“I Believe” Research Episode One: Prayer Assumes a Need

Since announcing last Monday the news that I am publishing an online and in-person Bible study, I am so excited by the responses and participation. You can find all the details about When and how and what here.

Over the next several weeks, before the study itself launches, I will be sharing some research and prayer that has informed my decision to pursue this topic of study and this format. Several sources from people of different backgrounds and experiences will be used.

To catch you up to speed, friend, here is what the I Believe study is all about:

The above is my thesis statement for this study. Disclaimer: this Bible Study is a project in fulfillment of my undergraduate degree in Christian Studies and Global Citizenship at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Now, let’s dive into the literature today’s research focuses on.

Mark R McMinn, Ph.D., in his book, Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling, argues for the importance of Christian morality as part of mental therapy, namely biblical principles such as redemption, prayer, and forgiveness.

McMinn states that “Prayer assumes need. Prayer and helplessness are inseparable.

He supports this with Luke 18:9-16:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

I think that one of the most unfortunate assumptions about Christians is that they are self-righteous and “holier than thou.” There are certainly people pertaining to all beliefs that operate out of these traits. I would argue that we all do, in various ways.

But the call of a Christian is to be absolutely humble, recognizing his or her brokenness, and “need,” as McMinn says, for God. A recognition of this need, then, should lead to prayer.

If we go on in our selfish ways, thinking, as the man in this parable, “Thank goodness I’m not like the robbers or evildoers,” failing to recognize how broken we are, we will very likely turn to selfish means of living.

When we pray, however, recognizing our need to communicate with our God, our need for His guidance– we can operate out of the humility and love of the Holy Spirit (John 3:34).

McMinn’s explanation of how prayer requires “humble awareness of our need for God” lends itself to the first step in the I Believe Bible Study: praying about what, exactly, you will fast.

I am so excited to see how God continues to work out His plan for this study, and how many hearts and minds will be able to grow and learn from one another!

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Announcing…

My first worldwide Bible study.

I am very excited to announce that, as part of my fourth year thesis for my Christian Studies undergrad, I have been working on a project I am very excited to release.

A Bible study done online, and also with weekly meetings in Kitchener/Waterloo, ON, will be launching on Cassie’s Cookery the first week of 2019.

This will entail short podcasts, discussion/journal guides, Scriptures readings and other sourced information, along with much more content.

I am excited to have this incredible opportunity to “practice” ministry in a manner I feel so passionate about, too.

The topic is one I believe so important, and one of the best things, though maybe seemingly most challenging things, we could choose to do. But I believe it will change your life. I believe God will change your life.

Joel 2:12-13

The topic– you guessed it– is fasting.

But I’m not talking about fasting food necessarily.

I’m talking about fasting that is truly returning to the Lord. And this will take some prayer and thought.

Ask yourself… then ask God…

What do you do too much of that doesn’t please God?

What is an idol in your life that you love/pay more attention to than Jesus?

What takes up your brain space/heart/thought/time?

This will be the hardest kind of thing to give up. But it will be the best thing to I’ve up.

Here’s what Jesus promises you..

He will return to you what you sacrifice to Him, better than you could ever imagine.

He will teach you how to love better, and He will expand your capacity.

Bonus: you’ll more than likely be more productive, and reap all kinds of other benefits God has planned for you.

We’re created to live closely to Him. He sacrificed His perfect life for us. Anything we could sacrifice for Him is minuscule in comparison.

Dr. Bill Bright, in his guide Why You Should Fast, listed the following reasons for fasting something that is an idol in your life.
•Fasting was an expected discipline in both the Old and New Testament eras.
•Fasting and prayer can restore the loss of the “first love” for your Lord and result in a more intimate relationship with Christ.
•Fasting is a biblical way to truly humble yourself in the sight of God.
•It enables the Holy Spirit to reveal your true spiritual condition, resulting in brokenness, repentance, and a transformed life.
•Fasting will encourage the Holy Spirit to quicken the Word of God in your heart and His truth will become more meaningful to you.
•Fasting can transform your prayer life into a richer and more personal experience.

It is absolutely free to join and take part in this, and the resources will be available on the blog to everyone. And, for those in KW, we will have weekly studies beginning January 2019. More details to follow.

For now: spread the word, be encouraged, and don’t hesitate to talk to me with any questions!

Is There Really Power in Prayer?

Have you ever heard someone say they “believe in the power of prayer?”

As a Christian, I agree with this statement… somewhat.

See, I don’t believe that a prayer in itself has power. My own lifting up words of praise and petition is not powerful. What is powerful–who is powerful– is the One I’m praying to.

I once heard a pastor liken the Christian and his/her relationship with Jesus to a person walking across ice. That person could have all the confidence and ability and faith in the world, but if the ice is too thin, they will fall right through.

Alternatively, a person could have just enough faith to simply step on the ice, and if it’s thick, sturdy, trustworthy ice, they will make it across.

Our walk, then, about how much faith or ability we have, but about how much power and ability the One we put our faith in has.

And I believe that if your prayers are to Jesus, if your relationship is with Him, you’re putting faith in the thickest ice that will ever exist.

Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matt 17:20

I loved that ice analogy, and thought about a little more.

If I stepped on that thin ice with confidence and fell through– or, say, put my trust in something not very trustworthy– and then later got to walk on that thick ice, I would probably be very, very grateful for that thick sturdy ice after experiencing the shivering cold water beneath the thinner ice.

So when we commit to Jesus, we are amazed at the perfect Provider, caretaker, Friend, and Father He is. We walk with Him and know He is meant to be our firm foundation.

But… that thin ice looks just the same. Maybe even like a shortcut on some parts of our walk.

“Just this once, maybe I can make it across that thin ice…”

(“Just this once, maybe I can turn to drugs/alcohol/food/control/gossip”)

Crash. It never works. The ice is too thin.

Jesus is the only firm foundation we can put full and complete trust in.

Jesus said… “no one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:26

Have you decided to walk with Jesus?

What Makes Thanksgiving My Favourite

“Over Christmas? Really?”

That’s usually the reaction I get when I tell someone that Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday.

But in my house, it’s the same every year.

My mom makes the most amazing turkey dinner on the planet, for one thing.

And the smell of it reminds of all different seasons of my life.

Seasons running home from school excitedly with hand-traced turkey crafts, “What I’m Thankful For” cards, and pumpkin pictures.

Seasons marking on the calendar when the pumpkins were to be picked and carved, and seasons chattering with my Oma and Opa about what Id learned in school.

Seasons crying in front of my meal, so sick with anorexia that I didn’t know how to be thankful for food let alone eat it.

Seasons of healing and growth, of “coming home” for Thanksgiving, of dreaming about hosting my own one day.

None more thankful than I am this year. In my last year of university, paying bills and cooking and working and trying to get the grades. I am more thankful than ever for parents I have that have loved and shaped me in many ways, and the people in my life today.

I am feeling restful. Sick with a second brutal cold of the year, I’m recognizing sufficiency in God’s Grace and timing and guidance. Trusting that He has me in the palm of His hand. Glimpsing my own imperfection, error, and downfalls more and more. Realizing more with each passing moment how much I need my God… thus, at the same time, realizing it less, because coming to know it more means becoming more aware of how undeserving I am. It makes no earthly sense that He is the lover He is.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=B6BRS2WlhoY

I am thankful today for Jesus, and the fact that He is Life and He is Love.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever Psalm 136:1

I am thankful that He has given me the most wonderful man to love and be loved by. I am even thankful for the long distance that challenges us and strengthens us.

I am thankful for my beautiful parents and sisters, and the ways they have challenged me, loved me unconditionally, and taught me.

I am thankful for friends who are loyal, funny, and compassionate, and friends who double as God-fearing, fiercely loving sister-roomies.

I am thankful for each and every short day on this earth, and days loved for the purpose of my unfathomable Creator Jesus. Would I actually know the weight of this, Lord, and live, by Your grace, like it’s true.

So I guess Thanksgiving is my favourite because it’s a reminder of the fact that that I’m meant to give thanks and praise to my God. To never cease in singing His praise. To know that, in different seasons, His love band very personhood has never changed, never faltered, never lessened. I can look back and look forward, and I know it’s Jesus who remains constant.

Thanks be to God!

On Worship

“Put it this way: if your idea of God, if your idea of the salvation offered in Christ, is vague or remote, your idea of worship will be fuzzy and ill-formed. The closer you get to the truth, the clearer becomes the beauty, and the more you will find worship welling up within you. That’s why theology and worship belong together. The one isn’t just a headtrip; the other isn’t just emotion.”N.T. Wright

I think this is maybe one of the most fuzzy things about the way we do church today.

I could see coming to church for the first time, being confused by worship– especially modern worship, with, sometimes, choosedly, its bright lights, smoke machines, and people with their hands in the air or falling to their knees, etc.

I can imagine walking into that space and feeling uncomfortable, or out of place.

So, in a way, these words are my heart are to the people who have come to check out church without really knowing much about it, and left feeling confused rather than blessed by worship, by talking a little bit about what the Word says worship is.

1. The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.Isaiah 29:13

God Himself takes “religion” out of worship here by speaking against rules. If our worship is just singing because it’s what we’re told to do, our praises just a going-through-the-motions, we miss the heart of worship.

If our hearts are seeking His present Spirit, though, and we’re giving Him praise, though we’re weak– every one of us– our worship is meaningful and “we will find Him [when we seek]” Matt 7:7.

2. “Worship the Lord with gladness: come before Him with joyful songs” Psalm 100:1.

True Worship is joyful. While awing and sometimes overcoming, His Spirit causes deep joy. To praise Him and know He is near.

3. Worship is not about what “we get”, but about the praise He gets. Hence the word “worship,” defined as the expression of reverence and adoration for a deity. If you’ve heard someone say, “Ah, I don’t get much out of singing worship,” remember that worship is it about what you get out of it. It is a duty, heard by your Creator, Saviour, Perfect Son of God, and an act of praise for HIM. Your soul absolutely benefits from this, as you grow closer to Jesus in this time, but that is not the purpose of your worship.

Know that you are so loved by a God who desires relationship with you. And part of that relationship is praising and thanking Him for who He is and all He’s done, seeking the things of Him along with simply His presence.

Recognizing the Spiritual Battle

Our battle is not against flesh and blood. Ephesians 6:12

What does it mean to make note of the spiritual battle, but not allow to harm you?

As a Christian believer, I have learned the importance of recognizing that what we can see in a physical sense is not the real battle. Especially when we turn to Jesus, we become more aware of His enemy, and the grip the devil has on the world. The devil works sneakily to draw our attention away from Christ– and while he’s able to draw that attention away, he has already been defeated forever by Jesus. Christians believe that is the end of the story, and that Jesus has already overcome. Committing to following Him doesn’t mean easy (He actually tells us that we will face trials in this life) but it does mean eternity, joy, and purpose.

The devil’s only real threat is Jesus, who makes him tremble immediately. But where he can take ground in a person, he will try to. He will try to convince us of lies. His attacks are both sneaky and obvious. But one thing is for sure.

An encounter with Jesus, and the devil’s attempts are immediately reduced to nothing.

These are all certainly heavy concepts, but so important to be aware of. In the midst of a very spiritual battle, the Christian’s greatest weapon is prayer. Constant relationship with Jesus; asking for His eyes and mind. Little by little, Jesus works to draw you closer to Him, embolden your faith in Him, and turn lies into Truths. His plans are steadfast and good, period. What a Truth! But it is our job to be faithful in prayer and obedience, racing toward Him, the prize.

How to recognize the devil, even at his sneakiest?

Be constantly rooted in the Word. Read the Bible lots? Keep reading it. Speak it over yourself and others. Ask God to reveal new things to you through it.

Pray unceasingly. Aim that your life is in constant communication with Jesus.

Keep yourself accountable. Talk about your convictions with people you trust. Pray with people. Put the devil to shame aloud.

Jesus tells us we need not fear in the midst of this battle, because we have Him. So why not stay so close to Him? Lean on His Spirit. He will take the reigns.

Mourning What is No Longer

The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit. Psalm 34:18

Recently, I have recognized myself mourning many things.

Mourning the period of my life in which I lived with my parents;

Mourning childhood innocence;

Mourning my old church community;

Mourning my boyfriend’s presence, as he is at school in another province;

Mourning my job at Starbucks;

Mourning my old student house…

Even, I hate to say, mourning the illness I once had, or so it feels sometimes.

So many changes all at once, and I don’t think I have in the past thought so much about the changes. But recently, as I’ve freed up time and space in my life to ensure I’m getting adequate rest, social life, and focus on studies– I recognize my mourning, missing, and sadness. I realize that I’m sad about the fact that many of these things are over, I’m confused about why some of them had to end, and I feel a little lost.

And I’m learning…

This is okay.

It’s okay to feel lost, uncertain, and a little afraid. It’s not okay to be aware of sin and sitting in it, okay with it.

So, as I reflect on things past and things to come, one thing remains True and sure, and that is the faithfulness of a Creator who goes before me, who, in the being the Creator, is before me and is in everything.

And I finally come to this place of peace because He has brought me there.

I know that when Jesus says I don’t need to fear, it’s True.

And His unconditional love and the amount of my undeserving of it makes me want to please Him and serve Him in every moment, reflecting positively on the past and all that He has brought me through, and trusting that He is faithful in every season.

Not for my oh-so temporary comfort or pleasure or happiness, but for His sake and glory… which equals joy.

It is Jesus who “turns my mourning into dancing” (Psalm 30:11)… and Jesus who I will forevermore praise.