Saturday, February 28, 2009

40 Days of Prayer: Day 4

Praise the LORD!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD!
Psalm 150

Dear Lord,

I come before you this morning with a heart full of praise. I thank You for who You are and for what You have done. I thank You that You, the King of the Universe, care about me, and that You have given Your Son as a ransom for me. I thank You that You hold this earth in Your hands. I thank You for the snowfall this morning - a reminder that You bring the weather and the change of the seasons, and it will be done in Your time.

Lord, I come before You looking forward to tomorrow. Lord, I love to praise Your name at home, in the car, at work and as I go about my day. But Sundays are my favorite - as we gather with other believers, and lift Your name up, I am encouraged by the sound of Your saints singing together in praise of You. May it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear.

In Jesus' name,

Friday, February 27, 2009

40 days of prayer: Day 3

Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. I John 3:18

Dear God My Heavenly Father,

This verse has convicted me this morning. I need to love in deed and not just with word. Father, show me how to love those around me. Show me how my actions can point them to You. Lord, I want my life to reflect, without a doubt, that I am Yours and that You live in me. Show me where I am not living up to this.

Jesus, You are my example: You loved me so much that You obeyed Your Heavenly Father and humbled Yourself, even to death on a cross. What greater love is there than that? You have shown me how to love in deed and truth. Guide me in Your way, and love others through Me today.

In Jesus' name I ask it,

Thursday, February 26, 2009

40 days of prayer: Day 2

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3

Dear Lord,

Oh, how I want to run with endurance the race you have set before me. I pray that you would guide my eyes and keep them fixed on You. I thank You for enduring the cross for me, and I ask that You would give me the same perspective - that I may endure my daily struggles in light of the joy that is set before me - my relationship with You and my eternal home. Thank You for being my example - You suffered much more hostility than I ever have, even when I think that "it cannot get worse" - I know that you suffered more than I have. Strengthen me Jesus, and encourage me. I don't want to grow weary and lose heart; for you are my Rock, and my salvation, my deliverer, and my friend.

In Your precious name I ask it,

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Let Us Draw Near

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Lent is a season of fasting and prayer before Easter, representing the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness before He began His earthly ministry. It is a time for believers to prepare for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

For me personally, I want to use this season as a time to devote myself more actively to prayer.

As Christians, we have the duty, and an awesome privilege, to speak to God the Father directly through prayer. I must include this excerpt from a sermon by Pastor John Piper because the Holy Spirit has used it to compel me to this season of focused prayer.

"But the hard truth is that most Christians don’t pray very much. They pray at meals—unless they’re still stuck in the adolescent stage of calling good habits legalism. They whisper prayers before tough meetings. They say something brief as they crawl into bed. But very few set aside set times to pray alone—and fewer still think it is worth it to meet with others to pray. And we wonder why our faith is weak. And our hope is feeble. And our passion for Christ is small.

Is it true that intentional, regular, disciplined, earnest, Christ-dependent, God-glorifying, joyful prayer is a duty? . . . Is it a discipline? You can call it that.

It’s a duty the way it’s the duty of a scuba diver to put on his air tank before he goes underwater.
It’s a duty the way pilots listen to air traffic controllers.
It’s a duty the way soldiers in combat clean their rifles and load their guns.
It’s a duty the way hungry people eat food.
It’s a duty the way thirsty people drink water.
It’s a duty the way a deaf man puts in his hearing aid.
It’s a duty the way a diabetic takes his insulin.
It’s a duty the way Pooh Bear looks for honey.
It’s a duty the way pirates look for gold.

God has given us means of grace. If we do not use them to their fullest advantage, our complaints against him will not stick. If we don’t eat, we starve. If we don’t drink, we get dehydrated. If we don’t exercise a muscle, it atrophies. If we don’t breathe, we suffocate. And just as there are physical means of life, there spiritual are means of grace. Resist the lies of the devil in 2009, and get a bigger breakthrough in prayer than you’ve ever had."

Every movement of God begins with prayer. During this season of Lent, I am asking the Lord for a revival. And I am drawing near to Him, asking that that revival begin with me.

In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch. Psalm 5:3

Join me here for the next 40 days as we draw near to God through prayer. Each day I will post what God has laid on my heart to pray for, along with Scripture verses that I am using to guide my prayer. On Sundays (historically “not counted” in the 40 days of Lent) I will post hymns and reflections that will draw us nearer to the Cross as we look forward to celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Let Us Draw Near
Words by Margaret Clarkson

Let us draw near!
The blood is spilt, the Lamb has borne the sinner's guilt;
The sacrifice for sin is made, we meet our Father unafraid;
Then let us draw near!

Let us draw near:
The holy door stands open wide forevermore;
No longer flaming angels guard the gate by Jesus' hand unbarred:
Then let us draw near!

Let us draw near!
No more we fear, our Savior bids us welcome here;
We come as guests of princely grace to feast in heaven's most holy place:
Then let us draw near!

Let us draw near,
With hearts aglow, in reverent stillness bowing low;
Before the throne love's emblems plead - in simple faith, with all our need:
Come, let us draw near!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Afflictions Do Not Come Alone

My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord or loathe His reproof, for whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:11-12

One of the ways God shows His love for us is through discipline. Proverbs 3 tells us that those whom the Lord loves, He disciplines. The writer to the Hebrews quotes this passage in Proverbs 3 when he reminds them that it is for discipline that they endure.

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
Hebrews 12:4-8

Just as our earthly parents disciplined us, so too does our Heavenly Father. Discipline comes out of love, and is for our good. God disciplines us in order that we may share His holiness. Certainly, that is worth being disciplined for! Although it is not pleasant when we are in the midst of it, its result is the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Hebrews 12:9-11

As John Wesley so eloquently says in this hymn, we need not faint beneath God’s kind rebuke, for He is still our friend. He disciplines us because He loves us.

Afflictions Do Not Come Alone
Words by John Wesley

Afflictions do not come alone,
A voice attends the rod;
By both He to His saints is known,
A Father and a God!

Let not My children slight the stroke
I for chastisement send;
Nor faint beneath My kind rebuke,
For still I am their Friend.

The wicked I perhaps may leave
Awhile, and not reprove;
But all the children I receive
I scourge, because I love.

If therefore you were left without
This needful discipline;
You might, with cause, admit a doubt,
If you, indeed, were Mine.

Shall earthly parents then expect
Their children to submit?
And wilt not you, when I correct,
Be humbled at My feet?

To please themselves they oft chastise,
And put their sons to pain;
But you are precious in My eyes,
And shall not smart in vain.

I see your hearts, at present, filled
With grief, and deep distress;
But soon these bitter seeds shall yield
The fruits of righteousness.

Break through the clouds, dear Lord, and shine!
Let us perceive Thee nigh!
And to each mourning child of Thine
These gracious words apply.

Monday, February 16, 2009

We Give Thee but Thine Own

Honor the LORD from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine. Proverbs 3:9-10

The Scriptures instruct us to honor the Lord from our wealth. “Wealth” has a very different connotation these days, doesn’t it? But indeed, we are wealthy: in material things – food, shelter, clothing, “stuff” – and in love, forgiveness and grace!

All that we have is God’s. He has given it to us, and as this hymn says, it is a trust from Him. When we give to Him from our wealth, we are giving Him His own. Giving of our wealth also shows that we trust Him to provide for all our needs.

As we receive His blessings, we must also be good stewards of them. I believe that honoring the Lord from my wealth not only means giving back to God through my tithes and offerings, but showing my gratefulness for His blessings through how I spend the money He has given me. Honoring the Lord from my wealth means that I don’t spend more than I have, and that I don’t waste what I have been given. (Full disclaimer here: as usual, I am in no means perfect in this regard. But as I long to be less like the world and more like Jesus, I am striving to examine more closely the habits in my life that make me more accustomed to this world, instead of less.)

God uses what we give to accomplish His will in the world. Could He do it without our gifts? Indeed. But He chooses to use our gifts to involve us in His work, locally and globally. Our gifts from our wealth support bringing back the lambs who have strayed from the fold, tending the lone and fatherless, releasing captives and bringing the news of the Gospel to those who are lost. When we honor the Lord from our wealth, we prove that we believe His word.

But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You. 1 Chronicles 29:14

We Give Thee but Thine Own
Words by William W. How

We give Thee but Thine own,
Whate’er the gift may be;
All that we have is Thine alone,
A trust, O Lord, from Thee.

May we Thy bounties thus
As stewards true receive,
And gladly, as Thou blessest us,
To Thee our firstfruits give.

O hearts are bruised and dead,
And homes are bare and cold,
And lambs for whom the Shepherd bled
Are straying from the fold.

To comfort and to bless,
To find a balm for woe,
To tend the lone and fatherless
Is angels’ work below.

The captive to release,
To God the lost to bring,
To teach the way of life and peace—
It is a Christ-like thing.

And we believe Thy Word,
Though dim our faith may be;
Whate’er for Thine we do,
O Lord,We do it unto Thee.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Though Troubles Assail Us

So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

In these troubling times, it is easy to be overcome with worry. If you watch the news, or read the headlines, each day seems to bring more bad tidings, worse than the day before. John Newton greatly encourages us in this hymn, with the resounding refrain, “The Lord will provide.”

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

God’s promise in the scripture assures us – He will provide for all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. First, He promises to provide for all our needs, not all our wants. But second, He will supply them according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Those riches are unending, pouring over in the storehouses of heaven.

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, reminds us that we have no reason to be worried. As God’s children, we are worth more to Him than the birds of the air, and He feeds them, without them even working for it!

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? Matthew 6:25-26

Jesus teaches us that we do not need to be worried about things like our next meal or what clothes we will wear because our Heavenly Father KNOWS that we need all these things. Further, worrying does us no good!

And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. Matthew 6:27-32

Because He knows we need them, He desires to give them to us. Even more than our earthly fathers desire to give us good gifts, our Heavenly Father wants to give us what is good!

Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! Matthew 7:9-11

God’s provision for us applies to much more than food and clothing, though. He gives us courage, grace, power, comfort, protection, security, and of course, forgiveness through the blood of His son, Jesus Christ.

We need not fear or doubt in death or in life – Christ is on our side, and He will provide!

Though Troubles Assail Us
Words by John Newton

Though troubles assail us and dangers affright,
Though friends should all fail us and foes all unite,
Yet one thing secures us, whatever betide,
The promise assures us, “The Lord will provide.”

The birds, without garner or storehouse, are fed;
From them let us learn to trust God for our bread.
His saints what is fitting shall ne’er be denied
So long as ’tis written, “The Lord will provide.”

When Satan assails us to stop up our path,
And courage all fails us, we triumph by faith.
He cannot take from us, though oft he has tried,
This heart cheering promise, “The Lord will provide.”

He tells us we’re weak, our hope is in vain,
The good that we seek we never shall obtain,
But when such suggestions, our graces have tried,
This answers all questions, “The Lord will provide.”

No strength of our own and no goodness we claim;
Yet, since we have known of the Savior’s great Name,
In this our strong tower for safety we hide:
The Lord is our power, “The Lord will provide.”

When life sinks apace, and death is in view,
The word of His grace shall comfort us through,
Not fearing or doubting, with Christ on our side,
We hope to die shouting, “The Lord will provide.”

Monday, February 9, 2009

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Saturday, February 7, 2009

So Let Our Lips and Lives Express

Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. I Timothy 4:12

As a believer, it is my goal that my speech, actions, behaviors - indeed, my life - all show that I belong to Christ, and that He lives in me. I try to live my life so that others would have no question that I am a believer. (As a sinner, I am not always successful, mind you.)

We are reminded through the Scripture that living this way is God's will for us. Because of Christ's saving work, we have escaped the corruption in this world, and are now partakers of the divine nature. Peter instructs us in what we must do, and how these qualities in our lives enable us to bear fruit.

For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. II Peter 1:4-11

Did you catch what he says? Those who lack these qualities (moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, brotherly kindness, love) are short sighted because they have forgotten their purification from former sins! Christ died to set us free from the corruption in this world, and so we must act in a way that is different from the world! Isaac Watts said it so eloquently in this hymn, "when salvation reigns within, and grace subdues the power to sin." Salvation has come through the grace of God, and it has instructed us in how to act.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
Titus 2:11-15

We must deny our flesh - putting aside pride, envy, passion, lust, and all the other things our flesh would have us desire - and look to the Holy Spirit to guide us in being an example of good deeds. Paul reminds us that when our actions and speech are beyond reproach, the opponent will be put to shame!

In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us. Titus 2:7-8

These requirements cannot possibly be met without the assistance of God the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. Christ lives in me, and so I CAN live sensibly, righteously and godly in this present age. My flesh wants to act in a different way, but my flesh has been crucified with Christ. I now live by faith in the Son, and Christ lives in me!

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20

Dear Father, how I want my lips and life to express the Gospel that I profess. I pray you would guide and direct me so that through my speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, others will know that I am Yours, and You live in me. Amen

So Let Our Lips and Lives Express
Words by Isaac Watts

So let our lips and lives express
The holy Gospel we profess;
So let our works and virtues shine,
To prove the doctrine all divine.

Thus shall we best proclaim abroad
The honors of our Savior God,
When the salvation reigns within,
And grace subdues the power of sin.

Our flesh and sense must be denied,
Passion and envy, lust and pride;
While justice, temperance, truth, and love,
Our inward piety approve.

Religion bears our spirits up,
While we expect that blessed hope,
The bright appearance of the Lord,
And faith stands leaning on His Word.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Kind and Merciful God

All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. Isaiah 53:6

I've been thinking a lot about not yielding to temptation. For a few days, I was thinking, "I do a pretty good job of that." And then the Spirit of God spoke to me, and brought me back to reality. I was thinking in terms of "big" sins and "big" temptations like the story of Joseph and Mrs. Potiphar. But the Lord showed me that I had been giving in to the temptation to

  • gossip
  • think of myself before others
  • be critical
  • show disdain
  • be prideful
  • be right

The devil is tricky - and he can make us believe whatever he wants, if we let him. He tells us lies like "it's ok to talk about this with others, they are concerned, it's good to get it off your chest." The fact remains that it's still gossip, and it's still a sin. And we have a choice. We can choose not to sin. As a believer, the Holy Spirit lives in you, and He gives you the power to not sin.

It's at times like these, when I'm confronted with my sin, that this hymn comes to mind. Meditate on the words of this hymn, and ask God to show you where you are not living up to His standard. Confess your sins, and praise Him for the forgiveness you have through Jesus' death at Calvary. Thank Him for His transforming power in your life.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9

Kind and Merciful God
Words by Bryan Jeffrey Leech

Kind and merciful God, we have sinned in Your sight,
We have all wandered far from Your way;
We have followed desire, we have failed to aspire
To the virtue we ought to display.

Kind and merciful God, we’ve neglected Your Word
And the truth that would guide us aright;
We have lived in the shade of the dark we have made,
When you willed us to walk in the light.

Kind and merciful God, we have broken Your laws
And in conduct have veered from the norm;
We have dreamed of the good, but the good that we could
We have frequently failed to perform.

Kind and merciful God in Christ's death on the cross
You provided a cleansing from sin;
Speak the words that forgive that hence-forth we may live
By the might of your Spirit within.

Kind and merciful God, bid us lift up our heads
And command us to rise from our knees;
May our hearts now be changed and no longer estranged,
Through the power of Your pardon and peace.