30 December 2013

IGNORANCE IS BLISS


John 7:25-36

A freshman at Eagle Rock Junior High won first prize at the greater Idaho Falls Science Fair. He was attempting to show how conditioned we have become to alarmist practicing junk science and spreading fear of everything in our environment. In his project he urged people to sign a petition demanding strict control or total elimination of the chemical “dyhydrogen monoxide.”
  • It can cause excessive sweating and vomiting.
  • It is a major component in acid rain.
  • It can cause severe burns in its gaseous state.
  • Accidental inhalation can kill you.
  • It decreases effectiveness of automobile brakes.
  • It has been found in tumors of terminal cancer patients.

He asked 50 people if they supported a ban of the chemical. Forty-three said yes, six were undecided, and only one knew that the chemical was H20 (water). The title of his prize winning project was, “How Gullible Are We?” He feels the conclusion is obvious. I agree!

“Ignorance is bliss!” Have you ever heard that statement expressed before? I’ve heard this more than I care to hear it. Do you realize what that statement is saying? It means, that if you don't know something, then it can't affect your view of the world. Not knowing is better than knowing and worrying. But as Herbert Agar said “The truth that makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear.” It’s lack knowledge because of willful ignorance! Like this story I came across by Ray Comfort. He said “Let me tell you a true but tragic story: A woman was once walking along a riverbank with her child. Suddenly the child slipped into the river. The mother screamed in terror. She couldn’t swim, and besides, she was in the latter stages of pregnancy. Finally, somebody heard her screaming and rushed down to the riverbank. The utter tragedy was, when they stepped into those murky waters to retrieve that now dead child, they found that the water was only waist deep! That mother could have easily saved her child but didn’t because of a lack of knowledge.”

Today we live in a society that will go to great lengths to deny or ignore many things, especially the Lordship and the deity of the Jesus. As one writer said “men’s memories are often sadly dependent on their will.” And what is the natural will of man? To sin. The Apostle Peter penned these words “For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water,” 2 Peter 3:5. What is Peter saying? For this they are willingly ignorant of or they do not care to know or to consider the truth found in the almighty word of God. We call this “spiritual disease or bankruptcy” which is most common moving our culture today.

FOR EXAMPLE:
  • We live in a culture that shuts their eyes against the plainest facts that are before them.
  • We live in a culture that will deny even the simplest of doctrines found in the bible.
  • We live in a culture that pretends to say that they do not understand and cannot therefore believe the things that we press on their attention when it comes to salvation and sin.

This attitude can be summed up with this one statement by J C Ryle of the 1800’s “they do not believe what they did not like to believe.” We live in a society of “know it all’s” a society filled with people who have no time or room in their lives to …….Read, Listen, Search or Inquire honestly about truth! Let’s go back some 2000 years ago and see the same kind of ignorance or disbelief as the crowd and the religious elite are face to face with TRUTH.

IGNORANCE IS NO EXCUSE FOR LAZINESS (V25-V27)

See “ignorance is bliss” to these people because they said we don’t know where the Messiah will come from. The sad reality is that if they did some searching for themselves they would have known where the Christ came from and again the Jewish Nation would have carefully kept important documents about genealogies and family history. All they had to do was seek the truth for themselves! They would have found passages like Micah 5:2, as we read "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting." They would have overheard the Pharisee's say “So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet” Matt 2:5. It’s sad that they found it inconvenient to remember this truth on this occasion! But as one writer said “Men’s memories are sadly dependent on their wills.” because ignorance is lazy and they only see what we want to see….and what we believe goes in the same line of thinking. It’s too much work to study this big book!

IGNORANCE RECEIVES HER RESPONSE (V28-V29)

Jesus rebukes their remarks by calling them out with their remarks! You know Me! You know where I came from! But Jesus cuts to the heart issue! (v28) “I have come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.” This is their problem! They don’t truly Him, because they’re so ignorant they don’t really want to know Him. Jesus said these words in John 5:38-40 “But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” Which means they were spiritual ignorant and bankrupt to the truth! Our culture today is no different! We are so pre-occupied with equal rights and protection gay marriage and so on we forget to search the truth. We have a culture that speaks of tolerance, but are the most intolerant people on the planet. We have a culture that wants what they want and we do whatever it takes without the concern or care of who gets hurt in the process. We have governments around the globe wanting to Lord their power over the people they are to protect and govern.

Truth has fallen in the streets and the ignorance of this culture has thrown it underneath the bus. Just as they did here! Instead of listening to the warning they got what? They became raged with anger wanting to seize Him (v30). So sad but speaks volumes about our culture today……….doesn’t it? There are thousands today just as blind as the Jews where then! They close their eyes to truth, they turn of their ears to the warning signs! It reminds me of a story I’ve told before! “In 1984 an Avianca Airlines jet crashed in Spain. Accident investigators found the cockpit voice recorders and discovered that several minutes before impact a shrill, computer-generated voice from the plane's automatic warning system had told the crew repeatedly in English, "Pull up!  Pull up!" The pilot, evidently thinking the system was malfunctioning, snapped, "Shut up, Gringo!" and switched the system off. Minutes later the plane plowed into the side of a mountain. Everyone on board died.” That tragic story strikes me as a perfect parable of the way many people treat the warning messages of their consciences.

IGNORANCE RESULTS IN SEPARATION (V32-V36)

Are there some hard realities to swallow in the Bible? Absolutely. Are there something’s will never figure out why, this side of heaven? Absolutely.....But one thing for sure is that we should never stop studying God’s truth. Ignorance does not excuse us from the reality that there is a holy God who sent His holy Son to pay our sin debt. And if anyone does not submit to this truth out of adoration and praise they are destined to eternal judgement and fire according to the scriptures. Sadly many ignore the warning signs today and chose ignorance or truth! As Paul wrote “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” Eph 4:8. We see the hardness of the heart found in this portion of John’s letter. The ignorance of the religious leaders is overwhelming as they cannot see or understand the beauty that stands before them. Jesus said…….. "I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me. You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come." John 7:33-34. What does Jesus mean? Those who reject Jesus will never come to where He is going when He ascends in the His rightful position as Lord. As John wrote “Then Jesus said to them again, "I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come." John 8:12. See instead of heeding the Lord’s warning their unbelief turned with contempt and mockery. Look how they responded! “Then the Jews said among themselves, "Where does He intend to go that we shall not find Him? Does He intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What is this thing that He said, 'You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come'?” John 7:35-36. This is what they are saying "Who does he think He is?" This is no different today! Telling someone they need Christ and if they don’t they will end up in Hell. See, there are some things in this short life that I do not want to hear because I’m too late!
  • “You fool”
  • “Depart from Me”
  • “I do not know you”
  • “You will seek Me and not find Me”

How tragic are those statements by a holy God? Absolutely devastating! Why? They have eternal implications. Sadly many ….maybe people we love and hold dear to our hearts will hear these words proclaimed to them one day! And it’s all because of their ignorance to truth! J C Ryle penned these words about this portion of scripture! Which I believe speaks volumes to a great majority of people today! He wrote “it is possible by continually resisting light and warnings…..to sin away our own souls. It sounds terrible but it is true.”

Remember! Ignorance is no excuse and it will not help anyone enter the Kingdom of God. Our lack of understanding and knowledge of scripture is no excuse for our lifestyle and sin issue. We are to be Berean’s like the ones found in Berea. In Act 17:11 we read “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” They listened attentively and respectfully to the gospel. They did not reject and reject it as unworthy of examination. Why? Any person with half a brain will search or study to see if these things are true. A lot of mistakes in life can be avoided if people today would only read the Bible. But sadly ignorance usually finds the truth when it’s too late. Like the 5 virgins that went knocking on the door and said “let us in” but all they got in response was………and the Lord said “I don’t know you” What can we do so that we are not like the virgins who missed the boat! Seek the truth with eagerness and study His word to see if these things are so. Don’t rely on your neighbor or the next best-selling book. Rely upon the words breathed out by God! Seek His truth and His truth will set you free….indeed! As the Apostle Paul wrote “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” 1 Thess 5:21. Ignorance is not bliss…………….. It’s destructive and devastating for the soul!

17 December 2013

DON’T LET CHRISTMAS PASS YOU BYE


 Selected passages

The question that I’ve been pondering these past few weeks is this! Who will miss Christmas this year? This is the season of busy, busy, and busy! Do you realize that Christmas purchases account for 1/6 of all retail sales in the U.S [not including Canada]. Each year more than 3 billion Christmas cards are sent in the U.S. alone. Each year there are approximately 20,000 plus “rent-a-Santas” across the United States and Canada. Turkeys gobbled by Canadians at Christmas; equal to 43 per cent of all whole turkeys sold over the year. Consumerism is at an all-time high with Christmas gift ideas and sales for you to spend your money. According to TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Nov. 6, 2013) “Holiday spending is projected to continue its climb for a third straight year, according to the 2013 BMO Holiday Spending Outlook. According to the report released today, Canadians expect to spend an average of $1,810 this holiday season - up from $1,610 (12 per cent) in 2012 and $1,397 (30 per cent) in 2011. The biggest uptick in spending is attributed to travel, which has increased by 22 per cent compared to a year ago, and nearly doubled since 2011.” NOW, there is nothing wrong with spending money and buying gifts for family and friends! What is wrong, is that we're so busy doing all this we miss out on the blessing  that has already been given in Christ Jesus. As one writer said “Since Halloween we all have been bombarded with Christmas sale fliers. Most of us, it would seem impossible to think that someone could miss Christmas. But, for the Christian, there is more to Christmas than all of the decorations, the parties, the music and the shopping. If your Christmas only involves those things, then it probably is possible to miss Christmas.” People tend to be so busy; many miss the train to the true meaning of Christmas!

For example:

Two women who were having lunch in an elegant hotel were approached by a mutual friend who asked the occasion for the meal. One lady replied, "We are celebrating the birth of my baby boy." "But where is he?" inquired the friend. "Oh," said the mother, "you didn't think I'd bring him, did you?" What a picture of the way the world treats Jesus at Christmas. Being too busy may cause us to miss the importance of the season. We celebrate with friends family and co-workers….and a great majority this season will miss the train or as the bible calls it “missing the mark” Sadly a majority of people we know and love will miss out about the true meaning of Christmas again because of being so busy wrapped up in themselves. This is nothing knew….we have seen this since the beginning of time when man sinned and we continue to see this pattern throughout history. Let’s look back some 2000 years and read about some people who missed Christmas!

INNKEEPER: (LUKE 2:1-7)

“there was no room for them in the inn” (v7) This person didn’t even bother to help them find reasonable sleeping quarters in Bethlehem, especially with Mary being pregnant and all. Now, this man wasn’t unsympathetic….he was just busy and had no room for them! It was a busy time of year when there has been a Census called! The town would have been filled to the maximum. Like so many millions of people this Christmas season……busy getting things prepared, like meals, making sure everything is neat and tidy for their company. We forget the people around us, the homeless person who’s been excommunicated by his or her family. We forget the less fortunate ones by marking it to their own “bad luck”. Maybe the Innkeeper is not different then us at times! We forget why we celebrate Christmas at all! Reasons being! We have been caught in the trap of Consumerism and we get so busy we forget to stop and ponder this truth! His grace in our lives and the gospel truth that saved us from His judgment and damnation.

HEROD (MATT 2:1-8)

“Then Herod secretly called the magi, and ascertained from them the time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, “Go and make careful search for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, that I too may come and worship Him.” (v7-v8) This is a man who pretended to want to worship Jesus Christ. He was a troubled man by this child who would be born! Why? This child had the power to usurp his throne and strip him of his power. In (v3) we read “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled [agitated], and all Jerusalem with him.” agitated” means : stirred up, shaken up.” It conveys the idea of panic. History tells us his paranoia was legendary “He was afraid one of his two sons might take his throne, so he murdered both of them. His entire life was one of plotting and execution. Five days before his death he executed all his descendants who might have laid claim to the throne. In one of the final acts of his evil life, he had all the distinguished citizens of Jerusalem put in prison and commanded that they be slaughtered the moment he died. “These people will not weep when I die,” he said, “and I want them weeping, even if they weep over someone else.” So even at his death there was a great slaughter.” His supremacy was in jeopardy. He had no use for any other king of the Jews. Sadly many today feel the same way as Herod did some 2000 years ago. People today will not allow anything to interfere with their plan, lifestyle, career, position, power, or ambitions in life. Many today see Jesus as a treat rather than a blessed Saviour to mankind. Some will do whatever it takes to destroy the true meaning of Christmas and will fight to have Him removed from our lives. We have seen this around the globe…..even in our own country of Canada. Some like Herod will have wrong motives and they will celebrate His birth, they will even embrace Jesus as a means when they get themselves into trouble, but they will never submit to Him as Lord of their lives.

RELIGIOUS LEADERS (MATT 2:4-5)

“And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:” (v4-v5). According to their own answer to Herod they missed the signs of the coming Messiah. They knew exactly where He was to be born and yet they couldn't be bothered to go themselves to see their Lord and Saviour. They couldn't be bothered to walk 2 miles to Bethlehem to find the truth of the prophets of old. As Isaiah said “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isa 9:6. Sadly, there self-righteous religious attitude made them deceived to their own need of a Saviour. This is happening all over the globe, especially in North America. Churches will be filled with religious people at Christmas time…….they will do their yearly visit to hear the Christmas message. They will substitute the gospel truth with religious rituals over religious transformations found in Christ alone. Remember what Jesus said “….'I DESIRE MERCY AND NOT SACRIFICE.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." Matt 9:13. See, finding Christmas will not be easy, no easier than finding it the first time. If most of the religious experts missed the very first Christmas, it wouldn't be surprising to find a lot of modern-day religious people missing the big event, too. The religious mistake is to ignore your need for a Saviour because to feel you good enough to get to Heaven. The bible calls this missing the mark because you are sinner who needs to be saved! These men chose not to go! These men didn't anticipate the birth as Simeon or Anna did! As John MacArthur said “they didn't care about the remedy, because they don’t believe they have a disease, such people miss Christmas.”

THE PEOPLE OF JERUSALEM (LUKE 2:8-20)

“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." (v11-v15) Remember Bethlehem is within walking distance of Jerusalem. Remember Jesus’ birth is the fulfillment of the nation’s hopes according to the Old Testament prophets. Out of the whole of Jerusalem society, God picked a band of shepherds to hear the news of Jesus’ birth. Sadly the entire city slept and missed it with the exceptions of some lowly shepherds watching their flocks at night. Why? The city was busy with themselves and their religious rituals; see Jesus didn’t fit their system of things! See they were looking………
  • A hero
  • A superstar
  • A king
  • A conquer
  • A leader who would deliver His people from captivity
  • Not some baby born to a virgin who was married to lowly carpenter.

We live in a culture that is not so different than the people of Jerusalem. Jesus doesn’t fit into our lifestyle either………..with reasons like:
  • I love money more than Jesus!
  • I love my stuff more than Jesus!
  • I love power more than Jesus!
  • I love prestige more than Jesus!
  • I love popularity more than Jesus!
  • I love fame more than Jesus!

He’s just going to cramp my lifestyle and we can’t have that, can we? We call this materialism and idolatry! Everything this culture desires over Jesus......that’s how they see Christmas

Remember we need to slow down and embrace the truth of why we celebrate the birth of Christ this time of year! We need to remember why Christ came and how we are to exemplify our LORD. I think Charles Swindoll said best “Some gifts you can give this Christmas are beyond financial value: Mend a quarrel, dismiss suspicion, tell someone, "I love you." Give something away--anonymously. Forgive someone who has treated you wrong. Turn away wrath with a soft answer. Visit someone in a nursing home. Apologize if you were wrong. Be especially kind to someone with whom you work. Give as God gave to you in Christ, without obligation, or announcement, or reservation, or hypocrisy.” Don’t be like so many people today……like this woman I came across in my study this week! A woman was out Christmas shopping with her two children. After many hours of looking at row after row of toys and everything else imaginable--and after hours of hearing both her children asking for everything they saw on those many shelves--she finally made it to the elevator with her two kids. She was feeling what so many of us feel during the holiday season: overwhelming pressure to go to every party, every housewarming, taste all the holiday food and treats, getting perfect gifts for every single person on our shopping list, making sure we don't forget anyone on our card list and the pressure of making sure we respond to everyone who sent us a card. Finally the elevator doors opened, and there was already a crowd in the car. She pushed her way into the car and dragged her two kids in with her and all the bags of stuff. When the doors closed, she couldn't take it anymore and said, "Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, strung up and shot…..From the back of the car, everyone heard a quiet calm voice respond: "Don't worry, we already crucified Him." For the rest of the trip down, the elevator was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.” Don't forget this year to keep the One who started this whole Christmas thing in your every thought, deed, purchase and word. If we all did, just think how different this whole world would be.
  • Maybe the Innkeeper would have stopped and not miss the Savior.
  • Maybe Herod would have truly submitted to the King of Kings.
  • Maybe the Religious would truly have seen the signs pointing them to the first coming of Christ.
  • Maybe the Nation would have anticipated the truth of the prophets of old.
  • Maybe people today would celebrate the birth of Christ as precious event rather than a selfish time to get what you want out of people.
  • Maybe people would be more excited about Christ appearing than a fat guy coming down your chimney.

Don’t miss this Christmas season as the innkeeper, Herod, the Religious and the nation did some 2000 years ago. Jesus is way too important to overlook……….not just at Christmas, but with every breath you take because that is a gift from God as well. Don’t miss the train………… and the true meaning of Christmas this year. If you truly want to experience Christ this Christmas, then Stop, Look and Listen. In Jeremiah 29:13 we read “God says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Don’t miss Christmas this year and seek Him with your whole heart.

10 December 2013

CHRISTMAS IS A BLESSED TIME


Luke 1:26-47

Christmas is a time of blessing and joys for most people, especially us Christians! Why?  Christmas reminds us of God’s goodness in our lives, because He sent His Son to save our wretched soul out of the blackness of sin. Christmas is a time to reflect and give thanks to a holy God who loved us and gave us the greatest gift ever given………HIMSELF! A gift that only God could give worthy of all acceptance and praise for sinners like us. Christmas time displays and speaks volumes of Christ……whether the Atheist likes it or not. I came across a story, which I thought would be interesting to share with you this morning! The delicious Candy-Cane “A Candymaker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would help us remember who Christmas is really about. So he made a Christmas Candy Cane. He incorporated several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ. He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy. White to symbolize the virgin birth and sinless nature of Jesus. Hard candy to symbolize the solid rock, the foundation of the Church, and firmness of the promises of God. The candymaker made the candy in the form of a "J" to represent the name of Jesus. It also represented the staff of the "Good Shepherd". The candymaker then included red stripes. He used three small stripes and a large red stripe to represent the suffering Christ endured at the end of his life. The candy became known as a Candy Cane -- a decoration seen at Christmas time. The meaning has faded, but still gives joy to children young and old, whom Jesus loves and treasures.”

Christmas is all Christ…..it’s all about birth of Christ! It’s a time that we shouldn’t take lightly because without this divine historical birth we are still in our sins facing condemnation from a holy God. Though, we may not know the actual date of his birth and all the stories we read about paganism that surrounds Christmas! One thing for sure….. the birth of Christ is a vital doctrine to the Christian faith. Sadly our culture is trying very hard to stop us from celebrating the virgin birth of our Lord through the Christmas season. How? They are trying to by literally replace the term “merry Christmas” with “happy holidays.” They are trying to re-name our traditional Christmas tree as the “holiday tree.” They are trying to take out the baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph from the manger scenes. The world doesn’t want to remember that day some 2000 years ago, but there is no escaping this truth of the virgin birth. When we read in scripture about the coming Messiah found in the Old Testament that He will come from a virgin young lady………..What comes to your mind? We read these passages in our casual reading, but do we really sit down and ponder what truly happened. We really need to stop and understand the significance about this blessed event in History

My question for you this morning is…………What does the virgin birth mean to you? This supernatural event in history is so vital and most important that it’s mentioned throughout scripture. Moses wrote the Lord said “.....will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel." Gen 3:15. Isaiah penned these words some 700 years before Christ was born "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel."  Isa 7:14 said “How long will you waver, O faithless daughter? For the LORD has created a new thing on the earth: a woman encircles a man."  Jer 31:22. In the New Testament we continue to read passages like…“and she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus..." Matt 1:21. The apostle Paul said "God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law” Gal 4:4. The virgin birth is a very important absolute that we can't ignore or sweep under the rug. Why do I say that? Many today are trying to convince it never happened……… and if that’s true then we are in a heap of trouble.

ONE PERSON WROTE THESE REASONS FOR NOT BELIEVING IN THE VIRGIN BIRTH.

1. There is no reliable evidence. "We have no eyewitness accounts, no doctor confirmations, no DNA samples"

2. The earliest references are late and sparse. "....It seems likely the virgin birth was created to boost the authority of Christianity through prophecy and compete with rival gods who were born of virgins."

3. It’s the same old myth. "The claims of Jesus’ birth are no different from any of the other virgin birth legends. It doesn’t have any more evidence or appear to be any more likely. Why believe it over the others?"

4. Is it more likely to be a lie, or to be true? "Now what is more likely, that she is lying or telling the truth? Even if Mary claimed this herself, we would not believe her. Now consider that the story didn’t appear until over 50 years after it supposedly happened. The likelihood of the virgin birth being true is very, very, very low."

5. We would never, ever, believe this today. "Imagine if a teenage girl in your neighborhood claimed that her pregnancy was due to God impregnating her and that she was still a virgin. Would you believe her? Or would you think she was lying? If she insisted on it being true, we would put her in a mental hospital."

Sadly like this person, many continue to try and rationalize everything to fit their world view or how they see things! But as the bible says “it is foolishness to those who perish” We also read “The fool says in his heart there is no God." Why is this doctrine so important and what is at stake? “This doctrine, wrote James Orr, affects the whole supernatural estimate of Christ—his life, his claims, his sinlessness, his miracles, his resurrection from the dead. But the virgin birth is assailed with special intensity, because it is supposed that the evidence for this miracle is more easily got rid of than the evidence for public facts, such as the resurrection. The result is that in very many quarters the virgin birth of Christ is openly treated as a fable, and belief in it is scouted as unworthy of the twentieth century intelligence.” The world doesn’t want to believe this supernatural work found in the virgin birth! But! This has been His promise since the beginning of time when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. Ever since the beginning of man this has been our….
  • Blessed hope
  • Peace
  • Restoration
  • Joy of salvation

We need to see this importance and realize how important the birth of Christ is as we come to this Christmas season! Please turn with me to Luke chapter 1 as we get front row seats to this wonderful historical account of the virgin birth!

1. BLESSED IS THE WOMAN THAT CARES THE LORD AND SAVIOUR (V42)

"Blessed are you among women" a woman chosen by God. In the Hebrew this statement means "You're the most blessed of all woman" In Luke 1:28 we read “And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!" The angel said "highly favored one" which literally means “full of grace" this is the same meaning for anyone that calls upon the name Jesus and believes by faith. Paul said according to his writings that we are favored, make accepted by the Lord, full of grace “to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
We are accepted.” Eph 1:6. Elizabeth was telling Mary that she was most blessed because she was going to give birth to the greatest child ever. So great people noticed when they were in Jesus' presence……..In Luke 11:27 “And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!"

2. BLESSED IS THE CHILD THAT COMES TO REDEEM THE WORLD (V42)

"Blessed is the fruit of your womb" Why is this Child blessed?
  • He is blessed because He comes to save people from their sins.
  • He is blessed because He has come to free us from the bondage of sin.
  • He is blessed because He has come to be King and LORD!

Mary understood this blessing that Elizabeth was speaking in the Holy Spirit  (v41) Why do I say that? Mary speaks of this great blessing she has inside of her "My soul magnifies the Lord (v46) My soul is saturated with the Lord "My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior" (v47) This is showing her need for a Savior. Mary also goes on to say He is Love “regarded the lowly...”  ( me a maidservant) (v48). He is Mighty  "has done great things for me" (v49). He is Holy "holy is His name" (v49). He is Mercy "to those who fear Him" (v50). He is Sovereign "strength with His arm" (v51). He is Righteous Judge "He has scattered... He has put down... He has exalted the lowly" (v52). He is Provider "filled the hungry with good things" (v53). He is the Finisher of our Salvation "He has helped His servant Israel... " (v54). This Child is truly blessed, so blessed; Zechariah prophesied about Him "Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people" (v68) and Zechariah goes on to say that his son John will go before this great Lord and Savior! In Luke 1:76-79 we read "And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, To give knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God, With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace." See, without this virgin birth, without Him coming in the form of man….the sin issue is not resolved and we are still damned to hell! As Oswald Chambers said “Jesus Christ became Incarnate for one purpose, to make a way back to God that man might stand before Him as He was created to do, the friend and lover of God Himself.”

3. BLESSED ARE THE ONES WHO BELIEVES BY FAITH (V45)

This is an important truth that overflows with blessing! Elizabeth was praising God by faith, Mary was parsing God by faith, Zechariah was praising God by faith, John the Baptist was praising God by faith 

"The baby leaped in my womb for joy" How do we have that kind of faith and joy as John had in the womb of Elizabeth? By what Paul wrote to the church! 2 Cor 4:6 reminds of this joy and blessing “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” He has put His knowledge and glory of Himself in our hearts. He has given us assurance of His great salvation through His son, Jesus Christ. The Apostle Peter says the faith that we have is the faith of love……“whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9. The English Standard Version says "Though you have not seen him, you love him". The King James Version says "Whom having not seen, ye love." Our faith is a faith in a person who we cannot see, smell or touch but He lives inside of us through the Holy Spirit. I must trust in the scriptures when it speaks about the supernatural work found in the virgin birth. For by faith [a faith that God gives us, as a gift] we are saved! Because we believe the scriptures.

This virgin birth is so much more than a miracle…it about our redemption! For without this virgin birth I am doomed and so are you! Faith is a must in order to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ who came as a baby born of virgin young girl. That's why John leaped in the womb!
  • Redemption is here
  • Prophecy has been fulfilled
  • The Seed has come to crush Satan and his fallen angels
  • Immanuel (God is with Us) has finally come to deliver Us!

As Simeon “took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel." And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.  And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed." Luke 2:28-35. Simeon praises God for this selfless gift! Please never forget this wonderful truth of the virgin birth and we must always be ready to give an account for the hope that is in your heart this Christmas season.

THE VIRGIN BIRTH IS ESSENTIAL TO THE CHRISTIAN FAITH

1. If this revelation is rejected, then any other Biblical fact may be rejected.

2. If the virgin birth is rejected, the deity or humanity (or both) of the Savior must also be discarded.

3. If the virgin birth is not true there is no valid salvation.

4. If the virgin birth is not fact, then the doctrine of the incarnation, as revealed in scripture, cannot be accepted.

5. If the virgin birth is not valid, man is without hope in time and eternity.

6. If the virgin birth is error, other doctrines lose meaning and purpose.

So rejoice, because we know through the scripture how important and real the virgin birth was! Christmas is a blessed time for family of God! Are you leaping for Joy this morning? Is your spirit rejoicing this morning? Does your soul magnify the Lord this morning? Are you praising Him for finding favor in you? Are you thankful for that wonderful Christmas gift? That gift is? Salvation in the one true King……………….Jesus Christ. I love what John MacArthur says about the Christmas baby "If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: "God with us." We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth!

03 December 2013

WHAT HINDERS YOUR PRAYER LIFE?



Do you ever feel defeated when it comes to your prayer? If you’re having a hard time answering that question, looking back to your prayer life from this past week or month. How many times did you pray for the list of people and things on our bulletin? How many times did you make it to prayer meeting to pray with your church family? How many times did you pray with your children? How many times did you pray with your spouse? How many times did you pray for your spouse or child? How many times did you pray for a stranger you saw or meet at the local store? How many times did you seek God through prayer with your personal problem? How many times did you pray? I don’t ask those questions to hurt your feelings or to make you feel guilty…….I ask those question because sometimes we need to remind ourselves of our lack of concern and effort when it comes to prayer. We’re all guilty of this….myself included; there are many days when I fail at the privilege that we have been given in prayer. I want to look at some things that hinder us from praying genuinely and effectively. But we need to understand what the word “hinder” means! By definition it’s the “act of hampering or restraining motion.” Where have we seen this in the scriptures? A prime example is found in Mark’s gospel, when the disciples hindered certain individuals from coming to Jesus. Who were those individuals? Children. In Mark 10:13-15 we read “Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.Hindrance is something that plagues us all when it comes to prayer!
  • It holds us back when we fall into sin and carnality.
  • It holds us back when the word is not central in our lives.
  • It holds us back to blessing that is found in His fellowship with the saints.
  • It holds us back to endure under pressure.
  • It holds us back to an unforgiving spirit.
  • It holds us back from communion that is found in prayer.

I want to look at 6 SPECIFIC obstacles that hinder our prayer life! Maybe you’ll be able to relate to one of the six and maybe, just maybe the chains will be broken for you today as you and I fight the battle for our depleting prayer life.

1. SPIRITUAL WAREFARE

We need to understand the more you pray the more you will experience spiritual warefare. Satan and his fallen angels will fight to keep you from praying. The Bible makes a fascinating statement in 1 Thess 2:18 when the Apostle Paul states, “Satan hindered us.” This naturally raises the question! Why would God allow Satan to hinder trouble and persecute God's children? Jesus said in Revelation 2:10 “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Sadly though, we have a tendency to fear what surrounds us and we forget who is in control of our lives! David Wilkerson said “all the devil wants to do is get the fight out of you and kill it. So you won't labor in prayer anymore, you won't weep before God anymore.” It’s like the story I came across of a man crossing the ice…..“He had to cross a wide river on the ice. He was afraid it might be too thin, so he began to crawl on his hands and knees in great terror. He thought he might fall through at any moment. Just as he neared the opposite shore, all exhausted, another man glided past him nonchalantly sitting on a sled loaded with pig iron. How like some Christians! Headed for Heaven, they tremble at every step lest the divine promises break under their feet. By resting completely upon Him and taking His promises at face value, we can drive out the paralyzing fear that hinders our effectiveness in serving Christ.” We need to remember we have help in the midst of our battles; and we have access to seek His face through prayer at any moment to fight our spiritual battles.

2. UNFORGIVENESS

Unforgiveness in the heart of a Christian hinders the answer to his or her prayers. A grudge, a root of bitterness, or even hate, it may be, may be blocking the answer to your prayers. In read in Matthew 6:9-13 we are given the model prayer, or the Lord's Prayer. And in that model prayer the Saviour taught us to pray daily,"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." And when the prayer was finished Jesus added this plain, sharp word of warning, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matt 6:14-15. John Rice in his commentary on Matthew 18 when Peter is confronted with Jesus about forgiveness! He said “How many times shall we forgive one who sins against us? Peter thought seven times would be the perfect number; but Jesus answered back, "I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven." And when you have forgiven the same person 490 times, no doubt you would have lost count and would have conquered that wicked disposition to temper and bitterness in your own heart!” In order to have genuine prayer we need to be able to forgive one another….if not your prayers will be hindered according to His word……not me. “I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.” Psalm 66:18. Prov 28:9 says “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination [which means disgusting or detestable],

3. FEAR OF INTIMACY

We tend to protect ourselves from becoming to close with any one especially God at times. Prayer makes us vulnerable because we are expressing what’s in our hearts and sometime we want to build walls around our heart so that no one can see in; just like the Watchtower group who have no windows on their buildings. [What’s up with that?] Seriously now! If you don’t believe me, look back to this past week and ask yourself how many times have you sought His face through your trial or who have you confided in to pray with about your situation? If you can’t think of any time in your week…then may I suggest that you may be fearful of opening up with others through prayer when it comes to your life. It’s that attitude “I’ll keep it to myself, because I don’t want anyone to know that I don’t have it all together or that I’m struggling in my Christian life at this moment!” God saved us and called us out so that we could care, love, encourage, challenge, and defend one another as we fight the good fight that Paul told Timothy before he lost his life. We need to remove the pride and humbly seek each other as we go through different circumstances of life. Remember God wants us to be intimate with Him! We read in the scripture that it’s good to draw near to Him. In Heb 10:22 we read “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” God also wants us to be close to each other as a family……….and prayer is an avenue that we can come together on. As Paul wrote from a Roman’s prison cell! “always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy,” Phil 1:4

4. MISGUIDED MOTIVATION

We view prayer as a back-up plan to our already perfect plan….so we think! We have a tendency to treat prayer as a way to manage our affairs by giving God instructions to how we want things to turn out or go. It’s that idea “my will be done, not yours LORD” James penned these words “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:3. As one writer said “when one tries to use a hammer to baste a turkey or a light bulb to brush our hair, the results is frustration and failure…..He went on to say “it’s imperative that we have a clear understanding of the foundation and focus of prayer as found in the “owner’s manual” the WORD OF GOD.” Prayer is not a list of demands…………. its coming to throne in worship and giving Him the praise even if He chooses not to answer our prayer list.

5. BOREDOM

Do you find prayer is boring by yourself or with others? Some of you have been Disciples of Christ for many years, and there are some here who have only started their journey on their way home where He is. But I think in the church we have given up our high expectations about prayer. Sadly for many, prayer has become a real yawner to take part in. As one preacher calls this “sleepy prayer meetings” Where have we seen this in the scriptures? In Matt 26:40-41 we read Jesus rebuking His disciples “Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Many, good intentional Christians however find prayer to boring, eyes go half-mast because they don’t take prayer seriously. A chore to hurry and get done. Done only out of obligation otherwise the preacher is let me have it. That “Drowsy Prayer” a ritual to be rushed and ended, which in reality has no power in it. For prayer to be meaningful we must look at prayer as a means to a relationship
  • Speaking to out Heavenly Father
  • Developing a friendship with God
  • Getting to know the way He works in the lives of men
  • Getting to know His character, His precepts
  • Spending time with Him, letting Him speak to you

This isn’t boring and if you find that boring I challenge you to examine your faith this morning. Prayer is not to be boring …..Its life giving and liberating because of what Jesus did for us on the cross of Calvary.

6. LACK OF POSITIVE ROLE MODEL

Maybe you have never had a person in your life where you see the example and prayer so passionate expressed. Has there ever been a person in your life that has infected you with how they pray?
  • A mother
  • A father
  • A sister
  • A brother
  • A aunt, uncle
  • Grand parent

Maybe the reason you have such a hindered prayer life because you have never had that affluence from someone close or distant from you. Or seen it as precious or a privilege in your home. I think the greatest role model is found in the person of Jesus Christ. Numerous times Jesus would go off to pray! Praying and praising God that we would know Him “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.” Matt 11:25. Jesus praying before he raised Lazarus "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me." John 11:41-42. Jesus praying for the Father’s will to be done not His. "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done." If you struggle in this area seek someone to mentor you so that you can find blessing and power in your prayer life. Since we are surrounded by such a great many who have gone before us, let us follow in their footsteps of these faith servants who saw prayer as a vital organ to life giving spirit.. D A Carson said “many facets of Christian discipleship, not the least prayer, are more effectively passed on by modeling than by formal teaching. Good praying is more easily caught than taught.”Do you know someone like that…if so follow after, if not keep looking! There out there.

Early African converts to Christianity were earnest and regular in private devotions. Each one reportedly had a separate spot in the brush where he would pour out his heart to God. Over time the paths to these places became well worn. As a result, if one of these believers began to neglect prayer, it was soon apparent to the others. They would kindly remind the negligent one, "Brother, the grass grows on your path." Let me ask you! Is your path worn or is it growing over What is hindering your prayer life? Has it been or is still one of things I’ve addressed this morning?
  • Is it spiritual warefare that is keeping you prayer?
  • Is there Unforgiveness that is keeping you from prayer?
  • Is it a fear of opening up that is keeping you from prayer?
  • Is it a misguided focus that is keeping you from prayer?
  • Is it a sense of boredom that is keeping you from prayer?
  • Is it a lack of role models in your life that tis keeping you from prayer?

There are many times when I feel all these points in my life! But one things for sure though……..we have a Heaven Father who cares about you and he desires that we seek Him with not just our problems but our joy as well. Prayer is an avenue for that to bring blessing and maturity for everyone no matter how old or young you are. Don’t let the things of this world hinder you....don't let your busyness hinder you! Don’t let your pride hinder you……………………………………….From the blessing of prayer! Remember! Our daily life in the world is the best indication of our power in prayer. God deals with my prayers not according to the spirit and tone which I exhibit when I am praying in public or private, but according to the spirit I show in my daily life. So, what hinders your prayer life?

25 November 2013

PRAYER REQUIRES BROKENNESS



Psalm 24:3-6

Brokenness by definition is the condition of being completely subdued and humbled before the Lord, and as a result, completely yielded to and dependent upon Him also. Throughout scripture we see many occasions of brokenness and its usually accompanied with genuine prayer. In Genesis 18:27 “Then Abraham answered and said, "Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord:" Another example in Psalm 8:4 “What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?” One of the greatest examples is David in Psalm 51:16-17 “For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”Brokenness results in amazing things and transforms lives, people, and nations! 

A true story I came across about a small band of church leaders had been praying earnestly for revival in their community--a village on the Isle of Lewis, the largest isle of the Outer Hebrides, just off the coast of Scotland. They were particularly burdened for the young people of the island who had no interest in spiritual matters and scorned the things of God.

For eighteen months they met--three nights a week, praying through the night, right on into the early hours of the morning, beseeching God to come and visit in revival. But there was no evidence of any change.

Then one night, a young deacon rose to his feet, opened his Bible, and read from Psalm 24: “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord, and who shall dwell in His holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart . . . . He shall receive the blessing from the Lord.”

Facing the men around him, this young man said, “Brethren, it seems to me to be just so much ‘humbug’ to be waiting and praying as we are, if we ourselves are not rightly related to God.”

There in the straw, the men knelt and humbly confessed their sins to the Lord. Within a short period of time, God had begun to pour out His Spirit in an extraordinary awakening that shook the entire island.”

See we need to understand when we read accounts like this one! Before an impact can be felt in a home, a church, or a nation, revival must first be experienced on a personal level in the hearts of men and women. The single greatest hindrance to our experiencing personal revival is our unwillingness to humble ourselves and confess our desperate need for His mercy. LET ME ASK YOU! Does your sin make you weep? Do you feel broken over your sin Because! Brokenness is the off ramp to your sin! Brokenness is the place that brings you to repentance which ultimately leads to forgiveness and ends in fellowship with Christ. See in order for genuine prayer to ever happen.....God must break you and bring you to a place in your life where you cry out to God in repentance because of your sin. John MacArthur said “For all of us prayer is only genuine and only powerful when it comes out of a pure life and an attitude of self-denial that says Thy will, Thy name, Thy Kingdom.” As on puritan preacher said “"Plow deep in me, Great Lord, heavenly husbandman, that my being may be a tilled field, the roots of grace spreading far and wide until Thou alone art seen in me. Thy beauty golden like summer harvest, Thy fruitfulness as autumn's plenty."

Church family please don’t misunderstand what I mean by brokenness! Brokenness does not mean, as some think, having a sad, gloomy, never smiling or laughing. It does not mean always being pessimistically absorbed. Nor can it be equated with deeply emotional experiences. It is possible to shed buckets full of tears, without ever experiencing a moment of brokenness. Further, brokenness is not the same as being deeply hurt by tragic circumstances. A person may have experienced many deep hurts and tragedies, but never have been broken. Brokenness is not a feeling; rather, it is a choice, an act of the will. It is not a one-time experience or crisis; rather, it is an ongoing, continual lifestyle. It’s a persistent lifestyle of agreeing with God about the true condition of my heart and life, as He sees it. PSALM 24 DISPLAYS TO US THAT TRUTH FOR THIS MORNING, BY ASKING A QUESTION WHO CAN SEEK SUCH A HOLY GOD?

A PERSON WHO IS BROKEN BEFORE GOD WITH A DESIRE TO BE RIGHT WITH GOD (v3-v4)

“Who can ascend the hill of the LORD?”  Literally means Who is worthy to dwell there?” In all honesty no one! We are by nature depraved and unworthy [you are wretched] We are all sinners fallen from grace! But through Christ we are allowed to enter in because of the gospel. Remember David in his prayer to God? “Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight— That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.” Psalm 51:1-4. Just as David, I need at times to recognize my inability to approach His throne on my own, on my terms or by my merit. In the New Testament it’s the Spirit giving ability that I’m able to approach the throne of grace.

“he that has clean hands an pure heart” The understanding of David’s prayer is that he or she who would be recognized as a friend and worshipper of God must be a person not living in the practice of sin, but striving always to do that which is right. The “hands” are the instruments by which we accomplish anything; and hence, to have clean hands is equivalent to being upright. James 4:8 says “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” The “heart” not merely the one whose external conduct is upright, but whose heart is pure with a pure motives for the glory of God and the good towards one another. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.” What does that blessing look like? Coming to the throne of grace understanding the work of Christ through the Spirit that has and is being done in my in life to make it possible to enter His hill.

A PERSON WHO IS COMPLETELY DEPENDENT UPON THE LIMITLESS ABILITY OF GOD (v5)

“He shall receive the blessing from the Lord” literally, He shall bear away a blessing from Yahweh.” The blessing here referring to His favor and friendship. He or she shall be recognized and treated as His own…………..As His child, beloved! God is limitless in His ability to work through or answer our prayers! Isn’t that comforting and amazing to know as you face your next minute, hour, day? Nothing hinders Him from doing anything except what is just, pure, holy and acceptable according to His holy word. But! We also need to understand that God has conditions for His sanctified children when we approach Him whether it is through worship or prayer.

WHAT DO I MEAN BY THAT! The bible is very clear when it comes to worship when you have an ongoing problem with someone in the body of Christ. In Matt 5:22-24 it says “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Not only does it affect the other person’s relationship with Christ but it also affects yours. Before we can approach His throne we must confess our trespasses with genuine brokenness! In Psalm 66:16-20 says “Come and hear, all you who fear God, And I will declare what He has done for my soul. I cried to Him with my mouth, And He was extolled with my tongue. If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear. But certainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, Who has not turned away my prayer, Nor His mercy from me!”

See God has conditions but they are for our growth in His righteousness. His conditions are for our good and His glory, because He wants to bless you but it has to come under his conditions not ours. He is limitless when it comes to grace, mercy, forgiveness, and everything else when we seek Him in a right manner under His authority over our lives. "Only God can move mountains, but faith and prayer can move God" E M Bounds

Who can ascend to the hill? You and me under the grace of the gospel found in Christ
  • This is who can ascend the hill to God
  • This is who can stand before the throne of grace
  • This is what prayer requires from you and me

Brokenness is a great off-ramp to prayer! Prayer then is modeled here characterized by a passion and fervency, realizing self-denial and humility are required to enter in. It’s an essential ingredient is a longing for righteousness. It is built on God's character and it is consummated in God's glory. Another story I came across in letter a man wrote at a men’s retreat prayer weekend. “A dozen years ago, my friend Bob took the challenge of going away for three days to pray with a group of about eighty men from our church. It seemed crazy that busy men would take vacation time, drive a couple hours to a run-down camp, sleep on worn-out beds, eat lousy food, and do nothing but pray for three days. Yet I’ve seen it happen dozens of times – with life-changing results. On the second afternoon, Bob sat with a group of about twenty-five men. The brothers all participated, as they felt prompted, through spontaneous Scripture reading, songs, and heartfelt response. The Word, the Spirit and the prayers of the men were creating an environment of fresh spiritual hunger and unprecedented transparency. Overwhelmed by a sense of God’s presence and compelled by his desperation for a breakthrough, Bob stepped to the middle of this circle of praying men, sat down in a chair, and began to weep.
With unedited brokenness, Bob confessed to God and the men listened in on this holy moment. He wept over the loss of his first marriage, recalling the departure of his wife and young daughter due to his addiction to pornography. He thanked the Lord for his subsequent salvation and marriage to a godly Christian woman. His heartache then accelerated as he confessed his ongoing secret struggle with porn. He cried out with pleas for God’s forgiveness, healing, and restoration in his life. This holy moment was not prompted by a long prayer list. It did not spring from any human pressure or peer manipulation. Bob was transformed because he took time to behold Christ’s glory with an open Bible, a yielded heart, and an expectant faith....."

Who can stand on this hill and seek the Lord? Those who confess with a genuine brokenness towards a holy God who is full of compassion and forgiveness. Sometimes I feel like I approach God’s throne with arrogance or contempt as if God owes me something because I’m so good. I know what Jesus would say about me sometimes! “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.” Luke 18:11. Sometimes I need to remind myself who we are approaching with the blessing of prayer. Sometimes I need to remind myself of this truth found in the question of David. “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? Answer! “He that has clean hands and a pure heart” “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' Luke 18:13. Who would you rather be in this story ascending to the hill of the LORD? The man who wasn’t broken or the man who was? Because Jesus said “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:14. As one preacher said “God, Please let me back among the broken, meek, and humble. I don’t know how much longer I can handle being among those who know it all, have it all together, and are unwilling to be broken, uncomfortable and bedraggled. Please let me be back in a place where it is okay to be bedraggled, ruffled, confused, and searching. Back in a place where we believe you reach down in our discomfort and humility and embrace us. My heart aches for brokenness and the freedom to be such.”Perhaps you are praying a similar prayer today?