Effective Prayer

prayer2-620x499I pulled out my Bible and flipped through the thin pages that fit between the leather cover. I stopped in the Book of James. I read James 5:16b;

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

This verse shows me that God intends for us to pray. It is also God’s intent to respond to our prayers. When God wants to pour out His Holy Spirit, when God wants to bless, when God wants to extend mercy – it is in those moments He sets his people to prayer. Prayer is the impetus for spiritual renewal.

God doesn’t want us to just have ritualistic or ‘formula’ prayers. Instead, prayers with a genuine pursuit of God. Prayer filled with humility. Prayers that are not simply asking for WHAT God can do for us, but a pursuit of WHO He is.

Prayers of humble pursuit of God leads to seeing God and His nature. When we know His nature it changes our prayer life. We begin to pray in a way that honors Him…and when we are praying in a way that honors God we begin to see prayers that are making a difference.

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“Noah”

The movie, “NOAH”, is going to be released in theaters on Friday, March 28th.

Here are my two encouragements to my Christian friends:

  1. Go see the movie. It will be enjoyable to see a story that is inspired by the Biblical account.
  2. Learn what the Biblical account of the story of Noah actually says. Yep, read/study your Bible.

Below is a helpful link. This article will give you some good insight on the movie, and your approach to it.

http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/42977-why-i-m-recommending-christians-see-the-film-noah

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Got Caught in a Slow-Speed Chase…

Track practice was over for my middle daughter and we stopped by the store, Justice, to buy a pair of shorts before heading home. That’s a routine evening, right? As we pulled away from the store the traffic light turned red at the corner. My daughter and I were talking and she was excited about the new shorts that she had bought.

As we sat at the red light a gold-colored Pontiac Grand Prix pull into the turn lane directly beside us. After a momentary stop in the turn lane, the driver sped straight across the intersection at a blazing 10 mph. At that moment the Dallas Police Dept already had 3 cars following her and one more speeding toward us to join the fray. Evidently, there was a slow-speed chase already in process. The light turned green and the flow of traffic was going the same speed as the dramatic car chase in front of us, so each of us got to be a part of the excitement. Then 2 more cop cars came to join the fun. The way that they approached caused all of the cars on the busy street to move forward faster and to get closer to the pursuit.

As the flow of traffic followed the action for about a mile, my daughter looked at the flashing lights and 6 cop cars and said, “This is sooooo cool!”…spoken like a true jr high girl. Oddly, she was right! Several of the cars were jockeying to pass each other in order to keep up with the chase. The “rubber neck” mindset was in full effect. The driver of the gold Pontiac ignored most of the traffic laws, ran a red-light and turned her car down Mockingbird Lane toward highway 75…so, we turned down Mockingbird Lane too – along with 15 other cars. Is that bad?

The car picked up a bit of speed and left behind the intrigued caravan of followers. The evening, and the traffic, was back to normal. My daughter and I laughed about the surprise twist in our drive home and headed toward the house.

I guess there’s never a dull moment in East Dallas.

Twitter: @MichaelD_Norman

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Our Response to Bin Laden…

As I watched TV late Sunday night the news broke about our President making an important announcement. We soon found out that the international terrorist, Osama Bin Laden, had been killed by US Military forces. For most red-blooded, hot-dog-eating, red-white-&-blue waving Americans, this is a big win in the war on terror. For sure that is a fact. This IS a big win in the battle against a promoter of hate, murder and terror. I have to admit, I felt a sense of relief and pride.

As the media continued to report the event I found myself drawn to watch the news that was being brought forth.  There came the visual images of Americans gathering in front of the White House in celebration while chanting, “U S A! U S A!”. The news of Bin Laden’s death began to spread through the crowd at the MLB game of the Philadelphia Phillies. The thousands gathered at the game soon began the same chant of,  “U S A! U S A!”. While watching this being played out on my television, I had a rush of mixed emotions. Celebrating in the streets, the death of another human being is tough for me to watch…it reminded me of the celebrations that took place in Afghanistan and Iraq after our tragic loss that happened on 9/11/2001 in New York City. The question that came to my mind was: Is this the proper response?

The truth is that a triumph of good over evil happened yesterday. A man who caused so much death, promoted so much hate and endangered the lives and freedom of so many people needs to have justice. At the same time, for the Christian, there is a celebration of justice but a solemnity about the death of a human life…even the guilty. Don’t celebrate death, celebrate justice.

The word has this to say about justice, “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoersProverbs 21:15

Today does begin a new era, in many ways, for our country. Some who’ve had such heartache over 9/11 feel some sense of closure. Others feel relief that the mastermind of a global terror organization that has targeted America, Americans and the free world in general has been neutralized. Still, our hope is not in the loss of an evil man, but rather in the resurrection of a Godly man; Jesus…

1 Tim 4: 10 “…because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people…”
Jeremiah 17:7-8 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. 8 They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

Twitter: MichaelD_Norman

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What should our ‘conversations’ look like?

(We’ve recently starting looking at the Biblical references to the conversations that God has with people. This post goes along with our theme at Gracehill. It is by Lennon Noland. You can read more by Lennon (or follow him) at www.godlifeandduke.com)

What Father among you, if his son asks him for a fish, would give him a snake instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Jesus, Luke 11

As I was drinking coffee and reading in Luke this morning, I read over the portion where Jesus is teaching his disciples to pray. Luke follows up what we refer to as “the Lord’s prayer” with a parable and teaching from Jesus about the character of God in response to persistent prayer from His children (that would be all of us who believe in Him). The part I wanted to call your attention to, friends, is not the fact that Jesus says God will grant the request of His child who is asking, but that Jesus directly states WHAT His children SHOULD be asking FOR: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

This seems a bit of a departure from the immediate context of the teaching, so I can only guess that Jesus was making a point that His disciples needed whether or not they asked for it: They needed not just to know how to pray, but they needed to know what should be their greatest priority when they prayed. The greatest thing God can give to us through prayer, and evidently, what God most desires to give us through prayer, is more of His Holy Spirit.

This is huge.

How would our lives change if we focused our prayers on having more of God within us than seeing God do things for us?

How would our outlook on trying circumstances change as we sensed God’s presence so tangibly near?

How would our internal struggles change as the Mind of God increasingly became our own?

How would we treat people if we had more of the heart of God during our daily interactions? Would we be more patient? Less judgmental? More generous?

What would be different for you? There is only one way to find out for sure…to pray and see:

Father, of all the things I can pray for this morning, I pray for more of Your Holy Spirit. Your word says Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit beyond measure. Increase the measure in which I sense your presence within me, and let it change those things in me that I’ve felt so powerless to change myself. Let me see people as You do, and respond to them as You would. Give me more of Yourself, because nothing is more precious than You.

(Thanks to Lennon Noland for the use of this post. www.godlifeandduke.com)

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I love March Madness…

March Madness is a great time of year! I am a huge sports fan in general, but there is something special about the NCAA college basketball tournament. Let me say this: March Madness is even better than the Super Bowl and is only remotely rivaled in intensity and pageantry by something like the summer Olympics or the World Cup. Nothing else has the story lines, passion, “heart” and flair of March Madness.

The beauty of this tournament is in the fact that you have young men (18-22 years old) playing in a one-and-done type of setting. With kids of that age, the emotions run high and anything can happen. I love that the less heralded school can play one amazing game and beat the basketball powerhouse. I love the fans who travel across the country to watch their team play. I love to see the underdogs weave their way through the tournament and beat the ‘big boys’ of college basketball with less height and talent. I love that a school like Butler can ride a wave of emotion to the National Championship game, that was  6 miles from their small campus, to play a perennial power team like the Duke Blue Devils…and almost win! I love that team-work is of more importance than one great player. I love that these young men will show emotion after losing a game and feel no shame. I love that all of the prejudice and politics are set aside for the greater good of the team. I love that March Madness can turn the most casual observer into a “bracketologist” overnight.

Here are the Top 5 Reasons to Love March Madness:

  1. The agony and elation of Selection Sunday…then carried over to each close game there after.
  2. The Buzzer Beaters (think Christian Laettner!)
  3. Teams like Butler Bulldogs (2010) & George Mason Patriots (2006)
  4. Cinderella is a not just for little girls.
  5. The 5 vs 12 game…anything can happen.

The passion and belief of these young men is tangible and contagious. The purity of their passion captures the imagination of thousands each night.

Sometimes when I watch the the players, their passion for the game reminds me of a verse in the Bible.

Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Our lives are to be lived in such a way that our passion and purity for the Lord are tangible and contagious…

There is also this encouragement in the letter to the Christians in Rome that said, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.“(Romans 12:11)

To fully capture what is being said here we need to look at a larger portion of Scripture. Romans 12:9-13 says, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

When we read that passage we see a contagious faith…when we live that passage others will see a tangible and contagious faith. As Matthew said, “Let you light shine before others…”

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St. Patrick – A Different Look

Last weekend Gracehill spent time discussing the life of St. Patrick of Ireland, a topic that is relevant to our community. Often, when the words, “St. Patrick’s Day” are mentioned, our minds immediately begin to think about parades, funny hats, shamrocks, Chicago’s green river and green beer. What’s been lost in the cultural celebration is the original purpose for the holiday. After Patrick’s encounter with God, his life was a powerful example of a life committed to Christ and His vision.

Below are some links that will give you more information on this man. When we look at his life we should realize that, “St. Patrick’s Day should be about missions, not green beer.” (quote from theresurgence.com)

http://www.gracehill.cc/patrick

http://www.theresurgence.com/2010/03/17/st-patrick-one-of-the-greatest-missionaries-who-ever-lived

http://www.evotional.com/2011/03/st-patrick.html

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