Conversations make up life.
Conversations are give and take.
Conversations are back and forth.
Conversations are always two way.
When conversations become one way, it becomes a monologue. Who likes to listen to a monologue?
As we have been focusing on Risky Prayers for the past three months, have you discovered and grown in your two way conversation with God? Or are you monologuing to God?
Have you taken the daily time to be still and listen to God?
If so, what is He saying?
Job learned to hear God speak, which is an extremely important spiritual skill that needs to be developed – especially when going through challenging times. Job discovered, “God does speak — sometimes one way and sometimes another — even though people may not understand it” Job 33:14 (NCV)
1. Of course, God speaks clearly and practically through the Bible.
Every time we read God's Word, He is speaking to us; sometimes generally (2 Tim 3:16) and other times very specifically (Heb 4:12). The question becomes, are you letting God's Word speak to you? It is always easier to read the Bible when trying to finish a Bible study with your Sunday School class or small group. Or when you are seeking wisdom for some other person. But, do you turn the Bible to your heart, to your soul to have it speak directly to you? What are you hearing God say to you?
2. God also speaks through Biblical teachers.
This is the Biblical pattern. God gives a message to His spokesperson and then they go and share the message. Have you ever been at church or a conference and the speaker or pastor seems to be just talking with you? Does it seem like God is saying something through them to you? Or are you seeking to tune out God's voice through specific teachers for some reason or reasons? Are you humble enough to ask God to speak to you through Biblical teachers?
3. God speaks through circumstances.
Jesus trained His disciples to hear God speak through circumstances in Matt 10:11-14. God's direction will be revealed by how others responded to them. As we walk with Jesus, He has to constantly make course corrections and one way He does that is through our circumstances. It helps to be debriefing about circumstances with close brothers and sisters in Christ.
4. God speaks through impressions or ideas.
Amos 4:13 "For the LORD is the one who shaped the mountains, stirs up the winds, and reveals His thoughts to mankind." This is always very challenging because there are two extremes. One is that God is speaking clear ideas to people all the time. The other is that God does not speak this way at all. One thing is for sure, God will never say anything that is contrary to the Scriptures. If it is not Biblical, it is not from God.
What is God saying to you?
"Will you confess ______ yet?"
"Will you let Me transform ______ yet?"
"Will you accept My mission today yet?"
Seeking to listen to God together,
What is one of the most frustrating things about following Jesus?
I am sure many ideas pop into your head...
Is one of them, "Do you really care about my prayers?" "Why are you not answering my prayers?" "I have been praying and it seems like you are not listening, why? Are you too busy? I know other things and other people are important but this is important too!"
Was Jesus exaggerating when He said, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." (Matt 7:7) Or was Jesus saying every prayer prayed is answered?
Regularly we need reminders on how God answers every prayer.
1. Sometimes, God answers our prayer with a "No."
This is always the most difficult answer that we do not want. We want a "Yes." But, when we stop and remember that when Jesus asked His Heavenly Father to remove the cup of going to the cross, aren't we all glad God said "No" to Jesus? If God answered Jesus' prayer with a "No," then we need to hear God say to us, "No." Just like Garth Brooks' famous song, Thank God For Unanswered Prayers. Brooks' theology is a little off by the title but the heart of his lyrics are right on. The title should be, Thank God for His "No's."
Matt 26:39 Going a little farther, Jesus fell with His face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not my will, but as You will be done.”
2. Sometimes, God says, "Wait."
John 11:6 When Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days, and then He said to His disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
By the time Jesus and His disciples got the Lazarus' home, Lazarus had been in tomb for four days. We, Americans, do not like to wait. We are an impatient people. We distain lines, traffic, being put on hold... How dare God not give us what we want...
Why does He respond with a "wait?"
He is more concerned about our lives, our character and our relationship with Him than our prayer request of help "I'm sick." "I'm in a financial challenge." "I'm in a relational battle." "I'm ..."
He is also working on all parties involved in the situation. This is mind boggling to say the least. But, let's remember, Rom 8:28 We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
3. Sometimes, God says, "Change."
James 4:1-3 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
Here God reminds us that our motives matter. Our alignment with Jesus and His will matters. The changing of our minds, our character, our plans to fit in and join Jesus' plans matter.
As we pray, maybe Jesus is asking, "When are you going to join Me?"
"When are you going to care about the things that I care about?"
"When are you going to say, 'Not my will, but Your will be done?"
4. Sometimes, God says, "You Betcha!"
We love these responses from God.
I love and am haunted by Acts 12. There is the first heartbreaking martyr and this miraculous rescue.
Acts 12:2 James was put to death by the sword. Peter was arrested and put into prison. v 5 So, the church was earnestly praying to God for him. v 16 Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.
God loved to say "Yes" to the entire churches' prayer to rescue Peter.
God loves to say "Yes" to our prayers as well.
When has God said "Yes" to you lately? Do you have a list? How have you thanked Him? How have you let others know about God's personal "Yes?"
As you know, Southtown has been facing a "Buck Hill" Financial Challenge. We have a 4 step Godly plan...
1. Communicate the Financial Challenge.
2. Daily invite everyone to pray 3 fold prayer. (All Members and Regular Attenders to have a fresh passion for Jesus, fresh passion for each other and for God to use all of us to honor Him by cheerfully giving.)
3. Create and live on a Spending Less Plan.
4. Seek to get back on our agreed upon Giving Budget.
As we have been praying and learning about this challenge, God has been stirring and answering our prayers. He is not done yet...
Let's continue to pray. Let's continue to see how God is answering our prayers.
Have you ever thought to call the entire world to worship God?
What if God asked you to call the world to worship Him?
What would you do? What would you say?
The Psalmist who wrote Psalm 100 seems to have had that assignment. Look at who he is encouraging to "shout for joy to the Lord... all the earth."
What an assignment...
Overwhelming to say the least...
Let's look at three descriptions this Psalmist used to worship God and describe God.
Ps 100 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.
1. "The Lord is good." v 5.
In verse 3 we see the Psalmist declare the position and role of the Lord, "The Lord is God." The Lord is the One and Only Creator who oversees all of His creation. This Creator, Involved God is "good." This describes His character. The Hebrew word for "good" is "towb" which means "pleasant, agreeable, bountiful, delightful and good."
Do people in our neighborhood and work places see God like this? Or do they seem Him as angry, stomping around heaven looking for someone to unleash His wrath?
No, God is "pleasant, agreeable, bountiful, delightful and good." Our world needs to hear and experience Him.
We at Southtown need to embrace that the Lord is good and is taking care of our personal needs and our church needs.
2. "His love endures forever." v 5
"Chesed" is the Hebrew word. There is no English word that we can use to describe this characteristic of God. Chesed is one of the most important Hebrew words in the entire Old Testament because it seeks to sum up the entire character of God.
Think about Ruth's other-worldly love she had for her mother-in-law... chesed.
Think about Jonathan's other-worldly devotion to David, willing to give up his birthright to be King... chesed.
Think about God's instructions to Hosea to love and marry a prostitute... chesed.
Think about God's overwhelming patience, love, care, power for David even in David's lust, abuse of power, lust, murder and even more lust... chesed.
Think about God becoming human in the person of Jesus Christ... chesed.
God knows all of who we are and what we have done (anyone knowing this, would reject and run from us) yet God shows us His other worldly kindness. A love that we do not deserve. A love that is more beautiful, satisfying and life altering. His love never runs out.
We need to daily experience this from Jesus. Our world desperately needs a taste of this, of Him. Are you going to be like the Psalmist tell them?
3. "His faithfulness continues to all generations." v 5
God does not show favoritism. He loves each person, each family, each generation as if there was no one else on the planet. Are you experiencing His faithfulness to you personally? Are you experiencing His faithfulness to your family personally, your church family personally? I know He is faithful to Southtown and is walking through our financial challenge with us right now.
Our world does not know about loyalty, faithfulness, keeping our word or promises. Oh how the world would change if they knew this amazing faithful God.
Who is going to tell them?
Who is going to show them?
Who is going to help them experience this Psalm 100 God?
It is the mission of the church to do this.
Receiving and enjoying all of who God is and seeking to share that with others,
What challenges are you facing right now?
What challenges is your family facing?
What challenges are at your work?
What challenges are at your church?
The Psalmist wrote Ps 46 describing real life problems that he and his community were facing with some very descriptive words and phrases. Grab your Bible and read Ps 46.
"Earth giving way." "Mountains falling into the sea." "Waters roaring and foaming."
"Mountains quaking." "Nations in an uproar." "Kingdoms fall." "The earth melts."
These words clearly describe overwhelming problems, causing fear to gush through everyone's veins.
The Psalmist along with his community cried out to God with even better descriptive words and titles about who God is...
"God is our refuge and strength."
"The Lord Almighty... our fortress."
God's instructions for us...
"Come and behold."
Matthew instructs us, “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace." Matt 6:6 (Msg)
Take a moment right now and live these Biblical instructions out.
Take a moment every day or a few times throughout the day and live out these Biblical instructions.
Can you see how Martin Luther could not help write one of the most famous hymns based on this Psalm?
Worship A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
Psalm 46 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. 5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. 6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; He lifts His voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations He has brought on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the shields with fire. 10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Worship A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (listen here)
At Southtown, we are facing a few family challenges.
We are in need of a Custodian. Until we hire someone, we need everyone's help to keeping our building looking great.
We are also facing a Financial Challenge. We need God to work through each of us as we give joyfully and generously. For God loves to bless individuals, families and church families. This Sunday we are going to pray the Risky Prayer, "Hey Dad, We Need Your Generosity."
See you Sunday.
God is our Fortress, Strength and Warrior.
Being in the presence of our Mighty God and Warrior God together,
Pastor Chris Reinertson enjoys all sports, especially those involving a ball. He loves to hang out with people and challenge them to be Jesus REVolutionizers.