Sunday, January 18, 2009
Practice: (verb form in British English) Is the act of rehearsing a behavior over and over, or engaging in an activity again and again, for the purpose of improving or mastering it, as in the phrase "practice makes perfect". It is a method of learning and of acquiring experience.
In order to build up physical muscles one must go through discipline and strict training or practice, similarly to develop spiritual muscles we need to practice spiritually life giving practices. Two Sundays ago we looked at one of such Life giving practice: Reading and meditating God’s Word daily. We will be continuing for a while on this journey to discover Life Giving Practices in order to help us develop healthy patterns in our life. As I said earlier these are practices which means you will only benefit from them as you practice them, in other words the more you practice the more you will grow spiritually.
Prayer is a life giving practice. We will look into what Prayer is? The necessity of prayer, The Hindrances for prayer, The power of Prayer, Prayer life of Jesus, and Prayer in the early Church.
The famous Brooklyn Tabernacle Church in the inner city of New York has a membership of 10,000 people. It all began in 1971with a handful of people who were committed to pray every Tuesday night. That Tuesday night prayer meeting is still attended by thousands of people. The senior pastor Jim Cymbala says, “If we call upon the Lord, He has promised in His Word to answer, to bring the unsaved to Himself, to pour out His Spirit among us. If we don’t call upon the Lord, He has promised nothing- nothing at all. It is as simple as that. No matter what I preach or what we claim to believe in our heads, the future will depend upon our times of prayer. This is the engine that will drive the church.” Jim Cymbala
More than ever in my past twenty-four years of ministry I am convinced of the power of prayer. I believe that the word of the Lord for our church today is “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). None of our, creative methods, good music, worship, youth programs, nor my preaching can win people to Christ unless they are anointed by the Holy Spirit. My sincere prayer is that “Lord Pour out your Holy Spirit upon my life, family and all the members of our congregation.
What prayer is not, Bob Gass says, “Prayer is not thinking, wishing, hoping and talking with others is not prayer only prayer is prayer; when we have a need or a situation that concerns us, we are only praying when we talk to God about it.”
“Prayer is not merely an occasional impulse to which we respond when we are in trouble: prayer is a life attitude.” ~Walter A. Mueller
Many people pray as if God were a big aspirin pill; they come only when they hurt. ~B. Graham Dienert
Then what is Prayer? Webster dictionary defines prayer as “the act of offering reverent petitions, especially to God. The act of beseeching earnestly, entreaty. Communion with God and recognition of His presence as in praise, thanksgiving, intercession.”
E. Stanley Jones says “Prayer is surrender--surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boathook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God.”
Westminster Shorter Catechism notes, “Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of His mercies.” E.M Bounds who lived in early 20th century known for his life of prayer notes, “Prayer is the language of a man burdened with a sense of need.” Edwin Keith explains, “Prayer is exhaling the spirit of man and inhaling the spirit of God.”
After looking at various definitions on Prayer I conclude that, Prayer is pouring our troubled hearts before God. Expressing our helplessness to God and asking Him to intervene in situations that are beyond our control. Prayer is talking about all our problems to the one and the only friend who is also a wonderful counselor, mighty God and everlasting father. An old Hymn goes,
“What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and grief’s to bear, What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer, O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry every thing to God in Prayer.” Originally these words were written by Joseph M. Scriven in 1857.
You might be wondering where it all began? Is prayer a new concept? Or a magic formula? It all began way back in Genesis. After the killing of Abel, Cain moved away and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Adam and Eve had another son by name Seth (means granted) “At that time men began to call on the name of the Lord.” (Gen. 4:26) This was the first recorded incident of prayer in the Bible. The theme of calling upon the name of the Lord is a reoccurring phenomenon throughout the Bible.
The following scriptures indicate that calling upon the name of the Lord came very naturally to many in the Old Testament:
Eliezar prayed to God to grant him success in the mission of finding a wife for his master’s son Isaac. (Genesis 24-25)
In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD for a son who later on became the Prophet Samuel. (I Samuel 1:10)
Psalm 18:3 I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, And I am saved from my enemies.
Psalm 31:17 Let me not be put to shame, O LORD, for I have cried out to you; but let the wicked be put to shame and lie silent in the grave.
Throughout the Bible and the History of the church we see hundreds of examples of men and women who called upon the Lord when they were in trouble, needed healing, deliverance, or when they needed provision, protection, and victory over sin. They were heard and helped, because our God is not only prayer hearing God but also a prayer answering God.
When it comes to Prayer many of us put it away thinking, it is not for me. It is only for righteous people, pastors or deacons. In some religions that may be the case, only priests or religious leaders are allowed to offer up prayers on behalf of people. But it is not like that in Christianity, our loving father is beckoning all his children to call upon His name. He is saying to us call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” (Psalm 50:15) He is challenging us to call upon his name and when we call upon him he will answer us; and will be us in trouble, and he will deliver us. (Psalm 91:15).
William Barclay noted, “When we pray, remember that the Love of God that wants the best for us, the wisdom of God that knows what is best for us, the Power of God that can accomplish it.”
 E. Stanley Jones, Liberating Ministry From The Success Syndrome, K Hughes, Tyndale, 1988, p. 73.
 (William Barclay, Prodigals and Those Who Love.)
Sunday, January 4, 2009
GOD’S WORD, WORTHY OF READING DAILY
The New Year is a good time to take a stock of our lives to evaluate and set some workable goals for 2009. It is a time when many people make resolutions to quit certain bad habits and develop some new habits, which would help them to succeed in New Year. I would let you decide on what to quit but I would like all of us to make two New Year resolutions. First one is “To read and meditate God’s word daily.” The second one is “To spend time in prayer regularly.” There is no better time than now to embark on this exciting Journey to discover the power of God which can transform our lives by reading and meditating on God’s word daily and by praying regularly.
In 2006 Newsweek interviewed Billy Graham one of the greatest evangelist of in History. Newsweek questioned him saying, if he had his life to live over again what would he do differently? Billy Graham said, “He would spend more time immersed in Scripture and theology.” He never went to seminary, and his lack of a graduate education is something that still gives him a twinge. “The greatest regret that I have is that I didn’t study more and read more,” he says. “I regret it, because now I feel at times I am empty of what I would like to have been. I have friends that have memorized great portions of the Bible. They can quote [so much], and that would mean a lot to me now.”
If Reading, meditating and memorizing God’s word means so much to Billy Graham how about you? Does God’s word excite you? Or do you find it boring? Have you read the Bible in all it’s entirety from cover to cover?
A few famous Quotes on the Bible:
George Muller, who was known, for his strong faith, confided. "The first 3 years after conversion, I neglected the Word of God. Since I began to search it diligently, the blessing has been wonderful. I have read the Bible through one hundred times and always with increasing delight!"
"You know more about your ledgers than your Bible;
You know more about your magazines and novels than what God has written; many of you will read a novel from the beginning to the end, and what have you got? A mouthful of foam when you are done.
But you cannot read the Bible; that solid, lasting, substantial, and satisfying food goes uneaten, locked up in the cupboard of neglect; while anything that a man writes, a best seller of the day, is greedily devoured." - Charles Haddon Spurgeon
These are only a few quotations of famous people about the Bible. Though they sound great that is not the basis for why we should read the Bible. We read the Bible because of what it claims to be. Let’s look into the Bible and find its own claims.
I. God’s Word is like a guide in life’s journey.
Many great men and women of faith have always drawn inspiration and direction from God’s Word. God’s word explains us how to relate to God, to our fellowmen, what is right and wrong, the origin, purpose and the destiny of our lives and a whole other range of subjects concerning life. It is like a Compass a sailor uses on a ship, or it is like a telescope an astrologer uses to study the galaxies or like a GPS a new traveler uses in a strange city. Whatever may be the questions you have regarding life, answers can be found in the Bible (you may not always like the answers). That is why perhaps John Bunyan said, “I was never out of my Bible.” And John Wesley said, “I am a man of one Book.”
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
“Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them. The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple." (Psalm 119:129)
“Now the LORD said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction.” (Exodus 24:12)
II. God’s Word can help us avoid sin.
With out the Bible we wouldn’t know what Sin is, its consequences and how to avoid it. The Bible doesn’t mince words when it comes to calling Sin by its name. Therefore by reading and studying God’s word we come to understand what pleases God and what displeases God. We will also realize that without Holiness it is impossible to please God. The Bible is clear about sins like: adultery, lying, idolatry, greed, pride, sexual immorality, drunkenness, gluttony, cheating, and injustice. It also explains what happens to those who practice such sins.
Popular culture may say “do whatever feels good to you” It’s your life you live it as you like, you are not accountable to anybody” It is OK to cheat on your spouse, every one is doing it, what is the big deal? Or it may say have sex before marriage or have multiple partners. Just because every one is doing these things doesn’t mean that they are right. Then how can we keep ourselves away from these sins and save ourselves from heartache? If you never read the Bible how would you know God’s expectations of you? The Psalmist’s advice to all of us especially to the young people:
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; and not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”(Psalm 119:9-11)
Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 “Rejoice, young man, during your childhood, and let your heart be pleasant during the days of young manhood. And follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes. Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things."(Ecc11:9-10)
When we take God’s word to heart and obey it we can save ourselves from a lot of trouble.
III. God’s Word is alive and active:
You may be wondering what the relevance of these ancient scriptures is for me today? I belong to a digital age. Or you may be thinking the Bible is written to Jewish people thousands of years ago addressing problems of their times and it has nothing to do with modern day living. You are wrong in your assumptions. Though the Bible was written over 2000 years ago its message is still relevant today in the 21st Century.
Unlike any other religious book, the Bible came under severe attack down through the centuries. Many tried to destroy God’s word but they could not succeed in their wicked schemes. God has preserved His word all these years so that today we can read and understand His will for our lives. In A.D. 303, "the Emperor Diocletian issued an official command to kill Christians and burn their sacred books."
The Christians’ enthusiasm and dedication to the Scriptures in these first centuries following Christ motivated them to produce numerous manuscripts that were widely copied, distributed, and translated throughout the empire. Historians have recovered almost one hundred thousand manuscripts and letters from the first few centuries of this era.
In 1778, Voltaire, the famous French opponent of the Bible stood in a crowded auditorium and said of Christ's first disciples, "It took twelve ignorant fishermen to build Christianity, but I will show you how one Frenchman can destroy it." He spent a lifetime trying to do just that. But what happened? Voltaire has passed into history and the Bible is more popular than ever. Interestingly, only 50 years after Voltaire's death the Geneva Bible society used his printing press and his house to produce stacks of Bibles.
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)
No matter how many people have tried to destroy God’s word it can not be destroyed because Jesus said, "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.” (Matt 5:18)
God’s word has survived the most severe attacks and will continue to endure forever.
Josh McDowell was once a very hardened skeptic. As an unbeliever, he set out to disprove the Bible as being God's Word. As he examined the facts, though, the exact opposite happened! He is now one of the most respected Christian Apologists in the world! "Men do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself, but because it contradicts them."
IV. God’s Word contains keys for prosperity:
There are a vast number of books on Success and Prosperity mushrooming in the market with captivating titles such as “Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes Into Success,” The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, The Magic of Thinking Big, One minute Millionaire and so on. But hardly any one writes titles such as “Seven steps to stay Humble” “How to consider others better than yourself” “Servanthood leads to Success” Yet there are time-tested principles in God’s word to become Prosperous and Successful in this life. These two words prosperity and success have lost their true meaning. What the media projects as prosperity and success is not real.
In Hebrew the word success and prosper has a whole range of meanings: to be prudent, act wisely, comprehend, consider, discern, gain insight, and have success. Prosper means: to be good, well, glad, or pleasing, The Biblical way of becoming prosperous and successful is totally different than what the world seems to advocate. Look at what the Bible say about how to obtain prosperity and success:
"Delighting and meditating on the Law (Word) of God leads to prosperity." (Psalm 1)
"God told Joshua to becareful to obey all the law, do not turn from it to the right or to the left so that he may be successful. Do not let this book of the law depart from your mouth meditate on it day and night... then you will prosper." (Joshua 1:7-8)
"Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth."(Matt 5:5)
“And sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)
When we meditate on God’s word we will be wise, considerate, joyful, prosperous and successful in everything we do. The more we meditate on God’s word the more we will understand who He is, as well as our purpose and destiny. When we meditate God’s word we will know the truth about God, the world and ourselves and that truth will set us free.
After reading this message you might be thinking Oh great; it all sounds good but I haven’t got the time I am too busy with other things, I can not take time off and sit and meditate. But if you want to grow spiritually there are no short cuts. John Macarthur said “Salvation is free but it costs everything.”
A few practical steps, which will help you develop this Life Giving habit: Meditating on God’s Word.
I. Start with one year Bible reading plan.
II. Pick a version (New International Version) that is easy to understand
III. Choose a time preferably morning when you are fresh and your mind is not cluttered by the things of the day.
IV. Read prayerfully and expectantly God to speak to you through His word
V. Discuss with some one in the family the truths you are discovering
VI. Talk with your children; engage them in discussing God’s truth.
VII. Try to apply the truths that you are learning from God’s word in other words aligning our life with God’s word.
"I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.” (Job 23:12)
Why not start your Journey of discovering God’s transforming power through meditating on God’s word daily today?