Keep on praying!

Does it ever feel like when you are praying to God, you are only repeating yourself? Do you ever feel that you are boring God with the same requests? Do you wonder if you need to pray a second, third, or fourth time, if God already heard you the first time? On one hand, it is true that God does not want to hear simple words rotely recited. As nice as the Lord’s Prayer is, Jesus never intended for it to be a formula robotically intoned, as some do. He said in Matthew 6:7 “When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” However, on the other hand, Jesus encouraged His disciples to persevere in prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says simply: “Pray without ceasing.”

The most famous passage where Jesus talks about persevering prayer is Luke 18. There He tells the story of a judge who was a corrupt, selfish man. In the parable, a widow woman continually comes to the judge making one request: “Avenge me!” It is the same request over and over again, and eventually the unjust judge says: “Because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me,” and he gives her what she wants. The point of the parable is not to equate God with an unjust, stingy judge, but to point out that if even a wicked unbeliever will relent and give a stranger what she wants, how much more will God give what is needed to His children, if they persevere in prayer?

Jesus says: “Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.” It may seem that your request has been a long time coming. You may have prayed about a certain request for years or decades. It may seem that God will never answer, but He always answers in His time, and Jesus gives the assurance that God hears and will answer our prayers.

So keep praying, even if it the same request. Don’t let Satan move you from asking, just because you already have.

Posted in August | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Much More as a Child

My father is a generous person. If there is anyone who needs help, my dad is there to lend a hand, or meet any other needs if he is able. My dad grew up in the Midwest, and so everyone is a neighbor, and if they are in need, he will help. But there are a few people that get preferential treatment when it comes to Dad’s help. I’m not talking about fellow church members or friends. I am talking about a select four that know that whenever they need help, Dad would drive across the country and go out of his way to help. Who are these four? Me and my three siblings.

It is natural to expect that if anyone is going to help us, it will be our parents. By taking on the mantel of “parent,” the father commits himself happily to the well-being of his children. I can expect that Dad will help me, to his own hurt, if I need him. This is the privilege of being his son.

This is true in the physical realm, but it is also true in the spiritual realm when we think of our Heavenly Father. This truth is put most succinctly in Romans 5:10, which says “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” The context of Romans 5 talks about the relationship that Christians have with God. It is not true that everyone who is born into this world is born a child of God. This is a common misconception. Another misconception is that we are born again when we are baptized. However, God says in John 1:12 “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” We become God’s children when we place our trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:8 is clear that we accepted the offer of God’s love, not as children, but when we were sinners. It says: “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” This means that when we were undeserving, Jesus died for us. God showed His love for us when we were not His children. Just like my dad would help a stranger, or even an enemy, God loves everyone to some degree.

However, Romans 5:10 says that if we experienced God’s love when we were sinners, how much more should we expect to experience God’s love now that we are His children? It is only natural that you should be able to go to God for help when you are needy, if you are His child. If unbelievers still experience God’s blessing, how much more can you expect it? If when you were a sinful, wretched lost enemy of God He showed you His love, how much more can you expect His love, mercy, forgiveness, and blessing when you become His child by faith?

Go to your Father and seek the help you need. He is a good Father, and will always be there for you.

Posted in August | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Night to Unite – and Pray

Last night was the 5th annual “Night to Unite,” hosted by the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Department, and it was also attended by other emergency organizations. The purpose of the night was to support those in our community who keep us safe and provide vital services, and many from the community came to show their support. It was encouraging to see this support, because it seems that the attitude toward police in recent years has been decidedly downturned. It’s true that when an officer gives or risks his life while on duty, the public is supportive, like the officer recently murdered in West St. Paul.

But then there are the times when the police remain safe and a perpetrator is injured or killed. Take, for instance, the instance of policemen taking down a Staten Island man, which resulted in his death after an apparent chokehold. Or the California Highway Policeman who allegedly beat up a great-grandmother. Or the Oklahoma man who was killed by five officers who showed up to investigate a domestic disturbance. The reaction against these unfortunate occurences is inordinate, especially when not all the facts are presented. Television shows and movies often portray policemen as crooked, stupid, or power-hungry. To be sure, there are policemen who do not do their job, just as there are pastors who are corrupt, or bankers who are thieves, or doctors who are killers. But the vast majority of our law enforcement are people who love and want to serve their fellow man, and who would rather talk to someone than injure them.

Government is not a clever social invention, but is God’s idea. In Genesis 9:5 God institutes government in giving man the right to enforce laws on other men, even at the point of death. Perhaps the best passage describing how God sees our friends in law enforcement is in Romans 13, where it says: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” God has put, not only our elected officials, but policemen and women into our lives to help us. This is more true for the peace-keeping officers who watch over us in Park Rapids.

What should be our response? We should thank and encourage law enforcement officers when we meet them. We should let them know we appreciate the sacrifices they make, both on the job and with their families. We should also pray for them. Pray for their safety while they answer dangerous calls. Pray for wisdom in difficult situations that call for split-second decisions. Pray that God would protect their families and give them peace in a very stressful job.

I thank God for our sheriff, deputies, and policemen. They really are God-sent.

Posted in August | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The worst day of my life – almost

Today could have been the worst day of my life. It could have been the day that we remembered forever, the day that our whole lives changed, and the day where my heart was torn out. It wasn’t, but it could have been.

After church, everyone was saying their goodbyes, and Amy walked across the parking lot to talk with another woman. Three-year-old Jacob ran after her, never noticing Betty backing out of her parking spot. My mother-in-law watched in horror as her grandchild ran into harms way, and she honked her horn, as the only action her panicked state allowed her to do. This alerted Betty, who immediately put on her brakes, and Amy, who had no idea until then how close we were to losing our precious Jacob.

I am friends with others who have lost children, and I do not know how they ever get through it. I have a vivid imagination, and I cannot even begin to try to imagine the pain of losing a child, especially one so young, especially to such a tragic accident. It leads me to these thoughts:

1. I am so glad for God’s protection. The Bible never talks about guardian angels per se, but it does say in Psalm 91:11: “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” You can be sure that I lived in thankfulness to God the rest of the day for His protection.

2. I am so glad for God’s goodness. I do not know the specific reasons that God spared Jacob, but I am so glad that He did. Yet, in saying that, I also do not believe that if He had not, He would no longer be good. When Betty heard that horn, she could have accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brake. Before today I knew that God was good. God taking something good from me does not change that. Romans 8:28 says “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

3. I am so glad for God’s grace. While I didn’t have to spend today begging God for grace, I know what the answer to that prayer would have been. God gives a peace and a grace that transcends knowledge, and especially in hard moments Jesus Christ comes to meet with us in our grief and heartache and gives us the grace we need. Paul asked God to remove his pain in 2 Corinthians 12, and God said this: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Today could have been a bad day. I am so thankful it was not. What a loving Father I have to teach me about Him during what could have been the worst day of my life.

Posted in June | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Unexpected Snow

This is the 27th day of spring, and yet in Park Rapids, it doesn’t feel that way. People who planted flowers and vegetables when the weather was nice last week are now kicking themselves for their naive optimism. Snow when it is supposed to be warm is expected in autumn, but we were looking forward to more “spring-like” weather.

On a day like today, it seems fitting to quote a proverb from the wisest man ever to walk the earth, inspired by He who is Wisdom. The proverb is Proverb 26:1, which says: “As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honour is not seemly for a fool.” Proverbs has several categories of people, such as the scorner, the simple, the wicked, the righteous, and the wise and the fool. This proverb tells us that honor does not belong to a fool. One should never heap praise on someone for their foolishness, nor give rewards to foolish acts. It doesn’t belong. We love when an Olympic athlete that has honed her skill performs perfectly. She deserves a gold. Someone who is out of shape and merely lumbers around a track or rolls around a gymnasts mat doesn’t deserve a gold medal.

Giving honor to a fool is as out of place as snow in summer. Now, I know that it is not summer in Park Rapids right now, but this snow was unexpected. However, instead of grumbling and complaining, we ought to see the lessons that God is trying to teach us. Ask yourself these questions: How do we honor foolishness in our lives, or in the lives of others? Do you congratulate yourself on a prideful spirit or an angry response? When you make a bad choice, do you reward yourself with another bad choice? Do you have a friend who acting like a fool, yet you refuse to tell him or her about it?

God gives us instruction in His Word because He knows best how people and the world works. God wants us to be wise in our dealing with ourselves and others, and to reward righteousness. Giving honor to a fool makes as much sense as snow in summer or rain during the harvest-time. It messes up what is supposed to be.

Just like snow on April 16th.

Posted in April | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Contrast

The long winters make the days that the sun is shining even better. You see smiles everywhere in Park Rapids today because the weather is so nice, and it seems like it has been so long since we have had nice weather. However, if today’s weather was found in July, people would be complaining. It really is the contrast of the long, hard, cold winter that makes days like today so wonderful.

In the same way, it is the constrast of my sin that makes God’s love for me so precious and sweet. If someone came up to me and said, “God loves you!” I might be tempted to say, “Well, of course He does! Who wouldn’t! I’m a pretty great guy!” But when I see in Scripture how sinful I am, and how far short I fall, it makes the love of God even sweeter for me. I love God’s love, but I love it even more when I consider verses like Romans 5:8, which says: “God commendeth [demonstrated] His love for us, in what while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” When Jesus died for me, He did not give His life for a lovable, slightly imperfect person. He gave His life for a wicked, selfish rebel, and that makes His love even more astounding to me. It’s like an American soldier diving in front of a bullet to save a member of Al Qaeda. It’s like a man whose son was murdered giving a positive character testimony at the murderers day in court.

It’s like sunshine after a long, hard winter. I love it.

Posted in April | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Enemy

We are facing an enemy more sinister and powerful than Al Qaeda or terrorists. This is an enemy we face every day, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly. It is vital that we know as much as we can about this enemy, so that we might properly defend ourselves and avoid the traps that have been set for us. Who is this enemy?

The Bible says in Ephesians 6:12: “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” The enemy to which I am referring is Satan and his fallen angels, or devils. Some in our secular society have scoffed at the idea of a spirit that works evil in the world. Others admit that there is spiritual evil in the world, but say only that it is a “culture” of evil, not a real personality behind it all. Yet the Bible teaches that Satan and his fallen angels are not only real, but active and dangerous.

In what is Satan involved? He is involved in the affairs of government. Several times in Scripture Satan is referred to as “the prince of this world” or “the god of this world.” Revelation 20:3 says that Satan uses these governments to persecute believers. Satan also tempts people to sin. 1 John 3:8 says: “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning.” Satan also exploits the effects of a fallen world, bringing natural disasters and disease. Satan is not behind all of these things, but is behind many of them. Satan also blinds unbelievers to keep them in their sin and unbelief. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says “the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”

Concerning Christians, Satan seeks to devour us (1 Peter 5:8); he accuses us (Rev. 12:10), and he withstands us (1 Thess. 2:18). Though Satan cannot “possess” a born-again believer, he tries to do everything he can to get Christians to fall and lose their testimony. What can we do about this? First, we can resist him. James 4:7 says: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Through the power  of God’s Spirit, we can overcome temptation to sin. Second, we are to not give any place to him. Ephesians 4:27 says: “Neither give place to the devil.” We give “place” to the devil when we allow sinful things into our lives, or live carelessly. Third, we ought to be wary of the devil. Though 1 John 4:4 says “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world,” we also understand that any victory we have over Satan is through Christ’s life through us. Jude 9 gives an example we should follow when confronted with demonic forces.

It is good for us to know our enemy and then, through the power of Christ, to defeat his effects. To ignore the person and power of Satan is as foolish as walking in a jungle with no heed taken to the “roaring lion, walking about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Posted in April | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

April Fools Day

Yesterday was April Fools Day, a day known for practical jokes. I have always enjoyed harmless practical jokes that are meant to make people laugh, not as an occasion to laugh at others. One of the best April Fools Jokes was when in 1957 a BBC television station reported on spaghetti trees in Switzerland. Since spaghetti had been newly introduced in England, no one knew that it did not grow on trees.

It is fun to have one day of the year devoted to fooling one another, but the idea of being a fool is a serious topic in the Bible. The book of the Bible that talks the most about fools is the book of Proverbs, written by King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. Consider some of these proverbs describing fools:

  • Hates others- “He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.”Proverbs 10:18
  • Self righteous- “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.”Proverbs 12:15
  • Openly Angry- “A fool’s wrath is presently known.”Proverbs 12:16
  • Unteachable- “A fool despiseth his father’s instruction.”Proverbs 15:5
  • Discontent- “The eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.”Proverbs 17:24
  • Destroys himself with his words- “A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.”Proverbs 18:7
  • Self-reliant- “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.”Proverbs 28:26
  • Mocks sin- “Fools make a mock at sin”Proverbs 14:9

 The Bible says foolishness is the natural tendency of everyone born (Prov.22:15), but that God can deliver us from it and its consequences. Foolishness is not something to be toyed and trifled with, but something that is dangerous and destructive, like a poisonous snake.

I myself am content to have only one day of the year dedicated to foolishness.

Posted in April | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sacrifices of Thanksgiving

In 1 Peter 2:9, the Bible calls all Christians “a priesthood.” It says: “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” We do not need a physical human priest on this earth to go between us and Jesus Christ: we are able to go to God ourselves as believers in Christ. We are priests before God!

But if this is true, then how do we do what priests are supposed to do? Priests offer sacrifices, but we believe that Jesus has paid the sacrifice for us “once for all.” Since Christians are priests before God, they should offer spiritual sacrifices. One of these sacrifices is described in Psalm 116:17, where it says: “I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.” We should offer sacrifices of thanksgiving to God as a form of worship, but what does this mean?

1. It means remembering God’s past wonders, and living in thankfulness for those things. Psalms 116:7 says “the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee.” Verse 12 says: “What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me?” We offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, not only when we thank God for all that we have, but when we deflect thanks others have for us to God alone. Someone may say: “Good job!” and a sacrifice of thanksgiving makes us say: “Praise God for what I am able to do! It is by His power!”

2. It means realizing that we owe God, and living in deference to Him. When we thank someone, we are essentially saying, “I would not have what I have without you. I owe you.” Offering sacrifices of thanksgiving means remembering that we owe God everything we have, and living in gratitude of that fact.

3. It means praying our thanks to God. Verse 17 says “I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.” That verse equates the sacrifice of thanksgiving with prayer. Prayer is one of the easiest ways to thank God for what He has done, and to offer this spiritual sacrifice.

God is pleased when His priests offer spiritual sacrifices. First, however, you must become one of His priests through the salvation that comes from Jesus Christ. Then, you can feel free to worship Him as one of His priests!

Posted in March | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inheritance

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to get a letter saying that I had an unknown rich great-uncle who recently passed, and that I, as the oldest living relative, would be getting his fortune. I can think of many uses for that extra cash flow that comes from an inheritance. This will probably never happen, but there is another inheritance that I am waiting for. It is not from any living relatives, though I have some unknown relations in Estonia and Great Britain. This inheritance is from my heavenly Father.

Ephesians 1:11-13 says: “In [Christ] also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.”

There is an inheritance available to us from God our Father. This inheritance is the glory of God after we depart this world. It includes heaven, a new glorified body, and fellowship with God forever. When I read about heaven, think about having a new body, and imagine what being with God would be like, I realize that this inheritance is better than anything I could get on this earth. How do I know that I am to receive this inheritance? I know for four reasons.

First, I know because I am a child of God. I was not born a child of God: no one is. I was born a “child of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3), but there was something that happened that changed my status. I was adopted by God as His son. John 1:12 says: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” When I was five years old, I trusted Christ as my personal Saviour, and became an inheritor. Ephesians 1:13 says that if anyone is going to receive this inheritance, they must first “trust” Christ as Saviour.

Second, I know that I will receive it because Jesus died. In order for someone to be granted an inheritance, the one holding the inheritance must die. Jesus was and is the glory of God, and He went to the cross for me, so that I could receive the inheritance (Hebrews 9:16-17).

Third, I know that I will receive God’s inheritance because God has sent me proof of it. Though I have never seen heaven, experienced my new body, or walked in fellowship with God personally, I know that all these things are real and available to me because I have the Holy Spirit. Verse 14 says that the Holy Spirit is the “earnest of our inheritance.” Earnest money is money paid to assure that the rest is coming. I know that I will receive my inheritance because God has given me a down payment in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God.

Fourth, I know that I will receive an inheritance because God keeps His promises. The promise of God is: “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  (John 3:16) I can believe God because He is Truth, and to not keep His promise would be to lie.

What about you? What are you expecting to receive after you die? This inheritance can be yours by faith in Jesus Christ, because of the promises of God.

Posted in March | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment