Follow by Email

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Thunder of Christmas

The Angel of the Lord came like thunder to the shepherds’ hillside on the first Christmas Eve. With his startling voice, he had to tell them not to be afraid. "Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all people!  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord!" The heavenly host must have flashed like lightning in the sky. "Glory to God in the highest, peace good will to men."
You may not imagine that you could ever have the same thunder and lightning for the darkness of these days. But this power is available to you. The thunder of Christmas is the presence and power of God. God has put His power in your hands. You come to this Christmas with the thunder and lightning of prayer.
You can pray for people all around you crowding into stores scrambling for gifts. You can pray for your neighbors. Pray for each of your family members. God has allowed you to know their needs more intimately than others.
You may know someone who is alone this year. Your may know someone grieving over a lost child or the loss of their life-long marriage partner. You may love children and others who are too caught up in the materialism of our celebration to be touched by the meaning of Christmas.
You may know children whose lives are hard, especially at Christmas. Many of them live in countries other than your own. Pray for ministries to them. You can hold a Christmas Child shoe box in your hands and pray personally for the girl or boy who will receive it.
If you start praying like this you need to put your faith God who came down at Christmas. Some of you who are reading these words do not know Christ personally. You must put your faith in Him. You cannot have God's power in your life or even His forgiveness without the grace Jesus bought for you on the cross. And those of you who know Him personally will need to spend time alone with God in prayer and the Scripture to saturate yourself in the perspective and promises of God's love. Otherwise, you will be overwhelmed by the spiritual conflict.

The thunder of Christmas and the power of prayer only come from God Himself. If you have not come to know Him, and if you are not spending time in His presence you will not have power to unleash on the world you live in.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

WITH THANKSGIVING

know Thanksgiving is over. Most of us have already unpacked Christmas decorations, and begun preparations for the biggest holiday of the year. But I would like to suggest that we hold on to the Thanksgiving holiday a little longer. In fact, I think we should continue to celebrate it 365 days a year.
Let me draw your attention to a Scripture passage that is so rich that all of you are familiar with it. Philippians 4:6 reads,
"Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving,
let your requests be made known unto God."
This verse clearly teaches that we are to give thanks as we let our requests be known. You might well ask why would we not wait until we see God's answer before we start saying thank you. The Scripture offers such thanksgiving as a statement of faith. But I have had prayers answered with, "no." Haven't you. In fact, some of those I have in time thanked God that He didn't answer them the way I wanted when I prayed. John 15:7-8 gives us this promise of prayer.
"If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples."
I strive to discern His words and will for my prayers. I know that is the only way I can bear spiritual fruit. I also find a wonderful freedom in this promise. I can pray in confidence trusting God to keep me from praying mountains on top of your house or my own.
I also find a great joy giving thanks to God as I pray that He is at work in the most difficult or fearful situation that I pray for, even if I am unsure or mistaken about how He should answer.
So join me in continuing our Thanksgiving all year long. It is a wonderful celebration with or without the turkey.


Monday, November 21, 2016

PRAYING FOR THE IMPOSSIBLE

Are you praying for the impossible? I begin my daily devotionals by going over key verses through which God has spoken to me. After each verse I have several long term prayer requests. Under one of those verses I have this prayer.
I want to wait prayerfully for You to accomplish what is absolutely impossible in human strength.
I pray for God to help me trust Him for the impossible. But I don't want to pray for just any impossibility. For one thing, if I am praying for anything short of what God desires, I will be praying too small.
I am not absolutely sure what God wants to do in and beyond America in these days. But I believe I know some things God wants us to ask for. I believe God wants us to pray for our culture to be radically turned around.
Several weeks ago I wrote in this blog that there is more to concern us about abortion than its legality. One of the things I wrote was that it is crucial to change our media and our culture's attitude toward sex and marriage if we want to significantly reduce the number of abortions. That is humanly impossible. But I don't think that is enough.
I am listening to Eric Metaxas' book, If You Can Keep It.  He says freedom does not mean to be ungoverned. As the founders of our nation meant it, liberty is the freedom to govern ourselves. Eric quotes Os Guinness, citing the "Golden Triangle of Liberty.” The founders all assumed these three things worked together, liberty, morality, and religion. We cannot have liberty without morality, and we need free religion to sustain personal morality.
I believe a genuine revival sweeping the land will not just change our attitudes toward sex and marriage, but toward all morality, religion and godliness. I have been more and more alarmed at the profanity on television. Some of the shows that never had filthy language or innuendos are now rife with them. The fact that many of us think that is a picky matter is an indication that this is not simply an unholy influence, but a spiritual thermometer of our nation. In Matthew 12:34 Jesus said,
"Brood of vipers!How can you speak good things when your hearts are evil?
For the mouth speaks out of the overflow of the heart."
I fear this year's presidential election reflects the hearts of America. Especially in a democracy where grassroots movements sway elections we get the government we deserve.
Changing the hearts of this entire nation would be a revival like the world has not seen since the sweep of Christianity through the Roman Empire in the first three centuries A.D.
I don't know what we will see as a result of these prayers. This kind of praying may turn out much like Abraham's intercession for Sodom. The tears of Jeremiah did not change the hearts of Israel. And the move of God on Europe in the early days of the church cost believers dearly. But it was certainly worth every drop of martyrs' blood. Whatever it costs us, such prayer could bring about the greatest revival in history.
Let's pray for the impossible!


http://thinkinginthespirit.blogspot.com/

Sunday, November 6, 2016

BRINGING DOWN STRONGHOLDS

Last week in my other blog, http://thinkinginthespirit.blogspot.com/, I wrote about the complexity of the issue of abortion. Like many social problems its roots are deeper than its legality. I did not mention that the law acts as a teacher and does play a part in changing the thinking of society. But it is also important to note that we are facing spiritual strongholds that must be brought down to make radical changes in our culture. It is easy to treat these matters as less difficult or painful than they are. But it is important to note that Jesus said,
“I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy.”
(Luke 10:19)
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 tells us,
“The weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.”
We come against spiritual strongholds when we seek to change human nature or have real effect on our culture. I don't want to pretend that politics are not important in this spiritual battle, but as long as we think it is our primary means, we will be defeated. Let me point out three necessary elements in changing society.
Evangelism
Nothing changes people like the gospel. The majority of believers in Corinth had no spiritual background at all. God needed to make great changes in their thinking and lifestyle. Nothing would change them or people today like being radically born again.
Discipleship
And while a great change comes upon us at our conversion, there is also a process of transformation by which we are made more and more like Jesus. Before changes can spread into wider society, God needs to change us in the church. It is the will of God that we become salt and light to the society around us. If we try to do that in our own strength we will fail.
Prayer

But we have been given prayer to work in our world. We have the limitless power of God to break down our society's spiritual strongholds. By prayer we can do the impossible. Who knows what God will do through our prayer?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

CONSIDERING YOUR PRAYERS

In John 12:27,28, one of my favorite Scripture passages, Jesus questioned how He should pray in a particular situation. Do you think about what you should be praying?
"Now is my heart troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name!" Then a voice came from heaven: "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again."
Consider the situation of your prayers.
God uses the particular circumstances of your life to motivate you to pray. Most of us think of painful circumstances that can drive us to our knees. That is good thinking. But in fact, the immediate situation of Jesus in John 12 was by no means the most painful of His life. However, Jesus was prayerfully sensitive to what the Father was doing in His life. He knew where He was headed. Every mention of the "hour," or "His hour," in The Gospel of John relates to the cross. When Mary broke the flask of fragrance over Him, Jesus knew she was actually preparing His body for burial. When the Greeks came asking to see Him, Jesus knew He would have to pay a terrible price to draw all men to Himself.
Consider the purpose of your prayers.
Knowing God's purpose Jesus could not pray, "Father, save me from this hour." God uses bad things to accomplish His glorious purposes. The Bible is clear that God uses trials to develop your character. And prayer is an essential element in His making you more like Jesus. Are your prayers counter productive? Are you praying against what God is doing in your life? I heard a powerful sermon this week by Tim Keller. In it he said, "Prayer is not a consumer tool. It is a refiner's fire."
God did not give you prayer so you could become more and more selfish. He gave you prayer so your prayers and your life will become more like Jesus'.
But even that is not the ultimate goal. God is developing your character so His name will be glorified. That is the highest good, the greatest joy, the most wonderful outcome of your life and the circumstance He has placed you in.
Consider the affirmation of your prayers.
When Jesus prayed, "Father, glorify Your Name!" there came a voice from heaven, "I have glorified it and will glorify it again!"
As we consider our prayers God draws us deeper into the fellowship of prayer. And He will give greater and greater assurance of His purpose.
Some of those standing there said, "It thundered." Others said, "An angel must have spoken to Him." I get goosebumps as I write this.
But Jesus said, "No. That was not it at all." They missed the point. "This voice did not for me. It was for your benefit."
Jesus did not need to hear the thunderous voice for His own assurance. It came to give assurance to those around Him. And as our prayer-roots grow deeper into God's purpose, He will give assurance to those around you with a thunder that shallow praying never brings.



Monday, October 10, 2016

PRAYING IN OUR PAIN

For all the years I have suffered with my cancer my pain has been surprisingly minimal. But for the past week I have had some severe pain. I just left my doctor's office. To his surprise and my delight, it is evidently not caused by my cancer. But it still hurts.
In his book, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis calls pain, God's megaphone.
"God whispers to us in our pleasures, He speaks to us in our conscience, and He shouts to us in our pain."
I doubt if it surprises you that police and fire engine sirens or the smoke alarm in your bedroom don't play Beethoven melodies or the latest jingle from a TV commercial. Their purpose is not entertainment but alarm.
Although it may go against most modern American thinking, it is not necessarily the will of God that our lives be filled with pleasure, comfort and entertainment.
Above all else God wants us to hear His voice and respond to His grace. It is through pain and suffering that we are shocked into the realization that there is something wrong in our lives and in the world. Through pain God quickly gets our attention.
Pain certainly calls us to pray. But prayer does not often relieve the pain immediately. And we need to learn to pray while we are hurting. Over the years of minor to moderate pain prayer has been a comfort and joy. This week, my pain increased enough that the pain pills the doctor give me do not take away all the pain. Sometimes they don't seem to do anything at all.
Among other things, I have to ask God to help me focus on what I am praying. I have to ask God to help me focus on other people and greater needs. It is still true that nothing lifts my heart like worship and praise. But I need God's Spirit to keep my attention on His glory.
Of course, we always need God to help us pray. We even need the Spirit of God to teach us what to pray. We need His hand on every facet of prayer. I have become painfully more aware of that.
Lord, I need You not only to teach me, but to help me pray.  

Monday, September 26, 2016

WHAT DO WE TELL THE CHILDREN

Many, if not most of you have heard Andy Stanley's humorous warning, "You are scaring the children!" Northside Baptist Church no longer allows the video to be seen because of copyright claims, although over two hundred thousand people already saw it. Here is a portion of Andy's admonition.
“All of you who are 45 and older, look up here.
Many of you have grown weary and lost heart and the reason is–you have fixed your eyes on a political system… and you are growing weary. And you need to knock it off. And I’ll tell you why… because you are scaring the children!
But what do we tell our children in these days? Let me suggest that we tell them to pray.
From this you and they may hopefully ask, "If we begin to pray as we have never prayed, will that solve all the social and political problems of our day? Will that restore our nation?"
God might indeed do that. He will certainly do that eventually. But I am not certain that He will work that way immediately.
If we look back in history we do not always see revival leading to complete restoration. Instead the awakening often prepared believers bring Him glory in terrible times to come.
A great prayer awakening swept America in 1858. Did that end slavery, the great moral and political division in our country? It did not. In three swift years the nation was thrust into a great civil war in which more Americans died than in either of the world wars.
If it did not prevent such a catastrophe, what was the point? Well, many thousands died  and went to heaven instead of hell. Many came home crippled or blinded with a spiritual strength to face the difficulties. Our country was able to pick up the pieces and go on. I don't think that would have happened without God in the lives of many.
In the mid-twentieth century would a prayer revival in Europe have prevented the rise of the NAZI regime? I don't know. But I do know praying people were able to help hundreds of thousands of children and others escape from the horror of the Third Reich. Many horrible things happened in those days. But there were also many with God given courage to oppose power of evil in their day.
I don't want to promise that we will not pay a terrific price for our sins as a nation. And like Daniel and his godly friends, righteous people will share the judgment. But we can be prepared to love and minister to people, and give great glory to God whatever happens in our country. And who knows what God will do, if we begin to pray as never before?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Priestly Prayer

Hezekiah became king of Israel after the death of the wicked king, Ahaz. Ahaz had led the people to turn away from the Lord to worship Baal. After he was installed as king Hezekiah led the people to return to the Lord. That year they cleaned out the abandoned temple to celebrate the Passover for the first time in years. But they had to postpone the celebration because too few of their priests were consecrated before the Lord. But they finally had the most wonderful celebration they had ever had. The last verse of 2 Chronicles 30 tells us about the ministry of the newly consecrated priests. "The priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God healed them, for their prayer reached heaven, His holy dwelling place."
Did you know that God is calling you to a priestly ministry? Our nation needs healing. God has put you in contact with people who need spiritual healing. But most of you are aware that this calling requires more than you can do or be. But you need to know that God provides the primary things  you need to be a priest of God.
You need A higher Priest.
On the cross Jesus prayed even for those who were crucifying Him. "Father, forgive them." That prayer is at the heart of the will of God for the people around you.
Right before the cross Jesus being a priest to His disciples, told Peter that despite his pride, he was going to deny Him three times. Then Jesus said, "But I have prayed for you. And when you return, strengthen your brothers.”
Wouldn't it be powerful assurance  to know that Jesus prayed for you. He has and He does. As Jesus prayed for His disciples in John 17, He also prayed for us who would believe in Him through their word. And Hebrews 7:25 says Jesus continues intercede for you before the throne of God. When you pray for your neighbors relatives and friends, you can know you are joining God in interceding for them. The Lord has planted you in their lives so you would join Him in praying for them.

You need A higher Righteousness.
When Hezekiah became King the priests had to be consecrated before they could serve. Nothing is more important to prayer or any other ministry than holiness. When Abraham interceded with God on behalf of Sodom, he appealed to the righteousness of God. "Surely the Lord of all the earth will do what is right." And he appealed to God's love of Righteousness. He asked if God would spare the unrighteous, if there were fifty righteous people in the city. And God said He would spare even the unrighteous because of the righteousness of fifty people.
"What if there were five less than fifty?" Abraham continued to bargain God down. And God agreed that He loved righteousness so much that He would spare the unrighteous because of the righteousness of ten people. But there were evidently not even ten righteous people in that wicked city. At that point the Lord ended the conversation with Abraham and Abraham went back home. Why do you suppose that was? I am of course not sure, but I suspect this was the reason. If Abraham got down to asking God to save the city for one righteous person, was his nephew Lot really righteous? Even Abraham was depending upon the righteousness of God. Romans 4:3 quoting Genesis 15:6 telling us Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Are any of us holy enough for our righteousness to be counted for others? Not eternally. There is only one person who was that righteous, Jesus. He died in our stead so His righteousness would count for us. Whatever you are praying for others, you are appealing for the righteousness of Jesus to be applied to their lives.

Monday, August 29, 2016

PRAYING FOR FRUITFULNESS

Modern Americans often have the strangest notion of prayer. Much prayer in these days is an extension of our materialist convictions. You can hear preaching, here and in many countries around the world, that poses provision as the primary purpose of prayer. This is often taken to the extremes. "God give me a Cadillac." "God let me win the lottery."
But according to Jesus, the primary purpose of prayer is fruitfulness. In John 15:7 Jesus gave us a wonderful promise of prayer. He said, "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. 
But Jesus continued in verse 8, "This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." The purpose of prayer is fruitfulness. Today I read day 10 in the little booklet, 40 Days of Prayer, on the fruit of the Spirit. It reminded me that bearing fruit begins with my character and continues in the significance of my life. God is planting His seeds in my life to touch others and impact the world.
The provision of the Father is a foundational assumption of prayer. You don't need to spend much time praying for provisions. Your Father knows what you need before you ask. But fulfillment and joy do not come from worldly possessions, pleasure, or success.
Jesus continues in John 15:11, "I have told you this that my joy may be in you and your joy may be full. Joy comes from purpose and usefulness. Are you praying for fruitfulness? Or are you praying junk?


Monday, August 15, 2016

MANIPULATION or FAITH

The subject of my blog this week sounds a little like it belongs in my other blog, thinkinginthespirit.blogspot.com/ rather than watchininprayer. But in fact, this deals with the attitude that must drive our prayers. Is your life, are your prayers, driven by faith or by the need to manipulate circumstances, people or even God?
Do you approach Your Circumstances in Faith or the desire to Manipulate?
When you face painful circumstances, it is difficult if not impossible not to ask God to change them. In Fact, prayer can be a statement that you are trusting God to improve your circumstances. Can you imagine Joseph in the Old Testament not praying for his release as He languished in prison? I'm sure he cried out to God for relief. But instead God used him in the prison. And God chose to use his situation to promote him to the highest position in the land.
In Philippians 2:5 and following Paul says, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." Jesus voluntarily left heaven and all its glory to be born in a manger, to have no place to lay His head, to be rejected by men, to be unjustly condemned and crucified for you. In John 12:27,28 He said, "Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason that I came to this hour." God has also determined your circumstances, however painful. Can you trust God to use you in the situations where He has planted you?
Do you trust God to work in Other People's lives rather than trying to manipulate them? When you and I are driven to change someone else, we need to ask ourselves if we are trying to manipulate them for their benefit or for ourselves. This may be difficult to determine because we are so quick to justify our behavior. Even if our motives are always pure, we must trust other people to God. Have you noticed that God gives people the freedom to sin and even to reject Him? Without such freedom there could be no true righteousness? It is difficult to watch someone you love ruin their life. And realizing that you cannot manipulate them to do what you want becomes a motivation to pray. Faith trusts and cries out to God to speak to their hearts to draw them to repent and voluntarily turn to Him. Only God can do what needs to be done in someone's heart.
Are you seeking to Manipulate God?
When our prayers are driven by wants and fears rather than faith in our Heavenly Father, we fall into praying and doing anything else we do to put God in our debt, so He will have to give us what we want. We are trying to pray against God's will. Philippians 4:6 calls us to lift our prayers with thanksgiving. You can exercise your faith in God's grace by giving thanks before you see how God will answer your prayers. He is your Father. And you can trust Him to give you what you need. Our children don't always understand what we are trying to do for them. But in the long run they come to appreciate their parents' love. You can trust God to give you what you ask for or to give you what you would ask for if you knew everything He knows.

I need to let all of you who read my blog know, that the Kindle edition of Home In The Wilderness, my latest novel will be free Tuesday, August 16 through Friday, August 19, 2016. https://goo.gl/X3IFQT



Monday, August 1, 2016

PRAY FOR THE COURT

Many of us are, or should be, alarmed about rulings by the supreme court in these days. Our founding Fathers set up a balance of power between three somewhat independent branches of government. But now the Supreme Court of the United States has begun to trump the law and the will of the people apparently without precedent in law or the constitution. They have begun to short-cut our representative government by legislating from the bench. Hence we are losing government of the people by the people and for the people.
I need to say the court has opposed righteousness and the constitution before. In 1858 the Supreme Court ruled that negroes whose ancestors were brought here as slaves had no access to American courts.[1] That ungodly decision helped to throw us into a bloody civil war. On the other hand, I have to admit that I thank God for civil rights decisions that went against the will of voters in southern states in the 1950s. They were on the side of the angels.
I have some crucial advice that those who care about righteousness in our country.
Trust God!
That surely means being confident that He is still sovereign over history. I do not mean to say bad things will not come upon our nation as a result of our sin. Sin is still a disgrace to any people. And the way of the transgressor is hard. But even as terrible things come, God will draw people to His grace, and He will see us through our trials.
Trusting God will also mean standing for what is right even when our laws or judicial rulings tend to normalize evil. We must do our best to stand firm even when all of society seems to be turning against God.
Most importantly people who trust God, will pray. We will pray for our neighbors and neighborhoods. We will pray for the power of holiness in our churches. We will pray for our government and our laws. We will pray for our president and congress as they appoint and approve judges. And yes we will pray for The Supreme Court of The United States. Have you prayed for the court? It is more important to ask, if you will pray for the court. Here are the names of the current Supreme Court Justices. I encourage you to write them in your Bible and pray regularly for each of them.
Justice Clarence Thomas
Chief Justice John G. Roberts
Justice Anthony Kennedy,
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Justice Stephen G. Breyer
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.
Justice Elena Kagan
Of course there are only eight justices since the untimely death of Antonin Scalia. We also need to pray for the appointment of the ninth justice who will be brought up from a lower court. I believe God will work mightily through our prayers.




[1] http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/dred-scott-case

Monday, July 11, 2016

PRAYING FOR EMERGENCIES II

I am writing a second WATCHING IN PRAYER blog this week, rather than my THINKING IN THE SPIRIT blog. I apologize to you who may prefer the other. I intend to return to Thinking in The Spirit next week.
Thank God, I did not receive another Amber Alert this week. But this week a series of national tragedies unfolded. Two more black Americans were shot by police officers. That is a tragedy whether those two armed men or the policemen were in the wrong. Who can defend either all police who see every black man as a threat or people who grow up with hatred and resentment toward police.
And who of us was not horrified by the sniper who shot eleven police officers who were helping to keep the crowd safe at the protest rally in Dallas. We heard person after person who had come to the rally to protest police shootings, as they cried out in shock against the murder of the peace officers.
We face a host of national emergencies in these days. We see moral and spiritual emergencies in America. The political and social divisions are a crisis in. And who would say our sins have not offended the holiness of God who has so richly blessed us?
The first thing we must do in the face emergencies is cry out to God. The Lord told Abraham as He sent the angels to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. And Abraham interceded for the wicked cities. Are you interceding for America? Are you searching for ways to intercede in accordance with the righteousness of God? Are you crying out for the power of God that alone can turn our hearts around? Are you praying for God's glory to be magnified by His intervention in our government, in our institutions, in the police, in the media, in our neighborhoods, in our churches, in our homes, and in our lives? I am praying for an army of prayer warriors who will cry out to God night and day for our nation.


Monday, July 4, 2016

PRAYING FOR EMERGENCIES I

I intend to post two watching in prayer blogs in a row, rather than alternating next week with my THINKING IN THE SPIRIT blog. So this is PRAYING FOR EMERGENCIES I.

This week I received an Amber Alert on my phone. This is a new function of my phone. In fact, after I received it I got a message asking if I wanted to receive such messages in the future. I automatically keyed in "yes." But, of course part of me wanted to say, "No." I don't ever want there to be kidnapped children. I can rejoice that that day will come. But until that day I want to know about such terrors so I can pray as they unfold.
Of course an Amber Alert or a screaming siren, even a honking horn can be a distraction. We are tempted to try to find out what is happening. That of course is natural. But let me suggest that we start praying before we do anything else.
Romans 12:12 is one of those Scriptures that God has often used to speak to me. The King James Version concludes that verse with the words, "continuing instant in prayer." William Carrie said he was able to bring people on the mission field to Christ because God helped him be "instant in prayer." Our English word, "instant" comes to us through Middle English and French from the Latin, "in stare," which meant to stand at the ready."
The secret to being instant in prayer is to be immersed in prayer. If I am already praying when I hear the alarm, I will automatically pray for the urgency.



Tuesday, June 21, 2016

HEALING IN THE CHURCH

What part should healing play in the church? I believe the Bible is clear on this matter. James 5:14,15 gives specific advice.
"Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well, the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven."
I don't want to deal here with how we are to pray for the sick. Different churches and denominations certainly pray for healing in different ways. But I want to deal with the theological foundations for healing in the church.

I will begin with the Power of Prayer.
There is no question that the Bible teaches the power of prayer. There are certainly more important things to pray for than physical healing. But if we pray for our needs they will include health and healing. I have terminal cancer. And I am always pleased with people who will pray for me. Several years ago I told one of my doctors I had been alive much longer than they had been willing to suggest because people were praying for me. He looked at me thoughtfully and then said, "That's right."
For many years I visited people in the hospital as a pastor. For the first twenty or so of those years I had the feeling that doctors were uncomfortable with me being there. Then something changed. Suddenly doctors started asking if I would step into intensive care units before they were admitting family members. What happened? The American Medical Journal published a study that showed a significantly higher rate of healing in patients who were being prayed for. Medical literature is replete with evidence for the effects of prayer. God has given that power to us.

However, I also need to point out the Humility of Faith.
God does not always answer prayer the way we expect. And while most of us know of dramatic examples of healing, we have also prayed for people who did not get well. I think this may be the main reason many of us are reluctant to pray formally and somewhat publicly over someone who is sick. Will I be embarrassed if God does not heal this person immediately? And there is of course the concern that the Name of God might be dishonored if I pray for healing when He has something else in mind. I am thankful that we can trust God to protect us from harmful prayers we might pray. I trust God to give me what I would have prayed for if I knew everything He sees. If I know that, surely I can trust God when He does not heal the way I want Him to heal. We can trust the outcome to God.

And we need to see healing as commensurate with the Compassion of Our Lord.
The early church saw compassion for the sick as the natural expression of faith in Christ. In his book, The Rise of Christianity, Rodney Stark points out that one of the major factors in the upstart Christian faith supplanting the dominant, pervasive, and enforced paganism in the Roman Empire was the terrible plagues that swept the country. While the pagans were casting former loved ones out into the dirt to keep from contracting the deadly disease, Christians risked their lives to minister to them. Many gladly died showing Christ's love to others. Stark quotes from letters written by the Emperor, Julian, to pagan priests, saying "Not only do the impious* Christians minister to their own sick, they minister to ours as well." A pagan had a better chance of surviving a plague if he lived near a believer.

Finally, we pray for healing to bring about the Witness of Praise.
We honor God simply by praying to Him for others, believers and unbelievers alike. And we share His glory by telling people what God has done. Healing prayer becomes a springboard for talking to people about things that are more important and enduring than physical healing. It is a fact that all physical healing is temporary. It is also important for us to know that all illness is temporary for believers. 1 Corinthians 13 says that is also true of knowledge and prophecy. And like the foolishness of preaching, God may use it powerfully to bring forth His kingdom on the earth. 



Monday, June 13, 2016

PRAY FOR MY WRITING

I seldom hesitate to ask my readers to pray for me. I need prayer in so many areas of my life. I need prayer for spiritual strength. I need you to pray for moral purity. I need prayer for my attitudes and thinking. I need you to pray for my prayer life. I seldom preach now, although I still could and would preach if God gave me opportunities. Prayer is my most important ministry. And in deed I need you to pray for my writing.
I have always worked at my writing. The first thing I wrote for publication was written my sophomore year in college. That was 1968. I have written regularly since then. But I never imagined I would come to a point where I would spend most of my days writing. God had to allow me to be afflicted with cancer before I would consider it. I had to lack the energy necessary to pastor a church before I would consider retiring. And yet He has granted me many years beyond what the doctors thought, to write and keep on writing.
In Isaiah 30:8 the Lord spoke to the prophet.
"Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may it may be an everlasting witness."
I need you to pray that I will be faithful to write. I don't know how much time God will give me. I have six more books planned, if He allows. I need you to pray that I will know what God wants me to write. Most of all I need you to pray for God to use my writing by His mighty power. Just like a sermon, the effect of writing depends upon God. Pray for Him to be glorified beyond all measure by His hand on my writing.
HOME IN THE WILDERNESS, my third and final(?) novel in The Wilderness Series has been released. https://goo.gl/pJA4jK
This Saturday, June 18, 2016, the Kindle edition of HOME IN THE WILDERNESS can be downloaded free. I am hoping some of you will read it and put a good review on Amazon. Most of all I trust you to pray.



Tuesday, June 7, 2016

RIGHTEOUSNESS EXALTS A NATION

Proverbs 14:34 reads,
"Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a disgrace to any people."

I recently read a speech by Winston Churchill entitled The Defense of Freedom and Peace. It was subtitled, The Lights are Going Out. The great orator proclaimed to Americans who had not yet entered the war that it is the conflict of spiritual and moral ideas which gives free countries their strength. Especially in the light of history resistance against the domination of the Nazis should not be seen in any other way. By some estimates they put as many as 20 million people to death simply because of their race, or their weaknesses, or unwillingness to support the evil cause.

Even 70 and 80 years later we can feel good about our sacrifices to defeat that evil regime. But where are we in the world today? Where are we as a nation? Since 1973 Americans have brutally extinguished nearly 60 million innocent lives simply because we found them inconvenient.

This was not done by our government. We do not have S.S. troops pounding at our doors in the middle of the night. We did this ourselves to those who by any reckoning were the most innocent among us. Most Americans now admit that abortion is wrong. It is interesting to me that many people say they believe abortion is wrong to justify not doing anything about it. We believe abortion is wrong, so we must be free from responsibility before God, or history for that matter.  

But what can we do? I am sympathetic with those who see the crisis as overwhelming. But nothing is impossible with God. Let me suggest three essential approaches to the problem.

First come to this crisis with humility and compassion. We all share in the cultural, intellectual and moral corruption that has swallowed up our nation. This is not simply the problem of churches that did not stand against abortion. This is not simply the fault of another political party or someone else. Most of us would agree that German people who ignored the disappearance of their Jewish neighbors or were afraid to speak up no matter what it cost them, shared in the guilt.

And we who are also guilty need to seek ways of ministering to girls faced with unwanted pregnancy, and unplanned and unwanted children. Do we have means to intervene in the lives of young people who realize they have sacrificed their vision of the future on the altar of sexual freedom?

Next, address the problem with wisdom and intelligence. If we simply demonize political opponents or shout at them in protest, rather than listening to their arguments and seeking to persuade people, we will make little headway in the issue.

Finally, we must face this problem in prayer and worship. We will not turn this evil around without the mighty hand of God. We need to see this as a matter of spiritual war, crying out to God about every issue small and great. We have no greater weapon in spiritual warfare than worship that connects us with God Himself.

The culture of death is a daunting reality. But it is no greater than slavery that the enemy foisted on our fathers a few generations back. Against all social, economic, and political odds Great Britain outlawed the vile trade on her far flung shores. And eventually Americans were willing to plunge ourselves into a horrible civil war.


If your faith is not built on a powerful relationship with Almighty God you will not be able to pay whatever price is demanded of us to defeat this horrible plague. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

PRAYING FOR SPIRITUAL LEADERS

Most of us are aware that the Bible calls us to pray for those who have authority over us in government. But let me suggest that we need to pray quite as much for spiritual leaders whom God has raised up to touch our lives and strengthen His church. Many of you are already praying, hopefully daily, for your pastor, your Bible study teacher or that person who has a great influence in your life.
Beyond praying for those whom we know personally are some who teach and inspire us. Many of these influence entire nations and much of the world. It is crucial to pray for their spiritual, moral and even physical protection. You know that the enemy is bombarding them in every way he can think of. You can easily imagine how many people would be harmed if they fell into sin, heresy and public disgrace. And who knows what God might do through them because you are praying.
I pray every day for Eric Metaxis. I know my prayer is part of God using him. There are other writers with not nearly so public personas that I pray for. I once shared Christ with someone by getting them to read Vienna Prelude, by Bodie and Brock Thoene. I pray for them and their powerful novels. My wife and I read Phillip Yancey's Disappointment With God, years ago when our daughter was critically ill. My wife was reading in the night in our daughter's hospital room tears streaming down her cheeks as God ministered to her. A nurse came running into the room wondering why Marsha was crying.
"Oh, I'm just reading this book." She held it up. The nurse charged her not to read it any more in the hospital room in the night. God used that book in our lives in those days.
Do you pray for Franklin Graham? Are you praying for his son, William? I also continue to pray for another of Billy Graham’s grandsons, Tullian Tchividjian, after all that has befallen him. I am sure much of it is his own fault. Who knows how God might restore him. And I still pray for Billy in these final years of his life.

I think we need to pray daily for Tim Keller with his emphasis on the gospel touching all of life. I pray with him and with Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan as they desire the number of believers in New York to triple in the next ten years. We need to pray for Ravi Zacharias and the ministry of his team members in more than a dozen countries across the world. Ravi will be on hundreds of university campuses this year. 
I often discover some new preacher to pray for, maybe one that I should have been praying for all along. I just added Chip Ingram and David Jeremiah to my daily prayer list. I can't wait to see who God calls to my attention next. God may use me to pray for a Luther, a Wesley, another C.S. Lewis or an Elijah for these days. My prayers could become vital support for the two witnesses that stand before all the earth in Revelation 11. Whom will God use you to pray for to further His kingdom on the earth? 

Monday, May 16, 2016

PRAYING YOUR APOLOGETICS

We see God doing much through apologetics in these days. And while I thank God for professional apologists, in fact, all of us are called in one way or another to give an answer to those we interact with. 1 Peter 3:15 reads,
"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you
to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."
However, since the issue is spiritual battle, more than intellectual evidence is necessary. As with all evangelism many things must accompany our presentation of the truth. How does your life radiate the hope that you have? How does what you have to say touch the deepest recesses of people's hearts?
Prayer is the power that removes objections and embeds the gospel into the lives of people. And whether you are the apologist or you are merely observing the debate, you need to be praying for the opponent and for those who listen. Let me suggest some essential elements of apologetic prayer.
1. Humility before God, who must work in your life and attitudes as well as those of others, is essential. This is the beginning of prayer. And it is the beginning of obediently and effectively bearing witness for Christ.
2. You also need faith in God who works in the hearts of those who hear the gospel. I often bolster my faith with the words of Matthew 28:18. Before He commissioned us to take the gospel to all nations Jesus affirmed, "All authority in heaven and earth is given to me." Even when listening to a bitter opponent, remember that God, who loves that person and his audience, is working in their lives. Paul was on his way to arrest Christians and drag them bound back to Jerusalem when Jesus appeared to him and spoke his name. "Saul, Saul!"
3. Love is possibly the most powerful weapon in your apologetic arsenal. In A Wrinkle In Time Madeleine L'Engle portrayed the prodigious Charles Wallace under the control of IT, a disembodied brain in the dark world. His older sister, Meg, bravely approaches the evil brain. At first she does not know what to do. In desperation she begins to pour out all the love of her soul on her little brother. I know something of the power of the love of my older sister. It seemed natural to me that the monster was not able to keep its grip on the mind of Charles Wallace. The brain's power was broken by her love, and the two escaped. She was not able to manage it, but if she could have turned her love toward the hapless brain, it would surely have melted into a puddle of liquid protein.
When evangelist David Stockwell was a student at Rice University, the famous atheist, Madeline Murray O'Hare made an appearance on campus. As a well known Christian, David was chosen to debate her in an evening program before the student body. He was of course terrified. 
But his roommate called him into their room. "I've got it figured out. Wherever she goes she insults whomever she debates. They get their feelings hurt and insult her in return. She is better at hating than any Christian she goes up against. So before long her opponent is ready to give up and flee. All you have to do is try to show her God's love."
Still nervous, David took the platform and told the world's most famous atheist that God loved her, and he was praying for her. She unleashed her fiercest invective at David. But whatever she screamed at him, he answered, "I love you."
David said that night a string of students came crowding into their dorm room saying, "I was an atheist," or "I was an agnostic, but I don't want to be whatever she is."
Prayer is the primary means of loving people you have no direct contact with. But the love of Jesus gives you a hunger to meet the practical, personal, and possibly painful needs of people you come in contact with even if they refuse to listen to anything you have to say. And such practical love will flow from your consistent prayers for people around you.