Nearest to the Sun
“Remove far from me vanity and lies.”
— Pro 30:8
“O my God, be not far from me.”
— Psa 38:21
Here we have two great lessons-what to deprecate and what to supplicate. The happiest state of a Christian is the holiest state. As there is the most heat nearest to the sun, so there is the most happiness nearest to Christ. No Christian enjoys comfort when his eyes are fixed on vanity-he finds no satisfaction unless his soul is quickened in the ways of God. The world may win happiness elsewhere, but he cannot. I do not blame ungodly men for rushing to their pleasures. Why should I? Let them have their fill. That is all they have to enjoy. A converted wife who despaired of her husband was always very kind to him, for she said, “I fear that this is the only world in which he will be happy, and therefore I have made up my mind to make him as happy as I can in it.” Christians must seek their delights in a higher sphere than the insipid frivolities or sinful enjoyments of the world. Vain pursuits are dangerous to renewed souls. We have heard of a philosopher who, while he looked up to the stars, fell into a pit; but how deeply do they fall who look down. Their fall is fatal. No Christian is safe when his soul is slothful, and his God is far from him. Every Christian is always safe as to the great matter of his standing in Christ, but he is not safe as regards his experience in holiness, and communion with Jesus in this life. Satan does not often attack a Christian who is living near to God. It is when the Christian departs from his God, becomes spiritually starved, and endeavours to feed on vanities, that the devil discovers his vantage hour. He may sometimes stand foot to foot with the child of God who is active in his Master's service, but the battle is generally short: he who slips as he goes down into the Valley of Humiliation, every time he takes a false step invites Apollyon to assail him. O for grace to walk humbly with our God!
- C. H. Spurgeon
God as "Father"
In this excerpt from A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, R.C. Sproul reminds us of the privilege we have to address God as “Father.”
Go with a group of Christians and listen to them pray in a home prayer meeting or Bible study, and invariably as Christians pray out loud one after another will address God how? They’ll start their prayer by saying, “Father,” or “our heavenly Father.” It’s the most common expression that we as Christians use to address God. And why not, when our Lord taught us to pray, He said, “When you pray” say what? “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name.” What could be more basic to Christianity than to address God as Father? Joachim Jeremias, the German New Testament scholar has done research on the prayers of the ancient Israelite people, and it is his conclusion that there is not a single example anywhere in extant Jewish literature, including the Old Testament, the Talmud, the Targums, and so on until the tenth century AD where a Jewish person addresses God directly as ‘Father.’ That is, it simply wasn’t done. People would speak of the fatherhood of God among the Jewish people, but no one would address Him directly as, ‘Father.’ Jeremias says you don’t find it until the tenth century AD in Italy. Yet in the New Testament we have the record of a Jew, a Jewish Rabbi, who has many many prayers recorded for posterity, and that in every prayer that he prayed, save one, He directly addressed God as ‘Father.’ And that is Jesus of Nazareth.
And what Jeremias demonstrates is that Jesus’ use of the term Father for God was a radical innovation; completely unheard of in Jewish liturgy. And what he did in his radical departure from convention He invited his followers to be involved with. Because what Jesus teaches about the human race is that by nature we are not the children of God. This was the dispute our Lord had with the Pharisees who thought that just because they were born Jewish that they were children of Abraham, that they were therefore the children of God. Jesus said ‘you are of your father the devil. God can raise up children of Abraham from these stones.’ Because what Jesus does is define sonship in terms of obedience to God. And because we are not by nature obedient to God, we are by nature children of wrath, the New Testament teaches us, and not universally children of the Father.
The only way we ever have the right to call God “Father,” to cry “Abba” in his presence is because we have been adopted. And the biblical message of sonship and daughterhood in the body of Christ is rooted and grounded in this concept of adoption—that only Christ is the natural son of God. And only if you are in Christ do you become a member of the household of God. It is the church in the New Testament that is called the family of God. It is the church in the New Testament that is called the household of God. And that unique concept of redemption through adoption is completely obscured when we talk about the universal fatherhood of God. Do you see that?
Not the full story...
Question: If God is Sovereign, why pray? Answer: It is BECAUSE God is Sovereign that we do pray. He is Lord of all and can change things, even putting it on our hearts to pray that He would do so.
John Wesley said, â€œGod does nothing except in response to believing prayer.â€ There is some truth there but its not the full story. Creation took place before there ever was a prayer meeting. God made His plans long before anything else ever existed. God gave a people to His Son in eternity past who in time will come to Him (John 6:37) and He did so when no one asked Him to. God is not merely a responder, He is a master planner. He is found even by those who never sought Him (Romans 10:20). Lets always be people of prayer but let us be forever thankful that God is not limited to our prayer life before He can act in this world; otherwise we would be Sovereign and not Him. - JS
Prayer - in preparation for Sunday
I cannot claim to be the author of this prayer (I borrowed heavily and adjusted it only slightly) but feel it can be useful to each of us as we prepare our hearts for the gathering of the saints each Lord's day. Feel free to use it in any way you can. - JS
Prayer for Pastor P J Smyth, his family and the God First Church
Please pray for P J Smyth, pastor of God First Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is facing the battle of his life with Hodgkinâ€™s Lymphoma (cancer of the Lymph glands). Thankfully, it is localised to his neck and chest, with no signs of any cancer elsewhere in his body. This is classified as Hodgkinâ€™s Stage 2a which is better than stage 2b, or 3 or 4, but not as good as stage 1. In the video below PJ describes the situation and his own response to it which is very heartening and faith building. - JS
Just in case you're interested...
Before God, a helpful introduction to prayer by Mike Sarkissian, is now available; check out the book's website and order a copy -- you'll certainly find it useful! Here's my endorsement:
Before God is written with the intention of bringing intensely practical, seminary-depth teaching on the vital spiritual discipline of prayer to the common Christian in the pew, whose prayer life has been an on-again, off-again exercise marked at times, perhaps, by passion and effectiveness, but more commonly by uncertainty and tedium. For those who find themselves crying out with the disciples, â€˜Lord, teach us to pray!â€™, this book will be a considerable boon. Comprehensive in scope, seasoned throughout with rich insights from the Puritans and other giants of the faith, and written in a fashion simple enough to enable easy acquisition and passionate enough to stir up a deeper love for the God to whom we pray, it will certainly find a wide and grateful audience in todayâ€™s Church.
Miracles Today? by Pastor John Samson
Do miracles happen today? If we believe in a God who still answers prayer, I am sure we as Bible believing Christians would say "yes." I try to refrain from using the word "miracle" too often though because as I understand its definition, it refers to something that totally defies natural law - something that cannot be explained by natural process alone.
I can testify to seeing the Lord do some amazing things in the region of Kerala, India. I remember taking a small team there and praying for two young girls aged 7 and 9, one deaf and mute since birth, the other deaf since birth, and they were totally healed by God's power, which resulted in their mother, a Hindu (before all this happened), making a profession of faith in Christ. It was something I will never forget and still brings tears to my eyes when I think of it. The image of a young child hearing sound and speaking for the first time is forever etched on my mind.
In a village in Mongolia, I saw the pastor's mother healed of a lame leg which she had suffered with for more than 60 years. Apparently, she had injured her leg when she had fallen off a horse as a teenager, and now at age 76 brought her home village a tremendous visible testimony to the power of God and the authenticity of the gospel!
I mention these two incidents (though I could speak of others) because I am still in contact with people who were present at the time and who can verify these things.
Though I am sure every Christian can testify to seeing answers to prayer even in the realm of physical healing, why do we not see the same level of miracles today as in the time of the early church? Here (below) is a short video (less than 4 minutes) by Dr. John Piper which I think is quite helpful in this regard:
Speaking Boldly Without Compromise
For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. He caused them to be pitied by all those who held them captive. - Psalm 106:45, 46
God is controlling everything: the smallest molecules, big events, and even the hearts of men (Proverbs 21:1). God has a specific plan for you in redemptive history. And God reveals to us in the Scripture that he wants us to be witnesses in Babylon. God has a specific plan for our lives and, according to Scripture, will move into the heart of those he foreordains to put in our paths.
I believe there is strong scriptural warrant to believe that you will enjoy an unearthly protection when you live for Christ and speak boldly about Him. Many of us worry that if we stick our neck out to speak about Christ people may react negatively. We may worry about such things for a minute, but since God got us into this situation by calling us to be witnesses for him, he can get us out of it. God protects those who make a commitment to Him. And however people may react, the outcome is according to God's perfect plan. He has ultimate control over how the message you bring to people will be received. Remember, you are just the mailman. We do not create the massage, God does, and we must deliver that message intact. He will determine the outcome.
But many times we compromise because we're afraid we'll come in harm's way or be ridiculed when we speak about Christ but the fact is if we do not compromise, God will be our protection in the midst of trouble ... but as soon as you compromise, you forfeit that unearthly protection and, at that point, you're on your own.
Speaking of Israel Psalm 106:46 says, "He made them also to be pitied of all those that carried them captives."Do you realize that God can not only sway a king, God can sway an entire society? This is because, verse 45 says He is a covenant keeping God and He made a covenant with His people. And, friends, we have a covenant with our God in Christ. In it he remembers not to treat us as our sins justly deserve. And further, because he has imputed to us Christ's righteousness, You are now children of God, in a covenant relationship that is indelible and unbreakable. So as you pray, ask God to have you move out into the world and engage with those who will be worthy of your time, and even if you do not see instant results, know that you are just the messenger whom God has assigned to this very encounter.
A Prayer List
As Christians we now live in a very fast-paced world that is filled with images and distractions. Some may use this as an excuse for their lack of prayer, but instead this is a good argument why we should spend more time in daily prayer in the presence of our Lord. The more responsibility thrust upon us and the more complicated a life we have, the more time we should spend in God's presence. The state of entire daily renunciation of self-will for God's will can only occur when we are disciplined to take a good chunk of time out of our time to confess, give thanks, praise, intercede and come before God in earnest supplication. As we come before Him in this humble posture, then, in conforming to His will, we are enabled, through grace, to die to our self-exertion, opinions, preferences, tastes and will; die to the world, its approval and censure, die to the approval and blame of brethren and friends and instead be content to be approved unto God alone. We come to God for grace to change ourselves and the world we touch. In other words, the grace of God sovereignly dispensed through prayer gives us great help in our growth in holiness (deliverance from the self-centered life). Then, as we go into the joys and disappointments of each day we know the presence of God even in the most trifling of duties and can more easily recollect ourselves in His presence. We then become God-centered people, which gives us the power to be others-centered. This type of spirituality is desperately needed as we daily enter into a secularized world that has practically and effectively removed God from the public square. The light of God's glory will reflect from the face of a saint who is long on his knees and the world will take notice.
In order to to be of assistance in getting your prayer life moving I am here including a list of suggested things to pray for.
God Working Through Prayer by Douglas Kelly
Excerpt from If God Already Knows Why Pray? by Douglas Kelly
Two Complementary Truths But notice something very remarkable: Jesus is telling us that our prayers are part of the outworking of those purposes! We are given a mandate to become involved in His divine plan through our human praying. He invites us to approach Him with earthly needs, just like Jabez or those who prayed against the Spanish Armada. Our prayer can be effective in seeing that the divine â€œwill is done.â€ If this were not so, God would simply tell us that His kingdom will come, that we are not to worry. All that we would have to do would be simply to obey His revealed will and not pray for it! But in some extraordinary way, the unchanging, sovereign God, with an eternally defined purpose for His creatures, invites our input into the making of history.
Prayer and Action
Prayer is the place where humility is adopted, pride is abandoned, needs are admitted, and dependence acknowledged upon Christ. We must preface all endeavors with dependent prayer since too often we ignore prayer and seek to accomplish in the strength of our own wills those things God has placed on our hearts to do. But, on the other hand, prayer without action is also foolish. In most circumstances, it is not wise to prayer and then do nothing. Consider the farmer: He does not merely pray and hope that crops will come forth. Rather, he plows up the fallow ground, sows his seed and labors until harvest. But he also knows that without the blessing of rain and climate, his harvest will never come, no matter how hard he works. So both the farmers' work and God's blessing is necessary for results. Likewise when we pray, we should not merely sit back and hope something will happen. When we see God's will not being done on earth we must both pray and work to see change take place. This prayer driven work is the most wise and likely to bring success. Lke the planting of crops, the results are still ultimately dependent on God blessing the endeavor. We must 1) not work independently of God and 2) should not put our hands to rest only trusting in a miracle but must work as if the outcome depended on ourselves, while we rest in faith upon the glorious fact that everything depends on the soveriegn Lord. This is the biblical model and would fall under the doctrine of concurrence.
Give Us this Day Our Daily Bread
When we read this plea in the prayer our Lord has given us, it reminds us of our utter dependence on Him for everything we have, including our spiritual gifts and the grace to persevere to the end. When we were unregenerate and without God in the world, our conversion only took place when God opened our eyes to despair of any help from ourselves that we might look to Christ for His mercy. So also as Christians we live by the same principle since only by losing of all confidence in ourselves do we grow in grace; Christians do not become more mature in such a way as to gain more confidence in our spiritual abilities. On the contrary, the mature Christian, becomes even more conscious of his own frailty, and will turn unto the Lord for all his/her daily graces. It is only when we are weak, that we are strong (2Co 12:10). In other words, if we are to be effective at all, there must first be a consciousness of our weakness and innate spiritual bankruptcy.
Praying for Muslims Today
Next time you pray today, please remember to pray for the worldwide community of Muslims.
December 20 begins Eid-al-Adha or "Sacrifice Day," the three-day holiday in which Muslims celebrate Abraham's sacrifice of his son, Ishmael, to Allah. Believing that Allah supplied a ram in Ishmael's place, Muslims who can afford to do so sacrifice a sheep, ram, goat, camel, water buffalo or cow and donate one third of the meat to the poor, one third to relatives and friends, and one third is kept for them. Distributing meat among people is considered an essential part of the festival during this period, as well as chanting Takbir out loud before the Eid prayer on the first day and after prayers through out the four days of Eid.
Ask God to open eyes on this holiday and turn souls from darkness to light. Pray the Lord illumine and open their hearts, breaking from all form of bondage that they may turn to Christ.
New Book on Prayer
Prayer: From Vice to Virtue by Rev. Nathan Lewis (PCA)
This is a excellent new little book on Prayer made available at Monergism Books
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: From Complaints to Prayer
Chapter 2: From Gossip to Prayer
Chapter 3: From Arguments to Prayer
Chapter 4: From Lust to Prayer
Chapter 5: From Confusion to Prayer
Chapter 6: From Prayer-Poor Worship to the House of Prayer
Chapter 8: The Benefits of Scheduled Prayer
Chapter 9: The Benefits of Impromptu Prayer
Appendix: Praying the Lordâ€™s Prayer
Pray before You Post
This may be so basic that I should feel like an idiot for bringing it up, but we Christians should probably pray before we write blog posts. Or write comments on the blog posts of others. Or write pretty much anything that other people will see. And I mean really pray. Not "just" the kind of prayerful attitude that we're supposed to have "without ceasing." But we should probably stop what we're doing, go into the closet, close our eyes, fold our hands, and make a clean break from whatever it is we're doing (at least briefly).
I say this because I know I need to do this. When I read blogs that make me angry, and make me want to comment, it's the easiest thing in the world for me to react in the wrong way. Sometimes I shouldn't say what I say. Sometimes I'm wrong. Sometimes I'm right, but I'm just a jerk. Prayer might help me to be more right. But prayer will probably help me to cool off, to be gentler or more loving, to be less arrogant, or to realize that maybe I don't need to say anything at all. And that would be a better testimony to the truth and beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Calvin's Pastoral Prayers from the Book of Hosea
John Calvin had a pastoral heart for his readers and for those in his congregation. This is most evident as seen in his prayers which can be found at the end of each lesson in his commentaries. I have selected a number of his prayers from his commentary on the Book of Hosea. They exhibit the depth of his relationship to Christ and are a great meditation and help for our own prayers. Hope you are edified as much as I am by them.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast once adopted us, and continues to confirm this thy favour by calling us unceasingly to thyself, and dost not only severely chastise us, but also gently and paternally invite us to thyself, and exhort us at the same time to repentance, -- O grant that we may not be so hardened as to resist thy goodness, nor abuse this thine incredible forbearance, but submit ourselves in obedience to thee; that whenever thou mayest severely chastise us, we may bear thy corrections with genuine submission of faith, and not continue untameable and obstinate to the last, but return to thee the only fountain of life and salvation, that as thou has once begun in us a good work, so thou mayest perfect it to the day of our Lord. Amen.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we were from our beginning lost, when thou wert pleased to extend to us thy hand, and to restore us to salvation for the sake of thy Son; and that as we continue even daily to run headlong to our own ruin, -- O grant that we may not, by sinning so often, so provoke at length thy displeasure as to cause thee to take away from us the mercy which thou hast hitherto exercised towards us, and through which thou hast adopted us: but by thy Spirit destroy the wickedness of our heart, and restore us to a sound mind, that we may ever cleave to thee with a true and sincere heart, that being fortified by thy defence, we may continue safe even amidst all kinds of danger, until at length thou gatherest us into that blessed rest, which has been prepared for us in heaven by our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
An Advent Prayer
ADVENT PRAYER 2006
Our God and Father, Holy, Holy, Holy, Almighty, Transcendent, Maker of Heaven and Earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
We thank you that you are Great and Mighty, yet willing to dwell immanently with those who are contrite and humble in heart.
Confessions and Pleas
O God, my Father, how often I dishonor you by supposing that I may find joy and contentment in the world, apart from you!
Show me again the field where lies hidden the treasure of immense worth. Counsel me to trade all my worthless baubles for the matchless pearl of great price. Bring to my mind the rust and moths and subtle thieves who steal away all earthly delights. Lead me to Christ, my eternal treasure!
A Sample Daily Prayer in Preparation for Sunday
It is common for us as pastors to be telling the congregation what they ought to be doing. It is oftentimes less common for an explanation to be given as to HOW to do these things. One such area is the arena of prayer. We all know we should be people of prayer, but what causes many to stumble is a lack of knowledge as to how exactly to go about the task.
Just about a week or so ago, I was greatly impacted by reading a written prayer made by Tim Challies, found on his blog (www.challies.com). It was a prayer made in preparation for a conference he was due to attend. The thought came to me that if I adjusted just one or two words, and maybe added one or two things, the prayer would be a useful tool for all of us Christians as we prepare our hearts each week for a different setting; that of Sunday worship. Here then is that suggested sample prayer, based almost word for word on the one Tim wrote. I trust many will find it useful. - Pastor John Samson
A SAMPLE DAILY PRAYER IN PREPARATION FOR SUNDAY
Our gracious God and Father. I approach Your throne today, knowing that it is only through the name of Jesus that I can stand before You. I thank and praise You for Your goodness in allowing me to do so. I recognize very well that I am unworthy of this honor, this privilege, apart from Your unmerited favor and grace. I come before You to seek Your blessing on the service on Sunday.
I Thank God for You!
The following is a excerpt from a very helpful essay by Mark Webb. He goes through some Scriptural references that thank God for the faith of the saints, a practice which acknowledges God to be the source of all faith, not our natural ability, desires, will or affections.
Several patterns exhibit themselves in Paul's writings. One of these is his well-known practice of greeting the saints with a salutation of grace and peace , with the addition of mercy in some cases. Another pattern, not quite so common, but clearly established nonetheless, is what caught my attention. It is Paul's practice of thanking God for the saints. For instance, in Eph. 1:15-16 he states "Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers." In this statement, Paul does not directly state why he is thankful, though we might deduce that it must spring from the fact that the saints evidence faith and love. Neither does he state to whom he is thankful. However, the fact that his thankfulness is connected with his prayers makes it rather obvious that such is directed towards God.
A parallel example is found in Col. 1:3-4. Here Paul declares "We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints." Here Paul is more explicit. It is indeed God to Whom he is thankful, and, once again, his thankfulness springs from the fact that the Colossian saints are evidencing faith and love. Methinks I see a pattern developing here!
Can You Be More Explicit?
The fullest, clearest, and most precise expression of this pattern is seen in four of Paul's statements in the Thessalonian epistles. In I Thess. 1:2-4, Paul states "We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God." Here, again, Paul makes it clear that God is the One he thanks and that his thanks involves the recollection of their faith, love, and hope. It is a statement almost identical with those in Ephesians and Colossians.
I would really value your prayers by Pastor John Samson
18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,
20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
Back on March 7, I had the privilege of hosting a live 2 hour radio program from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on what is perhaps the largest Christian radio station in the Phoenix area. I wrote of the experience here. It was a marvellous opportunity to talk about God as He really is, and the Gospel as it really is. The feedback I received was most encouraging. Though the Church at large is in need of great reform, I believe there is a growing cry in the hearts of God's people for the truths of God's word to be thundered out across the land once again.
Well today I got a call to say that the host of the show, Andrew Tallman, is celebrating the birth of his second child and will not be in to do the programs this week. The radio station called to ask if I would be available on Thursday evening to fill in. Though more than a little nervous at hosting a live call in program once more I said "yes."
This time, I have asked a friend of mine to join me, and he has agreed - his name, Dr. James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries at www.aomin.org
Please be praying for Dr. White and myself and this program as we minister God's word through this medium. It really is a marvellous opportunity for I am told that over 20,000 people are listening in at any given moment during this 2 hour time slot.
The details: Pastor John Samson (host) together with Dr. James White (special guest) taking live calls on KPXQ Christian Radio, 1360AM in the Phoenix area, Thursday, May 11, 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. (8p.m. - 10 p.m. EST).
Speaking of answered prayer...
Speaking of answered prayer, we should all pause in awe of our most wise and holy God for the great works He has done in China. Cumulative prayers of millions of intercessors in the last 150 years has broken through the rock hard wall of a country which, just 60 years ago, was almost totally closed to the gospel. It gives us great hope about what God is about to do with those in Muslim countries as well. In fact it is clear that God's sovereign work of grace in the hearts of millions of Chinese was one the most decisive spiritual events of the 20th century. Since the Chinese Communist Party has taken over, there are no known revival events in church history to be larger in scale. About 1 million Christians in China in 1949 has now blossomed to at least 50 million, with some estimates up to 90 million. Although Mao basically suppressed Christianity wherever it reared its head, He became the unwitting instrument in the hands of our sovereign God and somehow, in spite of kicking against the goads, "oversaw" the greatest religious revival known to man. So we could even say, what Mao meant for evil, God meant for good.
The purpose of writing this piece here is simply to remind us all to continue praying for this great nation of China. God has just begun there and I expect we will be seeing a lot more action from the Chinese church. Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission planted the seeds of new churches there. Prayers followed. The church mushroomed and now do not be surprised if God raises up Chinese believers who will finish the task of the great commission by sending them out to proclaim the Gospel to set free those still caught in the bondage of Islam. I rejoiced when I heard that many among the new generation of Chinese Christians are now seriously considering this. Let us pray for them that the Lord would use them as a mighty instrument for missions as the church in the west wanes. But also pray that believers will not be led astray by the temptations of materialism. Let us pray God also raise up leaders in the church there, for there are way too few, and heresies are common. Also I would encourage you to pray specifically for the Chinese Communist Party and its leadership:
How's Your Prayer Life? by Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones
What is the place of prayer in your life? What prominence does it have in our lives? It is a question that I address to all. It is as necessary that it should reach the man who is well versed in the Scripture, and who has a knowledge of its doctrine and its theology, as that it should reach anyone else. What part does prayer play in our lives and how essential is it to us? Do we realize that without it we faint?
Our ultimate position as Christians is tested by the character of our prayer life. It is more important than knowledge and understanding. Do not imagine that I am detracting from the importance of knowledge. I spend most of my life trying to show the importance of having a knowledge of truth and an understanding of it. That is vitally important. There is only one thing that is more important, and that is prayer. The ultimate test of my understanding of the Scriptural teaching is the amount of time I spend in prayer. As theology is ultimately the knowledge of God, the more theology I know, the more it should drive me to seek to know God. Not to know about Him, but to know Him. The whole object of salvation is to bring me to a knowledge of God. I may talk learnedly about regeneration, but what is eternal life? It is that they might know Thee, the only true God in Jesus Christ whom God has sent. If all my knowledge does not lead me to prayer there is something wrong somewhere. It is meant to do that. The value of the knowledge is that it gives me such an understanding of the value of prayer, that I devote time to prayer and delight in prayer. If it does not product these results in my life, there is something wrong and spurious about it, or else I am handling it in a wrong manner.
Coveting Your Prayers
"Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith." 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2
John Hendryx, the man behind the monergism.com web site and the main man here on the blog, is a man used mightily by the Lord. His ministry on the internet extends beyond all national boundaries and through his many years of painstaking commitment to the Lord and His truth, sustained by God's grace, God has given him quite a voice in the Body of Christ.
Think of a stadium filled with 80,000 people all gathered for a sporting event. That's quite a crowd, right? Well more than 80,000 separate people visit John's monergism.com website each month to read the articles there.
Why do I tell you this? - well, due to the nature of what John does on the internet, we don't actually see his face or hear his voice each day (unlike other ministries); we only read his words. That's not a problem at all, except that it tends to obscure the reality that behind the words on the computer screen, there is a man of God very much in need of God's continued grace.
John and I are close friends, and I trust that this will still be the case after this post (John doesn't know I am writing this!) But as I write these words, I am asking that God in His kindness would raise up many prayer partners for John Hendryx and the monergism ministry. Just as God might lay oversees missionaries on people's hearts to consistently pray and intercede for their and their family's spiritual, physical, emotional and financial well being, as well as the furtherance of their ministry, I pray that He would lay John on many a heart, so that he would be constantly upheld at the throne of grace.
John recently wrote: "Your prayers for us are needed that we would maintain perseverance, have wisdom, continue to promote the right biblical balance and contend of the faith once delivered to the saints. Pray the Lord continue to excise wickedness from our own hearts that we might be instruments in His hands and align with His redemptive purpose. We thank you for your support for this ministry."
Lets take John up on that. Lets not think that this growing voice on the internet does not have its enemies - certainly the enemy of our souls is not too happy that John Hendryx' grace filled, Gospel centered voice is being heard... so lets stand with John in prayer. Perhaps God may also lead a number of folk to stand with the ministry financially. Though finance is hardly ever mentioned, I know that God's provision is constantly needed, even as John looks to the Lord for His supply.
God has used the monergism web site in my own life in a remarkable way. I know many can say the same thing. Lets make sure that we don't take this precious gift for granted. - Pastor John Samson
Cryptic Emails by John Hendryx
Each day at Monergism.com, if you can imagine, we receive all kinds of email. These include a lot of sincere questions, encouragement, testimonies, challenges and the occasional cryptic messages. A couple of days ago I received one of the latter. The title of the email was:
"What must I DO to be saved?"
Then the body of the email only had the following Scriptural reference and no other text or explanation:
30And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
My first response to the text was "Amen!". What more could be said?
But as I thought it through I realized that perhaps the gentleman who wrote it (whom I had never had contact with before) was either offering some kind of proof against something he had read in the site and/or challenging me in some way. The first clue is the title of his email in which he CAPITALIZED the words "I DO" in "what must I DO to be saved?"
In other words, he is asserting that yes, there is something man must do in order to be saved ... proof against your websites' claim that salvation is by God's grace alone, a monergistic work of God's grace without any cooperation of man.
What's Wrong With This Picture?
The 50 Most Influential Christians in America
According to The Magazine for Church Business Administrators and Para Church Executives: The Church Report - The 50 Most Influential Christians in America has voted T.D. Jakes (a non-Trinitarian modalist) and Joel Osteen (whose books and preaching are merely pep talks that are completely void of the gospel) in their #1 and #2 positions. The top 10 also includes Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Paul Crouch and Joyce Meyer. The list was derived from over 150,000 nominations from its readers. While there are a couple of notable names down the list, the lack of discernment among evangelicals as to what constitutes the gospel and historic orthodox Christianity is made evident by many of the questionable selections.
Instead of despairing, this should bring us to prayer that the Lord would move within our leadership our rank and file to desire God-honoring, Christ-centered, gospel-driven churches. That He woud send his Spirit to open our eyes and circumcize our hearts to to embrace a full-orbed Trinitarian gospel that preaches the whole counsel of Scripture among all our leaders and churches. If this current trend continues in America, our days are numbered but God, who can bring life out of death hears our prayers. The situation being this critical means that we must pray to the Lord for His mercy. Perhaps the greatest task facing us is the re-evangelization of the Church itself.
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The Conjoining of the Spirit with Word and Sacrament
How is faith formed is us and how are we to nourish and continue that faith which the Holy Spirit effectually created in us?
The child who is conceived by his parents must also be nourished by them with food and then brought up in discipline lest his physical and mental growth be stunted. Likewise the faith which the Holy Spirit initially formed in us must also be nourished. Unless the life once quickened in us by the Holy Spirit is daily nourished by the means appointed by God, faith will wither and struggle, and not bear healthy fruit.
And just what are the appointed means God has given? The Word and the Sacraments. (1) The Preaching of the Word. We nourish the faith the Spirit begat in us first by assembling together with other Christians to hear the word of God preached to us. This is the ordinary means the Lord works faith in us, a means which He has promised to bless and bind Himself to. (2) The Administering and Receiving of the Sacraments which Jesus commanded us to partake of "till He come". The greater the frequency of being united to Christ through the sacrament of the Lord's Table the more our faith will receive nourishment. We should make it a habit to often come together, as did disciples, who "continued in the Apostles doctrine and fellowship and the breaking of bread and prayers" (Acts 2:42). This is the means they used to nourish and augment their faith that Christ had begun in them (Phil 1:6, 1:29).
From a missionary friend in Asia:
On Christmas day, we will gather in our churches and joyfully recount the Christmas story:
Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown, when Thou camest to earth
for me; But in Bethlehemâ€™s home was there found no room for Thy holy nativity.
Heavenâ€™s arches rang when the angels sang, proclaiming Thy royal decree;
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth, and in great humility.Thou camest,
O Lord, with the living Word, that should set Thy people free; But with mocking
scorn and with crown of thorn, they bore Thee to Calvary.
However, for over 2.5 billion people from the almost 6,800 least evangelized groups, this Christmas will come and go, unnoticed and irrelevant, unless a Christian leaves his or her culture to proclaim, in a culturally sensitive way, that Emmanuel has come!
What can we give to Jesus this Christmas? ... We can increase our support of a missionary working among an unreached group. We can support a missionary working among an unreached group this coming year.
We can all pray for the unreached, so that next Christmas, theyâ€™ll join us in singing:
When the heavâ€™ns shall ring, and her choirs shall sing, at Thy coming to victory;
Let Thy voice call me home, saying, â€œYet there is room, there is room at My side for thee.â€
Helps in Evangelism to Muslims
1. Pray. Pray for Muslim friends and acquaintances. Everything we do depends on the intervention of the Holy Spirit.
2. Have a specific goal. God wants to use us to make Jesus Christ known to Muslims through the gospel, so focus on making the gospel message understandable and accessible.
3. Be open to personal and human contact. We must love Muslims sincerely, manifesting our love through kindness and respect in relationship with them. Sharing faith in the context of friendship requires time to understand and appreciate our Muslim friends.
4. Be patient. We can speak freely of our faith, but most Muslims will need to hear us many times before they even begin to consider believing in Christ. Do not be discouraged by objections.
5. Explain the gospel in a very simple manner. Donâ€™t get lost in â€œChristian-ese.â€ Explain terms such as sin, prayer, God, Son of God and faith.
6. Give your friend a New Testament or a Bible. Reading these books gives Muslims new perspectives on Christianity. Encourage a regular reading of the Gospels.
7. Emphasize Godâ€™s perfect holiness. Muslims and Christians agree that God calls for righteousness. But Christians acknowledge human unrighteousness and slavery to sinful attitudes. Only a new birth can change this, not education or moral action.
8. Speak of Godâ€™s interventions in our own lives. Tell of His faithfulness, His love, His justice. Muslims do not understand God as one who gives and keeps promises. Your testimony of a real and active faith is very important.
9. Answer objections with kindness. Do not let yourself be carried away into passionate discussions.
10. Do not be naÃ¯ve if Muslim friends express a belief in Jesus Christ and the Bible. Muslims do believe in Jesus and the Bible. But their faith is different from what the Bible teaches, particularly concerning a living relationship with God as we believe. Jesus said that eternal life is to know God (John 17:3); this refers not merely to knowing certain things about God.
Excerpt from 30 Days Muslim Prayer Focus