Praying for the Nations

On August 13, I began preaching on the subject of prayer. I have benefitted from this study. I concluded the preaching series yesterday, but I sincerely trust that we will forever be growing into a “House of Prayer.”

Yesterday, I preached from the text in Matthew that gives us this sentence:

“Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

The context is a summary of Jesus’ ministry. (Matthew 9:35-38) The specific passage also immediately precedes Jesus’ appointment of the disciples who are being tasked to go to those who need to hear about Jesus. Therefore, the summary passage at the end of Matthew 9 gives us an excellent point of view from Scripture regarding the primacy of prayer in the endeavor of preaching the Gospel to the nations.

Praying for the nations is a command.

What specifically are we to pray?

We are to pray “to the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

I find this interesting. We are not commanded to pray for the harvest. We are to pray for workers. The implication is clear. The harvest takes care of itself if the workers go.

This Prayer for the nations is…

Consistent with the Situation.

The News is Good—The Gospel is good. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But, God, in His love, loved us while we were sinners. He proved His love toward us in this way: He died for sinners. And, if we confess with our mouths, having believed in our hearts, we can be saved. We will be saved from our sin, forgiven from our sin, and saved for everlasting life to be with God forever. That is good news!

The Needs are Great—Jesus saw. He felt compassion. Real compassion always leads to action. At the least, seeing the needs ought to lead us to the action of prayer.

The Harvest is Ready—As Christian cultural commentator Jim Denison writes: More people are coming to Christ today than at any time in Christian history.

The Workers are Few—What was true when Jesus spoke these words is still true today.

Confident in the Savior.

The early disciples of Jesus understood that the missionary endeavor depended upon prayer. As a matter of fact, they understood that everything depended upon prayer. We have this example to pray. Then, in Acts 13, we have another example to pray. Before sending out the first missionary team, the Bible says that the church met, fasted and prayed, then sent the team. The first great missionary, the Apostle Paul asked the Colossian church to pray for him with these words:

Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah. (Colossians 4:2-3)

A Commitment that every Saved person can make.

We have multiple opportunities to go. This year, folks from our church have gone to Brazil, Haiti, Alaska, and Romania. We have a couple of young men who will go on our behalf in a few days to Nicaragua. We have people from our church who have been sent to the far corners of the world. We rejoice in this. Others have given. We all participate weekly when we give our offering to this local church. Not all can go. Not all can give, especially large sums of money. But here is something that every single person can do and yet few really do. We can all pray.

When Jesus cleared out the Temple that day and proclaimed, “It is written, My house will be called a house of prayer,” he was quoting the prophet Isaiah. For reasons that we will never know for sure, either Jesus did not give Isaiah’s whole statement or Matthew did not record that Jesus gave Isaiah’s whole statement. (This is more likely because the parallel passage of Mark 11:17 includes an additional phrase.) But, if we go to Isaiah 56:7, we learn that Isaiah had an additional phrase: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

Let it be so!

(This post is based on the message “How to Pray for the Nations” which you can watch at fbclaf.org/video)

Are We Ready?

I love football. This is my time of the year. But, I didn’t have a good football weekend. The high school I played for lost and is now 0-3. The college I played for lost and is now 1-2. The local college, Louisiana’s Ragin Cajuns lost. Our state school, LSU, got embarrassed. And the Saints . . . well you know.

I don’t make a lot of predictions, but let me make a minority prediction on one of those teams—LSU. Everything will be fine, maybe even better. I wouldn’t be shocked if they do not lose another game. To be more conservative in my prognostication, they will probably lose one (yeah, unfortunately, that one) and maybe two, but no more.

Why such optimism after a terrible and embarrassing performance? It’s what I read in the paper this morning (yeah, I still do that and love it). Coach O said, “We didn’t practice well last Tuesday and Wednesday.” That’s it! Take nothing away from Mississippi State. They have a great team and played a great game. But, LSU did not prepare well. I don’t think the average fan has enough appreciation for how hard it is to win. Winning doesn’t just happen. Preparation is necessary

We see in athletics what lack of preparation will do. Lack of preparation in our spiritual lives has the same effect but with dire results.

Consider what the Scriptures say about our preparation in several key areas.

1. We must be prepared to share our faith. “Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” 1 Peter 3:15

2. We must be prepared to fight the enemy, Satan. “This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.” Ephesians 6:14

3. We must be prepared for the return of Christ. “You also be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.” (Luke 12:40)

4. We must be prepared to meet God. “Therefore, Israel, that is what I will do to you, and since I will do that to you, Israel, prepare to meet your God!” (Amos 4:12)

Are we ready?

How About Some Different Headlines?

North Korea Threatening. Harvey Aftermath. Irma Threatening. I don’t know about you, but I could use some different headlines today.

I want to share with you some Scriptures that sound a lot like headlines to me. Hopefully, these headlines will put in right perspective the headlines of the last couple of days.

• God’s Grace is Sufficient—This headline comes from 2 Corinthians 12:9, which says, “But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.

• God Reigns—This headline is affirmed in Revelation 19:6. “Then I heard something like the voice of a vast multitude, like the sound of cascading waters, and like the rumbling of loud thunder, saying: Hallelujah, because our Lord God, the Almighty, has begun to reign!”

• Jesus Announces Peace—This headline comes from John 16:33, which says, “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

There will be many who panic, but as believers in Jesus, let the peace of God rule and reign in your heart.

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One of the Bible’s Great Expressions of Commitment

When we come to the end of the Book of Joshua, we are coming to the final speeches of Joshua to Israel. The context is that these are words for the immediate as well as the future life of Israel in the Land of Promise. Just as Deuteronomy records the last words of Moses, the book of Joshua records the last words of Joshua. The last three chapters of the book are a compilation of speeches or sermons from Joshua. The message of all three chapters is essentially the same. First, Joshua recounts God’s faithfulness. Second, Joshua reminds Israel of the terms of the covenant—Israel must obey the commands of God. Third, Joshua warns of the punishment that will follow if they do not obey the commands of God.

Joshua 24:14-15 contains one of the great expressions of commitment in the Bible.

“Therefore, fear the Lord and worship Him in sincerity and truth. Get rid of the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and worship Yahweh. 15 But if it doesn’t please you to worship Yahweh, choose for yourselves today the one you will worship: the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my family, we will worship Yahweh.”

Joshua had not only been told by God, but had experienced first-hand, that their success in the future was directly tied to their relationship to Almighty God and their obedience in that relationship. Joshua knew that the relationship to God was not on their terms, but on God’s terms. As an Old Testament saint, Joshua would have recognized and affirmed the language of the New Testament and the specific language about commitment to Christ.

What characterizes the commitment Christ is worthy to receive? In reading Joshua 24:1-28, we find at least these five implications.

1. The Past Activity of God—Joshua’s commitment, as we read in verses 1-13, was first of all characterized by the past activity of God. When we consider the past activity of God in our lives, especially Christ’s work on the cross, how could our commitment be anything other than our life, our all?
2. The Possible Alternatives other than God—Joshua called the people to choose God or the pagan gods around them. Then and now, there are alternatives, but only one true God.
3. Our particular Actions in Response to God—Joshua called the people to “Get rid of the foreign gods…and offer your hearts to the Lord.”
4. Personal Accountability in Keeping our Commitment—Joshua’s “As for me” commitment resonates well with the line from the hymn, “I have decided to follow Jesus. Though none go with me, I still will follow.”
5. Public Acknowledgement to Solidify Commitment—Joshua led Israel in a ceremony to consecrate their commitment.

As you think about your commitment to Christ today, be reminded that true commitment is not in words, but in actions.

(This post is based on the message “Choosing Christ Defined by Commitment” which you can watch at fbclaf.org/video)