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Thoughts on Prayer

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Most of you that follow this blog have figured out that I am something of a throw back to a different time, even a bit old fashioned in some ways. As far as ministry is concerned, I am more closely aligned with those of the past who eschewed the latest fads and techniques in favor of simply proclaiming the word of God.

I can truthfully say that I have never attempted to follow anyone’s prescribed methodology of ministry. That’s not to say there haven’t been a few who have attempted to get me to follow in their footsteps, because there have been.

How well I recall the minister who told me to “just do what I do”. Thankfully, I chose not to do follow his advice because it wasn’t long before that particular individual was never heard from again.

Instead, I have held to the belief that if we pray and seek God He will produce the desired outcome. His desired outcome.

Like many of you, I have learned through the years that whatever is born out of prayer will stand the test of time. Likewise, that which comes from the heart of man will eventually falter no matter how much effort is put into shoring it up.

It is with this background that I approach the subject of prayer in the church. I’m referring to a specific time or season of prayer here, not merely saying a prayer. Perhaps you have heard of such a season referred to as ‘the prayer meeting’, or more simply ‘a time of prayer’.

Many church goers today are unaware that there was a time when the prayer meeting was the single most important meeting of the week. It was given far more emphasis than even the Sunday morning services. It was deemed so important that the great British pastor C.H.Spurgeon had this to say about it:

“The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings. So is the prayer meeting a grace-ometer, and from it we may judge of the amount of divine working among a people. If God be near a church, it must pray. And if He be not there, one of the first tokens of His absence will be a sloth-fullness in prayer”. [1]

This is an incredibly powerful commentary on prayer in the church. Written by Spurgeon well over 100 years ago, it describes perfectly the relationship between God and His church and the effects a lack of prayer has upon her.

God has always called His people to pray. Going all the way back to the 4th chapter of Genesis we are told that after the birth of Enos (grandson of Adam and Eve), men began to call upon the name of the Lord. [2]

This ‘calling upon the Lord’ carried into the New Testament where we find Jesus teaching His disciples how to pray. [3]. The record we have of the early church gives us no less than four examples of how prayer should be made “without ceasing”. [4]

Starting to see a pattern here? Sounds like prayer is a really important part of man’s  relationship with his Creator, wouldn’t you agree?

This leads me to a question for us all: how much emphasis is being placed on prayer in our churches? A little? A lot? Hardly any? None? Sadly, I know exactly how I must answer this.

If Spurgeon was right in saying that the church may be gauged by its prayer meetings, what does that say about us today? What does this say about our relationship with our Heavenly Father if we have forsaken prayer?

I was discussing this issue with my wife and we started talking about all of the different metrics the church uses today to determine it’s effectiveness, or success. Things like attendance and offerings seem to be two of the most popular metrics, with ministry involvement and the number of conversions following close behind them.

One item you won’t find on any church’s flow chart however is the % of its congregation that is committed to regular prayer, whether at home or in a scheduled time of corporate prayer at the church. I’ll leave you to figure out for yourself why that is.

The result of what Spurgeon deemed “slothfulness in prayer” is the absence of the greatest church metric there is. I’m speaking of lives that have been transformed by the power of the gospel. Seriously, If we need to count something, why don’t we count something that really matters, like lives forever changed by the power of the gospel?

How hard can that be? Wait…maybe that’s the problem!

I see it all the time, and I’m sure that you do as well. Church services that are filled with hurting, desperate people all filing out at the end of the service exactly as they filed in. Unchanged, unmoved, and unregenerate. And we wonder why so few wish to join us. Why would they?

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof”. [5] Do you suppose the Apostle Paul was looking into the future to our day when he said those very words?

As I look upon the landscape of the Church today, I see a famine of unprecedented magnitude. To be sure, we have preachers a plenty. And there is certainly no shortage of singers and musicians in God’s house. We have programs designed to meet nearly every need imaginable, yet fail to recognize that we now mirror the church of Laodicea that was “rich and increased with goods”, but did not know she “was poor, and blind, and naked”. [6]

Yet for all of these, the Church is starving to death for the Presence of God. When we do not pray, He will not come. Why would he show up uninvited, even in His own house?

I speak only for myself, but I cannot abide such an environment for even one more Sunday. I can no longer be content with another church service where we repeat the same tired, worn out routine again. I am desperate for the power and the Presence of God!

A form of godliness emanating from a man-centered, manufactured service does nothing for me or anyone else. And how are we to know that it is only a ‘form of godliness’? Because there is no transformation taking place.

If God were in our midst like we pretend that he is, I can assure you that lives would be changed on a regular basis. Needs would be met. Addictions would be broken. Diseases would be instantaneously healed. Marriages would be restored and families reunited. Those who handle the Word of God would cast aside their haughtiness and pride, finding themselves broken and prostrate before Him.

Maybe, just maybe what is needed is a return to the ‘Old Paths’ where “if my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” [7will once again become the battle cry of the redeemed.

Who can tell if the Lord will reveal himself anew if only we would call upon Him in earnest and sincere prayer?

Actually, I believe that that is precisely what he is waiting on.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

[1] Spurgeon at His Best(Grand Rapids:Baker)

[2] Genesis 4:26

[3] Luke 11

[4] Acts 12:5, Romans 1:9, 1 Thess. 5:17, 2 Tim. 1:3

[5] 2 Tim. 3:5

[6] Revelation 3:17

[7] 2nd Chronicles 7:14

 

More than conquerors

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When you think of the word ‘Conqueror’, what do you envision?

  • Overcomer?
  • Warrior?
  • Winner?

While the dictionary definition looks like this, when I think of the word ‘Conqueror’, I think of a battle that has been fought and won.

Battles are fought every day of our lives. Some are won and some are lost. Let’s face it, we do not always feel like a Conqueror, do we? That is just the unfortunate reality of living in a fallen world

From a spiritual perspective, things can appear to be not much different in that we are in a constant state of battle, winning some and coming up short in others.

There is one huge difference however, and that is that when we look at things from an eternal point of view, we win.

Simply stated, we win.

The Apostle Paul knew a few things about conquering. In his amazing letter to the Christians at Rome, Paul talks about things that were a very real threat to those believers.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?   Romans 8:35

Those early Christians suffered horribly under Roman authority, especially Nero. Persecution, death, starvation, and torture were things every Christian back then had to come to grips with. On the surface, from a fleshly point of view, one might expect that any of these things could, if possible, separate the believer from his Lord.

Paul, however, answered his own question by declaring that he knew of nothing that could separate a child of God from their Heavenly Father. Nothing!

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.   Romans 8:37-39

This matters to us today because the intensity of the battle is increasing at a rapid pace. Christians are facing severe trials of their faith today, many of whom are being put to death daily. Consider that every month, on average:

  • 345 Christians are killed for faith-related reasons
  • 105 Churches and Christian buildings are burned or attacked
  • 219 Christians are detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned

Here in the U.S. Christians are facing a different kind of orchestrated attack. Instead of blatant persecution and killings, we Christians in America are being worn down gradually. Our resistance to sin is being eroded, gradually worn down by the forces of evil and spiritual wickedness that sit in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)

Make no mistake beloved, the enemy is very, very real. His methods in America, while vastly different (up till now), are no less effective in their efforts to quench the Spirit of God, and to destroy the testimony of Jesus in this nation.

Our hope lies in the truth of God’s word that declares that we are more than conquerors, and that there is NOTHING that can separate us from the love of God. It is imperative that we grasp this and burn it into our hearts.

May I remind you that this world is not our home. This is merely a dress rehearsal for the life which is to come. As hard as it is not to become attached to our favorite things or causes, simply stated we are just passing through. There’s something far more grand than this earth that will be our eternal home one day.

Much like the Patriarch Abraham who looked for a city whose builder and maker was God(Hebrews 11:10), we have a promise of a home far beyond anything our eyes can imagine. A city reserved for those who are ‘More than Conquerors’.

I don’t know exactly what’s coming next. I cannot state for certain what Christians in America will be called upon to endure for His glory. Paul mentioned “things present or things to come”, so we know that something is coming, yet whatever it is, it cannot pull you from the arms of Jesus.

What I can state with 100% certainty is that God will give us the grace to conquer it all through Him.

That you would take comfort in these words is my prayer,

Ron

If Jesus Built This Church on Love…….

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I’ve been thinking about a gospel song from many years ago entitled “Jesus built this church on love”. In case you’ve never heard the song here is a sample of the lyrics:

“Do you ever just get to wonderin’/ ‘bout the way things are today?/ So many on board this gospel ship/ Trying to row in a different way/ If we’d all pull together/ Like a family me and you/ We’d come a lot closer to doin’/ what the Lord called us to do.

Chorus: “Jesus built this church on love/ and that’s what it’s all about/ Trying to get everybody saved/ not to keep anybody out…”

What got me to thinking about this old song was the simple message of the song title itself. “Jesus built this church on love”…

The more I keep thinking about those simple words the more obvious it becomes that Jesus actually did build His church on love. Or at least that was His intention until we got in the way and decided we knew a better way to build a church. Notice the difference there?

Jesus said He would build His church. We the church of today want only to build “A” church. I wonder how well we’ve done in building “A” church?

Jesus did NOT build His church on the things that we all too often stumble over.For example Jesus did not build His church on a particular denomination. Shocking isn’t it? Especially to those of you who love to espouse your denomination’s doctrinal positions above the word of God!

Neither did Jesus build His church on a foundation of rules and regulations. Sorry legalistic Christians, if it isn’t in the Bible you’ve went too far!

Oh, and lest I forget, Jesus did not build His church upon the traditions of men that dare attempt to usurp the authority of Christ on earth.

Nope. In it’s most basic,simplistic fashion the church of the Living God was built on love. The love of Christ for a sinful world. A love so deep that One would dare give His own sinless life in order to become the very foundation of this church.

If Jesus built this church on love….then where is it?

Where in the world is the love that the church was built upon?

Where is the love for one another within the body of Christ? From where I sit on the front row of the church I see a famine in the church.I hear all the right words. I listen to songs about the love of God. I hear sermon after sermon filled with words about love.

But I don’t SEE much of it. What I do see is this:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. James 1:22-24

I hear hearty “Amen’s”. I see heads nod in affirmation at the call to love one another. Hearers of the word abound! After all, if all we ever do is hear the word and never act upon it…it costs us nothing!!

So what does the Bible have to say to us about loving one another?

John 15:12 (NKJV)
This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:17 (NKJV)
These things I command you, that you love one another.

Romans 12:10 (NKJV)
Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;

1 Peter 3:8-9 (NKJV)
Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;
not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

1 John 4:11-12 (NKJV)
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.

Seems to me we ought to be all about the doing when it comes to loving one another and not just be content witn hearing about it.

Yes, Jesus built His church on love.

But if we’re not careful we will dismantle it with our lack of true love for one another.

Ron