Empty Vessels Don’t Pour

31 03 2015

“So encourage one another and build each other up…”  1 Thessalonians 5:11

A disciple isn’t to be an empty vessel that needs others to come and “fill them”, but they are called to be a filled vessel that leaves a positive impact on the lives of those that are around them.  From the connection that they have with God, they are filled with life and purpose… and from that place of “fullness”, they are to pour into the lives of others.

If a disciple is empty, it becomes impossible to pour into the lives of others, for they have nothing to offer.  However, when a disciple is filled to overflowing, they can’t help but spill into others.  People are blessed and encouraged by simply being around them, because they have been blessed and encouraged by being with Jesus.  His life pours into us.  Our lives pour into others.

A disciple is to be a source of encouragement and edification to those with whom they come in contact.  They are to spill over in ways that leave people “lifted up” and “built up” in their faith.  This isn’t something that we should have to force, but something that flows naturally out of our connection with the Master.  Focus on your connection with Him, and your vessel will always be filled and able to overflow into the lives of others.

A Selfish View of Community

31 03 2015

“A new command I give you, love one another.”  John 13:34

When a person attends a support group, they usually walk into the group with the understanding that they need the support that the group has to offer.  They come, looking for others to help them overcome their problems, whatever they might be.  In almost every case, a person comes with a very self-centered reason.  “I need help, and I need you to help me.”

But if a person keeps that mindset, they will never truly get the help that they need.  Why?  Because the most important need that person has is not to get others to help them, but rather to become a help for others.  This is the power of community.  It is people helping people.

Many people believe that groups within a Church are something for people who really need help.  They see community as being like a support group, but not really important for them unless their lives need some kind of support.  They see community from a self-oriented perspective.

But Community is not just about getting help from others… it’s about being in a context where we can help others.  The power of community is that if you’re doing great, you can come along side someone who’s not doing so well.  If you’re falling apart, you’re in a fellowship of believers that can help hold you together and carry you to Christ for healing.  Community is not about you… it’s about us…. it’s about others.

Confidence in Prayer

29 03 2015

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. – 1 John 5:14

When we approach God in prayer, we don’t need to be timid or doubtful about the outcome of our time with Him, but we can be confident and filled with Faith.  How?  By asking God to move in ways that are aligned with “His will”.

Most of the time, our prayers are driven by our will and the things that we want.  However, a disciple has embraced the will of God as their own, and this surrender to the will of God shapes everything in their lives, especially their prayer lives.

The closer we are to God, the more He begins to unveil His will to us.  The more clearly we see His will for the world, the more confidence we can have in praying for things that we know are on His heart.  And if we know that these things are “His will”, not just ours… then we know that God is going to hear and act in response to our prayer.

The Prayer of Confession

28 03 2015

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

When you are in relationship with God, and that relationship is the most important thing in your life, it is virtually impossible to sweep sin under the rug, and to pretend that it doesn’t exist.  Being in the presence of God brings our failures face to face with the light of His holiness.  And when our sins are exposed, the only way to put them to death is to acknowledge them honestly and ask for the healing of God’s Spirit over them.

Sin is not an obstacle that hinders our prayer, it is an obstacle that hinders our relationship with God; it is a broken relationship with God that hinders our prayers.  When we are in a growing, active, and healthy relationship with God, our prayers become “powerful and effective.”

Don’t hide from your mistakes, and don’t resist when the light of His presence reveals your sin.   For “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”  (Proverbs 28:13)  It’s that mercy that allows us to continue to walk in a relationship with Him!

The Hardest Prayer You’ll Ever Pray

27 03 2015

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”  – Matthew 5:44

In the ‘Sermon On The Mount’, found in Matthew chapters 5-7, Jesus challenged the religious norm and way of thinking, and instead presented people with a new way to think and live.  Multiple times he states, “You have heard it said … but I say to you…”, and He goes on to press the people to higher ground, to God’s standard and expectation.

Often times when it comes to prayer, it’s easy for me to pray for family and friends; its easy to ask of God for what I want or need; and it can even be easy to praise Him for the good things He has done. However, Christ did not just teach us to pray the easy prayers. Instead, He challenges us to pray the hardest prayers, those that require the greatest amount of faith and humility.

When is the last time you prayed for your enemies or for those who persecute you? What would it look like if you actually changed your perspective toward those people? How would it look if you prayed for their salvation, or for them to be blessed? What if you asked God to extend His grace and mercy in their life, just like He has done for you? I know it sounds hard, in fact it sounds nearly impossible. Maybe, just maybe, it’s the type of prayer life that will transform you and transform the world.

This week, rather than trying to defend yourself, why don’t you try to something radical; chose to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you!

by Paul Hansen

Strength Through Prayer

26 03 2015

Watch and pray that you many not enter into temptation. The Spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. – Matthew 26:41

Have you ever struggled continually with something and wondered how you were ever going to overcome it? Have you ever been overwhelmed by the reality of your circumstance? You have a desire to do the right thing, to make the right decision, to honor God with your life, but you just can’t seem to generate enough strength to do it?

Jesus as he faced the most difficult circumstance and decision of his life, and certainly one much more difficult than any of us have ever faced, knew that the solution to drawing strength was to go before the Father in prayer.  He understood the limitations of our flesh, and he also knew that the power of the Spirit is released in us through prayer.

On the brink of the greatest challenge placed before Him, Jesus went away to the Garden of Gethsemane, and bore his burden out to the Father, honestly asking for what he wanted (to let this cup pass from him), yet surrendering his own desire so that God’s will would be accomplished.

So today, will you stop relying on your own strength or ability and follow Christ’s example to watch and pray, drawing on His Strength to help you through?

by Paul Hansen

Empty Words

25 03 2015

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Matthew 6:7

When we pray, God is never impressed by our long and flowery oration or our ability to recite religious platitudes.  God is moved by the genuine and earnest pleas of his children.  A person that feels as if they need to impress God with their many words simply doesn’t understand what prayer is.  They see prayer as an opportunity to earn spiritual credit or to gain spiritual merit.

But prayer is not an effort to impress God, it is an opportunity to connect with God.  It’s not just about telling God all that you want Him to do, but it is about recognizing His presence, quieting the soul, and basking in the relationship that you have with Him.  It is listening to His voice, hearing His heart, and becoming one with Him in His desire.  It is on the foundation of our relationship with God that authentic and powerful prayer is built.

When you understand  that prayer is really about being in communion with God, then you can begin to understand what it means to “Pray continually.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  It’s not about babbling on and on, it is about walking in relationship with God.

A Life of Dependency

24 03 2015

“Apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

You and I were not created to be self-sufficient, we were created to be dependent.  Not dependent upon things or people, but dependent upon God.  Although He has created us amazingly capable, we were never meant to rely upon our own abilities or resources, we were designed to be in relationship with Him.  It is only through Him that we can experience all that we were created to experience.  Without Him, we can do nothing.

For the Disciple, prayer is the connection to God that empowers our lives.  It is like a power cord that transforms an electrical device from a hunk of metal and plastic into a powerful and useful tool.  Without being plugged in to God, our lives are filled with potential, but the output of our lives will be little more than “woulda, shoulda, and coulda”… but didn’t.

We must remember that without God’s power, we are just individuals with plenty of potential, but little more.  Faith is coming to him, understanding our dependency, and then plugging in.  When we come to God, knowing that His power empowers us, that greatly pleases Him.

So have you plugged into Him through prayer lately?

Thanking God in Everything

23 03 2015

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

It is never fun to walk through difficult situations, but the Bible is clear that every test and trial is something that God is using in our lives to mold and shape us into the image of Christ.  Romans 8:28 says that “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  This means that even in the darkness of difficulties, we can thank God and rejoice that He is doing what is best for us.

When troubles come our way, it is easy to allow our eyes to drift onto ourselves or onto our circumstances and to begin to feel sorry for ourselves, or wallow in self pity, yet the Disciple maintains an unwavering focus on God.  When a person has their focus locked on the Sovereign God, the troubles of this life always have a purpose and a plan.  They find that even in difficulties, they can rejoice with genuine gratitude to a God who is in control!

Do your prayers reveal that your eyes are on God or on your troubling circumstances?  Are your prayers filled with a confidence in God’s perfect will, or are you praying for a shortcut through your hardships?  If troubles surround you, “Rejoice”, “Pray”, and “Give Thanks”… God is in control!

True Success?

22 03 2015

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  Matthew 7:24

In the world’s way of thinking, you don’t succeed by spending time with God, you succeed by being busy, productive, and making money.  Only those with nothing better to do would make time for God.  The busier we are, and the more money we make, the more successful we are.

However the Bible tells us that at the end of this life is eternity, and we choose where to spend it by the decisions we make in this life.  According to Matthew 8:12, we will live in eternal light with God, or eternal darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

As a disciple, to be relationally connected to Christ takes effort and discipline.  It is like exercising or preparing for an athletic event.   Time in the word helps us focus on who Christ is and what He did for us.  This time produces Faith, Faith produces perseverance, and perseverance produces maturity.  And to become mature in your relationship with Christ is the true measure of success.

by Carol Lopez