Tag Archives: Lord

Enrich Your Prayer

“Lord, teach us to pray!” The question came from one of Jesus’ disciples. Not that they knew nothing at all about prayer. But they had been listening to Jesus pray. His prayers inspired them. They wanted more from prayer.

Jesus could have told his disciples that they had no need to learn about prayer. He could have told them that their prayers were good enough. But he did not.

Jesus could have told his disciples that they were unable to improve their prayers. He could have said that his proficiency at prayer was beyond them, that it would be futile for them to aspire to praying like him. But he did not.

Jesus apparently believed that his disciples could do better at prayer. So he instructed them. He taught them a model prayer that we often refer to as The Lord’s Prayer.

Many Christians have memorized the Lord’s Prayer and they recite it individually as a personal expression of communion with God. Believers also recite the Lord’s Prayer together in public worship settings. Using a common prayer enables a congregation to join their hearts in unison as they approach God’s throne of grace and mercy.

Others are uncomfortable with the idea of reciting a prayer from memory. Using someone else’s words can feel artificial and contrived. They prefer prayer that is impromptu, prayer that expresses their thoughts and feelings in their own words.

Did Jesus expect his followers to memorize and recite his prayer? Matthew and Luke each recorded Jesus’ prayer (in Matthew 6 and Luke 11). The two versions are very similar but not identical. This indicates that Jesus expected his disciples to use the prayer as a template.

For instance, the Lord’s Prayer, which should probably be called the Model Prayer, can be divided into two main sections: (1) focus on God’s kingdom and (2) focus on our needs. This basic pattern can give some organization and direction to the content of our prayers. The basic pattern can be useful but need not confine or limit our expressions of thoughts and feelings when we talk to God.

The content of our prayers can come from at least three sources. First, we can use great prayers recorded in the Bible as templates or models without reciting them word-for-word. The patterns found in these prayers can give shape and direction to our prayers, providing frameworks for new content that is personalized to our circumstances and concerns.

Second, we can memorize and recite existing prayers. Doing so is a great way for Christians to share the experience of prayer and to learn from the prayers of other believers.

Third, we can pray without reciting existing prayers and without following any established pattern or outline. Freestyle prayer is certainly a valid approach to prayer. Many of the prayers in the Psalms are apparently impromptu (which is ironic since they are written!).

Finally, we can use hybrid prayers that combine recitation of memorized prayers, patterns modeled by prayers in the Bible, and freestyle prayer that depends on the words of the one praying. By employing all three approaches in combination, the possibilities are endless.

Jesus’ disciples were ready and willing to learn from the Lord about how to improve their prayers. As a result, they learned from the Master about how to talk to God.

We, too, can get better at praying. Like Jesus’ first disciples, we can be inspired by the prayers of our Lord which we read in the Bible.  His prayers create a desire within us to improve our ability to communicate openly and effectively with God.

Prayer is fundamental to our spiritual life. Prayer is our lifeline to the Lord. As we learn from our Savior how to get better at communing with God, we grow stronger spiritually both as individual followers of Jesus and as a church family.

Enrich your prayer.

May God inspire us and enable us to enjoy his presence to the fullest,

Brother Richard

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Christmas and Time: Numbering Our Days

Are we losing our eternal perspective?

Current events have certainly challenged our perspectives and viewpoints on many things. How can we get our bearings and find our way forward with any confidence?

In Psalm 90, Moses begins his worship by acknowledging God’s eternal nature. “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by” (Psalm 90:2, 4, NIV).

In contrast to the Lord’s eternal nature, Moses notes our brief existence in this world. “You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning—though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered” (Psalm 90:5-6).

Then, Moses appeals to the Lord: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (v. 12). What does he mean by the words number our days aright?

Moses is asking the Lord for more than the ability to count the number of days which we have already lived, or to estimate the number of days that we may expect to live before passing away. His thoughts are on quality more than quantity. How will we spend the days God gives us? What will they be worth?

The New Testament also speaks about our days in this life. In Ephesians 5 we are instructed to “redeem the time,” which means to make the most of our days. How do we do that? Why should we do that?

The goal, according to Moses’ statement in Psalm 90:12, is that we may gain a heart of wisdom. The Bible tells us that wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. In other words, we cannot gain wisdom without first acknowledging and respecting our Maker and Redeemer, Almighty God.

True wisdom is more than knowing things or gaining information. True wisdom is knowing how to live according to God’s will, knowing how to live to please God. A life that pleases God is a life that bears fruit for eternity. A life that pleases God is a life that enjoys the fulness of God’s blessings.

Christmas is an opportune time to focus our attention on eternal realities. Christmas reminds us that God himself stepped into history, joining us in this world of limits and choices. In a mere thirty-three years, Jesus lived the most momentous human life in all human history.

Through his life and teaching, Jesus revealed more about God and his ways than Moses or anyone else before or since. Jesus modeled a life that made the most of his days. Jesus taught us how to make the most of our days. Jesus calls us to come and follow him, to discover and experience God’s will for our lives.

As we gather for Christmas, we can step aside from the business of daily life and refocus on the eternal matters of life. We can slow down, allowing God’s Spirit to give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to embrace an eternal perspective on the days our Lord gives us.

May God’s Holy Spirit teach us to number our days aright and gain wisdom,

Brother Richard

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Standing In The Gap

Ezekiel was chosen by God to speak his message to a people who were anxious about their future. Israel had ignored God and disobeyed him for so long that the Lord finally allowed disaster to visit them as punishment for their rebellion.

Ezekiel was with a group who had been expelled from their home, the Promised Land: Judah. They were deported to Babylon, unsure if their lives would ever return to normal.

God’s word came to the prophet, “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none” (Ezekiel 22:30, NIV).

All had failed. The leaders of the people were unwise. The priests had led the people astray to idolatry. The prophets had lied to the people, telling them that they would enjoy peace and prosperity without interruption. The people followed along, content to be misled.

Government and religion, leaders and followers, rich and poor, every group was guilty of spiritual foolishness. God found nobody to “build up the wall” and “stand in the gap.”

The wall around an ancient city was vital for security. In war, the enemy tried to open a breach in the wall. If they were successful, brave warriors inside the city had to stand in the gap and resist the enemy, otherwise, the people in the city were doomed.

In this case, God is talking about more than military tactics. He said, “stand before me.” This is the language of prayer. To stand before God, in this context, means to appeal to him in prayer on behalf of others. The one who stands in the gap must know God well enough to stand before him. And this person must be willing to do so!

God looked for someone to stand before him “on behalf of the land.” The spiritual wall protecting the people of Israel had been breached by the enemy. In this case, it was their own foolishness that had allowed the dangerous rupture in their spiritual condition.

Ironically, God himself was ultimately the enemy. Babylon was merely his servant to bring punishment on Israel. He gave Babylon victory over Israel because of the stubbornness of his people.

In Ezekiel’s time, God found no one to stand in the gap. The results were devastating for Israel. Because the spiritual walls were breached, God allowed the physical walls of the city to be breached. More than that, the walls were completely broken down and the gates burned with fire. Jerusalem and the temple were utterly destroyed. All who survived were exiled to Babylon for 70 years.

Like Ezekiel, we live at a time when people are anxious about the future, wondering if and when things might return to ‘normal.’ But was our normal state one of spiritual health? The questions we face and answers we seek go deeper than medical and economic issues. The power and wisdom we desperately need are more than political and scientific. The core issue is spiritual.

God is looking for someone to stand in the gap. He is looking for those who know him well enough to approach his throne of grace with confidence, seeking mercy and finding grace to help us in our time of need.

May our Lord find many who are able and willing to stand in the gap for the people! May we be those who stand before the Lord on behalf of the land, appealing to God for his great grace.

Brother Richard Foster

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Moses’ Advice for Twenty-First Century Christians

Every follower of Jesus faces three powerful enemies. First, Satan prowls around like a lion looking for those he can devour. Second, the world is filled with sin that entangles and destroys. And third, our own sinful desires draw us away from the Lord.

When the people of Israel were ready to go in and take possession of the Promised Land, their leader Moses knew that they would face these spiritual enemies. So he gave them instructions on living in God’s victory and blessing (see Deuteronomy 6).

Moses said, “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all you heart, soul and strength. These commandments that I am giving you today are to be on your hearts.”

The commandments Moses speaks of are primarily the Ten Commandments, but also the many applications of those commandments in their daily lives. These words of God were to be on the hearts of God’s people.

Moses continued speaking about God’s commandments, “Impress them on your children. Speak about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the way, when you lie down and when you get up.”

In addition to having God’s word on their hearts, they were to have God’s word in their homes, obeying it in their daily lives and speaking about it with their children. In this way they would pass God’s word on to the next generation.

Then Moses said about the commandments, “Tie them on your hands as symbols and bind them to your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

The “gate” of an ancient city was the place of official business, much like the courthouses in towns and cities today. Moses is telling the people that private faith is insufficient. They had to take God’s word into their communities, into the public square.

So, in addition to having God’s word on their hearts and in their homes, they were to have God’s word in their communities. Only with the word of God’s truth would God’s people be victorious over their enemies.

The same dynamics are in play now. As God’s people, we face powerful resistance to God’s eternal truth. We need to carry God’s word into the public square, into our communities. This is our only hope for pushing back the darkness that presses in from every side.

Please notice, however, that we will not have God’s word in our communities until we have it in our homes, impressing it on our children. And we will not have God’s word in our homes if we do not have it on our hearts.

Victory in the public square begins in the heart of each and every believer. Every man and woman of faith must diligently read, passionately believe, and faithfully obey the Bible. Without the sure foundation of God’s word, we can build nothing of lasting importance. With it we will overcome!

May God’s empowering Presence inspire and enable us to carry his word into our communities,

Brother Richard

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Will Jesus Vote for Trump or Hillary?

Wow! What a campaign! I cannot remember a run for the White House anything like this one . . . not in my lifetime (50+ years).

I wonder what the Lord thinks. Is Jesus leaning toward Hillary or Trump?

What is Jesus’ voting record? He had several political choices in his day. He lived in a country (Israel) that was oppressed by foreigners (Romans). One response was to use violent force against the enemy (Zealots). Jesus does not endorse violence.

Another response was to collaborate with the foreign rulers: go along to get along (Sadducees). Jesus does not compromise.

Others tried to work for change by using the system (Pharisees). They did not persuade Jesus to do things their way.

At least one group got ‘fed up’ and withdrew from the whole mess (Essenes). They went out and lived in the desert. Jesus did not join them.

Revolution? No. Compromise? No. Reform? No. Dropping out? No.

And Jesus had great prospects. The people are so impressed when he miraculously feeds at least 5,000 people with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish – they are willing to support him for king (see John 6); what an incredible opportunity! Think of all the positive changes that Jesus could make as king.

Unbelievable. Jesus turns them down. He walks away and refuses to accept their support in a bid for power.

Does Jesus even care? Doesn’t he know that the only thing that evil needs in order to win is for good people to do nothing?

Jesus cares. And his rejection of the ‘mainstream’ political movements does not mean that he is inactive. Jesus is crystal clear about his mission. It’s not about revolution, reform, collaboration, withdrawal, or even responsible political leadership. He came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

By sticking to his mission, Jesus was made to look like an abject failure. His political enemies had apparently won the day. The religious and political powers collaborated to have him destroyed . . . publicly . . . shamefully . . . executed as a criminal.

Hopefully anyone foolish enough to believe in Jesus would be intimidated into silence.

But Jesus’ followers were not silent. Despite the fact that they had no political power or opportunity or prospects, they boldly spoke the gospel truth. They were risking personal destruction, why?

They knew something that changed everything. Jesus does not use the tactics of his political enemies because he fights to win a much bigger prize. Jesus fights the “good fight” for eternal victory.

Jesus’ followers risked it all for the Lord because Jesus did more than vanquish his political enemies. Jesus conquered death. Jesus paid the penalty for sin. Jesus opened the doorway to God’s greatest blessings.

Jesus’ enemies are footnotes in history. In fact, in the 2 millennia since Jesus was born in Bethlehem many great nations, powerful leaders, and influential movements have come . . . and gone.

The next president of the U.S.A will have the ability to make things better or worse for a lot of people. So we should prayerfully and carefully consider our vote.

But let’s not despair. The next president of the U.S.A. will come and go. He or she will not be our Savior (or the Anti-Christ!).

Jesus is here to stay. He need not run for office. He is King of kings and Lord of lords permanently. And Jesus still does things his own way and he always has the victory, no matter how things may look at the moment.

We need not change Jesus’ methods or goals. The Lord’s power is unstoppable and his victory is inevitable. Be encouraged! Be faithful!

Richard Foster, Grace Baptist Church
Camden News, October 22, 2016

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