629. Running Out Of Praise?

“Stan,” I began, “do you ever run out of things to praise God about?”

“You mean,” Stan replied, “do I get to the end of my praise list?”

“That’s it,” I said.  “Sometimes when I’m praying, I can’t think of anything more to praise God about.”

“I saw something about that quite some time ago,” Stan replied.  “It wasn’t specifically about praise, but I think I was shown how to apply it to praising God.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“At the end of John’s gospel,” Stan responded, “actually in the last verse, John says there were many other things he could have written about God in Christ.  He put it in terms of the whole world not being able to contain all of the books if he had written everything.”

“That would be a lot of books!” I replied.  “How does that apply to praising God?”

“To me,” Stan said, ”this means I could speak for eternity about my praise for God and not cover everything about which I can and should praise Him.”

“So what do you do about that?” I asked.

“With my prayers,” Stan replied, “I thank God for everything I know to thank Him about, and I praise Him for everything I know about which to praise Him.”

“After that,” he continued, “I tell God I don’t know everything for which I should praise Him.  I acknowledge there are ways He has moved that are worthy of my praise, but they are ways I haven’t recognized.  I ask Him to open me to see.”

“Then,” Stan added, “I give to the Holy Spirit all of the praise I do not know and ask Him to intercede and make my prayers perfect in the praise God deserves.”

“The Holy Spirit will do that?” I asked.

“He will and He does,” Stan replied.

“However,” he concluded, “I think I am to praise God for everything I know about which to praise Him, and only when I have gotten to the end of my list, do I give it to the Holy Spirit to take it from there!”

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And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written.  John 21:25.

And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  Romans 8:26, 27.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for everything about which I have to thank and praise you.  I thank and praise you for your love, grace, mercy, and every provision for life eternally in your presence when it’s time, along with the eternal life of knowing you and your Son on this side of eternity.  I admit I do not know everything for which I should praise you.  I want to praise you for all there is to praise, but I am limited in my understanding of what praises to speak.  I give to the indwelling Holy Spirit all of the praise I do not know and ask Him to present to you all of the praise you deserve in perfect prayer.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this: God wants and deserves our praise, but we are limited in our understanding of how to praise Him. Do you agree with that? Why or why not? Are you satisfied with the ways in which you praise God? Do your prayers focus more on what you want rather than on offering praise and thanksgiving? If so, do you think God would like you to focus more on praise? Why or why not? If so, what would it take for you to change your focus?

628. The Open House

“Some of our neighbors,” Stan began, “have done some extensive remodeling to their house.  They had an open house Saturday so we could all see what they have done.”

“Nice?” I responded.

“Amazing,” Stan replied.  “What they have done has really transformed their house into something totally different from what it was.”

“Did they do it themselves?” I asked.

“No,” Stan replied.  “They hired that firm over on Abbott Drive to do the design and all of the reconstruction.  It looks like that firm is really good at what they do.”

“And you know something else,” Stan said.  “Seeing how the neighbors had remodeled their house made several of the neighbors talk about considering the same sort of remodel.”

Continuing, he added, “Just like Jesus.”

“Just like Jesus?” I responded.  “What does an open house after a remodel have to do with Jesus?”

“Everything,” Stan said.  “Jesus is clearly in the remodeling business.  Taking the example I know best, there came a time in my life when it was brought to my attention I needed a remodel.  The Bible refers to it as ‘transformation’.”

“Who brought that to your attention?” I asked.

“God,” was Stan’s one-word answer.  

Continuing, he added, “Through His word, through the voice of the Holy Spirit, and through other people and circumstances, God made it clear I was not who He intended me to be.  As well, I was not doing what God intended for me to be doing while He left me on this side of eternity.”

“So,” I said, “how did you begin the remodeling project on you life?”

“Confession,” Stan replied.  “I had to come before God totally open and surrendered with the admission I knew some serious design work and reconstruction were needed.”

“Then what?” I asked.

“Repentance,” Stan said.  “I had to do something with my confession.  It would have been just like the neighbors concluding they wanted to remodel their house, but not doing anything beyond that.  The remodel was not going to happen all by itself.  Same with me.”

“And,” I responded, “I guess it would be the same with me or with anyone.  I have to do something after admitting something needs to be done.”

“More than a guess,” Stan said.  “I would put it in the category of being absolutely essential!”

“Okay,” I replied.  “Say I acknowledge I need a remodeled life.  And, further, I go ahead with that remodel, what then?”

“God is apt to have an open house,” Stan said, “so everyone can come and see what He has done so that others may want to do some remodeling in their own lives.”

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Come and see the works of God, who is awesome in His deeds towards the sons of men.  Psalm 66:5.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:2.

But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, The Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18.

Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come with the presence of the Lord.  Acts of the Apostles 3:19.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for your provision of confession and repentance.  Thank you for loving me enough to show me when I need remodeling and transformation in my life and in my relationship with you.  I confess that too often I do not listen to you when you tell me I need to be different from who I am.  And, as well, I do not do anything about what you show me.  Please forgive me.  Please help me in following every step of your lead in confessing and repenting so you can and will complete the transformational remodeling you want.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this:  Does your life and relationship with God need some remodeling?  Why or why not?  If you think it does, what are you going to do about it?  Is it sufficient to admit or confess that some work is needed?  If not, what needs to follow and how does that get done?  Is that something you want?  Why or why not?  Can you do it on your own or do you need some help?  If you need help, where is that help going to come from?

627. Hang On And Don’t Let Go

“One of my neighbors,” I began, “fell off a ladder yesterday.  He was trimming some branches in a tree and fell off the ladder.”

“Is he okay?” Stan asked.

“Yes,” I replied.  “He’s a little sore, but nothing broken.”

“God must have been watching over him,” Stan said.  “I know of several people who have fallen off ladders and not been so fortunate.  Big time injuries and even some deaths.”

“Yeah,” I replied.  “I heard of one fellow who fell off a ladder while he was hanging Christmas lights.  By the time someone found him in the snow it was too late.”

“Hanging on,” Stan said, “is real important, whether we are talking about ladders or whether we are talking about what the writer of the letter to the Hebrews had to say.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Hold on to the confession of our faith,” Stan replied.

“How does a person do that?” I responded.

“Don’t let go,” Stan said.  “And don’t get sidetracked into anything that will keep you from holding on.”

Continuing, he said, “When I became a Christian by accepting the finished work of Christ Jesus on the cross, I did so by confessing my faith in God’s provision of life eternally with Him when my time here is done.”

“Additionally,” he added, “as long as God chooses to leave me on this side of eternity, I am to hold on to my confession of faith in the sense of pursuing an ever-deeper relationship with God by my commitment to being transformed into who and what He intends.”

“Living the life intended from the confession of fatih,” I replied.  “Is that what you are saying?”

“It is,” Stan replied.  “I am to be continually moving on the path from conversion towards maturity in my faith.  I am to hold on to that path and not let go by choosing to head in a different direction.”

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Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  Hebrews 4:14.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:23.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for your provision of life eternally with you when it is time through my confession of faith in all you have for me.  I admit that too often my faith in you is not what you intend.  Please forgive me.  And please help me in following your lead so that I not only hold on to my confession of faith, but that my faith in all you are and in all you have for me on both sides of eternity is on a path towards greater maturity in my relationship with you.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this:  To “hold on and not let go” is an admonition that can apply to many things in our lives, usually in the sense that what we are to hold onto is important.  Do you consider your faith as something important enough that you want to hold on and not let go?  Why or why not?  If you do not feel that way about your faith, do you think that God thinks you should?  Why or why not?  If you would like to hold on to your faith more tightly and pursue an ever-deepening relationship with God, do you know how to do that?  The first place to start is in prayer.  God is faithful and He would love to help you with that!

626. Feeling Convicted? That’s A Good Thing!

“Stan,” I began, “the pastor’s message at church on Sunday really convicted me about something that’s going on in my life.”

“That’s a good thing,” Stan replied.  “It shows that God is seeking to tell you something, but what you do with it is the most important part.”

“Do with it?” I responded.  “What do you mean?

“Well,” Stan said, “I have all sorts of alternatives to choose from when I feel convicted by something I read in God’s word or something I hear from a pastor, from another person, or from the voice of the Holy Spirit.”

“What sort of alternatives?” I asked.

“First of all,” Stan replied, “I can choose to keep away from that which is convicting me.”

Continuing, he added, “I can quit reading the Bible.  I can quit going to church.  I can quit being around other people who are convicting me.  Or I can quit listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit.”

“Those seem kind of extreme,” I replied.

“They are,” Stan replied.  “The alternative is that I can choose to listen to the sense of being convicted.  I can see the reason for what I’m sensing. See the reason and then confess, repent, and get moving to where God wants me to be about the particular matter.”

“In between the choices of not listening and choosing to listen,” he continued, “there’s a continuous stream of choices for me to make.”

“God convicts me for His purposes,” Stan added.  “How I choose to respond to conviction is what will determine whether or not I move in the right direction on the path of being transformed into the likeness of Christ.”

Concluding, he said, “God speaks to me directly and indirectly, but He leaves my response to me.  Each day I pray not only to be open to what God has to say, but that I will be open to responding in the way He intends.  When He convicts me, and He does that more often than I care to admit, I see it as a good thing that indicates He cares and has my best interests in mind!”

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For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  Hebrews 4:12.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:2

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, that you care about me and my relationship with you.  Thank you that you care enough to convict me of thoughts, words, and actions that are contrary to what you have for me to be and to do.  I confess that too often I fail to listen to your words of conviction, whether those words are in the Bible, whether they come from other people you bring into my life, or whether they come from the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Please forgive me for not listening.  And please, Father, help me in following your every step as you lead me to where you want me to be in my relationship with you.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the  name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this:  Being convicted to make changes in our lives comes from God.  Do you agree with that?  Why or why not?  Have you ever been convicted of something by what someone said to you and you then decided you didn’t like being convicted so you avoided that person?  If so, what was that all about?  Same question, but substitute the conviction as coming from God.  Have you experienced that sort of conviction?  If so, what did you do with it?

625. The Power Of Personal Testimony

“As I’ve told you before,” Stan began, “the people who lived down the block from where we lived were instrumental in opening me to become a Christian.”

“I do remember that,” I responded.  “Must have been nice people.”

“Wonderful neighbors and friends!” Stan replied.

Continuing, he added, “How they went about introducing me to Christianity was, as I look back on it, about as perfect as possible.”

“How was that?” I asked.

“Personal testimony,” Stan replied.  “They presented themselves as people who had been changed.  I obviously didn’t know them before so I didn’t know what they had changed from, but what they presented was very attractive.”

“So it made you curious as to why they were different?” I asked.

“It certainly did,” Stan said.  “They were so different from the people I normally associated with that I wanted to know why they were different.”

“So,” I replied, “did you ask them?”

“I did,” Stan said.  “And by my asking, they opened up and told me the whole story of how they became Christians.  They told me of their conversion and the process of their transformation.”

Continuing, he added, “The way they told me, just presenting their personal testimony, rather than, in effect, hitting me over the head with the Bible, was powerfully attractive.”

“Did you become a Christian immediately after they told you all of that?” I asked.

“No,” Stan replied.  “It was some time later, but their personal testimony created a desire in me to know more about their Christian faith.”

“And you pursued that?” I asked.

“Certainly did,” Stan replied.  “And I eventually came to the point of accepting the truth of God’s free and gracious gift of eternal salvation through Jesus and His finished work on the cross.  And that began for me my own personal testimony.”

“To be shared with others?” I responded.

“Yes,” Stan replied, “and for the same purpose, that others may want to know the truth of what God has for them.”

“Do you think each Christian is to have a personal testimony to be shared?” I asked.

“Absolutely!” Stan replied.

“And if they don’t?” I responded.

“I think,” Stan concluded,  “they may need to talk with God about that.” 

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Come and hear, all who fear God, and I will tell of what He has done for my soul.  Psalm 66:16.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for your gracious and free provision of eternal salvation through the finished work of Christ’s atonement on the cross.  Thank you for the people you have brought into my life who have been willing to share the truth through what you have done in them for their eternal destination and for the time they have remaining on this side of eternity.  I ask for all of the help you can provide so I am willing to openly share what you have done in and through me so that others may also know the truth of your provision for them.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this:  Do you agree that a person’s personal testimony can have a powerful impact on others?  Why or why not?  Have you been impacted by the personal testimony of another person?  If so, what was that like?  Do you have your own personal testimony?  If you do, are you willing or reluctant to share it with others?  Do you realize that the more a personal testimony is shared the easier it gets?

624. He Talked Too Long!

“How was your  church service yesterday?” I asked Stan one Monday morning.

“Fabulous,” he responded.

Continuing, he added, “We had a guest speaker who really had a lot of great things to say about knowing God on this side of eternity.  It was a very good message, especially right near the end when he put out some real good practical applications.”

“I’m sure everyone got a lot out of that,” I replied.

“Not everyone,” Stan said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“One of my friends got up and left before the speaker had finished his message,” Stan responded.

“Why?” I replied.

“Going to breakfast after the church service is his tradition.  He goes to the same place every Sunday.  It stops serving breakfast at a certain time.  If you’re not there by then, you can’t have breakfast.”

“Apparently,” Stan continued, “my friend was concerned he was going to miss breakfast because the message was longer than usual.”

“So he left the church service before it was over so he could have breakfast?  Wow!” I replied.

“We went to the same restaurant to have lunch after the church service,” Stan said.  “My friend was just finishing his breakfast.  Even though I knew the answer, I asked him why he had left the church service.”

“What did he say?” I asked.

“The guy talked too long,” Stan replied.

“I don’t want to sound judgmental,” I said, “but this sounds a lot like putting tradition before the Word of God.”

“I think you’re right,” Stan replied.  “And it seems to me that Jesus had something to say about that.”

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And He (Jesus) answered and said to them (some Pharisees and scribes), “And why do you yourselves transgress the commandments of God for the sake of your tradition?”  Matthew 15:3.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for the blessing of being able to attend church services and hear what your people have to say about you and your word.  I confess that sometimes I put what I want to do before what you have for me to do in listening to what you have for me to hear.  I ask for your forgiveness and your help in leading me in accordance with your will so I will set aside what I want when it interferes with what you want.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this:  Have you ever been in a situation where someone was talking about God’s Word and you thought the person was talking too long?  If so, what did you do about it?  Do you think what you did was the appropriate thing to do?  Why or why not?  Do you have certain traditions that may interfere with what God has for you to be or to do?  If so, are you willing to talk with God about those things to see what He has to say?  Why or why not?

623. The One Not Chosen

“In the Book of The Acts of the Apostles,” Stan began, “there’s an account of how Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus, was replaced as an apostle.”

“Wasn’t there something about two different men being considered for the position?” I asked.

“That’s right,” Stan replied.  “There was one man by the name of Matthias and another who seemed to go by several different names, one of which was Justus.  It appears both men were well qualified to handle the job.”

“But only one was selected, right?” I responded.

“Yes,” Stan said.  “After the other apostles prayed about it, asking God to show them which one He had chosen, they drew lots and Matthias was the one who was chosen to replace Judas.”

“What does choosing by lots mean?” I asked.

“I don’t know for certain about that,” Stan replied.  “I guess it would be kind of like flipping a coin.”

“Anyway,” I said, “Justus wasn’t selected.  What became of him?”

“Again, I’m not sure,” Stan replied, “from a quick look, there seems to be some conflicting views of church history about him, but my best guess is that he went on to play an important role in the early church.”

Continuing, he added, “His story is different from one I viewed once in a church we were a part of before we moved here.”

“What was that?” I asked.

“The Elder Board of the church was considering two men for an open seat.  Both seemed to be well qualified.  The elders prayed about the choice and selected one over the other.  The one who was not selected got really upset.”

“Because he wasn’t chosen?” I responded.

“Exactly,” Stan replied.  “He was so upset he left the church and tried to cause considerable disruption in the community. He said all sorts of bad stuff about the church and the Elder Board.”

“Sounds like God made the right choice in not choosing him,” I said.

“God always makes the right choice,” Stan replied.  “He knows our hearts and whether we are  rightly related to Him in order to serve His church.  And God will lead those making the choices about others if we will just listen to Him.”

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And they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus) and Matthias.  And they prayed and said, “Thou, Lord, who knows the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”  And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.  Acts of the Apostles 1:23 – 26.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for wanting your people to serve your church.  You know the role you have for each person to serve.  Thank you for making known your choice.  I pray for those who make choices between individuals for particular roles, that they would truly seek your will in each instance.  As well, I pray for each person who is considered for a particular role, that he or she would accept your choice and continue to be involved in your church regardless of the choice you have made.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this:  Have you ever been in a situation where you were not chosen as the one to fill a particular position?  If so, what did that feel like?  From the opposite perspective, have you been chosen over another?  If so, were you able to handle that in a way that you know was pleasing to God?  Why or why not?  Can you relate to the person in this story who left the church in anger after not being chosen?  Why or why not?

622. The Reversible Jacket

“Nice jacket!” I said to Stan as I sat down.  “New?”

“No,” he replied, “I’ve had it for some time.  It’s reversible and I turned the inside out so it looks like a new jacket.”

“Reversible jackets are really a great idea,” I replied.  “Like having two for the price of one.”

“More like two for the price of one and a half,” Stan said with a smile.

“Or, two for the price of two!” I replied.

“The whole thing of reversible jackets,” Stan continued, “reminds me of what my faith walk with God is supposed to be about.”

“How so?” I asked.

“Transformation has to come from the inside out,” Stan replied.  “And once I turn the jacket inside out, it’s supposed to stay that way.  I’m not supposed to keep reversing it.”

“One day one way; the next the other,” I responded.  “Is that what you’re saying?”

“Exactly,” Stan replied.  “Once I have begun the process of transformation, it is to continue.  It’s not to keep flip-flopping.”

“And,” he continued, “the process is to continue into all of the various parts of my life, not just some of them.  I’m not to wear the jacket of transformation one way when I am doing such and such, and then turn it inside out when I’m doing something else.”

“Kind of like,” I responded, “wearing the jacket one way on Sunday when you go to church, and then wearing it the other side out during the week.”

“That’s one way to look at it,” Stan replied.  “Another way to see it is that I am not to wear it one way when I’m doing certain things or when I’m with certain people, and then turning it inside out in other situations.”

Continuing, he added, “Some people describe that sort of behavior as ‘compartmentalizing’ faith.  Manifesting being a Christian in some parts of their life, but not in others.”

“Is that a very common thing?” I asked.

“Afraid so,” Stan replied.  “I’ve seen it in others and I’ve seen it in me.”

“How could a person avoid that?” I asked.

“It’s a choice,” Stan said.  “I have to choose to be deliberate about my faith walk.  I have to choose to surrender myself to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Not only surrender to His leading, but choose to follow.”

“Sounds a lot like discipleship,” I replied.

“Right again, my friend,” Stan said.  “First I have to deny myself by not having a spiritually reversible jacket. Second, doing what God has for me to do by wearing the same jacket the same way all of the time. And, third, following Him wherever He wants to lead me while wearing the jacket of transformation.”

“Maybe reversible jackets aren’t such a great idea after all,” I replied.

“They serve a purpose,” Stan said, “just not in my Christian life!”

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But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind; that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:2.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for all you provide for me through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thank you for your gracious and free gift of life eternally with you when my time here is done.  Thank you, too, for the opportunity to pursue knowing you and Jesus on this side of eternity.  Thank you also for the presence of the Holy Spirit who is in me to guide, help, and counsel me in being transformed into the image of Christ.  I confess that too often I seek to look good on my own, rather than surrendering to the transformative power of the Holy Spirit that will change me from the inside out.  Please help me in following your lead in giving all of me to all of you so that I am molded, shaped, and transformed just as you intend.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this:  Do you wear a “reversible jacket” in your relationship with God, depending on where you are and what you are doing?  If so, why?  What does it look like for people to not compartmentalize their faith, being one way here and one way there?  If you find yourself putting your faith into compartments, how can that be avoided?  Do you agree that such compartmentalization may be too common in the church?  Why or why not?

621. The Cookie Had Bad Advice

“We had dinner at the Good Fortune Chinese Restaurant again last night,” Stan said.

“One of my favorites.” I replied.  “How was it?”

“Food was wonderful, service was great, and the fortune cookie tasted just fine,” Stan responded, “but the fortune in the cookie was wrong.”

“Wrong?” I responded.  “How could the fortune in a cookie be wrong?”

“Bad information and bad advice,” Stan said.

“What was so wrong with the fortune you got in your cookie?”

“This is what it said,” Stan replied, ‘Everything you desire must be earned’.”

“Oh,” I said, “I see what you mean.  Certainly bad information and advice for spending eternity with God when it’s time.”

“And,” Stan said, “I’m really glad the fortune is wrong!  I hate to think how much work would be involved in trying to earn my way into God’s eternal presence.”

Continuing, he added, “Since it is impossible to earn God’s favor on my own, trying to do so would be a lot of work for nothing.”

“But,” I replied, “aren’t some people who desire to be in God’s eternal presence trying to earn that?”

“They are,” Stan said, ‘because they don’t know that salvation is God’s free and gracious gift that has to be accepted for what it is, free.”

Continuing, he added, “For whatever reason, they are blinded to the truth of free and gracious salvation and are locked in the bondage of trying to earn what they desire.  It can’t be earned, but they keep trying.”

“How can such people be released from that bondage?” I asked.

“By knowing and accepting the truth of what Jesus accomplished through His life, death, and resurrection.  And, before you ask how that will happen, I will say it will happen if those who know the truth are committed to sharing that truth with those who don’t know.”

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Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed in Him, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”  John 8:31, 32.

When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!”  And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.  John 19:30.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for your free and gracious gift of salvation through the finished work of Jesus on the cross.  Thank you I can look forward to spending eternity with you when it’s time because I have accepted your free gift.  Thank you I do not have to try to work my way to heaven.  I pray for all of those people who want to be in your eternal presence when it is time, but they think they have to work their way to heaven.  I pray for each one of those people to be freed by the truth of free salvation.  You made that knowledge available to me.  Please help me in following every step of your lead so I help others know the truth that will set them free.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this:  Have you accepted the free and gracious gift of eternal salvation.  If not, why?  Do you know you cannot work your way to heaven?  Do you know that you have to accept salvation as a free gift or not have it?  Do you know people who are in the bondage of thinking they can work their way to heaven and are trying very hard to do that?  If you have been freed by the truth, are you doing all you can to help others be free as well?  If not, why?  What would it look like for you to be doing that?  Can you see yourself in that role?  Why or why not?

620. Praying For Difficult People

“Stan,” I began one morning, “there’s a guy at work who is always giving me a bad time about my faith.  I really don’t like him very much, but I keep having the sense I should be praying for him.  How can I do that?”

“That’s a question I’ve wrestled with more than once,” Stan replied.  “And if I’m not careful, I can fall into the trap of thinking someone doesn’t ‘deserve’ my prayers.”

“How do you get beyond that?” I asked.

“Prayer,” was Stan’s one-word answer.

“Prayer?” I responded.  “You pray about praying?”

“Exactly!” Stan replied.  “When I don’t feel like praying for someone, or if I don’t know how to pray for or about them, I give it to the Holy Spirit.  He’s really good at helping me to see beyond what’s on my heart and mind to what God wants me to pray about.”

Continuing, he added, “It’s a constant thing with me to remember that prayer is not about what I want, it’s about what God wants.  My prayers don’t change Him, but they certainly can change me.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“Let me give you an example,” Stan replied.  “I had someone in my life exactly like the person you described.  He was always bothering me about my faith.  I got to the point of wanting to avoid him as much as possible.”

“However,” he continued, “one morning when I was praying about something else, he came to mind and I had the most powerful sense of God’s love.”

“God’s love?” I said, “For you?”

“No,” Stan replied, “for this other person.  God placed on my mind the fact that He gave Jesus for him as much as He did for me.  I began praying for this person.  I prayed that God would draw him and open him to want to know God.”

“Did your prayers make a difference?” I asked.

“Sure did,” Stan replied.  “My whole attitude about this person changed.  I began to see him as someone God really wanted me to pray for, not as someone I was to ignore.”

“So,” I said, “it made a difference in you.  What about him?  Any difference?”

“God’s not done with him yet,” Stan replied, “and He wants me to keep praying!”

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And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  Romans 8:26, 27.

But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.  Matthew 5:44.

But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  Luke 6:27, 28.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for allowing me to come before you in prayer.  Thank you, too, for the provision of the Holy Spirit who helps when I do not know how to pray.  I confess that too often I have failed to pray because I either did not want to pray or I did not know how to pray.  Please forgive me for that foolishness.  And please help me in following every step of your lead to pray in accordance with your will, not my own, for whoever and whatever you want.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this:  Have you ever been in the situation where you did not pray because you did not know how to pray, or what to pray for?  What, if anything, did you do about it?  Have you ever not prayed for someone because you didn’t like the person or didn’t like what the person was doing?  If so, do you think that’s okay with God?  Why or why not?