Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Key to a Quiet Life

“Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made on behalf of all men: for kings and rulers in positions of responsibility, so that our common life may be lived in peace and quiet, with a proper sense of God and of our responsibility to Him for what we do with our lives” (1 Timothy 2:1 Phillips).

As I ponder the change that January 20th brought to our Nation—all the media coverage, all the negative coverage, all the coverage period—I am easily out of sorts, depressed, or fed up! But that is not what God calls me to be. He desires to gather up those emotions and use them for the furtherance of His Kingdom. He wants me to use all my internal energies toward more constructive responses (ie praying, praying, or...uh...praying!). According to the 2nd Chapter of 1 Timothy, there is an important and “proper” response—one that leads to peace and quiet (at least in my heart and home—the promised peace to the world will come at Christ's return!)—and it is a response the Lord holds me responsible to keep! That is sobering to consider...especially when I consider the time I spent (or better put, did not spend) in prayer for my county this last week! Pray? Yes, I did! Consistently? Uhhhh, no, I did not! There is one word that comes to mind: minimal! And when I take a moment to recall the time I thought about or talked about my country, that word minimal, in regards to prayer, becomes very shameful indeed! I have been commanded to pray, and in the sight of God our Savior this is undoubtedly the right thing to do:“for His purpose is that all men should be saved and come to realize the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3). Writing out a prayer helps me to Biblically, and therefore, boldly, come before the throne of God. I ask you to join me in praying for those God has seen fit to put into office.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Your word tells me that I must pray for all people in authority over me, that I may live in peace, in godliness, and in dignity (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Lord, I give thanks this day for every branch of government and every individual that you have appointed to rule and judge within this great Nation. You appoint Kings and you take down kingdoms! You, O Lord, are Sovereign!

I plead Your mercy upon our President, Barack Obama, his cabinet, and our Vice President, Joe Biden; I plead Your mercy upon our Congress—those residing in the House and the Senate; I pray specifically for our Congressmen, Representatives, and Senators; I plead your mercy upon our Mayors and Governors; and I plead Your mercy upon our Supreme Court Judges—those who hold great power—as they pass laws that either reflect or discredit Your judgment. I lift up Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice John Paul Stevens, Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Justice David Souter, Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Steven Breyer and Justice Samuel Alito, and ask that they will look to their higher Authority, the Eternal Judge, in the last day.

Whenever I assemble with other believers to pray, Your word tells me that it must be without anger and controversy (1 Timothy 2:8). Forgiveness is a major key to not being “outsmarted” by the enemy (2 Corinthians 2:11). I am familiar with his evil schemes and desire to come before You, Lord Jesus, with no harbored bitterness against anyone. Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:10). May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord (Psalm 19:14).

As my prayer is to be an expression of my love, may it be pure and Christ-like, full of compassion and tender mercy! Lord, You felt great pity when you saw people, because their needs were so great, and because they did not know where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36-37). Lord, You are that Great Shepherd and You are good. You promise to be a Guide to those who have gone astray. You promise to bring back those that are scattered. Lord, please rescue those that are lost—break their chains of bondage. Bind up the injured and strengthen the weak (Ezekiel 34).

Lord, I pray that these men and women would come to full salvation from sin and gain an understanding of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). I pray against the god of this evil world, who has blinded their eyes from seeing the glorious light (2 Corinthians 4:4). I pray that Your light would dispel their darkness and that they would be freed from the power of Satan and be set apart to God (Acts 26:18). May I stand firm against the strategies of the wicked one as I pray for those in authority over me—for I wrestle not with flesh and blood, but against rulers, and against authorities of the unseen world and wicked spirits in heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:11-12).

Lord, you desire that none should perish. I pray that our President and those who hold high office would believe that you exist (Hebrews 11:6)—that they would seek You with all their hearts, and that they would find You (Matthew 7:7).

I pray that those in authority over this country would display a godly and just rule (Proverbs 16:12). May they commit their works to You, for then their plans to succeed will come to fruition (Proverbs 16:3). I pray that those who govern this nation will seek wisdom from You alone, for You alone can grant it (Proverbs 2:6). I pray that they will please You in all their ways—for You promise to protect those who please You—even their enemies will be at peace with them (Proverbs 16:7).

Lord, I pray that these men and women would practice self-control, for without it they are like a defenseless city (Proverbs 25:28). Lord, their actions will greatly effect the protection of this county. I pray that they would have a tender conscience—that they would confess their sins and forsake them (Proverbs 28:13-14). And I pray that they would hate dishonesty and brides (Proverbs 28:16).

Dear Father, I pray that you will bless our Nation through these individuals. You have promised to listen intently to my prayer, and I am confident in Your word that says that whatever I ask according to Your will, will be given to me (1 John 15:14-15). It is Your will that none would perish. It is Your will that all would come to a greater understanding of the truth. I anticipate the remarkable secrets You will reveal (Jeremiah 33:3).

In Your most Precious Son’s Name, Jesus Christ, and through His Blood, Amen.

“Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made on behalf of all men: for kings and rulers in positions of responsibility, so that our common life may be lived in peace and quiet, with a proper sense of God and of our responsibility to Him for what we do with our lives” (1 Timothy 2:1 Phillips).

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

You Gotta Go!

“Go and make disciples of all nations...teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20 NLT).

The usual practice engaged in during the turn of a New Year is that of making resolutions. We resolve to eat better, to work harder, to love deeper...and yet to our shame, when those grand resolves are met with challenge, in many cases, they are outwitted and topple! We had been determined to hold our tongue...but we failed the first opportunity we were given! The problem is with the one who tries our patience, of course, and they seem to be at every turn. “I could better watch my temper if I didn't have to deal with that individual.” Sound familiar? Well, it's an excuse! And excuses come and go—and sadly they take our desire for righteous behavior right with them if we are not careful to confess our inadequacy and try again. Unless we are determined to not give up, we will do just that! Old habits are hard to break! I am thinking of several habits I wish my resolving alone would do away with: lethargy, fear, making the easy choice (not necessarily the right one!)...just to name a few! I am resolved more than ever to “Go into all the world...” (Mark 16:15) and yet that will not happen unless I actually go! Unless I put words, feet, and hands to my resolve it will be forgotten and go stale!

Our resolve is only our admittance to a problem and the desire we have to see it changed, it is not the problem solver. This must be clearly understood or we will never experience revival. If you want to get in shape then you must plan to exercise—your muscles need to be manipulated or they will not be transformed. If you want to hold your tongue then you must have a ready word to any rebuke or irritating comment—without such preparation you will only end up saying the wrong thing...again! And if you want to share Christ to a world lost in sin then you must know what Biblical evangelism is—and you must go about practicing it.

Along with the Word of God, YOU are what God ordained to use in order to tell the world about His redemption. Evangelism does not “just happen”—it involves people—people willing to carry out Jesus’ command to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel.” It requires feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace and a mouth willing to tell others how they can find that peace. And just like any resolution, YOU must put into action a plan of attack or you will see no fruit. If you desire to effectively do this, you must learn and then follow the example Jesus set while He was here on earth! We are told that Jesus was determined to only do that which His Father bade Him to do. If you are resolving to “Go!” this New Year, then jot down some of the ways Jesus went about it—and apply them! Here are some that I have noted:

Jesus overcame temptation. Satan will come to tempt me as well (when I am discouraged, loaded down with care, filled with doubts, tired, etc) and he will give me reason to dwell there, and in fear or frustration, forsake the command. I must be as ready as my Savior was. Jesus defeated His enemy with the Holy Scripture—I must do the same—for I must believe (and therefore act upon) what I declare to the lost to be true!

Jesus yielded to the Holy Spirit. I must never forget the importance of this deferring act. God will use me to befriend an individual, to declare His truth, and to pray for their salvation, but it will always be the Spirit that arranges the encounter, draws the heart to understand, and answers the prayer by making them a child of God!

Jesus made preaching high priority! I must do the same. Although it is always important to “live out” my Christianity it should never be done as a substitute for “preaching out” my Christianity. I must look for ways to step out of my comfort zone and open my mouth. There must be words to back up any spiritual principle I practice. Whether it is honesty in the work place or holiness in the public square—I should be able to explain why (from a Biblical Worldview) and lead someone to the Scriptures.

Jesus was committed to people and He was committed to prayer! As I read through the Gospels I see our Savior teaching crowds, healing crowds, feeding crowds, walking with crowds, having compassion on crowds (that can wear a person out!!!!). We know that Jesus experienced physical exhaustion...and yet we know He never sinned! Jesus ministered to people, but He also pulled away from them—“getting into a boat and rowing to the other side”—not to take a nap, but in order that He might pray! Jesus was committed to prayer as much as He was committed to people! If people are essential to evangelism…prayer is vital! Jesus not only received His “daily assignments” during times of intercession, He received power and the needed strength that allowed Him to minister so beautifully. I think the two must be in place—or evangelism will not be effective. If I minister without prayer I will become frustrated, impatient, and unloving to those I am trying to win to Christ—for I will be doing it all in my own strength (as if it us up to me!)—and I will fail miserably! Jesus knew that it was His Father that drew men’s hearts, and so, He talked to Him about it constantly.

Jesus called others to help. He said“'Come after me!'...and straightway they forsook their nets and followed Him” (Mark 1:17-18). I am not supposed to do this on my own! I need the support and the encouragement from others. And so do you! We need to draw from each other's strengths, lift each other up when we are tired, and be an intricate part of each other's prayer life! If I am resolved to “Go” then I must persuade you to come along with me!

Evangelism is just as necessary today as it was when the Church began. We are not asked to consider making this a priority...we are commanded to carry it out! God desires that none perish but that all come to saving faith—we must passionately desire the same thing! Here is where the church must be resolved—for according to the Word of God, there is only one way that we can carry this out: “How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).

“Go and make disciples of all nations...teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20 NLT).