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prayer

Wondrously show your steadfast love

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”Wondrously show your steadfast love,” Psalm 17:7a
At a time when things look rough in in this world, let our hope and praise ring out to this world. 

It is too easy to read the headlines and want to run. From bombings in far off places to shootings on city streets, the news is not encouraging. And yet, God’s Word is our encouragement, our nourishment, and, at the very same time a challenge for us to live beyond this place. 

My prayer this morning comes from Psalm 17

”Wondrously show your steadfast love,” Psalm 17:7a

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States and race relations seem to be boiling over in many parts of this country. There is much division and seemingly little progress. Too often we fill our thoughts and time with people who are just like us while griping about things not getting better. We, as Believers, have to be a part of things getting better for race relations. 

This morning we read of another attack, more death, and again involving children. As Believers, our first reaction cannot be formed by FOX News, but by God in His Word. Fighting all my feelings I want to respond in prayer. 

”Wondrously show your steadfast love,” Psalm 17:7a
Of course we want the Lord to return soon and set all things right. We, as Believers, know God will come. David prayed to the Lord in difficult days saying, 

“Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry!

Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!

From your presence let my vindication come!

Let your eyes behold the right! (Psalm 17:1-2

But It is a huge temptation to beg for Christ’s return out of selfish motives. My motives are rarely about the Lord being glorified, but something else, something lesser.  This morning my prayer is simply this, “Lord, Wondrously show your steadfast love,” Psalm 17:7a
Today, I will work to set my heart to the same beat as that of David, who closed this chapter with these words, 

”As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;

when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.”

Prayer – a path to change anyone can be a part of…

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If there was ever a time when the world needed to know more about Jesus, that time is now.  And that’s happening without many of us even being aware of or involved.  I’m referring to the Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) study on the book of Revelation which is being taught around the globe – on every continent from Heritage to even Viet Nam and Taiwan.

The topic of “end times” has enticed many who are simply curious – (making this the most popular BSF study.)  A friend’s son is one of those curious.  He grew up in church and was active in all the youth functions, but he gradually drifted away.  Today at 40-something he hasn’t been involved in a church for many years.  But then the BSF Revelation came along and he signed up.  His Mom says, “It is a wonderful miracle of God that he is doing Revelation – and so actively.”

But the book of Revelation is about more than end times – Jesus is on nearly every page.  The gospels tell of Jesus in human form; Revelation reveals His divine nature.  And knowing Jesus changes lives!  Even longtime Christ followers are discovering a new, deeper worshipful awe of Jesus.

As the study changes lives and awakens hearts, the students can’t help but tell others – imagine the ripple effect if they tell and the rest of us pray… I encourage all of you to be a part of this change by adding BSF leaders and students to your prayer list.

International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

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How to Pray from the Bible

Here are 5 examples from Ephesians:

Please pray persecuted believers would know the hope God gives (Ephesians 1:8).

Pray the Holy Spirit would strengthen them (Ephesians 3:16).

Please pray persecuted believers would know how much God loves them (Ephesians 3:17)

Pray they would know how to share the gospel (Ephesians 6:19).

Please pray persecuted believers would fearlessly tell others about Jesus (Ephesians 6:20).

 

How to Pray for Practical Needs

Along with the example prayers in the Bible, there are some practical needs persecuted believers would love your prayers for:

Please pray persecuted believers would have access to a Bible.

Pray they have the courage to remain in their homeland.

Please pray for believers who have been rejected by family and friends.

Pray that God would surround them with a new Christian “family” who loves them and supports them emotionally and physically.

Pray for God to be an advocate for women who are socially vulnerable or have lost the custody of their children because of their faith.

Please pray that God would provide persecuted believers with jobs and safe places to live.

 

Learn more ways to pray for the persecuted church and read news alerts on current crises by visiting the Web site for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

www.persecution.com

www.opendoors.org

Your Pastor Needs YOU!

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October is Pastor Appreciation month and this article gives some practical ways to support and encourage our seven pastors here at HBC. Do your part of keeping the Body of Christ healthy and working together for His glory. It is also important to remember that appreciation, affirmation and prayer support of our spiritual leaders is appropriate throughout the entire year, not just this month.

“Will you pray for me as a minister of the gospel? I am not asking you to pray for the things people commonly pray for. Pray for me in light of the pressures of our times. Pray that I will not just come to a wearied end—an exhausted, tired, old preacher, interested only in hunting a place to roost. Pray that I will be willing to let my Christian experience and Christian standards cost me something right down to the last gasp.” — A.W. Tozer, “Pastoral Ministry: Please Pray for Me”

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Six ideas on how you can stand behind and alongside of your church’s pastor and leaders

Pastors are under attack today in every denomination and in every country. They are attacked from within their own churches by disgruntled attendees, within their own spirits by our enemy the devil, and from without by those who don’t even attend or aren’t members of the churches pastors have the privilege and responsibility to lead.

It’s no wonder so many pastors are often discouraged, exhausted, frustrated, and in their minds (if not in actuality) have tendered their resignations. Pastors move from church to church or from church to another line of work at an alarming rate. Some of this could be greatly reduced if they received more affirmation and encouragement from those they lead, especially those who are younger.

I am well beyond the teens and 20s (74 at the end of 2013) but in my 45 years of ministry I have worked with lots of young people both with the Navigators and at Mars Hill Church. Many young adults hang back and stay on the fringes of church, afraid or reluctant to commit themselves. But as you deliberately support and encourage your pastor, you will identify yourself as someone who’s on board and positive, and potentially someone whom your pastor can begin to invest in.

Today’s pastors need to focus on developing the next generation of leaders in their respective churches because young adults are the future of the church. It is, therefore, incumbent on young adults to especially be aware of how they can help, support and encourage their pastor(s). Here are some of my ideas on how you can stand behind and alongside of the pastor God has allowed to lead the church you call home.

1. Pray for your pastor.

Undoubtedly, the most important thing you can do to help your pastor be fruitful and effective in his role is to pray for him. You can use passages such as Ephesians 1:15-23Ephesians 3:14-20 and Colossians 1:9-12 to pray for your pastor(s) and other leaders.

  • Pray for him daily.
  • Pray the Lord will give him wisdom in his various responsibilities in the church he serves.
  • Pray for his role as both husband and father (if he is married and has children).
  • Pray the Lord will protect him in the area of sexual purity.
  • Pray he will experience courage and anointing in his preaching/teaching.
  • Pray he would be able to strike a good balance between his ministry, family and personal life.
2. Encourage your pastor.

Lots of people will criticize and find fault. They will both email him and talk to him (and about him) in discouraging ways. You can be one of those who look for ways, and reasons, to encourage him — to camp on the positive, not the negative.

Tell him what you appreciate about his ministry, and be specific. What has he recently done or said that you have profited from? After he preaches/teaches, go out of your way to tell him how it has blessed you. A pastor’s teaching/preaching help many, but few tell him specifically how he has been a help and blessing.

Every once in a while, write a personal note telling him you are praying for him and appreciate something he has said or done. Once again, be specific. For example, “When you said in a recent sermon that Jesus totally understands me and deeply loves me, that ministered to me because I am going through a difficult time right now and feeling lonely, and that is exactly what I needed to hear.”

3. Submit to your pastor’s leadership.

The Bible is clear on the topic of being willing to submit to the authority in the church you have chosen to be a part of. (I am not suggesting, nor does the Bible suggest, that you submit to ungodly or abusive leaders.) Here are two such passages talking about submitting, respecting and following your leaders.

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13).

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17).

By being a regular attender/member at your church, you are placing yourself in a position to be taught, shepherded, led, and discipled by your church’s pastor(s) and other leaders. It is an awesome step to accept God’s call to be a pastor and to take seriously the roles and responsibilities that such a call entails. You should be able to trust, believe in, and submit to those the Lord has placed in authority over you. If you can’t do this, you need to address this issue, and in extreme cases, leave if you can no longer respect and trust the leadership over you; more on this in point six.

4. Get to know your pastor.

A pastor, at times, has a lonely job. Many people instead of giving wind up taking from the pastor — taking his time, his energy, his resources, his wisdom and his counsel. It is refreshing and encouraging to know that people in the church family really care about him, pray for him, and really want to get to know him, not so they can take, but so that they can give.

Why not call the church office to schedule some time with your pastor and offer to take him to lunch at his favorite restaurant? Ask him to tell you his story, how God saved him, called him into ministry and is currently leading him. I can guarantee you that he will appreciate this and be a better leader as a result of your initiative.

5. Ask how you can serve your pastor/your church.

Are you currently serving at your church? If you are serving, are you able to step it up a notch? Give more time or volunteer somewhere else where needed?

I have never been in a church that had all the servants and leaders it needed and wanted. One of the best ways to grow personally, and at the same time help your church grow, is to find a place where your gifts, capacity and interests can make a unique contribution to what Jesus wants to do through you and through your church. If you are not serving in some capacity, please do so, leaving the ranks of the consumers and joining the ranks of the contributors.

6. Talk honestly to, not about your pastor.

If there is something that you honestly have a problem with — some decision he made, something he wrote or said that you disagree with — please talk to himnotabout him.

This is one of the big sins in the body of Christ. We talk about people, but not to people.

Most pastors want to hear from people who have issues or questions with something at the church. Most would relish the opportunity to genuinely hear what is bothering you and to have the chance to both genuinely listen and share concerning your issue so the two of you can have mutual understanding and respect for each other.

Talking about others rather than talking to others is gossip pure and simple, and it never makes things better, only worse. The book of Proverbs is loaded with words of warning about gossip. Here are a few for starters: Proverbs 11:1317:918:8,20:19.

There are a lot of other things that could be said, but I will stop with these six. Let me say it again, “Your pastor needs YOU!”

Most pastors want to be relevant to the younger generation and know that they can positively influence them for the kingdom. He needs your support, prayers, honest feedback and involvement to do this well. As you do this, you will experience more joy and personal growth in your walk with Jesus, your pastor will be more motivated and become a better leader, and Jesus will be honored.

 

Copyright 2013 Dave Kraft. All rights reserved.

Why Do We Say, ‘God Told Me’?

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When someone begins a sentence with “God told me . . .” I have to admit a silent alarm goes off somewhere inside me—unless the phrase is followed by a verse of Scripture. I know that many see this as the way the Christian life is supposed to work—that if we are really in fellowship with God we will be able to sense him speaking to us through an inner voice. But I’m not so sure. And it’s not because I think God is incapable of or uninterested in speaking to his people today. In fact I resist this language precisely because God is speaking to his people today. He speaks to us through the Scriptures.

When we read the Scriptures we are not just reading a record of what God has said in the past. God actively speaks to us in the here and now through the words of this amazing book. The writer of Hebrews makes this point clear when he quotes Old Testament passages and presents them not as something God said to his people sometime in the past, but as something God is currently saying to his people (Hebrews 1:6,7,8, 2:12, 3:7, 4:7). He writes that “the word of God is living and active” (4:12). It is exposing our shallow beliefs and hidden motives. This word is personal.  You and I hear the voice of God speaking to us—unmistakably, authoritatively, and personally—when we read, hear, study, and meditate on the Scriptures.

Something More, Something Different

But many of us want something more, something different. We read the Scriptures and witness God speaking to individuals in amazing ways throughout the history of redemption. Job heard God speaking from the whirlwind. Moses heard him calling from the fiery bush. Samuel heard him calling in the dark. David heard him speak through the prophet Nathan. Isaiah felt the burning coal and heard assurance that his guilt was taken away and sin atoned for. Saul and those traveling with him on the road to Damascus heard Jesus asking why Saul was persecuting him. Prophets and teachers at Antioch heard the Holy Spirit tell them to set apart Barnabas and to send out Saul. John felt the glorified Jesus touch him and heard his assurance that he didn’t have to be afraid.

Many of us read these accounts and assume that the Bible is presenting the normal experience of all who follow God. But is it? Graeme Goldsworthy speaks to this question in his book Gospel and Wisdom. He writes, “Every case of special guidance given to individuals in the Bible has to do with that person’s place in the outworking of God’s saving purposes.” He adds, “There are no instances in the Bible in which God gives special and specific guidance to the ordinary believing Israelite or Christian in the details of their personal existence.”

Are there instances in the Scriptures in which people describe a sense of God speaking to them through an inner voice? We read accounts of God speaking in an audible voice, through a supernatural dream or vision, a human hand writing on a wall, a blinding light, or a thunderous voice from heaven. This is quite different from the way most people who say that God has told them something describe hearing his voice—as a thought that came into their mind that they “know” was God speaking. One prominent teacher who trains people on how to hear the voice of God writes, “God’s voice in your heart often sounds like a flow of spontaneous thoughts.” But where in the Bible are we instructed to seek after or expect to hear God speak to us in this way?

Some who suggest that a conversational relationship with God is not only possible but even normative point to John 10 in which Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd, saying, “My sheep hear my voice.” However, in this passage Jesus is not prescribing a method of ongoing divine communication. He is speaking to the Jews of his day using a metaphor they understand—a shepherd and his sheep. His point is that the elect among the Jews will recognize him as the shepherd the prophets wrote about and will respond to his call to repent and believe, as will the elect among the Gentiles so that they will become one flock, one church, with him at the head.

Longing for God’s Guidance

So why do we speak about hearing God in this way? We grew up being told that we must have a “personal relationship with God,” and what is more personal than hearing him speak to us about our individual issues and needs? Sometimes if we dig deep we realize we speak this way because we want to impresses others with our close connection to God and make sure they know we’ve consulted with him on the matter at hand. Another reason may be that to say, “God told me . . .” can prove useful to us. If you’ve asked me to teach children’s Sunday school this fall, it sounds far more spiritual and makes it far more difficult for you to challenge me if I say that God told me I need to sit in adult Sunday school with my husband than if I simply say that I don’t want to or have decided not to teach.

But I think there is something more at work here than simply our desire to sound spiritual or to make it difficult for someone to challenge our preferences or decisions. We genuinely long for God to guide us. We genuinely long for a personal word from God, a supernatural experience with God. Yet we fail to grasp that as we read and study and hear the Word of God taught and preached, it is a personal word from God. Because the Scriptures are “living and active,” God’s speaking to us through them is a personal, supernatural experience.

God has spoken and is, in fact, still speaking to us through the Scriptures. We don’t need any more special revelation. What we need is illumination, and this is exactly what Jesus has promised the Holy Spirit will give to us as his word abides in us. The Holy Spirit of God works through the Word of God to counsel and comfort and convict (John 16:7-15). Through the Scriptures we hear God teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training us in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Word of God transforms us by renewing our minds so that we think more like him and less like the world. Instead of needing God to dictate to us what to do, we become increasingly able to “discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

I appreciate the way John Piper described his experience in hearing God speak through the Scriptures in his message “How Important is the Bible?” given at Lausanne 2010:

God talks to me no other way, but don’t get this wrong, he talks to me very personally. I open my Bible in the morning to meet my friend, my Savior, my Creator, my Sustainer. I meet him and he talks to me. . . . I’m not denying providence, not denying circumstances, not denying people, I’m just saying that the only authoritative communion I have with God with any certainty comes through the words of this book.

And if we want to go back a little further, Jonathan Edwards warned:

I . . . know by experience that impressions being made with great power, and upon the minds of true saints, yea, eminent saints; and presently after, yea, in the midst of, extraordinary exercises of grace and sweet communion with God, and attended with texts of Scripture strongly impressed on the mind, are no sure signs of their being revelations from heaven: for I have known such impressions [to] fail, and prove vain.

What Difference Does It Really Make?

Does it really make a difference when we expect God to speak to us through the Scriptures rather than waiting to hear a divine voice in our heads? I think it does.

When we know that God speaks personally and powerfully through his Word, we don’t have to feel that our relationship to Christ is sub-par, or that we are experiencing a less-than Christian life if we don’t sense God giving us extra-biblical words of instruction or promise. When we know God speaks through his Word we are not obligated to accept—indeed, we can be appropriately skeptical toward—claims by any book, teacher, preacher, or even friend when they write or say, “God told me . .  .” We don’t have to wait until we hear God give us the go-ahead before we say “yes” or “no” to a request or make a decision. We can consult the Scriptures and rest in the wisdom and insight the Holy Spirit is developing in us and feel free to make a decision.

As we delight ourselves in the law of the Lord day and night, we can expect his Word to be living and active in our inmost parts. As that Word transforms us by the renewal of our minds, we will find that our thoughts and feelings, dreams and desires, are being shaped more by his Word than by our flesh. We will find that we are more drawn to obey his commands than to follow the culture. We will ask him for wisdom and receive it out of his generosity.

 

Nancy Guthrie and her husband, David, and son, Matt, make their home in Nashville, Tennessee. She and David are the co-hosts of the GriefShare video series used in more than 8,500 churches around the country and host Respite Retreats for couples who have experienced the death of a child. Nancy is the author of numerous books, including Holding on to Hope and Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrowand is currently working on the five-book Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament Bible study series.

Is it worth it?

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During the past 16 years serving overseas, many people have asked if it’s worth it to live so far away from home.  There have been days when we have asked ourselves the same question.

“Is it worth it?”

Is it worth it to live 10,000 miles away from your college-age daughter?

Is it worth it for your son to miss out on seeing grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins on a regular basis?

Is it worth it to miss important family gatherings, such as weddings and holidays?

Is it worth it to miss out on the fellowship of your church family every Sunday?

Is it worth it to leave behind almost all of your earthly belongings and have to start from scratch to turn a house into a home?

Is it worth it to give up your house near the beach to live in an apartment building in a congested city of 8 million people?

Is it worth it to give up your dog who is too old to move overseas?

Is it worth it to live in a foreign country where your light hair, fair skin, and blue eyes make you stand out like a sore thumb?

Is it worth it to spend months studying a foreign language and still only be able to speak on the level of a 3-year-old?

Is it worth it to be illiterate– unable to read signs, letters, books, menus, and even your remote controls?

Is it worth it to deal with the transportation hassles of having no car?

Is it worth it to have to run errands, go to class, and everywhere else on a bike in the hot sun, pouring rain, and bitter cold?

Is it worth it to give up all the conveniences ofAmerica?

Is it worth it to live in a country that denies the existence of God?

The answer is YES!  If even one person hears of Jesus Christ from our lips, sees Him through our actions, and learns of the miracle of Immanuel, God With Us, then every minute we spend so far from home is most definitely worth it!   Thank you for generously giving  to fund our work.  We couldn’t be here without your support.  Thank you also for your prayers which sustain us on a daily basis.  May God bless each of you in 2011.

Editor’s note:  Whisper a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s call on our missionaries’ lives and their faithfulness in ministry.

(names, locations and original blog links omitted due to security issues)

IMB Prayer, Missionary Blog Digest, 2011

Here’s Your Sign

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The following is from www.housewifetheologian.com and is intended to get us thinking. Enjoy.

 

Well it happened again. There I was, innocently driving my car,  only to come face to face with another bad church sign. Here is what the latest offender said:

“Pray” is a four-letter word that you can’t say in public school.

Really? Let’s get our facts straight before we put them on our church signs. The word “pray” is not banned from public school. Praying isn’t banned either. I remember when my oldest daughter started elementary school, she and a friend used to “say grace” before their lunch together everyday. (That’s in a public school, by the way.) Now in middle school, she is part of a student-led “Bible Club” that meets after school a couple of times a month. She has never encountered opposition from administrators for these things, because it is perfectly legal.

What this church sign is intimating is the Supreme Court decision in 1962 to ban any form of organized, state-sponsored prayer or religious services in school. But we have to also look at what led up to this. Originally, Christianity was taught in the public school. Children actually learned their ABC’s and biblical catechism’s together (for a good little history lesson on this, read Stephen Prothero’s book, Religious Literacy):

A–In Adam’s Fall, We sinned all.

B—Heaven to find; The Bible to mind.

C—Christ crucify’d; For sinners dy’d.

School books such as spellers and readers taught biblical knowledge, integrated with their learning tasks. One of the primary motivations for literacy was for more Americans to be able to read their Bibles. Not a bad idea. And yet, these well-intended motivations led to inevitable conflict.

I don’t think it’s helpful to paint public schools out to be our enemy. There were many factors in our American history that contributed to the removal of religious content from the public schools, such as the Sunday school movement and Bible and tract societies, that were not the result of the evil government stifling faith. For the sake of ecumenism in teaching Christianity, religious content was diluted. While it first seemed wise for Christian religions to come together and teach their children, theology had been replaced by morality. The biblical content itself suffered on account of nondenominationalism. We can’t just blame the government for taking the Bible out of the schools. History shows that the Protestant verses Catholic wars on which Bible translation was to be used in schools led to the court cases that banned religious material and organized prayer.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I don’t want my children’s public school teachers teaching them how to pray any more than I want my pastor to teach a math lesson from the pulpit. The Fourteenth Amendment required the scope of this federal amendment to be applied at the state level. The first part of this amendment, known as the Establishment Clause, assures me that there will never be an established religion imposed on my child. The second part, known as the Free Exercise Clause, ensures me that “pray” is not a four-letter word. My kids are allowed to pray on their own, as long as they are not being disruptive.

Of course, I don’t want to paint a picture of the public schools with rose-colored glasses. As Christians, we recognize that many of the secular interpretations of natural revelation are taught under a world view that is different from the biblical account of creation. We all want our kids to receive the best education we can provide them in the natural sciences and in the content their faith. Since we are the primary arbitrators for our children’s education, we need to consider all obstacles and benefits of our choices, whether public, private, or homeschooling. And we need to be equally discerning in the churches we join.

We can also acknowledge that some of the best educators are public school teachers.  My husband happens to teach fourth grade in the public schools.  We should be happy to have Christians working in this field for both believer’s and unbeliever’s children.  Hopefully, families will be sensitive in their decision-making not to hold their own convictions about how to educate their children above other families.  These are difficult choices.  None of them are without pitfalls, and we should make our decisions with humility.

It just isn’t helpful to pit the church against public schools. Plastering misinformation or exaggerations on your church sign does not contribute in a positive manner to the problems that do exist.

Ironically, the church across the street from this offender was advertising their extreme couponing workshop on their church sign…