When Daddy Comin?

For the past two weeks, I have been home with my family celebrating our new arrival! Since there is only so much I can do for our new baby, most of my time was spent playing with and taking Read more

Angel Tree

When I was a child, my family fully embraced the traditions of Christmas. We decorated our home with the most cherished ornaments, lights, and bows. We handmade or purchased gifts with much thought about the receiver. We made plans Read more

Begin with Jesus

The autobiography of G. Stanley Jones is titled A Song of Ascent, and it’s considered to be a spiritual classic. Jones was a great man: a missionary to India, a friend to Gandhi, a tireless world traveler, and a Read more

Weeds

Have you ever been responsible for a task you didn’t particularly enjoy? Perhaps you can relate to one homemaker who developed a unique perspective on some of her less enjoyable household duties. She said: I don't do windows because I Read more

New Each Day

Patrick Henry, whose primary contribution to the history books is the phrase "Give me liberty or give me death," made another memorable statement. He said, "I know of no way of judging the future but by the past." Repeat this before Read more

What Is Prayer, Really?

Posted on by GODencounters in Articles | Leave a comment

prayer-on-my-knees4In this post-9/11 world, you hear a lot about prayer.  The power of prayer, prayer this, prayer that.  But really, what is this “prayer” thing all about anyway?  Sure, it’s talking to God, but is that it?  Or could it possibly be something more?

I was raised to pray before each meal and before I went to bed each night.  I still do that, thank God for each meal and a short little prayer before drifting to sleep each night.  Somewhere along the line, though, it just became words.  I began to feel, as the pastor at my church put it, “as if my prayers were just bouncing off the ceiling.”

It’s like the scene at the end of the movie Bruce Almighty where God tells Bruce to say a prayer, and the first thing he does is the “Miss America prayer” of peace on earth, feed the hungry, etc.  God tells Bruce that his prayer is all well and good, but that he needs to really pray.  So Bruce prays for his girlfriend, not that she takes him back, but that she be happy.  Bruce prays an unselfish prayer, praying about someone else with no more thought of what benefit it might be for him.

In Acts 2:42, Luke lays out the four foundation pieces for a successful Christian community.  These fundamental elements are not from a model of what should be, but of how the Christian community of which he was a part was.  One of those four essential parts is praying together.  Did you catch that?  One of the basic foundation blocks of any Christian community is that its members pray together.  But why together?  Why does Jesus say that where two or more are gathered together there He’ll be?

The more I think about it, the more it becomes clear to me what Jesus’ reasoning for teaching us to pray like this.  When I am praying in a small group or one on one with someone else, I’m not praying for me.  I’m praying that the person I’m with has success in life, is able to make it through a stress at work, a happy marriage, a sick relative.  I’m praying for that person, but what I’m not praying for is myself.  I believe that Jesus wanted us to pray together because, by asking that God be with those around us, we in turn receive a blessing.  In John 17 Jesus, just before He died, prayed long and hard for His friends, and then He prays for all of us.  Here He was about to die, and He prays for you and me.

I know that for me, when I sat down and really looked at it, I am praying for myself all the time.  God, please give me this, grant me that, and so on.  It’s like sometimes I think God is a magic genie there to grant my every wish.  But by praying for others, it becomes less about what I want and more about what they need.  Does that mean I should never ask God for anything?  No!  But it does mean that when I do ask Him for something, it will be for something I actually need, not some frivolous thing I want to make myself look cool.

By praying for others, we begin to realize what’s really important in life.  I challenge you to look at your own prayer life.  Does it look like Bruce’s selfish prayer, or the unselfish prayer of Jesus for His friends?

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” – James 5:16

At Risk for You!

Posted on by Mike Tucker in Articles | 2 Comments

riskHas anyone every put himself at risk for you? What is the greatest sacrifice anyone has ever made on your behalf?

Early in the 20th century, Dr. Claude Barlow was a medical missionary to Shaohsing, China. While he served the Chinese people, a strange disease broke out among the populace, killing many of them. The disease baffled Dr. Barlow. He was frustrated that he couldn’t find a cure for the disease! He felt helpless as he watched so many die.

So Dr. Barlow came up with a daring, dangerous plan. He documented his observations of the disease, creating a notebook for easy reference. Then he filled a vial with the germs that caused the disease and sailed for the United States. He would return to the place he had received his medical training, Johns Hopkins University Hospital, in hopes of finding a cure.

Just prior to his arrival, Dr. Barlow injected himself with some of the germs from the vial, and checked himself in to the hospital. He trusted that his former professors would find the cure!

Dr. Barlow became very sick, but just as he had hoped, a cure was found and his life was saved. He could now return to China with a cure that would save thousands of lives!

Jesus placed himself in a land infected with a deadly virus. The virus was sin, and it was destroying millions. In order to provide the cure, Jesus placed himself on the cross and paid the penalty for the sins of the world.

Describing the moment of Jesus’ death, Luke wrote:

It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. Luke 22:44-46

 

His last breath was the guarantee that you can choose to live forever. The cure for sin has been found. Jesus’ sacrifice has saved your life!

The Book of Law: Learning About God Starts at Home

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The Israelites are standing on the brink of the land they were promised 40 years ago.  Before entering, Moses reminds them one last time all God has done for them and how best to live a happy and fulfilling life.

Knowing they are about to enter a land filled with people who worshiped all manner of created things (the sun, the moon, the trees, their own sexuality, etc.) Moses reminds his people “The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!” (Deut. 6:4).  This was a very distinct reminder as monotheism, that is the worship of ONE god was unheard of in the ancient world outside of the Hebrew nation.  The Israelites knew that their God was the God, the Lord of the entire earth, the Creator of all.  Like the ancient Hebrews, we also encounter people today who would rather place their trust in different values, belief systems, superstitions, and so on; even inside the church.  And like the Israelites, it is important for us to keep our focus on God because in the end He will be recognized as the ONLY God and He will be King of the entire world (Zech. 14:9).

Moses also gives some parenting advice to the Israelites (Deut. 6:5-9).  We are to love God, keep His commandments in our heart and obey them, and teach our children to do the same.  God put a big emphasis on the importance of the people teaching the scriptures (our Bible) to their children.  God did not say to rely on the priests to do it, and He does not expect us to rely on the church or Christian schools to teach our children about Him.  It has to start at home!  We cannot shirk the responsibility to teach our children about the wonderful God we serve.  There are so many wonderful object lessons in the Bible, and these eternal truths can’t be learned just an hour a week in children’s class!  They are most effectively learned in the loving environment of a God-centered home.

The Jews continue to be very good at making their religion an integral part of their lives.  One of the reasons they are so successful is that what they teach their children is life-oriented, not just a bunch of information, facts, and figures.  They use daily life experiences to teach about God.  If you want your children to follow God, you too must make God a part of your every day experiences.  You must teach your children to see God in every part of their lives as you do, not just those moments you are sitting in church together (because God is not a once-a-week kind of God).

Another reason Moses encouraged the people to teach their children about God daily, in the home, is because he knew they were about to conquer a rich and wonderful land and become very prosperous (Deut. 6:10-19).  This prosperity, more than any amount of poverty the people had encountered, could dull their spiritual lives and cause them to forget about God.  The same is warning holds true for us today.  As we become more successful, it is very easier to become increasingly self-sufficient and our focus shifts from wanting to know more about God to just wanting more.  More HDTV’s, iPhones, sports cars, big houses, more everything…except God.  We may start focusing on our own selfish interests and petty jealousies, which leaves no room to be thankful or give a second thought to God.

Moses suggests that as the people settle down and become prosperous in their land, that they continue to tell their children the stories of their ancestors.  How God parted the Red Sea, lead them through the desert, spoke to them Himself (Deut. 6:21-23).  Not only will this help our children to learn about God and living a God-centered life, but it will help us to keep our focus on God.  And if we keep our focus on Him, He promises to bless us in all that we do (Deut. 6:24-25).

Where is your focus today?