Posts Tagged ‘spirituality’

This is part two of a three part article on how to achieve true revival. It is my prayer that God will use this to minister to His Church and encourage others to pray for revival.

Prayer
The second step in reviving God’s people is prayer. Looking back on my life I am amazed at how long it took me to understand prayer. For many years after my conversion I struggled with unanswered prayer and my inability to hear from God. My prayer life was not unlike many believers today; unaware and ignorant of the precious gift our loving Lord has given us by allowing us a way to come into the very presence of the Almighty God, Creator of the universe!

My prayers at best were shallow, selfish, self-serving, and earthly. They were almost always a one way conversation–More like giving God directions than prayers. I rarely heard God’s voice because I was too busy talking to listen to what God had to say. I’ve since learned that prayer is an intimate two way conversation between the Lord and myself.

What prayer is not

Prayer is not a giant gift shop in heaven where I simply place my order and demand the delivery of my goods by quoting a few scriptures. Nor is it a celestial complaint department, that if I whine loud and long enough, God will have no choice but to grant my request. God designed prayer as a way for us to communicate with him; and him with us–A way that we can draw closer to him and him to us.

King David: A man after God’s own heart

King David knew the importance of a two way communication with God. He was constantly in contact with God. By reading the Psalms you can see the close relationship he had with God. God considered David to be a man after his own heart. (I Sam. 13:14, Acts 13:22) Why? It was because David, through his intimate two way communion with God, was able to know what was in God’s heart. Whenever David realized his sin he repented on the spot quickly because he knew that his sin separated himself from God.

God desires that kind of intimate relationship with all of His children. And what kind of child only speaks to their father to get things that they want? A selfish, self-centered child. But a child who truly loves their father desires to just spend time with him. That is the primary reason God instituted prayer for us. That we might spend time with our heavenly Father and experience the abundant love that He has for each and every one of us. For each of us, that will involve not only talking to God and sharing with him our heart, but also being still before him and allowing him to speak to us.

But what if I don’t know how to listen to God’s voice?

How do I know for certain that it’s God’s voice that I’m hearing and not my own thoughts? How do I distinguish between God’s voice, Satan, and my own thoughts? The Bible teaches us to test all things and to hold fast to what is good. (I Thess. 5:21) Our only standard by which to test all things is God’s Holy Scriptures. By using Psalms 15, Matthew 5:3-11, and I Corinthians 13:4-8, we can understand that everything that God does will promote four absolute truths that Jesus and all the apostles preached and lived by. They are: absolute purity, absolute honesty, absolute unselfishness, and absolute love. By using these four absolutes as our standard we can know for certain if a thought is from God.

Try spending 30 to 60 minutes every day silently before God and ask him to speak to you. Write down all your thoughts on paper. At the end of your quiet time compare those thoughts with scripture and the four absolutes. If the thoughts that you have written down promote absolute purity, honesty, unselfishness, and love, then you know that those thoughts are from God. If not, then you can disregard them as your own thoughts. If they are from God, then God has just spoken to you; and if God has just spoken to you, you now have the choice of obeying him. He may ask you to do something as simple as asking forgiveness from someone you were short with. Or he may ask you to do something as difficult as moving across the country, or the world, to serve him better.

Don’t think it disrespectful or a sign of a lack of faith by asking God about something several times you feel He’s already told you to do in order to be sure it’s from God. We serve a loving and merciful God who won’t force us to do anything we’re not ready for. Each of us will know in our own hearts if we’re waiting on God or if we’re being disobedient to God’s leading. But by using God’s Holy Scriptures and His four absolute truths we can know for certain what God’s will is.

That is the ministry of the Messiah in a nutshell. He prayed, he listened to the Father, and then he obeyed. Look at the results of Jesus’s prayers: After he prayed all night, the next day not only did Jesus choose his disciples, (Luke 6:12-13) but he also healed many and then preached a sermon so filled with God’s spirit that his discourse alone probably brought multitudes to believe in him. (Luke 6:17-49)

After feeding over 5,000 people Jesus went off by himself to a mountain to pray. Later he came to his disciples walking on top of the sea! (Matt.14:22-33) Today unbelievers as well as God’s own people are familiar with the story of Peter walking on water. There are many other examples of Jesus praying, listening to God, and obeying.

His greatest prayer of all was, “Father forgive them, for they no not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Even up to the moment of his death Jesus continued to commune with his Father through prayer when he cried, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (v.4) That same spirit that allowed Jesus to perform the mighty works of God, heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons, is the same spirit that works in believers today and is available to us through prayer.

But there are some requirements for answered prayer that we should be aware of:

Forgiveness – (Matt. 6:14, 18:19-20) We must come to God with a forgiving heart. If we hold unforgivingness against someone in our heart God cannot forgive us and we separate ourselves from him by our sin.

Repentance – (Luke 18:10-14) If we pray with an unrepentant heart all we do is make noise. We may impress others around us, but I guarantee that God is not the least bit impressed.

Believing – (Matt. 21:22, Mark 11:23-24) Why ask God for something if you don’t believe He’ll do what you ask? Don’t bother Him with your faithless prattle. Instead, be honest with God and tell Him that your faith is small and weak and ask Him to increase your faith and help your unbelief.

Does that mean that if I believe, God will give me a nice new car or a new home? It does if that’s God’s will for you and if you believe it will promote the four absolutes that Scripture teaches. The Bible teaches that God will supply all of our needs, but be careful to differentiate between wants and needs. I’ve known many believers who have set themselves up for failure by believing God to supply their wants rather than their needs.

In God’s will – (I John 5:14) This is where the scriptures and the four absolutes will lead you to know God’s will. The only way to know God’s will is to know God’s heart and that only comes from spending time with Him and listening to His voice.

Thanksgiving – (I Tim. 2:1-3, Phil. 4:6) Jesus taught his disciples to pray in Luke 11: 1-4 but then he gave them an example of prayer. (v.9-13) With that scripture in mind, if you being evil know how to teach your children thankfulness, how much more should you be thankful to your heavenly Father? Most of us who have children teach them from an early age to say thank-you for everything from a glass of water to an expensive birthday gift from Grandma. Should our heavenly Father expect less from us; in whom we live and breathe and have our being? The one in whom we owe our salvation, to? Yes, our very lives?

Unceasing – (I Thess. 5:17) This may seem to be a difficult task. (If not impossible) But to pray without ceasing simply means to constantly be thinking of God. If you’ve ever had a sick child you know that you can go through your day of normal routine; do work at the office, balance the check book, pay bills, etc. and still be constantly thinking of your sick child. Praying without ceasing is like that in the fact that even when going about your normal business of the day you can still constantly have your mind on God.

The most intimate way we can share our feelings with each other is by way of communication. We tell each other how we feel; what makes us happy, or sad, or angry. We bless and encourage with our speech, i.e.; our communication. I’ve met men who weren’t worth a nickel walk around like they owned the world because of an uplifting word from a loving wife. Our speech; our communication, is what connects us, attracts us, and deepens our relationships with others.

So it is with God too. He desires to have that deep relationship with all of His children and share His heart with us. He wants to not only reveal His will to us, but also His abundant love and mercy and grace that He’s patiently waiting to give to each and every one of us.

More to come…

Historically, women assume their new husband’s family name (or surname) after marriage and usually the children of these marriages are given their father’s surname.

Years ago I legally changed my name to “Jonah ben Reuben”. Many of my friends considered that I was going through some kind of identity crisis or that I had decided to deny Christ and convert to Judaism. (Some of my well- meaning Christian friends made it their mission to “re-convert” me) Some of my relatives even heard rumors that I changed my name as a sign that I had disowned my family. I assure you that none of those things were true. So why would I legally change my name and go through all of that grief?

For many years I had studied Scripture, attended Bible studies, went to church and did all the things that good Christians are supposed to do. I had no doubt that I was saved and was destined to go to heaven when I died. But I always felt that there was still something missing.

It wasn’t until my son was killed in an auto accident that I realized that my entire spiritual life revolved more around me than on God. After the accident I spent the next year dissecting Scripture looking for answers. Many nights I spent literally on my face before God, crying out in repentance. Finally, I was at a point where God could share His heart with me and begin the healing process. And suddenly I was truly a new creature!

Not that I was more saved now than I was before, but God had given me a brand new perspective on what becoming a new creature really meant. Soon after, I felt that God wanted me to choose a Hebrew name to signify the change that He had wrought in me.

The sages say that one of the virtues of the Jews in their exile in Egypt was that they did not alter their names because that would have signaled an altered worldview, the adoption of a different lifestyle and a scrapping of their past. A change of name for the convert then, signals the embracing of a new philosophy, a new identification, a purposeful, mindful statement of intent for the future.

Changing your name is a choice, not a requirement

Although changing our name after conversion is not required in Scripture, even Christianity teaches that there must be a formal designation of our conversion that is plainly evident. Are we not told that as Christians, we now wear the name of Jesus and that His name should be worn as a badge of spiritual courage and accomplished idealism?

Jewish tradition teaches that a convert is treated as a newborn child. (k’tinok she’nolad) And reference to the parent must be of spiritual parentage adopted by entering into the Covenant of Abraham. A new person needs a new name. That is why the rabbis instituted that converts should choose Hebrew names for their new Jewish lives.

I had chosen the name “Jonah ben Reuben” because ‘Jonah’ means, dove; which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit; ‘ben’ is Hebrew for son; and Reuben means, “behold a son!”

Unlike English, Hebrew is read from right to left so my name literally means “Behold, a son of the Holy Spirit!”

Traditionally when the naming ceremony is held for a Jewish convert a prayer is recited as follows:

“Our God and God of our Fathers: Sustain this man in the Almighty’s Torah and in Your commandments and may his name in Israel be _____________, the son of Abraham, our Father. May he rejoice in the Torah, and exult in the commandments. Give thanks to God, for He is good and His kindness is to all eternity. May ____________, the son of Abraham, our Father, grow to become great. So may he enter the Almighty’s Torah, with His commandments and good deeds.”

I did not have a formal naming ceremony, but I was changed all the same. What was most surprising to me was how it also changed others around me.

There are still some who believe that because I strive to follow TORAH that I no longer live under grace but seek to be accepted by following The Law.

When my son was young he obeyed my rules. Not because he thought that I would love him more if he obeyed, or out of fear that I would love him less if he didn’t. He obeyed BECAUSE he loved me.

Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” John 14:23-24

I recently read an article by Elizabeth Ester  about children who have been “chastised” to death after parents followed the “Biblical” child-training methods of Michael & Debi Pearl.

Elizabeth Ester states that she escaped from an abusive fundamentalist church after years of being influenced by its teachings. So she naturally writes from that prospective.

Whenever I read articles like this I am always reminded of the day the Lord taught me and my son a very important lesson about grace. When my son, Sean was very young he became angry with me when I told him it was time to come inside from playing with his friends.

After many warnings and threats from me Sean reluctantly agreed to come inside. Angrily storming inside, Sean swatted at my prized guitar I had leaning against a wall and then watched in horror as it fell to the floor, snapping off its neck. Staring at my mangled guitar on the floor and without looking up, I very slowly and quietly told Sean, “Go to your room; I’m gonna hurt you.”

After allowing myself several minutes to calm down, I went to Sean’s room to find him hysterically crying. (Knowing in his mind, I was about to end his life.) After calming him to an uncontrollable whimper, I asked him, “Sean do you know what judgment is?” He answered in that little kid whimper voice, when they try to stop crying and take short deep breaths between each word, “N-n-n-o.” I explained to him that judgment is getting what you deserve.

He immediately began sobbing uncontrollably all over again. (Now being perfectly convinced in his mind that he was about to die!) After calming him down once again I asked him, “Sean, do you know what grace is?” He again answered, “N-n-n-no.” I immediately picked him up and put him on my lap and hugged him and said, “THIS is grace.”

What does it really mean to “spare the rod, spoil the child”?

Although it’s not written in the Bible exactly that way, the phrase “spare the rod, spoil the child” comes from Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”

The Lord uses discipline to reveal our sin to us. This is also how we, as parents, should reveal to our children how God expects us to live and our need for a Savior. When children do not realize the consequence of their sin, they will not understand that sin requires punishment. God provides a way to salvation and forgiveness through Jesus, but that means little to those who do not see their sin. Furthermore, correction shows us that we are accountable for our actions. Our natural pride blinds us to our need for a Savior, but discipline reveals the truth of our wretchedness. (Revelation 3:17)

Since salvation is the most important choice the child will ever make, it is imperative that parents are leading them to Christ, and discipline is critical to this process. Proverbs 23:13 says, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.” In the context of verses 13-18, “die” means spiritual death. Children who respect authority and feel sorrow for their sin are much more likely to ask Jesus to forgive them and be saved.

Some people don’t believe in any type of physical discipline such as spanking. Others, like Michael & Debbi Pearl and their followers allow the pendulum to swing the complete opposite direction and misinterpret Scripture’s definition of a rod.

The word “rod” mentioned in Proverbs indicates a thin stick or switch that can be used to give a small amount of physical pain with no lasting physical injury. It is intended to steer the heart of a child toward Jesus and forgiveness of sin. A child should never be bruised, injured, or cut by a physical correction. The Bible warns us that we should never abuse the power and authority we have over our children while they are young because it could provoke them to anger. (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21) Physical discipline should always be done in love and never in a moment of frustration. It is also just one part of discipline and should be used only when the child shows repeated intentional defiance to a clear limit.

God instructs us to discipline our children the same way He disciplines us. Hebrews 12:5-11 tells us that God disciplines those whom He loves to perfect their righteousness. God only disciplines His own, which proves that if we repent and surrender to Him, we are His beloved children. And we can say with David that the Lord’s rod comforts us in our time of trouble. (Psalm 23:4)

Finally, we know that no discipline feels good while it is happening, but afterwards the rewards are rich. (Hebrews 12:11) Godly character, fruit of the spirit, and peace are the rewards of God’s discipline. The same is true for our children who have learned from godly discipline, how to take responsibility for their actions. And they will grow up to be much happier people. (Proverbs 3:11-18)

Resources: Parenting Is Heart Work by Dr. Scott Turansky & Joanne Miller

Got Questions.org   – http://www.gotquestions.org/