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Archive for January, 2011

We Need More Prayer

Scripture: Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. (Luke 4:1 NKJV)
Observation: After His baptism, and in the final preparation for His ministry, Jesus is led by the Spirit to the wilderness where He spends forty days in communion with the Father And where He is tempted by the devil.  Once this period of fasting and prayer is ended Jesus begins His formal ministry on earth.
Application: At times we read how the devil tempted Jesus as He was about to embark on His mission and forget that He had been preparing since birth.  Nevertheless, He had been working in Joseph’s carpenter shop, studying the Scriptures and praying, and He now spent a time of intensive, dedicated, undivided communion with the Father.  Jesus obviously sensed a need to spend time with His Father.  The attacks He would be subjected to, ending in His death, would go beyond what any human being would be called to endure, and it was this habit of constant prayer which sustained Him through the darkest hours of His life and ministry. I woke up early (the middle of the night, really), and read these words:

“It makes all the difference in the world with us spiritually whether we rely upon God without doubt, as upon a sure foundation, or whether we are seeking to find some righteousness in ourselves before we come to him. . .”

“The Lord loves us, and bears with us, even when we are ungrateful to him, forgetful of his mercies, wickedly unbelieving. . .”

“The plan of salvation is ample. It is no narrow, limited provision that has been made for us. We are not obliged to trust in the evidence that we had a year or a month ago, but we may have the assurance today that Jesus lives, and is making intercession for us. . .”

“ If we would refresh others, we must ourselves drink of the Fountain that never becomes dry. It is our privilege to become acquainted with the Source of our strength, to have hold of the arm of God. If we would have spiritual life and energy, we must commune with God. We can speak to him of our real wants; and our earnest petitions will show that we realize our needs, and will do what we can to answer our own prayers. We must obey the injunction of Paul, “Arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.”

“Only believe, and you shall surely see the salvation of God.” (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, April 22, 1884)

What beautiful promises!  What calm assurance we find in these words. I know I need more prayer, not so that I can “twist” God’s arm to get Him to do what I want Him to do, but so that I may know Him better and thus have a greater assurance of His plan of salvation for me.
Prayer: Dear Father, I want to know You more, I want to see a clearer picture of You, and I know that it can only happen as I commune with you each day.  I’m open to You and what You have to show me today.

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Scripture: But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark; you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. (Gen 6:18 NKJV)

Observation:  God gives Noah the orders and instruction for the construction of the ark and informs Noah about what would be happening shortly – in about 120 years, which at the time, and as long as people lived, was relatively “shortly.” It is during this encounter that God also tells Noah of His covenant with Noah. This is the first time in the Bible that we read of God’s covenant with a person or people group, and what makes it interesting is that this covenant, like other future ones, is unilateral – God initiates it – and while there are conditions and requirements, God’s grace is its foundation and people are asked to respond by faith and obedience. That covenant provided not only for Noah’s salvation, but the same grace was extended to Noah’s wife, their three sons, and each of their wives.

Application: God’s covenant with us and our families has not changed and the conditions are the same. God initiates His search for us and extends His righteousness toward us lest sin consumes us. And just as Noah and His family were saved from universal destruction, today we and our families are offered salvation from the final destruction of the world and a place on the earth once it is re-created. The choice that we as parents make – to accept or reject God’s grace, and thus His covenant – can determine whether our children are saved or eternally lost.Father, I accept Your grace and Your covenant for me and my family today. Forgive us our sins, cleanse us from all unrighteousness, and helps us prepare for eternity.

Prayer:

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Scripture: And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luke 2:52 NKJV)

Observation: Joseph and Mary go to Jerusalem for the annual celebration of the Passover and take Jesus, now twelve-years-old, with them.  When they begin their return to Nazareth they realize that Jesus is not with them and returning to Jerusalem they find Him, after three days of searching, in the temple, listening and asking questions to the teachers.  The family finally returns to Nazareth where Jesus remains subject to His earthly parents and where He grows physically and spiritually.
Application: The home of Joseph and Mary must have been a very special place, if God chose them to be the ones to care for His own Son.  Jesus did not come full of the knowledge of eternity but veiled His divinity in human flesh and was born as a baby.  And as a baby, He had to learn everything, like every other human baby.  His early, forming years must have been full of spiritual exercises, reading and study of the Scriptures and prayer began to open before His eyes Who He was and the mission His Father in heaven had entrusted Him with.  By the age of twelve Jesus could hold a very intelligent, probably even very challenging, conversation with the teachers at the temple so that they marveled at His depth of knowledge.  Joseph and Mary, also recognizing Who Jesus was. Must have been very spiritual-minded, but also very charitable.  They made sure Jesus received the best food, had the best health habits, and received the best spiritual nourishment possible.  And thus Jesus grew up “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” The home is the first and most important vehicle to help our children grow, as Jesus did.  The role of the parents is to be not just “people-makers,” as the famous psychologist Virginia Satir might say, but rather disciple-makers.  It is the primordial role of the parents to see that their children grow up as disciples of Jesus Christ and therefore to be daily conformed to His image until, at His second coming, we transformed into His likeness. The sad thing is that many parents have relegated that role to either the church or the school or both and completely abandoned their responsibility as disciple-makers.  I was doing a little bit of math.  Let’s see if you can follow this logic:
1. Total hours in one year (365 days X 24 hours) = 87602. Total hours spent at school (this figure varies according to state and country) = 11003. Total hours at church (this would include Sabbath School, Church service, prayer meeting, Pathfinders, and a few other activities. . . I recognize that this is a very generous average) = 6004. Sleeping (average of 8 hours each day) = 29205. Time with friends (average of 2 hours each day) = 730
Now, if we take all the above and subtract them from the total number of hours (8760 – 1100 – 600 – 2920 -730) = 3410.  This is the number of hours, potentially, that parents have to spend with their children each year.  This is the number of hours, potentially, that children can be at home, where they can, and should, have the greatest influence for Jesus.  Compare the number of hours a child spends at church (600) to the number of hours a child spends at school (1100) and you can quickly see that the school has a much greater influence, simply because of the amount of time the children spend there, than the church.  Imagine, if you please, if those 1100 are spent in a public school setting, and the family only attends the church service, or maybe even the Sabbath School, it would mean that the children would spend a mere 110 hours or so, compared to 1100 at school – and if it is a public school, it would mean the children spend ten times more time at school than they do at church – who has the greater influence on their minds and on their lives? Even if you have your children in church school (which I believe to be the ideal and best choice), and you faithfully attend and are involved in the life of the church, they would have about 1700 hours each year as part of their discipleship training.  1700 hours out of a total 8760!  I hope you’re beginning to see that those 3410 hours you as a parent have are critical and that you need to make every effort to spend them wisely, if you’re ever going to be the disciple-makers God intended for you to be for your children. As we begin this new year, make every effort possible to set aside at least a couple of hours each day to spend time with your children in the study of the Scriptures and in prayer, and in activities that help and benefit others.  I am not calling for sermonizing or forcing them to sit and listen to a long, boring reading of the Bible or some devotional book.  I am, suggesting a good conversation and practical application of selected passages and stories which they can use in their spiritual formation.  Borrowing from Home Depot: “You can do it. . . we can help.”  Contact your Conference’s Children’s or Family Ministries Directors and ask for help. . . that’s what we’re here to do.
Prayer: Father, help me to be the disciple-maker to my children that You intended for me to be, and to dedicate to them the time they need to become just like Jesus.

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What a Way to Begin!

Scripture: And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:23 NKJV)
Observation: God performs the first surgical procedure by removing one of Adam’s ribs and creating out of it a lifetime companion, a helpmeet, one equal to him.  When God brought Eve to Adam, his reactions was one of great joy (Genesis 2:23), and thus begins the history of humanity, with the institution of marriage and the establishing of the family as God’s center for growth and propagation.
Application: This is the first day of the new decade – January 1, 2011.  Someone pointed out that in the United States the date is written 1-1-11.  Last year hundreds, maybe even thousands, of couples saved the day 10-10-10 to get married and there’s no doubt that many more will plan for their wedding to take place of 11-11-11 (November 11, 2011).  Such dates provide some sort of a “lucky charm” which will bring those couples love, life, and lasting happiness. I try to imagine what it must have been like for Adam. . . although Genesis 2 leaves little to the imagination.  By the sixth day, God had created light, had separated the water from dry land, created all vegetation, had made the sun, moon, and stars and place them in their celestial paths, had filled the oceans with fish, the air with all types of birds, and the land with all kinds of animals, and now He created His masterpiece – man.  When Adam was created he already had his speech patterns fully in place – thus he was able to name all the animals as God brought them to Him [I find it interesting that parents tell their children the name of every animal, and plant, and object. . . God, instead, brought the animals to Adam for him to name them. . . almost like a playful, proud Father, with a wide, please smile on His face, inviting, allowing, letting His newborn son had the pleasure of giving names to what He had created for him].     But maybe there as a deeper purpose in this “game.”  As Adam joyfully named all the animals he began to see a recurring pattern – every animal had a mate, a companion, one equal to the other.  Adam, intelligent as he was, fresh out of the hand of His creator, began to sense something missing in his life – he didn’t have that companion each of the animals did, but even before he voiced his wish, his desire, his prayer for someone to be his companion, God was already planing to meet his need for emotional and physical fulfilment. I think Adam’s reaction, as quoted in Genesis 2:23, is a typical male reaction to seeing his “woman.”  He probably shouted it, pumped his fists in the air, and jumped a couple of feet in the air – maybe he learned from the mating rituals of some of the animals he had been naming.  And as Adam and Eve rejoiced in their acquaintance and subsequent union, God, their Father and Creator, rejoiced even more with this great beginning. As we begin the new year and the new decade, I invite you to rejoice with the spouse God has given you with as much enthusiasm as your culture allows, but with as much pride and gratefulness as Adam expressed, knowing they were God’s gift to each other.
Prayer: Father God, thank you for my spouse, for the gift he/she is to me, for bringing him/her into my life, for giving him/her to me, as an equal, to complete Your creation in me.

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