Prayer and Devotions

PARENTS, LET THIS TASK BE EXCITING!

Last year we conducted a survey in our church on the area of Children’s Ministry. The results gave us cause to celebrate and to be concerned.

The celebration was in the clarity our congregation has in the values of God’s word ruling over our homes, and in the importance of parent’s discipling their children.

The concern was that many parents were struggling to regularly implement discipleship and family devotions. The survey also revealed that as pastors, we had not done a good job in equipping parents for this all-important task.

This year we have prayerfully worked to change these weaknesses, and we are thankful for God’s gracious help in leading us as a church to turn this area of weakness into an area of increasing strength.

However, it can still be intimidating for parents to lead their children in devotions. This responsibility which God means to be joyful, often seems intimidating and looms as a burden on our time.

Jon Neilson wrote this helpful and encouraging article describing “Three Surprising Ways Bible reading with My Kids Has Changed Me”. Parents and grandparents, I hope you will find renewed energy in your commitment to the wonderful privilege of leading the children you love toward our Savior!

In the article, Jon shares a 40 second video with 8 quick tips on reading the Bible with your kids. He links the article to his book on this subject which is published by Matthias Media. I have not read Jon’s book, but I highly regard everything made available by Matthias Media.

 

PRAYER IDEAS FOR BIBLE READING

We all need the Holy Spirit’s help when we read the Bible.

But what help can we ask for beyond “God help me understand what I read”?

There is nothing wrong with that prayer, but it can be helpful to stretch our requests beyond it.

In His excellent book, “Reading the Bible Supernaturally”, John Piper offers a few suggested prayers for Bible reading:

Ask God to guide you to notice parts of the text that are especially illuminating

Ask God to lead you to other passages in the Bible that would shed light on the one you are reading.

Ask God to lead you to other books or sermons or lectures that would be useful in shedding light on some problem you have run into.

Ask God for experiences, or a reminder of experiences that would make what you are reading more real.

Ask God for friends who could study the Bible with you and help you see things you haven’t seen.

Ask God to convict you of and remove any sinful habits or inclinations that might blind you to a part of Scripture you would find uncomfortable.

If you journal, pray that as you write the text down in your journal, you would notice things you missed in simply reading.

Whatever you pray to prepare yourself to read God’s word, know that God wants his word to impact you. He wants you to understand his intentions and be shaped by them.

In short, God wants your Bible reading to be a rich and engaging time with him.

That should fill our heart with anticipation every time we open our Bible.

 

I’LL BE OKAY

There are Christians in danger!

Believers who are sporadic in spending time with God.

They are inconsistent in feeding on God’s word, and they’re half-hearted in committing themselves to engage in meaningful conversation with God.

The most common excuse is not having enough time. But I believe the real reason is a lack of conviction that carving out time with God is of desperate importance.

Are you a Christians who believe you can afford to miss time with God? Do you think you will be okay walking through the day without equipping your heart and mind with the whole armor of God?

If you think you can afford to go about your day without armoring and strengthening yourself in the Lord, consider these warnings against the trickery and attacks of Satan and his followers:

John 8:44 Jesus calls Satan “a liar and the father of lies”

2 Corinthians 2:11 warns us not to be “outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs”

2 Timothy 2:26 tells us Satan has “snares”

Ephesians 6:11 says he has “schemes”

2 Corinthians 11:14 “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”

1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Revelation 12:12 “the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

Matthew 7:15 In addition to Satan, Jesus adds, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

This is the reality you face each day. These are the conditions which constantly swirl about you.

God’s word is emphatic in declaring, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:12-13)

If you think you can afford to neglect time with God today and leave your armor behind, then Satan has already been successful in his “lies”, “schemes” and “snares”.

LOOK FOR THE SWEETNESS IN GOD’S WORD

How sweet are your words to my taste,
    sweeter than honey to my mouth!

                                                        (Psalm 119:103)

The Bible is entirely good.

As Christians, we know it is important to read God’s word. However, we may not be convinced that it is a book filled with sweetness for our souls.

To help us have the proper perspective about reading the Bible, we need to maintain the proper perspective about God and his purpose in giving the Bible to us.

God is entirely good.

Indeed, he is perfect at being good, wise, faithful, and loving. These qualities of God flow through his word which he has given to us.

The intention of God’s word is to reveal what God is like, to show how sinners like us can be reconciled to him, and to guide us into life with him.

Look for the sweetness in God’s Word

To get the most out of reading God’s word, we want to escape reading the Bible as if it’s a form of drudgery.

One of the ways to do this, is to look for the sweetness in God’s word.

 As you read, look for descriptions of God’s glorious character

As you read, look for evidences of God being faithful.

As you read, look for disclosures of God’s intentions for you.

As you read, look for declarations of God’s faithfulness to you.

As you read, look for promises of your future with God.

As you read, look for guidance in becoming more like Jesus, God’s Son.

The Bible is a gritty book, because it tells the truth about sin and its consequences.

The Bible is a challenging book, because God doesn’t accept half-heartedness.

The Bible can be a difficult book, because God’s ways are higher than ours and run opposite of the world.

However, the Bible is also a sweet book, because it contains what our Good Good Father has to say to us.

 

DON’T FORGET GOD ON YOUR VACATION

Vacation season is upon us, and whether or not this is when you are on the road, it is a good time to consider how we honor God while we travel.

Sam Bierig encourages us in this article to make sure we don’t allow excuses to keep us from being in church when we are away.

I will add two other areas we should not let slip during vacations.

Giving – the expenses of your church don’t diminish when you are on vacation. Make sure you remain supportive of your church family whenever you cannot attend a service.

If you don’t give regularly to your church during the rest of the year, keep this in mind: you expect your church to be faithful in its ministry to you, so you should be faithful in making that ministry possible. 

Devotional time – vacation definitely flips over our regular schedule, which is the point of going on vacation! Still, have meaningful engagement with God.

Vacations are meant to be relaxing, but we have all experienced vacations turning into times of frustration. We need our hearts equipped by God wherever we are. God is worthy of living for him in all situations – including the times of getting away, which he graciously makes possible for us.

When you go away to be refreshed, keep in mind that meaningful time with our good God is refreshing.

READING THE BIBLE SUPERNATURALLY

 

Last year, I enjoyed reading John Piper’s book “A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness”, which presents the self-authenticating nature of the Bible.

Now my soul is being thrilled by reading Piper’s follow-up book, Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture”.

Piper wants to do more than motivate us to a renewed commitment in reading the Bible, he wants us to recognize the extraordinary potency that should be in our everyday reading of it.

The Bible is a supernatural book, that is understood through a supernatural work of God, and should produce supernatural effects for God in us and through us!

“Reading the Bible Supernaturally” will inspire, encourage, excite and clarify. Consider how wonderful it will be to have your daily walk in God’s Word become more fully what the Holy Spirit intends for it to be.

All that the Spirit says is wondrous, and all that He intends for the believer is wondrous. This should lead us to spend more time with our Bibles open before us. And this should fill our heart with expectation at the turn of each page.

THOUGHTS FOR DRY or DEAD BIBLE READING

Do you struggle to consistently read God’s Word?

You are not alone, but in the end, there are no excuses!

We are commended to abide in God’s Word.

We desperately need to abide in God’s Word.

We rob our life of richness when we fail to abide in God’s Word.

Whatever your reason for not establishing this habit, the answer is to stop minimizing the person of God while you maximize the importance of your own activities.

The failure to pray and read the Bible is not a time or scheduling issue, it is a love and submission to God issue.

The consistent, engaged and responsive reading of God’s Word will revolutionize your heart. Don’t miss God’s wealth of wisdom and goodness, because of a lousy excuse.

Do you struggle to keep your reading fresh?

You are definitely not alone there either.

Every faithful and mature Christian has walked through this struggle – many times.

I find that opening my Bible with the perspective that God is an amazing person who wants to speak to me as I read, is helpful.

John Piper’s latest book, “Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture”, is an excellent resource in this area. I hope to post a review on this book next week.

Until then, read this helpful article by Tim Challies, “Simple Ways to Spark a Lukewarm Devotional Life”. He mentions a few books at the end of the article. “Habits of Grace” by David Mathis has my high recommendation.

Another idea is to talk with fellow-believers who show a love for God. Relax over a cup of coffee and discuss ways to freshen your devotional time. Anyone who loves God will be glad to talk with you and pray for you about these matters which are precious to them.

Even if you feel dry in your devotional life, take joy in the fact that you are laboring at it. Take joy in the wonderful reality that you want God to fill your life. Most people are grievously blind and dead to these desires.

God wants to bring a fresh breeze to your time with Him. He rejoices in the time you give. It is never dry and empty to Him!

PRAYING FOR YOUR PASTOR

It is always meaningful when someone earnestly lets me know they are praying for me. It simply never gets old.

We all need prayer and we all need to be praying for one another.

I don’t know if pastors need prayer any more than other believers, but I do know that we don’t need it any less!

Pastors do have some unique pressures which make them vulnerable to the enemy and to weariness.

Jason Allen is a pastor who shares a few reasons why it is good to pray for your pastor in this article.

Praying for your pastor will not only bless him and his family, it will bless you and your church family.

 

IT’S NOT A CHORE!

You should be thoughtfully reading God’s Word on a regular basis.

But you already know that.

A good definition of regular is each day. There will be days when circumstances get out of control and you miss your reading time. When that happens, don’t drift into guilt. Simply thank God for his graciousness and pick up again the next day.

I cannot remember ever hearing a Christian tell me they didn’t think Bible reading was important. But I know there are many Christians who have not consistently established a habit of regular Bible reading.

The most common excuse we use is that “We don’t have time”.

But I think the actual most common reason is that we think of it as a burdensome chore.

In an article on the desiringGod website, David Mathis wrote:

“One of the biggest scams Satan has running is the lie that reading the Bible is a chore.”

I hope you will consider reading his entire article, “Treat Yourself to the Voice of God”.

David, not only encourages us in what Bible reading is – he also presents several helpful and perhaps unexpected tips for enjoying regular Bible reading.

If you enjoy David’s article, I highly recommend his outstanding book, “Habits of Grace”.

 

HOW TO SPEAK TO THE KING OF BORNEO

 

If you want to speak with a king, be prepared to either be ignored, or jump through an impressive series of hoops.

An interesting example of this comes from the pen of the Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who led the first voyage around the world from 1519 to 1522.

In his journal, Magellan records his visit to the king of Borneo, which is the third largest island in the world, at almost twice the size of California.

Here is the description of what was involved in speaking to that king:

When we arrived at the city, we were obliged to wait two hours, until there came two elephants covered with silk, and 12 men, each carried a porcelain vase covered with silk, for wrapping and conveying our presents. 

All the streets were full of men armed with swords, spears, and bucklers, the king having so commanded. 

We entered the palace and ascended a staircase, accompanied by the governor and some of the chief men, and entered a large room full of courtiers; there we sat upon a carpet, with our presents.

There were placed 300 men of the king’s guard with naked daggers in their hands, which they held on their thighs.  At the end of a second and higher hall was a great opening, covered with a curtain, and on this being raised, we saw the king sitting at a table.

One of the chief men informed us that we could not speak to the king, but if we wished to convey anything to him, we were to say it to him, and he would say it to a chief of higher rank, who would lay it before a brother of the governor, who was in the smaller room, and they by means of a blow pipe placed in an opening in the wall would communicate our thoughts to a man who was near the king, and from him the king would understand them. 

He taught us meanwhile to make three obeisance’s to the king, with the hands joined above the head, raising first one foot, then the other, and then to kiss our hands to him.  This is the royal obeisance.

Magellan’s experience doesn’t surprise us, because people in power often want to demonstrate their greatness.

How amazing it should be to us, that Jesus Christ, our Lord and King, allows us to have immediate and constant access.

You don’t need an appointment

You don’t have to speak through a priest

You are not limited in the time you have to spend with him

You can come as often as you want

And you always have his focused attention

Child of God, consider how sad and wasteful, when we neglect to use the wondrous access we have to speak to the King of kings!