The Old Preacher

Viewing the World through God's Word

Category: Prayer (page 2 of 3)

Americans Not Seeking Church’s Answers

O PreacherAn odd situation.  After 44 years of church pastoring, I find myself church-less.  Mostly it’s disability that keeps me home.  Gives me an  outsider’s perspective.  I understand, for example, a person who thinks the church offers nothing special for him will likely not take the trouble of getting up and going.

Don’t misunderstand. I still believe everything the Bible teaches about the church.  I still care about the church’s mission in the world.  At the same time, I think I recognize  better the unchurched person’s view.

That gave the following article (from “Religion News Service”) greater impact.  While I’m generally suspicious of polls, there’s no explaining away the bleakness of this report . . .

God? Meaning of life?
Many Americans don’t seek them in church

By Cathy Lynn Grossman

Shavon Gardner, 17, prays as she sings with the Redeemed Christian Church of God youth choir at Redemption Camp in Floyd, Texas, on June 17, 2009. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-UNCHURCHED-SURVEY, originally transmitted on June 28, 2016.

Shavon Gardner, 17, prays as she sings with the Redeemed Christian Church of God youth choir at Redemption Camp in Floyd, Texas, on June 17, 2009. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

(RNS) The “seekers” have left the church — if they ever came.
LifeWay Research has taken a close look at what might draw them in, zeroing in on people who say they have not attended a religious service in the past six months except for special events or holidays.
Worship? Not particularly interested, 2 in 3 people told the evangelical research firm in a survey released Tuesday (June 28).
Talk about God? Not so much, said 3 in 4 of the 2,000 “unchurched” people in the survey –including 57 percent who identified as Christians.
“Are a lot of Americans on a conscious journey to learn who Jesus Christ is? I don’t think so,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay, which is based in Nashville, Tenn.
The survey was conducted May 23-June 1. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.
The findings suggest most folks could be lured to church through events where faith is not explicit: community causes, entertainment and sports.
Even that old “seeker” standby — the search for meaning — doesn’t cut it for many who a decade ago might have read Rick Warren’s mega-selling handbook, “The Purpose Driven Life.”
Although 57 percent of those surveyed said finding “their deeper purpose” is “a major priority,” 31 percent disagreed at least somewhat and 12 percent were unsure.
That finding can be read two ways. Either folks are feeling secure in their salvation, even without church, or “most unchurched people don’t particularly care,” said McConnell in an interview.
Fully 70 percent of people who do not attend religious services agreed that “there is an ultimate purpose and plan for every person’s life.”
But whose plan is the unanswered question.
LifeWay deliberately didn’t mention God in asking about “plan” and “purpose,” McConnell explained, because it wanted to assess whether people had “a framework of wanting to make better, or the best, choices for life.”
If they already view life in terms of plans and goals, it’s easier to talk about the Christian faith. Evangelizing is like marketing a product — you need a value that matters to the customer, McConnell said.
The survey suggested that while evangelical churchgoers say heaven is the main benefit of their Christian faith, “that value proposition is not a product the unchurched are looking to buy,” McConnell said.
The survey found that 43 percent said they never wonder if they’ll go to heaven when they die and 20 percent can’t recall the last time they thought about it.
According to a new online survey of 2,000 unchurched Americans, LifeWay Research found few wonder, at least on a regular basis, if they’ll go to heaven when they die. Photo courtesy of LifeWay Research
The results were not entirely bleak, however: Nearly 62 percent would come for a meeting at church on neighborhood safety.
Offering a venue to “express compassion” can be a top draw for churches, Rick Richardson, professor of evangelism and leadership at Wheaton College, said in a press release. He is a research fellow for the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, which sponsored the survey.
Other ways people could be inspired to visit were for events such as concerts (51 percent), sports or exercise programs (46 percent) or a neighborhood get-together (45 percent.)
Most (51 percent) said a personal invitation from a friend or family member could draw them to church. And many are willing to at least listen to the benefits of being a Christian. Only 11 percent said they’d change the subject if religion came up in conversation.
But only about 1 in 5 would accept if that invitation came from a church member knocking at their door, a TV commercial, postcard or Facebook ad.
McConnell said bringing people into church is “a different kind of conversation. It’s like cajoling them to take a blind date with someone you want to spend your life and your eternity with. We need to say take it one day at a time: ‘Let’s introduce you to Jesus and see what you think.’”

Cathy Lynn Grossman specializes in stories drawn from research and statistics on religion, spirituality and ethics. She also writes frequently on biomedical ethics and end-of-life-issues.

* * *

Two thoughts from this dreary report come to mind.

One, this is a spiritual battle, not a creative-techniques one.  Of course, we need tactics.  And we probably have to think “outside the box.”  But giving out free Cokes at red lights won’t bring anyone to repentance and faith in Christ.  Nor will a coffee bar in the church lobby.

Two, we have to pray.  When the apostle Paul reached the end of his spiritual warfare instructions, he urged the church,Do all this in prayer, asking for God’s help. Pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads. For this reason keep alert and never give up; pray always for all God’s people.  And pray also for me, that God will give me a message when I am ready to speak, so that I may speak boldly and make known the gospel’s secret.  For the sake of this gospel I am an ambassador, though now I am in prison. Pray that I may be bold in speaking about the gospel as I should” (Ephesians 6:18-20, TEV).

 What might God the Holy Spirit do in Jesus’ name,
if we faithfully, persistently set aside time in Sunday Worship
for the church to pray for the community’s unchurched?
Will we find out?

 

Please like & share:

Radical Islamist Ideology

P.AllanPerhaps today we should just “weep with those who weep” in Orlando.  Or maybe we should be urged to weep, because by tomorrow or Wednesday for most of us the slaughter’s horror will have dissipated.  Mass shootings have become almost commonplace.  And the investigative accounts of the killer’s identity, family life, motivation, etc. seem the same old story.

I listened to President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, as well as a few “lesser” politicians comment.  Sadly familiar.  If ever a sign that we live in a fallen, evil world, this is it—not just the shootings, but the responses.  Know the identity of the politician before he or she speaks, you know what he or she will say.  We call it “politics”; but it really is ideology.  (“A system of ideas and ideals, especially one that forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy”–Oxford Dictionaries).

The ideologues who theorize guns are the problem push for tougher (“common sense”) gun laws.  Those who theorize our defense is insufficient push for banning Muslims from the country or stronger police presence.  I’m not qualified to speak  specifically on any of these “pushes.”  I do agree with the mostly unheard voices who argue that Radical Islam is at war with America—except I would add, “and at war with the non-Sharia Muslim world.

When Jesus predicted, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6), I understand him to mean that generation leading up to 70 A.D. when Rome finally crushed Jerusalem.  But I also take him to mean “double fulfillment”; that is, wars as part of “birth pains” (Matthew 24:8) will mark these last days leading up to the Last Day.  And, though far different from the tactics of our two world wars, Jesus certainly included this Radical Islamist war.

In World War 2, Hitler held an ideology—broadly, the superiority of the Aryan race.  We beat it with bombs, as today’s war necessitates.  But understanding the enemy and his ideology is necessary too.  How can we not realize our attackers are not “lone wolves” or “isolated crazies”?  Radical Islam intends, in the name of Allah, to take over the world.  Tightening airport security will not defeat demonic worldview.

“The Clarion Project” (http://www.clarionproject.org/understanding-islamism/islamic-extremismprovides an informative introduction to Radical Islam Ideology . . .

Islamic extremism is driven by an interpretation of Islam that believes that Islamic law, or sharia, is an all-encompassing religious-political system. Since it is believed to be proscribed by Allah (Arabic for “God”) sharia must be enforced in the public sphere by a global Islamic state. As such, Islamic extremists consider it to be the only truly legitimate form of governance and reject democracy and human rights values.

Thus, the ultimate objective of Islamic extremists is the merger of “mosque and state” under sharia law. Those who favor such an approach are called Islamists. Their ideology is called Islamism, or political Islam.

(Photo: © Reuters)(Photo: © Reuters)

Islamic extremists believe they are obligated to install this form of governance in Muslim-majority territories, countries and, eventually, the entire world. In the minds of Islamic extremists, they are promoting justice and freedom by instituting sharia.

In some cases, Islamic extremists even describe sharia as a superior form of “democracy.”

Islamic extremists have intermediate political goals which they believe will pave the way for the global implementation of sharia. One of these goals is the removal of non-Muslim military forces from Muslim lands and the overthrow of “enemy” regimes.

Acts of Islamic extremism includes terrorism, human rights abuses, the advancement of sharia-based governance, bigotry towards non-Muslims and rival Muslims and overall hostility to the West and, in particular, Western democracy.

Today we “weep with those who weep”, despite our conviction that the Bible calls homosexual behavior sin.  These are men and women created in God’s image, and our response to them should be brokenhearted prayer, not condemnation.  Our plea for them should be for God’s grace in Christ, as we ourselves continue to need.

It’s also apparently true that most Muslims are not radical extremists, just as not all Christians are abortion-doctor killers or homophobic.

That brings us to how as Jesus-followers we should respond.  We can’t defeat terrorists bent on destroying us.  We can’t out-debate their ideology.  (Though we—here meaning our political leaders—must realize this is a war against an ideology whose adherents mean, in Allah’s name, to take over the world.)

What we can do, what we must do, is pray.  Though written in a different context, the apostle Paul’s words apply . . .

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.
On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
We demolish arguments and every pretension
that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,
and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
(2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when the day of evil comes,
you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything, to stand.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,
with the breastplate of righteousness in place,
and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith,
with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,
which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
(Ephesians 6:13-18a)

Does it seem  absurd to believe that our little prayers can affect how God works in the world?  Remember . . .

The prayer of a righteous person
has great power as it is working.
(James 5:16b)

Please like & share:

Still

P.AllanBeen a long, hard day.  Stress from the start.  Running.  Running, Running.  Not a moment to stop.  More to do than can be done.  Weary, but no end.  Worry, but no relief.  What about tomorrow?  The money?  The kids?  The house?  The job?

Where’s the peace?  Where is Jesus?  Why am I so down and defeated?

Before this day ends, how about making a few moments (you’ll have to make them ’cause they won’t just happen) to be still before the Lord.  Look at this video.  Listen to it.  I pray we’ll all find in the stress the stillness with Jesus that quiets our soul and makes us more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Please like & share:

Recipe for Tyranny

O PreacherBeneath our feet, the political—and, therefore, ultimately, the governmental—ground is shifting.  Political junkies know.  Christians should.  The lives of unborn children.  The societal foundation of traditional marriage.  Religious liberty.  These critical issues and others are caught up in the seismic change.  Can we sleep through an earthquake?  We mustn’t!

Dr. Albert Mohler of Southern Baptism Seminary wrote the essay below.  Following that are links to two blogs.  Making time to read them and become more aware of the world in which Jesus says we are salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) is crucial.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

 CRISIS IN AMERICAN DEMOCRACY

For nearly two and a half centuries, Americans have enjoyed the enormous privilege and responsibility of forming our own government—a privilege rarely experienced throughout most of human history. For most of history, humanity has struggled with the question of how to respond to a government that was essentially forced upon them. But Americans have often struggled with a very different reality; how do we rightly respond to the government that we choose?

To put all of this in historical perspective, the Framers of the American experiment understood that a representative democracy built on the principle of limited government would require certain virtues of its citizens. These would include a restraint of passions and an upholding of traditional moral virtues, without which democracy would not be possible. As the idea of limited government implies, the citizenry would be required to carry out the social responsibilities of the community without the intrusion of government and, thus, citizens would be expected to have the moral integrity necessary for such an arrangement. The Framers of the American Republic also agreed that it would be impossible to have a representative democracy and a limited government if the people did not elect leaders who embodied the virtues of the citizenry while also respecting and protecting society’s pre-political institutions: marriage and family, the church, and the local community.

Thus, the idea of a limited government requires that society uphold and pursue the health of its most basic institutions. When a civil society is weak, government becomes strong. When the family breaks down, government grows stronger. When the essential institutions of society are no longer respected, government demands that respect for itself. That is a recipe for tyranny.

Much of this was essentially affirmed until the early decades of the 20th century when progressivists began promoting an agenda that fundamentally redefined the role of the federal government in public life. By the middle of the 20th century, the Democratic Party had essentially embraced this progressivist agenda, becoming committed to an increasingly powerful government—a government whose powers exceeded those enumerated in the Constitution. At the same time, the Democratic Party also began advocating for a basic redefinition of the morality that shaped the common culture. By and large, however, the Republican Party continued to maintain a commitment to the vision of America’s founders, advocating for a traditional understanding of morality while also upholding the principle of limited government.

By the 1980s, the two parties represented two very different worldviews and two very different visions of American government. For decades, each party has acted rather predictably and in ways that accord with their fundamental principles. All of that, however, has now changed.

The 2016 presidential campaign has developed in an entirely unpredictable manner and, in many respects, represents a crisis in American democracy. This crisis is not limited to either party. Bernie Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont, has won several stunning victories in the primary season over presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. While it is still extremely likely that Clinton will become the Democratic nominee, Sanders support among voters represents a populist flirtation with Democratic Socialism. This pattern is something few Democrats could have imagined just one year ago. What this foray into Democratic Socialism represents, then, is a radical adjustment of the Democratic Party’s basic economic principles. Thus, even if Hillary Clinton becomes the nominee, the process will likely drag her even further to the left, eventually redefining the Democratic Party before our very eyes.

But if it is remarkable to see what is happening in the Democratic Party, it is absolutely shocking to see what is happening among Republicans. Traditionally, the Republican Party has established its reputation by standing for the principles advocated by the American Founders—limited government upheld by the health of society’s primary institutions such as marriage, family, and community. Yet Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party, represents virtually everything the Republican Party has typically defined itself over against. Clearly, both political parties are now redefining themselves. What is not clear is where each party will ultimately end up. What is also not clear is whether the American experiment can survive such radical political change.

As already noted, the American experiment in limited government requires that the citizenry and those who hold public office honor certain moral virtues and respect the institutions that are crucial for a society to rightly function. Yet, we now find ourselves in a situation where the three leading candidates for president show little to no respect for such institutions in their articulations of public policy.

This fundamental redefinition of the American political landscape requires Christians to think carefully about their political responsibility. Make no mistake; we cannot avoid that responsibility. Even refusing to vote is itself a vote because it privileges those who do vote and increases the value of each ballot. In truth, we bear a political responsibility that cannot be dismissed or delegated to others. Every Christian must be ready to responsibly steward his or her vote at the polls.

To put the matter bluntly, we are now confronted with the reality that, in November, Hillary Clinton will likely be the Democratic nominee and Donald Trump the Republican nominee. This poses a significant problem for many Christians who believe they cannot, in good conscience, vote for either candidate. As a result, Christians are going to need a lot of careful political reflection in order to steward their vote and their political responsibility in this election cycle.

Headlines from around the world tell us that other representative democracies are at a similar moment of redefinition. Political turmoil now marks the United Kingdom and also nations like France and other key American allies. Perhaps democracy itself is now facing a crucial hour of decision and a crucial season of testing. It is no exaggeration to say that democracy is being tested around the world; it is certainly being tested here at home. Yet if this is a moment of testing for democracy, it is also a crucial moment for Christian witness. This election cycle is going to be a particular test for American Christians—and we are about to find out if Christians are up to this challenge.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/05/how-do-the-courts-define-religion/480903/

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/434831/religious-liberty-christian-colleges-title-ix-exemptions-under-fire

 

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving
be made for everyone–for kings and all those in authority,
that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 
This is good, and pleases God our Savior,  who wants all men to be saved
and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God
and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus . . . ”
(1 Timothy 2:1-5)

 

 

Please like & share:

All Creatures of Our God and King

O PreacherIn an effort to keep the old theology-rich hymns alive, I pass along this video.

It comes from Denny Burk, Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.  This is the Norton Hall Band. They have a new album out that can be downloaded from iTunes.

First time I listened, I looked at those young people.  I don’t know any of them.  Don’t know their struggles or dreams.  Don’t know the depth of their devotion or how they’ll serve Jesus in years ahead or what serving may cost them.  But as I looked I was reminded that the gospel is held in the good hands of the next generation.  As mine passes, the Lord has another he’s raising up to herald his name.  Not just at Boyce College or Southern Seminary, but all over the country, all around the world.These young men and women will pay a price to follow Jesus in this darkening world. But they will give themselves to the greatest mission a human can.

Lord Jesus, strengthen and sustain them.  Give them hearts of joyous devotion to you.  Fill them with the power of the Holy Spirit.  Preserve them safe from the work of the evil one.  Cause your gospel to flourish through them.  As they delight themselves in you, please give them the desires of their hearts.  And may they be the means of a greater and greater multitude singing praises to you, our God and King.

I invite you to join me in joyful worship.  Turn up the volume.  Lift your hands.  For the next few moments, forget about everything you have to do, and just stop.  Make wherever you are a sanctuary.  And sing the praises of our God and King.

Please like & share:

The Country That Murders an Innocent a Minute

O PreacherI stumbled across this post by Andrew Napolitano on “Newsmax” and thought it informative about abortion from a legal point of view.  Take the time to read it and realize how lawless our country has been and continues to be regarding this devastating issue.  And wonder with me how long God, in whose image all these innocents are created, will withhold his wrath from America.  More than that, let’s pray and vote for a pro-life president.

Murdering Continues as Roe Turns 43

By Andrew Napolitano | Wednesday, 20 Jan 2016 10:42 AM

 

Image: Murdering Continues as Roe Turns 43

In one week during January 1973, President Richard M. Nixon was inaugurated to his second term, former President Lyndon B. Johnson died, the United States and North Vietnam entered into the Paris Peace Accords, and the Supreme Court legalized abortion.

Only the last of these events continues to affect and haunt the moral and constitutional order every minute of every day.

The court’s decision in Roe vs. Wade is arguably its most controversial in the post-World War II era. Its effect has been as pernicious to human life as was its 19th century intellectual progenitor, Dred Scott vs. Sanford, in which the Supreme Court ruled that African-Americans are not persons.

Roe declares that the states may not ban abortions during the first trimester of a woman’s pregnancy because the states have no interest in or right to protect the baby during that time period. This made-up rule was a radical and unconstitutional departure from nearly 200 years of jurisprudence, during which the states themselves decided what interests to protect, guided since the end of the Civil War by the prohibition on slavery, and the requirements of due process and equal protection.
During the second trimester of pregnancy, the Court declared in Roe, states may regulate abortions but only to protect the health of the mother, not the life or health of the baby, in which, the Court found, the states have no interest.

This, too, was a radical departure from well-settled law.

Under Roe, during the third trimester of pregnancy, the states may ban abortions or they may permit them; they may protect the life of the baby or they may not protect it.

This diabolic rule, the product of judicial compromise and an embarrassing and destructive rejection of the Civil War era constitutional amendments, permits the states to allow abortions up to the moment before birth, as is the law in New Jersey, where the state even pays for abortions for those who cannot afford them.

The linchpin of Roe vs. Wade is the judicial determination that the baby in the womb is not a person. The court felt it was legally necessary to make this dreadful declaration because the Constitution guarantees due process (a fair jury trial, and its attendant constitutional protections) whenever the government wants to interfere with the life, liberty or property of any person; and it prohibits the states from permitting some persons to violate the basic human rights of others, as was the case under slavery.

As the Supreme Court sometimes does, it ruled on an issue and came to a conclusion that none of the litigants before it had sought.

Roe candidly recognizes that if the fetus in the womb is a person, then all laws permitting abortion are unconstitutional. The court understood that abortion and fetal personhood would constitute the states permitting private persons to murder other persons.

So, in order to accommodate the killing, it simply redefined the meaning of “person,” lest it permit a state of affairs that due process and the prohibition of slavery could never tolerate. George Orwell predicted this horrific and totalitarian use of words in 1949 in his unnerving description of tyranny, “1984.”

Is the fetus in the womb a person?

No court has contradicted the Supreme Court on this, and the Roe supporters argue that nonpersonhood is necessary for sexual freedom. Think about that: The pro-abortion rights crowd, rejecting the natural and probable consequences of ordinary, healthy sexual intercourse, wants to continue to kill babies in the name of sexual freedom.

I take a back seat to no one when it comes to personal freedom. But the freedom to kill innocents violates all norms of civilized society. It violates the natural law.

It wasn’t even condoned in the state of nature, before governments existed.

It violates the 13th and 14th Amendments. Yet, the Supreme Court and numerous Congresses have refused to interfere with it.

It is a grave and profound evil. It is legalized murder.

Is the fetus in the womb a person?

Since the fetus has human parents and all the needed human genome to develop postnatally, of course the fetus is a person.

A simple one-line statute could have been enacted when Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush were in the White House and Republicans and anti-abortion Democrats (the handful that have made it to Congress) controlled the Congress. They could have ended the slaughter by legislatively defining the fetus in the womb to be a person.

They did not. Are the self-proclaimed anti-abortion folks in Congress sincere, or do they march under the anti-abortion banner just to win votes?

Their failure to attempt to define the fetus in the womb as a person seriously, and the Supreme Court’s unprecedented dance around the requirement of due process and the prohibition of slavery has resulted in 44 million abortions in 43 years.

That’s an abortion every minute.

Abortion is today one of the most frequent medical procedures performed in America; and the Democrats have become its champion.

They, and their few Republican allies, have become the champions of totalitarianism as well. The removal of legal personhood from human offspring in order to destroy the offspring is only the work of tyrants.

How long can a society last that violates universal norms and kills its babies in the name of “sexual freedom”?

Whose personhood will the government define away next?

 

Judge Andrew P. Napolitano was the youngest life-tenured Superior Court judge in the history of New Jersey. He is Fox News’ senior judicial analyst. Napolitano has been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous other publications. He is the author of the best-seller, “Lies the Government Told You: Myth, Power, and Deception in American History.”

 

Please like & share:

Chutzpah Prayer

P.Allan“Chutzpah” is a Yiddish word which American humorist Leo Rosten defined as “that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.”

“Chutzpah” has a negative connotation as the synonyms “brazenness” and “arrogance” suggest.  But it has a positive connotation too as the synonyms “boldness, confidence, gutsiness” suggest.  Positive “chutzpah” is the kind believers displayed in their prayer after Peter and John were released by the authorities having been arrested and tried for preaching in the name of the resurrected Christ (see http://theoldpreacher.com/interruption-malfunction/ ).

On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.  When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.  You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.’  Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.  They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.  Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.  Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly (Acts 4:23-31).

Today we continue following the Acts narrative leading up to Acts 7:1-53, sermon #3 of “The Acts Eight”.  The narrative today is almost entirely a prayer.

Whom They Address. 

Sovereign Lord  (Greek despotays), you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them”   (4:24).  By addressing God this way they affirm God’s total authority over his servants, all of his creation, and even over the Sanhedrin opposing them. Thus they encourage themselves that the God they serve is in control of all things.

What They Remember the Sovereign Lord Said. 

You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One'” (4:25,26).  This God spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of David.  As Francis Schaffer entitled one of his books:  “He Is There And He Is Not Silent.”  And what did God say?  The early believers quote from Psalm 2, a psalm of David considered by the Jews to be messianic.

How They Apply What the Sovereign Lord Said. 

Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.  They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen (Acts 4:27,28).  Knowing that the Lord is sovereign and remembering what he said in David’s psalm, they conclude that Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles and the people of Israel “did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen”.  Each of these anti-Lord people chose to “conspire against [God’s] holy servant Jesus”.  Yet their choice was what he had decided beforehand should take place.

What They Ask the Sovereign Lord For. 

Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.  Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29,30).  Remarkably, they don’t pray for protection.  While they ask the Lord to pay attention to the threats of their enemies (implying how he may or may not act is up to him), their only concern is that the Lord enable them to carry out their mission “with great boldness.” 

The NIV incorrectly breaks 4:29 and 4:30 into two sentences.  The ESV translation captures the meaning of the Greek:  “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  In other words,  the believers assume Jesus will continue to do the miraculous works he started (as recorded in the Gospel—Acts 1:1) as they speak his word.

Here’s the heart of the “chutzpah” prayer.  No one thinks the cost of spreading the Gospel too great.  No one gives up the fight and goes home.  Jesus is alive.  He is Sovereign Lord.  They are his witnesses empowered by the Holy Spirit to make him known to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the ends of the earth.

How the Sovereign Lord Answered. 

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly (4:31).  The Holy Spirit is the divine Enabler.  On Pentecost they had been filled (2:4).  Here they’re filled again.  This reminds us that the filling of the Holy Spirit is not a one-time “trophy” experience, as some Pentecostals seem to think.  It also tells us this filling isn’t the object of the prayer—empowerment for bearing witness of Christ is, especially in an environment officially hostile to their message.  But as church father Chrysostom observed about the place being shaken: “and that made them the more unshaken” (Homily on the Acts of the Apostles 11).  May the Lord’s answer to our praying also make us unshaken by whatever opposition or suffering we face!

* * * * *

Many of us who read this blog live in nations without overt opposition to the Gospel—though even in America and West European nations hostility is growing.  Some of us who read this live in nations where opposition is overt and dangerous, as it was for these early believers.

All of us, however, should see this prayer as a model.   All of us can be Yiddish in praying.  “Yiddish” was the language of Central and Eastern European Jews until the mid-20th century.  We could all do with a little Yiddish chuztpah, couldn’t we!

Sovereign Lord, you made the heavens, the earth, the sea,
and everything in them.
You own it all and you rule it all—even the people opposed to you.
As you spoke long ago,
what your Son endured was your will,
so today nothing happens outside your will.
You know the opposition we face to making
Jesus known,
some of it from outside, some from within ourselves.
Take note of those threats, Lord,
and enable us as your servants to speak your word with great boldness,
—with chutzpah, unmoved by resistance or rejection or dread—
while you heal and do miraculous signs and wonders
through the name of your holy servant Jesus.
In his name we pray.  Amen.”

 

Please like & share:

Alone with Jesus

P.Allan My private prayer time is suffering.  Whenever I pray, my illness tugs at my mind—like metal to a magnet—and won’t let go.  I need help to return to God-centered praying.  The following blog, published by “Desiring God,” spoke to me.  Perhaps it will to you too.

One thing.  I wish Chan had shared lessons he’s learned about private prayer.  Here are a few of mine.  (1) Begin with a minute or two of quieting down to become conscious of coming before the Lord.  (2) Dump your read-through-the-Bible-this-year program.  (It’s valuable, but, I, at least, tend to rush through the reading.  Instead, pick a Bible book you’re interested in.  (3) Ask the Lord to speak to you through it.  (4)  Read a small portion or until something “stands out” to you.  (5) Be still and meditate on that portion or your “stand out” verse.  Repeat it over and over in your mind.  (6) Ask the Lord to enable you to believe it or obey it or whatever the appropriate response .

Okay, enough from me.  Here’s what Chan wrote (with thanks to “Desiring God”) . . .

The Greatest Thing You Could Do Today
Francis Chan / November 23, 2015

Imagine walking up a mountain alone. But it’s no ordinary mountain. The ground beneath you is shaking, and the entire mountain is covered in smoke. At its peak is a thick cloud with lightning and thunder. God descends onto the mountain in fire, and each time you speak to him, he responds in thunder. This is what Moses experienced in Exodus 19.

Now compare that experience to your last time in prayer.

Distracted, obligatory, ordinary — I doubt any such words came across Moses’s mind as he ascended the mountain. But some three thousand years later, we rarely marvel that God permits imperfect humans into his presence.

How did the shocking become so ordinary to us? Is it even possible for our experiences with God to be that fascinating?

Going Up the Mountain

A mentor of mine lives in India. Last year, he called me on the phone crying, distraught over the state of the church in America. “It seems like the people in America would be content to take a selfie with Moses. Don’t they know they can go up the mountain themselves? Why don’t they want to go up the mountain?”

When was the last time you enjoyed meaningful time alone with God? Time so good that you didn’t want to leave. It was just you, reading God’s words, in his holy presence.
I was fifteen years old when my youth pastor taught me how to pray and read the Bible alone. Now, more than thirty years later, I still can’t find a better way to start my days. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t refocus daily by going up the mountain.

It is alone with him that I empty myself of pride, lies, and stress.

• Pride: standing before a Person clothed in unapproachable light has a way of humbling you (1 Timothy 6:16).
• Lies: speaking to an All-Knowing Judge tends to induce honesty (Hebrews 4:13).
• Stress: kneeling before the God who causes men to fail or succeed replaces our anxiety with peace (Psalm 127:1).

Professional Gatherers

We often spend a lot of time and effort gathering believers together. We’ve become experts at gathering Christians around great bands, speakers, and events. Where we have failed is in teaching believers how to be alone with God. When is the last time you heard someone rave about their time alone with Jesus in his word? Gathering believers who don’t spend time alone with God can be a dangerous thing.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in Life Together:

Whoever cannot be alone should be aware of community. Such people will only do harm to themselves and to the community. Alone you stood before God when God called you. Alone you had to obey God’s voice. Alone you had to take up your cross, struggle, and pray, and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot avoid yourself, for it is precisely God who has called you out. If you do not want to be alone, you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called.

The word community is thrown around quite a bit in Christian circles today. But our gatherings can be toxic if we do not spend time alone with God. I’ve been in many groups where people share their insights. The problem is not only that our insights are not as profound as we think they are, but that we’re so eager to share thoughts originating in our own minds, when we have a God who says,

My thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8–9)

I want to know the thoughts of God. I want to gather with people who have been reading God’s words, people who have prayed and interacted with him. I want to fellowship with those who fellowship with God. I couldn’t care less if you have a doctorate in theology or sixty years of life experience. I would rather talk with a fifteen-year-old who has been in the presence of God.

Can You Love Sermons Too Much?

There is so much discussion around books, sermons, and conferences. I’m not against those. After all, I’ve given a significant portion of my life to preaching sermons and writing books and going to conferences. But sometimes I wonder if it’s time to shift our focus.

We have to look at the facts. American Christians consume more sermons and books than any other group in the history of the world, but consider the state of the church. Has the increase in resources led to greater holiness? Greater intimacy with Jesus?

You could argue that the state of our churches would be even worse without the resources. Maybe that’s the case. Or could it be that these resources (and even this article) has the potential of distracting people from the Source itself? Maybe all of these books and sermons about Jesus have actually kept people from directly interacting with him. It may sound blasphemous to suggest our prayer lives may be weakened by all of the consumption of Christian material. Nonetheless, I want to throw it out there.

We live in a time when most people have a difficult time concentrating on anything. We are constantly looking for the quick fix and for faster solutions. So the thought of sitting quietly to meditate on Scripture and praying deeply in silence can be eagerly replaced by listening to a sermon while driving to work. While it’s definitely better than nothing (considering all of the other messages we are bombarded with daily), the point of this article is to say that there is no substitute for being alone with God.
We must learn to be still again.

Something Has to Go

It was simple for Paul. He loved being with Jesus. “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Knowing Christ deeply consumed him (Philippians 3:8). There is no substitute for being alone with God. If you don’t have time, you need to quit something to make room. Skip a meal. Cancel a meeting. End some regular commitment. There is literally nothing more important you could do today.

God literally determines whether or not you take another breath. “He himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). Could anything be more important than meeting with the One who decides if you live through this day? Could anything be better? How can we not make time to be with the Maker of time?

What plans do you have today that you think so important that you would race past the Creator to get to them?

Please like & share:

Paris Prayer

O PreacherNews from Paris last night (http://www.nytimes.com/) seemed surreal.  Were terrorist attacks really erupting throughout one of the world’s major cities?  Were over 100 people really slaughtered as they went about a typical Friday night?  It didn’t seem as frightening as “our” 9/11 (partly because it didn’t happen here); but it seemed more threatening.  Maybe because after 14 years we assumed we had better control of our own safety.  Maybe because it darkly warned, “This can happen anywhere, anytime.”

Politicians urge us, “Don’t be afraid.  Live life as normal.”  I’m not trying to stir up fear, but we should at least be aware of how tenuous life has become.  Terrorists are rocking the world.  Yes, the Lord is sovereign.  He is in control.  But that doesn’t mean that we casually dismiss evil, or that we watch a news report as if it were a movie. 

One thing we can do is pray.  How should we pray in the face of the Paris attack?  In his blog today, Denny Burk suggests Psalm 10:12-18.  Good idea. I’ll include verse 1, because in such times the Lord seems absent.  Or it seems he really isn’t involved in these “real life” tragedies.

Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? . . .

Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand;
forget not the afflicted.
Why does the wicked renounce God
and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?
But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
call his wickedness to account till you find none.

The LORD is king forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land.
O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

The above is taken from the ESV.  Or you may wish to pray from the TEV below . . .

Why are you so far away, O LORD?
Why do you hide yourself when we are in trouble? . . .

O LORD, punish those wicked men!
Remember those who are suffering!
How can a wicked man despise God
and say to himself, “He will not punish me”?

But you do see; you take notice
of trouble and suffering
and are always ready to help.
The helpless man commits himself to you;
you have always helped the needy.
Break the power of wicked and evil men;
punish them for the wrong they have done
until they do it no more.

The LORD is king forever and ever.
Those who worship other gods will vanish from his land.
You will listen, O LORD, to the prayers of the lowly;
you will give them courage.
You will hear the cries of the oppressed and the orphans;
you will judge in their favor,
so that mortal man may cause terror no more.

When I pray “Bible prayers”, I often find their words spur additional thoughts.  So, rather than sticking strictly to the text (which is fine), I often pray what it has jogged in my mind.  You may find it so too.  Either way, let’s pray.

God shapes the world by prayer.  The more praying there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil…
                                                                                ~ E.M.Bounds

Please like & share:

Praying Puritan Prayers

O PreacherPuritans’ prayers shame me.  I wish I could pray like them.

Before quoting one prayer (and assuming many of us know little about them) here’s what J.I. Packer wrote about the Puritans in his book, A Quest for Godliness . . .

“California Redwoods make me think of England’s Puritans . . . . Between 1550 and 1700 they too (like the Redwoods) lived unfrilled lives in which, speaking spiritually, strong growth and resistance to fire and storm were what counted . . . the mature holiness and seasoned fortitude of the great Puritans shine before us as a kind of beacon light, overtopping the stature of the majority of Christians in most eras, and certainly so in this age of crushing urban collectivism, when Western Christians sometimes feel and often look like ants in an anthill and puppets on a string
. . . affluence seems for the past generation to have been making dwarfs and deadheads of us all.”

Many of us presume 16th to 18th century Puritans have little to say to us.  Certainly we’ve advanced far beyond those old guys!   I heartily recommend Packer’s book as a cure for that presumption and for compelling lessons about the Christian life.  Hardcover is available from Amazon for $7.67  (http://www.amazon.com/Quest-Godliness-Puritan-vision-Christian/dp/0891075798/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1445189177&sr=1-1).

The Valley of Vision is a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_11?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=the+valley+of+vision&sprefix=The+Valley+%2Cstripbooks%2C176).  In there I found this prayer (I’ve changed Elizabethan English to modern.)

O LORD,
In prayer I launch far out into the eternal world,
and on that broad ocean my soul triumphs
over all evils on the shores of mortality.
Time, with its happy amusements and cruel disappointment,
never appears so inconsiderate as then.
In prayer I see myself as nothing;
I find my heart going after you with intensity,
and long with vehement thirst to live to you.
Blessed be the strong gales of the Spirit
that speed me on my way to the New Jerusalem.
In prayer all things here below vanish,
and nothing seems important
but holiness of heart and the salvation of others.
In prayer all my worldly cares, fears,  anxieties, disappear,
and are of as little significance as a puff of wind.
In prayer my soul inwardly exults with lively thoughts
at what you are doing for your church
and I long that you should get yourself a great name
from sinners returning to Zion.
In prayer I am lifted above the frowns and flatteries of life,
and taste heavenly joys;
entering into the eternal world I can give myself to you
with all my heart, to be yours for ever.
In prayer I can place all my concerns in your hands,
to be entirely at your disposal,
having no will nor interest of my own.
In prayer I can intercede for my friends, ministers, sinners,
the church, your kingdom to come,
with greatest freedom, ardent hopes,
as a son to his father,
as a lover to the beloved.
Help me to be all prayer and never cease praying.

Admittedly, this is not a spontaneous prayer.  It was almost certainly edited and revised.  Even so, do you see why Puritans’ prayers shame me?  These words surely don’t describe my prayer life!  So much of my praying time is taken up by that one line, “In prayers I can place all my concerns in your hands . . . ”  Yes, I can ask about what concerns me.  What a  gracious blessing; that is!  But that first line captures a concept of prayer I rarely experience:

In prayer I launch far out into the eternal world,
and on that broad ocean my soul triumphs
over all evils on the shores of mortality.

“I launch far out into the eternal world”.  How often my prayers leave me sitting in my familiar chair at my same old desk!  Instead of my soul triumphing “on that broad ocean over all evils on the shores of mortality”, too often I feel squeezed by  all the stuff of this mortal life.  No fresh breeze of victory.  No sense of triumph.  My prayers may have reached the eternal world, but I have no sense I have.

That’s why from time to time I return to the prayers of these “dead saints” (John Piper’s term).  After being a Christian for more than a half-century, I still find myself saying, “Lord, teach me to pray.”

And this Puritan prayer (like many others) kindles a spark that will one day hopefully soon launch me into the eternal world when I pray.

sunrise over ocean photo: Sunrise StKittsSunrise.jpg

Please like & share:
Older posts Newer posts

© 2018 The Old Preacher

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)