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Thursday, January 29, 2015


In the garden before the cross Jesus told His disciples to pray lest they fall into temptation. Temptation is more dangerous than many of us imagine. James 1:14 says temptation drags us away by our lusts. In John 14:30 Jesus said the prince of this world had no hold on him.
No doubt no fear,
No guilt or sin that he controlled,
No secret desire held dear.
The enemy had no hold
To drag Him to his fold.
We must pray to avoid the enemy's grip on our hearts.
Part of this is simply to ask God to deliver us from temptation. But the focus of what Jesus is telling us in the garden is the transformation of heart and mind that comes from extended prayer. Jesus asked "Could you not watch for an hour? Watch and pray lest you fall into temptation."
Ephesians 6 paints a forceful picture of our spiritual armor. The first defense against temptation is truth. In prayer God fastens the belt of truth tightly around our thinking."
Next is the breastplate of righteousness. The accuser of the brethren will accuse you before God in your hearing. You need to pray in the righteousness of Jesus to be protected from his onslaughts.
Nothing will prepare you to ward off the enemy like the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The enemy trembles at the name of Jesus. But time and time again we are not spiritually prepared to share the gospel. In extended prayer we lace up our spiritual boots.
Praying Scripture builds faith as a shield to extinguish Satan's fiery darts.
A relationship of prayer covers us with God's salvation like a helmet from beginning to glory.
And by prayer we wield the sword of the Spirit, the word of God.
Paul concluded his discussion of spiritual armor with the admonition for us to pray at all times with all prayer and supplication. Pray, pray, pray, so you will be able to avoid temptation.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Luke 18 begins by saying Jesus spoke a parable that we might always pray and not faint. Jesus then tells us there was a wicked judge who didn’t fear God or care about men. Is there any place in society where corruption is as despicable as in the judiciary? The judge’s bench is to be our last protection against lawlessness.  And a certain widow woman came before this crooked judge who had been cheated by swindlers. She didn’t even have enough money left to hire a lawyer, but she came to court anyway. At first glance the crooked judge tore up her paperwork and threw it away. But the next day as he set on the bench his clerk handed him her papers painstakingly filled out again.
“There isn’t anything in this for me,” he shouted at his clerk and threw out her paperwork again. But the next day and the next she was there again. Week after week, month after month she sat there before him determined to find justice. Finally, the wicked judge said, “I don’t care about what is right, but I am going to grant this woman justice against her enemy just to keep her from wearing me out.
Jesus concluded, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.  And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
We face at least 4 unjust judges in our lives. Luke says the focus of this parable is discouragement that causes us to give up on our prayers. These four unjust judges seek to do just that.
Pray in spite of the judgment of Your Life Circumstances
We face situations in a fallen word that cause us to be discouraged in our prayers. Believers are not exempt from evil circumstances around us. You are a child of God on a mission from your Father in an unfair world. If you don't keep praying when life is not fair, you will miss a great part of the purpose of prayer.
Pray in spite of the judgment of Your Moods
Our own moods discourage us more than circumstances. In fighting moods that plague me nothing benefits me as much as focusing on the goodness of God. The unjust judge is not a picture of God in this parable. He is a contrast to God. Jesus points us instead to the goodness of God, the faithful love of God and the fact that God chose us to be His own. Have you ever sung the little chorus taken from 1John 3:1? “Behold what manner of love the Father hath given unto us, that we should be called the children of God.” I find praise songs to be a wonderful antidote to discouragement and depression. This one notes the awe that takes over the heart of a believer when you get a real grip on this truth. You are a child of the living God!
Pray in spite of the judgment Other People
Do you remember the story of story of blind Bartimaeus? The crowd was telling him to shut up rather than cry out to Jesus. People will often try to discourage you. I got a call from a chaplain friend this week who had received a terribly discouraging text on his phone 5 minutes before the chapel service was to begin. I told him, “That was done on purpose. I think the man who sent the text intended to discourage you. But even if he did not, our real enemy meant it so.”
Pray in spite of the judgment of Your Enemy
Believers need to know that we are in the midst of spiritual war. And the enemy of our God is the enemy of our souls. He will try to discourage you from doing anything God wants you to do. And he is especially terrified by your prayers. If he can keep you from praying, he will defeat you in every area of your life. But if you pray even when you are discouraged, he will not be able to keep you discouraged and God will shake the earth.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Ephesians 4:11-12 reads, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
The Spirit’s focus in these verses is not God’s gift of servants or ministers to the church, but the task of discipleship they are to fulfill. They are to bring about the unity of faith, the intimate knowledge of God and the spiritual maturity of Christ Himself. These are not things that can be accomplished by human skill, ability or effort. Such discipleship can only be developed in the presence and power of God.
There are a number of spiritual disciplines and aids to spiritual maturity, but they all involve prayer. The most important thing a pastor can do to grow the church spiritually is to get people to pray as they have never prayed before. He must begin this by developing his own prayer life and then by praying for his church members.
The list of spiritual maturity begins with unity in faith. The two most important factors in developing spiritual unity are praying for one another and praying together. When this passage speaks of the knowledge of God it does not mean knowledge about God, but intimacy with God. The key factor in getting to know God personally is spending time with Him in prayer. I would also include reading the Bible prayerfully, prayerful obedience to what God is telling you and struggling in prayer through difficulties that you face. As we grow in prayer through the hardships and trials we must deal with, God’s Spirit matures our souls to become more and more like Jesus. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Do you have a life verse? Many people do. Should you pray for a life verse? I know someone who likes to joke about this by saying, "The Bible is my life Scripture." I think that is funny, but it does not really grasp what a life verse is and does.

First, the concept of a life verse is based on the conviction that God speaks to us personally. This is certainly taught in the Bible. From Adam and Eve in the Garden to John on Patmos, from Elijah hearing His still small voice to the disciples hearing the voice out of the cloud on the mountain top, God speaks. Many people seek the Scripture for truth and life principles. And we certainly find principles in Scripture, but we also need direct personal communication with God.

The words "life verse" are not found in Scripture, but we certainly see God speaking to people through scriptures. A good example is found in Acts 13. In verse 47 Paul and Barnabas said, "This is what the Lord has commanded us." And then they quoted from Isaiah 49. "I have made you a light for the gentiles, to bring salvation to the ends of the earth."

Of course without a life verse you can believe God speaks and even experience Him speaking to you day by day as you read the Bible. In fact the Bible teaches that if you understand Scripture God is speaking to you. 2 Corinthians 2:14 says the things of God are spiritually discerned or understood.

However, it is possible for God to speak a life-long message to a person. That is what Paul and Barnabas were declaring in Acts 13:47. Of course God can speak to people any way He chooses. I believe God sometimes speaks through His silence. I love the statement from Experiencing God. "God speaks through the Bible, prayer, circumstances and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes and His ways."

So, should you pray for a life verse? I do not know. God may be prompting you to pray for such a verse. But how God speaks to you is God's business. I would urge you to be open for God to give you a life verse as He speaks to you in Scripture. In fact, I believe you need to be open for God to give you more than one lifelong word. I have six life verses. I have them memorized and I pray over them every day as I begin my devotional time. God of course still speaks to me in Scripture and in other ways encouraging, directing, strengthening, teaching or warning me.

Interestingly enough, my wife and I also have scriptures that we believe God has led us to in praying for other people, especially family members. These passages inform our prayers and encourage our faith as we lift them up to our Heavenly Father. Life verses and similar uses of the Scriptures help us pray the word of God. 

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