Pray Without Ceasing

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. NIV

Romans 8:26: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. ESV

I am taking a class on prayer this semester and I am learning a lot about prayer. We have been reading a book called, The Prayer Life, by Andrew Murray and the author considers the problem of “prayerlessness” to be a sin. Murray says that the sin of prayerlessness is the cause of the lack of a powerful spiritual life.

God created us to communicate with him and the means that we mainly do this is through prayer. We were made to come before God and to communicate with him. When we make prayer a part of our daily lives we can being to realize the true blessing that we receive through fellowship with our creator. Murray writes that Christians could have a greater influence on the world if their prayer life was in order. He says that we lack that “ceaseless prayer” which gives us as believers the promise of the Spirit and God’s power reaching down from heaven.

As we grow into a time of deeper communication with God, we begin to understand that we are spending our time and energy on something that will have value for all eternity. 1 Timothy 4:8: For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

In my own life, when I miss out on my early morning prayer time with God, I often find myself struggling throughout my day. When I can begin my day with God as my focus, I notice how better prepared I am to handle the ups and downs of my day. With God at place in the center of my life and my focus on Him, I am better equipped to handle whatever comes my way.

Prayer is also where we receive direction and guidance from God. Isaiah 30:21: Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” God can speak to us through prayer, the reading of his word, and also through other people. I know personally that God still speaks through that still, small voice – the Holy Spirit. Don’t doubt or limit God, the God of creation has many creative ways to get in touch with you. He is waiting – He is waiting on you to open your heart to Him and to pray without ceasing.

Giving Praise to God

Psalm 100: 1-5: Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us , and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

As followers of Christ we should never take lightly or forget that we should come before God daily in worship and praise. Many of us “faithfully” check our email on our phones or log into Facebook many times a day, but how often do we pause to check in with the creator of our universe, the redeemer of our souls, the one who sustains our very lives?  If we honestly answer that question, we would probably be embarrassed.

God created each of us to come before Him daily in worship. Psalm 106:1 instructs us to “Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” God wants and deserves our praise and He wants to fill our hearts and our souls with all of the good things of His kingdom.

Praising God for me comes through in my love for music, that somehow spiritually connects me in a closer way to God. We sang a beautiful version of “Great is thy Faithfulness” this past Sunday in church. My heart was stirred as we sang that great old hymn. I feel and draw closer to God through not only the great old gospel hymns of our faith but also through many modern performers and contemporary Christian music.

I urge you to commit yourself to drawing closer to God each day. God greatly desires to draw you into a closer relationship with Him. There is nothing that you can do to draw closer to God, except to have faith and ask Christ to come into your life and restore in you a fullness of His grace, which will draw you into a more intimate and personal relationship with your Saviour.

Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Michael W. Smith says is perfectly for me as I consider the great sacrifice and love that Christ demonstrated for each of us and that He is most certainly worthy of our worship and adoration. I encourage you to listen to the song, Here I am to Worship. I hope that it fills your heart with love and praise for God, our creator who loves us and desires our worship.

When Bad Things Happen To Good People

Romans 8:18: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

2 Corinthians 4:17: For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

We have had one of those weeks in the life of our family where everything seemed to go wrong. Our family has dealt with back to school issues and classes that were not working out well for one of our children. The work week was difficult and stressful for me and after it was over, I felt completely drained both mentally and physically. Then we had issues with both of our family cars  and the week ended with both of them in the shop for repairs. However, we had lots to be thankful for this week and it is both comforting and reassuring to know that God is there with us, in the middle of our worries and our struggles.

The Apostle Paul is reminding us in our scripture readings that we must stay focused on the future glory that we will one day experience. Our trials and sufferings in this life cannot compare to what we will one day experience in heaven. I believe that the trials and anguishes that we endure are not necessarily sent by God but they can be used to draw us closer to God. And God can use those sufferings to make us stronger believers and more effective  followers of Christ.

As this week draws to a close, I am reminded of the many blessings that I have in my life. My children are healthy, happy and well-adjusted and that is something that I thank God for every day. I have a wonderful wife who is so patient and loving and takes such good care of her family, and I thank God for her every day. My aunt, who is living with us, is recovering from a heart attack and she is getting stronger and is recovering well. It has been a blessing to have her with us in our home and I thank God for continuing to watch over her.

As followers of Christ, we can take comfort from the words of Paul from Romans 8:38-39: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Thank you God for loving us and watching over us. Help us, as your children, to be faithful to you in all that we do. Grant us your mercy and give us peace. Continue to walk before us Lord and shine your light on our path so that we will not stumble. Help us to walk humbly in your sight and to carry your light to a confused and hurting world.

Where You Go I Will Go

Ruth 1:16:18: But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

The book of Ruth is set in the time when the “judges” ruled over Israel. During this time the people of Israel went their own way and did whatever they wanted to do – they did not follow God. Also at this time, a famine occurred in the land of Judah and a man named Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons set out for the country of Moab.

After they arrived in Moab, Elimelech died and Ruth was left with her two sons. The two sons soon married Moabite women, one was named Orpah and the other Ruth. After about ten years, both sons died and Naomi was left without her husband and her two sons. Naomi gets word that God has provided for His chosen people and there is once again food in the land of Judah.

As Naomi sets out to return home to Bethlehem, both of her daughters-in-law accompany her on the road that would lead back to Judea. Naomi stops and tells both of her daughters-in-law to return back to their homes and asks the Lord to show kindness to them as they have shown to Naomi and to their dead husbands. Orpah eventually agrees to return to Moab but Ruth declares her allegiance both to Naomi and to the God of Israel.

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. (Ruth 1:16-18).

I have begun teaching a series on Ruth in our adult Sunday school class, and this study has helped to remind me, the extent to which God is involved in the details of our lives. Often, when things don’t work out as we have planned, we tend to think that God doesn’t care or is not involved in the particulars of our lives. If we focus on all of the many unfortunate or troubling events that happen daily, we can become easily discouraged and lose all hope. The book of Ruth reminds us that God calls us to faithfully serve Him and in doing so we can experience His abundant grace and love.

The story of Ruth teaches us that God was in control of all the details of Ruth and Naomi’s life and that He is in control of the specifics of our lives today as well. The events that took place in Ruth’s life were not coincidences, God was at work in the details, causing all things to work out for the good of both women. Ruth was rewarded for her obedience and she believed that God would provide for her and her mother-in-law.

Naomi goes through a faith crisis and she tells her acquaintances back in Bethlehem to call her “Mara”, because God has made her life very bitter (Ruth 2:20). Naomi then goes on to say, “I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” (Ruth 2:21).

As you encounter difficulties in your daily walk with God, remember that God cares about you and He is actively involved in the details of your life as well. Sometimes we can’t understand why things happen as they do, but we can have faith and trust that God is working things out for our benefit. We may have to struggle, endure many hurts and pain, and go through trials for a short time, but in the end, God’s glorious plan will be revealed and we will be made “full” again.

 

 


I Am Thine O Lord

Psalm 16:7-11: I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 73:23-26: Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Fannie J. Crosby was the author of over 8,500 gospel hymns. Blind at six weeks of age, Crosby began composing texts at age 6. At 12 she began her study at the New York School for the Blind, a school she later served as a teacher.

One of the many beautiful hymns that Crosby wrote was “I am Thine O Lord”.

  I am Thine, O Lord—I have heard Thy voice, and it told Thy love to me; but I long to rise in the arms of faith and be closer drawn to Thee.
  Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord, by the power of grace divine; let my soul look up with a steadfast hope and my will be lost in Thine.
  O the pure delight of a single hour that before Thy throne I spend, when I kneel in prayer and with Thee, my God, I commune as friend with friend.
  There are depths of love that I cannot know till I cross the narrow sea; there are heights of joy that I may not reach till I rest in peace with Thee.
  Chorus: Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord, to the cross where Thou hast died; draw me nearer, nearer, nearer, blessed Lord, to Thy precious, bleeding side.

There are many difficult moments that we go through in life and we often fail to understand why these troubles come our way. Even the strongest of Christians have to deal with the pressures of daily life in this world that we live in. It is how we respond to these trials and temptations that define who we truly are as followers of Christ.

As believers, we have a hope – a promise – that one day we will “rest” in the presence of God. This hymn from Fannie Crosby is uplifting to me and it helps me to stay focused on the ultimate goal of any believer – to be in the presence of God. Crosby reminds us that we can’t possibly know or understand on this side of heaven, how much God loves us and cares for us. It is only when we finally are able to “rest in peace with God”, that we will truly understand the depths and the heights of God’s love for us.

 

Sources used:

The United Methodist Reporter , C. Michael Hawn, May 21, 2010
Osbeck, K. W. (1996). Amazing grace: 366 inspiring hymn stories for daily devotions (232). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.

God – Our Comfort and our Sustainer

This morning, if you are tired, weary, restless, or you have a fear of something new or unknown, take comfort in these words of scripture:

Psalm 56:3-4: When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? (NIV)

Psalm 62 5-6: Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. (NIV)

If you feel helpless, weak, or all alone, find reassurance from these words of scripture:

Psalm 55:22: Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. (NIV)

Psalm 63:7-8: Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (NIV)

If you know God, but you struggle through life, wondering if God is paying attention to your needs, perhaps asking yourself, “Does God really care about me?” If you are struggling with these questions this morning, find contentment in these words of scripture:

Psalm 61:1-2: Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (NIV)

Psalm 62:11-12: One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done. (NIV)

If you are seeking the things of this world instead of God, take notice of the words from this psalm of David:

Psalm 63:1: O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (NIV)

If you have felt God’s love and presence in your life, rejoice in this word of scripture:

Psalm 63:3-4: Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. (NIV)

If you believe that God is still in charge and is ruler of both heaven and earth, then open your heart to these psalms of praise:

Psalm 66:1-4: Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious! Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name. (NIV)

Psalm 67: 1-4: May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth your salvation among all nations. May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth. (NIV)