“He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day.” John Bunyan
“Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect unexpected things ‘above all that we ask or think.'” Andrew Murray
“Ten minutes spent in the presence of Christ every day, aye, two minutes, will make the whole day different.” Henry Drummond
“A prayerless Christian is like a bus driver trying alone to push his bus out of a rut because he does not know Clark Kent is on board. ” John Piper
My Comments: I’m finding that it is one thing to shoot up arrow prayers throughout the day and another thing entirely to spend intentional time before the Father, bowing in His presence without the distractions of life to compete with my praying. As Drummond says, even 2 minutes can make a difference. If this is true then just imagine what 10 minutes can do. Perhaps immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
This Week’s Passage: 17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
Futility – lack of effectiveness or success; lack of purpose or meaning.
Doesn’t that definition characterize much of our thinking. Futile. Without purpose or meaning. We spend much of our time thinking about things that have no reason to take up space in our heads. Much of it is dangerous and leads us away from God rather than drawing us to God. We allow our minds to wander and then our bodies aren’t too far behind.
Listen to some of the things that this passage says about futile thinking – it ought to scare you away from doing us: darkened understanding, separated from God, hardened hearts, loss of sensitivity to the Spirit of God, indulging in impurity, lusting after sin.
This is why we have to be very careful what we choose to think about. This is also why I love the disciplines of pondering Scripture and memorizing Scripture – because they force us to think about stuff that is both meaningful and purposeful.
So a couple of questions to think about by way of application:
1) How is your pondering of Scripture going? Are you pondering or just reading? Pondering involves intentional thinking about the Word.
2) What passage of Scripture are you in the process of memorizing right now? Who is helping to hold you accountable to this? Who are you doing it with?
If I can help with any of this just let me know. Be very careful what you think!
“Our prayers lay the track down upon which God’s power can come. Like a mighty locomotive, his power is irresistible, but it cannot reach us without rails.” Watchman Nee
“The trouble with nearly everybody who prays is that he says ‘Amen’ and runs away before God has a chance to reply. Listening to God is far more important than giving Him our ideas.” Frank Laubach
“Time spent in prayer will yield more than that given to work. Prayer alone gives work its worth and its success. Prayer opens the way for God Himself to do His work in us and through us. Let our chief work as God’s messengers be intercession; in it we secure the presence and power of God to go with us.” Andrew Murray
“Prayer is weakness leaning on omnipotence.” W. S. Bowd
“I ought to pray before seeing any one…Christ arose before day and went into a solitary place. David says: ‘Early will I seek thee’…I feel it is far better to begin with God-to see His face first, to get my soul near Him before it is near another.” – Robert Murray M’Cheyne
My Comments: Several years ago I read the quote by Watchman Nee and I’ve always like it. It explains a lot. It explains why the church seems so impotent most of the time. It explains why I seem like a 90# spiritual weakling most of the time. It is certainly not that God is unwilling to fuel His people with power; it is that we are unwilling to “lay down the tracks.” This quote puts a picture in my head which helps me to visualize where the power stoppage is. Now to do something about it.
**If you did not see the Facebook post yesterday I am preaching this Sunday on Ephesians 3:14-21 – a powerful prayer passage. Would you take a minute and pray that God would lay the tracks down on my behalf so that the message will be delivered with unction and power and received with conviction and faith-filled determination.
This Week’s Passage: 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
One of the ways that you can tell whether you are a religious person or a person in a relationship with Christ is whether you are growing to know Him better. Religious people go through the motions of doing religious stuff. Stuff like going to church, reading the Bible, praying, tithing their money. Those in a relationship with Jesus do all that stuff too. But it is with the intention of getting to know Him better – not just to try to impress God or impress other people with how spiritual they can be.
Religious people are easily swayed by false teaching. They are tossed to and fro by teaching that is meant to tickle our ears but not provide any nourishment for our souls. As a pastor it is my job to make sure that I teach Truth; that I teach the Word of God; that I NOT teach what I think people want to hear. Here is a sampling of some things that people want to hear and that some pastor/teachers are more than willing to preach:
God wants you to be financially wealthy. This is your birthright as a child of God.
God wants you to be happy – so whatever you do that makes you happy is okay with God.
Good morals and good works are enough to get you into heaven – after all, God loves everyone.
Walking the aisle and saying the sinner’s prayer is all it takes to be saved. So get your “fire insurance” and then live any way that you want to.
Pay attention to the Word. Don’t take for granted that everything a pastor/teacher says is truth. Be like the Bereans of whom it was said, “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true.” Acts 17:11
Here are a few questions to think on from this passage:
Are you still an infant Christian or are you steadily growing as you are DAILY nourished by soul food? v.14
Are you being enticed to believe any of the false teachings I mentioned? v.14
Are you religiously trying to impress God or are you growing in a relationship with God? v.15
What are you doing to help somebody else grow up in their faith? v.16
Make time to pray. “The great freight and passenger trains are never too busy to stop for fuel. No matter how congested the yards may be, no matter how crowded the schedules are, no matter how many things demand the attention of the trainmen, those trains always stop for fuel.” M.E. Andross
When prayer has become secondary, or incidental, it has lost its power. Those who are conspicuously men of prayer are those who use prayer as they use food, or air, or light, or money.” M.E. Andross
“If the Christian does not allow prayer to drive sin out of his life, sin will drive prayer out of his life. Like light and darkness, the two cannot dwell together.” M.E. Andross
“Those persons who know the deep peace of God, the unfathomable peace that passeth all understanding, are always men and women of much prayer.” R. A. Torrey
“Therefore, whether the desire for prayer is on you or not, get to your closet at the set time; shut yourself in with God; wait upon Him; seek His face; realize Him; pray.” R. F. Horton
My Comments: Love the first quote by M. E. Andross – he was not someone that I was familiar with before I came across these. Is it no wonder that I, that we, that the church seems to so often be running on fumes? We get so busy that we forget to stop and refuel and then find ourselves out of gas. More and more I am realizing not just that I get to pray but that I must pray.
This Week’s Passage:7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
As I ponder this passage I sense a little bit of frustration from Paul with the church. But it is because he knows something that we have a tendency to forget. He knows that God instituted the church to be a living, loving, laboring community that would magnificently display the majesty and glory of God. Instead of drawing attention to God he sees the church drawing attention to itself because of what is going on among believers in the church. The church should be growing… 1) in unity as a community of faith and 2) toward maturity in their relationship with Christ. Instead they were acting like children that can’t get along. And from Paul’s perspective this is devastating. He thinks they need to grow up.
Here are a few questions that are worth thinking about that are prompted by this passage?
1) Are you taking advantage of the teaching available to you at church so that you are being equipped to better serve?
2) Are you building other believers up or are you tearing other believers down?
3) It is our FAITH that unity is to be centered on – not on peripheral issues. Are you making a big deal about things that aren’t a big deal?
4) Are you growing to know Jesus better? Are you maturing as a believer or is your growth stunted? If so, why?
5) What is the next step that you need to take to get closer to “attaining to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ“?
For me, Scripture often prompts as many questions as it does answers. Questions that I need to dig deep into my own soul to find the answers to as the Spirit of God applies the Word of God to my life. Part of the key to spiritual growth is being intentional about answering these questions and then being intentional to put them into practice. This, for me, is when pondering becomes not just another religious exercise but an expedition into Truth. It takes time, serious contemplation, a willingness to repent, and profound courage to do this. But if we want to grow we’ve got to be willing to pay the price.
“Our prayer must not be self-centered. It must arise not only because we feel our own need as a burden we must lay upon God, but also because we are so bound up in love for our fellow men that we feel their need as acutely as our own. To make intercession for men is the most powerful and practical way in which we can express our love for them.” John Calvin
“The battle of prayer is against two things in the earthlies: wandering thoughts, and lack of intimacy with God’s character as revealed in His word. Neither can be cured at once, but they can be cured by discipline.” Oswald Chambers
“…True prayer is measured by weight, not by length. A single groan before God may have more fullness of prayer in it than a fine oration of great length.” C. H. Spurgeon
“If you want that splendid power in prayer, you must remain in loving, living, lasting, conscious, practical, abiding union with the Lord Jesus Christ.” C. H. Spurgeon
“If the spiritual life be healthy, under the full power of the Holy Spirit, praying without ceasing will be natural.” Andrew Murray
My Comments: I’ll be curious as to which of these stick out in your mind as you read them. For me I think it is the last Spurgeon quote. As I examine my own life and recognize now anemic my prayer life can be it causes me to consider what might be short circuiting the power. What is keeping me from having the kind of relationship with God that would result in increased power from God through prayer? Hmmmm!
This Week’s Passage: 1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Paul reiterates here that he is a “prisoner for the Lord.” I don’t think he wants the Ephesians to forget this. He is reminding them that no matter what they may be dealing with or how hard life might be for them at least they are free. At least they are not imprisoned for their beliefs. Because he has lived out his faith with authenticity he has every right to plead with them to live authentic Christian lives.
Evidently they were not doing so. And evidently the problem was not with how they were acting towards those outside the church but with those inside the church. With each other. Paul was concerned for the church. How could the church possibly expect to be salt and light in their city – how could they expect to demonstrate the love of Christ to a lost and desperate world – when they couldn’t even love each other.
So he appeals to the calling the believers received. He wants them to be reminded of where they have come from. To be reminded of how Christ has changed their lives. To be reminded that they were blessed, they were chosen, they were loved, they were redeemed, they were forgiven, they were marked by the Spirit of God. (see 1:3-14) He wants them to be reminded that they were DEAD, that they were objects of WRATH – but that God, because of His mercy and grace, made them alive again. (see 2:1-10). He wants them to understand the love of Christ that surpasses ALL understanding (3:19).
His point is that when they really get it, when they really understand what God has done for them in Christ, then all the pettiness and squabbling that goes on among believers begins to look stupid. And it only deters the church from what the church is supposed to be about – living as children of light (see 4:17 – 5:21 which we will get to in the months to come).
Believers are not supposed to agree about everything. We are supposed to love one another! And we are not supposed to be “Stepford Christians” – mindlessly repeating what we we hear others say and mindlessly doing what we are told to do. We are supposed to think for ourselves while being “completely humble and gentle.” There WILL be times when believers, because of their love for one another, will have to agree to disagree – and then boldly and courageously get on with the business of the church: Rescuing the lost, shining light in the darkness, and being a living, loving testimony to the glorious grace of our glorious God.
“There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God.” Brother Lawrence
“I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.” Charles Spurgeon
“If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.” Robert Murray McCheyne
“One day George Mueller began praying for five of his friends. After many months, one of them came to the Lord. Ten years later, two others were converted. It took 25 years before the fourth man was saved. Mueller persevered in prayer until his death for the fifth friend, and throughout those 52 years he never gave up hoping that he would accept Christ! His faith was rewarded, for soon after Mueller’s funeral the last one was saved.”
On persevering prayer: “I look at a stone cutter hammering away at a rock a hundred times without so much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the 101st blow it splits in two. I know it was not the one blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”
Prayer should not be regarded “as a duty which must be performed, but rather as a privilege to be enjoyed, a rare delight that is always revealing some new beauty.” E.M. Bounds
My Comments: So here is what I gleam from all of these quotes: These guys have learned the value of prayer in a way that I have not. So I ask myself – why is that so? Why is prayer not as sweet and delightful to me as it was to Bro Lawrence? Why do I think that preaching is more fruitful than praying? Why is my idea of persevering prayer to pray for something for one month? Why does it often feel like duty rather delight?
Only questions at this point. Hopefully answers to follow in the months to come as I continue my quest.