“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -
Friday, April 27, 2007
Monday, April 23, 2007
Friday, April 20, 2007
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
During my reading last week, I was struck by Colossians 4:12 -- Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.
After reading this, I asked myself -- "Do I struggle in prayer for the people in my congregation?". Well, I will admit that there are times when I DO struggle in prayer for the church, but the word that struck me in the passage was ALWAYS.
Do we as pastors, lay-leaders, and brothers and sisters, always agonizomai (the word used for struggling) in prayer, for our fellow believers? You can see our word agonize in there, this is a powerful word! It suggests something more than making mention of someone in prayer!
We see a form of this word used again in Colossians 2:1, 2 -- For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ...
If we (pastors), became less enamored with being business leaders, CEOs, polished, professional communicators, and 'positive message' gurus, and spent more time in our study agonizing in prayer over our own condition and the condition of our churches; spending less time in the boardroom directing the commercial 'business' of the church, and more time in the prayer room directing our hearts to God in the true business of the church -- we would find TRUE Church growth in Christians growing ever more in the likeness of Christ!!
Posted by Ray at 7:50 AM
Sunday, April 08, 2007
I wanted to continue with this brief series on prayer by addressing emotion in prayer.
I have seen both extremes -- the first is the perfunctory prayer of the polished professional. He may use majestic language, and metrical precision, but the prayer itself lacks anything that would indicate that the person was addressing a Holy and Transcendent God. His prayer sounds more like a project update to his employer as opposed to communication with God Himself!
On the other extreme you have the person who cannot open their mouth in prayer without going into convulsions of weeping, and moaning. I completely understand that there are times when you may be overcome with emotion; as anyone at our church could tell you, I have been there many times. Rather, I am addressing the guy who cries at exactly 2:01 into his final prayer (coincidently, just before the altar call!). This, all too often, is manipulative and not truly indicative of the heart condition of the pray-er.
Is there a proper place for both emotion and structure in prayer? You bet there is! Especially when a pastor stands before his people praying for them. There is definitely a place for feeling overwhelmed by the emotion of being the under-shepherd of God's people, but there should also be the desire to say something of meaning that will lift the people into God's presence.
Let's briefly look at the prayer of Solomon as he dedicated the Temple in 2nd Chronicles 6. Do you think he was emotional? I would imagine so! His father had desired to build the Temple, but God had chosen Solomon -- that alone is a bit awe-inspiring, isn't it? And then, there was the wish of his father, David, that he complete the structure. There is a lot of emotion if you follow the story through in 2nd Chronicles. Yet, we see here a well-composed and transcendent prayer!
2nd Chronicles 6 -- "O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven or on earth, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart, who have kept with your servant David my father what you declared to him. You spoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day.
Notice the recognition of God in this opening; Solomon is cognizant of who it is that he is addressing -- a faithful, covenant-keeping God!
Now therefore, O LORD, God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father what you have promised him, saying, 'You shall not lack a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk in my law as you have walked before me.' Now therefore, O LORD, God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you have spoken to your servant David.
Here, Solomon 'reminds' God of the promises that He spoke to his father David.
"But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built! Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you, that your eyes may be open day and night toward this house, the place where you have promised to set your name, that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. And listen to the pleas of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen from heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive. "If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath and comes and swears his oath before your altar in this house, then hear from heaven and act and judge your servants, repaying the guilty by bringing his conduct on his own head, and vindicating the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness. "If your people Israel are defeated before the enemy because they have sinned against you, and they turn again and acknowledge your name and pray and plead with you in this house, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them again to the land that you gave to them and to their fathers. "When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against you, if they pray toward this place and acknowledge your name and turn from their sin, when you afflict them, then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel, when you teach them the good way in which they should walk, and grant rain upon your land, which you have given to your people as an inheritance. "If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemies besiege them in the land at their gates, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing his own affliction and his own sorrow and stretching out his hands toward this house, then hear from heaven your dwelling place and forgive and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways, for you, you only, know the hearts of the children of mankind, that they may fear you and walk in your ways all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers. "Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for the sake of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm, when he comes and prays toward this house, hear from heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name. "If your people go out to battle against their enemies, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to you toward this city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, then hear from heaven their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause. "If they sin against you -- for there is no one who does not sin -- and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to a land far or near, yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity, saying, 'We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,' if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their captivity to which they were carried captive, and pray toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, then hear from heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their pleas, and maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you.
Here Solomon makes supplication for his people, and seems to cover every possible scenario -- it is apparent that he gave his prayer some thought, yet it does not feel wooden, and rote in any way!
Now, O my God, let your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayer of this place. "And now arise, O LORD God, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. Let your priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation, and let your saints rejoice in your goodness. O LORD God, do not turn away the face of your anointed one! Remember your steadfast love for David your servant."
And finally he closes with a plea for the Lord to enjoin His people! What a magnificent prayer! There is emotion and there is structure, and what happens out of this?
2nd Chronicles 7:1, 2 -- As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD's house.
Oh, that our prayers might evoke out of God a like response, that He would come upon us in such a powerful way!
O, Lord, our plea is that we would approach Your throne with boldness, yet with the awe and respect due the Creator of the Universe. Lord, we pray that we would not be tawdry in our emotions, yet let our hearts be broken for the lost, the wayward and the hurting. Let our prayers be respectful and not flippant -- Lord, fill our prayer life with the joy of knowing that through the finished work of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we can come to the Creator of the Universe with our supplications, confessions and petitions and You will hear us! It is in the name of our all-sufficient Savior that we pray. AMEN
Posted by Ray at 6:16 PM
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Caveat – I am not a political commentator, nor do I watch much TV, but lately a lot of noise has been generated around Rosie O’Donnell statements – so much so that the newspapers I read have been carrying it. So please bear with me as I simply post some of my thoughts:
Well, I guess Rosie was right – Here is a quote from ‘The View’ when Rosie was arguing with one of the other hosts on the show:
Rosie O’Donnell: "Faith or fear, that's your choice. You can walk through life believing in the goodness of the world, or walk through life afraid of anyone who thinks different than you and trying to convert them to your way of thinking. And I think that this country–"
Elisabeth Hasselbeck: "Well, I'm a person of faith, so I, but I also believe–"
O’Donnell: "Well, then, get away from the fear. Don't fear the terrorists. They’re mothers and fathers."
I wonder if this ‘father’ felt any remorse as he detonated his explosives-laden truck near a school filled with children?
Truck Bomber Kills Schoolgirls in Kirkuk
Suicide Attack on Police Station in Northern Iraq Leaves 15 Dead, Scores Wounded
By Sudarsan Raghavan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, April 3, 2007; Page A14
BAGHDAD, April 2 -- A suicide truck bomber rammed into a police station compound near an elementary school in the northern city of Kirkuk on Monday, killing 15 people, including schoolgirls, and wounding scores of others, witnesses and police reported.
At the main hospital in the city, the courtyard was filled with injured children in bloodstained blue uniforms, a Washington Post special correspondent reported from the scene. Many had their heads and arms wrapped in bandages. Some clutched bloodstained books. A baby girl lay dead in the emergency room from shrapnel that had torn through her body. Doctors and nurses broke into tears because they couldn't save her. Naz Omar Shafiq, a fifth-grader, said she was attending her last class when the explosion rocked the Raheem Awa school, nestled in a majority Kurdish neighborhood, shattering glass and filling classrooms with smoke…
What of these ‘parents’? Do you think they are mourning their actions?
Insurgents using children to foil security
By Kim Gamel
March 22, 2007
BAGHDAD -- Police said yesterday that children were used in a weekend car bombing in which the driver gained permission to park in a busy shopping area after he pointed out that he was leaving his children in the back seat.
The account appeared to confirm one given Tuesday by a U.S. general speaking to reporters in Washington.
The children were used in a Sunday bombing in northern Baghdad, and U.S. officials labeled it a brutal new tactic put to use by insurgents to battle a five-week-old security crackdown in the capital.
The attack targeted people cooking food at open-air grills in the street as part of a Shi'ite Muslim holiday commemorating the anniversary of the prophet Muhammad's death.
Key details were missing from local police accounts, such as the ages and sexes of the children, whether they were among the victims, and what happened to their bodies.
A senior official in the Shaab neighborhood police department said an investigation was opened after the owner of a shop in the market district said he and other residents initially told a man he could not park his car on the street but relented after seeing the children in the back seat.
The U.S. military has warned that insurgents are finding new ways to bypass stepped-up security to kill as many people as possible and spread panic. A series of bombings using toxic chlorine since Jan. 28 also raised concerns.
Insurgent tactics have evolved since the war started four years ago, and youths often have been among their victims. But the use of children as decoys would signal a new level of ruthlessness in the fight for control of the capital.
Iraqi children have been drawn into the fight in the past, however.
In the deadliest cases, a suicide car bomber sped up to American soldiers distributing candy to children in July 2005 and detonated his explosives, killing about 27 people, including a dozen children and a U.S. soldier.
That occurred about nine months after 35 Iraqi children were killed in a string of bombs that exploded as American troops were handing out candy at a government-sponsored celebration to inaugurate a sewage plant in west Baghdad.
Rosie’s words are telling – ‘You can walk through life believing in the goodness of the world’ – Well that is where Rosie and I diverge (one of MANY places, I might add); I DO NOT believe in the goodness of the world, and it is the very brutality of the world which makes Paul’s words ring so true in Romans –
Here is a small snippet describing the world in which we find ourselves – Romans 1:29-31 -- They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
However, the truth is not that the US is the Savior of these people; it is only through Christ that any can be saved. We are all ruthless, self-centered and brutal if left to our own devices; it is only through the finished work of Christ on the cross that we find deliverance from the power of sin.
Yes, my sin may not be driving a truck full of explosives into a building, it may be that I am a self-centered, self-absorbed person in open rebellion against God, or I might be a over-paid, under-talented ‘name’ on TV who is speaking of things I have no clue about. But, neither me, nor Rosie O’Donnell are good people, and the only difference between us is that Christ has redeemed me. I am no better than her, and do not profess to be.
As Paul says in another letter – 1st Corinthians 6:9-11 -- Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Notice clearly that it is NOT the work of Ray that saves him; it is the monergistic work of God that brings me into the kingdom of God!
So, to Rosie and others I would say – I do not walk in fear – I walk in confidence in the Savior who bought me. I do not walk in the faith that the world is good – that is Pollyannaish, and requires one to ignore the reality of the world around them. Rosie O’Donnell is wrong on many fronts, but it is precisely here, where she believes in the goodness of man, that she shows her lack of cognitive thought…
Like so many modern-day prophets of the media, Rosie says 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace.’
Posted by Ray at 10:19 AM
Monday, April 02, 2007
This is a busy week for me (and most pastors), but I wanted to get in at least one post before the week overwhelmed me! We are having our annual Passover on Friday and of course, Resurrection Sunday next week.
I wanted to say that my wonderful friend, Dave, who opens our service on Sundays, opened this Sunday with a prayer that was beautiful and magnificent, properly focusing on God's transcendence as well as His immanence. I was extremely moved by this prayer and I feel it impacted the entire service.
This is not to say that Dave's prayers are not always great -- it just seemed that this week it was exceptional. For a small church pastor, I am blessed beyond belief to be laboring with the most wonderful team of people I have ever known. We have had hard times, and even disagreements, but I would not trade them for a thousand-member church!
I will post again this week, but just felt that this post needed to be put up.
Posted by Ray at 5:58 AM