Month: March 2019

No Lesser Glory

On Sunday, April 7, we will be releasing my newest book No Lesser Glory…Walking with God in the Hard Places.  I have been writing this book off and on for over eighteen months.  While it is different from my first book I Bear Witness, it still covers some of the same tracks but does so from a more pastoral perspective.  It is an effort to intensify our understanding of God’s purposes in our pain and to point to His grace and glory in our suffering.

Since it was written over a longer period of time, I saw through the pages of the book ways that my mind and opinions about several matters grew and changed.  I decided to leave that growth process evident in the book, since I believe it is a path we all follow as we try to understand life’s difficulties.

Hopefully as you read the book you too will see that God’s glory does not just appear in the mountaintop experiences of life, but also in the dark valleys.  No matter where we go God’s presence and grace follow and God’s glory will appear.

And it is no lesser glory.


“No Lesser Glory” will be available before and after both services Sunday, April 7.  The price for the book will be $15.00 and a special price will be offered if you buy both “I Bear Witness” and “No Lesser Glory.”  All proceeds from the book will go to support the Cove Ministry of Fruit Cove Baptist Church.

Both books can be ordered from the website Ibearwitnessbook.com

 

My Father’s House

“My Father’s House shall be called a house of prayer….” Without question, this was one of the most passionate statements Jesus ever spoke. He punctuated that passion by driving out the merchants and money changers from the Court of the Gentiles which surrounded the temple in Jerusalem.

How far have we drifted from that passion? Is our church a house of prayer? That is a question I believe God has confronted me with time and again over the past two decades of ministry here.

Does prayer need a “higher profile” in the corporate life of our church? Absolutely. And in every church I know. So we have taken intentional steps through the years to continue to make Fruit Cove a “house of prayer.”

One of those steps involved the opening of a designated prayer room. The “War Room” as we have called it, invites pray-ers to come and, if possible, spend an hour in prayer. Materials in the room provide a way to spend far more time than that in the presence of the Lord.

It is a way that you can help fulfill the mandate to be a “house of prayer” on an ongoing basis. I long for a day when we would have so many clamoring to get in that a second room would be necessary!

But a “house of prayer” is just a building without praying people. How is prayer going in YOUR house? We must continually examine ourselves to see prayer become more than a ritual; more than even a habit… but an essential part of our daily living.

Jesus asks for nothing less. We must “pray without ceasing,” especially as the days grow darker and more evil. “Pray, and do not grow weary.” Let’s be a house of prayer!

Prayerlife

My parents used to take me and my brother to Camden Park near Huntington, West Virginia for a birthday present.  Occasionally they would let us bring some friends with us to enjoy the carnival rides and corn dogs.  It’s still open today.

I heard a father tell the story of doing that with his son, Ryan when he was about 8.  He brought six of his friends and was standing at the ticket booth waiting to pay their admission while the boys played and pushed and laughed.  When the time came to enter the park, the Dad was counting heads as they walked past the ticket booth.

One young man came along behind the other boys, but the father didn’t recognize him. When he stopped him, he said, “I don’t think I know you, do I?”  Immediately the little guy pointed to Ryan and said, “He told me I could come with him.”  And you know what the father said?  “Any friend of Ryan’s is ok with me.”  So because of his love for his son, he bought a ticket for the little stranger.  He gained access to the park by naming his son, Ryan.

You know where I’m going, right?  We don’t come to the Father on our own recognizance. We come because “Jesus told me I could come.”  Our admission to the throne of grace has been paid by the precious blood of the Lamb of God.  Therefore “let us come boldly to the throne of grace.”

He even tells us we can call Him “Father.”

The Name of God

Names are important to us, of course. Ideally they make us stand out as individuals, or perhaps say something about our character or heritage. But most of us did not name ourselves.

And we did not name God. His name, by the way, is not “God.” Moses is the first to have an experience of our God’s self-revelation. Out of a “burning bush not consumed” in the desert, God introduced Himself to Moses and revealed His sacred name: “Yahweh.”

In Hebrew literature, “Yahweh” was spelled without vowels. Usually when encountered it is written “YHWH.” An unpronounceable set of consonants. A Name that was set apart as unique and holy.

“I am that I am,” is the rough English equivalent of the name of God. But in Hebrew culture, a name was synonymous with the person. The prohibitions against taking God’s name in vain; in using the name of God profanely, are rooted in this understanding that to offend the name was to offend the owner of the name.

And so we today still are to handle God’s name with care. It is not to be used “profanely” (in Latin “outside the temple”) but is to be used with great respect and reverence.

Somehow, we today have missed that memo. We hear people (no surprise) using God’s name to season profanity-laced sentences. But we sometimes even hear believers (surprise) do the same.

We must be careful how we use and invoke the name of God and even its various forms. God does listen and weigh our hearts as we do.

The amazing thing about all of this, however, is that for those who know Him… those who worship Him… those who would draw near Him… He says,

“Just call me Father.”

Practical Steps to Praying Effectively

DA Carson, who has written several, remarkable, theological works, wrote a book on prayer in the early 1990’s titled, Praying with Paul. In that book, he suggested the following practical steps to praying effectively. It is, arguably, the greatest need in the church as well as in every Christian’s life. I offer an adaptation to his suggestions here:

  1. Plan to pray. We know we should. We agree that we should. And yet, much does not happen in prayer because we have not planned to do it. Schedule it. Prioritize it. We don’t pray much because we don’t actually plan to do it, choosing instead to “find” some time in our day if it works out. It probably won’t.

  2. Avoid mental distraction. Now that seems to be an impossible task for some. All of us are “wired” with different temperaments, and prayer is incredibly flexible. Some prefer to find a place of solitude and quiet to shut out distractions. Others would rather pray “on the fly” as they drive to work or walk or pace as they pray. Some prefer silence and reflection, while others need praise music and the opportunity to pray out loud. It doesn’t matter. But praying without distraction is a necessity for a growing prayer experience. Our minds are wired to be distracted, and our culture obliges with hundreds of ways to distract. Focus your attention by reading Scripture first. Others benefit from journaling prayers and requests. What works best for you is the best approach… but intentionally work to avoid mental “drift.”

  3. Develop prayer relationships. Have a prayer partner if at all possible. This needs to be a person of the same sex, since true intimacy in prayer can unintentionally lead to intimacy in other areas. This person needs to be an individual you can trust not to be a gossip. If you are married seek to develop a prayer relationship with your spouse as one aspect of this. If you have children, schedules can conflict and complicate. But planning even an evening a week to meet as a family to read Scripture, pray, and sing together can deeply impact everyone involved.

  4. Find good models. We learn to pray in the same way we learn to talk… by imitation. If you are a consistent prayer, you can no doubt look back and find someone who influenced you to do that. Every prayer model is not a good model, so when you choose to imitate the prayers and prayer lives of others make sure they are good models. If you are a parent, you need to be aware that you will most likely be the first model of the importance of prayer. Even if you are not meeting regularly with the children to pray, be aware they are watching even when you think they aren’t. Be a good model, and find a model living or dead, to follow.

  5. Mingle intercession with praise and confession. As much as possible, learn to tie your requests and intercession to Scripture. Paul models this for us in numerous places in the New Testament. We acknowledge the Sovereignty of God in prayer, but that does not dismiss us from the responsibility of interceding for others, even believing, “The Lord is God; He does whatever He will.” Neither should we shoulder a burden that says that “it’s all up to me and my prayer life.” One of the hardest lessons I learned in passing through our trial with Pam’s cancer was that “prayer does not change things.” And we cannot beat down the doors of Heaven by bombarding Him with what we want. We stand somewhere between those two extremes in our prayer lives, but it is God’s desire for us to intercede. “The Spirit gives us utterance…” and that means that the God who prompts you to prayer will help you to know how to pray according to His will. And we continue praying, whether it accomplishes our will or not.

  6. Pray until you pray. The old Quaker movement and Puritan groups used to cite this often. How long should we pray? Until we have prayed. When do we know we’re done? When we’ve prayed! When we’ve moved past the unreality and formalism that characterizes much of our prayers. No wonder we tire so easily… sometimes we quit before we have even entered into the Presence of God! When you have tasted of the Father’s Presence, even for a moment, you will long for more and more. This becomes the driving force of our prayer life. We need to think of prayer less like a 140-word Twitter post and more like singing a love song to our Beloved.

I will add one more thing to Dr. Carson’s excellent list. We need to pray as a means of achieving a relationship more than receiving an answer. When my daughter or son call me “just to talk,” it is my delight as a father. They called just because they like me, or enjoy a few moments in my presence. I am no less delighted when they call needing something, and it thrills me to be allowed to give what they ask. However, the joy in my heart when they just want to “hang out” with me for a few moments far outweighs them coming to me because they need something.

Just pray. Your Father will be delighted… I assure you

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