Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Making Use of the Power of Prayer

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)

I’ve often been challenged by the following quote attributed to the great evangelist/preacher Dwight L. Moody: “Next to the wonder of seeing my Savior will be, I think, the wonder that I made so little use of the power of prayer.”

Those who belong to God through faith in Christ Jesus are given almost unbelievable access to the omnipotent ruler of heaven and earth. We have the ear of the Almighty, the One who hears from heaven and is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). We are told that with Jesus as our great high priest, the one who lives to intercede for us, we can “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16). We have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us who, even though we do not know what to pray for, “himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26).

There is power beyond human comprehension offered to us in prayer.

Yet it seems that rarely do we even come close to making use of the power that God has made available to His people. When faced with hardships, troubles, pain and suffering we might think to call on the name of the Lord, but often as a last resort. When faced with tough decisions we weigh out our options and use our best reasoning and logic to figure out our course of action, but how often do we bring it before God? When threats abound in the forms of temptations, job loss, financial trouble, sickness and persecution, is prayer our natural response or an afterthought?

We worry, we fret, we fear and we let anxiety nearly ruin us. But do we pray?

In 2 Chronicles 20 we read of Judah’s king who was faced with a triple threat. The armies of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir gathered their forces together to battle against God’s people, and king Jehoshaphat was afraid. The enemy was powerful. The threat was real. The situation was too much for the king to handle even with his vast army.

But Jehoshaphat did not allow fear to rule him. Immediately he set his face to seek the Lord. He called all the people of his country to fast and seek help from God. For he knew that: “The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. A war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue” (Ps. 33:16-17).

He knew that his only hope was in the Lord: “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies” (Ps. 18:2-3).

So king Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of the people, in the house of the Lord, and prayed. He prayed to a God who is sovereign over all things. He prayed to a God who is good and faithful. He prayed to a God who hears the cries of His people and saves them. He prayed to a God who is just. The king made his appeal to the only One who could rescue him from the triple threat that would have destroyed him.

Jehoshaphat then made a great confession before the Lord on behalf of himself and his people in 2 Chronicles 20:12: “For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

What greater power could he possibly have turned to?

Maybe you’re there. There’s a triple threat coming up against you. You are powerless and you don’t know what to do. Friend, let me urge you to set your face to seek the Lord and turn your eyes upon Him. When He is your light, your salvation and your stronghold, why should you be afraid?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Not a 37th - Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Today marks the 36th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize abortion. By the grace and mercy of God, I pray there may not be a 37th.

The fact that some fifty million babies have been legally killed in the womb since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision staggers the mind. And it ought to pierce our souls, as well.

Who can deny that a human life is developing when a heartbeat begins about five weeks after conception? Did you know that a baby’s fingers begin to develop at week seven? At just eleven weeks nearly all structures and organs are formed and beginning to function.

Do you wonder if, perhaps, we have aborted the man or woman who may have discovered a more effective cancer treatment? Is it possible that we have taken the life of the would-be economist who may have had a solution (or prevention!) for our nation’s financial trouble? Could it be that we have killed in the womb a military leader who would have devised a better strategy for dealing with terrorism?

How many potentially great schoolteachers have been lost to abortion? How many compassionate caregivers have we murdered? How many attentive writers, innovative thinkers, gifted musicians, servant leaders, international peacemakers, just judges, wise politicians, knowledgeable doctors, heroic pilots, powerful preachers, helpful sales clerks, prompt appliance repairmen, loving daycare providers, honest workers and contributing taxpayers have we conveniently disposed of through legal infanticide?

We cannot merely sit back and do nothing. But what can we do? Although I believe we ought to engage our culture with our voices, our actions and our votes, the change we need is not in legislation. The change we need is a change in heart. The change we need is the change that takes place when a person repents of sin and receives the life of Jesus Christ into theirs. When Jesus becomes the Savior and Lord of a person’s life, He begins transforming minds and hearts to know the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

The idea of taking the life of one created in the image of God by the hand of God will then become utterly repulsive and unthinkable.

Listen to the words of Psalm 139:13-16 as the writer erupts in adoration of his Creator: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written every one them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

There is simply no way to deny that life begins at the moment of conception. We ought to value every single life created by the One who does all things well. Nor is there any way to deny that God has ordained the lives of those He has created. The Lord spoke to Jeremiah saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5).

And can you imagine if abortion had been an option for Mary – a poor, unmarried teenager suddenly pregnant, with many questions and suspicions swirling about? Who in our day would blame such a young woman for making a trip to the local abortion doctor?

Let me say briefly that if you’ve had an abortion or have promoted this practice, I write this not to condemn you, but to point you to the One, Jesus Christ, who offers complete and full forgiveness for sin. In Him alone will you find cleansing from all guilt and shame.

I believe that we need to pray now more than ever for God to change our nation and this world by the power of the gospel of Christ Jesus. May we repent of our national sin and plead for God’s mercy upon us. We have been passive and indifferent for far too long. We have been calloused and cold-hearted. We have been selfish and wise in our own eyes. Let us acknowledge our sin and repent for these 36 years in which we have allowed this murderous practice to continue.

I'm afraid if we don't, God may withdraw His mercy and grace - and there may not be a 37th.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Prayer for the President

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. - 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Our Father in heaven, you alone are worthy of our praise. You are the creator and sustainer of all things. You alone are holy, and your name is forever to be praised. May the greatness of your power, your majesty, your sovereignty, your wisdom, your righteousness and your love be honored, revered, magnified and adored by all men.

I pray this day for our new President and his family, for those who will serve with him, advise him and govern with him. I lift him before you asking that you will grant him an understanding mind to govern this nation, that he may discern between good and evil. Give him courage to do what is right and just. Set his heart to seek your face, your will and your ways, and direct his steps according to the light of your word.

Father, I pray this for your glory, for so you have commanded us to pray and taught us to pray.

I give thanks for the historical significance of this event, where the racial walls that have separated this nation for so long have now given way to such an unprecedented opportunity for unity. Use this, Lord, for a hearing of the gospel of peace and reconciliation.

Lord, I thank you for this first family and pray that their marriage will be held in honor by all, that their example of such a family unit as you have ordained it will be heeded by all. Protect them from harm, from corruption and the wicked schemes of man.

Lord God, you are the one who institutes every authority among men. You have brought Barack Obama and his leadership team to this place at this time for your own purposes and glory. You are the one who turns the king's heart wherever you will like a stream of water in your hand. You remove kings and set up kings, and you remain forever the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Father, where the ideals of our President resonate with your heart, bless his actions for the sake of your righteousness. I thank you for the compassion he indicates for the poor and needy in this nation. I thank you for the sense of responsibility he hopes to instill in every man and woman. I thank you for the aims of justice and peace to which he aspires. Grant him your wisdom and compassion as he governs.

And where his decisions and priorities and actions neglect your truth and spurn your desires, I pray for change. I pray that he will know the foolishness of his own ways and in humility and brokenness, repent toward you. God, you alone are able to change the heart of man by the convicting power of your Spirit and the piercing sword of your word. You alone, O God, are able to expose the works of wickedness by the light of your holiness. God, you sent your Son, Jesus, into this world to be the light of the world, offering forgiveness and cleansing from sin and to make men holy, blameless and above reproach. May the heart of our President turn away from all ungodliness and turn in faith to you. May he follow in the light of your Son, never to walk in darkness, but to have the light of life.

Thank you for the gospel that saves! This is our only hope for our nation, and indeed, the only hope for the world. We need your mercy and grace, O Lord.

In the name of Jesus we bring these supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings before your throne of grace, believing that you will hear and answer for your glory in Christ Jesus, Amen.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Let It Shine in 2009

What’s the first thing you normally do when you get home at night? Do you sit in your favorite chair and pick up a good book? Do you turn on the television to watch your favorite show? Do you go to the cookie jar and munch on some goodies? These may be a part of your evening routine, but I’d bet the first thing you do is turn the lights on. When you get home at night, the first thing you do is hit the light switch so you can see your way to the recliner, find the TV Guide, or raid the snack stash.

Without the light to illumine your path, you’d trip over the Rescue Heroes fire truck your son left in the middle of the hallway. Without a night light in the bathroom, your sons might mistakenly miss the mark. You do know what a “shin” is, don’t you? It’s a device for finding furniture in the dark. Ouch!

We need light. Light is good. Life is easier to navigate when we can see clearly.

So, then, why do most people keep living in the spiritual darkness of this world when Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12)?

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but this world is a spiritually dark place to be, and we desperately need a Savior. This is a corrupt and wicked generation. You don’t have to look much past the governor’s office to understand this. Read the headlines in the newspapers about the latest drug bust, the most recent case of child pornography, or the string of vandalism and robbery. And those are just the ones who get caught!

What about the sins that never make the news? Gossip, slander, envy, deceit, malice, disrespect for authority, self-righteousness, pride, arrogance, lust, greed – just to name a few. Are these sins any less dark in God’s eyes?

And who could argue with the truth of 1 Timothy 6:9-10 in our day of economic hardship, where the Bible says: “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

Wickedness and ungodliness today are not unlike the days of Noah when “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to the heart.” (Gen. 6:5-6).

Sin has made this world a spiritually dark place to be, and if you keep walking in it you’ll soon find yourself thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. There’s no way to sugar-coat the warning that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).

But, praise God, that’s not the end of the story! We’re not left to stumble in this darkened world and then plunge into everlasting destruction. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” Friend, you don’t have to walk in the darkness any longer! Jesus is the light of the world! Follow Him, and you won’t be walking in darkness, but you’ll have the light of life! The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord!

When Jesus said, “I am the light of the world,” He didn’t mean that He was just one of a thousand points of light in this universe as we know it. He meant that He is the only way by which man can be rescued from the domain of darkness. When Jesus said, “I am the light of the world,” He was proclaiming that in Him alone was everlasting salvation for all people through every age who would receive Him. Follow Him, and you won’t walk in the darkness any longer.

Instead, you’ll have the light of life. As you follow Jesus you’ll have the light of the life of Christ burning brightly within you and shining out of every pore of your being illuminating the world. Follow Jesus, the light of the world, and let the light shine in 2009!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

While I'm Waiting

Once in a while a song will come along that seems to carry a special message. "While I'm Waiting" is such a song.

Who's not waiting for something? Who's not waiting for God to move in some way or another? Who's not waiting for His promises to be fulfilled, His purposes to be revealed or His power to be unveiled in this world?

Someone is waiting for a test result to come back from the doctor. A mother is waiting for her child to return to the ways of the Lord. A man is waiting for a job to open up so he can feed his family. A wife is waiting for a chance to become a mom. A couple is waiting for the adoption to go through. A child is waiting for a home. An elderly man is waiting by the hospital bed where his wife lies ill. A young person is waiting for that special someone. A victim is waiting for justice to be served. A missionary is waiting for the visa to be approved. A woman is waiting for her husband to come to Jesus.

What are you waiting for? And how are you handling the wait? That's what this song addresses.

If you've seen the movie "FIREPROOF" then you've heard this song. Here's an audio clip from the songwriter and singer, John Waller, where he talks about the message behind this song.

And here's a link to a video presentation featuring this song.

I believe God is and will continue using this message to encourage those who wait, for "they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint" (Isa. 40:31).

Here are just a few additional verses that deal with waiting upon the Lord. Hope this leads your heart to rest in the Lord as you wait...
  • Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:14)
  • Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. (Psalm 33:20-21)
  • Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him... (Psalm 37:7 - the whole chapter is worth reading!)
  • But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord." (Lamentations 3:21-26)
  • For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us...but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we are saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Rom. 8:18, 23-25)
  • But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, "In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions." It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life... (Jude 17-21)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Extraordinary Love of a Pastor's Wife

Perhaps you’ve heard the story about the woman who went with her husband to see his doctor. After the exam the doctor pulled the wife aside and said, “If you don’t do the following, your husband is going to die.

“First, you have to fix him a big, healthy breakfast every morning and send him off to work in a good mood. Next, at lunch, make him a warm, nutritious meal and put him in a good frame of mind before going back to work. Then for dinner, prepare a special meal for him every night, and don’t burden him with household chores.”

While they were driving home the husband asked his wife what the doctor had told her. She replied, “He said you’re going to die.”

Well, sometimes I have to fix my own bowl of cereal in the mornings, and sometimes I have to make my own peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwich for lunch, but I am thankful that God has blessed me with a wonderful wife who goes out of her way to love me. In fact, she wouldn’t even say that her love is anything out of the ordinary, but I know better.

A pastor’s wife endures more than most people realize. While usually it’s the pastor who receives the recognitions, the encouragements, the prayers and the gifts, it’s the pastor’s wife who labors quietly at his side.

Do you remember Peter’s wife? You know Peter, the disciple who demonstrated the faith to get out of the boat and walk upon the water. Peter, the one who made the great confession of faith in Matthew 16:16 saying to Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” The one who had the pleasure of hearing Jesus say to him: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!” (Matt. 16:17). It was Peter, the great apostle of Jesus Christ, who rose to speak on the day of Pentecost, filled with the Holy Spirit, and “those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). It was Peter who witnessed the glory of Jesus’ transfiguration (Matt. 17), who healed the lame beggar at the temple gate (Acts 3), who received the vision from God and brought the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10), who was miraculously rescued from prison by an angel of the Lord (Acts 12), and who wrote two letters to the believers which have been canonized into Scripture and bear his name. Everyone knows and admires Peter for his great faith, his boldness, his leadership and his usefulness in the kingdom of God!

But who knows his wife’s name? We know he was married. Jesus healed his mother-in-law who was lying in bed with a fever (Matt. 8:14). Evidently, Peter’s wife also accompanied him in his ministry (1 Cor. 9:5). But we do not know her name nor is she ever mentioned in connection with any of Peter’s great feats of faith.

Surely she made the same sacrifices, and even more, for the sake of the call. Surely her faith and obedience to the Lord were just as commendable as Peter’s, if not more. Surely some of her own dreams and aspirations went unfulfilled as she graciously submitted to her husband on this adventure that would take her away from her home, out of her comfort zone and into the great unknown.

There would have been all the usual emotions of a wife whose husband is charged with shepherding the flock God has placed under his care. Who knows what kind of expectations she felt as she ministered alongside her husband? Who knows how fervently she must have prayed while her husband was arrested and imprisoned for the sake of the gospel? Who knows if she had children of her own to raise while her husband was out preaching, visiting the sick and writing the Bible, what kind of responsibilities she had for the care of her elderly parents, or what roles she played in the ministry of the gospel?

Franklin Graham witnessed the relationship between his parents, Billy and Ruth, and often said, “My father would not be who he is today if it wasn’t for my mother.” I bet Peter would have said the same thing about his wife. I know I can, and I thank God for the extraordinary love of my wife.