Friday, October 26, 2007

What Are We Praying For?

Colossians 4:3 “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.”

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. 12We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Years later, when Scotland’s Reformed Church issued a plea for missionaries for the South Pacific, John Patton went to his parents for advice. They told him something they had never before disclosed—he had been dedicated to foreign missions before birth.” (Robert J. Morgan, On This Day)

What if God answered all of our prayers we prayed for today? What if all of a sudden God said, “ok” and blam everything we all prayed for was immediately answered?

How would the world be different? I wonder if the world would be different at all. I wonder if the result would be that we we all just get a little more comfortable and healthy.

Paul told the church to pray for him so that the Gospel would go out and that they would be able to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives – that the name of Jesus would be glorified in them.

Is that the focus of our prayers? Do we pray for the Gospel to change our church, our city, our nation, and our world? Or do we focus our prayer on our health, our money, and our relational needs?

What I wonder is, are we praying for God to provide a life for us where we don’t need Him? Are we asking God to give us health and wealth and solid relationships so we can be happy? And if God gave us all of those blessings, would we even want or need God? Do we want the blessings of God or do we want God? Do we truly want God to be our Father, Jesus to be our Friend, and Holy Spirit to be our Faithful Guide?

Our prayers tell us a lot about who we are and what we value. Do we value the Gospel mission God has given us more than we value our own personal comfort and success? Do we desire to see God’s name and glory spread more than anything else?

Back to the first hypothetical question, what if God answered our prayers today? Would more of our children become missionaries like John Patton? Would our lost family members, friends, cities, and the nations of the world experience the radical transformation of Christ?

If we are not praying for those things, what are we praying for? Is what we are praying for what God wants us to pray for? What are we praying for? There is nothing wrong with praying for health, God’s provision, and healthy God-honoring relationships, but have we come to value those more than God Himself and the Great Commission?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Death in the Pot

2 Kings 4:38-41 Elisha returned to Gilgal and there was a famine in that region. While the company of the prophets was meeting with him, he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot and cook some stew for these men.” 39One of them went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild vine. He gathered some of its gourds and filled the fold of his cloak. When he returned, he cut them up into the pot of stew, though no one knew what they were. 40The stew was poured out for the men, but as they began to eat it, they cried out, “O man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it. 41Elisha said, “Get some flour.” He put it into the pot and said, “Serve it to the people to eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot.

Since the inception of the church there have been challenges to the truth found in God's Word that has been handed down from the apostles. The Word of God has been attacked. The Word of God has been misinterpreted. The Word of God has been ignored.

When the Word of God is not taught and understood rightly error enters into the church causing death. In most cases those who introduce the error are well-intentioned people. A brief survey of church history will show that most heretics were not trying to hurt people, but in good conscious were seeking to help people and to honor God.

The problem is that well-intentioned people, who do not hold to the Word of God and the orthodox faith passed down from the apostles can cause great harm.

Like the prophet in 2 Kings 4:38-41 who put the poisonous herbs and a wild vine into the stew, most of the well-intentioned leaders who are leading people astray with their teaching do not know that they are putting death into the pot (the church where people come to receive spiritual nourishment).

In these days when so many voices on television, radio, internet, and print media are offering spiritual instruction, believers must beware using caution and refuse to accept teaching that does not come directly from Scripture in context and that agrees with all of Scripture.

Many pastors have given up the ministry of the Word for the ministry of motivational speaking. They do not mean to do harm, but they are. By helping people focus on what they can do and how they can feel better and neglecting the holiness, grace, and mercy of God for sinners they are numbing people in their pain as they make their death march to hell. So many are going to church, but so few are hearing the Gospel.

It is a sad day when people will go to church and not meet God. It is a sad day when people go to church to get a lift rather than to lift up the name of Jesus.

Please pray for me that I will be a pastor who teaches the Word of God. Please pray for all pastors and church leaders that they will reject their need to be appreciated and applauded and preach the truth of the Gospel in love.

Pray for the Spirit of God to bring renewal and revival in the church universal. Pray that where there is dead faith and false teaching that results in spiritual sickness and death that the Gospel light will shine forth and bring spiritual health and life eternal.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Share the Light

This morning I had the privilege of leading a man to Christ. There is no joy like watching a person be born into the Kingdom of God because you know that they have just escaped a life of isolation from God and an eternity in hell. What an absolute joy!

I shared the Gospel in a couple of different ways, but the one that resonated with me and I believe with him was based on a story he told.

I asked him what it was about being a disciple of Christ that was so attractive to him. He shared how he loves to help people with kindness and love and offered a story that happened to him recently.

He was grabbing a quick meal in his car at a fast food restaurant and was approached by a man who explained that his car had broken down and that he needed help. Specifically, he needed money for food because he and his wife hadn’t eaten that day and money for gas to get back home, which was a few hundred miles away.

This new brother in Christ said he immediately took care of their needs and saw to it that they were fed and given enough gas money to get home. He then looked at me and said, “I just can’t stand the thought of being in that position and I was glad to help.”

I then told him that he was currently in that very position. I explained that like that man he was empty on the inside and needed to be filled. I reminded him that he didn’t have any way of getting home to heaven on his own. We then talked about how Jesus fills the life of a believer with His Spirit and provides the grace needed to get home to heaven. What he had not considered was the fact that God wanted to save him, but he like that man would have to humble himself and ask.

Moments later he prayed and admitted his sin and his personal need for forgiveness. He told God that he believed that Jesus died to pardon him of his sin and now wanted the living resurrected Christ to take control of his life. God saved him.

Have you ever led someone to Christ?

What keeps you from encouraging people with the Good News of God that tells them they can be forgiven and set free from the punishment and power of sin?

How many people can you list on a single sheet of paper that you can begin to pray for and share the Gospel with so that they can have the opportunity to be saved?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Arrogance, the Silent Killer

Arrogance is a silent killer. I don’t think I or Christians in general take it serious enough. Consider the ways arrogance kills.

It kills relationships and destroys unity among believers. How many churches have been split, how many small groups abandoned, and how many friendships have ended because someone started thinking they were better or smarter than someone else and started talking down to or thinking less of other people?

It kills opportunities to share the Gospel and destroys the witness of Christ in a community. How many Churches and Christians have abandoned their responsibility to love those outside of Christ and have made it their job to criticize those outside of Christ? As believers, we are to be wise stewards of our lives and to avoid sin. This does not mean that we think ourselves better than other people and begin to judge them based on our standards that they know nothing about. People in our cities don’t need our fingers wagging in their faces. They need the embrace of our handshake and hug.

It kills ministries and destroys ministers. How many Christians think that they have done their part and no longer need to serve the church? How many Christians think they have a ministry that they want or need to do that goes outside of the direction the church leadership has provided and instead of following the leaders have set out to do their own thing? How many Christians have decided their way of ministry is the way and have sabotaged a minister’s work causing them stress (Hebrews 13:17) and forcing them to be miserable or even leave a ministry?

It kills the soul of a person and destroys joy. How many Christians have come to think so much of themselves that they can not tolerate the people of God they consider weak, immature, or incapable? Or if they do tolerate them, have come to think so little of them that their patronizing critical tone has ended any opportunity for a real relationship. There is no joy in that life.

Remember what the Bible teaches us:

Proverbs 11:2 “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

God will bring judgment on arrogant people. What is so sad is that it will not just impact the arrogant person. It will also hurt those connected to them. It will impact their children, their spouse, their friends, and their church. What is worse is that most of the time their pride will blind them to what they are doing and the consequences of their actions until is it too late.

So what should we do? Scripture tells us to Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10).

Our only hope is the Gospel. We must admit to God and to others that we are sinful people that are prone to be arrogant. We must believe that Christ loved us so much that He was willing to humble Himself so we could be saved. We must confess our love and belief in Christ and lives as He lived. Philippians 2:5-8 “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!”

We must sacrifice our pride on the altar of humility and live lives that show that we are unworthy sinners who’ve been shown grace and mercy by God. We show grace and mercy and give unconditional love because God has given it to us. There is no place for pride in a life lived in, for, and through the power of Christ.