Jesus Culture: Prayer

It’s been too long since this blog has been updated. Nonetheless, this blog serves as a useful place for me to return whenever I need to do some spiritual journaling.

Been relying on the regular Living Life and God’s word as part of my daily devotion, but occasionally a dose of powerful Christian literature can do wonders to your spiritual life. I am ultimately someone who gains a lot of spiritual revelation through reading, if you speak of learning styles, hence I want to commit myself to do more reading of Christian books this year.

Was reading Banning Liebscher’s book Jesus Culture and though the book speaks more of raising a new generation of Christians, I found the chapters on prayer powerful and thought-provoking, not so much because there were lots of new revelations, but just because of the simplicity and conviction of faith behind the writing.

Liebscher summarises the four keys to prayer as follows – have also excerpted some key points:

1. Intimacy

Intimacy enables us to sustain prayer because it makes prayer a matter of spending time with the One you love, which is the natural expression and desire of love.

Prayer is hard to sustain if your view of God is anything but that of a loving Father.

2. Responsibility

Many people don’t sustain prayer for their city because they don’t feel any responsibility for their region. If you live with a sense of responsibility, you will live differently… People sustain prayer for things they feel responsible for. Many people have a hard time upholding prayer because they have no real sense of responsibility for their city or their nation.

3. Belief

Many people, without realizing it, go through the motions of prayer with no power because they don’t believe their prayers move the heart of God. But the truth is that we have a god who is even more eager to show up in our city than we are for Him to show up.

4. Revelation

When the Lord speaks to us through dreams, prophetic words, Scriptures, and other prophetic experiences, He’s providing fuel for our fires of prayer. These things give direction and let us know we are on the right track. Any time we begin to feel weary in our prayers, the Lord is faithful and sends us a dream or a prophetic word or enlivens a Scripture for us, and faith to keep pressing in ignites again in our hearts. It is one of the most exciting, dynamic aspects of our interactions with the Lord. It makes prayer an adventure.

Personal Reflections

There are some ‘less quotable’ segments of the book, not because they are any less powerful, but because they are more lengthy and narrative. These segments really spoke to me because Liebscher uses those segments to really draw out the parallels between earthly fatherhood and our Father in Heaven’s response to our prayers. It was as if those paragraphs were really written for me, as a father.

Particularly memorable as a segment where he described how him and his wife tried to do some ‘sleep-training’, which Jas and I have tried too and he couldn’t bear it once his daughter started crying out ‘Da Da! Da Da!’ (exactly how Dylan calls out for me!). He used that analogy to show how our Father in Heaven also hears us and desperately wants to reach out to us and answer our prayers. Felt exactly the same way when we did sleep training for Dylan, which honestly didn’t quite work out. Heh.

It’s amazing how many aspects of prayer can be encapsulated in this father-son dynamic – responsibility, as listed above, is about feeling your Father’s heartbeat, knowing what is important to your Father and feeling for it too, not just your own personal needs. Belief too is about knowing the nature of your Father in Heaven, being more loving and wanting to give than any earthly Father. Revelation is an interesting one – though we as earthly fathers cannot give dreams to our sons on earth, sometimes what we ‘give’ in response to our son’s requests is not what they ask, but a word of advice, a word of encouragement or even sharing a ‘story’ of our own experiences to spur them on.

How amazing it is to be able to view prayer, once again, in light of the Father’s love, from the perspective of a Father (to understand how the Father in Heaven feels, but also to know how I can improve as a father) and as a son of God – how I should pray, how I should respond to Him, and how I should respond to His response.

It’s enlightening and amazing how such a simple truth of God can take on greater depth and understanding as we grow and mature in life. Being a Christian is such an exciting journey!

Living by God’s truths

With the transition(s) coming up in my life, my heart has been filled with heaviness. We’ve been anticipating what could happen, preparing for whatever we can and of course, we’ve been praying.

As Christians, prayer is a frequent tool we use, and sometimes when we cannot find any other practical solution, prayer is what we turn to. We pray and pray – be it long prayers or short prayers, individually or as a group, in our hearts or out loud.

Yet, sometimes we pray out of insecurity, uncertainty and worry. We pray without a genuine revelation of who God is and what He has promised. Revelation refers not just to head knowledge, or being aware of what the word of God says – it is a deep realisation within your being that God’s truth is truth.

I was spending time with God today and couldn’t connect with His presence for a while. I then took some time off to do other things and suddenly, Matthew 6:31-34 came to mind and an unexplainable peace and awakening came upon me.

Do not worry about tomorrow.

Simple truth – God’s truth – not just stated in the word, but evident in the world around us!

If even the grass of the field are clothed, what more us?

When we realise that God’s truth is truth, we realise actually that we do not need to pray for our own needs, because God’s word has already promised all of that.

What we need is to allow God’s truth to renew our minds and sink into our being, such that the way we live our lives is not influenced by the words of others and the beliefs of this world, but truly by the truth of God.

Our soul needs to be anchored in the word – our mind and emotions – more so than our outward actions, because even spiritual actions can be anchored in anxieties and motivations of this world.

Thank you Jesus for this revelation that I can rest in you, but more importantly, for teaching me how to respond to you by anchoring my soul in You. 

Rick Warren’s “Called to Become”

Rick Warren is now preaching a series which revisits his Purpose Driven Life again, highlighting the 5 purposes of every person. It is a wonderfully simple yet revelational and practical series of messages which I started listening to yesterday. The first one I heard was “Called to Become”, which is actually the 3rd in his series. Here are my notes- May they bless you too! You can listen to all the messages here.

Marathon to Maturity (or 8 Keys to becoming who God wants you to be)
by Rick Warren

1. Simplify my life

Cut out and clean out all the junk that is preventing me from being the person God wants me to become.

We do not want to carry extra baggage.
Let go of some stuff.
Eliminate diversions.

Hebrews 12:1

Everybody wants you to run their race.
We have to think about what race God wants us to run. We have to decide which race to run that God has created for us.

We have to let go of some expectations too. We can’t please everyone.

We cannot just let go of sins, but also what everybody expects of you.

2. Don’t get impatient or in a hurry.

This race will take your entire life and you can’t run the race quickly.

Pace yourself.

When u first become a Christian, you will grow really fast!
Growth slows down but it gets stable and secure. God is not in a hurry to grow us to where He wants us to be.

We want to be solid like an oak tree, which takes 60 years to form.

Hebrews 12:1 let us run with patience!

Take a baby step each week.

3. Spend time focusing on Jesus everyday.

Whatever you want to become, you need to think about it. You need to spend the most time with people you want to become.

Whoever you spend the most time with is who you become most like.

You become more and more like Him.

We have never been quiet long enough. God doesn’t have to speak aloud – He can put thoughts in us.

Hebrews 12:2
We keep our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends.
We cannot become like Jesus, unless we spend time with Him.

I need to revive my quiet time.
I need to find a special place where I meet with God everyday.

We need to go where we can be alone and pray aloud.
We cannot close our eyes and pray and talk aloud.

Luke 22
Jesus went out as usual!
It was His custom. He likes to go there and have His quiet time.
We need to go to a special place and have time with Him.

Moses spent so much time with God that he glowed. He had a presence which glowed.
2 Corinthians 3: we have that veil removed so that we can be mirrors that reflect the glory of the Lord.

As Gods spirit works within us, we become more and more like Him and reflect His glory.

It takes time – it is more and more – it is sequential.
Many of us want a quick fix in our lives so we go around looking for that one book that will change our lives. We want a magic experience that transforms us immediately!
That won’t happen! It takes time.

We reflect His glory- His love, joy, peace and patience.
In our brains, we have mirror neurons. They allow you to feel what others feel when you look at them. That’s why you empathize with others. Your mirror neurons are firing in our body. When we see someone win a game, we feel the same joy because of our mirror neurons.

When we spend time with God, our neurons begin to reflect God’s qualities in our life.

4. When it gets hard, remember the reward.

This goal for God to makes you the person He wants you to be is a life time process. It’s not going to be easy.

His number one goal is for u to become more like Christ.
He is going to take you through everything that Jesus went through.

There was time where He was alone, rejected, misunderstood…
God wants to use circumstances to make us like Christ.

Jesus learned obedience through suffering.
Now it’s not the easy stage! That’s in eternity.

Now is where we do the character development.

Hebrews 12:2-3
Jesus did not give up because of the cross.
Because of the joy, He thought nothing of the suffering He was going through. He put up with so much hatred from sinners.

1 Peter 5
God will make you strong and support you and keep you from falling. He called us to share in His glory in Christ which will last forever.

God does not promise an easy life!
Everything on this planet is broken!
There are moments of joy, but as a general rule, life is tough.

Romans 8
Since we are his children, we share in his inheritance… But.. If we are to share his glory, we must also share in his sufferings.
God is no glory – no pain, no gain.

Romans 8:28
In all things…. Called according to His purpose. Memorize this verse!

5. Gather a team to run with me.

It’s your race and nobody can run, but people can support you.

At different stages, different people will run with you. That’s a small group.

If you don’t have anyone, not everyone will make it with you.

We do not need 100 people.. We just need a few people.

Hebrews 10.
Let us consider how we may spur each other on.. Let us not give up meeting together, but let us encourage each other as we see the day approaching.

Why do we cop out?
Fear!
Many times, we don’t even realize how fearful we are.
Fear causes us to miss Gods best. The small group helps you to love and feel belonged and that gives you the courage to stay in the race and finish it!
That is a safe place and it doesn’t happen over night. A small group takes time as we begin to know and love people – we begin to become more open. We have more openness because we mature as a small group.

6. Realize God is cheering you at every stage.

Some of us have the mistaken idea that God only cheers us when we reach the finish line or do things right.

Nobody shames a baby for not being able to read. Nobody shames a 10 year old for not being able to drive.

There are different things that are perfect for different stages of development.

We are already okay in Gods eye.
We need to be not ashamed of whatever phase of spiritual growth we are in.

We shame ourselves because we think God is ashamed of us.
The major reason we don’t become the man we are supposed to be is shame. Instead of admitting that we don’t have it altogether, we wear a mask when we know inside that we don’t have it altogether.

God knows that we don’t have it altogether!

We must become vulnerable and change the energy from pretending to become who God wants us to be.

Celebrate recovery!
Get out of denial. Quit trying to pretend that you don’t have problems. God needs to be that manager.

God is still cheering us on at whatever stage we are at.

Everybody needs recovery because everyone is broken.
Many of us don’t think great all of the time. We all need recovery.

Everybody needs to grow.

Philippians 3
Paul says… We have not already achieved these things or attained perfection. He is not!
Thank God we are not what we used to be. We have not got perfection, but we keep working towards that day where we become what God wants us to be.

We must focus all our energies on one thing.
We must forget the past and look forward to what’s ahead. We strain ahead to receive what God is calling us up to heaven for.

God is cheering us at every stage!
We start cheering our kids the moment the race begins.

God is cheering us even if we stumble!
We cheer more when we see a child stumble in a race. God cheers more when we stumbles, encouraging us on and spurring us to do better.

Don’t project an unpleaseable parent image on God.

God created us. He cheers even louder.

7. Take every step with purpose.

Whatever steps we take, we must do them with discipline and self control.

We have to deny ourselves.
We will not do everything that everybody else. We cannot follow everybody’s plans.

An Olympic winner gives up a tremendous amount of things.
It’s either plan A or plan B. We have to be purpose driven.

1 Corinthians 9
All athletes practice self control to gain a prize that will fade away.. We must run straight to the goal, taking each step with purpose.

Each punch must have contact.

Hebrews 12:13
Lift up your tired hands and strengthen your tired knees… Ask God for more strength. Keep walking!
Keep walking on straight paths so that your lame foot will not be disabled.
When things aren’t working out, we must not be tempted by short cuts.

In the race of life, we all run with a limp.
We have relational limps, physical limps, spiritual and financial limps.
We have all kinds!
Everybody walks through life with limps.

The only way we stumble less is if we stay on Gods straight path.

Michelle beesman’s story

She decided to Start running cos her small group of friends kept pushing.

8. Realize that what I don’t finish, God will.

Philippians 1.
God that began the great work in you will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again.

On that day when we see Jesus face to face, every mirror neuron will go on overload and we will be transformed to become just like Him.

All our fears and faults will be gone. All blemishes and flaws will be gone.
We will reflect the glory of God. That is such good news.

We are not a fraction of who we are meant to be.
One day God will finish what we didn’t if we have put ourselves in His hands.

1 John 3:2
We are already Gods children and we can’t even imagine what we will be like when Christ returns.. But we know that when he returns, we will become like Him.

In this race of life, we might have struggled. All of us have been there.

Our race is not over!
It is never too late to get back up and get into the race again.

Jeremiah 32:39 – Singleness of Heart and Action

My key takeaway from yesterday’s sermon was not a message, but a life-story and a testimony of courage, vision and single-mindedness.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)

My Senior Pastor is a man of courage with only one fear – and that is, the fear of the Lord. With that fear, nothing else matters.

I love it that his sermons are always an opportunity not just to capture his teachings, but to gain a greater glimpse into his life and the unbelievable trials and tribulations he goes through to stand up for the truth.

Yesterday he shared his own story behind what unfolded over the past few week. Hearing it really touched me and enlightened me. I had a glimpse into the conversations with others and with God, the emotions felt, the deep convictions, the divine timings, the carefully calculated steps and the artful orchestration of God.

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

I resolve to have that same single-minded courage to stand up strongly for the convictions that God has placed in my heart. It’s not just courage or fearlessness that I admire, but it is that singleness of purpose and of heart.

I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. (Jeremiah 32:39)

That clarity in his mind that what one is doing is right and to never second-guess oneself – that’s what I want. That firm, deep-rooted conviction that is able to say confidently to others and equally importantly to yourself that – yes, this is the right thing to do and to do it, regardless of how difficult it may be, or the opposition that you face.

Psalm 23 – God’s goodness

Image taken from http://millersonamission.blogspot.com

“The goodness of God” is without a doubt – God’s word for me – for this season. It has been confirmed on 3 occasions within the past 3 weeks: 

#1. Office Prayer Meeting (7 Feb): During my office prayer meeting two weeks ago, a colleague was praying for my wife and I and she later shared with me that as she was praying, Psalm 23 came to mind and she blessed us with it. In our devotion time with BabyD at night, I decided not to follow the Psalms chronologically, as I usually do and read Psalm 23 to BabyD instead, since it seemed like he liked it so much.

#2. Quiet time (13 Feb): It was the final day of our CNY break and even though most of the day was spent at home resting, I had missed my quiet time in the morning. Usually when that happens, it’s hard to connect with God again as my mind is swamped and caught up with various things I need to tend to. However, that evening, I decided that I really wanted to connect with the Lord and spend time with Him. So, I went to my bed room and started praying in tongues. Youtube is frequently my quiet time companion lately and as I moved from song to song, I stumbled upon Gateway Worship/ Kari Jobe’s “You are Good”, as performed by City Harvest.

That song was really God-sent as it gradually brought me into God’s presence and the simplicity of the chorus – You are good, You are good, You are good, and Your mercy is forever – just captured my heart. I could not stop singing it, even as I went to the car later to run some errands. My whole being and spirit just resonated with that simple truth that God is good.

#3. G12 Cell (14 Feb): This was the most amazing move of God that really clinched this as God’s word for this season.

Went for G12 cell on Wednesday after a very tiring, mentally draining day of work. During the time of worship, God’s presence was extraordinarily strong and this was a presence of God’s rest. I really felt a tremendous, tangible sense of peace and rest flowing through me. It was amazing!

What was even more amazing was how a dear brother, Alvin, released a word to me during the time of ministry and it was from Psalm 23! That was just this unspeakable joy that burst forth within me when I heard that word. It was more specific this time, from verses 4 – 6 and the verse that struck me was – “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, All the days of my life”.

What a great assurance this was! That not only was God a good God, His goodness and mercy would follow me all the days of my life. This verse couldn’t have been more timely as I was feeling concerned about how the arrival of our child would change our lives and whether we could cope.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all excited and glad about BabyD’s arrival, but part of me also hears a lot about how our lives will never be the same and wonders how I/we can balance all the various other parts of our lives.

This assurance from God’s word came at the perfect time and weaved all 3 incidents together in a perfect message from God that no devotional, no sermon, no book could ever deliver. It was a perfect, personal word from the Lord to me.

Thank you Lord for this amazing assurance that I will hold on to as I prepare for the next exciting phase of my life!

[Side note: I’ve decided to move from blogging daily to focusing instead of building my personal walk with the Lord and write when I feel prompted to. I feel that’s more authentic and it’s less legalistic – I realised I do not always have something that can be easily expressed in words or a blog entry. Sometimes, my time with the Lord is just a good time with Him, without necessarily new revelations or great encounters – as such, there’s no need to bind myself to writing a post daily. I shall still try to write often as a form of discipline.]

Daily Walk 6 Feb: Simplicity of Heart

If you are on the fence concerning a certain habit or struggle, and you continue to use semantics as an excuse to sin, repent, for you have already compromised in your heart. (From Living Life, 6 Feb – Failure)

What an important lesson today’s Living Life conveys!

We often try to ‘outsmart’ God and the Bible by finding our way around what His word says or trying to ‘qualify’ what His word says. We are so smart in using our mind to twist and ultimately soften the condemning effect of God’s word that we have lost the point completely.

That is why Jesus says that we need to accept the kingdom of God in the simplicity of a child. A child takes everything as it is, at face value and comes with an innocent, believing heart.

Image taken from http://baylorcatholic.files.wordpress.com/

Whenever we talk about the simplicity of a child, that beautiful image of God receiving us, guiding us and us just following His loving hands is conjured.

However, there’s the tough and brutal side of simplicity that we rarely acknowledge, which is what the devotional is talking about too. Receiving God simply also means we are honest in allowing God’s word to apply to our lives. It means we are without guile, without disguise and honestly acknowledge the sins in our lives as guided by God’s word. God does not condemn us for it, but this honesty is necessary, for us to realise how great God’s grace is!

Daily Walk 5 Feb: To be abased

It is one thing to follow God’s way of service if you are regarded as a hero, but quite another thing if the road marked out for you by God requires becoming a “doormat” under other people’s feet. God’s purpose may be to teach you to say, “I know how to be abased . . .” (Philippians 4:12). Are you ready to be sacrificed like that?