To Be Able ~ A Prayer

Based on King Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 3…

Give Your servant
an understanding mind
to lead Your people,
to serve Your people,
to serve with Your people,
for who is able to govern people?

Give Your servant
a gentle spirit
to love Your people,
to walk with Your people,
to cry with Your people,
for who is able to minister to Your people?

Give Your servant,
a patient heart
to listen for Your voice,
to wait on You,
to see Your ways,
for who is able to endure in this world?

Help Your servant, Oh Lord,
by giving me
an understanding mind,
a gentle spirit,
and a patient heart.
Help Your servant, Oh Lord,
that I may be able;

that I may glorify You.

Amen

The Pastor -|—

Why God, Why

This pastor’s heart is heavy this morning after reading news about a reporter and her cameraman in Virginia being gunned down and killed on live TV this morning. I won’t go into details here as you can click the link above.

As I read this story, my heart broke and immediately send me into a series of questions, many consisting of: “Why God, why?” as I instinctively started looking for answers. It’s a natural response to a tragedy as one seeks consolation, comfort, hope and maybe even an explanation. Something, anything to help make sense of the evil and sin in the world. I hear this “Why” question a lot and ask it myself.

And there are no good answers to explain why this tragedy happened, but there IS hope. The hope? OUR hope?

OUR AWESOME GOD THROUGH CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD

[Isaiah 43:1] But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

[1 Corinthians 15:55-57]  “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

[Romans 8:35-39, but really, read the WHOLE chapter] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

[John 11:25-26]  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?

…and there are many more, but hopefully this is a start for you. This world is nasty, sin-stained, filled with death, but…

Our God is love, pure and perfect, and filled with Life; a life that is your’s through faith in Jesus Christ. So as chaos reeks havoc in this world, cling to Jesus. May the only answer you search for and cling to be

JESUS.

Mighty and holy God, I lift up to You those affected by this tragic shooting. May family, friends and loved ones know Your love and the hope of the resurrection. Evil may have it’s day in this world but You have overcome this world. May we cling to THAT reality. All praise, glory and worship be to You, oh God, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Pastor -|—

The Unknown is not Unknown

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” [Joshua 1:9]

A great nation (Israel) was encamped on the banks of the Jordan River. Their leader for over 40 years, Moses, is dead; the one who taught this nation God’s Law. Large and powerful armies are standing in the way of Israel. And now Joshua stands ready to succeed Moses. Large shoes to fill, to put it mildly. I think I would be nervous to take on such a calling, considering the unknowns that lie ahead. But God is encouraging and commanding Joshua to obey and to be courageous, for it is God that continues to go with them. None of what they have accomplished was due to their strength. None of their victories were due to their military might. None of the fear they put into other nations was due to their stature. Everything; all glory and honor, belongs to God. Therefore, God says, be strong and courageous. That alone was enough to encourage Joshua and make him a successful leader throughout his life. He feared and followed and obeyed God, and he encouraged and commanded the nation of Israel to do the same. God did his thing, Israel flourished and God was glorified.

Imagine what you can accomplish when you consider who is going before you. Imagine what you can do when you remember who has won victories on your behalf. Imagine what you can do when you remember who fights for you. When you are praying and living “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” then fear of the unknown is irrelevant.

But yet, when people are faced with the unknown, fear still creeps in and dictates their course of action. Human logic becomes their wisdom as they try to deal with the unknown and the fear that goes with it. But this is not the way of God. God alone deals with the unknowns for our unknown is not unknown to God. Think about that. Our unknown is not unknown to God. God sees the whole picture. By taking matters into your own hands or being paralyzed with fear is basically telling God that you don’t trust him. You are telling God that He does not know the unknown and therefore can’t handle things. This is an attack on God’s Sovereignty.

But God says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not fear, for I am with you and will always go with you.”

Think about that. Consider this promise and command. Imagine what you could accomplish if this verse were always in front of you, I mean, imagine what GOD can accomplish through you if you actually trusted that God knows your unknowns. So,

Do not fear
Be strong
Be courageous
Be bold
Trust
Take that leap of faith

and let God handle the rest.

Oh God, I am thankful that You know my unknowns and that You always go before me. Grant me the faith to trust You and place everything in Your hands. May my courage bring glory to You. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

A Fear Check

You shall have no other gods before me. [Deuteronomy 5:7 ESV]

It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you—for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth. [Deuteronomy 6:13-15 ESV]

Seems to be an important theme going on here. Back-to-back days I am reading this. Not that I am surprised because I know these commands well, but rather I am just as guilty of violating these commands as the next person. So I am thankful for this important reminder and conviction.

The command to
love God alone,
fear God alone,
worship God alone,
serve God alone
is vital.
Everything else that follows in the commandments is moot if our allegiance is not first and foremost to God almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.

What everything boils down to, then, is this one, crucial question:
Do you fear God?
Not in a Stephen King, run-for-your-life type of way but rather a God-is-awesome-so-I-want-to-be-near-him type of way. When we fear God like this, then obedience is not a duty in a do-it-or-you-will-be-punished type of way but rather I-want-to-honor-and-worship-God type of way. Obedience should be a joy not a burden.

Consider what happened to the people of Israel, as they took possession of the Promised Land. They eventually started serving other gods because they no longer feared God. Part of the problem was that they got all caught up in their own lives and did not pass the faith on to the next generation; but also, they became intrigued by the “freedoms” they saw in people of other nations.  And when this happened they saw obedience as a burden because it did not advance their own construct of freedom and rights. Therefore morality went down the proverbial toilet; as is happening today. And this is a natural result when the fear of God is lost in favor of becoming our own god who determines right and wrong.

Do you fear God?

This question can not be asked enough.
This topic can not be written about enough.

And I am thankful to God, for my Bible reading the past two days, as this question has been put in front of me. Because before I can hope to make any difference in this world I need to first and foremost check myself: Do I fear God? And once I do this I need to consider Deuteronomy 6: 7-9; You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. And once I have done this I can fervently and honestly pray for our culture; that the fear of God may infect people and drive them to God’s holy Word. But if I don’t fear God then I am not going to care about the next generation or this culture. Thus I need to do check ups often and stay in God’s Word; being convicted and reminded of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So do a personal check up and then join me in praying:
Holy Father, mighty God, sovereign King, send now your Holy Spirit to convict Your children and install a holy fear of You in them. May we seek Your holy Word and strive to obey You as an act of worship for the gift of life we have through faith in Jesus. May we see at all times the joy of Your presence and the joy of following You. It’s in Jesus name that I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

What is Acceptable to God? (Psalm 19:14)

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord , my rock and my redeemer. [Psalm 19:14]

The words of my mouth.
The meditations of my heart.

Have you ever thought about those two things? Have you ever given any consideration about not only what comes out of your mouth but also what you are meditating on in your heart?

You see…

These two things are intimately tied together; for what you are meditating on in your heart is going to eventually come out in your words and/or actions. So it only makes sense that we ask God to let that which is in our heart be acceptable to God. What comes out of our mouth can be judged by others but only God can judge what is in your heart. But then again, if what is in your heart eventually comes out in your words and actions then eventually people are going to judge your heart as well. Right or wrong, they (and you) will judge the heart.

So do a preemptive strike and commit your heart to God.

Ask that your meditations be acceptable to God.
Ask that your words glorify God.
Ask that your actions point to our Rock and Redeemer.

Begin with your heart because that will direct your words and actions. When you don’t know what to say or what to do, what you truly believe in your heart will come out. When you are in moments that demand words then what you are meditating and dwelling on will be the first to emerge.

If you are dwelling on a hurt
If you are dwelling on a sin
If you are dwelling on hate
If you are dwelling on someone else’s mistake(s)

These things will eventually show its ugly head in your words/deeds.

So…

Meditate and dwell on God and His wonderful mercy and grace and compassion and love and forgiveness. If you are meditating on this then that which Satan would rather you meditate on will be pushed to the back burner and squashed.

May your heart be found acceptable to God.

Father God, heal my heart that it may meditate on that which is good and acceptable to You. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

New Covenant ~ A Lenten Prayer

Tonight is the final Wednesday Lenten worship service of the season. And tonight we get to hear from my brother in Christ, from First Presbyterian, as he brings the Word from Jeremiah 31:31-34. We have been talking about covenant throughout Lent and tonight we end on the sweet note of the New Covenant.

And  so, this is the opening prayer I wrote for worship tonight. Let’s pray…

Behold, the days are coming, oh Lord, the days are coming, when You will fulfill the New Covenant promised to us through Jesus. And how we look forward to that day; that when the trumpet sounds we will be made brand new; glorious new bodies that will shine with Your Glory.

In the mean time, sting us with reminder that death is our rightful punishment but through Your grace, New Life is the amazing gift we have through faith in Jesus. May the sting convict and humble us and may Your response bring us to our knees in worship.

Teach us Your ways
Lead us into all truth
Guide us in obedience,

that we may show our love for You, for all to see, that You and You alone may be glorified.

May this worship be pleasing to your ears and may Your word fill our hearts to overflowing. In Jesus awesome and amazing name I pray, Amen.

God bless you as you prepare yourself for Holy Week (which begins on Sunday).

Praise be to God!

The Pastor -|—

A Fiery Lenten Prayer

For Lenten worship tonight, with our brothers and sisters from First Presbyterian Church, I get the privilege of preaching. The text is Numbers 21:4-9 and below is the prayer I wrote to be prayed before I preach.

This Numbers text continues our Lenten theme of Old Testament texts dealing with covenant (Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses). Tonight we get the fiery serpents and then next week my brother in Christ from First Presbyterian will be closing our Lenten worship series with the New Covenant from Jeremiah 31. It’s been a great series and one of my favorites.

And so I leave you with this prayer tonight…

Father God, You have made Your expectations clear but yet we have turned away from You. You have made salvation a reality through faith in Jesus but we get impatient on our way to the promised land. You have given us Your holy law but yet we go our own way; speaking against You through our rebellion. You provide for us yet we whine and complain about what we don’t have; detesting Your holy provision. And therefore Your fiery judgment is right and we are deserving of it.

Oh God, turn our hearts to You that we may follow faithfully; placing our trust in You and our faith in Your son, Jesus Christ. May the sting of death remind us of our sinfulness but also of Your faithfulness. It’s not a bronze serpent we look at to be healed but rather the cross of Christ. May that produce a fiery faith in us as we praise you for Your grace.

And so I humbly appeal to You to bless these words we hear tonight that we may be transformed. And as we turn away from the fiery consequences of sin in obedience to You, may we see the way to eternal life through Your Son and may we give You all praise and honor and glory, forever and ever. In Jesus’ holy name I pray, Amen.

Have a blessed night 🙂

The Pastor -|—