Pray without ceasing

Pray without ceasing

It is my experience that many Christians would agree that prayer is an important part of any believer’s life, but do not follow through with a vital, active prayer life themselves. That is like someone agreeing that breathing is important to life, but it’s not a part of their every-day activities. “Yes, breathing is important,” they say, “but it’s just not one of my spiritual gifts. I’m not much good at it.” Yes, we can laugh at such an attitude, but that’s the way some people view prayer.

Pray without ceasing.

Look back through the letters Paul wrote to the early churches. Observe how many times he encourages them to pray; unceasing, vital, life-changing prayers. It is one of the Christian life principles Paul repeats over and over. Surely he is telling us something very important if he repeats it so often.

Jesus and prayer

But what about Jesus? Surely the Son of God wouldn’t need to pray. Surely he was so in tune with his heavenly Father that prayer was superfluous. Wrong. A few years ago, our home Bible study group worked through Mark’s gospel. In the midst of discovering many things through this intensive study, one thing stands out: Jesus prayed – and he prayed often.

Time out with God

Even in the busiest times of ministering to others, Jesus took out time to be alone with his Father and to pray. It appears from Mark’s account that the busier Jesus became, and the more the crowds pressed in on him for healing and teaching, the more he needed to spend time in prayer. Mark records that Jesus would leave them and go up into the hills to pray, often before dawn. If Jesus, who was in constant touch with his Father, found it vital to have an active prayer life, how much more should we pray.

Pray without ceasing.

We are all facing another new year.  Waiting patiently on God’s leading is not easy for those who only want action, or who want things to happen yesterday. I believe that a season of focussed prayer and patient waiting is important to determine future directions, not just individually, but also as a fellowship of believers.

Pray without ceasing.

˄TH

PASTORAL CARE:

For urgent Pastoral Care matters, prayer requests, and other urgent concerns, please contact one of the following:

  • Pastor Grant Spangenberg: 8532 2883 or 0419 848 336
  • Elder Trevor Hampel: 8532 3701 or 0408 839 381 (or use the Contact form above)
  • Elder Ted Smith: 0438 850 270
Photo: Trevor Hampel

Photo: Trevor Hampel

Prayer is Foundational to the Christian

Prayer is absolutely foundational to anything we wish to do as a church.

Our sermon yesterday took the title: “Your prayer life – a Force or Farce?” (You can hear this sermon later this week on our church app.)

In thinking about the discipline of prayer, Donald Bloesch in his book The Struggle of Prayer writes: “The Bible does not prescribe the time or length of prayer, but it does offer guidelines. In Psalm 88 prayer is offered in the early morning (v.13), and in Psalm 55 prayers are said evening, morning and at noon (v.17).

Daniel knelt for devotions three times a day (Daniel 6:10). Jesus prayed before sunrise, (Mark 1:35), and in the evening when the day’s work was over (Mark 6:46). Peter prayed at the third, sixth and ninth hours.

Just as the Christian is not bound to ritual laws that regulate the preparation for prayer, so we are not absolutely bound to set times of prayer. Yet, there are times that are more appropriate for prayer than others: the gathering together for worship, the hours before work and bedtime, the time right before meals, when we need to remind ourselves of the goodness of God. But a Christian should feel free to pray anywhere, anytime, in the midst of daily work and play as well as in the solitude of their room in the early morning or late in the evening.”

Benediction:

May the Almighty and ever-present God Guide, direct and enable your life and witness in this new week before us. Amen.

˄GS

Reminder: all sermons are uploaded to our church app around the middle of each week. The app is completely free.

PASTORAL CARE:

For urgent Pastoral Care matters, prayer requests, and other urgent concerns, please contact one of the following:

  • Pastor Grant Spangenberg: 8532 2883 or 0419 848 336
  • Elder Trevor Hampel: 8532 3701 or 0408 839 381 (or use the Contact form above)
  • Elder Ted Smith: 0438 850 270

    Pray Morning, Noon and in the Evening. (Photo T. Hampel)

    Pray Morning, Noon and in the Evening.                                    (Photo T. Hampel)

The vital importance of prayer

Pray without ceasing

It is my experience that many Christians would agree that prayer is an important part of any believer’s life, but do not follow through with a vital, active prayer life themselves. That is like someone agreeing that breathing is important to life, but it’s not a part of their every-day activities. “Yes, breathing is important,” they say, “but it’s just not one of my spiritual gifts. I’m not much good at it.” Yes, we can laugh at such an attitude, but that’s the way some people view prayer.

Pray without ceasing.

Look back through the letters Paul wrote to the early churches. Observe how many times he encourages them to pray; unceasing, vital, life-changing prayers. It is one of the Christian life principles Paul repeats over and over. Surely he is telling us something very important if he repeats it so often.

Jesus and prayer

But what about Jesus? Surely the Son of God wouldn’t need to pray. Surely he was so in tune with his heavenly Father that prayer was superfluous. Wrong. A few years ago, our home Bible study group worked through Mark’s gospel. In the midst of discovering many things through this intensive study, one thing stands out: Jesus prayed – and he prayed often.

Time out with God

Even in the busiest times of ministering to others, Jesus took out time to be alone with his Father and to pray. It appears from Mark’s account that the busier Jesus became, and the more the crowds pressed in on him for healing and teaching, the more he needed to spend time in prayer. Mark records that Jesus would leave them and go up into the hills to pray, often before dawn. If Jesus, who was in constant touch with his Father, found it vital to have an active prayer life, how much more should we pray.

Pray without ceasing.

We are all facing another new year.  Waiting patiently on God’s leading is not easy for those who only want action, or who want things to happen yesterday. I believe that a season of focussed prayer and patient waiting is important to determine future directions, not just individually, but also as a fellowship of believers.

Pray without ceasing.

˄TH

Photo credit: Trevor Hampel

Photo credit: Trevor Hampel

God with us

Last week, as we moved towards that special time of year once again, one word has been foremost in my mind: Immanuel. This word does not appear many times in the Bible, but perhaps the most significant occurrence is in the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

Imagine that: God with us. The God who created the amazing universe came as a little babe in those humble circumstances in the little town of Bethlehem. How amazing, and how wonderful that He humbled himself and dwelt amongst us. This, truly, is the wonder of Christmas.

However, we all know that the narrative does not end there. The baby Jesus and his parents were under threat from Herod, so they fled to Egypt, becoming refugees. Later they return to their homeland where Jesus grows and becomes the teacher that we know so well as it is recorded for us in the word of God.

The wonder of Christmas week cannot be divorced from the events of Easter week. The triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the cries of “Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest”, the poignancy of the last supper in that upper room, the agony of the garden of Gethsemane, the betrayal and arrest in the dark of night, the sham of a trial, and the shame of the cross of Calvary. This is all part of the story which has drawn millions of believers in Jesus Christ to acknowledge him as Lord and Saviour.

Furthermore, the narrative does not end there. The multitude of witnesses who saw our risen Lord, the doubters who would not – could not – believe unless they saw the nail prints in his hands and the countless believers down through the ages who take comfort in the resurrection from the dead, and His victory over sin and death.

This is what we celebrate.

Not just a babe in a manger.

Not just the heavenly host singing hallelujahs.

Not just the adoring shepherds or the worshipping magi.

We worship a living Saviour. We remember his death in our place and his resurrection. We remember his sinless body sacrificed in our place. We remember his precious blood poured out so that we might have forgiveness of sin, and cleansing from all unrighteousness.

We remember him.

Until he comes again, we remember that God is with us.

˄TH

A Saviour has been born for you

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;  for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2 NASB)

This passage is a familiar part of the Christmas account. It will be read in most Christian churches this, and every, Christmas Day, or in the lead-up to Christmas. The scene has been imagined by countless artists, from the great masters of old through to Christmas card illustrators of today.

Capture, if you will, the terror that these shepherds must have felt. This was not your normal event in the life of a humble shepherd. The Lord’s angel suddenly appeared before them. God’s glory lit up the dark night. And then the angel spoke to them. No wonder they were frightened. I am so pleased that the angel told them not to be afraid.

As the angel went on with the message, I am sure that their hearts were still pumping madly. I’ve been scared by an unexpected fright like that. Not an angel, mind you, but by a venomous snake slithering over my shoe. My wife tells me that my face was quite white with fright. It took me a few minutes to calm down.

In the same way, these shepherds must have had thumping hearts and blood-drained faces. After the initial shock, they were overjoyed by the good news. A Saviour, Christ the Lord, had been born that very day. It was not what they were expecting, nor were they prepared for the heavenly hosts which appeared next.

What a night, what an experience.

No wonder they hurried off to see this saviour. No worries about the animals that they were supposed to be caring for; they had something of greater importance ahead of them. After they had seen the baby Jesus, they eventually went back to their duties. As they returned to their flocks, they went “glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen.”

This Christmas, pause for more than just a moment. Meditate upon the true meaning of Christmas, what it really signifies, and how this impacts your daily life. This day celebrates the birth of your Saviour, Christ the Lord. The baby Jesus, born in humble circumstances, adored by simple shepherds, came to this earth to save you.

That is reason enough this Christmas day to be glorifying and praising God for the rest of your life, not just for a night.

God’s richest blessings to you and your loved ones this Christmas.

˄TH

Immanuel – God with us

This week, as we have moved towards that special time of year once again, one word has been foremost in my mind: Immanuel.

This word does not appear many times in the Bible, but perhaps the most significant is found in the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

Imagine that: God with us. The God who created the amazing universe came as a little babe in those humble circumstances in the little town of Bethlehem. How amazing, and how wonderful that He humbled himself and dwelt amongst us. This, truly, is the wonder of Christmas.

Blessings to you at Christmas as we celebrate our Saviour’s birth.

 ˄TH

Image result for nativity scene

 

The Key of the Greater Work

Prayer does not equip us for greater works— prayer is the greater work.

Yet we think of prayer as some commonsense exercise of our higher powers that simply prepares us for God’s work. In the teachings of Jesus Christ, prayer is the working of the miracle of redemption in me, which produces the miracle of redemption in others, through the power of God. The way fruit remains firm is through prayer, but remember that it is prayer based on the agony of Christ in redemption, not on my own agony. We must go to God as His child, because only a child gets his prayers answered; a “wise” man does not (see Matthew 11:25).

Prayer is the battle, and it makes no difference where you are. However God may engineer your circumstances, your duty is to pray. Never allow yourself this thought, “I am of no use where I am,” because you certainly cannot be used where you have not yet been placed. Wherever God has placed you and whatever your circumstances, you should pray, continually offering up prayers to Him. And He promises, “Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do…” (John 14:13). Yet we refuse to pray unless it thrills or excites us, which is the most intense form of spiritual selfishness. We must learn to work according to God’s direction, and He says to pray. “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:38).

There is nothing thrilling about a laboring person’s work, but it is the laboring person who makes the ideas of the genius possible. And it is the laboring saint who makes the ideas of his Master possible. When you labor at prayer, from God’s perspective there are always results. What an astonishment it will be to see, once the veil is finally lifted, all the souls that have been reaped by you, simply because you have been in the habit of taking your orders from Jesus Christ.

Extract from My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers (available from our bookshop).

Our petty complaining

Our petty complaining

Photo credit: T Hampel

Whom the Lord loves He chastens…” (Hebrews 12:6). How petty our complaining is! Our Lord begins to bring us to the point where we can have fellowship with Him, only to hear us moan and groan, saying, “Oh Lord, just let me be like other people!”

Jesus is asking us to get beside Him and take one end of the yoke, so that we can pull together. That’s why Jesus says to us, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). Are you closely identified with the Lord Jesus like that? If so, you will thank God when you feel the pressure of His hand upon you.

“…to those who have no might He increases strength” (Isaiah 40:29). God comes and takes us out of our emotionalism, and then our complaining turns into a hymn of praise. The only way to know the strength of God is to take the yoke of Jesus upon us and to learn from Him.

“…the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Where do the saints get their joy? If we did not know some Christians well, we might think from just observing them that they have no burdens at all to bear. But we must lift the veil from our eyes. The fact that the peace, light, and joy of God is in them is proof that a burden is there as well. The burden that God places on us squeezes the grapes in our lives and produces the wine, but most of us see only the wine and not the burden. No power on earth or in hell can conquer the Spirit of God living within the human spirit; it creates an inner invincibility.

If your life is producing only a whine, instead of the wine, then ruthlessly kick it out.

Quoted from WISDOM FROM OSWALD CHAMBERS

Check with our church Bookshop about the availability of books by Oswald Chambers. If they don’t have them in stock, they will order them for you. 

How to grow past failure

“We must always remember—the game is often won in the final seconds.

If at first you don’t succeed—you’re normal!

Keep on keeping on!”  Rick Warren

I enjoy watching various sporting events either live or on the television. All of us have witnessed, or even participated in, sporting events where the result changed dramatically in the last minute or even seconds of the game. It creates great joy in the victors and immense frustration to those who lose.

One classic Australian example occurred in the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Stephen Bradbury was a rank outsider, but he managed to squeeze into the final of the 1000 metre speed skating event. He was well out of contention throughout the race – until all other competitors crashed out on the final turn.

I witnessed first-hand another astounding victory at the last moment last New Year’s Eve at the Adelaide Oval here in South Australia. The Adelaide Strikers T20 cricket team looked well out of contention and needed 16 runs off the last 6 deliveries. One player had other ideas. This batsman, Travis Head, hit the ball over the fence into the crowd off the first 3 balls of the final over to win the game. Later in the season, a team-mate scored the winning 6 runs off the only ball he faced, the last ball of the game.

The quote from Rick Warren at the beginning of this post encourages us to keep on going. Failure is a part of everyday life. The author is encouraging us to keep on persevering, keep on trying and learn to grow through and from our mistakes and failures. Failure is not fatal; it can help us to grow in our faith – and show us what doesn’t work. There are many examples from the Bible detailing the persistence of people of faith.  People like Noah looked like a failure to those living around him. Exiled Joseph could well have dwelt on his rejection at the hands of his brothers. David’s life is littered with failed campaigns and disastrous relationships, yet he learned from those experiences and succeeded.

Failure need not be fatal; it can help us to grow in our faith – and show us what doesn’t work. There are many examples from the Bible detailing the persistence of people of faith.  People like Noah looked like a failure to those living around him. Exiled Joseph could well have dwelt on his rejection at the hands of his brothers. David’s life is littered with failed campaigns and disastrous relationships, yet he learned from those experiences and succeeded.

 “The Bible is the owner’s manual on life. It’s filled with practical instructions and guidelines for work, home, finances, relationships and health. When we fail to follow these directions from God, we’re only asking for trouble. How many times have you run face first into failure simply because you ignored the Word of God? “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death”(Proverbs 14:12, NIV).”

You can read the whole of Rick Warren’s article here.

˄TH

Pure, holy and right

“God is determined to make you pure, holy, and right, and He will not allow you to escape from the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit for even one moment.

God is going to bring you out pure, spotless, and undefiled, and the moment you are willing for God to change your nature, His recreating forces will begin to work.

And the moment you realize that God’s purpose is to get you into the right relationship with Him and then with others, He will reach to the very limits of the universe to help you take the right road.”

Oswald Chambers, from My Utmost for His Highest.

Copies of this book are available from our church bookshop at 32 Seventh Street, Murray Bridge, South Australia.