What has happened to many prayer meetings? Prayer meetings were once the highlight of the week, Spiritually, between Sundays. Why have they ceased to be a vital priority for too many Christians and churches? Why have a number of churches given up on prayer meeting or replaced it with some other activity? There are several possible reasons why this has taken place. 1). Christians haven't been well taught on prayer and on what they should expect from prayer. 2). The leadership isn't enthusiastic about prayer. 3). We do not grasp the significance of conversation with Almighty God. 4). The content of prayers is mostly asking. Prayer is about asking but it is not the "do all, end all" of prayer. 5). When several people have prayed for exactly the same things, that can become boring. It is perhaps better for each person to pray for one or two needs or matters and let others be in silent agreement with whoever is praying. 6).When mid-week Bible Study takes more time than prayer, prayer may seem to be less important. 7). Hymns can either be the same hymns week after week and/or be sung without thought as to the meaning. Why not have one or two hymns and ask someone to share what a particular hymn means to them? 8). Competition is too stiff. It is easy to just stay home and relax and/or watch TV, or read. Christians should discipline themselves to be in attendance, unless there is a truly valid reason not to be. When prayer meetings are "alive" it's easier to exercise that discipline. 9). How often are people who attend or do not attend made aware of the answers to prayer? 10). If we aren't into fervent prayer at home, we will probably not be able to "whip some up" for prayer meeting. The bottom line? Christians pray as they ought to, in their times alone with God. Pastor and people become excited about coming together for prayer. Avoid routine, vary things. A hymn or two, two or three vibrant testimonies, enthusiastic prayer, share answers. These will bring new vitality to prayer meetings. Selah! All the above suggestions will mean little unless we seek God's help and adopt His priorities. Ron
"….The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months." (From James 5: 16-17).
We explained yesterday what the old law (as embodied in the Ten Commandments) is all about. Today, let's look at the new law. Romans 8:2 tells us this: "For the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." What does this mean? A wonderful Presence enters our being when we are saved. It is the Person of The (Holy) Spirit. He is the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus! His Presence, in those who are born again, brings resurrection Life into us who are His. This Life begins to manifest the fruit of the Spirit which is "….love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance…." (From Galatians 5:22-23). As this fruit is borne, we discover that the "righteousness" of the law is being fulfilled in (and through) us, not by us. The very commandments to which we could not measure up begin to be lived out in us and through us, more and more, by the sanctifying power and Presence of the Holy Spirit. He leads us into "all Truth" (The Word of God). (See John 16:13). This Truth "sanctifies" (sets us apart to God and from sin). (See John 17:17). He supplies the desire and the dynamic to live holy lives (i.e; this is the working of the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus). As He moves from being resident in our lives to being President of our lives, we see the righteousness of the law worked into and out of our lives. His "tool' for doing this is the written Word of God obeyed (as we are motivated by our love for God to be obedient). Thus, as the written Word is applied and obeyed, the holy character of the Living Word, Jesus, becomes observable by "unsaved" people around us, and attracts some of them to our Savior. Selah! (It is noteworthy that nine of the Commandments are, in one way or another, mentioned after the Cross. [The dispensation of Grace begins at the Cross and extends to the Rapture]. The commandment omitted is the Sabbath commandment. The reason for this is likely because the First Day is observed in recognition of the Resurrection. This resurrection Life of Jesus that we celebrate is what the Holy Spirit brings into us at the new birth. It is eternal life)! . Ron
"I am (Lit. I have been) crucified with Christ. Nevertheless, I live. Yet, not I, but Christ liveth in me…." (From Galatians 2:20).
There seems to be a lot of confusion about the commandments. Law and grace are thought to be in conflict. How many times are we reminded that we are not under the law but under grace? However, grace was manifested under law (and preceded it clear back to Eden), and there is still a matter of law while we are under grace. How does all this reconcile? Let's look first at the law. It was given to manifest the character of God, for rules to govern Israel, for standards to regulate all human behavior and to serve, as a schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ. (Galatians 3:24). The law reveals how far short that we are of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We break the first commandment, as Jesus summarized it in Luke 10:27. Remember, that if we break one command, we are guilty of breaking them all (James 2:10). Nevertheless, God's laws must be obeyed or the penalty must be paid for breaking them. If we have to pay, it means eternal separation from God in Hell. Grace has provided a payment! Jesus said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil" (Matthew 5:17). That word "fulfil" is tremendously significant. Jesus met every demand of the law and paid the full penalty, on Calvary's cross, for every time it ever was or is or will be broken. This satisfied God's justice (which must be satisfied because God is a God of Justice) and paid the full penalty for every human being, past, present and future. Grace applies the payment to the account of every sinner who turns from sin, and receives Jesus as Savior and Lord. This receiving of salvation by faith takes us from under the law and places us under a new and wonderful "law" with exciting implications. More on that tomorrow, God willing. Selah! The law was until the Cross but grace provides a miraculous and fascinating way for those who are born again to live out the new "law." Ron
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (i.e; creation): old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (II Corinthians 5:17).
Christianity and Jesus: are they mutually exclusive? That depends. Certainly not, in one sense. Christianity developed because Jesus came and died and rose again. Those who entered into a vital, genuine relationship with Him became known as Christians. As more people were saved, they were added to the twelve and as the church grew, it was identified as people who practiced Christianity. This movement was soon defined as "Christianity." Later on, it took on the look of a "religion." Religion is an attempt on the part of men to try to reach up to God in order to win His approval. This is impossible. True Christianity is God reaching down to lift up fallen men. Therefore, true Christianity is not religion. Nevertheless, corruption of true Christianity has given us the ("Christian?") religion." This is a wide umbrella that covers almost anyone who believes in God and tries to live according to His commandments (another impossibility*). A genuine, "born again," Christian comes to know the difference between religion and real Christianity. However, those who are truly saved can also fall into a trap. Being part of a group that is identified by common beliefs and standards, considered to be Biblically correct, and working in and with this group, we may find that our focus has shifted from Him to the group. If so, we now have a situation in which it is the group and Jesus calling for our commitment. Jesus versus our Christian group. An organized group versus a Person. Serving the group and serving Jesus are not necessarily synonymous. Valid Christianity is when the group is wholly involved in a relationship with Him. It exists for Him. It is to be a channel through which He reveals Himself to a needy world. It exists, not to be an end in itself, but solely to glorify Him. Selah! Keep in mind that Christianity is a way of life, a priceless relationship with God through Jesus. The purpose of the group (local church) is to share in this together with others of like, precious faith. Ron
"That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection…." (From Philippians 3:10).
*What about God's commandments?" We plan, God willing, to look at this tomorrow.
There is a mindset to be overcome and a lesson to learn, in order to function as a "Spirit filled" Christian. Generally speaking, we give ourselves to things like work, family, errands, entertainment, relaxation, etc. Then, we try to "tuck in" our Christian activity. This is backwards! We must start with our Christianity. This is the lesson we must learn. It's a hard one and will require discipline and persistence. Our orientation as "sons of Adam" is to try to "tuck in" our Christianity. When I get my chores done, I'll have a quiet time. I have to take care of these errands before I can read God's Word. That may be true sometimes, but after they are done, are we too tired? Could our errands be organized to be done more efficiently? I'm too tired to pray. I'll relax first. I'm sure God expects me to give quality time to my family. Yes, but not at His expense. What I'm getting at is this: Start with God. We work to earn money to support ourselves and our family. God expects us to provide. "Tuck in" your work around your Spiritual activity. Relax between devotions and church attendance. Do your quiet time and then your most important errands and after your next quiet time do some more errands. Relax and rest to take care of your body which is God's. Do this so that you will be refreshed to labor for Him. The point is this: our number one responsibility is God. Everything else needs to be "tucked in" around that. As we break the old mindset and learn this lesson, we will need to plan, organize, and to a large degree schedule. All this because God deserves our putting Him first, and learning this will bring His blessings, in our walk with Him. Selah! Don't expect this change of orientation to happen overnight. There will be times when you "feel" that it is hopeless. (Who do you think might put that thought in your mind)? Just renew your determination over and over and you will discover a dimension in your Christian life that you didn't know could be experienced. Ron
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).
Since "the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked…" (From Jeremiah 17:9), we (subconsciously, perhaps) shrink from a hard look at our own heart. What would we feel, if God suddenly displayed every inner thought, motive, desire, and imagination to all the people around us? Would we be embarrassed? A more pressing question might be: would we be ashamed? An even more pressing question might be: are we truly grieved over how we have grieved Him? Do we deeply love Him? Do we love Him more than ourselves? Do we worship Him from overflowing hearts of praise and gratitude? Do we really love His Word? Do we really long to converse with Him? Are we thrilled with His Person? Are we excited about Him? What about motives? Do we do what we do at and for church, with joy in our hearts for a chance to give loving service to Him? Or do we want to be recognized as Spiritual and/ or as a Spiritual leader? These are the kinds of questions that we need to answer, if we are ever going to be vessels that are given to Him for His glory. Do we want His glory or self gratification? Selah! It takes time and discipline to let His searchlight expose all of our sin and self; much stumbling and getting back on our feet, Spiritually, in order to let Him have our whole heart, because we love Him so much! Ron
"Search me, O God, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24).
When it gets right down to it, what then? For example, what if someone that you knew had the means and offered you ten million dollars or Jesus? Take the money or take the Lord, this is your choice! What would we really do? You can become president of your company with substantial salary increase but you must forget this Christianity business. What choice would we really make? You are out of work, your family doesn't have enough money for groceries, and you are offered a job with one hundred dollars more a week but you must work Sunday and there won't be time for church attendance. What would we really decide? We can ask many questions like these and it's hard to know, if one or more of these situations actually happens, what we might do. However, one thing is certain: if we wait until we experience something like this, we will likely make the wrong choice. The time to build convictions is right now. The place to find the convictions that we need to build is in the Word of God. Remember, convictions are things we would die for rather than compromise. All else are preferences. We might value the things of Christ but If these are genuine convictions we would die rather than give them up. If we are not ready to die rather than fail Him, these are only preferences. We will "cave in" when the rubber meets the road. Building and holding these convictions requires strength that only God can give and this strengthening must take place day by day as we are constantly deepening our relationship with Him in regular quiet times alone with Him. Selah! We will doubtless be tested in "little things" along the way. Each one of these that we will not compromise on adds to our ability to not fail when the big test comes. Ron
"But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength…." (From Isaiah 40:31).
"….I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord: for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ…." (From Philippians 3:8).
So much of our minds are taken up by daily circumstances and responsibilities. If we, who are born again, are going to truly have our minds renewed, it will take strong discipline and determination. It's far easier to go with the flow. If we are not motivated to resist this temptation, we will miss out on wonderful blessings that God waits to give us. Our minds will never be renewed, except by the Word of God. Generous doses of Scripture and application of what we learn will reward us abundantly. We need to study good books, after we have spent time with God. I think especially of books on doctrine and apologetics. Contrary to popular assumptions that that kind of material is deep and/or boring, it actually is exciting, useful, and stimulating. We need to expose ourselves to devotional books and Christian Biographies. Next in line, helps to become a soul winner, the most important of these helps being the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Another area of concern for us is money. Are we willing to handle our money God's way? We should then pursue an understanding of our world, our country, etc. and God's role for us in it. We need to function in His church. Therefore, we need to gain an understanding of church and missions. Still another area of concern is fighting evil in our society, without forgetting our aforementioned priorities. We are to bring His light into a dark world and fight evil as "salt" in our towns, state, and country. This will cost us time, effort, and money. It will involve sacrifice and criticism. It will be well worth doing for we will know the joy of being obedient to the Heavenly vision. Selah! As we become engaged in these areas, we will notice that our minds are being renewed and we have purpose and fulfillment in our lives. Ron
"….always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." (From I Corinthians 15:58).
"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season, we shall reap, if we faint not" (Galatians 6:9).
From the time we were born, and possibly even before birth, our minds have been under assault. Satan began his campaign to get the control of our minds with Eve and Adam. He is in the process of blinding our minds. (See II Corinthians 4:4). The enemy of our souls has constantly fed into our minds all kinds of distortions, temptations, and distractions. His purpose is to crowd out any " Spiritual light" that we might have and increase our spiritual darkness. As the Spirit of God works, we begin to understand that we need salvation and if we refuse or procrastinate, the devil succeeds in increasing our spiritual blindness. God, on the other hand, is shining the light of His Word into our minds. God wants to dispel our darkness. It is our responsibility to decide who will have the upper hand and put the most input into our minds. Remember the truth "that light received brings light; light refused brings night." The most clever part of Satan's strategy is letting us think that we are in control of our minds, while he keeps manipulating our thinking. If it is our responsibility, how do we regain control of "enemy occupied territory" in our minds? First, we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. Then He shows us how to recapture our lost ground. (See II Corinthians 10:4-5). The devil occupies the biggest portion of our minds before we come to Jesus and struggles to hold on even after we are saved. There is only one way to evict him. Two passages of Scripture bear on this. The first is Psalm 119:130. "The entrance of Thy Word giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple." The second passage is in Romans 12:2 "And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Filling our minds with Scripture, and applying what we learn, brings the light into our minds that will dispel the darkness. As this process continues, Satan loses more and more ground and God, the Holy Spirit, occupies more and more of our thoughts and lives. Light dispels darkness! Selah! Renewed minds or ruined minds, our choice! Ron
Picking up where we left off yesterday, let me pursue this matter of how we are so conditioned by outside influences that we have failed to develop keen discernment. This could be a matter of laziness for some or for others, it may be simply a failure to realize what we have let happen to us. Thankfully, there are those who do have and use analytical minds. However, they seem to be outnumbered by so many of us who emote much more than we think. Are we aware of how our President is shoving us down the road to socialism? Are we aware of the rapid advances being made by Islamists? Are we aware of how far from our roots that evangelicals have strayed? What about our national origins? Do we understand how we began and the guiding principles that formulated our type of government and how far we have been led down the "Primrose Path" away from those guiding principles? Do we really understand where our deficit spending is leading? Are we aware of where we stand in terms of prophecy? Do we discern what we have lost by downplaying doctrine in favor of experience(s)? We could give more examples, but these should be a good start in motivating us to take charge of our minds and think for ourselves with the guiding principles of Scripture. Nevertheless, let me ask the most important consideration. Have we really thought through the implications of God's rightful role in our lives and our responsibility in our relationship with Him? Selah! We should be growing in the use of our God-given minds in all these areas but most of all to learn to walk humbly and closely with our God. Ron
"Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ…." (II Corinthians 10:5).