Thursday, September 30, 2010

Think, Control, Love, Pray

Last week's e-mail from my pastor covered the areas that have been running through my mind for the last few months, so I thought I'd just share his thoughts today.

Thoughts from the Pastor
(9/20/2010)

Dear Members and Friends of Lake Crest Presbyterian Church,
It has been a while since I last sent you any “Thoughts from the Pastor”. It certainly has not been because I have had no thoughts, but because I have had much to think about and not found myself able to put anything in writing. Forgive me. I hope that this marks the beginning of new and helpful “Thoughts”.
I have been reminded lately of I Peter 7-8. It says, “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” While the “end of all things is near” part certainly got my attention, it was what followed that really hit me. The response that Peter is urging God’s people to have to the fact that the return of Christ might happen at any time, is not to run about evangelizing or defending the gospel or helping the poor. All of these things are good and right to do, but the first and foremost response to the impending return of our Lord is to pray. That is the last thing in the world many Christians would consider doing. Prayer is, after all, the last resort – isn’t it? Peter tells us that there are two things in the life of Christians which will initially impede their prayers – “fuzzy” thinking and the lack of self control.
Prayer is hindered when we do not think clearly. That is why we try to stay in the Word of God, so that the clarity of the Gospel might become a part of our thinking. Just a chapter later Peter reminds us (I Peter 5:8), “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” It is the devil’s delight to confuse and disorient Christians. He does this through faulty doctrine, misdirected ministry and apathy. Only a saturation with and submission to the Word of God, in dependence on the Holy Spirit, will protect us from sin-induced “fuzzy thinking”. This is important enough that Paul also addressed it in I Thessalonians 5:6 when he said, “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.” Many Christians today are “asleep–at-the-wheel”. Let us not be so, but alert and ready for anything, with a growing knowledge of God’s Word at our fingertips.
Prayer is also hindered by a lack of self-control. Just look at any listing of the characteristics of unbelievers in the last days and you will see it. In II Timothy 3:3 we come in at the middle of a detailed description, “ …without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good…” It takes God-centeredness to pray. Self-centeredness just can’t make the grade. Christians that have a hard time giving up whatever pleases them more than God have a hard time praying to the God that says in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Who are we really fooling? The choices we make with our time, our resources and our affections; all reflect that which is most important in our hearts. Our god demands and gets most of our attention and affections. So just who is our god? This is a question all Christians do well to ask themselves often, for as John Calvin said of the human heart – it is a veritable factory of idols. Without constant vigilance, we would all be idolaters!
Prayer is also hindered by a lack of love. Prayer without the love of Christ is just a mantra. It really accomplishes nothing. A loving heart – one that loves others sacrificially as Christ has – is also a humble heart. Proverbs 3:34 reminds us that, “He mocks proud mockers, but gives grace to the humble.” Our finest example of prayer from a loving heart is Jesus Himself. The gospels tell us that He often woke early to pray and stayed up late praying. He was in a constant state of prayer. His desire was to be in communication with the Father before He did anything, so that whatever He did was according to the will of God. So it should be with us as well.
We cannot pray for others without loving them. We cannot ask for God’s help without loving Him. We cannot expect His help in hard times, especially at “the end of all things”, if we do not love Him enough to trust Him for everything we need. Paul told the Philippian Christians in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Let us love Him deeply!
My hope and prayer for all of us this week is for clarity of thought, self-control, increased prayer and loving hearts. May God’s Holy Spirit grow us up in all these areas to His glory and for our good as His redeemed people.

In Christ,
Thomas
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