I-Phones, I-Dols, Or I Serve (A Communion Message)

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Revelation 14:12-13 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. 13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.

The Christian Serves A Living Savior
Not An Idol

When I say the word “Idol” many of you will think of the television show American Idol. Some of you will think of a carved Buddha, or a statue of Mary or some strange Egyptian deity. I read an article the other day where the pastor postulated that perhaps that I-Phone everyone is so entranced by is an idol. It could be. The average American – I am told – looks at his or her I-Phone every 10 minutes … but rarely at the Bible.

What is an “Idol”? Herbert Schlossberg wrote in his book Idols for Destruction: “Idolatry in its larger meaning is properly understood as any substitution of what is created for the Creator.” (emphasis mine)

We as the Children of God are to love our Lord unreservedly.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: 5 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

God emphasizes to His people there is but ONE God Who is LORD of all. This God is majestic in Being. He is all encompassing. He is all mighty. There is no other God but Him. He is unique in His Tri-Unity – Father, Son, and Spirit. To put anything or anyone in place of this amazing, gracious and kind God is a form of insanity.

I entered a Christian owned business the other day.
It’s now open on Sunday.
Many Christian schools have sports events on Sundays.
Is this is what God has called us to do?
A Youth Minister was fired for requiring his young charges
to leave their phones in a box outside the classroom
while he was teaching the Bible.

We who are His are to be salt and light. We are …

Bought from out of the world by the Blood of the Son of God.
Born again out of the world by the Holy Spirit of God.

Bestowed with irrevocable citizenship in the Kingdom by God our Father.
Blessed with all the promises of this glorious Book.

We are to be patient and focused upon out Lord.

Revelation 14:12 Here is the patience of the SAINTS

 We worship no idols, but only our God. We serve Him. We are SAINTS, ἅγιος hagios, those set apart from the world as God’s Kingdom. We are not idolaters, but followers of the Most High God.

Revelation 14:12-13 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.

God’s children by faith in Christ are overcomers. Being changed by God we keep the commandments of God” …

and His commandments are not grievous (1 John 5:3)

and the faith of Jesus. Our faith in Christ does not wane. We follow His example. We heed His command. It is no Christian who does not do both keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. We follow our Risen Savior.

Write So It Can Be Seen By All

God wanted John to do something. Listen. Listen.

Revelation 14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write…

These words are so very important. There is a life beyond this one. There is a judgment yet to come. You will ALL be effected by this. Write…!

Revelation 14:13 BLESSED ARE THE DEAD WHICH DIE IN THE LORD from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that THEY MAY REST FROM THEIR LABORS; and THEIR WORKS DO FOLLOW THEM.

There are three truths stated in this text. The three statements are:

1. Blessed are the dead that WHICH DIE IN THE LORD

2. THEY will REST from their LABORS

3. The dead will have their WORKS FOLLOW THEM.

Let’s look at each of these points. First:

Blessed Are The Dead That DIE IN THE LORD

Heaven does not tell John to write “Blessed are the dead”. Not all of the dead are “blessed”. Every time someone dies who, in the latter part of their lifetime, suffered some type of affliction, I will inevitably hear these words from someone:

They are better off where they are now.”

Are they? Is there any place in Scripture that tells us EVERYONE is better off on the other side of this life? No, not at all. It is promised to the Christ follower:

Romans 6:23 … the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The follower of Christ has eternal life. Jesus Christ is not only the key to Heaven, but He is the key to life itself. Jesus promises that …

John 11:25-26 … I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

Jesus Christ IS the RESURRECTION. Dying on the Cross of Calvary, being crucified for our sins, Jesus finished that which the Father gave Him to do. JESUS DEFEATED DEATH AND SIN. Because Jesus died for our sins we can – by faith and obedience to Him – have our sins forgiven. When we who are His children by faith die Jesus has promised whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall NEVER DIE. This is true for all who believe on Him and receive Him as Lord and Savior. As Jesus died on the Cross of Calvary the Bible says that there were two thieves who died with Him, one on either side. One thief did not believe in Christ. The other thief believed in Jesus. He pulled himself up on his bloody station and said:

Luke 23:42 … Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into thy kingdom.

Jesus told this repentant man:

Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise”

As the day came to a close the soldiers went about breaking the legs of those on the torturous crosses. When they came to Jesus He had already died. Piercing His side with a spear blood and water ran out of our Lord (John 19:34).

I can imagine that executioner coming to the two thieves. As he prepares to break the legs of these two men I can imagine him comforting them by saying:

You will be better off when you die.”

For ONE of those thieves this was a true statement. For the one who cried out “Lord, Remember me”, he DIED IN THE LORD. He served the Lord by believing on Him even in his suffering. THIS is the work of God, to believe on HIM that God the Father has sent (John 6:29). Though his hands and feet were bound his heart belonged to Jesus. He died horribly – but awoke in glory and in the splendor of Heaven.

But for the other man, the unbelieving thief, what of him? He is not blessed. Not believing in Christ he went from the hell of that cross to the hell of hell. He went to a place that the rich man of Luke 16 said:

I am tormented in this flame!” (Luke 16:24)

Oh Beloved, there is a difference between those who DIE, and those who DIE IN THE LORD. There is no blessing for those who die. No matter how bad your life was, it is much worse if you die apart from Christ.

They Will Rest From Their Labors

Revelation 14:13 … Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that THEY may rest from their labors

The Child of Christ is called to labor in this life with our Lord. Do you notice that it is the Holy Spirit that says of the believers they may rest from their labors.

The Spirit of God labors with us as we do His work.

The Spirit empowers us. Jesus described the Christian way of life as being influencers. When Jesus first called His disciples He said:

Matthew 4:19 … Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.

When you follow Jesus you will become a fisher of men. Christ will make you a fisher of men, someone who catches souls for His Kingdom. This is a labor. What does a fisherman do? A fisherman catches fish. He draws the fish from one world into another. You cannot be a fisherman and a fish. You can be one or the other. Jesus calls us to labor for Him, to draw others into the Kingdom of God and away from the kingdom of darkness.

Jesus also used the images of salt and light to describe the Christian way of life.

Matthew 5:13-16 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. 14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Both salt and light are influencers and illuminators.

Salt enhances flavor, whereas light enables clear vision. The Christian works for Christ, being like Jesus, shining for Him where ever they go. We are not to be like the world, but we are to imitate our Lord Jesus.

The following passage is unique in all the Gospels … it is only found in the Gospel of John. Jesus wanted to show His disciples how we are to live our lives. In Christ’s day most people walked through dirty streets with bare feet or sandaled feet. Because of this it became a tradition that when you went into someone’s home you washed your feet. The rich often had servants to do this for you, but most people washed their own feet. As Jesus and His disciples entered a home one day Jesus washed their feet. We read:

John 13:12-17 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? 13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one anothers feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. 16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

Now some have taken this passage and ritualized it, as if it were a sacrament. It is not a sacrament. We do not – in American society or in most civilized nations today – need to wash feet. Washing feet was a sanitary requirement of Christ’s day. To ritualize this or make it a sacrament is to miss the point. Jesus said I have given you an example. The word translated example (ὑπόδειγμα hypódeigma, pronounced hoop-od’-igue-mah) means “a pattern to follow”. The Christian is to serve others as Christ served us. We are to imitate His humility, His willingness to stoop and do the hard things so as to benefit those around us.

This is the problem in many Churches today. Professing Christians – like grasshoppers – hop from Church to Church until they find an assembly that will serve them. Many want to be waited on. But the Christian is called to a life of willing service, being salt and light in a world that is tasteless and dark. We are to serve one another and lift up others, and so serve Christ. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Master, showed us the way of righteousness. We are called to labor for Him until we reach the end of this life. Only in glory can we rest from our labors as salt and light. Until then,

Galatians 6:9 … let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

Finally,

The Dead Will Have Their WORKS Follow Them

I heard our evangelist Bob Pitman use an illustration about John D. Rockefeller, one of the richest men in the world. When Rockefeller died two men were talking. The first asked, “I wonder how much money Rockefeller left when he died?” The second replied, “All of it my friend. All of it.” When you die everything you have stays behind. Everything that is but ONE thing. What is that one thing that goes with you? Look at our text:

Revelation 14:13 … Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.

The Bible makes it clear that you are not saved by your works, but you are saved because of the finished work of Jesus Christ. The Scripture is clear:

Titus 3:5-7 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

We are not saved by works, but by HIS WORK. But Beloved once we are saved Jesus calls us to labor for His Kingdom. We are called to be like Jesus. We are imitators of Christ, and imitators of God. We are to do good, not evil. When we die we are to remember their works do follow them. What you did, or did not do, will follow you. Your bank account, your home, even you own body will stay on this earth. But your works – their works do follow them.

If you are NOT saved by faith in Christ, if you have not been changed from darkness to light, if you are not a member of His Kingdom and a follower of His commandments … even so their works do follow them. The dead who do NOT die in the Lord are mentioned in Revelation 20:11-15. In this passage those who are idolaters stand in front of the God that they spent their entire lives ignoring. How are they judged?

Revelation 20:12-13 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

What happens to the dead who died NOT in the Lord? They failed to work the work of God. What is the “work of God”? Jesus said:

John 6:29 … This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

Those cast into the Lake of Fire have never done THE work of God. They have not believed on Jesus. So God shows them that their names are NOT written in the Book of Life. They are the DEAD who DIED IN THEMSELVES. They are not blessed, but cursed. Oh Beloved, do not be one of these poor creatures. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Trust in Him. Follow Him. Your works will follow you.

Heaven awaits those who belong to Jesus. Your works will follow you. Rewards will come. Live for Him today – now – so that you can live joyously in eternity.

May God touch your hearts with His Word!

Posted in Communion, Revelation, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

Revival at Riverview with Bob Pitman July 21st

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8:30 am service:

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11:00 am service:

Eagle Flying

6 pm Audio Message:

Posted in Revivals, Sermons Preached | Tagged

Lessons From Gethsemane

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Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

James 1:2-8 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. 5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

The word rendered as “temptations” is the Greek πειρασμός peirasmós, (pronounced pi-ras-mos’) which does not mean “temptations”that come from the flesh, the devil, or the world. We are told:

count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations

The word πειρασμός peirasmós, (pronounced pi-ras-mos’) here is better rendered “to try or prove the genuineness of a thing, to test so as to determine value”. Later in our text James tells us that:

James 1:12 … Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

The Christian is not promised that there will not be trials in his or her life. The Christian is promised that ALL trials that come will prove the genuineness of our salvation. The faith that saves is the faith that endures. A faith that will not endure a trial is a counterfeit faith … and unworthy to make anyone a member of the Family of God.

You have all seen cashiers at stores test twenty dollar bills with a felt tip pen. With the advances that computers, printers, and scanners have made over the years it is possible for counterfeiters to scan and print twenty dollar bills on regular paper. Regular paper is made of wood cellulose bound together with starch based glue, whereas American money is printed on cotton or linen fabric bound together under high heat. The felt tip pen the cashiers use has an iodine solution that reacts to the starch glue in regular paper. If the bill is counterfeit, the pen mark will be dark brown or black. If not, the mark will be light or nearly blend in to the bill.

God uses trials to test His children. When His children by faith in Christ are tried they may be marked by the trial. But the mark of the trial will not destroy that child, but prove that he or she is indeed a child of God.

Trials Are Described As A CONTROLLED Fall
For The Christ Follower

count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations

I have never planned a fall – it always just happens. I got up from bed last night – I won’t say why – but as I got on my feet I stood up too fast and nearly fell over. Had I not grabbed the dresser nearby I would have fallen. No older person plans a fall. We do our best to avoid it. The phrase when ye fallis the Greek περιπίπτω peripíptō, (pronounced per-ee-pip’-to) which means “to fall INTO something that is all around you. I almost “fell into the floor” (for that was all around me) but I did not – thank the Lord – because the dresser was near to hand and I was able to grab it.

If you are tried in your faith by God and are truly a saved by faith child of God, then God will be all around you. He will grab you when you are tried!

The Psalmist said … Psalm 37:9 … evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. … 17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but …

the Lord upholdeth the righteous.

23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. 24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.

A trial of faith is a fall – unplanned by the believer in Christ but planned and controlled by God. God is ALL AROUND the believer. When we FALL, we shall not BE UTTERLY CAST DOWN. Why? Because God is all around us!

Psalm 139:1-3 O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. 2 Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. 3 Thou COMPASSEST my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.

God ENCOMPASSES or encircles us when we walk (my path) and when we do not walk (my lying down). When the Christ child falls into trials the Father allows us to stumble, but not to utterly fall. He encircles us as we go through our day. He guards us as we guarded our toddling children, teaching them to walk while protecting them from deep physical harm. This is why the Apostle Paul could say with confidence:

Romans 8:28 … And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Our Lord Jesus was Himself tested. He was tested in the wilderness by Satan (Matthew 4), and was tested in Gethsemane. The Bible tells us that:

Matthew 26:36-38 … Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. 37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. 38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.

What Can I Apply To My Life From Gethsemane?

As Jesus faced His final great trial – the Cross of Calvary – He took Peter, James, and John with Him to pray in Gethsemane. Jesus asked these three men – all leaders in the early Church – to pray with Him and watch with Him. We see several things in Jesus’ approach to trial:

  • When tried, Jesus sought the companionship of like minded believers. He sought out leaders in the Church, people well acquainted with His life and prayer. It amazes me when people are tried that they often go to the lost, or to people as messed up as they are! Jesus could have asked anyone to go and pray with Him in Gethsemane, but He chose those three that He had discipled the hardest – Peter, James, and John.

In the 2008 movie Fireproof when the marriage of Caleb and Catherine Holt is in trouble, Catherine goes to her lost friends and, in tears, tells all the bad things that Caleb did. What was her “friends” responses?

Honey, I agree with you. You gotta get out. He don’t deserve you.” … (another friend chimes in) “You can say that again. A real man’s got to be a hero to his wife before he can be to anybody else, or he ain’t a real man.” … (the third friend weighs in) “Catherine, do you need a place to stay? I can’t imagine living in the same house as that man.”

Going through a trial relying on carnal people giving carnal advice does nothing to help a Christian grow in patience or in wisdom. In fact, seeking advice from someone who is unbiblical in their approach to life is going to add to rather than help put out the fire. Jesus called Peter, James, and John and asked them to pray and watch with Him as He sought the Father’s face.

  • All born on the face of this earth are tried – even Jesus. To be a child of God does not guarantee you will not be tried. Being a child of God guarantees you will be tried. If you are a child of God following the will of the Father you will be tried. Our Lord Jesus said:

John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye SHALL have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Jesus did not say you MIGHT have tribulation, but ye SHALL have tribulation. The Christ and His people are light in the midst of darkness (see 2 Corinthians 4:6). Light is a thing – darkness is not. Darkness is the absence light. Did you know that a lit match has no shadow whatsoever?

Light cannot have a shadow, as darkness is the absense of light!

If you belong to God and are in any way human, you WILL be tried. The world will hate you. The world will hate your Church. The Church that operates within the standard of God’s will will indeed be called:

Intolerant
Haters
Racists
Homophobes
Prudes

You will find yourself at odds with the lost world. But Beloved, do not fear. The Apostle Paul told us that we would be tried. The Church not tried by the world is the Church following the lost and not the Lord. But if we follow the Lord we will be tried as Paul was tried. But be encouraged, for he told us:

Romans 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • Jesus wanted Peter, James, and John to watch and pray with Him in Gethsemane. This is why He invited them into the Garden with Him. He did not want their opinions nor even their encouragement – Jesus wanted them to pray. To PRAY!

James 1:5-6 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.

In the midst of the trial we lack wisdom. We often because of fear and trembling lose our bearings. What do we do then? The Bible says let him ask of God. Trials should drive us into the arms of God.

On the evening of July 16, 1999, John F. Kennedy Jr., the son of the late US president John F. Kennedy, tragically died when he crashed his Piper aircraft into the Atlantic Ocean. John’s wife Carolyn and sister-in-law, Lauren, died in the crash with him. The official investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that John suffered from “spatial disorientation” while descending over water at night. In short, he thought the ground was further down than it was. He was flying by sight, not by instrument, and ended up killing himself those he loved. This is not uncommon. When I was in the Air Force I remember having to go out on a “search party” to look for a pilot and his aircraft. The pilot was on night maneuvers and, at one point, was flying with the aircraft belly toward the sky. Not heeding his instruments the pilot “pulled up”, but since he was flying with belly to the sky he drove the aircraft – canopy first – into the ground. The man died immediately – and we at the base were left to clean up afterwards.

We who are Christ’s children are to live our lives following the instrumentation of our Bibles and of the Holy Spirit through prayer.

We are called to deny the flesh – to be living sacrifices unto God (Romans 12:1-2) – and to pray for one another. We are told later in James:

James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

  • Jesus asked Peter, James, and John to pray with Him, but they fell asleep. The Lord told them:

Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

The word rendered Watch is the Greek γρηγορεύω grēgoreúō, (pronounced gray-gor-yoo’-o). It means “be vigilant, pay strict attention to, take heed of”. Jesus used the same word when He told us:

Matthew 24:42 Watch therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

Matthew 25:13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the son of man cometh.

Our Lord Jesus is coming again. It is in prayer that we stay vigilant, ever mindful of ourselves. It has been said that had Peter been more watchful in the Garden, maybe he would not have denied his Lord so readily later on that day. Prayer and Bible study is not the add ons the the Church, an “option” that can be easily ignored. Prayer and Bible study are the heart’s blood of the Church and of the Christian way of life. Failure to focus on prayer NOW leads to failure in the flesh LATER.

The Apostles slept when they should be praying – and many in churches across our land sleep when they should be praying. Prayer services are usually the least attended service of any at the Church. The spirit of the sleeper lives on. It was not until the Apostles woke up and prayed in one accord that God blessed them in a mighty way. The church grew by 3000 on the Day of Pentecost because of prayer. Coincidence? I don’t think so. If we want to grow as a church we must be consistent in prayer.

May God touch your hearts with His Word.

Posted in James, prayer, Praying Like Jesus Series, Sermons Preached | Tagged , ,

Give Me This Mountain

Joshua 14:6-15 Then the children of Judah came unto Joshua in Gilgal: and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite said unto him, Thou knowest the thing that the Lord said unto Moses the man of God concerning me and thee in Kadeshbarnea. 7 Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadeshbarnea to espy out the land; and I brought him word again as it was in mine heart. 8 Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the Lord my God. 9 And Moses sware on that day, saying, Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children’s for ever, because thou hast wholly followed the Lord my God. 10 And now, behold, the Lord hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the Lord spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old. 11 As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in. 12 Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the Lord spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the {giants} were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the Lord said.

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When I was a little boy my earliest memories are of momma reading Bible stories to me and my brother Mark. Momma had one of those “Illustrated Bible Story” books. We used to hear about Moses, Abraham, Samson, Gideon, Daniel in the Lion’s den, and of course Jesus. I heard a lot of Bible stories. I heard of a shepherd boy named David who killed a giant named Goliath, and then became King of Israel. I never heard of Cinderella and her fairy godmother, but David was my hero (especially because I was named David). A shy and fat child needs a hero he thinks he can be, a hero to look up to. But one story I never heard – and you probably have never heard – is the story of Caleb.

I don’t know why we never hear of Caleb.

Gideon was hiding from the enemy when God called him to lead Israel.
Samson was a “ladies man” who got a bad haircut.
Moses murdered someone and ran away for forty years.
Abraham made bad marital decisions.
King David stole another man’s wife, then had him killed.

Of course, our Lord Jesus never sinned, and a man named Enoch walked with God until he walked into Heaven. Most of the other Bible characters I learned as a child are flawed just as we are. But I never heard of Caleb. You probably haven’t either. Today you will.

Caleb is mentioned 36 times in the Bible.

I cannot find one instance in scripture where Caleb is mentioned as failing or falling. That doesn’t mean that he wasn’t flawed. The Bible tells us:

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned

The Scripture is very clear that all have sinned against God. We are all flawed. This is why God sent His Son Jesus Christ to this earth. God said in Psalm 14:2 …

The Lord looked down from Heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

This is why the Father sent the Son to this earth. We are all fallen. From baby to adult we fall short of God’s standard. So God in His grace …

John 3:16-18 … gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

God the Son came from Heaven to this earth to save us – praise the lord forever. He alone among humanity is without sin (see 1 Peter 2:22; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; Luke 1:35; 1 John 3:5; Matthew 27:24; Isaiah 53:9; 1 Peter 1:18-19). There is no sin in Jesus. He came to take our place so that one day we can take His place in Heaven. What a Savior we have!

Caleb was flawed as we all are – but he loved the Lord.

Caleb Was FLAWED By Birth

Joshua 14:6 Then the children of Judah came unto Joshua in Gilgal: and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite said unto him …

The first word in our text today is Then. Israel has come together in the name of God in one accord and, led by Joshua, has taken most of the Promised Land from the pagans. We are told in the previous chapter that God spoke to Joshua …

Joshua 13:1 Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the Lord said unto him, Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.

Though the land was not completely under Israel’s control the Lord told Joshua to begin dividing up the land to each of the Tribes of Israel. Every tribe was to have a portion but the Levites. The Bible says:

Joshua 13:33 But unto the tribe of Levi Moses gave not any inheritance: the Lord God of Israel was their inheritance, as he said unto them.

The two tribes of Joseph (Manasseh and Ephraim) received the inheritance of the Levites (see Joshua 14:3-4). The Levites were the priests of God, and their inheritance was the Lord (which, I think, is the best inheritance).

The children of Judah is are about to receive their inheritance when an old man named Caleb steps up. Who is Caleb? The Bible tells us:

Joshua 14:6 Then the children of Judah came unto Joshua in Gilgal: and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite said unto him …

We don’t know much about Caleb’s childhood, but we can learn a lot from this text. The Hebrews attached much meaning to names. We find out that Caleb’s father is Jephunneh the Kenezite. The Bible is very clear that Jephunneh is of the tribe of Judah, the ruling tribe of Israel:

Numbers 13:6 … from the Tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh

Jephunneh is called a Kenezite in our text. The word Kenezite is the Hebrew קְנִזִּי Qᵉnizzîy, (pronounced ken-iz-zee’), and the same word is found in Genesis 15 some 215 years before when God promised Father Abraham the land of Canaan. We read:

Genesis 15:18-19 … In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: 19 The Kenites, and the Kenizzites

Though the King James translators added an extra “z” in Genesis this is nonetheless the same Hebrew word used in Joshua 14:6. Jephunneh is called a Kenezite, the same people who were suppose to be dispossessed from the land. This has puzzled translators and scholars for years. Some people even surmise that Jephunneh was a converted Gentile who was now a Jew. This is very possible. When God spoke to Abram this man was from Ur of the Chaldees – ancient Babylon. God told Abram that “all people on the earth will be blessed because of you (my paraphrase of Genesis 12:3). The Lord told Israel:

Isaiah 49:6 … I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.

It was always God’s will that not just Israel, but that whosoever will believe on Him shall be saved. Did not God say:

Isaiah 45:22 Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth. …

God wanted to save all. We see His Grace woven throughout the tapestry of the whole Bible. Jephunneh Jephunneh was a Kenezite. Though of the Tribe of Judah there is some question as to his lineage. We do not know, but we do know the Bible mentions it. Caleb was not of blue blood status because of his birth.

Calab vs dog Jephunneh named his son Caleb. The word translated CALEB is the Hebrew כָּלֵב Kâlêb, (pronounced kaw-labe’) which means “Dog”. Caleb’s name is very similar to the Hebrew word for “dog”, as you see in the illustration. As you can see there is very little difference between the word “dog” and the name “Caleb”.

Among the Jews of Caleb’s day the “dog” was considered an unclean creature. Ellen White, Ph.D. (Hebrew Bible, University of St. Michael’s College) the past editor of the Biblical Archaeology Society notes:

To compare a human to a dog or to call them a dog was to imply that they were of very low status (2 Kings 8:13; Exodus 22:31; Deuteronomy 23:18; 2 Samuel 3:8; Proverbs 26:11; Ecclesiastes 9:4; 2 Samuel 9:8; 1 Samuel 24:14). In the New Testament, calling a human a dog meant that the person was considered evil (Philemon 3:2; Revelation 22:15).”

I don’t know why a father would name his son “dog” but it speaks to the background of Caleb. Caleb had a less than blessed upbringing. Compare Caleb the dog to other Bible heroes:

David” means “well beloved”
“Samuel” means “asked of God”
“Joshua” means “God is Savior”
“Gideon” means “the destroyer”
“Moses” means “drawn forth”

Caleb’s first birth was not that great. Perhaps your first birth was not that great. Perhaps you were abandoned as a child, or abused, or mistreated. Perhaps you were born poor. Perhaps you are the perpetual victim, lonely, withdrawn. Beloved your first birth may be tainted – all births are tainted – but God offers you a second birth. You do not have to stay low, to be least, to be the last thing or last choice. God loves the under dog – no pun intended. The Scripture tells us:

1 Corinthians 1:26-29 … ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

God calls to salvation the broken, the least and the lesser. He calls those whom the world calls “dogs” to come to Him in faith by Christ Jesus. Caleb did not allow his first birth to define his life. Caleb trusted in God.

Caleb FOLLOWED – Not The Crowd – But GOD!

Joshua is dividing the land, and turns to Judah to give them their portion. But before he can say a word Caleb steps up and reminds Joshua.

Joshua 14:7-8 Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadeshbarnea to espy out the land; and I brought him word again as it was in mine heart. 8 Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the Lord my God.

I do not have time to preach this in detail, but I do want to summarize it.

Forty-five years before this day Moses – directed by God – sent a leader from each of the twelve tribes of Israel into Canaan to spy out the land.

Caleb was not a young man. He was forty years old when he was chosen to enter the Promised Land with eleven of his brother leaders. These men were to go into the land and see that it was indeed a land of milk and honey, a gracious blessing from God. When the spies went into the land they searched through it for forty days (Numbers 13:25). When the spies returned they reported:

Numbers 13:27-28 … We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. 28 Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.

As the people became agitated the first person to speak up was Caleb:

Numbers 13:30 … Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.

Caleb was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but regardless as to his birth he was born again a child of God! Ten of the spies that went with Caleb said:

Numbers 13:31 … We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.

Their eyes were on the difficulty, and on their own strength. Caleb’s eyes were on the Lord. The people of Israel had their eyes on …

Numbers 13:33 … the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.

Caleb had his eyes on God. He encouraged the people to trust in the God Who is able. But the damage was done. Ten spies brought about an evil report, and Israel refused to enter Canaan. In fact, the rebellion spread so much that Israel revolted, and planned on returning to Egypt (Numbers 14:3-4). Two men – Joshua and Caleb (Numbers 14:6) encouraged God’s people to go forward:

Numbers 14:8-9 … If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. 9 Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not.

Oh, how horrible to turn against God! How horrible it is for the child of God to spit on the blood of Calvary by which we were saved. How horrible the child that – upon hearing the Word of the Lord – spurns it and returns to Egypt. How cursed is the follower who will not follow Jesus! God cursed Israel, and sent that generation to it’s grave for failing to love Him with all their hearts. But God told Moses:

Numbers 14:24 … my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.

Caleb did not follow the crowd, but as he said:

I wholly followed the Lord my God.

Oh Beloved – wholly follow the Lord! Do not with hold anything from Him. Missionary Jim Elliot died leading others to Christ. Jim wrote in his journal (October 28, 1949) before he died:

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep
to gain that which he cannot lose.”

There is nothing but gain in following the Lord – and following wholeheartedly. Caleb was promised the land of Canaan when he was 40 years old. Each day that he wandered in the wilderness with a fallen Israel Caleb kept looking up, waiting, and trusting the Lord. The first generation of Israel has fallen, and Caleb tells Joshua:

Joshua 14:10-11 And now, behold, the Lord hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the Lord spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old. 11 As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in.

God has been faithful to Caleb, and Caleb has been faithful to God. Forty five hard years have passed, and God is still faithful. Now Joshua is “four score and five years old – that’s 85 years old”. How is Joshua? The Bible says that “Joshua was old and striken in years (Joshua 13:1)”. What of Caleb? “Though I am 85 years old, I am as strong today as I was when Moses sent me with the spies”. Caleb kept looking up. He kept looking up and trusting God.

Beloved, if you are going through a hard time in your life and it seems as if it will never end, may I say LOOK UP and TRUST GOD!

We are told in Isaiah 40:28-31 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. 29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Caleb is believing the Lord, and has been believing the Lord. Though Caleb has not been told specifically which land is to be his … he asks Joshua for a particular section of land.

What did Caleb ask for?
Did he say “I’m 85 now, and want to coast.
Give me a little beach front property.
I’m ready to resign my calling.
It’s time for me to quit.
I’m just too old for this!” Did he?

No, not at all. If you remember the reason the first generation of Israel would not go into the Promised Land was because of the giants, the Anakims. Caleb said:

Joshua 14:12 Now therefore give me THIS mountain, whereof the Lord spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the ANAKIMS were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the Lord said.

Caleb doesn’t want to quit. He wants the mountain where the ANAKIMS are! He wants the WALLED CITIES. He wants what scared everyone else into wanting to go back to Egypt.

He wants the FULLNESS of GOD! And Joshua blesses him with this request. But Joshua not only gives him the mountain, but the TOUGHEST area there is on that mountain. If you read the text you will see it.

Joshua 14:13-15 … Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance. 14 Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite unto this day, because that he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel. 15 And the name of Hebron before was Kirjatharba; which Arba was a great man among the Anakims. And the land had rest from war.

The name Hebron is the Hebrew חֶבְרוֹן Chebrôwn, (pronounced kheb-rone’) which means “a place of fellowship”. The Bible tells us that Hebron was the royal city of David for some time, until the taking of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 2:1; 5:5). This place was called Kirjatharba which means “the city of Arba”. The Bible simply says Arba was a great man among the Anakims. Arba was a giant among giants until he met Caleb and Caleb’s God. It was then he lost his city, and his life.

Beloved, trust in the Lord. Put your faith in Him. Live each day whole heartedly in the Lord, and you will be blessed. May God touch your hearts with His Word.

Posted in Joshua, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

Prayer and Devotion To God

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Acts 10:1-4 (KJV) There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, {2} A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. {3} He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. {4} And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.

God Does Not Make A Divided Church

When the Church was first formed it was a divided Church. It was not divided because God wanted it to be divided.

God did not want Israel to divided into North and South under Rehoboam’s reign. God does not want His Church divided today. It is SIN that divides.

On the Day of Pentecost Jews from all over the world came into Jerusalem to worship. The Bible tells us that on that Day that 120 Christians – men and women …

Acts 1:14 … all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

The believers with one accord (Greek ὁμοθυμαδόν homothymadón, {pronounced hom-oth-oo-mad-on’}) “with one mind, with one passion” were devotedly praying together for the glory of God. The Bible says in prayer and supplication . “Prayer” is προσευχή proseuchḗ, {pronounced pros-yoo-khay’} and is used for worshipful prayer. “Supplication” is δέησις déēsis, {pronounced deh’-ay-sis} means “To bring requests to God”.

The 120 disciples were focused on the glory of God and asking how they could bring His Kingdom to this earth.

As they were missing an Apostle, Peter suggested that they replace Judas Iscariot with another. Two names – Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias (Acts 1:23) were suggested. How did they decided which one should be in Judas’ place?

Acts 1:24-26 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, 25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. 26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

I don’t think that either man was supposed to be Judas’ replacement. I believe that God would ordain Paul the Apostle to be His man. I believe Peter made a mistake, but the mistake was good hearted. We often fail. But no harm was done by the action, I believe, because they prayed – sought to worship God and glorify Him with their hearts. The 120 were not seeking their own, but the glory of God.

Being in one accord the Holy Spirit fell on the small Church in that upper room.

Acts 2:1-4 when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The other tongues was not gibberish nor incoherent sounds, but human languages given to share the Gospel of salvation to those Jews who were in Jerusalem for Pentecost. The Bible tells us that:

Acts 2:5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

Israel had been dispersed throughout all the world because of SIN and Roman dominance. God’s people had wandered away from the Lord and His Word. Again, SIN divides. Sin robs.

God’s Israel had ceased being the Light of the World and thus had become – as Jesus said in Matthew 5:13 … good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Israel was indeed “trodden underfoot of men”. The Roman Empire conquered, then scattered the Jews throughout its provinces. The Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem for their holy Pentecost, and these Jews spoke various languages based on the area of the world they dwelt in. The Holy Spirit gave the 120 praying disciples the ability to speak to these pilgrim Jews in the language they had been forced to learn.

Everyone heard the Gospel of salvation by faith in Christ on the Day of Pentecost. Language was not a barrier. “Every man heard them speak in his own language”
(Acts 2:6).
God would unite His Church.

Our Lord is not the Author of confusion, but of peace – AS IN ALL THE CHURCHES of the saints (1 Corinthians 14:33). A praying Church left the upper room on the Day of Pentecost. A praying Church spoke many different languages but ONE MESSAGE – that Jesus Christ paid for sins, and faith in Him would bring redemption. On the Day of Pentecost people of many different languages asked: Acts 2:37 … Men and brethren, what shall we do?

They were told: Acts 2:38-39 … Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

The disciples knew that the Gospel was Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior. They knew that Christ gave Himself for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

God Hears Devoted Prayer

Pentecost started with Peter preaching the Gospel and …

Acts 2:41-42 … Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

The Church was united at the beginning. The devoted praying of 120 in the upper room translated into Church growth. There were about three thousand souls that entered the Church that day – we are told – out of every nation under heaven. These people had various languages, but all had one thing in common. They were Jews. Jesus had told His Church to:

Matthew 28:19-20 … Go ye therefore, and teach all nations

The early Church had the same problem we have today. We like to stay with the familiar. It was Christ’s intention to save the whole world:

1 John 4:14 … we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. (see also John 4:42)

Jesus died to save the whole world. Yet the Church was focused on saving just Jews – which was contrary to Christ’s commission. How does God resolve this problem? With devoted prayer. We return to where we started:

Acts 10:1-2 (KJV) There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, {2} A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.

As Peter went about sharing the Gospel of salvation the Lord used him to heal a cripple named Aeneas (Acts 9:32-35) and raise a disciple named Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:36-43). These are wonderful miracles that God – not Peter but God – did in response to Peter’s prayers. Though these are wonderful miracles, the spiritual salvation of a sinner through the power of God’s Son and Spirit is much greater. Peter prayed that God would use him to do the miraculous. But God had already done a miraculous thing. God had already reached a Gentile Centurion named Cornelius.

The salvation of Cornelius was turning point in the early Church. There are three lengthy references to Cornelius in Acts 10, 11, and 15. What makes this so significant? Gentiles did not observe the Jewish dietary restrictions set forth in Leviticus chapter 11. The Jewish nation had been taught that to eat an unclean thing was to become unclean yourself. The Pharisees took this a step further by teaching that Gentiles who did not observe the dietary laws were themselves unclean, and should not be touched nor associated with. Our Lord Jesus never taught such a thing. Last Sunday we studied how Jesus approached the woman at the well of Samaria – considered unclean by the Pharisees (see John 4:4-42). Jesus took water from this woman, showing that He came for ALL. The woman said to Jesus:

John 4:9 … How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.

The Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans – nor, for that matter, with any Gentiles. God never intended this division to be. Even the Temple had an outermost “Court of the Gentiles”, this in itself showing that God never forbade the Jews from interacting with the Gentiles. God reached out to Cornelius – a Gentile of the Roman Army. The Bible tells us that Cornelius was a devout man, the Greek εὐσεβής eusebḗs, (pronounced yoo-seb-ace’) which means “a Godly or devoted person”. The Bible goes on to tell us that Cornelius feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always. Someone had told Cornelius about Jesus. Our Lord Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father BUT BY ME!” Cornelius loved God. He had given his heart to Jesus, and God heard his prayers. While Cornelius devoted himself to prayer one day we are told:

Acts 10:3-6 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. 4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. 5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: 6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.

What impresses God? Our prayers and our giving to those in need. Prayers are proof that we are in the Family of God, for the one who prays always prays to Our Father Who art in Heaven. The generous Christ follower no longer worships at the altar of mammon (money) but sees all that he or she has as a gracious stewardship from the Father. Cornelius is saved by grace, but the vessel saved by Grace is always used of God. Cornelius prayed. He prayed always – without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer was a habit for Cornelius, a habit that the Lord would respond to to bless His Church. As Cornelius prayed God sent a messenger Angel to him saying send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon. God gave specific instructions to Cornelius – better than any GPS could give!

When the Angel departed Cornelius immediately acted, doing as he was told.

Acts 10:7 … {Cornelius} called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually …

Cornelius was a devout man, so who did he choose to go to Joppa for him? Another devout man – the same word {eusebḗs} is used here. As a believer Cornelius leads others to God. He sends these men to Joppa to find Peter.

Acts 10:9-15 On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: 10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, 11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending upon him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: 12 Wherein were all manner of four footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. 14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. 15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.

Peter had a habit of devoted prayer. L. Howard Marshall notes in his commentary on Acts: “Most Jews prayed twice a day, but pious Jews also prayed at noon (“the sixth hour”), a third time of prayer (Psalms 55:17; Daniel 6:10).”

As Peter prayed the Lord showed him a vision of all manner of beasts, clean and unclean. As he was shown this the Lord told Peter arise and eat. Peter replied Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. The Lord told him, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. Peter should have known this. Peter was there the day that Jesus taught:

Matthew 15:11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

The Lamb of God Who taketh away the sins of the world was now among mankind. Jesus was very clear that food does not defile a person, but impurity and godlessness FROM the heart defiles a person (see Matthew 15:16-20). The Lord said from Heaven What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. Listen to Jesus!

At the end of the vision Cornelius’ men come knocking on the door. God tells Peter …

Acts 10:19-20 … the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. 20 Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.

When you pray with a devoted heart God hears your prayers, and uses you for His glory and His Kingdom. E.M. Bounds wrote:

“Devotion engages the heart in prayer. It is not an easy task for the lips to try to pray while the heart is absent from it. … The very essence of prayer is the spirit of devotion. Without devotion prayer is an empty form, a vain round of words. Sad to say, much of this kind of prayer prevails, today, in the Church.”

When Peter prayed the Holy Spirit spoke to him. When Cornelius prayed an Angel of God spoke to him. Prayer – devoted prayer – opens the gate of Heaven, and moves the heart of God.

I priced jewelry boxes one time, checking their price from various sources. This box is worth about .86 cents without the ring – but worth over several thousand dollars with the ring. Your prayer has value to God when it has content – a heart devoted to Him, loving Him. If your prayer, no matter how pretty, is devoid of devotion – it has as little value as an empty ring box has to us!

Peter goes with the messengers back to Cornelius’ home. As these two prayer warriors begin to talk – one Jew and one Gentile – Peter as leader of the early Church began to preach. He said:

Acts 10:35-47 … Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. 36 The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) 37 That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; 38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: 40 Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; 41 Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. 43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. 44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. 45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, 47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?

God will bless us and bind us together, growing His Church, if we will pursue devoted prayer. May the Lord touch your hearts with His Word.

Posted in prayer, Praying Like Jesus Series, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , , ,

Prayer, Praise, and Thanksgiving: Pray-Be-See Week 4

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Psalm 116:1-7 I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. 2 Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live. 3 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. 4 Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul. 5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. 6 The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me. 7 Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.

Prayer, Praise, and Thanksgiving Go Together

E. M. Bounds – a great prayer warrior – wrote: Prayer, praise and thanksgiving all go in company. A close relationship exists between them. Praise and thanksgiving are so near alike that it is not easy to distinguish between them or define them separately. The Scriptures join these three things together. Many are the causes for thanksgiving and praise. The Psalms are filled with many songs of praise and hymns of thanksgiving, all pointing back to the results of prayer. Thanksgiving includes gratitude. In fact thanksgiving is but the expression of an inward conscious gratitude to God for mercies received. Gratitude is an inward emotion of the soul, involuntarily arising therein, while thanksgiving is the voluntary expression of gratitude.”

The worst advice anyone can ever give is to say…
Follow Your Heart!

The unbelieving world follows it’s heart. It was the heart that led to the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus! To follow the heart is to be sensual, devilish. The Scripture tells us in Jeremiah ..

(17:9-10) The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

The heart in its natural state is brutish, sensual, sinful. Our Lord Jesus Christ taught us this. The Pharisees were a religious but unconverted crowd. They adhered to the Levitical laws strictly. One day they saw Jesus and His disciples eating a meal without first washing their hands. The Pharisees accused Jesus and His followers as being unworthy of God. Jesus bluntly told the Pharisees in Matthew ..

(15:7-8) Ye hypocrites, well did {Isaiah} prophesy of you, saying, 8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

The heart must not be FOLLOWED, but it must be LED and CONTROLLED. Jesus said that it is not the ceremonies that make us close to God, but a heart focus on Him. Many religious people today are like the Pharisees of yesterday – they draw near to God outwardly, with the lips, but their hearts are far from Him. God knows the difference. When a person says “I am saved” and yet indulge in outward evil then it is a sure sign that the heart is leading them, and not the Lord. Jesus said:

Matthew 15:18-20 … those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: 20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

What does God want of us? He wants us to direct our hearts toward Him, to focus on His Word, to be thanksgivers. We are to lead our hearts Godward, not be led by our hearts.

The test of the heart is what you do when you are tried.

Psalm 116:1-4 I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. 2 Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live. 3 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell {the grave get their} hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. 4 Then called I upon the name of the Lord …

Where Is My “Then”?

What comes after the “THEN” in your life? When trials come and The sorrows of death compassed me and the gates of hell {the grave get their} hold upon me do you look upward in prayer and praise, thanking God for being there? Or do you despair, and lose hope? Beloved, to lose hope and trust in God is the worst thing that can happen to you. The Psalmist, even when afflicted – even when he found trouble and sorrow no matter where he looked – the Psalmist knew that God was there.

If there is gratitude in the heart there will be thanksgiving in the outward life and in the prayer closet. A heart focused on God and on His graciousness is a led heart. The Psalmist said …

Psalm 116:1 I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.

He did NOT say “I love the Lord BECAUSE my life is easy and my bank account full”. He said I love the Lord, because he hath HEARD. The word translated HEARD is the Hebrew שָׁמַע shâmaʻ, (pronounced shaw-mah’) which means “to hear intelligently, to hear and understand, to carefully listen to, to heed and pay attention to”. This verb is in the Qal Imperfect which emphasizes that God hears His Child and will always hear His Child – the action is never completed. God hears us when we cry out in our pain. He is there, and He is controlling all things so as to insure that the trial we are in will come to love’s conclusion. What has Jesus promised? In both Old as well as New Covenants our Lord promised:

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

Hebrews 13:5 Let your {way of life} be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for {God} hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

Our Lord paid so very much for us at the Cross of Calvary.
Our Lord paid so very much for us at the point of salvation.
Our Lord pays so much for us every single day we live.

What did God do for us at Calvary? The Father sent His only Begotten Son to Calvary to die for us. He did not die a gentle death, but a harsh death. The Scripture says that Jesus was …

Romans 3:25 … set forth to be a propitiation {satisfactory payment} through faith in His blood … for the remission of sins that are past …

Jesus live a perfect and sinless life. He then went to Calvary to pay the penalty of our sins – a penalty He paid in full. The Bible says …

Hebrews 2:17 … in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make RECONCILIATION for the sins of the people.

Jesus made RECONCILIATION {ἱλάσκομαι hiláskomai, pronounced hil-as’-kom-ahee} or paid our account in full. Jesus became our brother, our Big Brother, and took our sin on Himself. This is an action that made eternal scars on God. He died for us. We are therefore children of God by faith in Him. This hurt God. Further, we are yet imperfect beings, though born into the Family of God. Nonetheless the Holy Spirit indwells us, guides us, and stays with us no matter what we may do. What a glorious salvation we have, dear Christ follower! What a love was and is expended on us who are the children of the Most High!

1 John 4:10 … Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Leading your heart to this truth will cause you to praise God and thank Him even when you are tried. Look at the Cross of Calvary once more. Jesus ALONE paid for our sins, but Jesus was not alone on that mount. Do you see the three crosses? Jesus Christ died on that Cross for the sins of the whole world. The man dying on Christ’s left said – rejecting the Master –

Luke 23:39 … if Thou be the Christ, save Thyself and us!

The world if it sees Christ at all sees Him as an if. If Thou be the Christ. If you are indeed Jesus give me immediate and temporal relief. Take away my suffering. Heal me right now, if you are Who you say you are kiss it and make it better. This is what the lost and undone do with Christ. They bargain and wheedle, making deals with God.

A popular show on television several years ago was called Frasier. In one show the dad told his son: “I remember right after I got shot, I said, “God, if I promise never to drink another bottle of {beer}, will you let me get through this?” His son said “You still drink {beer}” to which the dad replied , “Not in bottles, baby”. This is a perfect picture of the world. It remains on the left hand of God, knowing He bled and died, but making foolish deals with God for temporal relief from the suffering we all go through.

Then there’s the man on the right side of Christ. He’s just as close, suffering just as badly. But as he reaches out in prayer he says:

Luke 23:42 … Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.

His heart cry is not that the suffering cease, but that there be a glorious morning after where the pain has ended. He asks for the companionship of Christ – a morsel of grace. He asks Jesus, Lord, remember me – not heal me, not take away the pain, but remember me. To that person – that Christ follower – Jesus promises:

Luke 23:43 Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

This was what satisfied the suffering soul, that God has promised to never leave nor to forsake us. He has promised us a paradise on the other side of this mountain. Thank God for that. Thank the blessed Jesus for this!

It Is In Focused Prayer That We Learn Thanksgiving

E.M. Bounds writes : Thanksgiving is just what the word itself signifies—the giving of thanks to God. It is giving something to God in words which we feel at heart for blessings received. Gratitude arises from a contemplation of the goodness of God. It is bred by serious meditation on what God has done for us.”

Oh Christian, is it not true that …

Psalm 126:3 The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.

As we enter the prayer closet let us meditate upon the Lord. “My meditation of him shall be sweet.” (Psalm 104:34). Take hold of your heart and your flesh. Do not let selfishness reign, but let the Spirit reign within you. Thank God that He is there and is never far away. A far away god could not hear you. God is ever near. The Psalmist said:

Psalm 116:1-2 I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. 2 Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.

God hears us, and knows our needs. The Apostle Paul gave us a command that is very revealing if we were to focus on it. He wrote:

Romans 12:1 I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

What is a sacrifice? Both Gentiles as well as Jews understood what sacrifices were in the day that this was written. The Gentiles who were unsaved offered sacrifices to a pantheon of gods and goddesses. A sacrifice was an animal killed on an altar, it’s blood shed, in order to appease the gods. In Judaism the Lord had the Jew sacrifice an animal. The sacrificed animal was killed, it’s blood sprinkled on the sinner, and often the sacrifice itself was burned to symbolize the wrath of God being poured out on the substitute instead of the sinner. The Apostle does not tell us to sacrifice ourselves in that way, but to be a living sacrifice. Jesus Christ gave Himself for our sins so that we can live our lives for Him. We are not to follow our hearts but to follow Him Who loved us and gave Himself for us. As a living sacrifice we serve the Lord with gladness and thankful hearts even in the midst of our suffering. We do not murmur or complain, but look upward, trusting our Lord to do what is best for us.

E.M. Bounds wrote: Gratitude and thanksgiving forever stand opposed to all murmurings at God’s dealings with us, and all complainings at our lot. Gratitude and murmuring never abide in the same heart at the same time. An unappreciative spirit has no standing beside gratitude and praise. And true prayer corrects complaining and promotes gratitude and thanksgiving. Dissatisfaction at one’s lot, and a disposition to be discontented with things which come to us in the providence of God, are foes to gratitude and enemies to thanksgiving.”

We come together as God’s people to encourage one another in thankfulness. The Apostle tells we who are of Christ’s Church:

Ephesians 5:17-21 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

The will of the Lord is that we be filled not with ourselves, but fully empowered by God’s Spirit. When we come together we encourage one another toward His filling by outwardly speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing praises and thankfully to our Lord. We do not just mouth the words in the hymnbook, but we praise Him for what He has given us of Himself – an infinite and immeasurable grace! We also practice giving thanks always for all things. What does this mean? Exactly what it says. We praise God for the good as well as the bad. We take the attitude of Job, that grand old example of faith, who said:

Job 2:10 … shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

God is Almighty. He brings or allows all that happens in our lives for our good. He did the most for us at the Cross. Shall He do the lesser for us now?

Whether tried or at ease, let us be thankful unto God. “Continue to pray, and as you pray, pray with a thankful heart” (Colossians 4:2, my paraphrase). No matter what life may bring …

1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 (KJV) Rejoice evermore. {17} Pray without ceasing. {18} In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. {19} Quench not the Spirit.”

To do less is to Quench the Spirit of God. He will never leave you nor forsake you, but the ungrateful heart and selfish murmuring spirit will rob you of the joy of your salvation. Rejoice regardless. Pray regardless. Be thankful regardless. Encourage one another to rest in the Lord.

Psalm 116:5-7 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. 6 The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me. 7 Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee

People may call you “simpleminded”. Just remember, The Lord preserveth the simple. The Lord looks after those who simply and faithfully follow Him, glorifying the Father in the Name of the Son and in the power of the Spirit.

Rest in the Lord. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. May God touch your hearts with his Word!

Posted in praise, prayer, Praying Like Jesus Series, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

Pray-Be-See Week 2: Prayer And Humility

Romans 12:9-18 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; 11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; 13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. 14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. 15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. 17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

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Photo by Tom Hermans on Unsplash

I love Oreo® cookies. I love to eat them with milk. I’m not allowed to eat them anymore – the worst part of being diabetic – but nothing stops me from thinking about them. I don’t know what a serving size of Oreo® cookies is, but to me a serving size is one sleeve! The thing I love is the chocolate cookie, but that white center is what makes each Oreo® a double chocolate blessing. Without the white center the two cookies can’t hold together. If you look at our text today the center of the text is PRAYER – being prayerful or filled with prayer. If a Church is going to accomplish that which God commands of it, then that Church must be filled with SERIOUS PRAYING PEOPLE.

How often do you pray? A poll conducted by George Barna showed that many people, if they pray, pray less that seven minutes a week.

If you only spoke to your significant other seven minutes a week then how long would you be a couple? The word “prayer” or “pray” is over 500 times used in God’s Word. Other words that are used to describe “prayer” are:

Petitions
Intercession
Call upon
Seek
Intercede

The Bible begins with creation speaking with God, and ends with the Creator speaking to His children. That is what prayer is – communication with God.

When We Pray We Are To Do So Humbly

Pastor John Newton (August 4, 1725 to December 21, 1807) was at one time the Captain of slave ships. While in that horrid profession he met the Lord Jesus Christ and was saved by Grace. After resigning from the slave trade he went on to pastor an English Anglican Church. His most famous song is the wonderful Amazing Grace, ofttimes sung by Christians the world around. Newton wrote:

If two angels were to receive at the same moment a commission from God, one to go down and rule earth’s grandest empire, the other to go and sweep the streets of its meanest village, it would be a matter of entire indifference to each which service fell to his lot, the post of ruler or the post of scavenger; for the joy of the angels lies only in obedience to God’s will, and with equal joy they would lift a Lazarus in his rags to Abraham’s bosom, or be a chariot of fire to carry an Elijah home.”

God cannot use the human who thinks he or she is “God”. When we pray, God looks at our hearts. God told the Prophet:

1 Samuel 16:7 … the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

God always looks at our hearts. When He looks at your heart what does He see when you pray? Does He see a heart that adores Him, or heart that just uses Him? The prideful prayer is the prayer that God will not hear. Our text tells us:

Let love be without dissimulation

Dissimulation” is the Greek ἀνυπόκριτος anypókritos, (pronounced an-oo-pok’-ree-tos) which means “Without disguise. Without hypocrisy.” The Pharisees were fond of using religious methods in order to puff up their ego. Jesus said of these hypocrites:

Matthew 6:5 … when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

God knows what is in your heart when you pray. All pride should be confessed before God before entering the prayer closet. You need to humble yourself, and let God sense that humility. Pride causes disharmony between the Child of God and his Father.

Leonard Bernstein, the late conductor of the New York Philharmonic orchestra was asked what was the most difficult instrument to play. Without hesitation he replied, “The second fiddle! I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm—that’s a problem. And if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.”

When we as God’s Children pray we are to despise the evil, but cling to the good. Many who pray begin their prayers with “Lord, I want”. Such people are like the out of control child in the toy aisle at Walt-Mart. “I want, I want, I want”. God does not honor such prayers, for they do neither us nor anyone else any good. Our text says:

vvs 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love;
in honor PREFERRING one another;

The word “Preferring” is the Greek προηγέομαι proēgéomai, (pronounced pro-ay-geh’-om-ahee) which means “to go before and show the way. To lead others forward, as a point man leads a platoon or squad through dangerous territory”. We are not to put ourselves first in order to puff ourselves up. No Beloved, but we are to do as the point man does, risking life and limb in order to lead others on a safe journey. Our prayers should lead others to humble service to Christ. Our prayers should lead others to kindness, to love. We are told in another text:

Ephesians 4:2-3 (KJV) With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; {3} Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

We are to lift one another up in prayer and in service. These are the prayers that God hears and endorses as from His heart.

E.M. Bounds wrote: “Humility does not have its eyes on self, but rather on God and others. It is poor in spirit, meek in behavior, lowly in heart. “With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love.”

When Jesus wanted to show a poor example of a praying person, who did He use? You would think Jesus would use the drunkard, the drug abuser, the thief, the adulterer. No, not at all. Who was a poor example of prayer? The Pharisee!

Luke 18:10-14 (KJV) “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. {11} The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. {12} I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. {13} And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. {14} I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

I love the way that the King James relates this parable. The Pharisee prayed thus WITH HIMSELF. It is as if the man was praying but our Father was no where to be found. God will not hear the prideful, self exalting prayer of the self righteous. The Pharisee who assumed God was there was sadly mistaken. But the Publican, the Lord said, “would not even look up to Heaven”. His prayer was very simple: God be merciful to me, for I am a sinner. God hears the prayer spoken humbly. God said in Isaiah 57:15 “I am with him who is humble, lowly in spirit” (my paraphrase). Twice in the Scripture two writers say the same thing

James 4:6 (KJV) But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

1 Peter 5:5 (KJV) Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace unto the humble.

E.M. Bounds writes: “That which brings the praying soul near to God is humility of heart. That which gives wings to prayer is lowliness of mind. That which gives ready access to the throne of grace is self-depreciation. Pride, self-esteem, and self-praise effectually shut the door of prayer. He who would come to God must approach Him with self hid from his eyes. He must not be puffed-up with self-conceit, nor be possessed with an over-estimate of his virtues and good works.”

Our Lord Jesus lowered Himself in this life, and because He did so the Father always heard His prayers. When Jesus stood at the tomb of His good friend Lazarus He prayed:

John 11:41-43 “… Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. 43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

When Jesus cried out “Lazarus, come forth!” it was not out of pride or arrogance that He prayed. In the scheme of the Trinity Jesus is to follow the Father’s lead. This He did with no diminishing of His glory. God is God because God knows His Being, His Function, His Position. Our Lord humbled Himself even unto the death of the Cross (Philippians 2:8). The Father always heard the Son because the Son willingly and naturally humbled Himself.

It is the Old Sin Nature in our beings that makes us want to lift ourselves up, to buck against God, to make ourselves “gods”. The seed of this evil tree was planted in our hearts in the Garden of Eden by the serpent:

Genesis 3:5 … God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil …

As humans we have chased this illusion of “being gods” as a dog chases a car – hoping to catch it but not having a clue as to what to do IF we catch it. Jesus Who is ever eternal God in human form did not find it necessary to seek to be God (Philippians 2:6-7). He settled into His humanity as God intends man to settle. Jesus is the Second Adam Who takes us back to the Garden.

The Prayer Warrior Is The Surrendered Warrior

Romans 12:11-12 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing INSTANT in prayer;

The word translated “Instant” is the Greek προσκαρτερέω proskarteréō, (pronounced pros-kar-ter-eh’-o) which means “to be devoted to, earnest in, diligent to do, to adhere closely to”. In our society the word “instant” is used for cheap imitations that assemble quickly. “Instant grits” or “Instant oatmeal” do not require cooking. Just add hot water, then gag it down. This is not what this word means. It means that our prayers should be deliberate, attended to, focused on.

If we want our business to succeed, we do it for God.
We serve the Lord.
If we want to endure trials, we patiently pray.
No matter what life brings we rejoice.
Why? Because God is there, and is not silent.
God is with me. How do I know? I pray!

Even when I fail I do not despair because of prayer. The Apostle said “I am the chiefest of sinners – but Christ died for me” (1 Timothy 1:15). As someone once wrote:

Let the world their virtue boast,
Their works of righteousness;
I, a wretch undone and lost,
Am freely saved by grace;
Other tide I disclaim,
This, only this, is all my plea,
I the chief of sinners am,
But Jesus died for me.”

On Judgment Day Jesus warns us all: Many shall say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. [Matthew 7:22-23]

What keeps us all from falling into the pit of pride that others have tripped into? Is it not prayer? Humble prayer?

Job (42:6) said: “I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

When the Jews heard that they were going to be destroyed by the king how did they respond? In Esther 4:3 we read:

There was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes”

When Daniel – that Great Prophet – went to the Lord in prayer, how did he pray?

Daniel 9:3 … I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:

This prayer brought Gabriel from Heaven to speak to Daniel face to face. God honors humble prayer. The Lord honored Abraham praying:

Genesis 18:27 (KJV) … Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes …

God honored Solomon’s prayer. What did that grand old Saint pray for? He prayed that God would enable him to do what God wanted him to do. He prayed:

1 Kings 3:5, 7-9 (KJV) In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee. .. {7} And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. {8} And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. {9} Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?

Let our prayers be filled with our decrease and God’s increase. As John the Baptist declared, “Christ must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:27-30).

O that now I might decrease!
O that all I am might cease!
Let me into nothing fall!
Let my Lord be all in all.”

Only in letting Christ be all and in all can we be blessed. Be not wise in your own conceits.

Scientist George Washington Carver was first and foremost a Christ follower. He developed hundreds of useful products from the lowly peanut. When he was a young man he went to God in prayer and asked the Almighty to “tell me the mystery of the universe”. God answered, “This knowledge is reserved for me alone”. So George prayed, “God, tell me the mystery of the peanut”. I was told that the Lord answered, “Well, George, that’s more nearly your size.” And God told him. Let us seek the face of God in prayer! May God touch your hearts with His Word!

Posted in prayer, Praying Like Jesus Series, Sermons Preached | Tagged ,

Prayer – Be – See Part 2: A Study For Our Church Growth

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Romans 12:9-18 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; 11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; 13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. 14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. 15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. 17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

How often do you pray? A poll conducted by George Barna showed that many people, if they pray, pray less that seven minutes a week. If you only spoke to your significant other seven minutes a week then how long would you be a couple? Just the word “prayer” or “pray” is over 500 times used in God’s Word. Other words that are used to describe “prayer” are:

Petitions
Intercession
Call upon
Seek
Intercede

The Bible begins with creation speaking with God, and ends with the Creator speaking to His children. That is what prayer is – communication with God.

When We Pray We Are To Do So Humbly

Pastor John Newton (August 4, 1725 to December 21, 1807) was at one time the Captain of slave ships. While in that horrid profession he met the Lord Jesus Christ and was saved by Grace. After resigning from the slave trade he went on to pastor an English Anglican Church. His most famous song is the wonderful Amazing Grace, ofttimes sung by Christians the world around. Newton wrote:

If two angels were to receive at the same moment a commission from God, one to go down and rule earth’s grandest empire, the other to go and sweep the streets of its meanest village, it would be a matter of entire indifference to each which service fell to his lot, the post of ruler or the post of scavenger; for the joy of the angels lies only in obedience to God’s will, and with equal joy they would lift a Lazarus in his rags to Abraham’s bosom, or be a chariot of fire to carry an Elijah home.”

God cannot use the human who thinks he or she is “God”. When we pray, God looks at our hearts. God told the Prophet:

1 Samuel 16:7 … the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

God always looks at our hearts. When He looks at your heart what does He see when you pray? Does He see a heart that adores Him, or heart that just uses Him? The prideful prayer is the prayer that God will not hear. Our text tells us:

Let love be without dissimulation

Dissimulation” is the Greek ἀνυπόκριτος anypókritos, (pronounced an-oo-pok’-ree-tos) which means “Without disguise. Without hypocrisy.” The Pharisees were fond of using religious methods in order to puff up their ego. Jesus said of these hypocrites:

Matthew 6:5 … when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

God knows what is in your heart when you pray. All pride should be confessed before God before entering the prayer closet. You need to humble yourself, and let God sense that humility. Pride causes disharmony between the Child of God and his Father.

Leonard Bernstein, the late conductor of the New York Philharmonic orchestra was asked what was the most difficult instrument to play. Without hesitation he replied, “The second fiddle! I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm—that’s a problem. And if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.”

When we as God’s Children pray we are to despise the evil, but cling to the good. Many who pray begin their prayers with “Lord, I want”. Such people are like the out of control child in the toy aisle at Wal-Mart. “I want, I want, I want”. God does not honor such prayers, for they do neither us nor anyone else any good. Our text says:

vvs 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love;
in honour preferring one another;

The word “Preferring” is the Greek προηγέομαι proēgéomai, (pronounced pro-ay-geh’-om-ahee) which means “to go before and show the way. To lead others forward, as a point man leads a platoon or squad through dangerous territory”. We are not to put ourselves first in order to puff ourselves up. No Beloved, but we are to do as the point man does, risking life and limb in order to lead others on a safe journey. Our prayers should lead others to humble service to Christ. Our prayers should lead others to kindness, to love. We are told in another text:

Ephesians 4:2-3 (KJV) With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; {3} Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

We are to lift one another up in prayer and in service. These are the prayers that God hears and endorses as from His heart.

E.M. Bounds wrote:

Humility does not have its eyes on self, but rather on God and others. It is poor in spirit, meek in behavior, lowly in heart. “With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love.”

When Jesus wanted to show a poor example of a praying person, who did He use? You would think Jesus would use the drunkard, the drug abuser, the thief, the adulterer. No, not at all. Who was a poor example of prayer?

The Pharisee!

Luke 18:10-14 (KJV) “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. {11} The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. {12} I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. {13} And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. {14} I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

I love the way that the King James relates this parable. The Pharisee prayed thus WITH HIMSELF. It is as if the man was praying but our Father was no where to be found. God will not hear the prideful, self exalting prayer of the self righteous. The Pharisee who assumed God was there was sadly mistaken. But the Publican, the Lord said, “would not even look up to Heaven”. His prayer was very simple: God be merciful to me, for I am a sinner. God hears the prayer spoken humbly. God said in Isaiah 57:15 “I am with him who is humble, lowly in spirit” (my paraphrase). Twice in the Scripture two writers say the same thing

James 4:6 (KJV) But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

1 Peter 5:5 (KJV) Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace unto the humble.

E.M. Bounds writes:

That which brings the praying soul near to God is humility of heart. That which gives wings to prayer is lowliness of mind. That which gives ready access to the throne of grace is self-depreciation. Pride, self-esteem, and self-praise effectually shut the door of prayer. He who would come to God must approach Him with self hid from his eyes. He must not be puffed-up with self-conceit, nor be possessed with an over-estimate of his virtues and good works.”

Our Lord Jesus lowered Himself in this life, and because He did so the Father always heard His prayers. When Jesus stood at the tomb of His good friend Lazarus He prayed:

John 11:41-43 “… Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. 43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

When Jesus cried out “Lazarus, come forth!” it was not out of pride or arrogance that He prayed. The Father always heard the Son because the Son always humbled Himself in the Father’s Presence. Though Father and Son are co-equal and co-eternal – for has not the Father said (in Hebrews 1:8):

Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever”

The Son is of reality and being eternal God. Yet in the scheme of the Trinity He is to follow the Father’s lead. This He did with no diminishing of His glory. God is God because God knows His Being, His Function, His Position. Our Lord humbled Himself even unto the death of the Cross (Philippians 2:8). The Father always heard the Son because the Son willingly and naturally humbled Himself.

It is the Old Sin Nature in our beings that makes us want to lift ourselves up, to buck against God, to make ourselves “gods”. The seed of this evil tree was planted in our hearts in the Garden of Eden by the serpent:

Genesis 3:5 … God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil …

As humans we have chased this illusion of “being gods” as a dog chases a car – hoping to catch it but not having a clue as to what to do IF we catch it. Jesus Who is ever eternal God in human form did not find it necessary to seek to be God (Philippians 2:6-7). He settled into His humanity as God intends man to settle. Jesus is the Second Adam Who takes us back to the Garden.

The Prayer Warrior Is The Surrendered Warrior

Romans 12:11-12 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

The word translated “Instant” is the Greek προσκαρτερέω proskarteréō, (pronounced pros-kar-ter-eh’-o) which means “to be devoted to, earnest in, diligent to do, to adhere closely to”. In our society the word “instant” is used for cheap imitations that assemble quickly. “Instant grits” or “Instant oatmeal” do not require cooking. Just add hot water, then gag it down. This is not what this word means. It means that our prayers should be deliberate, attended to, focused on.

If we want our business to succeed, we do it for God.
We serve the Lord.
If we want to endure trials, we patiently pray.
No matter what life brings we rejoice.
Why? Because God is there, and is not silent.
God is with me. How do I know? I pray!

Even when I fail I do not despair because of prayer. The Apostle said “I am the chiefest of sinners – but Christ died for me” (1 Timothy 1:15). As someone once wrote:

Let the world their virtue boast,
Their works of righteousness;
I, a wretch undone and lost,
Am freely saved by grace;
Other tide I disclaim,
This, only this, is all my plea,
I the chief of sinners am,
But Jesus died for me.”

The “Me Too” Movement brought many famous and well funded men to their knees. Comedian Bill Cosby is now serving a life sentence for evils that he did while on the summit of popularity. Bill Hybels, the founder and leader of Willow Creek Church, left his pulpit in shame for abuse of power. It is amazing how many famous men are falling under the glare of judgment because of evils they did while hiding behind a wall of apparent righteousness. There are many who do this and get away with it. But Judgment is coming. Our Christ shall prevail. On Judgment Day Jesus warns us all:

Many shall say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. [Matthew 7:22-23]

What keeps us all from falling into the same pit of pride that these great men tripped into? Is it not prayer? Humble prayer? The Old Testament saint prayed in dust and ashes. Did not Job (42:6) say:

I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

When the Jews heard that they were going to be destroyed by the king how did they respond? In Esther 4:3 we read:

There was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes”

When Daniel – that Great Prophet – went to the Lord in prayer, how did he pray?

Daniel 9:3 … I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:

It was this prayer (I hope you will read it. I have not time to cover it now, but it is excellent!) that brought Gabriel from Heaven to speak to him face to face. God honors humble prayer. The Lord honored Abraham praying:

Genesis 18:27 (KJV) … Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes …

God honored Solomon’s prayer. What did that grand old Saint pray for? He prayed that God would enable him to do what God wanted him to do. He prayed:

1 Kings 3:5, 7-9 (KJV) In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee. .. {7} And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. {8} And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. {9} Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?

E.M. Bounds writes:

The pride of doing sends its poison all through our praying. The same pride of being infects all our prayers, no matter how well-worded they may be. It was this lack of humility, this self-applauding, this self-exaltation, which kept the most religious man of Christ’s day from being accepted of God. And the same thing will keep us in this day from being accepted of Him.”

Let our prayers be filled with our decrease and His increase. As John the Baptist declared, “Christ must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:27-30).

O that now I might decrease!
O that all I am might cease!
Let me into nothing fall!
Let my Lord be all in all.”

Only in letting Christ be all and in all can we be blessed. Be not wise in your own conceits.

Scientist George Washington Carver was first and foremost a Christ follower. He developed hundreds of useful products from the lowly peanut. When he was a young man he went to God in prayer and asked the Almighty to “tell me the mystery of the universe”. God answered, “This knowledge is reserved for me alone”. So George prayed, “God, tell me the mystery of the peanut”. I was told that the Lord answered, “Well, George, that’s more nearly your size.” And God told him. Let us seek the face of God in prayer! May God touch your hearts with His Word!

Posted in prayer, Praying Like Jesus Series, Sermons Preached | Tagged

How Big Is Your God?

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Photo by Jessy Paston on Unsplash

Joshua 11:4-6, 23 And they went out, they and all their hosts with them, much people, even as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many. 5 And when all these kings were met together, they came and pitched together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel. 6 And the Lord said unto Joshua, Be not afraid because of them: for to morrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel: thou shalt hough their horses, and burn their chariots with fire. … 23 So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war.

How big is your God?

The God of the Scripture is bigger than anything or anyone in this universe. I need to continually remind myself of this. And you do, too. I often find myself wanting to despair, to back off, to quit. Then the Lord reminds me. I am to do my part and trust Him. He tells me:

Galatians 6:7-9 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

Oh Beloved, you must DO. You must SOW.
You must SOW the right SEED.

What you sow – the seed you plant – shall eventually bring forth a harvest. If you sow evil, you will harvest evil. If you sow good, you will reap good. Many years may pass before you see the harvest. But you should continue faithfully doing good. As we are told, let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

In Joshua Chapter 11 we see the last battle fought for the Promised Land. The Book of Joshua can be divided into two parts. The first part – chapters 1-12 – cover the first 7 years of Joshua’s military campaign to take Canaan. The first 10 chapters of the Book cover a period of less than one year. Israel quickly took the land and Joshua suffered only one defeat – the first battle at Ai – because of the sin of Achan’s family. After God’s people came together in one accord and in one purpose …

God’s People Are Called To CONTINUED
Unity Of Purpose And Service

Did you know God calls us to BE IN ONE ACCORD?
In ONE ACCORD with Him, and in ONE ACCORD with one another?

1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be NO DIVISIONS among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

As a retired Airman I can assure you it is impossible to defeat the enemy if you are not in one accord both vertically (Godward) as well as horizontally (manward).

America lost in Vietnam because the military was in disharmony with it’s leadership. God’s people MUST be in harmony with GOD and with ONE ANOTHER.

God calls US to serve Him.
Let US not be weary in well doing.
For in due season WE shall reap.

The only blot on Joshua’s impeccable record of victory was at Ai, and that was not his fault, but the fault of Achan and his family. Oh, how many times has ONE FAMILY destroyed a Church? I know of churches right now – some that I tried my best to pastor – who never understood the principle of unity. Some of these churches cannot find a pastor, and won’t be able to find a pastor until they come into one accord. Others have shut their doors. Oh, how disharmony destroys a people! One of the tiniest hymns in the Hebrew hymnbook – only three verses long – says:

Psalm 133 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! 2 It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; 3 As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

Unity with God and unity with one another – it is here that the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore . Most people miss the point of heaven. Heaven is a place where there is no sickness, sadness, or pain. Heaven is a place where death is banished, and life is good and eternal. Why is that? Because:

Revelation 22:3 … there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him

Jesus shall dwell with His people, and we shall be His people, and God Himself will be with us, and be our God (Revelation 21:3). The Lord shall wipe away all tears from our eyes, and there shall be no more pain (Revelation 21:4). Why? Because we as God’s people will be in ONE ACCORD in God’s ultimate Promised Land. Oh Beloved, that day is coming. That blessed day is coming. But it is not yet.

As we come to Chapters 11 & 12 of this blessed Book we might think that these chapters are but as short a time as Chapters 1 through 10 were. Remember I told you the first 10 chapters of the Book cover a period of less than one year. These last two chapters however cover around 6 years of battle. We are told:

Joshua 11:18 … Joshua made war a long time with all those kings.

Joshua did not see a win come quickly. Now God promised Joshua a win.

Joshua, your job is YOUR job.
My job is My job, saith the Lord!

Joshua 1:3-7 … Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. 5 There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. 6 Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. 7 Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest.

When God made His promise to Joshua the Lord said “as I promised Moses, so I promise you”.Question

If God made the same promise to MOSES,
Why is JOSHUA and not MOSES going into Canaan?

God told Joshua “as I was with MOSES, so I will be with YOU. I WILL NOT fail thee or forsake thee”. So why in the world is JOSHUA now leading Israel into this final battle and not Moses? Very simply:

Moses failed to stay in harmony with God.
Moses parted from God’s Word.
The Leader or Church that departs from God’s Word
need not expect the blessings of God.

There is a little church not far from us, a church the Lord loves as much as He loves us. I’ve been at Riverview now going into my 7th year. This little church not far from us has gone through three pastors since I’ve been here. Why? Beloved, when Joshua went into the Promised Land God repeatedly warned him to keep his eyes upward. God loved Moses. See it:

Joshua 1:13 … Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you …

Joshua 3:7 … as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee.

Joshua 4:10 … according to all that Moses commanded Joshua …

Joshua 8:31 … As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel ..

Joshua 9:24 … the LORD thy God commanded his servant Moses

Joshua 11:15 … As the LORD commanded Moses his servant, so did Moses command Joshua …

Joshua 12:6 … Them did Moses the servant of the LORD and the children of Israel smite: and Moses the servant of the LORD …

This is just a few instances where we see Moses mentioned in the Book of Joshua. In many of the occurrences where Moses name is he is called “Moses, the servant of the Lord”. FIFTY EIGHT TIMES in the Book of Joshua the Lord mentions “Moses, the servant of the Lord”. I was reading something a fellow Christian and children’s book author Steve Hart wrote the other day that is so significant. He told his three year old son August to put his shoes away before going to bed. When checked later he found that his son had put his little shoes inside of his daddy’s shoes. This is such a graphic illustration as to what is going on in the Book of Joshua. For forty years Moses daily walked in God’s footsteps. Before he went to bed at night Moses took off his shoes and put them in God’s shoes. For forty years. Then one day Moses – Moses the servant of the Lord – forgot to put his feet in the footprints of God. Imagine if you would having a small child with you, and hearing the account of Moses – mentioned FIFTY EIGHT times in this Book. Now imagine that child saying,

Daddy – Momma – where is Moses?
Why isn’t Moses leading us now?
If God loves Moses
why is Joshua NOW leading us?

Beloved, it is because Moses stepped away from God. Moses put his shoes in the wrong place.

God promises to give victory, to bless His children, to give us the Promised Land. But this promise of blessing is conditional to our obedience. Though Moses failed God and lost the blessing he did not lose the eternal promise of salvation. Salvation is a gift from God. It is always a gift from God. But blessing is CONDITIONAL on obedience.

We sing:     “When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
what a glory He spreads on our way!
When we do His good will, He abides with us still,
and with all who will TRUST and OBEY.
TRUST AND OBEY, for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to TRUST AND OBEY.”

Oh Beloved, strive to finish well. Keep your feet in God’s footprints during the day. When you go to bed at night, take off your shoes and put them in your Heavenly Father’s shoes. Be not weary in well doing. Reject sin – confess it quickly – and stay in His Word!

God’s People Are Called To FOCUSED
Purpose And Service To God ALONE

Joshua 11:4-5 And they went out, they and all their hosts with them, much people, even as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many. 5 And when all these kings were met together, they came and pitched together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel.

God’s people often lose the Presence of God when they – like Moses – depart from His Word. But another reason we lose the Presence of God is when we focus on the enemy and not on the Lord.

The darkness does not relent. In Joshua chapter 6 the walls of Jericho – a fortified city – fall when God’s people are focused upon the Lord. I preached this sermon a few weeks ago and will not preach it again. Then we came to Joshua chapter 10 when Joshua prayed for a long day, saying:

Joshua 10:12 Then spake Joshua to the Lord… Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.

God caused the sun not to set nor the moon to rise until Joshua defeated the enemy. After all this you would think that the enemy would just back off and leave the land. Yet this was not the case. The Bible says:

Joshua 11:1-3 … And it came to pass, when Jabin king of Hazor had heard those things, that he sent to Jobab king of Madon, and to the king of Shimron, and to the king of Achshaph, 2 And to the kings that were on the north of the mountains, and of the plains south of Chinneroth, and in the valley, and in the borders of Dor on the west, 3 And to the Canaanite on the east and on the west, and to the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Jebusite in the mountains, and to the Hivite under Hermon in the land of Mizpeh.

Hazor was the leading city in northern Canaan, and Jabin was it’s king. The name “Jabin” (Hebrew יָבִין Yâbîyn, {pronounced yaw-bene}) is not a name but a title. The “Jabin” was like the “Governor” or “Pharaoh”. He was the exalted ruler of this huge city. Hazor had around 40,000 people – and most of the walled cities of Northern Canaan had populations of 200 people per acre of land. Israel came into the Promised Land and within a year destroyed all the enemies that they came against. Jabin heard of this destruction. Rather than repent and vacate the premises he became the tip of the spear, calling the other walled cities into a united army against Israel! How big was this army? No one really knows, but the Bible tells us:

Joshua 11:4 … they went out, they and all their hosts with them, much people, even as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many.

If you have ever been to the seashore or the beach you know you cannot count the number of grains of sand on that shore. Dr. W.A. Criswell – a pastor whom I have long admired who is now with the Lord – said in his sermon “The Final Victory”:

“(The first century Romano-Jewish historian) Josephus says that that army had 300,000 foot soldiers, that they had 100,000 cavalry, and that they had 20,000 iron chariots. Josephus said that what terrified Israel was the iron chariots. They had never faced them before. And Josephus says that the prospect of warring against thousands of chariots terrified Israel. For the great historian says that when the chariots were driven by the warriors into the rank of the opposing soldiers and the men in the chariots had such wonderful opportunity to throw their javelins, and to shoot their arrows, and to cut down with their sword; he said the affect of the driving of chariots furiously into the ranks of an opposing army was devastating in the extreme. And I can think of that for myself. Just imagine you with a sword in your hand, or a spear, or a javelin, or a dart, or a bow and an arrow and there is driving toward you furiously great horses with iron chariots. And in the chariots, in the car several soldiers and they themselves at a height and at an advantage and driving on you furiously, throwing their spears, and javelins, and darts and letting go of their arrows. Well, it was a thing like that that Israel faced; a tremendous, a tremendous foe.”

If you are doing God’s work God’s way there will always be resistance – furious resistance – but trust God, focus on Him, and keep on going!

The opposition to Israel was as the sand that is upon the sea shore . Where have we heard this before? Did not God tell Abraham – that grand old father of faith on the day he offered up his son Isaac to the Lord:

Genesis 22:16-18 … because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son {Isaac}: 17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed My voice.

Joshua and Israel were confronted with as the sand that is upon the sea shorebut didn’t God promise them in Abraham that they would be victorious? Didn’t God promise:

Joshua 11:6 … Be not afraid because of them: for to morrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel …

Israel can focus on the enemy or Israel can focus on the promise of the God Who is always faithful to Himself. God cannot lie. Man can, but God cannot. God has promised to be with you, dear believer. Are your eyes on God or on the enemy? What else did Israel face? We read:

Joshua 11:21 … at that time came Joshua, and cut off the Anakims

Who were the Anakim? They were a nation of giants that the first generation of Israel were afraid of. Israel refused to enter the Promised Land because of these giants, saying:

Deuteronomy 1:28 … The people is greater and taller than we; the cities are great and walled up to heaven; and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakims there.

Because Israel heard a bad report by ten of the spies who entered the Promised Land, they refused to obey God. God caused all of Israel to wander for 40 years until that unbelieving generation died off. What was Joshua’s attitude against the Anakims?

The Anakims were just somebody
else that God will defeat.

Beloved, our God is faithful. God was faithful when the first generation of Israel stood at the Jordan and God is faithful now. God told Joshua (11:6) Be not afraid because of them . God tells us who are His:

2 Timothy 1:7 … God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Hebrews 13:6 … The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

How big is YOUR God? Do you trust in chariots and horses, or do your trust in God (Psalm 20:7)? Do you believe you are more than a conquerer through Him (Romans 8:37)?

Jesus Christ came from Heaven to earth to save you. He gave His life so that you can enter His family. He rose again so that you can live in victory. God is greater than the giants that face you. God is greater than the overwhelming odds against you. Look unto Him and trust Him. Have an OVERCOMING faith. Has not our Lord told us:

1 John 5:4 {whosoever} is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

In Christ we are overcomers. In Christ we are able. Apart from Him we can do nothing. But in Him we can do all things. Give yourself fully to God this day. If you do not know Him as Lord and Savior, call upon Jesus and trust Him. You will be saved. Whosoever. Whosoever. Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life! Praise Him. Praise Him.

May God lead you to victory and power for living in Him. Amen and Amen!

Posted in Joshua, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

Prayer – Be – See Part 1: A Study For Our Church Prayer Growth

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Photo by David Sarkisov on Unsplash

We live in a super-connected world. People connect to one another through electronic mobile devices. While home with our children on vacation we discovered that stores are now offering home delivery of goods. We are fast moving into a world where there is absolutely little to no human interaction. We were not created to be this way. God made us social creatures. We need to interact with one another.

We especially need to interact with our Creator. Interaction with the Creator cannot be done with mobile devices or social media. We interact with God personally, one on one, in prayer.

It is impossible to over emphasize the importance of daily, moment by moment, interactive prayer with God.
Prayer is how we enter the Christian way of life.

Though some may dispute this, I believe that without prayer there can be no Christian. I was amazed to visit a Baptist Church’s website the other day and see where its Pastor claimed prayer was unnecessary for salvation. This is a frequent error preached in this day of what John MacArthur callsEasy Believism”. Salvation is indeed a free gift from God – but it is a gift that must be asked for. There is no merit in asking … but the Scripture makes this very clear. You must approach God in prayer to be saved. Let’s focus on a very familiar passage in Romans:

Romans 10:8-14 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

The Spoken Gospel Must Be Received By Prayer

Our text states “The word is nigh thee”. That which is translated “WORD” is the Greek ῥῆμα rhēma, (pronounced hray’-mah) which means “an utterance. That which is spoken by the mouth”. The Apostles preached with their mouths the word of faith which we preach. The Gospel message was spoken to all who would hear. It was not hidden, but uttered with the mouth so that it was plainly understood.

The GOSPEL MUST BE SPOKEN, it cannot be assumed.
The spoken Gospel MUST BE RECEIVED or there is no effect.

What ῥῆμα rhēma or uttered word did the Apostles speak? The Gospel spoken was “nigh thee” or near to every person. It was not given to a select few, but to all who would hear. The Apostles suffered great persecution for sharing the Gospel. Easy believism says to “just live a good life and encourage others to imitate the same, and we will all go to Heaven”. This is blasphemy. This is not the ῥῆμα rhēma or uttered word – word of faith which we preach.

The word preach is the Greek κηρύσσω kērýssō, (pronounced kay-roos’-so) which means “to publicly or loudly proclaim as a herald or public crier”. In the days before modern mobile technology news was spread was via public herald or the town crier. This is what κηρύσσω kērýssō references.

The message of the Gospel was not hidden,
but clearly and vocally presented.

People knew what the Gospel was. What is the Gospel? The Apostle is now clear. If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus. The word translated confess is the Greek ὁμολογέω homologéō, (pronounced hom-ol-og-eh’-o) which means “to say the same thing about”. God the Father and God the Spirit has declared that Jesus is Lord. When the Gospel is shared God enables the listener to say the same thing about Jesus that God Himself says. The Scripture says:

1 Corinthians 12:3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

Philippians 2:9-11 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus is Lord!

In the ancient Roman world you were expected to say Caesar is Lord, out loud and for all to hear. It was required of the citizen just as Heil Hitler was expected of the Nazi. To fail to acknowledge Caesar as Lord would be to be marked as a traitor to the Roman state. The Christian was the person who – at risk to life and limb – would refuse to acknowledge Caesar as Lord and who instead would declare Jesus is Lord. Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. The Gospel requires the outward confession – an agreement with both Father and Spirit – that Jesus is Lord.

The Gospel also requires an inward belief that goes with the outward confession. Believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead. The Christian INTERNALLY believes that Christ died for him and rose again, making atonement for our sins. The Christian OUTWARDLY professes Christ as Lord of all. Not just Lord of others, but Lord of our lives. He is Lord. The INternal and the EXternal are in agreement with the Christ follower.

No Human Designed “Sinner’s Prayer” Is Necessary

There is no set “sinners prayer” that any Christian need say, but an inward belief and an outward profession. There is, though, a prayer made to the Lord Jesus. We know this because the Apostle summarized what he said with Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”. Salvation comes when the sinner calls upon the name of the Lord. When the sinner repents and comes to Christ as Lord and Savior salvation is secured.

Romans 10:13-14 For Whosoever shall CALL upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they CALL on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

Salvation comes to the sinner when that sinner
“calls upon the name of the Lord”.

The word translated “call” is the Greek ἐπικαλέομαι epikaléomai, (pronounced ep-ee-kal-eh’-om-ahee), which means “to cry out to, to call to” and by extension to pray.

  • When Stephen was martyred for professing Christ the Scripture says that he epikaléomai – cried out to God, saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’ ” (Acts 7:59).

  • When the Apostle Paul was giving his testimony in Jerusalem before the Pharisees he testified that the day he was saved that the disciple Ananias came to him and shared the Gospel, saying “arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, CALLING on the name of the Lord …(Acts 22:16). Again we see the use of epikaléomai.

  • The same Apostle Paul wrote the Church at Corinth: “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place CALL upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:2). Again we see the use of epikaléomai.

A person does not become a Child of God by osmosis, but by crying out to Christ as Lord and Savior. God creates the Christian in response to that believer’s cry of faith. Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. No one is saved apart from the spoken Gospel, or apart from the confession of Christ in prayer.

We Return To The Garden By Prayer

God designed us to walk and talk with Him. When you read the Genesis account of creation it was “In the cool of the evening Adam and Eve heard the Lord God walking around in the garden” (Genesis 3:8, my paraphrase). We are led to believe from the context that God normally walked in the Garden with Adam and Eve, talking to them – that is, until sin caused a breach in our fellowship. We were made to walk and talk with God, just as surely as we were made to breath oxygen.

We were made to be in a living, breathing, moment by moment relationship with our Creator!

Salvation is not just a ticket to Heaven, but an entrance into the Family of God. Salvation is more than “Friending” God on Facebook. Salvation is much more that “Tweeting” on Twitter. Salvation is a moment by moment relationship with the God Who is, and Who loves you. Our love relationship with God requires communication, and communication is PRAYER.

If there is no relationship with God as Father, there is no communication, no prayer. Jesus told the religious crowd:

John 8:42-47 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. 43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. 44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. 45 And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. 46 Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? 47 He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.

There is no point of communication between Christ and those who do not recognize Him as Lord. Those who are of God hears God’s words – the words that Christ speaks. The unbeliever cannot do that. The believer however CAN. Jesus said:

John 10:26-29 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

Those who are Christ’s by faith both HEAR and FOLLOW Christ. Jesus Himself HEARS those who are His. And those who are His have and hold eternal life – because Christ will not let us go.

Pastor E.M. Bounds – a great man of prayer who wrote 9 books on prayer – said that:

Prayer has to do with the entire man. Prayer takes in man in his whole being, mind, soul and body. It takes the whole man to pray, and prayer affects the entire man in its gracious results. As the whole nature of man enters into prayer, so also all that belongs to man is the beneficiary of prayer. All of man receives benefits in prayer. The whole man must be given to God in praying. The largest results in praying come to him who gives himself, all of himself, all that belongs to himself, to God. This is the secret of full consecration, and this is a condition of successful praying, and the sort of praying which brings the largest fruits.”

God saves us through prayer. Christ Himself wants us to grow in Him through prayer. The first question every convert to Christ has to ask of himself is,

Do I know that I am saved?
If yes, then HOW do I know this?

Assured Of Salvation, Assured God Hears

The Scripture says in John 20:31 “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name”. The Bible does not want you to have a hope so salvation, but a know so salvation. Is God in your life? Are you a child of the King? If you are not certain, then it has an impact on your prayers. The Bible says:

James 1:6-8 (KJV) … let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. {7} For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. {8} A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

James 4:8 (KJV) Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

What hinders prayers? A double mind. Where is your mind focused? If you are a child of the King then act as a child of the King. Know that He is yours, and you are His. If there is sin in your life then reject it. Throw it from your home as you would an unwelcome visitor or a pest. When I pray it is particularly important that my focus be on my Lord and Savior. Prayer – effective prayer – effects the whole person. We as Christians must not have a divided allegiance. In prayer we see the direction of our God, not our own satisfaction. As E.M. Bounds said in his book “The Essentials of Prayer”:

Holiness is wholeness, and so God wants holy men, men whole-hearted and true, for His service.”

What is Biblical holiness? Holiness is not being “holier than thou” – that’s self righteousness. Holiness, the Greek hagiasmos {pronounced hag-ee-as-mos’}, means to be “set apart for God’s use”. This word, often translated “sanctify” (hagiazo), refers to devoting or setting yourself apart to God.

To pray effectively prior to prayer each believer should examine themselves for unconfessed sin, and then confess that sin to God (1 John 1:8-10). God will not hear the prayers of a believer out of fellowship. What does the Scripture say?

Proverbs 15:29 (KJV) The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.

Hebrews 12:14 (KJV) Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

The word “see” is the Greek optanomai {pronounced op-tan’-om-ahee}, which means to behold, to look at”. Our souls are to be right with God our Savior prior to prayer.

How You Pray Reveals The Posture Of Your Soul

How did the Old and New Testament Saints pray? How did they position themselves for prayer? Let’s look at the Word of God.

  • Abraham fell upon his face before God.

Genesis 17:3-5 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, 4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. 5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham;

  • Moses prayed with his hands outstretched to God.

Exodus 9:29 … As soon as I am gone out of the city, I will spread abroad my hands unto the Lord; and the thunder shall cease, neither shall there be any more hail; that thou mayest know how that the earth is the Lord’s.

  • The Prophet Daniel kneeled upon his knees three times a day in prayer. King Solomon also knelt in prayer, raising his hands toward Heaven.

Daniel 6:10 (KJV) … Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.”

2 Chronicles 6:13 (KJV) … Solomon had made a brazen scaffold, of five cubits long, and five cubits broad, and three cubits high, and had set it in the midst of the court: and upon it he stood, and kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven

  • Our Lord Jesus often looked up into Heaven as He prayed, though in Gethsemane He fell on His face as Abraham did.

Matthew 26:39 (KJV) {Jesus} went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

Mark 6:41 … And when {Jesus} had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all.

John 11:41 … And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.

Regardless as to posture in prayer the body will take the form most suited to the soul. Prayer should always be made in a humble posture. When we pray we are speaking to our Lord and God. We are not speaking to an equal, but to the Divine. We are speaking to a Friend – for we have a Friend in God – but He is Lord.

E.M. Bounds writes:

As praying is asking for something definite of God, so, beforehand, the thought arises—“What shall I ask for at this hour?” All vain and evil and frivolous thoughts are eliminated, and the mind is given over entirely to God, thinking of Him, of what is needed, and what has been received in the past. By every token, prayer, in taking hold of the entire man, does not leave out the mind. The very first step in prayer is a mental one. The disciples took that first step when they said unto Jesus at one time, “Lord, teach us to pray.” We must be taught through the intellect, and just in so far as the intellect is given up to God in prayer, will we be able to learn well and readily the lesson of prayer.”

Prayer Is Best When Our Heart Is Committed To God

When Israel was to enter the Promised Land the Lord told His people:

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: 5 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

Jesus was asked the question one day “What is the first commandment of all the commandments” (Mark 12:28). Jesus quoted this same text. That which God wants of us more than all else is our hearts devoted to Him. This is true also of our prayers. Those who were most used of God while in this life knew that to love God was the most important thing we can do. The Psalmist said:

Psalm 119:2, 10 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart… 10 With my whole heart have I sought Thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.

The intent of all prayer is not to get more STUFF from God. The intent of prayer is to get MORE OF GOD. The Lord is our Portion and our Strength. If your love is divided then your prayers will be divided. E.M. Bounds wrote:

“… the entire man without reservation must love God. So it takes the same entire man to do the praying which God requires of men. All the powers of man must be engaged in it. God cannot tolerate a divided heart in the love He requires of men, neither can He bear with a divided man in praying.”

God knows our hearts. He knows what our intents are, regardless as to what we say. As someone once wrote:

“’Tis not enough to bend the knee,
And words of prayer to say;
The heart must with the lips agree,
Or else we do not pray.”

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