Archive for November, 2015|Monthly archive page

The power of praying together

I’m convinced that there is power when churches surmount suspicion and pray together as believers in Jesus Christ.

Prayer is one way we can work together, no matter what our denominational differences may be.

I got a glimpse of that last week as I attended a prayer gathering of pastors and prayer leaders from different churches here in my home city of Ottawa.

We introduced ourselves to each other and began talking about what we feel is important for us and our city.

I was particularly struck by the spirit of confession in the group – especially, confession about wrong feelings toward other believers in different denominations and different cultural groups.

There was also a keen desire to draw closer to God and to be open to his leading in our city.

This led to a time of keen prayer, asking the Lord to build a hunger and thirst for more of him in our hearts.

For me, this was a good start to closer ties among our churches in prayer.

I recall seeing a film some years ago of revival in Uganda during the dictatorial Idi Amin era when many Christians were murdered or jailed for following Christ.

One of the church leaders interviewed said that denominational barriers collapsed in the face of persecution. Believers from different church backgrounds gathered in the swamps and prayed together.

And revival broke out.

Jesus offered this prayer to the Father in John 17: “I pray that they [believers] will all be one, just as you and I are one — as you are in me, Father, and I am in you.”

There is so much for believers to do in our neighbourhoods, in our cities, in our nations.

Let’s join together and pray for God to work his will where we live.

Advertisements

Change: Good or bad?

Politicians, advertisers, and activists of various kinds talk about the value of change – a new government, a new product, or a new and different world.

But change can be threatening for many of us.  Some want to hang on to the world we know, the habits that are familiar, the ideas we grew up with.

I am conservative in my approach to life.  I cling to things I like although I’m willing to change – gradually.

What about change in the Christian life?

God wants to change us – he wants to change us into the image of his son Jesus (Romans 8:29).

And God is working change in me.

When I put my faith in Jesus, God accepted me as his child because Jesus spoke up for me.  Now, he is shaping me bit by bit into the likeness of Christ.

In this case, change is good.  I am growing as a child of God.

But change is not always good in our lives as believers.

We can get caught up in fads.  We can accept as truth the wisdom of the world around us.

Here is where I need to plunge into the scriptures and evaluate whether the ideas being talked about are true to what God wants.  Discussing these things with other believers whom I know to be godly also helps.

Again and again, the scriptures call me to seek God first – not my pet ideas or the current Christian hero.

The disciples really did not know Christ fully until his resurrection even though many had spent three years with him.  It is easy to go down the wrong path.

May the Lord enlighten me as I follow him.

 

Do not fear

The terrorist killings in Paris this week highlight the power of fear.

“Civilian soft targets are the ultimate symbolic targets,” security expert Wesley Wark told CBC news over the weekend. “In the minds of ISIS and related jihadist groups, the objective is to sow sufficient fear and discord through terror attacks that countries will lose the will to fight back.”

That is Satan’s aim in the lives of believers, too.

He stirs up all kinds of fears in our minds in his effort to render us ineffective.  I speak from experience.

For example, there is fear of rejection if we share the good news of Jesus Christ.  Or, there is fear of what may happen if we point out wrongdoing at work.  Or, there is fear for the future of our children in a tough world.

Using Wark’s words, we can “lose the will to fight back” against these fears.

I know that my worries are often groundless.  As others have said, the fears are often worse than the reality.

We read about the power of fear in Numbers 13.  Moses sends out a team of spies to check out the land that God had promised to the children of Israel .

The spies return, saying that the land is fruitful, but the cities are fortified and the people powerful.  Caleb says the children of Israel can take the land.  But the majority of the spies spread discouraging stories because they expect defeat.

The children of Israel accept the majority report and the Lord is angry with them for doubting his promise that the land is theirs for the taking.

So, how should I as a believer react when I’m faced with anxieties?

David tells me how in Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you [God] are with me.”

In Psalm 27, he says: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

I am called to trust in God.  As with so many other things, I am to have faith that God is in control of things and that he will work things out for my good, no matter what problems may confront me.

Jesus’ great promise to believers in Matthew 28:20 was: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

That gives me confidence.

Is God scary?

A friend said this week that it’s scary to think that God is watching us.

My friend is a follower of Jesus and her reaction is something I have felt, too.  We believers often feel unworthy and ashamed of the things we do and we find it hard to believe that God still loves us despite what we do.

The Bible makes clear that those who do not put their faith in Christ will face judgement for rejecting God.  But those who believe in Jesus and what he did for them on the cross will be “free from condemnation”.

I love the words of David in Psalm 103:8-13:

“The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.

For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.”

David is talking here of someone who “fears” or “reverences” God – a follower of the Lord.  Jesus gave his own life for those who put their faith in him.  He died so that our sins – our wrongdoing – would be forgiven by God.

The apostle Paul wrote these wonderful words in Romans 8:1-2: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

Paul is saying that, as believers, we have the power within us to live a god-pleasing life, resisting the attractions of sin.

That doesn’t mean we will always be perfect.  No man or woman has ever been perfect – aside from Jesus.  But when we sin, we can go before God and confess it and we will be cleansed as the apostle John says in 1 John 1.

Then, we can go forward with confidence, knowing that God loves us even when we fall.  Like a father, he is there to pick us up, dust us off, and set us on the path he has chosen for us.  And he is always with us, ready to help when we need it.

I remind myself of this truth regularly.  I believe it and I need to live it.