Quick Thoughts About Prayer

August 26, 2016

 

 

 

 

As Christians, prayer is a subject that gets talked about quite a bit. It is not abnormal for us to talk of the importance of a strong prayer life, and to read books and hear sermons about praying. But do we live as if it is vital? In other words, do we really believe that prayer is as important as we say it is? If we did, wouldn’t we make prayer more of a priority in our lives?

 

I know in my own life there is a seemingly constant battle within myself to not stand in my own strength. It is far too easy for me to wake up and not begin my day with little prayer. It is far too easy for me to make plans, work my job, or embark upon some ministry project without consulting my Lord and His Word, and petitioning Him for wisdom and strength.

 

Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in Him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.”

 

Jesus commanded us to abide in Him, but how can we abide in our Lord if there is no communication with Him? Prayer is our communication with God, and any relationship expert will tell you that communication is essential to a healthy relationship.

 

Furthermore, Jesus says, “Without me you can do nothing.” He does not say, “Without me you can do little.” He says “nothing”. Apart from God’s help, we cannot bear spiritual fruit, fulfill the Great Commission, or respond rightly when the children make a mess on their clean clothes two minutes before it is time to leave. I praise God that He is often so faithful to help me, even when I take that help for granted, neither asking Him nor thanking Him for it! But I definitely don’t want this to be the norm. I want to always recognize my need of Christ and live in perpetual gratitude and praise to Him.

 

Ephesians 6:10 says, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” It does not simply say, “Be strong brothers! Pull yourself up by your bootstraps! Don’t be weak!” It says to be strong “in the Lord” and “in the power of His might”. How is this done? We must not be strong in our own strength, for it is weakness. As we already examined, without Christ we can do nothing.

 

The next few verses in Ephesians 6 talk about putting on the whole armor of God. The vivid imagery concludes with verse 18, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thus with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”

 

Craig Hamilton wrote in his book Wisdom in Leadership: The How and Why of Leading the People You Serve,

 

The local church exists to accomplish things that aren’t possible. The church exists to see people transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light and to see them transformed into the likeness of the Son of God—all of which is impossible. But with God all things are possible, which is why we need to pray. Unless God is in it, nothing we do will be of any eternal significance.    (Hamilton 43.)

 

Is it okay to pray to God for help in praying better and more frequently? I believe so. In my own experience and to my exceeding joy, this has been a prayer God has been pleased to answer. One line to an old hymn says, “I need Thee, Oh I need Thee! Every hour I need Thee!”(Hawks, 1872). We truly need God every hour—indeed, every passing moment! May our lives reflect this reality by being prayerful.

We're Having A Baby!!!

August 23, 2016

 
 
 
 
  

 

 
 
We are overjoyed to announce that Spurgeon has a new title in life as “big brother"! We are so thankful that God is adding to our family. 2017 is shaping up to be a wonderful year already and we know Spurgeon will do a great job in his new role. Having Spurgeon has been such a wonderful blessing and we cannot wait to see the face of this sweet new baby (or babies!). 

Playing Southwest

August 10, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We’re going to absolutely crush Southwest!”

“I can’t wait to get out there and show them who is boss!”

My high school football teammates and I had been looking forward to this game against Southwest more than any other on the schedule. It was a chance to prove ourselves against a highly favored opponent. Southwest was well established, coached, and organized as a team, with plenty of hard-working players. We were a first year football team, still figuring things out, with only 13 players, but we had some talent on our team and a lot of confidence—a little too much. This was the third game of the season, and so far we were undefeated at 2-0.

I was starting at quarterback and this was my first opportunity to play football on a league. I was 17, a homeschooled senior, and taking some courses at the local community college. This was the closest thing to the fulfillment of my life-long dream of playing college football. In my youthful pride I walked from class to class on the community college campus thinking to myself, “I am a student-athlete.” I loved the sound of that.

Game-day morning against Southwest finally came. This would be a mid-day game. The sun shone brightly and the weather was pleasant, but as I strapped on my pads and went through warm-ups I was especially jittery. My adrenaline reached an all-time high as I glared at the Southwest players across the field going through their stretch routine. I dropped back to threw a couple of warm up throws to my teammates, tingling with excitement.

We had a tradition—if you could call it that for a first year team—of getting pumped up before we ran back out onto the field right before the coin toss. My buddy Daniel and I would push each other and yell, “You ready boy!?” as the rest of the team stood around us in a circle. Then we would turn to them and push and shove them a little, yelling to get them pumped up. There was a special energy today as we turned from our pregame tradition and charged through the poster that separated us from the field and Southwest.

A lot of thoughts raced through my head as I stood impatiently on the sidelines. Southwest got the ball first, taking the opening kickoff far down the field. “Come on guys! Tackle!” I yelled. A couple of plays later, Southwest scored an easy touchdown on a pass from the quarterback to a wide open receiver.

“That was too easy. Just wait until I get out there. I’ll run over, past, and through their defense.”

I loved playing physical; I was determined to be a tough runner that defenders feared to tackle. I never slid or stepped out of bounds to avoid hits—I wanted to deliver hits on the defenders, so they would be less eager to try to bring me down the next time.

Now was my chance to prove myself. Time stood still and the noise of shouts from fans on the sidelines seemed to fade to a hush. I walked up to the line and scanned the Southwest defense.

They were big. They looked fast. My gaze stopped and rested on their linebacker who was tauntingly pointing at me. I wasn’t going to have any of that. No intimidation for me. I was confident he would be sore by the end of the day. I smiled a taunting smile and pointed back at him. “You won’t be so cocky after I run you over.” I thought. 

“Down! Set...” I heard the cracking sound of helmets and grunts as the linemen collided as I dropped back to pass. Bobby was running right out of the backfield. We had successfully run this play before, but as the ball left my hand, my heart melted. A Southwest defender leaped up out of nowhere and intercepted the ball, sprinting for their second score.

Anger and fear welled up within me at that moment. I had to catch him before he scored; my ego depended on it, and maybe the game.I streaked down the field the fastest I had ever sprinted in my life, and I doubt I will ever run that fast again.

After the game, my Mom even told me that she looked up and thought to herself “Is that my son running down the field so fast?” I was gaining rapidly on the Southwest defender. I was going to knock him down so hard he would fumble, or at least regret that he intercepted my pass.

We reached the ten yard line…the five…I dove toward him with all that was within me and landed face down out of bounds as he waltzed into the end-zone for the score. I touched him, but barely.

I slowly got up and there was the linebacker rubbing it in a bit with a “How about that?” gesture. I shook my head and looked down. “I deserve this.” I thought. I remembered Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Immediately I felt God convicting my heart. He seemed to say, “That wasn’t Christ-like. Are you playing for my glory or your own?”

“You are right. Forgive me, Father. Forgive me for my pride.” 

We lost that game. Though we no longer had a winless record, I learned a valuable lesson. After the game I shook the Southwest linebacker’s hand. “Good game man! Hey, I am sorry for taunting you like that out there. That wasn’t Christ-like.” He accepted my apology, and even apologized for the taunting on his part.

God’s Word says, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, ESV). As a Christian, not only do I owe everything to God as my Creator and Sustainer, but also as my Savior. Jesus paid my sin-debt with His own blood, and now God doubly owns me. This is a lesson I am still learning each day. I have by no means arrived, but I will always look back on that pick-six against Southwest as God using adversity to reveal my pride so that I could repent and live more for His glory in all that I do.

For that, I am grateful.

Speaking Hope

July 23, 2016

 

 

 

 

The world is a difficult place. We need only open our eyes and look around us to see pain, brokenness, and death. Things are not as they should be, and that is a fact that needs no arguing for. The past century has been the bloodiest in the history of the world, and who knows what lies ahead in the next? Those of us who have not had loved ones taken away by violence have, no doubt, lost dear friends and family members to sickness, cancer, heart attacks, or car accidents. In such a world as this, broken by sin, what is our hope supposed to be?

Christians are often characterized as having future hope. We are those who look for “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (English Standard Version, 2 Cor. 5.1). This is true. The apostle Paul, himself a man well acquainted with disease, suffering, and persecution, wrote under the inspiration of God, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8.18) and also “to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phi. 1.21).

But our hope is also a present hope. We have hope for today. Our hope is rooted in the reality of the gospel and a God who is deeply concerned about every aspect and detail of our lives. To show this, let us examine what happens in conversion. Ephesians 2 says to believers, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2.1-3). Before God saved us, we were following our sinful lusts and thereby contributing to the brokenness caused by sin in this world. The subsequent verses explain how God snatched us from this deadly and destructive state, by grace through faith, and gave us life when we were dead in our sins. Then verse 10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God has good works prepared for His people to do. This is the glorious reality of sanctification. God does not just save us from the eternal consequences of sin, but also saves us from sin itself, by degrees, in our life on this earth. Day by day He is making us more like Christ (Rom. 8.29), and though we will not be sinless here on earth, He will complete the work He started in us (Phi. 1:6) so that in heaven we will be totally pure and free from all sin.

Okay, so what does this have to do with the struggling single Mom, the teenager in juvenile detention with only a broken home to return to, or the parents whose child has recently gotten hooked on cocaine? In the gospel we have infinite power. It is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1.16). As we already examined, God changes lives. He works from start to finish to save from sin, heal hurts, and restore brokenness. If sin is the problem with the world, the gospel is the answer. Only the saving, converting, sovereign grace of God will turn sinners into saints. The more sinners are transformed by this grace, the less violence, pain, and brokenness, we will have in the world. This is our hope for today. As we go out and speak the gospel, making disciples for Jesus, the Holy Spirit works to save souls and change lives.

This grace of God is free and powerful. No matter what sin towers like a grim giant in an individual’s life, the grace of God, through faith, stands taller to overcome it (1 John 5.4-5). This grace turns violent thugs into gentle evangelists. This grace turns prostitutes into Godly wives. This grace can take a murderous man like Saul of Tarsus, who persecuted the early Christians to death, into the apostle Paul, who gave His life for Christ and for others to see His glory and be saved. Perhaps you are struggling with some sin today. Maybe you are broken. Maybe you have only months to live because of cancer. Come to Jesus, He will not reject you (John 6:37). Believe in Jesus! You will never be the same person. God will change you from the inside out. The power of God that has transformed so many others will come into your life and transform you! Come as you are. Bring your sins to Jesus, and let Him wash you clean in His cleansing blood. As the old hymns goes, “Just as I am, and waiting not, to rid my soul of one dark blot to thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come, I come!” You will be one less individual contributing to the brokenness of the world, and one more bringing the hope and healing of Jesus to broken, suffering, and dying people.