Friday, June 10, 2005

Breakthrough Prayer

Dear gentle readers,

I have been reading a book by Jim Cymbala, "Breakthrough Prayer." Now, understand that I am becoming more and more a seeker of truth. I am not satisfied with the platitudes of our staid religious leadership. Just as the Pharisees of earlier times were so concerned with the laws they prescribed, so our modern day leadership seems to be. Unfortunately, the Pharisees turned this into a legalistic system of laws and requirements that stifled spiritual growth and understanding. This is what I see happening over and over again. Our religious leaders have lost their focus. They are claiming authority where they have none and turning the personal nature of a relationship with God to a set of rules and regulations!

You ask what this has to do with breakthrough prayer? Just as Cymbala states in his book, I believe that the deliverance movement we see around us has produced a generation of people who lack true compassion and do not have the humility of spirit that would weep over their own weaknesses. This focus on other people and their failings has caused us to not consider our own. We, with malice, point out the log in another's eye without first throwing away the beam in our own. It has caused us to wait for the next prayer line, the next preacher, the next "word"...and not driven us to our knees personally before the Lord.

To immerse ourselves in the spirit of prayer, especially for personal guidance, is a lost art. We run here and there wanting a "word" from someone else, never learning to truly listen to the Holy Spirit and respond to His call. These are Christians who continue to do whatever they think (or more often feel) is best and then ask God to bless the effort. We "claim" authority and "call in" the blessings, without sincerely knowing that which God has ordained! And we take it upon ourselves to put that bondage on others, as well.

There are myriad promises in our Bibles which can only flow into our lives when we appropriate them through deep, personal prayer. Consider Jesus in the garden. He was torn to the soul on the inside and cried out in his pain to his Heavenly Father. It was this personal relationship which gave him the strength to carry out God's plan.

So what is the heart of breakthrough prayer? First, it is intimacy with God that allows us to see His plan for us, every moment of every day. Second, it is the confidence that comes from that relationship which allows us to enter the Presence of the Almighty.

The two go hand in hand. Intimacy brings confidence. Confidence brings intimacy.

Breakthrough comes from confidence in God! Breakthrough is not speaking arrogant authority. The idea that we can command God to do something is just not so. We must know the plan before we can execute the play. Christians today go around "claiming" things that were never promised. We "claim" things that God never ordained to be. In so doing, we ignore the spiritual power available to us in Jesus, and deny the world of great grace.

This is not faith! Faith is knowing God's plan and trusting Him to bring about what He has promised regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. That, my dear readers, is faith! That requires a heart of prayer. That prayer is what brings about breakthrough!

George Mueller says, "Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance. It is laying hold of God's willingness." How true! When we pray, we must do so with the confident assurance that we know and pray God's will. We cannot know and pray God's will without knowing God intimately!

And how do we gain that power in prayer? Through the wisdom, knowledge and insight found in the Bible. Have you ever prayed the words of the Bible back to God? When we don't know what to say, we can certainly turn to our Bibles for help. As we pray the words of our Bibles to God, we are strengthened and encouraged in our spirit. In turn, our spirits become open to the leading of the Holy Spirit so we can know with confidence that which God has planned.

Only the Holy Spirit can help us to pray with sincere, open hearts. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would be our comforter and our teacher. Knowing that, how can we not invite the Holy Spirit to teach us to pray prayers of breakthrough? These are the prayers that will change the course of history and bring about a world of peace for all humankind.

I would encourage you this day to talk to the Holy Spirit and submit to His teaching. Pray prayers that are effective, fervent and full of God's wisdom and will. It is in these prayers that we will find breakthrough to the fullness of the Christian walk.

May God richly bless you as you seek to be an authentic follower of Christ.


Friday, June 03, 2005

The Bread of Life

Hello, gentle readers...

First, let me thank you for your continued prayers for our military personnel, especially those serving in Iraq. They, regardless of their opinion about the cause or need for this war, honor their commitment to our country. The very least they deserve from us are our prayers and our gratitude. When you see a soldier, be sure to thank them for their service. They are the reason we have the blessing and privilege of living in a country as great as America.

Today I opened my bible to John 6:25-66. Please take out your bibles and read it. I hope it will speak to your heart as it has to mine.

In the context of these verses, we've just been told that Jesus walked on water. Keep this in mind when you read, because you will be amazed at the audacity of the disciples' constant request for another sign, another miracle. In v26 Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs, but because you ate the loaves and had your fill." Jesus calls them to account for their worldliness. He continues by telling them that they should focus on the spiritual, not the earthly. He speaks to them using food as an example because it is something the disciples understand. (As an aside, there's a lesson here about sharing faith with others. Use what the listener can understand. That's why Jesus spoke in parables.)

Yet, in v28 the disciples do it again. They ask Jesus, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" They focused on the doing. And what does Jesus respond? "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." Did you see it? Jesus focused on the being. Jesus says the work of God is being a believer in the Son.

We can get so caught up in doing things that we forget the most important part: being one who believes!

The disciples still didn't get it! In v30 they ask Jesus for another sign! How many signs do we need? Jesus had just come to them walking on water and they still wanted a sign! They even credited the manna to Moses, not God. (Here's another tidbit: how often do we take the miraculous around us and credit them to fate? Or circumstance? Or other people? Ouch. Guilty as charged.)

Again, Jesus tried to turn their thoughts to the spiritual. In v32 Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." The disciples asked Jesus to give them this bread because they still didn't understand the Jesus was talking about himself. Jesus tries again in v35, "I am the bread of life." You can't get much plainer than that! In v36 he says, "But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe." (Doesn't this speak to us of the wonderful patience and longsuffering of our God, not wanting any to perish but offering this eternal life to all?)

Jesus goes on to describe to them his purpose on this earth. He repeats himself over and over again, trying to get them to open their spirits to his teaching. You have to wonder if this teaching came back to them during the Passover when Jesus talked about the blood and the body, the wine and the bread.

In v 63 Jesus says, "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing." Wow, the flesh counts for nothing.
Does that mean of our striving to be super Christians is useless? Does a tree have to strive to be a tree? When you walk by can you hear it groaning under the weight of the burden? No. And neither should we. If you are fulfilling the work of God, believing in the one whom he sent, then you are doing the work of God. You don't have to strive. The believing is the key.

You ask what about sin? You say, "I'm always battling sin." Sin is covered by that same blood and body. That is grace! We are exhorted here to simply BE! Stop striving and start being. You'll find the Christian life so very satisfying when you take the flesh out of the picture, focus on the Sprit and BE.

I pray God will bring this teaching home to you in a very real and exciting way. Faith is seeing the holiness. Faith is believing in the Son. Faith is walking in the Spirit. Faith is living in grace.

May God richly bless you as you seek to BE.