Archive for January, 2008

Precepts for Prayer

January 29, 2008 Leave a comment

The best known instruction that Jesus gave on the subject of prayer is found in what is called “The Lord’s Prayer.”  You know, the prayer that begins, “Our Father, who art in heaven” (Mt.6:9).

Jesus, though, gave a lot of other instruction on prayer as well – and it’s worth attending to.  The quality of your relationship with God is directly related to your prayer life.  And there is no better instruction to be found  regarding prayer than that which comes from the Master Himself.

Here are a few of the most important precepts that Jesus gives concerning prayer.  Think through each one in light of your own prayer life.

Sincerity.  For prayer to be effective, it needs to be genuine.  There needs to be a consistency between what’s on your heart and what’s on your lips.  Prayer is not about appearance.  Jesus made this plain when He made an example of the Pharisees who prayed in order to be noticed by others.  Prayer is about seeking God in spirit and truth.

Humility.  God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. Jesus taught this in the classic parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Lk.18:9ff).  The Pharisee trusted in himself and went home with nothing; the tax collector knew his unworthiness but was lifted up because of His humility.  We too must go to God in prayer knowing that we are dependent on Him – not thinking in any sense that He owes us.

Faith. When people approached Jesus for help, He expected that they would have faith, and He responded to them according to their faith.  Through faith, what seems impossible can become reality (Mk.11:22-24), but he who doubts should not expect to receive anything from the Lord (Jas.1:7).  “Without faith, it’s impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb.11:6).

Forgiveness.  You may wonder what forgiveness has to do with prayer.  According to Jesus, it has a great deal to do with it.  In fact, he’s quite explicit in that He says if you are forgiving, God will forgive you.  But if you are not willing to forgive others, God will not forgive you (Mt.6:14,15).  Those who have their prayers heard by God do not cling to their resentments, rather they are quick to reconcile with others and forgive them.

Persistence.  The problem with many who pray is that they give up too soon.  For prayer to be effective, we need to be persistent.  We are to be like one in need, who does not give up until that need is met (Lk.11:5ff).  Or we are to be like one who petitions a judge, and does not give up until justice is received (Lk.18:1ff). These things are in the Bible to teach us that God is pleased to answer persistence.

Be sure and give these teachings of Jesus the attention they deserve.  God will use them to not only make your prayers more effective, but also shape you into the kind of person He wants you to be.

Categories: Seed for the Harvest

Think God Can’t Use You?

January 29, 2008 Leave a comment

Categories: Christian Life

What it Means to be Pro-Life

January 22, 2008 Leave a comment

When people hear “pro-life,” they think of the abortion issue.  That’s because the pro-life label has become a way of identifying those who are against abortion.

But being pro-life goes beyond abortion.

Throughout its pages the Bible gives us an entire pro-life vision.  A vision that does not merely fixate on an issue or two, but encompasses the whole of life.

From the very beginning God has intended life to be characterized by blessing and abundance.  By the fifth day the world that God made teemed with swarms of living creatures.  And He placed the first man and woman in a garden which had in it a tree of life.

Even after sin entered the world, God did not forsake His purpose to bless with goodness those He made in His likeness.  But experiencing this blessing requires trust and obedience.

Because of this, the Bible exhorts us to “choose life.”  The commands He gives us are not out of reach for us. Yet we must be careful not to be drawn away by our own desires, lest we miss the life He freely offers.  (Dt.30:11-20).

Of course, we don’t always act wisely and respond in obedience to what comes before us.  Indwelling sin, the seductions of the world, and the adversary of our souls seek to woo us away from God.  And when we listen, we take a step on the path of death.

But Jesus came to bring us the life that we cannot attain ourselves.

The Bible presents Jesus as the Good Shepherd.  In the midst of a world of lies that lead astray, He leads His sheep with words of truth.  And to those who hear His voice and follow Him, He promises an abundant life (Jn.10:10)

What is an abundant life?  It begins with the spiritual benefits of living with a good conscience, and trusting Him from now to eternity.  But it also includes all the good that having God with us provides in this world.

Too often we separate the spiritual from the world we actually live in.  But the earthy image of sheep being led by a shepherd tells us that the biblical promise of abundant life is for the here and now.  And this promise was secured when Jesus laid down His life for those who belong to Him.

Once we see Jesus as the Lord who gives abundant life, applications of what it means to be pro-life appear everywhere. It affects not just how we view unborn babies, but how we  view children in general, how we speak of others, how we decide when it’s right to go to war, and even how much we enjoy life itself.

A biblical, pro-life vision not only seeks to see the unborn survive the womb.  It also seeks to see all others thrive once they are outside of it.  This vision can only be realized as we make obedience to God – in all areas of life –  a serious pursuit.

“Blessed is the man who listens to me. . . For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord” (Pr.8:34-36).

Categories: Seed for the Harvest

Business and Bravery

January 17, 2008 Leave a comment

I’ve been preparing some talks for people who are involved in business. In my reading, I came along an excellent quote showing that doing business in a biblical way calls for bravery.

“The economic world is a battlefield, and it takes wit, bravery, and a strong will that is loath to retreat, much less surrender. The moral leadership of the church does not understand this very well. In my whole life I have never once heard (nor heard of) a sermon on the dangers of cowardice in the business world, much less on the virtues of bravery competing within it. But the parable of the pounds (in its context) is a strong warning against those who would erode the strong, aggressive, competitive spirit of behavior (particularly economic behavior) among Christians who believe that their king has given them pounds to trade until he comes. Let us beware lest we find ourselves feebly wrapping our pounds in pieces of cloth, covering lives of fear and escapism with pious excuses about God’s indifference to the things of the world, and his severity toward those who work within it.”

John R. Schneider in The Good of Affluence

Categories: Economics, Quotes

Problems Men Face

January 15, 2008 Leave a comment

I’ve long believed that men are the key to restoring our society.  Turn around the men, and improvements will follow everywhere else.

I say this not to ignore the significant place of women, for they surely have one.  Rather, I say this to wake up men from their spiritual slumber.

There are a number of common problems that every man faces, and in order to fully function as a man he must recognize these and overcome them.

Problem numero uno is an unwillingness to take responsibility. Multitudes of men will look at their problems and quicky blame anyone but themselves.  They will blame their wives, their kids, their boss – even God.

This kind of evasion is as old as Adam, who was the first to pass off responsibility.  When he disobeyed God and got called on it, he blamed his wife, and then God for giving her to him.

An unwillingness to own up to one’s responsibility is not only the most basic problem a man faces, but it’s also the root of many others.  So, if a man does not embrace responsibility, other problems are sure to pursue him.

The most common of these subsequent problems is bitterness.  If a man has shifted responsibility for his problems onto someone else, it’s only a short step for him to become embittered toward that person.  After all, he reasons, “That person has messed up my life, so I have a right to be mad.”

Too often that bitterness is directed toward a man’s own wife.  How many men become ticked off at their wives only for the reason that it is easier than taking responsibility themselves.  This problem is so common that  the Bible specifically warns men not to be embittered toward their wives (Col.3:19).

Once a man makes a practice of ignoring his responsibility and being embittered toward others, it’s not long before the problem of passivity sets in.

God made man to actively rule, protect, and cultivate whatever is in his sphere of influence.  But when a man’s thoughts alternately accuse him (because of his negligence) or defend him (on the basis of his phony excuses), he becomes immobilized.  He loses the “get up and go” to do what he ought to be doing for the good of himself and others.

As a man reaches this point, he is usually pretty disgusted with himself, and he shows it by withdrawing into his own little world and being surly toward those he comes in contact with.  Beyond this, he consoles himself by nursing his resentments and satisfying his own selfish desires.

Is there any hope for such a man?  Indeed there is.  Jesus Christ came to forgive and reclaim those who are trying to hide behind the fig leaf of blame-shifting.

For the man who is caught in the cycle of irresponsibility, bitterness, and passivity, this is good news.  It means that by God’s grace he can become what he knows he ought to be, for his family and those around him.

And that’s good news for society too.

May God give much grace to the many men who need to embrace the responsibility that they know is theirs.

Categories: Seed for the Harvest

Who’s in Charge

January 8, 2008 Leave a comment

This past Sunday many churches observed what is known as Epiphany Sunday. This is a day to commemorate that when the magi came and brought gifts to Jesus, He was shown forth as the Lord over all.

The manifestation of Christ as the Lord over all answers one of the critical questions of our day: “Who is sovereign?” In other words, who has ultimate authority over our lives? Who rules? Who’s in charge?

The resounding answer the Bible gives is that the Lord is in charge. And that Christ has been installed as the head “above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named. . .” (Eph.1:20).

For believers, Christ’s Lordship is reason for rejoicing. It grants assurance that there is One who governs the affairs of this world. And it provides a secure basis for what is right and wrong.

Not all, however, find the Lordship of Jesus Christ as something to celebrate. This has been found to be especially so among civil rulers.

When King Herod heard that another King had been born, he was troubled. He did not want anyone to rival his own authority. And in keeping with his selfish desire, he slaughtered all the infant males under two-years old in order to do away with the threat that Christ posed to his power (Mt.2:16).

Of course, Christ was safe in Egypt at the time. But the desire to resist Christ’s Lordship has continued among civil rulers through the centuries.

A good example of this comes from our own American history and the “divine right of kings.” Under this doctrine the king of England saw himself as directly appointed by God, and those who resisted him in rebellion against God. Well, thanks to a strong view of Christ’s sovereignty in early American churches, the colonists rejected the king’s notions and it gave birth to our Nation’s independence.

The issue of God’s sovereignty remains a vital one. But unfortunately, the understanding of God’s sovereignty that characterized our forefathers and holds civil rulers accountable is absent today.

Instead, God is viewed as weak and irrelevant, and men are deemed to be the ones having all the solutions. Increasingly, we have godlike expectations of our rulers, and rarely think that the answers to our problems may lie in repentance and returning to the principles of Scripture.

As a result, liberties are being lost in the land of the free. And naturally so. If the state is viewed as the ultimate provider and defender, it must restrain freedom in order to orchestrate the future it envisions and the expectations of its people.

But the sad reality is that when the state functions in this way, not only does it diminish the freedom of the people, but it will also fail in its grand efforts to provide and protect.

Why? Because the state is not sovereign.

The Lord is the only sovereign. And it’s only as we trust Him as the one in charge of all things in heaven and earth that freedom and prosperity can be ensured.