How to Change: Pray!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Conclusion and Recap

We started the week with a memory verse: 2 Corinthians 5:17. I’ve been trying to show why this verse, to me, is so closely tied with prayer. So let’s go over everything from earlier this week and try to tie it all together.

2 Corinthians 5-17

We started by talking about why we need to pray. The main reason I pointed out is that Jesus explicitly commands it. According to our verse in 2 Corinthians, if we are doing what Jesus said to do, then we will become a new creation, leaving our old selves behind.

 

Then we moved on to talking about what we should do with our bodies when we pray. This was a little different because the Bible doesn’t tell us how we should or shouldn’t pray, although it does give us some examples. Jesus would pray alone, some people prayed in front of others, some prayed in their hearts and some others prayed kneeling. Find the way that you can have the most productive prayer time and follow through with it.

 

On a similar note, we talked about what things we should pray for and what our words should sound like. Our prayers should consist of praises (things we love about God), petitions (things we want and need from God) and Repentance (asking for forgiveness and pledging to turn from our error filled ways). It’s important to hit all three categories and not exclude one because this is how Jesus himself taught us how to pray. We also need to be sure to pray, not to be heard (like the hypocrites who babble) because God already knows all of your prayers, but rather to make these prayers known to yourself.

 

Making the prayers known to yourself is what I claimed the entire purpose of prayer is. When we prayer, it’s not like God thinks “Oh, so that’s what Nathaniel needs from me!” No. He already knows what I need. We pray to remind ourselves of the greatness of God, to change ourselves and also to be able to turn from our sin. This is how the change comes about; it is how we become a new creation.

 

And finally, I tried to tackle a very big, very difficult question: Why do some prayers go unanswered? My thoughts on this are that the way God set up the world to work many years ago was to be able to function without his direct influence. He created humans with the capacity to learn and to love and he created a universe that makes sense and follows logical rules. I believe that he very rarely chooses to intervene and grant miracles to those who pray for them. Instead, he gave us, his servants, the tools to carry out his will. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail.

 

All of this together wraps up my thoughts on prayers. Maybe you have additional thoughts or even different opinions. That’s great! Just keep studying and looking to Jesus, because when we are in him, we are a new creation.

-Nathaniel Johnson

 

(Editor’s Note: We apologize for the picture that was included on Sunday.  It gave an incorrect reference for the verse.  Today’s is accurate.  Thank you for reading!)

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God’s Will

Friday’s devotion

Romans 8-26

Romans 8:26–27 tells us, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will”

What is God’s will?

As humans, we are always interested in the here and now—what will benefit us temporarily.

God, however, sees things a bit differently. He is also interested in the long term and the eternal.

In other words, God has a bigger plan than my personal happiness in the given moment. He desires my holiness as I am conformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

It’s my prayer that we would be conformed into the image of Christ! 

-Jennie Montgomery

A Chosen Instrument

Acts 9-12

acts 9

Thursday, June 8

Saul fought Christ in every way possible throughout his life up until this point.  He was the most unlikely Jesus follower.  He loved God and served God and thought he was doing His will.  But he thought that Jesus had been a false teacher and liar and that everyone who followed and spread Jesus’ teachings needed to be stopped.  There are people today who think they are doing God’s will but instead are ignorant of the truth, possibly because, like Saul, they don’t understand who Jesus is.

 

And then came the light!  Following the spectacular flash of light and the great voice of Jesus, Saul was led to Damascus where he was blind and did not eat or drink for three days.   I imagine this was a time of tremendous wrestling and questioning and perhaps doubting everything that he thought he had known about his whole life’s work and about Jesus.

 

Enter Ananias.  In a vision, Ananias, a follower of Jesus, is given specific directions to find Saul and place his hands on him to heal him.  Ananias answers, telling the Lord what a bad guy Saul is and how dangerous this could be.  Has the Lord ever tried to send you in one direction and instead you had your list of reasons why it didn’t make sense?  God’s work and His will doesn’t always make sense to us, and it doesn’t ‘have’ to make sense.  Our list of excuses and reasoning is worth nothing in comparison to God’s plan and desire for us.  So the patient Lord once again told Ananias, “This man (Saul) is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.”  (Acts 9:15).  How might you also be the Lord’s chosen instrument?  To whom has he prepared and designed you to carry His name?  Perhaps not to kings, but maybe to your neighbor and facebook friends and co-workers?

 

So, with no more excuses left, Ananias went to Saul and placed his hands on him to give him sight.  Ananias told Saul he would be filled with the Holy Spirit.  With the Lord’s powerful light, three days spent questioning what he had thought he had known, and Ananias’ faithful intervention, Saul realized the mistake he had made in his life and he was healed and baptized.  Just like Saul, anyone can change their life and follow Jesus.  God can set anyone straight.  Keep praying for those fighting against Christ and consider how He wants you to carry His name to others?

-Jason Railton

Seek Not to Please Myself

John 6-7

john-6-35

Saturday, May 27

As I started reading John 6 & 7 a few key quotes from Jesus recorded in the end of John 5 were still ringing in my ears:

“For I seek NOT to please myself but him who sent me.” (John 5:30)

“I do not accept praise from men…How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God.” (John 5:41, 44)

Here Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man, was saying quite clearly and repetitively – it’s not about me.  He did not seek to please himself or earn the praises of men – his goal was only and always to please God and hear the praises of his Heavenly Father.

Chapter 6 begins with this same Jesus feeding the famished five thousand with five small barley loaves and two small fish – and ending up with twelve baskets of left-overs.  As the one primarily responsible for feeding my family of 5 three times a day, I have always been greatly impressed with this miracle!  And, he follows it up with walking on the water!  There is no doubt that this Jesus has just earned some serious bragging rights.

Instead, he turns it into a teachable moment and offers himself as the bread of life – the bread and body that must be broken for others to live.  This is what he offers to the world not because he is the one who dreamed it up, and not because he was looking forward to it, and not because he desired it – but because he knew he came, “Not to do MY (Jesus’) will but to do the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38).

In Chapter 7 he continues, “My teaching is not my own.  It comes from him who sent me.” (7:16) and “I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true.” (7:28).   While some wanted to kill him, others wanted to make him king.  And yet – none of that really mattered to Jesus.  He was teaching God’s Word and living – and later dying – God’s Will.  His one-track mind and life was centered on what his Daddy desired and had planned from the beginning of the world.

Two things seem clear.

First, Jesus was definitely NOT claiming to be God, nor did he desire to be considered as God in any way.  His repeated use of, “not me/mine…but He/His” were pointing out the differences – two beings, even though their purposes would be the same – at Jesus’ choosing.  Today, would I hold any credibility if I stated, “I do not seek to please myself, but only what I want?”  Or, if I said, “My teaching is not my own but it comes from me”, would people listen to me for long?  Over and over again, Jesus is drawing some pretty clear lines between His Father God and himself.  Two beings, united in purpose – because that is what Jesus chose – to follow His Father and not himself.

Second, how must I change my focus, my goals and my everyday life so that I, along with Jesus, can confidently say, “Not my will, but His be done,” “My teaching is not my own, but God’s.”  “I seek not to please myself, but my Heavenly Father.”  No doubt the Son of God set an example for us to follow.  It is a path that requires laying aside all selfishness and pride, as well as false teaching.    It is not an easy road.  But when we live our life to please God our Father, just as Jesus did, we won’t be disappointed in the end!

-Marcia Railton

 

(Photo Credit: https://dailyverses.net/john/6/35)

All-Star Team

Matthew 10-12

jesus-disciples

Sunday, April 30

Suppose you were given the task of building a team that was responsible for learning some teachings and convincing everyone else in the world that those teachings were true.  What kind of people would you pick for this team?  I would go with an all-star team of doctors, lawyers, scholars, politicians, successful business people, and someone famous.  Jesus had this same task, but he built an all-star team of fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot, probably some tradesmen, and more fishermen.  These were the occupations of the twelve disciples.  Think about how unremarkable this group was, and yet they were chosen to carry out probably the most important job in the history of mankind, to spread the gospel to the whole world.  They were ordinary people on an extraordinary mission.

And guess what…the mission is not over, especially considering there are about seven billion people alive today that were not living a couple thousand years ago.  I’m pretty sure all of the disciples died so they are not able to help with the work anymore.  God needs a team now to carry on the mission and I suspect he is still counting on ordinary people to join the team.  Yes, I am talking about you.  God wants you to help preach the gospel to all of the nations.

But what is the message?  In Matthew 10:12, Jesus said he wanted them to go out and preach about the kingdom.  He wanted to make sure that everyone knew about the coming kingdom.  Is everyone going to accept the message?  Absolutely not.  Jesus said if they don’t accept the message, shake off the dust of your feet and move on to the next place.  It might seem odd that Jesus was sending them to places where they would be rejected, but he still thought it was important that everyone should hear the message so they can make the choice themselves.  If someone doesn’t hear about the kingdom, they don’t have a chance to accept the kingdom message.

Is it going to be easy?  Nope.  Jesus said we are like sheep in the midst of wolves.  He told us that it won’t be easy, and in fact, it could be dangerous.  Moreover, if you choose to be on this team, the message is not always viewed favorably and your own family may hate you for it, even to the point of your own family having you killed.  Jesus said in Matthew 11:11 that no one was ever greater than John the Baptist, yet his life ended when they chopped off his head.  However, Jesus tells us the good news in Matthew 10:39, “He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for my sake shall find it.”

In Matthew 12:19, it talks about Jesus’ approach.  He won’t quarrel or cry out, and nobody in the streets will hear his voice.  I believe this is our model of how to spread the gospel message.  We are not looking for a fight.  We don’t have to get angry with people because they disagree with us.  We do not have to stand on street corners and scream at people that they are going to hell if they don’t repent.  We just need to speak the truth in love.  Explain to people what is going to happen in the future, especially what happens to them after they die.  Tell them about the kingdom and how to attain salvation.  If they are not interested in what you are saying, move on.  There is no need for a heated debate and there is no need to keep pestering them.  Just shake off the dust and move on.  You can feel good that you gave them a chance for eternal life.  The only time you should feel bad is when you had the opportunity to talk to someone and kept silent.  What if they would have embraced the gospel message, but nobody ever gave them that chance?  That would be a tragedy to let someone die eternally without ever trying to save them.

Fortunately, it is not our responsibility to make sure others attain salvation.  It is only our responsibility to make sure they hear the gospel message.  Don’t put any pressure on yourself for results.  It is only your job to make sure that people have a choice and they don’t have a choice unless someone tells them about the choice.  Matthew 12:50 says that whoever does the will of Jesus’ Father is a brother, sister, or mother of Jesus.  That is a family I hope you want to be a part of.

-Rick McClain

Bio:  Happily married, 4 kids, and 0 pets.  Enjoy sports, vacations, and romantic comedies.  Blood type is A positive.  Life Goal:  Get as many people in the kingdom as possible.