Please Pray

Luke 11:1

What is one of the hardest disciplines in the Christian faith? Arguable, I would say prayer. Yet, it is one of the most beneficial disciplines in the Christian faith. If prayer is one of the most beneficial disciplines, then why don’t we pray more often? Maybe the reason why Christians don’t pray as often is because we don’t believe that God is able to answer our prayers. Or perhaps, we have become too self-sufficient that there is no need for God and prayer in our lives. May this post about prayer encourage us to pray more.

Luke 11:1 reads, “It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of his disciples said to Him, ‘Lord teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” The necessity of prayer in the Christian life is clearly in view in this verse. The necessity of prayer can be seen in the disciples’ need to learn how to pray. I think, however, the better view to show the necessity of prayer in the Christian life is the simple phrase, “It happened that while Jesus was praying…” Think for a moment, if the Second person of the Godhead, the God-Man needed to pray, how much more do we need to pray? Jesus prayed for his disciples (John 17), for himself (Luke 22:39-46), and at times the Scripture simply records for us that Jesus prayed.

The life of Jesus is filled with prayers. One cannot escape that fact. It is throughout the gospels. He often prayed all night and at other times arose a great while before dawn to pray to his heavenly Father. I think Jesus is onto something, maybe prayer is expressive of the relationship between a child and the Father. As one author puts is, “For those who know God best are the ones who speak to him most of all.” Christianity is a relationship with God the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit. How many of us express this intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father? Not only is prayer an indication of how intimate a believer’s relationship is with the Father, it is also an expression of faith.

One author puts it best, “Prayer, in many ways, is the supreme expression of our faith in God and our faith and confidence in the promises of God.  There is nothing that a man ever does which so proclaims his faith as when he gets down on his knees and looks to God and talks to God.  It is a tremendous confession of faith.  I mean by this that he is not just running with his requests and petitions, but if he really waits upon God, if he really looks to God, he is there saying, ‘Yes, I believe it all, I believe that you are rewarder of them that diligently seek you, I believe you are the Creator of all things and all things are in your hands.  I know there is nothing outside your control.  I come to you because you are in all this and I find peace and rest and quiet in your holy presence and I am praying to you because you are what you are’.” What type of prayer do we engage in? It is a prayer to get things or is it the type of prayer that will stretch our faith? It is not wrong to pray to receive things. Another author puts it like this, “Prayer is not simply to get things from God, but to make those things holy, which already have been received from Him. It is not merely to get a blessing, but also to be able to give a blessing. Prayer makes common things holy and secular things, sacred. It receives things from God with thanksgiving and hallows them with thankful hearts, and devoted service.” How is your prayer life? Do you even pray? Jesus prayed. His disciples prayed. Do you pray?

ALL things work together for good.

Romans 8:28

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Recently, my life has been filled with a series of events that have been very heavy and discouraging in my own life. From struggles in ministry and leaving a community, to my imminent move to Santa Barbara, to my grandmother being put in hospice care, to my grandfather struggling with illness, to heartbreak and a feeling of betrayal by a friend, it’s been a rather long line of experience of personal pain and hardship.

It’s in the midst of this time that I have been greatly comforted by God’s continued presence and reminder of His love. In praying for peace and to have joy, God has given me a deep peace which surpasses all understanding in my circumstances and that has been good. In reflecting on the blessings… in the things that are good, that are true… anything worthy of praise… I have come to see the value of friendships and how my friends in their love, prayer, support, prayer, encouragement, and listening has been such a comfort and such a reminder of God’s presence and ever faithfulness to care for me with those that come as His hands and feet… made in His image. They have been praying and pointing me to Jesus Christ and His work! It’s in reflecting on His goodness, His sovereignty… in that preaching of the Gospel to myself to hear and be reminded of His love, that the words in Romans struck a chord.

I was talking to some friends about the above text in Romans 8:28, and my friend pointed out an interesting thing. The thing that he pointed out was the word “all”. His point was this… that for those that love God… that have this relationship, all (everything)… ultimately works together for good! Even the hard things, the painful things, the negative things, and the bitter things. The fact is this… God allows and His sovereign control and will is moving even thru the stuff that is difficult, seemingly impossible and painful at the moment. Ultimately, He is in control of and allowing what transpires to happen and it will be resolved ultimately for His glory and good purpose. Isn’t that amazing? Everything… ALL things work together for good…

Do my times of sadness disappear, my moments of disappointment, hurt, or pain go away immediately? NO. But knowing He is sovereign brings such comfort because in the grand scheme of things… these things are small… yet to Him they are important too. It is in these times of hurt and pain that one feels the pain and it weighs heavily on me. It does not go away, and it is important to see that God is in these moments of hardship… in control. He is ever present, ever faithful, ever good and loves me despite my weakness, my bitterness, my anger, my frustration and my failures and lack of love. He allows me to be a wreck and to be hurt and to be angry and to be weak and bitter… not hiding behind a facade or thin veneer of performance and acting as though everything is fine, but allowing me to simply cry and be weak and to be in need of Him. Even these things are in His control working to bring about His good.

In reflection, this isn’t a post of deep theology or exegesis. I just want to share that God has reminded me of His constant love and presence through it all. As these doors in my life seemingly are closing and there are painful moments, God has opened other doors to guide me through my life. As doors in ministry have closed, other doors have opened as well! My life has been a mix of these… but one thing I always know… in these times is this: all things work together for good. Thank you, Lord for your love and your Sovereignty in my life!

“Busted Heart (Hold On To Me)”

Winter has come back again
Feels like the season won’t end
My faith is tired tonight,
And I won’t try to pretend,
I’ve got it all figured out,
That I don’t have any doubts,
I’ve got a busted heart
I need You now
Yeah I need You nowHold on to me
Hold on to me
Don’t let me lose my way
Hold on to meI am the wandering son
Enough is never enough
I keep chasing the wind
Instead of chasing Your love
I’m screaming out Your name,
Don’t let me fall on my face
I’ve got a busted heart
I’m in need of a change
Yeah, I’m desperate for graceHold on to me (Hold on to me)
Hold on to me
Don’t let me lose my way (Don’t let me lose my way)
Hold on to me

Broke Your heart a thousand times
But You’ve never left my side
You have always been here
For me

You never let me go
You never let me go
Don’t ever let me go

Hold on to me (Hold on to me)
Hold on to me
Don’t let me lose my way (Don’t let me lose my way)
Hold on to me
[2x]

Winter will come to an end
Soon the season will end
I surrender tonight
You meet me right where I am

Making Jesus the Main Thing in Ministry

1 Corinthians 15:3

I had the opportunity to teach from Acts 3:1-10 this past Sunday at CCCTO. Throughout the morning, we asked ourselves the question: “do you see the lame beggar“? You can catch the recorded podcast on iTunes, or stream it from our website, where the PowerPoint is also available for download.

Often when we approach the scriptures we instantly make assumptions. For example, Walt Russell in his book “Playing with Fire” describes how we often read the gospels with a bit of a tilted lens:

…the increasing tendency in our reading of the Gospels is to reduce them primarily to sources of insight about ourselves. For example, we read about Jesus calming a storm on the Sea of Galilee, and we think it is about the storms of our lives…However, the Gospels were primarily written to tell us about who Jesus is, what He did, and why He is the only, true object of our faith. If we change this focus, we distort the very essence of the Gospels…In other words, instead of putting ourselves into Jesus’ place and learning how to disciple others as we read the Gospels (a secondary emphasis), we should put ourselves into the disciples’ place by identifying with them in their relationship with Jesus.

Returning the passage in Acts 3, when we ask whether we see the lame beggar, we probably jump to the conclusion that we are like Peter and John and that there is more we need to do to reach out to others. We assume that others are the lame beggar and that we are here to help them (there’s quite a bit more that we covered such as the lame beggar’s progression from sitting outside to not just standing but leaping and jumping – for the rest of that message you’ll need to download the sermon). We emphasize what we should be doing as Christians. Before we realize it, we begin rallying ourselves around a cause to try and do more. And slowly but surely the focus shifts to morality.

While this may ignite a bright flame of active engagement in “doing good”, I’ve found in my own life that that flame burns out quickly. To be clear, I am not advocating that faith is merely an academic pursuit of knowledge. James 2:17 helps us to see that faith and works come as a package. However one leads the other, faith comes first. Just as the wise man built his house upon the rock, we must make sure that the foundation we’re laying for ourselves and the future generation is one that is set upon a solid understanding who God is, our sinful nature, Christ’s death on the cross, and the implications for mankind. The wise man both knew where to build his house and actual did build his house on the rock. Never forget that on the outside both of those houses looked the same. When (not if) the storm came, one stood and the other crumbled.

Unfortunately, this emphasis on “right living” leads us to a place where our so called “faith” is just another thing we “do”.  We spend so much time talking about what we should be doing and how the world needs us to do more that we forget what has been done (by Jesus) and what every person’s true need really is (Jesus). We miss the big picture and see the Bible as a book about “right living” rather than the story of God’s plan of salvation, fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Growing up, I confused “right living” with true faith. I felt that I was “in good standing” because I was inviting others to youth group. I lived a relatively moral life by my own standards (which were in some ways influenced by what I learned in church). I wasn’t getting into too much trouble. By my own standards I was a pretty darn good guy. The world doesn’t need someone to make life better for them by telling them how they should live. Jesus didn’t come to earth to teach us about community service, Jesus came to die for you and I. Remember that He came to rescue us.

The plea is for church leaders, Bible study leaders, Sunday school teachers, parents, and all believers to make Jesus the main thing in ministry.

Let’s consider how we can go from saying “let’s keep the main thing the main thing” to putting it into practice. May we all say as Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

1 Corinthians 15:3-4