A Prayer for God to Be “Really Among Us”

by Scotty Smith

If the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” 1 Corinthians 14:23-25

Heavenly Father, this portion of your Word compels me to pray for our church family early on this Lord’s Day morning. O to be a congregation so smitten with the glory and grace of Jesus today that all of us, not just unbelievers, would fall down and worship you, in truth and in Spirit. In light of the Day when every knee will bow, proclaiming that Jesus is Lord (Phil. 2:9-11), move us to kneel today as well—not as a ritual, but in response to your convicting, liberating and healing presence.

Rescue us from the perfunctory and predictable. Don’t let us go through the motions of the liturgy without heart devotion for you, our Lord. Spare us the tragic consequences of mere normal and cold formal worship. It’s not that we lust for experience, it’s that we long for you, O glorious Triune God. Humble us with your holiness. Confound us with your goodness. Transform us by your loving-kindness.

Make the truth of the gospel so clear, so sensate, so beautiful—to young and old alike. Send your Spirit to do what your Spirit alone can do. Restore in us the joy of your salvation—which you have freely given us in Jesus. Renew in us the love we had at first—for you and for others. Rekindle in us a passion for missions, with which our hearts first burned with kingdom gladness.

Forgive us for worshiping worship more than we worship you. Forgive us for playing church rather than being the church. Forgive us for not forgiving others as you have forgiven us. Forgive us for expecting so little from you and demanding so much from others.  Forgive us for gossiping more than gospeling. Forgive us for neither speaking nor doing the truth in love.

Forgive us for hoarding our brokenness, weaknesses and restlessness, when only you have shoulders broad enough and a heart big enough to handle all our stuff. Forgive us for posing and pretending with one another, when you tell us the gospel is the end to all such make-believe living. Forgive us for getting use to being disconnected from you—perhaps, still honoring you with our lips, but with hearts far from you. May this be the last day that is acceptable to us.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit… come in power, grace and beauty—come this very day. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ holy and loving name.

A Prayer for the Renewal of Joy

by Scotty Smith

Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, Lord, and grant us your salvation. Ps. 85:6–7

Gracious Father, I begin my day thankful for the honesty and candor of the Bible. We’ll never go through anything, this side of the new heaven and new earth, not anticipated and reflected in the storehouse of your Word. Today I’m thinking about my need for refreshment and the renewal of my joy. It’s not that I’m in a melancholic funk or fear I’m heading for a “dark night of the soul.” I just feel kind of emotionally flat and spiritually tired. I readily join the chorus of many who cry, “Revive us again.”

When I hear the apostle Paul ask believers in Galatia, “What has happened to all your joy?” (Gal. 4:15), I’m not sure how to answer. Have I fallen back into performance-based living? Have I foolishly given people power over my heart, yet again?  Too little Sabbath and sleep? Am I hoarding certain hurts and wounds, ashamed and unwilling to bring them to you?

Perhaps I’m angry at you and don’t want to admit it—resentful that you’re asking more of me than I want to give? Maybe I’m simply refusing to accept normal changes and transitions of life. I’m not sure when my heart began to leak joy, but I don’t want to get used to this condition and I don’t want to get stuck in the paralysis of analysis. Show me, Lord, and set my heart free. Grant me repentance and grant me refreshment.

Since your joy is our strength, Father (Neh. 8:10), cause my heart muscle to beat afresh with your gladness and delight—the felicity which fills the courts of heaven. Holy Spirit, joy is one of the fruits you grow in the lives of the God’s people. Please weed, prune, and fertilize my heart for a fresh crop.

Lord Jesus, since you’re praying we’ll experience the fullness of your joy (John 17:13), I’ll wait with anticipation and hope, for your prayers never fail. Fill me afresh with the inexpressible and glorious joy of the salvation you’ve won for us (1 Pet. 1:8–9). Only your unfailing love is sufficient for my ever-needy heart. So very Amen I pray, in your trustworthy and triumphant name. Amen.

How To Boast in Jesus

by Jamie Munson at The Resurgence blog

Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.
– 1 Corinthians 1:31

“Boast in Jesus” is one of those churchy exhortations that we Christians often toss around without much thought. What does it mean? Is it redirecting all compliments to God? Is it acknowledging God after touchdowns and during acceptance speeches? Is it a statement stamped on our money?

These common forms of boasting in the Lord often (though perhaps not always) amount to empty lip service. Here are six ways to get beyond mere words:

 

1) Recognize that it’s all about Jesus.

In the context of 1 Corinthians 1:31, Paul discourages the Corinthians from deriving their self-worth from personal achievements and crediting their salvation to their own lovableness. Jesus is the source and sum of everything; we are not. This compels us to live a life marked by grace and humility.

 

2) Enjoy accomplishments but don’t take the glory.

God created us to work, and there’s a holy satisfaction in a job well done. In fact, Jesus wants us to do a good job (Matt. 25:21). Problems arise, however, when we begin to derive our value, identity, and security from our accomplishments. We drift from dependence on God to reliance on self.

 

3) Learn from disappointments but don’t dwell on them.

Conversely, when we fail or when life gets hard, we can boast in God by trusting in him. Dwelling on disappointment reveals a faith vested in whatever was lost rather than a faith planted in the infallible God.

Live generously and show that your hope, your confidence, your worth—your boast—is in Jesus.

 

4) Seek and practice humility and repentance.

We will all take credit we don’t deserve. We will all pout over disappointment. We will all get caught chasing our own glory rather than God’s. This is not an excuse but rather cause for true humility (not the lip service kind) and ongoing repentance, which keeps us close to Jesus and his life and death on our behalf.

 

5) Redeem the gifts, desires, and passions you’ve been given.

Maybe God blessed you with incredible talent, extensive wealth, a keen mind, etc. Think about how to use these gifts for the Kingdom. This could simply be doing what you do with excellence and then faithfully stewarding the influence, relationships, and resources God grants you, or it could be more specifically applying your gifts to the work of ministry.

 

6) Embrace and participate in the work and mission of Jesus.

Give, serve, and become a member at your church. Be hospitable to your neighbors and share the life and things God has given to you. Talk about his work in your life. Invite others to know him. Live generously and show that your hope, your confidence, your worth—your boast—is in Jesus.

 

If you don’t pray, don’t bother to do “spiritual” work

by John Calvin

Let pastors learn from Paul’s example, not only to admonish and exhort their people, but to entreat the Lord to bless their labours, that they may not be unfruitful. Nothing will be gained by their industry and toil, – all their study and application will be to no purpose, except so far as the Lord bestows his blessing. This ought not to be regarded by them as an encouragement to sloth. It is their duty, on the contrary, to labour earnestly in sowing and watering, provided they, at the same time, ask and expect the increase from the Lord.

~ Commentary on Ephesians 1:14

“I never made a sacrifice”

by David Livingstone

“If you knew the satisfaction of performing a duty as well as the gratitude to God which the missionary must always feel in being chosen for so noble and sacred a calling, you would have no hesitation in embracing it.  For my own part, I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office.  People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. . . . Anxiety, sickness, suffering or danger now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause and cause the spirit to waver and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment.  All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall hereafter be revealed in and for us.  I never made a sacrifice.  Of this we ought not to talk when we remember the great sacrifice which He made, who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself for us.

~ quoted in J. H. Worchester, The Life of David Livingstone (Chicago, 1888), page 46. Italics original.

Five Arguments for the Deity of Christ

by Andy Naselli

In this chapter Robert Peterson marshals five arguments for the deity of Christ:

Robert A. Peterson, “Toward a Systematic Theology of the Deity of Christ,” in The Deity of Christ   (ed. Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson; Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 193–227.

(You may preview the book at WTS Books [click the Google Preview button] or Amazon [click on the book cover to “Look Inside”].)

1. Jesus is identified with God.

  • Jesus’ name is divine.
  • Yahweh passages are applied to Jesus.
  • Jesus is interchangeable with God.
  • Jesus is called God.

2. Jesus receives devotion due God alone.

  • Worship
  • Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
  • Doxologies
  • The Singing of Hymns
  • Prayers

3. Jesus brings the age to come.

4. Jesus saves us when we are spiritually united to him.

5. Jesus performs the works of God.

  • The Son of God and Creation
  • The Son of God and Providence
  • The Son of God and Judgment
  • The Son of God and Salvation
    • Jesus is called “Savior.”
    • Jesus forgives sins.
    • Jesus does the work that saves human beings forever.
    • Jesus raises himself from the dead.
    • Jesus is the object of saving faith.
    • Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to his church.
    • Jesus consummates salvation.

Related: Two other books are especially helpful on this issue:

  1. Harris, Murray J. Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992.
  2. Bowman Jr., Robert M., and J. Ed Komoszewski. Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007.   (See D. A. Carson’s review.)

Consider what Christ has done for you

by Jonathan Edwards

Consider what Christ has done for you. He died for you. O what did he bear for you. If you knew the pains, the distress, and the agonies the glorious Son of God underwent for you, how would the thoughts of his kindness and love to you overcome you. . . .

God in Christ allows such little, poor creatures as you are to come to him, to love communion with him, and to maintain a communication of love with him. You may go to God and tell him how you love him and open your heart and he will accept of it. You may be familiar in your expressions of your love to Christ, as little or unworthy as you are, for he is near to you. He is come down from heaven and has taken upon him the human nature on purpose, that he might be near to you and might be, as it were, your companion. . . . You may place yourself in his divine embraces.

Therefore don’t let your unworthiness discourage you. Let it heighten your surprise and cause you to express your love in the most humble manner possible. But let it not keep you at a distance or change the expressions of your love. You may want humility in your love, but you never can be guilty of any excess in the joys of divine love. . . .

Let these considerations influence you to the love of God and Jesus Christ, to love them with a superlative love and love nothing contrary to them, and love nothing above them, and love nothing equal to them, and love nothing along with them with any parallel love. And express your love by doing for them by being willing all your days to labor and suffer for the glory of God. Can you think of living so as to dishonor God and to be a stumbling block to others and a disadvantage to religion without the utmost dread of it and being sick at the thought of it?

~ “The Spirit of the True Saints Is a Spirit of Divine Love,” in The Glory and Honor of God: Volume 2 of the Previously Unpublished Sermons of Jonathan Edwards, pp. 338-41

A Prayer for Days When You Don’t Feel Like Praying

by Scotty Smith

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. 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. Romans 8:26-28

Dear Father, this is one of those days when I could create a long prayer list and methodically go through it, but I’m not sure I would really be praying. I could go through the motions, but to be quite honest, it would be more ritual than reality—more about me, than the people and situations I’d bring before you. I’m feeling distracted this morning, scattered and not very focused at all.

It’s one of those days I’m glad the gospel is much more about your grasp of me than my grip on you. It’s one of those days I’m grateful your delight in me is not contingent upon my delight in you.  It’s one of those days I’m very thankful for the prayer ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Gracious Father, I have no problem or reluctance in acknowledging my weakness this morning. In fact it’s freeing to know your Spirit doesn’t abandon us when we’re weak, but helps us in our weakness. Just as Jesus constantly prays for us, the Holy Spirit faithfully prays in us through “wordless groans.” Though I don’t understand everything that means, I do get the part about you searching our hearts and knowing the mind of the Spirit, and that brings me incredible comfort today.

No one knows our hearts better than you, Father. And you search our hearts to save us, not shame us; to deliver us, not demean us; to free us, not frown upon us; to change us, not chide us. You know my past and future, my fears and my longings, my struggles with sin and my standing in grace. What a glorious and gracious God you are!

And at this very moment your Spirit is praying inside of me—perfectly tuned into my needs and in total harmony with your will. I cannot measure the peace that brings. I surrender right now, Father. I gladly groan to your glory. I collapse on Jesus in this very moment. I will not waste any energy today in the paralysis of analysis, vain regrets, pretending or posing. I know you are at work for my good in all things, including in my unrest and uncertainty.

Father, all I have to do is look at Jesus and know these things are true, for he is the author and perfecter of my faith. It’s because of what Jesus has done, not what I do, that you love me. You have called me to life in him and you will complete your purpose in me. I do love you, I would love you so much more. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name.

My Love for God Depends on My Knowing God’s Love for Me

by Walter Marshal


You cannot love God if you are under the continual secret suspicion that he is really your enemy! … You simply cannot love God unless you know and understand how much he loves you. … In the gospel, you can come to know that God truly loves you through Christ. When you have this assurance, you can even love your enemies, because you know that you are reconciled to God. You know that God’s love will make people’s hatred of you work together for your good.

The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification: Growing in Holiness by Living in Union with Christ

Apol@&#%!c$

by The Valley Girl Apologist blogsite

Apol@&#%!c$

In the church today, there are three different types of people. In the first group are those love apologetics so much, they give themselves goofy nicknames like “apolojedi”, (a practice which this blogger, who even loves Star Wars, absolutely refuses to partake in). The second group hears the word and goes “apolo-what?” And then there is the third group. They hear the word and go, “Bleh. Those darn Christian academics and their apol@&#%!c$, emphasizing scholarship and quenching the Spirit, who needs ‘em?”  Well, considering the latest Barna results, this blogger’s answer would be “the entire church”. We already know the youth is leaving the church in droves due to lack of real answers for the tough questions.[1] The men have been gone for years.[2] And now, Barna’s latest research also shows a surprising decline in the attendance and beliefs of women in the church.[3]
Women? You mean the ones who have been faithfully teaching the children? I can’t imagine why they might be leaving. Hmmm. Let’s see. Maybe it is because they only go to Ladies Teas and their Women’s ministry teaches a bunch of fluff. They get told, “You don’t need to know why you believe or even how to think critically about it, just let Beth Moore tell you what to believe.” Then, they come up against a crisis of faith: their husband leaves them for another woman, their child gets diagnosed with autism, or one of their parents dies, and they can’t figure out why they ever believed in this supposedly benevolent, Sovereign God in the first place.
Why this new push for apologetics? We do not live in the world we lived in 50 years ago. There was a time for Billy Graham-style crusades and the Jesus People movement, but they are no longer the successful evangelism tools they once were. Why? Because the people that dwell on the earth today, and especially in North America, have this thing called a worldview. And, it is no longer based on a First Cause. It is based on Relativism. Postmodernism. Skepticism. Humanism. Any of these terms sound familiar to you?
Heard them in university perhaps?
In Nancy Pearcey’s new book, Saving Leonardo (a book I wish I had written myself), she explains this phenomena taking place in the world today. She writes, quoting Todd Gitlin, “After the 1960’s student protests, the Left began ‘marching on the English Department while the Right took the White House.’”[4] The Christians began to attempt to change Washington right then, while the humanists got into the universities and decided to change the Washington of the future. They bred a new generation of humanistic thinkers that the Christians ignored while trying to take over the country. We can no longer bury our heads in the sand as Christians. We have to deal with the fact that America is now a society with a relativistic, postmodern worldview, and evangelize as such. We must deal with the “why” before we can deal with the “what” or the “Who”.
Those who oppose apologetics do so because they fear that by teaching people “why” they believe, they will lose sight of the “Who”. This is a rational fear to have, as there are definitely those out there who have lost sight of the reason for doing apologetics in the first place. However, just because there are people misrepresenting the point of apologetics, it doesn’t mean you should throw out the baby with the bathwater. It does not mean you can ignore the hard questions your youth may have and substitute it with worship services and water balloon fights every week because that is easier and less controversial. Nancy writes, “There’s nothing wrong with good clean fun. But the force of sheer emotional experience will not equip teens to address the ideas they will encounter when they leave home and face the world on their own. Young people whose faith is mostly emotional are likely to retain it only as long as it is making them happy. As soon as a difficult crisis comes along, it will evaporate.”[5] This is true across the board, not just with youth, but with mom and dad as well.
Every pastor needs to read Nancy Pearcey’s book, for, as evidenced by the state of the church today, they are all guilty of ignoring the desperate need of equipping the saints. The reason I love Nancy’s book so much is because she gives an airtight case for apologetics without even using the word once in the first few chapters. This is what we need more of. A way to open people’s eyes to the need for the defense of the faith without using a word, that for now, is scary to the Pastor and average churchgoer. In conclusion, I leave you with another excerpt of Nancy’s book, because it is a phenomenal read, and says everything I have ever wanted to say, only much more Nancy-Pearcey-like (read “eloquently”) and less Valley-Girl-like (you know what I mean).
“What does this suggest about the best strategy for engaging global secularism today? We often hear early Christians speak about recovering the vitality of the early church. But which aspect of the early church are they thinking about? It’s a safe bet they are not thinking about the way the early church went on the offensive against the dominant intellectual systems of the age [which it did]. Today’s churches pour their resources into rallies, friendship evangelism, and mercy missions that distribute food and medicine. And these are all vital. Yet if they aspire to the dynamic impact of the early church, they must do as it did, learning to address, critique, adapt, and overcome the dominant ideologies of our day….” [6]
Just read the book. You can even read it immediately if you like. Theelectronic version (that you can read on your computer by downloadingKindle software for free) is $14.84 on Amazon.com.
Oh, and get one for your pastor while you’re at it.

[1] http://www.rforh.com/my-talks/demolishing-double-mindedness/
[2] http://www.biola.edu/news/biolamag/articles/06spring/feminization.cfm
[3] http://www.barna.org/faith-spirituality/508-20-years-of-surveys-show-key-differences-in-the-faith-of-americas-men-and-women
[4] Pearcey, Nancy. 2011. Saving Leonardo. Kindle iPad Edition, p. 12.
[5] Pearcey, Nancy. 2011. Saving Leonardo. Kindle iPad Edition, p. 16.
[6] Ibid. p. 14.