Faux Rap

The local religious radio station seems to be playing a new genera of music since I was last here two years ago. For want of a better term, I guess I can call it faux rap. It’s kind of like rap with it’s driving rhythm but does usually have 3-5 different notes. The singer also screams. Not only does it strain the voice but you get the distinct impression that the singer is angry. It made me wonder how God felt being yelled at like that. Nevertheless, one “song” at least does have some pretty decent words:

Indescribable”

From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea
Creation’s revealing Your majesty
From the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring
Every creature unique in the song that it sings
All exclaiming

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
All powerful, untamable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God

Who has told every lightning bolt where it should go
Or seen heavenly storehouses laden with snow
Who imagined the sun and gives source to its light
Yet conceals it to bring us the coolness of night
None can fathom

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
All powerful, untamable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God

Incomparable, unchangeable
You see the depths of my heart and You love me the same
You are amazing God
You are amazing God”

[Lyrics from “Indescribable” by Chris Tomlin]

See it for yourself at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmTxZAl7ceU

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Products

I happened upon a bookstore and decided to count all the kinds of Bibles in the “Christian religion” section. Would you believe 84??!! I should have written them down: Women’s Bible, Men”s Bible, Archeological Bible, Teen Girl’s Bible, Teen Boy’s Bible, etc. If I go again, I will have to write them down. It is overwhelming, and this wasn’t even a Christian book store! I wonder how many the`Christian book store would have???

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Churches

Having recently arrived back in the country of my birth, I wondered what the church scene would be like these days . Here are some notes….

Church 1 10-21-07

This was a church I had seen on the internet and thought I’d go early enough to get in on the Sunday School. I was a couple minutes late, and even later when I had to run out to the car to get my reading glasses! (That was actually a good start – when was the last time you needed to read anything in church???!)

The Sunday school class was full, probably 50-60 people. They were going thru 2 Cor and were on chapter 5:10. This was not a discussion group on what people thought that verse meant to them. It was the pastor going through it, having people look up cross references or other verses related. And a few other people did volunteer verses or make comments. But the whole focus was to discover what the passage meant to the original audience in its context. The topic also seemed to be “will Christians be judged according to their deeds?” (The answer is yes.)

Sunday school was about an hour, then they had a half hour to “fellowship” with coffee, tea, juice for the kids and donuts. A bunch of kids appeared from somewhere and of course made bee-lines to the donut table. People stood around in small clumps and seemed to be in intense discussions and seemed to be enjoying themselves. A couple people did notice that I had no name tag and thus must be a visitor and talked to me a little. About 10:25 somebody started flicking the lights off and on as a signal that it was time to go upstairs. To get upstairs you go up ramps, no stairs at all, a nice touch which may in part explain the number of elderly. The sanctuary was pretty full, I’d guess about 300 people. Many were 50+ but many also younger and there were also some families with kids. They had the mandatory “worship team” and overhead. But their “worship team” was a mixed group, a couple of senior citizen and a couple of younger ones – imagine! – one acoustic guitar and no drums. The music was great, right up my alley, and I actually knew most of the songs! Several people raised their hands during some of the singing but it was not a requirement. There was a guy who seemed to be a one-man band – he sometimes played flute, sometimes trumpet, and I think he had a sax also. They had an offering and announcements but the centerpiece was the preaching. I understand that there are 3 guys who take turns preaching and each one is preaching thru a different book of the Bible. Today was the senior pastor, the one who did Sunday school and his passage was Luke 9:1-17. Again, like Sunday school, he just went verse by verse thru the passage making reference to other passages that related to it. He also made some comments on thematic stuff in Luke, ie that a series of authoritative people made statments about Jesus that showed His nature. At the end he spend about 10-15 minutes talking about implications and applications. 1) God is committed to take care for His own people 2) God has promised a lavish messianic banquet for all His people 3)Those who are not prepared will be excluded. Then he followed with a brief presentation of the gospel.

Church 2 10-28-07

This week I was over jet lag so decided I could drive further and managed to get to this church of which I am technically still a member. Where do I start? Maybe I should list the positives: the church is on the university campus and about 60-80% of the congregation are international students. There were at least 100 present, up significantly from 2 years ago. The pastor has stuck around now for 6 years or so. Most attendees were Asian but some European and African too. It was communion Sunday and the pastor made a point about the wine and bread being symbols and also said up front that those who were not Christians need not take it. They had a breakfast of boiled eggs and bread before Sunday school and often have a soup lunch after the service. Today they had birthday cake instead. They did a very good job of welcoming new people and inviting them to other activities or hooking them up with others. The sermon was part of a series on the beatitudes.

The nursery is very well stocked with toys, cribs, etc.

I didn’t know any of the songs, but oh well. They had the apparently now mandatory “worship band” and overhead.

As for the not so positives, oh my. The Sunday school classes to choose from included a study of Mark in special English for new foreign students and those who are inquirers. One was a Purpose Driven discussion group which I ended up in, oh my! Another was studying a book by Dallas Willard called “Renovation of the Heart”, oh my. Looking at the bulletin was a mix too. In amongst a prayer meeting and various Bible study groups, was an afternoon “inner healing prayer teaching” video, Tuesday and Wednesday a Lectio Divina, – “Ancient form of listening to God”. The sermon had some good parts but was pushing “spiritual disciplines” and he associated each beatitude with a “spiritual discipline”. Today’s beatitude was “peacemakers’ and the spiritual discipline was “evangelism”. I never did figure out how they were related. As too often is the case with main line church services, they tend to allude and hint and rarely come right out and say anything plainly – leaving a lot up to the listener’s own imagination.

I feel rather like I’ve been in a center for people with ADD, there was plenty of activity and you were rushed along from one thing to the next. (But maybe I’m still in jetlag??) Good stuff mixed right in with the mind woggling. The guy leading the Purpose Driven class was trying to convince us that we should want to be be robots for God. Sorry. If God wanted robots He would have created them.

It was a rather exhausting day.

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Thoughts on God’s sovereignty

God’s Sovereignty

I have been pondering the sovereignty of God lately. I was listening to a sermon where the peacher was saying how we so often think God has a “perfect will” for our lives in big things like who we marry, where we go to school, what job we take, what house we buy etc. and we agonize over these decisions and later always wonder if somehow we missed it. Yet we tend to think that the little things of life are less of a big deal. Yet, time and time again, it is those little things that determine the course of history. Like, the cry of a baby long ago from the rushes at the side of the Nile River. That baby’s cry led to the finding of Moses, and from there the world was changed. Last month a bridge fell. Amazingly few people were killed in what could have been SO much worse. Many people who were on the bridge or who might ordinarily have been on the bridge at that time commented on the little things that happened that day – a colleague running late picking them up. Working a little late to get a computer virus off a machine. Getting sick and having to call in sick for work that evening. Heavy traffic causing them to get stuck up waiting a second time at a red light. An impulsive decison to take a different route. A bus load of children stopping a very few feet from the edge of the break, not crashing into the burning truck next to it nor going off the edge on the other side.

I have been reading through the book of Isaiah recently. If there is one message there, it is of the sovereignty of God. God Himself is directly quoted in much of the book. His message is loud and clear – He hates sin and will punish it. He is holy. Yet He also determined that a way of salvation would be available for the whole world. He is loving, compassionate, and merciful. He is the Creator and has the power and authority to do as He wants to. His plans from long ago cannot be thwarted and will happen. He will even raise up people to accomplish His will who do not know Him. He will punish, yet restore. “that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other,” (Is 45:6) “And all flesh will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Is 49:26b)

Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” It doesn’t say that all things are good. But all things works together for good. And Who else could coordinate all the little things in all the people’s lives in all of history?

A friend recently shared some hard truths about her marriage. Their adult children confronted them, told them bluntly that their relationship to each other, which is admittedly full of conflict, has been hard on them as children, is hard on other people and does not honor God. Have they considered just getting a divorce. The husband/father responded, “But I promised I would never divorce her.” To which their son-in-law in tears responded, “But is that what you should promise? Or should it be that you promised to love her and cherish her no matter what, even to the point of sacrificing yourself?” Ouch. She sadly commented to me that she and her husband have not even talked to each other about that meeting with their kids.

It is true, my friend’s relationship with her husband is stormy, many public outbursts that are embarassing indeed for others around them. From a human perspective, especially from a 21st century Western perspective, why keep it up? The kids are grown and on their own, why keep up the charade? But yet, from God’s perspective, all things work together for good. It doesn’t mean all things are good. They are not. And it certainly doesn’t mean everything is easy – it most assuredly is not. Yet, is it possible that in this stormy relationship, God is fulfilling His good purposes? Is it possible that the friction over money is God’s way of trying to point out to the one his irresponsibility in caring for those God put in his care? Is He trying to point out to the other that her trust should be in Him and not in earthly security? Is it possible God is trying to show the one his laziness and self-centeredness and the other her manipulative ways and self-centeredness? Is it possible He is trying to teach the one to look honestly at himself and his own sins and see himself as God sees him, rather than always justifying himself and blaming others for everything? Is He trying to teach the other to forgive and to not hold grudges in the same way that He has forgiven her and is not holding grudges? And is He possibly also teaching lessons to their children, and to us their friends and colleagues?

Does God put each of us in the crucible best suited to separating the dross from the gold?

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Hermaneutics

I think that’s Old English for “How to Interpret the Bible”! Anyway, check out Twin City Fellowship http://twincityfellowship.com/hermeneutics.php for a free 10-session downloadable course on how to interpret the Bible. You will be amazed!

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Sabbath ponderings

A couple of weeks ago I was working with people from three different language groups south of here. They were all trying to translate the 10 commandments into their languages. Although all three language groups have many Christians, they are from an animistic background and many of their neighbors are still animists. They found that nobody really knew what the “sabbath” meant, not even church people. So we discussed ways of translating it that would be meaningful, like “Resting Day” or “Stopping Day”. That was okay. But what do you do with “Remember the sabbath and keep it holy”? What exactly is a “holy” day? They do not have words for “holy”. In some contexts one could use “clean” if the meaning was understood to be “free from sin”. And earlier we had talked about a “holy mountain” and a holy place” in Exodus chapter 3. Mt Horeb is referred to as the “holy mountain” or “the mountain of God”. That gives the idea of the place being “holy” because God appears there. So when Moses was commanded to take off his shoes because the ground was “holy”, it was because he was in the presence of God.

But what does it mean to keep a day “holy”? Certainly “clean” or “free from sin” doesn’t fit here – that would imply you were free to sin on the other 6 days! A day when God appears? Not exactly. They were suggesting things like “go to church” or “a day to meet with God”. “a day to worship God”, “a day to pray and praise God”. But when you think about it, none of those things were specifically commanded. All are certainly good things to do, but none is really complete. I suppose if God had given a list of specifics undoubtedly the corrupt heart of man would have reasoned that do those things and tick them off and you’re done! No, it’s not that easy. The essence of keeping the sabbath holy is an attitude of mind. If you set the day apart as holy you may do many or all of those things. But neither are those things limited to the sabbath. You should pray and praise God EVERY day. You should meet with God EVERY day. EVERY day should be a sin-free day! Here the meaning is to make the day special in order to honor God. To stop working because you honor God. He commanded it, and He rested Himself giving us an example to follow. A “holy” day here means a special day, a day set aside, dedicated to God. All He actually commanded was to rest. To cease from daily labor. Why? As a reminder of the covenant between God and the Israelites. As a reminder that He had created the world in 6 days and then rested. To honor Him as their God, they observed the sabbath.

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Send the poor to the poor?

An interesting comment the other day by a guy from one of the ends of the earth. They had just done a devotional on Elijah how during a drought God had sent him to a poor widow of Zarephath. (1 Kings 17:8ff) The man asked, “Why would God send a poor prophet to be taken care of by a poor widow? If I sent my son to the city to go to school, I would look for a family that was well off for him to stay with. Why didn’t God sent Elijah to a family that was better off?”

Why indeed? Years later Elisha stayed with just such a family, the Shunnamite woman who provided him with his own furnished room.

Perhaps God sent Elijah to a poor woman so that His provision would be more clearly seen. If only the rich help others, then they get all the blessing. Maybe too, when the rich help, they are often just relying on their wealth and not on God to provide, whereas the poor woman had to trust God to provide the wherewithal for her to feed the prophet.

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On Death

This is from a recent thought-provoking post by Dan Phillips on http://teampyro.blogspot.com/

……I read a book on ministering pastorally to cancer patients. It historically traced the attitude folks used to have towards dying. I learned that our forefathers’ attitude was not the same as ours today

Most of us, I presume, would say that we do not so much fear death as we fear dying. We fear a dehumanizing, drawn-out, agonizing,financially-devastating process. Our “dream death” — odd phrase, that — is a quick death. You know: Sky Lab falls on us, or a whale. Something in our brain blows out, and bam! we drop like a lead
sinker in a pond on a summer day. We throw ourselves in front of someone taking a shot at a loved one, and are instantly killed. That’s our dream-death.

Not so, our forebears. Their “dream death” was a slow death.

Why? We recoil from the suggestion.

I think it was because they had a sense of judgment and responsibility that we don’t have. A slow death announced its coming. It’s like getting a “five-minute-warning.” A slow death gives the opportunity to prepare for the judgment of God. It gives occasion for trying to sort out any unsorted relationships, saying last words, arranging our affairs fully. It gives opportunity to prepare in the sight of the pulling of the last curtain on this life.

Knowledge of impending death was their Isaiah the prophet, announcing to Hezekiah, “Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live” (Isaiah 38:1).

Our forebears wouldn’t envy our longed-for quick death, our abrupt exit that leaves no time to prepare. That would be a sad death, to them.

Reading that broadened my perspective… but I’d be lying if I said it has made me feel different about the prospect!

But I think something else, too. Should we really need that kind of warning?

Isn’t our first heartbeat a “warning pistol”? Maybe we don’t have five minutes left, but on the scale of eternity, is there really that much of a difference between five minutes and a hundred years?

Isn’t it true that “you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14)? The statistics are pretty doggoned overwhelming: unless the Lord comes for us, our first heartbeat is #1 of a finite series, a series that has a fixed, definite and unalterable number known to God. While you’ve read this article, your total number of heartbeats has likely gone down by several hundred.

What… you didn’t know that?

I must say, most seem to live as if they don’t. Most live as if life will
go on as-is, forever—though they know as a detached fact that it surely won’t. When people ask me whether it was dangerous being a private investigator, I tell them the most dangerous part was driving the freeways of Los Angeles. People drive as if life is a video game, where if your “blip” explodes, you can just casually put in some more money and go again.

Yet such is not life. The beer commercial is only half-right: you only go around once in life. Then comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Usually there is no warning-sign, no “Five minutes, Mr. Phillips.”

Surely this is the wisdom at the heart of Solomon’s craggy observation that “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2).

Whatever our cosmic eschatology is, our personal eschatology had better keep that truth in the forefront. However imminent the Lord’s coming is to the world, or whatever it may involve, our going to stand before Him surely is imminent.

Best be prepared.

Dan Phillips, July 3, 2007
http://teampyro.blogspot.com/

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All men are like grass

I just returned from a 2-week study tour in Israel. It was a very busy time, we travelled from Dan to Beersheba and my head is stuffed to overflowing with information! We were given a 4 inch thick notebook as well which was crammed with maps, illustrations and more information. I have not had much time yet to reflect on it all but one impression that definitely stood out was this: the place is not important, what is important is the message.

In Israel, one era is built right on top of another. You can have today’s town standing over ruins of the Ottman Turks which in turn are standing over the ruins of an earlier Muslim era which in turn are standing over Byzantine ruins, which in turn stand over Roman ruins, which may be standing over Hasmonean or Hellenistic ruins, which may be standing over ruins from the Israelite monarchy era which may in turn be standing over the ruins from David’s time which may be standing over ruins from the time of the patriarchs, and sometimes those ruins are on top of even earlier ruins.

Today all of those kingdoms have crumbled into dust.

You think of Jesus being able to see the great Roman sites of Herodium from the Mount of Olives, or Sepphoris which is walking distance from Nazareth or Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. He could see those monuments to Roman greatness and power. Yet He didn’t seem to be bothered by them or even much concerned with them, His teaching was beyond them, a universal message to all people of all ages. We saw the remains of the magnificant Roman cities of Caesarea and Beth-shan (Scythopolis), the campsites of the Roman legions which besieged Masada. Ancient Egyptian and Canaanite military outposts.

Sobering indeed to reflect on the probable fate of today’s kingdoms!

What has survived all those great kingdoms is the Word of God. In Qumran near the Dead Sea we saw caves where precious texts were hidden in jars. A very large number of them have survived nearly 2000 years and today witness to the preservation of God’s Word.

“All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord
stands forever.”

1 Peter 1:24-25a

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Tried as gold

A colleague I have worked with for 20 years was just diagnosed with stomach cancer. Early test results show that it has already spread into surrounding organs and lymph nodes, thus indicating a very low 5-year survival rate. I am in shock – as his wife said, “we just went to the doctor to check out tiredness and a bit of tummy upset and he ended up being hospitalized immediately and two days later we had a diagnosis of cancer with a not too great prognosis.”

This surely qualifies as a fiery trial of faith. I pray that the Lord Jesus would be glorified in their lives – husband, wife and two daughters – as they face this humanly daunting future. All of their plans suddenly on hold, very possibly permanently. It seems so awful from a human perspective. Yet, if we believe that the Lord is indeed in control, we can trust that He will complete His work in their lives and in the lives of the people they are working with.

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; (1 Pet 1:5-6)

Whether the Lord miraculously keeps him alive or not, I pray that they would better understand the surpassing greatness of God’s power that resides in these earthen vessels. I pray that their faith would be strong and that at the revelation Of Jesus Christ they will shine.

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Down from His Glory

Song written by William E. Booth-Clibborn, grandson of William Booth.

Down from His glory, ever living story,
My God and Savior came, and Jesus was His name;
Born in a manger to His own a stranger,
A man of sorrows, tears and agony!
Chorus:Oh how I love Him! How I adore Him!
My breath, my sunshine, my all in all!
The great Creator became my Savior,
And all God’s fullness dwelleth in Him!
What condescension, bringing us redemption,
That in the dead of night, not one faint hope in sight,
God gracious, tender laid aside His splendor,
Stooping to woo, to win, to save my soul!
Chorus: Oh how I love Him! How I adore Him!
My breath, my sunshine, my all in all!
The great Creator became my Savior,
And all God’s fullness dwelleth in Him!
Without reluctance, flesh and blood His substance,
He took the form of man, revealed the hidden plan;
O glorious myst’ry sacrifice of Calv’ry!
And now I know He is the great “I AM”!
Chorus: Oh how I love Him! How I adore Him!
My breath, my sunshine, my all in all!
The great Creator became my Savior,
And all God’s fullness dwelleth in Him!

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THE TOP TEN PREDICTIONS FOR 2007

1. The Bible will still have the answers.
2. Prayer will still work.
3. The Holy Spirit will still move.
4. God will still inhabit the praises of His people.
5. There will still be God-anointed preaching.
6. There will still be singing of praise.
7. God will still pour out blessings upon His people.
8. There will still be room at the Cross.
9. Jesus will still love you.
10. Jesus will still save the lost.

(received in an email)

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Do you have the gift of pew-warming?

….Christians speak of “pew-warmers” in jest, yet the truth is that this is the most common “ministry” in many churches. Pew-warming did not seem to be the practice in the New Testament churches and it certainly is not the intended teaching of the Epistles. The primary function of ministry gifts is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry or, as translated in the NIV: “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”

Watchman Nee says that it would be very difficult to find many like Paul who had five talents, and local churches may wait a lifetime to have such a “five talent” visit them even once. Yet every redeemed person has one talent unless he has buried it. That means that if only six believers gather together and each brings his one talent, the church will have more than they would have had if they had waited for the man with the five talents.[v] This illustrates the tremendous riches that are available to the church when every member plays their part…

Read the entire article at: http://www.erwm.com/AntonBosch99.htm

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Prayer

There’s a lot of talk about prayer these days. A lot of folk seem to be confusing prayer with meditation, even mystical meditation. See for example : http://www.beliefnet.com/blogs/godspolitics/2007/02/jim-wallis-revolutionary-prayer.html where the author says:

But, at least for me, prayer is more often becoming a time of listening than talking. There is so much noise in our world and our lives (much of our own making); prayer becomes a quiet space enabling us to stop talking long enough to see what God might be trying to say to us. The disciplines of prayer, silence, and contemplation practices by the monastics and mystics are precisely that – stopping the noise, slowing down, and becoming still, so that God can break through all our activity and noise in order to speak to us. Prayer serves to put all the parts of our lives in God’s presence, reminding us of how holy our humanity really is. [?!!?]

Others say that prayer should be specific, concrete, detailed, out loud, and with confidence. (As if God needs to be told how to carry out His business, never mind that His thoughts are not our thoughts, His ways not our ways.) Others say it is most effective when done by groups of people gathered in the same place at the same time in synergy. (As if God is a politician and pays more attention to bigger numbers of lobbyists.)

But what does the Bible say? In order to start to answer that question I did a search of the New Testament on words prays, prayer, pray, praying. (This could be expanded by also looking at words like ask, request, etc). You can do it yourself using a good concordance, or a computer Bible. I kind of organized the results according to the following topics:

When and where did people pray?
What did people pray for?
How are we to pray?
Are there postures?
Procedures?
Attitudes?
What are the results of prayer?

My preliminary results (I won’t include my list or analysis because you really ought to try this yourself!) are as follows:

When and where did people pray? There are no specific commands as to time of day, location, what direction to face, or what constitutes a quorum. People prayed in prison, in the temple, in their houses, by themselves, in groups, on the rooftops, in an inner room, in the wilderness, on mountains, on the beach, and apparently just anywhere. They were told to pray when they are sick or suffering, to sing when cheerful. Pray all the time, at midnight, night and day.

What did people pray for? Surprisingly, not as many specific concrete things as you might think. Sinners prayed for mercy and forgiveness. Jesus prayed that the cup [of His imminent suffering] might pass – yet surely He knew it wouldn’t? He more than once told His followers to pray that they would not fall into temptation, that they would have strength to escape all the [bad] things that are about to take place. People prayed for those imprisoned for their faith. They prayed for the salvation of others. Speakers in tongues should pray that they can interpret. Paul prayed glorious prayers for people’s spiritual growth: that they do no wrong, be made complete, be given wisdom and understanding, knowledge of God’s will, strength, that their love might abound, that they would be sincere and blameless and thankful, that they would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, that the name of the Lord would be glorified in them and they in Him. For himself Paul often asked that a door would be opened up for the word to spread, that he would be bold in speaking it. He asked prayer for protection from evil men, and that he would be released from prison, and that he could visit again for the purpose of ministering to them. We are also told to pray for rulers and authorities so that we can lead a tranquil and quiet life. We are told to pray for each other, for spiritual leaders, evangelists, and for those who mistreat us. (Anybody else out there starting to feel like your prayer life has been missing the mark???)

How are we to pray? Jesus of course gave us a model: praise, request for daily food, forgivenss for sins, help in forgiving others, that we not be tempted but rather be delivered from evil. We should devote ourselves to prayer, pray in the Spirit (after all, He intercedes for us), but also pray with our minds. We are to be on the alert (not zoned out), persevering (not losing heart, nor a once for all time prayer). Prayer is also described as supplication, petitions, requests, thanksgivings, entreaties. (Doesn’t sound much like quiet meditation, does it?) Jesus is said to have offered up prayer with loud crying and tears, the Holy Spirit also groans, so prayer doesn’t have to be silent. We are to pray in faith, to pray without ceasing. We are to pray earnestly, one guy, Epaphras, was said to labor in prayer. We are to pray without wrath and dissention – and not treating your wife right can mean that your prayers won’t be answered! We must also forgive others when we pray – or we won’t be forgiven.

Are there postures? Doesn’t seem to be. Some people stood, some knelt, some threw themselves on the ground. No mention of prayer rugs. Some lifted holy hands. No particular posture required, nor are any forbidden.

Procedures? Do not use meaningless repetition. (If it bores us, how much more must it bore God?) Other procedures are mentioned such as wearing headcoverings for women and NOT wearing head coverings for men was discussed in 1 Cor (though it’s not clear if this was for public worship or for everywhere, for leaders of public worship or everybody, whether hair is enough, etc.) Anointing the sick with oil in James. Praying for others sometimes involved putting hands on them. Other than that, nada, zip.

Attitudes? First and formost believe. Have faith. Not doubting. Yet also with humility, “not my will but Yours”. Do not lose heart. Prayer with thanksgiving is mentioned often. Rejoice. Be of sober spirit and sound judgement, alert. Be anxious for nothing. Avoid long prayers for appearance sake. In fact, in one place we are advised to go into our inner rooms and pray to our heavenly Father in secret.

What are the results of prayer? Results in peace that passes all comprehension. Sinners are justified. People regained sight, were restored from their sicknesses, released from prison, delivered from peril, food is sanctified, it rained, it stopped raining, helps other people, prayers ascend as a memorial to God, and are incense on the altar in heaven whose fragrance goes up before God. God hears the prayer of the righteous.

So, I am encouraged to pray more. I don’t need to do washings and change clothes and face east at certain times of the day. I don’t need to wait until I find a group or a prayer partner. I don’t need to wait until I am in a church or on a mountain. Even if I am somewhere where I can’t stand or can’t kneel, I can still pray. Even if I don’t know the details of what someone is going through at the moment, I can pray that “they would be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith; and that they, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able 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, that they may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Wow! Wouldn’t you like people to pray that for you?

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I’m so proud of my humility

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

How do you know if someone has a problem with pride? Is there an easy fool-proof test? Yes, this is probably the easiest spiritual vise to test in another believer. Simply tell the brother that he has a problem with pride and watch the reaction! The more vehemently he denies that he has a problem in this area, the bigger his problem with pride. Only the truly humble brother will agree with you that yes, he has a problem in this area. Just think about that for a moment.

But the other side of this coin is that those who are often best at noticing the sliver of pride in their brother’s eye has the bigger beam in their own eye. So, if the above test tempted you to go out and try it out on someone else then that is a sure sign that you have a problem in this area also.

read rest of article at http://www.erwm.com/AntonBosch70.htm

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Living by the Book

Quotes from Howard Hendricks in Living by the Book

This book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this book.

Dusty Bibles always lead to dirty lives.

You are either in the Word and the Word is conforming you to the image of Jesus Christ or you are in the world and the world is squeezing you into its mold.

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Are you grateful?

Here’s article challenging us to consider how much God does answer prayer. We all have those things we have prayed for time and again, maybe even for years and it seems that God doesn’t answer or maybe is saying “no”. We tend to remember the things not answered. But we tend to forget all the times He does say “yes”.

……What I am saying is that we characteristically forget that every critical, crying Not-yet is floating on a vast, billowing sea of Yes and Yes and Yes. If you are a Christian, reading this, God has said Yes to you far more often than He has said No; and you have every reason to believe that every No conceals a because I have a better idea. Behind our every prayer, our great Mediator, our Savior, our great High Priest the Lord Jesus Christ, pleads for us before the throne (Hebrews 7:25), adding His intercession to that of the blessed Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26).

I am saying that we all, on occasion, make the most spoiled-rotten brat look like a Model Child, through our bursting, thunderous ingratitude. At the very least, I am saying that for myself.

Indeed, what I’m trying to say has already been said better than I could ever phrase it:

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
(Psalm 103:1-5)

Weighing God’s Yes and No
by Dan Phillips
January 26, 2007
http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2007/01/weighing-gods-yes-and-no.html

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Difficult times

This quote from Charles Spurgeon is for those Christians going through difficult times in their lives.

Despair whispers, “Lie down and die; give it all up.”
Cowardice says, “Retreat; go back to the worldling’s way of action. You cannot play the Christian’s part; it is too difficult. Relinquish your principles.”
Precipitancy cries, “Do someting; stir yourself. To stand still and wait is sheer idleness.”
Presumption boasts, “If the sea be before you, march into it, and expect a miracle.”

But faith listens neither to Presumption nor to Despair nor to Cowardice nor to Precipitancy, but it hears God say, “Stand still,” and immovable as a rock it stands.”

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Conversations with Satan

The author of this article makes a good point— don’t even engage the father of lies in a conversation. Exerpts:

“It is important to recognize that he will use truth. He knows that we won’t fall for a blatant lie and so he will speak truth to us, but the truth will be laced with lies and will be twisted to mean something different. Just like a mousetrap contains real cheese or peanut butter, every snare of the Devil will begin with truth. And just like the mouse signs his own death warrant the moment it acknowledges that the trap contains real cheese, so we play with fire the moment we step aside to even listen to what Satan has to say, let alone enter into a discussion with him.

“John 8:44 says the devil “does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” Note that “there is no truth in him.” No means nothing, nil, zero, zip, nada, niks. He is so much in error that even truth becomes a lie in his mind and mouth. Even when it seems he is speaking the truth, it is not the truth because it is used in such a way to turn right into wrong and wrong into right……

“…We are dealing with a foe who is “more cunning than any beast of the field” (Genesis 3:1). The moment he gets your agreement on one point, he has you on his side. Once he has your agreement he will begin the whole process of twisting that truth to change black to white and “thou shall not” to “thou shall.”

“…Every example of every interface between the Lord’s people and the Devil and his demons shows a resisting and standing against Satan. There is not a single example or instruction to agree with him. There can only be one who wants us to agree with the Devil and that is the deceiver himself.”

Read entire article at http://herescope.blogspot.com/2007/02/conversations-with-satan.html

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Hard work

Quote by John MacArthur:

It escapes some people, that you can’t explain the meaning of the scripture, if you don’t study the scripture. Approaching the Bible is not some ‘mystical’ kind of event. It is just plain hard work! I’ve had young men say to me through the years – “What’s the secret to your Bible teaching?” And I will tell them this invariably: the secret to really good Bible teaching is the ability to keep your rear end in a chair until you understand what it means! “Oh, that’s not very mystical. It’s not very spiritual.” No, it’s hard work.

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