Visitors

free counters

6.06.2017

20 Quotes on Prayer

Greetings All, 

     This weeks "thought" consists of 20 different quotes regarding prayer.  I set them before you because next to reading your Bible, there is surely nothing that could do you more spiritual good than prayer. They are not set before you to see which you consider better, but to encourage you to pray!  Those who first discipled me encouraged me to set aside a focused time to pray at the start of the day and again at the close of the day, with continual spontaneous prayer being offered throughout the day.  And in many ways I found that easy, being converted in the days before smart phones and computers were the rage, and social media filled all of our "empty time" with constant updates, likes, pictures, posts and sometimes needless time-wasting distractions.
     Some of that is good and helpful, but much is very trivial and infringes on time that could be spent in much more meaningful, transforming and beneficial activities. In fact, for many, the vital experience with God in prayer (be it morning, evening or in between) has taken a back seat to social media sites. Many of us now wake in the morning, or end the day, by running to our devices -- be it the smart phone or the computer. Thus, if I could do anything (even in the life of one person) to change that, and encourage you to spend that time in invaluable fellowship with God in prayer, it would be worth all the time of gathering these quotes from well-known pray-ers.
     If there is any habit of the heart that believers need to rekindle, it's prayer. Try it for a day.  Choose fellowship in prayer with your greatest Friend, over scrolling through endless the posts of other friends.  For as F. B. Meyers once rightly stated: “The greatest tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer.”   May some of these insights help sway you to offer more time with God in prayer. Enjoy.

20 Thoughts on Prayer
"Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays."   Soren Kierkegaard

"Prayer makes a man godly, and puts within him the mind of Christ, the mind of humility, of self-surrender, of service, of compassion, and of prayer.  If we really pray, we will become more like God, or else we will quit praying."    E.M. Bounds

"Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?"  Corrie ten Boom

"To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing."   Martin Luther
“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work, prayer is the greater work.”  Oswald Chambers

"Rather than set aside daily time for prayer, I pray constantly and spontaneously about everything I encounter on a daily basis. When someone shares something with me, I'll often simply say, 'Let's pray about this right now.'"  Thomas Kinkade
"I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day."  Abraham Lincoln
"To get nations back on their feet, we must first get down on our knees."  Billy Graham

“Time spent in prayer is never wasted.”   Francis Fenelon
“Fervent prayers produce phenomenal results.”   Woodrow Kroll
“Prayer delights God’s ear; it melts His heart; and opens His hand. God cannot deny a praying soul.”  Thomas Watson
 “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”   Jesus the Christ 

“Prayer is the nearest approach to God and the highest enjoyment of Him that we are capable of in this life.”   William Law

“The right way to pray is to stretch out our hands and ask of One who we know has the heart of a Father.”   Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The best and sweetest flowers of paradise God gives to His people when they are upon their knees. Prayer is the gate of heaven.”   Thomas Brooks
“O, let the place of secret prayer become to me the most beloved spot on earth.”   Andrew Murray
“When the devil sees a man or woman who really believes in prayer, who knows how to pray, and who really does pray, and, above all, when he sees a whole church on its face before God in prayer, he trembles as much as he ever did, for he knows that his day in that church or community is at an end.”   R. A. Torrey
“When I pray, “coincidences” happen, and when I don’t, they don’t.”   William Temple
“There is nothing that makes us love a man so much as praying for him.”  William Law
“The greatest tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer.”   F. B. Meyer
     The blessing of prayer in one's life is hard to calculate.  Yet I believe that some day God will reveal the blessings we forfeited, and the life-transforming benefits we turned away, by the times we ignored it; and  in the opposite sense, show us the wonderful things we would never have experienced had it not been for the prayers that we, or others, prayed on our behalf.

In the Bonds of the Gospel, Pastor Jeff

5.30.2017

Simply Sacred

Greetings All!

This week's "thought" comes to you from Gary Thomas, and is taken from his book, "Simply Sacred."
















     As I was reading through the book, this particular entry caught my attention.  Why?  Because I can sometimes be disappointed at the way things are going in this world.  All it takes is glancing at the days headlines -- "Man kills another over parking spot dispute...,"  "Suicide bomber kills 13 and injures 24 at Baghdad ice cream shop..."  "Brother who drugs and rapes sister gets probation..."     The values, the priorities, the political rants, the greed, the language, the unreasonableness, the selfishness, the lack of respect, love and common sense... it can tend to bring one down.
     That's why I chose this entry.  It helps us look at all that from a different perspective.  A redemptive perspective. A perspective that reminds us that Jesus' call is for us as His followers to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16).  And what we sometimes forget is this: Salt is the most desired where the food is the most bland, and light is the most cherished when our surroundings are the darkest and our path littered with dangerous obstacles.
     Gary's entry for today reinforces this biblical idea, and in doing so helps turn our disillusionment with this world into a motivation to carry out Christ's mission for us. That of being salt and light. Enjoy.

Defiant Beauty

     "Years ago on a trip through southwestern Washington [state], I traveled through miles and miles of tree farms...  Interspersed among these tree farms were occasional stretches of clear-cut logging projects. The land looked devastated, broken, and abused. Even knowing that the land would come back after planting new trees, it's still a bit sad to see such brutal scarring of a forest.
     Yet, as I passed another clear-cut stretch, my eye caught something that almost made me pull off the road.  There, in a devastated patch of land, stood a startlingly beautiful maple tree, in full autumn colors. Somehow, the loggers had missed it.
     The contrast could not have been more stark -- or more beautiful. Beauty surrounded by beauty begins, after a time, to seem mediocre. But beauty in the midst of chaos or ugliness stuns us. It seizes our attention. In a barren and broken stretch of land, this tree captured my imagination and told another story. Had it stood in the midst of New Hampshire's White Mountains during autumn, it likely would have been missed -- one stunning tree in a forest of thousands of other stunning trees.  Here, however, in a broken, hurting land, this glorious tree proclaimed a transcendent truth.
     In the deepest part of us, we truly yearn for such "defiant beauty." In a world where people choose self-centered lives, where ugly things happen, where sin seems to spread unchecked, where daily assaults take their toll, we can point to the defiant beauty of a selfless life, seeking first the kingdom of God, putting others first, and even sacrificing (if need be) -- all to proclaim a transcendent truth much greater than ourselves.
     I invite you to develop this defiant beauty..., the kind that has shone through all generations of the church. At your office, in your house, at school, during walks through the malls, or visits to friends houses, let's carry the defiant beauty of our Savior's love and hope to a sin-stained world."
     The apostle Paul put forth this same truth in Romans 12:9-21; I Corinthians 13:1-13; II Corinthians 5:11-6:13; Galatians 5:16-26, and elsewhere.  There will always be things in the world that will tend to bring us down. Yet, it is in the face of all such things that we have the opportunity to add the most flavor, or shine most brightly.  Love in the face of hate, caring in the face or indifference, sacrifice in place of selfishness, generosity in the face of greed -- can not help but be noticed.
     Like that one, solitary, beautiful maple tree decked out in its autumn splendor, in the midst of a clear cut swath of destruction, we can make a difference. We can hide our light under a basket of self-protection, or lose our flavor by associating only with those who live and believe just like we do.  Or, we can do what Jesus called us to do and go out into the world, without being a part of the world, and seek to be His ambassadors of love and reconciliation.  Negative situations can discourage us, or they can be what Jesus and Paul both suggested they could be -- our renewed motivation for mission!  Determine that it may always be the latter, for Jesus sake.
Make it your goal today to be the light that shines into some dark situation, Pastor Jeff

5.23.2017

Five Reasons Church Members Attend Church Less Frequently

Greetings All!

     This weeks "thought" has to do with a problem that is becoming increasingly worse and very alarming to those who love and cherish the Church of Jesus Christ, as well as it's God-given mission to the world.  It's the lack of commitment among believers to gather together for worship, sharing, instruction, encouragement, accountability and joint-effort in carrying out the commission Christ gave to His Body to bring the gospel to those across the street and across the sea.
     There is a very good reason the author of Hebrews 10:25 says, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing..."  That is, let us not give up meeting together as the gathered church, or the congregation of the faithful, for worship and celebration.  (Yes, it was even a problem back then!)  And the reason he called them to gather was not a legalistic effort to gain more of God's favor by doing so, but because of what such gathering does for us, and the others in the body, in terms of our spiritual health and the strengthening of the Church.  In the immediate context verse 23 suggests it helps us, "hold unswervingly to the hope we profess."   Verse 24 suggests it's one of the ways we can, "spur one another on toward love and good deeds."   And the rest of verse 25 suggests that our gatherings do the opposite of what being absent does -- it enables us to, "encourage one another, and all the more as we see the Day approaching."
     My presence (and yours) on a Sunday morning, encourages others. It gives us an opportunity to carry out our God-ordained ministry of serving, encouraging, and bearing the burdens of others.  If I view my gathering with others as I should (as a time to minister encouragement to others through my words, heart-felt worship, prayers, listening ears, and actions) I have the blessed honor and privilege of being able to love others with brotherly affection, help to the struggling, listen to the lonely, assist the elderly, encourage the young, and share in people's growth as believers.  So let me share the whole verse:  "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, BUT LET US ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER, and all the more as we see the Day approaching."
     That leads us to today's entry from the blog of researcher, Thom S. Rainer, entitled, "Five Reasons Church Members Attend Church Less Frequently." (His small but very good book, "I Am A Church Member," only 77 pages long, is also a great read for further discussion on the reality and effects of this phenomena.)  Enjoy.

FIVE REASONS CHURCH MEMBERS ATTEND CHURCH LESS FREQUENTLY

     "About 20 years ago, a church member was considered "active" in the church if he or she attended three times a week. Today, a church member is considered active in the church if he or she attends three times a month. Something is wrong with this picture. For 2,000 years, the local church, as messy as it is, has been God’s place for believers to gather, worship, minister, and be accountable to one another.
     Yet every time I write something about church membership and attendance, I inevitably hear cries of “legalism” or “the church is not a building” or “the church is a messed up institution.”  But the local church -- the messy local church -- is what God has used as His primary instrument to make disciples. But commitment is waning among many church members.

Why?

     1.) We are minimizing the importance of the local church. When we do, we are less likely to attend. A few drops of rain may keep many folks from attending church, but it won’t stop them from sitting three hours in the downpour watching their favorite football team (and often pay a hefty price to do so).
     2.) We worship the idols of activities. Many members will replace a day in their church with a day at kid’s soccer or softball games or sleeping off the hangover of the previous day’s activities.
     3.) We take a lot of vacations from church. I am not anti-vacation. But 20 years or so ago, we would make certain we attended a church where we were taking a vacation. Today, many members take a vacation from church.
     4.) We do not have high expectations of our members. Any purposeful organization expects and gets much of it members, whether it’s a sports team or a civic organization. It is ironic that most churches do not come close to being a high expectation church.
     5.) We make infrequent attendees leaders in our churches. When we do, we are making a clear statement that even the leaders of the church do not have to be committed to the place they supposedly lead.
     I heard a leader of an organization tell the members he did not want them if they were not fully committed. They could not be AWOL if they wanted to be a part of the group. He expected full commitment [Sounds a bit like Jesus - Luke 14:25-33]. He is a high school football coach. And all the team members follow that high expectation of commitment. If we truly expect to make a difference in our communities, and our families, members of local churches need to have at least the same level of commitment as members of sports teams.  After all, the mission of each local church is far more important.  At least it should be..."
     One of my favorite hymns since becoming a believer is one written in 1800 by Timothy Dwight, "I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord."   You don't hear it much any more, and many would even struggle to sing it if they were required to be totally truthful and honest before doing so.  Yet, although the church is messy, and it's members are (as the Word assures us) sinners in the process of being sanctified, and thus there are and always will be problems (as in any human gathering of diverse souls), it is still the Bride Christ loves. The ones He chose to join to Himself in holy union. The objects of His sacrificial joy and affection, and His chosen means to continue carrying out His work on earth (feeble as we often are at that task).
     That's why this hymn resonates with me. Because when I am loving His church, I am loving those He loves, has redeemed, has laid down His life, and is preparing for an eternity in His presence (Eph. 5:25-27). See if you could sing these words:
"I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord. The House of Thine abode. 
The Church our blest Redeemer saved, with His own precious blood.

I love Thy Church, O God!  Her walls before Thee stand, 
Dear as the apple of Thine eye, and graven on Thy hand.
For her my tears shall fall; For her my prayers ascend; 
To her my cares and toils be giv'n, Till toils and cares shall end.

Beyond my highest joy, I prize her heav'nly ways, 
Her sweet communion, solemn vows, and hymns of love and praise."

     Oh for more members of the Bride who felt the same way about the Bride!  It would be "self-love" of the best kind!  Not because the Church is perfect (it never will be, at least in this age), but because in doing so we are loving those Christ chose as His Bride. We are doing as He commanded when He said to His disciples: "Love one another as I have love you."
Just more food for thought...
In His Service, Pastor Jeff 

5.16.2017

What Path Do I Follow

Greetings Everyone!

     Today's "thought" took me back to the days just prior to, and shortly after becoming a follower of Jesus. I was 23 and could barely think of much other than Jesus -- who He was, what He had done, what His call on my life meant, and how obeying that call would change everything in my life.  I did lose friends.  One called me a "religious fanatic."  Others politely avoided me.  And, yes, I'm not faultless. I did suffer from earnest zeal without knowledge or the wisdom that comes from experience. It's not all that untypical for a person who finally discovers that Jesus is real and wants to make sure everyone else does too (mistakenly thinking it's totally up to them). Sometimes (I have to confess) I've wished I could go back in time and approach some people and situations a bit more wisely than I did, for in some cases I'm sure I did more harm than good to the cause of Christ.
Yet, in other ways I miss many aspects of that "first love" stage. That spiritual discovery stage where everything about the faith is so new and fresh!  A time when I was less "balanced,"  had not gotten into many of the burdensome or restricting routines and responsibilities of life, and was more of an adventurer and risk taker for Jesus.  Maybe some of you can remember that stage in your life.  And if it is merely a memory, with little of it remaining, maybe you need to ask what happened to make it fade?  Do you miss it?  Have you prayed for the Lord to restore it?  Have you followed Jesus' spiritual prescription for those who have "lost their first love"  where He says in Revelation 2:5: "Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent (for letting it happen), and do the things you did at first."   Consider this excerpt from Kyle Idleman's book, "Not a Fan," and see if you (like me) might not need to repent and seek a new portion of God's ever-fresh and spirit-renewing grace. Enjoy.


     "In Matthew 19 we find a man whose name we don't know.  We learn enough from the Gospels to know he is referred to as the "Rich Young Ruler." He's followed a path that has led to wealth and power. (That's the path most of us are trying to find.) He comes to Jesus with a question. In verse 16 he asks: "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
    You have to give him credit for asking the right question. He wants to know how to get to heaven. But even the way he asks it reveals the heart of a fan [and not a follower]. He asks, what must "I do"?  That word could be translated "acquire" or "earn." He thinks it's going to be an impressive resume that will get him in. Eventually Jesus tells him what he must do. In verse 21 he says: "Sell all your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven. Then come, follow me."  Jesus invites the man to become his follower, but first the man is told to sell all his possessions and give to the poor. He's faced with the choice of following Jesus or keeping his stuff, but he couldn't do both. There is no way to follow Jesus without denying himself. Many people want to make this story about money, but it's not as much about money as it is about following Jesus. Jesus puts this man at a crossroads. He can follow the path that leads to money, or he can follow Jesus; but he can't follow both.
     So what does this mean for you and me? Is selling everything a requirement to follow Jesus? Well, it may be. In fact, I would say the more defensive you are of Jesus' words to this man, the more likely it is that Jesus might be saying them to you.  What is true is that everyone who follows Jesus will find himself or herself at a similar crossroads as this man in Matthew 19.  You won't be able to take the path of following Jesus without walking away from a different path. He wanted to follow Jesus, but when forced to choose between Jesus and his stuff, he chose his stuff. He wouldn't deny himself.  What choice will you make? 
     A few years ago I was pretty deep into some tribal areas of Africa. One night I finished preaching a message to a crowd of a few dozen people. I presented the gospel and the invitation of Jesus to follow him.  There were two young men, probably in their twenties, who accepted Christ and committed to follow him. The following afternoon these two men showed up at the house where we were staying. They each carried a good sized bag over their shoulder. I went over and asked the local missionary we were staying with why they had come. He explained that these two men would no longer be welcomed by their families or in their village. When I heard that, I was afraid that maybe this was going to be more than they would be willing to go along with.  About that time the missionary said to me, "They knew this would happen when they made the decision."
     They were choosing Jesus over their families. They were choosing Jesus over their own comfort and convenience, and "fans" don't do that. Only true followers are willing to deny themselves and say, "I choose Jesus. I choose Jesus over my family. I choose Jesus over money. I choose Jesus over career goals. I am his completely. I choose Jesus over looking at porn. I choose Jesus over a redecorated house. I choose Jesus over my freedom.  I choose Jesus over what other people think of me."  A follower makes a decision every day to deny himself and choose Jesus, even if it costs everything. When we sacrificially deny ourselves for Christ's sake it is the clearest evidence of our committed love. A committed love is best demonstrated through sacrifice. When we deny ourselves for another person it communicates true love."

     In light of what he says each one of us must ask: "What path do I follow?  If love is shown by sacrifice and self-denial for the sake of another, do I show such a love for Jesus in my life?  Since I cannot follow two paths (or two Masters), when given the option between family, money, career goals, porn, freedom, a redecorated house, what people think of me, or Jesus, what do (or will) I choose?  What have I chosen in the past? Am I still just a fan, or have I become a follower? Do I admire Jesus from a distance, sitting in the stands and cheering, or have I walked down onto the field of play to become a true, committed, disciple?"   Read Revelation 2:1-7.  Do you remember the heights from which you have fallen?  Has the Holy Spirit convicted you with the need to repent?  Will you take Jesus at His word and return to, "doing the things you did at first"?
In His Service, Pastor Jeff