Travailing, Prevailing Prayer

“It may seem ‘unnecessary’ to get on your knees for multiple hours each and every day, but, may I remind you that unless someone rises up and says, ‘Lord, I’m willing to travail,’ there are lives, promises, and spiritual realities that will not be born into our day and age. Effectual, fervent prayer is how God changes this world and bestows upon it the beauty, grace and power that He purchased at the cross.” (Leslie Ludy, Wrestling Prayer: A Passionate Communion with God)

Lord, how they have increased who trouble me!
Many are they who rise up against me.
2 Many are they who say of me,
“There is no help for him in God.” Selah

3 But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
4 I cried to the Lord with my voice,
And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah

5 I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the Lord sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me all around.

7 Arise, O Lord;
Save me, O my God!
For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone;
You have broken the teeth of the ungodly.
8 Salvation belongs to the Lord.
Your blessing is upon Your people. Selah

Do your best to put yourself in King David’s shoes as he is fleeing from his rebellious son, Absalom (2 Samuel 15:13-17). Listen to him pray these words found in this psalm. What do you hear? What would you see if you were near by? What would be his attitude? Would you say he travailed and prevailed in prayer? Perhaps read through the prayer again looking for the answers to these questions as well as those below.

  • Do you think he was praying silently?
  • Do you think he was praying nonchalantly?
  • Was his prayer full of “Christianese prayer language”?
  • Was he crying out to God?
  • Did he pray out of desperation?
  • Was his prayer fervent; full of faith and praise?
  • How was his prayer akin to the praying of Jesus?

Friends, may I invite you into the secret place before our holy God through the blood of Jesus Christ to travail and prevail in prayer?

George Mueller said, “It is not enough to begin to pray, nor to pray aright; nor is it enough to continue for a time to pray; but we must patiently, believingly, continue in prayer until we obtain an answer.

Brief Retreats

Last week I celebrated my 62nd birthday tucked away with my wife in a cottage on Watauga Lake in East Tennessee. Besides acknowledging another year of life and my wife making the day special, we went away for other reasons, too.

First of all, just as Jesus went withdrew Himself from the crowds (Matthew 14:23) and went to the mountain to pray (Luke 6:12-13), we as disciples of Jesus Christ need to do the same (Matthew 11:28-30). Two days removed from cell phones, internet, normal life, distractions, and responsibilities is an investment in your walk with Christ that is more than worth the effort. You have time to pray, listen, write, read, and be still. All you need is your Bible, journal, a ready heart, and a quiet place.

Second, marriages need maintenance like many other things in life. No matter if your marriage is humming or in need of a tune-up or a major overhaul, you and your spouse need brief times away to talk, plan, be attentive to each other, pray, read, play games, take a walk, laugh, sit on the porch swing, take a hike and share what God has been teaching you. All you need is place to get away and leave everything else behind.

May I encourage you to plan a brief retreat in the next six months? You need it in your walk with God and your marriage needs it. Sometimes, it’s good to retreat before you can advance.

And What Will We Do?

On this important day in American history, we (born again believers, John 3:16) will and must do what we are to do everyday, and especially today!

PRAISE THE LORD!

I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
2 Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.
(Psalm 145:1-3)

READ GOD’S WORD!

And that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for [c]instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)

PRAY!

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

MAKE DISCIPLES!

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)

LIVE THE CHRIST LIFE!

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

You see, friends, the ultimate daily, lifetime step for every believer is wrapped up in one word no matter the circumstances of this world or who’s in authority . . . obedience. The joy of fellowship and the appropriation of blessings in Christ are revealed as we walk in obedience to our righteous, holy, perfect, loving transcendent Heavenly Father by His grace!

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (1 John 2:3-6).

Monday Mind of a Pastor

“Well, I blew that one!”

“Wonder where __________ was today. I sure missed them.”

“I went too long today!”

“Wow! That wasn’t even in my notes. Thank you, Lord!”

“What could I do better?”

“Why would anyone want to sit under my preaching?”

“I’m ready to get back into that passage and prepare for next Sunday.”

“The Word works!”

“Thank you, Lord, for grace.”

“That illustration was a flop.”

“___________ needs to sing that song again very soon! Powerful lyrics!”

“Need to pray more fervently next week.”

“Lord, if you used a donkey to speak, you can use me.”

“Wonder why we aren’t growing in numbers?”

“Thank You, Lord, for being faithful!”

“Who do I need to visit this week?”

“Lord, I am not worthy to be in this position as a shepherd.”

“How good is was to be with God’s people today!”

“All by the grace of God!”

“Lord, thanks for reminding of the call to ministry!” I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, 26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. (Colossians 1:24-29)

Heart Counsel

We need this for our hearts today! Soak your soul in the Truth!

“Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who delights greatly in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; The generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches will be in his house, And his righteousness endures forever. Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. A good man deals graciously and lends; He will guide his affairs with discretion. Surely he will never be shaken; The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance. He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is established; He will not be afraid, Until he sees his desire upon his enemies. He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever; His horn will be exalted with honor. The wicked will see it and be grieved; He will gnash his teeth and melt away; The desire of the wicked shall perish.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭112:1-10‬ ‭

The Utmost Need of the Hour

This evening, our church family will gather via Zoom to seek the Lord’s face on behalf of those affected by COVID-19 and for protection from the same.

What do you do when life is out of control? Who do you call when you have no answers? Where do you find wisdom that is sure, consistent, and always relevant?

Psalm 86 manifests the answers. Sometime today, read this passage. Read a line or two, then stop and meditate on it. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you. Soak it in. Speak the Word audibly in prayer. Pray with all your heart. Pray desperately, honestly, full of faith.

We must turn from letting COVID dominate our thoughts to crying out to the One Who is transcendent, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.

Bow down Your ear, O Lord, hear me;
For I am poor and needy.
2 Preserve my life, for I am holy;
You are my God;
Save Your servant who trusts in You!
3 Be merciful to me, O Lord,
For I cry to You all day long.
4 Rejoice the soul of Your servant,
For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
5 For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.

6 Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
And attend to the voice of my supplications.
7 In the day of my trouble I will call upon You,
For You will answer me.

8 Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord;
Nor are there any works like Your works.
9 All nations whom You have made
Shall come and worship before You, O Lord,
And shall glorify Your name.
10 For You are great, and do wondrous things;
You alone are God.

11 Teach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.
12 I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.
13 For great is Your mercy toward me,
And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

14 O God, the proud have risen against me,
And a mob of violent men have sought my life,
And have not set You before them.
15 But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious,
Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.

16 Oh, turn to me, and have mercy on me!
Give Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your maidservant.
17 Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Prayer is the utmost need of the hour individually, as a family and corporately as the body of Christ!

Celebration in a Trailer

In 160 days, Lord willing, my wife and I will celebrate 40 years of marriage! What’n the world? How could it be 40 years for a couple of young newlyweds?!?!?!

Well, reality is, it will soon be 40 years.

In our first year of marriage, we celebrated in a special way on the 2oth of each month. Last week I told Denise we were going to do the same thing in 2021. You see, after these many years together, you continue to celebrate! You continue to work at your marriage every day! You dare not put your marriage on auto-pilot! You still have fun!

Our first month’s special celebration, July 20, 1981, did not fare too well. Denise had set the table with our new fine china, crystal and candlelight. She also prepared a new recipe . . . lasagna broccoli roll-ups. The atmosphere was so romantic with the smell of good food and the sounds of love music wafting through our 14×70 house trailer “castle.”

After seating my sweetheart at the table and leading in prayer for the food, we plated the new dish and took our first bite. Well, that’s where the brakes were applied to this dreamy evening. As I chewed and chewed, I needed to chew some more. Can you say, “dry” and “ricotta cheese” . . . a lot of ricotta cheese?!?! Add to this situation that I could hear my dad in my head saying, “Don’t ever say your mom can cook better.” What was I to do? I wanted to extract this snowball-rollin’-downhill bite, but no way at that moment on your first 20th celebration with fine dining! What was I to do?

I looked across the table and saw the look on my wife’s face. Can you spell relief? She swallowed (her bites are never as big as mine), and said, “This isn’t good is it?” Happy days are here again!!

Well, we have laughed about that night many times. Denise continues to make new recipes, and fortunately when it wasn’t that good, we have both agreed. (She is an absolutely outstanding cook). She still uses her china and crystal. We still create romantic meals. We continue to celebrate!

Marriage is an awesome grace-gift created by God. With both spouses intentionally working at it every day and adding into the mix the ingredients of laughter and forgiveness, you will have something to celebrate, too!

Yesterday

Heartbroken. Grieved. Hopeful. Concerned. Saddened. Not surprised. Confident. Driven to prayer.

These and other emotions filled my mind and heart yesterday in reference to the events in Washington, D.C. And, there will be more to come, I’m sure. Nevertheless, along with many, many others who will offer their thoughts via social media, blogs, podcasts, etc., I share these with all sincerity of heart and for God’s glory.

  1. I was born on January 22, 1959 in Marietta, Ohio, at which time I became a citizen of the United States of America. My parents raised me to love and honor our nation, and I do so to this day. While as a five-year-old living in Marietta, I knelt down beside our living room couch at our home located on 318 Sixth Street and received Christ as my personal Lord and Savior (John 1:14; 3:16; Romans 10:9-13; Ephesians 2:1-10). At that moment, I became a citizen of two worlds, the USA and Heaven! The first one is temporal and the other eternal. The first one is made by man and sought to be governed by man and therefore has many flaws. The eternal one is the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10). I say all of that to say this, although I am grieved by the display of sinful men’s hearts yesterday, I am not shaken because my citizenship in Heaven is eternal, righteous and secure in Christ and governs my citizenship here. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself (Philippians 3:20-21). I’m not home yet!
  2. Life has been this way since the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3-4; Romans 1:16-32). There is ONLY ONE remedy and that’s the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. As has been well said for a while now, “The Gospel changes everything.” Life transforming change cannot occur through governmental laws, reform, or programs. They have a degree of moral effect for a period of time but until man’s heart is transformed, laws will change and be added and more programs will be created to address man’s temporal needs. (Here’s a good read on government) That being said, the need of the hour is not reformation but transformation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 precisely spells it out, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. A good example of transformational change is found in 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10, For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. Lives changed by the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) for eternity is the change that is needed.
  3. What I am about to say here is with the deepest of sadness. I am not without fault here but let me bear my soul. While I have called our church family to prayer this week and have noticed that others churches have done the same, I am a bit chagrined and distressed by this call to prayer which is accompanied by a “Really????” in my own heart. As a man and a pastor looking back over almost 62 years, I wish I had given my life much more to a life of prayer (John 15:4-5). Furthermore, one of the greatest disappointments of my life as a pastor is having to beg believers to pray, to attend prayer meetings. We are where we are today because, as a point of reference, the mid-week prayer meetings are the least attended gatherings of the week in a church’s ministry or have been completely done away with. Call for a prayer meeting and a few might show up, and lovingly may I say that when the meeting convenes, seldom is there heart-crying out prayers of repentance, reconciliation and renewal! This link will help us if we will follow Christ and the early church in prayer (Hebrews 5:7; Matthew 14:23; Acts 4:23-31). Prayer is the declaration of our dependence upon God as we understand our desperate condition without Him and without His omnipotent, omniscient work. We as a church are where we are because we have traded the prayer meeting for other religious activities that we must keep propped up by our our wisdom and strength and that meet our felt needs. Suffice it to say, we must begin today to live out 2 Chronicles 7:14; Psalms 4, 40, 42, 86, 102, 142; Jeremiah 33:3; James 5:16-18.

May God help us! May God have mercy upon us!

Listening for the shout, the voice and the trump today (1Thessalonians 4:13-18)!

Sincerely, today, from a pastor’s heart.

How I Began 2021

Sober, silent, sane and secure.

After a good night’s rest, I awoke to 43 degrees and rain. Made the bed and took care of Liza Jane. Then it was time for the morning meeting at the coffee pot. Love the anticipation of that first cup each morning! Glad I was sober and didn’t need it to deal with a hangover due to senseless, undisciplined revelry that included alcohol.

From there, it was time for the best part of the morning . . . the blessing of meeting with the Lord in His Word. Add to that the beginning of a new, yearly journal.

As I read the Word in the silence, Psalm 99 awakened the stillness in my heart with an absolute truth, The LORD reigns (99:1). I paused and let the Holy Spirit speak to me.

That’s it! If I am to have a sane response to all that 2021 will afford, I must live in the truth that The LORD reigns, let the peoples tremble! For all of us who are born again believers in Christ, we do not tremble. We dwell securely in the secret place, in the presence of the LORD Almighty (Psalm 91:1).

How did 2021 begin for me? Sober, silent, sane and secure.

2021 Come Quickly!!

And when it does, what will be different?

Will the passing of the dreadful year of 2020 make your life instantly better?

Does the ball dropping in Times Square automatically change everything into a world of peace and happiness?

What does 2021 promise you?

So, let’s stop for a moment and look to the past. What do you see? The same scenario year-after-year . . . joys and sorrows, fulfilled and unmet expectations, life and death, wins and losses, ups and downs, financial gains and losses, strength and weakness, calm and storms, success and failures, and my list could continue.

You see, it’s been this way since the Garden of Eden. We live in a sin-cursed world with deceitful, desperately wicked hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) that longs to be satisficed with the “husks of this world” (Luke 15:11-16) and the selfish desires within each of us. It is totally impossible to find lasting satisfaction and joy in this world or within ourselves. Everything around us and within us is temporal, fleeting, decaying and dying.

So, what does 2021 promise you? Nothing. It’s just another year of the same.

What hope then do we have? How will we survive? What do we have to look forward to?

The answer is wrapped up completely in a name, in the Person, the very Son of God . . . the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are still in the midst of celebrating a special holiday called Christmas which is all about the name at the beginning of the word Christmas…Christ.

He is the Good News for today, for 2021, for the past and for eternity future!

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.(Matthew 1:21)

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:10-14)

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. . . . He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:16-17, 36)

My friends, John 14:6 spells it out so simply when Jesus said, I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The way, the truth, the life are not things, a better year, a pay increase, being married, having children, or any other ingredient you think you can add to your life to make you happy and/or satisfied. All three of these are now and will forever be a person . . . the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ!

The Way to Heaven and the way of everyday life is found only in the Person of Christ. He desires to have a personal relationship with you for all eternity. The Truth is now and will forever be in the Person of Christ. He is the unchangeable, living Standard. He is the Truth Who will personally guide you into all truth, in the paths of righteousness (John 16:13; Psalm 23:3). And, Life is now and will forever be the Person of Christ. There is no life outside of Christ. You will strive and exist in this life, but true living is only found through the Creator, Giver, and Sustainer of life.

Jesus, come quickly today as I walk with you and you with me (Psalm 1, 23; John 15:1-11; 1 John 1).

Jesus, come quickly and take us home to Heaven where we will truly, finally be home! Then it will all be different; it will all be right; it will be one eternal day of basking in your glorious presence, serving You without sin, sorrow, disappointment, pain. . . the stuff of this life that binds us.

I’m not looking for the ball to drop in Times Square. I’m looking for the Savior to return (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).