“Prayer Still Works”

Storms come in all shapes and sizes.  They can be personal, like health crises, financial burdens, or relationship problems.  They can involve public interests, like politics and social issues.  Storms are looming all around us, and these days, its no surprise to feel overwhelmed by all that is going on.  It seems that there is no area of life unaffected by some negative force,  Some are even considering that the godless condition of our nation adds to that storm to create a feeling of hopelessness.  What, then, can we do? 

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people…” — 1 Tim 2:1 (NIV)

In 1 Timothy 2:1-8, Paul set some priorities for the church when he gave Timothy directions regarding prayer.  Prayer would make a difference in the early church, for the nation, and in the lives of the people.

As the terrible weather forecast is playing out in real time in Louisiana, I found myself thinking back to a time many years ago when I was caught driving on the interstate in extremely high winds and extremely low visibility. I had slowed down from 60 mph to about 20mph.  Suddenly, I could barely see anything but leaves and debris hitting the windshield.  It felt like a tornado was coming down on top of us.  I glanced over at my son riding in the passenger seat, and his eyes were closed, his hands were clinched together, and he was praying.  A few more seconds, and the wind calmed down enough for me to be able to see the cars all around ours.  It was somewhat of a miracle that we hadn’t been hit!  I often think about that time, and how it reminded me of the power of prayer.  Prayer is useful in every situation.  No matter what, prayer still works!

All throughout scripture, we can find evidence of the power of prayer.  It’s not that there is a magical formula to prayer that forces God to answer in the way we demand.  The power in prayer comes from the measure of faith we have when we approach God, matched with the right motives and a humble attitude.  There is power in corporate and individual prayer!  When what we seek from God lines up with his word, and when we truly believe that we can have what we ask, our prayer has power.  In reality, any power in prayer is directly related to the power of God who can do anything and everything as he so chooses. 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.—Heb. 4:16 (NIV)

As long as we live, we will continue to face storms.  The important thing is to face them with confidence that God is with us…to help us in our time of need.  No matter the circumstances…when all else fails…prayer still works! 

 


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“God Said So!”

…because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” –Hebrews 13:5b-6

We say we have faith. We say we trust in God.  Yet we have fear.  Fear of what man can do to us.  Fear that our boss will terminate us from our job.  Fear that the bill collector will take our house.  Fear that the crook will steal our property.  Fear that the judge will rule against us.  Fear.  But we say we have faith, and that we trust in God.  What then can we do in these instances when we find ourselves giving in to fearfulness?  We can remember the point of these verses from Hebrews 13:  The Lord is with us!  God said so!

In Psalm 118, David gives a similar declaration in verses 5, 6 and 7: 

“When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?  The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies.”

At times, when fear begins to overwhelm us, we can lose sight of this fact. But the scriptures are here to remind us of God’s attributes—one of which is that He will never leave nor forsake us.  The scriptures remind us that we need not fear any man.  The next time you find yourself in a situation where you begin to feel fear rising up inside of you, take it as a nudge to pray to God as David did and seek the scriptures for reassurance of this comforting truth:  No matter what man tries to do, if you are a born-again believer, God has got your back.  No matter what the circumstances say, trust God.  No matter how bleak things look, trust God.  Even if things don’t go your way, trust God.  No matter what, trust God. 

At the end of the story, when our time on this earth has passed, no matter what man may or may not have done to us whilst we were on this earth, God will still grant us the eternal life He has promised to all who accept the gift of salvation.  So, do not worry about mere mortal men.  Live with confidence knowing God will never leave nor forsake us. Remember, God said so.

 


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“An important role in the process of worship.”

Ushers & greeters play an important role in the process of worship in the house of the Lord . These gatekeepers and doorkeepers originated from amongst the Levites.  In 2 Chronicles 8:14 and 23:18-19, you can find a reference to the role of ushers as gatekeepers. 

Old Testament ushers were the overseers that David had assigned for service at the gates in the Lord’s temple. Some of their duties as keepers of the temple gates are well known, such as literally being in charge of who gets to enter in and handling disruptions.  Other duties are less known, like going in before high-ranking people to clear the way and literally striking down those who went beyond their rightful place in the temple. Ushers in scripture had many duties, and they sometimes had to wield weapons to carry them out.  It was the ushers’ responsibility to make certain proper reverence was used in worship of the Lord upon entering the temple. Can you imagine one of our ushers brandishing a sword as you tried to enter the sanctuary unprepared for worship?

David and Nehemiah relied on the Levites as gatekeepers to serve the Lord in all of their many duties, much like our Pastor relies on the ushers and greeters today.  Ushers today still have a hefty task of helping the worship leaders set the atmosphere for worship and to carry out certain other responsibilities. (Just watch them in action today.) Although the various duties have changed somewhat, the essence is still the same.  Worshippers arrive at church in all sorts of conditions.  I, myself, am guilty of arriving at church in a rush—all busy and unfocused—and it takes me a few minutes to shift my mindset off of my tasks and into worship.  But we should all think about the usher’s role in our church and also about how we hinder or help them in the discharge of their duties. 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds — Hebrews 10:23-24

God’s Word tells us to “spur one another on”.  When we approach the Lord’s house ready to worship God, we help make the Usher’s job a bit easier.  More importantly, we glorify God when we approach His presence with a healthy reverence and ready for worship.  Let us encourage our ushers and greeters, as God-ordained servants, to continue serving the Lord.  God will get the glory when we do.

 


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“Gratitude for our Fathers”

“For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” (Gen. 18:19 NIV)

Father Abraham…I recall singing a song as a child about this great father of many nations.  The blessings on this man of great faith can be ours as heirs to the promises of God.  This scripture speaks to us today, especially the fathers. 

From Genesis and the time of Adam, God has given men great responsibilities.  Fatherhood is one of them.  As citizens of the kingdom of God, we all have certain rights and obligations.  But it is men, especially fathers, who God chose and gave the responsibility to “direct his children and his household”.  God expects godly fathers to direct them in the ways of the Lord.  And there is a blessing for fathers who fulfill their responsibilities.

Fathers, along with their mothers, have a role in making sure that what goes on in their home honors God.  It begins with their decision to serve the Lord.  Joshua understood all too well that he had a great responsibility as the father and head of his household.  He didn’t try to pressure people outside of his house, but he was clear that his entire household, which included his wife and children and all of his servants, had to serve the Lord.

“But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Josh. 24:15b NIV)

As we learned from Genesis 18, a good father who directs his household well will enjoy the promises of God.  So, fathers, be encouraged.  Becoming a father is easier than being a father.  Did you catch that?  Becoming a father is easier than BEING a father.  Fathers have all sorts of concerns!  They have to provide and protect and guide and lead.  The father’s job is difficult.  But God’s Word is full of promises that should give fathers wisdom and strength for their great responsibility. 

To all of the fathers, we acknowledge your hard work and your desire to lead your children in the right way.  We appreciate you for the roles you play in our families and in our church.  We love you and we are praying for you.  Happy Father’s Day!

 


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“What is Pentecost Sunday?”

Question: “What is Pentecost Sunday?”

Excerpt from Gotquestions.org

Answer: Pentecost Sunday is a commemoration and celebration of the receiving of the Holy Spirit by the early church. John the Baptist prophesied of the first Pentecost when Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11). Jesus confirmed this prophecy with the promise of the Holy Spirit to the disciples in John 14:26. He showed Himself to these men after His death on the cross and His resurrection, giving convincing proofs that He was alive. Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Father’s gift of the Holy Spirit, from whom they would receive power to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:3-8). After Jesus’ ascension to heaven, the men returned to Jerusalem and joined together in prayer in an upper room. On the Day of Pentecost, just as promised, the sound of a violent wind filled the house and tongues of fire came to rest on each of them and all were filled with the Holy Spirit. They were given the power of communication, which Peter used to begin the ministry for which Jesus had prepared him. After the coming of the Holy Spirit, the disciples did not stay in the room basking in God’s glory but burst out to tell the world. This was the beginning of the church as we know it.

Today, in many Christian churches, Pentecost Sunday is celebrated to recognize the gift of the Holy Spirit, realizing that God’s very life, breath and energy live in believers. During this service, John 20:19-23 may be the core of the message about our risen Savior supernaturally appearing to the fear-laden disciples. Their fear gave way to joy when the Lord showed them His hands and side. He assured them peace and repeated the command given in Matthew 28:19-20, saying, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Then He breathed on them, and they received the Holy Spirit (John 20:21-23).

The celebration of Pentecost Sunday reminds us of the reality that we all have the unifying Spirit that was poured out upon the first-century church in Acts 2:1-4. It is a reminder that we are co-heirs with Christ, to suffer with Him that we may also be glorified with Him; that the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7); that we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13); and that the Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead lives inside believers (Romans 8:9-11). This gift of the Holy Spirit that was promised and given to all believers on the first Pentecost is promised for you and your children and for all who are far off whom the Lord our God will call (Acts 2:39).


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“Do you truly believe”

Easter was just a little over a month ago.  We celebrated our risen Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Those of us who have professed a hope in Christ agree that we BELIEVE!  We believe that God sent his son, Jesus, to die a substitutionary death for our sins.  We believe that Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried.  We believe that he rose on the third day with all power in his hand.  We believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life.  We believe that our salvation and eternity depends on our faith in Jesus Christ.  We truly believe. 

Or do we?

Our lives were changed once we believed.  The old things we used to do, we don’t do anymore.  Sure, we struggled for a moment with temptation (and still do sometimes), but our new nature won over the old sinful nature, and we began to mature in Christ.  But, if that is true, and we truly believe, why does our faith in God stop short of what we seek Him for in our daily lives?  Why do we believe in such an ancient and miraculous event as the resurrection, but falter on things we need today?  Perhaps it is a matter of faith.

We start out with a measure of faith, as Paul suggests in Romans 12:3.  But when the issues we face are seemingly too hard to imagine in our human minds, we begin to waver.  How, then do we grow this measure of faith into that strong, unwavering faith?  There are at least four things we can do:

1.) We can HEAR God’s Word.  If “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17), then we need to hear God’s Word.  I remember getting a call from a good friend at the sudden passing of her young husband.  She said she called, because she wanted to talk to someone who would “speak life” to her.  You cannot listen to all the naysayers and grow your faith!  You have to hear those promises in God’s Word that will encourage you!

2.) We can CHOOSE to believe God’s Word.  Sounds silly, perhaps, but just like we can choose to forgive, or to trust, or to love, we can choose to believe.  Finding a promise of God to stand on can help us with this.  There’s an old song, “God said it. I believe it” which reminds us to make the choice to believe every time doubt tries to creep in.  And every time you make that choice, your faith grows!

3.) We can TAKE HOLD of God’s Word.  This is a deliberate decision to keep our focus on God’s promises, no matter what the situation looks like.  It’s not easy, but it’s crucial to growing our faith.  “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” (Heb. 10:23). 

4.) We can ACT on God’s Word.   We know that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17), but it is even harder to act out what we hear, choose, and take hold of.  But if we want that strong unwavering faith, it’s what must happen.  “Unwavering faith is to count those things that be not as though they are, (Rom.4:17; Mark 11:22-24). 

There is no need for us as believers to be trapped in fear, weakness, poverty, or despair during any situation. We must grow our faith.  We must truly believe!

 


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“A Message to Our Graduates on Choosing Wisely”

Graduation is a busy time.  After years of making choices about everything to get to this point, you spend time finishing up studies, and fulfilling all of the requirements for graduation!  Before you know it, the time comes to move to the next phase of life.  Whether it is going off to college or pursuing a career dream, every graduate is faced with choices—before, during, and after.  Making choices never ends.

One choice, though, is very important to every Christian graduate. 

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” —Joshua 24:15 (NIV)

I once read a story about a young Christian who went off to college.  After spending his whole upbringing seated every Sunday morning in church with his parents, he had decided to exercise his newfound freedom of choice.  He was out on his own and away from home.  He and his college roommate had decided to spend their first Sunday morning in the park—just hanging out with friends and having fun.  On his way to the park, he heard a church bell ringing the start of the morning service.  He tried to ignore it, but that nagging voice would not leave him alone. 

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” –Isaiah 30:21 (NIV)

Without much more thought, the young Christian suggested to his friend that they stop by a church– just to see what it was like– and, then, head on to the park.  They did, and both continued serving the Lord throughout college and even afterwards.

As Joshua said to the Israelites, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Every one of us must make that decision.  Nobody can make it for you, and you can’t make it for anybody else.  Sometimes the decision isn’t easy.  Because of our sinful nature, we all get tempted to do our own thing.  So, it really comes down to this: Do you really want to serve the Lord?  If you do, then God will give you that resolve.   When the Lord came to Moses and spoke to him through the burning bush, Moses basically said, “I can’t do this. I don’t know what to say. I stumble over my words.”  But later in Exodus we see him facing off with the most powerful man on the face of the earth at that time. That is because God gave him the strength. 

In this same way, God will give you the strength to do what you need to do to serve the Lord and to live a life pleasing to Him.  It won’t be too hard, and you will find that you still have time to do things outside of church.  As we recognize our graduates, let us also urge every one of them to make a good choice to be completely committed to Jesus.

 


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“Psalm 39: Put Your Hope in the Lord”

I said, “I will watch my ways
    and keep my tongue from sin;
I will put a muzzle on my mouth
    while in the presence of the wicked.”
So I remained utterly silent,
    not even saying anything good.
But my anguish increased;
    my heart grew hot within me.
While I meditated, the fire burned;
    then I spoke with my tongue:

“Show me, Lord, my life’s end
    and the number of my days;
    let me know how fleeting my life is.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
    the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
    even those who seem secure.

“Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
    in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
    without knowing whose it will finally be.

“But now, Lord, what do I look for?
    My hope is in you.
Save me from all my transgressions;
    do not make me the scorn of fools.
I was silent; I would not open my mouth,
    for you are the one who has done this.
Remove your scourge from me;
    I am overcome by the blow of your hand.
When you rebuke and discipline anyone for their sin,
    you consume their wealth like a moth—
    surely everyone is but a breath.

“Hear my prayer, Lord,
    listen to my cry for help;
    do not be deaf to my weeping.
I dwell with you as a foreigner,
    a stranger, as all my ancestors were.
Look away from me, that I may enjoy life again
    before I depart and am no more.”

 


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“God’s Motherly Love”

“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” — Is. 66:13

 Mother’s Day is a man-made holiday, but mothers are part of God’s design for the family.  But why?  God is intentional.  Everything he does is deliberate and with a long-range, inside and out view of each of our individual lives.  Nothing that God does is accidental or coincidental. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Rom. 8:28

God was intentional when He created mothers.  God even had Mary, the mother of Jesus, present at his crucifixion.  Perhaps it was so we would see the tenderness of God’s love even while His Son was dying on the cross.  God had a plan to redeem the soul of man.  And in that process, God imparted principles that work right alongside the Gospel message —principles around hope and love.  In His intentional way, we can see God’s motherly love for us.

During Israel’s exile and the overwhelming feeling of despair, God had to remind them that He had not forsaken them.  God used the example of a mother to let Israel know He had not forgotten them!  God, who we know as “Our Father”, uses the imagery of labor and childbirth, a mother nursing a child, and a child being comforted by a mother all throughout Isaiah 66 to bring out the concept of hope.  A disobedient nation could have hope because God, our Father, also has the capacity to exhibit what we understand as motherly love.

Mothers are as different as each of our unique personalities suggest.  Some are soft and gentle, while others are firm and hard.  Still, there is something about a mother’s love.  It’s almost indescribable!  We honor our mothers today, not only because God’s Word tells us to do so, but also because we recognize the many unselfish and sacrificial ways that mothers have poured into our lives.  We are grateful to God for our mothers.  And we are grateful to God for His motherly love!

 


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“Living with Eternity in Mind”

I’ve been to several visitations and funerals over the past 7 days, and I found myself thinking about the very different ages and stages and stories of each person’s life.  While their life stories were very different, every one of these precious people had professed a hope in Christ.  At some point, each one had made a decision with eternity in mind.

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. — 1 Peter 4:7-11

God’s word encourages us to have an eternal perspective—to think beyond the daily routine of our obligations and earthly pleasures and to consider eternity.  Having an appropriate view of eternity should affect how we live, how we handle life’s ups and downs, and how well we prepare for the end that will surely come. 

This could seem sort of dark and sad, however, it is actually appropriate.  It should give us hope.  Christ lived his life with “the end of all things is near” mindset.  He knew he would endure great suffering as part of God’s plan for mankind.  He had a healthy view of eternity. 

None of us knows the day when Christ will return, but we do expect that he will.  None of us knows the exact number of our days either, but those of us who have confessed a hope in Christ expect to go to heaven when we die, and we expect to live eternally.  That is our hope. 

We must live purposeful lives—according to God’s will.  And we must not get overly concerned about the when and the where of Christ’s return, but determine to heed the words from 1 Peter 4 and live our lives with eternity in mind.  No matter what life may bring, love deeply, be hospitable, serve faithfully and graciously…“so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

 


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