Prayer

Prayer is an activity that many Christians, including myself, seem to struggle to do consistently today. We often either allow ourselves to become too distracted and/or we fail to be intentional in setting aside time to do it. Of course, we have no real excuse as prayer can be done anytime anywhere. Much of mine occurs (outside of church times) before bed or while in the car – you don’t have to close your eyes to pray.

Even so, this is not what I want to talk about here today. Instead, I want to emphasize some of the things prayer does for us.

  1. It humbles us. As we pray, we recognize that it is God who is in control ultimately and not us as we take our concerns, desires, and even calls for mercy to Him.
  2. We find strength in it. Heb. 4:14-16 speaks of the fact that we have Jesus Christ as our mediator to God the Father who has experienced every struggle in life. In other words, He can perfectly sympathize and so we can approach God with confidence and find grace.
  3. It helps us to cast away anxiety. Anxiety comes as we pridefully try to shoulder all things ourselves rather than take them to God. When we humble ourselves in prayer, we are given the opportunity to cast all concerns on Him (see 1 Peter 5:6-7). He also promises His peace when we do this (Phil. 4:6-7).
  4. As we thank God for the blessings we do receive, despite whatever negative situations we find ourselves in, we learn and reinforce a state of contentment from our thanksgiving that helps us to push away anxieties in this world.
  5. We can take confidence in God that He answers prayer. Not only do we know that we have a perfect mediator in Christ, but we also have numerous examples in Scripture of God answering prayer. Yes, it may not be in the way we desire at times, but He does answer in His time and I can speak from my own experiences as well that He does answer.
  6. Through it, we find comfort in times of trouble. Ps. 50:15
  7. …and on

There are many things written on prayer and I do not intend this to be exhaustive. Even so, I do think these points are good reminders of what we gain from prayer as it puts us into the right mind we are called to as followers of Christ. Ultimately, prayer brings God glory which in turn works to bring us joy in Him as it is in that state of bringing God glory that we find our greatest fulfillment.


For further reading on prayer:

https://www.monergism.com/search?keywords=prayer&format=All


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Agape

As stated in the previous post, agape love is the sort that is emphasized in Scripture. It can be described as self-sacrificial love and others outside of the Bible often refer to it as willful or mindful love (as it requires an act of the will). Just as before, it doesn’t matter what we ultimately call it. The point is that it is the sort of love God emphasizes and models throughout the Scriptures.

Even in the various “forms” or “types” love can come in or be expressed, the Scriptures point toward the Agape form of love. Christ did this on the cross, giving up His own life to pay the penalty for our sins that we rightfully deserved. He calls all those who would follow Him to “take up their cross” and follow His example in every element of their lives. In other words, Christians are to live out Agape love in all that they do.

This includes in marriage. From the Greek, we often think of the word Eros for the erotic and intimate love expressed by a couple. However, this type in itself is deficient without Agape. Why? Because Eros alone, despite it finding joy in the beauty of the body, all too easily leads to an idolatry of the body as well as a self-seeking for one’s own pleasure derived therein. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the intimacy that comes with the married bed. In fact, God wants us to enjoy it. Even so, we must remember to be self-sacrificial in our love in marriage (whether in the bedroom or in daily activities).

A specific example of this is aimed particularly at husbands in Ephesians 5:28

“In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”

And to give a little more context: (v 25-30)

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of His body.”

It is mindful, it does require work, and (most importantly) it is what we are called to bring to our actions as Christians.


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Love

Throughout the generations, human beings have come to describe love in various ways. As Christians, we find its embodiment in God and that often contrasts with the many definitions described by man over the generations.

One thing is clear: not all love is created equal. What do I mean? I mean that there are different types of love. We even see Jesus Christ in the New Testament making this clear when He asked whether Peter loved Him. English often just says love but the Greek uses different words, indicating different types. In fact, in the Greek in Christ’s time there were 4 known types: Eros, Phileo, Agape, and Storge.

Eros – erotic/sensual/intimate love, idealistic – of the body – the kind between a husband and wife.

Phileo – described as brotherly – of the soul – it is specific to bonds shared with others. This can be between individuals within the family or friends. Christ had this toward His disciples.

Agape – parental, mature, sacrificial – of the other – this is the sort that would lead one to put themselves into harms way in order to protect the one they love. Most clearly seen in the works of Christ and on the cross.

Storge – dutiful – of community and family – it is a loyalty that can sometimes seem unfeeling. This love, though described in the Greek, wasn’t truly given a place from Christ’s angle. In fact, you typically only see the first 3 used in Scripture with particular emphasis on Phileo and Agape.

It is important to note that the relationships we have with others will often incorporate more than 1 type of love. For example, Phileo and Agape could be easily mixed and in the case of family, even eros too. Regardless, Scripture clearly emphasizes Agape. As Christians, we are called to “die to self” which would even hamper phileo love. Phileo may not sound bad but, unlike agape, it does have a centered-ness toward one’s self in the relationship which can easily lead down the wrong path if not careful.

I bring these types of love up because American culture today, while it realizes there is different types of love, often ignores the distinctions between the types and instead tries to either lump them all together or somehow make eros the pinnacle of a progression. This has lead to all sorts of ideas of love that have lead people down various wrong courses of action in the name of “love”.

Wherever we find ourselves in life, we must remember that we have access to the true source and definition of love in Jesus Christ, the God made flesh. We must turn to Him and His word if we are to know love and to act out our love correctly.


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Christmas

Christmas or Christ mass (as the name comes from Roman Catholicism) is a widely observed holiday by Christians and non-Christians alike, albeit not always in the same way.

The term Xmas refers to the Christian holiday and should not be confused as a way to remove Christ from Christmas as the X is there to represent Christ. The English language X is the closest transliteration of the character in Greek used for the first letter of the name of Christ, Christos. Even with that knowledge in mind, I have to admit I personally prefer to see “Christ” in the name for the holiday as in our language it leaves no doubts for the reader who does not know this.

Moving forward – for celebraters of Christmas, the real reason for the season is in celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ who would go on later in life to die and bring salvation to those who put their faith in Him. This event was a miracle in itself as God became incarnate through a virgin woman. That sentence alone is packed with enough material to right several books and worth our meditation!

Since His birth, many traditions and practices have been born among man to celebrate this time of year (as well as those that predate the Christian holiday – from other beliefs). Regardless of the traditions we hold to at this time, we must remember that Christmas is ultimately about the birth of Christ and we should be careful to not allow our practices at this time to make us forget this fact. So, get together, exchange presents, and go about your typical Christmas practices. Just always remember that it is Christ who is at the center of the Christmas holiday and let that guide you in what do (or don’t do).


 

Marriage

Marriage was instituted by God and designed by God. (See Genesis 2:18-25)

At the heart of the relationship is companionship and intimacy, which BOTH husband and wife must promote by their actions.

These things about marriage are not typically missed by Christians but this next point is missed in some circles.

The relationship seen between husband and wife is similar to that between Christ and the church and this has profound implications about our marriage relationships that entire books could (and have been) be written on.

Read: Ephesians 5:23, 31-32    Ephesians 5:25    Colossians 3:19    1 Peter 3:7

As Christ is head of the church, husbands are head of the family and wife, but this is NOT a domination sort of thing. As Christ models, we are to lead by serving. Furthermore, God makes clear there is no such thing as a “lesser” sex in 1 Peter 3:7 as it is pointed out that wives are “heirs with you of the gracious gift of life,”. There is a call here to respect wives and be considerate of them which lines up perfectly with the idea of leading by serving.

Don’t confuse the point made in 1 Peter about wives being “weaker” with “lesser”. This statement is merely pointing to the typical biology that makes it easy for men to be physically strong and women not as much (its a muscle density thing, women can still be quite physically strong). This is NOT to say that women are somehow weak in ability as they prove time and again otherwise. Instead, when taken in context of the surrounding scriptures, we see here a call to be considerate of women (especially wives) such that we (as men) avoid being physically harsh or abusive.


As I’ve said, there’s is much to this topic, but I’ll leave it there – for now.


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Worry

The Lord says that those who are in Him must trust Him that He has all things taken care of. Do not, therefore, worry about what comes next. REGARDLESS of what comes, He is there with you.

Take one day at a time, and don’t borrow trouble.

Matt. 6:34  Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Instead, we are directed to not be anxious and pray to God whom we should trust.

Phil. 4:6-7  Do not be anxious about anything, but in anything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Cast all your anxiety at the feet of God as He cares for you.


Additional reading:

1 Peter 5:6-7, Matt. 6:25-28,

Prov. 12:25, 14:30, 17:22


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Discipleship

“Discipleship is a process which enables you to “grow up” in the Lord Jesus Christ and equips you to overcome joyfully the pressures and trials of this present life (based on Luke 9:23-24; James 1:2-4). Discipleship requires constant self-examination that is in accordance with God’s Word (based on Matthew 7:1-5; I Corinthians 11:31; Galatians 6:4).”

– p. 35 of Self-Confrontation: A Manual for In-Depth Biblical Discipleship, developed by John C. Broger


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Sufficiency

Upon converting to Jesus Christ (involving a sincere, wholehearted belief in Him), you can then change biblically (in ways the Bible prescribes and brings God glory) because of God’s divine power made available to you. This power is not of yourself.

This empowerment gives you a different purpose for living which provides a new source of focus for change.

This enabling then moves forward with a plan on how to change biblically. To put it simply, by obeying directives provided in God’s Word, the Bible.

So we see the source of every step is found in God. The conversion begins with Him and then empowerment is given from Him which breeds a new focus to effectually obey and we know how to obey from the “how-tos” provided in the bible which are God-breathed – again, from God.

Note: these how-tos go beyond mere action and focus most on how to think in ways that bring about right action that ultimately glorifies God.


Some verses for further study:

John 14:16-17; Romans 8:9; John 14:26; Romans 8:11; Romans 8:26-27; I John 2:18-27

Galatians 5:16-17, 22-23

I Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 4:12; II Peter 1:2-4; Romans 15:4; II Timothy 3:1-17

1 Corinthians 3:19; Isaiah 55:8-9; James 1:5; Philippians 4:11-13,19; Matthew 28:20

Luke 4:8; II Corinthians 5:9,20; Romans 8:29; Psalms 115:1; Romans 6:16-18

Philippians 1:6, 2:13; Luke 6:46-49, II John 1:6, Acts 5:28-29; Genesis 4:7; Ezekiel 18:20

Colossians 1:10; Matthew 7:1-5; Romans 12:2


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Liar

1 John 1:8-10

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives.”


If I claim to be without sin, I thereby deceive myself and make God out to be liar.

The truth is that I do sin and because of this sin, I need salvation which can only be found in the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ. Upon coming to Christ, I then enter into a process that progressively makes me more like Him. I will continue to sin as my original nature was completely corrupted, but in Christ I am being made new and have been empowered to follow His will which ultimately gives Him glory. It is in this glory-giving state that I find my greatest joy and contentment.


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