“The Lord is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.” Nahum 1:7
Sometimes, our prayers are a heartfelt conversation with God as we seek wisdom and discernment. Sometimes, our prayers are a time spent sharing with God the burdens and desires of our hearts.
But sometimes…in those seasons of profound heartache, unimaginable misery, and complete helplessness, our prayers are brought before God bathed in the tears of sorrow and desparation.
I was recently with an incredible group of people that truly love and care for each other. As the very real burdens and trials of life were shared, and the weight of those trials was seen and heard in the voices and tears of those who were suffering, the eyes of many in the room were also filled with tears.
In Romans 12:15 it say that we are to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” It was a precious and vivid demonstration of the love of Christ being lived out in the lives of folks that not only wanted to come alongside others in their time of need, but they also knew the only One to turn to with these heavy burdens.
In John 11 we see that when Jesus came to the place where Lazarus was being kept after he died, He came upon Mary, Martha and the others weeping. Jesus did not simply raise Lazarus from the dead and move on, but rather Scripture tells us that Jesus wept alongside them. He was not weeping for the death of Lazarus, rather He was expressing one of the deepest levels of compassion by weeping alongside those He loved.
As we live our lives as believers with other believers, may we be Christ-like and weep with those who weep. In those most difficult of times, let our prayers be bathed in the tears of love and compassion as we call out to the One that knows us, the One we trust, the One who is our stronghold in the day of trouble.
For more than thirty years I worked at a law firm with many of the most brilliant legal minds in the world. My positions throughout much of my time with the firm were in the field of Information Technology. I was a techy and a techy manager and most times I had a very limited understanding of what the lawyers were talking about when they were speaking in legal-eze. To be honest, I expect there were times when my techno-babble was not too clear either. To use an old adage, legal language was often “…all Greek to me”. No matter how hard I could ever try to understand complex legal language, the reality is that I was not trained in a manner that would equip me to understand.
So what about the Bible? Do you have to be a trained seminarian or have your doctorate in order to be able to understand Scripture? Praise the Lord the answer to that question is a resounding NO!
One of the doctrines relating to the Bible, and related to the doctrines of sufficiency, inerrancy, and inspiration of Scripture, is the doctrine of perspicuity, also known as the doctrine of clarity. There are numerous verses in scripture that promise us that Scripture, as it relates to the things relating to salvation, can be understood. No special training is required.
Psalm 119:130 says “The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.” This passage is stating that God’s word is understandable. The difference in the completeness of understanding however, comes with the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 2:14 Paul wrote of this Holy Spirit enabled discernment in this way: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
While we are assured in Scripture that we can understand all that is needed, through the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit, why do we stop there? Why do we hesitate to learn things like “doctrines”, or to dig into things like apologetics or systematic theology? Is it perhaps because we feel that they are beyond our understanding? Is it because it might take some work on our part?
Let me challenge us with this passage from Paul’s letter to Timothy. In his letter Paul was writing to Timothy exhorting him to teach and preach the people well. In 2 Timothy 2:16 Paul writes “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Now, I expect that you might look at that and say that Paul was writing to a Timothy…a pastor and he is expected to know the Word of God and all that doctrine stuff!
OK…but I would then point you to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which says “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” All Scripture is given by “inspiration of God“, again, there is that working of the Holy Spirit, and it is “profitable for doctrine“. In other words, we are expected to learn these things. There is no gray area in this language. There is nothing here that says it is reserved for the highly educated or advanced theologians. With the Holy Spirit giving us understanding we are to dig into the Word with the goal of being “thoroughly equipped“.
How about we start today to learn something new from Scripture. Something deeper than a post-it note passage that we share on social media. How about we learn something new today that will cause us to grow deeper in our knowledge and to work towards being thoroughly equipped to do the incredible work that He has called us to!
Just think…you may have just started by learning the doctrine of perspicuity!
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 1:20
It should be no surprise when a passage like the one above penetrates our hearts and challenges us to live our lives in the reality of it’s truth.
We must no longer live as though we are in charge! We must live by faith. A faith that is rooted and which is resolute in the firm knowledge that Christ loves us, lives in us, and is the “…author and finisher” (Hebrews 12:2) of that faith by which we now live.
If our faith is based on our flesh at all, it will surely fail. Everyday we need to start anew, reminding ourselves of our desperate need for Him. Reminding ourselves of His love for us and that He abides in us.
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” Hebrews 12:28
That is the way I want to live. I want to “…serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear“.
I want to wait on the Lord so that He will be my Master and I will hear and obey His voice.
I want to wait on Him because I know the those that “…wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
And when I live that way… “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me“.
Intercessory prayer is perhaps one of the highest privileges and callings that we have as believers. There are countless references to intercessory prayer throughout all of scripture. Intercessory prayer is, in fact, one of the behaviors that we see modeled over and over in scripture especially in the life of Christ.
In John 17 we read Christ’s high priestly prayer. In verse nine Christ specifically says “I pray for them.” He goes on in verse twenty to say “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word…” To be Christ-like in our prayer is to be interceding for others to God that His will might be done in their lives.
Another example of intercessory prayer is seen in the life of Abraham as he prayed for Sodom. In Genesis 18:16-33 Abraham intercedes on behalf of those of faith that lived in Sodom. Sodom was a city replete with sin and sinners, yet in the midst of the city there were righteous that were God’s very own.
Abraham was burdened to intercede on behalf of the righteous in fervent, persistent prayer. His prayers to God almost appear to be a negotiation with God but they are not. God wanted Abraham to know His will in the situation. In fact, in verse seventeen the Lord posits the rhetorical question “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing…” but as we see in the passage God wants to tell Abraham his plans because he knows Abraham’s future and what he has promised to do in and through him and his descendants. As Abraham’s prayed to God with persistence and in humility, God made his perfect will known.
There are three aspects to intercessory prayer that captured my attention in these passages as well as elsewhere in scripture. We see that those that pray for others are:
…burdened to intercede in prayer with urgency on behalf of others to almighty God.
…compelled to intercede in prayer in love with fervency for others to a just and holy God.
…driven to intercede in prayer with persistence to a sovereign God that His will is accomplished.
As we intercede on behalf of others we find ourselves turning our focus away from our needs and wants, and to the act of petitioning God to provide and intervene in the lives of others. As we intercede we are no longer caught up in wanting our way in other folks lives, but that God will have his way. As we intercede we no longer act in our own human effort to accomplish a change, but we engage God to do a powerful and mighty work in the lives of others. As we intercede in prayer, we yield ourselves to God that we might see Him glorified.
Who has God burdened you with this very moment that you are compelled to go to God, interceding in prayer on their behalf? What situation fills your heart and mind and drives you to your knees seeking God’s intervention? Who will you intercede for in prayer today?
The nine armed sea star is a crazy looking critter. I recently had the delight of finding one while searching for sea shells with my son. I had never seen anything quite like it before. Unlike five armed sea stars (or star fish as I used to call them), it has nine arms that are used for feeding, digging, and moving around. Why nine arms and not five is beyond me. What I do know is that God, in his perfect design, chose to create them that way. This little critter obviously does not sit there and ask “Why do I have 9 arms?” It just lives and does what it was designed and intended to do and be.
As humans we are all created in God’s image and God has made us each as unique individuals. As believers we also know that we each have a unique role and purpose in this world and we need to be doing what He has called and purposed us to do. The way we understand His will and purpose for our life is to draw close to him, to dig in and study His word and pray.
Romans 12:1-2 gives us a crystal clear insight into how we go about knowing His will for our lives.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
As we determine to be transformed by God, and not be conformed to this world, we are able to “prove” or know what God’s perfect will is. Let’s start asking God what he wants us to know about himself and get busy living our lives for Him!
That was one of the famous lines from the movie “On the Waterfront” starring Marlon Brando. Sometimes we may find ourselves looking back at a season or struggle and perhaps think that we could have been a contender; that perhaps we could have been more or done more. Today is a new day…today is the day we can choose to be a contender. But what are you going to contend for?
Contending…it is a strange word, not used very often, but powerful in it’s meaning. Often associated with sporting events, the word brings to mind the image of a prolonged battle or struggle. In the letter of Jude in the Bible, Jude has a change of focus with regards to the content of the letter and changes from a focus on the topic of his shared salvation with the readers, to a plea, an exhortation for their contending for the faith that they share.
“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude 1:3
What does it mean to contend earnestly for the faith? The Greek word for “contend earnestly” is the word epagónizomai from which we get the word agonize. We are to agonize earnestly, contend with all we have, for the faith. Jude was not writing about contending with boxing gloves either. Jude is writing because there were enemies in the church and the best thing that they could do is to contend earnestly for the faith…for the gospel truth of Jesus Christ. What is amazing about Jude’s instructions is that he does not encourage them to do what we might expect…to fight. Rather he is going to give several instructions to them which are still just as applicable today as we battle false teachers, persecution, and attacks on the truth of the gospel.
In Jude 1:20-21 it says: “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.“
The original Greek language only has one imperative in this sentence and it is found in the command to “keep yourselves in the love of God”. Jude provides three ways that they and we are to keep ourselves in the love of God.
First, we are to be “building yourselves up on your most holy faith”. That “most holy faith” is the Word of God…the collection of truths that make up the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is most holy because it is from a most holy God. This verse looks back at verse three and reinforces that that this is what we are to be contending for…this most holy faith that has been given to them. We are to be building ourselves up…to be growing and maturing in our understanding and knowledge of the those most holy teachings…that most holy faith.
The second way by which we remain in the love of God is by “praying in the Holy Spirit”. If we are not praying constantly as individuals, our small groups, and in our churches, how are we to be keeping in the love of God? As spirit filled believers we should long to pray and to be close to our Lord. In Ephesians 6 Paul writes regarding the armor of God. He says there “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.”
The third way that Jude gives by which we continue in God’s love is to be ” looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” That is our hope and our longing. It is both our temporal desire to be close to our Lord, but it is also our eternal desire to spend an eternity in the glorious presence of our Savior. Keeping that eternal perspective, looking forward expectantly and anxiously for the ultimate act of mercy from Jesus Christ, our eternal salvation being realized in the presence of Christ himself, that truth helps us to continue in God’s love. That truth gives us assurance of the hope that is in us to get through those difficult times in our lives. How powerful is the hope of our salvation…the truth of a future outpouring of the mercy of Jesus Christ on those that are His children.
Are you contending earnestly for the faith? Are you contending daily to keep yourself in the love of God by by digging into His word, by praying in the Holy Spirit to the one true God that hears and answers, and are you looking expectantly for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life? These are the ways we keep ourselves, they way we abide in the love of God, and by doing so it is how we can endure the trials and persecution of this world as we await His glorious return.
Be a contender for the faith! Agonize to abide in the love of God.
Room darkening shades are designed specifically for the purpose of eliminating as much outside light as possible so that a room can be as dark as possible. Sometimes those kinds of shades are used to create darkness that is needed for sleeping. Sometimes they are used so that the lighting in a room can be controlled specifically for video purposes. Whatever the need, there are lots of different kinds of room darkening shades and a boatload of reasons for using them.
Sin is like a room darkening shade…only it is at work in our spiritual lives. Sin in our lives will work to make our lives darker and darker and if not addressed will darken the true light in our lives. Sin comes in different styles and patterns. It can be decorative, like pride, or functional, like hatred. Sometimes we open the shades of sin in our life and let the light in, other times we pull the shade tight and let the darkness reign. But we control the shades.
Jesus Christ will return one day. As believers we look forward to that day with great anticipation. Peter asked a somewhat rhetorical but pressing question in his second letter saying this “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless…” (2 Peter 3:14) To be found by Him at peace, found without spot and blameless, we need to be addressing the darkness of sin in our lives. But first we have to expose that sin in our lives with light…true spiritual light.
Jesus said to his disciples “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Jesus is the only true spiritual light in this world. Peter also wrote in 2 Peter 1:19 “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
Jesus is that light that shines in a dark place and the light cannot be extinguished by the life darkening shades of sin. In Psalm 119:15 it says “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” Jesus is the light of the world and God’s Word is a light to our life guiding us and revealing to our how we are to live in the light.
Today, if you are wresting with sin in your life, sin of any type, come to Jesus and confess your sin. He is faithful and just to forgive those sins. (1 John 1:9) Let His light shine brightly in your life and let His Holy Word do a mighty work in your life. Tear down those life darkening shades of sin and let His light of righteousness flood your life.
In the midst of this election season I wanted to remind myself of biblical truth and divine purpose for my Christian walk. So here is some Biblical passages that remind me of how I am to live today, tomorrow, and the days ahead.
Living in Unity
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:1-6
Being a Blessing
“Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:8-9
“Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:5-7
Praying Fervently…Regardless of the Outcome
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-7
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Rejoice, Pray, & Give Thanks
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Live Christ-like and Obediently
“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:19-27
Love One Another
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
Pray that God’s Will is Done
“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” Matthew 9:10-13 (KJV)
Prayer to God Leads to the Peace of God
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7