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 —-

My Worth is Not in What I Own

In a world that prides itself on self-indulgence and the so-called ability to lift ourselves to new heights, we would do well to remember a short message from the apostle Paul. Speaking to the philosophers at the Aeropagus in Acts 17:24-28 told his listeners:

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being.”

My worth has NOTHING to do with me. The world says I must love myself first, take care of myself first, forgive myself first, but the Scriptures are clear that all we have and are is because of Christ and Him alone.

Wanted: Love and Grace

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person  ~Colossians 4:6.

Have you ever met someone who prides herself on speaking her mind? I think that phrase alone says a lot: The person who speaks what’s on his mind regardless of how it makes others feel is a proud person. I expect that she doesn’t realize that she sometimes does things that irritates others and yet they show grace to her. Why is it so difficult to bear with “stupid” people?

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ  ~Ephesians 4:15.

A lack of love is another reason some are quick to cut down others. Especially on social media, it is easy to subtly address faceless beings who can’t have feelings and so something they do or say is picked apart by another individual who has no patience with them.

I would like to submit that this kind of behavior is not boldness; many times, it is simply arrogance. By pointing out someone else’s fault (whether you name him or her or not), you are deflecting away from your own faults.

Facebook is the only social media that I am a part of, and I too see things that others say and do that I wouldn’t, but it is their page. They can do what they like on their page. I can participate or not. If I were truly burdened about it, I would send them a private message. If it’s not a burden, why not let it go?

We live in a world where many do not like confrontation. But passive aggressiveness? That’s a different story. Let’s make sure that the things we say and type are encouraging and helpful. There are times when people or situations need to be addressed, but it needs to be done with love and grace.

truthinlove

Someone Like Me

I wonder if a person can truly be converted if she doesn’t understand how truly vile she is without God. Is this why many who grow up in church look the part a long time before they realize they are not truly saved? We like singing songs like, “I am so glad that Jesus loves me” as we subconciously think, After all, how could He not?

I know how easy it is to make verbal claims about “All have sinned” and “I’m a sinner saved by grace” while mentally going down the list of sins and thinking that I must be okay since I don’t do these things, all the while forgetting one of the worst sins–pride.

If you think about it, pride is probably the root of every other sin there is. If you kill someone, you are not thinking about the person whose life you are taking; you are more concerned with how you will feel after that person is not around anymore. If you have an affair, you are not worried about the family you are hurting; you are preoccupied with what will bring you pleasure. If you are a glutton, you are more than likely not thinking about anything other than satisfying your cravings. Pride and selfishness are not little sins.

I would encourage you to compare yourself to Scripture instead of to other people. When you truly see yourself in the light of God’s Word, you cannot honestly think that you are OK. You might even find yourself crying out with Peter, “Lord, depart from me for I am wicked.” Once you hit that place, you will finally understand how amazing God’s grace really is and then you will be singing from your heart, “I once was lost, but now I’m found. I was blind but now I see.

 

Discontentment

Striving Against The Lord

Philippians 2:14-15 “Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.”

Previously, we had spoken on contentment and how important it is in our lives but now it’s time to share about discontentment and the adverse affect it has on us.

When we are discontented with what is happening in our lives we tell the Lord that He has no right to govern our lives. We show forth an attitude like we know more than God does. When our children complain because they don’t get what they want we keep back special things from them until they are willing to have an attitude of gratefulness towards us. It’s not that we don’t want to give it to them but we can’t afford to give it to them when they gripe about what they feel they are entitled to instead of being thankful for what they have. A child always indulged is an ungrateful child.

discontentment-robs-us

The same can be said of us. If we are always indulged in what we feel is right then we will show forth an attitude of discontentment. When that happens, the Lord may say to us, “That’s fine so now I will give you all you demand since My wise bestowments aren’t good enough for you.” He then may step back and we could fall into a time of living on the back of the desert until we are ready to humble ourselves before the Lord. It’s important for us to realize that He places each thing in our lives for a very good reason, some of which we may never know about.

I’m always interested in the book by John Bunyan called Pilgrim’s Progress. When our boys were little, my husband would read it to them periodically with his myriad of voices. At one section of the story, Christian was at the house of the interpreter. There were two children sitting and waiting. One was very impatient and the other sat quietly. The one who was impatient received gifts and mocked the child who waited patiently.

The interpretation went something like this, “The child who was impatient refused to wait and received his gifts first and so mocked the child who waited patiently. The child waiting patiently would receive his gifts but they would be, by far, the better gifts. He who goes first soon uses up his gifts and must give way to he who goes last. The last would then be first and none takes his place because he is the last.”

In Philippians 1:28-29 we are reminded that we will be persecuted for doing right and in John 16:1-3, the person who kills us will feel like he’s doing a great service to God for so doing. This is our lot in life and persecution may not be that bad now but it could very well grow worse. Let us check our spirit daily and if we find ourselves growing discontented with our lot in life let us seek forgiveness and adjust our attitude to a grateful one. May our lives show the Lord that we are content under His wise bestowments.

Speaking Graciously

Truth in grace. I love the new blog title. I’ve said for years that some people have no problem “speaking the truth” (or what they perceive that truth to be) but they forget the “in love” part.  If we love each other, our words will be “gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:6).

col46

People complain about the internet being a place where some say things that they would never say to a person’s face. I personally love this mode of communication because it gives me time to think through how to respond to a person or situation. Not that I always do it perfectly, but I have the opportunity to slow down and allow God to speak through me as opposed to speaking off the top of my head words that might be full of pride and ignorance.

Whatever we do, whether in word or deed, we are to do it to the glory of God (Col. 3:17). I pray that I will never lose sight of that truth.

 

Go the Extra Mile

But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles (Matthew 5:39-41).

I love the Sermon on the Mount, as this is where Jesus taught His followers to not merely obey the law but to go the extra mile in serving God, experiencing life with Him instead of just doing the bare minimum (the Pharisee way).

Although the Bible is the guideline for every true Believer, the above verses are ones I never hear taught. I hear more people who are concerned about being taken advantage of, and whose focus is on defending themselves and their “rights.”

Jesus went on to say:

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (Matthew 5:46).

I agree that evildoers should be punished, and Scripture affirms that, but Jesus taught us to go the extra mile in order to live at peace as much as possible and to love those who do us wrong.

extramile

Maybe part of the problem is that we think of love as warm, fuzzy feelings toward a person when, in reality, love is something that comes from the heart. It is refusing to be angry and bitter no matter how much of a right you have to be so.

I realize this is easier said than done, but this is where the Holy Spirit comes in. James 5:16 tells us that “the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” I am testimony to the fact that, if you desire desperately to have a clean heart toward someone who has wronged you, God will answer that prayer.

My bottom line is this: Do you respond to situations like Jesus would? There is a time to speak and a time to be silent. There may be a time to defend yourself, but I believe that it’s often pride that causes our flesh to become defensive and retaliate. We need to stand for truth, but our focus should be on Christ and glorifying Him. If that is not your motive, pray for wisdom before you do anything other than what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount.

The Pastor – Chapter 6, The Use of Titles

How men love titles! Does your “pastor” like to be called “doctor” or even “pastor”? Are such titles biblical for the gathered people of God? The Solaauthor gives this peek into today’s message:

Now to grasp another nettle. Titles. The New Testament never uses any title for any man in the church. What is more, it categorically forbids it. Nowadays, however, most Christians do use titles – or one in particular – and do so without turning a hair, even though it contradicts Christ’s plain command. Complaining of the scribes and Pharisees who loved ‘to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them “Rabbi”’, Christ said: But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi’, for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call any one on earth ‘father’, for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher’, for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Matt. 23:1-12). But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for one is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call any one on earth your father… And do not be called teachers… But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (NKJV).

Chapter 6 can be found here.

Chapter 5 is here.

Don’t Quit

Sometimes I wonder why God still bears with me when I still struggle so much. After so many years of serving Him and seeing His hand at work, there should never be a time that I doubt Him. But then I don’t think I doubt Him as much as I doubt myself. Even in that, I am constantly learning and hopefully growing. I expect this will be the case until He takes me Home.

God said that He would not strive with man forever (Genesis 6:3), but the Psalmist noted that God will not despise a broken and a humble heart (Psalm 51:17).  We will never be perfect this side of Heaven (although we need to continually strive to be so); yet, when we fall, we must be quick to humble ourselves, admit our failure, get up, and try again. The Bible is full of imperfect people that God used but He knew their hearts were turned toward Him. If we never struggled, we may become full of pride, at which point we would be totally useless.

qualified

If you are struggling today and feel like a failure, ask God’s forgiveness. Realize that the enemy is trying to bring you down in order to render you totally ineffective for the Kingdom. I wish I knew who said that “God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.” That is definitely true in my life, and I expect it is in yours too.

So today, I just want to encourage you: Don’t quit. Keeping running the race. Do the best you can to faithfully do what God has called you to do. If He wanted it done perfectly, He could do it without you. All you need to do is do your best and let Him take care of the rest. Thank Him that He still has a work for you to do. After all, if He didn’t, you would not be here.

God Resists the Proud

One sin that I am convinced almost every human on the planet deals with to some degree or another is the sin of pride. It may exhibit itself in different ways but the root is there just the same. Years ago, I thought of pride as arrogance, and I did not think that described me, so it was easy to feel pretty good about myself. It wasn’t until I read Irresistible to God that I was reminded just how much God hates pride and exactly how one can begin to see the proud areas of his or her life in order to change into the humble son or daughter that God requires.

First Peter 5:5 tells us that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. I don’t know about you but the thought of God resisting me makes me tremble. I can’t imagine kneeling before His throne to make my petition known just to see Him turn His face and refuse to even look at me. That’s at best. Resisting also means turning against. That is even more scary! I need God on my side so I must endeavor to become humble.

James-4-6

In Proverbs 6, you will find a list of things God hates. Pride is the first thing in that list, along with “hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked imaginations,” and several other things. If God hates it that badly, I want nothing to do with it.

Unfortunately, after 40+ years, it is not easy to just be humble and get rid of all pride. I have a lot of habits and patterns that are a part of me, which I must rely on God to help uncover bit by bit. As I see my pride flare up, I do have the responsibility to kill it though. I do not want that to define my life.

If you have never considered pride as a bad thing, I encourage you to do a study and see what else God has to say about it. My prayer tonight is:

Change my heart, O God
Make it ever true
Change my heart, O God
May I be like You

Why I’m a Calvinist, and Not a Jerk!

We welcome a guest blogger to Defending Contending. George Alvarado may be known to some of you as the author of the book Apocity. I hope that we can learn from the attitude he portrays on what is often a sensitive issue and one that is not always found with a great degree of humility.

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Imagine someone drowning and gasping for air as they are gargling water trying to cry for help. Just before they black out, their lungs fill with water, preventing them to give a final cry, and their body sinks to the depths. As they black out, they feel nothing but the cold water surrounding them, and hear nothing but a deafening silence that welcomes them to their watery grave. Then, they wake up and find themselves underneath the pressure of someone administering CPR. As their chest is compressed and their lungs fill with air from their rescuer, they begin to regain consciousness and the breath of life is once again restored to their own control. When they take their first, deep breath, the adjoining exhale is filled with overwhelming gratitude towards the person that resuscitated them from certain death. Now, imagine a local journalist reporting on this incident asking this person their thoughts on this event, and they say, “I am really glad I chose to come back to life. I can’t imagine what would have happened if I didn’t take my first breath.”

Hands-Drowning-Sea

Continue reading

Quotes: Charles Spurgeon on Humility in the Pulpit

From the Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, in his work “The Soulwinner”:

“In the matter of soul-winning, humility makes you feel that you are nothing and nobody, and that, if God gives you success in the work, you will be driven to ascribe to Him all the glory, for none of the credit of it could properly belong to you. If you do not have success, humility will lead you to blame your own folly and weakness, not God’s sovereignty. Why should God give the blessing, and then let you run away with the glory of it? The glory of the salvation of souls belongs to Him, and to Him alone. Then why should you try to steal it? You know how many attempt this theft. ‘When I was preaching at such-and-such a place, fifteen persons came into the vestry at the close of service, and thanked me for the sermon I had preached.’ You and your blessed sermon be hanged, – I might have used a stronger word if I had liked, for really you are worthy of condemnation whenever you take to yourself the honour which belongeth unto God only. You remember the story of the young prince, who came into the room where he thought his dying father was sleeping, and put the king’s crown on his head to see how it would fit him. The king, who was watching him, said, ‘Wait a little while, my son, wait till I am dead.’ So, when you feel any inclination to put the crown of glory on your head, just fancy that you hear God saying to you, ‘Wait till I am dead, before you try on My crown.’ As that will never be, you had better leave the crown alone, and let Him wear it to who it rightly belongs. Our song must ever be, ‘Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy, and for Thy truth’s sake.'”

Sermon of the week: “Dangers of Calvinism – The Danger of Pride” by John Scheffer.

Someone was finally bold enough to address one of the greatest causes for people to reject the Doctrines of Grace: proud, combative, and caustic Calvinists. John Scheffer boldly goes where few will dare in his candid message Dangers of Calvinism: The Danger of Pride.

Quotes (750)

“He humbled Himself.” – Philippians 2:8

Jesus is the great teacher of lowliness of heart.  We need daily to learn of Him.  See the Master taking a towel and washing His disciples’ feet!  Follower of Christ, wilt thou not humble thyself?  See Him as the Servant of servants, and surely thou canst not be proud!  Is not this sentence the compendium of His biography, “He humbled Himself”?  Was He not on earth always stripping off first one robe of honor and then another, till, naked He was fastened to the cross, and there did He not empty out His inmost self, pouring out His life-blood, giving up for all of us, till they laid Him penniless in a borrowed grave?  How low was our dear Redeemer brought!  How then can we be proud?  Stand at the foot of the cross, and count the purple drops by which you have been cleansed; see the thorn-crown; mark His scourged shoulders, still gushing with encrimsoned rills; see hands and feet given up to the rough iron, and His whole self to mockery and scorn; see the bitterness, and the pangs, and the throes of inward grief, showing themselves in His outward frame; hear the thrilling shriek, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”  And if you do not lie prostrate on the ground before that cross, you have never seen it; if you are not humbled in the presence of Jesus, you do not know Him.  You were so lost that nothing could save you but the sacrifice of God’s only begotten.  Think of that, and as Jesus stooped for you, bow yourself in lowliness at His feet.  A sense of Christ’s amazing love to us has a greater tendency to humble us than even a consciousness of our own guilt.  May the Lord bring us in contemplation to Calvary, then our position will no longer be that of the pompous man of pride, but we shall take the humble place of one who loves much because much has been forgiven him.  Pride cannot live beneath the cross.  Let us sit there and learn our lesson, and then rise and carry it into practice.

– Charles Spurgeon

1834 – 1892

Quotes (654)

PuritansA Christian, if he has not a care, may be proud of his very humility. It is hard starving this sin, because it can live on almost nothing. . . .  Be much in meditation on death and judgment. A serious and frequent meditation on death will be a means to kill pride. Ask yourself: “What is man, but a little living lump of clay? And what is his life, but “a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away?”

– Richard Mayo

1631 – 1695