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Showing posts with label Prayer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Prayer. Show all posts

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Divine 'Yes' . . .


 No attribute of God is more dreadful to sinners than His holiness. Matthew Henry

2 Corinthians 1:20

Ask the average person what the word holiness means and chances are you'll get a blank stare. The truth is that the word means different things to different people. God, though, has only one thing in mind; that is, surrender. Not just any surrender will do, however. We must fall in love with God. I like to think of this as romancing the Divine. Although unlike erotic love, this love does not wax and wane with each phase of the moon.

Trouble is that some “Christians” treat God like a paramour, or as a series of on-again off-again trysts. Same lover, just different moods of intensity. Any commitment is therefore tentative depending on what they can get out of the relationship. We’re not talking about lukewarm Laodicea here—there’s nothing apathetic about the kind of love expressed by these casual lovers. It is either hot or cold. Occasionally they are all fired up, ready to tie the knot –let’s head for Vegas, an Elvis wedding will be just fine! On other occasions they’re just not quite sure—after all there are other options out there. This is not the only party in town. I just might shop around a bit.

And, of course, they do. Loving God is just one among other fun things to; and, after all, He is pretty demanding. Not sure I want to put up with the hassle, is the attitude.

Well, this is where the rub comes in. Holiness is a marriage; and like any good marriage the only condition is love. There are no other rules. And, love means surrender. Total surrender. We are not glances around for an escape hatch. There’s no turning back. We’re in it for the long haul.

Well, I suppose the next question in order is ‘What does that type of surrender look like?’ There is only one answer for that, and that is ‘We always say yes!’

E. Stanley Jones sees this as the logical response to the ‘Divine Yes.’ In other words, in the words of Scripture—

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 1:20)

Now, hold on for a second, this is not a verse to read casually; this is one that we must meditate on.

Think of it this way, God has demonstrated the fullness of His love to us in and through His Son. That ‘Yes’ was total and final. John 3:16 declares that. There is no greater love than this, or greater commitment, either. His final “I do” you might say, and as with any good marriage it has stood the test of time. Through thick and thin He has been there for us.

Now, the beautiful thing about God’s ‘I do’ is that absolutely nothing can or ever will separate us from that love. That’s His promise (Romans 8:39).

It does not matter how bad or unfaithful you are or have been He still loves you. But, as with any love relationship there must be a reciprocal response to make it work. You and I, too, must love God with all our heart, mind, and soul (Matthew 22:37), too.

This love, speaking of the human side, is made plain when we totally commit ourselves to the Lordship of Christ, realizing that since He knows what is best for us, He will always keep our best interest at heart because He love us! Fortunately, also, He has the wherewithal—the power to prove it, and the desire to make it happen.

This is made possible because of His great love for us; and when we surrender in love we are sanctifiedthat is, set aside in holiness, His holiness.

Now, may the Holy One of the true Israel bless you each step of the journey,


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

He is there, and He hears

“We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts” ― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

God is not deaf. He hears our every sigh. As a matter of fact, God hears the silent language of a soul in distress. Nothing that affects you is inaudible to Him, for in these cases silence speaks louder than words. He hears. He cares. He understands. And, best of all, He will do something about it. That’s His promise, not mine. I nor anyone else, not even you closes friend can make that promise, and keep it, too.
Paul reminds us that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans (Romans 8:26 NIV).”

So, when you get down and out, reaching up to touch bottom, just keep in mind He not only sees your feeble efforts to dig yourself out of whatever hole you find you are in, but He also on His own prays for you! Wow. Think of it. There is nothing more powerful, that I can think of, than to have God himself pray for you or me.

Now, I don’t want to be critical or disrespectful, but I do find it hard to understand that some Christians find it more appealing to have some saint, dead or alive, pray for them at the expense of allowing God to offer up our pain and sorry in the form of a Holy Ghost inspired prayer.

That should always be our first line of defense. Now, I am fully aware that some feel that some long deceased saint like Mary, the Mother of Our Lord, has a vested in with her son, and as the argument goes, “she has his ear” and He will listen to her. Implying of course that we don’t have that privilege.

I also understand that our Christian priority is (as the Common English Bible translates it) to:
Offer prayers and petitions in the Spirit all the time. Stay alert by hanging in there and praying for all believers. (Ephesians 6:18 CEB)

I would have you to notice, however, that such prayers are conveyed in the Spirit—in other words, the Spirit is the mediator (the go-between) between us and God, the Father. Thus, it is plain to me that we have direct accesses to God through His Spirit.

Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 NIV)

Now, the beautiful part of this process is that we all have that access. Not just some saint, dead or alive.  Nor do we shy back because we are unworthy. No, just the contrary. We press forward because we have been made worthy. God sees us for what we are going to be, not for what we are. By this I mean it is precisely who we are that makes us the unworthy recipient of His Grace. This is true because, as Paul reminds us “that it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us’ and he offers this as proof of ‘God’s amazing love’ for us. (Romans 5:8 Phillips)

Yet, through it all, since we have been washed, made clean and exalted with Him to Heavenly places we can enter His presence with all confidence, knowing the He hears us, because—
He is able, now and always, to save those who come to God through him, because he lives forever to plead with God for them. (Hebrews 7:5 GNT)
Now, what more can you ask for, or expect?

As always, I am with you on this journey,


P.S. Just got off Skype with a pastor friend in Pakistan. Please remember to pray for Pastor Asif Masih Samuel and the work in that spiritually hungry country. Please pray also for another friend of mine, Dr. Neil Chadwick, who will be travelling to visit this ministry in Pakistan at my request. Pray that God will not only protect him, but also give him wisdom and discretion as he evaluates the situation there. Pray also for his family during his absence. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

You can't get there from here . . .

Now, consider this—

“If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.”— Lewis Carroll


Have you discovered, as I have, that some people are really good at talking, but actually poor communicators? I can’t count the number of time that I have felt like shouting like a New Yorker, 
“All right, enough already!”
Case in point. Recently, I asked someone for the address of a place that I wished to visit so I could goggle it for directions. The replay was, 
“Oh, don’t do that. It simple. Let me tell you how to get there.” 
Well, 30 minutes later (at least it seemed so) and after wearing out an out of date road map, I finally interrupted with, 
“So, what you are saying is that we can’t get there from here. Right? So, why don’t you just give me the address and let’s see if old Cirri can help me.”
Cirri was in that case a godsend, except for the distracting Australian accent.

Being the amateur theologian that I am, I immediately thought of my prayer life and begin to wonder how many time I get all sidetracked and convoluted in my prayers that God must think, 
“Alright, Jim, enough, already!” 
No, not really, but I can’t say that it didn't cross my mind.

In any event, Jesus must have had something like this in mind when he said—
"When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Then he continued with—“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:7-8, 9-14)
Brief, succinct, and to the point. So, in my opinion, there’s no room for whining here, or complaining. If you are hurting, all you need to do is to ask God to heal you or help you endure the hurt, whatever His will might be. He knows what’s best for you, anyway.

Better to enjoy a dry morsel of bread, as Scripture say, with contentment, than to be miserably wealthy. Unfortunately, however, many never discover that truth, and like Robin Williams, I am sure they would give anything to have it.

So, let us pray, not with a lot of fanfare but with the integrity of simplicity for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give good things to his children, and to keep in mind that we are not beggars, we are children. (Luke 12:32)

Just remember, you are not alone because we're on this journey together,

 P.S. Please continue pray those Christians suffering in Iraq and northern Pakistan.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Spiritual smugness

Spiritual smugness is a nuisance.

Sometimes, when I am around some “Holier-Than-Thou” Christian I think of the anecdote about the old Quaker’s wife who asked him who was going to make it to Heaven and he responded with:
“Well, me thinkest that shall be thee and me, and sometimes me wonders about thee.”

Aren’t you thankful that your salvation does not depend on someone else’s opinion?

Jesus prayed, “Father, sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth.” [John 17:17] So, very clearly, opinion unless it is based on God’s word is absolutely baseless because a foundation built on opinion with what Paul calls wood, hay, and straw will not stand the test of time or the fiery judgment of God. [1 Cor. 3:12-13]

Consequently, it really does not matter one iota what some super enlighten spiritual umpire says, unless our lives have been established in the truth of God’s word we toil in vain. Let us not forget, therefore, that someone else’s opinion is just that unless it is established in the truth of God’s word.

So, why do we labor so furiously to please and try to live up to another man’s standard?

However, before you answer that consider how The Message translates 1 Thessalonians 5:21. Here’s what it says,
“. . . Don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what's good.”

And what is the test of whether or not something is good and therefore truthful? Over and over again both Jesus and the Scriptures tell us that God’s word is truth. So, holiness or true spirituality must be verified or attested to by God’s word.

Thus, we can say without hesitation or fear of contradiction that unless God has said it then we are not obligated to practice it. True, some say, but what about those gray areas of Scripture, those that really don’t make it clear whether we should do this or do that?

I will answer that with a quote from St. Augustine, who once said,
“The greatest heresy is the lack of charity.”

So, once again as Paul reminds us let us,
Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that we do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16: 13-14)

With that in mind, we do well to recall an old refrain repeated by Negro slaves during the Civil War that says,
Sticks and stones will break my bones
But words will never harm me.[i]

Just keep in mind, it really doesn’t matter what someone else thinks of you as long as whatever you do is in love because in the final analysis God is the judge not they.

I am yours for the journey,

Jim R/~

P.S. Please continue to pray for and support our ministry in the former Soviet Union and in Southern Asia.

[i] Christian Recorder of March 1862, a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Holiness: what is it?

It has been said that we should, “Never ask a saintly man whether or not he is holy and get an honest answer.”

I’ll take it a step further and say that if we should ask the average church goer to define holiness and chances are 9 out of 10 you’ll get a blank stare, or at best some canned response like don’t wear this, or paint yourself of like some Jezebel or watch porno flicks. Never—or should I say, very seldom, do you hear anything positive like sanctify yourself.

Sanctify? What in the name of common sense has that got to do with holiness anyway? Well, the answer is everything. Yet, I dare say that the average parishioner has never heard a sermon on good old fashioned sanctification. Amazingly, however, Christ prayed for our sanctification—that is, our holiness.
"My prayer,” he said, “is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. “(John: 17: 15-21)

What then is sanctification, we may ask?

The simply answer, just happens to be the correct answer and can best be illustrated by saying that a pen is "sanctified" when used to write. Eyeglasses are "sanctified" when used to improve sight. So, in a Biblical sense, things are sanctified—that is set aside for an exclusive purpose—when they are used for the purpose God intends. A basin in the Temple to hold water, tongs to arrange hot coals on altar, and so-forth. A human being is sanctified, therefore, when he or she serves the purposes of God's intentions. Romans: 8:28-29 makes that very clear:
“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” 

So, we are truly holy when we are doing precisely what God intended for us to do. Firstly, we obey Him by becoming like Him. That means primarily that we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him—yes, and when necessary, even to our cross. This will most certainly kill us; but then, that was His intention for us in the first place. No one ever truly become a servant—which is part of the journey—unless they are willing to die to self and live for others.

Impossible, you say. No, not really, for Scripture tells us that,
[It] is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” [Philippians 2:13]
“It’s all about me,” may work as a slogan in a dog eat dog world of high finance, or entrepreneurship but in the Kingdom of God it is a sure path to failure. This great truth should serve as a reminder once again that as the old camp meeting songs says that,
“This world is not my home I'm just a passing through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door.
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.
Oh Lord you know I have no friend like you.
If heaven's not my home then Lord what will I do?
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door.
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.”

And, the rest of the verses for those of us who are strangers here on earth, it goes:
“I have a loving mother just over in Glory land.
And I don't expect to stop until I shake her hand.
She's waiting now for me in heaven's open door.
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.”

Now, to realize that dream, we must walk softly in our Master’s footprints along the path of our earthly journey.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Contemplating the Cross: His and ours

We Pentecostals have a strong tendency—shall I say, an almost exclusive tendency?—to hear God in the shout but fail to recognize His voice in the whisper. Further, we most often fail to recognize that feelings are not necessarily the facts. As a result contemplation is frowned upon, even—believe it or not—associated with the cults or Buddhism; or God forbid, New Ageism.

A friend of mine, an Assemblies of God psychologist, recently confided in me to that he was still reeling from the shock of the comments of some of his pastor friends when he suggested that it would help all of us to find a retreat and just meditate—no preaching, or systemize Bible study, or fancy spiritual motivation speaker—just meditate, contemplate that is, on God and our relationship with Him.

Their response was, “No, Brother, that’s the problem—all that intellectual stuff. What we really need is a good old fashioned Pentecostal, Holy Ghost, tongue speaking revival!”

Their answer to the subtle drift away from our spirituality was just more of the same. Shouting, apparently, would do it. Tongues would certainly help. The Gifts of the Spirit would certainly do the trick.

Now, I don’t want to say more than they said; but you get the point.

The truth is however that feelings are not always the facts! We can feel like we have really been to church when the drummer has invigorated things up emotionally, as we keep repeating some theologically questionable ditty of a chorus over and over again, accompanied by a lot of upraised hands and with an appropriate amount of swaying back and forth that make us feel good but the facts are that many of us are left with an emptiness when the shout wears off. Unfortunately, we associate the adrenaline rush of fleshly worship with an honest to goodness move of the Spirit.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not demeaning meaningful, heartfelt worship. All I am saying is that we must engage the head as well as the heart; because whether we like it or not the heart sometimes gets in the way of giving Him our reasonable worship. (Romans 12:1) 

May I ask you, when is the last time you meditated, really contemplated the meaning of the cross? After all Jesus did say that “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it” (Luke 9:23)

So, may I ask you, as I often have asked myself, “What is that cross? In what ways have I denied myself and embraced that cross? Or am I always looking for a way out by believing that God can only be identified with the good things I enjoy?”

St. John Eudes once remarked that,
"The crosses with which our path through life is strewn associate us with Jesus in the  mystery of His crucifixion." (St. John Eudes)

And, you know, he’s right.

Now, take some time this week, today, whenever, and think about it—think about His Cross and ours.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Unanswered prayers are not just Christian voodoo gone wrong . . .

Dear friends and faithful prayer partners,

Just in case you have not seen it yet, there is almost without exception an elephant in the room every time the subject of prayer comes up.

I am not talking about the doubt, either. Most anyone I know that prays believes that God hears them; but the big question is does He really care enough to do something about it?

Why should he, the silent argument goes, He already knows my requests before I even say the words: “Lord, help me, I’ve got some real problems.”

So, the reasoning goes, if He already knows and He loves me, why make me beg?

Well, first of all in reply, asking and begging are two different things. Asking is reasonable; whereas, begging is usually an unwillingness to accept 'no' as an answer or just plain selfishness clothed in the language of prayer.

James addresses this aspect quite well, he writes:

“And when you do ask he doesn’t give it to you, for you ask in quite the wrong spirit—you only want to satisfy your own desires.” [James 4:3 Phillips trans.]

The Christian philosopher and apologists William Craig illustrates this quite well when he writes,

"If we are ruthlessly honest with ourselves, every one of us knows that sometimes God does not answer our prayers." [Indeed, he continues, sometimes God] "cannot answer our prayers because Christians are praying for contradictory things."

He then asks us to imagine:
 "two Christian athletes playing on opposite sides in the Super Bowl . . . . Each would naturally be disposed to pray that his team would win, and yet both prayers could not be answered, for the two athletes would be praying for contradictory results."

The better prayer would be to ask for clarity of thought so that they could play their best games.

Ah, Jim, that’s too technical, you say, I need a better answer than that. Well, I’m not saying that this is the only reason, just a very common reason that our prayers are not answered.

Another good reason is that our prayers are often in conflict with the order of things. Let’s face it, there are some things just too big for God to change. For Him to do so would be a violation of His will and purposes. God can, but He won’t wipe out any and everything that opposes His purposes. No, in His wisdom He has decreed freedom which includes a choice to do evil—as in Satan’s case and Adam’s as well as ours.

So, brace yourself. As long as Satan and his cohorts (including, of course, evil men) are free to roam this planet we will face the formidable force of the powers of evil. That also means, disappointingly, at times that God may choose for us to weather the storm. The storms of war, of disease, injustice, all the storms of life. At other times He may step in and right the wrong. In each and ever event, however, He know what is best for us. So, in the midst of each storm there is hope. Hope of a better day. Hope for a bright tomorrow. And, there is the assurance of His undying love for us.

There is also confidence. The confidence of knowing that whatever comes our way is with the clear understanding that:
“[We] know that to those who love God, who are called according to his plan, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good. God, in his foreknowledge, chose them to bear the family likeness of his Son, that he might be the eldest of a family of many brothers. He chose them long ago; when the time came he called them, he made them righteous in his sight, and then lifted them to the splendor of life as his own sons.” [Romans 28-30 Phillips trans.]

Sometimes, as Garth Brooks sang, we should thank God for unanswered prayers! How many times do we all remember that we desperately prayed for something—perhaps, that some young man or girl would take a shine to us, only to find out years later that what looked so good on the outside was rotten on the inside?

So, take heart and wise up. We need to pray, because we are commanded to do so and then take it for granted that God always knows what is best for us.

Let us therefore pray, knowing that He hears us and since,
“We have such confidence in him that we are certain that he hears every request that is made in accord with his own plan. And since we know that he invariably gives his attention to our prayers, whatever they are about, we can be quite sure that our prayers will be answered.” [1 John 5: 14-15 Phillips trans.]

And, that's Bible!

Yours For A Greater End Time Harvest,
P.S. Please continue to pray for and support our ministry in the former Soviet Union and in Southern Asia. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The God who listens . . .

Dear friends and faithful prayer partners,

Psalms 88 and the Book of Esther have always fascinated me.
The Book of Esther as you know does not mention the name God once, so you are left with only an assumption that He is there behind the scene pulling on the strings of history.

Psalm 88, however, leaves you with frustration that He’s not pulling the strings at all. You are just left there alone to dangle.

Below are a few verses of that psalm that captures the essence of this one sided dialogue. (Yes, I know that that is an oxymoron; how can a dialogue be a dialogue and be one sided? Well, after you read these verses I will suggest why it is.) 

Here are the verses:
1 Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you.2 May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry.3 I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death.5 I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.6 You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.8 . . . I am confined and cannot escape;9     my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you.13 . . . I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you.14 Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?16 Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me.17 All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me.18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor— darkness is my closest friend.
Some pretty straightforward talk here. The psalmist is not only bearing his soul but he is letting God have it with both barrels. Read it, he blames God for not showing up when he needed Him and furthermore he accuses God of getting him in the mess he is in. 

Now, if you come from the religious tradition I was raised in that is one of the things that you just do not do—that is talk back to God and blame Him for your troubles. You might think it but you sure wouldn’t publish it. However, talking back to God is precisely what this psalmist did. 
And, what does God do? Nothing. God just listens. 

Now, let’s fast forward to today. What’s your beef? An incurable disease? Or is it financial problems? Maybe a cheating husband or wife? It could be a child that has gone bad. Whatever it is, Psalms 88 is a good example of a listening God, and The Book of Esther let’s us know that He is working behind the scenes to work out His purposes in our life. 

That is not to say that we don’t suffer a whole lot just because we are creatures living in a hostile environment. The world is fallen. Evil. Under the almost overwhelming influence of the old Devil himself. He does walk around like a roaring lion in places like Afghanistan and the streets of Chicago, and in the very city where you live. He’s there. We cannot deny that. 

But, I can assure you God is listening and working to fulfill His purposes. How can I be so sure. Well, that’s easy—it’s all because of Calvary. 

Calvary assures me that God was listening, and the Resurrection assures me that He is working, as it were, behind the scenes to accomplish his purposes in my life. 

The Pietà by Michelangelo I feel captures the essence of Calvary. So at the risk of you thinking that I have suddenly become Catholic I am suggesting that you click onto the image above and watch the short video about this marvelous sculptor. Listen to the commentary. It is moving. 

So, yes, I can say, without hesitation that Calvary tells me that God is listening and that He cares enough to identify with us in our suffering. He is there and He is not silent. 

So, let’s make it a habit to listen to Him also.  

Yours For A Greater End Time Harvest,

Jim M. Roane
P.S. Continue to pray for our ministry in the former Soviet Union and in Southern Asia.

What We're Doing
Teaching in Sri Lanka and Russia
What We Need
We must pay for all travel expenses, room and board in route.
This amounts to:
Sri Lanka—$3,449 for travel and other incidental expenses
Russia—$1,900 in travel expenses while in the former Soviet Union
Total $5,349 covers the primary costs.

Please keep in mind that we minister entirely by faith.
We are not underwritten by any church or organization.

Also, remember to enter:
Code: 09 for Personal Expenses
or Code 40 for Work Expenses