Jesus was once asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” He responded by saying, “The Lord our God, the Lord is One,” and then saying we should love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (which fulfills the first four of the Ten Commandments), and then love our neighbor as ourselves (which fulfills the next six of the Commandments).
To live this way, we need to pray this way too! That’s why Jesus taught us a model prayer—which we typically call “The Lord’s Prayer”—in which the first three petitions are for God’s glory (hallowed be Your name; Your kingdom come; Your will be done), and the next three petitions are for man’s help (daily bread, forgiveness, victory over temptation).
hagnos is something totally immaculate, blindingly pure, and unapproachable. The apostle Paul said this about God: Our Master, Jesus Christ, is on His way. He’ll show up right on time, His arrival guaranteed by the Blessed and Undisputed Ruler, High King, High God. He’s the only one death can’t touch, His light so bright no one can get close. He’s never been seen by human eyes—human eyes can’t take Him in! Honor to Him, and eternal rule! (1 Timothy 6:15-16)
thalpo means cherished. The same apostle Paul also said that God has given us the right to approach Him as “Abba, Father” or “Daddy, God” (Romans 8:15).
He is both unapproachable and approachable. He is both awful and lovable. He is both Supreme power and Supreme love. He is both Hallowed and Father. He is unique. Since He is unique, we must approach Him uniquely in holy prayer. But we must always approach first and foremost to reverence His holy Name. As Matthew Henry said, “Let Him have the praise of His perfections, and then let us have the benefit of them.”
Think of His glory in every request you make of Him. Father, may Your holy, righteous name be hallowed and exalted and made famous as You…
… provide my daily bread
… forgive me and help me forgive others
… give me victory over temptations
Let’s not pray prayers that rob God of His glory. Prayers like:
Selfish prayers that are all about me, me, me
Doubtful prayers that aren’t really sure God can help
Little prayers that insult God’s power and His love
Unexpectant prayers that ask God to do something, but we don’t really expect that He will
Let’s be known as people who pray confidently humble prayers. Let’s come to a Father Who is All-Love and to a God Who is All-Powerful—a God Whose power is perfectly balanced by His love, and Whose love is perfectly balanced by His power. May our prayers HALLOW His name!
The more consistently we pray on the ordinary days, the more prepared we will be to pray on the extraordinary days. But some people say, “I don’t know how to pray” or “I don’t know what to ask for.” That ignorance hinders a lot of people—even someone like Peter who not only spent huge amounts of time with Jesus but was with Him when He was in one of His most glorious states (Luke 9:28-33). As Jesus is transfigured before his very eyes, both Mark and Luke say this about the statement Peter blurted out: He did not know what he was saying.
While Peter was still speaking from his ignorance, God the Father gave him (and us) some invaluable advice: “This is My Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him.”
So when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, Jesus didn’t reprimand them for asking. In fact, He told us how much He wants us to pray and how much His Father wants to answer our prayers (Luke 11:1-13; 12:32).
There is a consistent theme about the “name” of God that permeates all that Jesus teaches about prayer. We see Him instructing us to address our prayer to our “Heavenly Father” and to pray “in My name” (Luke 11:2; John 14:13-14; 15:7; 16:23-24). This doesn’t mean that simply saying, “Dear Heavenly Father” at the beginning of a prayer or “in the name of Jesus, amen” at the end of a prayer makes our prayer magical.
It’s about praying in the character of Jesus, directing our prayer to the only One who can help us, all with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
To help us do this, we have an invaluable prayer resource preserved for us in the pages of the Bible. The Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit—the same Holy Spirit that lives in a Christian and helps the Christian pray according to God’s will. The same Spirit who inspired the Word can illuminate the Word to us, so we need to get into the Word and let the Holy Spirit get the Word into us!
No matter what you’re going through, you can apply God’s Word to your situation. Look through the prayers of the Psalms, read the prayers of other great saints throughout the Scriptures, check out the prayers the apostles prayed in the New Testament, and even read the prayers of Jesus Himself. Then make those prayers your prayers!
If you let the Holy Spirit show you how the Bible applies to your situation, you will NEVER again be at a loss of how to pray to your Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus!
Pastor Craig continued our series on prayer. Here is the recap of Sunday’s message that he posted on his blog.
My wife is a fan of the TV show (and movie) Downton Abbey, which means I have come to appreciate it as well. I think Mr. Carson, the head butler, gives us some great insight into a Christian’s prayer relationship with God.
Mr. Carson has a lot to oversee with the house, the staff, and the needs of the family members and their guests. Everything needs to be tidy and ready at all times for both important guests and the Grantham family. That means Mr. Carson has to have a schedule and routine for everything.
He doesn’t get up in the morning and sit around waiting for someone to tell him what to do—he gets up and gets to work. He’s a busy man with a lot of responsibilities. But can you imagine if Lord or Lady Grantham came to him with a request and he responded, “Not now, I’m too busy with my To Do list”? No way! He’s their servant, so he quickly responds, “Yes, my lord.”
Christians can so busy and hurried with our own “To Do list” that we miss out on what’s really important. As Rick Warren then noted, “Hurry is the death of prayer!”
The dictionary defines hurry as acting in haste, usually in a state of urgency, or feeling rushed. Notice the word “urgency” in the definition. Far too often we confuse urgent things and important things. It’s not that what we’re busy with are bad things, but perhaps we are busy with things that are keeping us blind to the important things.
Long before Mr. Carson, there was another notable servant named Abraham (Genesis 18:1-8). God showed up and Abraham wanted to be in His presence. So notice that Abraham had to run to wait to God’s presence—the narrative uses words like hurried, “quick” and ran.
Abraham was quick to get into God’s presence SO THAT he could linger in God’s presence—he stood near Them under a tree: that’s the posture of a servant-in-waiting.
In the NIV translation, the text says Abraham hurried, but almost every other translation says he ran to meet Them—this is an important distinction. Hurry speaks to things that are urgent, but run speaks to things that are important.
Stephen Covey has a great diagram that helps us identify four important quadrants in our life:
As you place items from your life on this grid, our Prayer Coach—the Holy Spirit—can help us identify the time-wasters. The key is to find time to wait in prayer. The best place to make time for Quadrant II prayer comes from Quadrant IV. As you eliminate those time-wasters, you will be able to spend health-enhancing time in prayer, worship, planning, and self-care in Quadrant II. Will will also better equip you to handle the Quadrant I crises as they appear.
Ultimately, like Mr. Carson, we need to be both proactive with our schedule and responsive to the requests of our Lord. A good daily posture for all of us is “If the Lord wills” (James 4:13-17). But we have to not be so distracted with unimportant things that we can hear what God is speaking to our hearts.
Here’s how Pastor Craig kicked off our new series on prayer.
I love football!
The plays that the quarterback calls in the huddle are very creative. It may sound something like this: “soultrain alert 13 trap on 1.” Then after the team breaks the huddle with the play that they just know will be successful, the quarterback may look over the other team’s defense and callout something like, “check” or “sally” or “Omaha.” This is called an “audible” and it’s communicating to the team how they are now going to modify the play that they just called. The quarterback calls this audible because it appears to him that the defense may know what sort of play they were planning to run.
The teams that can adjust better on-the-fly—or call audibles—usually win the game.
None of this happens without lots of practice! Practice builds good habits. Practice helps teams learn from their mistakes and develop even better habits. All of this practicing also requires a good coach overseeing the process, and individual team members who are willing to submit to the coach’s direction and correction.
Have you noticed that there are some Christians who “audible” well? Unexpected things pop up that seem to throw many people off their game plan, but these Christians seem to adapt so easily. Why is that? It’s definitely not because they are wired that way, or have a higher spiritual IQ, or they can think faster. It’s because they’ve practiced good habits, they’ve learned from past experiences which have developed better “audibling” habits, all under the guidance of a perfect Coach.
Jesus told us about the amazing prayers that we would be able to pray, and how the Holy Spirit can be our perfect Coach in this process (John 14:12-17, 26; 16:13-15).
There are some incredible things that happen when we pray consistently, when we pray boldly, and when we pray in the character of Jesus.
John Piper asks, “Why do God’s children so often fail to have consistent habits of happy, fruitful prayer?” He answers his own question like this: “Unless I’m badly mistaken, one of the reasons is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to.”
Successful football teams don’t simply show up on game day and compete successfully. They plan to be successful. They practice and study the coach’s game plan so that they can be ready to audible when necessary. So too for Christians—we can’t just show up for spiritual battle and expect to be successful. We must also practice, and study the game plan laid out in the Bible, and listen to the Holy Spirit as He coaches us. That’s the only way we can successfully handle all that life and even the devil throws at us.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to share at least three hindrances that I see that can derail our practice of prayer. In the meantime, I want to challenge you—as I’ve challenged myself personally—to think on three questions:
Do I really want to pray effectively?
Am I willing to put in the energy necessary to pray this way?
Am I willing to let the Holy Spirit coach and discipline me in my prayer practice?
If you can, please join me at Calvary Assembly of God on Sunday as we continue our series called Prayer Plan.
“Why do God’s children so often fail to have consistent habits of happy, fruitful prayer? Unless I’m badly mistaken, one of the reasons is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to.”
The word strategy carries in its definition the idea of the preparation that takes place before the actual engagement begins. A coach’s strategy is worked out on the practice field. A general’s strategy is worked out in the training of his soldiers. A CEO’s strategy is worked out in the board room.
And a Christian’s strategy is worked out in the prayer closet.
Sadly, many Christians fall short in the time of battle simply because they hadn’t trained ahead of time—they didn’t make a plan to pray.
Join us this Sunday as we begin a new series called Prayer Plan where we hope everyone will end up being able to say an enthusiastic “yes” to the question: Are you ready to pray?
Here’s a recap Pastor Craig shared of his Sunday message. If you missed this message, be sure to check out the video below!
If someone asked you what a church is supposed to look like, do you describe steeples and crosses, stained glass windows and big wooden pulpits?
Guess what? The first Church in Jerusalem had none of those things!
Luke the historian describes the church this way: “They studied and prayed together, they ate with each other, they fed the hungry, and they took care of the poor. God performed miracles through them, everyone thought well of them, and people were getting saved every single day” (see Acts 2:42-47). Other historians of the day noted that Christians started the first orphanages, the first feeding programs, the first homes/schools for the blind, and the first medical dispensaries. They described how the Christians changed the cultural understanding of marriage and family, and how they gave dignity to women, children, the elderly, and the sick.
They did this by putting their faith into action, just as Jesus described (see Matthew 25:31-40). James reminds us that this required a deeply personal faith and a roll-up-your-sleeves attitude. In fact, James went so far as to say that faith in Jesus wasn’t enough.
Faith without works is dead. Works without faith is useless. We must believe it and live it. We need both faith and works.
Everyone can do this…
if a young kid is hungry, get involved with feeding them
if an elderly lady in your neighborhood needs a friend, stop by for coffee
if a neighbor is sick and can’t cover their usual tasks, mow their lawn
if a high school student can’t go to homecoming because she can’t afford the dress, take her shopping and buy the dress for her
if someone has an extended hospital stay, collect their mail and water their plants
if no one is visiting them in the hospital, go sit with them for a while
Jesus said, “When you do this for others, you are really doing it for Me.”
Luke didn’t say, “Every day the Christians were preaching.” He says, “Every day the Christians were serving. And then every day God was adding to their number people who were being saved.”
Your faith in action speaks a sermon louder and more convincingly than any sermon ever could.
How will you show your neighbors the love of Jesus this week?
I have the high privilege of being able to shepherd Calvary Assembly of God. It’s a privilege and responsibility I take as a charge from God, and the Scripture makes it clear that those who have been given such a stewardship must use it in a God-glorifying way.
Just one way I can use such stewardship is in the weekly sermons I prepare for our church family. I faithfully study and pray to get God’s mind on the topics that we need to grow in Him. Below is a brief overview of each of the series of messages I shared in 2018, along with links to the weekly recaps I post after delivering each message.
The Prayers Of David—The life of David is an open book for us. One of the unique things about David’s life is that we get to read both the historical narrative of his life, and his diary-like thoughts recorded in his psalms, songs, and prayers in the Book of Psalms. David’s prayers are gut-level honest and full of raw emotion. His prayers are also very helpful for anyone who desires to be as close to God as David was, to be one God describes as “a man after my own heart, who will do everything I want him to do.”
Come And See—Survey after survey, and personal interview after personal interview, all report the same indisputable truth—the #1 reason unchurched people don’t come to church is no one has invited them! Wow! Christians have the life-changing truth of what a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can do, and they are for the most part keeping it to themselves. I want to present a very simple way to invite people to hear about our Risen Savior, and it’s just three simple words: Come and see.
A.L.I.V.E.—It is the foundational claim of Christianity: Christ died on a Cross and was raised back to life.It is also the claim many skeptics of Christianity find so difficult to process. This series explores evidence for for the resurrection of Jesus in each of the five letters of “ALIVE.” These messages are specifically designed for those skeptical of the claims of Christianity. The evidence won’t be a bunch of “churchy” platitudes, but court-room-level evidence that will attempt to make the case for what Christians believe about the death and resurrection of Jesus.
God’s Favor—What if I were to tell you that God is for you? What if I were to tell you that God wantsto bless you? What if I were to tell you that God’s favor is constantly pursuing you? Well, here’s me telling you that it’s all true! Why would God do this? Because if you feel distant from Him, how can you glorify Him? If you feel disconnected from His love, how will you draw others to Him? If you feel like your relationship with Him is hanging by a thread, how can you happily abide in His presence? Knowing God’s favor is the key to living the abundant life Jesus purchased for you on the Cross!
What Is Church?—All across the world on Sunday morning, people met for church? But what exactly is church? Is it a place we go to? Is it something that only happens on Sundays? For Jesus, neither the day of the week nor the location determined the way He lived.Peter summed it up this way, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38).
Selah—The word Selahappears nearly 70 times in the Bible, almost exclusively in the Psalms. Although it is primarily a musical term, it applies beautifully to our new summer series. Throughout the Psalms, Selahappears at the end of a verse, at the end of the psalm, or sometimes even mid-sentence. But each one of them is perfectly placed by the Spirit-inspired authors to get us to take a breath and deeply contemplate what we just read or sang.
Aliens And Strangers—Christians are not citizens of Planet Earth. Our citizenship is in a place called Heaven, and yet we are traveling on Earth during our present lifetime. So the question is: How is a citizen of Heaven supposed to act while visiting Earth? The Apostle Peter was one of the most active disciples of Jesus. During Christ’s first visit to Earth, Peter is recorded as speaking more than all of the other disciples combined. And not surprisingly, Jesus speaks more words directly to Peter than He does to all of the other 11 disciples combined. Peter got a lot of training! With that background, Peter gives us invaluable instructions in his first letter to the church. He calls Christians things like: strangers in the world, chosen people, peculiar people, and aliens and strangers in the world.He tells us travelers not only howto behave while traveling on Earth, but whywe should travel in a God-honoring way.
I ♥My Church—If you lived in the early first century AD—and if the donkey carts had bumper stickers—I’ll bet that you would have seen “I My Church” bumper stickers on everything the early Christians owned. Both the Bible and historians of that day talked about the positive societal changes that Christians were making in their communities, and how every place they lived and worshipped got better. Why not today? Why not in your community?
Shalom—God makes a promise in Isaiahabout His perfect peace being made available to His people. Ahhh, who wouldn’t want God’s perfect peace?! Sadly, many people actually block God’s peace from coming into their hearts. You see, God’s peace is always there, but there are things we humans frequently do that keeps us from experiencingHis perfect peace. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, which is a word packed with rich meaning! There are things God-loving people can do to keep shalom at the center of their lives, and I want to share these things with you.
The Carols Of Christmas—How many “old familiar carols” have you heard Christmas after Christmas until the words have almost lost their meaning? If we’re not careful, any song repeated too often can lose the richness of its original intent. There are some amazing messages in many of our old familiar Christmas carols because many of those messages are saturated with the old familiar story of Redemption that the Bible tells over and over again.
Throughout 2017 we have been reviewing our foundational truths. Here is Pastor Craig’s recap of his message covering our belief statements on the end times events.
Celebrating Advent means both looking back at Christ’s First Advent in Bethlehem and looking ahead to His Second Advent at the end of time. Faith in the First Advent fuels hope in the Second Advent. Let’s take a look at the events leading up to and surrounding Christ’s Second Advent to help us appreciate what was begun at His First Advent.
Overarching all of the end times events is a Christian’s blessed hope: “The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation together with those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord is the imminent and blessed hope of the church.”
The word “rapture” doesn’t appear in Scripture, but we get this word from the Latin word raptu, which comes from the Greek word harpazo. We first see it when Philip is “caught away” from the Ethiopian’s presence in the desert (Acts 8:39). This is the same word Paul uses when he says that Christians will be “caught up” to meet Christ in the air (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).
Note that the rapture of the Church is not the Second Coming of Christ. His Second Coming takes place at the end of the period known as the Tribulation when Jesus returns to earth as a conquering King and establishes His Millennial Reign on earth (Revelation 19:11-16; 20:1-4).
During Christ’s Millennial Reign, the devil and his cohorts are locked up until the end of the 1000-year reign and are allowed to tempt people one final time. The devil will succeed in tempting quite a few people, as he will once again muster a sizable army to attack Christ and His followers. This decisive battle will culminate in the final judgment.
“There will be a final judgment in which the wicked dead will be raised and judged according to their works. Whosoever is not found written in the Book of Life, together with the devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet, will be consigned to the everlasting punishment in the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15).
In light of Christ’s First Advent in Bethlehem, and His soon return (His Second Advent), how are Christians to live? In a word: HOPEFUL!
In all of these passages discussing the end times, hope-filled words are used—
therefore encourage each other with these words
wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior
stand firm … let nothing move you
Jesus says, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me
Jesus also pointed out that Heaven is a place “prepared for you since the creation of the world,” while Hell is “prepared for the devil and his angels.”GOD WANTS YOU WITH HIM IN HEAVEN!
As you rejoice in the First Advent, remember that Christ’s First Coming was to provide a way for you to have your sins forgiven and be able to spend eternity with Him. So as we look forward in hope to Christ’s Second Advent we say with the Apostle John, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
God’s plan has always been for His leaders to organize and oversee His ministry.
The important thing for us to distinguish is “His.” It’s not a man or woman saying, “I will be a leader,” or even a God-appointed leader saying, “I am going to build up my ministry.”
The New Testament gives us a fourfold purpose for the Body of Christ:
Mobilizing for evangelism
Organizing for more meaningful ministry
Caring for one another
We see God’s leaders involved in all of these aspects—
Mobilizing for evangelism—Peter pointed out the need for an apostle to be appointed to replace Judas, thus returning their ranks to the 12 apostles just as Jesus had originally said (Acts 1:15-22).
Organizing for more meaningful ministry—Everywhere Paul founded a church, he also appointed leaders to oversee and shepherd that church.
Making disciple-makers—Paul tells us that God appointed five offices of leaders in the church who had the specific task of preparing church members to do the ministry of building maturity in the church (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Caring for one another—The First Church set the pace for providing care for all who were in need, including organizing leaders to oversee specific care ministries (Acts 6:1-5).
What about a church congregation’s responsibility to their leaders? I see five areas:
Hold them accountable to the Word (Acts 17:11). The Bible has to be THE standard to which leaders are held.
Give them your confidence and submission after they have shown accountability to their biblical mandate (Hebrews 13:17).
As we continued in our series looking at our Foundation Stones, here is a recap of the message Pastor Craig shared yesterday about the mission of the Church.
Before ascending back to Heaven, Jesus commissioned His followers. He gave them a mission which Christian often refer to as The Great Commission.
Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”
There are several pictures in the New Testament of how the Church could live out this Great Commission, but one of the pictures that I find the most helpful is that of a Body.
The human body is an amazing creation! Just to accomplish the simple task of picking up something between our thumb and forefinger is a miracle in itself. The structure of bones and ligaments and tendons, the interaction of nerves in the fingers coordinating with the optical nerve, not to mention the enzymes and blood vessels that are all doing their part.
Yet if any part is not functioning properly, that simple action becomes more difficult. Maybe it even becomes impossible.
The Church is the same way. Every part of the Church Body has to be functioning in healthy order for the whole Body to be effective.
Here are four aspects of a healthy Church Body that the Apostle Paul lists in Ephesians 4:
Caring for one another
Mobilizing for evangelism
Helping organize for more meaningful ministry
If every part of the Body is doing its part, we’re Living out the Great Commission.
If some parts are missing or unhealthy, we’re Wallowing in the Great Omission.
It’s not about your church (small “c”) or my church. It’s about all Christian disciples being a part of one Church—one Body—going into all the world and making disciples of all peoples. That’s what the Church is supposed to be doing!