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Sunday, May 7, 2017

THE SINNER'S PRAYER

I have tremendous respect for David Platt. I pray nearly every day for God to continue to use him mightily. I recommend listening to his sermons. You can find many of them on YouTube. David has shocked people by preaching against telling people to pray a sinner's prayer. He rightly notes that we have been guilty of communicating to people that they can be right with God by praying those words as a sort of ritual without becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ.
I agree with David. But I also believe a person cannot become a disciple without a direct connection with the Lord. That is prayer. We respond to God's embrace in prayer. If we look at the words we use as a conversion prayer, we see this intent.
We encourage people to pray a prayer of the conviction of sin.
Lord I know I am a sinner.”
We also include repentance.
I want to turn from my sins to you.”
If we are going to lead people to invite Christ into their life, we should warn them that they are doing business with Almighty God. They need to be fearful of praying such words without meaning them.
And inherent is the gospel is the fact that we cannot even repent without God's help. People do not come to God by their sincerity. We must come receiving His forgiveness.
I know You died for me. I accept your forgiveness, and Your gift of eternal life. I trust myself to You.”
One of the problems with using the “sinner's prayer” for evangelism is that it is so easy. It is tempting for us because we don't have to enter into a life-long relationship with the person praying. Just get them to pray these words.
It is also too easy for the person coming to Christ. Someone can pray those words without even thinking. I also believe a person can come to Christ and truly be born again without saying the right words. We might suggest that a person think about the decision she is making over night before she prays such a prayer. Of course, we will need to be sensitive to the person and to the Holy Spirit in the situation. But You can trust Him to bring to completion the work He has begun in a person who has heard the gospel.

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

IDEAL PRAYER

I want to speak to you today about ideal prayer. I want you to see the nature of the prayer life we are growing into. Before I begin, I need to say that you do not have to be mature in your prayer to connect with God and affect the world. The Bible calls us to pray all the time whether you know what to pray or not. Although we are weak and shallow and immature, we're praying to a God who is infinite, all-knowing, and all-powerful.
At the same time it is important to see what our prayer is growing toward. One of the passages that give us the best picture of the prayer available to us is John 15. Look with me at John 15:7,8.
“If you remain in Me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
This verse begins, "If you remain in me." It is important to see that this is part of the same thought as John 15:5.
“I am the vine you are the branches. If anyone remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.”
Jesus is talking about ultimate continual intimacy. This is related to Paul's command for us to pray without ceasing. Remaining in Him is to live every day in constant awareness of His presence, in constant intimacy with Him. John 17 is essentially in the same context. There Jesus prayed a powerful prayer for us. Toward the end of that prayer He prayed that we would be unified with Him and with the Father, “I in them and you and me.”
John 15:7 continues, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you.” Do His words dwell in your mind and heart? Do you see how this is essential to prayer? You and I are bombarded with influences on every hand. To weed out those influences we need God's voice speaking to us, His word influencing us. What are the Lord's words to us? Are His words only the words Jesus spoke while He walked on Earth? His word certainly includes those. But His word would also include the entire Bible. Everything in the Bible focuses on Him. In John 5:39 Jesus said “You search the scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life and they are they which testify of me.” All Scripture is about Him. We see and connect with Him in Scripture.
His word will speak to you in any situation. If you wish to remain in His word, you need to memorize Scripture. I have sometimes had a scripture come to my mind that I had not memorized. That is a work of the Holy Spirit. However, I can multiply the occurrence of that by memorizing verses. Let me tell you something about the very passage that I'm writing to you about right now. These verses struck me some time ago. At the time I really wasn't exactly sure what He was saying to me. But I memorized the verses. Then I put them into my prayer guide that I pray through every day. And I begin to sense God speaking to me more and more.
Strangely enough, I remember getting glimpses of verses like this as a young Christian, and feeling like there was something wrong about them. It it seemed to me that God was saying, “If you pray what I want you to pray, you can have what you pray for. And there is a sense in which that is true. But of course I did not take into account that I didn't know what I would enjoy and what would be best for me nearly as well as God who loved me with everlasting love. It is a little like a child wanting to drive a car. He thinks being in control of that car means he can drive anywhere and anyway he wishes. But to really be in control he needs to stay on the road rather than the sidewalk or the front room of your house. Prayer is more powerful than any car. Remaining and his word matures our thinking. We begin to want what is best for us what is right what pleases God even if we do not understand it.
And the answered prayer that flows out of abiding in Him glorifies Jesus. Many wise people down through history have discovered that selfishness is the source of bitterness and heartache. But in fellowship with Jesus we discover the joy of glorifying our heavenly Father. Nothing else breaks our selfish perspective. And we are able to glorify Him as our prayers bear fruit. As God blesses others through our prayers, people will recognize that we are truly His disciples.

Monday, March 20, 2017

HUNGERING FOR GOD

Do you pray because you hunger for God? Or do you want what you are praying for more than you want God? I recently heard someone tell about being so desperate for something she wanted, that she spent days hunting for things she was doing wrong to repent of so God would  answer her prayer. And she said God did answer.
Do you hear the theology behind that? The notion that we need to get as right with God as possible so he will give us what we really want is not Christian. It is typical religion. You can find this thinking in every religion and cult group. Pharisees would have wholeheartedly endorsed this theology. But Jesus did not teach this kind of devotion. He taught some things that might be mistaken for it. He taught us to pray for what we want and need because He loves us. And He certainly taught repentance because we need it.
But we are to be devoted to God because we love Him. We should be willing to give up what we want in order to draw nearer to our Lord, rather than trying to draw nearer to God, so He will give us what we really want.
Suppose you passed on and left an inheritance for your daughter. And she fell in love and got married. Shortly after they were married her husband discovered he couldn't get his hands on the inheritance. And he told her plainly he was leaving because he really didn't love her, he only wanted her money. Would she feel used? How would you feel in that situation?
I made one of the most important commitments of my entire life as a young person at youth camp. Several years later at the same camp a friend asked me to come off alone with him because he needed to get right with God. One of the first things he told me was if he came home from camp without making a decision for Christ, his dad wouldn't let him get his driver’s permit. Would it surprise you that that his decision didn't make any difference in his life that next year?
How might it change your prayer life if you prayed because you needed God and wanted Him more than you wanted to be healed, or needed help in trouble, or whatever you want God to give you?


Monday, March 6, 2017

PRAYING YOUR SABBATH

I believe we have to some extent lost the concept of observing the Sabbath in these days. I believe we still need a Sabbath rest. Hebrews 4 indicates that Jesus is now our Sabbath. Whatever other applications there are to this truth, it certainly means we rest in our relationship with Him. And the most important facet of observing a Sabbath rest is prayer.
By prayer we come to intimacy with God. It is worth something to devote a day once a week to prayer. I don't think I should never have recreation on my Sabbath. But recreation shouldn't take precedence over prayer.
A Sabbath should include some physical rest. Jesus taught and healed on the Sabbath. But He also took His disciples off for an occasional vacation. But I can pray while I am resting physically.
Are you praying a Sabbath rest?
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Monday, February 20, 2017

FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS

I want to address Prayer Warriors and those of you who long very much to become prayer Warriors. In the Old Testament book of Esther Mordecai spoke to his niece the queen, saying  “Who knows perhaps you have been raised up for such a time as this.”
You have been raised up for this very day. I am not qualified to determine exactly what kind of era we are living in. The beginning of A Tale of Two Cities may well apply to our age. It is the best of times and the worst of times. We are enjoying the rich blessings of God. We may be on the verge of apocalypse. But it really does not matter what unique day we are living in. God has raised you up to be a prayer warrior in these days.
God may have raised you up to be a prayer warrior in days in which we are so blessed that it is difficult to find time to pray, when there are so many distractions entertainments and blessings to enjoy. You may have to sacrifice watching your favorite your favorite television program or going to a game where your favorite team is playing an archrival. These may be days in which God raises up an army of people who love him more than the things He gives us. Instead of taking long relaxing vacations people take could go on mission trips to pray for people in other countries. This may be a day when people pray despite allurements the enemy throws in front of us.
While I certainly believe this is partially true. I am also convinced that you are raised up to pray in times of great moral crises. You and those around you will face heartache and trials. I believe we are going to see terrible judgment in these days. In fact, prayer movements in history have accompanied or preceded judgment. A case in point is the great prayer revival of 1858. It preceded the Civil War that God brought upon our country because of the sin of slavery. People were able to endure those days, many went to heaven, because of that revival.
I believe the return of Christ is imminent. If that is the case, we are about to enter into the greatest tribulation the world has ever seen. And we may have been raised up to pray that the greatest spiritual awakening the world has ever seen will come about simultaneously.
Now, whether the return of Christ is near or not, most of you know that you are going to face severe difficulty and heartache in your life, and your family, in your neighborhood, in your city, in your nation. This is your day! In John 12:27 Jesus admitted that His heart was troubled. And He asked rhetorically if He should pray to be delivered from those days. “But,” He said, “for this purpose I have come to this hour.” You are hear for this very purpose. God has raised you up for such a time as this.

Monday, February 6, 2017

PRAYING FOR THE HEARTS OF PEOPLE

I have been much alarmed over the violent, blasphemous and obscene language in books and other entertainment, on social media, in politics, and in daily conversation in these days.
Of course the problem is deeper than the coarseness of our speech. In Luke 6:45 Jesus said “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
I see a lot of medical professionals in these days. I pray for each one. And I want to witness to them. Several times I have them use bad language with me. And while I continue to pray for them, I make a point not to comment on their fault language. I want my witness to be the gospel. It alone deals with the heart where the real problem lies.
While I believe God will speak to them through me, God must strike the heart. In Isaiah 6 the prophet told about God meeting him in the temple. God speaks thunderously to our hearts. Isaiah cried out,."Woe is me, for I am ruined, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, for I have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts."
I want to be open a to soul shaking, life changing encounters with the living God. I always need Him. And I am praying for our nation, for our leaders, and for individuals I come in contact with to be open to a life changing encounter with Almighty God! Nothing less than a personal encounter with God will change our hearts. Nothing else will change what comes out of our mouths.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

PRAYING THE LOVE OF GOD

I recently finished the rough draft of a book on AGAPE. I have to admit that writing it has been a thrill. One of the things that God pressed on me is that agape, the love of God, the love the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have lavished upon one another from before time, is at the heart of our bond with God. And agape needs to be the driving force of our prayer. Let me point out some natural expressions of the love of God that should shape our prayers.
Prayer for the Needy
God cares for the poor. He loves them with a special love. (James 2:5) You can pray in general for ministries to the poor. Thank God for them. And of course real agape and real prayer will give to such ministries. But that is not enough. You can pray for people you may pass every day. You may see them on the side of the road or in the grocery store. You may very well see them in church. And you can pray for opportunities to get the know some of them personally, and find personal ways to pray for each of them.
The neediest people you will ever meet are people who are lost without Christ
Prayer for the Lost
God cares for the lost. Jesus began His teaching in Luke 15 with this parable. Which one of you who has a hundred sheep but loses one of them will not leave the 99 in the open field to go after the one lost sheep? When he finds it, will he not put it on his shoulders with joy? Coming home he will call his friends and neighbors saying, “Celebrate with me because I have found my lost sheep!” Jesus concluded, “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
Are you praying daily by name for people who do not know your Lord? I assumed many of us would have to look for needy people. But that is not true about lost people. God has placed you in the midst of family members, neighbors, coworkers and acquaintances who need Christ. He has trusted them to you. Pray for a clear witness to them. Pray for softened heart. Pray for every need they have. Pray for His power in their lives.
Prayer of Forgiveness
As Jesus hung on the cross He prayed, “Father, forgive them.”  Who do you think He was praying for? He was certainly praying for the Roman soldiers who were carrying out His crucifixion. I believe He was praying for the multitude shouting, “Crucify!” I believe He was praying for the men who had condemned Him. But He was also praying for me. His whole crucifixion was a powerful prayer for God to forgive me and you. That prayer was a declaration of the will of God from before the foundation of the universe.
Are you praying for God to forgive those who have sinned against you? They probably include people whom you love, people who are close to you. They will include people who hate you. They will include people who hurt you deeply, and people who are not at all sorry about it. This kind of praying requires spiritual growth. And it will be a major factor in your growing more and more in the love of Christ.