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Archive for January, 2011

Last week while I was at the House of Prayer Edmonton prayer room there was a specific phrase that I sensed the Holy Spirit highlighting to me. It was a spontaneous worship chorus that was being sung at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City (via webstream)

I don’t want to be entertained by the things of the world; I want to be fixed on beauty

This was in the midst of a week when we were focusing on Psalm 27. In Ps. 27:4 King David writes:

One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. (italics added)

Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for entertainment; and no, I do NOT think God exists for my entertainment; far from it! However, here’s the point I’d like to make: We often use entertainment as a means to relax and to renew us. Especially here in western society it is a high value to spend as much time as possible ‘relaxing’ or to use a more common phrase, ‘to chill out’. When we have had a hard, busy week what do we like to do? We want to ‘chill out’ and that almost always involves various forms of entertainment.

What if God was to give us a new paradigm of what it means to ‘chill out’? For most people, to ‘chill out’ almost always means to disengage and mentally check out from everything. But what if we were renewed and restored by being spiritually and mentally engaged with God? What would it look like to be renewed by being fixed on beauty?

I want to suggest that this is exactly how King David lived and what he described in Psalm 27:4. The context of Psalm 27 is during a very  stressful time in David’s life. His anxiety levels were high and he was surely very preoccupied with what was happening around him. Yet his response was to take extended time to ‘gaze upon the beauty of the Lord’. David lived his life being inwardly renewed by fixing his gaze on the beauty of God.

Think about your week. What will you do on the weekend, or whenever you have time for a break? What role does entertainment have in your life? Does it renew you?

Now I would like to be clear about this: I’m not speaking against good, legitimate forms of entertainment. The problem is that very often we settle for spending so much time on lesser things in the hope that they will renew and restore us that we have little time and patience for what promises to renew us: God himself. The apostle Paul writes that we are designed in such a way that we are renewed according to the true knowledge of God our Creator (Col. 3:10).

I want to encourage you to take time to think about this. The implications are significant. The Scriptures make a bold promise: that you and I will find our greatest fulfillment and inward renewal when we gaze (meaning contemplate or meditate) on God himself!

We need to become more and more like King David, as people who are fixed on beauty!

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Recently Rev. Billy Graham, the famous evangelist, gave a rare interview during which he reflected on his life and expressed his desire to have spent much more time in prayer and worship. In my previous post I wrote about how stunning this quote was in light of all that God has done through his ministry over the years.

While I cannot know what it is like to be 92 years old, as Billy Graham is, one thing is clear: at that age a person spends a lot of time reflecting back on their life but even more time thinking about what lies ahead: eternity with God. The reality is this: our view of the future greatly impacts our present; or put another way, our view of the next age (meaning eternity after we die) greatly impacts our view of the present age.

In these days, God is raising up a world-wide prayer and worship movement on a scale never seen before in history. As we move closer and closer to the time of Christ’s return, the area that the Lord is emphasizing strongly is that of prayer and worship. This is not surprising when we look at Jesus’ words in Luke 18:

And the Lord (Jesus) said, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  -Luke 18:6-8

In the context of talking about night and day prayer Jesus asks the question about whether there will be faith on the earth when he returns. This refers to faith in relationship to prayer. Jesus is asking a rhetorical question. He knows the answer, but he is asking it in order to make a strong point. Jesus himself drew the connection between night and day prayer being raised up in the earth and his return.

Again in my previous post, I pointed out that time is a ‘non-renewable’ resource so it is very important that we spend it wisely. Are we investing our time in the things that Jesus values? Are we listening and responding to what the Holy Spirit is saying to believers (the Church) and investing our time accordingly?

I believe strongly that the Holy Spirit is raising up Houses of Prayer all around the world in these days and calling Christians to participate in communities of night and day prayer and worship. Many years ago a prophetic man named Bob Jones heard the Lord refer to these communities of prayer as ‘the house(s) of the watchful and the wise’. At the time of Jesus’ return, he is looking for ‘wise and faithful servants’ (Matt. 24:45).

Here’s the thing about these houses of prayer that God is raising up: they are primarily about expressions of extravagant love and adoration for Jesus Christ our great and beautiful King and Savior who we long see return to the earth. Worship is at the heart of the house of prayer. These communities do works of justice but as expressions of love for Jesus. These communities spend much time in worship and prayer, but as expressions of their deep and abiding passion for Jesus. Billy Graham’s comment about wishing that he has spend more time in prayer, study and meditation, comes from a heart that longs for Jesus. Think about what he said:

I’d spend more time in meditation and prayer telling the Lord how much I love him and adore him and looking forward to the time we are going to spend together for eternity.

Here is a man who is looking ahead to eternity and wishing that he had spent his time differently in this age. There are so many ways for us to spend our time; so many activities that we can give ourselves to. Many things pull us away from the kind of activity that Billy Graham is speaking about. We are living in a historic period in history where God is raising up communities of people who are standing together to give themselves to lives of worship, prayer and meditation on God’s Word. I consider it an incredible honor to be living at time where these ‘houses of prayer’ are being established all over the world. We can connect with others who are hearing the prompting of the Spirit to give themselves to prayer and worship and we can strengthen each other in pursuit of the very lifestyle that Billy Graham spoke of.

How are we spending our time? Are we spending it in ways that we will regret later in life?

Take some time to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you about this issue. Ask yourself, “how am I going to respond to what God is saying to me?”

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Ever since I became a Christian in 1990 I have been a huge admirer of Billy Graham. I would record his crusades on TV and eventually developed quite a collection of broadcasts. (a number of them are actually on Beta tapes rather than VHS, so that tells you something!)

In 1997, the year I got married, I read Billy Graham’s amazing autobiography, Just As I Am. I still consider it one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read.

As age has caught up with him, Billy has made very few public appearances in recent years. A couple of months ago however, he granted an interview on Fox News. At age 92 you can see why he has made very few public events, however he is still very much of sound mind and thought. (you can watch part of the actual interview here)

One of the questions that he was asked was “If you could do it all over again, would you do anything differently?”

Billy’s response was remarkable:

I would study more, pray more, travel less, take less speaking engagements. If I had it to do over again, I’d spend more time in meditation and prayer and telling the Lord how much I love him and adore him and looking forward to the time we are going to spend together for eternity.  -Billy Graham

There simply has never been another person who has proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ to more people around the world than Billy Graham. A strong case could be made that more people have come to faith in Christ through Billy Graham’s ministry than any other human being in history. And yet, in the final years of his life, as he reflects back, he wishes that he had spent more time in prayer and worship.

The significance of this statement simply cannot be overstated. Our time in this life is a non-renewable resource. Once it is gone, we can never get it back. Money is renewable; friendships and relationships are renewable. Time is not. King David had a revelation of this vital fact:

Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life.  -Ps. 39:4

Many people in the Body of Christ place their primary emphasis on doing things for God, to minister and advance the Kingdom of God. I think we need to give serious consideration and reflection to what Billy Graham is saying: the longing of his heart, as he moves through his final years of this life, is to spend time in ‘meditation and prayer and telling the Lord how much I love him and adore him…”. His desire is that he had a life that was spent that was filled with extended times of prayer and worship!

Take a few moments and give that some thought and let it sink in.

In my next post I am going to spend more time talking about this topic and the implications for us today, so stay tuned!

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In my last post I wrote that growing in the knowledge of God ought to be a top priority for us in 2011. One of the critical reasons why this is true is that our knowledge of God is dynamically connected to our intimacy with God. The subject of intimacy with God is often confused in the minds of many Christians; for others it is an issue that makes them nervous and uncomfortable.

I have come to greatly appreciate the following definition:

When speaking of intimacy with God we are simply speaking of a close personal relationship that results from knowledge and is fueled by love.  -Matt Candler

One of the central ways that we grow in intimacy with God is through growing in the knowledge of who God is and what he is like. Despite the lyrics of the famous song ‘Hello, I Love You’ by the Doors, we do not instantly fall in love with somebody, nor do we instantly experience genuine intimacy with people. Instead, we grow in our affection and intimacy as we grow in knowing who a person is and what they are like.

Too often Christians think about intimacy with God solely in emotional terms. They want to experience greater, more intense emotions of love and affection towards God, however they do not realize that the primary pathway to that experience is through increasingly knowing more about who God is. This is different from knowledge about the history of things that God has done. It can include knowledge of what God has done, but it must be more than simply a mental checklist of historical trivia. We need to approach our knowledge in a relational manner, meaning that we are doing it in dialogue with a person Jesus Christ. The cornerstone of Christianity is that we can have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. That relationship with Jesus must be central to our knowledge about God.

So why is the knowledge of God so important to intimacy? The answer is that everything about God is absolute perfection. I like to speak about God as ‘the God of infinite perfection’. Every attribute and character, every dimension and activity of God is utterly perfect and glorious. As we encounter his attributes and the dimensions of who he is, we simply cannot help but be moved to love.

The greatest source of the knowledge of God is found in the Scriptures. God has chosen to reveal his character and glory through the pages of the Scripture. While it is not the only way God speaks, he has made it to be the plumb-line of truth about who God is.

As we launch forward into 2011, I challenge you to consider the glorious ocean of the knowledge of God that is found in the pages of the Bible. I challenge you to recognize that you can grow in the knowledge of God and it will have dynamic impact on the level of intimacy with God that you experience in your life!

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At the beginning of every year it is very natural for us to look back at what happened in the previous year and look ahead and think about what we would like to do in the upcoming year. Whether we call them ‘goals’ or ‘resolutions’ or something different, we have been designed to want to improve and grow as human beings.

When it comes to the area of our spiritual lives and specifically the area of prayer (or our ‘devotional life’) there is no shortage of reading plans, devotional aids and other things to assist us in our new goals and aspirations. As we begin 2001 what is stirring in me is not so much an approach as much as a topic. That topic is the knowledge of what God is like.

I believe that the area of growing in the our understanding of who God is and what God is like must be at the top of our priority list for 2011 (and every year for that matter!). Here’s a look at why I believe this:

This topic was a major priority of Jesus. A quick look at Jesus’ prayer in John 17 makes this very clear:

Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you , and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them. (Jn. 17:25-26)

Jesus chose to sum up his prayer by stating that our great need is have God revealed to our spirit. Not only in an introductory way when we first come to faith in Christ, but rather an ongoing revelation of the infinite, glorious God of the universe.

The apostle Paul grasped this when he prayed:

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that they eyes of your heart may be enlightened…  (Eph. 1:17-18)

Here’s my point: our great need is to feed ourselves on, and drink deeply of the ocean of the knowledge of God. To live overwhelmed at who God is.

Let me ask you a question: why did Paul describe God as ‘the glorious Father’? Is that how we think of God? Is there a stirring in our spirit that moves us to worship and pursue the infinite, eternal God of all creation who is glorious and beautiful and full of wonder and splendor? The only way that we will be stirred as the apostle Paul was stirred is to have our hearts touched by what Paul called the ‘spirit of wisdom and revelation’ concerning what God is really and truly like.

This was the main priority of Jesus in his earthly ministry and he promised that he will continue forever to reveal God the Father to us. This was the main priority of Paul in his apostolic ministry. This must be our main priority as we move forward in prayer in 2011.

The greatest think that can be said of Jesus’ knowledge is that he knows God perfectly. No one but Jesus knows the Father immediately, completely, and perfectly. Our knowledge of the Father depends wholly on Jesus’ gracious revelation.  – John Piper

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