Sunday, January 31, 2010

Who's Your Spotter?

If you have ever spent any time around people who frequent a gym, you have probably noticed one question seems to come up in every conversation regarding an individuals' strength. That question is, of course, "how much can you bench"? For some reason, the bench press has become the gold standard for evaluating a persons' strength. I know that I myself fell into that trap when I was seriously working out, and often found myself setting goals regarding how much I could press.

Yet when one begins to get serious about bench pressing, one of the first things you learn is the importance of having a "spotter", or someone very strong who stands behind the bench while you attempt to lift in order to help you if your strength begins to fail. Obviously serious injuries can, and have occured when people attempt to lift a very heavy weight above their heads while laying down on a bench. In cases like this, the truth is your very life can be in the hands of whomever you choose to be your spotter.

This past week one of my all time favorite movies has been playing on television in the evenings. I'm sure many of you have seen or heard of it because it has a number of very well known actors in it. The movie I am referring to is "Space Cowboys" starring Clint Eastwood. If you are not familiar with it, the movie revolves around four individuals that had been involved with the beginnings of the space program, but had never had the opportunity to go into space. As it happens, a situation occurs where they get an chance to go into space on the space shuttle, but they are required to pass the same physical requirements given to potential astronauts half their age.

My favorite scene in the movie occurs in the gym where two of the "senior" astronauts played by Tommy Lee Jones and James Garner are challenged by one of the younger astronauts to bench press 225 pounds. Jones manages to press that weight with Garner as his spotter, but it is obvious to we the watchers, (but not the younger astronauts) that Jones is getting more than a little help from his "spotter" Garner.

While watching that this week, I immediately thought of what we have been talking about lately, and pictured God as our "spotter" as we try to exhibit spiritual strength. I want to share some thoughts with you about that and possibly answer some questions many believers have had lately about the trials we all seem to be facing.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. [We are] hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; [we are] perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed--always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you. And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, "I believed and therefore I spoke," we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present [us] with you. For all things [are] for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 4:7-15 NKJV

When I read this portion of scripture and considered the picture of God as our spotter, I saw three points I believe God is sharing with us about our situation as believers in this world.

One...The Power is Gods'

Here Paul makes the point that it is all about God by referring to us as "earthen vessels", which in the Greek means a clay pot. Truthfully, it's another way of saying there is nothing special about us. A clay pot was the most basic implement of that day. It's not made of gold, silver, crystal, jewels, or anything else that might reflect some worth. Just a pot made of mud. And what does a pot do? Obviously it's made to carry something. That's it. We as believers are here to carry Gods' power, not our own, so the focus is on Him. It's not about how strong we are, or what we think we can do, but all about what God can do through us.

Two...The Strength is Gods'

If I can lift a massive amount of weight without the help of my spotter, I am the one who "demonstrates" strength. In verses 8-11 Paul makes it clear that Gods' strength will not be visible unless our weakness is. This is why so many believers are experiencing trials, troubles and struggles. It is required of us to experience these things in order for God to exhibit His strength. Notice verse 11 says "constantly"? It's a part of our life, and like Paul, we should expect these situations to occur. The good news, however, is this. Not only will Gods' strength be manifested through us, it will deliver us. We will not be crushed, despaired, forsaken, or destroyed.

Three...The Glory is Gods'

If the strength was ours, who would get the glory? Us, of course. Unfortunately that would accomplish nothing in regards to advancing the Kingdom of God. But what happens when the world sees Gods' power working in and through His church? This is how God has decided to reach out to an unbelieving world. As He reveals His power through the lives of believers, others see and believe. Paul makes the point that as we struggle and endure trials, our lives then become visible to others. Who notices people who coast through life without troubles? It's the struggles that draw peoples' attention. When people see us struggle, and see the power of God at work in our lives, they in turn are drawn to Him. When this happens, Paul says in verse 15 that the result is..."having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God."

Paul makes it clear that the life of a believer will be filled with struggles and trials. This is, I know, a thought that many believers will have a hard time accepting, yet it is the means by which God has chosen to reveal His power to the world through us. We may struggle, we may be weak, yet God is our spotter. His strength is made manifest in our weakness, and He will never let us down. Take hope in the knowledge that God promises to deliver us through this life, and into the next. May His glory shine through all of us as we await His coming.

Keep watching.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Pattern for Prayer

Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples." Luke 11:1 NKJV

We talked last week about the importance of prayer, and the fact that it is one of the most important parts of a successful spiritual life. Yet many may not realize there is a right way, and a wrong way to pray. Continuing with our comparison of a healthy spiritual life with a healthy physical one, I do recall an example of this from my experiences working out at the gym.

My first visit to the gym was somewhat overwhelming when I was faced with so many choices of exercise equipment to use to achieve my goals. So like most, not wanting to show my ignorance, I simply chose machines I was familiar with to start my workout routine. Imagine my embarrassment when one of the professionals stopped by and informed me I was using it the wrong way, and probably wasn't going to get anywhere doing it the way I was. I do so enjoy being humbled in public. Fortunately he took the time to show me how to do it right, and as a result I did begin to see and feel some progress.

That picture in mind, I wonder exactly what the disciples were thinking and feeling in the situation revealed to us in verse one from Luke 11. They were in a position to see Jesus praying, and immediately asked Him to teach them how to pray. Does this mean they knew from watching Jesus that they were doing it the wrong way? As Jesus goes on to teach them what many call the "Pattern Prayer", He gives us some insight as to what not only constitutes an effective prayer, but also that there are several components that should be included in every prayer. I want to share with you four things I believe we need to include in every prayer based on this passage, and a few others as well. I call these the ACTS of prayer.


Hallowed means to set apart, venerate, or declare sacred. The point here is that the very name of God is powerful, sacred, and very different than any other name in Heaven or on Earth. I'm sure most are familiar with the third commandment?

"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. Exodus 20:7 NKJV

Gods very name is different than any other. To "hallow" God's name is to start your prayer by acknowledging that His very name is above all others, and that He alone is the only one who has the power to answer our prayers.


After addressing our prayer to the only God of the universe, and acknowledging His place in creation while we attempt to come into His presence, do you think maybe unconfessed sin in our lives could interfere with our line of communication?

If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.
Psalms 66:18 NKJV

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden [His] face from you, So that He will not hear. Isaiah 59:2 NKJV

It is impossible to come into Gods presence with unconfessed sin in our lives. If we desire to talk with God we need to be sure we have confessed our sins and repented in order to be sure He will hear us.


What chance do you think we have of getting what we are going to ask for if we haven't yet thanked Him for what He has already done? Without thankfulness, we are in all honesty simply trying to take advantage of Gods' goodness.

in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV

It's easy to give thanks for the little things, but doesn't it make sense to thank Him for even the little things we often take for granted? God wants to hear us thank Him for absolutely everything, because as we should have already figured out, everything comes from Him.


Last, but not least, we can make our requests known to God. Yet should we ask for whatever comes to mind, or are there guidelines we should follow when it comes to what we ask for?

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Phillipians 4:19 NKJV

Give us day by day our daily bread. Luke 11:3 NKJV

Do you recall that in the wilderness after the Exodus, God provided manna to the children of Israel, but told them they could only gather enough for one day? God wanted them to understand that they could rely on Him to provide what they needed, every day,and did not have to try and store up any in case God took a day off.

One of the best sayings I ever heard about God when I was young was this;
God may be your Father, but He's not your old man. When we pray to God there is a certain, respectful way to go about it. Include these four steps in your prayer life and see if it makes a difference in the results you get. It certainly has in mine.

Keep watching.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Key To Motivation

How many times have you, or someone you know, slowly given up on a resolution? The circumstances are usually the same in that one starts out energized and motivated, then as time goes by they begin to slow the pace, not apply themselves as diligently, and then eventually stop altogether. Has that ever happened to you? We have been talking about making the commitment to live our lives as God intended, remaining faithful, and being honest with ourselves to look for results, all the while illustrating these ideas by looking at the picture of someone making a resolution to get in physical shape.

Thinking about it this way, what is the best hope for someone trying to go to the gym and get in shape when they begin to tire of the routine and slowly lose their motivation? The easy answer is they need the services of a personal trainer who is willing to hold them accountable, adjust their workout routine, and encourage them to continue what they have started. However, the simple reason so many lose heart and slowly give up is that they simply don't take the step to ask for help from a trainer. In the life of the believer, who is it who plays the role of the personal trainer for us, the person we call on when we need help or advice, or encouragement? That's easy of course; it's God. Yet just like the individual on a workout routine, we need to ask in order to receive the help and motivation God can provide, and that is accomplished only one way; by prayer.

Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, Luke 18:1 NKJV

The word for "losing heart" in the Greek is ekkakeō, which translates; to be utterly spiritless, to be wearied out, exhausted. So turning this verse around, Jesus is saying that if we pray, we will not grow weary, get exhausted, and lose our spirit for serving Him. Prayer is our lifeline with God, and as such, we need to know everything we can about prayer in order to receive all that God intends for us. It is also interesting that the for word "always" (pantote) in this verse means "at all times" and not just occasionally when we want something. So I think the next step in our journey towards spiritual fitness is exploring the idea of prayer so we can find some principles or guidelines that will help us to pray effectively.

Now this may seem odd to you, but when I began to think about Jesus praying, my first thought was why did Jesus pray? Now that may sound funny, but look at it this way; if Jesus was God incarnate, with all the power of God within, why did He have to pray? Now I may be wrong, but it seems to me that it was the human half of Jesus who was in need and He knew that prayer was the only means to receive that which He needed. So let me share with you three things that came to mind when I looked at all the times that Jesus prayed.

do children run to? Their parents, of course. Who hasn't seen children for one reason or another running as fast as they can to one or both of their parents for one thing or another? As children of God, it should be natural for us to go to our heavenly father for any reason; to share a thought, an observation, to thank Him, and to ask for something we need. As a parent, would you be hurt if your child went to someone else, or never came to you for help or advise? I have shared before that I have three daughters, all of which have left home to pursue life on their own. Yet they all still call and talk to me, sharing what is going on in their lives, and even occasionally asking my advise on something just like they used to when they were young.

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
1 John 3:1 NKJV

God is our father, and as children of God, it should be natural for us to go to Him before going or listening to anyone else. Do you?

Why do children run to their parents? They have needs. It could be a need for help, a need for support, or simply a need to share, but the important thing here is children know instinctively to go to their parents for what they need. I remember going to my parents knowing they were there for me and would help me in any way they could. I remember my daughters coming to me and the feeling I got knowing not only that they had come to me, but the feeling I got after I was able to give them what they needed. I think this is the essence of not only a parental relationship, but any other as well. It's the feeling you get knowing someone wants to come to you, and the satisfaction of being able to give them what they need. How many of us realize God is just waiting for us to come to Him and ask for help?

You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. James 4:2 NKJV

God is there to answer our prayers. He waits and wants to give us what we need. Is He the one you run to first when you have needs, or is He the last?

When do children talk to their parents? Maybe a better question is when do they stop? One of the first lessons I learned as a parent was to listen patiently to everything my children had to say. Children want to share absolutely everything to anyone who will listen. Unfortunately though, I'm sure we all know or have experienced how children do eventually begin to get quieter as they grow older, and the need to talk seems to fade away. Is it possible your communication with God suffers that way? Prayer is how we communicate with our Father, and like any father, God wants and waits to hear from us. How anxious do you think I am to hear from my daughters? Do you think I wish they would call more often? Do I wish we could talk longer like we used to? How often do you think God feels that way about His children?

Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV

Is this Gods' answer to that question? God never tires from hearing from us, and obviously wants us to call. How often do you?

As believers, we have a father who not only loves us, but is always there for us. He wants nothing more than to listen and talk to us as well as help us with whatever we need. He wants us to talk to Him constantly, about absolutely anything, and not just occasionally when we want or need something. Prayer, constant communication with our Father, is where we get the motivation to keep working out our lives for Him. His promise to us is that we will not tire, will not faint, and will not lose heart if we pray without ceasing.

When we talk to our Heavenly Father, we should never hang up the phone.

Keep watching.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dare To Compare

Something I think most of us can relate to is remembering when we last looked at a "before" and "after" picture. It could be of anything of course, a restored car or a remodeled house, but often when we think of this we remember the pictures of people who have lost a great deal of weight. It is certainly not surprising either considering we are a society which somehow has become obsessed with how we look. We even have shows on television now that chronicle the journey of overweight people as they attempt to lose weight. Understand I have no objection to people trying to lose weight if they feel it is a matter of health, and I for one try to maintain a healthy lifestyle. What I want to talk about today, though, is one more step in what we have been talking about the last few weeks which is the state of our "spiritual" fitness. This step is probably one of the most important ones we can take in order to evaluate our "progress", and that is to compare where we are now to where we were in the past. I call it "dare to compare".

Examine yourselves [as to] whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you are disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5 NKJV

Paul tells us here it is part of the believers responsibility to examine themselves in the sense that we should be able to look at our lives and see a change. So as opposed to just living day to day trying to live the life, we also need to look back, compare our lives today with our lives in the past, and see a change. Are we praying more, studying more, doing more than we did in the past? A believers life should show progress, a visible change from how we were in the past just as someone on a diet and exercise routine should be able to look at a picture of himself from the past and see change for the better.

Therefore, if anyone [is] in Christ, [he is] a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2Corinthians 5:17 NKJV

Change, and growth, is something that is not only expected but a natural result from any believer serious about his or her faith. It is something visible that we can see if we are willing to look at our lives honestly, and compare them with where we were in the past. Paul is one of the best in drawing comparisons about where we used to be, and where we should be. Most often it is by using the words "old" and "new" when talking about our changed lives. Look carefully at the following passage from his letter to the Ephesians.

..that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24 NKJV

As someone who has worked to "transform" his physical body, I can assure you an important part of that process is to compare what you are with what you were. Usually that is done by keeping track of vital statistics like weight and body fat percentage, along with measurements of certain body areas and muscle groups. Many even take pictures of themselves at the beginning of their program in order to be able to see the changes as they occur.

I believe that Paul is, in his own way, instructing us to do the same by drawing comparisons to what our lives should look like now, as opposed to what they looked like in the past. If you read carefully verses 25-32 of Ephesians 4, I believe Paul tells us at least three areas where we should be able to see our changes.

First, Speech.

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. Ephesians 4:29 NKJV

Second, Attitudes.

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. Ephesians 4:31 NKJV

Third, Actions.

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Ephesians 4:32-5:2 NKJV

If you look honestly at your life as it is today, do you see a difference in how you talk, how you think, and how you relate to others as opposed to your life before Christ? Dare to compare your life now with what it was in the past, and be willing to submit to God those shortcomings you may find. Be willing to write down areas where you feel a change is necessary and keep track of your progress. Truthfully, we should see changes as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, not only should we see it, but the world around us as well. I pray we all will have the courage to honestly evaluate where we are, and make the necessary changes that will show the world that Christ lives within us. Dare to Compare!

Keep watching.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Stay the Course

Have you ever heard the expression, "nobody likes a quitter"? Like most kids who have grown up active in sports, I heard it a lot. I'm equally sure that it is an expression heard in many other venues rather than athletic endeavors. The word really does carry a very negative connotation and I'm sure most of us would do anything we could to avoid having that label applied to us. As we talked about last week, as the New Year begins many are making decisions to do things differently but as we all know, the temptation to quit and return to the way we lived in the past is strong. Personally, I think staying the course and finishing what you start could best be described by using the biblical term "faithfulness".

Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 NKJV

The Greek word translated faithful is "pistos" which is defined this way; 1) trusty, faithful. a) of persons who show themselves faithful in the transaction of business, the execution of commands, or the discharge of official duties. So the Bible tells us that there are three things a person must do in order to be called faithful, and since we as believers are considered to be servants of God, I want to take just a little bit of time to look at each of them and consider how they might relate to how we are to conduct ourselves in light of how God sees us.

Faithful to Transact Business

Now so it was [that] after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, "Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously." And He said to them, "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" Luke 2:46-49 NKJV

So Jesus tells His mother that Gods' business is "listening and asking questions". Have you ever thought of going to church, reading your Bible, and asking questions of what you hear and read as "business"? Yet it seems perfectly clear that this is the first thing required of a faithful servant of God; learning. We must be faithful in devoting time to study, listen, and see what it is that God wants to teach us. In other words...."Learn"

Faithful to Execute Commands

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34-35 NKJV

Here we are given a command to love just as Jesus has loved us. So in order to be faithful, we need to learn how Jesus loved, and then love others in exactly the same way. This obviously follows our first point by telling us what it is we are supposed to learn, then put it in action by applying it to the way we live. By putting it in action for others to see, we show the world that we are Jesus' disciples. In other words...."Love"

Faithful to Discharge Duties

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 NKJV

The word for preach in the Greek is "kēryssō" which means: 1) to be a herald, to officiate as a herald. a) to proclaim after the manner of a herald. The obvious point here is that as a faithful servant of God we are required to "proclaim" the Word of God. In essence God is telling us that we are to share the Word, or gospel of Christ, with everyone. We are also told to "be ready" to share. This goes back to the first point of learning. We must be prepared to share at any time, with anyone, as God sees fit to arrange. So what is the basic responsibility of a servant?...."Serve"

I know I am not alone in hoping I hear the words "well done, good and faithful servant" when I stand before the throne. I know I have said before that the following verse is the one God uses to motivate me, but I want to share it with you once again.

"Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed [is] that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Matthew 24:45-46 NKJV

God wants, and expects, to find us doing His work when He returns. A faithful servant knows to learn, love, and serve until the day Jesus returns for us. As hard as it may be to remain faithful as God tarries, and as the temptation to quit the fight becomes stronger, I hope you will stay the course and be faithful just as He desires us to be.

Keep watching.