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From here (ht Rich Owen)

LORD, we would come to Thee, but do Thou come to us. Draw us and we will run after Thee. Blessed Spirit, help our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought. Come, Holy Spirit, and give right thoughts and right utterance that we may all be able to pray in the common prayer, the whole company feeling that for each one there is a portion. We are grateful as we remember that if the minister in the sanctuary should not be able to pray for any one of us there is One who bears the names of all His redeemed upon His breast, and upon His shoulder, who will take care with the love of His heart and the power of His hand to maintain the cause of all His own.


Dear Savior, we put ourselves under Thy sacred patronage. Advocate with the Father, plead for us this day, yea, make intercession for the transgressors. We desire to praise the name of the Lord with our whole heart, so many of us as have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Truly Thou hast delivered us from the gulf of dark despair, wherein we wretched sinners lay. Thou hast brought us up also out of the horrible pit and out of the miry clay, Thou hast set our feet upon a rock, and the new song which Thou hast put into our mouths we would not stifle, but we would bless the Lord whose mercy endureth for ever.

We thank Thee, Lord, for the love without beginning which chose us or ever the earth was, for the love without measure which entered into covenant for our redemption, for the love without failure which in due time appeared in the person of Christ and wrought out our redemption, for that love which has never changed, though we have wandered; that love which abideth faithful even when we are unfaithful.


O God, we praise Thee for keeping us till this day, and for the full assurance that Thou wilt never let us go. Some can say, “He restoreth my soul,” they had wandered, wandered sadly, but Thou hast brought them back again.  Bless the Lord, our inmost soul blesses the Lord. Blessed be the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Triune; blessed be the Lord for every office sustained by each divine person, and for the divine blessing which has come streaming down to us through each one of those, condescending titles worn by the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.


We feel like singing all the time; we would take down our harp from the willows, if we had hung it there, and we would waken every string to the sweetest melody of praise unto the Lord our God. Yet, Lord, we cannot close with praise, for we are obliged to come before Thee with humble confession of sin. We are not worthy of the least of all these favors; we cannot say, “He is worthy for whom Thou shouldst do this thing,” nay, but we are altogether unworthy, and Thy gifts are according to the riches of Thy grace, for which again we praise Thee.


Lord, forgive us all our sin. May Thy pardoned ones have a renewed sense of their acceptance in the Beloved. If any cloud has arisen to hide Thee from any believing eye, take that cloud away. If in our march through this world, so full of mire as it is, we have any spot on us, dear Savior, wash our feet with that blessed foot-bath, and then say to us, “Ye are clean every whit.” May we know it so, that there is no condemnation, no separation; sin is removed as to its separating as well as its destroying power, and may we enter into full fellowship with God. May we walk in the light as God is in the light, and have fellowship with Him, while the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin. Let no child of Thine have any dead work upon his conscience, and may our conscience be purged from dead works to serve the living and true God.


And oh! if there are any that after having made the profession of religion have gone astray by any form of sin, Lord, restore them. If they have fallen by strong drink, if they have fallen by unchastity, if they have fallen by dishonesty; if, in any way, they have stained their garments, Oh! that Thy mighty grace might bring them back and put them yet among the children. But give them not up, set them not as Admah, make them not as Zeboim, but let Thy repentings be kindled and Thy bowels of compassion be moved for them, and let them also be moved, and may they return with weeping and with supplication, and find Thee a God ready to pardon.


Furthermore, we ask of Thee, our Father, this day to perfect Thy work within our hearts. We are saved, but we would be saved from sin of every form and degree; from sins that lie within, and we are scarcely aware that they are there. If we have any pride of which we are not conscious, any unbelief of which we are not aware, if there is a clinging to the creature, a form of idolatry which we have not yet perceived, we pray Thee, Lord, to search us as with candles till Thou dost spy out the evil and then put it away. We are not satisfied with pardoned sin, “We pray, create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Help us in our daily life, in our families, in our relations as husbands or wives, parents; or children, masters or servants, in our business transactions with our fellow men, in our dealings with the Church of God, may we be true, upright, pure; kept from the great transgression because we are kept from the minor.


Oh! that we may be such as glorify Christ. Save us, we pray Thee, from the common religion; give us the peculiar grace of a peculiar people. May we abide in Christ, may we live near to God. Let not the frivolities of the world have any power over us whatever. May we be too full grown in grace to be bewitched with the toys which are only becoming in children.


Oh! give us to serve Thee, and especially, and this prayer we have already prayed but we pray it again, make us useful in the salvation of our fellow man. O Lord, have we lived so long in the world and yet are our children unconverted? May we never rest until they are truly saved. Have we been going up and down in business, and are those round about us as yet unaware of our Christian character? Have we never spoken to them the Word of Life? Lord, arouse us to a deep concern for all with whom we come in contact from day to day. Make us all missionaries at home or in the street, or in our workshop, wherever Providence has cast our lot, may we there shine as lights in the world.


Lord, keep us right, true in doctrine, true in experience, true in life, true in word, true in deed. Let us have an intense agony of spirit concerning the many who are going down to the everlasting fire of which our Master spoke. Lord, save them! LORD, SAVE THEM! Stay, we pray Thee, the torrents of sin that run down the streets of London; purge the dead sea of sin, in which so many of the heathen are lying asoak. Oh! that the day were come when the name of Jesus shall be a household word, when everybody knew of His love, and of His death, and of His blood, and of its cleansing power. Lord, save men, gather out the company of the redeemed people; let those whom the Father gave to Christ be brought out from among the ruins of the fall to be His joy and crown. “Let the people praise Thee, O God, yea, let all the people praise Thee.” Let the ends of the earth fear Him who died to save them. Let the whole earth be filled with the glory of God.


This is our great prayer, and we crown it with this: Come, Lord Jesus, come Lord and tarry not. Come in the fullness of Thy power and the splendor of Thy glory! Come quickly, even so come quickly; Lord Jesus.


Amen.

My friend Paul Hawkins has written a cracker on the altar of incense.  Enjoy!

Read Exodus 30:1-10, 34-38

I wonder how many of us are in something like a prayer triplet, getting together with say two other Christians to pray together?

CAUGHT UP IN THE TRINITY

Exodus 30 is a great chapter on prayer.  We’re in the middle of the tabernacle, this massive multimedia picture of heaven and earth.  And inside the tabernacle were three pieces of furniture described back in Exodus 25.  The ark, symbolising the throne of God the Father. The table of the Presence, symbolising God the Son, present with us.  And the lamp-stand, a picture of God the Holy Spirit, shining to the world.

But there was one other piece of furniture in the tabernacle, only one, which was the altar of incense.  In verses 1-3 we see it was quite small, it was made of wood covered with gold and if we look on to verse 6, Moses is told

“Put the altar in front of the curtain that is before the ark of the Testimony—before the atonement cover that is over the Testimony—where I will meet with you.”

That means it would have stood right in the middle of those other three things, symbolically in the middle of Father, Son and Spirit.

So what’s this altar, and this incense, all about – what’s it a picture of?  Well we’re told in a number of places and one of them is Revelation chapter 8 verse 3, which says an angel

came and stood at the altar.  He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne.”

The prayers of all the saints.  That’s us!  It’s as if the Father the Son and the Spirit are at three corners of a triangle and we and our prayers are right in the middle.  Here’s the original prayer triplet, God himself, and the glorious reality is that if we’re Christians we are surrounded by him.

OUR PRAYERS RISE TO GOD’S THRONE

I don’t know what sort of terms you’re on with Her Majesty the Queen.  If I gave her a call I think I might just struggle to get put through.  But with prayer, it’s not just that we can get through to God if we call him up – if we sort-of throw up a few prayers.  No, we’re in the centre of his life, we’re family, it’s like we’re with the Queen in her living room, and she’s saying, how’s it going – what’s on your mind?

And prayer is how we live out this family life caught up in God.  Look down at verses 7 and 8 – Aaron burned incense (so think: prayers of the saints) every morning and evening, regularly before the Lord.  Verse 9, he didn’t come with a sacrifice or another offering or anything, no just incense, prayer.  Prayer is our expression of the divine life.

THE LAMB’S BLOOD MAKES US WELCOME

So how is it that we can share in God’s life – how come we’re caught up in this divine prayer triplet? Well verse 10 talks about atonement being made with the blood of the atoning sin offering, it says it’s most holy to the Lord.  Isn’t that the heart of the message of the cross, where the Lord God himself, gave his own blood to make us holy.  His passion gives us his life.

And do we see how that means we are very welcome as he brings us into the throne-room of God?  Very welcome.

OUR PRAYERS SMELL SWEET TO GOD

So what does God think of our prayers?  Well what’s this incense like?  Looking on to verse 34 we see – it’s fragrant!

What’s your favourite smell?  I was thinking mine might be fresh raspberries – gorgeous.  Well these spices here have sweet and powerful aromas and as they rise to the Lord they’re verse 37 holy to him, verse 38 they’re enjoyable – no-one’s allowed to copy them for their own enjoyment, no they’re for the Lord’s enjoyment.  So when we pray, God thinks, “… what’s that lovely smell?  Ah, the incense, the prayers of my saints, how wonderful!”

Isn’t that amazing? … Not that there’s anything in us that makes our prayers smell nice – no, it’s because we’re caught up in this sweet fragrant life of God himself – God the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts and prays, for us (Romans 8), he takes our feeble prayers and wraps them up in Jesus.

SO LET’S PRAY

So what do you find hard about prayer?  I mean, we all do, don’t we?  I think for me I too often spend my time worrying, thinking, “how am I gonna cope?” instead of bringing everything to the Lord.  Maybe someone is reading and thinking “my prayers are just so rubbish” or “I’m too bad, surely God can’t accept my prayers.”

No, if we’re in Christ, the wonderful news to grasp is that God the Father is delighted with our prayers.  Next time we smell a lovely fragrant aroma, let’s think to ourselves – “that’s how God thinks of my prayers”.

So let’s pray – how often is prayer the last thing we think of, not the first thing we do – maybe it’s time to join a prayer triplet, let’s take every opportunity to pray.  We’re locked into the life of God, and the immeasurable resources of the Godhead are ready and waiting.

What a friend we have in Jesus.  What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.

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When studying the Lord's prayer it's common to think about the character of God that's assumed in the prayer: i.e. Father, in heaven, holy, etc, etc.

What about the character of the one praying it?

Here are some thoughts:

  • Childlike
  • Reverent
  • Expectant
  • Guileless
  • Obedient
  • No agenda of our own
  • Desperate
  • Dependent for all things
  • Confident of mercy
  • Acknowledging sin
  • Repentant
  • Merciful
  • Having a deep appreciation of grace
  • A follower
  • Hating sin and temptation
  • At war with the evil one
  • Sheltering in the Lord's deliverance

Three thoughts:

1) I want to be this person.

2) Jesus has made me this person (John 16:23-27)  The Father regards me as this very person, clothed in my Advocate. I not only pray in and through Jesus but with Him.

3) As I pray, resting in the intercession of Jesus, I am increasingly living up to what I've already attained in Him.

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Genesis 18:20-33

God is a Haggler.  He wants us to haggle.

What do we feel about that?

Here's a website offering to take the cringe factor out of your financial exchanges.  Instead of negotiating with a real, live human being, you can simply click a button in the privacy of our own home.

Are you from a haggling culture?

I wonder whether the way we shop and the way we pray are linked.  I'm used to fixed prices, no negotiations, no back and forth, no give and take, in and out in 18 seconds, the less chat the better.  And my prayers?  Are they just as clean and clinical?  Do I know what it is to haggle with God?

Here's audio from a 10 minute talk for our prayer meeting last night.

Click below for the rest of the text.

...continue reading "God is a Haggler"

From last night's sermon on Galatians 4:6:

A new year has begun, it’s often a time when we assess our Christian lives and think about how they’re going.  If I were to ask you ‘how is your prayer life going?’ How would you respond?

If you belong to Jesus, you can look me in the eye and tell me ‘My prayer life is unimprovable’.  How’s your prayer life? ‘My prayer life is divine.’

I am clothed in the Son of God and His prayer-life is pretty darned good.  And Galatians 4 verse 6 tells me that the Spirit of the Son is in me.  And what is He doing?  He is praying!

What is He praying?  He is praying the prayer of Jesus to the Father.  ‘Abba, Father’ is Jesus’ own prayer – He prayed it in the Garden of Gethsemane – it’s Jesus’ own prayer “Abba, Father.”  (Mark 14:36)  And the Spirit OF THE SON is praying that prayer from within ME.

I’m not just invited to pray, I am already caught up in the prayer life of God.  The Spirit is already praying Jesus’ perfect prayer IN me and praying it to the Father.

The Spirit is praying from within you right now, ‘Abba, Father, Abba, Father, Abba, Father’ – it’s as constant as your heart-beat.  ‘Abba, Father’ – that is your spiritual pulse.  The Spirit of the Son calling out to your Father from the depth of your being.

And those words ‘Abba, Father’ – they are not just the first line of a prayer.  ‘Abba, Father’ is the essence of prayer.  It is resting like a needy child in the arms of a strong and loving Heavenly Father.

And all our little prayers that we say (when we get around to it) – they are the ‘Amen’ to the Spirit’s continual prayer.  We’re always late to prayers – did you know that?  However early you get up in the morning – the Spirit has been up earlier, and He’s been praying in you.  You join in late and add your own Amen.

And as we go on in the Christian life, the Spirit of the Son will help our little prayers to become more child-like, so that more and more we call out “Daddy” the way He does (Rom 8:15).  And then we stop praying like slaves and start praying like sons.

Every time I forget I’m a son, I start praying like a slave and it kills my prayer life.  I pray like I’m a slave and He’s a slave-master, like I’m a soldier and He’s a commanding officer.  But Jesus didn’t teach us to pray ‘Our Sergeant-Major in Heaven’ or ‘Our Line Manager in Heaven’  – instead: Our Father in Heaven.

We need to be little children in prayer and thankfully the Spirit of the Son makes us exactly that and helps us to pray child-like prayers where we depend on our heavenly Dad.

Our own attempts at praying won’t be very good but, wonderfully, the Spirit takes even our most rubbish efforts at prayer and wraps them up in the Son’s perfect prayer and lifts them the to the Father.

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I've been listening to sermons from the web on Luke 14.  It's Jesus at a banquet.  He heals on the Sabbath, He teaches about refusing the seats of honour, He calls us to invite the poor, crippled, lame and blind to dinner and He speaks of the kingdom as a great feast.  Wonderful stuff.

But do you know, in all the sermons I've listened to from the web, what's been the number one application of Luke 14??  Quiet times!  From both UK and US pastors, the predominant take-home message was 'make sure you get alone with God every day.'  I'm not going to name names but I listened to some big hitters.  And they preached on the feast.  The feast where Jesus tells us to throw feasts and then speaks of the kingdom as a feast.  And what's their conclusion: 'We need to get on our own more!'

??!

Usually the logic was: Don't take the places of honour => Therefore get humble => Therefore get on your knees => Therefore commit to quiet times.

Now there were two notable exceptions:  John Piper was good.  And so was the Australian (obviously!) Mike Frost.  (Those two aren't usually positively lumped together but there you are).  But the rest took Luke 14 and boiled it down into some very individualistic applications.

Now I'm all in favour of ensuring that our doing flows from a lively relationship with Christ.  But why does that equate to 'getting alone with God'??  I mean how do we get from the feast to the prayer closet??  Are conservative evangelicals that afraid of getting our hands dirty in mission, in rubbing shoulders with the poor, crippled, blind and lame?  Are we that individualistic and moralistic?

Anyway...  I do think a healthy relationship with Christ means talking and listening to Him daily.  But why is the quiet time the touch-stone of evangelical spirituality?  Why is it the default application for every sermon?  Why do we reach for the privatized exhortations so readily?

And how many times have I heard Robert Murray McCheyne's daunting challenge:

What a man is alone on his knees before God, that he is and no more.

I mean it's right to be challenged by that.  But is it true?  And is it right to aim for this as the very model and highpoint of Christian maturity?  What about: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."  (John 13:35)

I dunno.  Bit of a rant really.  What do you think?

Here's the Luke 14 sermon I ended up preaching.

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Ok, I'll get off the subject soon enough.  Just a little test for us all, inspired by Heather's comment.

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My Name humble themselves, and pray and seek My Face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. ” 2 Chronicles 7:13-14

"Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops."  James 5:17-18

So what causes climate change, pollutants or prayer?

Cue howls of disbelief.  Choruses of "medieval superstition!"  Derisive laughter...

Yeah, yeah.  Get it out of your system.  But seriously...  Which is it?  Pollutants or prayer?

And of course you say, 'It's not an either-or.'

Well... even when it is a both-and, it's by no means a symmetrical 'both-and' is it?  Prayer can change the climate quite apart from the levels of Co2 in the atmosphere.

And really - who's running this show?  Christ or carbon?

Cue more mocking and incredulity.  I hear your protests: 'Don't be ridiculous Glen, typical overstatement!  The sovereign Lord still works via means and agents.  He might well say to the waters 'This far and no further' but He uses gravity to do the job.  Same with climate.  He's Lord of climate change, but He oversees it according to cycles and seasons and constants and laws.'

Mmmm fine.  That's what I thought you were going to say.  I just wanted to see how quickly you said it.  As a matter of interest, how immediate was your 'Yeah, but...'?

I'll probably agree with your 'Yeah, but...'  I just want to know how quickly it snapped into place.  I want to know how strongly it rose to the surface.  Because in my heart and mind it springs like a steel trap.

And the place it springs from is not my training in historic reformed Christianity.  Oh I can happily use Calvinism to justify it (secondary causes and all that).  But I'm pretty sure it springs from enlightenment sources, not reformational ones.

You see I read 2 Chronicles 7, lodge its truths in some cerebral filing cabinet under 'theology', and then return to the real world where principles and programmes and professors and pollutants rule the roost.  In the real world iron laws grind out our predicatable fate.  And the only difference between us and the 'enlightened' secularist is that we know the name of the One pulling the levers.  Right?

Sheesh... Of course by the time you've made peace with this view - the name of the One pulling the levers is so immaterial to the discussion you can afford to drop it entirely.  And nothing really changes.  Because, let's face it, we we basically reckon the levers pull themselves.  Right?

And so here's my little test.  Can you say this sentence out loud and for ten minutes refuse every urge in you to clamp down with your 'Yeah, but...':

Ultimately, prayer changes the climate, not pollutants.

Can you linger on this for a full ten minutes?  Can you mull over all its radical implications?

Christ not carbon is the determining factor

Here's the deal - if you can remove yourself from the deistic clockwork universe for ten minutes and feel the immediacy and Personality of the biblical universe, I'll let you go to Copenhagen.

Fair?

Ok, off you go.  But I warn you, it's a lot harder than it sounds.

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Close your eyes.

Imagine yourself kneeling at the side of Christ's throne, head on His chest, His arm around your shoulder.

Christ is speaking.  He's addressing His Father.

And this is what He's saying: Psalm 119.

Listen in. This really is the one thing you must do.  Listen.

Add your Amens and your Thankyous as He speaks.

Find a verse or phrase to hide in your heart for today.

Pray the Lord's prayer.

Stand up and walk into your day.

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Close your eyes.

Imagine yourself kneeling at the side of Christ's throne, head on His chest, His arm around your shoulder.

Christ is speaking.  He's addressing His Father.

And this is what He's saying: Psalm 119.

Listen in. This really is the one thing you must do.  Listen.

Add your Amens and your Thankyous as He speaks.

Find a verse or phrase to hide in your heart for today.

Pray the Lord's prayer.

Stand up and walk into your day.

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Wednesday afternoon bible study.  Hebrews 4:14-16 - "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence..."

Sheila pipes up with my favourite bible study comment ever:

Well of course I'm going to approach with confidence.  I mean the blinking devil waltzes into God's throne room doesn't he?!  What a nerve!  Blasted devil walks straight in.  Well if Satan's got that much cheek, there's no way I'm gonna have less.

Job 1:6
Job 1:6
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