Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Learning to Pray Big

In 2 Thessalonians 3.1-3 we have a request from Paul for the church to pray for him.

Finally brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. (1) Paul's first request: may God be glorified. Pray that the grace you have experienced may be experienced by others as the Lord's message spreads. Paul did not pray for safety or a good time - he prayed for God's glory to shine in darkness.

And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. (2) The reason for his prayer is the rebellion against God - there are wicked and evil men without faith. Pray that they may be delivered - kept safe to proclaim the Lord's message.

(This is great!) But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. (3) The problem with prayer today (and even my prayers) is that we focus so much time on the problem and forget the promise. Paul makes one statement: pray for us because ... and then - But - this is who God is (faithful) and this is what he will do (strengthen and protect you). Prayer is incomplete if all we do is ask - we must see who God is as well.

We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance (4-5) Amazing how quickly Paul says - pray for me - and then his prayer ends by praying for others. That is the way prayer works - the more we see God and the greater and more amazing and powerful he is - the bigger our prayers will be. It is like Paul saying - You pray for me and here is God and if this is God he will not only take care of me but he will take care of you.

Do you find it difficult to pray for others? Are your prayers always about your needs and your ministry? It is because your God is too small and you are not looking to His promises. When God is BIG and we are praying for His glory to explode, our prayers will turn outward and filled with confidence.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Love the Truth

2 Thessalonians 2.10: They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

What is interesting as Paul talks about those who are perishing is that he writes: they perish because they refused to love the truth He did not write: they perish because they refused to know the truth.

A chasm separates those who know the truth and those who love the truth. To know is not to love the truth. What sustains believers as they are presented by every sort of evil (2.10)? They will love the truth.

This must be the prayer of our hearts: Lord, do not just fill my brain with Bible knowledge but give me a great love for the truth so I will stand alone for you.

When you go to church this Sunday, may I humbly suggest that you pray before your pastor preaches - God, give me a love for the truth so that I may stand firm and bring you glory.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A True "Coming Out"

Revelation 18:4-5: Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.

The apostle John is warning believers to come out of the world so they will not fall under God's wrath. The question is how? What practical steps can we take to come out of the world - while still living in the world? 2 Peter 3:11 asks the same question: Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? Peter teaches us four practical steps so that we may come out and not share in the world's sins.

1. You ought to live holy and godly lives (3.11): the general direction of your life is to be set apart and patterned after Jesus Christ.

2. Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him (3.14): our life direction and passion, our efforts will be towards godliness and peace - not with the world - but with God. We will seek to be God pleasers not man pleasers.

3. Be on your guard (3.17): fundamentally, we need to know we are in a battle. John Owens writes: If sin be subtle, watchful, strong, and always at work in the business of killing our souls, and we be slothful, negligent, foolish, in proceeding to the ruin thereof, can we expect a comfortable event? There is not a day but sin foils or is foiled, prevails or is prevailed on; and it will be so whilst we live in this world. (Vol 6, p. 11) A good lesson - most battles of coming out are lost because we do not even know we are in a battle. Peter's words are wise: be on your guard - be able to recognize the enemy and then know the power of the Lord - He is gracious.

4. Grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: pick up God's Word and grow in holiness, godliness, peace, and grace. Knowledge apart from grace is harsh; grace apart from knowledge is foolishness; but knowledge and grace together is growth so we may be strong enough by God's Spirit to come out and stand for God in a world against Him.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Be Quiet and the Fire Will Go Down

Proverbs 26:20: Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.

If I do not add wood to my fire then I will have no fire and on the other hand, if I want fire, I add wood. Simple lesson.

Simple, however, when applied to wood. The Word of God teaches us the damage of gossip - of slandering or killing another person's character with your words. If you want a quarrel to continue, continue to talk ill about the person - more wood - more fire. If you want a quarrel to end, be quiet. Stop talking. Or say something positive and upbuilding about the person.

How many quarrels would die in a marriage or between parents and children, in church or in workplaces if someone stood up and shut up. And the quarrel would die - it would shrivel up.

C.H. Spurgeon writes in John Ploughman's Talks: An open mouth shows an empty head. If the chest had gold or silver in it, it would not always stand wide open. Talking comes by nature, but it needs a good deal of training to learn to be quiet; yet regard for truth should put a bit into every honest man's mouth and a bridle upon every good woman's tongue. (48-49)

Wise words. Stop placing wood on the fire and the quarrel dies out.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me - Mark 10.47

Jesus was coming out of Jericho, surrounded by a massive crowd, and he was on his way to Jerusalem. Along the way, in the dust and the busyness of the moment, a lone voice rises: Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. SSSHHHH - quiet - he doesn't have time - he won't hear you - there is no reason for him to hear you or stop - don't you know who this is - Jesus - be quiet for the last time.

But the lone voice cries out: Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.

I love the next series of actions by Jesus: Jesus stops - he calls the man to him - he asks the man what he can do - he listens - and he heals the man of his blindness.

Simple words the world does not understand - they need mercy - I need mercy. And here is the amazing good news of the Bible - Jesus stops and listens to the cry.

Sometimes all we can cry for is mercy in the mess of life. What does Jesus do? He stops - listens - and acts.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Finding Life In the Ministry

1 Thessalonians 3.8: For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.

A sufferer is writing to those who are suffering - Paul to the people in Thessalonica. People who are suffering (Paul in this instance for his love for the Lord Jesus) can find it hard to find hope and life. That is why Paul's statement is so interesting as to where he finds "life" as a "pastor"- the people of God - despite the suffering, opposition and persecution they continue to stand firm in the Lord. They have not wavered, they have not denied the faith, they have not gone the easy route - they are standing firm, looking to the Lord for their strength.

Pastor's today are told to find their "life" in all sorts of areas - successful churches, powerful sermons, influential character and many other things. But that can easily become discouraging because churches are not always "successful", sermons at times barely squeak out, and our character is ignored or has so many flaws left, we seriously doubt any influence at all.

That is why I love Paul's words and they become my prayer: God - may I find life in the people you have given me - may I find life when they are standing firm. May that be my purpose, my joy, my passion and my life.

The beauty is it takes our eyes off our ministry and success or lack of success and places them on true life - God's glory as it shines in the light of the people. What is Paul saying when he says they are standing firm? He is saying they love God more than the world; they love the glory of God more than the goodness of the world.

And that is life - life for a pastor - purpose for a pastor - and the prayer of the pastor - May my people love you more and more so they stand firm in the the Lord against all the opposition and suffering. May you grant them a love for God that is above all else in this world.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A "Vanishing Moment"

1 Peter 1.24-25: All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.

I am not old enough to have "senior" moments - although I seem to get them way too often. This past week, I believe I had what I will term a "vanishing moment" - which can happen at any age. We attended two funerals, one of a 7 year old girl who died in a car accident and the other of an 80 year old man whose body just gave out. Within the past two weeks, we celebrated the birthdays of two of my children - both a year older (I know that was an obvious statement - but I said it for m y benefit!!). And added in the mix, we remembered God's goodness to our church as we celebrated 15 years.

The moment hit - not like being hit by a train - but like a slow moving train passing by you as you wait for it to pass. The moment just dawns on you - vanishing. Years going by, lives taken, children growing. Vanishing - I am slowly vanishing.

And that is where 1 Peter is so important - God's word does not vanish and it would be utter foolishness to live apart from or let go of God's Word.

So this "vanishing" moment was a good reminder - my life is passing - the train is in many ways going way too fast. How am I living? Are my priorities straight? Am I carrying grudges or are there unnecessary divisions? Am I making the most of what God has given me for His kingdom?

Sadly, vanishing moments often turn into senior moments - I forget to live my life in the face of eternity. That is why, despite the joy and tears, this vanishing moment was a good time - a time to remember who I am, where I am going and how I am to get there.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Thankful for a Menu

Yesterday I heard someone speak about God's work in China. During the break I talked with him and he told me that we would not believe the poverty in certain places. One story he relayed was of a family that owned one pair of pants - whoever needed to go out that day would wear them.

This morning for breakfast I had oatmeal, eggs and orange juice. After I showered, I chose a pair of pants, leaving the few others in the drawer - I also put on a sweater for the damp cold. I see my wife looking at cookbooks, planning a variety of tasty meals. When I go to a restaurant, I look at a menu - a variety of choices.

I am thankful for cookbooks and menus - a variety of choices to enjoy God's blessings. It also causes me to stop grumbling and remember - remember God's abundant goodness for all his blessings.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

When God Is Silent

We also respect God's silences as well as his sayings. We can trust him. The Bible does not say all we would like it to say. But it does say all that God wants to say and all that we need to know. (Letters To A Student, Drew, 60)

Psalm 46.10: Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46 is a tumultuous time in the life of the Psalmist - mountains falling, waves roaring and nations in an uproar. But in the midst of tumult and chaos, God calls for quiet, stillness. Quietness is achieved not by looking for answers but by looking to God. Know this one thing: God is God. Period. Double period.

We are called to simply know who God is - that He will exalt His name and we must simply trust. Quietly trust God's moving among the nations, in the midst of turmoil and emptiness.

Be still and know - not the intimate details of God's hidden will - but the revealed character of God. He alone brings peace and stillness as God's people are surrounded by troubles and disappointments.