Lord, Teach us to Pray!

“And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” -Luke 11:1

What an amazing statement this is if you think about it.

Just think. This is the Lord Jesus Himself, being God incarnate. His prayer life was tremendous. He didn’t rely on His own power or ability, but that which came directly from the Father. He truly emptied Himself and became a man to dwell among us, and took upon Himself willingly the limitations that men are subject to. As such, He relied on the power of the Holy Spirit and the direction of the Father every step of the way on His mission in this earth, and prayed earnestly without ceasing for the blessing and power of the Father upon Him.

Yet what greatly impresses me is the fact that His disciples noticed something different in His prayer life. He had power in prayer. They recognized that this was the secret of His power. Think of it! They had seen Him cast out demons with a word, raise the dead, heal the sick, cleanse incurable lepers, and many other such amazing miracles. Yet they came to Him and they didn’t ask Him, “Lord, teach us to heal the sick like you do”; or “Lord, teach us to raise the dead like we’ve seen you do”; not even did they ask, “Lord, teach us to walk on water”. Instead, they asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Wow. As amazing as all such miracles were, it appears that the greatest impression was  made upon them by His prayer life!

Today, in modern Christendom, we have hyper-charismatic circles that run workshops and schools that teach people how to do miracles. Just go to their school, and they will teach you how to heal a tumor or how to prophesy to someone you don’t know. Or they have schools nowadays that teach people how to cast out demons, complete with learning how to break generational curses, historical blood-ties, etc. etc. And the whole of these things are far from being biblical. Instead of having workshops to teach us how to operate in signs and wonders, why don’t we have workshops that teach us how to truly seek the face of God in prayer?!

Now I’m not against the operation of modern day miracles. I know God still moves in the miraculous. I have seen it personally. But we shouldn’t rejoice over such things. We shouldn’t rejoice that demons are subject to us, but we should rejoice that are names are written in Heaven. And with the proper perspective, we should focus on seeking the pleasure of God by seeking His face in prayer. We should be seeking His will, as our Lord did. We should be abiding in the Spirit by faith, and maintaining our walk in the Spirit with a life of intimacy with God in secret prayer.

We have to confess it here right now, dear brethren, that often times our prayer lives are pitiful. We don’t spend the amount of time in prayer as we ought. We have a built-in tendency in our flesh to attempt to do great things for God before attempting to wait upon God to enable and send us. And even when we do pray, so many times our actual prayers themselves are pitiful. They are not prayed with the desperation and intensity they ought to be prayed with. They are not prayed with the confidence and faith they should be prayed with. They are often prayed from selfish motives and in sluggishness, even in the best of His saints. I dare not claim to be excluded from guilt here. The flesh is constantly at war against our prayer life, and part of taking up our cross to follow Christ has to do with learning how to deny the desires of the flesh for instant gratification and tangible results and to simply trust God in the invisible. We desperately need to learn to pray, and not just as a one-time deal, but we continually need to be taught by the Lord to pray, because as we progress, the flesh is constantly trying to undo our progress in growing into effective prayer. We are full of infirmities on all sides in bodies of flesh and blood, and need God’s pardon even on our best days. Oh, we need the blood of atonement to cleanse even the most holiest of our actions before God, and to pardon the faults of even our best attempts to seek His approval! Even our prayers would be unacceptable if not sanctified by the blood of Christ! But thank God for His grace, that where we’re weak, He is strong, and He is a compassionate Father who desires to hear and answer our prayers.

Faith-filled, fervent, fiery secret prayer was the secret of the Lord Jesus’ public power. Unlike us so many times, He prayed not with a nodding head of sleepiness, but with strong cries and tears! (Heb. 5:7) I truly believe that His miracles and mighty deeds were an outflow of His times in prayer. And I truly believe that we often have not because we ask not. We would do well to learn how to pray, and to learn to imitate Christ’s example. The disciples knew that the Lord had something special when they seen the amount of time and the intensity with which the Lord spent in prayer, and they seen the effects of it publicly in His ministry. If we want to see souls saved, if we want to see God move in power, if we want to see the saints edified and built up in the church, it’s going to have to start with us learning how to pray. Let’s all go to the Lord anew and ask Him what the early Apostles did: LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY!!!

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The Rapture, it’s Timing, and Matthew 24

I believe in the blessed hope of the rapture of the Lord’s church where the saints of God will be beamed up off of this earth and glorified in the flash of moment to meet the Lord in the air. I’ve heard some come against the term, “rapture”, stating that it’s not in the Bible. Well, they’re wrong and they would do best just to keep silence in such ignorance. While I admit that the exact word, “rapture” is not in any respected english Bible, it is actually the word that is used in the Latin Bible in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:

(16) For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: (17) Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up (“raptured” in Latin) together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Christians were reading Jerome’s Latin Vulgate long before they were reading the respected King James Version which didn’t make its debut in history until 1611. And it is from this Latin Bible that the word “rapture” comes from, and has carried over into our English. The word “rapture” is actually a translation of the Greek word for “caught up” in 1 Thes. 4:17, the word “harpazō”. It literally means, “to be caught up or seized or snatched away by force” (Strong’s and Thayer’s definitions). So, “harpazō” (Greek) translated into Latin, “rapturo”, finds it’s way into English as “rapture”. But the translators of the Bible chose rather to use the terms, “caught up” rather than rapture, apparently for more clarity, because it is easier understood. But “rapture” is certainly a biblical word and a biblical concept, and a blessed promise from the Lord to snatch His church off the earth and claim us as His own to share in His glory. Anyone who denies that there will be a rapture denies many faithful promises of the Lord Himself and sets himself up against the testimony of the written Word of God.

However, while I heartily agree with the fact of the rapture, and earnestly long for the day when my Lord Jesus will return for me (or if I’m dead by that time, to raise up my body from the grave and fashion it like unto His glorious body), I tend to differ with the majority of evangelicals of modern times as to the exact timing of the rapture. Now, dear reader, before you burn me at the stake with the charge of heresy, let me state that prior to the 1800’s, nobody in church history believed in a Pre-Tribulation rapture (that the church would be raptured prior to Daniel’s 70th week and the final 7 years of this age). The idea is absent from church history! So I’m certainly not a lone ranger on this one inventing some new wave of doctrine.

What I actually believe about the end times is not the popular modern day “dispensationalism”. But what I believe is called, “historic Premillennialism” (called “historic” because it is not some new idea). That is, that the Lord Jesus Christ will return prior to the literal 1,000 year Millennial reign and rapture His church at that time, when He returns. In other words, I believe the rapture of the church and the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ at the end of the Great Tribulation will occur at the same time. And there is tons of Scriptural support for this view.

But rather than exhaustively labor to supply proof-texts for this hotly debated eschatological issue, let me just give you a little food for thought. Let me give you a very simple statement from Scripture. I will quote this Scripture and I want you to tell me if that is not talking about the church, the people of God, being raptured and caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Lay aside your theoligical bias and just read it as it’s written. Here’s the Scripture:

“And he (the Son of Man) shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

Now dear reader, answer this question: Is this, or is this not, talking about the church being caught up from the earth to meet the Lord Jesus in the air? You have to be honest. This is clearly the rapture. And notice the similarities between this and 1 Thes. 4:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, Scriptures which are always used to support the Pre-Trib idea. There are angels involved in both Mat. 24 and 1 Thes. 4 and in all three of these Scriptures, the trumpet is involved, spoken of as the “last trumpet”.

Now let’s quote that entire Scripture in context and give the reference, and notice that as we do, the Lord Jesus Himself tells us exactly when this glorious rapture will occur:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: (30) And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (31) And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:29-31)

Does He not clearly say that this event with the gathering together of the church in the air at the blasting of the trumpet of God will be after the tribulation?

Thus we have this (less than) 200 year old debate finally solved with the words of the Lord Jesus Himself! Oh, how much better it is just to find the Lord’s answers on these difficult subjects! Blessed be His name. There is tons of other Scriptural support I could give to further re-enforce this minority view of mine, but I just wanted to give my readers something to chew on for a while. Go to Matthew 24, the Lord’s great discourse about the last days and the great tribulation, and read the whole thing. Look for the rapture in it! It is there, and I have quoted it. But the Lord says it will be at the last trumpet, at the last day.

And as a last note, I respect my brethren who differ from me in this view. Though I believe they are wrong, they are often very sincere in their wrong view, and still love the Lord. And any who have my Lord as their Lord are my friends and brothers, I do not make this an issue of division over fellowship or of a means of contention. There are great minds who differ from my not-so-great mind, and great Bible teachers who believe the opposite as me. I love them, appreciate their ministries, and fellowship with them in the basis of salvation truth. Please don’t write me trying to argue with me on this, while I appreciate peaceful discussions of Scripture in love, I will not engage in any contentious debates. Blessings in Christ.

Just the ponderings of a foolish thing of this world.

Mercy has delivered us from the Lowest Hell

For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell. -Psalms 86:13
Oh, it would do us well to ponder on the great mercy of God toward us, His saints. For remember, dear brethren, that we weren’t always saints. We weren’t always the excellent ones of the earth in whom in His delight (Psa. 16:3). There was a time for us all, when we were yet blind to the things of God, when we were in love with our sin, when we cherished the enemies of God in our hearts in betrayal to the One to whom all our adoration, worship and service was due. There was a time when we were alienated from the life of God due to the ignorance that was in us, and were in fact, enemies of God in our mind through wicked works. There was a time when we did such things as make us now blush to even think of, and we would dare not even mention them all! And yet, the mercy of God was so great toward us! What a thought!

But yet, the mercy of God doesn’t stop there, just at the point of our conversion. It doesn’t cover only our past life. Think now, brethren, of how great the mercy of God is towards us even now! Since He converted us by His wondrous grace, and since we’ve been born again and made new creatures in His sight, though our hearts and conduct was radically changed for the better, we have to admit, and that quite ashemedly, that we have still failed God many times, even the best of us. How many times do we go to prayer and approach the throne of grace in a sluggish, flippant state of doubt in His precious promises? How many times do we fail to do in His service the very best we can do as He deserves? How many times does our tongue slip and speak that which God would not have us to speak? How many times have we contracted dirt on our feet as we walk through the wilderness of this world?  Yet He is ever-merciful, always there to serve us, even us the most pitiful and lowly of creatures, in order to wash our feet again and again in His sanctifying grace! His mercy is so great toward us, for if it weren’t, our infirmities, struggles, foolishnesses, and sins since being converted would be enough in themselves to condemn us for ten thousand eternities on end. But thank God for the precious blood of Christ, which cleanses us from all sin! His mercy is great, which has promised in the words of the infallible testimony: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.

And such mercy as this is too wonderful for me. It overwhelmes me. I cannot grasp the depths of it with my fallible, finite mind. This mercy is so deep that it has reached down even into the lowest Hell and with the grasp of omnipotence has plucked us from the fire. Even the lowest Hell itself, where I once dwelt miserably, was not out of the reach of the infinite mercy of God. Even the chief of sinners hadn’t sinned so much that the mercy of God in Jesus Christ couldn’t forgive and cleanse and empower to turn such a one into the chiefest of Apostles (1 Tim. 1:15).

This mercy can do no other except to leave us in awe, with a heartfelt gratitude for what Christ has done for us. This mercy being so great towards us in causing us to be forgiven much has caused us to love much, and this is why we’re passionate about our Savior. That’s why we live the way we do, denying ourselves to serve His Majesty. There are those who claim to understand this mercy and who claim to have received it, but their lives show no gratitude for it as they continue in the same path they’ve always walked and continue to cherish sin in their hearts and in their practice. Such as these who can run headlong into sin without feeling heartfelt grief have not tasted of the fountain of grace, nor drank deeply of the wells of mercy which shall never run dry. But to us, who have received of this mercy, and grace for grace, knowing that our sins are covered by the blood and we are eternally secure in the love of God, kept from falling by His keeping grace, this mercy to us is no license to sin. We dare not willfully practice sin against the one who showed us so much mercy in love. Rather, having received of His bountiful hand every rich blessing pertaining to life and godliness causes us to earnestly desire holiness, to long after perfect righteousness, to walk in obedience of heart and life, and to live for His glory. The mercy of God is far from being an encouragement to sin, it is an encouragement to sanctification and to pressing on to grow in Christlikeness!

Just how great is this mercy toward us? -I will spend an eternity finding out…

 

Just the ponderings of a foolish thing of this world.
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