important to pray according to the will of the Father .(1 John 5:14).

Prayer should hold temporal purpose and eternal value. Consider the prayer request for wealth. Should one be praying for more monetary riches or to be content with what is there? Which do you suppose might be answered?

Consider the individual who has prayed asking God to have vengeance on someone who has wronged them; this prayer is non-productive, unjust and unloving according to a merciful, loving and forgiving God. We must remember that God is working a good work in the believer. If God chooses to answer the prayer He may answer by supplying you with mercy, patience, love and forgiveness instead of vengeance on the one who has wronged you (Isaiah 55:8, 9).

Prayer moves the believer into action, closer to God, and is motivated to seek answers through His word in the bible. Stronger faith and inner strength come to the believer through prayer. These blessings are given to the righteous man who prays in Jesus Name. Consider that many of the answers we seek from God in prayer are already established and given to us through His written word; the Holy Bible. Many times a believer will feel discouraged because an answer is nowhere in sight or evident through a change. The believer must trust in the response and the non-response from God.

Also, the believer must relinquish the prayer into the hands of God, letting go and believing God will prevail regardless of the way in which the prayer is answered or if it is answered at all. All prayers are resolved in Christ according to His will and not our wishes (effective). The powerful and effective prayer enhances the personal relationship with Christ thus leading to a satisfied heart and soul.

Praying encourages the believer, refreshes the soul, keeps communication open, strengthens the mind and body while enhancing and blessing the relationship with God. Praying stimulates and sustains intimacy in the personal relationship with the Lord. Prayer is an essential and vital part of the relationship. Prayer should not be used as something we are always asking of God but something we are giving to God. A prayer should consist of praise and worship. Prayer time should be something that is a blessing to God, a time of communication and not a time of carnal (pleasing to the flesh; self indulging) requests to make our lives easier. Prayer should be seasoned with love, intimacy and a desire to fulfill His will with this life He has given.

The heart is an open book before God (Psalm 139:23, 24).He sees and knows the heart, the motives, the intent, the carnality, the need, the want and the will. Even though God sees the various issues of life in the heart when we communicate through prayer we are vocally, mentally and spiritually reaching out to articulate our inner feelings and thoughts by expressing ourselves to our Savior. The prayer is an acknowledgement from us and a declaration to the Lord. It is the work on the part of the believer to share and participate in the relationship with God through prayer. It enhances and keeps the relationship alive and growing.

Being right with God does not mean being perfect since we are continually being perfected in Christ (Philippians-3:12) but it does mean having a pure heart (Psalm 24:4). A righteous man/woman lives in relationship with Christ to God through the power of the Holy Spirit; thus keeps prayer and petition before the Lord in accordance to His will for their life.

Christians are made righteous through Christ with the acceptance of salvation; but must also maintain a life of righteousness. This is the working out of our salvation. Not that we work for salvation; but that we work throughout our salvation maintaining our righteousness by praying, loving, forgiving, repenting, and living out His word. Maintaining righteousness means constantly removing those hindrances that keep a prayer from reaching the heart of God even though it will reach the ears of God.

What are the hindrances?

Prayers that might not be effective (working) or powerful are those that are offered with a tainted heart. We can not fool God so one must be honest with themselves before the Lord. A pure heart is one that is aligned with the character of God, is in relationship with Jesus Christ, and living in the pursuit of righteousness by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Hindrances are those things that keep us from getting to something or someone. Sin keeps us separated from the heart of God. Hindrances are sinful. Sins that keep prayers hindered are wrong motives (James 4:3), bad intent, bitterness, unforgiveness, unbelief, doubt, carnality, pride, greed, discord, disharmony, strife, and other unconfessed sins.

These hindrances are likened to a plumb line that is clogged with obstructions keeping the water from flowing through or similar to pollutants in the air that become unhealthy to inhale. When coming before the Lord in prayer and petition a heart that is cleansed of impurities is welcomed and blessed by the Lord. In the Old Testament the priests removed their sandals prior to entering the Temple; so should the New Testament believer remove any impurities in their heart before petitioning the Lord on His Holy throne with prayer.

Noteworthy of mentioning, God honors the repenting soul thus if there is sin you have confessed; the hindrance or blockade between your prayer and the heart of God is removed. Since hindrances are sinful thoughts and actions as listed above it is essential to keep them before the Lord continuously asking for forgiveness and remembering to forgive others as well. God is blessed by honesty and sincerity (1 John 1:9).

If I am upright with God; does this mean all of my prayers will be answered?

Maintaining and keeping communication open through prayer with God does not guarantee that our prayers will always be answered when we want or even according to what we want but according to His will for the faithful follower of Jesus Christ. A believer must trust that once a prayer is petitioned to the Lord we can let go and trust God with the result knowing He intends good for our lives with great eternal value and reward. The answers to prayers will normally have a divine purpose to them such as: a purpose to love, a purpose to live, and a purpose that reveals Christ and glorifies God.

Although we articulate our thoughts that are communicated to God through prayer; the intent, purpose and usefulness of our prayer is what God is most likely to consider. God looks deep into our soul beyond what we can see or even think; thus He truly knows the intent, motives, need or desire and the true purpose of what the prayer will accomplish.

Even at a time when a believer is desperately seeking an answer to prayer for a certain situation to alleviate temporal suffering; the Lord may see that it is the process of the suffering that will do greater good in the long run. Hence, the answer may come with God bestowing grace, strength and peace to the one suffering or enduring; and may not answer by removing the pain or circumstance (Romans 5:3-5)

Worth remembering is that God will not leave nor forsake His children. The answers we seek will come from a loving God who knows our past, strengthens us for the present and is the Hope for our future and eternal life. When He answers He will give strength, comfort, love, mercy and direction for our lives. He intervenes and reaches through humanity answering with human relations, financial provision, emotional, mental and spiritual healing and growth while comforting the suffering soul. He is a loving and just God who answers to bless us with the endurance needed to overcome temporal obstacles when they fulfill a divine purpose.

Important to the prayer life of every believer is the genuineness of the prayer and the divine purpose with the prayer. It is important to remember to pray according to His will which is what we are saying when we seal the prayer “In Jesus Name”. We are essentially saying “Thy will be done”.

Again, we may not receive the answers we expect from God; nor we will receive answers all of the time; but we can expect good in our lives because we serve a loving God. His answers may come by giving us more strength, supplying us with His grace, sending someone to comfort you with the same comfort they once received, giving you boldness in His word, giving you peace that surpasses your own understanding in the midst of a storm, increasing your faith, producing patience, and sending an encourager into your life along with other virtues and fruit of the spirit. These are the some of the greatest answers to prayer that sustain a believer on the journey of life as they trust in the Lord.

Remaining in fellowship with other believers, staying accountable to one another and staying faithful to the word of God can help a Christian maintain a healthy, powerful and effective prayer life. Remember, dig deep for the real purpose of the prayer. Look to see that it builds you in Christ, shares Christ, or will bless and glorify God.

Regardless of the answer one may or may not receive it is important to pray without ceasing (Thessalonians 5:17) since prayer is the communication we have with God through Jesus Christ who empowered us with the Holy Spirit. Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).

Understanding Anyway Love

Do we love others because of or anyway?

I have placed an article by Gary Thomas titled "Anyway Love" at the bottom of my note which prompted my thinking and confirmed my feelings.

I have found that loving "anyway" is not easy but it is achievable when we accept Gods love for us and realize that He loves us just the way we are and not because of any particular thing we do. I have realized in life to love someone "Anyway" is exactly how God loves me so how could I not love others the same.

I am so flawed and imperfect; how could I only love another if they were a certain way; or just because they did certain things for me. This even pertains to friendships and other relationships; with our own children and families. We have to stop expecting people to be something their not, or to do something we think they should do when they don't; or hoping they will change to our liking and "love each other anyway". Yes, the words are easier to say than the actions necessary. But with God it is possible and attainable. Obviously, this does not mean that we accept poor behaviors, unhealthy relationships or harmful situations. Those must be balanced with wisdom. It means that we love past human flaws and not willing and hurtful actions toward us.

Forgiveness is the key to door of loving anyway. We have to learn how to love each other ANYWAY...and not BECAUSE. But this is a process and it wont be easy. It requires understanding and accepting how God loves and forgives us. How HE accepts us right where we are and how we are. This truly is a sacrificial love. An unconditional love that keeps on loving regardless. When someone asks how or why you love ...our answer shouldn't be I love them because; our answer should be ; I love them anyway! Love each other "anyway" and not simply "because" they do or dont do; or because they wont. Place your expectations in Christ ; you will never be let down; never forsaken; never abandoned; never alone. He loves you "anyway".

Perhaps you have allowed a friendship or relationship to end "just because". Did the relationship with a family member, friend or spouse end based on "BECAUSE" of what they did or didnt do; or because your expectations werent met; Would it have flourished if you loved "ANYWAY"?

With my heart,


Heres the article by Gary Thomas...Enjoy!

Anyway Love by Gary Thomas
To love anyway is to love like God – and to learn about God's love for us.
Note: Names have been changed.

On Valentine's Day, Meg* went all out, giving her husband, Peter,* his favorite candy and tickets to a hockey game. Later that night, she wrapped herself in a special outfit purchased just for the occasion.

Peter got her a card.

At the grocery store.

That he purchased on the way home from work.

He didn't add anything to it, either. He just signed it, "Peter."

A couple of days later, Meg tried to explain that she felt a little taken for granted. Apparently, Peter misunderstood her intent because two months later, when they celebrated their anniversary, Peter didn't get Meg anything.

"How could you not get me anything for our anniversary?" she asked Peter the next day. "Especially after our conversation about Valentine's Day."

"Well, I thought about getting you something, but it didn't work out," he replied. "And then I knew not to get you a card because you said you didn't like that last time."

"It's not that I didn't like the card. It's that the card alone seemed a little sparse. But even that is better than nothing ..."

Several months later, Meg had a birthday. This time, Peter got her a present – a kitchen tool set. Several weeks before, Meg had asked to borrow Peter's tape measure and screwdriver. Peter figured that Meg should have her own small set of kitchen tools so she didn't have to borrow his.

Meg recounted all this and then explained how she had tried to get her husband to read several how-to books on loving your spouse. He would read the first few pages, lose interest and never pick the book up again.

"I've realized this is never going to change," she confessed. "But I love him anyway."

Because ...
That last statement of Meg's, "but I love him anyway," is one of the most profound theological statements on marriage I've ever heard. Most of us base love on because, not on anyway. I love you because you're good to me. I love you because you're kind, because you're considerate, because you keep the romance alive.

But in Luke 6:32-36, Jesus says we shouldn't love because. We should love anyway. If we love someone because that person is good to us, or gives back to us, or is kind to us, we're acting no better than anyone else. In essence, Jesus is saying you don't need the Holy Spirit to love a man who remembers every anniversary – not just the anniversary of your marriage, but the anniversary of your first date and your first kiss. Any woman could love a man like that. Or if you love a wife who lavishes you with sports gifts, who goes out of her way to make you comfortable when you get home from work and who wants sex anytime you do – well, you're doing what any man would do. There's no special credit in that!

But if you love a spouse who disappoints you, who can be a little self-absorbed – now you're loving anyway. In doing that, you're following the model of the heavenly Father, who loves the ungrateful and the wicked.

... Or Anyway
Will you love only because? Or are you willing to love anyway? Will you love a man or woman who doesn't appreciate your sacrifice? Will you love a husband or wife who takes you for granted? Will you love a spouse who isn't nearly as kind to you as you are to him or her?

Just about every faithless marriage is based on because love. Christians are called to anyway love. That's what makes us different. That's what gives glory to God. That's what helps us appreciate God's love for us, because God loves us anyway. He gives and gives and gives – and we take Him for granted. He is eager to meet with us, and we get too busy to notice Him. He is good to us, and we accuse Him mercilessly when something doesn't go just the way we planned it.

But God loves us anyway. To love anyway is to love like God – and to learn about God's love for us.

That's love, the way God intended it.

This article first appeared in the Couples Edition of the January, 2007 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. Copyright © 2007, Gary Thomas. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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