Expand Your Prayer Life (4): Truck Caps and Daily Bread

I used to think that God was so busy managing the cosmos, he didn’t have time for my peewee concerns.

I thought that if I asked him for money to pay the bills, he’d shout down at me, “Can’t you see I’m directing the destinies of nations? Away with you and your petty requests.”

Jesus taught us that when we pray we should make our Father’s honor and kingdom our first concerns. But our Father who is both rich and generous also wants us to bring our daily needs to him.

In Luke 11:3 Jesus taught us to pray, ?Give us each day our daily bread”. What could be more down to earth than bread?

R. Kent Hughes says, ?We are not to use the Niemann Marcus catalog as our daily devotional guide. One of the sweet realities of our prayer life is that God cares about the simple, day-to-day needs of life. He cares whether his children are warm, fed, and housed. He is concerned for our well-being, including those things necessary to maintain a whole, happy family.?

God doesn?t limit us to praying for big things ? he invites us to ask him for a new coat or new tires, money for groceries or tuition or vacation.

Here is an amazing truth: God gets glory by meeting our smallest needs. God’s sign reads: “No job too big, no job too small.”

My friend Bob bought a “new” used truck. His previous truck bed was 7 feet long but the new one was 6. This rendered his 7-foot truck cap 1 foot too long for his new truck. So he prayed about the situation. The audacity – praying about a truck cap. Doesn’t God have enough on his mind without being bothered about Bob’s truck cap? One day Bob saw a truck pull into the parking lot where he works. He noticed that the cap on that truck’s 7-foot bed was a foot too short. So Bob approached the man, whom he’d never met, to ask him if he’d be interested in a swap. Amazingly, both Bob’s cap and this man’s cap were the same brand and both fairly new. They were able to trade caps and each fit perfectly.

One of the ladies at a “Caring Sisters” party in our church shared how the Lord used her sister in Christ to give her very specific gifts that she had secretly desired, but could not afford. Among them: a pair of earrings on the day she came to church with none on; a new watch when she hoped for one; and a spoon rest after a fleeting desire for one had crossed her mind in her kitchen that week. God gave her a spoon rest! How specifically and tenderly the Lord cares for us! And if he provides these material things, think how eager He is to meet us in our souls. (Thanks to Sarah B for sharing this).

We need daily provisions of wisdom, strength, joy. God invites us to make our requests known to him and bring our needs to him. So seek first God’s glory and his kingdom, then ask him for whatever you need each day. And watch him provide!

Expand Your Prayer Life (3): Bring Your Rule

When we pray, we’re tempted to start dumping our needs on God, like a scene from the movie “What About Bob” – “Gimme, gimme, gimme, I need, I need, I need.” I’m glad that our Father isn’t like the movie’s Dr. Leo Marvin, always trying to get rid of us. Our Father, who is both rich and generous, invites us to bring our needs and desires to him.

When Jesus taught the “Lord’s Prayer”, he encouraged us to seek God’s interests first, instead of always beginning with our laundry list of requests. Jesus instructed us to begin by “hallowing” or honoring our Father’s Name – to worship him for all that he is and does – and pray that his name be glorified in all the earth. And one of the primary ways God is glorified is by the coming of his kingdom.

That’s why Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come.” (Luke 11:2). As God’s kingdom comes, he is seen as great, powerful, merciful and glorious.

God’s kingdom is his rule. When we pray for his kingdom to come we pray that our Father would bring his rule into the world, particularly into people’s hearts and lives. When God saves us, he begins to rule us. And as he rules us, he transforms us into the likeness of Christ, and he is glorified.

Let’s pray that
the gospel will spread and
multitudes of sinners will be saved. Let’s ask the Lord of the harvest to raise up laborers. Let’s pray for the salvation of our family members and friends. And pray that our Lord will rescue thousands in our localities.

Let’s pray that God will bring an end to the wickedness of the wicked. Pray that he will remove governments and leaders that persecute his people and replace them with those favorable to the gospel.

Let’s pray for the persecuted church. Pray that God will cause many of his saints to find favor in their captors’ eyes and get to return to their families. Pray that our Father will give those who continue to suffer strength, joy, hope and the grace to love their persecutors.

When we pray for these things we are praying for God’s kingdom rule to come.

Put God’s interests first and he will provide for you.

Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33).

If we put God and his rule first, he’ll take care of our needs like food and clothing. I always figure that if I spend time praying for God’s concerns and don’t get around to mine, my Father will take care of me. And he’s always been faithful.

Links For Your Pleasure

In my various wanderings about the WWW (that’s shorthand for the World Wide Web), I’ve come across the following interesting links.

A company called Compass Cinema has put out a DVD Bible study tool called Modern Parables, which attempt to bring the parables of Jesus into today’s world. These DVD’s were reviewed very positively by Carolyn McCulley, Justin Taylor, and Tim Challies. You can check out their website by clicking here.

Sovereign Grace Ministries
has announced that for the month of February all their CD’s are six bucks and have free shipping. For the price of a Big Mac value meal you can get music that will feed your soul. Check out the details on Bob Kauflin’s blog.

The Billy Graham Association has a great article on how John Piper’s son, Abraham, came to the Lord after years of rebellion. Click here to read it.

Winter is the time for sledding, and this do it yourself website tells you how to make the ultimate sled. Learn how by clicking here.

Got a camera phone but have no idea what to do with it? Here are some interesting uses for your camera cell phone.

Quick Spiritual Fixes

I like quick fixes. When something breaks in my house I do two things. First, I decide if we really needed the item in the first place. If not, I toss it. Quick fix. If this item really was of some importance, such as a large piece of furniture, a stove, or a kitchen table, I determine if the item can be repaired using duct tape. I have been known to use upwards of two hundred yards of duct tape on home repair projects. Quick fix number two. If it can’t be fixed using duct tape I call in the pros.

I like quick spiritual fixes as well. When I’m struggling with a sin, I want someone to tell me how to get over it, right now. Give me a scripture verse that will solve my problem, or a book that will lay out a precise twelve-step plan for overcoming sin in three weeks. I’m not a big fan of going to my accountability group on Friday mornings and confessing the same sin that I’ve confessed for the last 17 weeks. I want change, and I want it now. I’m sure you can relate.

This desire for change is good, and God-honoring, but I think we often forget that sanctification is a slow process. Becoming like Christ doesn’t happen in days, it happens over decades. I recently read a quote that reminded me of both the slow nature of change, and the necessity of regularly reading scripture for the purpose of change. In his book Spiritual Disciplines For The Christian Life, Don Whitney quotes a man named Geoffrey Thomas. Thomas says:

So do not expect always to get an emotional charge or a feeling of quiet peace when you read the Bible. By the grace of God, you may expect that to be a frequent experience, but often you will get no emotional response at all. Let the Word break over your heart and mind again and again as the years go by, and imperceptibly there will come great changes in your attitude and outlook and conduct. You will probably be the last to recognize these.

I love this quote! Growth in godliness is the result of consistently letting the Word of God “break over your heart”. Our hearts are like stones and the Word of God is like the ocean surf. We must regularly let the “surf” of God’s word break over our hearts and erode away our sinful thoughts, attitudes, and desires. That’s why regular devotional times are so crucial. Apart from regular time in the Word of God we simply won’t grow in godliness. It’s that simple. If you want to grow in your love for Christ, you must spend time sitting at his feet, hearing his words. There is no substitute.

Are you letting the Word of God shape your heart? Are you regularly spending time in the Word of God? The grace of God flows through his word, like water through a channel. We just need to stand in the channel.

Another Free Scripture Song

The reviews are in and the critics are raving about the free scripture songs we’ve been giving away.

Jonny Tsunami of Rolling Stone says, “We haven’t seen anything like this since Hanson released their smash single ‘Mmmmmbop’.”

Siskel and Roper say, “Look out Hannah Montana, there’s some new competition on the block.”

Bono of U2 says, “What are we talking about?”

And now we’re giving away another one. In all seriousness, we really believe that these scripture songs can really help you grow in scripture memorization. So we want to keep feeding your iPod with the word of God. Today we’re giving away 1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV).

To download the free scripture song click here.

The CD’s from which these songs came can be purchased at Forever Grateful Music.

In case you missed the other scripture free scripture songs, you can download them here:

1 Thessalonians 5:9-10

Psalm 30:4-5

Please pass these scripture songs on to as many people as possible!

Expand Your Prayer Life (pt. 2): The Aim of Prayer

Our Tuesday post said that we can expand our prayer lives by using the pattern Jesus gave us for prayer, the Lord’s prayer.

Each section of the Lord’s prayer is like a peg to hang our prayers on. R. Kent Hughes points out that prayer has a vertical aspect and a horizontal aspect. The vertical has to do with God and his concerns, the horizontal with us and our concerns. In Luke 11, Jesus tells us to focus first on God with the revolutionary address, “Father.”

Believers are adopted into God’s family through Christ’s life, death and resurrection. If you have trusted in Jesus for salvation, God is now your Father. And he is eager and willing for you to come to him.

The aim of prayer: God?s glory

Jesus instructs us to pray, ?Hallowed be your name.?

God?s name stands for who he is and all that he is. He is infinitely holy, glorious, majestic, just, sovereign, mighty, loving and wise.

When we pray ?Hallowed be your name? we are saying: Father, let your name be held holy and treated with reverence in every place. In other words, Father, let your name be honored and worshipped in all the earth. Let everyone on earth see what a glorious God you are. We are asking God to fulfill Habakkuk 2:14: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” So when we pray “Hallowed be your name” we are praying Father, let the knowledge that you are glorious fill the earth. Let all people know what you are like – infinite in beauty, righteousness, goodness and strength.

God?s glory is infinitely more important than any of our personal needs. So before bringing our own concerns to the table, we should pray that God would fulfill his greatest concern ? that his name be glorified for the enjoyment of all people. If we make God’s concerns our top priority, he will surely look to our concerns.

Imagine a son who always comes to his father asking for things: “Dad, can I have $5? Can I borrow the car? Can I use your camera? Dad, I need a new ball glove.” Most fathers would probably want to bless their sons with these things. But how different it would be if a son came and said, “Dad, what would you desire today? Is there anything on your heart I could go after? Anything I can do for you?” Imagine how pleased that father would be and how eager to bless his son.

So when we pray, let us come to our loving Father, who is rich and eager to bless us. Let us first worship and adore him and seek the advancement of his glory. Then let us ask God to meet our needs and supply our daily bread.

Make God’s glory the aim of your prayers today!

Expand your Prayer Life

Do you get distracted when you are praying? Or do you find that after 5 minutes you?re out of things to pray about?

If you?d like to expand your prayer life, try using the Lord?s prayer as a pattern. Jesus never intended this prayer to be memorized and spouted off word for word in rote fashion. We know this because the version in Matthew 6 is worded slightly differently than in Luke 11. Jesus gave this ?prayer? to us as a pattern or outline. You can think of each section as a peg to hang your prayers on. I once heard a man suggest to view each section like a marker in a cross-country race. When you pass each marker, you move into a different theme.

The Lord?s prayer has 2 dimensions ? a vertical dimension and a horizontal dimension (R.K. Hughes). The vertical dimension has to do with God and his concerns – his glory, his kingdom. The horizontal dimension has to do with us and our concerns – for food, forgiveness, and strength.

Today we?ll start looking at the vertical dimension.

Who we pray to: Father

And he said to them, ?When you pray, say: ?Father?? (Luke 11:2. Compare to Matthew 6 ? ?Our Father?)

A revolutionary concept

Though the idea of God as Father is in the Old Testament, OT believers didn?t address God directly as ?Father?. In all of the Psalms, there is not a single prayer to God as Father. The Psalmists address God as ?O Lord,? ?O My God,? ?O God,? ?O Most High.? Even David, the man after God?s own heart, didn?t pray to God as his Father. King David himself didn?t have the intimate relationship with God as Father that we can have through Christ.

Through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus has brought believers into a relationship with God as Father! Through Christ, God adopts us as his own children. We?re in the family!

Jesus mission was to live and die to redeem sinners, but it also included revealing God as Father.

What a privilege! To know and come to God as our Father!

How close and intimate God desires to be to his children. Although it is appropriate to pray to God as ?O Most High,? that doesn?t convey the same sense as ?Father?. Before Jesus saved me, I would pray to ?God? but he seemed far off and distant. I?m so grateful that Jesus shed his blood to bring me to God as my Father.

As our Father, God is full of tender compassion to us. He is eager for us to come to him. He delights to fellowship with his children and to bless us with good things. As a loving Father he cares for our well-being and desires to hear our requests and meet our needs.

Are you suffering today? Do you need help overcoming sin? Do you desire to be filled with God?s Spirit and joy and strength? Do you need wisdom? Come to your loving Father with all your requests, casting all your cares upon him because he cares for you.

Will My Daughter Be Saved?

I’m going to begin by making a statement that will resonate with some and disturb others: I love reformed theology. I delight in the doctrines of grace. I love the unconditional election of God, the irresistible grace of God, and the perseverance of the saints. I don’t love them because they were associated with John Calvin, or because they are advocated by guys like John Piper. I love them because they are thoroughly biblical. The doctrines of grace are everywhere in scripture.

I don’t believe that I chose God, or would have ever chosen God, but that he chose me. I believe that he irresistibly drew me with his grace and that he will keep me to the end. These truths warm my heart with affection for God.

But it’s when I look at my four-month old daughter Charis, that the rubber really hits the road for my theology. She is so beautiful, so precious, so innocent looking. I love her with an intense love, and care for her with all my heart. Yet scripture tells me that she is spiritually dead and an enemy of God (Eph 2:1-3). Scripture also tells me that she was born under the wrath of God. These are difficult things for me to swallow, but I believe that they’re true.

Scripture also tells me however, that God is loving and merciful, not desiring that any should perish. Scripture tells me that God wants to save my daughter. And scripture tells me that God responds to the prayers of the righteous. I don’t understand how the sovereignty of God and prayer work together, but the Bible teaches both and I believe in both.

And so I pray intensely that God would save my daughter. I appeal to God, asking him to open her eyes to the gospel at a young age. I ask him to draw her to himself by irresistible grace. I ask him to open her blind eyes to see Jesus Christ as her savior. Before I place her in her crib each night, I hold her close, kiss her on the head, and lift my voice to God in prayer.

I believe God will save my daughter. Why? Because God is full of mercy. He sovereignly gave her a mommy and daddy who pray for her every day. He placed her in a church that preaches the saving gospel of Christ week after week. I believe that God ordained these things to lead her to Christ.

I also find great comfort in knowing that it’s God who saves. Why? Because there is no way that I could ever ‘convince’ Charis to trust in Jesus. I know that I simply don’t have the ability to open her eyes to the gospel. God must put spiritual life in her, and because he is good, I believe that he will.

I believe that someday Charis will trust in Jesus as her savior, not because of the persuasive preaching of her dad, but because of the loving kindness of her God. That’s my only hope. What’s yours?

Open Your Eyes

Imagine waking up one morning to find yourself surrounded by a swat team of thousands about to storm your house. It happened to Elisha and his servant. One morning the servant wakes up and figures he?ll get some coffee going then read the morning papyrus. But as he looks out the kitchen window, he sees the glint of sun on spearhead. They’re surrounded by the great Syrian army, whose assignment is to take out Elisha. A stab of fear pierces the servant’s heart.

?How?s that coffee coming?? asks Elisha as he stumbles into the kitchen in his bathrobe. ?I hope it’s good and strong. Why are you just standing there with your mouth open? What?s wrong, did you spill the coffee? Or did you accidentally serve me Maxwell House? Come on, why the terrified look??

The servant stammers, ??Alas, my master! What shall we do?? (They said ?Alas? a lot back then. It basically means “Yikes” or “Aaaaaargh”).

“Do about what?”, says Elisha as he slowly pours his coffee, squinting out the kitchen window. ?Ahhh, it’s those pesky Syrians again. Hey, where’d you put the Sweet ‘n Low?”

The servant whines, ?How can you think about Sweet ‘n Low at a time like this? Master, Alas, alas, alas! We?re cooked – dead meat – Syrian fodder.?

Elisha puts a scoop of sweetener into his steaming mug, blows across the top, then takes a careful sip. Then he says, ?Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.?

The servant runs again to the back window, looking left and right. He doesn?t see anything except Syrian banners, spears, chariots, and campfires. ?Pardon me master, and I might add one more ?alas,? but, where might be ?those who are with us??”

Elisha says, “How is a man supposed to enjoy his morning coffee with all these questions, boy?” Then Elijah prays, ?O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.?

?So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.? (2 Kings 6:17).

?Now, boy,” says Elisha, “can I please drink my coffee??

10 Reasons the U.S.A. Could Beat Up Canada

In my previous post I made the offhand remark that the United States could probably beat up Canada. Apparently this remark didn’t sit so well with some of my Canadian friends, who felt compelled to vigorously defend both their country and their honor.

So, to settle the question once and for all, I put together this exhaustive, comprehensive, all-inclusive list, citing 10 reasons that the US of A could beat up Canada. Before I say any more, it should be noted that in the summer of 2003 I actually spent three months living in Canada, which practically makes me an expert on the country. So, without any further ado, here are my 10 reasons that the United States could put a beating on Canada.

1. The front of our one dollar bill shows a picture of our fearless first president, George Washington, who gave the British a royal beat down. The front of the Canadian one dollar coin shows a picture of a duck. Actually it’s a loon, which is why the coin is called a “loonie”. Need I say any more?

2. Two words: Chuck Norris

3. Canada is ruled by a queen. We on the other hand have a guy from Texas who likes to eat his meat raw. AND, our vice president is known for shooting people. I’ll take W over Queen Elizabeth in a cage match any day.

4. We have Jason Bourne, Jack Bauer, and Rocky. Canada has…mounties? You’d think they could at least come up with a better name.

5. The Canadian military currently has approximately 65,000 troops. The US has approximately 1.3 million. Of course our troops aren’t called “mounties”, which does make a significant difference.

6. A significant portion of our population enjoys watching race cars go in circles at 200 mph for up to 500 laps. That says dedication. This same population enjoys shooting things.

7. We invented the Big Mac, the Whopper, the Super Size, and the 64 oz Slurpee. Of course this is also why we need privatized health care, but that’s besides the point.

8. Unlike Canada, and the rest of the world, we refuse to go metric. We don’t want to use a system where everything divides nicely into 10’s, 100’s, and 1000’s. No, we would rather remember figures like 5,280 feet and 16 oz.

9. Our national anthem is entitled “The Star Spangled Banner”, a stirring title that evokes patriotism and pride from even the most cynical heart. The Canadians managed to come up with the creative title “O Canada” for their national anthem.

10. Us Christians carry around large, oversized study Bibles, that weigh somewhere between 50 and 300 pounds (not kilos). If necessary, these could be used as weapons (in a loving and gentle way).

Well, I think that settles it once and for all. A careful examination of the evidence clearly indicates that the United States could beat the bacon out of Canada if necessary. But we love our Canadian friends and only wish them the best. Just stay away from our Big Macs…