Frustrated!

As I began to write this article today on “Frustration” my WIFI network crashed. Instantly, all access to my bog-site, youtube videos for illustration, catchy quotes on wiki-quotes – all gone.

WHY DOES THIS ALWAYS HAPPEN TO ME!!! THIS IS SO FRUSTRAT….

Oh. Wait. There it is, the frustration monster rearing its fuming head.

It doesn’t take much, just one little nudge, and the plans of mice and men have gone awry.

How frustrating.

How fitting that the network would crash, frustrating my efforts to accomplish my goal That’s the verb form of the word. As a noun, frustration is the feeling of irritation or annoyance because of an inability to achieve one’s goals.

What frustrates me? Here’s the quick list:

Choppy internet connections

People who don’t know how to drive, especially at roundabouts

source-1

Constant interruptions that keep me from what I’m doing

Having to deal with the same problems over and over again

My own inability to live up to the standards that I have set for myself.

Now, if you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that all of these, even the internet thing, all stem from my sense of self-importance and entitlement.  People should drive better so they don’t slow me down. Why can’t you do what I told you the first time, the way I told you to. An honest self-critique reveals that I am frustrated most when others don’t do things like I would do them, when my own lack of power and control i exposed, when I realize, once again, that I am not God.

Of course, the scriptures reveal the genuine source of my frustration – my own disobedience and willfulness. In Deuteronomy 28 God warns of His curse upon those who do not obey the voice of the Lord, that he will send confusion and frustration upon them. In Job 5, we are told that the Lord frustrates the plans of the crafty. In Psalm 33:10 we read that God frustrates the plans of the peoples, but the council of the Lord stands forever.

Frustration is evidence that even still His ways are not my ways; that I must continue to die to myself and follow after the Lord.  It is proof that the old man in me, though slain by grace (for I have been crucified with Christ), still rears and rages from time to time.

So what is the solution to my frustration.  Here are some quick thoughts.

  1. “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10). My frustration comes primarily when I am full of myself, insisting upon my ways, and putting myself in the place of God. When I sense frustration building, it is a good reminder to humble myself in the sight of the Lord, to know that He is Sovereign and I am not.  And that’s a very good thing. Nothing can frustrate His councils, not even my own weaknesses and shortsightedness. “He who has begun a good work in you is faithful to bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).
  2. Let Love for God and Neighbor Replace A sense of pride and arrogance.  1 Corinthians 13 teaches, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” These characteristics of love are the exact opposite of frustration.  Let love for God and one another be that which soothes and abates the fires of frustration.
  3. Preach the Gospel to Yourself. Simply trying to replace frustration with love would end up making me more frustrated, because that would be a works-based remedy, and remember, the source of frustration is making myself the center of everything. No, the best cure for my frustrations is always the gospel.  Knowing that Jesus has taken my sin, my brokenness, my failures, my shame, and died upon the cross for me, so that by faith in Him I have new life; this is my hope and peace. Now, if ever there was someone who had a right to be frustrated, wouldn’t it be Jesus?  He is the righteous One, who never sinned, but was sinned against by all, and bore the sins of the world upon His cross. Yet as Hebrews 12:2 reminds us, he, “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” By His grace I am delivered from the curse of frustration of the old life, and raised to joyful life in the Spirit.  Proverbs 3:5-6 teaches, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.  Feeling frustrated? Turn to, and trust in, Jesus Christ for your salvation. He will make your paths straight!

SDG

PS – Here’s the video I thought I’d share on Frustration – can’t help it, it’s Ray Romano and Grover.

I don’t think that word means what you think it means…

i-do-not-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means

Yes, I’m quoting Inigo Montoya from the Princess Bride.

This line has been going through my mind all weekend as I was reading through David Brooks’ book, The Road to Character.  This book was assigned for a reading group that I am a part of, and it was challenging, and lead to great discussion.  In case you’re interested, here is my summary:

The gift of David’s Brooks, The Road to Character, is that the reader can get a glimpse into the struggle of a worldly man to improve himself using entirely worldly means.  Brooks gives the reader a gospel, albeit stripped entirely of the holiness of God, the destructive capacity of sin, the redeeming and saving work of Christ, and the transforming grace of the Holy Spirit. His is a secular, humanist, nihilist, and moralist gospel that, while using religious terms like holiness, sin, and grace, strip them entirely of their meaning and power. His biographies, while interestingly written, betray his own personality: a skepticism of faith, a fixation on sex, coupled with an unfounded optimism in human potential. The Readers Digest version would simply say: “We’re all messed up. Try harder.”

I think what bothered me most about the book was how close Brooks comes to the truth, but how far he lands from it in the end.  Like that one voice in a choir that is just off the note, slightly out of tune, that it makes the spine tingle.

Brooks talks of sin, but in very unbiblical terms.  We are not sinners, we are simply victims of sin.  “Sin is communal, while error is individual. You make a mistake, but we are all plagued by sins like selfishness and thoughtlessness… To say that you are a sinner is not to say that you have some black depraved stain on your heart”* (Page 54).  Brooks does his best to show that sin is something that needs to be addressed, but refuses to identify clearly what sin is. For Brooks, sin is a part of our soul that must be battled in moral decisions.

Our confession clearly teaches us that sin is “any want of conformity unto or transgression of God’s law,” and the Scriptures show us that the “wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23).  We know futility of trying to wage the moral battle in our own strength, because we are “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1).  Our only hope is putting our faith in the sinless one, Jesus Christ, through whom we are counted as righteous in the eyes of God (Rom 4:23-25).

Throughout the book, Brooks also uses the term grace, but it is really hard to get an idea of what he means by that word.  In his conclusion, Brooks writes,*

We are all ultimately saved by grace,” but it’s what follows that makes me wonder if what he means by “grace” is what the Bible says about “grace.”  Brooks continues, “You are living your life and then you get knocked off course – either by an overwhelming love, or by failure, illness, loss of employment, or twist of fate… In retreat, you admit your need and surrender your crown… You are accepted. You don’t have to struggle for a place, because you are embraced and accepted. You just have to accept the fact that you are accepted (Page 265).

So close… and yet so far way.

Grace is that free gift of love, acceptance, and forgiveness that is the foundation of our hope for deliverance from sin, of security in this life and the next. I applaud Brooks in his insistence on grace as that which saves.  But any notion of grace that does not demonstrate the costliness of that acceptance, that is, grace without the cross of Jesus Christ, is a cheap, ineffective, and unsaving grace.

I read this and immediately thought of Bonhoeffer:**

Cheap grace is the preaching for forgiveness without requiring repentance; baptism without Church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchants will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

It is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son… and it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God (Page 45).

Ultimately, Brooks’ book makes me grateful. I am grateful for the blessing of having a Biblical Worldview, a God-centered perspective of the world and of myself.  I am grateful to stand in the Reformed Tradition, with the Westminster Creed and Confession that help me to define and articulate my faith. I am grateful for the saints of God who have gone before me, and who walk with me still, who help me to know the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and to rest in that grace as I continue to battle against sin in my own life, all the while relying on Christ who has conquered the power of sin and death for me.

Let us know what we mean when we say things like sin, holiness, grace, and salvation, so that we can be clear in our witness, and so that we can rest secure in the grace of God for us in Jesus Christ!

SDG

* Brooks, David.  The Road to Character. (Random House; New York, 2016)
** Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship (Touchtone; New York, 1959)

From the Pastor’s Desk

Here are some articles from the past week that have caught my eye:

Preaching the Gospel and the Law: As I continue to preach through the Letter of James, I try to maintain the balance between the Law and Gospel, between grace and obedience, faith and works.  These aren’t contradictory themes, but doctrines that, rightfully understood, go hand in hand.  This article came as a good reminder in the midst of the study.

10 Things to Know About Church Discipline: After a great time of fellowship and prayer with a group of fellow pastors, I was reminded of the importance of the ongoing, faithful, and prayerful practice of Church Discipline.  As this article points out, there are two main types of discipline, Formative and Corrective, and both need to be maintained for a healthy congregation, but also for healthy individuals within the congregation.

SmarterEveryDay: I try not to spend a lot of time on YouTube, otherwise I get sucked into a time-consuming vortex of videos.  Still, every now and then, you come across some videos that are terrific.  I love watching Destin with Smarter Every Day. His curiosity is contagious, and we all should have such a desire to learn and understand the world around us. I love that he involves his families in a lot of the videos too. Enjoy!

Return to Me…

“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;  and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. (Joel 2:12–13)

Last week I shared from the prophet Hosea what is often considered the Gospel of the Old Testament – Hosea chapter three.  It is the story of Hosea redeeming his wife, Gomer, from a life of infidelity and adultery, as an illustration of the way in which God has redeemed His people from their sins and idolatry through His love in Jesus Christ.

Turning this week to the prophet Joel, we hear again the heart of God calling us to repentance for our sins.  The word of the Lord comes to Joel as a message of judgment and destruction in the Day of the Lord. The punishment is extreme, as locusts destroying the harvest, or deep famine reaching across the land.  The Day of he Lord is a day of wrath for the sins of the nations.

Yet in the midst of the destruction there is a call from the Lord, “Return to me with all your heart…”  This is a call to repentance, given to the elders down to the nursing infants.  All are called to repent, that they may escape the coming judgment.

In the two verses given above (2:12-13), I see three keys to genuine repentance:

  1. Repentance is always a response to the call of the Lord.  Notice in Joel that it is the Lord who calls the people to repentance, to return to the Lord.  This isn’t Joel’s pleading with the people, but the Lord Himself calling His people back home.
    This is essential. No one may come to Christ unless the Father calls them (John 6:44), no one seeks the Lord unless He first draws them unto Him. Apart from God’s gracious call, no one would return to Him.  Our repentance always follows the gracious call of the Lord, the effectual call of His Holy Spirit.
  2. Repentance must be genuine.  In the Scriptures tearing your clothes was a universal sign of anguish and repentance, mourning over calamity and distress.  But it was simply that, a sign.  It signified something happening within, a sign of the heartfelt sorrow and grief over sin or trouble. The sign of torn cloths meant little, what was essential was the contrition of the heart.
    How many times is our “repenting” merely a sign, never really reaching to our hearts?  We confess sins, generally, but never bring ourselves to utter those sins that have their hooks in our hearts.  We’re comfortable keeping our repentance on the surface, “God I am a sinner,” but rarely will we get real in rending our hearts, “God, I am an idolator, I am a fraud, I murder with my thoughts and words.
    God calls His people to repent, and that repentance must be genuine and sincere.
  3. Repentance turns us to the grace and mercy of God. We must never forget that our repentance is a turning from sin and a turning to God. A repentance that dwells in the valley of the shadow of death, mourning sin but never getting past it, is only a partial repentance.  God calls His people to return to Him, for “He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Too often we miss out on the joy of salvation repentance brings because we don’t really believe that God will be gracious.  We allow our repentance to make us dour, sour Christians, which is no Christian at all.
    The promise of Joel 3:1 is for all who are in Christ, all who, having heard His call to repent, having turned from their sins, look to the grace and mercy of our heavenly Father.  The promise is that God will restore their fortunes, He will establish them.  As Psalm 126 says, “He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”

SDG

We are Gomer

The following is an excerpt from James Montgomery Boice’s commentary on the Minor Prophets.  I’m beginning this year by reading through the minor prophets first, and was immediately reminded of Boice’s love for this chapter as I read through it today. First, read through Hosea 3, then read Boice’s commentary on the chapter. Enjoy!

Hosea 3 (ESV)

And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.

The Greastest Chapter in the Bible – James Boice

The third chapter of Hosea is, in my judgment, the greatest chapter in the Bible, because it portrays the greatest story in the Bible – the death of the Lord Jesus Christ for his people – in the most concise and poignant form to be found anywhere. Our study of Hosea’s story has already shown that it is a pageant of the love of God for Israel, indeed, for his people in every place and age. But when we ask, “Where in the whole of human history is that love most clearly seen?” the answer is obviously, “At the cross of Christ.” It is that cross and the work accomplished on that cross that is portrayed in this chapter. Hosea 3 shows us God’s work of redemption – the work by which the Lord Jesus Christ delivered us from sin’s bondage at the cost of his own life – portrayed in Hosea’s purchase of his fallen wife from slavery.

Hosea owned his wife. She was his property. He could do anything he wished with her. If he had wanted to kill her out of spite, he could have done it. People might have called him a fool to waste his money on a worthless woman. She might have suffered far more as a slave to some beautiful woman where she wold have been obliged to fetch and serve and carry and watch and never enter into the kind of pleasures that brought her to her state in her first place. Still Hosea could have killed Gomer if he had wanted to. Yet he did not, because at this point Hosea’s love, which is an illustration of God’s love for us, burned brightest. Instead of seeking vengeance, he put Gomer’s clothes on her, led her away into the anonymity of the crowd, and claimed that love from her that was now his right. Moreover, as he did so, he promised no less from himself.

Does God love like that? Yes, God loves like that! God steps into the marketplace of sin and buys us out of sin’s bondage by the death of Christ. We read in our Bibles, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16). We ask, “What does so mean?” The answer is in Hosea’s story. When we see Hosea standing in the marketplace under orders from God to purchase his wife, who had become an adulteress and a slave, we recognize that this is the measure of God’s love.

We are Gomer. We are the slave sold on the auction block of sin. The world bids for us. The world bids fame, wealth, prestige, influence, power – all those things that are the world’s currency. But when all seemed lost, God sent the Lord Jesus Christ, His Son, into the marketplace to buy us at the cost of his life.

Boice, James Montgomery. The Minor Prophets: Vol 1 An Expositional Commentary Hosea-Jonah. (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Books, 1983) pg. 31-36.

The Gift Must Be Received and Cultivated

The Christmas gifts are wrapped and under the tree. Anticipation grows for that day when loved ones will gather together to give and receive gifts. We srimp and save, plan and pursue those things we hope to bring joy to others, and we can hardly wait to see their reaction.

But what would happen if the gifts stayed under the tree, unwrapped, unused, undiscovered? Would they give the joy they were intended to bring? Would the love and kindness of the giver ever be known if the gift is left untouched. How do we show our gratitude if we never receive and take the gift as our own?

While it is unimaginable that our Christmas presents would go unopened, how often do we treat the gifts of God’s grace like that? We hear the promise of the Gospel proclaimed and we tell ourselves, “Well that’s good to know. If I ever need a savior, I’ll know where to turn.”  We treat God’s grace like something that can be shelved and stored for later, and we never really take it in and apply it to our lives.

A. W. Tozer, in his book, The Pursuit of God, writes that God’s gift of saving grace in Jesus Christ must be received and cultivated in our lives.  While never waivering from the teaching on the sovereign grace of God in our salvation, Tozer does warn that it often leads to a “sterile passivity.” Written in 1948, Tozer seems timeless in his analysis of the contemporary stagnation of the Church and it’s remedy.


The idea of cultivation and exercise, so dear to the saints of old, has now no place in our total religious picture. It is too slow, too common. We now demand glamour and fast-growing dramatic action. A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals. We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relations with God. We read our chapter, have our short devotions and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar. (My emphasis. Doesn’t this describe much of what we call “devotion time”? Will the “smartphone” age swipe right for God?!?)

The tragic results of this spirit are all [around] us: shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, the preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasireligious fellowships, salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit. These and such as these are the symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul.

For this sickness that is upon us no one person is responsible and no Christian is wholly free from blame. We have all contributed directly or indirectly, to this sad state of affairs. We have been too blind to see, or too timid to speak out, or too self-satisfied to desire anything better than the poor, average diet with which others appear satisfied. To put it differently, we have accepted one another’s notions, copied one another’s lives and made one another’s experiences the model for our own. And for a generation the trend has been downward. Now we have reached a low place of sand and burnt wire grass and, worst of all, we have made the Word of Truth conform to our experience and accepted this low plane as the very pasture of the blessed.

It will require a determined heart and more than a little courage to wrench ourselves loose from the grip of our times and return to biblical ways. But it can be done… What God in His sovereignty may yet do on a world scale I do not claim to know. But what He will do for the plain man or woman who seeks His face I believe I do know and can tell others. Let any man turn to God in earnest, let him begin to exercise himself unto godliness, let him seek to develop his powers of spiritual receptivity by trust and obedience and humility, and the results will exceed anything he may have hoped in his leaner and weaker days.

Any man who by repentance and a sincere return to God will break himself out of the mold in which he has been held, and will go to the Bible itself for his spiritual standards, will be delighted with what he finds there.

Tozer, A.W. The Pursuit of God. (Moody Pub.; Chicago, Ill. 2006) pgs 75-77.

Growing in Assurance of Faith

I have recently finished reading Joel Beeke’s fantastic little book titled “Knowing and Growing in Assurance of Faith.”  The book has been a tremendous blessing to me, and I cannot recommend it enough.  If you’ve ever wondered if you are genuinely a Christian, or if the doubts and struggles you’re facing seem overwhelming, this book offers treasures from the Scriptures and the Puritans on resting in and trusting God’s grace through Jesus Christ.

Just before the conclusion of the book, Beeke addresses some questions that he often hears, and I thought I would share the first question and his response as encouragement to you.

Question: I cannot deny that I am a believer, but what should I do when I don’t feel close to God and don’t feel very assured that I am saved?

Be persuaded that God wants you to find assurance by resting in Christ by faith; He does not want you to be forever searching for assurance like a hamster on a hamster wheel. Here are eleven suggestions that may assist you:

  1. Pray to God that He will grant you the light of His Spirit and show you that you belong to God and are saved.
  2. Read some of the promises of Scripture – particularly those, but not only those, that have been precious to you in the past – and rest your soul upon them… Pray for faith to believe that all the promises in Scripture belong to you, including those promises that have not been made powerfully sweet in your past.
  3. Flee to the basics of the gospel that Jesus Christ came to save sinners just like you, and all the precious truths that accompany the gospel.  Meditate on these grand truths, such as the stability of God’s enteral election, God’s constant care over you, your union with  Christ through His atonement, and Christ’s continual and effectual intercession over you. And then rest in Christ by faith.
  4. In dependency on the Spirit, examine yourself by some basic inward evidences of grace, such as: Have I learned to mourn over sin? Do I know what it means to truly hunger and thirst after Christ’s righteousness? If you cannot deny that these and other similar marks of grace are your portion, then conclude that you must be a child of God since neither the devil nor yourself can teach you to experience these things in truth; it must be the Holy Spirit working them in you.
  5. As the Spirit to bear witness with your conscience through the Word that you are indeed a true believer.
  6. Use the means of grace diligently, especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer.
  7. Resolve to turn from your ungodly belief, to flee all lusts of the eyes and of the flesh and all worldliness and known sin, and to run the race set before you by laying aside sin and looking to Jesus.
  8. Remember that your identity is found in Christ, by reckoning yourself dead to sin and alive to Him.
  9. Consider the solemnity of what the Puritans called ‘the four last things’: death, judgment, heaven, and hell. Live more for eternity than for time.
  10. Be comforted by God’s faithful track record to you for years and decades.
  11. Pray again that the Lord will bless all the above efforts to regain the stability of your personal assurance of salvation.

 

Beeke, Joel R. Knowing and Growing in Assurance of Faith (Christian Focus Publications, 2017) Pg 177-178.

Prayer Changes Things

“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
(James 5:16)

In all the time I’ve served as a Pastor, I have never heard or experienced such a rejection of prayer as what we hear today in our culture.  With every natural disaster or act of terror and violence (and there have been many), when people offer their prayers, the hurting world more and more lashes out with mocking and derision.

There is a part of me that understands the frustration might come when one hears this.   If I were hurting and someone were to say to me, “You’re in my thoughts and prayers,” but then they don’t pray, or their life is such that everything they say and do contradicts a life of prayer, then I would know that they are just spouting empty words to make themselves feel better and quickly get out of the conversation.  How many times have we heard, or worse, told someone ourselves, “I’ll be praying for you,” but then never a prayer is uttered, and no further thoughts are expressed?  We have, by our own prayerlessness and lack of sincerity, given a poor example to the world of the power of prayer.

But what is most astonishing is the boldness of some today in their outright denial of the effectiveness of prayer.  Most notably, in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, FL, in which 17 students and teachers were gunned down, when our President offered his prayers and condolences for those who were mourning, the “rock-star” astrophysicist and agnostic, Neil deGrasse Tyson, replied, “Evidence collected over many years, obtained from many locations, indicates that the power of prayer is insufficient to stop bullets from killing school children.”

For starters, as a scientist, when Tyson says he has collected evidence, I wonder what that evidence might be. Is it the fact that bad things continue to happen even when people are praying?  That does not necessarily disprove the power of prayer. It may just mean that we don’t know how the prayer has been, or will be answered.

Of course, one shouldn’t expect someone who denies the knowledge of a real and personal God to uphold the power of prayer as a means of communing with that God and knowing the transforming power of God’s grace.  As intellectual as Tyson is, he is blinded by the veil of sin in this world (2 Cor. 3:14),  but ever the ultracrepidarian, he boasts of that of which he cannot know.

Still, as Christians, those who know and love God, and have been commanded to pray, this current cultural resistance to prayer should serve as a reminder to continue praying, but to pray with confidence in the one who hears our prayers.

Prayer does change things

Contrary to Tyson’s bold declaration, prayer does change things, and there is an abundance of evidence. R.C. Sproul, in his book, Does Prayer Change Things? noted the following evidences in Scripture:

  • By prayer, Esau’s heart was changed toward Jacob, so that they met in a friendly, rather than hostile, manner (Gen 32).
  • By the prayer of Moses, God brought the plagues upon Egypt and then removed them again (Ex 7-11).
  • By prayer, Joshua made the sun stand still (Josh 10).
  • By prayer, Elijah held back the rains for three and a half years. Then by prayer, he caused it to rain again (1 Kings 17-18).

I could go on, but there are also the prayers that have been answered in our own lives.  How often have we prayed and found that God has delivered?  Was this evidence taken in to consideration?  How many times has prayer stayed the hand of an angry father, or a desperate man contemplating crime?  Those stories we may never hear, but they are still answered prayers.  Prayer does change things!

More importantly, prayer changes us.  When we pray, the purpose of our prayer is not so much to see the world around us change, but that God might change the way we see the world around us.  Prayer teaches us to look not to wisdom and influence of man for our peace and security, but to trust in the Lord alone.  Prayer reorients our perspective; we may not know why this is happening, or what it all means, but we can know the Sovereign Lord who reigns over all things, and know that He is good, and He is able to work in all things for the good of those who love him.  We may not know the how, we may not understand the why, but we come to know the One who is at the center of all things, who hold all things together, and who has shown His great love for us in Christ our Lord.

So let us recommit ourselves to prayer.  In the face of overwhelming grief and tragedy, may we pray that God would give us the grace to comfort those who mourn, and to weep with them in their sorrow.  And when we say we will pray, let us pray.  Don’t put it off until you get home, pray right then and there.

And let us pray that God would give us wisdom to heal, not the symptoms, but the cause of the sickness in our culture.  No new legislation, no amount of community organizing, will curb the violence and division in our world today. Those are merely the painful symptoms of a systemic problem. The underlying cause is a radical brokenness within our souls that come from sinful rebellion and rejection of God. The only cure, the only hope that we have is the salvation that has been secured for us in Jesus Christ. May we, through prayer, have the wisdom and boldness to share the Gospel freely, and may God heal our land.

SDG