Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"Surprised by Answered Prayer?"

Acts 12:5,7b  "But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him...and the chains fell off his wrists."

When we link hands with God through prayer, chains will break.  Do you believe this?  Or are we surprised when our prayers are answered?  

The church is praying earnestly, night and day for Peter...Peter is in prison, chained between two guards, and yet he sleeps.  Their prayers are answered...but, they are surprised. And I'm surprised that they are surprised...it looks like faith to me.

I can't help but think of Mark 9:24 when a father, whose son is possessed by a demon, and he comes to Jesus asking for help.  "But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”  The man doesn't seem to sure if Jesus can help.  The "if" in his words reveal his lack of faith.  So Jesus says, if you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes."  When we trust God, we will take Him at His Word, and we will know that all His promises are true, that all things are possible with Christ. 

I like the response of the father, he doesn't try to back peddle, try to change what he said to make it sound like he doesn't doubt..." what I meant to say is, "I know You can, but not sure if that's your will for my son."   No, immediately he is open and honest with Jesus..."Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"

The father in this story believed in Jesus' power to deliver his son...that's why the church was praying and why Peter could sleep even though facing a trial....that's why they came to Jesus. Their unbelief was not a rejection of God's promises...it just seemed too good to be true.  They have faith...but are in need of more.

Spurgeon said:  “Help my unbelief” is something a man can only say by faith. “While men have no faith, they are unconscious of their unbelief; but, as soon as they get a little faith, then they begin to be conscious of the greatness of their unbelief.” 

Peter is no novice disciple, when he preaches, thousands believe.  When he heals, demons run. When he prays, the dead live again.  Visions and miracles are happening all around him.  The church is witness to all this too.  And yet, when they ask for the impossible and the impossible happens...they doubt.  

I've been surprised too many times by answered prayer. I cry out too"Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!"   In the greek "help" means...to run to the cry of those in danger, bring aid, to succor.  Father, here my cry and bring help to those I love who are in need of your deliverance.  I believe that prayer breaks the chains, the sins that binds the heart of my prodigal.  Lord, I believe but help my unbelief today. Increase my faith and help me to stand in full assurance of Your promises.   In Jesus name, amen.

Standing in Him,

Monday, October 3, 2011

"Right in Front of Your Face"

Acts 11:8, 9 NLT  "Not so, Lord," Peter replied...  But the voice from heaven came again, "If God says something is acceptable, don't say it isn't."

Several years ago, I was in a conversation with a Christian woman, who was being very dogmatic in her belief that someone who is divorced cannot remarry...period, regardless of the circumstances.  The reason this conversation came up was because she was telling others that they couldn't remarry...and telling them they were committing adultery by doing so. 

Now, don't hear what I'm not saying...I want to be clear.  God hates divorce and even in the face of adultery, His desire is reconciliation.  I pointed her to the passages in Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7 where the LORD had specifically given two exceptions where divorce and remarriage were permitted.  In the case of sexual immorality or abandonment by an unbelieving spouse.  Making it clear that the LORD didn't command them divorce, but permitted them to divorce due to their hardness of heart - sometimes the heart of the offending and/or offended spouse is hard - they aren't willing to reconcile.   

After going around a bit on some of her reasons, she would not be convinced...even though the truth was "right in front of her face."  Then Lord gave me this verse in Acts 11:9...it just popped in my head.  I love it when the Holy Spirit does this and you stand back amazed at what's coming out of your mouth.  I asked her, "Why are you calling something unclean...when God has said it was clean?" or as the NLT says it:  "If God says something is acceptable, don't say it isn't."This struck a cord within her heart, and she immediately realized her error.   She was being like Peter and arguing with God... saying, "Not so, Lord!"  

Sometimes, it's difficult to make changes in the way we think.  We are raised a certain way or maybe we are legalistic or we've just picked up a random idea in our head/heart and don't want to let go of it.  For whatever reason, we close our eyes to God's Word and resist for a time...even though the truth is right in front of our face and we say like Peter, "Not so, Lord!"

But God needs to make changes in our lives so the work He wants to do won't be hindered. Did you notice that Peter had to be told three times by the Lord before he would allow his heart to be changed.  Acts 11:10 "This happened three times before the sheet and all it contained was pulled back up to heaven."  Isn't God patient...and shouldn't we be too. Through God's faithfulness and patience...we see Peter's attitude change from resistance to obedience to God's voice...and the Good News spread to the Gentiles.  

Father, I thank you that you see our hearts and you speak to our needs, our weaknesses, our unbelief, our sin.  By the power of Your Word...whether in a vision or as we read your Word (Hebrews 4:12). You diagnose our problem, give us the solution and when we receive it.. we are changed.  Like Peter...I have tasted the sweetness of your patience and I thank you for that.  Examine my heart today, reveal to me any changes that are needed, help me to receive it and hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to me, so I too may tell others today about your Son Jesus, without any hindrance's.  In Jesus name I pray. amen.