Thursday, July 15, 2010

Prayer and Faith

“It is not the intellectually great that the church needs; nor is it men of wealth that the times demand. It is not people of great social influence that this day requires. Above everybody and everything else it is men of faith, men of mighty prayer, men and women after the fashion of the saints and heroes enumerated in Hebrews, who “obtained a good report through faith,” that the church and the whole wide world of humanity needs.
Many men, of this day, obtain a good report because of their money-giving, their great mental gifts and talents, but few there be who obtain a “good report” because of their great faith in God, or because of the wonderful things which are being wrought through their great praying. Today, as much as at any time, we need men of great faith and men who are great in prayer. These are the two cardinal virtues which make men great in the eyes of God, the two things which create conditions of real spiritual success in the life and work of the church.”

Source: E. M. Bounds. The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 20. [Chapter 2, “Prayer and Faith (Continued)” of “The Necessity of Prayer.”]

Defeat Awaits a Non-Praying Church

“The church more than ever needs profound convictions of the vast importance of prayer in prosecuting the work committed to it. More praying must be done and better praying if the church shall be able to perform the difficult, delicate, and responsible task given to it by her Lord and master. Defeat awaits a nonpraying church. Success is sure to follow a church given to much prayer. The supernatural element in the church, without which it must fail, comes only through praying. More time, in this busy bustling age, must be given to prayer by a God-called church. More thought must be given to prayer in this thoughtless, silly age of superficial religion. More heart and soul must be in the praying that is done if the church would go forth in the strength of her Lord and perform the wonders which is her heritage by divine promise.”

Source: E. M. Bounds. The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 211. [Chapter 14, “Wonders of God through Prayer” of "The Possibilities of Prayer."]

What Christianity, the Church, and the World Needs Today

“Christianity needs today, above all things else, men and women who can in prayer put God to the test and who can prove his promises. . . . These are the sort of men and women needed in this modern day in the church. It is not educated men who are needed for the times. It is not more money that is required. It is not more machinery, more organization, more ecclesiastical laws, but it is men and women who know how to pray, who can in prayer lay hold upon God and bring him down to earth, and move him to take hold of earth’s affairs mightily and put life and power into the church and into all of its machinery.
The church and the world greatly need saints who can bridge this wide gap between the praying done and the small number of answers received. Saints are needed whose faith is bold enough and sufficiently far-reaching to put God to the test. . . . Never was the church more in need of those who can and will test Almighty God. Never did the church need more than now these who can raise up everywhere memorials of God’s supernatural power, memorials of answers to prayer, memorials of promises fulfilled. These would do more to silence the enemy of souls, the foe of God and the adversary of the church than any modern scheme or present day plan for the success of the gospel. Such memorials reared by praying people would dumbfound God’s foes, strengthen weak saints, and would fill strong saints with triumphant rapture.
The most prolific source of infidelity and that which maligns and hinders praying, and that which obscures the being and glory of God most effectually, is unanswered prayer. Better not to pray at all than to go through dead form, which secures no answer, brings no glory to God, and supplies no good to man. Nothing so hardens the heart and nothing so blinds us to the unseen and the eternal, as this kind of prayerless praying.”

Source: E. M. Bounds, The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 197-198. [Chapter 12, “Answered Prayer (Continued)" of "The Possibilities of Prayer.”]

Prayer and Purity

"A prayerless spirit has no affinity for a clean heart. Prayer and a pure heart go hand in hand. Purity of heart follows praying, while prayer is the natural, spontaneous outflowing of a heart made clean by the blood of Jesus Christ."

Source: E. M. Bounds, The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 158. [Chapter 3 "Prayer and the Promises (Continued)" of "The Possibilities of Prayer."]

"Heavenly Father, may prayer and purity permeate my life so that You are pleased. Amen."

Can You Believe?

"Perhaps you will say that you cannot believe. Even such a statement is a symptom of your lost condition. If you do not believe, it is because you will not believe. . . . Your hard heart says that you cannot believe but the core of that hard heart is a will that is determined not to believe." (Donald G. Barnhouse, Romans, 2.1.59)

Upon reading this statement, I was reminded of an intellecutally stimulating, apologetic-type conversation I once had with a self-professed agnostic. He was thoroughly familiar with the Bible and had even taught it during his career days, yet he commented to me that he "could not believe." I replied, "You could not or would not?" He said, "I can't believe." I quipped, "You can't or you won't?"

"Lord, thank you for the privilege and opportunity of being used by You to share Your wonderful truth with others. Thank You that Your word goes forth and accomplishes what pleases You and it does not return void. Holy Spirit, change the heart of the atheists and agnostics into Christian theists. Amen."

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Prayer for Purity, Humility, Love, and Faith

Thou who art over us,
Thou who art one of us,
Thou who art—
Also within us,
May all see Thee—in me also,
May I prepare the way for Thee,
May I thank Thee for all that shall fall to my lot,
May I also not forget the needs of others,
Keep me in Thy love
As Thou wouldest that all should be kept in mine.
May everything in this my being be directed to Thy glory
And may I never despair
For I am under Thy hand,
And in Thee is all power and goodness.

Give me a pure heart—that I may see Thee,
A humble heart—that I may hear Thee,
A heart of love—that I may serve Thee,
A heart of faith—that I may abide in Thee.

[Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings, Trans. by Leif Sjöberg and W. H. Auden (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc./Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1964), 83.]

Are You Lonely?

“Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for.” [Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings, Trans. by Leif Sjöberg and W. H. Auden (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc./Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1964), 72.]

"O Jesus, my dear Christ, thank You for being forsaken by God and man (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; cf., Psalm 22:1) so that I would not have to remain lonely eternally. Thank You for being the 'something,' or rather, the 'Someone' 'to live for, great enough to die for.' You lived and died and live now for me, why shouldn't I live and die for You? Amen."

To Die Rightly is The Hardest Thing of All

“The hardest thing of all—to die rightly.—An exam nobody is spared—and how many pass it? And you? You pray for strength to meet the test—but also for leniency on the part of the Examiner.”

[Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings, Trans. by Leif Sjöberg and W. H. Auden (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc./Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1964), 68.]

"Heavenly Father, may I 'work the works of Him who sent me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.' (John 9:4). May I be able to say with the Apostle Paul: 'I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.' (2 Timothy 4:7). May I be able to say to You when I see You face-to-face, as did my Lord Jesus, 'I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given me to do.' (John 17:4). And oh, may I hear those precious words from my King one day: 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world' (Matthew 25:34). Amen. So be it."

Speaking and Silence

“Only tell others what is of importance to them. Only ask them what you need to know. In both cases, that is, limit the conversation to what the speaker really possesses.—Argue only in order to reach a conclusion. Think aloud only with those to whom this means something. Don’t let small talk fill up the time and the silence except as a medium for bearing unexpressed messages between two people who are attuned to each other. A dietary for those who have learned by experience the truth of the saying, ‘For every idle word. . . .’ But hardly popular in social life.” [Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings, Trans. By Leif Sjöberg and W. H. Auden (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc./Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1964), 34.]

Always Remember From Whence God Has Brought You

I love the letter that an old Puritan, Thomas Goodwin, wrote to his son.

"When I was threatening to become cold in my ministry, and when I felt Sabbath morning coming and my heart not filled with amazement at the grace of God, or when I was making ready to dispense the Lord’s Supper, do you know what I used to do? I used to take a turn up and down among the sins of my past life, and I always came down again with a broken and a contrite heart, ready to preach, as it was preached in the beginning, the forgiveness of sins. I do not think I ever went up the pulpit stair that I did not stop for a moment at the foot of it and take a turn up and down among the sins of my past years. I do not think that I ever planned a sermon that I did not take a turn round my study table and look back at the sins of my youth and of all my life down to the present; and many a Sabbath morning, when my soul had been cold and dry, for the lack of prayer during the week, a turn up and down in my past life before I went into the pulpit always broke my hard heart and made me close with the gospel for my own soul before I began to preach.” [Quoted in William Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrews Press, 1960), 53-54.]

"Lord, help me to never forget where you brought me from and where You are taking me. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me from my sins and switching me from the broad road toward hell to the narrow road toward heaven. I feel like a turtle on a fence post: I know I didn't get here by myself. "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain . . . ." (1 Corinthians 15:10) Amen."

Friday, April 9, 2010

What is "worship"?

“To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.” (William Temple)

A Lustful, Lecherous Heart

“One of the most powerful stories I have ever heard on the nature of the human heart is told by Malcolm Muggeridge. Working as a journalist in India, he left his residence one evening to go to a nearby river for a swim. As he entered the water, across the river he saw an Indian woman from the nearby village who had come to have her bath. Muggeridge impulsively felt the allurement of the moment, and temptation stormed into his mind. He had lived with this kind of struggle for years but had somehow fought it off in honor of his commitment to his wife, Kitty. On this occasion, however, he wondered if he could cross the line of marital fidelity.
He struggled just for a moment and then swam furiously toward the woman, literally trying to outdistance his conscience. His mind fed him the fantasy that stolen waters would be sweet, and he swam the harder for it. Now he was just two or three feet away from her, and as he emerged from the water, any emotion that may have gripped him paled into insignificance when compared with the devastation that shattered him as he looked at her. ‘She was old and hideous . . . and her skin was wrinkled and, worst of all, she was a leper. . . . This creature grinned at me, showing a toothless mask.’ The experience left Muggeridge trembling and muttering under his breath, ‘What a dirty lecherous woman!’ But then the rude shock of it dawned upon him—it was not the woman who was lecherous; it was his own heart.” [An autobiographical excerpt quoted by Ian Hunter in Malcolm Muggeridge: A Life (Toronto: Totem, 1981), 40.]

Jesus said: "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:27-28)

One of my professors used to say: "The only man who does not deal with this temptation to sin is the one who is six feet under (i.e. dead) or the one who is lying."

"God, have mercy on me, the sinner--the one with the lecherous heart! Thank You for Your forgiving and restraining grace."

Understanding Evil In Our Own Hearts

"The person who understands the evil in his own heart is the only person who is useful, fruitful, and solid in his beliefs and obedience. Others only delude themselves and thus upset families, churches, and all other relationships. In their self-pride and judgment of others, they show great inconsistencies." (John Owen, Sin and Temptation)

"This same point of recognition also awakened the slumbering spirit of journalist Terry Anderson, who had been held captive by terrorists in Lebanon. Anderson said that during his captivity he saw much in his captors that he hated and despised. The more he saw them and talked to them, the more he was repelled by them. 'Yet,' he added, 'in a strange way there was nothing in them I had not also seen in myself.'" [Quoted in Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God?, Dallas: Word, 1994), 143]

"The heart is deceitful and wicked above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings." (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

"He who steals my purse steals money; he who steals my time steals my life."

"While engaged in his study and writing, he was reluctant to be disturbed by casual visitors. When such appeared, [Andrew] Fuller would block the door with his massive frame, deal with them as quickly as possible, sometimes by pointing to a plaque on the wall reading: 'He who steals my purse steals money; he who steals my time steals my life.'"

[Quote about Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) from H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1987), 182.]

The Prayer Life of Jesus

"Since Christ was God, why must He pray?
By Him all things were known and made,
Omniscient and omnipotent,
Why need He ever ask for aid?
Ah! but He put His glory by,
Forgot a while His power great,
Humbled Himself, took human form
And stripped Himself of royal state.

For Christ was also Man; to feel
Man's strongest tempting, and to know
His utmost weakness, He became
Like other men and suffered so.
And touched with our infirmities,
For those few years like us to be,
He still remembers we are dust,
Since He was tempted like as we.

But well He knew the source of help,
Whence comes all power, strength and peace,
In blest communion with His God,
Care and perplexity would cease.
When all earth's sorrow and its sin
Too heavy on His spirit weighed,
Quiet and solitude He sought
And to His Father prayed."

--Annie Johnson Flint

I Know No Other Jesus

"I know no other Jesus
Than He who died for me;
The Saviour of lost sinners,
The Christ of Calvary.

I know no "ideal" Jesus
That human minds invent;
The only Jesus Christ I know
Is whom the Father sent.

That human Christs could save me
Is inadmissible;
My Jesus is the image
Of God invisible.

My Christ is God incarnate
And of the Virgin born;
He left a crown of glory
To wear the plaited thorn.

The Infant of the manger,
The village Carpenter,
The Teacher sent from heaven
To men to minister;

The true historic Jesus,
Who died and rose again,
He is the only Jesus,
That I proclaim to men."

--James M. Gray