Prayer First!!

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;   Philippians 4:6

I learned late Tuesday afternoon that the entire hydraulics division I’m in was sold by the corporation to a competitor! I was driving home from a business trip when a colleague called and told me the news.

Everyone’s first reaction, including mine, was to go into “soiled knickers mode.” But I then remembered what I write about frequently: prayer should be the means of first resort, not our last resort. I prayed. God, please keep me safe from being laid off. Help me to do what I need to do to survive and help keep my mind right. Keep me from worry.

Like so many bloggers, pastors, and teachers I often talk a better game than I play. I’m not trying to tell you what a model Christian I am for turning to prayer first…this time. No, when I write my blog articles, I’m writing them to myself as much as anyone. I fail achingly often, but I thank God I got it right. This time! Can you imagine? I’m in my 60’s, and the prospect of losing my job this close to retirement is scary!

Unless you let God carry the weight.

Once I gave it to God I started thinking clearly. I saw where this could be a good thing and that, due to the overall situation, I’m probably as safe as one can expect to be. If I do lose my job, well, there’s something I told a friend just yesterday…

God is already in the future. He’s just patiently waiting for me to get there. He’s just up there, around the bend. I can’t see Him or what the rest of the road looks like, but I know He’s there paving the way for me.

Jesus knew this.

Praying HandsNow it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.   Luke 6:12

Prayer was His means of first resort. After a long day of preaching and healing, prayer was Jesus’ maintenance shop. His tank was filled, tires changed, windows cleaned…you get the analogy.

Can you imagine praying all night? Can you imagine how much you might benefit from a marathon prayer session like that?? I sometimes go to church during the week and sit in the sanctuary alone to talk to God. I’ll maybe go the better part of an hour. Barely. I need practice on how to pray effectively, patiently, and deliberately.

Especially deliberately. Let’s be honest – we all have “squirrel” moments during prayer. Then we suddenly come to the realization that we’ve just put the Supreme Creator and Ruler of the Universe…on hold!

Um…

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.   Acts 2:42

Luke tells us here that prayer isn’t necessarily a solitary activity. It can be a community event. How many prayer vigils can you think of?

It is based in God’s Word, hence my frequent urgings to read the bible! There are a lot of great things to learn from Scripture, including prayer. When I searched for passages about prayer, BibleGateway.com came up with 187 references to prayer!

Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.   Acts 12:5

Did the Christian community launch an escape plan for Peter? Did they try to mount a legal defense or even plan to bust him out of the clink? Nope! They huddled up and prayed their hearts out! It was their means of first resort!

The Lord is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous.   Proverbs 15:29

Don’t be shy about asking fellow Christians to pray for you! When my situation arose this week, I asked for prayers!

And let’s not just use prayer in times of adversity. Remember to pray with joy and thanksgiving during the best of times also! We should lay down in our beds every night and offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the day, our lives, our health, our jobs, and all of the people God has blessed us with! Most of all, thank Him for being your God, creating you, and forgiving you through the unimaginable sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

With that in mind, prayer should be the means of first and last resort, bookends to every day and filler for everything in between!

Quote for 01/25/2020

that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.   2 Corinthians 5:19-20 NKJV

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Not everyone got the Memo. The world is a big place, and it’s taken a long time to spread the Gospel over the whole thing! It’s even harder to keep up, because, well, people make babies. The numbers keep growing!

Add to that those who rejected the Gospel in one way or another, preventing their children from hearing the Gospel too. Those kids need to get the Memo too, even if their old man threw it out! And add to that the people who took the pure Gospel and perverted it into other teachings like Gnosticism. Mohamed was originally taught as a Christian, but he went rogue, and we now have Muslims. See what I mean?

You and I got the Memo, the pure, saving Gospel. Can you imagine any of your family and friends in hell? It absolutely tears me up, knowing that some of mine are on that road!

Honestly, I don’t even want to see my enemies go to hell. They’ve been led astray by other teachings or interests. But for God’s grace, that would be my destination! I always say everybody is somebody’s jerk (polite version). That includes me! We all deserve hell, but it can be avoided by the Gospel!

Rule Number One: Pray for everyone to get and receive the Memo! After that it’s all about living a life that makes people wonder what is different about you. After that it’s about talking about what makes your life different. Further yet we must look for opportunities to introduce the Memo, take the initiative.

You got the Memo. Copy, paste, and forward!

Quote for 01/24/2020

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”   John 5:24

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The last phrase is what really caught my attention. It says that we are in death already, but we can pass from death to life with our faith, the gift of the Holy Spirit.

People often complain that God would not condemn us, if He were a loving God. God does not condemn! Let’s check the history…

God created the earth, the sun, moon, and stars – the entire universe. That was to provide a living space for all life and especially humans. He created all animals, birds, fish…everything. Finally, He formed man with His own hands and then woman. He gave them the entire universe as a gift from a loving God. He did all these mighty works to show that love.

He simply asked for their love in return. He asked for a small, simple act of kindness from them. It was so easy that I still wonder why they couldn’t do it.

“See that tree over there? Don’t eat from it. Don’t touch it. Don’t even go near it. That’s all I ask as a token of your love. If you chose to NOT love Me, if you reject Me by not granting this small thing to Me, we’re done. You’re on your own. You’re gonna die.”

Hmmm. Let’s think. I stay away from that tree and I never have to work my entire life. I just bop around Eden, eat anything I want, lie under a magnificent starry sky every night, and live forever. Or I could eat that one piece of fruit and it all goes to hell. Hmmm.

It was the proverbial no-brainer but guess what. Adam and Eve choose door number two. Since we are their flesh and blood, we are them! They bequeathed to us that choice.

See? God never condemned one single person. It was a choice written into the first couple’s DNA…literally. It’s our inheritance.

Unless, of course, we do one small, ridiculously simple thing. Something comparable to staying away from a tree.

Believe!

Quote for 01/23/2020

I called on the Lord in distress; The Lord answered me and set me in a broad place. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?   Psalm 118:5-6 NKJV

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Since Scripture interprets Scripture, let’s let God’s Word help us with this one.

When we are in trouble, we need to call on God. We need to feel free to call on God. There should be no hesitation that God might be bothered with our troubles. Quite the contrary! He wants us to call on Him! He instructs us to!

Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.   Psalm 50:15

Just remember to give credit where credit is due when the dust settles. And do so enthusiastically! Say thank you and glorify God!

I’m not going to blow smoke here. I’ve been kicked around pretty well in this world. Things can and do get ugly. A lot of people are a whole lot worse off than me. Still, man can only do so much. We have the sure hope that we will be victorious in the end with God.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.   Matthew 10:28

So there will be suffering and persecution in this world, but as St. Paul reminds us…

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.   Philippians 3:8

James also writes –

Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.   James 5:11

Here endeth the lesson.

What’s Good for the Goose…

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.   John 14:6

This is going to start with politics, so don’t get put off by it. There’s a Biblical lesson coming.

Wait for it…

From a recent article about President Trump’s impeachment:

Last Friday, Pelosi announced the House would move to send the articles to the Senate despite McConnell’s unwillingness to cooperate with her demands.

For the Senate trial, McConnell says he plans to follow the standard rules used in the 1999 impeachment trial concerning President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Another issue for some lawmakers is the requirement that all Senate members participate in the trial, which will occur six days a week once it begins and could drag on for a month or longer. The timing is particularly inconvenient for the five Democratic Senators running for president, who will participate in a primary debate on January 14th. Iowa causes begin on February 3rd.

Good for the GooseIt seems that what is good for the goose is not always good for the gander. At least depending on your point of view. This sort of activity in Washington has happened over and over; the party in power makes rules that benefit them without any consideration as to whether those same rules might work against them in the future.

It happens everywhere, in all governments and in all personal interactions. People want their way. They want their standards applied – at least for now – because it benefits them. If those same rules come at them from someone else, they usually don’t think it’s right for whatever reason they manufacture.

Part of the problem is simple greed. That has always been around. The biggest part of the problem is something that started happening decades ago. That would be Madeleine Murray O’Hare. For those of you are too young, she was known as the Most Hated Woman in America. It’s a title she wore with pride!

She founded American Atheists in 1963 and was a driving force behind banning prayer in schools. The Supreme Court eventually ruled that the Constitution provides separation of church and state. However, that phrase is not in the Constitution. It simply says that there should be no state mandated religion. Why? Because British history is bathed in the blood of those who dared take the wrong side in Roman Catholicism vs. The Church of England. Look closely at the intrigues and assassination of British royalty. You’ll see that they are largely about which faith the Crown would impose on the public.

THAT is what the Constitution was trying to prevent! The authors were not trying to eradicate religion from government. They simply wanted to provide a safeguard against their own bloody history! Indeed, the Founding Fathers, while not all Christians by a long shot, espoused Christian principles. One of the Founders said that this form of government is only workable in a moral society.

Fast forward to The Most Hated Woman in America. She is the one who railed against religion and found traction in the courts and enough parts of the public to ram her agenda through to success. The result has been relative morals, with everyone deciding what they think is right for them in their situation. Gone are absolute morals, the teachings of God and Christ. Gone is the one yardstick that measures “goose and gander” without prejudice.

America followed their “Most Hated” over the cliff like so many lemmings. They hated her and yet embraced her as they listened to her warped logic. Prayer in schools? Gone. Any mention of God? Gone. The Ten Commandments, the basis for all law in America? Banned from government property…including courthouses!

Jesus told us plainly that “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.” When Jesus is telling us how the human machine works best, he’s telling us what is good for both the goose and the gander. From God’s point of view!

Quote for 01/22/2020

My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.   Psalm 73:26

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King David clung to God like few ever do. He was persecuted by King Saul, saw his first child with Bathsheba die for his sin, was betrayed and hunted by his own son, Absalom, and more.

How can one man not buckle under the weight of so much adversity? His flesh and heart were failing him, but he knew he could always draw on a limitless source of strength. He did so often.

When our hearts begin to fail in adversity, God will strengthen them. When danger overwhelms and threatens all we have, God’s strength preserves our needs in our earthly portion.

When all else fails, even our own bodies, God’s strength supports and prevails!

Quote for 01/21/2020

but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”   1 Peter 1:15-16 NKJV

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Just what does “holy” mean? From Patheos.com I found The Hebrew word for holy is “qodesh” and means “apartness, set-apartness, separateness, sacredness.”  In the New Testament, the word for holy is “hagios” and means set apart, reverend, sacred, and worthy of veneration.”

God is perfect and set apart from us sinful people. However, the priests were also considered holy, being set apart for God’s service.

Our conduct needs to be set apart from the world. It needs to be holy in all we do. It’s one way of sharing the Gospel. We should strive for perfection in holiness, but even when we fail, we know we are forgiven!

Quote for 01/20/2020

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.   Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV

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A member of your family has a car accident.  What’s your first concern; person or car? What do you treasure?

How do you spend your time?  Do you read God’s Word?  Do you talk to other people about it?  Do you seek knowledge, or do you sit in your nest like a hungry fledgling bird, mouth open, waiting for someone to feed you?  Are you maybe a grown bird sitting there like a chick, looking ridiculous?

Are you taking an active part in your own relationship with God, your own salvation or is an hour or two once a week all you devote to a heavenly treasure?

Are you working toward retirement?  No, not that retirement…THAT retirement! The eternal one!

Quote for 01/19/2020

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.   Romans 8:18

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I had to go to rehab for several weeks to regain mobility of my shoulder. Contrary to normal practices, in therapy you move to the pain. You embrace the pain as the cure!

Rip off the band aid. Have surgery. Exercise till you’re sore…and then more! These are all examples of how pain now means comfort later.

Jesus warned that we would be persecuted for faith just as He was. As a result of sin we also suffer sickness, war, squabbles, and more. But working through all of these with faith in God, responding as He asks us to, means glory in eternity with Him!

What to Do?

Good Works BowlFor you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always.   Mark 14:7

I saw the following quotation this week: “The opportunity for doing mischief is found a hundred times a day, and of doing good once in a year.” – Voltaire

At first it seems that Voltaire is saying there is but one opportunity to do good a year while opportunities for mischief abound. That isn’t it at all. He’s commenting on how often we find each class of opportunity!

Martin Luther’s explanation of the eighth commandment – You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor – includes this key phrase; “Put the best construction on everything.” In other words, there is often more than one explanation to an event.

This was shown brilliantly in the 2008 Movie Vantage Point. It shows an attempted presidential assassination over and over but from different vantage points. Each time you change your mind on what is actually happening and who the bad guy really is.

Trying to do good is a struggle. St. Paul confesses,

I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.  For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!   Romans 7:21-25

He also acknowledges in his letter to the Galatians that doing good can wear on our sinful selves.

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.   Galatians 6:9

Unless we decide to put the best spin on things, unless we decide to persevere against sinful inclinations and the weariness that struggle entails, we also may only find one opportunity a year to do good. And doing good is not just about helping the poor, contributing to our favorite charity, or being kind to family and friends.

“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.   Luke 6:27

Um… I have to be nice to idiots? People that oppose and even hurt me?!? That’s what Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Luke. Remember that He forgave his executioners as they crucified Him. We need to do our very best to be like Christ.

Good Works Building

Why? We will all appear before God’s throne on Judgment Day.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.   2 Corinthians 5:10

Yup. We’re all going to have some “splainin’ to do.” Oh, we’ll be forgiven, but then again Scripture gives every indication that there will be greater and lesser levels in heaven. The Apostles will be at the “head table” so to speak. We will be rewarded with heaven for our faith in Jesus. We will also receive more or fewer rewards in heaven depending on our lives.

Part of doing good is simply a practical matter. St. Paul wrote to the church in Rome:

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.   Romans 13:3

Do you want to stay out of trouble with the authorities? Keep your nose clean. Do good instead of mischief!

So, we can see that doing good is beneficial in staying out of earthly trouble, possibly making friends out of enemies, and being rewarded in heaven. These are all good reasons to do good. But doing good also benefits us here and now. James tells us,

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.   James 2:14-17

You do good in faith. That faith is rewarded, fueling your faith. Practice makes perfect, eh? The more you find opportunities to do good, the better you get at spotting them. And there are definitely plenty of opportunities out there.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.   Ephesians 2:10Good Works Created For