As We Pray

On April 17, 1952, President Harry Truman signed a bill proclaiming the National Day of Prayer into law in the United States. President Reagan amended the law in 1988, designating the first Thursday of May each year as the National Day of Prayer.

It is wonderful to have such a day on our national calendar. If there was ever a time that we needed to pray, it is now. However, many will pray and I fear that we will pray with a wrong motive. Let’s consider it for a moment so we can pray properly.

Do we pray today because we desire to hold onto America as we know it or want it to be? Do we pray because we want prosperity? Do we pray because we are afraid? Do we pray because we want the coronavirus to go away? Do we pray because we want convenience? Is prayer just a way for us to get what we want? Is prayer about us maintaining a level of comfort? 

Throughout the Bible, men like Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Habakkuk along many others prayed to God for their nations to return to God from their sin. They prayed for revival, for a great awakening to who God was and what He expected of them. 

Solomon sought God in prayer on behalf of a sinful nation. He asked God to forgive them at the time they would humbly return to Him. God answered Him with the words, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)  

Isaiah humbly admitted His own sin along with the sin of His nation when he realized the holiness of God. When confession was made, God cleansed and commissioned him. The account of this is stirring! “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: The whole earth is full of his glory. 4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. 6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: 7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. (Isaiah 6:1-8)

Jeremiah wept over the sin and waywardness of his nation. His broken and humble heart is revealed in Jeremiah 13:15–17. “Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the Lord hath spoken. 16 Give glory to the Lord your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness. 17 But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the Lord’s flock is carried away captive.”

Habakkuk prayed earnestly and humbly in the midst of injustice and pending chastening from the hand of the Lord,  O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, In the midst of the years make known; In wrath remember mercy.” (Habakkuk 3:2)

Friends, today is a national day of prayer and how we need to pray. Presently, our nation desires deliverance, but not the Deliverer. We need Him so desperately! If you are a child of God, would you pray? Would you set aside desire for ease and comfort and pray humbly and fervently? Would you confess your sin and the sin of our nation like Isaiah? Would you pray for our nation to return to our holy God?

Why? Why? Why?

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In the days following a weekend of horrible acts of murder in El Paso, Texas and my own city of Dayton, Ohio, the common question everywhere is “Why?” “What is the motive?” “Why did the two murderers do what they did?” “What are the specifics?”

While most of the specifics will eventually come out in the investigations as the fantastic men and women in our law enforcement communities wade through the evidence, likely there will be some questions that still remain. Questions like: “How could they let themselves do this?” “Why would someone kill his own sister?”

To get some answers, consider the very first murder that was ever recorded for us in human history. We find the story in Genesis chapter four. Remember, this is before there were fatherless homes, a culture of glorifying violence in video games and movies, guns or weapons of any kind. Before this murderous act, a murder had never been witnessed. We find two brothers named Cain and Abel. Abel had a heart to obey God and worship Him by obeying God’s instructions. Cain went through the motions of worshipping God but did not listen to God’s instructions.  Cain’s actions revealed a heart that had rejected the authority of God in his life. His actions were rebellious toward God because his heart was rebellions toward God.

Cain did not appreciate God’s blessing on Abel’s obedience, and so in jealousy, he murdered his brother. Genesis 4:8 tells us, “And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.”

Remember, Cain had never seen a murder before. Where did that idea come from? In order to understand, we must go back one chapter to read about how sin entered into the world. Adam and Eve were created by God and placed into the Garden of Eden. They lived in a world that we have never experienced, a completely perfect world. They enjoyed daily interaction and conversation with God, their Creator. God had created them for relationship. He did not force a relationship but gave them a free will to choose to fellowship with Him. God gave ONE instruction to them that they needed to obey. In Genesis 3, Eve and Adam chose to disobey, and by that single act of disobedience, sin entered into the world. Romans 5:12 comments on this, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” This meant that the relationship between the holy God and man would now be severed and separated.

There would be many consequences of this separation from God. Sin of every kind imaginable would now be thought of in the human heart and carried out in actions. Sin of any kind always has its root in the heart. Jesus talked about this in Mark 7:21–23,  “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness [unrestrained sinful behavior], an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” 

That is quite a list that Jesus gives us, and it is so true. So as we look at the murders that have taken place in these two cities and ask why, let us remember that it is the sinfulness of man’s heart that makes him capable of doing such wicked things. As long as man lives in rebellion against his Creator, sins like this and more will continue to be committed.

There is HOPE! Jesus Christ came into the world to reconcile us (mankind) to our Creator. John 3:16–17 tells us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” Every man and woman alive needs to be saved from their sin and the consequences of it. The only hope of changing our actions is dealing with the problem of the heart. It is sinful and needs to be reconciled to God. Have you been reconciled to God? Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? You can today!

Yes! I want to know more!—Salvation Explained

 

Related message preached on Sunday, August 11, 2019

Life in the Whirlwind

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Late on Memorial Day evening, the Dayton area experienced the terror and horror of over 13 tornadoes of varying levels touching down. When the alert came on my iPhone somewhere around 11:10pm, my wife and I wasted no time getting the kids out of bed and into our basement. We prayed and asked God for protection on us and those in our community. We reminded ourselves of the verse in Psalm 56:3, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.” We watched the news casters as they did their best to alert the Dayton area of the tornado activity. We were shocked by how close the tornadoes were to our home. Later that evening, we understood that one of the tornadoes had gone through our neighborhood. Obviously, until morning, it was impossible to realize all that that meant. Overnight most of our neighborhood was evacuated due to concerns of gas leaks as well as the powerlines that were down. Amazingly, our house along with several of our neighbors receive no damage, though we could see the damage beginning right across the road.

As we ventured out the next day to look at the damage and see how we could help, I was dumbstruck by all that I saw. The area looked like a war zone. People were in a sort of shock…we all were. It is devastating to see.

All this brings me to a several observations I would like to make:

Life is uncertain. For many people in our area, we never expected to see something like this. Even a good friend of mine said, “Dayton never gets tornadoes, Xenia does.”

Life is precious. As I talked with many in our subdivision who had been severely impacted, multiple times in our conversations we found ourselves saying, “Thank God for life.” Things can be replaced, but life can’t be.

Life is serious. Proverbs 27:1 says, “Boast not thyself of to morrow; For thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” We do not know what the rest of this day holds, let alone tomorrow. We need to take life seriously. The Bible also tells us that TODAY is the day of salvation. If you have not yet received Jesus Christ by faith, today is the best day to do that while you still have life and opportunity. Furthermore, for believers, we never know when our life will be over. We should serve God while we have life and opportunity.

Thank God for His gracious protection on so many lives! May this crisis draw us close to God and to show the love of Christ by serving others.

 

God on Trial

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When you stop to consider the events of this Wednesday about 2,000 years ago, it is mind-blowing that the creator and sustainer of life was put on trial by His own creation for sins He had not done. In the late hours of Wednesday, Jesus Christ was put on trial as a criminal. By Thursday He would be hanging on the cross. There he would take upon Himself the wrath of God for your sin and mine. While all Israel celebrated the passover in Jerusalem, just outside the city, on a hill called Golgotha, Jesus would become THE final passover lamb.

About a year ago, I preached a sermon series through the Gospel of Mark. I thought that I would share the sermons related to the events of the Passion Week beginning today.  On this day, I encourage you to meditate on your Savior, Jesus Christ.

Wednesday—God on Trial (Keynote)

Thursday—Viewing Calvary (Keynote)

Sunday—His Resurrection calls us to Total Abandonment (Keynote)

Timeline of the Passion Week

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When Fire Falls

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Recently I was listening to a sermon that really gripped my attention. We live in a day of so many false realities. The world is in search for something is real. This message challenged my heart to seek the power of God on my life and ministry as opposed to pursuing pragmatic philosophy. I hope this message will encourage you in the same way.

When Fire Falls by William Maricle

More or Less

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Is your church attendance connected in any way with your spirituality and relationship with Jesus Christ? In an effort to keep church attendance from being a work for salvation, many believers have grown accustom to dismissing the need and obligation of gathering together as believers. They might say, “I worship God on my own.” “I just catch the podcast.” “I am in God’s Word everyday. It won’t matter if I skip the Midweek service.” To be clear, our salvation does not rest on our church attendance. However, your spiritual wellbeing does. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

Let’s consider some reasons why assembling with our church family should not be viewed casually.

  1. The Pattern of the Early Church
    From the earliest days in the book of Acts, the followers of Christ gathered together. This was their pattern. They did not gather three times a week, but daily. They gathered for teaching, fellowship, prayer, for the remember their Lord. This was a time to be strengthened in their Christian journey. It was a time to encourage and to be encouraged.
  2. The Relationships We Need
    Our society is quickly becoming a closed society. Neighborhood block parties are seldom. When we get home from work, we park in the garage, close the door and remain cut off from our neighbors. We order on Amazon. We pay at the pump. We bank online. Soon, we will pay for our items at grocery and retail stores through apps taking away one more human interaction. With headphones, people walk through stores barricaded behind their music.What does this have to do with church? The closing of relationship in society is slowly happening in our churches. Christians want quick, downloadable church. Church that does not demand their attention for long. It is popular to rush to the service of choice and then rush back into private living. We need the relationship with one another. Catching the podcast or live stream will give you truth to ponder, but it is completely detached from relationship that is needed. One reason we are not to neglect the gathering of believers is so that we can consider and relate with one another.
  3. The Stability It Provides
    Paul tells the Ephesian believers that the gathering of believers and the ministry of the pastor, along with other God called spiritual leaders, was essential to their stability. In that day and today there are many winds of doctrine blowing. Sometimes it seems like a hurricane of false doctrine. Yet, instead of gathering with their church family, many believers will settle to scroll through YouTube, download a podcast or watch Christian television. Wind tossed and discouraged by unbiblical teaching, they ask their pastor if what they heard was really true. God designed the church body and gave a pastor so “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;” The great instability among believers today can be often traced back to a casual approach to their gathering with believers under sound preaching and teaching.

While many will argue that you can be spiritual without assembling with other believers in your local church, the Bible teaches us that we are not to neglect it for our own spiritual good. In fact, we are to assemble more as the end nears. So I ask you, this year, do you need to be assemble with your church more or less?