How to effectively pray for your children

Appreciating the sovereignty of God in prayer

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. – 1 John5:13-14

 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. – James 1:5

I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:14-21

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. – Philippians 1:9-11

…we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy… – Colossians 1:9-11

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.  – Ephesians 1:16-23

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. = Psalm 90:14

 

Praying the word

Every Christian parent aches for their children to have a deep and abiding faith in Christ more than anything else. Am I pollyannaish about this? I don’t think so.

I do realize that when things are going well, we tend to be more superficial. That is natural. But when the going gets rough, we tend to move toward the things of true value. Then our true desires for our children come to the forefront. We want them to truly know God and have that deep abiding faith that will carry them through the tough times in this life and on to the joys of the New Heaven and New Earth where righteousness dwells. (more…)

How to have a theological debate

Getting along when we disagree

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

.11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. – James 3:1-5; 11-18

Debating the meaning of Scripture among believers is a good thing. When we engage honestly, we learn, We grow.

I had a delightful lunch yesterday with a young man who is a student at our local seminary. He shared with me that he no longer engages with some of his friends because the engagement with them was just too painful. Rather than fellowship in Jesus, they engaged in doctrinal fights. (more…)

Hitting pay dirt during your devotions

How to find the jewels you want in the Scriptures

Incline my heart to your testimonies,
    and not to selfish gain! – Psalm 119:36

Open my eyes, that I may behold
    wondrous things out of your law. – Psalm 119:18

Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name. – Psalm 86:11

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. – Psalm 90:14

Today I will get practical. I want to share a practice I picked up from John Piper’s book, Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture. I did a short review of the book and recommended you purchase it, and read it, and do it. You know, like Mary said, whatever he says, “Do it!”

We all know that we should pray before our devotional reading asking for God to “bless our reading time.”  Piper gives a particular prayer that has been part of his devotional life for some time. I have adopted it. It involves the four Scripture passages above. They are now taped inside the front cover of my Bible where I can conveniently refer to them and pray through them before beginning my devotional reading.

Let me do a little unpacking of what they mean to me and how I use them.

Incline my heart to your testimonies,
    and not to selfish gain! – Psalm 119:36

This request is designed to change my heart from one that has no lust for the Scriptures. It is for when I am spiritually dry. Actually, when prayed daily, it is designed to prevent spiritual dryness. Lord, keep my heart inclined to your word, let me lust after your word, Afterall, your words are the words of life that can be found nowhere else.

It is insightful that an inclination for selfish gain is juxtaposed to an inclination for God’s word. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” It appears that an inclination for selfish gain and a heart for God’s word are mutually exclusive. This prayer is dangerous for people who are money-motivated. But it is a good kind of dangerous. It will change your heart for the better. (Just an aside note, a desire for “gain” is not the same as “selfish gain.” Profit is always a good thing. It enables generous giving and support to the gospel and mercy ministry. Just don’t rationalize selfish gain in an attempt to convince yourself that you just want “gain” for kingdom purposes. We’ll address this further under Psalm 86:11.)

The key thought: Sovereign Lord, make my heart love your word and not love selfish gain.

Open my eyes, that I may behold
    wondrous things out of your law. – Psalm 119:18

This, I find, is an easy prayer to pray with great enthusiasm. There is nothing quite like seeing wondrous things in God’s word. This is seeing “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” in the Scriptures. Seeing truth for the first time, or having truth refreshed by the Holy Spirit, is a delight filled experience.

Careful, this can cause you to break out in a Happy Dance.

Here there is no downside. This is asking, “Lord, I want to see Jesus afresh today. Lord, show me something of Jesus I haven’t seen before.” This is God’s candy store. This is where we taste the sweetness of Jesus. “Open my eyes, Lord.”

Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name. – Psalm 86:11

This verse has three propositions. Teach me your way, O Lord; unite my heart to fear your name; and, that I may walk in your truth. The purpose of the two requests is that we may walk in the Lord’s truth. This is the “live it out” request. We need two things to live it out.

We need to know God’s ways. I am reminded that God showed his acts to Israel but his ways to Moses (Psalm 103:7). Moses got the inside track, not only did he see God acting on behalf of his people, but he was taught God’s ways, how he works, why he works. He had greater insight than just seeing God do things.

I am all for God’s power works showing up in our lives. I love to see God’s supernatural provision for people in need. I am reminded of an instance a hundred years or so ago when I was in Bible College. We needed $400. For our rent, if I remember correctly. Anyway, I was doing some serious praying about that. Like it was yesterday, I remember answering a knock at the door and seeing a friend who knew nothing about our need. He handed me a check for $400 and said the Lord told him to bring it to me.

More than these kinds of “acts of God,” we need to know his ways.

Secondly, we must have our hearts aligned with the fear of the Lord. “Unite my heart to fear your name.” Our hearts are so fickle and easily drawn away from the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We need to fear the Lord in our hearts. So, we ask God to unite our hearts to fear his name.

Above I mentioned rationalizing our heart motivations. It’s easy to do. Having our hearts united speaks, I believe, to true internal integrity, an honest heart. Honest with God and honest with ourselves. I think it is harder to be honest with ourselves than it is to be honest with God. God knows everything, so why fake it? We can easily be self-deceived. Thus, the deep need to have the Holy Spirit aid us in uniting our hearts to fear the Lord. Lord, don’t let us lie to ourselves.

Knowing God’s ways and fearing his name enable us to walk in his truth. This is a vital prayer for entering a meaningful devotional experience, the kind that will change you from the inside out.

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. – Psalm 90:14

Notice that this is the only one of these prayers that is plural, “Satisfy us,” not “satisfy me.” This Psalm was written as a corporate worship song of Israel so the “us” was originally intended to refer to Israel as a whole.

Everybody wants to live life doing a Happy Dance, rejoicing and being glad all our days. God wants that for us as well. This satisfaction with God’s steadfast love is independent of our circumstances. Satisfaction with God’s steadfast love produces in our hearts joy and gladness, what everybody wants.

Here is how I pray this prayer. “Lord, satisfy Karen (my wife) and me in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” But then I expand it to, “Lord, satisfy Karen and me and our children and their families in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” And I don’t stop there, “Lord, satisfy Karen and me, or kids and their families and our family at New Life Presbyterian Church (where we are members) in the morning with your steadfast love that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” Sometimes I take it one more step to pray for the church universal throughout the earth.

The Lord does want us to rejoice and be glad all our days, so pray for it. This is not a selfish prayer. It is a prayer that will glorify God. We glorify God by enjoying him forever.

For me, this private liturgy has been helpful. I am praying God’s word. How can you miss when you do that? What better preparation of our hearts to enter into God’s word and expect to hear from God?

Maybe that is a good topic to discuss at another time, do you expect to meet with God?

Do you have a regular approach you use to enter your devotional time? If so, I would love to hear about it. Tell us about it in the comments section below, if you would.

 

Worship is not a money making proposition

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body.22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. – John 3:13-22

When Jews who lived some distance from Jerusalem came to the Temple to worship, instead of carrying animals for sacrifice that great distance, they would bring cash and purchase an appropriate animal for sacrifice. This was all well and good and according to the law. However, the legitimate provision of animal sacrifices became a significant money-making proposition for the sellers of animals and birds and for the money-changers. Yes, they provided a legitimate service. But they were gougers, preying of the captive audience. The occasion of worship and prayer became for them an occasion of profiteering without regard for the holiness of their service.

This occasioned the famous Jesus-got-angry scene when he drove out the sellers and money changers with his whip of cords. The incident personified the Scripture, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (more…)

A better covenant built on better promises and a better Priest

Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. – Hebrews 8:1-7

The New Covenant provides total and permanent forgiveness of sins through one sacrifice and one Priest. He lives today and makes intercession for us as you read this post. (more…)

The Resurrection: the linchpin of the New Covenant

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. – Hebrews 11:8-12, 17-19

Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
    when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
    and with the house of Judah,
not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
    on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt…
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
    and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
    and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
    and I will remember their sins no more.”

13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one (Mosaic) obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. – Hebrews 8:1-13

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. – John 14:15-18

In the narrative of Abraham’s story, we find types and shadows of the New Covenant. In a manner of speaking, Abraham experienced the resurrection when he took Isaac to the mountain and planned, at God’s direction, to sacrifice him. This was quite an act of faith for Abraham since God had promised that it was through Isaac that the promise of becoming a great nation was to be fulfilled. Abraham expected to receive Isaac back from the dead. He was anticipating the resurrection of Isaac.

We all know the story. God provided a Ram that got caught in a thicket that would become the subtitute sacrifice in place of Isaac.

This story is huge. Massive truth is held here that ties the Abrahamic Covenant directly to the New Covenant. There are two lines of revelation in this story. (more…)

The New Covenant is “Abraham plus”

Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. 

15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. – Galatians 3:5-9, 15-18, 23-29

The Law was our tutor to bring us to Christ

 

We have all heard the request often made in prayer asking God for “traveling mercies.” If course, it refers to safety during travels. My wife and I have developed an updated version. I guess you could consider it version 2.0. We call it “traveling mercies plus.” If we are going somewhere there is a busy parking lot and getting a decent parking place may be difficult, we jokingly ask for “traveling mercies plus” meaning safety – plus a good parking place.

The New Covenant can be said to be the Abrahamic covenant plus. (more…)

The greater glory of the new covenant

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:4-18

Because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the New Covenant has more glory than the Old Covenant and changes us to reflect his glory better.

The Old Covenant certainly was glorious. So much so that Moses radiated God’s glory in his face after he would meet with him whether on the mountain when he receive the ten commandments or when he would meet with God face to face in the tent of meeting. The problem with the Old Covenant, with all of its glory, was that it brought death, not life. The law had the ability to point out just how far below God’s standard of love we all live but didn’t have any ability to help us uphold that standard of love as expressed through the law. (more…)

Jeremiah’s take on the New Covenant

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

35 Thus says the Lord,
who gives the sun for light by day
    and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
    the Lord of hosts is his name:
36 “If this fixed order departs
    from before me, declares the Lord,
then shall the offspring of Israel cease
    from being a nation before me forever.”

37 Thus says the Lord:
“If the heavens above can be measured,
    and the foundations of the earth below can be explored,
then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel
    for all that they have done,
declares the Lord.”

 

Jeremiah is the only Old Testament prophet to use the phrase, “new covenant.” This new covenant is spoken about by other Old Testament prophets, but they don’t use the phrase.

Jeremiah’s first point in his “sermon” is that this new covenant won’t be like the covenant he made with the fathers when he brought them out of Egypt, that is, the Mosaic covenant. Remember the Mosaic covenant was a covenant of works, “Do this and live.” The new covenant will not be like that. (more…)