Praying for others

Have you ever had someone say to you: “I’ll pray for you!” What were your thoughts when they said that? When I have offered to pray for a person, sometimes I will get a sigh of relief and appreciation, glad that I would do them the favor of praying for them. Sometimes I’ve gotten a look of horror, as if I’d just offered to baptize them in theFishHookRiver. This reaction comes from a person who thinks of prayer, either as a long, drawn out sermon or as an indication that there is a deficiency that needs to be addressed. The former need not be, although I have heard long prayers in my lifetime, but the latter is definitely true for everyone. We are all in need of prayer, as the old spiritual goes: “It’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer!”

Prayer is asking God for things that are needed. SinceJames1:19says that every good thing comes from God the Father, we should understand that if we are going to have the things we need, we must ask the Father for them. I have found that the closer we get to the Lord, the more we understand how many needs we actually have. This is not only true for ourselves, but especially true for those around us. Many times in the Bible we see examples of people praying for others. This is called “intercessory prayer”: praying for the needs, spiritual and physical of other people. Let me share a few things intercessory prayer I’ve learned out of John 17.

First, intercessory prayer is a sense of responsibility. Jesus said inJohn 17:9: “I pray for them… which thou hast given me.” Jesus prayed for His disciples because He felt a distinct responsibility for them. When God puts another person in a Christian’s life, He does so that the Christian might be there to help. A Christian should then pray for others, because they have been given the responsibility to do so.

Second, intercessory prayer is a request for well-being. Notice Jesus prayed for His disciples that God would keep them (11,15) and sanctify them (17), that they would be unified (20-21), and that they would be with Jesus when they left this life (24). Jesus was interested in their well-being, and one of the best ways you can care for someone is to pray for them. Often we pray for physical needs, but we need to also pray for spiritual needs.

Third, intercessory prayer is a relationship with the giver. Notice how many times Jesus prays for His disciples to be as He is with God- to share in the same relationship. This is the very best thing for which we can pray for others- that they would know and come to know God in a better way. God sends many opportunities to know Him, such as cancer, heartache, and financial troubles. These opportunities are often wasted in bitterness and self-focus, instead of being Christ-centered. When we understand that God is always seeking a relationship with us, we can pray for others, that they would know Him in whatever circumstances they face.

Intercessory prayer is not one taken lightly. It is spiritual warfare, and an important part of what it means to be a Christian, as light and salt, as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.

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

All Saints Day

Many churches recognize today as “All Saints Day,” or “All Hallows Day.” The origins of this holiday, and the recognition of November 1 of today are varied and debated, but the general idea is that today is a day to recognize those who are called “saints.” In many churches, today is a day that recognizes officially recognized saints, of which there are millions. In some religions, a “saint” is a person who has been communicated with directly by God Himself, or has seen Him, as Isaiah saw God on His throne on Isaiah 6. Some churches have designated some of these “saints” in a particular way, so that there are “patron saints” of certain objects or places. For instance, Saint Barbara is the patron saint of fireworks, Saint Drogo is the patron saint of unattractive people, and Saint Bibiana is the patron saint of hangovers. People pray to these saints, asking for their help.

However, the Bible gives us a different view on the idea of “saints.” The word translated “saints” in the New Testament is related to the word translated “holy,” so that “saints” means “holy people.” Biblically, every Christian is called a holy person. This is not because we ourselves are personally, intrinsically holy, but because those who have been “born again” have been made holy by the perfect blood of Jesus Christ on the cross. Ephesians 5:3 admonishes people to live godly lives, “as becometh saints.” Ephesians 4:12 says that the church exists “for the perfecting of the saints.” 1 Corinthians 1:2 addresses the letter: “to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.” The Bible view is not that saints are merely dead righteous people, but that they represent all those who have been made perfect in Jesus!

The truth of Scripture is that Jesus Christ died for us, that He might take our sins, and that we might have His righteousness. Jesus died to make us saints. If you are a Christian, you can regard today as a day of celebration, remembering the day you were made a saint. If you are not yet a born-again believer, make “All Saints Day” the day you trust Jesus as your own personal Saviour.

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Raking Like a Christian

The arrival of autumn means cooler temperatures, apples, pumpkins, and beautiful colors. I love to drive around the area looking all hues displayed by trees making the transition from summer to winter. But then all those colors start to fall to the ground, and someone is going to have to rake them into a pile and dispose of them. And if that someone is you and you are a Christian, I have a few words for you.

Any kind of work worth doing is worth doing to the praise and honor of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Surely the “whatsoever you do” part includes raking. We should honor God with all that we do, even menial tasks like raking. What does that look like?

First, we should rake with a right attitude. Few people really like to rake leaves for long periods of time, and it is not as easy as mowing the lawn. There is a temptation to grumble and complain, yet the Bible says in Philippians 2:14 says “Do all things without murmurings and disputings.” Complaining about your task doesn’t bring God honor.

Second, we should rake to the best of our ability. Though I know that more leaves will fall, and that others leaves will blow into my yard, I still rake so that my yard looks like I am a faithful steward of what God has given me. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” One can always go overboard with making the yard look nice, but a Christian exhibits diligence in every project, even the menial ones.

Finally, be a Christian who shows the light of Jesus to your neighbors. Property lines are important when it comes to the business of owning or selling a house, but when it comes to raking, Christians should forget where those boundaries are. Nothing says, “I don’t care about you,” like a bed of leaves contrasted with a green lawn separated by a distinction on the property line. A Christian is someone who will go beyond normal duty and be a help to those around, especially those who live next door. Galatians 5:13 says: “by love serve one another.”

This doesn’t mean you have to rake your neighbor’s entire yard or do it for everyone in the neighborhood. It just means that a Christian should not have a “this mine and that is yours” mentality, but an attitude of desire that shows Christ to a world who doesn’t expect neighbors to do things for free or without being asked. Furthermore, do it as a Christian on your own accord. Don’t try to convince your church to start a “raking ministry,” but simply be Jesus to those around you, who are watching your life anyway.

You probably wouldn’t expect that raking had anything to do with being a Christian, but as people who show forth His praises, no task is too menial for showing God’s glory.

 

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

Praising God

On June 19, 2014, Corporal Kyle Carpenter received the Medal of Honor from the President for actions of bravery in 2010. Corporal Carpenter threw himself on a grenade to protect another soldier, which left him with disfiguring injuries. The Medal of Honor Citation reads in part: “By his undaunted courage, bold fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of almost certain death, Lance Corporal Carpenter reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.” This is high praise, and it is well-deserved.

Everyone understands the idea of praise: it is when we talk about the goodness and qualities of another person. Everyone likes to praised; we like when others bring out our good qualities. The same is true for God. Revelation 4:11 says: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” Christians are commanded to praise God. But what is praise?

First, praise is recognition of God’s good character traits. It is not “thanks,” but is expressing your gladness for God’s attributes. We may thank God for something specific, but then we can praise God for the good character that caused him to do that specific thing. Second, it is an expression of that appreciation. Merely thinking that God is good is insufficient, because the Bible repeatedly talks about expressing that praise, both to God and to other people. Psalms 145:3-4 says “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.” Third, praise is an act of worship. We are commanded to worship God, and one way to do that is by praising Him for His goodness.

How are we to praise God? Most people think of singing when they think of praise, and this is certainly one of the ways that we can praise God. However, we can praise God in our prayer as well. Praying something like, “God, I love that you are a merciful God that forgives me,” is an act of praise. Another way is to tell others of God’s goodness. When God has blessed you, you should let others know what a good God you have.

If praising God seems like a daunting task, read your Bible and take note of all of God’s attributes. Reflect on where in your life you meet these attributes and character traits, and then go to God rejoicing in them. Psalm 147:1 says “Praise ye the LORD: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely.”

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

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 , , , , | 2 Comments

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