The Blessing of the Gift of Prayer

Sharing today from Gospel Relevance.

The Blessing of the Gift of Prayer

by 

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the benefits of being a Christian. There are so many that I hardly know where to start. I can easily write about the gifts of justification, sanctification, or adoption (and many others similar to it). But in this post, I want to keep it simple. I want to focus on a blessing that we may sometimes overlook — the blessing of the gift of prayer.

Isn’t it amazing that the God of the Bible allows his people to communicate with him through prayer?

I think sometimes we take for granted this access we have to God. But if you pause and think about the various dimensions of prayer and just how beneficial this access to God is, it will bless your soul.

The Blessing of the Gift of Prayer

When I think about prayer being a blessing, here are some things that come to mind:

We have 24/7 access to God.

There have been times when I couldn’t fall asleep because I felt restless. During these times, it’s almost impossible to cast your burdens on anyone else since they are likely asleep. And yet, even in the middle of the night when everyone else is unavailable, God is up, ready and willing to hear your prayer.

This is amazing. You might have close family, friends, mentors, and other such relationships where people are helpful to you in many ways. But they cannot always be there for you because they are not always available. But God is incessantly accessible.

The Lord doesn’t need sleep. He’s always awake. You can always go to him — at 2:00 am when your screaming baby can’t sleep, at 6:30 am when you’re anxious and scared about facing the day, at noon when the day isn’t going how you planned. This 24/7, 365 access to God we have in prayer is truly astounding.

We don’t need to use physical words when we pray.

I once led a small group with someone. I told this person I was praying for our group at work, to which the response I received was something like, “God loves cubicles prayers, too!”

It’s true: because God is omniscient (all-knowing), he can understand what you pray in your mind with 100% accuracy, every single time. Yes, using words and praying out loud is essential. Soundless prayers should not summarize the entirety of our prayer lives. But sometimes words aren’t possible, and God gets your thoughts.

Read the rest here.

The Bible: The Word of God

This article was originally written in 1951 and was republished in the March 2019 issue of Decision Magazine.

The Bible: The Word of God

By Billy Graham

This article was originally written in 1951.

The Bible is being discussed today more than ever before. Some people want to get rid of it completely. Some want to keep it just as literature. And many, believing it to be God’s Word, want to live by it. Does the Bible have anything to say to us?

THE CONSTITUTION OF OUR FAITH

The United States has a constitutional form of government. A number of men, after long argument and debate, drew up the Constitution and submitted it to the 13 Federated States for ratification. The presupposition of these framers of the Constitution was that law was absolute.

People in the United States were to be free, for they were to know what the law required and also what the law could not do. They were to know their rights, their privileges and their limitations. No judge was to be unfair but was to judge cases as the law required.

People found that if they knew the law and kept it, they would be truly free. They knew where they stood, for constitutional law made it clear.

The Bible is the constitution of Christianity. Just as the United States Constitution is not of any private interpretation, neither is the Bible of any private interpretation. Just as the Constitution includes all who live under its stated domain, without exception, so the Bible includes all who live under its stated domain, without exception.

God’s laws for the spiritual world are found in the Bible. Whatever else there may be that tells us of God, it is more clearly told in the Bible.

Nature in her laws tells of God, but the message tells us nothing of the love and grace of God. Conscience, in our inmost being, tells us of God, but the message is fragmented. The only place we can find a clear, unmistakable message is in the Word of God, which we call the Bible. 

True Christianity finds all of its doctrines in the Bible; true Christianity does not deny any part of the Bible; true Christianity does not add anything to the Bible. For many centuries the Bible has been the most available book on the earth. It has no hidden purpose. It cannot be destroyed.

The Bible has a magnificent heritage. It has 66 books, written over a period of 1,600 years by more than 30 writers, and yet the message is the same throughout—so clearly that the 66 books are actually one book.

The message, in every part, is straightforward. No writer changed his message to put his friends in a better light. The sins of small and great alike are frankly admitted, and life is presented as it actually is.

THE CENTER OF CONTROVERSY

The Bible has been the anvil upon which the critics have worn out their hammers. Critics claim the Bible is full of forgery, fiction and unfulfilled prophecy, but the findings of archaeology have corroborated rather than denied the Biblical data.

Our faith, which is not dependent upon human knowledge and scientific advance, has nevertheless presented a magnificent case at the “bar of knowledge.”

How many times we have heard someone say, “Why, the Bible contradicts itself!” Very few who make that statement have used the family Bible for more than a storage place for pressed flowers.

The first requirement placed upon critics is that they read carefully every chapter of the Bible. They ought also to know something about how we got our Bible, the miracle of its writing. Biblical history is fascinating and makes us appreciate the Book that has been preserved for us to this day.

If you are setting yourself up as a critic, it is your responsibility to read and know both sides of the question. It is significant that very few Bible critics have bothered themselves to read the literature available on the defense of the Bible, much less the Bible itself.

The Bible will always be the center of controversy.

Read the rest here.

The Greatest Archaeological Discovery of the 20th Century

Sharing today from The Gospel Coalition.

The Greatest Archaeological Discovery of the 20th Century:

An Interview with a Renowned Expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls

By Justin Taylor

Since 1991Weston W. Fields (PhD, Hebrew University) has been the executive director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation as well as the director of Dead Sea Scrolls Publications. Brill has published his 600-page monograph, The Dead Seas Scrolls: A Full History, along with his The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Short HistorySince 1999 he has traveled throughout the Middle East, Europe, and the United States, interviewing all of the first generation of Dead Sea Scroll scholars who were then still alive, including those who discovered scrolls in the 1950s or were the first to examine and reconstruct them.

The following interview is adapted with permission from an article he wrote for the Dead Sea Scroll Foundation website.


How significant was the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls?

The Dead Sea Scrolls are considered by many to be the single most important archaeological manuscript find of the 20th century.

How many documents are we talking about?

They represent more than 1,400 original documents, some complete or nearly complete (such as the Great Isaiah Scroll), but many quite fragmentary. There are about 100,000 fragments in all.

How big did the scrolls get?

Some of the larger scrolls stretch as long as 30 feet. The Isaiah scroll is approximately seven meters long (23 feet) and is made up of 17 parchment sheets, sewn end to end.

Read the rest here.

No Good, No More

No Good, No More  

 By Pat Knight

It is a familiar sight during the spring clean-up season in Maine to observe small trailers bumping and squeaking along behind personal vehicles, transporting fallen tree and yard debris to the local compactor site. From the monumental piles of deteriorating natural matter, gardeners will eventually back their trailers up for a load of rich, composted material to be used as organic fertilizer. 

In our disposable world-view, there is little that has not been discarded for a superior model. Vehicles, houses, and large equipment depreciate with time until they are trashed, torn down, or sold for scrap metal. Although most communities have embraced a vigorous recycling program, it will take many more decades of reduce/recycle/reuse efforts to clean our environment and find beneficial solutions for all cast away materials. 

To believe unborn humans are disposable is undefendable. God creates each person in His own image, setting the birth and death dates in advance. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2). Men have chosen to disregard their Creator’s authority by promoting abortion and physician-assisted suicide.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me where written in your book before they came to be” (Psalm 139:13, 15- 16). The combination of facts is not happenstance. God alone sovereignly creates and perpetuates our lives.

That which God has revered, man has despised. God appoints the length of each person’s life; mankind has struggled to capture the decision-making. As humans place a stranglehold on determining life span, we are rejecting God’s omnipotence; ignoring God’s supreme power and authority. God knows all things before they happen. He knew us before we were born; all our days were ordained before conception.

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you;
before you were born I set you apart”
(Jeremiah 1:5).

God creates all life on earth. From one cell to a complex organism equipped to maintain life independently, God oversees our growth and development. He establishes physical and emotional life and breathes a soul into our being. When a life is devalued and destroyed by man before birth, there is rarely justification for the action. God grieves when His children are cast aside or thrown away. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). We are God’s dwelling place where He resides in our hearts as an integral part of our lives. To destroy life is an offense that is punishable by God.

“You, Lord, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked, who freely strut about when what is vile is honored by the human race” (Psalm 12:7-8). God clearly calls men wicked who distort His laws and purposes. “Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:8b). Our lives are not our own; we are children of the living, loving God. “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.’  They are corrupt, their deeds are vile. Do these evildoers know nothing? They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on the Lord” (Psalm 14:1, 4). It is unconscionable to disdain the exalted.

Oh, how depraved the human heart that guides hands to scrape a fetus from inside its protected, warm, life-sustaining womb, tossing the body parts aside with an arrogant attitude toward God who has assigned life! “Your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:14).

The growing perceived need to legally allow suffering people to end their lives prematurely is a dangerous movement. God is actively involved in every aspect of our lives, desiring what is best for us. He loves us beyond measure. He promises safety and protection for believers, but nowhere in God’s Word is the believer promised an easy life. We are told to expect hardship, suffering, and persecution. At times God allows us to experience trials to teach us to lean upon Him for strength; silencing our motors of everyday activity; setting us aside for a period of time so we can best hear His voice and focus on a closer walk with Him. 

Eliminating a life to assuage pain is not the answer to physical or emotional agony. God promises His presence, His help, and His comfort. Jude tells us that there are “‘Ungodly people who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude 4). Wickedness prevails where God does not reside in hearts.

We will face no affliction that Jesus did not experience when He ministered on earth. Our Savior prayed so earnestly and agonized so completely the night before His crucifixion that “His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). An angel appeared from heaven to lavish Jesus with the strength to suffer humiliation, abuse, and pain to redeem mankind on the cross. Now our Savior advocates for us during our trials.

Just as God sent an angel to empower Jesus, He promises to exchange our weakness for His strength, interceding for us in the same manner in which He did for His Son. Unlimited power and strength are available simply by asking. A call to God for help brings answers every time. His angels still minister to us today.

Though it will require a collaborative effort to clean up the environment by recycling disposables, the human body need not be among them. In spite of pain or inconvenience we may experience, we serve a God who loves and cares for us, who promises to provide spiritual victory to comfort suffering. “He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone” (Lamentations 3:32-33). What a resource and a safety net for us when we are hurting! Pray for God’s help, for He will always provide that which He promises.

Who Was the Apostle Paul?

Today I’m sharing from Overview Bible.

Who Was the Apostle Paul?

By

The Apostle Paul was one of the most influential leaders of the early Christian church. He played a crucial role in spreading the gospel to the Gentiles (non-Jews) during the first century, and his missionary journeys took him all throughout the Roman empire.

Paul started more than a dozen churches, and he’s traditionally considered the author of 13 books of the Biblemore than any other biblical writer. For this reason, Saint Paul is often considered one of the most influential people in history. He had a greater impact on the world’s religious landscape than any other person besides Jesus, and perhaps Muhammad.

But before he was known as a tireless champion of Christianity, Paul was actually known for persecuting Christians. The Book of Acts tells us that Paul was even present at the death of the first Christian martyr—where he “approved the stoning of Stephen” (Acts 8:1).

Over the last two millennia, countless books have been written about Paul and his teachings. In this beginner’s guide, we’ll explore the basics of what we know—and don’t know—about this important biblical figure.

Read the rest here.

Looking For Jesus

Sharing today from Bible Engager’s Blog

LOOKING FOR JESUS

How to find Christ in the Old Testament

By Liz Wann

When I was a kid, I looked for Waldo. That guy with the red hat, red-striped shirt, and hipster looking glasses. He was elusive, but I was Sherlock. I would scan the overcrowded picture from top to bottom, left to right, and look for anything that was red. Some pages in the Where’s Waldo? books were easy, but some were difficult. Yet every time I would come back after giving up, I’d find his eyes, with those large black glasses, staring back at me. Even when I couldn’t find him, he was always there and (creepy enough) he was always staring right at me.

In the same way that Waldo is not likely to be discovered without effort and focus, so too we must search for Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. Like Where’s Waldo?, there are techniques and strategies that can help us see Christ in the Old Testament. There are clues left behind like a trail of breadcrumbs for us to follow. We tend to think of Jesus only showing up in the New Testament. But he is there, like Waldo, in the Old as well.

The unfolding plan

The major story of the Old Testament is about God choosing and setting aside a people for himself (the Israelites) and continually preserving them. The story is told through a variety of literary genres, such as sweeping historical narratives, prophecies, poetry, and proverbs. In the New Testament, the focus narrows to historical accounts of Jesus’s life and the lives of his first followers, including their letters and reflections on who Jesus is and what that means.

Many people claim that the Old and New Testaments differ greatly in their depiction of God. They think of God as full of love and mercy in the New Testament, and full of wrath, anger, and punishment in the Old. But it’s not that clear cut. God is a God of wrath and mercy throughout the entire Bible, with the climax of his wrath and mercy being poured out at the cross. The common thread running through both sections of the Bible is God’s plan to save humanity from sin’s degradation. The stories, prophecies, and people in the Old Testament point us to a coming Savior who will cleanse us of our sins—Jesus, a better Adam, a better Moses, and a better David. If the New Testament is the part of the Bible where all of God’s promises are fulfilled in Jesus, then the Old Testament is getting us ready for his coming.

Read the rest here.

Scrap Paper

I  have an update on Pat’s new book, which looks like it will be published this year in late summer or possibly in the fall. After much prayer, she has decided to name it “Feast of Joy.” I have already written an enthusiastic endorsement for the back cover and am really looking forward to reading this addition to her joyful series of books. Pat is also the author of Rejoice! and Pure Joy, both of which can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook, eBay and XulonPress.

Scrap Paper

By Pat Knight

The paper is now yellow and tattered with only one sentence written repeatedly on both the front and back. It was more than fifty years ago when I wrote determinedly until there was no space left near the torn edges. Recently I have taken steps to preserve the relic by laminating it. Now the sentiment of my past remains safely tucked inside my Bible as a poignant reminder of the exceptional, unexpected methods God devises to draw me to His side.

I clearly recall the frustration I felt when I sat at my desk in my college dorm room staring at a monumental stack of books written in a new and unfamiliar language. I had managed to complete three weeks of the first semester. Now my assignments were piling up, and my only reaction was defeat. Many miles from home in an alien city, I was lonely. I had met many new friends, but unlike me, they all exuded confidence. Was there anyone experiencing the disarray of emotions I was feeling? I was overcome with a sense of helplessness that I feared would lead to certain failure.

With the last shred of emotional energy remaining that evening I grabbed my Bible and adroitly flipped to a favorite, reassuring verse. There was no need to find the passage; I had memorized it long ago. As I pondered the verse, I began scribbling on a random piece of paper. I prayed the words of the verse as I wrote, as if putting the promise in my own handwriting would transplant them in my mind this night. The apostle Paul admitted, “‘I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me’” (Philippians 4:13, KJV). I was scribbling feverishly and ultimately covered the half piece of paper, front and back, for a total of eighteen repetitions. Completely spent, I then plopped into bed. No homework was done that night. But, I had a new commitment. I would make it through college with Jesus at my side, empowering me each step of the way.

Though that experience occurred in my youth many decades ago, it left me with an impressionable lesson. Philippians 4:13 was my new goal. I have used it often and with conviction. God proved that He and I could accomplish anything together that conforms to His will.

When Paul was a prisoner in Rome, he penned a letter to his fellow Christians in Philippi. If Paul grasped the reality of God’s promises from prison, surely I could acknowledge God’s interaction in my own life, to be and to do what He establishes as my goals every day. “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

The Old Testament reveals that due to disobedience, God allowed the Israelites to be captured and enslaved by the Egyptians. As a result of their outcry, after four hundred years as slaves in a foreign country, God revealed His magnificent plan to free His people.

God chose Moses to lead the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom and land ownership in the Promised Land. But Moses was resistant and flatly refused the assignment. He told God he wasn’t eloquent of speech or believable and he argued at every reassurance God offered. Finally, God had witnessed enough rebellion and insisted that Moses accept the appointment.

There were many challenges ahead for Moses as he frequently dealt with a defiant nation of people who first agreed to God’s commands, but soon thereafter disobeyed them. On many occasions Moses wanted to quit, but God always provided the needs of both Moses and the people, often in miraculous ways.

Moses led the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt, through the parted waters of the Red Sea to escape the Egyptian militia, and he delivered the Ten Commandments to the people directly from God’s hand. For forty years he led a large and stiff-necked people. In his lifetime Moses progressed from a skeptic to a believer who was totally reliant on his Lord. What an example Moses left for all of us!

Every day we face opportunities, responsibilities, and questions for which we do not know the answers. Assured God is always available to help and lead us, we are willing to obey what He asks of us. “‘Call to me and I will answer you, great and unsearchable things you do not know’” (Jeremiah 33:3). What an exciting Christian life is possible when we remain malleable and obedient for God to use for His purposes!

Whenever God sends us to witness and work for Him, He desires to accompany us. There is nothing to fear when God is near. Moses demonstrated God’s partnership in his life by developing into one of God’s most powerful and effective servants. He didn’t begin that way. When God presented His plan, Moses argued, asking God to send someone else. Have we unwittingly refused God’s plan for our lives? If we feel His leading and refuse to follow, we act as stubborn and as disobedient as Moses did. When God formulates a plan for our lives, He intends to make it a rich, growing experience, one with a secure future in which we work side-by-side with him. “‘So is my word that goes out of my mouth: it will not return empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace’” (Isaiah 55:11).

There is peace and joy serving God, with no limits to what you and God can accomplish together. If you harbor any doubts, then I suggest you grab scrap paper and start writing: “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). Allow plenty of room on the paper—repetition reinforces ideas and you may want to save your work as a life-long reminder of God’s leadership!