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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Pray for your pastor…

Posted by Gary on July 10, 2015

I am grateful to shepherd a church family that loves me and my family and that most of all prays for me. There is no greater privilege in all the world than to be a pastor as it has been said, “If you are called to preach the gospel, don’t stoop to be a king”. Any pastor who knows himself with any degree of honesty knows that he is not sufficient for what God has called him to do and be (2 Corinthians 2:16). Don’t take this as whining, but I will say also that God’s ministers are the special target of Satan. How well I know that it is only the grace of God that has kept me a pastor. We all need to be prayed for and that includes pastors, perhaps especially pastors.

Take a moment today and pray for your pastor would you? Pray that he would grow in his love for God. Pray that God would make real in his heart and mind the many truths that he knows in his head and preaches to his people. Pray that God would make him strong in the midst of temptations and discouragements. Pray that he would love his wife like Christ does the Church. Pray that he would take seriously his responsibility to love and lead his children to Christ. Pray that he would be courageous and bold. Pray that God’s priorities would be his priorities. Pray that God would bless his labors and that it would always be God’s glory that he seeks and not his own.

Here are some thoughts from Charles Spurgeon on the urgency of prayer for pastors:

“Brothers, pray for us!” (I Thessalonians 5:25)

Today I want to remind you about the importance of praying for your ministers. In the most earnest way that I can I ask every Christian household to grant this request of the Apostle Paul on behalf of every minister of the Gospel.

Brothers, the fact is that our work affects the eternal benefit or curse of many; the souls of men are our eternal business. A very heavy responsibility rests upon us, and we strive to be innocent of the blood of all men.

As officers in Christ’s army, we are the special point of attack of those who hate Christ. They watch for us to fall, and work to trip us up in any way they can. Our sacred calling requires us to endure certain temptations from which most are exempt. We see some go back into a life of sin, and we see millions dying without Christ. We long to be useful both to saints and sinners.

And so, we ask you, pray for us! Your spiritual blessings come from God, and not from us; and yet, how many times has He given those blessings through His ministers. In our behalf, please pray that we may be the humble jars of clay into which the Lord may put the treasure of the gospel. On behalf of all those who are called to minister the Gospel today, I ask You to “Pray for us.”

Understanding prayer

Posted by Gary on May 19, 2012

1 John 5:14 “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

“There is a limit to the doctrine of the prayer of faith. We are not to expect that God will give us everything we choose to ask for. We know that we sometimes ask, and do not receive, because we ask amiss. If we ask for that which is not promised—if we run counter to the spirit which the Lord would have us cultivate—if we ask contrary to his will, or to the decrees of his providence—if we ask merely for the gratification of our own ease, and without an eye to his glory, we must not expect that we shall receive.” (Charles Spugeon: Morning and Evening May 19-Evening)

 

Fervency and concentration in prayer

Posted by Gary on January 18, 2011

As a shadow has no power because there is no substance in it, even so that prayer, in which a man’s proper self is not thoroughly present in agonizing earnestness and vehement desire, is utterly ineffectual, for it lacks that which would give it force. “Fervent prayer,” says an old divine, “like a cannon planted at the gates of heaven, makes them fly open.”

The common fault with the most of us is our readiness to yield to distractions. Our thoughts go roving hither and thither, and we make little progress towards our desired end. Like quicksilver our mind will not hold together, but rolls off this way and that. How great an evil this is! It injures us, and what is worse, it insults our God. What should we think of a petitioner, if, while having an audience with a prince, he should be playing with a feather or catching a fly? (Charles Spurgeon: Morning and Evening-January 15 evening)

Praying for our children

Posted by Gary on April 23, 2010

Each week I try to include in our church bulletin a quote regarding the Christian faith hoping that people either before service or after will take some moments to read it, you know a little mini sermon from a guest speaker. I search the web and look for things to share and today found “Praying for Your Children” by William Scribner.

I would like to share a segment with you it was a rebuke and challenge for me. If we were really convinced that our children had souls and were going to spend eternity either with God or without Him we would pray more for them.

It is so very easy to say that we believe certain things such as the fact that our children have souls but what are we doing to help see them by saved? Prayer is vital but there is much more. Do we read the Bible to them and seek to apply it to their hearts? What do we let them watch and read? What do they see in us as they watch us? Is it the faith that we tell them we believe? Now Scribner:

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Rick Warren, The Inauguration and the frightening responsibility of being God’s servant IV

Posted by Gary on January 21, 2009

j0438498 The model for every pastor’s preaching, teaching and praying is the Prophets, Apostles and the Lord Jesus Christ. We are only truthful and faithful to the degree that our preaching, teaching and praying resembles theirs.

Concerning Rick Warren’s prayer today I want us to use imagination rooted in Scripture and ask the following: "Would Moses have prayed a prayer similar to Warren’s?" "What would Jeremiah have prayed if he were offering the invocation?" "Leave the words but remove Rick Warren and insert John the Baptist instead. Would, could, John the Baptist have approached God as Rick Warren did?

When the ecstasy wears off we have some serious thinking to do about the events of this day and what they portend for the future. But for now I would take hold of us and hand us the spectacles of Scripture. I ask you, I gently shake you as I ask you. Stop and think. Would the Prophets, Apostles or the Lord Jesus Christ have prayed in the way that Rick Warren did today?

For weeks I have tempered myself and called myself to be as gracious as possible, fearing what Warren might do today. I must say it was worse than I feared.

Can you imagine the Apostle Paul asking God to help us remember that what unites us is "not religion" but "our commitment to freedom, and justice for all"?

The God who commands all His creatures to love and serve Him only is to overlook our false gods and idolatry and remind us that our greatest commitment is to give freedom and justice to other men? Our greatest duty is not to other men, not even in bringing them freedom and justice. Our first and greatest duty is to worship, revere and serve God and Him alone:

Exodus 20:2-6 "I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments."

How can a servant of the jealous God bring our idolatry right into His presence and far from confessing it ask Him to remind us of some duty that in our idolatrous hearts we think is higher than honoring the one, true, God alone?

I defy you to tell me that any of the Prophets or Apostles would have prayed something like this.

Christians, we must be discerning.

Rick Warren, The Inauguration and the frightening responsibility of being God’s servant III

Posted by Gary on January 19, 2009

When God’s servants are called upon to pray they are first and foremost to consider God, His holiness, greatness and glory over and above the thoughts and opinions of the people who will hear and hopefully join him in His prayer. The great snare in public prayer is to consider human beings above God. This can happen in two ways. First, the sin of trying to impress the other prayer participants by our phrasing and wording so that our intention albeit ever so subtle is to lead people to marvel at how Godly we are.

The second sin in public prayer is born of the fear of man. The sin here is being afraid to bring before God in prayer what would be most honoring to Him and most necessary for us from fear that it will anger and upset the people participating. Tomorrow is the Inauguration and the real pitfall before Pastor Rick Warren will be coming very near and dancing all around what needs to be prayed and yet never saying the words. Pastors can display an amazing ability in this realm, we can avoid what needs to be said while making it sound very much like we have.

Let me come to the point. Any prayer offered on behalf of our nation that would make request for God’s blessing upon our president and the country itself must include amongst many other things:

The specific confession of our sin of having turned away from the One, True God. Here is where the vaguery floods in. A pastor may pray asking “god” to forgive us for turning away from Him but what God are we speaking to? What God have we turned away from? Here of course is where the whole thing falls apart and I am afraid true Christians and pastors must either play the man or refrain from participation. This prayer needs to include a request for forgiveness for turning away from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God ultimately revealed as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“But Gary, our country is founded upon the freedom to believe in whatever god we want to”. Yes, and here our country finds itself at odds with the Law of God which permits us no such freedom:

Exodus 20:2-3  "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.”

Our government of course would respond that it is not looking for such a specific, unquestionable reference to God to which any servant of God must respond, “Then you are not looking for me to offer the prayer either for I cannot.” God’s people, let us never forget: we are not messengers of religion in general nor nation promoters, we are the redeemed people of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are Christ’s ambassadors, we speak only of Him and in His interests. How can a prayer that can be attributed to any god be considered faithful to the only God?

A prayer offered on behalf of the nation must also include a confession of our intentioned murder of the unborn children who bear the image of God. Isn’t it a marvel that prayers can be offered to God seeking His favor and blessing while all the while refusing to acknowledge that we have murdered millions of the children who bear His image? Can we attack God by attacking His image in children and then ask for His blessing? Pray all you want, make it sound as religious and flowery as you like but a prayer without confession of the sin of infant murder will be an offense to God:

Isaiah 1:15-18  "So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord, Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.”

“But, our government has said infant murder is lawful.” Yes, and again our nation finds itself at odds with and in opposition to the Law of God. Do we not see that this is the issue? We are at odds with and in rebellion against God and at the same time we think we are going to receive His blessing. It is not going to happen.

Our sins against God in regard to the life that bears His image are many and great. Our sin is rising up to heaven until a day comes when God will relent no longer. Our nation has been unraveling for decades, in judgment block after block has been pulled from our foundation until one day that one block to many will be removed and our house will collapse totally:

Matthew 7:26-27  "Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell– and great was its fall."

The responsibility of God’s servant is to confront leaders and nations of their sin so that they will repent and can then rightfully call upon God for mercy and blessing. Are we not all aware of the gigantic elephant in the room? Shall we call upon God while refusing to acknowledge our sins against Him? An attempt to avoid what needs to be said is unfaithfulness on the part of God’s servants.

Perhaps one would ask me, “Gary, you are saying so much, would you like to offer the prayer at the Inauguration?” Here is my answer…In my vanity I would like to think that I would be faithful and bold and would pray just as I have advocated that Rick Warren must pray. As truth takes hold of me I know that without great grace, I would play the coward and seek to please men. A man would be a fool to seek for himself the shoes that Rick Warren will stand in tomorrow. He had only better be there by the calling of God. Pray for Rick Warren, for me and for all of God’s servants, how we need God’s grace to be faithful.

Rick Warren, The Inauguration and the frightening responsibility of being God’s servant II

Posted by Gary on January 14, 2009

Isaiah 1:15-18 "So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD, though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.”

There is an eternity’s difference between coming into the presence of God and mere religious formality. Few things have more potential of being formality than political events with a clergyman’s presence. To come into the presence of God means to recognize His holiness, our sinfulness and to lay the heart bare before Him. Religious formality requires none of these things, it only requires religious language.

How do we know the difference between the two? Religious formality takes place without any humbling, soul searching effect on the participants. A prayer is offered and no one is challenged, humbled or offended. To rightly come into the presence of God one must be willing to come to terms with their sins against God and they must also by His grace be willing to part from them.

Religious formality may make reference to sin (more likely the words “faults” or “weaknesses” will be used) but the sins that are most offensive to God and that we most need to acknowledge are never mentioned and participants come away from such a prayer thinking about the sins of others, not their own, hence the avoidance of offense.

Most often at political events prayers with any confession list things we as men do against each other (violence, prejudice, neglect of the needy) but almost never include a list of sins that we commit against God (which all sins are against God by the way). A confession of man’s wrongs against man will be tolerated gladly for in the end most of us convince ourselves that we are not guilty even of these.

All this prayer takes is a man who knows Biblical phraseology and he can slither away just fine. He can mention “reaping what we sow” while never getting specific about what we are sowing or what we will reap. He can confess that we “have turned away from God” but will not be specific about which God we are guilty of turning away from.

Amazingly, all it seems to take to quiet the concerns of today’s evangelicals is a few Biblical phrases and then a conclusion that is in Jesus’ name or some equivalent that those of us who know the Biblical phraseology know means Jesus, “Prince of Peace”, “Wonderful Counselor” or “Good Shepherd”. “He used the phrases” evangelicals trumpet gladly and never ponder that we all escaped the shining light of God’s truth and have offended and angered God by our prayer not honored Him.

O come on Gary, do you really think more than this could be said in an inaugural prayer? Well the question is, what are we after? If we are after formality, avoiding offense and the satisfaction of having offered a prayer then we couldn’t push for more than this. But if we are actually intending to come into the presence of the one, true, living God then something much more penetrating and confrontational is necessary.

Pray that God gives Rick Warren the faith and courage to be His true messenger on January 20.

Thank God

Posted by Gary on November 20, 2008

Psalm 43:3  “O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me…”

Many in our congregation have prayed in recent months for Lauren Richardson, a young woman who is dependent on a feeding tube to receive her nourishment after a brain injury she suffered in 2006.

For a time there was concern that Lauren’s feeding tube would be removed through legal action initiated by her mother. As months went by Lauren’s mother began to reconsider and through seeking God’s guidance decided to stop the court case and together with Lauren’s father is initiating a plan of therapy and medical care. Lauren will soon be moved to live at her father’s house.

You can read this amazing story here. Lauren’s is a story of God’s intervention and mercy. How grateful we are to God for His work in our hearts in showing us the good and right way.

We also want to encourage Lauren’s mother in her decision, by God’s grace she has done the right thing. In a culture that seems intent to hasten the end of people’s lives such a decision took courage. We can safely assume that there was pressure brought to bear on Lauren’s mother by many death advocate groups to end Lauren’s life.

Here is a quote from Lauren’s mother taken from the Delaware News Journal story:

"I was waiting on God to help me through this, and I think I got my answer the day I realized, if I cut my daughter’s life short without giving her every opportunity to heal, could I live with that decision?"

Here is another story on this wonderful answer to prayer from the Alliance Defense Fund.

Lord, we thank you for hearing the prayers of Your people. We ask you to do more than we have asked or imagined in and through Lauren’s life. We pray that you will raise her up and make her a tremendous witness of your power and grace. Amen.