The Power of Prayer

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John 16:23-24

Does prayer do any good? James answers quickly, The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16) A visiting farmer stopped at a city restaurant to eat lunch. When he was served his food he bowed his head and gave thanks to the Lord. Some rather uncouth guys sitting at a nearby table noticed the farmer’s prayer and shouted, “Hey, pops, back where you come from does everybody PRAY before they eat?” Their laughter was silenced when the unmoved farmer answered, “Everybody but the pigs.”

The Sixteenth Chapter of John moves us from the Upper Room to the Garden in the Seventeenth Chapter. The whole Seventeenth Chapter is Jesus’ prayer in the Garden. The Sixteenth Chapter is preparing the disciples for what is to come in the garden. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

There are four (4) types of prayer. Personal Prayer. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane in John 17. In the Gethsemane prayer, Jesus prays for Himself. “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. There is great pain for himself, in that prayer. There is nothing wrong with praying for our own personal needs. Luke writes: LUKE 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” There is nothing selfish or unacceptable about praying for ourselves. If our Father in Heaven doesn’t want to do it or knows its not in our best interest, God won’t do it. That is why God sometimes says “NO” to our prayers. The board of deacons was being briefed on techniques for making church calls. One newly elected member was obviously timid about her responsibilities. The pastor hoped to encourage her by stressing the power of prayer. “You’ll find it helpful, before you make the call, to spend a few moments talking to God about it,” he said. When the deacons met later to report, the timid one waylaid the pastor and said enthusiastically, “Oh, thank you for what you said about prayer. I tried it when I went out on my call, and it works.” “I’m glad to hear that,” beamed the pastor. “Tell us what happened.” “Well, I prayed the people wouldn’t be home, and they weren’t.” God hears every prayer. It is personal by the very nature that it is between you and God. …when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Intercessory Prayer. Beginning at the 6th verse of John 17, Jesus changes to intercessory prayer.  He prays for the Disciples and than He prays for all believers. Intercessory prayer is prayer on behalf of someone else. In the Church we use intercessory prayer to pray for the needs of each other. The “Prayer List” invites us to know the needs of others and then we pray for their needs. The Holy Spirit gives intercessory prayer on our behalf. Intercessory prayer is the greatest gift of love that we can give to another person. It is sacrificial and selfless. Intercessory prayer is not to be a public spectral but to be prayed from our closets. ROM 8:26 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 with groans that words cannot express. A park ranger at Yellowstone National Park tells the story of a ranger leading a group of hikers to a fire lookout. The ranger was so intent on telling the hikers about the flowers and animals that he considered the messages on his two-way radio distracting, so he switched it off. Nearing the tower, the ranger was met by a nearly breathless lookout, who asked why he hadn’t responded to the messages on his radio. A grizzly bear had been seen stalking the group and the authorities were trying to warn them of the danger. How important it is that we never turn off God’s saving communication! What to love someone that is unlovable? What to forgive in someone that is unforgivable? Pray for them, for their good!

Community Prayer. Community prayer takes place in the mist of the Church. MAT 18:20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Community prayer has great power. MAT 16:19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” God pays special attention to the Church. MAT 18:19 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.”

Travailing Prayer. Travailing prayer is a prayer lifted up in the middle of sorrow or pain. It is the prayer of the bereaved. It is the prayer of the terminally ill. It is the prayer of the persecuted.  As Jesus was dying on the cross, He prayed, LUKE 23:34 “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” I believe that God has a very sensitive heart for this prayer.  Answering our prayers! It is remarkable to think that God has given us a partnership with him in directing the course of human events. It is extraordinary to realize that our prayer can change events and circumstances in the world around us. But what is just as remarkable is that when we pray, “we” change. More often than not we become the answer to our own prayers as we open up ourselves to God in prayer. A few weeks after Vickie was diagnosed with cancer the Lord gave me Lamentations 3:19: I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.

Does prayer do any good? In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, “Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, `This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.  I will add fifteen years to your life. (2 Kings 20)

Does it do any good to pray? Ask Hezekiah!

The Power Of The Gifts Of Ministry

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Ephesians 4:11-12

Teddy Roosevelt once had a little dog that was always getting into fights and always getting licked. Somebody said, “Colonel, he’s not much of a fighter.”
Teddy replied, “Oh, he’s a good fighter. He’s just a poor judge of dogs.”

The Church must have leaders. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-fruit that will last.” God has always been about the business of calling His leaders. Sometimes we wonder God’s reasoning, but God’s choice is always best. Someone asked the great preacher, Henry Ward Beecher, if he really believed that the dead lived. He answered, “Yes, I have absolute proof. If you want it, just attend a meeting of my board of deacons.” An old Scottish proverb says, “He that won’t be ruled by the rudder must be ruled by the rock”.

God selects leaders. Paul was going in the wrong direction and God sent him on the Damascus Road. Gideon was a wheat farmer and God called him to be a leader even though he was a man who was uncertain about his calling.

The various types mentioned below are Christ’s gifts to the church. God called some to be Apostles. This was a special office at the beginning of the church. The apostles that surrounded the ministry of Christ had no successors because the criteria was to have witnessed Jesus’ ministry. They were given unique work by the Lord Jesus. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. (Eph 2:19) Protestant churches shun using this term today because the term seems to get caught up in apostolic succession of the Catholic Church. The Pope is the pope because he is an apostle in a line of apostles dating from the Apostle Peter. Later in the history of the Church the term “apostle” simply meant “one sent forth.” As time went by and all those who personally witnessed Christ’s ministry had died, the messenger of the good news became the apostle. One who carried letters between the Churches. Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. (Heb 3:1) The Jews, called the collector of the half shekel, which every Israelite paid annually to the Temple, an apostle; also those who carried about encyclical letters from their rulers were called apostles.

A prophet is one who is divinely inspired to communicate God’s will to His people and to disclose the future to them. In classical Greek, Prophetess signifies “one who speaks for another,” especially “one who speaks for a god” and so interprets his will to man. Hence its essential meaning is “an interpreter.” The medieval use of the word propheteia ( “prophecy”) passed into the English language in the sense of prediction, and has retained this as its popular meaning. It was part of their commission to show the people of God ‘their transgressions. They were, therefore, pastors and ministerial monitors of the people of God. Prophecy is not intended to open the future to idle curiosity but is for the higher purpose of furnishing light to those whose faith needs confirming. The prophecy of Jonah against Nineveh seems to be exceptional. He was sent to a pagan power to denounce the judgments of God against it. He did not, in his own land and among his own people, preach against Nineveh, but he entered the great city itself and delivered his message there.

In a general sense an Evangelist applies to anyone who proclaims the mercy and grace of God. This passage, accordingly, would lead us to think of them as standing between the two other groups-sent forth as missionary preachers of the gospel by the first, and as such preparing the way for the labors of the second. The same inference would seem to follow the occurrence of the word as applied to Philip (Acts 21:8).

Pastors have three functions: The ministration in divine service includes the ordering of worship, administering the sacraments, and preaching the Word.
The responsibility of pastoral care springs out of the worship of God.
This pastoral relation passes naturally into the scriptural authority for calling the spiritual government of the church. The design of the Lord’s gift of pastors and teachers, as supplementary to that of apostles and evangelists, is “the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12).

Teachers (Rabbi) at least some of them, had private lecture rooms but also taught in public. Their method was the same as prevailed among the Greeks, that is, any disciple was allowed to ask questions to which the teacher replied.
They did not have any official position and received no salary other than voluntary gifts from their disciples.

Leadership is accepting people where they are, then leading them in the right direction for growth. Much of the wasted effort in human activity is a result of lack of clear definition of the real or total reason for doing something. If you cannot determine why you are doing something, you probably won’t do it very well . . . Don’t miss the opportunity to expose your real purpose to yourself. A true leader is committed to the cause, and does not become the cause. Staying personally dedicated to the cause can become extremely difficult, particularly if the cause succeeds.

I admired Mother Teresa, who decided after winning the Nobel Prize that she would not go to accept any more recognition because it interfered with her work. She knew she was not in the business of accepting prizes; she was in the business of serving the poor of Calcutta. Are you a leader?

Success With Boundaries

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Isaiah 55:9

When I furnished my bedroom with only a bed, night stands and chests, I found that I put all of my clothes where they belong and my room stays clean. As soon as I bring in a chair to sit on, clothes start accumulating on it that would normally be put away. I find myself getting lazy, not making the very small effort to keep my house in order. When the clothes pile up to the point that I can’t even sit in the chair, I finally have to make a much larger effort to put away my clothes. Sometimes it’s easier just to do without the chair. Ever notice that the same thing happens with sin in your life?

There are two dogs in my back yard, lazy and sunning trying hard to get their share, and maybe more, of the overflowing from the table. Satisfied with the task they’re at, of eating and sleeping and getting fat. But whenever a rabbit ventures into the yard, they remember they are dogs and run after the rabbit.
Run after it until it darts through the fence and away from them. It is a pitiful sight watching those two dogs with their heads through the fence but not able to get their bodies through. The fence is a boundary that confines the dogs and makes the difference between tame dogs and wild dogs.

One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.” Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

God put boundaries on Satan and on Job. No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (1 Cor 10:12-13).

God’s boundaries on our lives is not to control us but for our benefit. The treasurer of a rural church resigned and was replaced by a man who managed the local grain elevator. The grain operator agreed to the new position on one condition that the church not require a financial statement or ask him any questions about the finances for one year. The church members were confused by the request but obliged him because he was a successful and trustworthy man. At the end of the year, this secretive treasurer gave a great financial report. The $25,000 debt had been paid off, there were no outstanding bills, and there was a cash balance of $12,000. The congregation was elated and wanted to know how he managed to accomplish such a great feat. He replied, “Most of you bring your grain to my elevator. When I paid you, I simply withheld ten percent on your behalf and gave it to the church in your name. You never missed it and now you have seen what God can do when we each give back to God the tithe He has commanded of us all.” Tithing provides a beautiful transformation in the life of a Christian who is obedient to God’s command, and collectively, tithing transforms the entire scope and magnitude of ministry in ones church.

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Decide upon a goal and launch it! Put first things first and we get second things thrown in; put second things first and we lose both first and second things. “I visualized where I wanted to be, what kind of player I wanted to become. I knew exactly where I wanted to go, and I focused on getting there,” said Michael Jordan.

Prov 23:7 says “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he….” One step at a time while always remaining flexible! You can achieve almost any goal you set for yourself if you simply take it one step at a time. Even the universe took six days – one day at a time. No one accomplishes their dream alone! Nobody makes it on their own. We all need help from others to get over the rough spots on the journey of life. We are a product of someone else’s generosity. Welcome obstacles and difficulties as valuable lessons toward your goal! Whenever you try to do something out of the ordinary, people will line up to tell you that you can’t do it. To achieve anything great or worthwhile, you must train yourself to rise above these people, ignoring them and pressing on toward your goal regardless. A typical piano has over 240 strings that, when tuned and tightened, create a pull of 40,000 pounds on the frame. Without the tension, there would be no beautiful music. Yet, too much exerted pressure can cause the piano to crack and will destroy it’s sound. Balance in work, exercise, diet, recreation, worship, and relationships keeps us in harmony. Keep it Christian! Ps 145:19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.

Running From God

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Jonah 3:1-5

In the later years of his life Robert Louis Stevenson was a man of deep and profound faith. It was not always like that, however. Like many young people he rebelled against his upbringing. He was reared in Scotland in a very strict Presbyterian home. As a college student he quickly shed his rigid upbringing, which he called “the deadliest gag and wet blanket that can be laid on a man,” and adopted a thoroughly sinful lifestyle. He called himself a “youthful atheist.” As he became older, however, he began to have “doubts about his doubts.” He came to see that for all its claim to wisdom, the world had no satisfying answers to the deepest questions of life. Later Robert Louis Stevenson would write, “There is a God who is manifest for those who care to look for him.” Still later he would describe his own religious outlook as a “cast iron faith.”

A man was sitting at home one evening, when the doorbell rang. When he answered the door, a 6 foot tall cockroach was standing there. The cockroach immediately punched him between the eyes and scampered off. The next evening, the man was sitting at home when the doorbell rang again. When he answered the door, the cockroach was there again. This time, it punched him, kicked him and karate chopped him before running away. The third evening, the man was sitting at home when the doorbell rang. When he answered the door, the cockroach was there yet again. It leapt at him and stabbed him several times before running off. The gravely injured man managed to crawl to the telephone and summoned an ambulance. He was rushed to intensive care, where they saved his life. The next morning, the doctor was doing his rounds. He asked the man what happened, so the man explained about the 6 foot cockroach’s attacks, culminating in the near fatal stabbing. The doctor thought for a moment and said, “Yes, there’s a nasty bug going around.”

I was in a store a few days ago shopping. There was a little boy about 8 or 9 who wanted a game boy. His mother had said, “No.” He didn’t want to accept her answer and protested. It was an ugly scene as the child lay on the floor kicking his hands and feet into the air. And yelled his protest at the top of his voice. The mother was obviously upset by the matter and was trying to get the young man out of the store. She never gave in and you could hear the child yelling all the way out into the parking lot.

May we have enough happiness to make us sweet, enough trials to make us strong, enough sorrow to keep us human, enough hope to make us happy. Rebellion (running from God) is a part of who we are as independent human beings. Jonah was commissioned by Jehovah to go and prophesy to the Ninevites, but being a partisan Israelite he did not want to see Israel’s great enemy spared. He was reluctant to obey and attempted to flee to Tarshish. He went to Joppa and there embarked upon a ship. A violent storm arose, and the captain of the vessel called upon Jonah to pray to his God to save them. As the storm did not abate, the sailors proceeded to cast lots, believing that some person on board the ship had caused the anger of God, as manifested in the tempest. Jonah was singled out as the culprit, and at his suggestion they unwillingly cast him into the sea. By the appointment of God he was swallowed by a great fish, which upon the third day cast him out upon dry land. Jonah was again commanded to go to Nineveh and immediately obeyed. The people repented, a fast was appointed, and the city was not destroyed. Provoked at the sparing of Nineveh, Jonah in his displeasure prayed to Jehovah to take his life because his proclamation had not been fulfilled. God taught him, by means of the rapidly growing and speedily decaying plant, that it was proper for Him to exercise mercy toward the repentant city (Jonah).

Even some of the strongest Christians find themselves running from God.
Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed.

Sometimes we run away from God to find God and ourselves. The Sign of Jonah became important for the coming of Christ. A sign of Jesus coming out of the tomb after three days alive as Jonah came out of the fish. As well as the mercy of a God who is determined to save his people.

“You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen!
He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, `He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'” (Mark 16:7)

Don’t stay locked in your past. Don’t keep focusing on yesterday with its heartaches and problems. It’s not important how many people have disappointed you, failed you, and done you wrong. The crucial issue now is not what they did, but what God has done . . . and what He’s going to do.
Go forward. Keep believing. Keep moving!

RU486

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Genesis 38:8-10

Did you hear about the 90-year-old man who married a 25-year-old woman? His son by a previous marriage asked, “Dad, don’t you think, um, sex is a little dangerous at your age?” “Well, son,” he replied, “if she dies, she dies.”

The first instance of a custom which was afterward incorporated among the laws of Moses states, that when a husband died leaving a widow, his next of age brother was to marry her. If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. (Deut. 25:5)

The time and circumstances in which this practice originated are not known. It seems to have been introduced early and arose out of the great importance attached to the primogeniture. O’NAN (strong) in about 1925 B.C. When his brother Er, Judah’s firstborn, was put to death by Jehovah on account of his wickedness, Onan refused, in defiance of the ancient custom, to produce offspring by his widow, Tamar. For this he was punished by death.

Clearly the issue for Onan is disobedience to God. Rightfully, the story of Onan and Tamar is not a sexual story, but a story of compliance to God’s will. It is difficult for us in our culture to understand this story because our customs are so different. Like Onan, we don’t want to marry someone that we are not in love with, especially our dead brother’s wife. When we have children we want them to call us father, not recognize someone else as their father. The whole purpose of this marriage arrangement was so that his brothers name would live on and that there would be a child to care for Tamar when she is old. Onan doesn’t care about his brother’s posterity or the welfare of Tamar. Onan, is selfish, self-centered and disobedient to God.

I selected this story because while it doesn’t directly deal with the subject at hand it forces us to ask the question of contraception. Some religious groups look at this passage and use it as a guideline for individual self-control. I don’t think that is being addressed in this story at all. Some religious groups teach that God doesn’t permit any type of birth control other than abstinence. That sexuality was designed by God for procreation and not recreational pleasure. Such groups would point to God’s anger in this passage at Onan – because Onan was taking advantage of Tamar. More than one million American teenagers (about one in ten) become pregnant each year, three-fourths of them unintentionally. There may be as many as 450,000 teenage abortions each year. Only about half of the young women who become pregnant before age eighteen will finish high school, and about thirty percent will become pregnant again within two years. About eighty percent of out-of-wedlock births to teenagers are to girls who were themselves born to unmarried teenagers.

I was invited to lead a lecture on ethics to a group of college students. I asked this group of 60 students what has been the greatest moral struggle in American history? Almost everyone agree that it was slavery. Except for one young man who said, “No, it is abortion.” Then proceeded to go into the pitfalls of abortion. My response to the young man is that it is a no win situation. The one that has the abortion finds that life is filled with guilt and remorse. The one that chooses to have the baby faces the stigma of society and if she keeps the child usually ends in poverty. Those are no win choices. A recent tragedy has revealed some repulsive hypocrisy in our land. On November 12, 1996, two young college students birthed their child in a Delaware motel room then tossed it in a dumpster. For this action, Amy Gross and Brian Peterson have been charged with murder. I am repulsed by their actions, but as a pastor I can tell you I understand the moral bankruptcy in the lives of many that would lead them to make such decision.

Listening to a lecture by a well known doctor who was talking about sexually transmitted diseases. She said that in medicine “promiscuity” was define as having four or more sexual partners. However, she soon discovered that when asked no one would ever admit that they were promiscuous. They would always see promiscuity as being one more sexual contact then they had.

When it comes to sexuality what does God’s word teach? We play games with ourselves. We say, “I believe abortion is wrong, except for rape or incest.” Wait a minute, if it is morally wrong from causal sex then it is morally wrong from rape and incest. One wrong has never justified another. Look at the story of Adam and Eve – “the woman made me do it.”

What is the bottom line? The Bible forbids sex outside the bonds of marriage. Two people not married to each other are forbidden to have sex with each other. Nothing that comes as a result of such a relationship can be justified. The David and Bathsheba story tells us that. Within marriage all things are permissible.

I disagree with some religious groups that see sex only for procreation. Within the bonds of marriage, sex was also designed for pleasure. To that end contraception becomes a necessity. Morally acceptable are all contraceptive devices that provide a barrier to conception. A barrier that prevents sperm and egg from joining. A barrier that is hormonal and doesn’t allow for the production of either sperm or egg. A barrier that kills either the sperm or egg and thus not allow them to join. Morally questionable are contraceptive devices that allow the sperm and egg to join and then do their work.

It is an odd world that we live in today. At elementary schools, the kids are in before breakfast and are kept after class doing homework, crafts or sports until they can finally go home. Kids are expected to deal with parents’ divorce without emotional damage. They are to handle life with a single parent without problems.

Teenagers today are expected by their peers to be sexually active. As parents we allow them to work out a moral code of their own for coping with sexuality. Parents must be involved in helping their children establish their moral code, but the problem is that many parents haven’t established their moral code yet.