Lord teach us to pray

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Man praying at sunset

In Luke 11:1-4 we see a well known story of Jesus and his apostles and his method of teaching them to pray. We don’t know why they decided at this particular time to ask Jesus to help them learn to pray properly, but they did and we have it recorded here for us. Notice the text:

“And it came to pass, as he was praying in a certain place, that when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, even as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When you pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. (KJV)

Prayer should be taught early 

Teach a child to pray

If you were blessed as I was you learned this prayer at an early age, in fact we used to begin our day in grade school with the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States, then a bible reading and reciting this prayer. Sadly for some their learning about prayer never got beyond that point.

There is a example or pattern to follow

The thing about this prayer is that it is a “model prayer”. It represents what prayer should look and sound like; it is an example of prayer for us. It was used to show the disciples the types of things which should be included when speaking to our Father who is in Heaven. But, it is just that, an example, not something that needs to be repeated by rote after we have matured in Christ.

The example still works 

Best wireless connection

Today we still learn to pray by example, often the example of others we hear pray, that’s a good thing, that’s how we learn. But at some point our prayers must become our own and not someone else’s. We must learn to speak from the heart to our God, who is also our Father who is in heaven. I was reminded of this again this week when Julie posted (Kindergartener), Gracie’s prayer on Facebook. “Dear God, thank you for the Bible, cheese, rain, Jesus dying on the cross, bacon, and robots. Oh, and my family.”  Also I’m reminded of our oldest son’s prayer as he knelt beside his bed at about 4 years of age. Where he bowed his head and said, “God, thank you for grandma because she gives me everything I want.” I can imagine God smiling at both of those prayers.

It’s the thought that counts

You see, with prayer, it really is the thought that counts and for us as adults that is no less true. It is not repeating worn out phrases that God wants from us, it is sharing with him the things that are on our heart, the things that are really important to us. It is sharing our appreciation for all he gives us and the blessings he showers upon us. It is also sharing with him when our hearts are breaking and we don’t have anyone else to talk to. He is the father, the friend, that will always be there to listen to you no matter what.

Prayer by [Yancey, Philip]                               

 

 

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Remembering your blessings

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Someone sent me a thought something like this: “If you woke up tomorrow with only what you had thanked God for today, what would your have?” Remembering your blessings is important.

Something to think about!

Wow! That’s a tough question isn’t it, perhaps even a wake up call as they say? I don’t know about you, but I’m not nearly as good at thanking God as I should be. Do I thank him daily for some things? Yes I do, but there is so much in my life that I just take for granted. Well, maybe not take for granted, but perhaps I don’t spend enough time “remembering my blessings” as I should.

The Problem

How about you, do you have the same problem? In times past I have made a list, a “prayer list,” that I would use for a “gentle” reminder. Somehow I have gotten away from that lately, but I think I need to start using one again. After all, I’m only human as the saying goes and I need some help remembering.

Remembering

You may remember the old country hymn titled “Remind Me Dear Lord,” it’s one of my favorites because it speaks to me and one of my weaknesses and helps me remember my blessings.

An important hymn

“The things that I love and hold dear to my heart, they’re just borrowed they’re not mine at all. Jesus only let me use them to brighten my life, So remind me remind me dear Lord.

Nothing good have I done to deserve God’s own son I’m not worthy of the scars in His hands Yet He chose the road to Calvary to die in my stead, Why He loved me I just can’t understand. Roll back the curtain of memory now and then, Show me where you brought me from and where I could have been, Just remember, I’m human and humans forget,
So remind me remind me dear Lord.”

How do we apply this?

There are many occasions in God’s Word that we are encouraged to remember God and what he has done for us, but here is one that fits the occasions I think. Psalm_63:3-8Because your mercy is better than life, my lips will give you praise. So will I go on blessing you all my life, lifting up my hands in your name. My soul will be comforted, as with good food; and my mouth will give you praise with songs of joy; When the memory of you comes to me on my bed, and when I give thought to you in the night-time. Because you have been my help, I will have joy in the shade of your wings. My soul keeps ever near you: your right hand is my support.”

Maybe it’s time we do a better job of remembering, because: “If you woke up tomorrow with only what you had thanked God for today, what would your have?” Really?

 

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What are Elders and Deacons in God’s Church?

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It’s not what the world thinks…

What are Elders and Deacons suppose to be? Most of the religious world had developed a complex system of one ruling body or person over a group of churches or congregations. Many times this is known as a diocese, but is this what God had in mind? To determine that we need to look more closely at what God thinks and not what the world thinks.

God’s guidance is clear…

The New Testament church is provided with a government for each individual local congregation. This government is sufficient for each church to be and to do everything God has designed for it to do by using Elders and Deacons. That is why this study book is so important for us today. It gives you the resources to study the question for ourselves and understand just what God says about Church Leadership or Elders and Deacons.

There is help in understanding God’s instructions…

To this end I have written a book titled: Elders and deacons in the church, A study of God’s directions for leadership in his church.

This study has developed from years of personal study and practical application. In working with local churches and schools of preaching in Africa we have seen the effectiveness of properly understanding the purpose of Elders and Deacons as well as their qualifications and duties.

This book is an in depth, yet easy to follow study of the leadership of God’s church as He directs it to be. Elders and Deacons are given this place of leadership, yet it is much misunderstood in the religious world. God meant it to be simple, mans interference makes it difficult. It is my hope this study will help all who read it understand God’s will better.

Click on image to go to Amazon

Available in both Digital (Kindle) and Paperback.

 

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A New Book

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Something Brand New

Somewhat different from my normal style of writing I have written a new book. It is quite a bit different from the things I have written in the past, but hopefully it will be a blessing to the lives of many as I explain.

From Injury to Relief

If you have followed my blog you will have seen that I have become disabled this past year. 13 months ago I injured my back and have been unable to work since that time. I have found some relief from the pain through a device called a “Spinal Cord Stimulator”.

I wrote a completely new book detailing the entire journey from the injury to the recovery and a mostly pain free life now.

Spinal Cord Stimulator

Like many of you, I had never heard of this device before the doctor mentioned it and then found it very difficult to find the answers to the hundreds of questions I had about it. I wasn’t really keen about having an electronic device implanted in my back and spine. Because of this I did tons of research to learn as much as I possibly could about the device, the procedure to implant it and life afterwards. My new book details all of that.

Knowing is half the battle

Knowing the answers to your questions or at least where to find the answers makes like better. Like they use to say at the end of the G.I. Joe cartoons, “Knowing is half the battle”. In my book I detail my research into the Spinal Cord Stimulator implantation and all it entails. It is a one stop shop kind of book in which I do my best to answer your questions and tell you where you can find more information about the device and the procedure to implant it into your body.

My prayer is that this new book can be of help to many in our world who face the same situation as I. Buy the book and just maybe it will help answer your questions as the information did for me.

 

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To Vote or not to Vote… that is the question?

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Should We Vote?

Election time is coming up very quickly and I have been doing some checking regarding the last major election. The results vary of course, but something like 48% of all of those who claim to be Christians did not vote in the last election. Granted you may not have liked the candidates, but if you don’t vote you loose all rights to complain also.

Founding Principles tells us we should!

There is no doubt that our nation was founded upon godly principles and with our God being the foundation stone of our nation’s political system. If you are aware at the entire political goings on in our nation for “lo these many years,” then you know that God is being removed from that system one piece at a time.

Constituion

But it is so frustrating!

I know exactly how frustrating it is to look at the political ranglings in the day to day news. I like many of you want to just throw up my hands and back away. The question is whether we can do that as Christians or not. To vote or not to vote, yes that is a very real question for some.

This week in our daily bible reading we have been reading the story of Queen Esther and her uncle. They chose to try and influence the seat of the government, the king, even with the very real possibility they could die. In stead they saved the Jewish nation and saw the end of thousands of those who were persecuting them. The key is that they made a choice, they chose to do something even if they were unsure how it would end, maybe even with their death.

The scripture encourages us to be in subjection of legitimate governments, (Romans 13). However it never prohibits us from either being involved in that government or trying to influence (in a legal way such as voting,), the way that government functions.

Your vote really is important!

For me it is not a question of “if I’ll vote”. It is understood that I will vote. Will I like all of the candidates? No, I won’t, but we can never help direct the change back to being “One nation under God,” unless we are involved. So I’m encouraging each and every one of you not to be in the 48% of Christians who do not take advantage of the gift God gave us to vote. Rather, we need to express ourselves and give direction to those who have rule over us.

 

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ME, Version 2.0, Cyborg Adaptation…

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OK, not this drastic, but you get the idea!

Well, at my age I’ve done and experienced a lot of things. Living life is really about change and adjustment to times, events and places. For the past 12 months I have gone from a healthy active life to being permanently disabled. As I said, I’ve experienced a lot, but even so I find that there is always something new right around the corner. For example, this week I had my first surgery in a hospital and became a Cyborg.

If it weren’t for the pain experienced with the actual surgery, I would think it is a really neat thing. (Third day now and the pain is better). After all, I’ve been a lifelong fan of Science Fiction stories, but never thought I would actually join the Cyborg crowd. Now, if you are wondering, a Cyborg is defined the following way: “A person whose physiological function is aided by or dependent upon a mechanical or electronic device”. Since I now have a small computer implanted in my back and electronic leads in my spine I guess I qualify (smile).

It’s amazing the way that technology can change your life, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. But as much as this new piece of technology is helping me already, it’s not the help I’m looking for. I’m looking for something more permanent. I’m looking for, (longing for as some would say), that time when this physical body will no longer matter.

1 Corinthians 15:51-53 encourages us with these words: “we shall all be changed,

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

Thinking about these verses the words, “Changed,” “Incorruptible,” “Immortality”, stand out to me. Those are important words in the life of a Christian aren’t they? You see they told me that my new Cyborg computer battery has an expected life span of 5-10 years and it has to be recharged every few days. None of those words from 1 Corinthians apply to what I now have or am and I want something better, more permanent. Don’t you?

That’s what is so great is something else I have implanted in me; it’s the Holy Spirit and Jesus living in me that confirms the promise to me that I will be “changed, incorruptible and immortal”. There is an old song I love that proclaims, “I’m going to live forever, I’m going to die no never, Jesus died on the cross for me and I’m going to live forever”. How are you doing in that relationship to the one who offers you life eternal? Cybernetic implants are great, but Jesus is better!

Russ Lawson

 

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The Challenge of our constantly changing lives…

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Change in inevitable…

Change ahead sign

I have never met anyone who has a life that did not have an ever changing life. Granted, some of our lives change more often or more radically than others, but change is normal for our lives. We may face illness, surgeries, marital problems, financial problems; child raising problems, personal relationship challenges and then there are the good things, promotions, graduations, weddings, new houses, births and the list could go on and on. Change is part of our lives, and each change presents its own set of challenges.

Where do these changes come from?

Why

Honestly, I don’t believe that God causes these challenges to happen in our lives, but perhaps there is a reason why so many of our prayers seem to go unanswered. There may be a reason why God doesn’t remove these challenges from our lives. A light went on in my mind the other day when I heard someone say on the radio, “God loves us just as we are, but he also loves us too much to leave us that way. He wants us to change and grow!”

Look to the future

Seeing the old way or the new way

In our church this year we have been dealing with the concept of being transformed by God…I believe that we are being transformed by God in our lives right now! Into what or in what ways I am uncertain. Does God have a plan; can he heal your illness or injury, could he interfere with the emotional or relationship challenges you face? Yes he could! Why doesn’t he? Why doesn’t he reveal his plan to you or me? I don’t have a clue, but perhaps there is a higher purpose that we are as of yet unable to see or understand

God is the answer

One of my all time favorite scriptures is found in Romans 8:28. I know you have heard it many, many times in your life, but it doesn’t change the truth of God’s words found there. The Apostle Paul, inspired by God, wrote these words, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”.

How could what is happening in our lives; possibly result in anything good? I don’t know! But this one thing I know, “God loves us just as we are, but he also loves us too much to leave us that way. He wants us to change and grow”. God wants us to transform in to someone that can love him and serve him with all that is in us. Change is never easy, but it can’t be stopped either. Paul puts the challenge to us in Romans 12:12 where he says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove by you what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God”.

The bottom line as the saying goes: We need to accept the fact that things are going to change and get on with living your life the best you can for God.

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Independence Day (What do you want on your tombstone?)

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Constitution

It is in my nature to be political, perhaps like some of you. I am interested in what goes on in our country and how those in power govern us.

I believe that we have been granted the right to express our views and make our concerns known to our political leaders and others. We may not always agree with one another in our views, but that makes them no less important, yet should never be dividing as Christians today.

Do you remember the old television commercial, (advertising Tombstone pizza), which ask: “What do you want on your tombstone?

Let me share a story with you about a farmer, born in Kentucky, and raised in Indiana that eventually settled in Kansas. Nathaniel Grigsby who died in 1890 was an officer in the Civil War and a Republican through and through. He was also a friend and schoolmate of Abraham Lincoln while in Indiana. After the war around 1885, Grigsby returned to Kansas at the age of 74 and started farming. Before he passed, he made his family promise to bury him in the cemetery near Attica, Kansas. He also was specific about what his tombstone was to proclaim. Here is the inscription he dictated.

Tombstone with a statement!

Through this inscription I wish to enter my dying protest against what is called the Democratic party. I have watched it closely since the days of Jackson and know that all the misfortunes of our nation has come to it through this so called party. Therefore beware of this party of treason. (Put on this tombstone in fulfillment of promise to Deceased).”

You can agree or disagree with mister Grigsby, but the question we need to ask ourselves is: What will be on your tombstone? I’ve seen a lot of tombstones in my life that proclaim a lot of things. Things like “Loving wife and mother,” or “Beloved Father,” “Rest in Peace” and such sayings. One of the most interesting tombstone messages I have seen said, “Don’t laugh, you’re next”.

God showed  us what is really important in Ephesians 1:20-23 where He said: “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”

Yes, my political views are important to me, but not nearly as important as my Spiritual views because I know who is really in charge of our world. We celebrate once again, America’s Independence Day, but isn’t our independence from sin and death much more important. I often struggle to “keep my mouth shut,” regarding my political views and it is sometimes difficult. I try and respect the views of others, whether I agree with them or not. My goal is to have the message on my tombstone to simply declare me “A Christian,” because in the end it doesn’t really matter what you political views are, it matters how God sees the message of your life. What do you want on your tombstone?

 

 

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Oh Death, where is thy sting?

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O' death where in your sting

As a minister for many years I’ve learned that death contains no sting for those who know God. I have been closely associated with death and dying most of my adult life. I have prayed with those close to death and held the hands of people as they breathed their last breath on this earth. I have experienced it up close and personal.

Some people refuse to acknowledge death and its reality, but whether it is from accident, disease or age we can’t stop it from touching us. It is as if some think if they just ignore it and it will pass them by. Some folks cover their fear of death with jokes or humor, but it does not stop its advance upon our lives. Death is one of those things which those of us who are wise enough, realize is but one breath away. As the saying goes, there are two things we can’t escape in our society, death and taxes. You may be able to cheat the tax man, but not death.

Hope in the clouds

I’m not trying to look at death morbidly, but realistically with hope! Death truly is a time of transition. For those who are Christians it is a time of hope, a time of going home, a time of finally opening our greatest gift. If you are not a Christian, then that’s a different matter entirely.

Let me share why I can look at death positively. First, because of the words of Jesus, he said he was going to prepare a place for us after death. No matter what your individual understanding of that is, it is a good thing, a promise from the creator of the universe that he is going to take care of us after death, (John 14:3).

Everyday is filled with new hope

Everyday is filled with New Hope

 

Second, I can look at death positively because of the testimony of the apostles as they wrote down God’s words for us. Men like Paul who describes the transition as receiving a new body like the one Jesus has in heaven and being forever with the Lord. Paul writes these words of comfort in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the Law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory (over death), through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Lazarus raised by Jesus

Third, I look at death in a positive light because of the testimony of some who have seen past the veil of death and shared that vision. I can’t speak to all of the books and movies on the subject, but I want to share this. Recently an older sister in Christ passed away. She had been a faithful member of God’s family for many, many years. I was told that when she died she said, “Look there is John and Nancy” (two of her close Christian friends), “and there is Joe”, (her husband who had preceded her in death), then she took her last breath and died. That gives me chills as I recount this happening, not in a bad way, but in a wonderful, heart filling way. It is a testimony to me that the promises are real. That in an instant, in the blink of an eye we are transported into a new wonderful world with God.

I was reading about a young boy who was clinically dead and was brought back. He was being shown a picture album of family and was shown a picture of an old man, a grandfather he had never met. He responded, “No, that’s not him,” but pointing to a younger picture of the man he said, “That’s him, I met him in heaven.”

As the words of the old hymn remind us, there will be, “No tears in heaven, all will be glory over there.” We don’t fear death as Christians, but understand the words of God, “Death has no sting,” only promise.

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A ticket to heaven… on the payment plan!

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Do you have your ticket to heaven? I was talking to someone close to me the other day about the need to be more connected to God in their lives. The conversation was about the importance of reading your bible and attending bible study and worship periods at our church. I made a comment about wanting to be with them, (eventually), in heaven.

They understood completely and agreed, but just were not able to force themselves to make that commitment. They jokingly said, “I want to go to heaven, but can’t we work something out on a payment plan, rather than doing it all at once?

I understand where they were coming from. I understand the commitment that it takes to live your life in such a way as to be pleasing to God, (as much as you are able). It would be great if we could give ourselves to God just a little at a time, but it doesn’t work quite like that.

Honestly, I think there has been a change in our churches that coincides with the changes in our society. It appears to me, (from what I read and observe), that many more people today have a difficult time making a “Total Commitment” to anything. We seem to have forgotten what it means to commit ourselves to anything or anyone and then stick with the commitment.

Think about what you see in our world! Marriage, jobs, school, church, people just can’t seem to stick with anything anymore and these are just a few of the problems we see regarding commitment.

The sad thing is that this is a very real reflection of what takes place in many of our churches. The truth is that you can ask almost anyone if they love God and they will, (for the most part), reply “YES,” but their lives say something else. This is not a new problem is it?

We read of the Israelites in Isaiah 29:13, “…this people come near to me with their mouths, and give honor to me with their lips, but their heart is far from me…

It would be more agreeable to some to be able to “make payments” on heaven rather than making a total commitment, but that’s not what God asks of us is it? In Luke 18 a young man asks Jesus what kind of commitment he required. Jesus told him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor and then come and follow him. Jesus is not asking us to sell everything we have today, that was a specific instruction for a specific problem the man had. But the commitment requirement is no different. There can be nothing in our lives that keeps us from committing ourselves completely to God. Why? Because God doesn’t have a payment plan for heaven, he paid for the trip all at one time on the Cross. Now he expects us to respond with the same kind of commitment to him.

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