Category Archives: Prayer

Act of Approach

Remember, O My Soul,

It is my great duty and delight to rejoice in God:

He requires it of me for all his gracious favor

Rejoice then in the One who gives and in His goodness toward you,

Be happy in the Lord, O my heart, and in nothing else but God,

For whatever man can trust in

Is where he will expect to find happiness.

But the Lord God, who is the foundation of my faith,

Should also be the substance of my joy.

 

Where does the heaviness and heartache of life come from?

When joy is yet planted deeply in my heart,

Promised by the Father

Imparted by the Son

Produced by the Holy Spirit,

Mine by God’s divine grace

Joy is then my birthright in believing!

 

Are you, O my soul, seeking joy by believing in yourself,

Derived from a selfish motive of pride and exalted reputation?

I can claim no good deeds to my merit, but only sinful pursuits;

I have nothing to move God to be gracious in saving me,

Nor have I anything to claim in myself to warrant his continued grace.

If I forget this truth, then my joy will slip away and be lost.

 

Are you grieving O weary soul, over some recurring sin that you have yet to confess?

Pray for godly sorrow to work the good of repentance,

As those of true spirit are blessed of the Lord

As in that same spirit comes the fullest joy.

 

When sorrows rise over the failings of self, rejoicing in God is a door opened to you,

For self-denial brings down divine delights of grace and mercy.

Are you comfortable, O soul, in the worldly goods of mankind?

Do not look for or settle yourself on happiness in worldly possessions,

And do not fall asleep in the lap of temptation

Press into God and make Him your everything,

And the never-ending fountain of divine joy will overwhelm you

 

Translated from Valley of Vision, A Colloquy on Rejoicing, p. 278-279

Act of Approach – He Is Working

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Sovereign, Infinite Filler of Souls,

Help me now to always be in submission to you God,

to be dependent upon You,

found on the path where You do walk

and where your Holy Spirit moves,

warning me of my wandering ways

and of growing insensitive to your love.

You do not move men like stones are moved,

rather you indwell them with life

not to give us permission to move without You

but in submission to You, the one who moves first.

O Lord, I am astonished at the difference

between what I have received and what I deserve;

between the state I am in now and my past state of despair;

between the heaven that I am bound for, and the hell I merit.

Who could have caused this great difference in me but you O God!

for I was no more willing to receive Christ than any other man.

I could not have taken the first step toward you,

had you not first loved me;

nor would I have even been willing,

had you not first made me able.

O that such a crown would fit the head of such a sinner like me!

such a glorious position for one as unfruitful as myself!

such joys so wondrous for a rebel so wretched!

Infinite wisdom designs the means and ends of salvation,

established and built on divine purchase and spiritual freedom.

Let wrath deserved be written on the door of hell.

But the free gift of grace on the gates of heaven.

I know that much of my suffering is the result of my own sinning,

but in heaven both will no longer exist.

Permit me by your grace to set foot on that eternal shore,

and to be done with my sailing in this life;

may the powerful winds of your mercy blow me safely into that glorious harbor.

May your steadfast love draw me ever nearer to you;

purify me from my selfishness,

teach me to die to this world,

and make me ready for my departure for my eternal home.

Secure me, Lord, by your grace as I sail across this stormy sea.

 

– Translation from The Mover, Valley of Vision, p.12

Summer Camp 2016 Recap for Adults (Part 1)

A couple of weeks ago, our kids attended CentriKid summer camp, and it was a blast! You can see pictures and a recap of what we did in my previous blog post. Each day, we discovered more about the unseen power of the armor of God and learned how we can be bold with our visible faith.

Like last year, I wanted to share with you some of what we covered in our adult gatherings. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting parts of devotionals from those adult gatherings we had at camp. This way, you can experience just a taste of the great Bible content CentriKid has to offer for adult believers. (Note: If you want to experience the craziness of camp, including OMC, let me know and we’ll sign you up as a chaperone for next year!)

 

STATION 1:  Peace Through Jesus

Begin by reading Romans 5:8-11.

In this passage, we see that by nature, we have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Our sin has separated us from having a relationship with God, but because of His great love for us, he proved that he loved us by sending His Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross while we were still sinners. A relationship with Jesus Christ brings ultimate spiritual peace between our sinful nature and the perfect Heavenly Father. All other peace is secondary to the ultimate peace through Jesus.

Grab a sheet of paper, or open up a blank word document on your computer. Spend some time in reflection of your life by writing down as much as you can about the topics in each section.

1) What was your life like before Jesus? Where was your focus?

2) What do you remember about becoming a Christian? Do you remember how you felt?

Go ahead and answer those questions before continuing.

 

 

Ephesians 2:14a says, “For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility.”

More than likely, you have experienced tension and hostility related to your spiritual life.  Despite our shortcomings and sin, God never stopped loving us. In fact, He desires to be with us and provided peace through His son Jesus. We must continually focus on the peace that Jesus Christ has brought between our sin and the love of God.

In the story of the woman and the well, Jesus tells the woman that he is the living water.

John 4: 25-26 says, “The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (who is called Christ). When He comes, He will explain everything to us. “ I am He,” Jesus told her, “the One speaking to you.”

Like the woman at the well, we often spend our life looking to the future hoping that Jesus will one day fix thing. However, Jesus has already provided ultimate peace for us through his sacrifice, and He is pursuing you right now. You don’t have to be “ready” or “spiritually mature” to experience the peace of Jesus, you just must choose to follow Him freely. Because of the saving grace of Jesus, we are not called to remain stagnant in our faith, but to rest in the peace of having a relationship with Jesus. Because of this peace, we should intentionally set our sights on a life glorifying Him each day.

With the peace of your relationship with Jesus in mind, spend some time in prayer asking God where He is directing your future. Is He leading you to step up in your faith? Is He simply asking you to focus more of your time and energy on Him?

Go ahead and spend time in prayer now.

 

After you pray, add one more question to answer to your paper or word document:

3) How would you describe your life today? Is it calm, busy, or some other descriptor? Is that a reflection of the current status of your relationship with God?

Write down your thoughts now.

 

Finally, we’ll end this part with this…Where do you sense God is leading your relationship with Him? The question is not whether or not God wants to be with you. Instead, the question is, do you want to be in the ultimate peace of Jesus’s love?

Act of Approach – Delight in God

Sunrise over Ullswater, Lake DIstrict, UK

The Incomprehensible but Prayer-Hearing God,

You are known, but beyond knowledge,

revealed, but unrevealed

My wants and well-being draw me closer to You,

for you have never said, “You will seek me in vain.”

To You I come in my difficulties, necessities, and distresses;

dwell within me

with a spirit of grace and satisfaction

with a prayerful attitude of mind

with access into the comfort of your fellowship,

so that in the ordinary events of life my thoughts and desire may rise to You,

And in committed devotion I may find a resource

that will soothe my sorrows,

and sanctify my successes,

and qualify me in all your ways in dealing with my fellow man.

I worship you that you have made me able to know you

 The author of all being

                Of resembling you, the perfection of all that is excellent

                Of enjoying you, who is the source of all happiness.

O God, draw near to me in every part of my difficult and trying journey

I need the same counsel, defense, and comfort that I found at the beginning.

Let my religious affections be more obvious to my mind,

and more noticeable to others.

While Jesus stands as my representative in Heaven,

may I think on him all the more on Earth,

while He pleads my cause before you,

may I show him increasing praise.

Continue to be gentle to me by the goodness of your character

and whether I am awake or asleep, let  your presence go with me

and your abundant blessing meet my needs.

You have led me on and I have found all of your promises true,

I have been filled with sorrows, but you have been my help,

I have been fearful, but you have delivered me,

I have despaired, but you have lifted me up.

Your promises are ever before me,

And I praise you, O God!

 

Adapted from Valley of Vision, p.18-19

Act of Approach – Spiritual Helps

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Eternal Father,

It is such amazing love,

that you have sent your Son Jesus

to suffer in my place

and you have given the Holy Spirit to me

to teach, comfort, and guide me,

and you have allowed the ministry of your angels

to surround and protect me.

All of heaven looks upon the welfare of this poor worm.

Please allow your unseen servants

to be all the more active in my life

that I might rejoice all the more as your grace grows in me.

Do not permit your heavenly servants to rest until my earthly conflict is over,

and I stand victoriously on the shores of Heaven.

Do not allow my proneness to evil,

my numbness to good,

and my resistance to your Spirit’s movement

to ever provoke you to abandon me.

May my hardened heart awake your pity, not your wrath,

and if the enemy gains an advantage through my corruption,

let it be seen that heaven is mightier than hell,

and those who are for me are greater than those who are against me.

Rise to my help, O LORD,

and bless me once again with your covenant promises,

Keep me fed in the pastures of your sustaining Word,

as I search the Scriptures to find You there.

If my wandering is corrected with discipline,

enable me to receive it with humility,

to bless your correcting hand,

to understand the purposes of your rebuke,

and to respond quickly by faith and trust in you.

Let all your fatherly actions lead me to see your holiness.

Cause me, when I fall, to sink lower on my knees,

and that when I rise from prayer it may be

to a greater devotion to You and your glory.

May my cross be ever sanctified,

that every loss be gain,

that every denial be a spiritual blessing,

that every dark day be illuminated by Your Spirit,

and that every night of trial be a song to your goodness.

 

 

Translation from Valley of Vision, p. 242.

Summer Camp Recap for Adults (Part 5)

5058378176_f837887fb0_bNote: This is the fifth in a five part series on devotionals for adults from CentriKid camps. See part one for more information.

Part 5: A Disciple Experiences God Through Christian Community

A recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association revealed the highest stressors among Americans as money and time. Because humans view these two aspects of life with such importance, we also have a tendency to attempt to control these assets with an iron fist.

As a follower of Christ, you are part of much larger family than just yourself, your friend group, or even the people at your church. You are a part of the huge body of Christ.

Read Romans 12:3-8

God has gifted each member of His body with a unique story or journey, special gifts and blessings, and particular callings. As a Christian, you are not intended to be isolated, but to be engaged in Christian community. God wants us to use the abilities He has given in order to build one another up in Christ

Think about ways you can engage more deeply in Christian community when you return home. Maybe you need to join a small group or seek out a mentor to guide you and challenge you in your walk with Christ. Perhaps you should introduce yourself to a neighbor, or ask a friend to coffee for intentional conversation about Christ.

Briefly share your journey with your partner. You may want to describe your initial encounter with the Lord, and explain what the Lord is teaching you right now. Find out how you can pray for one another and commit to pray for one another.

Summer Camp Recap for Adults (Part 3)

2334183401_bf5ce504c7_oNote: This is the third in a five part series on devotionals for adults from CentriKid camps. See part one for more information.

Part 3: A Disciple Embraces God Through Prayer

Look up the Lord’s Prayer in your Bible from Matthew 6:9-13.

Have you ever felt like praying to God was difficult or even somewhat unnatural? In this passage, Jesus provides a model prayer or guide on how we should pray, and you can use the elements of this prayer as a template or pattern in your prayers. An easy way to remember this is pattern is with the acronym ACTS.

A- Adoration

“Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Prayer is not about you. You should always enter into prayer with your heart, soul, mind, and strength focused on the wonderful God we serve. God is worthy of all of your praise and adoration, and you should voice that praise to Him.

C- Confession

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” As a follower of Jesus Christ, all your sin has already been paid for and forgiven through Christ’s sacrifice. When you pray, you should confess any sin that is holding you back from loving God and living out His commands.

T- Thanksgiving

“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” Jesus is King. As believers, we would do well to remember that all good things and every blessing come from God alone. As such, you should express gratitude for receiving those blessings. Through thanksgiving, you are giving God the glory He deserves, and admitting God’s power is greater than your own.

S- Supplication

“Give us today our daily bread.” As a child of God, you should feel no hesitation or shame in asking your Father for what you need. Start by expressing to God what is on your heart. Remember these words from Matthew 7:10: “Everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Through prayer, you enter into the presence of the One for whom nothing is impossible, and He alone can supply all your needs.

Spend time listening, and allow God to change you and make your heart more like His. Think about your prayer life and ways you wish to grow closer to God. When ready, spend time in prayer to God, focusing on adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. Ask God to help you draw near to Him, and pray for Him to make you more like Him.

Act of Approach – Man’s Great End

 

 

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Lord of all life and being,

There is one thing that deserves my greatest concern,

which calls out my deepest desires,

That is, that I may answer the great purpose for which I was created –

to glorify you, O God, who has given me life,

and to do all the good that I can for my fellow man;

Truly, life is not worth having if it is not improved for this great purpose.

Yet, Lord, how little this thought comes to the minds of men.

Most people seem to live for themselves,

without much or any regard for your glory,

or for the good of others;

They sincerely desire and pursue

the riches, honors, and pleasures of this life,

as if they believe that wealth, greatness, and pleasure

could make their immortal souls happy;

But what a false delusion that is!

And how miserable are those who will sleep in those empty dreams

for all our happiness consists in loving you and being holy as you are holy.

Lord, may I never fall into the vanity and temptations of this life,

the sensuality and foolishness of this present world.

It is a place of inexpressible sorrow; a vast and empty void;

Time is a moment, a vapor

and all the enjoyments of this life are but empty bubbles,

Like fleeting blasts of wind,

from which nothing satisfying can be derived.

Give me grace always to keep covenant with you,

and to reject as a delusion having a great name here or in the hereafter,

which brings with it all the pleasures and profits of the world.

Help me to know continually

that there can be no true happiness,

no fulfillment of your purpose for me,

apart from a life lived in and for Jesus Christ my Savior!

 

Translated from The Valley of Vision, p.22

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thou My Best Thought

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On Sunday, June 7, we (FBC Baton Rouge) began another summer of teaching through the book of Psalms.  We’ve been working through the Psalms for 12 weeks each summer, and this year we will be studying Psalms 49-60. This is both an enjoyable and challenging task, as the Psalms expose for us the raw nature of human emotion in the context of trials, sin, repentance, worship, confession, friendship, and obedience to God. Each Psalm reflects in its own way just how so many Christian believers feel and think when we consider our relationship with God and the world in which we live. The book of Psalms can help us understand how to worship God properly, even in the midst of difficulty and trouble, as the poetic words guide us to a deeper understanding of God’s grace and sovereignty.

Each week, I will use this space to recap a little of the message that was given the previous Sunday, and then a short prayer guide to help us pray through the Psalms together. I pray that this will not only be helpful for you personally, but that it will also contribute to the fellowship and unity of our church family as we are praying for the same things, for ourselves and for each other.

Psalm 49 – Thou My Best Thought

No amount of worldly gain can prevent the certainty of death. (v.5-9)

While there are a number of ways we can gain and leverage our wealth and accomplishments for our own benefit and comfort, or we can use them to support and advance the spread of the gospel message, there is nothing that our earthly gains will do for us when we face the certainty of death. The Psalmist reminds us in v. 5-9 that death comes to all (wise, foolish, stupid), and there is nothing that any man can pay to ransom his own life or the life of another. What would you pay to God to save yourself from death? Would you even have enough to give to him? The Psalmist tells us that our lives are costly and we don’t have the sufficient funds to pay the ransom ourselves. The warning here is to be cautious that our worldly goods do not lead us to believe that we’ve attained a pardon from the grave.

Our only hope of rescue from eternal death is the mercy of God. (v.10-15)

Because the reality of death is something we can ALL be certain of, we must then deal with the weight of that reality in a reasonable way; and I would say in the only way that gives us any kind of hope. Since we do not have the resources to ransom ourselves from death, we must look outside of ourselves to someone else. The man who does not understand the desperation of his own need for redemption, will die just as certainly as the beasts of the field, yet with the sins of arrogance and ignorance in his heart. This kind of death is not just a physical one, but one that leads to shame and suffering after we die. If we spend our lives accumulating wealth for ourselves and for our own security, the full terror of Sheol awaits. But, there is good news in the face of certain death. This good news is that God ransoms people from Sheol and the certainty of eternal death (v.15). By his mercy and grace, God saves sinners (Ephesians 2:4-6), as we trust in Jesus Christ, because that is exactly what Jesus came to do (Mark 10:45). The result of the ransom payment that Jesus makes on our behalf to make us children of God is rejoicing, praise, and honor of God’s mercy. The result is the glorification of a merciful and gracious God.

While mankind was made for glory, there is glory in only 1 house – the house of the living God.  (v.16-20) The man who pursues wealth and prosperity in this world is seeking his own glory, and he will come to find that the glory he had in this life will NOT follow him to the grave. His glory does not “go down with him” (v.17), and he leaves his wealth and his possession to others. Therefore, he has no glory nor does he have any leverage with God. All he has is himself and whatever he trusted in while he lived. Apart from faith in God, there is only shame. But for those who trust in God, and who believe in Jesus Christ as their all-sufficient ransom from eternal death (1 Peter 1:18-19), they will receive glory. They will experience the glory of God in all its fullness, and they will be satisfied (Psalm 17:15, 73:24). This is our great hope in Jesus Christ.

There is so much temptation and often doubt associated with such high and lofty truths. We can easily be distracted by the things of this world, or we can grow fearful that others are acquiring much material gain and using their wealth to influence those around them. While this has always happened and will continue to happen in this world until Jesus returns, the people of God do not lose heart nor do we fret and worry over the worldly accomplishments of others. We set our hearts and minds on Christ, who is our hope. He is the highest, greatest , and most gloriously beautiful thought that any of us could entertain or conceive.  He is our BEST thought.

So how do we pray through the wisdom and promises of Psalm 49?

  1. Start with who God is. He is the all-wise, always present Lord and King, apart from whom we have no wisdom or understanding of truth. Praise God for who he is.
  2. Pray for your own heart, that you will be able to recognize when you are tempted to pursue worldly wealth and pleasures for the sake of your own satisfaction and comfort.
  3. Ask God to give you strength and faith to trust in him rather than in the things of this world. Recall the hope you have in the gospel and confess to God your need for his redemption.
  4. Surrender to God any self-sufficiency that has taken root in hour heart, which has given you a false assurance of your standing before God. Remember that your worldly gains have not actually gained you anything with God. Death is certain and you cannot prevent it.
  5. Thank God for Jesus Christ, your ransom payment and redeemer of your soul. Praise God that Jesus Christ has ransomed you from Sheol and given you hope beyond the grave. Think about Jesus, and all the ways that he is (right now!) working in your life to make you holy.
  6. Pray for wisdom as you seek to live for God’s glory and not your own. Ask God to help you to develop contentment in your heart concerning the pursuits of this world, so that you do not chase after “things” to justify your life, but rather be content in having Christ and the life that gives to those who trust him.

Act of Approach – Leaning

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O God Above,

Occupy the throne of my heart,

Take full possession and reign supreme

Put down every rebel lust of my heart

Let no wicked passion deny your Spirit’s presence

Show your power in me through this day, and every day

And remind me that I am yours forever and ever.

You are worthy to be

praised with my every breath

loved with all my ability

served with every act of my life

You have loved me, rescued me, welcomed me

Purchased, washed clean, shown favor, and clothed me in your grace

I was still dirty with sin and spoiled by fleshly corruption

I was dead in my transgressions against you

Without eyes to see you

Nor ears to hear you

Nor understanding to know you

Yet by your Holy Spirit you made me new,

You brought me into a new world as a new creature

With spiritual understanding

And you have opened me to your Word

My Light

My Guide

My Refuge

My Joy

Your presence is to me a treasure of unending peace;

Nothing in this world can separate me from your compassionate grace

For you have drawn me close to you with unconditional love

And you keep me in that love hour by hour, every single day.

Help me O God to walk in a manner worthy of your love

Whether in my hopes, dreams, and daily occupation

Keep me close to you, because I cannot remain close by my own power

Protect me from evil and the Evil One

Let me set aside the sins that others praise as good

Help me to walk with you, leaning on your arm for strength

In the fellowship of spirit and truth

May you make me the salt of the earth and the light of Christ in the darkness

That I may honor you by being a blessing to others.

 

Adapted from  The Valley of Vision, p.84-85