Friday, May 02, 2008

Dallas Willard on Prayer

Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy is an effective review of Jesus' "Discourse on the Hill," or Sermon on the Mount, as a more familiar title. Willard makes some statements that I disagree with in the book, but on the whole, it is very useful for reframing one's understanding of Jesus' teaching.

There is a specific section in chapter 7 that deals with prayer, a topic I've been contemplating lately, as you can tell from my blog entries this week. Willard suggests that prayer is pretty much about asking God for stuff - making requests to Him. However, for those requests to be sincere, one must presuppose a growing relationship with the One of whom the requests are being made. Therefore, I'd add to Willard's remarks on prayer that adoration, confession, and thanksgiving are equally important elements of solid dialogue with our creator.

But Willard makes an interesting mention of "heroic" prayer. He says that only some are called to such activity, and that those of us not called to be heroes in prayer can feel guilty if we fail to pray "heroically." The result of this guilt can then lead to the abandonment of prayer altogether. I see his point and appreciate it. I even find myself leaning this direction at times. My pray life is certainly not "heroic," and I never treat it as such. However, knowing the real benefit of prayer, I would like to be a better prayer, a more frequent and more fervent prayer. The prayer I wrote yesterday for the National Day of Prayer is an example of how I'd like to pray regularly. The reality is that I spend in prayer normally about a tenth of the time that it took to write that prayer. That's sad to me, because I want to be more intimate with God - and that happens through prayer.

O Lord, I long to be near to You, to talk to You and to hear from You - to be Your friend. Draw me closer to You through prayer. Amen.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

National Day of Prayer

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! The heavens declare Your greatness; the oceans cry out to You; the mountains, they bow down before You; so I’ll join with the earth, and I’ll give my praise to You.

Who is like the Lord, our God? There is none like You. You, in holy, triune splendor, are God alone, sovereign creator of all things, both the physical realm and the spiritual realm. You did it with Your powerful word, having spoken light into existence and having breathed into mankind, forming him from the dust of the ground in Your own image. You sustain all things by Your powerful word, bringing everything to pass according to Your purpose, for the pleasure of Your will and for Your eternal glory – all despite the wretched sinfulness of mankind introduce so early on. You would have been just to destroy creation at Your first displeasure, but You purposed even sin that You might overcome it infinitely with grace, revealing Your patience, longsuffering, forbearance, and unfathomable mercy in the promised prophecy and faithful fulfillment of it in Jesus Christ, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. You are amazing. I dare not consider that I could possibly praise You for the magnificence of all Your attributes in their infinite perfection. And to think that You have revealed Yourself to fallen humanity in numerous ways, but primarily to us through a book. Yes, the Holy Scriptures are truly God-breathed, Your chosen and perfect method to reach all kinds of people in all kinds of cultures over all kinds of ages. I praise You for Your word.

Father I adore You; I lay my life before You. I love You. It’s hard to say, “I love You,” because I see my sin – even daily – ever against You, in thought, word, and deed. I consider the words of Jesus, “If you love Me, then keep My commandments.” It’s amazing that You would let me take another breathe, much less profess my love for You when my transgressions are so great. Like Your great servant Paul, whom You worked in so magnificently, to the point that he would acknowledge his hard work and then humbly point out that it was actually Your grace working within him, I struggle with divisive desires. That confirms that You are working in me, but I long for progress. Dare I say I see it? I long for that day when my desires will be so aligned with Your holiness that all I do is please You, never to sin again. I know it is coming, even with the return of Jesus, for Your faithful promises can never fail. So I ask You, Father, to forgive me as I confess my sinfulness. I hold nothing back. Though there are myriad sins that I commit daily, both of omission and commission, that go unnoticed by me, You are aware of them; and when I confess that they are there, though I reflect not on them, and when I ask You to wash me clean, You do so. As far as east is from west have my sins been separated from me. Amazing. Father I praise You for Your eternal plan. Your electing love, Your desire to glorify Yourself in the Person of Jesus Christ, who had all the glory You had before creation, is wonderful. I am humbled beyond expression, awestruck by Your ways, that I would be called a co-heir of all things with Christ, a reflector His glory both now and forever, a participant in the kingdom of heaven, a ruler of creation with Him who died for – all according to Your plan before creation. Your knit me together in my mother’s womb; I am fearfully and wonderfully made. You ordained all my days before even one of them came to be. And I am at Your service, longing to be made to increasingly serve You. Rebellious, yes, but ever-repentant and, by Your grace, ever increasing in holiness, predestined to be conformed to the likeness of Your Son.

Jesus I adore You; I lay my life before You. I love You. Again, dare I say, “I love You”? You are the One who emptied Yourself by taking on humanity. You left Your kingdom in heaven to become a man. What a disgrace! No – what grace! Your love, displayed so marvelously in Your willingness to live and die for me, such a worthless wretch, is nearly beyond belief. You Lord Jesus are my great God and Savior, the worthy Lamb of God who fulfills Scripture as the seed of the woman who would conquer death and sin. You are Prophet, Priest, and King, indeed the King of kings, supreme and pre-eminent over all creation as a result of Your work of redemption. You are sufficient in every matter – whether on earth or in heaven. Though I, like many others, may not fully grasp Your full deity and full humanity, I know both to be true. It was the only way – the perfect way – for You to be glorified in fullness by Your creation. Had You needed not overcome sin, we might fail to glorify You in fullness; but that could have never been. For You are creator and redeemer, the beginning and the end, from before there was time. I adore You Jesus, as One who was tempted in every way yet was without sin. I worship You, not merely a man, or even solely God, but the infinitely worthy and eternal God-Man. You are everlasting father, prince of peace, wonderful, counselor. How can it be that You would call me a friend? How can it be that You are unashamed to call me brother? How could I not adore You forever. Dare I think that Your work is completed. True, You said, “It is finished,” but that was the end of the beginning. You died, an essential part of our redemption; You bore the weight of the just punishment of the all the sin of Your people in Your body on the cross. You experienced the separation from the Father that we deserved for our sins so that we won’t have to. But You weren’t done. No one took Your life; You laid it down. And not even death could hold You; for You are God, perfect in every way. You cast out sin and death; You bound Satan; and You reign as King, sustaining all things, at the right hand of the throne of God forever. But You aren’t done. You don’t sleep. Jesus, You always intercede for us; You are our mediator, our Priest. You teach us truth by Your Spirit; You are our Prophet. And I adore You.

Spirit, I adore You; I lay my life before You. I love You. You, Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, co-equal and co-eternal with Father and Son, One in being with the Father and Son, yet mysteriously eternally distinct, proceeding from both Father and Son as the submissive yet seemingly most active member of the Godhead, are equally worthy of praise. You hovered over the emptiness of creation on Day 1, and brought God’s word to pass in forming the earth and filling it with life; You are the agent of life. Blowing wherever You please, according to the perfect will of God, You regenerate the elect and bring them sovereignly to faith in Christ, all by grace. You convict of sin, You counsel to repentance, You lead in ways everlasting, always near. You, Holy Spirit, are the Spirit of Jesus Christ, indwelling the hearts of believers in a mysterious, yet essential and effective way. You pray for Your people, interceding with groans that words cannot express. You protect and guide; You open our minds and hearts to the word of God. Apart from Your blessing, we’d remain darkened in heart and mind to spiritual truth. Thank You for Your presence as comforter. Apart from Your presence we’d be hopeless, for Jesus in His physical humanity is absent, having ascended to the right hand of the throne of God. Yet He, along with the Father, sent You to lead us home. And we know that You are faithful and will do it.

The mysterious and glorious Covenant of Redemption, made before creation, is so appropriate, given Your character. Perfect in every way, yet wanting to involve creation in a relationship with Yourself, You show Your love. The Father lovingly elects His people, the Son lovingly redeems the elect, and the Spirit lovingly applies redemption to the elect. Adoration of You, O God of revelation, is the least that I can do.

Lord God, I’ve confessed my sinfulness in some small degree, but I must confess more. It’s not merely in thought, word, and deed, that I’ve transgressed Your character, that I’ve offended You openly, that I’ve denied Your authority, broken Your law, set up my own autonomy, and committed cosmic treason, but it is in my very nature that I am a sinner. I sin only because I am a sinner. Thus I am by nature a child of wrath. Some might say they are exempt from punishment due to this fact: they did not choose to be of the seed of Adam; they had nothing to do with his sin, which left them sinful by relationship. However, I know my sinfulness is my own – I don’t claim exemption. I am guilty, deserving of Your just wrath. And I am, by Your grace, saddened by my sin; therefore, I repent in dust and ashes. How dare I continue to sin against You! Don’t I get it? Don’t I respect Your authority? It pains me to say, “Oftentimes, no.” Lord, woe is me! I am unclean. Forgive me; cleanse me; place me in Christ, for He is my only shelter, my only hope. What’s this? Why, yes, it’s true! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Christ Jesus! Indeed! You have placed me in Him. You see me as pure and blameless. You’ve washed me white as snow, though my sins be as scarlet! Praise be to God!

How thankful I am for Him. How thankful I am for Your love and grace and mercy and patient forbearance before the Holy Spirit applied the redemptive work of Jesus to my life. How thank I am for Your daily bread, your constant renewal and mysteriously ever increasing love for me. How thankful I am that You care for me. What is man that God should care for him? Never can I repay, nor must I try, You for Your loving kindness. Rather my response must be mere gratitude. It can’t be enough. It’s not. You want it that way. The glory is Yours. All blessing and honor and glory and power be to You, O Lord, forever and ever.

My thanks shall not yet cease. I have only scratched the surface of reason for gratitude. Yet again, I dare not think that I could make mention of that demands my gratitude. Thus I am thankful that You overlook my taking for granted the vast majority of Your blessings. Yet I am also thankful that You grant some of the earthly blessings I crave – health, shelter, food, family safety, etc. I know that as I seek first Your kingdom, all these things will be added to me as well. And so I am thankful. I’m thankful for life, for Your sustaining it despite the corruption of the world, thankful that You have a purpose in doing so for the sake of redemption and restoration and a return to glory. I’m thankful for my body and the elements necessary to sustain it; though frail, it works so fluidly, taking in air and food and water, and processing those things unto life, all the while fighting off deadly germs. It’s unlike any machine mankind can build with all the wisdom of the world. I thank You for my past, which You have used not only to make me who I am today, but also to teach me for living in the present, and hopefully, in the future. I thank You for my wife. How can it be that You blessed me with a Christian woman, pure, and humble, and able and willing to deal with someone like me? She is for me, and I know by her that You love me. I am thankful for my four children – two boys and two girls – unique yet similar. I am learning great things about You from being blessed to be their daddy. I thank you for our family – the extended family of parents and grandparents and sisters and cousins. They are blessings to us, supporters of us in many ways, and I pray that we would in no small way be blessings to them. Thank you dearly, so dearly, for our friends. We have an amazing group of friends, likeminded, and living for Your glory. I thank You for our home, clearly ordained to be ours at this time through the gymnastics we went through to end up here. You have enabled us to make it cozy and hospitable for visits from family and friends; thank You. I thank You for my job, which sustains us such that my wife can remain with the children throughout the day. I am thankful for that as well, and I pray that You will use that reality not only to make our children into the people You’d have them become, but also that they would rise up years from and call their mother blessed. Thank you Lord for prayer, that I can speak to You and have You listen; thank You for drawing near to me as I draw near to You. Thank you for the fruit of the Spirit, for spiritual understanding, for wisdom and discernment while living in but not of the world. Thank you for Your word, the word of truth, which by grace and by the Spirit, guides me in all truth. Thank you for working in me; please continue to do so; let me not hinder You; overcome me. Thank you for providing all we need and much of what we want. Make our desires align with Yours. There’s much more. And not to skip over anything, but I can’t possibly mention it all. Thank you for who You are. Could You be different? Would You still be God? I don’t know. I’m thankful that You’re You – displaying Your attributes to Your creation for the good of those who love You and are called according to Your purpose – for Your glory.

How can make requests of You, O Lord? You have given immeasurably more than I could ask or imagine. But to add to Your glory, to desire to bless us by granting our requests. You are no genie in a bottle; You are the sovereign Lord of the universe. Yet You tell us to make requests, supplications on behalf of the saints. And so we do. We pray for our families, that they would desire to know You more, and that they would seek You aright, learning from Your word and Your people, rather than attempting to find You where only false teachers dwell. We pray for our friends the prayer of Paul, that they would be filled by You with the knowledge of Your will in all wisdom and understanding, that they may live a life worthy of You and pleasing to You. I pray this for myself Lord; You have blessed me with what I believe to be a sound understanding of Your word, increasing as I study, but I desperately need You to conform my behavior, my lifestyle, to the truth. Let my sound doctrine be applied to my life, that Your word would not be maligned and that You would be glorified for Your work in me. I pray that I might somehow be used to forward Your kingdom, even if only in the lives of my children and wife. I log for their salvation, and I trust You for it. I long for their purity, and I trust You for it. I long for them to desire to know You, to crave pure spiritual milk, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, to seek You while You may be found, and to find You early in life and never to stray from the sure and solid foundation of Your truth. I pray for the contentment of my wife, that she would be patient and satisfied in the reality that Your will would be done. I pray that she would be strengthened to carry out the works You have prepared in advance for her to do. You know the desires of my heart, Lord. But Lord, do not grant those requests that do not align with Your will. You know what’s best; we do not. You know all things; we know only what You have shown us. And we ask that Your will be done, O Lord, as Jesus taught us in word and deed. Let Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Take this cup, the cup of Your wrath, away, but not my will. Yours be done.

You said, “Ask and you will receive, whatever you need.” You said, “Pray, and I’ll hear from heaven, and I’ll heal your land.” You said, “Ask, and I’ll give the nations to you.” O Lord, that’s the cry of our heart. Thank You for America, our nation, and thank You for her godly heritage. But Lord, I confess that she has, we have, sinned and strayed. Abortion, drugs, divorce, greed, war, rampant immorality and idolatry have had their way in this nation for the past 60 years. Would You heal our land, O Lord? For the sake of our children? For the sake of their children? For the sake of Your children? For the sake of Your name? I know You have people here; I’m no Moses or Abraham in terms of interceding for Your people, but I know that You can spare our nation. This is the National Day of Prayer, and many people will pray today. Sadly, not all, and maybe not even most, will pray to You; they will lift up the name, “God,” but in their minds is a false god. They will call on “You” to heal our land; though they don’t acknowledge their sin and Your holiness, would You consider their prayer. Perhaps You might correct them and show them who You are, so that their prayers would be directed to the only God, the God of the Bible, the Great I AM.

Economic woes, political division, moral corruption, post-modern relativism – the situation seems hopeless. But we don’t hope in the nation; we don’t’ expect government to lead us safely apart from You. You may choose to heal our land using the government. You may choose not to heal our land and prove it using the government. Time, no doubt, will tell. But my hope, along with the hope of many of Your people in this nation, lies in You alone. Thy will be done in America. Amen.

How do evolutionists respond?

To experimental science such as this:

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Do you pray? Albert Mohler spoke of a report on his radio program yesterday that said something like 73% of Americans have prayed in the last week. Great. Weekly prayer for 3/4 of our nation. I wonder what percentage of those who claim to pray at least one per week pray daily, or even 3 times per day as was the custom of Daniel, or even continually, as the Apostle Paul commands in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. And I wonder how many of those professing prayers pray to the Biblical God. My guess is that the number dwindles from 73% to a petty figure indeed.

And that brings me to me. I pray. I'd count myself among the 73% that pray weekly. I'd even consider, though carefully, that I pray daily. But what does that mean? Of what does prayer consist? Do I speak to God and thank Him for blessings and ask Him for things? Sure. Do I simply look at creation and marvel? Yes. Is that a prayer? I don't know. One thing I do know - I need to pray more. More frequently and more fervently. I need to pray more, because I need to be closer to God. Prayer brings intimacy, not so much God closer to us, but us closer to God.

So let's pray. Tomorrow, Thursday, May 1, is the National Day of Prayer. And my prayer today is that America would pray tomorrow. It doesn't have to be a cleverly worded or complete prayer, but it sure would be great if it followed the A-C-T-S outline. It needs to be a prayer of ADORATION of the Biblical God, for His holiness and righteousness and grace and mercy and l-o-n-g suffering and love; it needs to be a prayer of CONFESSION for the grievous sins of our nation as a corporate entity, and for the sins of our congregations, especially regarding divorce (immorality and idolatry), and for the sins of ourselves as individuals. We need forgiveness and repentance, and God grants it as we adore Him and confess to Him our transgressions. The prayer needs to be a prayer of THANKSGIVING, for apart from Him we can do nothing - as a nation, as local congregations, as families, and as individuals. For what are we most thankful? It ought to be spiritual blessings of life - the Fruit of the Spirit - that transform our earthly existences. And finally, it ought to be a prayer of SUPPLICATION. We need to ask God for restoration and renewal, for courage and consistency; and we need to ask that He not leave us to ourselves, for we would surely falter. We need Him to bless us in every way.

Christians are to be a praying people, and there's no better time to pray than now. Join thousands of Americans on Thursday, May 1, the National Day of Prayer, in lifting up our nation, our congregations, our families, and our selves, to the Biblical God.

Monday, April 28, 2008

John 21:20-25

20Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is going to betray You?") 21When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?" 22Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow Me." 23Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?" 24This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. 25Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

Now, John’s gospel closes out with an account of John himself, with the suggestion (although as John himself notes, it was not a promise or a prophecy) that he should outlive the other disciples – some thinking, mistakenly, that he would actually live until Jesus’ return. Of course, as Jesus’ response to Peter’s question indicates, there is no more room to boast in a short and passionate life which ends in the glory of a martyr’s death than there is in a long life lived in faithful service and unswerving testimony to the Savior. And the latter is what John’s life would be.

Each of us has a race marked out for us as followers of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:1-2). Every man will bear his own burden (Galatians 6:5). Calvin says, “Out of ten persons it may happen that God shall choose one, that he may try him by heavy calamities or by vast labors, and that he shall permit the other nine to remain at ease, or, at least, shall try them lightly. Besides, God does not treat all in the same manner, but makes trial of every one as he thinks fit. As there are various kinds of Christian warfare, let every man learn to keep his own station, and let us not make inquiries like busybodies about this or that person, when the heavenly Captain addresses each of us, to whose authority we ought to be so submissive as to forget every thing else.”

John would be the faithful eyewitness, testifying to the truth of what he had seen and heard and known of the Word of Life, Jesus Christ our Savior. How solemnly he undertook this responsibility, as we may learn from his three epistles to the Church – and how grateful ought we to be for his long and faithful testimony, for it has given us the great and precious wonders of a gospel which outshines all other literature in the history of mankind, three letters which address the most pressing needs of every generation and tenderly apply the most precious wisdom ever vouchsafed to us by God, and an apocalyptic revelation which shows forth more clearly than any other writing the glory of Christ the eternal king, and the blessedness of our final destiny with Him. What a rich legacy John, the faithful witness, has left us. But let us not praise him, but the One who shone through him, with all power and authority, with all meekness and humility, with all the inexhaustible wonder of the Word of God, who alone reveals the inexhaustibly glorious nature of the Almighty Deity, showering all who belong to Him with these unfathomable riches of wisdom and knowledge that all eternity cannot begin to exhaust. This is Christ, the Lion and Lamb, our Savior and God, diverse in all His myriad excellencies!

That’s John’s gospel. Let me encourage you to continue in the practice of regularly meeting with others to study God’s word, to discuss the issues we face today, and to carry out the service of the Lord through faithful witness. Above all, let us exhibit love for one another in serving others to the glory of God.