Does Prayer Really Matter?

Here are some resources to help you strengthen your prayer life. These are “extras” from a sermon preached at Pinedale Christian Church on November 1, 2015.

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Sermon Audio: Click HERE.

The Most Important Thing – Read this first – We are conditioned to treat prayer as a wish-list that we take to God. We imagine that God is some cosmic Santa Claus, and we climb up on his lap and tell Him everything that we want, and we call that “prayer-time.” That’s not what God had in mind when He commanded us to pray. Instead, the Bible presents prayer as 2-way communication between God and us. Prayer includes any way that we listen to Him, including time that we spend meditating on His Word, and it also includes our praise and Worship, our confessions, and our requests that flow out of our relationship with Him.

All that to say, prayer is all about having a healthy relationship with God. It IS NOT about manipulating God to do what you desire. It is about knowing Him more intimately, and partnering with Him as you journey through life. SO, when you read “keys to answered prayer”, or ways to make prayer time more meaningful, just remember that those aren’t suggestions to teach you to force God’s hand in prayer. They are ways to connect you more intimately with your Father. The more we spend time with Him – the more we know Him. The more we know His will, the more likely our prayers will align to His will.

5 Tips For Prayer

  1. Stop – Jesus often stopped everything he was doing in order to go off by himself and pray (see Luke 5:16). Let us follow Jesus’ example and practice actually stopping everything we’re doing in order to be with our Father. It’s a way we can demonstrate our belief that God is more important than anything else.
  1. Reflect – Reflecting on how God is at work in our lives on a daily basis is an essential part of prayer. Many Christians have found that journaling or practicing the Examen are a couple helpful spiritual disciplines that help us discern how God is working in our lives.
  1. Confess – Be real with God. Tell him genuinely what’s on your heart and mind. This might take the form of a 20-minute monologue or a half-hour of tears or anger. Being honest about where you are spiritually—your hopes, worries, frustrations, or failures—is essential.
  1. Respond – As you pray and spend time in Scripture and learn to discern God’s voice, he may present you with an invitation to act. When you sense him calling you to do something, respond. Don’t sweep the invitation—whether it’s to pray, serve, forgive, submit, generously give, etc.—under the rug. Act on it. And notice how God uses that. By responding, we cultivate hearts that are soft and ready to respond to God, rather than remaining complacent or indifferent.
  1. Forgive – God takes unforgiveness seriously. In Scripture, he says that we shouldn’t even bother worshiping him until we work out our conflicts with one another (see Matthew 5: 23-24). Unforgiveness, bitterness, and hate are like poison to our souls that damage our relationship with God. If we have experienced God’s grace in our lives, we must be willing to extend God’s grace to others.

Click HERE for Entire Article.


Great Prayers From the Bible:

  • Genesis 18: Abraham’s plea for Sodom.
  • Exodus 15: Moses’ song to the Lord.
  • Exodus 33: Moses meets with God.
  • 2 Samuel 7: David’s response to God’s promises.
  • 1 Kings 8: Solomon’s dedication of the temple.
  • 2 Chronicles 20: Jehoshaphat prays for victory.
  • Ezra 9: Ezra’s prayer for the people’s sins.
  • Psalm 22: A cry to God for help.
  • Psalm 104: A prayer of praise.
  • Daniel 9: Daniel’s prayer for the salvation of Jerusalem.
  • Habakkuk 3: A prophet’s prayer of acceptance.
  • Matthew 6: The Lord’s prayer.
  • John 17: Jesus’ prayer for his disciples.
  • Colossians 1: Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving.

7 More Tips For Prayer (from Norman Vincent Peele) –

What should you say when you pray?

  1. Just talk to God as a child would talk to a father whom he loves and with whom he feels in harmony. Tell the Lord everything that is on your mind and in your heart.
  1. Talk to the Lord in simple everyday speech. Do not use an exaggerated formal speech. You would not talk to your father that way, and He is your Heavenly Father. In public prayer, it is perhaps proper to address God more formally. But in personal, private prayer you might, for example, say “You” to God rather than “Thou.” This does not diminish respect for Him but serves to make the relationship more natural.
  1. Tell God what you want. Tell Him you would like to have it if He thinks it is good for you. But also say and mean it, that you will leave it to Him to decide, and you will accept His decision as best for you and others involved. If you do this regularly it will be possible for God to give you the wonderful things that you should have. It is frightening, the marvelous things we miss because we insist upon something else, something only a fraction as fine as He wants to give us.
  1. Practice praying during the day. For example, talk to God as you drive your car. If you had a friend with you, you would talk to him or her, would you not? Then imagine the Lord is there, for He is, and just talk to Him about everything. If you are waiting for a bus, talk with Him. But at night, when you go to bed, I recommend that you kneel by the bed and pray. However, if this has been your custom and if it has become merely a formality, get into bed, relax and then pray.
  1. Words are not always necessary when you pray. Think how good God is, how kindly, and that He is by your side guiding you and watching over you.
  1. Try helping others by your prayers. Pray for the troubled or the ill. Pray for your loved ones, for people you do not like, and for those who have not treated you well. It will do more for you to pray for those you resent than for those you love. If you doubt this, try it for six months and see what happens. Prayer is an emanation of power. Select some person who may be a problem to you and shoot prayers at him. Conceive of yourself as surrounding him with healthy prayers, goodwill, and faith. I have seen the most astounding, almost unbelievable, results.
  1. Do not make all your prayers into the form of asking God for something. Let your prayer consist of all the wonderful things that have happened to you. Name them, thank God for them and make that your whole prayer. You will soon find that these prayers of thanksgiving grow longer and longer, and you will have more and more things for which to thank God.

Click HERE For Entire Article: 


Some Classic Prayers

LUTHER’S MORNING PRAYER: My Heavenly Father, I thank You, through Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, that You kept me safe from all evil and danger last night. Save me, I pray, today as well, from every evil and sin, so that all I do and the way that I live will please you. I put myself in your care, body and soul and all that I have. Let Your holy Angels be with me, so that the evil enemy will not gain power over me. Amen.

LUTHER’S EVENING PRAYER: My Heavenly Father, I thank You, through Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, that You have protected me, by Your grace. Forgive, I pray, all my sins and the evil I have done. Protect me, by Your grace, tonight. I put myself in your care, body and soul and all that I have. Let Your holy angels be with me, so that the evil enemy will not gain power over me. Amen.

FROM “THOUGHTS FROM SOLITUDE” BY THOMAS MERTON: My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

MORNING PRAYER: Everywhere I walk let it be on Your path. Everything I see let it be through Your eyes. Everything I do let it be Your will. Every hardship I face let me place it in Your hands. Every emotion I feel let it be Your spirit moving in me. Everything I seek let me find it in Your love. My Dear God, I thank You for this day. I ask not to know where I am going. I ask only to know and feel in the depths of my heart and soul that You are with me that You are guiding me that I am safe in the protection of Your loving care. In Jesus name I offer myself to You. Amen. (author unknown)

SERENITY PRAYER: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can: and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking, as He did, This sinful world as it is Not as I would have it. Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will That I may be reasonably happy in this life, And supremely happy With Him forever in the next. (Reinhold Niebuhr)

PRAYER OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI: Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace, Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is resentment, let me bring forgiveness. Where there is discord, let me bring harmony. Where there is error, let me bring truth. Where there is doubt, let me bring faith. Where there is despair, let me bring hope. Where there is darkness, let me bring joy. Guide me that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, To be understood and to understand, To be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, In forgetting ourselves that we find ourselves, In forgiving that we are forgiven. And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


Some Stats About Prayer:

Click HERE For Entire Article

“Only about 12 percent of Americans who pray say they pray for government officials, while few (5 percent) pray for celebrities. Among other things people have ever prayed for are parking spots (7 percent), other people to be fired (5 percent), or to avoid being caught speeding (7 percent). Sports teams have received a bit more prayer support (13 percent) while about one in five (21 percent) Americans who pray say they have prayed to win the lottery. Fifteen percent have prayed something bad they did will not be discovered.”


Prayer, Does It Matter by Phillip Yancey – Excerpts For Discussion – http://media.zondervan.com/media/samples/pdf/9780310275275_samptxt.pdf


Six Keys To Answered Prayers (from a sermon by Adrian Rogers):

Pray in Jesus’ name

Pray in the Spirit

Pray in obedience

Pray in the will of God

Pray in fellowship

Pray in faith

Click HERE For Entire Article


How to Know When God Has Said NO (quoted from a sermon by Bob Russell): “How do you know when God says “no”? Well, sometimes it’s obvious. You pray that your daughter not marry that guy, and she marries the guy and it’s over. You pray you get the promotion; you don’t get the promotion. God said “no.” Sometimes you just sense it in your spirit somehow. You pray and pray, and all of a sudden the heavens seem as brass and you say, “I think He said ‘no.’” Sometimes you get a lot of close Christian counselors who are wise, and they give you the same advice and you know it’s over. But until you have an obvious “no,” the Bible says, “Keep on asking. Keep on seeking.” “Men ought always to pray and not faint,” the Scripture says.”


Great Illustration From Adrian Rogers

I told some of you a while back a story that I think bears repeating right now, and I don’t like to repeat too much, but this is so apt. When I was down in Florida, pastoring a church as a young man, in college, I had a little country church down in the Indian River section of Florida where the finest citrus fruit—I believe—in the world is grown. And, I went down to that little country church out in the middle of the orange groves. And, one of the leading deacons down there, a kind man, who’d been so good to us through the years said, “Adrian, I want to give you some oranges from my grove to take back to college.” I said, “Very well, Mr. Ingram.” But, I wasn’t prepared, for he’d brought several huge duffle bags full of oranges, canvas sacks full of oranges. I said, “Mr. Ingram, Joyce and I can’t eat all of those oranges before they spoil.” He said, “Well, you take them back to college and give them away.” I said, “Very well.” And, so I put all of those oranges in the trunk of my automobile and drove them back to college, lugged them up the stairs to our second floor apartment there—garage apartment—and had all of those oranges there in a closet, and they were taking up a lot of space and they were starting to mildew, and starting to spoil, and I just couldn’t give them away fast enough. It was certainly more than we could eat.

But, one afternoon—or noon time—Joyce had prepared soup and sandwiches for us between classes, and I was eating and I looked out in the back yard and I saw a little fellow about so high—knee-high to a grasshopper—sneaking around in the backyard. And, it became obvious to me that he was going to steal an orange out of my yard.

Now, we only had one orange tree and it was a sour orange tree. Have you ever tasted a sour orange? The most bitter fruit known to man. One bite and you have lockjaw. It’s unbelievably sour. And, this little fellow was going to—he didn’t know they were sour— and he was going to steal one. And, I just watched and I saw him as he took that orange and made his way off. I didn’t have much money, but I would have given a dollar to see him take the first bite. I thought about it. You know, the Bible says, “The bread of deceit is sweet, but afterward a man’s mouth shall be filled with gravel” (Proverbs 20:17). Well, it’s easy to make the same application to swiping sour oranges.

But, you know, the thing that I could not get out of my heart, and out of my mind, is this: Suppose that little fellow had come up those stairs, knocked on my door and said, “Mister, may I have one of those oranges?” You know what I would have said to him? “Absolutely not, because it’s sour. But, son if you will come in here, I will load you down with more oranges than you can carry, and the best. I’ve got oranges that are spoiling. I’ve got oranges that I need to get rid of.”

It’s going to amaze you when you get to Heaven friend. I believe God’s going to call you over and open the door to his storehouse and say, “Look in there. Do you see those blessings that are soured, and spoiled, and rusty and mildewed? Those are your blessings. Those are things I wanted you to have, those are things that I wanted to load you down with, but I couldn’t give them to you. You went your own way warring, and scheming, and planning and conniving, and figuring and you have not because you ask not.”

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How to Defeat Worry in Two Not-So-Easy Steps

I suspect that if we were all honest, most of us would admit that worry is a constant companion in life.

  • We worry about our children – the kind of lives they will lead; the kinds of friends they will choose; the kind of world they will inherit; oh, and their daily safety.
  • We worry about money – will we have enough? Can we get out of debt? Things are so tight – what happens if we have an emergency?
  • We worry about our marriage; our health; our aging parents; our changing appearance; our unstable economy. And we haven’t even mentioned all of the national problems that will dominate the airwaves this election year.

The truth is, our lives are filled with uncertainty, and it almost seems like we have every right to be anxious. That’s why many of you, and you know who you are, cling to worry with both arms. It has become your constant companion; a familiar intruder; your not-so-welcome friend.

Stress Man

In Matthew 6, as part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs us not to worry. He affirmed something that other writers in Scripture reiterate – worry is a sin! (see Romans 14:23 and Philippians 4:6). Those statements by Jesus, taken in isolation, could have the ironic effect of causing anxiety in His listeners. Fortunately, however, Jesus did not stop there. Over the next few verses, He gives two not-so-easy steps to overcome worry in your daily life.

 Here they are:

#1 – Seek God – Matthew 6:31-33 – The first instruction Jesus gives is to replace worry with “Seeking God’s Kingdom and His righteousness? You have probably heard these verses before, but practically, what do they mean? What is Jesus telling us to do?

Put simply, Jesus instructs us to focus intently on the priorities of God. In other words, we must learn to identify the things that matter most to Him and to remember the things that are ETERNALLY TRUE. Does that seem confusing? Understand – in life, some things are true and some things are REALLY true. Some things are true on this earth, and some things are ETERNALLY TRUE – they supersede what you see with your eyes.

For instance, death is a fact of life. It is true that everyone dies. But here’s what’s really True – those who die in Christ still live. That Truth trumps the first one. Here’s another example –it’s true that we need money to buy things we need on this earth. But here’s what’s REALLY True – the most valuable treasures in life can’t be bought with money. The second Truth changes how we interpret the first one.

Here’s the point – when worry creeps in, we need to stop and ask God to help us see the greater Truths in life. We need to ask Him to help us see beyond the temporary details to life and see Him instead. We should ask Him to remind us that He is on the throne; to give us the strength to trust Him even during difficult times; to help us see what really matters.

Make worry a trigger to stop and pray and reconnect with God’s strength and His purposes.

#2 – Take One Day at a Time – Matthew 6:34 – I LOVE this verse. Jesus just lays it all on the table. He doesn’t say, “Hey Christians, don’t worry, God won’t let anything bad happen in your life. Just be sure you have enough faith.” On the contrary, He says, “Look, you’re going to have troubles every day. Each day is full of conflict and disappointment and danger and hard work. That’s the reality of life on this fallen planet. But here’s the thing – you’ve got enough to deal with today, so why on earth would you borrow trouble from tomorrow? Aren’t today’s challenges enough?”

So what should we do today? I really like Craig Groeschel’s advice in his excellent book The Christian Atheist. He reminds us that every day, God calls us to do what is wise. He writes, “Wisdom means doing the simple, obvious things that help you get where you want to go.” In every area of life, identify where you want to be, and then take obvious steps that it takes to move in that direction. That is your job, one day at a time.

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Now get this – after you do those two things – after you seek God in prayer and focus your eyes on Him, and then take the wise steps that are available to you each day, you must trust God with the rest. Do what is wise each day, fix your eyes on God, and then Him with what you can’t control.

Here’s the thing about worry – it is the exact opposite of faith. Hebrews 11 says that faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see. In other words, faith means that I am willing to trust beyond what I can see in front of me. Worry is the exact opposite of that. Worry means fixating on what is seen; obsessing with what is right in front of my eyes.

Jesus instructed us to exercise eyes of faith. That means seeking God’s activity and priorities each day, acting in wisdom on the opportunities in front of us, and then trusting that God is still on His throne. Sounds easy, huh? Obviously, it’s not, but it is a worthwhile battle that we all should fight one day at a time.

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Tell Me What I Want to Hear . . . Or Else!

I don’t use this blog to venture into the world of politics very often, but this story out of Norfolk (England) this week has given me reason to pause. At the very least, it gives a dramatic example of just how far our culture has moved from a true understanding of the Bible. Even more, it paints a chilling picture of how secular governments can use “hate speech” restrictions to silence anyone with whom they disagree.

The story involves the Attleborough Baptist Church in Nuneaton, Norfolk. Twice each month, the pastor of the Church posts a sign outside of the building. This month, the sign looked like this:

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Say what you will. Some see this and roll their eyes – just another example of Christians trying to scare people into Heaven. Others look and agree. Perhaps some folks read the sign and feel convicted. But when local resident Robert Gladwin saw it, he felt offended . . . criminally offended. He promptly pulled out his phone and called the police, reporting that he had stumbled across an example of hate speech.

Later, Gladwin explained his actions to a local newspaper: “We live in the 21st century and they have put that message – that non-Christians will burn in hell – up to try and scare people into joining their mentality. It is my basic understanding that Christianity is inclusive and loving in nature. The message being displayed outside of the church could not be further from the often uttered phrase ‘love thy neighbor’.”

And on that basis, the police AGREED with Gladwin. The poster must come down. Worse still, the “incident” was recorded as an example of “hate speech”. Next time, Church, make sure you only say what people want to hear . . . or else!

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My first reaction when I read this story was relief that it happened in Europe instead of in the United States. After all, free speech is a cornerstone of our democracy. From the very founding of our country, our society has been built on the idea that, “I may hate what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

But after a few minutes reflection, I realized that we are not very far behind Europe on this one. Hate speech laws have rapidly passed through law-making chambers in the United States over the past few years, and most of them are VERY loosely defined. Put simply, in many U.S. cities, it COULD be considered hate speech to publicly affirm a Biblical view of, well,  just about anything. Marriage certainly spurs strong emotions, as do Biblical teachings on ethics. What about salvation? Jesus claimed to be the “only way to the Father”, which, using Gladwin’s rationale, is not very loving. Does that constitute “hate speech”? What about the Bible’s teachings about man’s sin? Heaven and hell? Judgment at the return of Christ? Where do we draw the line?

At the risk of sounding like an alarmist, I think the story out of Norfolk this week should give all Christians a moment of pause. We have all known for some time that America is a post-Christian nation, and things are changing quickly. Without question, our unbelieving culture will not stand sound doctrine much longer, and they will force us to decide how to respond. Will we cave to the “only-teach-what-makes-me-feel-validated” demands of the world around us, or will we allow ourselves to be mouthpieces for God . . . no matter what.

I know where I stand, and contrary to popular belief, my motivation is not hate. It’s nothing but love and concern for those around me.

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Reformed or Transformed?

Read Matthew 12:43-452 Peter 2:20-22

I know it is time to clean out the shed behind my house again . . . but I probably won’t do it. That little shed, which serves as the storage space for random things that will not fit in the closets in my house, has slowly become the messiest 10×10 spot on planet earth – an area that would make an extreme hoarder blush – yet I keep finding excuses not to clean it.

Here’s the real reason for my hesitation: I’ve already done it! Allow me to explain.

About a year ago, I opened the door to my shed and flinched at the mess. This time, instead of just tossing what was in my hand on top of the pile, I thought, “I need to clean this place up.” So I did. I blocked off an entire day, piled everything from the shed in the yard, swept it thoroughly, and then carefully moved everything to its proper place in the building. For the next two weeks, I peered in the door nearly every day just to admire my handiwork. My shed looked great.

But then . . . well . . . I stopped admiring. Instead, sometime in the first month following the-great-shed-clean-out-day, I carelessly tossed something in the door and walked away. Soon after, I tossed in something else. Before I knew it, within six months of my efforts, I opened the door and found that my shed was once again in a state of disorder. In fact, it was worse than before. And this time, I just can’t find the energy to go through it all again.

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The problem with my shed, of course, is that that I want to change my shed, but I do not want to change my habits. I want to be clean, but I refuse to stop being dirty!

In Matthew 12, Jesus said that some people have that same attitude when it comes to their lives. They look at the mess they have made and feel disgusted. They want to be clean. They want order and direction. In that moment, lots of times, these people momentarily turn their eyes toward God and find “religion”. Sometimes, they even walk the aisle of the local church and ask to be baptized. For a moment, they look and feel like they have gotten their spiritual house in order.

But here is the reality – a person who goes to Christ for REFORMATION will soon be back to his old habits, and the mess will quickly become as bad (or worse) than ever. In Jesus’ parable, the man swept his house clean of the one demon who lived there, but soon found that seven more had moved in! What a familiar story for many people – folks who come to Christ hoping to “tidy up a bit”. These people often give up on Christ after they discover that “religion” didn’t work like they hoped.

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In the New Testament, Paul teaches that God is much less interested in personal “reformation” than in TRANSFORMATION. “If anyone is in Christ,” he wrote, “the new creation has come: the old has gone and the new is here” (1 Corinthians 5:17).

Paul’s point is just this – a relationship with Jesus Christ is about more than what you clean and straighten and REMOVE from  your life. A relationship with Christ is all about what (or WHO) goes INTO your life. A person who repents of his sin and identifies with Christ (through baptism) receives the gift of the Holy Spirit, who takes up residence inside Him. That means that God is living (and guiding)  inside of His people. . . and they are both immediately (and continually) transformed).

That doesn’t mean, of course, that we will stop making messes. It does mean that we strive to follow God’s leading and become more like Him. It also means that we are sensitive to our failures and eager to go to Him for cleansing. In other words, God makes us aware of the mess, and He shows us how to clean it AND avoid it in the future.

So what about you? Have you come to Christ looking to “make some changes” in your life, or have you come to Him bowing before your Savior and Lord, asking Him to have mercy on you and make you a new creation? Have you been trying to reform some areas of your life . . . or are you willing to be transformed by Christ. The answer that to that question is the difference between a temporary “fix” and a brand new life.

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Our Choice: United by Error or Divided By Truth?

I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend about a particular spiritual/social/moral issue – one on which the Bible plainly speaks. Even though my friend recognized the moral and spiritual implications of the issue at hand, he felt that the Church must refrain from correcting it. “After all,” he warned, “our job is to love people. If we make them feel bad about sin they may not be willing to hear the message of the Gospel.”

If you do not see the error in my friend’s way of thinking, you are not alone! For a vast number of people throughout our nation, it seems that unity has become more important than truth, and pluralism has become its own religion. Many people in our time agree with my friend, or with the late, popular teleevangelist Robert Shuler, who said:

“I don’t think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition” (Time, March 18, 1985).

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So what is the error in this way of thinking? After all, Jesus DID come with open arms, right? He DID extend love to sinners and defend the outcasts and destitute, right? And didn’t He command us to do the same? The answer is a resounding YES. In fact, the command to love is so central to the New Testament’s teaching that John said it was impossible to love God unless we loved others. On that, my friend and I agree. 

Our difference centers around the meaning of the word LOVE.

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Love means so much more than the blind permissiveness embraced by our culture. Where popular opinion holds that love should never correct or rebuke or even question others –(since those things could make a person feel bad) – Scripture teaches that love means that we always have the best interest of others in mind. In other words, love means that I want what is best for you, no matter what. I want you to be healthy and safe and prosperous. I want your greatest good . . . a healthy relationship with God . . . even if that means that you must take bitter medicine to achieve it.

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I am a parent to three children that I love beyond words. My greatest desire is that they succeed in life, and I know that their success depends largely on the paths they walk. Some roads in life lead to destruction. Some behaviors lead to spiritual ruin. Some lifestyles cripple a person’s willingness/ability to commune with God. Love demands that I point out those slippery places; that I warn my children of danger; that I correct them when they drift. Like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13, love rejoices with the truth.

This takes me full-circle, back to my conversation with my friend. If the people of God place a higher priority on unity than on truth, the message of the Gospel will never accomplish what it should in the hearts of those around us. Why? Because the TRUTH of the Gospel is that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and therefore, we need a Savior! God calls us to REPENT of our sin and turn to Him. How can we repent unless we are willing to acknowledge our sin? How can we turn to Truth unless we first acknowledge error.

That’s why followers of Christ must be courageous to stand for Truth. We must find our voice. We don’t have to proclaim Truth angrily or vengefully or even gleefully. But we must stand for Truth . . . even when it is unpopular. After all, if we do not show a better way, how will anyone find it? Ironically, our motivation is love.

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Tearjerker Warning: One Commercial Captures The Power and Reward of Small Acts of Kindness

I ran across this short video recently. It is actually a commercial for Thai Life Insurance. It absolutely mesmerizes me. What a beautiful picture of a person shining light into his world.

I have recently been teaching through the book of Philippians. Paul begins chapter 2 with these words:

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others (Philippians 2:1-4, NIV).

Paul goes on to teach that when we do that, we are following the example of Christ . . . and that we will shine like lights in this dark culture. While this commercial isn’t teaching Christian doctrine, it certainly captures the spirit of those types of teaching. Imagine how this world will look if we all committed to live with this type of selflessness.

Enjoy.

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NOAH: Five”Talking Points” For Discussions With Friends

Since the new Noah movie was released, conversations about the story in Genesis 6-9 are suddenly commonplace. It seems like everyone, even people who haven’t picked up a Bible in years, are suddenly experts on the story, or at least interested in discussing it.

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What a great opportunity for Christians to (gently and respectfully) shine light on these discussions. As you talk with your friends about Darren Aronofsky’s version of Noah and compare it with the account in Genesis 6-9, here are a few talking points that can give those discussions spiritual depth:

#1 – The story of Eden is about MUCH MORE than the destruction of the environment. One of the underlying themes in the movie version of Noah is God’s anger at how mankind had destroyed the beauty of His creation. Of course, people WERE responsible for messing up the planet, but it was not through mining and hunting. Creation was cursed through sin. Adam and Eve’s sin placed the entire earth under a curse. Sin brought death, for everything. Believe it or not, this is an important point. In this simple fact lays the foundation for the entire Gospel story. (For reference, see Romans 8:19-25).

#2 – Even in Eden, God revealed a plan to save humankind. Remember, God made people in His own image, This truth was mentioned in the movie, but it came from the lips of a misguided, wicked man. On this point, he was right – God is the Father of humankind, and even our sin could not quench His love for us. From the beginning, He planned to make right what we had made wrong. That’s why “Movie-Noah’s” rant on the ark was so misguided. God intentionally chose to preserve Noah’s family because He had promised to rescue humans from the eternal consequences of sin. We deserved judgment, but in His mercy, God kept humanity alive. One day, through Noah, He would bring a Savior.

#3 – The movie’s rock monsters . . . no . . . never mind.

#4 – The rainbow after the flood was a significant symbol. Even though the movie gave the rainbow a passing “cameo” at the end, it actually meant something very important. It sealed God’s promise not to send another worldwide flood. In fact, some Jewish Rabbis used to look at that symbol and remark that God turned the bow so that the arrows would shoot away from the earth – a reminder that He would no longer destroy the people or animals there. And to be sure, if the rainbow symbolizes an instrument of warfare, it is now “put away”, hung in place by the clouds, suggesting that the “battle”, the storm, is over. God responded to the wickedness that He saw and brought a swift and destructive war on the earth. But now, He declares peace.

In a greater sense, however, the rainbow points to something larger. It points to Jesus Christ. Yes, that statement may be a reach, and I should confess that I think nearly everything in the Bible points towards Jesus. But follow this path of logic – God looked at the earth and saw wickedness everywhere. In His anger He poured out judgment, which was deserved, except that He preserved the race through Noah. Why? Was Noah sinless? Absolutely not. But Noah loved God and lived to please Him, and God responded by showering Noah with grace. With Noah, He graced us, too.

Implicit in God’s promise not to destroy the earth by flood again lay the groundwork for something greater. It opened the door for a relationship between God and mankind that would eventually lead to a Savior (see point #2) – the Messiah – who would personally shoulder the burden of God’s wrath over our sins. God still demanded justice for our sins. But Jesus became the punishment, which opened the doors for us to have true relationship with God. That’s why, when we see the rainbow, we should ultimately remember Jesus.

#5 – God WILL judge the earth again. The Bible clearly teaches that one day, Jesus will return, and this time He will not come as sacrificial Savior – He will come as returning King . . . and Judge. Obviously, many in our day scoff at that idea. They did in the New Testament days as well. That’s why Peter explained in 2 Peter 3 that we all need to remember what happened with Noah. He wrote:

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (2 Peter 3:3-7)

Peter goes on to explain that we are living in an age of God’s Grace – an age where God is patiently waiting for people to turn to Him. He is giving us an opportunity, just as He gave Noah. Let’s be sure not to squander it.

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