Why our prayers matter

“God delights in hearing [your prayers] as well.  But why?  Why would our prayers matter?  We can’t even get the plumber to call us back, so why would God listen to our ideas.  Simple.  Your prayers matter to God because you matter to God.  You aren’t just anybody . . . you are his child.”- Max Lucado

“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”- James 5:16 (NLT)

In Chapter 5 (“Your Prayers Have Power”) of Unshakable Hope, Max Lucado draws insights from the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal.  Elijah lived during a very dark time in Israel’s history- under the reign of King Ahab.  Yet, even though corrupt leaders ruled and people’s hearts grew cold, Elijah’s comet was most visible against a black sky.

Most noteworthy, nine centuries later James used Elijah’s prayers as a model.  In fact, it impressed James that a prayer of such power came from a person so common (James 5:17).  However, Pastor Lucado notes, God heard Elijah’s prayers because he prayed earnestly, not eloquently.

Furthermore, Elijah put  the Israelites in a decision posture.  He asked how long they planned to waver between two opinions.  In addition, the word translated waver is identical to the Hebrew word for danced in 1 Kings 18:26.  Put another way, Elijah asked how long the Hebrew people would continue to dance with God, then Baal.  And Elijah manifested a confident spirit due to one simple action.  He prayed.  Not a casual or comfortable prayer, but a radical prayer.

Today’s question: What Bible verses, hymns, Christian songs, or Christian books help you affirm that your prayers matter?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Perhaps God will do more than you imagined”

Approach God’s throne as a child

“Understand your place in the family.  You come to God not as a stranger but as an heir to the promise.  You approach God’s throne not as an interloper but as a child in whom the Spirit of God dwells.”- Max Lucado

“This resurrection life you receive from God is not a timid grave-tending life.  It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next, Papa?’  God’s Spirit touches our spirit and confirms who we really are.  We know who he is, and we know who we are.  And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us — an unbelievable inheritance!  We go through exactly what Christ goes through.  If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through good times with him.”- Romans 8:15 (MSG)

Max Lucado concludes Chapter 4 of Unshakable Hope as he talks about one of the most famous stories in the Bible.  The topic is inheritance.  Specifically, the Promised Land.  Just delivered from Egyptian captivity, God leads the Israelites to the edge of Canaan.  Hence, the Lord tells Moses to send a leader from each tribe to explore that promised land.  A land He’s giving to them.

As a result, the Israelites faced two clear choices: promise or circumstance?  Of course, they chose not to trust God’s promise.  And that bad decision resulted in a forty-year probation penalty.  Yet, at the end of that period, we tend to think of Joshua as taking the land.  Instead, Max states, it’s more precise to think that Joshua took God at His word.

Most noteworthy, Joshua faced challenges as well.  However, he faced each challenge with faith as an heir of God.  We, too, are heirs with Christ of God’s estate.  Also, God provides whatever we need to face the challenges of life.

Today’s question: What Scriptures help you approach God’s throne as a child? Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Why our prayers matter”

Divine resources deposited in you

“You have everything you need to be everything God desires.  Divine resources have been deposited in you.  Need more patience?  It’s yours.  Need more joy? Ask for it.  Running low on wisdom?  God has plenty.  Put in your order.”- Max Lucado

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”- 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT)

In Chapter 4 (“An Heir of God”) of Unshakable Hope, Max Lucado relates the story of sixty-year-old Timothy Henry Gray.  On December 27,2012, Gray’s body was found under a Wyoming underpass.  A homeless cowboy, Timothy died of hypothermia.  However, despite his run of bad breaks and bad luck, Gray stood to inherit around $19 million.  But, even though he likely knew his family history, the heir to a fortune died a pauper.

As a result, Pastor Lucado notes, it would occur to him to investigate a potential inheritance.  Also, leave no stone unturned.  Yet, Max ponders, do we make it our aim to access our inheritance with God?  Romans 8:17 reminds us that “we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.”

Therefore, we’ll never exhaust the resources of our affluent God.  Consequently, Pastor Lucado describes our God as “wealthy in love, abundant in hope, overflowing in wisdom.”

Furthermore, People of the Promise believe in God’s abundant, supernatural resources.  And we most surely need them.  For we’re prone to depletions – out of solutions or given to a pessimistic spirit.

Thus, when we focus on our own resources, we fail to:

  • think about God
  • consult God
  • turn to God
  • talk about God
  • access God’s strength, wisdom, and power

Hence, for such moments God gives us the promise that we’re heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.  Most noteworthy, in the light of this promise, the cronies of doom, gloom, and dejection are speechless.

Today’s question: What divine resources do you need for your present situation?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Approach God’s throne as a child”

The enemy of your God-given destiny

“But though he (Satan) is cast out of heaven, he is not out of our lives. . . .  He is the enemy of your God-given destiny and longs to be the destroyer of your soul.  Don’t dismiss him.”- Max Lucado (emphasis author’s)

“Your rich commerce led you to violence, and you sinned.  So I banished you in disgrace from the mountain of God.  I expelled you, O mighty guardian, from your place among the stones of fire. . . .  So I threw you to the ground; and exposed you to the curious gaze of kings.”- Ezekiel 28:16-17 (NLT)

Max Lucado concludes Chapter 3 of Unshakable Hope as he urges us to agree with the witness of Scripture concerning Satan.  From the first page to the last, the Bible confronts us with “an arrogant, anti-God force of great cunning and power. . . .  Satan appears in the garden at the beginning.  He is cast into the fire at the end. . . .  Serious students of Scripture must be serious about Satan.”

Therefore, we play into Satan’s hand when we ignore or deny his existence.  However, even though the devil’s real, the devil is a defeated devil (emphasis author’s).  We must be alert to the devil.  However, we must not let him intimidate us. Rather, Max exhorts, go immediately to Scripture!  Stand on God’s promises.

In addition, Pastor Lucado explains, God’s given us three spiritual weapons of warfare:

  1. Prayer – in prayer we engage God’s power against the devil.
  2. Worship– when we worship we place God on the throne, something Satan himself refused to do.
  3. Scripture – in the wilderness, Jesus responded to Satan as He proclaimed truth.  Because Satan has a severe allergy to truth, He left Jesus alone.  We reflect Jesus’ actions when we pick up the sword of Scripture.

In conclusion, Max observes, we possess certain victory over Satan.  For we know the final score.

Today’s question:  How do you employ prayer, worship, and Scripture to repel the enemy of your God-given destiny?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Divine resources deposited in you”

The devil – a real and present faith foe

“The Bible names a real and  present foe of our faith: the devil. . . .  The devil is a splitter, a divider, a wedge driver. . . .  He wants to take unbelievers to hell and make life hell for believers.”- Mas Lucado

“Our fight is not against people on earth, but against rulers and authorities and powers of this world’s darkness, against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly world.  That is why you need to put on God’s full armor.  Then on the day of evil you will be able to stand strong.”- Ephesians 6:12-13 (New Century Version)

In Chapter 3 (“The Devil’s Days Are Numbered”) of Unshakable Hope, Max Lucado takes us back to July 21, 1861.  Since it was a quiet and sunny day, residents of Washington, D. C. prepared for a picnic in the countryside.  And the beautiful place they picked to unpack their baskets – a battlefield, Manassas.  They intended to sit on their blankets, eat chicken, and watch the battle from a distance.

However, reality soon set in.  When the gunfire started, blood spilled, and wounded soldiers screamed, people realized this was no picnic.  They quickly packed up and left.

Yet, Pastor Lucado asks, do we embrace a similar false assumption?  Do we believe that Satan’s real?  According to 2009 research the Barna Group conducted, four out of ten Christians consider Satan merely a symbol of evil.  In contrast, a minority of Christians (35%) believe Satan is real.  In other words, most Christians refuse to believe that Satan exists.  Thus, Max explains the consequences of this deception, and why this greatly pleases Satan:

“As long as he (Satan) isn’t taken seriously, he is free to work his evil. After all, if you can’t diagnose the source of your ills, how can you fight them?  The devil wants to make your life a mess and to keep his name out of it.  But God doesn’t let him do so.”

Today’s question: Do you consider the devil a real and present foe of your faith?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The enemy of your God-given destiny”

The image of God – sometimes difficult to discern

“The image of God is sometimes difficult to discern.  But do not think for a moment that God has rescinded his promise or altered his plan.  He still creates people in his image to bear his likeness and reflect his glory.”- Max Lucado

“We . . . are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is Spirit.”- 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV)

In Chapter 2 (“Stamped with God’s Image”) of Unshakable Hope, Max Lucado states we sometime struggle with this question: Am I somebody important?  It’s easy to believe just the opposite, as Max describes:

“It’s easy to feel anything but important when the corporation sees you as a number, the boyfriend treats you like cattle, your ex takes your energy, or old age takes your dignity.  Somebody important?  Hardly.”

Therefore, Pastor Lucado exhorts, when you struggle with the question of importance, remember the promise embedded in the words of Genesis 1:26.  God’s most wonderful of promises is this.  God made us to reflect the image of God.

Yet, even though we take after God in many ways, some suppress this promise.  And others enhance it.  But, regardless, there’s no exception to His promise.  Even though sin has distorted this image in us.  However, as we fellowship with God and read His Word, God scrubs the image off our old coin.  He rubs away anything in us that is not of Him.

In conclusion, Max asks two questions based on the truth that you’re God’s child, created in His image.

  1. Would you let this truth find its way into your heart?  Before your parents conceived you, God conceived you.  And God loved you in heaven before your parents loved you on earth.
  2. Would you let this truth define the way you see other people?  God created every person you see to bear His image.  Thus, each person deserves treatment with dignity and respect.  Hence, all people deserve to be seen as image bearers of God.

Today’s question: Do you find it hard to discern that you’re made in the image of God?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The devil – a real and present faith foe”

Ponder, proclaim, and pray God’s promises

“But People of the Promise have an advantage.  They determine to ponder, proclaim, and pray the promises of God. . . .  They filter life through the promises of God.”- Max Lucado

“[Abraham] didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions.  He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said.”- Romans 4:20-21 (The Message)

Max Lucado concludes Chapter 1 of Unshakable Hope as he notes that we live in a time of despair.  Despite the increase in education, technology tools, and entertainment and recreation.  Yet, America’s suicide rate jumped 24 percent since 1999.  So, Pastor Lucado asks, how is this possible?

Hence, Max offers one possible answer – people are dying from lack of hope.  As a result, in our culture, secularism:

  1. sucks the hope out of society.
  2. reduces the world to a few decades between birth and hearse.

Above all, the author states, God’s given you a promise for every problem in your life.  Thus, you must make it your goal to get acquainted with these promises.  Then, you can write yourself a prescription.  Consequently, after forty years of ministry, Max understands that only God’s promises lift the weary soul. And we desperately need them.

“We do not need more opinions or hunches; we need the definitive declarations of our mighty and loving God.  He governs the world according to these great and precious promises.  The circumstances of life or the promises of God — upon which are you standing?”

In conclusion, Max observes that God’s great and precious promises:

  • lead us into a new reality, a holy environment.
  • are direction signs that guide us away from toxic swampland into the clean air of heaven.
  • sit like golden stones in the pathway to God’s world.
  • function as strong boulders that form a bridge leading us from our sin to salvation.

Today’s question: What Bible verses infuse your passion to ponder, proclaim, and pray God’s promises?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the annotated bibliography of Boundaries for Your Soul

The case for God’s dependability

“From the first chapter of Scripture, the Bible makes a case for the dependability of God.   Nine times the text reiterates ‘God said.’  And without exception when God spoke, something happened.  Something wonderful happened. . . .  The reader is left with one conclusion: God’s word is sure.  What he says happens.”- Max Lucado

“Let the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him.  For he spoke and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.”- Psalm 33:8-9 (NIV)

As Max Lucado continues Chapter 1 of Unshakable Hope, he comments on Matthew’s account of The Faith of the Centurion (Matthew 8:5-13).  Therefore,  Pastor Lucado notes that Jesus applauded the faith of the centurion.  Why?  Because the man believed in Jesus’ power to keep His word.  In fact, Max asserts, Matthew’s account gives us Jesus’ definition of faith: faith is the deeply held belief that God will keep his promises.

Consequently, the Roman soldier understood the simple truth that God not only won’t, but cannot break His promises.  Also, God writes His irrevocable promises in granite because He is:

  • unchanging– the unexpected never catches God off guard.  He never makes midcourse corrections.  As we read in James 11:17 (NLT)- “He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.”
  • faithful– we can trust God to keep His promises.
  • strong – as Max states, God does not “overpromise and underdeliver.”
  • unable to lie – Hebrews 6:18 tells us that it’s impossible for God to lie.  Not unlikely or improbable.  Impossible!  Hence, Scripture’s quite forthright on this subject.

In conclusion, Pastor Lucado reasons that if good people are serious about keeping their word, how much more serious is our good God?  Thus, the question isn’t whether God will keep His promises.  Rather, will we build our lives upon them?

Today’s question: For you, what Bible verses make the case for God’s dependability?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Ponder, pray, and proclaim God’s promises”

God’s promises – like Rocky Mountains pine trees

“God’s promises are pine trees in the Rocky Mountains of Scripture:  abundant, unending, and perennial.  Some of the promises are positive, the assurance of blessings.  Some are negative, the guarantee of consequences.  But all are binding, for not only is God a promise maker,God is a promise keeper.”- Max Lucado

“Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise.  In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.”- Romans 4:20 (NLT)

In Chapter 1 of Unshakable Hope: Building Our Lives on the Promises of God, Max Lucado begins with the account of Paul’s appearance before King Agrippa (Acts 25:23- 26:32).  Most noteworthy, King Agrippa, as well as his great-grandfather (tried to kill baby Jesus) and grand uncle (murdered John the Baptist), had people in Jesus’ circle in their crosshairs.

Thus, Pastor Lucado asks, how would the apostle Paul defend himself?  For Paul didn’t appeal for mercy or call for a miracle.  Rather, he responded: “And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today.”

Hence, Paul’s defense included no:

  • reference to his accomplishments
  • demand for preferential treatment (Roman citizen)
  • attempt to justify his actions

Instead, Paul justified himself on the basis of God’s promises.  As did, Max notes, the heroes of the Bible.  One common denominator united them – the promises of God.  For example, Pastor Lucado states:

  1. Noah believed in rain before he even knew what rain was.
  2. Abraham left a perfectly good home for one he’d never seen.
  3. Peter rose from the (denial) ashes of regret.

Therefore, Max describes God’s promises as polestars in the pilgrimage of faith.  And the Bible provides plenty of promises from which to choose.  In fact, the author relates, one student of Scripture spent eighteen months researching the number of promises God made to humanity.  He found 7,487 such promises.  Also, Max observes, God’s not only a promise maker.  He’s a promise keeper!

Today’s question:  How do you see God’s promises as pine trees in the Rocky Mountains of Scripture?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the annotated bibliography of Boundaries for Your Soul

Tomorrow’s blog: “The case for God’s dependability”

Knowing right from wrong — or knowing God

“We are more interested in knowing right from wrong ( a dominantly left-brain hemisphere function used to cope with fear and shame) than knowing God, which requires integration of all parts of the brain.”- Christian psychologist Curt Thompson, Anatomy of the Soul

Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller conclude Chapter 14 of Boundaries for Your Soul with the fourth and fifth ways to set healthy boundaries with others.

4.  How brain science improves intimacy: the wisdom of emotional connection.  Alison and Kim note that recent findings in neuroscience teach us that emotions play a key role in helping to process any situation.  Thus, high emotional intelligence – deep understanding about one’s own emotions- improves relationships with others.  The authors add that you find both emotions and reason in the brain’s cerebral cortex region.

In addition, Curt Thompson posits, when left to its own volition, the human mind tends to detach itself.  As a result, the mind conspires to hide the truth as well as the reality of God’s unconditional love.  To connect with your own feelings, they must factor in the process of developing healthy boundaries with others.

5.  Maintaining healthy distance from others’ unsafe parts.  As much as you try to live at peace with everyone (Romans 2:18), sometimes it’s hard to resolve a conflict.  Because the person who hurt you has unsafe parts.  So, what happens when you discern that the other person won’t change any time soon?   Your hurting part needs your Spirit-led self to lead it with careful attention.  In another direction!

Also, resolve to place healthy limits on how you relate to others and develop wise strategies.  When you must be in that person’s presence.  The authors conclude:

“Strength develops from the inside out– from a confidence that emanates from your Spirit-led self as you care for the parts of yourself in need – a confidence that is forged through trust and nuanced self-understanding.  Take time to develop that king of strength, and you will not be shaken.”

Today’s question: If you’re honest with yourself, do you find yourself focused more in knowing right from wrong or knowing God?  Please share.

Coming Monday, October 8th: the annotation of Boundaries for Your Soul

Tomorrow’s blog: “God’s promises – like Rocky Mountains pine trees”