I would think that most of us have trouble keeping our mind focused while in prayer. It can become frustrating and even disheartening to want to give your whole heart, mind, and soul to God one moment, and then be struggling with a sinful imagination the next. Here is a very helpful bit of wisdom from Brother Lawrence on how to combat that struggle.
“One way to re-collect the mind easily in the time of prayer, and to preserve it more in tranquility, is not to let it wander too far at other times. You should keep your thoughts strictly in the presence of God. And being accustomed to think of Him often, you will find it easy to keep your mind calm in the time of prayer, or at least to recall it from its wanderings.”
Here is a great testimony from a man named Jason Helopoulos. I hope that our youth ministry can provide the same simple witness!
Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Loving one another in the body of Christ has many benefits. Two that regularly come to mind are the glory it gives to God and the way it affects the church. However, one of the primary benefits of loving one another is what it declares before a watching world. One of our most potent instruments we have for effective evangelism is Christians loving each other well. I am “living” proof.
As a freshman college student and self-declared atheist, I attended a campus Christian fellowship to fulfill a promise to a Christian friend. I only had the intention to go once. It was merely duty and upholding my word, nothing more. I went begrudgingly, but I went. My life was never the same.
I walked into a room full of Christians and was struck by what I observed. Here was a diverse group. They were from every walk of life. I remember scanning the room and labeling people in my mind, “There is a jock, over there is a geek, and walking in the door is a boy scout.” But what struck me was that they were together. They weren’t just together in the same room, they were together in every sense of the word. They were actually talking with each other and genuinely seemed happy to be together. There didn’t seem to be division. Even in my atheist mind, I knew what I was seeing: they loved one another.
I had no categories for this, so I kept returning to find out why they had love like this for one another. Over the course of a few months I found the answer, or more accurately stated, the answer found me.
One of the best evangelism programs you can start at your church is to pursue loving one another well. At some point they will have to hear the gospel proclaimed from your lips or the pulpit, but that “strange love” will set the table before them. People will know that you are His disciples, because it is a shocking love. It has a gravitational attraction, because it is a love that is foreign to this world. A love that the inquirer, if seeking an answer, will find comes from heaven.
The Agony by F.W. Faber
First read Mt. 26:36-46 and Luke 22:39-46
O soul of Jesus! Sick to death!; Thy blood and prayer together plead,
My sins have bowed Thee to the ground; As the storm bows the feeble reed.
Midnight—and still the oppressive load; Upon Thy tortured heart does lie,
Still the abhorred procession winds; Before Thy spirit’s quailing eye.
Deep waters have come in, O Lord!; All darkly on Thy human soul,
And clouds of supernatural gloom; Around Thee are allowed to roll.
The weight of the eternal wrath; Drives over Thee with pressure dread,
And, forced upon the olive roots; In deathlike sadness droops Thy head.
Thy Spirit weighs the sins of men; Thy science fathoms all their guilt,
Thou sickenest heavily at Thy heart; And the pores open, blood is spilt.
And Thou hast struggled with it, Lord!; Even to the limit of Thy strength,
While hours, whose minutes were as years; Slowly fulfilled their weary length.
And Thou hast shuddered at each act; And shrunk with an astonished fear,
As if Thou could not bear to see; The loathsomeness of sin so near.
Sin and the Father’s anger! they; Have made Thy lower nature faint.
All, save the love within Thy heart; Seemed for the moment to be spent.
My God! My God! and can it be; That I should sin so lightly now,
And think no more of evil thoughts; Than of the wind that waves the bough?
I sin—and heaven and earth go round; As if no dreadful deed were done,
As if God’s blood had never flowed; To hinder sin, or to atone.
I walk the earth with lightsome step; Smile at the sunshine, breathe the air,
Do my own will, nor ever heed; Gethsemane and Thy long prayer.
Shall it be always thus, O Lord?; Wilt Thou not work this hour in me,
The grace Thy passion merited; Hatred of self, and love of Thee?
Oh by the pains of Thy pure love; Grant me the gift of holy fear,
And give me of Thy bloody sweat; To wash my guilty conscience clear!
Even when tempted, to make me see; Beneath the olive’s moon-pierced shade,
My God, alone, outstretched, and bruised; And bleeding, on the earth He made.
And make me feel it was my sin; As though no other sin were there;
That was to Him who bears the world; A load that He could scarcely bear.
Enjoy some pictures from ‘IT’ night!
Here is a great little thought on idolatry by Kevin DeYoung:
What must we leave behind if we are to follow Christ?
The simplest answer is that we must leave behind idolatry. That’s the very first commandment—you shall have no other gods before me. They don’t have to be obvious representations of the divine; they don’t have to be stone or wood or marble. There are all sorts of gods: education, athletics, marriage, choice, power, self-expression, beauty, achievement. Whatever you give your whole life for, there’s your idol.
If only I had ______ then I would be happy.
If only I had ______ I’d be worth something.
If only I had ______ I could truly live a fulfilled life.
Whatever you put in the blank, that’s your god. That’s what you are living for. That’s what you worship. Marriage may be in your blank, or your dream job, or better parents, or better kids, or fewer pounds, or more influence. Many of these are good desires, but they must not be ultimate. They are not meant to be gods.
What might a Jerusalem Council like the one in Acts 15 say to us? What might God be requiring us to give up as disciples of Christ? What might a Spirit-inspired council say to the hard-charging corporate guy who sees everything and everyone as a means for his advancement? What might it say to the woman obsessed with beauty and status, living from tabloid to tabloid, from gossip to gossip? What about the college student who lives for the party scene? Or the “good” college student, who thinks he has to get good grades and go to grad school?
This may all seem like normal life, but it is not normal Christian life. Remember, worldliness is whatever makes sin look normal and righteousness look strange.
Christians are not going to look like everyone else. They are not going to do what everybody else does. They will stand out. It’s hard to carry a cross without leaving some baggage behind.
Here is a great video based on a poem by John Piper about the Christian life. I don’t know why he called it “The Calvinist”–pretend it is called “The Christian” and enjoy!
Just taught a little series on Biblical frienship in my Bible class. Here are my basic notes:
The body of Christ ought to be the basis of our fellowship as believers. –Eph. 4:1-6; Heb. 10:22-25
The body of Christ provides a central heart, a central purpose, and a central goal; each of which give our friendships a benefit of love, purpose, and lasting worth.
1) Heart: Common loves between all believers: God, the Word, worship, service, God’s house, etc..
2) Purpose: Common goal to all our lives. I am a friend to any person that wants to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. We are giving everything to know, serve, and love the same Savior.
3) Goal: Heaven. The understanding that all our friendships are eternal should cause us to view them with a new perspective of love, worth, and meaning. And a very select few we get to know for eternity plus!
The influence of friendships/fellowship is inescapable; either positively or negatively. –Ps. 119:63; Prov. 27:17; 1 Cor. 15:33-34; 2 Tim. 2:22
How do we maintain friendship with unsaved people/the world?
We are to keep our unsaved friends with the purpose of bringing them to Jesus and not simply to fellowship with them around worldly things. –Jn. 17:13-18; 2 Cor. 6:14-18; Eph. 5:11-13
What are your friendships fellowshipping around? Rejoicing in? Who is in the lead? Are we helping or hurting the gospel? What appetites and desires drive our relationships? We need to continue friendship with the unsaved where possible, but we need to cut off fellowship with the world.
We do not separate from the world because we are too good or judgmental; we separate from the world because we are not good enough to keep our testimony and personal walk clean amidst certain pressures. In the end, those who would have accepted and loved Jesus should accept and love us. Those who would have rejected Jesus should reject us.
Priority of “being” over “having”.
The key to understanding Biblical friendship is asking “Am I a friend?” vs. “Do I have friends?” We will give an account to God of how friendly we were, not how many people liked us. True Biblical friendship is a positive and active reality. See –Prov. 18:24; Jn. 15:12-13; Rom. 12:10; 15:1-3; Phil. 2:2-5; etc…
Use example of David and Jonathan as one whose life benefited another. Is anyone’s life better because you are their friend? Divesting of oneself to the blessing of another.
Prayer: Phil. 1:3-5; 2 Tim. 1:3; 1 Peter 3:12
Deeds: Gal. 6:10; 1 John 3:16-19
Encouragement: Rom. 12:14-18; 1 Thess. 5:11; 1 Peter 3:8-9
Speech: Eph. 4:29; Col. 3:16-17; 4:6; 1 Peter 3: 9-10
Correction: 1 Cor. 5:9-13; Gal. 6:1-2; 2 Thess. 3:6-7; 14-15
Wounds: Prov. 19:11; 27:5-6; Eph. 4:15
Forgiveness: Prov. 17:9; 19:11; Lk.17:3-5; Eph. 4:32; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Peter 3:11
How can I tell if my love for someone is godly or sinful? This is a tough question, especially where our emotions are involved in a romantic way. Here is a great little thought on the subject from a saint named John:
Some of these persons make friendships of a spiritual kind with others, which oftentimes arise from luxury and not from spirituality. This may be known to be the case when the remembrance of that friendship causes not the remembrance and love of God to grow, but occasions remorse of conscience. For, when the friendship is purely spiritual, the love of God grows with it. And the more the soul remembers it, the more it remembers the love of God, and the greater the desire it has for God; so that, as the one grows, the other grows also.
For the Spirit of God has this property: that He increases good by adding to it more good, inasmuch as there is likeness and conformity between them. But, when this love arises from the vice of sensuality aforementioned, it produces the contrary effects; for the more the one grows, the more the other decreases, and the remembrance of it likewise. If that sensual love grows, it will at once be observed that the soul’s love of God is becoming colder, and that it is forgetting Him as it remembers that love. There come to it, too, a certain remorse of conscience.
And, on the other hand, if the love of God grows in the soul, that sensual love becomes cold and forgotten; for, as the two are contrary to one another, not only does the one not aid the other, but the one which predominates quenches and confounds the other and becomes strengthened in itself. Wherefore our Savior said in the gospel of John: That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. That is to say, the love which is born of sensuality ends in sensuality, and that which is of the Spirit ends in the Spirit of God and causes it to grow. This is the difference that exists between these two kinds of love, whereby we may know them.
Here is a great thought from Martin Luther:
Christian faith has appeared to many an easy thing; nay, not a few even reckon it among the social virtues, as it were. And this they do because they have not made proof of it experimentally, and have never tasted of what efficacy it is. For it is not possible for any man to write well about it, or to understand well what is rightly written, who has not at some time tasted of its spirit under the pressure of tribulation. While he who has tasted of it, even to a very small extent, can never write, speak, think, or hear about it sufficiently. For it is a living fountain, springing up unto eternal life, as Christ calls it in the 4th chapter of John.
Now, though I cannot boast of my abundance, and though I know how poorly I am furnished, yet I hope that after having been vexed by various temptations I have attained some little drop of faith, and that I can speak of this matter, if not with more elegance, certainty with more solidity than those literal and too subtle disputants who have discoursed upon it without understanding their own words. That I may open, then, an easier way for the ignorant–for these alone I am trying to serve–I first lay down these two propositions concerning spiritual liberty and servitude.
A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.
Although these statements appear contradictory, yet, when they are found together, they will be highly serviceable to my purpose. They are both statements of Paul himself, who says: Though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant to all( 1 Cor. 9:19) and Owe no man anything, but to love one another(Rom. 8:8). Now love is by its own nature dutiful and obedient to the beloved object. Thus even Christ, though Lord of all things, was yet made of a woman; made under the law; at once free and a servant; at once in the form of God and in the form of a servant.
Here is a little added study material for our Bible study tonight.
Light, in the Scriptures, is primarily used as an agent that accomplishes two things. 1) Dispelling darkness 2) Illuminating
So the man who has light, or The Light, within him is a pure man who sees things in their true colors, in their proper perspective, and in their true character. Such a man is aware of himself and where he is going.
Here are a few passages to think on in context of Christ’s declaration in Jn 8:12: Ps. 27:1; 97:11; 119:105; Prov. 4:18-19; 6:20-24; Micah 7:7-9; Lk. 11:33-36; Jn. 1:1-9; 3:19-21; Rom. 13:11-14; 2 Cor. 6:14; Eph. 4:6-14; Phil. 2:12-15; 1 thess. 5:5-8; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 Jn. 1:4-7