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The Privilege of Prayer #2

God does not tell us to bring all our needs to Him so that we can inform Him of everything. He already knows. God designed prayer for intimacy that supersedes what we want and what we need. 

The reason He told us to go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen (Matthew 6:6) is that there is a closeness God intends to take place in this thing called prayer that we will miss if we make it all about our lists.

We are not desperate for something; instead, we are desperate for Someone. This is the heart of prayer.


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The Privilege of Prayer

If He already knows everything, what is the point of praying?

Prayer is intended to be much more than asking for what we want and bringing our needs before God. Prayer is not just asking for Him to bless, protect, or help us. There is a depth of prayer that goes beyond that.

Meaningful praying is when we move from needing God to bless us to wanting a relationship with Him. It is when we long to be with God, whether we ask for anything or not, that praying becomes a deep desire of our hearts and not just something we know we should do.


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Standing in the Ashes #2

Have you ever visited the site of a house fire - one that consumed the dwelling completely? I have. It's not a pleasant experience. Everything is gone.  It quickly becomes obvious that the only way to call this place home again is to rebuild from the ground up with all new materials. You can't nail ashes together to form a wall. You can't create trusses using charred and crumbling lumber. The odd coiled spring does not a mattress make. Everything is gone. You must start again.

That's the scene we should imagine when asking God to forgive us. We're not pleading with Him to simply singe our sins, bring smoke damage upon our habits, or scorch our thought processes. We're asking Him to start a fire - a roaring blaze that will leave nothing in its wake except our lives. Then we can stand where the fire has been and know that we're safe and that it's time to rebuild. That's the cleansing we so desperately need.

I also believe we should never think that God has done His part and moved on. That cleansing and re-creating process is where relationship building with the Almighty shifts into high gear. He works beside us, the past is burned up and gone, and we won't be using destroyed materials to reconstruct our lives. They must be new. They must be fresh. They must be everlasting.

God's forgiveness is not just about cleansing the past. It's about the future too. It's about becoming a new person in Christ: a child of God who has stood among the ashes and is being rebuilt after the flames moved on.


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Standing in the Ashes

One day a father and his young daughter were walking across a vast field of dry grass on the Canadian prairie. Suddenly, in the distance, they noticed a long line of black smoke, fueled by bright tongues of fire, racing in their direction. It became obvious that they would be unable to outrun the advancing inferno. It was too wide and coming too fast. That's when the father did something strange. He lit a match and dropped it into the dry grass just in front of them. Instantly, flames rose, consuming the vegetation with a roar before heading away, driven by the same wind that was pushing the advancing conflagration in their direction.

Daddy, the girl screamed, what are you doing? We're going to be burned to death! No, her father shouted as he grabbed her hand. Come stand among the ashes of the fire I started. We'll be safe here.

Together, father and daughter waited as the huge prairie fire swept toward them. As it roared into the charred earth on which they were standing, finding nothing left to burn, it split and raced past them on both sides.

When the smoke cleared, the man and girl stood, holding each other tightly. They were blackened by soot but alive. See? the father said gently, smiling down at his terrified daughter. The flames didn't hurt us because we were standing where the fire had already been.

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Seasons of Being Alone

No, it is not good that people should be alone! Though everyone will go through a season when they have no marriage companion,they need not be alone. Human beings were created for social interaction, and it is in relationships that they grow and thrive best.

The season of being alone is tough because there is no one to warm us up when we are cold, no one to help us fight aggressors, and no one to lift us up when we are down. Ecclesiastes 4 speaks of the benefits of two rather than one, but at the end of verse 12, the writer introduces an additional idea: A threefold cord is not quickly broken. In a marital relationship, that third person is God. For the unmarried, that other person must also be God.

He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)


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Preparing For Change

He who would confess Christ must have Christ abiding in him. He cannot communicate that which he has not received. The disciples might speak fluently on doctrines, they might repeat the words of Christ Himself; but unless they possessed Christlike meekness and love, they were not confessing Him....
The mission of Christ's servants is a high honor, and a sacred trust. - The Desire of Ages, p. 357.


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Why I Believe the Bible is Gods Word to Me

This brings us to the most challenging barrier of all. Am I to assume that everything that happens to me is evidence of God"s leading - or rejection - in my life?

Anytime I feel this way, I just have to read the Old Testament writings of King David. This guy was all over the place: sometimes scoring glorious victories, and sometimes crashing and burning big time. He seemed to bounce from God is with me to God has rejected me on an almost daily basis. To base my belief in God's Word on personal experience is to place both God and myself on a never-ending roller coaster. How I react to a situation depends on where I happen to be on the great emotional ride.

I need to remember that God isn't the roller coaster. Life is the roller coaster. God simply offers to go along for the ride.


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Inevitable Holistic Ministry Engagement

I went to a certain church, and they had their core values hanging in their foyer. It said, Personal Salvation, Spiritual Discipline, Seeking the Lord in Worship, and Becoming a devoted follower. The pastor asked me, What do you think about our core values?  We worked hard for the last six months coming up with these wonderful values for this church. 

It was nice, but I actually had a problem with these values. My mother's family is Buddhist; my wife's family is Buddhist. I grew up with Buddhism, and if we change a word, Seeking the Lord to Seeking Buddha, in my humble opinion, it's the essence of Buddhism. It's all about MY salvation. It's about the private atonement gospel, self-serving Christianity. There's nothing about other people, just ME on that list.

Christianity isn't about me, but about God and His people - not just on the inside, but also outside the walls of the church. But those values in the church were talking about what I can get out of Christianity.

Churches need to become missional churches, not attractional churches. No more Come and see; rather, we must go where people are.


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Matthew's Gospel - Son of Abraham

Recently somebody asked me, If you could pull one massive practical joke on the worldwide church, what would it be?  I immediately responded, I'd remove all the chapter and verse divisions from all the Bibles in the world.

Of course, that would be super funny, but my point was no joke at all. If we didn't have the chapter and verse divisions - which were imposed on Scripture rather recently in history - we'd be forced to read the actual story of the book. Many of us don't know what's really going on in the Bible, all the while living under the illusion that we have the truth simply because we have composed a prooftext arsenal of fundamental beliefs. Fundamental beliefs are important, but they mean little when held apart from their capacity for revealing the love of God as conveyed through the overall story of the Bible.

So the truer truth of Scripture belongs only to those who read the story and realize its centering and climax in Christ.


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Personal Worship

When we adore God, we are like the angels, awed by His glory. These angels hover by the throne of God, ready and available to do His will. They come and go based on God's command. Therefore, the heart of worship is being available to God on a daily basis. It is not a weekly act on Sabbath morning. It is a day-to-day experience. 

Worship is a lifestyle. For Christians, there is no such thing as sacred and secular. Everything belongs to God. Whether we eat, drink, play, or work, we do it all in the presence of God and for His glory. We are to be a people who are constantly available to Him. If we have not worshiped on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, how can we expect to worship on Sabbath? All we have done is attend church.


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Judgement of Love

If someone says to me, Charles, if you climb up to the top of that cliff and jump off, you're going to fall to the bottom and die.  I climb to the top of the cliff and jump. Sure enough, I fall to the rocks below. What killed me? What pronounced judgment on me? The person who delivered the warning?  No. My life ended because I ignored the words.

This may be a hard concept for some to accept. We want someone -  someone really big and powerful - to avenge the wrongs done to us throughout our lives. We want a mighty hand to hurl death and destruction at our enemies. But according to Jesus, judgment rides on our acceptance or rejection of God's warning message. What happens to us on that final day isn't the act of an angry God. It's the act of a defiant or complacent self.

We choose whether to jump off the cliff or not.


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Seasons of Change

The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their food in the summer (Proverbs 30:25).

Solomon wisely calls our attention to the tiny ant and its amazing combination of strength, industry, and teamwork. We marvel at its ability to carry bits of leaves that are much bigger and heavier than its own body. During picnics, ants are a nuisance, but they do not mean to be - they are just looking for food. Instinctively, they know that summer will soon be over and they must prepare for winter. Ants toil today because they understand the needs of tomorrow.

Like the ant, we are called to work during the spring and summer of life because winter invariably arrives. That winter could be a financial setback, a disaster, a terminal illness, the loss of a job, or a tragic death.  Whatever it may be, now is the season to prepare for it.


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