Ask Great Things of a Great God

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O FOUNTAIN OF ALL GOOD,

Destroy in me every lofty thought,
Break pride to pieces and scatter it
to the winds,
Annihilate each clinging shred of
self-righteousness,
Implant in me true lowliness of spirit,
Abase me to self-loathing and self-abhorrence,
Open in me a fount of penitential tears,
Break me, then bind me up;
Thus will my heart be a prepared dwelling
for my God;
Then can the Father take up his abode in me,
Then can the blessed Jesus come with healing
in his touch,
Then can the Holy Spirit descend in
sanctifying grace;
O Holy Trinity, three Persons and one God,
inhabit me, a temple consecrated to thy glory.
When thou art present, evil cannot abide;
In thy fellowship is fullness of joy,
Beneath thy smile is peace of conscience,
By thy side no fears disturb,
no apprehensions banish rest of mind,
With thee my heart shall bloom with fragrance;
Make me meet, through repentance,
for thine indwelling.
Nothing exceeds thy power,
Nothing is too great for thee to do,
Nothing too good for thee to give.
Infinite is thy might, boundless thy love,
limitless thy grace, glorious thy saving name.
Let angels sing for
sinners repenting,
prodigals restored,
backsliders reclaimed,
Satan’s captives released,
blind eyes opened,
broken hearts bound up,
the despondent cheered,
the self-righteous stripped,
the formalist driven from a refuge of lies,
the ignorant enlightened,
and saints built up in their holy faith.
I ask great things of a great God.

From the Valley of Vision, a book of Puritan prayers.

Everyone in Everything

…just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:33 ESV)

Taking Scripture out of context is dangerous. If you read 10:33 without reading 10:31, you will become the quintessential chameleon–blending in everywhere you go, pleasing everyone you know, becoming whoever you’re with. So here goes verse 31:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV)

If God’s glory is your highest aim, pleasing others can be your second aim. You will please God and others. If God’s glory is your highest goal, then pleasing others can be your second goal and you won’t become a “people pleaser.” For Paul it is a question of motive. Why does he please everyone in everything?

“…that they may be saved.” 

Paul glorifies God and pleases others hoping that it will result in the salvation of others. This is why a believing wife will respect her unbelieving husband–not seeking her own advantage–but hoping that he may be saved. This is the reason the father of a wayward child will appear to capitulate–not seeking his own advantage—but wishing that his son may be saved. This is why a friend will bend over backward to help an unbelieving friend–not seeking her own advantage–but praying that her friend will be saved.

Who is your everyone? What is the everything you can do so that he or she may be saved?

3 Questions to Ask Before You Act

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24 ESV)

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV)

  1. Will this help the other person? Will what you are about to do satisfy a need (not necessarily a want) of the person for whom you plan to do it? Meeting every “want” someone has ultimately ends up hurting, not helping. Helping requires discernment. Sometimes people around you view wants as needs. Your “no’s” may be as critical as your “yeses.”
  2. Will the other person be better because of what I am about to do? To build up literally means to “build a house.” Will what you are doing add to the other person? This requires having a vision for the other person that sees them not only as they are but as who they can be. In parenting, Smalley and Trent call this “picturing a special future.” If you’re a leader at work, you see your staff member as a supervisor, shift leader, or vice-president. If you’re a teacher, you see your student walking across the stage and graduating one day.
  3. Will this glorify God? A simple non-theological way to approach this question is: will God’s reputation be enhanced because of what you are about to do or say? Will your actions make his name greater? When all is said and done, will people talk more about you or about God?

If

if-logo-200pxin 1896, Rudyard Kipling penned the words of the following poem. He was inspired by the leader of a failed raid, not because he was successful, but because he accepted responsibility for his failure. Your failure is not fatal. Be encouraged.

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Lord, I Run to You

God is crazy about you! He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32 ESV) He did the unthinkable…giving up his “only begotten son.” When we turn to other gods, He is obviously jealous.

Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? (1 Corinthians 10:22 ESV)

God’s love for us allows him to be provoked to jealousy. He doesn’t want anyone or anything to come close to taking his place in our lives. We have never been loved, nor will we ever be loved, as deeply as God loves us. Idols can be obvious…or they can be subtle. Kyle Idleman, in his book Gods at War, writes:

“Where Is Your Sanctuary? Where do you go when you’re hurting? Let’s say it’s been a terrible day at the office. You come home and go — where? To the refrigerator for comfort food like ice cream? To the phone to vent with your most trusted friend? Do you seek escape in novels or movies or video games or pornography? Where do you look for emotional rescue? The Bible tells us that God is our refuge and strength, our help in times of trouble — so much so that we will not fear though the mountains fall into the heart of the sea (Ps. 46:1 – 2). That strikes me as a good place to run. But it’s so easy to forget, so easy for us to run in other directions. Where we go says a lot about who we are. The “high ground” we seek reveals the geography of our values.”

If you have the time (about 7 minutes) worship the Lord as Tommy Walker beautifully sings, “Lord, I Run to You.”

You’d Better Run!

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:14 ESV)

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Dictionary.com defines flee as to run away, as from danger or pursuers. Idolatry is dangerous. Fleeing is the only sane response. Making it practical, here are five ways to flee idolatry:

  1. End ungodly relationships. The right relationship with the wrong person is still the wrong relationship.  Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. (Proverbs 13:20 ESV)
  2. End ungodly habits. Stephen Covey said, “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” (7 Habits of Highly Effective People) What you do today will determine who you are tomorrow.
  3. Don’t just run from–run to. If you flee idolatry without running to God, you will replace your old idol with another one.  The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe. (Proverbs 18:10 ESV)
  4. Begin godly relationships. You are not designed to walk alone. From the beginning, God knew Adam should not be alone so he made a helper for him. John called this walking in the light:  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7 ESV)
  5. If you fall down, don’t freak out, ‘fess up.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9 ESV) God is faithful when you fail. Run to him.

Do You Love Me?

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32 ESV)

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A boat on the Sea of Galilee

Peter faltered but he did not ultimately fail. Why? Because Jesus prayed for him. Not long after the above conversation Jesus was taken to the high priest’s house. A servant girl there recognized Peter as having been with Jesus. He lied and said he hadn’t. Two more bystanders approached Peter about his relationship with Jesus. Here’s what happened:

But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:60-62 ESV)

Peter wept bitterly.

I wonder if, while weeping, he remembered the first time he met Jesus? “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Did he recount the time Jesus taught in the synagogue, walked down the road to Peter’s house and healed his mother-in-law? Or when he walked on the water–and was rescued by Jesus when he looked down at the water. Surely his mind was flooded with memories of time spent with Jesus he loved so much.

Peter wept bitterly. But Jesus had prayed for him.

Jesus was crucified and resurrected and went looking for Peter. He found him fishing again. Peter had abandoned his pulpit for a fishing net. A conversation ensued. Jesus asked Peter two times if he loved him. Peter answered “Yes!” Then he asked one more time.

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:17 ESV)

Peter was grieved again. Three times he had denied Jesus. Now three times he has affirmed his love for him. He was so disappointed in himself. Would Jesus ever use him again? Did he have a future with this Jesus? Jesus’s response reassured Peter.

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:18-19 ESV)

Peter did more than follow! He preached the first sermon after Pentecost. He became the pastor of the Jerusalem church. He wrote two remarkable letters that made it into the New Testament. Why? Because Jesus prayed and Peter repented.

Jesus is praying for you. How will you answer his prayer?

“I Have Prayed for You”

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:31-34 ESV)

Jesus sounds like the consummate parent–he calls Simon’s name twice–and Simon was Peter’s formal name. You can tell he wants Peter to hear what he has to say. Notice his language. If anyone knows Satan, it’s Jesus. He was in heaven when Satan was thrown out. Satan demanded. You have to wonder why Satan wanted Peter so badly that he would demand. Never forget that Satan can only do what God allows him to do. The tense of the verb “demanded” suggests that this happened at a particular time. When did Satan show up to Jesus and ask to destroy Peter?

wheatSatan wanted to sift Peter like wheat. I looked up sifting wheat in ancient times. Here’s what ehow.com had to say:

The first step in the process of sifting wheat is to loosen the chaff from the edible grain, which is called threshing. The old-fashioned way to do this is to spread the wheat onto a floor made from stone, concrete or tamped earth and to beat it with a flail. The next step is called winnowing, where the loosened chaff is removed from the grain. The old-fashioned way of doing this is to throw the grain in the air, where the lighter chaff is blown off by even a decent breeze. The heavier grain falls back to the ground below.

In other words Satan wanted to stomp Peter into the ground and throw him in the air while the wind blew through. Satan wanted to destroy Peter. What was Jesus’s response? I have prayed for you. Jesus prayed for Peter. That your faith may not fail. Peter, I have prayed that you will still believe I am who I am after you see me mercilessly beaten by the Romans. I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail after you see the cross on my shoulders. I have prayed that you will still believe when I am laid in the tomb.

Jesus prayed for Peter.

Peter didn’t get it. He was guilty of Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 10:12: Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. Peter thought he could handle Satan’s attacks. Jesus knew he couldn’t. Jesus prayed for Peter. And Jesus is praying for you too. 

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:34 ESV)

If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, He is praying for you now. Tomorrow we will eavesdrop on a conversation between Jesus and Peter on the seashore and learn how God answered Jesus’s prayer for Peter. Until then, rest in the reality that Jesus is praying for you.

Read more : http://www.ehow.com/how-does_4925686_farmers-sift-wheat.html

Why the Hope of America is Graduating This Weekend (Part Two)

Assaults. Bank robberies. Profanity. Women fearing for their safety. Who would have thought that the late 1700’s looked like this in the very young United States. Change was on the horizon and its source was as surprising as the moral demise of the young nation. J. Edwin Orr continues:

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Then, suddenly, at the turn of the century, the nation made a spiritual about-face that affected every level of society–from the frontiers to the college campuses. The beginning of this dramatic change can be traced to Hampden Sydney College in Virginia. In 1787, with the moral climate there deteriorating rapidly, five non-Christian students decided to hold a prayer meeting to ask for God’s help. They locked themselves in a room, for fear of the other students, and kept their voices down so they would not be caught. However, the other students discovered them and tried to break down the door.

The president rebuked them saying, “You don’t mind cheating, you, don’t mind stealing from rooms, you don’t mind the lying and the profanity you get on this campus, but you object to a prayer meeting. Well, I do not!” He then knocked on the door and said authoritatively, “This is the president of the college speaking. Will you please come out?” The students unlocked the door and came out not knowing what to expect. President Smith said, “Gentlemen, come to my study, we’ll pray there together.” This prayer meeting marked the beginning of American campus revivals during the Second Great Awakening of the 1790s and early 1800s. Not only did half the students at Hampden Sydney College turn to Christ as a result, but the revival also spread to local churches and to other schools, having similar effects.

Who would shave thought that a much needed revival for a nation faltering early in its history would have come from college students? What about James Madison or Thomas Jefferson? God used unknown college students to bring a wave of revival that affected an entire nation.

Orr continues:

In college after college, students formed similar Christian fellowships. At Harvard, Bowdoin, Brown, Dartmouth, Middlebury, Williams, and Andover, students began to meet and pray. The students at Brown formed the College Praying Society which met in a private room “for fear of disturbance from the impenitent.” In December 1802, at Harvard, seven students formed the Saturday Evening Religious Society, which also met secretly. At Yale, president Timothv Dwight regularly preached apologetical messages in chapel, hitting the relativistic philosophy of the day head-on with such talks as “Are the New Testament Documents Reliable?” As a result of the Christians’ prayer and Dwight’s powerful presentations, one third of Yale’s student body accepted Christ in 1802.

I am convinced that America’s hope will walk across the stage this weekend…not across the political stage next fall. Yes, we need a godly president. We need God’s man or woman to lead this country. However, both Great Awakenings in the United States have found their roots in revival among college students.

Will you be that student? What will happen on your campus this fall?

Why the Hope of America is Graduating This Weekend

To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:22-23 ESV)

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This week hundreds of students will graduate from McDowell High School–hundreds of thousands from schools across the United States. What could happen if the thousands of Christian students graduating this week showed up on college campuses this fall with an agenda: to rock that campus for Christ. In order to better understand this, let’s step back in time to 1790. J. Edwin Orr, longtime professor at Fuller Seminary, shares this:

In 1790 America had won its independence, but it had lost something as well. In the wake of the Revolutionary War, French infidelity, deism, and the generally unsettled condition of society had driven the moral and spiritual climate of the colonies to an all-time low. Drunkenness was epidemic; profanity was of the most shocking kind; bank robberies were a daily occurrence; and far the first time in the history of the American settlement women were afraid to go out at night for fear of being assaulted.

Surprised! Colleges were seedbeds of apostasy and debauchery. Orr continues:

A poll taken at Harvard revealed not one believer in the whole student body. Conditions on campus had degenerated to the point that all but five at Princeton were part of the “filthy speech” movement of that day. While students there developed the art of obscene conversation, at Williams College they held a mock communion, and at Dartmouth students put on an “anti-church” play.  In New Jersey the radical leader of the deist students led a mob to the Raritan Valley Presbyterian Church where they burned the Bible in a public bonfire. Christians were so few on the average campus and were so intimidated by the non-Christians that they met in secret. They even kept their minutes in code so no one could find out about their clandestine fellowship.

America seemed to be on a hopeless trajectory toward devastation when 1790 happened. Tomorrow we will talk about how a group of students impacted an entire country. Wow!