Saturday, August 28, 2010

Praying According to God's Will

John says that when we pray according to God's will, then we know that we have what we asked for because God has heard our prayer (1 John 5:14-15). In other words, we know that God will give us what we ask for if we ask for something that's within His will. The question then is this: how do we know what God's will is for us?

God has told us what His will is for His children. It's not a mystery. He has revealed His will to us through His written Word (and through the example of Jesus, the living Word!). The problem is, we often are ignorant of God's word and are thereby ignorant of what His will is for us. If we want God to answer our prayers, we need to bring requests to Him that conform to the desires He has for our lives.

One way to pray according to God's will is to pray God's Word back to God. Moses did this when God threatened to wipe out all of Israel because of their idolatry (see Numbers 14). Praying Scripture (in application to a particular circumstance) is an interesting concept, as it motivates us to find out what God says He'll do for us (instead of us leaning on the popular phrase, "...if it be your will"). If we lean upon what God has said He'll do, then we can have confidence that we'll get what we ask for because God is faithful to His Word!

So what is God's will for us? To preach the gospel, to trust and obey Him in word and deed, to renew our minds, to seek the gifts of the Spirit, to love people, to be prosperous, to live a long life on the earth, to have the fruit of the Spirit, to have wisdom, to be free from the chains of sin, to be imitators of Christ. The list goes on. If we would truly know what God's will is for us, maybe it would change how we pray and what we pray for. I want to understand what God's will is so that I can live the way that God intended for me--His precious child--to live. Surely our Father in heaven will bless us if we ask for the desires of our heart, but how much more does God know what is best for us! Father, may you transform my desires to be more like yours!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Letting Go - Part 2

I've been realizing that God wants me to let go of my goals. Now don't misunderstand, it's good to have goals--but when those goals take priority over God's goals for my life, then I need to let go of them. I'm brewing with energy to finish my latest redecorating project or to check my new email messages. But when was the last time I was brewing with energy to share Jesus' love with my friends, family, or neighbors? Hmmm. Let's just say that I'm doing better now than I was a few months or years ago.

God has given each of us a unique set of responsibilities for building up His kingdom. Oftentimes we get so focused on building up our monetary, material, or relational security that we forget what the end goal of all our efforts is. The goal isn't to build up for ourselves money, possessions, and good relationships--it's to use our resources to spread God's love over all the earth!

So, I'm going to try something new for once: I'm going to obey God by renewing my mind to have His goals. Maybe you should try it, too.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Letting Go - Part 1

In my efforts to remove obstacles in my heart blocking my closeness to God, I've decided to give away some of my material possessions this year. In my pursuit of this, though, I feel that God is calling me to go above and beyond the minimum. God wants me to let go of things in my heart that I could value above Him and His purposes. So, as my first action toward obedience, I've decided to donate my wedding dress to charity. This is tough, let me tell you. But I'm convinced it's crucial for reaching the next level in my spiritual journey. Let this be the beginning of a new trend in my life! "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:12, NIV).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Secrets of the Enemy

I was listening to a radio interview with Mel Bond last night that struck a chord with me. He shared some principles he's learned relating to discerning spirits and battling demons effectively. Three things he said especially caught my attention: (1) when we are filled with God's love, the fruits of the Spirit, and God's Word, demons have no room in our hearts to reside; (2) demons can detect whether or not our whole being desires for them to leave, and if there's even 1% of us that doesn't mind them sticking around, they'll stay; and (3) one of the biggest demonic deceptions is to convince us that we need to pray more, read the Bible more, sin less, or be closer to God before we can cast a demon out of someone -- we need to realize that it's by the authority and accomplishment of Jesus that demons are required to leave, not by what we've done or failed to do. One other thing he said that struck me was that Christians often don't realize the significance or expanse of demonic activity, and many Christians put up with demons tormenting them simply because they don't realize it's there. Huh. I don't want that to be me. I need to digest this more before giving my own thoughts on these points, but I thought I should throw them out there to stimulate some action or discussion. Let's not be ignorant of the wiles of the evil one!

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Call To Let Go

This has been a year for me to let go of my attachment to material possessions. For some reason, I have always had the tendency to become irrationally attached to things once they come into my possession (even to things that other people would consider junk!); thus, in light of this addiction to my stuff, I formed the intention to combat my clinginess by giving some of my stuff away. Earlier this year, I simply had the intention to donate some old clothes that I don't even wear anymore. Recently, though, I feel as though the Lord has been calling me to give up some other things as an act of faith and of surrender to His Lordship. Specifically, I feel the urge to give some video games to the boy down the street, and I am considering giving one of my guitars to another boy on our block.

You must understand, I am very possessive of my things--so much so that I have containers of toys, clothes, and other random items from childhood that I've never even considered getting rid of (until now, that is!). And I've never considered giving something away that I possibly could find a use for sometime in the near future. So, the idea of giving away one of my video games (that I like but hardly have the time to play) or one of my guitars (that was pulled out of a dumpster, no less) really goes against my grain. God knows how deep my attachment to my stuff goes, and I believe that He wants me to let go of some things that would reveal that my devotion to Him is more important to me than those things.

I've been pondering this for a week or two now. I feel pretty certain that God wants me to step out in faith by giving away some of my possessions--now it's just a matter of actually following through. I pray that God will strengthen me to overcome my addiction to stuff and empower me to joyfully give away some of my possessions. I desire to do this so that God will have more room in my heart to do His good work in me. I don't want to hold anything back from God's regenerative power!

May I be more like Him every day so that His glory will shine through my every word and action! Amen.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

No More Canker Sores?

I occasionally get canker sores in my mouth. Sometimes they appear without any apparent reason, but they most definitely show up if I get any sort of minor (or major) irritation in my mouth (like a cut or abrasion). Canker sores usually take about 7-10 (or 14) days to go away.

I have prayed against the past several canker sores I've gotten, and the duration of the outbreak has been shortened by several days as a result. On the last one, I prayed that the virus causing the outbreaks would come out from hiding, be exposed to God's glory, and become deactivated in Jesus' name.

I noticed that I got a little cut on the inside of my lip about 4 days ago. Interestingly, that little cut did not turn into a canker sore, and it has in fact completely healed. I am not sure what to make of this. I cannot remember a time when I got a cut inside my mouth that did not turn into a canker sore within a few days. I want to be wary not to jump to conclusions based upon one case, just in case this happens to be a lucky coincidence. Nevertheless, I praise the Lord even for little things like prevented-canker-sores!

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Joy of the Lord is My Strength

This morning, as my son and I made our routine laps around the block, I recalled the Scripture in which David says that the joy of the Lord is his strength. As I was meditating on the meaning of this, my hip started hurting. It felt as if my hip had pulled slightly away from the socket, and I could feel my muscles and tendons pulling abnormally around my hip area. Right away, I proclaimed with delight, "The joy of the Lord is my strength!" I felt great joy, almost to the point of laughter. As I walked, I commanded the hip to go back into its socket and the pain to retreat from the muscles. I was almost not surprised when I discovered that just two steps later the pain in my hip was completely gone. My hip has shown no signs of sensitivity or injury since then. Praise the Lord! My prayer is that I will be able to share this feeling of joy, freedom, and intimacy with the Lord with others!

Trusting God

Read this, and ponder the extent of its application:

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;

6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD and shun evil.

8 This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.

--Proverbs 3:5-8 (NIV)

I had a moment of revelation the other day about what it means to trust God. I have usually thought of "trust" in "trusting God" as the same sort of "trust" that you have when you ask your friend to keep a secret, or when you expect your child not to lie. To "trust" means to have faith in someone's character. Since God is perfect, we should always "trust" Him, which I've always taken as a synonym for having faith in His character and in His promises.

However, I was reminded that my "trust" in someone is not solely measured by my faith in that person's character; it is also measured by the way I respond to that person.

Let me explain with a real life example. While I was a chemistry student at Notre Dame, I did experiments in the laboratory. There was a stage of time where all my experiments were going nowhere, and I was becoming disheartened. I talked with my advisor, and she gave me an outline of some precise things she wanted me to do. I didn't see the point of why she told me to do the things she did, so I responded by asking questions. My advisor interjected, "Just trust me."

You see, by questioning my advisor's instructions, I was conveying a certain amount of distrust. I recalled this experience with my advisor when reflecting on what it means to trust God, and I felt like my eyes were opened to new understanding. When the Scriptures repeatedly instruct us to "trust in the LORD," the context of our trust is not limited to having faith in God's character or to having faith that God will do what He says He will do. To fully trust the LORD, we need to do what He says. And not only should we do what He says, we should do it with joy and without hesitation. Otherwise, we display some degree of distrust.

God is the creator of the universe, and He knows how our psychologies operate. He knows what's best for us. He's also not obligated to tell us all His reasons for giving us the commands He does. By obeying God's commands, we probably avoid lots of troubles that we could never foresee or imagine. Neuroscience has discovered lots of previously unknown physical effects that our brain can impart on our bodies. Why would we wait for science to tell us that we can live longer and healthier lives if we have joyful hearts when God has been calling us to have joy all along? God desires our benefit, and He wouldn't tell us to do something that wouldn't be good for us. I think it's about time that we all started trusting God more by submitting ourselves to His Word. Maybe we'd all be a lot healthier if we would!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Glory Clouds in South Bend?

When I was driving home from praise team rehearsal last week, I saw a strange mist above a nearly empty parking lot by the intersection of Lincoln Way and Miami. At first I thought there was a fire or something, but there was no fire to be seen. The bluish-gray mist formed a rounded cloud that extended over the entire area of the lot but no farther. I continued analyzing the mist as I turned at the intersection to see if I could determine its source. Then I noticed another mist formation of similar shape farther from the road, near the river. At that point I had driven too far to keep observing the mist/fog/whatever, so I concluded that some water vapor from the nearby river simply condensed into fog and blew in over the bank.

Well, this week I saw a similar phenomenon on my way home from rehearsal. At the corner of Eddy and Jefferson, I saw a bluish-gray mist over a nearly empty parking lot. This time, there was also another mist formation (not sure if it was part of the other one) in the middle of the road. Note that the location is no longer by the river. The mist/cloud(s?) were kitty corner from where I pulled up to the intersection to turn right. I didn't notice any disturbance in the mist as cars went through it (although that may be because I didn't observe it closely enough). Just as the week before, the shape of the mist was very localized (I'd almost say confined...) and defined. It was eerie--not like any mist or fog I've ever seen. I wished that Josh were in the car so that I could make sure he could see the mist, too. As I passed by the mist, I had the thought, "I wonder if that's a glory cloud?"

I'll keep my eyes open for similar phenomena, and next time I won't be able to resist pulling over to investigate. If God is manifesting His presence over South Bend parking lots, I want to be there! :-)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Uncanny Coincidence...

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I started praying for a friend with back pain. Well, I got an email update a couple days ago that revealed an interesting trend. It seems as though the pain emerges and retreats depending upon my prayers.

Every instance in which I paused and prayed out loud for the pain to depart in Jesus' name, my friend reported that the pain instantly left. Unfortunately, the pain would come back (for apparently no reason) when my prayers were distracted and/or lacked force. The correlation is very evident to me, and it would be hard for me to accept at this point that the correlation is merely due to a series of coincidences. Thus, given the data, I am convinced that my prayers actually have an immediate and obvious effect on my friend's well-being.

This is both exciting and scary for me. I am excited to see the power of God at work through me. However, I now feel a new sense of responsibility that I didn't feel when I was in ignorance of the importance of my prayers.

I have learned an important lesson so far in my experiences in prayer for this friend: prayers are close to ineffective if they are not prayed with my whole heart! Perhaps this is what Jesus means by the phrase "double-minded"--if we have too many thoughts in our head at once, how can we really put our heart into any one of those thoughts? I am now convinced that I need to be intentionally single-minded so that the Father will take my prayers seriously.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Freely As You Have Received, Freely Give

When Jesus used this phrase with his disciples, he was specifically instructing them to freely dispense the benefits of the Holy Spirit to the world (see Matthew 10:8). However, I think that the principle can be more broadly applied to all categories of life. Whether it be money, possessions, forgiveness, time, or healing from the Holy Spirit, I think that we have a precedent for generosity. Jesus told the rich man to give all his possessions to the poor (Matthew 19:21), and Jesus told Peter to forgive his brother every time he asks for forgiveness (Matthew 18:22). God desires for us to share the blessings He gave us.

I was reminded of this principle yesterday when a friend of ours unexpectedly gifted us with some money. We did nothing to deserve the money. In other words, we freely received it. Now, I don't know about you, but my first instinct when I get a free gift is often something like, "Great! Now I can go buy/do _X_!" Unfortunately, the _X_ isn't usually very others-centered. However, yesterday my instinct was different. I immediately felt utter amazement at the generosity of God, and my whole being swelled with the desire to bless others. Perhaps now I can get those gifts for the neighbor kids I've been eyeing, for instance.

My hope is that if I mirror the heart of God by being generous with my material wealth, perhaps I will grow in my ability to be generous with the benefits of His Spirit as well. I also know that practicing generosity with what I know I have can give an opportunity for me to learn how to be even more generous. I hope that someday I will recognize the depth of generosity that the Father has bestowed on me so that I can fully display His goodness to others. God has given us so many blessings--let's freely share those blessings freely!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Is it Harder to Heal Believers or Non-Believers?

I have been struggling with this question for several months now, especially in light of the results of prayer I've seen. Healing seems to be a long process for believers for whom I've prayed. Is it even possible for a believer to receive an instant-healing miracle through a prayer of faith?

Perhaps God deals with His children differently than He does the world. Jesus said that [instant] healing would be a sign for the world so they would know that the LORD is God (see Mark 16). Since Christians no longer need to be convinced that the LORD is God, perhaps God's main goal isn't to instantly heal them as a sign, but instead to teach them how to be more reflective of His image by understanding His ways more deeply. Notice that James instructs sick believers (perhaps the immature in Christ who do not know the LORD's benefits) to call the elders (who are the mature in Christ) to pray in faith over them (see James 5). This would be a perfect opportunity for the elders to teach sick believers the promises of God and then to display the principles of spiritual warfare through their prayer of faith. Thus, it seems to me that God set it up so that His children would learn His ways through the process of healing.

So what could God want His children to learn through their pursuit of healing? Perhaps it is simply the fact that God is willing to heal us. Or perhaps God wants to teach us that we need to take the spiritual realm seriously, and that it can affect us physically (as well as emotionally and spiritually) for better or for worse. Perhaps God wants us to know that He has granted us access to physical healing--just as to forgiveness of sins--through the atonement, or that healing comes through proper celebration of communion. Perhaps God wants us to realize that we are supposed to be seeking Him above all else and that He will do great things for us if we love Him and obey His commands (see Psalm 91). God desires the best for His children. Certainly, knowledge of His benefits would be nothing but good for us.

My conclusion for the moment is that God may very well heal believers instantly, but if He doesn't, perhaps He is calling those particular people into a higher level of intimacy with Him that requires them to learn something new. Of course, if the person praying the prayer of faith is not acquainted with (or proficient at implementing) God's healing methods, the sick person may not recover simply because the sickness was not defeated. As for me, I am going to be particularly careful not to blame anyone's sickness on anyone but the devil and his minions, and I will continue to seek God so that I can accurately reflect Him to everyone I encounter.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Human Standards

I was discussing healing with a friends the other day, and someone argued that it is not always God's will to heal by appealing to the historical pattern. "Saint Bernadette moved in healing miracles, and yet she suffered from an incurable disease that eventually killed her. So, it must not always be God's will to heal everyone."

Without saying anything about the conclusion of the argument, I just want to point out my thoughts about the argument itself. First of all, although it is ok to use godly humans as role models of certain virtues, I am wary of basing my theology off of any human's life (besides that of Jesus, of course). Besides God incarnate, no human is perfect. How can I assume that if person X displays godly virtue A, then person X also displays godly virtue B?

Let's take King David of Israel, for example. We know from Scripture that he is a man after God's own heart (see I Samuel 13:14). That's a good virtue for us to have, right? But does that mean we should understand that all of David's actions mirrored that virtue? Given that he had multiple wives, committed adultery (as if he didn't have enough wives already), and had the woman's husband killed, I think not. David had many very good virtues, but that does not mean that every one of David's actions (or even all of his habitual practices or lifestyle choices) should be venerated or replicated.

Thus, I want to set my expectations of how to live upon Jesus--the one and only human being that endured life on earth in perfection. It may be helpful to use godly examples from history to guide us, but I myself never want to be limited by the limitations of my human role models. So yes, perhaps Saint Bernadette displayed compassion for the sick in a godly manner, but please don't expect me to model my expectations off of her imperfections. Since I'm not God, I can't know for sure if Bernadette was sick because God wanted her that way (but I doubt that's the case) or rather if there was some unresolved issue in her life that prevented God from healing her. I don't want to blame God for His children's sicknesses when the blame should be placed on the devil and his works. I don't want to say that it's God's will for His children to be sick if there's a chance that it's our own lack of obedience that prevents our healing.

Praise the LORD, for He is good (Psalm 106:1)!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Worshiping God

I was reminded today that "worshiping God" isn't confined to singing songs at church or praising God during prayer. We can worship God in every word and deed. How? By speaking and acting out of love. God is love, so the best way to worship, respect, and obey Him is to imitate Him by living a life of love. I don't mean "love" as in the fluttery, ooshy-gooshy feeling you get when you're around someone you like. I mean the "love" that drives a husband to protect and provide for his family, a mother to comfort her baby at her own inconvenience, a friend to lend a listening ear, and a stranger to risk his life to save someone in harm's way. When we worship God in love, how much more will He desire to shower blessings upon our lives! Let's worship God in love so that we'll gain the ability to love at even greater depths than ever before.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Releasing Fear

This week my sister has been staying with us. I'm very glad that she was able to be here with us this week, as we've had lots of time to connect relationally--sister to sister. It's amazing to me how much my sister has stored up in her heart that she needs to share, and I'm glad that I can be here to listen.

On the very first night of her stay, my sister confessed things from her heart that had been gnawing at her for a long time. She even expressed fear that God didn't love her anymore. I encouraged her by sharing God's Word with her and proving to her that God does love her and that she doesn't need to worry. Then I commanded evil spirits to flee by the authority of Jesus. Since that time, she has reported that her mind has been free of dark, haunting thoughts. She feels free, like a burden has been lifted from her shoulders. Praise Jesus for His victory over the evil one!

I have also been praying for my sister's physical well-being while she's been here. One remarkable difference she's noticed is that she hasn't had a stomach ache since she's been here. This is truly remarkable, as she gets stomach aches all the time. She's even been ingesting dairy, wheat, and coffee... the three major suspects thought to be causing her aches. So, that's cool.

My sister presently has two obvious and observable physical issues that I am praying against: pain in her shins (from an accident awhile back), and an irritating bump on her wrist bone. While I was praying for her shins last night, she said that they felt numb. In the morning, they felt worse, though! I had the distinct thought while I was praying for her shins that the pain is connected to a deeply-ingrained fear... so I am going to continue battling for her shins by first praying for God's perfect love to fill her up and drive out all fear. There's been no noticeable effect on the bump on her wrist yet.

My mission this week is to reveal to my sister how much I and her Heavenly Father love her, no matter what she has done. I will also keep encouraging her to cast all of her fears unto God. When we let go of our fear, we are able to fully appreciate how much God watches out for us. How can we let go of fear? By allowing God's perfect love to touch our hearts (1 John 4:18). God is love. That's why John tells us that he who loves is born of God (1 John 4:7)! Let's all get closer to the heart of God today by loving someone in an extra special way.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Our Effectiveness in Spiritual Battle

I've been focusing so much lately on which techniques work the best for bringing about recovery from a sickness or injury that I forgot about something very fundamental. God watches out for those who pursue Him. Just read Psalm 91.

I think this can also apply to our effectiveness in battling against spiritual darkness. The more connected to God we are, the more God's power shines through us. I was reminded of this when watching an interview with Hank and Brenda Kunneman. It's easy to rely too much on our own strength (or willpower, dedication, skill, etc....), even when pursuing spiritual things! It's about time for me to press into God and seek Him first and foremost.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Whose Responsibility Is It to Heal?

Clearly, it is Jehovah Almighty who brings about healing (physical, emotional, and spiritual) on behalf of the sick. As David says in Psalm 103, "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases" (verses 2-3, KJV). So, God is the source of healing. But does that mean it is His responsibility to bring healing to the sick?

It seems to me that Jesus doesn't place the responsibility upon His Father to free the sick from their oppression (see Luke 4:18). Rather, Jesus set a precedent for His followers to go out and lay hands on the sick by doing so Himself (e.g. Matthew 19:15, Mark 6:5, Mark 8:22-25, Mark 10:16, Luke 4:40, Luke 13:13), by instructing His disciples to do so (cf. Matt. 10:8), and by prophesying that His followers would do so (Mark 16:18). Furthermore, we see that members of the early church laid hands on the sick (e.g. Acts 9:12, Acts 28:8), and Paul and James both instruct members of the church body to lay hands on the sick (1 Timothy 5:22, James 5:13-15), even calling it an "elementary teaching" (Hebrews 6:2).

So, whose responsibility is it to free the sick from their suffering? I'll let you decide that for yourselves.