True prayer seeks to find what God wants us to do, not what we want God to do for us

True prayer seeks to find what God wants us to do, not what we want God to do for us

By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross

We continue this week with our discussion on how we hear from God through prayer. We’ve learned that the primary way we hear from God is through the study of his word. We can also hear from God and know his will through prayer, but prayer isn’t what we often make it out to be. It’s not about getting what I want from God; it’s about God getting what he wants from me. This week in our study of how we hear from God in prayer, we examine the phrase from the model prayer, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

If God alone is good (Mark 10:18 and Luke 18:19 both say: “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. ; Luke 18:19 ) and therefore defines what a good life is, then a good life is not found in the success of my will but in the submission of all things to God’s will.

God alone defines what is good, true, wise, right, and loving, so our hope in life is never in getting our way. Hope in life is never in the realization of our own dreams. It is never found in gaining as much control as possible over the people and circumstances in our life. Hope is never found in my will being done. God has never not existed; his perspective goes beyond the origin of our past and beyond the future of our destiny, so he really does know what is best for all of his creation, including you and me. As such, true prayer is not getting the all-wise God to submit to your imperfect will but is an act of submitting your imperfect will to the all-wise God.

Unfortunately, we all slip from time to time into thinking we’re smarter than God. There are times for each of us when we believe that our plan and what we want is better for us than what God wants for us. We curl our lips at the “dish” God has lovingly and wisely placed in front of us and seek something we find more appetizing; but our idea of better will leave us empty, unfulfilled, unhealthy, and unable to receive the future good that God has in store for us.

So today, cry out for grace because the temptation to think you know better than God is still a powerful threat to your prayer life and your ability to hear from God; that puts us in the dangerous position of being our own hope – our own idol to which we pray, “My will be done.” Cry out to the Savior who submitted his own will to that of the Father to bring about the greater good for all mankind; He knows what it’s like to wrestle with wanting something different than the Father’s perfect will! Cry out to Jesus to save you from yourself. Pray for the sense to know that there is no safer, no better place to be than in submission to the will of your Father in heaven. Have the courage to pray, “Your kingdom come – let your kingdom’s reign begin in my life today. Your will be done – right here, right now, in my life – just like it is in heaven.” When we are joyfully willing to submit to God’s will for our lives, we know that his grace has entered our hearts.

Isaiah 26:3-4 (ESV):

You keep him in perfect peace

whose mind is stayed on you,

because he trusts in you.

Trust in the LORD forever,

for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

True prayer seeks to find what God wants us to do, not what we want God to do for us

Big difference in making your own empire or welcoming God’s kingdom

By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross

We’ve been trying to understand how to hear from God and know His will. We noted that studying the Scriptures and prayer are two of the most frequent and consistent ways that God communicates with His people. We continue our examination of The Lord’s Prayer this week with the purpose of hearing from God. This is the prayer that used to be recited in school, taken directly from the Bible. The phrase we will examine is “Your kingdom come.”

The gospel Jesus preached in his ministry is summed up in Mark 1:15. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Notice that there is no mention of what Christ did for us on the cross or the denial of self to follow Jesus; all this is true and very important, but it is the work of Christ and our response to his lordship that accomplish a specific goal: the fulfillment of God’s eternal and perfect kingdom. The grace extended to us by God through Jesus Christ is intended to capture us for a better kingdom–God’s kingdom. But when we don’t think about that first or understand it, we end up trying to get in the way

In Mark 9:30-37, Jesus told his disciples that he would soon be captured and killed. They didn’t respond with concern or remorse. Instead, they argued amongst themselves about who among them was the greatest.

Unfortunately, we all tend to pursue the establishment and glory of our own kingdoms where we are lords and rulers of all. In some sense, we all hope to accomplish a situation such as that described in the parable of the rich fool: And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke 12:19). We want to create for ourselves some vision of our own utopia where we have all we need, our labor is easy and fruitful, our family members meet our expectations, and all things work together to keep us happy and fulfilled.

There are several problems with that model.

One problem is that we lack the ability to control circumstances and people (others and even ourselves). Look how hard we work to win a rodeo and look what happens to our attitude when we buck off a bull or bronc we were determined to ride or miss our catch after hours at the practice arena. We can do all we think we can to win, but it’s never guaranteed no matter what effort we put into it. As much as we try to control the outcome for a win, we can be badly hurt or killed. This is a fallen world, we are fallen people, and we are not Sovereign God! Another problem is that our perpetual happiness and fulfillment is rarely ever good for us or for mankind collectively, nor is it glorifying for God – the very purpose for which we were created.

In Luke 12:32, Jesus said to his disciples, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Jesus didn’t come to exercise his authority and power to make my little kingdom work, but by grace to welcome me as God’s child into a much better kingdom than I could ever create under my broken leadership and pathetic power. Only in the kingdom that Jesus invites us to can we experience eternal life, peace, and joy.

God, I repent of trying to be a sovereign ruler over my own warped mini-kingdom. May your glorious eternal kingdom come in me and through me today.

True prayer seeks to find what God wants us to do, not what we want God to do for us

Our behavior reflects on God’s name and image

By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross

We continue our discussion of how God communicates with us. The first and primary way God communicates with us is through the Scriptures, which when understood correctly always lead us to truth and deeper knowledge of God. The second way God communicates with us is through prayer. We’re examining the Lord’s Prayer, and today we’ll take a closer look at the words “hallowed be your name.”

I often tell my kids when I drop them off at school in the mornings, “Remember who you are and whose you are.” As enigmatic as that sounds, it’s actually quite simple. Everyone who knows me knows what my name is. I am identified by it. When you hear it, you likely think of the title pastor (or at least that obnoxious retired bull rider know-it-all who won’t stop talking about the Bible). Hopefully, my character and actions cause you to have pleasant thoughts when you hear my name.

God’s name is YHWH (Yah-weh). He is identified by that name and by various titles he has embraced for himself (Lord, God, Creator, Father, etc.) to help us understand his character and nature. When we hear God’s name or any of His titles, it should immediately evoke a response of awe for who He is.

I tell my children to remember who they are because I want their name to be associated with good character and actions. I want them to realize that every good thing they do reflects on their name and on our name as a family. Likewise, every bad thing they do reflects on their name and on our family’s name. When their teachers hear or say their names, I don’t want the teachers to immediately have negative thoughts about my kids: troublemaker, disobedient, foul-mouthed, bad influence. I would much rather them think kind, helpful, studious, encouraging, gracious.

Additionally, because my children are mine their behavior reflects upon me to some extent, so I want them to remember whose they are. Unfortunately, I am not a perfect parent, and it’s bound to show up in various ways. Even so, my children must make their own choices. Those choices reflect on me as a parent regardless of whether I approve of the choices they make. But God is a perfect Father, and yet He has no perfect children but Jesus the Son. Having a perfect holy Father, our goal should be to bring honor to Him and to His family through our character and actions.

So, when Jesus encouraged us to reflect on the holiness of God’s name in the model prayer, he’s asking us to remember that our Father has a reputation that is beyond impeccable. The God we pray to has a character that should shape how we pray. He is high and lifted up, sovereign above all things, and our character and actions should reflect that we belong to one as holy as He! The purpose of prayer is not to make our wish-list known to a genie in a bottle. When we pray to our Father in heaven, we submit ourselves to His holy purpose and yield ourselves to His will for our lives to glorify His name!

True prayer seeks to find what God wants us to do, not what we want God to do for us

Prayer isn’t presenting a wish list to God

By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross

Last week we began to examine how we communicate with God (and maybe more importantly, how he communicates with us!). We first took a lengthy look at the Scriptures – God’s primary way of communicating with us, but as lengthy as that was it was still just an overview. It was a view of the Bible from 10,000 feet in the air.

This week, I want to begin to address the topic of prayer. Prayer – done rightly – is about developing an attitude and a posture that prepares us to hear from God. I want you to notice from that statement what prayer is not. Prayer is not a wish-list for God where we treat him like a genie in a bottle. Prayer is not about us getting what we want out of a permissive heavenly Father. When we pray as Jesus taught us to pray, we will find ourselves humbly seeking God’s will for all of his creation, but especially in our own lives. Prayer is not about getting what I want from God; it’s about God getting what he wants from me!

We’ll study the “Lord’s Prayer” given as a model to Jesus’ disciples when they asked him to teach them how to pray. He obliged, not by teaching them words to repeat, but attitudes and postures to develop in their prayers that would bring them under God’s sovereign rule and will for their lives. Let’s break it down a little at a time over several weeks. I think we’ll all learn much about how God communicates with us through prayer in this exercise!

Jesus began his model prayer by saying, “Our Father in heaven…” If you are God’s child through faith in Jesus, you have a Father in heaven! The God you pray to, the One who spoke everything in the universe into existence and whose power holds all things together, the One who gives every creature and circumstance a divine purpose according to his sovereign will is your Father! The One whose love put the plan of redemption into motion through Jesus’ death and resurrection is your daddy. He is the King of all creation who will not abandon his work until all that he has purposed to do in you and through you is accomplished, and he calls you “son” or “daughter.”

There is nothing more important, more life-giving that we can do than to remember that the One who created and controls everything that exists is our Father. He thinks of you with pure, faithful fatherly love, and unlike an earthly father, your heavenly Father is always with you. He never stops watching or caring for you. He never stops working to accomplish his plans for you and through you. He carries your burdens in your weakness; he corrects you on your path when you wander away. You are his child by his grace, and because of that, nothing can ever change your status as a child of the King…and nothing will ever be the same!

True prayer seeks to find what God wants us to do, not what we want God to do for us

When we truly know God, what we do in life aligns with who He is

By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross

We all have questions about how to know God’s will for our lives. We recognize our need to hear from God, but we’re unsure how to communicate with him. With Father’s Day approaching, I encourage all the men with families to lead them well in this area and as individuals, to rise up to the challenge of digging in and learning how to follow God’s direction.

The primary way God communicates with us is through the Scriptures. By Scriptures, we mean the 66 books of the Bible – 39 books in the Old Testament (OT) and 27 books in the New Testament (NT) (the word testament literally means covenant or promise). The first 5 books of the OT (Genesis – Deuteronomy) are referred to as the Torah, the Pentateuch, and the Law (of Moses). They reveal how God began his work of creation, man’s rebellion against God’s authority, and God’s intention to redeem mankind through Abraham and the nation Israel. God made an unconditional covenant with Abraham to bless all nations through him, and a conditional covenant with the nation Israel to fulfill the promises he made to Abraham through the nation if they would obey his commandments (or his Law). Among other topics, we learn much about the unapproachable holiness and power of God from these books.

The next 12 books (Joshua – Esther) are Israel’s recorded history as they received in part the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham. It also records their repeated distrust of God and their rebellion against him through the intermingling of their faith with the pagan nations around them which led them to worship idols rather than God. From these books, we learn many historical facts about the nation of Israel, but mostly we see God as faithful, patient, corrective, and redemptive toward his often-faithless people.

The next 5 books (Job – Song of Solomon) are called wisdom literature. These books often compare and contrast the flawed perspectives of mankind with the perfect wisdom of God. The Psalms do so in poetic and lyrical fashion while the Proverbs provide general truths for living a wise, safe, and successful life. It should be noted that these are not to be taken as commands that always have a good result but are the general precepts consistent with wise living that generally produce good results.

Our OT concludes with 5 books called the Major Prophets (Isaiah – Daniel) and 12 books called Minor Prophets (Hosea – Malachi). The differentiation between major and minor refers to length, not importance. These books were written and compiled at various times throughout Israel’s history and often represent a mixture of God’s correction of his rebellious people through trials of judgment, the promise and hope of God’s faithfulness in the midst of trials, and the restoration of those who endure faithfully with their hope set on God alone.

Throughout each of these books runs a so-called scarlet thread that expects and foreshadows the coming of God’s Messiah to initiate and fulfill a better promise (or covenant). Jesus is there in the OT; he asserted this himself (John 5:46) and fulfilled hundreds of OT prophecies about Messiah.

The NT begins with 4 gospels (Matthew – John) – the good news about Jesus. They are biographical theology, intended to connect Jesus with the coming of God’s kingdom to earth. Matthew was one of Jesus’ disciples, also called Levi. Mark appears historically in the book of Acts and was a partner in the gospel with the Apostle Peter, another one of the original 12. Mark wrote Peter’s first-hand account of Jesus. Luke was a doctor, an educated man. He joined the Apostle Paul in his missionary journeys as we learn from Acts and 2 Timothy. Luke wrote the gospel by his name and the book of Acts after careful examination of the facts and as a record of his experience with Paul. John is known as the disciple whom Jesus loved – another one of the original 12. While the first 3 gospels are known as Synoptics, John is called the Evangelist because his gospel is highly theological and written to make the point that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31).

Next, the book of Acts written by Luke records the advancement of Jesus’ church throughout Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the rest of the Roman empire. Importantly, it records the reception of the Holy Spirit by those who believed – even those who were not Israelites, the physical descendants of Abraham.

What follows are 13 letters (known as epistles) from the Apostle Paul. Paul was formerly known as Saul of Tarsus who persecuted Christians as blasphemers of true Judaism. His contribution to the NT is as unlikely as it is important. How can we explain the conversion of one of Jesus’ harshest critics into one of his greatest advocates apart from divine revelation? The first 9 letters are written to churches in specific regions. With the exception of Romans and Ephesians, they address specific situations and questions the early church faced. Romans and Ephesians are more general in nature, and therefore offer greater comprehensive insight into Paul’s theology. The last 4 letters are written to specific people, 3 pastors and one slave-owner. The 3 pastoral epistles (1 Timothy – Titus) provide insight into ecclesiology (church governmental structure and administration) in specific contexts. Philemon teaches us about reconciliation and relationships among Christians.

Hebrews is a more general letter whose author is unknown, though likely a close coworker in the gospel with Paul. Its title is derived from its audience – those of Hebrew descent and faith, and it is written to encourage and bolster their faith in Jesus the Messiah as the all-sufficient sacrifice for sin and the fullest revelation of God to mankind, and this in times of severe persecution where hopelessness and defection from the faith would be serious concerns.

The next 7 letters (or epistles) are general in nature and named by their authors (James, Peter, John the Evangelist, and Jude). James and Jude were brothers of Jesus, and Peter and John were Jesus’ two closest disciples. Therefore, these letters come from men who knew Jesus well, who saw his miraculous ministry, his crucifixion, his resurrection, and his ascension. These men had no doubt about the truth of who Jesus was and died as martyrs for that truth, so their testimony and teaching should hold great weight as we study.

The final book of the NT is the Revelation (no “s” at the end!). It is written by John the Evangelist in his old age, the record of a prophetic vision regarding the last days. The last days began when Jesus was crucified, so we see much overlap of John’s prophecy with the history of the world and specifically the church. It tells us what we can expect in the last days, culminating in the Last Day when the living and the dead are judged and sentenced to eternity in heaven or hell based on their acceptance or rejection of Jesus’ authority as Lord. It was not written for us to create timetables of the last days, but to instill hope in the persecuted church through the promise of eternal life for those who faithfully endure for the sake of knowing Jesus Christ.

WOW! That’s a lot! But how can we know what God is saying through the Scriptures unless we know what we’re reading? These 66 books were written by 40 different authors from different cultures, social, political, and geographic backgrounds and across the span of about 1,500 years, yet they all wrote without contradiction or error about the God of the universe and his promised Messiah. How? Divine inspiration. 2 Peter 1:21 says, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” The Bible you hold in your hand contains the very words of God to his people…to you! People often ask, “What is God’s will for my life?” It’s in the Bible. “What should I do when…?” It’s in the Bible. “Is it right or wrong to…?” It’s in the Bible.

I want to make this abundantly clear, though. Christian faith is not about knowing the Bible; it’s about knowing the God of the Bible and his Christ! It’s not about what you should do or shouldn’t do; it’s about who you know. When we know God – really know God – our doing will align with his will, his character, and his nature, because knowing God changes us into who he wants us to be.

I want to encourage you – especially dads – to begin to read the Bible with your family today for the purpose of knowing the God proclaimed by the Scriptures. Pay attention to how the Holy Spirit has spoken to you as you’ve read the descriptions above; is there a book or section of the Bible that piques your interest? Start there. If not, I might suggest reading the Gospel of Mark; it’s only 16 chapters and very terse. You could also read one Proverb and five Psalms each day and complete those two books in a month; your wisdom is bound to increase! The Gospel of John is a great place to turn after you’ve read one of the 3 synoptic gospels.

Read whatever strikes you, but make sure you have a little background (like what I’ve provided above) to understand what you’re reading, and make sure you read for the purpose of knowing God. He loves you. He wants a relationship with you, and this is how that relationship grows.

Draw a line in the sand today. Make knowing God through his word a primary goal in your life.

True prayer seeks to find what God wants us to do, not what we want God to do for us

When things go wrong, questioning God’s love for us leads us in the wrong direction

By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross

Do you know that God loves you and cares for you like his very own child? No, really. Do you know that? I bet everyone who is reading this letter first-hand has heard it. Many of you have probably agreed with it and even affirmed it in your own words. But my question is, has this truth actually moved from your head to your heart and begun to affect your life? It almost seems like a totally different question because it is! Agreeing with the statement, “God loves and cares for me like his own child,” is entirely different from living out in our actions and thoughts that God loves and cares for us like his own children.

The Bible declares this truth over and again. Psalm 34:15 tells us that God’s eyes are on the righteous and that his ears are open to their prayers. He is with us wherever we go (Gen. 28:15). The Bible encourages us to take our cares to God because he cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7). It says in Hebrews 13:5 that he will never leave nor forsake us. Psalm 136 declares multiple times in its refrain that “his steadfast love endures forever.” The Apostle Paul testifies in Romans 8 that he is certain that nothing can separate us from the “love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 39). It’s not even up for debate – God loves you and cares for you like his own child!

So, when life isn’t what we think it should be, why do we waste our time wondering if God has stopped caring for us? Why do we compare our lives to others to determine who God loves more based on outward appearances? It is tempting to question God’s love and care for us, especially when life isn’t what we had hoped for, but questioning God’s love never leads us anywhere good. I want to encourage you – when you are tempted to do so, run hastily to God’s Word for peace and reassurance.

But if the big question isn’t whether or not God cares, then perhaps it is this: will I recognize God’s care when it comes? Could it be that we have incorrectly defined what God’s care should look like in our lives? Are our expectations of our loving Father consistent with what he has promised to do for us? Has God promised to make our lives easy (John 16:33; 1 Pet. 4:12-17), or has he promised to be with us through the temporary difficulties we experience on this side of realized-eternity (Matt. 28:20; 1 Pet. 5:10), and that these difficulties are actually for our collective good and his glory (James 1:2; Heb. 12:5-11)? Beloved, just as with our earthly fathers, there are times when the very thing that causes us to question if our Father cares is the evidence of his care. The Scriptures tell us beyond the shadow of doubt that our Father cares for us; therefore, do not define too narrowly what God’s care should look like.

Take the time today to read through the verses above, and rest assured that your Father loves and cares for you completely and perfectly!

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