The Bible as a Change Agent

Bible Study 2

Bible Study 2 (Photo credit: DrGBB)

This is my contribution to the blog chain for September. Our theme for the month is “change”. Check out others on the respective days shown in the right hand column.

Several years ago when our Church was without a Pastor, I had the opportunity (by necessity) to do some lay-speaking. I entitled one message “The Bible as a Change Agent”. When thinking about this month’s theme, it came to mind, so here’s the blog-length gist of that message.

11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,

12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,

13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14 NKJV

The grace of God that brings salvation is alive in Jesus Christ, our Lord. That salvation is the first and most important change in a believer’s life. It occurs when a non-believer is born again by receiving the Holy Spirit and a saving faith in Jesus Christ, and is converted.

However, salvation isn’t the final change that should happen in us. In verse 12, we move into everyday life in “the present age”. First, it says we are taught. How are we taught? God has chosen the working of the Holy Spirit through His Word as the principle means we learn by.

What are we taught? The remainder of verse 12 describes the continual change that should be happening within us and in the way we live. It’s talking about the progressive changes that should be happening as we become more obedient to God’s Word, and, as we better understand what is required of us through God’s Word.

Verse 13 speaks of some of our motivation to want to change. We are to look to the return of our Lord and rejoice in the fact that we will be with Him in Heaven.

Verse 14 then speaks of Christ’s motivation and purpose for changing us. He is purifying us into His own special people (the KJV says “peculiar people”, which means different from the world around us). And, He desires that so much that He gave Himself for us.

As God’s children, we have been changed when we were reborn with the Holy Spirit. We were made new creations. And, as we move forward in our Christian walk, we are called to continue to change – as the verse in Titus says – to be purified and be a special/peculiar people. And, the Word of God, thru the working of the Holy Spirit, is the primary instrument that God uses in bringing about that change.

I’d like to challenge us that each time we come into the sanctuary our prayer would be like Paul’s on the road to Damascus – “Lord what would you have me to do?” and also “Lord what would you have me to learn?” – and pray that when we go back out the doors, we would walk out a changed person.

A challenge that every time we go into a Bible Study class that we would ask the same thing of God and desire to walk out of that class a changed person. A challenge that every time we open our Bible – we would ask the same thing of God and desire that when we close it, we would be a changed person.

But, let’s always focus on our reason for that – it’s not to be a “better” person, although that will result from this. Our motivation is that Jesus has given Himself for us – so that we are changed and can stand before God without condemnation, and with the Holy Spirit’s power and guidance, and God’s Holy Word we can continue to change in this present age, to become more like our Lord Jesus every day.

Praying and Pondering Go Well Together

National Day of Prayer

National Day of Prayer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Praying can lead to pondering. And, pondering can lead to praying. They go well together and the Psalms often combine the two.

There are several good synonyms used to define ponder (and I’ll use various ones): meditate, consider, deliberate, contemplate, and muse. The longer definition of ponder that appeals to me is “To weigh in the mind, with thoroughness and care.” It’s not just a quick thought and then move on – the thoroughness and care are critical.

David gives a good example of praying and pondering in Psalm 143. “Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness! Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.” (v1-2). David prays for mercy, and then considers that on his own, he isn’t righteous before God.

In verses 3 and 4, he ponders to the point of “Woe is me!”

“For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead. Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.” (v3-4)

            Then his contemplation turns in the right direction:

I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah” (v5-6)

And, David finishes the Psalm with combinations of praying and pondering – acknowledging how much he needs God’s help and mercy, and giving the reasons he is asking for that help and mercy.  David concludes that all will be well because he is God’s servant.

Answer me quickly, O LORD! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD! I have fled to you for refuge! Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground! For your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life! In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble! And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant.”(v7-12)

It is good for us to ponder long on the goodness and greatness of God, and meditate on what He has done for us. The more we thoroughly and carefully ponder those things, the deeper our prayer life will be.

Connecting Our Words and Thoughts in Prayers

To-do list reminders on the back door

I use computer calendars (personal and work) to keep up with my schedule and to-do lists. However, Sharon and I have found another effective way to get specific reminders. As shown in the picture above, it’s the use of sticky notes on the back door glass.

Since tomorrow is garbage pickup, Sharon has put up the note that says “trash day”. In the morning, after I start the coffee and then head outside to feed the kittens, I should read it. If not, at some point during the morning, one of us will notice it and I’ll pull the container to the road. After that’s done, I can remove the note and put it on the counter to use again next week (may as well be frugal until the sticky wears off that one).

In case you wondered – “wasp nests” means I need to take the wasp spray out at some point because they have started several nests around the outside of the house. “Tablecloth” is a reminder to return our company’s trade show exhibit tablecloth back to the main office.

That location for the notes is effective because we both go out the door for various reasons several times a day. But, because it’s a well traveled route, it can also become routine. We can get to the point that we don’t notice the notes and what they say. We go on about our business and ignore the reminders. So, even with something right in front of our eyes, there still has to be an effort to pay attention.

That can apply in a Christian’s prayer life too. Even the wonderful example that Jesus gave His disciples of how to pray (usually referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer”) can become routine. We can repeat it by rote enough that we don’t have to think about the words. I’ve caught myself at times repeating that prayer, or saying a different prayer, while thinking about something totally different – like, “what’s for lunch?” or “it’s time for another cup of coffee”.

It’s my belief that what we’re thinking about while praying is more important than the words we’re using. As I said, there isn’t always a connection between the words and the thoughts, but there certainly needs to be. Our thoughts and words should be focused on and to God the Father, guided by the Holy Spirit, and prayed in Jesus’ name. That takes our effort to pay attention.

Sometimes Sharon and I will be talking about our back door to-do list and realize we’ve stopped paying attention – one of us will say, “I don’t remember, let me check the door” and we’ll get re-focused.

At times, we need to follow that in our prayers – Stop and take a moment to re-focus on what our objective really is.

After this manner pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom com, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” Matt 6:9-13 KJV

Please, Lord, Make it Real!


prayer.. (Photo credit: aronki)

“Please, Lord, make it real!”

I find myself praying that when I realize all the ways I fall short of where I need (and want) to be. “Real” can mean several positive things – like good, right, pure, strong, or genuine. When I ask God to make it real, I’m not shunning my responsibilities and saying it’s all up to Him. I am acknowledging that without His help and power I am helpless to do anything.

Please, Lord, make it real –

Make my anger a righteous anger for Your Name and Your Word – not just pettiness because someone offends me or has a different opinion than I do.

Make my compassion be from the depths of my heart and carried out with action – not shallow and within myself

Make my passion a passion for Christ and His righteousness – not for material things

Make my love a willingness to sacrifice with no thought of gain – not a simple emotion in response to others treating me well

Make my trust in You Rock solid through all times, good and bad – not just an “oh, well” or a “whatever”, or only evident when things go well.

The Bible tells of a father who brought his demon-tortured son to Jesus with the hope He could heal him. He asked that if Jesus was able to do anything, would He have compassion and help them? Jesus replied that if he believed, all things were possible, and the man cried out in tears “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24 NKJV).

Lord, I believe. Please, make it real in every aspect of my life.