Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Prayer – Part 1

prayer-31I have come to realize that the greatest gift that Jesus left for His disciples was prayer! We see in the beginning of the book of Acts that Jesus tells His disciples to wait from power on high. They spend their time waiting and then Pentecost comes and the Church begins with power that results in many conversions. As we go beyond the day of Pentecost we see the Church at work. One of the most prominent things that is clear to anyone is that the Church continued to pray and received from God the power, direction, and strength to fulfill their call. For those of us who spend regular time in the Word the book of Acts and the New Testament passages that talk about prayer can seem average to us. That is perhaps the biggest problem with our calling upon God with faith that He is working.

Perhaps we have tried to pray and did not see the results we wanted so it has now become some type of basic routine in a routine Christian life. But why would God give us this gift if it was not meant to have greater results? Perhaps one of our problems with prayer is that we not only give up easily, but we don’t pray in a way that lines up with the Will of God. If you would read through the book of Acts in one setting and look at the different types of prayers going on you will discover that the Church prayed the Will of God. Put more simply they prayed to accomplish something for the Kingdom. How often does the Church today pray about its Sunday Service through the week? How often do we pray for healing, revival, conviction for sin in our lives, power from the Spirit to be greater witnesses, and a greater desire to see the Great Commission fulfilled through our local assembly. Maybe the biggest problem with prayer is that we are not seeking God’s Will, but our own. When we don’t get what we want we just let it become some ritual or routine we go through and think that we are pleasing God on some level.

As I read the New Testament I see all the wonderful passages on prayer and believe that God wants us to pray with a greater expectation than I see in the Church. It could be that we have become so result driven that when things do not immediately change we think that prayer really does not do anything at all. I do know that through the centuries individual Christians, Churches, and Mission Organizations have been radically transformed by prayer. I do not want to miss out on what God has for me and my Church by not seeking God as much as I possibly can. What would become of our Churches, families, and lives if all of us prayed several times a day for only 15 minutes each time to start off with? I believe with everything in me that radical transformation would happen. The Church has been stepping backward for far too long not to seek God and wait for Him to move. Are you praying? Are you willing to let God begin to transform you in new ways? Are you wanting greater power from on high? Get on your knees and start praying. It is not a routine, it is a privilege!


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Choir at the Mall


This past week I was doing some Christmas shopping at Alton Square Mall in Alton Illinois. I was walking out of a department store and  noticed people looking down over the railing to the bottom floor which is an open area. I decided to take a peek and I say a high school choir getting ready to sing. The choir started off with Noel which is a great song for this time of year. They followed with a few familiar Christmas Carols and sprinkled a few hymns throughout the performance. It was refreshing to see high school students being led to sing traditional Christmas Hymns in a politically correct age that seems to despise the true meaning of Christmas. Throughout this day I also heard “Merry Christmas” from more people than I can count. It seems that those who have issues with saying “Merry Christmas” and who are not in tune with the true meaning of the season are fewer in number with those of us who celebrate the gift of Jesus.

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John Piper on Prayer

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A Firm Place to Stand


This past year has had many different turns in it for me and my family. After returning from vacation in July I was asked to resign from my Church by the elders and not given a clear explanation of why. We were notified that we had 60 days to vacate the parsonage that we were living in as well which only added to our frustration and dismay. Within 45 days we moved back home and began to start over fresh and see what God had for us. This was a time of our faith being tested and learning to trust God moment by moment. It is times like this that you realize how close to God you truly are. In Psalm 40:1-2 David writes;

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.

Those verses became a mainstay for me during the past 5 months. The Church that I was a part of is known as the Independent Christian Church or the Restoration Movement. It is known for letting preachers go for any and every reason imaginable. During the past 8 months of being associated with this group my theology had been changing through my own personal study of Doctrine. While I was crushed by this event initially it was a release from a tradition that I could no longer agree with.

Before my family and I moved I began a dialogue with a Baptist Denomination. While I was not sure if I was going to ever enter ministry again I talked to them at the advice of my former Pastor and mentor. This dialogue lead to further discussions which opened a door of ministry to do some Interim Pastoral work at a small country church outside of my wife’s hometown. Through this experience I have enjoyed preaching and pastoral work in a much greater way than at any other time in ministry. I have preached with a greater sense of the Spirit moving through me than ever before. While doing Interim work I was approached by another Baptist Church about the possibilities of becoming their Pastor. Talking with them has been a bigger process than I had ever experienced with the Independent Christian Church which I have grown to appreciate. As of now I am at the tail end of the process with this Church still not knowing what the outcome will be. I have learned through this process that God can be counted on and trusted. Whether I am Pastoring full time by the beginning of 2009 or not I still am doing ministry in the context that I love and considering what happened 5 months ago that is a praise and testimony to the grace and movement of God. King David was correct in Psalm 40! God does give a firm place to stand to those who wait patiently for Him. There is no other choice we have as Christians no matter how it looks on the outside.

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I wonder sometimes how much people in the church really pray. I hear people saying all the time “we’re praying for you” but I wonder how true that is.  The many problems that we have in our lives and at the Church would probably work out much better if all of us who call ourselves Christians would spend adequate time each day on our knees. When I became a Christian and began to read through the Bible I was immediately drawn to the book of Psalms. This book reveals the character of God and how the Saints of old use to call upon His Name. One of my favorites through the years has been Psalm 34. When I look at it I see an invitation to come and meet with God. It talks about what life is like for those who are willing and serious about communing with him regularly. In the middle of this Psalm there is an exhortation to holy living and after that is another reminder of how God listens to those who walk in His commands and how he responds back.

Maybe part of our problem in the Church is that we don’t know how to pray. I think sometimes people might be intimidated worrying about what words to use. The best way to begin is by making sure you are taking in a steady diet of the word each day and getting on your knees and talk to God about how you don’t know how to pray and your desire to see this area of your spiritual life grow. If you do those 2 things that are so very basic you will begin to notice a change in not only your prayer life, but you will also see that your desire for God and true Christian growth will begin to matter much more. If those of us who make up the Church do not learn to pray on our own how can we begin to do so together and expect God to change us? We are being invited each day to come before God. We need to answer His invitation.

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What’s Missing?


I feel like in many Churches and with many Christians today there is a power and contentment missing in our lives. When Jesus saved us He did so with intention so that we could have an abundant spiritual life. Do you see yourself as a person who has the life that Jesus talked about? Is there an inner peace with God in your life? Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said that those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled.” Powerful words! He also said in that same sermon that those who would “seek his Kingdom and righteousness” first would find have what they really needed in this lifetime. I wonder sometimes how seriously we take these words from the one we claim to be the Savior of our lives. Maybe Jesus is just another category in our life and not our life right now. Perhaps we are just counting on an entrance into Heaven and so to grow closer to God is only for the few strange people in our Church who seem to want to do that.

There is a life that Jesus promised to us that we forget about most of the time. It is a life that entails a dynamic relationship with God. It is not a life of ease or a life that is without pain, but it is a dynamic life and many are not finding it today. Maybe our problem is that we forget about the promises of God in His word because we are not into the word like we should be to see those promises. In John 7:37-38 it says;

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”

I believe in that promise with all of my heart. But it has to start somewhere. It has to be practical enough for us to attain it. It starts with a steady diet of prayer and the word. That diet must be steady and we must not let anything hinder our time with God each day. If you are to ask any Christian about their spiritual life with God you will find that prayer is the main thing lacking in individual lives and as the Church comes together. Jesus gave this promise to everyone who would become His disciple. Are we thirsty enough to see how real this promise is?

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This past Sunday I preached through Ephesians 2:1-10 which is a mainstay of Reformed theology. In this text Paul tells us that when we are outside of Christ we do nothing but follow our own sinful nature/desires of the flesh. We clearly see in this text that God moves within us and gives us a desire to seek Him out. Once we place our faith in Him we are saved by the grace of God alone. This passage of scripture has become very dear to me over the past 12 months as I was looking into the Doctrines of Grace more closely not ever imagining that I would end my journey by giving myself over to them completely. While Paul discusses our regeneration and salvation in this text for the first 9 verses he ends the text in an interesting way.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

There was a distinct reason for our being saved. God saved us out of love and by grace but with the intention that our salvation would shine through what is produced for the Kingdom. Not too long ago I ran into a man who attended the Church where I met and married my wife at. He told me he no longer attended their because they were not fundamental enough (he didn’t like that they had no set doctrinal statement) and now he is attending a different Baptist church. I asked him how he liked his new Church and he said; “They don’t have enough programs for kids!” No matter where we are we need to be fulfilling the “good works” that have been laid out before us by our Lord. It’s easy to complain about the Church and what it lacks and much harder to be a person who helps it improve in areas that are lacking. If any local Church is going to see improvement it will take those who cherish the Doctrines of Grace and their salvation working to make it better each week. Any Church is only as strong as its disciples. If you are in awe of what God has done by saving you from a life that runs toward sin then take seriously what it says about the work to which you have been called.

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