Quarantined

A few weeks ago, the word “quarantine” was not a frequently used term in our every day vocabulary. Now it is a repeated visitor in our minds and speech along with the terms social distancing, pandemic, fear, worry, panic, cancelled, closed and isolation in light of the spreading coronavirus.

Merriam-Webster defines quarantine as “a restraint upon the activities or communication of persons . . . designed to prevent the spread of disease; a place of isolation; to isolate from normal relations or communication.”

Someone might say, “What’s the difference between isolation and quarantine?” While isolation serves the same purpose as quarantine, it’s reserved for those who are already sick. It keeps infected people away from healthy people to prevent the sickness from spreading. (clevelandclinic.org/covid-19)

President Trump has outlined a 15-day plan to slow the spread of the virus. The CDC is keeping us informed in real time. This virus has and is changing our world.

There is another “quarantine” of which every believer should be most familiar. This quarantine is the number one way to effectively deal with the virus. fear, panic, worry, as well as the moment-by-moment effects and news of this pandemic.

That quarantine is your “secret place,” the place where you get alone with God to pray. The place where you “restrain upon the activities or communication of persons,” and you share your heart with God and you listen to God. (Prayer is not a one-way communication.)

That “secret place” is where you “prevent the spread of disease” of worry, fear, doubt, anxiety, dread, panic, and stress.

Listen to these words from Psalm 91:1-6

1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”

3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the [a]fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
4 He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and [b]buckler.
5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.

Where is your quarantined, secret place? Perhaps it is kneeling beside your bed in the middle of the night or when you arise each morning. Maybe it’s a special place in your den, living room, back porch, office, or outdoors.

For the Lord Jesus Christ, that secret place was a mountain (Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:46) or a secluded place (Mark 1:35) or a garden (Matthew 26:36) to name a few.

My friend, to have the eternal perspective on this virus, to have a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:6-8), to have wisdom from above (James 1:5), to have a genuine place of refuge (Psalm 91:4), to experience God’s mercy and grace (Hebrews 4:14-16), you must spend time quarantined in the secret place.

We don’t relish being quarantined or isolated in our American way of life. But there is a “quarantine” that you will never regret, and you will long for as the days go by.

I’ll see you at the Throne of Grace!

Five Reasons to Attend & Participate in Weekly Prayer Meetings

In a day when church attendance is waning in America, there is a gathering each week that can be a powerhouse of God’s working and a refreshing, reviving time of community.

In days of old, this gathering was simply known as Prayer Meeting. That designation is still in vogue today but not as frequent. And, even though the gathering may be called a prayer meeting, little to no time is given to prayer.

Without sounding legalistic or making you feel guilty, let me share some reasons why believers should be involved in a weekly prayer gathering.

Prayer connects us with the character of God.

The Lord’s model prayer begins with the words, Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name (Matthew 6:9). Albert Mohler, in his book, The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down, gives us good insight to God’s name being hallowed, “When Jesus petitions God to hallow his name, he is asking that God act in such a way that he visibly demonstrates his holiness and his glory”

How absolutely awesome to see God display His character to His church through prayer and in His response to our supplications!

Prayer connects us with answers from God.

How many times have you quoted Jeremiah 33:3, Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know. Or 1 John 5:14-15, And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 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.

God’s answers are always right. They are always the best for us. They always bring Him glory. They always transcend the work of man!

How absolutely awesome to see God answer the prayers of His people!!

Prayer connects us to the body of Christ.

There are two passages of Scripture that resonates in my heart concerning the early church. Acts 2:42 says, And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then in Acts 12:5, we find these words, Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.

The richest fellowship a body of believers can experience is when they are gathered around the Throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:16). Intercessory prayer unifies the body in marvelous ways around the person of Christ, the glory of God, and the helplessness of man. David Mathis has written an excellent post on this point. https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/nine-profits-of-praying-with-company

Prayer connects us to the Person of prayer.

Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of prayer (Luke 5:16; 6:12; 22:42). Prayer draws the church into the influence of the preeminent One, the Lord Jesus Christ. Prayer leads the church to follow the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4) and Head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23).

Prayer connects us to eternity.

The Church is involved in the gospel ministry of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). The eternal destination of every individual around the world is one second away from reality. The Church needs to gather to pray for lost souls with a passion and a purpose (1 Timothy 2:1-8).

The old hymn, Brethren, We Have Met to Worship says it well:Brethren, see poor sinners round you slumb’ring on the brink of woe;
Death is coming, hell is moving, can you bear to let them go?
See our fathers and our mothers, and our children sinking down;
Brethren, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.

Furthermore, we desire that God’s will be done here on earth as it is in heaven and for His kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10). That’s an eternal viewpoint in prayer!

“Four things let us ever keep in mind: God hears prayer, God heeds prayer, God answers prayer and God delivers by prayer.” (E. M. Bounds)

Will you be willing to make the connections this week in your local church prayer gatherings?

Teammates

Whiteface Mt. New York

A dear friend recently said to me, “Every time I pray for you, I pray for your wife. You two are a team!”

He’s right! We are!

We became a team on June 20, 1981. We have worked through marriage, parenting, ministry, and the stuff of life as a team. That teamwork has had a strong presence in our lives in the past week or so.

Last Monday, while on our way for a supper date, I ran my car through the car wash. As I pulled up to clean out the inside of my auto, I noticed a dear pregnant lady struggling to vacuum her built-low-to-the-ground four-door. Denise and I looked at each having the same thought. Gently I approached the lady and asked if I could vacuum her car. I quickly pointed to Denise to help ease the situation. She was a bit reluctant but then gratefully received my invitation. While I worked through the debris in this lady’s automobile, Denise introduced herself and began a gospel conversation. Every once-in-awhile, I would look from my task and say to myself, “I’m so glad we are teammates!”

Thursday through Saturday, Denise had the rich privilege of ministering God’s Word at Wolf Mountain Camp, Grass Valley, CA. The three days were peppered with texts, photos, and phone calls between us. We prayed, wept, laughed and rejoiced together as we saw God’s grace in action from a front row seat! During her speaking sessions, I prayed. While sharing Christ on the plane with a 39 year-old, I prayed. While Denise listened and counseled with these ladies of many nationalities, I prayed. While leading a dear lady through the plan of salvation and witnessing her transformation by the power of God from darkness to light, I prayed. I’m so glad we are teammates!

The past two and a half years have been a steady trial, and it continues. Some things occurred on Sunday that I permitted to create a spirit of despondency in my heart on Monday. Denise is my cheer-leading teammate. Throughout Monday and Tuesday, she prayed, cared, encouraged, and ministered to my heart. Her cry to the Lord Tuesday morning was, “Lord, would you fulfill Jeremiah 33:3 for Dale today?” By noontime, that prayer had been answered in an Ephesians 3:20 way. Furthermore, when I came home for supper, she had prepared an appetizer to enjoy while she completed her final meal prep. That was her way of saying, “I love you. I’m for you.” I’m so very glad we are teammates!

May I strongly encourage you husbands and wives by the grace of God—be teammates. Work through your conflicts together. Pray together. Serve together. Worship together. Parent together. Play together. Walk through this life hand-in-hand. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Ephesians 5:33). This is teamwork as God planned it. I’m glad Denise and I are teammates!!

Worldwide Intercession

Prayer - Spurgeon

While reading Psalm 61 this morning, the following thoughts came to mind about the far-reaching, awesome blessing of prayer.

  1. Prayer is the response of a fainting heart no matter where I am in the world (61:2).
  2. Prayer takes me to the Rock, the Transcendent Summit, that is higher than any place in the world (61:2).
  3. Prayer is my strong tower and refuge as it places me in God’s tabernacle/tent that can be accessed anywhere in the world (61:3).
  4. Prayer joins me to the heritage of those who fear the Lord’s (past and present) around the world (61:5).

“When prayer is a mechanical act, and there is no soul in it, it is a slavery and a weariness; but when it is really living prayer, and when the man prays because he is a Christian and cannot help praying, when he prays along the street, prays in his business, prays in the house, prays in the field, when his whole soul is full of prayer, then he cannot have too much of it.” (C. H. Spurgeon)

 

It’s Sunday!

BCBC

Have you ever really given some concentrated thought to all that happens in a local church on Sunday?

Sunday is a day of joy, tears, praise, mistakes, sin, confession, forgiveness, sadness, misunderstandings, questions, conviction, conversion, repentance, greeting, fellowship, preaching, truth, testimonies, introductions, singing, forgetfulness, encouragement, edification, communication, conversation, mishaps, announcements, listening, sharing, praying, burden bearing, heartaches, grace extended, mercy given, satanic attack, war with the flesh, victories, laughter, fears, disgruntlement, giving, decision-making, meeting strangers, discipleship, hypocrisy, rushing to get there on time, and so much more.

So, with that in mind, how should we respond?

Without a doubt, before any believer pulls into the parking lot, he/she must spend time with the Lord in prayer!  If able, on your knees in humble, contrite, calling out, dependent prayer before you leave home.

The Church is the Body of Christ, the vehicle God is using today to accomplish His redemptive purposes in this world, and the target of Satan, the flesh and the world.  The Church is not in a defeatist mode because we are on the winning side (Matthew 16:18), and God will do great things in and through His Body (Ephesians 1-6).. But, to be able to work through all the aforementioned things, to accomplish God’s purposes and plans for the local church, we must be in tune with the heart of God, not our heart!

You see, prayer is the declaration of your dependence upon God, your surrender to God, and your life before God.

Matthew 17 records the inability of the disciples to heal a young epileptic lad.  The father brought his case to Jesus to which He replied, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you?  How long shall I bear with you?  Bring him here to Me.  Jesus rebuked the demon and the boy was completely healed.  Jesus goes on to say that the disciples inability was tied to unbelief and a lack of prayer.

The whole goal of every local church Sunday gathering is to “bring people to Jesus; to help them move one step toward Jesus” for God’s glory!  Therefore, to work through all the stuff of a Sunday and not be a faithless generation, we must pray, . . . believing God.  He gives power to overcome our sin and weaknesses and gives power to energize our worship.  He can move mountains!

So, next Sunday in the midst of “all the stuff of a Sunday,” be sure to pray before you arrive at church, pray as you walk into church, pray with others in the foyer before church, pray at your seat, pray along with those leading in worship, pray while the message is being delivered, pray during the invitation, pray with some folks around you at the close of the service, pray in your small groups, pray for your pastors and leaders, pray, pray, pray, and when you have finished praying, pray!

1 Timothy 2:1-4 – First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Ephesians 6:18 – Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Ephesians 3:14-22 – For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Dried Out, Delighted Men

mpa 2019 (1)

It happens every January at Men’s Prayer Advance, the most-anticipated yearly event on my personal calendar.

Thursday afternoon, men from all over the country gather for three days of preaching, praying, and “like-a-reunion” fellowship.  As the congregational singing begins, you can sense that this is going to be good and the preaching will be spot on, . . . but it’s not there yet.

Thursday evening, the singing is again filled with praise and the preaching is convicting and good, but it’s not there yet.

Then one of two major events occurs following the evening service . . . group prayer meetings.  These groups consist of men from their own local church or with various others attending MPA.  We are challenged to gather at our meeting location or back at the motel for a time of “CPR” praying.  Each group prays through three rounds of prayer, which consists of Confession, Praise, and Requests.  Each group is encouraged to get honest before the Lord.  Each individual is challenged to get clean, not cleaner.  As we work our way through CPR, we are in no hurry.  Sometimes, the confession goes around several times and can last for awhile as does the praise and requests.  These prayer meetings can last for an hour or on into the morning hours.  Meeting with God in honest prayer changes hearts, changes lives!

Friday morning, some men are a bit tired from the long night, but all are deeply refreshed and ready for the morning sessions.  The music and preaching are once again stirring and challenging, . . . we are not there, just yet.

Then comes the second most important event of the MPA, the Sweet Hour of Prayer.  Each man is given a folded brochure that will help guide him through an hour of private prayer before the Throne of Grace (Matthew 6:5-8).  For many first-timers, they find themselves asking, “How can I pray for one hour?”  Well, let me just say that this question has been answered many times over the years with simply, “Wow! I ran out of time!”  As men are located all over the campus inside and outside before the Throne of Grace, the touch of God comes upon us, and we can say, “I have seen the Lord!”  Everything changes.  Spiritual vision becomes clearer.  Consciences are clean.  Some trust Christ as their personal Savior.  Homes and marriages are restored.  Phone calls back home are made. Men are revived. (Psalms 51; 85:6; Isaiah 6:1-8)

What happens?  It’s called prayer!  You see, when we first come to MPA, so many of us have been “intoxicated” with all that this nasty world throws at us with its sin and satanic influence that it takes those two prayer events combined with the preaching of God’s Word to get us “dried out” and delighted in our God (Psalms 34:1-3; 37:4)!

Come Friday night, it’s on!  There is an anticipation in the hearts of men that begins with the first song and carries through to the final amen (Psalm 100:1-5).  The praise is glorious, the singing of 750 men is victorious, and the altar is filled with tender-hearted, broken, contrite men drawing ever nearer to God (Psalm 34:18; James 4:8)!

Then on Saturday, it’s time to hear one more message and reflect upon all that God has done in our hearts for His glory.  We know we cannot take MPA with us, but the God of MPA never leaves us (Hebrews 13:5b-6).  We know He will enable us to continue on for Him as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 9:8; 2 Peter 3:18).

You see, that’s why it’s call an Advance!  The greatest advancements we make in our Christian lives are “on our knees” in prayer (Jeremiah 33:3; Matthew 7:7-11)!  As Harold Vaughan reminded us, “How refreshing to be clean in the presence of God!”

Praise the Lord for the Interruption!

Men's Prayer Advance 1
Men’s Prayer Advance 2018, Roanoke, VA

Sunday evening while we were worshiping the Lord in song as a church family, I received a text from a dear church member whose husband was in the hospital in severe pain. As soon as the song was finished, we took the opportunity to pray for this dear man and his wife.

During my visit in the hospital today, I expressed my appreciation for her taking the time to send a text so we could pray.  Immediately she apologized with a bit of embarrassment for the interruption.

At that moment, the Lord brought something to my mind which I shared with them.  Prayer never interrupts our Heavenly Father. Prayer never interrupts the Throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:16).  Prayer never interrupts the work of God.  Prayer never hinders the goings on in Heaven.  Therefore, why should stopping to pray be an interruption in our church services.  We have, I’m afraid, come to the place that in too many of our church services/gatherings our formalism has drowned out the Holy Spirit’s leading to change the service order so we can pray.

When I shared these thoughts with this dear lady and her husband, he without hesitation declared, “AMEN!”

Our churches would be so much better off, enjoying the presence of God, seeing His power at work, watching souls come to Christ, believers being revived, and enjoying the blessings of unity around the Throne of Grace if we prayed more (Psalm 85:6; Acts 2:42; 12:5; 16:16; Ephesians 6:18; 1 Timothy 2:1).

Prayer is never an interruption!

“I Don’t Have Time.”

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“And in the morning, when I rise . . . .”

Really?

Question is, how does any true born-again believer think he or she can live in this present life without spending time at the feet of He Who created life; He Who gives you the ability to walk, talk, breathe, think, act, speak, etc?

Trust is, there is not a moment in our life that we are not desperate for God.  There is not a moment in our life that we are not dependent upon God.

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