Prayer Focus: Yemen

Bible Reading: 2 Peter 1-3,  Jude 1

Scripture

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters,make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  (2 Peter 1:3-10)

 

Observation

This set of verses address our effectiveness as Christians once we’ve been saved.  All of us have stories of people who claim to be Christian, but then don’t act very Christ-like.

What is the foul up?  How  is it that we can say the prayer and really mean it, but not show it in our lives?

Great Question!  It’s one that’s reflected and explored in Romans chapters 8-9 when Paul says “What I don’t want to do, this I keep on doing!”.

This isn’t a radical thought, it’s reflected in many other places in scripture, Rom, 12:2 says “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.   Paul addresses this in Philippians 2:12-13, when he says “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling, for it is God who causes you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  The whole “working out” part is this the practical application of God’s character into our nature.  Jesus said that we should be “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry” (James 1:19) and this is the critical moment where we hold our own gut reaction and on purpose exchange that sinful part of our nature, and submit it to the Lord.  2 Cor. 10:4-5  tells us to hold every thought captive.

Application

Have you ever tried to break a habit?  First you catch yourself doing it and stop after the fact and try to make it right.  After a while, you catch yourself in the act of doing it, and change your actions.  Before too long you catch yourself just as you are ABOUT to do it, and avoid it.  Then, finally you realize one day that you only thought about doing that thing, and didn’t do it.  This is basic behavior modification in action.  But it starts with a commitment to stop sinful thoughts and behaviors and exchange them for Godly ones.

The promise is a “rich welcome” in heaven for the long-term.  For the short-term, we will be effective and productive here on earth.  Don’t you want the father to say “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”  (Matt. 25:23) instead of calling us “shortsighted and blind”?

Prayer

Father, I pray for your Holy Spirit within me to activate and change me from the inside out.  I pray for your grace as I fail at this, for your patience with me as I make the same mistakes.  But Lord, I know that you aren’t done with me, that you will continue to work in me as I struggle to submit my will to yours.  I pray I make you happy with my progress, and ask that you find ways to encourage me and keep me motivated.  I pray and ask this in your Holy Name.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:Virgin Islands (USA), Wallis & Futuna Is

Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 1-4

Scripture:

Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you. (2 Timothy 1:14)

The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26 )

Observation: 

This second book to Timothy starts with some wonderful words of personal encouragement, a call to be strong and a reminder of where his help will come from. In the “Rebekah paraphrase” of Paul, he summarizes his main points in this – remain faithful, stay focused, be victorious. Of course, the reminder of Christ’s victory doesn’t hurt either. Paul reminds Timothy that God will reward the obedient. (4:8)

Application:

In this particular passage, it’s not just a list of things to do or not do . . . it lays out the purpose and the means. Why must we not fight, why should be be kind to others? So that those who are ensnared might be freed from captivity. As we live life faithfully and are obedient to the things of God our behavior will look different. Offering a kindness when people expect payback, being patient with people when they make mistakes, listening to the other side of the issues and being able to respond, not in accusation but in understanding . . . these things create opportunities for people to question things – their own behavior, yours, why they do what they do … all in the hope that they might see Truth, respond to God’s voice, reach understanding, repentance, acceptance into God’s family.

Nice thoughts. . . tough to do. . . but that’s why I love 1:13-14 – The sound words – the treasure which is God’s Word – the life and example of Christ, the promise of Sonship, our salvation – that is what we are to retain – and the Holy Spirit is how we guard it. When we are tempted to give into exhaustion, anger, fear . . . anything that would inhibit or hinder our ability to live out God’s word – to keep focused on the goal – not just of our own salvation but the salvation of others – it is the Holy Spirit that transforms us, empowers us, chastises and guides us from repentance to obedience. It’s an uphill battle some days to be sure . . . but it’s not an impossible one . . for with God – Nothing is impossible.. . . just ask Mary.

Prayer:

Father I thank you for your Word which challenges and encourages me. I think of the words of the song . . . Desperate. “I’m Desperate, for every word You say. To know You more than I could ever imagine. I want to see Your beauty, let Heaven come to earth”   . . .but do I want that enough to temper or soften my words, to take the extra time and patience to explain? I am so thankful for who I am today. . . thank you for teaching me and sending your Spirit to counsel, correct and guide me . … I am thankful for growth . . but there is so much more of me that needs your hand of mercy and correction. So many times when I fail.  Help me to see not only where I’ve been and what I’ve come from, but where you are leading me and what is possible. For your kingdom and your glory, Amen.

Prayer Focus: Vietnam

Bible Reading: Hebrews 9-13

Scripture

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25)

Observation

We were not created to live isolated, individualistic lives. We were created for community, just as God exists in community—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are to spur one another on toward love and good deeds. We are to gather together with one another. We are to encourage one another. We are to do life together.

Application

At a time when church attendance is declining and commitment seems to be an endangered species, these verses remind us how important it is for us to get together and live in community. We all need help, encouragement, love, and opportunities to serve others. May we never buy into the lie that we just need Jesus. We need His Bride, too!

Prayer

Jesus, thank You for blessing us with spiritual brothers and sisters with whom we can share life. It is so powerful to receive encouragement, prayers, and love from others who re-present You to me and the world. Community is a beautiful thing—often messy, but still beautiful. Show me how I can be a better brother to my spiritual sibs and glorify You. In Your precious and powerful Name, amen.

Prayer Focus: Vietnam

Bible Reading: Hebrews 5-8

Scripture

11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.  Hebrews 5:11-14

Observation

These Hebrew Christians were still trying to get a handle on who Jesus is and were not yet grasping what His sacrifice meant to them and to the future.  If you look back at the astonishment of the Magi it’s not hard to believe that it was taking the Hebrews so long to catch up.  When the Magi arrived looking for the Messiah; yes, these men from the east knew about the Messiah; they found a city full of Jews who had no idea what they were talking about.  67, or so, years later, when this letter was written, they were still struggling to catch up.  As God’s chosen people, the keeper of God’s Word for millenia, they should have been the experts on the Messiah and teaching about Him to others.

Application

The Church today faces a similar dilemma.  Christians should be experts in the Bible, but more often than not, Christians barely know what the Bible says.  Worse yet, many Pastors today shun strong Biblical teaching in favor of life tips, great music and great videos.  Not that those things aren’t good, but just like donuts – in moderation they add flavor, but a steady diet of them will make you sick.

But before we start pointing the finger let’s take a look at ourselves.  Ask yourself, “Am I learning?  Do I investigate God’s Word to understand what it says, or am I just skimming the highlights to find out what it means to me?  Am I putting what I learn into practice?”

God is the Creator of the Universe, eternal and without measure, and He gave us His Word to investigate; what does that say about us if we’d rather skim the surface and not plumb the depths of His wisdom?  We’ve got milk, now let’s move on to solid food.

Prayer

Lord, I thank you for Pastor Kirk who wants to know more about You and has challenged me so often to do the same.  I thank you for my new friends at The Church who are striving to teach Your Word in all its depth.  Guide all Your people; that we will expand our diet, so we can grow, and learn, and in many cases, so that we will know more about Your Word than the people that don’t love You.  How silly we have become, but how patient You are!  Teach us, Lord.  Amen.

Prayer Focus: Venezuela

Bible Reading: Hebrews 1-4

Scripture

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 2:18; 4:14-16)

Observation

There are two things which make the birth of Christ special. First, He came for the purpose of setting forth an example for us, dying for us, and resurrecting. Second, He came to experience life as we experience life—with temptation, weakness, and need.

Application

Jesus understands every challenge we face—really.

Prayer

Jesus, I was initially awed at your death and resurrection. The events of Passion week are an incredible demonstration of Your love for us. As I age, I am awed increasingly by the rest of the 33 years You spent on earth. Why did You stay so long? Why did You not stay longer? Did You need to enter our world to save us? I am so grateful that You became one of us and that You are with us always, understanding pain, joy, sorrow, grief, anger, love, and hope. I love You, LORD!

Prayer Focus:    Venezuela

Bible Reading:  1 Peter 1-5

Scripture – 

 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  For,

“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

– 1 peter 3:8-12

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen

-1 Peter 4:8-11

 Observation-  How much better would life be if we all lived according to these verses.  If we would all be sympathetic to one another, love one another, and show compassion and humility to each other.  There would be no strife, there would be no need for violence, people would learn that they can trust one another and depend on one another.

Application – It would be nice, but it is definitely not easy.  In dealing with those we love and care about it is hard to be like-minded and sympathetic.  Its much easier to be cold and cutting, to have a sharp tongue and a quick wit than to be gentle and supportive.  Much less, we are to love and show compassion to our enemies and pray for those that persecute us.  But if we can do that, then maybe that enemy becomes a neighbor and a friend.  Moreover, in seeing the love we have in Christ, we might win souls for the Kingdom.

Prayer –  Lord help us to love another, be compassionate and humble.  Help us not only to love those we call family and friends, but help us to love those who persecute us and do evil against us.  To you be the glory and the power for ever and ever.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Uzbekistan

Scripture:Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 1-6

14 Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:14-15)

6 If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters,you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. (1 Timothy 4:6)

Observation:

You’ve become a Christian.  You heard the gospel, you said the prayer and you are now a member of God’s family… now what?  Adoption into a new family means that there are new rules to learn.  Every family has them, even God’s.

I love that we aren’t left to ourselves to figure it out.  He first sent His son, to teach us and show us… then sent the Holy Spirit to live inside us and direct us from within.  The bible says that The Spirit searches out the deep things of God (1 Cor. 2:10).   But He doesn’t stop there, he also provided us with his Word, and books with in it like the one we read today to teach us.

There is a movement within the church to tolerate all kinds of behavior that directly opposes scripture and these “family rules”.    Let’s face it, living a Godly life in today’s culture is very unpopular.  We don’t want to offend, exclude, or prohibit people from coming into the family, nor do we want to seem as though we are narrow-minded or exclusive.  And tragically, this compromises our fellowship with Him when we pick and choose which parts of His Word we are willing to acknowledge and live.

Application:

My challenge to you is to look at the book Paul wrote to Timothy, imagine it was written today… to you.  What sections do you find the most challenging?  What parts resonate and encourage you?  It might feel overwhelming to think of  these standards in your common every day experience,  and you may feel like you don’t measure up.

But let me encourage you to trust that the God who saved you, who has a plan and a purpose, has reasons for the rules he sets up.  The Holy Spirit who lives inside of you and searches out the deeper things will teach you, will be your guide as you navigate the transformation of your salvation. (Philippians 2:12-13).  Trust Him.

Prayer:

Lord I think you for your love.  I thank you for that amazing thing you did in sending your son who surrendered to the cross, and bridged the gap so that we could call you Father.  I thank you for your Spirit, the part of you that dwells in side of us, so that we are never alone.  Holy and Triad God, I ask that you complete the work inside of us that began with that initial prayer of repentance.  Amen.