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Holy Determination, Day 5

October 23rd, 2015

Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.
Matthew 18:1

Today I am asking us to pray for a spirit of godly strength and determination in our church to do what God has called us to do. Let’s pray for our leaders, and for our entire membership.

There is no question that much good that God desires to do in this world through our efforts is not done because we have stopped trying to do it. It is easy for us to “grow weary while doing good” (Gal. 6:9). It is our human tendency to depend on ourselves to the point of physical and emotional exhaustion, and then in discouragement quit the fight, often complaining that God and others did not help enough.

We need divine strength to press on in the things that God has led us to do. God does shut doors, just as He did with Paul and Silas in Acts 16. Christ did not perform many miracles in Nazareth because of their unbelief (Matthew 13:58). Christ also told His disciples that when they could not find the hand of God at work in at least one person in a village, to move on to the next and look for him there (Luke 10:10-11). God sometimes leads His servants in inexplicable ways.

But none of these realities changes the need for Christians to have the spirit of determination and endurance. Wherever God is doing a great work in this world, you will find people there who have prayed, served, and not quit the work that God had called them to do.

Prayer is given to us specifically so that we may gain strength. We are to pray for both the strength to continue to pray and for the strength to continue to serve. Those who kneel the longest, stand the longest. Those who kneel the weakest, rise the strongest. The very nature of prayer is trust in the power and might of God - that He can help us.

As Christians in this day, we stand on the shoulders of giants in the faith - we continue their work today. Christ said, “Others have labored, and you have entered into their labors” (John 4:38).  The prophets, the apostles, the martyrs of the faith, and our Lord Himself, served steadfastly - along with thousands of nameless (to us) believers - giving a witness to God in difficult times. We have entered into their labor today in the simple things that God has called us to do.

We are seeking to build a community of faith - others have done as much through the centuries. We are seeking to construct a new house of worship - others have built larger church buildings with less resources than we have. We have entered into their labors in what God has called us to do. Just as in the past, people gave their lives and efforts for the work of God, so God calls us in this day to serve with our whole hearts.

God has not changed. His truth has not changed. The spiritual needs of mankind have not changed. The ability of God to strengthen our hearts by His Spirit to serve Him has also not changed. It is up to us today to learn to depend upon His strength.

In prayer we are able to confess our failures and receive forgiveness and cleansing. In prayer we are able to bring every single issue that concerns us to Him and leave them before Him. In prayer we are able to learn the deeper secrets of living and serving in the power of His Spirit. In prayer we are able to find divine redemptive strength and the wisdom of God. And we find these things in prayer, because we meet Christ there.

One of the greatest statements ever made about the early disciples of Christ is found in Acts 4:13:

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.

And for us today, there can be no greater testimony. We find strength and holy determination because we have been with Jesus.

Helmut Thielicke preached a memorable series of sermons on the Lord’s prayer in Stuttgart in the closing days of World War II. The depth in them has resonated with believers through the centuries. He spoke about the difference between Christians the those in the world. In one of these sermons he said:

That’s why it is that the mystery of the kingdom of God can never be recognized from the outside, by a disinterested spectator, but only from within, by entering into it, in other words, by looking into the eyes of Jesus Christ. That is to say, in the kingdom of God everything is a matter of perspective; everything depends upon where you stand. If you stand at the wrong place, you see absolutely nothing. On the other hand, if you stand at the right place, then even children, fools, and the despised of this world can see the great mysteries of the kingdom of God.
It is like the colored windows of a church. If you go around the outside of the church, you see nothing but gray monochrome and cannot tell whether they are merely dirty, sooty panes or works of art. In other words, you are seeing them from the wrong perspective. But the moment you enter the nave of the church, the windows begin to shine and the whole story of salvation, captured in color, rises up before you. The mystery of the kingdom of God can be seen only if we are “in” it.

As we stand in Christ, we see everything differently.

Lord, give us a spirit of holy determination to accomplish the things You have called us to do. Teach us to lean on You in prayer, to see You in our devotions, to find Your strength exerting itself in our hearts. When we are tired and weary, let us realize that You are with us always. Amen.

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Walking Aware in Today’s World, Day 4

October 22nd, 2015

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:15-16

Today I am asking us to pray that God would give our church leadership and our church membership an awareness of the times in which we live. That we would not be stuck in the past, nor that we would live merely in the worldly spirit of this age. That we would have the mind of Christ for now, for today.

In the Old Testament we read of the wise men of Issachar, “Men who had understanding of the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron. 12:32). The doctrinal teachings and the ethical principles and commands of God’s Word are enduring - they last for all generations. But there is also the need for spiritually mature people of each generation to understand the times in which they live.

The word “circumspectly” is an old English word, and it describes the idea of walking carefully, aware of our surroundings. The original Greek word it translates was used often in the Bible.

There is a three-fold emphasis of this in the Bible - past, present, and future.

(1) Turning away from the world - the world is our past for Christians. To walk aware as Christians means that we turn from the falseness of the world’s values. Romans 13:13 says, “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.” This world is already in the past tense according to God, “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).

(2) Turning to the love of Christ today. To walk aware means to walk in the reality of the love of Christ. In Ephesians 5:2 it was used, “Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us.” In Colossians 1:10 it was used, “That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

(3) Turning to the future with Christ. To walk aware means to walk with our minds set on the eternal kingdom of God. In 1 Thessalonians 2:12 it was used, “That you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom.”

And the Ephesians 5:16 text says, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

Redeeming means to “buy back” or “to rescue” our time from waste and ungodly activities. We have a great deal of leisure time today, and we all need to know how to relax, but we also need to be careful that we do not become self-indulgent and lazy. There are needs all around us that God calls us to become engaged in to make a difference for Him.

“The days are evil” means that the time in which we live is short because this world under judgment. Christ used the phrase “evil generation” to describe the world. Galatians 1:4 says that Christ “gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age.”

We need to have a holy sense of the urgency of living in these last days before the return of Christ. We do not need to be pushed into panicky actions, but we must be careful not to be lulled into complacency due to the comforts of this age.

The little poem is no less true today than before:

Life is short,
Death is sure.
Sin is the curse
Christ is the cure.

Pray that our leaders:

  • Have a holy sense of urgency for the things of God, knowing that the time is short
  • Walk circumspectly in our own lives, redeeming our opportunities in the families, in our relationships, and in our witness
  • Walk humbly and patiently in the love of Christ, “with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:2-3).
  • Have the wisdom of God to know the times in which we live and to make wise decisions for Christ.

Lord, we thank You for Your faithfulness to Your people. We pray for all of us in leadership at the International Baptist Church of Stuttgart. We pray that You would give us humble hearts to seek Your face in our own lives, that You would give us both divine patience and a holy sense of urgency for the things that we have been called to do. We pray for hearts that endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Draw us close to Your heart, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.

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