Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Beautiful and Inspiring Prayer

This morning in our worship service at Bethel Springs church of Christ, a humble man named David Forsythe led one of the most beautiful and inspiring prayers that I've ever heard. I asked David for his special permission to share this magnificent prayer here on my blog. You will quickly see why I did. Get ready to be uplifted and inspired!


Our Father in Heaven,

We praise you for your marvelous Word, that tells us of your power and might that created the heavens and the earth and all they contain, even the air we breath, the water we drink, and the food we eat. 

From the beginning, you showed us your love for us by demonstrating your willingness to show us your eternal wisdom. Wisdom that provides us with understanding that is essential for life with purpose. We do not walk blindly as those without hope. We walk with the full assurance that we know our Creator, we have purpose, and we have a destiny.

You proclaimed that you created light. Even before you put the sun in the heavens you created light. We also acknowledge that you are light and there is no darkness in you. Such thoughts are too wonderful for us to fully fathom.

You have enlightened us to know your Son who proclaimed that he was the way, the truth, and the life. He also proclaimed that he was the light of the world and that those that follow him shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. Thank you for blessing us with this understanding.

You created us in your image. You gave us a soul. We are so much more than the animal kingdom. We have logical thought, and memory, and conscience. We can ask, “Where did we come from?” We can ask, “Why are we here?” We can ask, “Is this all there is to life?” For you created us to have the ability to think and reason, and we perceive that you created even thought. You created us with the insatiable desire to worship.

This thought—that we are created in your image—is too wonderful for us to behold. But we accept it as truth and joyfully proclaim to a lost world that desperately needs to hear and obey the truth.

Father, help us to respect your word and hold it up as that pure light that provides ultimate truth, hope, and purpose in a world that increasingly denies your Lordship. Help us never to quench the Spirit.

We would not know even your name, or your timeless account of history if you had not preserved your word, though many have tried and are trying to destroy it. Your divine thread of purpose ties the Bible’s books together—they provide us with an account of your creation, your eternal nature, your power, your holiness, your long-suffering, your mercy, your grace, your truth, your forgiveness, your steadfastness, your healing, your love, your protection, your faithfulness, your redemption, your discipline, your promises, your judgment, your intervention in our lives, your hearing of our prayers, and your provision of what we need for physical life and spiritual life. You are awesome—your character is matchless and incomparable. You are the living God.

Father, there are many things we cannot comprehend. But you, in your providence, you have created us to have an understanding that can provide wisdom even for our generation. You had your Word written down by the patriarchs, judges, kings, prophets, apostles, and others in a perfect way that the human mind can interpret. Even the logic that we use to interpret your Scripture is provided to us by you. 

Thank you for providing your Word so we can be at peace with you. Help us to study like the Bereans. Help us to accept your Word as absolute eternal truth. Confound the enemies of your Word with the truth. Help us to skillfully be able to use your Word as the basis for teaching others. Help us never to fight in the battle for the souls of men empty-handed.

Enable us to skillfully fight the battle with the your Word, the sword of the Spirit. We acknowledge that our reasoning without the foundation of your Word is powerless to win in this epic battle of good and evil. For we have heard and believe that your Word is sharper than a two-edged sword and able to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.

And we know that your divine power has granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Christ that called us by his own divine glory and virtue. We acknowledge that we have no knowledge of Christ’s divinity except through your Word.

Lord, help us to walk humbly in your sight that we my see your glory and share the truth with those that walk blindly.

Father we have many requests. Please bring healing to the sick, and healing to the spiritually sick so we can be at peace with you. Continue to forgive us of our sins, as we walk humbly with Christ as our savior—forgiving each other as we walk in the way. Please correct, admonish, and encourage us as we walk in the light of your Word. Bless us as we repent and confess our sins and follow Christ as our Lord.  

Father, in these troubling times, when Christians are persecuted for their faith, with uncertainties surrounding us, please continue to keep watch over us and protect your church from the schemes of the evil one.

Father, in times when the people and even governments promote and legalize immorality, when false religions promote physical conquest of territories, when murderous atrocities are viewed by all peoples and there seemingly is no authority to bring about justice, when democracies provide arms and support to murderous regimes, when nations attack other nations, when freedom of faith is under attack, when murder of the helpless is accepted as a reasonable choice, when children are taught that immorality is an acceptable choice, when military powers promote conquest over established borders, when our peoples are educated that there is no God, and when freedoms that were once enjoyed are denied—please encourage us to remain faithful when the uncertainty of our times seems overwhelming. When we compare history to our present time we know assuredly that you are our only hope. 

Help us to raise our children to know you and the truth that saves our souls. Help us to realize that our faith is under attack and your strength will help us overcome. Help us to be steadfast, unmovable, and faithful to the end and encouraged that souls are being saved every day, even in the midst of the turmoil of our times.

In the name of Christ our Savior, 


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Follow the 5 C's to Build Family Unity

This summer, I was blessed with the opportunity to present a seminar for a church, on “How to Build Family Unity.” It was inspiring to hear feedback from participants regarding the meaning and purpose of family to them. 

Some felt that our families exist to provide safety and security for persons in the home. Others alluded to goals of parental nurturance, spiritual growth, and personal development. However, the answer I was most impressed with was that our families’ primary purpose is to point to God and bring praise to him.

It doesn’t take us looking too far to observe the tragic reality that the traditional family is under attack in America with many evil forces vying against it. Even within the church we often struggle to keep our families together and on track. 

The question I am seeking to answer in this post is as follows: How can we go about building (or restoring) family unity and making our families stronger? I believe that there are at least five important keys to consider, each of which begins with the letter “C.”

The first essential key to developing family unity is “Commitment.” It seems these days that marriages and families are frequently viewed as temporary—even throwaway—conveniences. There’s little-to-no loyalty. Selfishness and self-centeredness can easily get in the way of harmony and happiness in the home.

Whether we’re a spouse, parent, child, sibling (or all of the above), we need to think long and hard about how committed we are to our families’ basic physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. What level of sacrifice are we willing to make for the health and wholeness of our family units? Family ought to walk in when the world walks out on us.

Second is the all-important characteristic of “Compassion.” Why is it that we often tend to hurt the ones we should love the most through our unkind words, pettiness, envy, angry outbursts, and bitterness toward each other? 

To demonstrate compassion in the home means to develop a genuinely caring and considerate heart—one that sympathizes and empathizes with the various struggles, fears, and difficulties we each possess. And it is more than just something we feel; it’s what we do. We must demonstrate mercy and kindness one another, being patient, understanding, and forgiving.

Third is the concept of “Communication.” To communicate effectively necessitates more listening than talking, more concentration than jumping to hasty conclusions, more clarification than condemnation. We must take down our defenses and open our ears and minds so we can take in what our family members are trying to get across to us. 

Listen with your heart and speak with honesty and humility. Reflect back to the other person what you have grasped from their words to give them the opportunity to clarify any misconceptions.

Fourth comes “Compromise.” I’m not talking about compromising the truth or our moral values in any way. What I mean is that everything—within reason—should be open to negotiation in our families. A healthy family will be characterized by give and take. 

Certain spouses seem to adhere to the idea that “It’s my way or the highway!” Some parents are like cantankerous ogres who never consider their children’s legitimate wishes and desires. On the other hand, some children function with a sense of personal entitlement for whatever they want at whatever cost to their parents. We’ve got to strike a balance in our families so that wisdom and fairness prevails in the end.

Finally, and most importantly in our attempt to foster peace and unity within our families, there must be “Christ.” Jesus should be the very cornerstone of our family life, and our homes need to be built upon him as our firm foundation. Our ultimate purpose in our families ought to be to bring glory to God. 

Psalm 127:1 states, “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Let's not take our families for granted!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Growing Old Grace-fully

It has been said, “People are only as old as they feel.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rapid growth in the number and proportion of older adults is unprecedented in the history the U.S. In fact, it is projected that the population demographic of Americans aged 65 years or older will double in the next 25 years to nearly 72 million. By 2030, older adults (or seniors) will comprise approximately 20% of the U.S. population.

Since the time-period of the psalmist, the average lifespan of humans has increased to greater than 70 or 80 years (Psa. 90:10) due in part to better nutrition, living conditions, and medical advances. But how we grow old is far more important than how old we grow. So, what is God’s vision for older adults? What does he expect of us in our twilight years?

First, God wants us to grow old wisely. Job said, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days” (Job 12:12, ESV). While a person’s youthfulness or elderliness is not always indicative of either foolishness or wisdom, we should strive to mature spiritually with time and experience. The lessons of hardship, success, and failure we learn in life should be passed on to the younger. Hopefully the younger will have the humility and openness of heart to listen.

Second, God wants us to grow old righteously. “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life” (Prov. 16:31, ESV). God bless the older person who, day by day, grows more closely into the likeness of Christ. Paul instructed Titus (2:2-3), “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good.” Therefore, do your utmost best to set a Christ-like example for those who are younger. Moreover, elderly Christians ought to provide godly counsel and spiritually healthy advice.

Third, God wants us to grow old serving him. Luke tells us of Anna who, at the age of 84, “did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day” (Luke 2:37). Someone once said, “All I can do is pray.” Really? All I can do? My how we so often underestimate the power of prayer! Just because you may be long in the tooth, doesn’t mean that you should ever retire from the Lord’s army. God is not done with you yet. Your most important, meaningful, and valuable service may still be ahead of you.

Fourth, God wants us to grow old trusting him. God promised his people, “Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you” (Isaiah 46:4). Growing older often comes with numerous challenges—physically, emotionally, financially, relationally, and spiritually. Never take your eyes off of your Lord and Savior. He will never leave you or forsake you.

If we take a quick look at the ancients in action, we can receive much inspiration. Moses was 80 when God called and, although he cited many excuses, he never mentioned his old age. Socrates gave the world his wisest philosophy at 70, and at an extremely old age even learned to play musical instruments. Michelangelo was still composing poetry and designing magnificent structures in his 89th year. He painted the ceiling for the Sistine Chapel in Rome lying on his back upon a scaffold at near 90.

It’s clear that elderly people have much to offer and a lot to look forward to, the good Lord willing. Every one of us has one thing in common: we’re all growing older day by day. The question is not, “Are we going to get older?” but it is, “How are we going to use our wisdom and experience to benefit others as we age?”