Thursday, November 30, 2006

Cold Prayers

Wow, the temperatures are very cold in Omaha today. Sometimes are prayer life gets cold as well. Check out the words of Charles Spurgeon on cold prayers...

Cold prayers!

From Spurgeon's sermon, "True Prayer--True Power!"

Cold prayers ask for a denial.

The lips may move, yet the heart remain silent.

When we ask the Lord coolly, and not fervently,
we do as it were, stop his hand, and restrain him from
giving us the very blessing we pretend that we are seeking.

Oh, those cold-hearted prayers that die upon the lips--
those frozen supplications, how can they move God's heart?

They do not come from our own souls, they do not well up
from the deep secret springs of our inmost heart, and
therefore they cannot rise up to him who only hears the cry
of the soul, before whom hypocrisy can weave no veil,
or formality practice any disguise.

We must be earnest, otherwise we have no right
to hope that the Lord will hear our prayer.

Shall I come into your presence, O my God,
and mock you with cold-hearted words?

Do the angels veil their faces before you, and shall I be
content to prattle through a form, with no soul and no heart?

We should speak to God from our own hearts,
and talk to him as a child talks to his father.

God always has an open ear and a ready hand,
if you have an open and ready heart.
Take your groanings and your sighs to God
and he will answer you.

"Our prayers are God's decrees in another shape."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Do We Live in a Praying Age?

R.A. Torrey, in his sermon called: "The Power of Prayer" based on James 4.2 said...

"There is nothing else in which the church and the ministry of today or, to be more explicit, you and I have departed more notably and more lamentably from apostolic precedent than this matter of prayer...

We do not live in a praying age...

A very considerable proportion of the membership of the evangelical churches today do not believe even theoretically in prayer."

This sermon was preached around 100 years ago, but is Torrey's assessment true today?

Well, revival has not come yet!


Monday, November 27, 2006

Living For Jesus

Good Morning

In a few hours, I will officiate at a funeral of a lady from my church who passed away on Thanksgiving Day. She was a faithful follower of Jesus for over 50 years. I believe the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 1.21 summed up her life:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain

May that be the prayer and the goal of our lives--24/7. Daily, we can long to please and honor the Lord Jesus.

Have a good day


Friday, November 24, 2006

Bonhoeffer on Prayer

Profiles In Prayer: Dietrich Bonhoeffer
By Richard Klein
The 700 Club - The reign of terror unleashed by the Nazi hordes during World War II took an incalculable toll in suffering and the destruction of human life. While the excesses of Hitler's epic military quest redefined the nature of armed conflict, it was within Germany's own borders that the Nazis displayed the true depths of their ruthless depravity. And though the Jewish people bore the brunt of hideous torture and systematic death, devout Christians opposed to Hitler, often met similar fates.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one such man, a modern martyr whose crucible experience at the hands of the Nazis created a new understanding of the cost of discipleship.

Coming of age in the chaotic years of Germany’s post-war Weimer Republic, Dietrich Bonhoeffer seemed an unlikely candidate for ministry. He was just completing his graduate studies when Adolph Hitler began his meteoric rise to power. Bonhoeffer felt an immediate disgust for the Nazis, which unfortunately wasn’t shared by the majority of his fellow churchmen. The “Cradle of the Reformation” had become, almost overnight, the cradle of menacing fascism.

The hysteria and pageantry of Nazism quickly supplanted Germany’s former spiritual life. Bonhoeffer despaired as he watched Christians do little to hinder Hitler’s sinister agenda. Writing to friends, he said:

“We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds…intolerable conflicts have worn us down and even made us cynical. Are we still of any use?”

Before the war, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's had challenged Adolph Hitler in a radio address that questioned the very concept of a German Fuhrer. Without his knowledge, his words were censored on air, even as he spoke.

This speech alone would have marked him as an enemy of the state. But Bonhoeffer soon became involved in a network of underground seminaries formed to guard theological study against the taint of Nazi ideology. Before long, the Gestapo moved in and closed the secret schools, and Bonhoeffer escaped briefly to America, where he was warmly welcomed.

As he agonized over whether to return to his home in Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer also struggled with his self-declared pacifism. In a letter to his sister-in-law, he wrote:

“If I see a madman driving a car into a group of innocent bystanders, then I can’t, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe and then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.”

Throughout the terrible first years of World War II, Bonhoeffer worked secretly against the Nazis. Implicated in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler, he was actually arrested for his involvement in “Operation 7”, a mission to smuggle a group of Jews across the border into Switzerland.

It was while imprisoned that Dietrich Bonhoeffer articulated the theological models that had directed his personal Christian walk. During the next twelve months he poured forth a lifetime of work, outlining a new concept of Christian service and bringing a fresh dimension to the idea of discipleship.

On April 9, 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was brought to a Nazi extermination camp. There he was condemned to die by hanging, just one month before the suicide of Hitler and the final collapse of the Third Reich.

As he prayerfully faced his death, Bonhoeffer’s last words to a fellow inmate were:

“This is the end. For me, the beginning of life.”

The legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is in no way diminished by the tragedy of his needless death, so close to the war’s conclusion. A man of great intellect and spiritual depth, he was also able to be simple and direct in expressing a courage based on faith.

“I believe that God can and wants to create good out of everything, even evil…I believe that God provides us with as much strength to resist as we need. But he does not give it in advance…We trust Him alone. In such a trust, all anxiety about the future must be overcome.”

To learn more about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, visit the International Bonhoeffer Society or the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum web site.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Puritan Prayer for Thanksgiving

The prayer below reminds us that of our continue need to seek personal holiness.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Puritan Prayer


Thou hast imputed my sin to my substitute,and hast imputed his righteousness to my soul,clothing me with a bridegroom's robe,
decking me with jewels of holiness.
But in my Christian walk I am still in rags;
my best prayers are stained with sin;
my penitential tears are so much impurity;
my confessions of wrong are so many aggravations of sin;
my receiving the Spirit is tinctured with selfishness.
I need to repent of my repentance;
I need my tears to be washed;
I have no robe to bring to cover my sins,
no loom to weave my own righteousness;
I am always standing in filthy garments,
and by grace am always receiving change of raiment,
for thou dost always justify the ungodly;
I am always going into the far country,
and always returning home as a prodigal,
always saying, Father, forgive me,
and thou art always bring forth the best robe.
Every morning let me wear it,
every evening return in it,
go out to the day's work in it,
be married in it,
be wound in death in it,
stand before the great white throne in it,
enter heaven in it shining as the sun.
Grant me never to lose sight of
the exceeding sinfulness of sin,
the exceeding righteousness of salvation,
the exceeding glory of Christ,
the exceeding beauty of holiness,
the exceeding wonder of grace.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Inner Life

I snagged this article from the website Monogerism. It is helpful because it reminds us that God looks for brokenness in our prayers.

THE INNER LIFE by Octavius Winslow

The Broken and Contrite Heart

"The Penitence and Prayer of the Inner Life"

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." -Psalm 51:17.

It has been the lowly but the earnest attempt of the preceding pages to stir up the grace of God in the living, believing soul. There is not a moment in the history of the child of God- even those moments that would appear the most favorable to the progress of the Divine life- but there is a tendency in that grace to descend. We have seen how affluent the Word of God is in its metaphorical elucidation of this important subject. And if the figure of 'gray hairs' -of 'wells without water' -of the 'salt that has lost its savor,' can at all depict this melancholy condition of the soul's spiritual deterioration, then is the sad portrait presented to our view in its most vivid coloring, as drawn by the hand of a Divine master.

Although we might have dwelt much longer on this part of our general subject- for we have by no means exhausted all the metaphors of the Bible illustrative of a relapsed state of the spiritual life- but anxious to apply to the disease we have been probing- we hope with not too rude a hand- the Divine balm which the Great Healer has mercifully provided, we leave at this stage of our work the consideration of the relapse, and pass on to that of the recovery- praying, that if to the mind of the reader there is any real discovery of the low state of his soul, if any true and powerful concern as to that state, if any secret contrition, any lowly repentance, and any breathing after a better and a revived condition of the inner life, the words of the royal penitent, which we are about to open up, may fall upon his wounded spirit like balsam from the bleeding tree- with an influence soothing, cheering, and healing.

How sweet and expressive are the words- "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise!" In further prosecution of our design, let us direct our attention to this broken heart, as unfolding the certain evidence of a recovered state of spiritual relapse- and then, to God's especial regard for it, as constituting the great encouragement to our return.


The subject enters deeply into the very soul of real, vital religion. All other religion that excludes as its basis the state of mind portrayed in these words, is as the shell without the pearl, the body without the spirit. It has ever been a leading and favorite scheme of Satan to persuade men to substitute the 'religion of man' for the 'religion of God'. The religion of man has assumed various forms and modifications, always accommodating itself to the peculiar age and history of the world. Sometimes it has been the religion of intellect- and men have prostrated themselves before the goddess of reason. Sometimes it has been the religion of creeds- and men have prided themselves upon the bulwarks of a well-balanced and accurate orthodoxy. At other times it has been the religion of the ascetic and the recluse- and men have fled from the dwellings, of the living, and have entombed themselves in caves and dungeons of the earth. Yet again, it has been the religion of forms and ceremonies- and men have strutted forth in the fancied apparel of superior sanctity. And thus we might proceed almost ad infinitum. All these are human religions, invented by Satan, and palmed upon the world as the religion of God.

We have observed that the religion of man- be its form what it may- has ever kept at the remotest distance from the spiritual; every thing that brought the mind in contact with truth, and the conscience and the heart into close converse with itself and with God, it has studiously and carefully avoided- and thus it has evaded that state and condition of the moral man which constitutes the very soul of the religion of God- "the broken and contrite heart."

There is a sense in which the history of the world is the history of broken hearts. Were the epitaph of many over whose graves- those "mountain-peaks of a new and distant world" we thoughtlessly pass, faithfully inscribed upon the marble tablet that rears above them so proudly its beautifully chiseled form, it would be this- "Died of a Broken Heart." Worldly adversity, blighted hope, the iron heel of oppression, or the keen tongue of slander, crushed the sensitive spirit, and it fled where the rude winds blow not, and "where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest." Passing beyond the limit of time, we visit in imagination the gloomy precincts of the lost, and lo! we find that the abodes of the finally impenitent are crowded with weeping, mourning, despairing souls. Yes! there are broken hearts there- and there are tears there- and there is repentance there, such as the betrayer of his Lord felt, before he "went to his own place," -but, alas! it is the "sorrow of the world, which works death."

In all this worldly grief, there enters nothing of that element which gives its character and complexion to the sorrow of David- the broken and contrite heart, the sacrifice of God which he despises not. A man may weep, and a lost soul may despair, from the consequences of sin; but in that sorrow and in that despair there shall be no real heartfelt grief for sin itself, as a thing against a holy and a righteous God. But we are now to contemplate, not the broken spirit merely, but the contrite heart also- the sorrow of sincere repentance and deep contrition springing up in the soul for sin- its exceeding sinfulness and abomination in the sight of God.

The state which we have now in contemplation defines the first stage in conversion. The repentance which is enkindled in the heart at the commencement of the Divine life, may be legal and tending to bondage; nevertheless it is a spiritual, godly sorrow for sin, and is 'unto life.' The newly awakened and aroused sinner may at first see nothing of Christ, he may see nothing of the blood of atonement, and of God's great method of reconciliation with him, he may know nothing of faith in Jesus as the way of peace to his soul- yet, he is a true and sincere spiritual penitent. The tear of holy grief is in his eye- ah! we forget not with what ease some can weep; there are those the fountain of whose sensibility lies near the surface- an arousing discourse, an affecting book, a thrilling story, will quickly moisten the eye,but still we must acknowledge that the religion of Jesus is the religion of sensibility; that there is no godly repentance without feeling, and no spiritual contrition apart from deep emotion.

Yes! the tear of holy grief is in his eye; and if ever it is manly to weep, surely it is now, when for the first time the soul that had long resisted every appeal to its moral consciousness, is now smitten to the dust, the heart of adamant broken, and the lofty spirit laid low before the cross of Jesus. O it is a holy and a lovely spectacle, upon which angels, and the Lord of angels himself, must look with ineffable delight. Reader, have you reached this the primary stage in the great change of conversion? Have you taken this the first step in the soul's travel towards heaven? It is the knowledge of the disease which precedes the application to the remedy; it is the consciousness of the wound which brings you into contact with the Healer and the healing. O who, once having experienced the truth, would wish to escape this painful and humiliating process? who would refuse to drink the wormwood and the gall, if only along this path he could reach the sunlight spot where the smiles of a sin-pardoning God fall in focal glory and power? Who would not bare his bosom to the stroke, when the hand that plucks the dart and heals the wound, is the hand through whose palm the rough nail was driven- "wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities?" Who would not endure the uneasiness of sin, but to feel the rest that Jesus gives to the weary? and who would not experience the mourning for transgression, but to know the comfort which flows from the loving heart of Christ?

Again the question is put- has the Spirit of God revealed to you the inward plague, has he brought you just as you are to Jesus, to take your stand upon the doctrine of his unmerited, unpurchased mercy- asking for pardon as a beggar, praying for your discharge as a bankrupt, and beseeching him to take you as a homeless wanderer into the refuge of his loving and parental heart?


But the state of holy contrition which we are describing marks also a more advanced stage in the experience of the spiritual man; a stage which defines one of the most interesting periods of the Christian's life- the Divine restoring. David was a backslider. Deeply and grievously had he departed from God. But he was a restored backslider, and, in the portion we are now considering, we have the unfoldings of his sorrow-stricken, penitent, and broken heart, forming, perhaps, to some who read this page, the sweetest portion of God's word. But of the truth of this we are quite assured, that in proportion as we are brought into the condition of godly sorrow for sin, deep humiliation for our backslidings from God, our relapses, and declensions in grace, there is no portion of the sacred word that will so truly express the deep emotions of our hearts, no language so fitted to clothe the feelings of our souls, as this psalm of the royal penitent: "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your loving-kindness: according unto the multitude of your tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight: that you might be justified when you speak, and be clear when you judge."

Thus upon the altar of God he lays the sacrifice of a broken heart, and seems to exclaim, "Wretch that I am to have forsaken such a God, to have left such a Father, Savior and Friend. Has he ever been unto me a wilderness, a barren land? Never! Have I ever found him a broken cistern? Never! Has he ever proved to me unkind, unfaithful, untrue? Never! What! did not God satisfy me, had not Jesus enough for me, did not a throne of grace make me happy, that I should have turned my back upon such a God, should have forsaken such a bosom as Christ's, and slighted the spot where my heavenly Father had been so often wont to meet and commune with me? Lord! great has been my departure, grievous my sin, and now most bitter is my sorrow; here at your feet, upon your altar, red with the blood of your own sin-atoning sacrifice, I lay my poor, broken, contrite heart, and beseech you to accept and heal it."
"Behold, I fall before your face;
My only refuge is your grace.
No outward forms can make me clean,
The leprosy lies deep within."

Such is the holy contrition which the Spirit of God works in the heart of the restored believer. Such is the recovery of the soul from its spiritual and mournful relapse. Brought beneath the cross and in the sight of the crucified Savior, the heart is broken, the spirit is melted, the eye weeps, the tongue confesses, the bones that were broken rejoice, and the contrite child is once more clasped in his Father's forgiving, reconciled embrace. "He restores my soul," is his grateful and adoring exclamation. O what a glorious God is ours, and what vile wretches are we!

But there is one declaration of the royal penitent which enunciates a most precious truth- the Lord's especial regard for the broken and the contrite heart. "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." There are those by whom it is despised. Satan despises it- though he trembles at it. The world despises it- though it stands in awe of it. The Pharisee despises it- though he attempts its counterfeit. But there is one who despises it not. "YOU will not despise it," exclaims this penitent child, with his eye upon the loving heart of his God and Father. But why does God not only not despise it, but delights in and accepts it? Because he sees in it a holy and a fragrant sacrifice. It is a sacrifice, because it is offered to God, and not to man.

It is an oblation laid upon his altar. Moses never presented such an oblation- Aaron never offered such a sacrifice in all the gifts which he offered, in all the victims which he slew. And while some have cast their rich and splendid gifts into the treasury, or have laid them ostentatiously upon the altar of Christian benevolence, God has stood by the spot to which some poor penitent has brought his broken heart for sin, the incense of which has gone up before Him as a most precious and fragrant sacrifice. Upon that oblation, upon that gift, his eye has been fixed, as if one object, and one only, had arrested and absorbed his gaze- it was a poor, broken heart that lay bleeding and quivering upon His altar.

It is a sacrifice, too, offered upon the basis of the atoning sacrifice of his dear Son- the only sacrifice that satisfies Divine justice- and this makes it precious to God. So infinitely glorious is the atonement of Jesus, so divine, so complete, and so honoring to every claim of his moral government, that he accepts each sacrifice of prayer, of praise, of penitence, and of personal consecration, laid in faith by the side and upon that one infinite Sacrifice for sin.

He recognizes in it, too, the work of his own Spirit. When the Spirit of God moved upon the face of unformed nature, and a new world sprang into life, light, and beauty, he pronounced it very good. But what must be his estimate of that new creation which his Spirit has wrought in the soul, whose moral chaos he has reduced to life, light, and order! If God so delighted in the material and the perishable creation, how deep and ineffable must be his delight in the spiritual and the imperishable creation! If such his satisfaction at a new-born world, destined so soon to be marred by sin, and smitten by the curse, and consumed by the flames- what do you think must be his satisfaction in beholding a world springing from its ruins, whose purity sin shall never deface, whose loveliness no curse shall ever blight, and whose duration shall survive in ever-growing and imperishable beauty and grandeur the destruction of all worlds!

But in what way does God evince his satisfaction with, and his delight in, the broken and contrite heart? We answer- first, by the manifestation of his power in healing it. There are two portions of God's word in which this truth is strikingly brought out. "He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds." The office of Jesus as a Divine healer is with signal beauty set forth- "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted." Never did a physician more delight to display his skill, or exercise the benevolent feelings of his nature in the alleviation of suffering, than does Jesus in his work of binding up, soothing and healing the heart broken for sin, by speaking a sense of pardon, and applying to it the balsam of his own most precious blood. But our Lord not only heals the contrite heart, but as if heaven had not sufficient attraction as his dwelling-place, he comes down to earth and makes that heart his abode: "Thus says the Lord, To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word." And again, "Thus says the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."

What, dear, humble penitent, could give you such a view of the interest which Christ takes in your case- the delight with which he contemplates your contrition, and the welcome and the blessing which he is prepared to bestow upon you, on your casting yourself down at his feet, no, in throwing yourself in his very arms, wide expanded to receive you, than this fact, that he waits to make that sorrow-stricken heart of yours his chief and loved abode- reviving it, healing it, and enshrining himself forever within its renewed and sanctified affections.

Thus we have attempted to describe the twofold process by which the lapsed state of the inner life is arrested and restored- this process, as we have shown, consisting in the knowledge which the believer entertains of the real state of the spiritual life in his soul, and then in the godly sorrow, the holy contrition, which that discovery produces. What more shall we say? One thing only. Be your state what it may, seek, cherish, and cultivate constantly and habitually, a broken heart for sin. Think not that it is a work which once done is to be done no more. Deem it not a primary stage in your spiritual journey, which once reached, never again occurs in your celestial progress. O no! As in the natural life we enter the world weeping and leave it weeping, so in the spiritual life- we begin it in tears of godly sorrow for sin, and we terminate it in tears of godly sorrow for sin- passing away to that blessed state of sinlessness where God will wipe away all tears from our eyes.

The indwelling of all evil- the polluting nature of the world along which we journey- our constant exposure to temptations of every kind- the many occasions on which we yield to those temptations- the perpetual developments of sin unseen, unknown, even unsuspected by others- the defilement which attaches itself to all that we put our hands to, even the most spiritual and holy and heavenly- the consciousness of what a holy God must every moment see in us- all, all these considerations should lead us to cherish that spirit of lowliness and contrition, self-abhorrence and self-renunciation, inward mortification and outward humility of deportment, which belong to, and which truly prove the existence of, the life of God in our souls.

And what, too, prompts a constant traveling to the atoning blood- what endears the Savior who shed that blood? What is it that makes his flesh food indeed, and his blood drink indeed? What is it that keeps the conscience tender and clean? What enables the believer to walk with God as a dear child? O it is the secret contrition of the lowly spirit, springing from a view of the cross of Jesus, and through the cross leading to the heart of God.

Your religion, dear reader, is a vain religion, if there enters not into it the essential element of a broken and a contrite heart for sin. With Job you may have heard of Jesus, "with the hearing of the ear," but not with him, have "abhorred yourself, and repented in dust and in ashes." Oh! with all your gettings, get, I beseech you, a broken heart for sin. God can have no transactions with you in the great matter of your soul's salvation, but as he sees you prostrate at his feet in repentance, humiliation, and confession. He will only deal with you for the stupendous blessings of pardon, justification, and adoption, in the character and posture of a broken-hearted sinner, urging your suit through the mediation of a broken-hearted Savior. He can negotiate only on those terms which justify and magnify the stupendous sacrifice of his only-begotten and well-beloved Son.

If, then, you value your eternal interests, if you cherish any proper regard for the final happiness of your soul- if you wish to escape the wrath to come- the undying worm, the quenchless flame, the unutterable, interminable torments of the lost- if you shrink from the risk, the almost certain risk, involved in the circumstances of your final sickness, and a dying hour- then repent, repent sincerely, repent deeply, repent evangelically, repent- NOW! For, "God NOW commands all men everywhere to REPENT, because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness."

Backsliding Christian! Do you feel within your heart the kindlings of godly sorrow? Are you mourning over your wandering, loathing the sin that drew you from Christ, that grieved his Spirit, and wounded your own peace? Are you longing to feed again in the green pastures of the flock, and by the side of the Shepherd of the flock, assured once more that you are a true sheep, belonging to the one fold, known by, and precious to, the heart of Him who laid down his life for the sheep? Then approach the altar of Calvary, and upon it lay the sacrifice of a broken and a contrite heart, and your God will accept it. The door of your return stands open- the pierced heart of Jesus. The golden scepter that bids you approach is extended- the outstretched hand of a pacified Father. The banquet is ready, and the minstrels are tuning their harps to celebrate the return from your wanderings to your Father's heart and home, with the gladness of feasting, and with the voice of thanksgiving and of melody!

"Return, O wanderer, return!
And seek an injured Father's face;
Those warm desires that in you burn
Were kindled by recovering grace.
"Return, O wanderer, return!
Your Savior bids your spirit live;
Go to his bleeding side, and learn
How freely Jesus can forgive.
"Return, O wanderer, return!
Regain your lost lamented rest;
Jehovah's melting affections yearn
To clasp his Ephraim to his breast."

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Prayer For Monday

Here is a good prayer to get our work week going:

"O Gracious and Holy Father
Give us Wisdom to perceive Thee,
Diligence to seek Thee,
Patience to wait for Thee,
Eyes to behold Thee,
A heart to meditate upon Thee,
And a life to proclaim Thee;
Through the power of the
Spirit of Jesus Christ
Our Lord. Amen"

Benedict of Nursia

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Our Prayers Really Do Matter

Good afternoon all. The Baptist General Conference has a annual publication called "My Daily Prayer Guide" Here are some words on page three of the 2005 edition that remind us prayer is vital for the kingdom of God to expand...

“The work of missions calls for an extraordinary support system. God releases His power, lives change and missions work advances when people pray. Pray is no ordinary job. Your prayers combined with those of others make a powerful difference in lives.”

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Back from a Hunting Trip

Good afternoon. I returned yesterday from a four day hunting trip in central Nebraska. Bob (a friend from church) and I hunted deer along the Middle Loup River near Boelus, NE. Has anyone ever heard of Boelus, NE? I had a couple of opportunities to be alone outside for hours at a time. While my eyes were looking for big bucks to appear, I was able to pray and worship the Lord God--the creator and sustainer of all things and life.

I am back in the office today. I am physically tired, but spiritually I am refreshed because of the time in prayer.

Brothers and sisters in Jesus, we need to be intentional in our prayer times. May the Holy Spirit refresh us and the church across North America.


Friday, November 10, 2006

John Piper on Prayer

What to Pray For
November 10, 2006
By John Piper

Read this resource on our website.

If you are like me, you find that from time to time your prayer life needs a jolt out of the rut it has fallen into. We tend to use the same phrases over and over. We tend to default to worn out phrases (like the word default). We fall into patterns of mindless repetition.

The devil hates prayer. Our own flesh does not naturally love it. Therefore, it does not come full-born and complete and passionate from the womb of our heart. It takes ever renewed discipline.

Years ago, when I wrote Let the Nations Be Glad, I argued that prayer is a wartime walkie-talkie, not a domestic intercom. God is more like a general in Command Central than a butler waiting to bring you another pillow in the den. Of course, he is also Father, Lover, Friend, Physician, Shepherd, Helper, King, Savior, Lord, Counselor. But in this fallen “world with devils filled,” prayer will function best when we keep the frequency tuned to Command Central in the fight of faith.

So when I wrote that book, I gathered into one place all the things the early church prayed for. I printed this out for myself, and it has proven to be one of those “jolts” that I need. I thought you might find it helpful. You might want to print it out and keep it for a while in your Bible to guide you in your praying.

It is a great confidence-builder in prayer to know that you are not quirky in your praying. To pray what the New Testament prays is a safe and powerful way to pray.

Prayer remains one of the great and glorious mysteries of the universe—that the all-knowing, all-wise, all-sovereign God should ordain to run his world in response to our prayers is mind-boggling. But that is the uniform witness of Scripture. God hears and answers the prayers of his people. O do not neglect this amazing way of influencing nations and movements and institutions and churches and people’s hearts, especially your own.

If you want to pray for what the early church prayed for . . .

Pray that God would exalt his name in the world.

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6:9)

Pray that God would extend his kingdom in the world.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

Pray that the gospel would speed ahead and be honored.

Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you. (2 Thessalonians 3:1)

Pray for the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:13; cf. Ephesians 3:19)

Pray that God would vindicate his people in their cause.

And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? (Luke 18:7 rsv)

Pray that God would save unbelievers.

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. (Romans 10:1)

Pray that God would direct the use of the sword.

Take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. (Ephesians 6:17-18)

Pray for boldness in proclamation.

Praying at all times in the Spirit . . . and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel. (Ephesians 6:18-19)

And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness. (Acts 4:29)

Pray for signs and wonders.

And now, Lord, . . . grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness . . . while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus. (Acts 4:29-30)

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. (James 5:17-18)

Pray for the healing of wounded comrades.

Let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. (James 5:14-15)

Pray for the healing of unbelievers.

It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him. (Acts 28:8)

Pray for the casting out of demons.

And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” (Mark 9:29)

Pray for miraculous deliverances.

So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church . . . When he realized [he had been freed], he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. (Acts 12:5, 12)

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake. (Acts 16:25-26)

Pray for the raising of the dead.

But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, rise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. (Acts 9:40)

Pray that God would supply his troops with necessities.

Give us this day our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11)

Pray for strategic wisdom.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)

Pray that God would establish leadership in the outposts.

And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. (Acts 14:23)

Pray that God would send out reinforcements.

Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (Matthew 9:38)

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:2-3)

Pray for the success of other missionaries.

I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints. (Romans 15:30-31)

Pray for unity and harmony in the ranks.

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21)

Pray for the encouragement of togetherness.

We pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith. (1 Thessalonians 3:10)

Pray for a mind of discernment.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. (Philippians 1:9-10)

Pray for a knowledge of his will.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. (Colossians 1:9)

Pray to know God better.

[We have not ceased to pray for you to be] increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10; cf. Ephesians 1:17)

Pray for power to comprehend the love of Christ.

I bow my knees before the Father . . . [that you] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. (Ephesians 3:14, 18-19)

Pray for a deeper sense of assured hope.

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers . . . that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. (Ephesians 1:16, 18)

Pray for strength and endurance.

[We have not ceased to pray for you to be] strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy. (Colossians 1:11; cf. Ephesians 3:16)

Pray deeper sense of his power within them.

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers . . . that you may know . . . what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe. (Ephesians 1:16, 18-19)

Pray that your faith not be destroyed.

I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren. (Luke 22:32)

But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:36)

Pray for greater faith.

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24; cf. Ephesians 3:17)

Pray that you might not fall into temptation.

Lead us not into temptation. (Matthew 6:13)

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41)

Pray that God would complete your good resolves.

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power. (2 Thessalonians 1:11)

Pray that you would do good works.

[We have not ceased to pray for you that you] walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work. (Colossians 1:10)

Pray for the forgiveness of your sins.

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)

Pray for protection from the evil one.

Deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:13)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

My God, How Wonderful Thou Art

In 1849, Frederick William Faber wrote the hymn, "My God, How Wonderful Thou Art". Notice in the last stanza that it looks into the future when our worship will be perfect in heaven.

Yet, in the meantime, we can gaze and pray and cry out to him.

Have a great day. Bryan

My God, how wonderful thou art,
thy majesty how bright,
how beautiful thy mercy seat,
in depths of burning light!

How dread are thine eternal years,
O everlasting Lord,
by prostrate spirits day and night
incessantly adored!

How wonderful, how beautiful,
the sight of thee must be,
thine endless wisdom, boundless power,
and aweful purity!

O how I fear thee, living God,
with deepest, tenderest fears,
and worship thee with trembling hope
and penitential tears!

Yet I may love thee too, O Lord,
almighty as thou art,
for thou hast stooped to ask of me
the love of my poor heart.

No earthly father loves like thee,
no mother, e'er so mild,
bears and forbears as thou hast done
with me, thy sinful child.

Father of Jesus, love's reward,
what rapture it will be,
prostrate before thy throne to lie,
and gaze and gaze on thee!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Fasting Day in the Baptist General Conference

Good Morning. Today is not only Election Day, but as the first Tuesday of the month, it is also a day of fasting in the Baptist General Conference. Included in this month's section in the "Prayer & Fasting Guide" are words by E.M. Bounds on the importance of quality praying...

"To pray is the greatest thing we can do: and to do it well there must be calmness, time, and deliberation; otherwise it is degraded into the littlest and meanest of things. True praying has the largest results for good; and poor praying, the least. We cannot do too much of real praying; we cannot do too little of the sham. We must learn anew the worth of prayer, enter anew the school of prayer. There is nothing which it takes more time to learn. And if we would learn the wondrous art, we must not give a fragment here and there -- "A little talk with Jesus," as the tiny saintlets sing -- but we must demand and hold with iron grasp the best hours of the day for God and prayer, or there will be no praying worth the name." (Power Through Prayer, p. 24-26).

May the Lord send revival to North America!


Monday, November 06, 2006

Ted Haggard and the Rest of Us

Good Afternoon:

No doubt many of us are saddened with the recent events concerning Ted Haggard. But as a fellow pastor, I must be careful to point fingers and judge because no one is immune to the effects of sin. Yes, as followers of Jesus, our old nature has been crucified with Jesus, and praise the Lord, we have been freed from the power and slavery of sin. Yet, the remnants of corruption and sin remain. Daily, it is a battle to be holy.

Let us pray for Ted and his family and his church. Let us also pray that revival will come to our nation. Below is a fairly long (yet helpful) response by Tim Charlies ( as fellow followers of Jesus Christ...

"By now you have heard of the scandal involving Ted Haggard. Reaction to the news has ranged from sympathy to disgust, from support to condemnation. The media has dedicated a lot of attention to this story, though they seem to be writing about it as just another news story rather than something that is somehow bigger or more significant than any other story. Watchbloggers are out in force, like homeschool moms at a book sale, swarming and trampling. To this point I have refrained from mentioning the issue for reasons related primarily to my own lack of sanctification. But I feel now that I can speak out with some legitimacy.

Until this week I knew very little about Ted Haggard. I had heard his name a few times and even received a book of his from a publisher not too long ago (though I chose not to read it). Here in Canada we receive little news coverage of evangelical churches and leaders and I'm quite sure that, until this week, his name has never been mentioned in the Canadian media. Even now, the main pages of Canadian news sites have no mention of the story. And yet I realize that he is obviously an important individual who founded what has become a huge and important church and led an organization representing millions of Americans. Of greatest consequence, Haggard is a brother in Christ.

Like many of you, when I first heard the news of this scandal I wanted to know more. I wanted to know details and to have the whole story of his immorality printed before me. I wanted the lurid and gossipy details. Some sick and depraved part of me wanted to know it all, no doubt so I could compare myself to him and account myself somehow superior to him. Thankfully, this was but my first instinct and was obviously the desires of the "old man," the part of me that delights in all that is evil and contrary to God. God was good to show me that I should not long after such things.

What I felt next was little better. I felt pity. This was not true sympathy, but pity that Haggard could be such a sinner; such a depraved individual. I felt sorry for a guy who could desire something so base, so sinful. Who would want to use meth? Who could feel that type of homosexual desire? I don't understand such urges! I felt comfortable in my moral superiority and in my greater sanctification. I felt proud that I was not one of those guys whose life was such a far cry from his profession of faith.

And then I watched the video of Haggard being interviewed in front of his home. I'd encourage you to watch the video too, focusing on Haggard, watching his eyes, watching his face. You can find the link here. Remember as you watch that this is not a film and he is not an actor. This is a real man with a real life, a real soul, and real emotions. And now watch it again, but this time watch his wife, sitting immediately beside him. And not only that, but consider that sitting behind him are three of his children. The children sit silently while the reporter asks dad if he has done meth and if he has ever had sex with a man.

And then realize that, as we explored earlier this week in a discussion about total depravity, there is really no difference between you and Haggard or between myself and Haggard. We are all totally depraved with our sin extending to every aspect of our being. There but for the grace of God go I. There but for the grace of God go you. While I would not expect a reporter to approach me if I were to fall into similar sin, I can only imagine the pain of having to sit in front of my children, my wife, and answer questions about whether or not I have had sex with a man or admitting that I purchased illegal drugs. It's horrible. It's terrifying. That could be my wife, wondering how I could do this to her, wondering if she can ever trust me again, wondering if she can ever love me again. Those could be my kids, hearing the lurid details of dad's depravity. Those could be my kids, trying bravely not to cry as they walk into school on Monday morning, knowing that everyone knows, knowing that life will never be the same.

I went from wanting to know details, to feeling pity to feeling terror to pleading with God to continue to extend His grace to me that I would not fall. Jonathan Edwards, in his most famous sermon, spoke about God's sovereignty and how, at any given moment, it is only the sovereign grace of God that keeps Him from ending a person's life. Marsden writes, "The subject of the sermon is that at this very moment God is holding sinners in his hands, delaying the awful destruction that their rebellion deserves." Edwards said, "You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his price: and yet 'tis nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment: 'tis to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night...but that God's hand has held you up: there is no other reason to be given why you han't gone to hell since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship: yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you don't this very moment drop down into hell. Oh sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in." What is true of eternity, is equally true of the temporal. Just as nothing but God's hand keeps both Christian and non-Christian from death at any given moment, the same hand is all that restrains any of us from falling into sin as dreadful as Haggard's, or sin that is far worse.

Paul's exhortation of 1 Corinthians 10:12 has been much on my mind this weekend. "Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall." Oh, that God would keep me from relying more on my effort and less on His grace. I pray and beg and plead that His grace would continue to extended to me that I would take heed, that I would continue to fill my heart with His Words of life.

There are some who are seeking to make this issue into something almost prophetic, as if it is indicative of the state of evangelicalism. "The Reformed Gadfly," whose post was endorsed by Slice of Laodicea writes, "I'm sick and tired of being associated with a 'Christianity' that does not seem to care one whit about holiness or obedience to God's Word. Let me say this as perfectly clear as I can: I believe that 'Christianity' in America is nearly totally apostate. Why? We have abandoned the vision of the Holiness and Fear of God. We've built a false god that will cater to our flesh and meet our 'felt needs'. Our real need? Repentance. But we don't want to go there. We live in Laodicea. No apologies. Cut and dried. Stuff like this can only happen because contemporary Christianity is rotten to the core."

No, no, no! Stuff like this happens because we are rotten to the core! Stuff like this happens because I am rotten to the core. Oh, that we would all take heed! How can we be sick and tired of being associated with other sinners? I am the greatest sinner I know and can only delight to be in the presence of other sinners, others with whom I can share God's grace and from whom I can learn more about God's grace. The Christian I am most sick and tired of being associated with me, for my sin is before me always! Every day I have to peer into my dark heart and beg God for forgiveness. Every day I see again how my heart is dark and black and awful and filled with emnity towards God. Every day I see in my heart that I am no different than Ted Haggard. But for the grace of God I would do so much more and so much worse. Take heed. I sit here and weep for Haggard and his family and his church, but selfishly, I weep even more for myself, knowing that I, too, could be in such a situation. What is in Haggard is in me. What is in me is in you. But for the grace of God...

Despite all the darkness and the grief, this situation gives me some hope and some cause to rejoice. New Life Church seems to have handled this situation very well. I know nothing of the church beyond what has appeared in the news and what Phillip Ryken wrote of it at the Reformation21 blog. "I visited New Life Church when it was in its popular ascendancy about a decade ago. The strongest impression I had on that particular Sunday was a palpable absence of the gospel -- lots of feel-good worship and moralistic exhortation to lead a good life, but little in the way of a biblical message of repentance for sin and grace in Christ. Yet this is the only gospel that can save any of us who are guilty of scandalous sins." They have certainly moved quickly and decisively in this situation, examining the evidence and taking swift action in removing Haggard from his position of authority. This seems like the right thing to do based on their conclusion that "Our investigation and Pastor Haggard's public statements have proven without a doubt that he has committed sexually immoral conduct." This was good to see and bodes well for the church. I hope this situation strengthens the church, causing its members to look long and hard at their own lives.

But there is more reason to hope. Bill Kinnon pointed out to me the subject of Haggard's sermon just one week ago. Haggard preached "from 1 Samuel 16 on God's preparation for the removal of one King, Saul, with his replacement, David. An interesting passage to cover in a church where the leadership model more closely resembled Kings and Chronicles, than that of New Testament leadership. The preacher was speaking about the forthcoming US midterm elections. Talking about how God removes some leaders and replaces them with others. One might see the preaching as prophetic for the events in the last week." Mere seconds into the sermon, Haggard prayed that lies and deception would be exposed. "Father, we pray that lies would be exposed. We pray that deception would be exposed." I can but hope that Haggard's prayer was sincere and that God took him at his word, answering his prayer. I can only hope that Haggard realizes this and turns to God in full repentance.

And I can only hope that, when you and I ask God to answer our prayers and to save us from our sin, to unmask the sin that haunts us, that He will be so swift to answer. I sometimes hesitate to ask God that he will deal with the sin in my life in whatever way He deems necessary to get me to actually change my ways. And yet, in my best moments, I ask Him to do anything necessary, no matter how difficult, no matter how humiliating, to draw me closer to Him and to mold me ever more into His image. If I've been intimidated before, I will be even more so now. And yet I see that He can and will answer.

If we look to Ted Haggard as a representative of all that is wrong in Evangelicalism, I think we miss the most important lesson. The lesson we need to learn is that we are every bit as sinful and fallible and willful and depraved as Haggard; perhaps more so. It is only the grace of God that, like a spider being held over the flame by a nearly-invisible web, prevents me from giving in to all the sin that is in me and being dragged down by it. Oh, that He would continue to extend this grace! And oh, that I would take heed lest I, too, fall, for what is in Haggard is in me."

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Work of God and Our Prayers

Why do we need to pray? Because God is still working in the world and in the lives of people around us. Abraham Joshua Heschel put it this way...

"The universe is done. The greater masterpiece, still undone,
still in the process of being created, is history.
For accomplishing His grand design God needs the help of man."

Have a great weekend in worship and prayer and fellowship with God's people


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Are we novice prayers?

Thomas Merton reminds us that even though we do not remain as beginners in our prayer life, there is to be a sense of child-like humility before God: "We do not want to be beginners (at prayer). But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything but beginners, all our life!"

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Do we Protest or Pray?

Good Morning. In this week's edition of Revival Link, Dan Puckett asked if Americans should protest or pray as we approach election day.

"It is easy to get caught up in claiming and defending rights. The Declaration of Independence of these United States was based on certain assumed inalienable rights granted by the Creator. The claiming of those rights led to a revolt and the establishment of a nation unparalleled since the reigns of ancient kings who ruled with absolute authority.

There is some tension between what the Bible teaches and the patterns of defending and protecting a lifestyle. In the Old Testament, we see God as the mighty enabler and protector. God's people were ordered into battles and gained victory with the help of God. On an occasion when the people of Israel were journeying from Egypt to Canaan, the people of Amalek came against them in battle (Exodus 17:8). Moses assembled the men to go fight while he took the rod of God up on a hill. As long as Moses held his hands up, Israel prevailed. When the hands of Moses fell from weariness, the enemy prevailed. Aaron and Hur held up the hands of Moses and God routed the people of Amalek before them (Exodus 17:9-13).

Time and again we see in scripture that God used the sword to spread and enhance the kingdom of Israel, or at times God Himself empowered the sword of Israel's enemies to bring harsh judgment on His people.

There are promises and patterns in scripture that when God's people honor and obey Him, they are blessed, but when they rebel and forsake God, judgment comes.

So the question is, should we protest or pray?

One thing is clear: God is in control and He is active in setting up and putting down authority. The New Testament book of Romans declares in chapter 13, verses 1-2, "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves."

A protest held within the confines of the law is not rebellion, but would that same energy be better used in prayer? The Apostle Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy, chapter 2, verses 1-2, "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence."

We know that in repressive regimes the gospel flourishes and multitudes come to Christ in salvation. Some of the most vibrant churches are those operating underground. We must never discount the power of God to accomplish His purpose in difficult circumstances.

Protest or pray? It seems in America that protests and the attendant undermining of authority have become part of the political process. It is not against the law of the land, but such practices may not serve the overall good.

There are good leaders and there are bad leaders. God does not distinguish; we are to pray for all of them. Go back to 1 Timothy, chapter 2. We are told to come before God with "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks for kings and all who are in authority." It is difficult to pour out your heart for a person one minute and publicly ridicule them the next. We all have our champions of rhetoric and we applaud them when they cleverly expose and put down leaders we do not like, but should we entertain such talk about someone we have just prayed for?

Protest or pray? Both! God has promised us in 2 Chronicles, chapter 7, verse 14, "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

Cry out to God about wickedness, petition Him for mercy, and vote. That is the proper protest.