Prayer as an Act of War

 In a few days we will be setting up the chapel at Grace Point for another 24 hours of continuous prayer. We hold these prayer times every two months and encourage people to sign up for an hour or two.

 Why do we do this? I firmly believe that prayer is the single most important activity of the church and if we want to see transformation in our lives, our church, our families and our community, then the starting point is prayer.

 A few weeks ago, I attended a conference where Dr. Steve Gaines spoke on prayer, Dr. Gaines is the senior pastor at the Bellevue Baptist church in Memphis Tennessee, and he is the author of the book, “Pray like it matters”.  Below are some of the insights that Dr Gaines shared from Matthew 5:5-15, which we know as the Lords’ Prayer.

 Jesus taught his disciples how to pray by praying the greatest prayer in the middle of the greatest sermon ever preached (Matthew 5 – Matthew 7).

 Our lives need to be saturated by prayer, and any day that is not begun with prayer is a wasted day for the follower of Jesus. We all know that prayer is a discipline and as such it requires daily maintenance. Every day we connect our cell phones to a charger, but we struggle to see the importance of being connected to the all-powerful creator the same way.

 Dr. Gaines stated that God will never anoint a prayerless preacher or a prayerless church. The most important asset we have in the church is the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and he is poured out on us in response to our prayers. The anointing comes from prayer, thus there is incredible power that comes from prayer.

 There are three lessons that we can learn from what Jesus taught in what we call the Lords Prayer.

 1: Pray in secret (verses 5 and 6).

There is no heavenly reward in praying to be heard and to impress those in the room. This is the very definition of a hypocrite. The real Christian life is what happens when you are alone with God. As we spend much time in secret with God, we develop our relationship with Him, and we develop holiness. As a result of the secret times spent with Jesus, other people will know as they encounter you during the day. Sometimes we don’t feel like praying, but that is when we need to obey despite our feelings.

 2: Pray sincerely (verse 7 and 8).

As we pray, we must focus on the kingdom of God and the fact that every prayer uttered comes before the throne of God (Revelation 5:8). As we pray sincerely, we leave the results of our petitions in God’s hands because He knows what is best for us, He won’t give us what we don’t need nor will He give us what will be harmful to us or to the Kingdom (Matthew 7:7-11).

 3: Pray systematically (verses 9 to 13).

I have always used the acrostic “ACTS” for prayer (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication). Jesus modelled for us a systematic approach to prayer in his teaching on prayer.

 In Verse 9, Jesus began with praise and worship, calling on the name of God. It is a valuable study to look at the names of God in the Hebrew language and pray specifically worshipping the names and attributes of God.

In verse 10, Jesus taught us to pray in submission to the will and the kingdom of God, as he modelled for us in Matthew 26:39.

 After we submit to the will of God, we boldly come before God presenting our requests as a child does before their father, as we see modelled in verse 11. We pray in faith, knowing that our Father loves to give us good things and as we present our requests, we are filled with the peace of God as we leave our petitions before the throne.

 In verse 12, Jesus teaches us to pray for forgiveness for our sins, as we trust in the promise of 1 John 1:9. And then we forgive each other. We must forgive those who have wronged us, even if they do not ask for forgiveness. Jesus modelled this for us on the cross as we read in Luke 23:34. As followers of Jesus, it is impossible to walk with Jesus while at the same time harboring unforgiveness towards others (Matthew 6:14-15). 

 In verse 13, Jesus teaches us the crucial need to pray prayers of prevention. We see in James 1:14, that we are easily tempted, and we need to pray without ceasing for temptation to be nipped in the bud. If we begin a day that has not been bathed in prayer, we are extremely vulnerable to falling prey to Satan’s schemes.

 And finally, we need to understand that our prayers are an act of warfare. As we know from Ephesians 6:12, we need to take authority over the enemy by the power of prayer. So often we focus our attention on people and situations as the problems in our lives, when in reality the problem is spiritual. We have a very real enemy and his purposes are to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10a).

 As we turn our attention to gathering to pray as the Body of Christ, we must realize that this is way more important than we could ever imagine. It is important for our church, our lives, our families, our city and our nation.

 Dr. Gaines concluded with this statement, “The church is not a cruise liner, it is a battle ship.”

 Are you prepared to go into battle?

Hearing God’s voice March 3, 2019

Psalm 29 and Romans 12

When I have my devotional time with the Lord in the morning, I have developed the routine of reading a Psalm and then a chapter from the New Testament. As I meditate on the Word, I am frequently amazed to find that the two passages are linked around a certain theme.

The Lord speaks through His word to us and as I take time to be still and know… I hear from the Lord and am encouraged.

This morning I read Psalm 29 and Romans 12, at first glance there seems little that connects these two passages. Then I was reminded of a conversation that we had yesterday.

A group of us were taking a break from painting and the conversation led to the unfathomable majesty of God as it is displayed in creation. Psalm 29 mentions the power of God and that He is due all glory and majesty as He sits in the splendor of His holiness (Psalm 29:2).

As the conversation developed we began to discuss how God leads us as we have to make daily decisions that affect the course of our lives. To be followers of Jesus, we must submit ourselves to His perfect will for our lives, the difficulty comes in discerning what that will for our lives.

Sometimes we wrestle with the big decisions such as, marriage, career, international mission trips or buying a house, to mention a few. How can we know the will of God for a specific situation? What we are talking about is hearing the voice of God.

Psalm 29, as I read it this morning mentions, “the voice of the Lord”, seven times between verses 3 and nine. The voice of the Lord in Psalm 29 describes God’s general revelation of Himself through creation. The Psalmist pictures the voice of the Lord as crashing thunder, earthquakes, floodwaters and mighty winds.

Years ago, I used to love walking along a deserted beach during the fiercest storms and howling winds. My shouting prayers would be swallowed up by the power of God’s wind and rain. I felt the presence of the Lord and He spoke to me in those times, bringing clarity and direction when I needed it most.

In order to hear God’s voice, we need to position ourselves where we are ready to hear. It may be a walk in a storm or a silent prayer room, but our position needs to be one of submission and expectation. Sit with the Bible open, read with expectation, praying with intensity. As we walk with the Lord, as we mature in our faith, we begin to recognize the voice of God. He may speak to us through nature, through the Bible, through the Holy Spirit or through wise counsel of a mature believer.

This is where the New Testament reading connected in my morning meditation. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

The key to knowing the voice of God, is a renewed mind. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:16 that we have the mind of Christ. At first this sounds impossible to us; how can we have the mind of the creator God? But as we are transformed into the image of Christ, as we mature and submit our will daily to the perfect will of the Father, we will find that our decision making is led by the Holy Spirit. Spiritual maturity is being transformed by the renewal of our minds. This is not an immediately completed work when we become a Christian, nor is it ever completed on this side of Heaven. But, as we mature, as our minds are renewed, we are able to discern the will of God as Romans 12:2 says.

The tragedy is that too many Christians do not mature, and as a result they are tossed about like a rudderless boat in a storm. Everyday we make decisions that have eternal consequences, let us ensure that we submit ourselves daily to the will of God and then position ourselves where we can hear His voice.

January 17, 2019 Sanctity of Human Life Day

Life and Adoption

On January 13, 1984, President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation designating January 22 as the first National Sanctity of Human Life Day. (January 22, 1973, was the day the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion-on-demand in all 50 states.) Churches around the United States use the day to celebrate God’s gift of life, commemorate the many lives lost to abortion, and commit themselves to protecting human life at every stage. This year, Americans will celebrate life on January 20, this coming Sunday.

The National Sanctity of Human Life Day, is more than a fight to end the horror of abortion, the church must also see the need to protect and take in those that are born despite the efforts of the abortion industry. As we pray for the ending of abortion, we must be equipping ourselves to care for the orphans, James 1:27. As you know, Debbie and I have adopted our two children. They have brought us such joy and blessing, but also as they have come to terms with their adoption, they have gained a unique insight into God’s heart for adoption.

Recently Christie gave a speech for her school assembly and I asked her permission to share an excerpt from that speech in this article. This is what she shared with her schoolmates and teachers.

———

A lot of the time when you think of adoption you think of parents taking an orphan in and making them apart of their family, but that isn’t the only type of adoption.

I was adopted at the age of 6. I wasn’t an actual orphan, but I was in a position far worse: I was a stranger to the family of God. Now as a 6-year-old you may not understand everything about being Christian, but as you get older you will understand what it truly means. When you become a Christian and understand the sacrifice Jesus made, you too have been adopted. Maybe not physically, I know some have, but spiritually.

Galatians 4:4-7 says,” But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the spirit of adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’. So, you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also heir.”

God the righteous judge is our merciful Father. Romans 8:14 says,” For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

No matter what we have done in the past or what is to come, God is our merciful Father.

———

Christie ended her speech with an altar call and a number of children responded.

Christie was legally adopted before she turned one, but she was adopted into the family of God at the age of 6. I praise God that He is the perfect Father. Have you been adopted?

A Voice for the Voiceless

Yesterday, if you attended Grace Point, you would have heard from Denny and Mindy Thibault. The Thibault family have been called by God to be the voice for the voiceless in the cry to end abortion in our land. They are collecting signatures for a petition to present a million signatures to the Supreme Court. You can sign the petition here, https://themoraloutcry.com/

I encourage you to sign and do what you can to stand up for the weak and the most vulnerable in our society. Debbie and I are passionate about ending the injustice of abortion and we know that this is more than simply a political decision, this is a spiritual decision and Satan is determined to destroy as many lives as possible in the womb. I believe the reason is that Satan knows the power that children carry in the Kingdom of God, Psalm 8 vs 2 says,

“Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.”

As we closed the service we sang a song called, “Everything and Nothing less” written by Chris McClarney. As I was singing, I really began to think about the lyrics which go as follows,

“Humbly I stand, an offering
With open hands, Lord I bring
Everything and nothing less
My best, my all
You deserve my every breath
My life, my song
I surrender, I surrender all
Oh, I surrender, I surrender all
Lord take control, I trust You
I’m letting go, to give You
Everything and nothing less
My best, my all”

And I began to think of my life, I quickly dismissed the challenge and thought that I have submitted my all to God, I have a list of credentials to say that I have offered my all to God. But very quickly God reminded me that I was a long way off from perfect submission to Him. I had to repent and realize that their were areas in my life that I still held on to, that I still wanted control over.

Oswald Chambers always reminds us in his writing to live a life of abandonment, releasing all our talents to the Lord for His use. I read this little snippet from him this morning.

“Abandon to God is of more value than personal holiness.” Here’s why: “We have to get rid of this notion-‘Am I of any use?’ and make up our minds that we are not, and we may be near the truth. It is never a question of being of use, but of being of value to God Himself. When we are abandoned to God, He works through us all the time.”   Oswald Chambers

As I was repenting of my selfish idols, God was gracious to remind me that our life value does not consist of what we “do” for Christ, but that we are redeemed, loved and adopted into the Kingdom and family of our Heavenly Father.

Contentment January 16, 2017

contentment

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 the Apostle Paul writes; “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Paul is encouraging the young church to be continually grateful for the blessings of God. Thanksgiving is not simply a weekend once a year, it is meant to be part of our lives on a daily basis as we see the hand of God at work for our daily provision.

Looking at another of Paul’s letters we read in Philippians 4:12;  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

This past Monday during our staff meeting we discussed the topic of contentment. I asked the staff to imagine their own scene of contentment. Most of the team responded with images of picturesque landscapes, warm sunshine and restful armchairs. This is the response and image most of us have when we imagine contentment.

But is it possible to be grateful and yet not content? The answer to that question is yes, we can be grateful for a gift from someone, but yet that gift does not completely fulfill a specific need that we might have. However, in our daily lives as Christians, we are challenged by Paul to be content in every situation. As we pray for God to give us our daily bread, not only do we need to live in gratitude but in order to be content we need to have faith. Faith that what God provides for us is perfect for us and that he will provide for us tomorrow as well.

In James chapter 1, James writes about perseverance under trials and persecutions, but before he concludes this section of the letter we read verse 17; “ Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

James reminds his readers that in the midst of challenging and life threatening situations, we can be content because our Heavenly Father will take care of us.

What are you grateful for today? As we think about the many things and people we are grateful for, we must remember that there is only one thing that we will be eternally grateful for and that is our salvation because of the Gospel message. Everything else is temporary, all our personal possessions are secondary and are fleeting in their joy. In our current situation, we may not have all we want, but in Christ we have exactly what we need.

We develop contentment as we relinquish control of our lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

So, what is contentment? Is it sitting overlooking a beautiful valley, drinking a cup of tea, in the comfort of a rocking chair? Even though this is a good image of contentment, it has one flaw. Contentment is not passive, contentment is engaged in life and actively moving forward in God’s will and plan for our lives.  Contentment is walking in faith, knowing that all of our tomorrow’s are already in His mighty hand.

Thank God daily, and ask him to cultivate your contentment. Remember what Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:6; “But godliness with contentment is great gain. “

The Power of Forgiveness.

forgiveness

While Jesus was teaching in Matthew 18, Peter came to Jesus and asked him the following question; “…Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Jesus went on to tell the parable of the unmerciful servant in verses 23 to 34. We sometimes read only as far as verse 34 and neglect to read what Jesus said in verse 35; ““This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” What a remarkable cautionary word from Jesus. We have been forgiven so much because of what Jesus did for us on the cross and yet we are often reluctant to forgive those who wrong us.

But not only are we told to forgive each other, Jesus said that we must forgive from the heart. Our forgiveness must be complete which includes letting go of the offense. The offense of sin hurts, and sometimes the scars run deep, but when someone sins against us, we are called to forgive.

Boyd Bailey puts it this way; “When their sin assaults your character, you are to forgive them. When

their sin berates your work, you are to forgive them. When their sin violates your trust, you are to forgive them. When their sin steals your joy, you are to forgive them. When someone’s sin crushes your dreams, you are to forgive them. When their sin steals from you, you are to forgive them. This level of

forgiveness is counterintuitive and countercultural, but it is the way of Christ. Forgiveness is God’s game plan. You will lose if you don’t forgive. Un-forgiveness is torturous to the soul. It is unhealthy for the

body and emotions. Un-forgiveness fills prescriptions and leaves hollow lives in its wake.”

Forgiveness is a precious gift that only has value when you give it away. Forgiveness that is not granted is un-forgiveness, and it will become a festering wound in your heart.

Most of us have had the experience of being hurt or offended by someone who has no idea that they have wronged us, perhaps they were unthinking, perhaps they were uncaring. We lie awake at night with thoughts running through our mind of an imaginary conflict that we will have when we confront them. We are the ones suffering while the other person is probably sleeping soundly. By choosing to forgive, we set ourselves free. We are to forgive those who do not even ask for forgiveness. We are called to forgive those who intentionally hurt us and offend us.

Jesus teaching on prayer and faith said this; “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25. Our standing before God, is tied to our forgiveness of others. A Christian who has accepted God’s forgiveness is expected to forgive others just as God has forgiven us. If we don’t forgive others, we forfeit God’s forgiveness in our daily lives.

Let us be a people who forgive often and forgive quickly. As a result we will experience peace and freedom in our own lives.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32.

The Armor of God June 15, 2016

EGITTO_(F)_0818_-_Leggi_antiterrorismoEven a brief glance at the evening news or the front page of a newspaper and one is drawn to fear and uncertainty. The world seems to be spiraling out of control and evil is on the rise.

The recent terrorist attack in Orlando is another example of the ruthless enemy that the world is facing. Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, Nairobi… the list goes on of cities that have experienced the horrors of a different kind of war in their streets and public places. It seems that the leaders of the nations are struggling to know how to respond each time another suicide mission is launched. Our own country is embroiled in a bitter presidential campaign that seems to leave the wellbeing man in the street out of the discussion. Uncertainty is everywhere, and it is true to say that we have never experienced days like these before.

King David had uncertain days, his own family turned against him and yet he trusted in the strong arm of the Lord, look at what he wrote in Psalm 62;

5Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

As Christians we know that God is working out all of history for the Day of the Lord, when Jesus will come again in victory as the mighty warrior King. Until that time we must hold fast, trusting the Lord and not giving in to fear and uncertainty. Just like Peter as he walked on the water, we will sink if we take our eyes of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul writing to the Ephesian church reminds us that the struggle we endure is not against flesh and blood but rather there is a darker and more sinister evil at work. Ephesians 6:10-12; “10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

If you don’t know Jesus as your personal Lord and savior, you cannot put on the armor of God, you will be exposed and subject to all the forces of the evil one. But as Christians, we can “suit up” in prayer, being ready for what lies ahead, moving forward in faith rather than fear.

As a church we have the Gospel, the Good News, the only news that is able to save. This is the news that the world around us desperately needs and people are looking for as they see the evil all around. We must boldly proclaim the Gospel, counting the cost, but unashamedly fulfilling the calling that God has for us as a church.

The Summer of Missions is not simply a nice cliché or a fun activity to keep our young people busy, it is a rescue mission.

The Sanctity of Human Life.

Sanctity-of-human-life4-300x226

A few weeks ago many churches around the country remembered the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. This tradition started On January 13, 1984 when President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation designating January 22 as the first National Sanctity of Human Life Day. On this day we remember the tragedy that took place on January 22, 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion-on-demand in all 50 states. Churches around the United States use the day to celebrate God’s gift of life, commemorate the many lives lost to abortion, and commit themselves to protecting human life at every stage. While the number of legal abortions per year has declined steadily over the last twenty years, there were still 977,000 legal abortions in the USA in 2014 according to the Guttmacher Institute (AGI)

In recent months the media has been exposing some of the horrendous practices of the abortion industry, and the selling of human body parts for profit. Although this is shocking and unthinkable to most people, it is the logical destination of the path that our nation is on once abortion was legalized. The good news out of this is that it has turned the spotlight on the horrors of abortion and the popular opinion is changing. The focus of the mainstream media has always been on the inconvenience that an unwanted pregnancy causes for the mother, whereas now we are seeing more and more people beginning to talk about the innocent lives that are being slaughtered and then traded to the highest bidder.

But the one key fact that is neglected in the discussion is the potential of the human person that has been killed. From the moment of conception a human person begins to live, that life is an eternal being and has unlimited potential. Potential to bring joy to a family, Potential to change the course of nations, potential to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus.

With all the discussion surrounding abortion focusing on the temporal, let us remember what the Bible says about human beings. The Bible is clear that every human is created in the image of God, (Genesis 1:26) and that all life is precious in the Lord’s design. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 127:3; “Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.” David also wrote in Psalm 139:16; “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Let us continue to pray and fight for the unborn, speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves, praying that God would intervene and raise up leaders in our nation with the courage to stand against this scourge of our generation.