Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

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During This Election: Why Should Christians Pray?

October 29, 2012

Image Credit: Here

Christians occupy a tense space between being a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdoms of this world.  While we are to have no other God’s above our Lord, we are commanded to show deference and respect to those that God has placed in positions of leadership over us.  That deference and respect is best manifested in prayer, prayer for those in governing authority over us.  For as God’s children living in our Father’s world we recognize that there is no authority over us except what God ordains.   Therefore, just as we pay taxes owed to the Government, we pay respect owed to those who God has placed over us. We pray in light of this truth, that God would grant us leaders who are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad; and that their character might reflect the One they govern under.

 

Romans 13:1-7

1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not “a terror to good conduct, but to bad.” Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Paul Instructs believers in Romans chapter 13 to “be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”  We owe respect to those governing us, because they have risen to their position of power under the providence of God.  Paul encourages give respect to those who are owed respect, “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”  The greatest way to honor those above us is to pray for them.  Regardless of whether they have received your vote, they should receive your prayers.

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Charles Stanley on Walking with God Daily…

October 24, 2012

 

Noah walked with God, how do we walk with God today? 

This is a list of six points from Charles Stanley[1] regarding how we walk with God, I think that each point could easily be related to the Noah narrative. I have listed the points and then in parenthesis have included points of connection for the Noah narrative.

1. Commit to discovering and obeying the Father’s will. (Noah was favored by God and obeyed God when asked to do the seemingly impossible.)

2. Begin with faith—believing that God exists and that you have a new life in Christ. (Noah could have easily have written off God, and could have declined to build the ark, think of all the excuses he could have offered up, ‘you want me to build what?’ ‘what is rain?’ ‘but we’re not near any water?’ etc. but instead Noah believed that God existed and that there was life in obeying God.)

3. Pursue continual fellowship with the Lord, and seek to live in His presence daily—even when difficulties arise. (Think of the difficulty experienced by Noah and his family, the ridicule from the world as he built the ark and followed God. and yet he continued to walk with God.)

4. Walk in truth, obeying Him cheerfully, and your relationship with Him will grow more intimate. (You can not get anymore intimate than being one of the last eight people left on earth to have a relationship with God.  There is no sign from Noah of complaining or rebellion, he followed where God led and as a result received a covenant form God.)

5. Allow the Holy Spirit to work within you to bring peace, confidence, security, and joy into your life. (Following God may be difficult, but think that it always brings peace amid chaos, confidence in the face of complaint, security from danger, and ultimate joy.  Each one of these was experienced by Naoh and his family because they walked with God, they experienced peace confidence and security amidst the flood and ultimately the joy of salvation.)

6. Separate yourself from sin, and strive to make a positive impact on the lives of others. Rely on the Spirit to help you live in a way that pleases God. (This is what Noah excelled at, he separated himself from sin and followed God, even as the whole earth was under the sway of evil, Noah stood strong and separated himself following God, he called others to repent and believe, tried to make a difference.)


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Deliver Us From Evil…

October 9, 2012

As we examine the Lord’s Prayer as found in Matthew 6, we have taken it phrase by phrase. We have examined what it means to Hallow God’s name, to seek provision, to seek forgiveness, now we will focus on seeking deliverance.

Lead us not into temptation, BUT deliver us from evil…

The word here translated deliver is the Greek word “Rhu-o-mai” ῥύομαι literally to rescue, or deliver, “to rescue from danger, save, rescue, deliver, preserve someone.” It occurs some 18 times in 15 verses. To give you a picture of its use in the New Testament texts it is used to describe:

i. Deliverance from death (2 Timothy 3:11)

ii. Deliverance from the power of darkness (Col. 1:13)

iii. Deliverance from wrath to come (1 Thes. 1:10)

iv. Deliverance from temptation (2 Peter 2:9)

v. Deliverance from evil (Matt 6:13)

Each of the above (i-iv) could be summed up in (v.) for certainly evil is the source of temptation; the power of death; and the cause of the wrath to come. But praise be to God that He and He alone has defeated evil and can deliver us. Indeed the Father is greater than all and when we are in his hand we are delivered from evil’s effect of death and nothing can snatch us out of the Father’s hand, (John 10:29) We pray to be delivered with confidence knowing that “the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect [us] from evil.” (2 Thess. 3:3) What is meant by evil and what does evil look like?

Word Study: “Evil” [evil generally/evil “one]

Evil in this passage is the Greek word is “poneros” πονηρός, in the text it possesses an article so it literally reads, “the evil” of “the evil one.” It is occurs 80 times in 72 verses in the New Testament. There have been many interpretations as to what this word means, there are two equally valid readings.

• The evil one. This would be our adversary Satan, the evil one (Eph 6:16; 1 John 2:13, 14; 3:12; 5:18-19). Satan always stands ready to test us, and lead us away from God. (e.g. Eve, Gen. 3; Job 1 & 2) Peter tells us that he is like a roaring lion, prowling the streets seeking whom he may devoir. (1 Peter 5:8) “He stirs up enemies to persecute us (Rev 12, 13), he inflames our lusts (1 Chronicles 21:1; 1 Cor. 7:5), and he disturbs our peace (1 Peter 5:8). It is therefore our consistent need and duty to pray for deliverance from him.” We pray with confidence knowing that we have been delivered our of the hands of the evil one, Christ keeps us and the evil one can not touch us (1 John 5:18)

• Evil. This rendering has evil in general in mind, specifically sin, “for sin is evil (Rom. 12:9), the world is evil (Gal. 1:4), and our corrupt nature is evil (Matt 12:35)” Our boasting is evil (James 4:16), so we humbly pray that if we find ourselves tempted/ tried that we will be delivered from sin, the source of so much evil.

a. What is the context of this request within the Sermon on the Mount?

Jesus began his instruction on prayer in 6:8 with the proclamation that God knows what we need. So prayer is not our opportunity to come to God and tell him things that He doesn’t know, but rather it a chance for us to humble ourselves and admit that we need God, in His knowledge, in His Kingdom, In His power to care for us, to provide for us, to forgive us and to delivers us from all evil. Through Christ’s instruction on prayer we learn to ask for the items we need to exist and serve God this is taught in Matthew 6:9-13.

In the next section verses 20-24 Jesus continues to turn our eyes upward away from earthly needs and wants to the desires for God’s kingdom. We are to ask for what we need daily, but we are not to store these things up. First and foremost we are to seek after God, if we focus too much on these earthly possessions they soon begin to take God’s place in our heart. And instead of focusing on Him, we focus on getting more, keeping more. But Jesus says that we cannot serve both these things and God. God must be first, and God must be the most important, because moths and rust will destroy what we have invested in this world, thieves may take it away, but no one can take God or His kingdom from us.

Even after you pray the Lord’s prayer, you may ask the question, “Great, glad I did that, but will He really do these things?” “Will God give me daily bread? Forgive me? Deliver me?” Etc. Because we are sinful it is in our nature to doubt, especially if we do not see immediate results. Paul, though, instructs us in Philippians 4:6 to “be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.” Likewise Matthew 6:25 comes as a reassurance to our questions and concerns. Beginning in verse 25 Jesus encourages us not to worry about our material needs. Three times in this section he instructs us not to worry. (vss. 25, 31, 34) He gives the example of the birds, they live their entire existence solely dependent on God, and He feeds them. Flowers do not lie around fields worrying about whether or not they will bloom, God provides them clothing more beautiful than kings. He repeats His earlier encouragement that God knows what we need, and if we seek Him first, he will add to our lives all we need; if clothes, then clothes; if food, then food; if years, then years; so that we may continue praying, forgiving, seeking and giving Him praise.

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Forgive Us as We Forgive…

October 7, 2012

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…

What does this line mean?

We must have a humble heart to both seek forgiveness and forgive. Out of all the petitions listed in this prayer, Jesus focuses on this one in particular. Jesus, immediately after His instruction about how to pray, explains to His disciples in verses 14-15 the following: “For, if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” We are commanded in Scripture to be like God, to be conformed to the image of His Son, to forgive because He forgives, to be holy because He is holy. (Lev. 19:1) We live in a sinful world and we come in contact with sinners everyday. We are sinned against everyday: people steal from us, gossip about us, children disobey their parents, parents mistreat their children. How we deal with those sins against us, reveal a lot about our character and our relationship with Jesus. When you forgive others you are bearing witness that you have experienced for yourself the mercy of God. You are fulfilling the greatest commandment, loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, AND loving your neighbor as yourself. A modified golden rule: Do unto others, what you would have God do unto you.

We are not to take forgiveness for granted. God is interested in forgiving sin, so much so that he sent His only Son to pay the debt that man had and that we have toward God. For “All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Through Adam, sin entered into the world and placed us in the position of indebtedness to God. Adam mortgaged our lives for the temporary satisfaction of seeking knowledge and fulfillment outside of God’s commands. For centuries that mortgage accrued interest, and the debt increased. But God in His grace gave Christ as the “propitiation” payment, the satisfaction of that sin debt. “Jesus paid it all” as the song says, and in trusting in that work, God forgives our sins and places that sin, away from us, as far away as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12) We should remember this daily, and be obedient to ask that God continue to forgive us, and remind us to likewise continue to forgive others. If we fail to pray for forgiveness, we fail to acknowledge what God has done for us.

What does this line not mean?

In order to be saved, you must forgive the debts/trespasses of others. This may appear to contradict what is stated above, but this is a key point. You are saved through the blood of Christ, In Christ alone. There is one mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ, He is the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father apart from Him. If one confesses with their mouth and believes in their heart that Jesus is Lord, they will be saved. (Romans 10:9) Forgiveness is part of salvation, as is sanctification, regeneration, redemption etc. However, the forgiveness that we act out toward others, is a by-product of the forgiveness we have experienced. Just as we love others, because God first loved us. (I John 4:19) What this petition is saying is that we are to model for others the forgiveness we ourselves have experienced. If we fail to forgive others, if we are proud and hold onto resentment, then there is very little evidence that the Holy Spirit is in us. For “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness” surely then, it is kind and loving to forgive. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Gal 5:25) Our forgiveness of others is an evidence for, not the entirety of our salvation.

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Give us this Day…

October 5, 2012

Our Bread for the day

If we truly pray the first three petitions, and commit ourselves to live wholly for God, the natural and logical next request is for time to see God’s kingdom come and His will be done. So we ask for the day. We do not ask for day(s) or weeks or years, but we ask for one more day, that God would grant us the time to serve, to pray, to worship Him. Later in this chapter of Matthew Jesus instructs his disciples not to worry about tomorrow, “for tomorrow will take care of itself.” (6:34)

After we ask for the day, it is logical that we ask for sustenance to give (us) energy to fulfill such a life. Samuel Johnson once said in caring for the stomach that “Those who ignore the needs of their stomach are soon in no condition to care about anything else.” God has created us to be dependent on food. It points to our weakness, our ‘createdness’; God himself is dependent on nothing and no one. So when we pray this line we are acknowledging that we are in need, that rather than assuming that we can take care of ourselves, we are willing to humble ourselves to ask for something as simple as a piece of bread.

What does this line mean?

In the testimony of Christ in Luke 11, Jesus instructs His disciples on how to pray and tells them a parable of a man arriving late at night at a friend’s house, weary from a long journey. The man knocks on the door and asks for some bread, but the friend is in bed and unwilling to assist. Jesus says to His disciples, “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? “Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” God knows our needs before we ask (Matt 6:8), and has sworn to “supply all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:19) The key word here is need. We are commanded to as for those things which are necessary to live. We need bread daily, we require sustenance daily to live, and so we are commanded to ask, knowing that our Father in Heaven will supply our NEEDS.

What this line does not mean.

This line is not our divine credit card. God cares about us. His desire is that none should perish but that all should be saved, and he came for the purpose that we have life and that this life be abundant. However. He is interested in supplying our needs and equipping us for every good work, not in enabling our greed. Need and want are two different things. All of us have been children at one time, and those of us who have children are well acquainted with the phrase, “you may want that, but you don’t need it.” What we need to serve God and what we want to satisfy our own selfish desires are almost always two completely different things. The purpose of this prayer and of this line in particular is to focus us on finding our satisfaction in Him, rather than anything else. If we enjoy today, we acknowledge that He gave it to us, and if we enjoy a meal we acknowledge that He gave it to us.

This line does not say, sell us this day, our daily bread. Some people believe that God’s provision is for sale, little do they realize that He gives according to His grace. Some believe that, I don’t have to ask for it, if I behave the right way then I will get it as a reward. The Pharisees were far to proud to ask for something as simple as bread, they would have long grandiose prayers, and lived strict lives in hopes that God would take notice and repay. How thankful we should be that God does not operate this way, the price has been paid through Christ, and so we simply ask, “Father, Give…” and He gives according to His promise.

What if we already have a lot of bread? Well then we should still pray daily for God’s continued provision, in this economy we can all see examples of when abundance is here one day and gone the next. Is it wrong to want nice things? No. Is it wrong to want things that are above and beyond what you need? No. But when we seek these things instead of His Kingdom, and pray for these things over and above what we need to serve Him, we are missing the point of this prayer. Remember we are called to ask for bread not Bentleys.

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Evangelical Engagement in Evil Times…

October 4, 2012

We live in an evil era. There is no doubt about this. One cursory look across the landscape of culture and media confirms that world lies under the domain of the evil one. In fact, it could be argued that from Jesus’ very ascension into heaven Christians have been living in what Paul would describe as “the last days.” With this in mind, how do christians engage this evil culture? Every four years this question becomes even more pertinent as Christians begin to navigate the unique and glorious responsibility of voting. God has given American Christians the opportunity to have a voice in their leadership and indeed in almost every level of governance. This was an opportunity denied Christians in the times of Paul, Constantine, Charlemagne and George III. But, with dawn of the American experiment came an unprecedented chance; Christians could now guide and participate in their government, in addition to praying for it. Ever since there has been a palpable tension in the heart of the conscientious Christian about which path is better: the political road of civic involvement, or the Kingdom road of spiritual reliance. Which path leads to the most effective engagement in repsone to these evil last days.

It should not surprise us that the Bible speaks to this issue with razor sharp clarity and concision. While there are many texts which speak to both governors and the governed, few texts provide evangelicals with the kind of roadmap we find in 2 TImothy 3:1-4:5 (See below quoted in length)

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.
You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
(2 Timothy 3-4:1-5 ESV)

There is much that one can draw from this text, so much that it far exceeds the reasonable length of a blog post. However, there some key elements worth drawing out and some conclusions worth making.

Key Elements:

I. Paul does not sugarcoat the existence of Evil. The first 9 verses of chapter 3 are devoted exclusively to the topic of evil’s existence in Paul’s day, with an eye toward its acceleration in the last days to come. This provides us with valuable encouragement. We take no small measure of comfort in knowing that the “good ole days” were not really that good. Evil has always stood in opposition to God and His people, and will until Christ’s return.

II. Paul accurately describes evil in realistic and relevant terms. Paul looks out onto his world and forward to our own with explicit realism. The times Paul describes are marked by people who will be “lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self control etc.” Does this sound at all familiar or reflective of our own time? We also must be conscientious enough to accurately define evil in our own time.

III. Paul stresses the primacy of the Word of God. Paul encourages Timothy (the evangelical engager) to root his hope in the all sufficient Word of God, which is “breathed out by God, profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.” The only way this first-century evangelical was going to be equipped to engage his fallen culture with every good work was if he continued in what he learned from the sacred writings, the Scriptures.

IV. Paul delivers the method of engagement. Finally Paul instructs our early evangelical as to the manner in which he must engage this fallen culture; “preach the Word.” Paul could have said many things here; he could have said run for local magistrate, he could have suggested that Timothy lead a sit-in at the local basilica, but he did not. Paul’s advice, or rather his command to Timothy is to “preach the Word in season and out of season.” “To reprove” (with the Word), “to rebuke” (with the Word), “to exhort” (with the Word) and to do all this with patience.

What can we conclude from the above elements? Some would say that Paul was merely instructing a pastor on how to be a pastor. That this text has little to do the the lay christian. “After all,” one might say, “1-2 TImothy are pastoral epistles.” Leaving aside the fact that such a designation as “pastoral epistle” did not exist in Paul’s day, I would argue that his instruction is for all believers. As Christians, we are called to engage the culture, to be salt and light. And I think that we have reached an era when “people no longer listen to sound teaching.” Post-modernity has robbed our generation of ability to argue philosophical positions effectively on a broad scale. Once we as a culture were robbed of the definitions of right and wrong, sound teaching became nearly impossible to define, let alone engage in. The only hope we have is in the explicit unapologetic proclamation of God’s Word.

I am not arguing for a second fundamentalist retreat into the hills of cultural isolation. On the contrary, I am arguing that we must follow Paul’s model in this passage. We must recognize evil’s existence in our culture, we must be adept enough to realistically define it, we must root ourselves in God’s sufficient Word, and then we must engage the culture through the proclamation of that Word. This must be done in our churches, our homes, in our offices, at our jobs, in our neighborhoods, and even in the public square.

Vote, yes. Campaign, if you must. Advocate for life, absolutely. But above all preach unceasingly the glory of the Kingdom that here and is to come; it is the only hope we have in theses “last days.” We must all “do the work of an evangelist.”

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The Demeanor of Forgiveness…

October 2, 2012

What should our forgiveness look like?

We should love one another, as Christ loved the church, he was willing to give His life that we might have access to the Father through grace.  Rarely are we called upon to give our lives to make relationships right.  The least we can do is be humble enough to forgive those who have offended us.  Only God can forgive sins. (Mark 2:7)  We are not forgiving their sins, When we forgive we are giving a witness of the Spirit of God that is in us.  We serve a God who is forgiving, and just as we are called to be Holy because He is Holy, we should forgive because he forgave us.  The NT

We should forgive obediently: Matthew 6:14-15

We should forgive from our heart: Matthew 18:35

We should forgive prayerfully: Mark 11:25

We should forgive our persecutors: Luke 23:34

We should forgive to relieve sorrow: 2 Corinthians 2:5

 

Tim Keller on Forgiveness:[1]

“…Forgiveness means refusing to make them pay for what they did.  However to refrain from lashing out at someone when you want to do so will all your being is agony.  It is a form of suffering.  You not only suffer the original loss of happiness, reputation, and opportunity, but now forgo the consolation of inflicting the same on them.  You are absorbing the debt, taking the cost of it completely on yourself instead of taking it out of the other person.  It hurts terribly.  Many people would say it feels like a kind of death. Yes, but it is a death that leads to resurrection instead of the lifelong living death of bitterness and cynicism.”

“Forgiveness means bearing the cost instead of making the wrongdoer do it, so you can reach out in love to seek your enemy’s renewal and change.  Forgiveness means absorbing the debt of the sin yourself.  Everyone who forgives great evil goes through a death into resurrection and experiences nails, blood, sweat and tears.”

“Should it surprise us, then, that when God determined to forgive us rather than punish us for all the ways we have wronged him and one another, that he went to the Cross in the person of Jesus Christ and died there?…On the Cross we see God doing visibly and cosmically what every human being must do to forgive someone, though on an infinitely greater scale…There was a debt to be paid–God himself paid it. There was a penalty to be born–God himself bore it.  Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.”


[1] [1] The Reason For God p.188-189, 192-193