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Prayers for a Pastor

JohnWilburChapmanI ran across an encouraging story today about pastor and hymn writer John Wilbur Chapman.  He has left us with several hymns including “Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners” and “One Day”.  If you have never heard of these hymns I would encourage you to go and listen to the comforting words of “Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners” set to a new tune by David Ward.

John Wilbur Chapman was tireless in his work of spreading the gospel.  His ministry began pastoring two churches, on in Ohio and one in Indiana.  By the end of his ministry he preached across the country and world, including Canada, Philippines, Hong Kong, China, Korea, Japan, England, Wales, Ireland, Australia, Scotland, New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka, and the Fiji Islands.  His devotion and fervor for the Gospel may be best summarized in his own words,

 “The rule which governs my life is this: anything that dims my vision of Christ, or takes away my taste for Bible study, or cramps me in my prayer life, or makes Christian work difficult, is wrong for me; and I must, as a Christian, turn away from it.”

But his life was not without trials and difficulties.  His first wife, Irene, died just four years after their marriage.  With his second wife, Agnes, they lost their first born son, who died in infancy.  Agnes died after 19 years of marriage.

His ministry would eventually lead him to preach with DL Moody and Billy Sunday.  However, it must have began very ordinary.  It is said that in one of his earlier pastorates, on member once told him, “You are not a very strong preacher, but a few of us have decided to gather and pray every Sunday morning for you.”   And we know from history that his ministry was loved and flourished.  

Behind every effective ministry you will find pray.  Pastors covet the prayers of the people.  It serves both parties well, it serves the gospel well, it serves the lost well.  Pastors are mere men, and the task they are given is beyond them, but with God all things are possible.  Even ordinary, not so strong, preachers are used mightily by God when his people pray.

Jesus! what a strength in weakness!Let me hide myself in him; Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing, He, my Strength, my vic’try wins.

Peter Jeffery on Evangelism and Being Different

The following is a quote from Peter Jeffery’s small book “Moving Out With the Christian Faith”.  This small book packs a much needed punch.  It will challenge you, convict you, strengthen you, and encourage you in the area of true evangelism.

The Christians in the Acts of the Apostles caused a stir everywhere they went because they were different.  Their lives, actions, ambitions and believes were different, and people took note of them.  Today we try desperately to make our faith acceptable to people by making our Christianity no different from their lifestyle.  So Christians go to the pub after church for a drink; Christians laugh at the world’s unsavoury jokes; Christians delight in the world’s ungodly music.  We are desperately trying to show them that really we are exactly like them.

The result is that the church has no effect upon the world.  The world ignores us.  Why should it bother if we are not different?  But the Bible calls us to be different; and this difference can be a very importan means of evangelism.  Howe often have you heard a testimony of salvation in which the person says that what first attracted him to Christianity was a friend who ‘had something I did not have’?

Sickness is a Mercy by John Newton

I received this in an email today and found the words convicting and encouraging.
“It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes!” Psalm 119:71

Health is a blessing and a great mercy, enabling us to relish the comforts of life, and to be useful in our generation. But sickness is a greater mercy to the children of God, for it shall be sanctified to wean us more from the present world, to raise our thoughts and desires heavenward, to quicken us to prayer, and to give us more opportunity of knowing the sweetness and suitableness of the promises, and the power and wisdom of a promise-performing God!

Troubles have many uses–when the Lord is pleased to work by them for the good of His children. They are necessary, because we would miss the meaning and comfort of a great part of the Bible without them! I hope the Lord blesses you both with a measure of submission to His will, confidence in His love–and then, with respect to other things you will say, “All is well!” 

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your Word!” Psalm 119:67

“I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.” Psalm 119:75


– John Newton

#prayforboston

“We need to pray for Boston” #prayforboston.  I have seen these comments many times in the past few days, and I could not agree more.  I am even grateful that many are openly saying this.   The tragedy at the Boston Marathon should move each of us.  However, a question still remains, what should we be praying?

  1. Pray that Boston will turn to God.  Prayer is no greater than the one to whom we pray.  ‘”O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made.’  (1 Kings 18:26)  This is not our desire for Boston, that they should limp around, but that they shall be held, healed, and brought to hope.  Only the one true God has power to truly do this.
  2. Pray that Boston will find God great.  In the news I have heard how Boston will recover because the people of Boston are great, even how their lobster is great.   This will only bring about partial hope and healing.  Only God is truly great.  True healing and hope will only come about when it is to Him we turn.  “Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.”” (2 Samuel 24:14)  In moments like these we should be brought to a place of acknowledging our weakness and need, not our might and greatness.  “6 Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. 7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. 8 They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright. 9 O Lord, save the king! May he answer us when we call. (Psalm 20:6-9, ESV)
  3. Pray that Boston will find Christ great comfort.  The true greatness of God is found in Christ and Christ alone.  True hope is found in Christ and Christ alone.  “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16, ESV)”
  4. Pray that Boston will have a heightened sense of the value human life.  The tragedy of the death of the ‘innocent’ has struck many of us this week.  It seems senseless.  Those who were defenseless where torn apart and killed.  It is good to see humanity crying out against such an act.  May we see more of it.  As we heard of body parts being blown off and grieved and were outraged, may we be grieved and outraged in the same way by comments like these from the Gosnell trial “Toilets Backed Up With Body Parts From Abortions http://bit.ly/14uaug3  ”   “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.”  (Proverbs 139:13)
  5. Pray for Boston to find living hope.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  (1 Peter 1:3-5)  In times of tragedy everyone wants prayers and needs prayers.  However, it is still difficult to speak of lasting living hope to many.  Our human nature would rather hear how we will rally together, rather than draw near to God together.  We would rather hear of inner strength, rather than need of a Savior.  Pray for the churches of Boston that they will have opportunities to share a living hope to those hurting.  Pray for one another that we will have the same opportunities outside of Boston.

 

 

Knowing God Produces Humility

When the people of God understand their salvation this is their cry:

Psalm 124

If it had not been the LORD who was on our side-

Who was on our side-

Let Israel say-

If it had not been the LORD who was on our side when the people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up alive…

Our help is in the name of the LORD, who has made heaven and earth.

(ESV)

The Only True Mirror of Self

At the end of  Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress there is an encounter between Christian and Ignorance in which  Christian tells Ignorance how one can think rightly about oneself

We think rightly of ourselves when we pass the same judgment upon ourselves that the Word passes.  To explain myself more fully, the Word of God says of a person in a natural condition, “There is no righteous, there is none that doeth good.”  It also says that “every imagination of the heart of man is only evil, and that continually.”  And again, “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”  Now then, when we think these thoughts of ourselves, our thoughts are good ones because they agree with the Word of God”

The conversation continues on, but one of the main points, is that we can only see ourselves rightly if we see ourselves through God’s Word.  It reminds me of a saying I have heard CJ Mahaney use “Never leave your evaluation of yourself to yourself”.  John Newton in his Olney Hymns reminds us of this same truth in a positive prayerful way.

The word of Christ, our Lord,
With whom we have to do;
Is sharper than a two-edged sword,
To pierce the sinner through.

Swift as the lightnings blaze
When aweful thunders roll,
It fills the conscience with amaze,
And penetrates the soul.

No heart can he concealed
From his all-piercing eyes;
Each thought and purpose stands revealed,
Naked, without disguise.

He sees his peoples’ fears,
He notes their mournful cry;
He counts their sighs and falling tears,
And helps them from on high.

Though feeble is their good,
It has his kind regard;
Yea, all they would do, if they could,
Shall find a sure reward.

He sees the wicked too,
And will repay them soon,
For all the evil deeds they do,
And all they would have done.

Since all our secret ways
Are marked and known by thee;
Afford us, Lord, thy light of grace
That we ourselves may see.

Overcoming Sin by John Newton

Overcoming sin should be the desire of every Christian, yet many Christians are left with the frustration of still struggling with sin, many times the same sin over and over.  It is quite possible that we struggle, because we are looking to overcome sin in the wrong way.  John Newton wrote a hymn based on Hebrews 12:1-2 that is a helpful reminder.

By various maxims, forms and rules,
That pass for wisdom in the schools,
I strove my passion to restrain;
But all my efforts proved in vain.

2. But since the Saviour I have known
My rules are all reduced to one;
To keep my Lord, by faith, in view,
This strength supplies and motives too.

3. I see him lead a suff’ring life,
Patient, amidst reproach and strife;
And from his pattern courage take
To bear, and suffer, for his sake.

4. Upon the cross I see him bleed,
And by the sight from guilt am freed;
This sight destroys the life of sin,
And quickens heav’nly life within.

5. To look to Jesus as he rose
Confirms my faith, disarms my foes;
Satan I shame and overcome,
By pointing to my Saviour’s tomb.

6. Exalted on his glorious throne,
I see him make my cause his own;
Then all my anxious cares subside,
For Jesus lives, and will provide.

7. I see him look with pity down,
And hold in view the conqu’ror’s crown;
If pressed with griefs and cares before,
My soul revives, nor asks for more.

8. By faith I see the hour at hand
When in his presence I shall stand;
Then it will be my endless bliss,
To see him where, and as he is.

 

Complaining is Contagious

    There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
(Proverbs 12:18 ESV)

Complaining is more contagious than anything that I can think.  It is easier to spread than butter.  Do you want an example?  Replacement Officials!  You have to have been living in a whole not to have heard complaining about the missed call(s), and many have probably entered into the complaining.  Why?  Do we work for the NFL?  Do we play or coach in the NFL?  Are we daily impacted by the NFL?  For most of us, the honest answer is no.  We complain because it is easy, far too easy.

Did officials miss calls yesterday and Sunday, absolutely from what I hear.  However, why is it the subject of so many water cooler conversations today and tweets?  These are replacement officials.  Easy targets of authority for those not in authority at which to take shots.  Reality is, non-replacement officials missed calls every week last year, even with instant replay.  But there is an environment created right now that says, complaining is fair game, even righteous.  So come on, take your shot too.  When the real officials come back there will be a week or two where Camelot will exist again in the NFL and more shots will be taken at those replacement officials.  You see, when there is an opportunity for complaining, we are all quick to jump in.  The call at the end of the Packer’s game was not the clearest missed call I have ever seen.  It is a reminder that our fallen nature loves to complain because it makes us feel better about ourselves.  It is a sad sort of identity, to belong because you complain, but it is one we often are all to happy to take up.

From the teacher’s lounge, to the little league bleachers, to the church pews, complaining is dangerously contagious.  It puffs up self and tramples over others.  This is not the example of our Savior, he was silent in the face of injustice.  Complaining is not to be among his followers either.  So every time you hear about replacement officials this week and next, let it be a reminder not to complain.

Growing Old In Grace

    Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

(1 Peter 3:7 ESV)

Heather and I managed to get away for a few days, just to spend time together.  I am very thankful for her and for this time.  We often say, we want to grow old together.  We look forward to that because it means we would get many more years together.

As we were boarding our return flight home, a visible lesson of growing old unfolded as I notices two older couples.  The first, you could not miss.  The man was standing in the isle so frustrated that his wife could not get her bag in the overhead compartment that the stewardess began to look around embarrassed by the scene.  I could not make out everything he said, but his impatience was evident, and emphasized by a comment that complained  “for 40 years…”.   He was so concerned that he and everyone else had to wait on his wife, that he had no concern for his wife.   As much as this man wanted his wife and everyone to know what he had had to put up with for 40 years, in that moment I knew what I did not want to put up with in my life.  Immediately I regretted every time I have ever been impatient with my wife.

The second couple was further back on the plane.  They walked quietly towards their row and when they reached their seats the wife began to place her bag in the overhead compartment.  The husband quietly said something and gently took his wife’s bag and placed it where she had been attempting to place it.  There was no scene made, other than a display of love, gentleness and patience.  I immediately longed to grow in my patience and gentleness.

I want to grow old with Heather, but I want to grow old in grace together, carrying for her as the weaker vessel.   I don’t want our growing old to be a scene, but a reflection that we are the co-heirs of the grace of life.

Preparation Thoughts for The Lord’s Day- Sinclair Ferguson

But we have not yet reached the goal. We still struggle to rest from our labors; we still must “strive to enter that rest” (Heb. 4:11). Consequently the weekly nature of the Sabbath continues as a reminder that we are not yet home with the Father. And since this rest is ours only through union with Christ in His death and resurrection, our struggles to refuse the old life and enjoy the new continue.

But one may ask: “How does this impact my Sundays as a Christian?” This view of the Sabbath should help us regulate our weeks. Sunday is “Father’s Day,” and we have an appointment to meet Him. The child who asks “How short can the meeting be? ” has a dysfunctional relationship problem — not an intellectual, theological problem — something is amiss in his fellowship with God.

This view of the Sabbath helps us deal with the question “Is it ok to do … on Sunday? — because I don’t have any time to do it in the rest of the week?” If this is our question, the problem is not how we use Sunday, it is how we are misusing the rest of the week.

Hebrews teaches us that eternal glory is a Sabbath rest. Every day, all day, will be “Father’s Day”! Thus if here and now we learn the pleasures of a God-given weekly rhythm, it will no longer seem strange to us that the eternal glory can be described as a prolonged Sabbath!

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