Tag Archives: Prayer

Sunday Morning Preview — April 29, 2018

28 Apr

Tomorrow morning’s worship service will begin with one of the highlights of any service: Baptism!

We baptize those who profess faith in Christ as a symbol of their new life in Christ and their desire to follow Him.

The Children’s Choir will follow the baptism with a Call to Worship. Some may wonder at whether it is wise to have the children sing in such a setting. What if they don’t understand what they are singing? What if they get a performance mindset? These are legitimate concerns. Parents should talk with their children about why they are singing and what they are singing about when they sing. At the same time, there can be great blessing through singing as children learn that they can share a message about Jesus with others. Children can learn by being in front of others to live with boldness rather than timidity. In addition, we as adults can often be humbled by the enthusiasm and energy of children for the things of God.

After a piano Offertory, we will say together our Church Verses for Meditation.

This week is the week we will try to say Romans 12:1-2 from memory. Just in case you need one more chance to review, here are the verses . . .

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Following the recitation of these verses, we will sing a Congregational Hymn.

This week we will be singing the old spiritual, #156 Were You There? Once again we visit the themes of the gospel: the cross and the empty tomb.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Were you there when he rose up from the dead?
Were you there when he rose up from the dead?
Sometimes I feel like shouting ‘Glory, glory, glory!’*
Were you there when he rose up from the dead? 

*The Baptist Hymnal retains the line from the other verses, “Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.”

There are two unique things about this hymn. First, it is a spiritual which found wide usage among African-Americans in the period of Reconstruction after the Civil War. So this was a song of an oppressed people identifying their suffering with the suffering of their Savior. As such, the original version of the hymn had no last verses about being laid in the tomb and about the resurrection. Instead there were two other verses. One was “Were you there when they pierced Him in the side.” The other was the final verse of the hymn originally, “Were you there when the sun refused to shine?” The original hymn left singers pondering the suffering of the Savior (even as they likely pondered their own suffering) but not His glory. This is not wrong. A song does not have to cover every aspect of Christ’s work to be a good song. Some can focus on the sufferings of Christ, others on the glory, some can tell the whole story. As churches sing widely through the hymnal and other sources a full theological picture emerges through congregational singing.

Following the Hymn, we move to a time of Prayer. We don’t want prayer to be a perfunctory part of the service at the beginning and end, we want prayer to be the lifeblood of our church’s worship. Thus we meet at 9am in the choir room to pray each week for the service. And we linger in prayer during the service, in the hopes that we will all learn to pray more deeply on a personal level and that we will be moved to join our hearts together that our hearts might be knit to the heart of God.

The Choral Offering will follow the Prayer. This week the choir is singing, Here I Am Lord. This is a pretty melody with meaningful words about drawing near to God loosely based on the prophet Isaiah’s encounter with God in Isaiah 6.

Following the Choral Offering will be this morning’s Sermon. We will be looking at 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 as a conclusion to our “Arise and Go” Evangelism Conference. Here is the text for tomorrow’s message . . .

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

After the sermon, we will sing the great Hymn #141 The Old Rugged Cross.

George Bennard, an American who lived in the Midwest in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, composed many hymns, but this is his most famous. That we would cherish and cling to the old rugged cross, this is our prayer as the service draws to a close.

Our Benediction tomorrow will be Galatians 6:14 “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. May we go out in that spirit into the coming week.

“Lord, bless our gathering tomorrow. Use it as an exclamation point to a week lived for you and for a launching pad into a new week of serving you. Let the service bring you glory in every way. We pray you would be central to every action and you would be at the center of every heart.  We can make plans but we ask you to direct our steps. Use your Word to bring change and comfort and strength to your people. Open the eyes of those who don’t know you and be honored in everything we pray, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”




Behold Your God — Week Eleven, Day Five

11 Aug

We’ve talked a lot in the last few days about the unconventional ways of God’s kingdom. God often works in ways that are not according to our expectations. He often calls us to do unusual things. The easy way is often not the right way. But today’s study has a very important paragraph which I want to highlight here:

“It would be dangerous to think that just because something seems impractical or reckless it is the spiritual thing to do. Doing something reckless in Jesus’ name is not equivalent to obeying Him. Obedience, not reckless self-directed spirituality, honors God.”

Last night I was reading a little booklet called An Hour with George Mueller. Many people know George Mueller as the godly man of the 1800’s who housed thousands of orphans in England, relying on donations through prayer and faith. One of the things that struck me about Mueller’s approach was how rooted it was in the promises of God. In other words, Mueller would pray in faith based on what God had said in His Word. So the spectacular answers Mueller received were not because he was a special person but because he leaned on a God who was able to do above and beyond what we ask or imagine. Mueller would have rejected the approach of doing something radical or impractical just to avoid pragmatism. Instead, he would bank all on God. And that is what the Behold Your God study has been urging us to do from the beginning. To live our lives based on who God is, this is the path of maturity, fruitfulness and blessing, even through hardship and pain.

Behold Your God — Week Ten, Day Four

3 Aug

Today’s study deals with a subject that has long baffled me: prayer. Personal prayer is sometimes a challenge, but corporate prayer in particular has been a struggle. I identified with so much in this chapter, from the description of past prayer meetings of which I have been a part to longing for something better and more lasting. I don’t know what it will take or how it will take shape, but I pray the Lord will show us as a church how to pray together and to pray more effectively.

Behold Your God — Week Nine, Day Five

28 Jul

My favorite line in today’s study was “A devotion to tradition can be a denial of the Lordship of Christ just as much as a devotion to whatever is new and trendy.”

I have long held that the problem we often face in churches is vacillating between these two extremes. Broadly speaking, some people believe that if we just get back to the 1950’s everything will be great while others think if we just move into the 21st century all our problems would go away. “Let’s go back to the old ways of doing things because they worked before” or “Let’s do things the new way so that we can find new life and excitement.”

But I wonder if we need to define biblically what it is for something to “work”? We look at what works from more of an American CEO business paradigm than from a biblical paradigm, where the emphasis is on faithfulness rather than largeness.

The problem is most often defined like this: the church is in decline. Membership is older and is dying and young people are not coming into the church. Many people are disillusioned with the church so we must find ways to reach people. Now this is a wrong diagnosis for many reasons. First, it is based on numerical participation, a metric which is useful from an organizational perspective but almost entirely useless as a measure of whether there is anything going on that is worthwhile in the eyes of God. Second, this perspective is self-centered. We are concerned not because people are destroying their lives and headed for God’s eternal judgement, we are troubled because our pews are not filled. Third, we are looking for progress based on what we do rather than what God does. We think, it is our faithfulness to the old paths or our innovative ideas that make the difference, not the work of God. We wouldn’t say any of this but our lives speak the truth of our perspective. Seriously, could we do all we do in church without the Holy Spirit at all? I think we try. Why do I say that? Just consider for a minute how little time we spend praying together. Church staffs all over the country spend hours each week hashing through plans and ideas and three minutes praying. Rare is the church that has even one prayer meeting a week where they call on God for His working. Look at the prayer list in most churches. It will be almost entirely focused on health needs. There is nothing wrong with praying about health needs but if we have no focus on God’s work in our hearts as well as our bodies, we reveal our spiritual weakness. In fact, the desperation we have for matters of health indicts us for our lack of concern about spiritual weaknesses. Why are we not praying with equal fervor for people to be saved, for sinful strongholds to be broken, for close walks with the Lord, for rich worship, godly fellowship and service, while we also pray for health needs?

So let’s not chase traditions or trends. And let’s not sit on the sidelines criticizing churches or bemoaning the condition of the church. I’ve written a couple of articles this week along those lines but I think this should be the exception rather than the rule of our lives. There is a place for helpful critique but professional critics are rarely salt and light. So we’ve got to guard against harsh, judgmental attitudes. We need to guard against the tendency to talk more about what’s wrong with the church than about what’s right with Jesus. We’ve got to guard against the idea that we’re the only one who sees the truth (which is really just a manifestation of pride) otherwise we become insufferable to others and a poor witness to the transforming power of God.

Let’s run after Jesus. Pursue Him. Make Him your goal. Gather with a group of people who are running after Him and begin to work together to share the treasure you have found with everyone around you. Jesus is the center. If you structure everything you do around honoring Him, revealing Him, serving Him, and loving Him, you are building on a sure foundation. Tradition and trends are shifting sands. When we chase these things, we are always a day late and a dollar short. Behold your God and trust Him. Walking with Him is the way to life. Making it all about Jesus is a cheap slogan but a costly (but worthwhile) way forward in real life. So I understand in saying this that I am just saying it. The proof will be in the living. But I want to walk with Him. And I want to join with you in that walk. That is what it means to be the family of God. We’re not together because of a preference for hymns and organs. We’re not together because of a preference for gourmet coffee and skinny jeans. We’re not together because we’re all from the same generation. We’re not together because we’re all the same race or economic class. We’re not together because we’re the trendy new church plant with the catchy name and we’re not together because we’re the century old church on Main St. whose steeple is a staple of our town’s skyline. We’re not together because we all have the same story. We are a diverse group of sinners made saints by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. He is the only sure foundation and the only hope for the future of the Church.

Are You an “If” Pray-er or a “When” Pray-er?

12 Jan

I heard recently a good insight from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus, in speaking about prayer in the Sermon, continually uses the word “when” in reference to prayer. He warns against self-exaltation in prayer but He assumes we will pray. “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites . . .” Jesus assumes His people will pray. And most Christians assume Christians will pray. But it seems to me that often we substitute the word “if” for the word “when.” “If I have time, I will pray.” “If I feel like it, I will pray.” “If times are tough, I will pray.” Instead, the pattern of our lives ought to be “when you pray.” Prayer should be as ordinary a part of the pattern of our lives as all the other habits of life. This is convicting to me, because God promises great blessing through prayer but I am far to often an “if” Christian instead of a “when” Christian. Would our consistency and joy in prayer increase if we substituted the word “when” for the word “if”?

Bible Reading Blog — March 4, 2016

4 Mar

Today’s Readings — 1 Samuel 11-14 & Mark 11:20-33

In Mark chapter 11 we read, 20 As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Jesus cursed the fig tree, an acted parable to illustrate the faithlessness (and therefore fruitlessness) of Israel. Peter, remembering what Jesus had earlier done, is astounded. Jesus reveals the secrets of such power — faith and forgiveness. If you have faith in God, Jesus says, there is incredible power when you pray. The power is not in you or in your prayer but in God. If you are really leaning on God, Jesus says, God will meet you in that and bless you abundantly. But when praying, there is not only a vertical aspect but also a horizontal one. For Jesus says,”whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” There is a connection between a right relationship with God and a right relationship with people. Lack of forgiveness toward people is a blockage in our relationship with God. So we may have all kinds of faith but if we do not love others but hold bitterness against them, our prayers will be hindered.

Maybe powerlessness in prayer comes from failure to deal with the unforgiving spirit we harbor against others.

Loving God and loving people consistently go together in the teachings of Jesus. Spiritual power and relational harmony are interrelated.

Bible Reading Blog — January 9, 2016

9 Jan

Today’s Readings — BREAK & Mark 1:35-39

Today there is no Old Testament reading. These break days are worked into every month three or four times just to give you a time to relax or maybe make up some readings you’ve missed. If you are doing the reading plan I hope you will find these days are helpful. Now on to today’s reading from Mark.

Context is king. Jesus’ actions and words in Mark 1:35-39 take on a much greater meaning when they are put in the context of Mark 1:29-34. We saw there the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. We also see Jesus in demand as a healer, healing all kinds of people at sunset as they were pushing against the door of the house, clamoring to be healed.

Interestingly, in today’s passage, we see the intentionality of Jesus, the way He lived with purpose. Early on the next morning (the Greek text lays up words to emphasize how early it was) Jesus went out to a desolate place and prayed. Jesus’ devotion to prayer becomes all the more impactful as we consider the previous passage. He had just been up late the previous day healing people and had been endlessly busy. But rather than sleeping in, Jesus went to His Father in prayer. He got away from the crowds so as not to be influenced by their voice and listened instead to the voice of His Father. Jesus’ sense of dependence on His Father is made clear here.

In addition, when the disciples find Him, they tell Him that all the people are seeking Him. Of course, they are seeking Him for healing again. But Jesus gives His disciples a new direction. “Let’s go out into the surrounding towns and preach there, for this is the reason I came.” In other words, Jesus came to proclaim the message of the kingdom, not merely provide for physical needs. Jesus’ provision of physical needs was intended to be a sign of His bringing the kingdom and spiritual salvation to all who believe. This call to preach is made all the more powerful in light of the many healing acts Jesus had just performed in the previous passage. Context is king. This is one of the greatest reasons for reading through books of the Bible rather than hopping from one passage to another.

Sunday’s Sermon — Exodus 32:7-14, The Power of God-Centered Prayer

23 Oct

Have you ever had somebody ask you to pray for them? Or have you ever said to somebody who shared a problem with you, “I’ll pray for you.” And we usually just say, “Lord, bless John and help him feel better.” We may pray through the prayer list and just pray one name at a time. Or maybe we pray in a general way for revival or for God’s power to overcome sin or to serve the Lord. But so often, at least in my experience, my life in prayer seems empty. It’s either a duty to check off a list or I am wondering whether anything is really going to happen when I pray. And I am sure that while many people have personal devotions and pray for the prayer list, I am also sure that for many of us prayer is rushed and not very serious. Yet in the Bible prayer is a key element of our life with God. So how do we recapture the importance of prayer in our life with God? This passage in Exodus can help us recapture prayer as a top priority in our life. There is one secret, and only one, if we want prayer to have its rightful place. If prayer will expand in our lives with power, it must be God-centered. This is what we learn from Moses here in this passage. We are going to look very briefly at the events leading up to Moses’ prayer and then we are going to spend the rest of our time looking at Moses’ prayer. So we are going to look at the Setting of God-Centered Prayer and then we are going to look at the Substance of God-Centered Prayer and we will finish by looking at the Result of God-Centered Prayer.

 So let’s look first at . . .

The SETTING of God-Centered Prayer            (32:7-10).

7 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.

God tells Moses to come off the mountain, where he had been getting instructions from God for the tabernacle. And now, in the midst of all this good news, God brings Moses bad news, “Your people have corrupted themselves.” All through Exodus, in chapter 3 and 5 and 7 and 8 and 9 and 10 and 22, God called the Israelites “my people.” But now, they are “your people” Moses. By giving the people to Moses, God is saying they don’t have any right to claim Him as their God, because they have chosen another god in the golden calf and so have corrupted themselves.

They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ ”

The key word in verse 8 is the word “quickly.” Only a few days earlier they had heard God tell them, “You shall have no other gods before me.” “You shall not make for yourselves an idol.” Last week we saw that the Israelites couldn’t believe how long it was taking Moses to come off the mountain. This week we see God noting how quickly Israel had fallen into sin.

And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people.

Here the Lord uses a phrase that will be repeated often in the Bible about Israel: they are a stiff-necked people. The picture is that of a stubborn animal, an ox or horse or mule that will not wear the yoke and do the work, an animal that will not obey its master.

10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

“Let me alone . . . that I may consume them” sounds very harsh but it is actually grace cracking open the door. God tells Moses to leave Him alone but He is not closing the door to Moses praying for the people of Israel. God could have slammed the door on Israel by just punishing them. He could have destroyed them and just informed Moses later, “I had to destroy Israel because of their sin, now I am going to start over with you.” But God doesn’t do this. He tells Moses beforehand. I believe this shows us that God desired to show mercy to the Israelites. Also, the fact that  God told Moses to go down to the Israelites shows us that God wanted to Moses to be a mediator for them. Why send Moses down if God was just going to destroy the Israelites? He sent Moses because He desired to show mercy.  When God told Moses “I will make a great nation of you” this would have brought to Moses’ mind the great covenant of God with Abraham at the founding of the nation of Israel. This phrase would have pushed Moses to prayer for Israel but might also have been something of a test for Moses. He would have been the head of a new nation. He would have been able to be rid of these Israelites who had done nothing but complain and rebel all through the wilderness. He would have been the one listed along with Abraham as the founder of the new nation. But Moses resists any desire to be the head of a new nation. It is an amazing thing, the people wanted to do away with Moses more than once, even in chapter 32 they don’t know what’s happened to him. But the one they want to discard is the only one who can save them. It is no mistake that Moses is called the most humble man who ever lived.

So the setting is clear: Israel has sinned, God is ready to destroy them and start over with Moses and Moses is left in the position of deciding whether to intercede for this rebellious people. And Moses takes the humble road and intercedes for Israel. And in his intercession we learn much about how to pray for ourselves and others.

The SUBSTANCE of God-Centered Prayer               (32:11-13).

What I think is most important to see here is that Moses did not try to negotiate with God based on anything in himself or Israel. He was praying for the guilty, not the innocent. He was asking God to save the ungodly. If this is going to happen, it will have to be because of something in God, not something in ourselves. This is the substance of prayer: it must be God-centered. Much of our weakness in prayer is not because we are distracted or discouraged, it is because we are not basing our prayers on the character of God. So watch what Moses does here and let your own prayer life be transformed.

They are YOUR PEOPLE     (32:11a).

11 But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people,

God had said in chapter 4, “Israel is my firstborn son.” Now Moses brings God’s statement back to Him in prayer. God told Moses these are “your people” who have rebelled. But Moses turns right back in intense prayer saying, “These are your people, Lord. These Israelites are your sons and daughters, Lord. Don’t let your wrath burn hot against your kids. They are your children.” This is the first part of Moses’ God-centered intercession. The sin of the Israelites did not cause them to lose their identity as the people of God.

For us, We are GOD’S PEOPLE – We need to remember that all who have trusted in Christ are members of God’s family. It is a salvation we can’t lose. We are the people of God. When we pray, we need to remember the security we have as the children of God because of Jesus. John 10:29 “because they are my sheep, no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” Romans 8:39, “Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We always come to God for ourselves and others on the basis of one truth and one truth only, we are the children of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

You Have INVESTED Much in Saving Them        (32:11b)

whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?

The Lord had brought Israel up out of Egypt through the plagues and the Red Sea. He had invested much to save them. Now Moses asks God to protect His investment. God often reminded Israel that He had brought them up out of Egypt. Now Moses is reminding God of the same thing.

For us, God has invested EVEN MORE. John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

God didn’t just invest powerful works or great words to save us, He gave His only Son. He sent the glory of heaven to earth to save sinners. And this saving work was not just in coming to earth but in the enduring of great suffering, even death on the cross. So we can and should go to God on the basis of the investment of Jesus Christ. We come then not only in the name of Jesus Christ but also on the basis of His finished work. You have invested so much to save your people, Lord, now come to their rescue today.

In the third element of Moses’ God-centered prayer he says . . .

Your REPUTATION is at Stake (32:12a).

12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’?

Moses appeals to God’s reputation saying that if God destroyed the Israelites it would be dishonoring to Him in the eyes of the Egyptians. They would think that rather than loving and saving Israel, that God hated Israel and had brought them out of Egypt just to kill them. So Moses is telling God that if He destroys Israel His reputation will be damaged. In appealing to His reputation Moses is really appealing to God’s heart of love for all nations. God had told Moses and Pharaoh both that the things he was doing, like the plagues, were done in part so that the Egyptians would come to know that He was the Lord.

For Us, GOD’S GLORY is at Stake.

We want to pray for people and things that will bring glory to God and result in the spread of His gospel to others. We exist for the glory of God, as we read in Romans 15:7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. So we want to pray for ourselves and others that God would do in us and through us whatever would bring Him most glory.

Fourth, Moses tells God that in saving Israel . . .

Your MERCY Can Be Upheld (13:12b).

Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people.

Moses asks Go to relent in His wrath. God’s wrath was not wrong, it was right. It was holy and just and appropriate. The Israelites, who had received all kinds of good gifts from God, were deserving of God’s punishment for their sins. They had no excuse. Moses never tried to make the case that Israel was worthy of His help. He just turned time and time again in His prayer to the character of God and to the promises of God. So he asks for mercy.

We, Too, Must ASK for Mercy.

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Titus 3:3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy

Is this mercy of God, which none of us have ever deserved and is something none of us can ever earn, something we only need once? Do we not stand in daily need of mercy? Have you ever failed to honor God in your heart? Has there ever been a day when you failed to go to God in prayer? When you went half-heartedly? Have you ever gotten angry with your spouse or children? Have you ever been bitter about another person who has mistreated you? Have you ever lied or engaged in gossip? Have you put other false gods before the true God? Have you been jealous of others? Have you been discontent with the things God has given you? Have you lusted after someone not your spouse or watched things on TV or your computer that you shouldn’t have watched? Have you ever gotten drunk? Have you ever been mad at your boss or even at church leaders because they wouldn’t do things the way you wanted to do them? Have you ever come to church looking for what is wrong rather than celebrating what is right? Have you ever cared only for yourself and not for others? So let me ask you . . . Do you need mercy? Do I need mercy? Yes. And here’s the good news. We serve a God who is rich in mercy. Go to Him in prayer, for yourself and others and depend on His merciful character to see you through.

Fifth, Moses says, deliver Israel so that . . .

Your COVENANT Can Be Maintained         (13:13).

13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ”

Moses finishes with his most powerful reason that God should answer his prayer, he quotes God’s own words. He points to God’s covenant, His promised commitment to the people of Israel. He pleads with God not to destroy Israel because to do so would be to go back on His commitment to His people. It is significant that Moses quotes God’s own words because it gives us a real insight into how to pray. If you are stuck in prayer, pray the words of Scripture.

For Us, We are Also UNDER God’s Covenant.

One of my favorite benedictions to give at the end of the service is Hebrews 13:20, Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. We remember the great words of Paul in 2 Timothy 2:13, “If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” Let us pray to God on the basis of His commitment to us as His people.

Finally, we see . . .

The RESULT of God-Centered Prayer (32:14).

14 And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

The Lord relented from the disaster He had spoken of bringing on His people. “Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt. Grace, grace, God’s grace. Grace that will pardon and cleanse within. Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our sin.” We deserve to be disowned. We deserve to be cut off. But God shows grace, deep, wide, rich grace.

Philip Ryken says that this story in Exodus 32 is really the story of our own salvation . . .

“God is up on His holy mountain; we are down on earth. And like the Israelites, we are floundering in the folly of our rebellion against God. Our idolatry leads to immorality. What we need is someone like Moses. We need someone to come down and intercede for us – someone who will turn away God’s wrath. The message of the gospel is that God has given us a mediator. When He saw our sin, He wanted to save us; so He sent His Son to intercede for our salvation. It is as if God said, “Go down, Jesus, go down. Go down because your people – the ones I gave you from all eternity – have become corrupt. They are living in sin. They have turned away from my law to worship other gods. And unless you intercede for them, they will surely be destroyed in my wrath.”

And Jesus did come down and save us, interceding for us by dying for us on the cross and rising again to prove the value of His death for sinners. And now Christ, ascended to heaven, continues to intercede for us. He intercedes for us not on the basis of our goodness but on the basis of His goodness. As we read in 1 John chapter 1, If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Now we as Christians, as followers of Jesus, pray for others as Moses prayed for Israel and as God works in us we develop the very same qualities of God we base our prayers on. We pray, “God, save your people. You have promised not to lose any of them, save your people.” And then we live with the people of God, not as Lone Ranger Christians but in a body of believers, a family of faith, sons and daughters of God. We pray, “God, you have invested so much in saving your people (the life blood of your Son in His suffering, the work of your Holy Spirit, events in our lives), now keep your people in your love.” And then we live as people who are investing much in the kingdom of God, through time in the Word and prayer, through service, through sharing the gospel, through living holy lives. We pray, “God, uphold your glory through your people. Let us live with repentant hearts. Let us not defame your name through apathy or laziness or impurity.” And then we live our lives in a 1 Corinthians 10:31 way, “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” We pray for God’s mercy. Having received so much mercy we so easily squander it. It doesn’t have to be any kind of great sin. There probably aren’t many adulterers and murderers and thieves and drunks in here. But there are plenty of us with different struggles: anger, gossip, gluttony, lust, pride, apathy, fear. And we let these things rule our lives. So we need to call on God for mercy. And then, seeing how merciful God is, we extend mercy to one another. We are not quick to punish but eager to see people repent and be reconciled to God and walking with Him in a fresh way. We long to remind each other that because of Jesus God is not against us for our sins, He is for us against our sins. And we pray, “God, keep us in your care because of your faithfulness to your promises. You said, ‘He who began a good work in you will complete it.’ You yourself, Lord Jesus, prayed, ‘Sanctify them by your truth, your Word is truth.’” So Lord, on the basis of your promises, keep us in your love. And then, resting in God’s promises, we point each other to these promises and hope in God.

This morning, let the prayer of Moses become your own. I encourage you to pray these things daily. I encourage you to come to God not on the basis of your own goodness but on the basis of His goodness. I urge you this morning, if you’ve never taken that first step of trusting in Jesus, that today would be the day that you trust Him. Turn away from your sin and call on Jesus to save you, right here, right now, today. If you are holding on to a sin in your life right now, if there is an area of your life where the devil is winning a victory, call on God right now on the basis of Moses’ prayers to set you free. You may want to come up to the altar and pray. I will be glad to pray with you as well. Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save. Let’s stand together and sing #559, Rescue the Perishing.

Key Practices of the Christian Life — Practice #4 — Spiritual Fellowship

10 Sep

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  Proverbs 27:17

The old saying “no man is an island” is never truer than in the spiritual realm. If you want to grow in Christ, you really need good and godly relationships with others which spur you on to spiritual growth. The question is, how do we pursue these relationships? And if we have these relationships, how do we relate to others in a way that fosters mutual spiritual growth? 

Pursuing Spiritual Fellowship

The best way to pursue spiritual fellowship is to look for other believers who are pursuing spiritual growth in their own lives. You will be able to see this in their words and actions. One of the best places to find these people is in the local church, but you may also find a spiritual friend at work or in your neighborhood. You do not have to go to the same church as your friend in order to share spiritual fellowship with them.

 What Spiritual Fellowship Looks Like

  1. A Common and Consistent Time to Meet. If you are going to have a relationship with a person for the purpose of fostering spiritual growth, you must meet regularly. You may meet weekly for breakfast, or every other week at lunch, you may talk on the phone on Thursday evening or you may go to lunch Sunday after church. Whenever and wherever, aim and arrive.
  2. A Simple Conversation. Just talk with each other about what God is doing in your life, what you are struggling with, what God is teaching you in His Word. You may want to spend some time just reading the Bible together and sharing your insights with each other.
  3. A Shared Prayer. A time of lifting each other up in prayer can be very encouraging and meaningful.

Spiritual Fellowship can take many shapes but it is an essential part of our growth in Christ. Seek out others who can walk with you as you walk with the Lord.

Encouragement “In Every Need”

8 Jul

This is a great old song based on an old hymn. I hope you enjoy it.

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