The Absent Family in Prayer

Here was our conclusion from “Shaken in Prayer.”

Romans 8:28 is not a standalone verse. It comes AFTER we begin to pray with the mind of the Spirit that we can then claim verse 28. Why? Because those who love God will have all things work together for good. Why? Because we are called according to His purpose. It is His way and His will that matters. Prayer is NOT about us and our wants and even our needs. It is about learning to pray in a way that matches the will of God on earth AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.

Sadly, too many who claim the name of Christ prefer to pray like this: “God, please do and accommodate my will in heaven as I want it to be done on earth.”

We go to church and say that we want the power of God to fall in our midst. Yet, we could not stand if it actually did. And the reason it does not fall as the Holy Spirit fills us to overflowing is that we have asked amiss. We ask the wrong questions, pray for the wrong things, and then stop praying and consider it a waste of time because we don’t get the answers we want from God.

Now, we raise our children to ignore prayer because they see no fervency in our times of prayer. Let me expand on this a few minutes.

For years our family have gone to prayer meetings in various churches that I pastored or where we were members. Apart from our children, I can count on both hands the number of children I have seen through the years in attendance. Our family believes firmly that if church is important enough to attend, then our children (even when they were little) should be sitting with us and learning why we pray.

As with many church services, the number of people in attendance drops drastically from a Sunday morning to a Sunday evening. Even more dramatic is the drop-in attendance from a Sunday to a mid-week prayer meeting.

When I pastored in England, we had some dear brothers and sisters who would come to mid-week prayer meeting. With not one week’s exception during our years there, the request would always come in to pray for wayward children to come back to God.

As disheartening as this will sound, I am convinced that one main reason that children flee from church and have no interest in the things of God is because that is the way they were raised.

English churches are no different than the ones here in America. Excuses were always given that it was too late because of school or whatever to attend anything other than a Sunday morning. Yet, having visited many homes I knew that many of those children that were supposedly getting ready for bed and then school were actually playing video games or watching television with the parent who chose to stay home.

What are they actually teaching their children? Let’s make this more personal. What are WE teaching our children? At no point have they engaged in prayer apart from the perfunctory blessing over the meal. At no point have they realized the wonder of God and the truth that He delights to bless His children AND He delights to hear the prayer of those who walk in righteousness before Him.

When your children are absent from times of collective prayer, you are teaching them that prayer is not important. You also teach them that you believe life is possible without having to resort to that old-fashioned notion of humility before the throne of God.

So, here is the order of events.

1) Send our children to junior or children’s church so they never learn to sit through worship and give attention to the Word of God being faithfully proclaimed.

2) Keep our children at home for any other scheduled events. Don’t get me wrong here. I know there are reasons why littles might be kept home if services are late. However, as they get older, they should be learning the true meaning of worship.

3) Refuse to keep them in during times of communion (like they do in England). Instead of being able to observe the testimony of believers one to another in the solemn rejoicing over the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the children have no idea why this little addendum to a service once a month is vital to our remembrance of the Savior.

4) During times of prayer, allow them to run around or play instead of paying attention to the prayers of the saints. This allows them to grow up without knowing the blessing of seeing prayers being answered.

5) As they grow older, let them “make their own decisions” as to whether they want to go to church or not.

6) Come to church prayer meeting as an older adult and mourn. Complain loudly that you don’t understand why they don’t know God. Cry for them to return to the fold.

Oh, my dear, dear readers. The reality is that they were NEVER in the fold. We taught them everything they know and don’t know about church because gathering collectively was not important to us.

Worshiping God and praying humbly before Him was not a priority.

Many times, I have visited churches and heard them invoke the reply of God to King Solomon about the children of Israel in 2 Chronicles 7:14-15 and claim it for themselves or the church at large. While the principles of this verse can be found throughout the Scriptures, what we fail to comprehend is the requirement for God to hear us is that WE MUST PRAY!

14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.

Prayer meetings are not usually humbling because we have grown accustomed to lives of ease. We trot our little wish lists, make a show of coming before the Almighty God of all creation, and then quickly leave so we can go about our lives.

It is as though we come to the foot of the cross just briefly, stand back up and with a backward glance, we call out, “Thanks God for listening. I’ll just pick up my burdens and take it from here again!”

Why, oh why is prayer so hard?

We will look at these in-depth in another post, but here are four reasons.

First, prayer is hard because it requires true humility that can only come from God.

Second, prayer is hard because it requires true confession of sin before God and before those whom we have offended.

Third, prayer is hard because it requires true dying to self daily.

Fourth, prayer is hard because it requires true faith that God does answer prayer. He does and will not always answer the way we want or like because His goal is not our happiness and our satisfaction. God answers in the manner and timing of His choosing so that He may be glorified in Himself.

Let’s close with these words from James 4:6-10 and a brief word of exhortation.

6 But he gives more grace. Therefore, it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Parents, you are to be an example of Christ to your children. We are to be a witness to our own households. We must be taking time to pray or learning to pray if we have done little before. When you go to church and if there is a prayer time, INCLUDE your children. They have plenty of time to play and do games, but there will never be enough time in prayer.

If prayer is not important or you have no desire to humbly approach the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, then you may need to do a heart checkup and see whether or not you are one of His children.

In the meantime, I encourage you to watch this video and maybe for the first time in a long time – Behold Your God!

—- To be continued —-

For Goats or Sheep?

In a previous post entitled, “Spiritual Vertigo”, I addressed three reasons why true believers, particularly in western evangelicalism, have entered a state where they have become disorientated. They struggle from week to week and from one Sunday morning worship to the next. The church has lost its balance and people are sick.

But, why or how does this happen?

Here are the reasons that I gave.

First, we fail to keep sight of the holiness, majesty, and glory of the almighty God. (Part 1 – Found here.)

Second, our vision of eternity is dulled because we become too focused on the world and what it has to offer. (Part 2 – Found here.)

Third, we become disorientated when we work harder to make the church appealing to unbelievers than we do in making the church a place for the sheep to come and find quiet waters and pastures where they can feed without the fear of wolves.

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Let’s get right to a summary of this blogpost.

1. Heaven is NOT for unredeemed sinners.

2. The Bride of Christ is the manifest evidence to a dead world that Jesus Christ is alive and is coming back for that which He redeemed with His precious blood.

3. Church is NOT for the pleasure of the world.

4. Church is a gathering together of believers who meet together for teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread (communion or the Lord’s Table), and prayer.

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Now we will break some of this down.

We live in a day and age of snowflakes. An overwhelming majority of people want to be offended, and there is no lack of intolerance. The worldling wears proverbial chips on the shoulder and just dares anybody, somebody, everybody to breathe in their direction so it will fall off and plummet to the ground.

Wikipedia defines the word “snowflake” as “a 2010s derogatory slang term for a person, implying that they have an inflated sense of uniqueness, an unwarranted sense of entitlement, or are overly-emotional, easily offended, and unable to deal with opposing opinions.”

Many pastors and teachers of the Scriptures today feel they are in a quandary. On one hand, they know that true believers are to obey God rather than man. On the other hand, many have not considered the price of standing for truth whether it causes offense or not. In other words, many are afraid of the faces of the people for a myriad of reasons, some of which may include their paychecks each month.

When being politically correct is more important than preaching truth, the minister who caves into the world is no longer a shepherd. They have become nothing more than a hireling.

For example, the rise of “issues” such as the LGBTQ+ movement is not a reflection of the direction the world is moving. The gross immorality of this movement has been in place for millennium. It will continue to grow more and more depraved, but we MUST expect that for the world runs headlong after all that opposes God and the truth of holiness.

The real issue is that the church bears the necessity of condemnation for its failing to adhere to Sola Scripture (Scripture alone) in all that it believes and practices. Little by little, the world kept pushing the boundaries. Pastors and church leaders kept quiet or used the phrase – “Well, whatever is done in the privacy of their own homes is ok as long as it is not done in the open.”

That was never going to be good enough, so the world continues to push. The church caved even more and now it is hard to find churches that have not openly accepted those who stand in open rebellion against God. Those who practice lawlessness moved their wickedness out of their own homes into the light of day and now have charged militantly into the church.

The militancy of this particular tiny but excessively and aggressively vocal subset of the community continues to try to infiltrate every single aspect of all that is good. What God created to be holy, they have made into degradation including marriage and the family.

Why is this important? Because the downward slide into oblivion will continue. The world will continue to make the church and God seem irrelevant. This means that true believers have just one of two choices on the shelf —

PLEASING GOD or PLEASING SELF!

What makes the situation in church even worse is that the world laughs at the church. They laugh, mock, and belittle true believers. Further, they think they are mocking God and thumbing their noses at Him. Listen to the words of King David from Psalm 2:1-4.

Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.

Truly, there is a dizzying difference between the churches of centuries past and the modern, so-called evangelical churches of today.

The early churches KNEW what it meant to take a stand and to be separate from the world. The world knew they were different. In fact, Acts 5:13 notes of the world, “None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.” The world did NOT consider it a light matter to join themselves to the small bands of Christian believers. They were afraid of the judgment that came from God against those who lied and grieved the Holy Spirit of God.

Today, many churches have little to no requirements for those who want to “join.” The worn-out motto has become “Come as you are, leave as you came!”

Is it any wonder that the church has no power?

Should we, who are bought by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, reduce our inheritance to nothing for the sake that we may be liked by the world? Have we truly forgotten the words of the Lord Jesus Christ that the world will HATE you because it hated me FIRST?

Brothers and sisters, the local body of believers is to be a haven of rest. It is a place where we may go to worship the God of all creation as a collective group. Will unbelievers come in to visit? Yes! Should they be welcomed? Yes!

Should we give the impression that God loves them just as they are and that our lives should be lived in a way that reflects the holiness of God? No, no, a thousand times NO!

Church is for true believers to be edified and built up in their faith. We are then to go OUT into the world to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ. As new believers are brought to the Savior, then they should be taught and discipled to become more and more like Jesus Christ.

Dear readers, you and I WILL NEVER change the church to look more like the world and find that we have attracted anything other than goats.

The joy of salvation is that the Bible makes a clear distinction between those who are lost (goats) and those who are true believers (sheep). However, the apostle John made it clear that whosoever is thirsty, may come and drink of the water of life. The gospel call goes out to the world to come and dine at the feet of Jesus Christ. Finally, the apostle Paul said that whosoever will may come and be saved.

For the church, judgment must begin with at home. We must stop trying to pacify the world and get back to reflecting the truth that we are the Bride of Christ. The Bride of Christ who is making herself ready for the return of the King.

As I concluded in the previous post, if the wonder of eternity remains dulled to us because we prefer to believe that the world holds more allure to us, then we will become a miserable failure because of a dimmed vision.

May our hearts be encouraged with a fresh look at the Savior today. May we be blessed with the recollection of all the heavenly benefits that belong to us.

We Are Family

Last night, I was thinking about my family. I have five younger siblings. As I’ve watched them grow into adulthood, it’s been interesting how different we all are. We have different music interests, movie likes, convictions, etc. And yet we also share memories, stories, private jokes. I think deep down we also have a commitment to not allow things to become so mountainous that it negatively affects our relationship. Sure, we might strongly disagree with each other but most of our disagreements are not worth losing the friendship we have.

bodyofchrist

This is how the Body of Christ should be as well. If we really understood that “we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Romans 12:5), maybe we would cherish each other more. If you were in an accident and lost your hand, you would no doubt try to find it and take it to the doctor to see if he could sew it back on. Yet, when a Brother or Sister cuts himself or herself off from the Body, we hardly notice. We may even think “good riddance.” I wonder if we would see more people come to know the Lord if they saw genuine love and care from God’s people.

This coming year, let’s ask God to give us greater hearts of love. Ask Him to give you His heart for those around you. I believe you would begin to look at people differently than you ever have before. God doesn’t look on a person’s outward appearance. He looks at the heart. We must learn to do that as well. As we draw near to Him, I believe He will help us to do so.

Till the expiration date do us part.

As if the institution of marriage isn’t already on the ropes, now the inevitable is being suggested: Marriage licenses with expiration dates.

“Lawmakers in Mexico City have proposed a bill to allow temporary marriage licenses, which can be discarded or renewed after a minimum two-year period. When the two-year license expires, the contract simply ends.”

Read more here.

When silence is not golden.

Ingrid Schlueter recently posted a short but poignant piece on Christian cowardice. In light of the abandonment by fellow Christians after her resignation from VCY America (and after this utterly horrendous debacle), her recent post holds much weight. Here’s a quote from The Color of Silence:

“You find out very quickly who your Christian friends are when you tell the truth in a difficult situation. Those you have known for decades and assumed were godly Christian friends will abandon you overnight if they stand to lose something by associating with you.”


Are Americans Getting Comfortable With Immorality?

Interesting article by the Christian Post on the state of America’s morality. Here’s a sample from the article:

“You would never know by watching American television that 61 percent of Americans say religion is very important in their lives.”

For Philbin, one message in particular that the media is continuously throwing at Americans is that of affirming homosexuality and gay marriage.

A poll released by Gallup last week found that for the first time since 1996, more than half of Americans say marriage for gays and lesbians should be legal.

Philbin clarifies the data as the result of Americans being brow-beaten through various forms of media and being constantly sent a message that says “you’re wrong, now change your view.”

“I think frankly Americans are just tired of getting beat up over their resistance to it,” he explained. “I think that at a certain point cultural fatigue sets in and you get tired of being told that you’re backward, being told you’re puritan troglodyte (a caveman) and a homophobe who hates people. So you shrug and say, ‘yea, I’m for it’ and go about your business.”

Civilization, he lamented, is headed in a direction that devalues the family unit.

“If a family is just a group of people cohabitating or pooling resources, and ceases to be the very basis and building block of society, I think you’re in a sort of moral quicksand where things lose meaning,” Philbin cautioned.

Read the entire article here.

Married couples are now in the minority of households.

From the Associated Press:

“The data supports that, as the Census Bureau reported last year that opposite-sex unmarried couples living together jumped 13 percent from 2009 to 7.5 million. . . . And attitudes on marriage are changing, too. About 39 percent of Americans say marriage is becoming obsolete, according to a Pew Research Center study published in November, up from 28 percent in 1978.”

Read the entire article here.