Contemplative prayer: Not contemplative and not biblical prayer

Posted on Eternity Matters blog

Contemplative prayer is a mystical practice that is making inroads in all sorts of churches. Don’t be taken in by it.  If you really contemplate on scripture and then pray to God, that’s great.  But that isn’t what is meant by contemplative prayer.  It involves repetition of phrases, in opposition to what Jesus taught (Matthew 6:7 ”And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.”).  It implies that there is formula you can use to “experience” God.

Prayer is the primary way you talk to God, not the primary way He talks to you.  If you want to hear from God, read the Bible.  If you want to audibly hear from God, then read the Bible out loud.  If God communicates to you other ways then that is his prerogative, not his obligation.

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The Opposite of Love

by Richard Innes at acts@actsweb.org>

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. John 4:12

I once asked a class I was teaching, “What would you say was the Christian’s number one sin?” to which a jokester replied, “Apathy, but who cares?” And as the old saying goes, “Many a true word spoken in jest.”

“In the book The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis, a devil briefs his demon nephew, Wormwood, in a series of letters on the subtleties and techniques of tempting people. In his writings, the devil says that the objective is not to make people wicked but to make them indifferent. This higher devil cautions Wormwood that he must keep the patient comfortable at all costs. If he should start thinking about anything of importance, encourage him to think about his luncheon plans and not to worry so much because it could cause indigestion. And then the devil gives this instruction to his nephew: ‘I, the devil, will always see to it that there are bad people. Your job, my dear Wormwood, is to provide me with people who do not care.'”2

The opposite of love is not hate. It’s apathy or indifference that is practiced by people who don’t care enough to care. The fact is that “people don’t care what we know until they know how much we care.”

Suggested prayer: “Dear God, please give me a loving heart so that I will truly care about others and care enough to share the love of Jesus in some way with all those you bring into my life. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus’ name, amen.”

A Prayer of Praise for the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit

by Scotty Smith on his blog Heavenward

     For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. Rom. 8:5-9

Be filled with the Spirit. Eph. 5:18

Dear heavenly Father, meditating through this passage leaves me quite grateful today for the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Several things come to mind, as I think about the ministry of the Spirit.

Just as assuredly as Jesus stood outside of Lazarus’s tomb and said, “Come forth,” you sent the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel to my heart, and I came out of the tomb of my sin and death. How I praise you for your sovereign goodness and power. Unless you’d breathed new life into my spirit, I would’ve never, could’ve never believed the gospel.

Father, when you raised me up in Jesus, you baptized me with the Holy Spirit, making me a member of your family and Christ’s bride. You sealed me for eternity by the Spirit, marking me as your very own possession. You sent the Spirit to live as a permanent resident in my heart—to constantly preach the gospel to my heart, convict me of sin, make me like Jesus and tell me that I am your beloved child. Hallelujah!

According to the truth of the gospel in your Word, I’m already controlled by the Holy Spirit. I am no longer controlled by my sinful nature. You’ve given me all the gifts of the Spirit I need to live as a functioning part of the church and a caring servant in your kingdom. You gave the Spirit to me as the firstfruits and guarantee of the full inheritance of the salvation that Jesus completely earned for me.

What a generous and loving God you are! Father, today—right now, please fill me with your Spirit that I might walk according to the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit, and set my mind on what the Spirit desires. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ glorious and loving name.

10 Attributes of God in Natural Revelation

Here is a re-post from a new blog to me. It is by  Nathaniel Claiborne at Marturo blog

As promised, you’re getting some insights from my “plodding.” Actually, that’s twice this week!

Anyway, as I was plunging into Joel Beeke & Mark Jones’ A Puritan Theology, I ran across Stephen Charnock’s list of 10 attributes of God that “can be recognized by the light of nature” (17):

  • The power of God in creating the world out of nothing
  • The wisdom of God in the order, variety, and beauty of creation
  • The goodness of God in the provision God makes for His creatures
  • The immutability of God, “for if He were mutable, He would lack the perfection of the sun and the heavenly bodies”
  • His eternity, “for He must exist before what was made in time
  • The omniscience of God, “since as Creator He must necessarily know everything He has made
  • The sovereignty of God, “in the obedience his creatures pay to him, in observing their several orders, and moving the spheres wherein he set them”
  • The spirituality of God, “insofar as God is not visible”
  • The sufficiency of God, “for He gave all creatures a beginning, and so their being was not necessary, which means God was in no need of them”
  • His majesty, “seen in the glory of the heavens”

As you can see, Charnock has put quite a bit of thought into what we can know through natural theology. Actually, he has put quite a bit thought into the doctrine of God in general as you can see from The Existence and Attributes of God, Charnock’s massive tome on the subject.

Two things to keep in mind about this list:

  • Whenever someone brings up the “tribal warrior in Africa who’s never about Jesus” you can remind them of this list available to all (see Romans 1:20ff)
  • None of these attributes are sufficient for a saving knowledge of God

So in other words, everyone knows a great deal about God if they reflect on it. But, even with this impressive list, the gospel still needs to be preached for anyone to know God in saving way. This list though makes a great starting point, taking full advantage as it does of the resources of natural revelation.

I Can’t Wait Until I’m Not In Heaven

Need a thought to jog your thinking cap? Here is one by Stephen Altrogge at The Blazing Center blog.

 

 

I’ve gotta confess, I feel a little uncomfortable saying this. Am I allowed to say this in a public forum? Is this going to be bleeped out, or am I going to be fined by the FTC, or something? Maybe I should post this anonymously…Oh what the heck, here I go…

A lot of times heaven sounds really boring to me. 

There, I said it. Phew. Glad that’s off my chest. No more secrets. No more hiding. I’m not that excited about heaven. When I think about heaven it all seems so…abstract. I know that we’ll be in God’s presence for eternity, I know that we’ll worship Jesus for eternity, I know that there will be hordes of angels, and I know that there will be no more pain, sorrow or tears. And don’t get me wrong, all that stuff sounds great. But when I picture it in my head, it just sounds like one really long Sunday morning worship service. I’m a worship leader, and even I can only sing Chris Tomlin for so long before I need to do something else. I’m a preacher, and even I could only listen to myself preach for so long before I had to do something else.

I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that heaven sounds boring. I think lots of Christians feel that way. And, as Randy Alcorn has said, not being excited about heaven is one of the main ways Satan keeps us comfortable here. So how do we become more excited?

I think we need to remember that heaven is not our final destination. 

So often we talk about heaven as if it is the final resting place for a Christian. When someone dies, we talk about them finally “going home”, and “being in a better place”. And they really are in a much, much better place. As Paul said, he longed to die and be with Christ, which was better by far.

But the reality is, heaven is simply the waiting room for the rest of eternity. When a person dies, they leave their body and go to be with Christ. But that’s not the end. Our final, glorious, exciting hope is not an abstract, bodiless existence. Our great end is not to float about the universe as bodiless souls. The end comes when Jesus returns, makes a new, physical heavens and earth, and gives us new, physical resurrection bodies.

I can’t relate to simply being a soul. I have no concept of that form of existence. But I can imagine having a new, resurrection body, and the prospect of that excites me! Our resurrection bodies will feast at the table of the Lamb! We will eat glorious meals! What sorts of flavors will our new bodies be able to sense and savor? Our new bodies will sing to the king. How many different shades and shimmers of harmony will we be capable of producing? What sorts of things will we do with our friends in heaven? Will we explore? Will we swim in heavenly lakes? Will we have heavenly competitions?

I don’t know all that we’ll do in the new heavens and the new earth, but I can imagine. I can think of all the God-given joys I experience in this life, and then amplify them by a million. I can think of the many gifts of God I experience in this life, then blow those up. It’s going to be wonderful. Astonishing. Breath taking.

Will heaven be good? Yes, it will be great. But I can’t wait until I’m not in heaven. Heaven is just the waiting room. I can’t wait until I’m in the new heavens and new earth, with my new resurrection body. That’s what I’m truly looking forward to.

 

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When You Don’t Feel Loving

from acts@actsweb.org

“Let love be your highest goal.” 1 Corinthians 14:1


As none of us is perfect, most of us have an issue of one kind or another. Probably my biggest issue was being afraid to love, which came from childhood hurts. A friend recently asked me if I ever still feel afraid to love and I said not very often but sometimes I do. “What do you do when you feel this way?” he asked to which I replied, “I do the loving thing.”

Nobody feels loving all the time, but we can always do the loving thing if we so choose. People who choose otherwise usually end up driving love away. I’ve seen this happen and I’m sure you have too.

Jesus never told us how we should or shouldn’t feel … he just told us how to act. Sure, it is important to recognize and acknowledge our feelings. Not to do so is to be in denial. However, it is equally important not to allow our feelings to control us. That can be childish and immature. But rather, we need to be in control of our feelings and regardless of what we feel, always do the right thing, the loving thing. This is a mark of maturity.

Suggested prayer: “Dear God, no matter what situation I am in nor how I feel, please help me to be like Jesus and always do the loving thing—even if this includes tough love where such is needed. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus’ name, amen.”

The Main Reason People Leave a Church

bDr. Thom S. Rainer on zPeter Cockrell’s Already Not Yet blog

Rainer-web-300x300Numbers of gifted persons and organizations have studied the phenomenon of the church “back door,” the metaphorical way we describe people leaving the church. And there will always be the anticipated themes of relocation or personal crises. We should recognize those issues, though we can respond to the latter more than the former.

But all the research studies of which I am aware, including my own, return to one major theme to explain the exodus of church members: a sense of some need not being filled. In other words, these members have ideas of what a local congregation should provide for them, and they leave because those provisions have not been met.

Certainly we recognize there are many legitimate claims by church members of unfulfilled expectations. It can undoubtedly be the fault of the local congregation and its leaders.

But many times, probably more than we would like to believe, a church member leaves a local body because he or she has a sense of entitlement. I would therefore suggest that the main reason people leave a church is because they have an entitlement mentality rather than a servant mentality.

Look at some of the direct quotes from exit interviews of people who left local congregations:

  • “The worship leader refused to listen to me about the songs and music I wanted.”
  • “The pastor did not feed me.”
  • “No one from my church visited me.”
  • “I was not about to support the building program they wanted.”
  • “I was out two weeks and no one called me.”
  • “They moved the times of the worship services and it messed up my schedule.”
  • “I told my pastor to go visit my cousin and he never did.”

Please hear me clearly. Church members should expect some level of ministry and concern. But, for a myriad of reasons beyond the scope of this one blogpost, we have turned church membership into country club membership. You pay your dues and you are entitled to certain benefits.

The biblical basis of church membership is clear in Scripture. The Apostle Paul even uses the “member” metaphor to describe what every believer should be like in a local congregation. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Paul describes church members not by what they should receive in a local church, but by the ministry they should give.

The solution to closing the back door, at least a major part of the solution, is therefore to move members from an entitlement mentality to a servant mentality. Of course, it is easy for me to write about it, but it is a greater challenge to effect it.

May I then offer a few steps of a more practical nature to help close the back door by changing the membership mentality? Here are five:

  1. Inform church members. Though I do not have precise numbers, I would conjecture that more than one-half of church members do not have a biblical understanding about church membership. Providing that information in a new members’ class can move an entire congregation toward a servant mentality.
  2. Raise the bar of expectationsWe have dumbed down church membership in many congregations to where it has little meaning. Clarify expectations of members. Again, doing so in the context of a new members’ class is a great way to begin.
  3. Mentor members. Take two or three members and begin to mentor them to become biblical church members. After a season, ask them to mentor two or three as well. Let the process grow exponentially.
  4. Train membersAlmost 100 percent of pastors agree that their role is to train and equip members. But almost three-fourths of these pastors have no plans on how they will train them (see Ephesians 4:11-13). I will address this issue more fully on my blog next Wednesday.
  5. Encourage people to be in small groups. Those in Sunday school classes and small groups are more likely to be informed and functioning church members. In others words, there is a much greater likelihood of a member with a servant mentality to be in a small group than not.

What are you doing in your church to close the back door? What are you doing to move members from an entitlement mentality to a servant mentality?