Some thoughts on Prayer

prayer

Mark 14:35-38, “He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

We learn so much about prayer and submission through the wonderful example of Jesus.

Just the very fact that He earnestly brought His burden to the Father is a lesson in-and-of itself. How much toil and needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry all to God in prayer!

As Jesus prayed He brought His request (that the cup would pass), but He also brought a heart that was bound to do His Father’s will (such a beautiful balance between James 4:2b and 1 John 5:14 – look it up later). After 27 years of Christian life, this is finally beginning to sink in – God’s will is infinitely better than mine. We should always tag our prayer with that genuine request to God, “…nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”

And then there are those guys we identify all to well with, the motley crew of disciples. Sleeping when they should have been praying. Have you ever done that? Jesus tells us why, “…the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The inner man longs to pray, even loves to pray, but the sinful nature within us, despises prayer, even hates to pray.

Let me encourage you to go to the “Garden,” stay awake and spend time in prayer; the devil is on his way, and trust me, you will need the help of no one less than God Almighty.

Presidential Election 2016

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So, we’re 2 days away from electing the 45th President of the United States of America. This is monumental in many ways. We say things like the very survival of our nation, the future of our nation, it’s the world our children will live in. I’ve spoken to many people who have different reasons for the candidate of their choice. For some it’s economics, and different opinions on how the poor and middle class might benefit. For others it has to do with refugees and their cries for safety within our states. Many have told me that it has to do with the demeanor of the candidates, the presentation of the president – they say it reveals deeper concerns, and in all honesty, I understand the sincerity of these citizens, and I am so blessed that when we go vote this Tuesday (and we should all vote), that we can vote having prayed first, and with clear consciences before God. I thoroughly value and respect our freedom as Americans.

For me, however, it usually boils down to other issues, especially the right to life. Since abortion was legalized, we have killed over 58 million babies.

I have a hunch that if Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or Isaiah were around today, they’d be preaching, crying out, and warning the USA that if we don’t stop killing our children, and offering them to the god of Molech, then the judgment of God cannot be averted. If we don’t grant them their right to life, then neither will He grant us our right to life. The only exception should be if the life of the mother is at stake, which is understandable, just as one would choose people out of a burning car one person at a time. But most children who are aborted are killed for convenience, and God sees that.  We must not approve of politicians, lawmakers, or laws that end the life of 1 out of every 5 children. Our next president will select at least 2 Supreme Court Justices, and this has the potential to end the murder of innocent children…so in the fear of God, I will vote for the 1 who vows to place conservative and moral judges in power…for the man who will fight for their right to live.

We need to protect the first and second amendments; guns don’t kill people, people kill people; and if God allows us to suffer persecution as Christians, and to lay down our lives, so be it, but to voluntarily relinquish the freedom of Religion and the right to preach and practice the full counsel of God, would be a failure on our parts.

So church, go and vote; vote on capital punishment according to Romans 13:4; consider the epic laws that hang in the balance including the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana; select and elect leaders as God would lead you, personally.

In our church we have an American flag on display; it’s not for show, or simply because other churches have flags, it’s because I love this country, I believe God has blessed the United States of America in so many ways, I stand and salute and wholeheartedly believe we must do everything we can to return to One Nation under God.

I believe God can use politicians, but at the end of the day, the responsibility is primarily given to the Christians. God help us to take to heart that most appropriate passage in, 2 Chronicles 7:14 where God says, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

The Baptism & Filling of the Holy Spirit

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Acts 1:5 “For John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Jesus was speaking to His disciples and informed them that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit in the very near future. But what exactly does it mean to be “baptized” with the Spirit and how is one “baptized” anyways?

Well, this is a very long discussion, but let me see if we can summarize this important part of the Christian life in a neat little nutshell.

Prior to becoming a Christian, the Holy Spirit is “with” you (the Greek word is “para”). He convicts you of your sin, and shows you your need for a Savior. We read in John 14:17a “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells WITH you…” (see also John 15:26; 16:8 on how the Holy Spirit’s job is to point you to Jesus when He is “with” you).

After becoming a Christian, the Holy Spirit lives “in” you (the Greek word is “en”). If you finish the above passage in John 14:17 “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be IN you.” When Jesus breathed on the disciples in John 20:22, they received the Holy Spirit, and He came to live “in” them. Paul mentions the fact that under the New Covenant, God lives “in” us Personally and Congregational – yes God lives in His people (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19).

But that’s not all, there is one more Greek preposition and that is “upon” (the Greek word is “epi”). This is subsequent to salvation when the Holy Spirit comes “upon” the people to empower them for service and sanctification. We read Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come UPON you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

As you read through the book of Acts you will see the way the Holy Spirit came upon the people the first time (when they were baptized), and then He and came empowered them again and again when they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 9:17; 13:9, 52). It’s for that reason Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:18 “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation {wasted life}; but be filled with the Spirit.”

How about you? Are you walking in the power of the Holy Spirit? Is He upon you with power – to the point that you’re walking under His influence? How can we receive that power?

Two words stand out to me – pray and obey! Don’t quench the Spirit through doubt, and don’t grieve the Spirit through disobedience (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30).

Two Scriptures would be appropriate in closing:

Proverbs 1:23, “Turn at my rebuke; surely I will pour out my Spirit on you…”

Luke 11:13, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

 

 

Israel 2016

 

April 3, 2016

“Oh, taste and SEE that the LORD is good…” (Psalm 34:8)

So…I’ve been in Israel for the past 4 days and WOW – what an absolutely awesome experience it’s been! There are no words to describe the way BEING HERE completely changes the way you see the Bible!

I’ve been reading about these historical places and events for over 27 years, but now something different has happened, the Bible’s come to life! It’s in color, it’s 3D to actually see the land and locations I’ve been reading about all these years.

So many things have been stamped on my heart – such as, the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus taught His disciples (I can truly visualize it now), the Valley of Megiddo where earth’s final battle will take place (stunning); the Port of Joppa, so much history; Mt. Carmel, where Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal; Antipatris where Paul spent the night protected; Mt. Hermon (where the dew from above falls down), the figs, the olives, and of course the people – but the Sea of Galilee, just broke me, I prayed and cried, a life-moment I’ll never forget.

If you ever get the chance to come to Israel, I pray you’d seize the opportunity. I do believe God will use it, to not only give life to the Bible, but to give life to you. I believe God can use it so that not only will you walk WHERE Jesus walked, but by His grace you will be blessed and empowered to walk LIKE Jesus walked. That’s what I pray I’d get out of this pilgrimage, after all, God did say in Psalm 84:5, “Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage.”

Shalom, from Israel!

Your brother in Christ,
Manny

Happiness?

 

Denmark

According to a recent UN Happiness Report, the nation of Denmark is the happiest place on earth (and all this time I thought it was Disneyland!). After Denmark was Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, and in case you’re wondering, the United States of America came in at 13th place.

Sooo, what do you think? Is it wrong to want to be happy? What exactly is it anyways, and how is happiness attained? Would you consider yourself a happy person?

I’m not sure where you’re at, but I would venture to say that most Christians immediately raise their red flags when it comes to being happy. Most Christians would rather use such words as” joy” and “holy,” not happy. I completely understand and for the most part agree, but at the same time I don’t think it’s wrong to long for happiness.

Happiness is not bad, but joy trumps happiness. I love it when my children laugh and smile, and I’d venture to say that God smiles when we smile for good reasons. But the truth is, happiness is not found in a country, it’s found in our Creator. Happiness, and yes, better than that, joy, is found in knowing God and doing His will. If you want to be happy, remember, it’s more important HOW you live, than WHERE you live. Rather than moving your family closer to Denmark, why not try moving your heart closer to God? Happiness has to do with feelings, emotions, and circumstances, while joy has to do with faith, convictions, and trust in God no matter what the circumstances might be.

The article had some “ok” tips on being happy, such as, connecting with people, doing things for others, caring for your body, noticing the world around you, learning new things, having good goals, bouncing back, being positive, and being part of something bigger than yourself. But sad to say, the article missed the most important ingredient of all – GOD. No one will ever find happiness apart from God and a personal relationship with Him established through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Allow me to me close with a few Scriptures on happiness, and some very brief comments.

Psalms 146:5 “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the LORD his God.” Here’s a person who not only has God, but whose hope is in God. Does that describe you?

Proverbs 3:13 “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding.” Seriously, happiness happens when we know God’s Word and we know how to apply it to our lives – this is wisdom, understanding, happiness, and holiness (by the way) – and the only way you’ll “find” is if you “seek.”

Deuteronomy 24:5 “When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has taken.” This is a rather ironic verse, and a good one to close with – because instead of wanting happiness for ourselves, it’s vital to seek happiness for others, especially those closest to us. If you do, and if that’s your goal – guess what? You’ll get a healthy dose of happiness for yourself. Remember that saying, “A happy wife is a happy life!”

A closing prayer, “Lord, I thank You for Your amazing grace – that I have You, and I can hope in You. Please help me to live out all the beautiful truths You’ve taught me from Your Word, please grant me that wisdom. I know happiness, holiness, and miles of smiles will be found there, Lord; I know that love and laughter and the fullness of life are found only in You, and Lord, this is epic – please, please, please help me to bring happiness to my wife, may that day become a reality, when she says, ‘He made me happy…’ and Lord, one more thing (I don’t know how this all works), but I would love to make You happy too (to please You)…in Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

Every Day’s a Gift

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Ecclesiastes 7:2, “Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart.”

The 3rd weekend of October was pretty tough; 2 funerals and another death in our midst.

Solomon teaches us something very important, that it’s better to go to those places where mourning is taking place, because that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Another translation puts it this way, “It is better to spend your time at funerals than at festivals. For you are going to die, and you should think about it while there is still time.”

Not a scare tactic, but a simple reality – one day, and it could be any day, our life will end – we need to take that to heart, ponder, prepare, and live our lives in light of that truth.

Do your best to consider each and every day as a gift given to you by God; don’t waste your time complaining or focusing on the negative, life’s too short for that. Life really is a gift, don’t waste it! That can happen so easily – even with people who have so much potential, if they allow themselves to get caught up in the things that don’t really matter – things that are terrible, or even trivial.

Remember that saying, “Only one life, soon it will pass, only what’s done for Christ will last.”

When life is over, and our family and friends offer our eulogies, what will they say? Think now, ponder, even plan, and give them something good to share. Let them say our life was about the Lord – that we loved Him with all of our heart. Let them share that our life was about people. That we did our best to love those people who crossed our paths, especially the ones within our homes.

Hopefully one day the consensus will clearly be, that Jesus was our Lord – and in the end…we ended up being a lot like Him.

Your brother in Christ,
Manny

Honoring God

Eric Liddell

1 Samuel 2:30b, “…for those who honor Me I will honor.”

Have you ever heard of Eric Liddel? Many of us have seen his life-story on the big (or smaller) screen, as told in the Oscar winning film, “Chariots of Fire.”

In the 1924 Olympics in Paris, Eric was the favorite to win the gold medal in the 100-meter race, but under deep conviction, he withdrew his name, refusing to run on a Sunday, the day he had always given completely to the Lord.

Eric was criticized and pressured by many to run on Sunday, but he refused to compromise his deep convictions. As an alternative, Liddell registered to run in the 400-meter race, but he wasn’t expected to win. Just moments before the race, an American handed him a piece of paper on which was written this passage from 1 Samuel 2:30, “Those who honor Me I will honor.” Liddell ran the race with the verse in his hand and ended up winning Olympic Gold and setting a new world record with a time of 47.6 seconds!

Here’s the part that really got to me – when Eric described his strategy for the race, he said, “The secret of my success over the 400 meters is that I run the first 200 meters as fast as I can. Then, for the second 200 meters, with God’s help, I run faster.”

I’ve always loved that quote as a strategy to win my race and to finish well. In a day and age where many are compromising, falling away, and giving in to the criticism and pressures of the world, Eric Liddel is one of those guys in the Christian Hall of Faith, set there as an example for us to learn from.

My brothers and sisters, I beg you to hold to your Christian convictions without compromise, no matter what it costs, and regardless of the criticism and pressures of the world. By God’s grace – as time goes on – run harder, and stronger, and faster, in order that you might win the race and finish well. And last but not least, honor the Lord with all of your heart – if you do, as we’ve seen modeled through the lives of Eric Liddell and so many others, the Lord will honor you – yes, I promise you, you will be rewarded with that “Gold-Medal” given to you on that day, by God Himself.

In His love, your brother in Christ,

Manny

I want to know Christ more, and make Him known…