Not Just Thanksgiving but a Life of Thanksliving

I heard a sThankfulness - sunsettory about a little boy who was handed an orange by a man trying to be kind. The boy’s mother asked, “What do you say to the nice man?” The little boy thought and handed the orange back and said, “Peel it.”

As rude as this boy in the story seems to be, what’s more shocking is that this attitude is prevalent throughout our society. Everywhere we turn we can see it filtering through this great nation of ours. We have raised a generation of self-absorbed people that are blinded to everything other than their desires and needs. We have forgotten the simple act of gratitude.

We have made our own worlds that revolve around us! We have set ourselves as kings of our own kingdoms! It’s nothing more than a “Me, Myself and I” society that we are slipping into. The scripture says in 1 Tim. 3:1-2 that in the last days men will be lovers of themselves and unthankful along with other selfish attributes. Through our actions we have nurtured and raised a generation of unthankful people.

I am reminded of the story of the ten lepers that stood afar off as Jesus entered a certain village. They lifted their voices so that Jesus could hear them and cried out saying “have mercy on us!” Jesus responded by telling them to go and show themselves to the priest, who had the final decision in pronouncing them clean or defiled.

As the lepers went in obedience to His words, the very disease that had kept them estranged from society incredibly dries up and instantly they are healed. Now if this was the end of the story it would be a great lesson on obedience and God’s mercy, but it goes even deeper. The story continues with the scene of only one of the ten returning to give thanks for the miracle from God. The author points out that this healed man was not a Jew but a Samaritan. He wasn’t educated in the traditions and things of God. Yet he knew enough to be eternally grateful for the life changing miracle he was given. Many times those who profess to be Christians are out-done by unbelievers.

Where were the other nine? They all had been unfairly handicapped by this demoralizing disease. They had all been separated from society and their families and dreams. Yet, when they were radically healed and set free by a merciful loving God that heard and responded to their cries. The majority of them didn’t even have the time to come and say, “Thank You”.

It’s time we ourselves develop a habit of gratitude towards God and be obedient to the scripture, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1Thes 5:18 NKJ).  We can become a person of gratitude by being thankful in three simple areas.  First, by being thankful for everything He has done in our lives. Secondly, being thankful for everything He is doing in our lives and thirdly, walking in faith by being thankful for everything He is going to do in our lives.

When we become grateful in these areas it will develop a heart of gratitude in us. Once we learn to be thankful to God we will see that same attitude of thanksgiving and gratitude flow out to and through others.

It truly is time to stop the madness of self-centeredness and develop a lifestyle of thankfulness, not just thanksgiving but Thanksliving!

Keeping the Ax Sharp

ax1

Have you ever come to the place in your life that you feel dry and dull? Maybe you have had an onslaught of work that seems to be piling up or your visiting family has gotten you to the point of exhaustion. Whatever the case might be you have found yourself totally spent and depleted. You have poured out so much that there isn’t one more ounce you can give. The cook’s statement, “it’s well done and on the verge of being burnt” describes you and where you seem to be.

I believe many find themselves in that familiar place more often than not.  In times of spiritual dryness, we need to be saturated in God. If we have become dry, it’s a good indication that we haven’t been soaking in the river that flows from God’s throne. In other words, when we become dull and to the point of not being effective for the cause of Christ, we need to get in the Lord’s presence.

William D. Boyd in his writing “I Work Too Hard” tells a story about a young man who approached the foreman of a logging crew and asked for a job. Impressed, the foreman exclaimed, “Start Monday!” Then Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday rolled by, and Thursday afternoon the foreman approached the young man and said, “You can pick up your paycheck on the way out today.” Startled, he replied, “I thought you paid on Friday.” “Normally we do,” answered the foreman, “but we’re letting you go today because you’ve fallen behind. Our daily felling charts show that you’ve dropped from first place on Monday to last on Wednesday.” “But I’m a hard worker,” the young man objected. “I arrive first, leave last, and even have worked through my coffee breaks!” The foreman, sensing the boy’s integrity, thought for a minute and then asked, “Have you been sharpening your ax?” The young man replied, “I’ve been working too hard to take the time.”

One of the enemy’s biggest strategies is getting us so busy that we never stop to sharpen our spiritual ax.  If our ax is dull then we use our own strength until we are so ineffective we burn out. Without a discipline of prayer in our lives we will become duller with the more work we do. Even when it is good righteous work that pleases God. Prayer is one of the very things that sharpens our spiritual edge.

Unfortunately, in trying times and being spiritually depleted, many people take a sabbatical, stopping the Lord’s work to gain rest and restoration. But if we look at the scripture it wasn’t until God was done with His work, creating the universe, that He stopped and rested, (Gen.2:2). When we become spiritually dull, we need to run to God in prayer and sit at His feet, soaking in the river of life not run away from Him. I do believe we can get off balance with our work unto the Lord, as we see Martha did in the Gospels. But let me also say stopping your work to do nothing is also wrong. It is essential that we spend time in His presence in prayer. If we are continuously basking in Him we will never get dull or burned out but will instead be fired up and sharp in the things of God. So let me leave you with this last statement. Don’t get so busy doing good works that you don’t have time to pray.

God Uses Praying People for Change

globe and boyWhat does a rainstorm have to do with foreign missions? Let me explain: In 1806 a group of students at William’s College in Massachusetts sought refuge from a sudden rainstorm in a haystack. As the rain beat down, they turned their retreat into a prayer meeting. They asked God to use their lives. As they prayed, their faith rose to believe God to use them significantly to fulfill Christ’s great commission. When the rain subsided, they left with the rallying cry, ‘We can do it if we will!’ This unobtrusive meeting went down in history as the Haystack Prayer Meeting. Today this spontaneous prayer time is seen as the beginning of the mission movement in America. As a result, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was birthed.

Because of a simple non-organized prayer meeting, the world was never the same. God used a group of young people, who had a relationship with Him, to shake the world through missions. They turned what seemed to be, at the time, a lethargic mission’s directive into a mission’s movement that is unprecedented to this day.

Not because of who they were or even that they deserved anything.  It was all because they chose to allow God’s heart to be vocalized through prayer. That small group came in agreement with God’s heart and because of it changed the world! If the believers of God would only understand the power of coming in agreement in prayer with heaven, we could change our surroundings and our world.

All through history we come across individuals who God used to pray in times of great need. God uses praying people to be the catalyst that brings about change. Whether they’re young or old, female or male God wants to use any willing vessel to help usher in a radical change.

Evan Roberts grew up in Wales working in the mines after his dad was injured. Evan always carried his Bible so that on his breaks he could study the scripture. For thirteenth months he prayed for a move of God without seeing any evidence. Supposedly, he prayed so hard and loud that his landlord kicked him out. Then on a day that Heaven had picked, he was asked to preach at his church. Only seventeen people stayed after the main service to hear him. The rest of the story is history; in 1904, the God of Heaven invaded Wales with His manifest presence. The Welsh revival was responsible for 100,000 salvations. Church attendance rocketed to 90 percent. Prayer and the power of God changed Robert’s country. The crime drastically went down  and the climate of unity swept through the small region. This revival is commonly referred to as the “Revival of Prayer.”  Prayer is the determining factor that God used to bring change to a country that was going down the same road that every self-seeking society does, a rapid slide into self-destruction.  D. L. Moody said, “The world has not yet seen what God can do through a person completely dedicated to Him.” In this case, the prayers of a young miner brought about a change in a whole country.

The ripples of this change affected the world, including America through the “Azusa Street Revival” in Los Angeles from 1906-1909.  Let us, in a time when we are hearing the cry for change from every segment of our society and follow in the footsteps of those that through prayer experienced change!   It will change you and your surroundings!

Normal People Can Do Great Things Too!

Many Years ago, in the year 1787 at Hampton Sidney College in Virginia, there were three students who prayed out in the woods once a week, in the morning. As you can imagine when the other students found out, they began to make fun and persecute them. The president of the college, John Smith, was so impressed with their commitment that he invited the three young prayer warriors to hold their weekly prayer meeting at his house.

The result of those three young students taking a stand in prayer was two hundred students coming to Christ that first year. By 1795 Yale University was experiencing revival as well. By 1802 one third of the student body converted to Christ. Many say this was a direct response to the seeds that were sown in prayer years earlier.

If you think about it, those three students were nothing but normal students with a tenacious burden for God to move on their campus. They weren’t well known preachers or highly talented individuals. They were normal! History doesn’t tell us that they had anything but a desire and boldness to prayer. And maybe we can’t even say they had boldness because they were praying in the woods, possibly to hide from everyone. But these normal students prayed to a God that holds the whole earth in His hands and history records the rest of the story.

We will probably never know the full impact of our prayers until we get to Heaven. But one thing is certain there is power in prayer. In James 5:16-18 we read, “Pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” I translate this verse like this, “The persistent powerful prayer of a believer brings radical results.”

God has granted us an unbelievable privilege in prayer. The problem is that many times we don’t understand the opportunity we have. We fall prey to the thoughts and false understanding that we have to be great to do great things for God! In I Kings 18:41-45 it tells how Elijah, instructed by the Lord, tells King Ahab that it wouldn’t rain for years except at his word. We then read in James 5:17 that Elijah prayed and it didn’t rain for three and a half years.

Then the same normal man prayed again and a cloudburst broke the drought. The Bible says that Elijah was a man just like us with the same opportunities and hindrances to his prayers. (James 5:17) In other words, he wasn’t anything special nor was he God’s favorite. He was just a normal person like you and me. Galatians 2:6 tells us that God is not a respecter of persons. He treats us all fairly and equally, therefore if Elijah had that kind of result so can we.

God uses Normal people that know Him and trust Him to do extraordinary and great things in the earth. Don’t allow the lie of the enemy keep you from doing great things for God. The enemy is always trying to tell us that we are nothing special and can’t be used by God. Being normal doesn’t keep you from doing great things! Being normal positions you to be used by a great God when we trust and rely on Him.

We Must Have a Change!

Ifootball8t would seem every direction we look there is unrest and turmoil in our cities and abroad in the earth. The majority of the news is filled with tragedy and upheaval.  Whether it’s racial tension in our cities, misuse of power in the government or terrorist activity in different parts of the earth, it seems to be one thing after the other. We must have a change!

When things are not going the way we think they should, in our lives, in our communities or even throughout the world, what should one do?  I believe it’s time to pursue a change that can only happen through God. Let me share a portion of scripture that is addressing this same scenario.

In 2 Chr 7:13-16 we read “When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people…”. Here God gives His people the answer of what to do when there is turmoil and catastrophe in their land and all about them. This passage goes on to say, “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways…” I love how God doesn’t beat around the bush but says, “if My people” which is talking about Christians or those that believe in God.  Then it goes on to say that if they bend their knee or come into subjection to the authority of God and pray, along with seeking His face and turning from wickedness then God says He will respond.  By hearing their prayers, forgiving their sins and healing their land God will move in their behalf.  In verse 15 He then declares with promise that He would stamp His name there, indicating His approval, as well as, He would be attentive to their prayers in that place forever.

God is talking to the children of Israel in a time of serious trouble.  Letting them know that He has a promise to those that will get serious and begin to move towards Him.  The believer must humble themselves before God, which is an act of surrender and acknowledgment of His Lordship. Then with a heart of desperation we must turn away from the things that have our attention and time and turn towards God and His purposes.

There is more to seeking God than just talking to Him, even though that is part of it.  Seeking is being aggressive in finding Him, doing whatever it takes to do His will. Too often we handle our prayer time as if we were giving our wish list to Santa Claus. God wants us to cry out to Him with a heart that desires His purposes, being willing to flee from the wickedness that entangles us and keeps us from Him.

If the believer does these things then things will be turned around and changed for the better. God gives us the promise that He will change our circumstances when we make a change in ourselves.

When we turn our hearts towards Him through the place of prayer, God will take notice.  He will respond to us in power when we seek Him with all of our heart. There will be a change when we finally surrender our ways to His ways. He has promised that if we turn towards Him and obey Him, He will move in our behalf.

Raised in Prayer

praying with sonThe April sun broke through our kitchen window. I had sleep in my eyes. My siblings and I sluggishly forced ourselves to eat our morning oatmeal. There was nothing uncommon about this morning in 1967. It began like any other typical day. Until, the telephone pierced the silence and brought all of us to attention. My mother answered in her normal cheery voice, but immediately her tone changed. Her cheerfulness went to a devastating, “Oh my God” and from that moment my life changed forever.

Our daily priorities were obliterated by the news that my dad had just suffered a heart attack (that would later become fatal). As my mother hung up she insistently cried, “Everyone go and pray in the front room for your dad.” The sluggish sleepiness that just moments earlier was so prevalent vanished as we all began to cry out to the Lord. In the midst of disaster, we prayed!

Praying became a natural response in times of crises and need in our household, because it was instilled in us as a daily way of life. I can remember how my mother loved to take walks on our ranch in the beautiful Rocky Mountains to pray. On several occasions we would run up the trail to catch her only to find her deep in prayer. It was memories like this that had a profound impact on my life.

I believe some things must be caught not just taught. Joshua had evidently caught something as he followed Moses. The young Joshua saw the results of Moses’ communion with God. He talked to God and then walked in His power every day. Joshua caught the spirit of prayer and abiding in God’s presence. I love Exodus 33:11 where it says, “So the Lord spoke to Moses face-to-face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle.” Picture this scene: Moses returned to camp and to his responsibilities but Joshua stayed in the Lord’s presence. Evidently Joshua caught something; he understood that a life of intimate prayer and communion with God will result in a walk of power.

A lifestyle of prayer was birthed in my own life through being raised in the shadow of many great men and women of prayer. Even once I had left for college and then continuing down the road to marriage and raising a family; it seemed that God would always place me in the midst of men and women of prayer. Through colleges and seminaries rooted in prayer such as Christ for the Nations Institute and others. Speakers that taught and motivated us to minister out of the place of prayer, as well as, great Pastors such as Dr. Larry Lea, who were used to call a generation to pray. God was definitely orchestrating in me a lifestyle of prayer.

Over the years I have reflected on many of those days and memories and have been encouraged that I had caught an attitude of prayer to sustain me in and through my life. It has kept me through many trying times and has become a lifelong message of mine as well as a book I have published, “Igniting the Power of Prayer”. It is my desire to see God’s people live a life empowered through a life of prayer.

Living from the Place of Prayer

ImageLiving a life of prayer will always be a life of adventure and power.  Reading in Eph 6:18 we read, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”(NKJ)  As we pray let us not forget to uphold one another in prayer.  Standing and holding each other up in their time of need.  Persistence and commitment in prayer will always bring a fruitful and rewarding result.  Let us not be found sleeping as were the disciples in Gethsemene.  But, let us be as Anna in Luke 2:37 where it says she, “served God with fastings and prayers night and day.”(NKJ)  She was an example of a life committed to prayer.  Let us follow in her example.  Living in the place of prayer brings power in any place!  I thank the Lord for those that have stood on the wall of this community and have been watchful through prayer.