“But someone will say, ‘you have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18) and, “For as the body apart from the spiritis dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26).

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Prodigal Son

Jesus often spoke in parables to his followers and to those who were curious about his teaching. One of the parables that I used to find challenging was that of the Prodigal Son. Of two sons a man had, the youngest asked his father for his inheritance, which would be about one third of his father's wealth. The father gave the young man the money and he promptly took off to another country where he lived wildly and foolishly, ultimately losing all his money. In the process, he ended up starving and tending pigs. Coming to his senses, he decided to go back home. He would ask heaven and his father for forgiveness and would  even be willing to be treated as a hired servant. But to his surprise, his father was delighted to have him home. In fact, his father gave him a robe, a ring, and wonderful feast slaughtering the 'fatted calf'' for the festivities. Now the oldest son was not happy with these events. In Luke 15:25 read:

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

There are many commentaries on the oldest son. Some think he was a hypocrite and stayed with his father only waiting for him to die so he could inherit the two-thirds that would go to him. Others say he is an example of Christians who judge those who have sinned and although they have repented, they are still frowned upon. Others say that he is an example of rebellion against God's grace. I say this is not only about the oldest son other than, yes,--he was hurt, jealous, and he didn't understand why his father could be so forgiving, while seemingly not paying much attention to him, the eldest, who had behaved in accordance with his responsibilities. 
I say this is about the grand love of God not only for the 'prodigal' son, but for the one who is confused, hurt, and feels left behind. In part of this parable I see Jesus  reassuring us that when we feel slighted, and jealous--God is always with us and always loves us. And when we come back to him, and ask his forgiveness, he is thrilled!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Amos 8:11

Turn to the Old Testament or Google Amos 8:11. This is the English Standard Version (ESV): 11 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord."

 While the prophet Amos was speaking to the Israelites warning that God would surely cut off communication with them because of their lack of interest and even hatefulness towards His prophets, they would realize the heartbreaking loss of God's words during their painful destruction and subsequent captivity. Yet Amos' words can also be read as a warning for our age. Many have turned from the Lord. Few attend church, study the Bible, or seek the words of Godly pastors, teachers, and Christians. Instead, many rely on political correctness, their own ideas of what is right and wrong, and what is trending. Sadly, people without God are without hope, yet they don't know this. They rely on their own strength and understanding. If ever there was a time to reach out to the lost it is now.

 Hebrews 11:6 English Standard Version (ESV): 6 "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him."

Monday, May 23, 2016

God's Sovereignty In Our Lives

Charles Haddon Spurgeon preached
"Blessed is that man who had done with chance, who never speaks of luck, but believes that from the least even to the greatest all things are ordained of the Lord. We dare not leave out the least event! The creeping aphid upon a rosebud is as surely arranged by the decree of Providence as the march of pestilence through a nation."

Indeed, we must not speak of 'luck' or 'chance'. All is in the will of God. How wonderful is that? This great hope--the hope of God's control over the universe and all his creation gives us unshakeable peace and comfort.

In Matthew 10:29-31 it is written, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." 

Understand, that God, your father holds EVERYTHING in his hands. You are loved. Through both good and bad times, we can count of God's sovereignty and his deep love for us. Regardless of how small the matter, rest assured, God is in control. We might not understand the course of events, but hold tight to the Father's hand. He will never leave your side.

 "Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” ( Deuteronomy 31:6)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Why are Christians and not Muslims Mocked?

It's interesting that certain groups in the US hold disdain towards Christian beliefs and if not verbally criticizing, many resort to mockery. This mockery can be found on TV, in film, and in print. While Muslims are only criticized if they are radical, there's little criticism of their beliefs and certainly not mockery. Why? Is it fear, reverence, or respect? I don't have the answers, but there are parallels in both Christian and Muslim beliefs concerning marriage and homosexulity, yet it is only the Christians who are attacked for holding with Biblical marriage, and disagreeing with homosexual practices. (See Saturday Night Live's (SNL) parody on gay marriage and a Christian baker, April 16 2016.) Abortion is another issue, but I believe one does not have to be rooted in theology to realize the unborn are in fact "unborn persons" (even Hillary Clinton used that term, although acknowledged they had no constitutional rights. And not to ramble here, but in some states if a pregnant woman is murdered, it is considered a double homicide.) But back on point: As Christians we must show our love and kindness even to the mockers. We must stand strong in faith, in God's commands, and act and speak with gentleness and humility. We don't have to fight any battles for God and rest assured, he will not be mocked:

 "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap." (Galatians 6:7).

Friday, April 1, 2016

The State of the Presidential Contest

It is disturbing to watch the presidential candidates' behavior as they present themselves and their ideologies for the country's highest office. What is the need for verbal abuse lodged at competitors and certain ethnic groups? Political strategists certainly have opinions and answers for this behavior, but the heart of the matter isn't a pundit's analysis; it is a reflection of how far American society has fallen in morals, respect, and ethics. Thankfully, God has this all under control and he will ultimately raise up who he wants to raise up and use that person according to his will. As the prophet Isaiah writes in 55:8,9, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts your thoughts." This is indeed comfort.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Reflections for Feb. 08, 2016

A Reflection on Reflections. By Ginger Cox. After dinner two weeks ago, I happened to glance out my front window and saw a gorgeous moon. I got my camera, balanced my elbows on the windowsill, and zoomed to high heaven. Although approximately 235,000 miles away, I saw features that I could only imagine with my natural nearsightedness.
It reminded me of this lunar eclipse photo I took several years ago from my office window – a full moon but with a totally different hue.
This past weekend the waning crescent was only a sliver, a far shadow from the moon’s actual size.
Tonight is the Lunar New Year. We will see no moon at all. I am reminded of how sometimes I see God’s illuminating presence in life, and other times I see only darkness. Yet I know He is there. When earthly distortions overshadow eternal reality, I remain in the shadow of His wings, in His constant encircling presence, within the hedge of His protection. Recently scientists reported the discovery of a huge planet, but they haven’t seen it yet! They declare it is there because of the evidence of its effect on other heavenly bodies they do see. If scientists can declare “faith” in the existence of an unseen planet, how much greater is our faith in the Creator of the universe. When earthly things block our sight of Him, we can have assurance of His Presence – without a shadow of a doubt. Just wait and see! Then like Peter, you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9b). This Wednesday is the beginning of Lent, a time for reflection. My hope is you bask in His Light of Love during this season – and forever. Almighty God is our only Constant in this spinning, ever-changing world.----- Ginger Cox www.CoxWorks.com This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad today! Psalm 118:24

Monday, January 11, 2016

The New Year: Hope and Prayer

Ann Graham Lotz is a powerful prayer leader. We can learn much from her approach and words to God. She is a warrior: strong and relentless as she carries the standard of prayer to God on behalf of her brothers and sisters, the country, and the world. I encourage you to take time out of your day to engage in this powerful prayer to the creator of our world, to the triune God: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. He will hear us.



Pray with me today for one hour… as together we fast and Preprayer for the NEW YEAR.
* Please click here to listen to Anne pray this prayer.
 
The unmistakable sound of the Shofar could be heard coming from the wall surrounding Jerusalem, echoing across the sun-scorched valley. The blowing of the trumpet heralded great public distress and was used to summon the people.  It was the first century B.C. and a severe drought was threatening the very existence of the city.  So the city elders called for the people to gather outside the city walls.  Then they sent for Honi.

Honi was an old man who, after this day, became known as the Circle-Drawer. Because when he was summoned, the elders asked him, “Pray that rain may fall.” Honi prayed, but nothing happened.  So he drew a circle around himself in the dust of the ground, and prayed again, "O Lord of the world, Your children have turned their faces to me… I swear by Your great name that I will not stir from here until You have pity on Your children."

The rain began to fall, one large drop at a time.  But Honi protested, “Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain that will fill the cisterns, pits, and caverns.”

In answer to his prayer, the heavens opened and the waters descended in a violent gully-washer that threatened to flood the city.  So once again, Honi pleaded, “Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain of goodwill, blessing and graciousness.”  It is said, and recorded by the Jewish historian, Josephus, that in response to Honi’s third prayer, a long, soaking rain began to fall that ended the three-year drought. [1] Honi had prevailed in prayer.[2]

As I look ahead into 2016, I feel compelled to draw a circle around this city, this state, this nation… and pray!  Until God answers. Do the same. Please.  On this first day of the New Year, draw your own circle.  Then pray for everything that’s inside of it.

…Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate… Who knows?  He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing.  Joel 2:13-14

O God of creation. We bow before You acknowledging Your greatness and Your glory. No one compares to You.  No one is Your equal. We look at Your creation and marvel at the infinite power and wisdom that are Yours.  Nothing is beyond Your reach. “You bring out all the starry host one by one, and call them each by name. Because of Your great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing…You pitch a tent for the sun…It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat…Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there.” [3] There is nowhere in all the Universe where You are not. Surely Your arm “…is not too short to save, nor [Your] ear too dull to hear.”[4]

I acknowledge You as ___________________

Yet we honestly confess: when terrorists randomly kill; when women and children detonate themselves as suicide bombers; when innocent people are grabbed from behind and stabbed in the back; when floods, tornadoes, and storms ravage our land; when our national leaders don’t lead; when our business leaders lie; when our political leaders put their own interests before the people’s; when our spiritual leaders contradict Your Word; when our social leaders divide; when our allies become our enemies and our enemies become our allies…what’s going on?  Where are You?

We are tempted to think You are…
   Distracted…disengaged…disinterested,
     Inattentive…inactive…impotent,
       Out-maneuvered…out-moded…out-classed,
         Unable…unaffected…and even unaware…
of our fear… our helplessness…our confusion…our outrage. Why do You seem so small while our problems, disasters, and enemies seem so large?

Why ___________________?

Help us to regain our focus.

God of our fathers. Lord of the nations. You are the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. No one can understand Your ways. But we turn to You. We return to You. Now. “Are You not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations.  Power and might are in Your hand, and no one can withstand You.”[5]

Did we not establish our nation as one under God? Have we not pledged, “In God We Trust”? But now we find ourselves constantly bombarded with the shrill voices of those who demand we distance ourselves from You; that You are just one of many gods, if You are a god at all; that we cannot risk offending each other by calling on Your name. We hear the enemy insinuating that You are “not fixing this” because You can’t fix this. Our faith is being assaulted.

And so our spirits rise up within us and throw off the smothering cloak of spiritual oppression and political correctness. We shout Your Name. You are Yahweh. Jehovah--the personal God.  The great I AM--the eternal God. The All-mighty--the Powerful God. You are Jesus. Savior. Immanuel. God with us, never to leave or forsake us. Your power has not been diluted or depleted over the ages. You are just as powerful…just as much in authority…as You were in Creation; in the deliverance of Your people from Egypt and in the parting of the Red Sea.  You are the One who sends down the fire.[6] Who fells the giants.[7] Who makes wars to cease.[8] Who raises the dead![9]

I shout Your name: ___________________

As we look ahead into the New Year, we choose to place our trust in You.  If “…the kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord,”[10] we trust in You. If “…the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging,”[11] we trust in You. Though …”nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall…,”[12] we trust in You.  When …”the wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright…,[13]” we trust in You. We trust You.  We trust You!

I trust You when ___________________
I trust You for ___________________

We are told that we can worship You in our own churches, but we cannot bring You into the marketplace or the workplace; into the State House or the school house; onto the battlefield or the football field; into the courtroom or the back room or the bedroom.  As though the God of gods can be contained, boxed in, restricted, bound, hidden. We laugh at such foolishness and exalt You as the Most High God who strides the winds of the earth.  The clouds are the dust of Your feet.[14] The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain You.[15]  How much less any local church building.  We invite You to have Your way in our lives. In our state.  In our nation.  Within our circle.

I invite You into my ___________________

Now arise, O Lord God.  Look on us, Your people who are called by Your name.  Listen to us, as we cry out to You on behalf of our nation. Do not reject us. Have pity on us.

We feel the encroaching evil.  Darkness and gloom are descending. Those who hate us are infiltrating us.  Those who are dedicated to destroying us are all around us.  Are You at the head of this army? Is this the beginning of the Day of the Lord?  Have we tried Your patience and crossed the line into Your judgment? Are You holding us accountable for our sin and rebellion and defiance, for our profanity and blasphemy and idolatry?  “You alone are to be feared.  Who can stand before You when You are angry?”[16] Are You?

Most Holy God.  As we draw a circle around ourselves, we want to make everything right with You within that circle.  So we confess our sin.  You are righteous.  We are not.  You always do the right thing. We have done wrong. We are covered with shame because we know better. We have had generations of blessing and prosperity, yet we have refused to thank You, and instead give ourselves credit for what has come from Your hand. We have agreed with those who contradict Your Word. We have turned away from Your truth, and believed lies. We have treated life casually. We have destroyed our environment selfishly. We have passed by the needy uncaringly. We have demanded entitlements defiantly. We have not listened to those who have warned us of the consequences of drifting from You.

I confess my sin of ___________________
I will stop ___________________
I will turn away from ___________________
Thank You for forgiving and cleansing me of ___________________

And now, as we look into 2016, we come face to face with a mess. What can be done to save us from ourselves? Even as the question reverberates in our minds, the answer is given: the solution to our spiritual and moral meltdown—to the restoration of the crumbling foundation of our nation—is not politics, nor the economy, nor health care, nor welfare or immigration reforms, nor free higher education, nor the court system, nor corporate or Wall Street regulation. You are the Answer. You are the Solution. Yet instead of turning to You, we seem to be turning farther and farther away from You. But not now.  Now we turn back.  We turn around.  We re-turn to You.  We run to You. We cling to You. We plead with You…

Turn to us! Draw near to us![17] If You do not help us, we will be defenseless.  If You do not protect us, we will be exposed to danger.  If You do not deliver us from evil, we will be overcome by it. If You do not have plans to give us hope and a future, we will slide into the past tense as a nation.[18]  Into oblivion.

Father of all mercies. You have said that our land is a land that You, the Lord our God, care for; that Your eyes are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.[19]  As You look on our nation from this day forward, from January 1st to December 31st, 2016, we ask for what we know we don’t deserve.  We ask for Your blessing. Please…
  • Bless our national and local elections.  Raise up men and women who will lead us back to you.  Raise up another Asa, who was fully committed to the Lord all his life.[20] Raise up another Jehoshaphat who did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.[21] Raise up another Josiah who renewed the covenant of his people with You—“to follow the Lord and keep His commands.”[22] Raise up leaders of moral and spiritual integrity who have a strong faith and a healthy reverence for You and therefore the wisdom to make right decisions. Put Your choice in the Oval Office.
  • Bless our homeland security teams.  Give them eyes to see the bad guys, ears to hear the evil chatter, minds to understand the tweets and codes, and the will to act before the enemy does. Protect us from evil.
  • Bless our policemen and firemen, our armed forces and border patrol—all those who risk their lives to keep us safe. Restore to them the respect they deserve.  Protect their lives and their families. Bring to the light of justice any corruption and abuse so that we can trust those in uniform. Guard those who guard us.
  • Bless our judges and prosecutors. Cause them to serve faithfully and wholeheartedly, remembering that they are accountable to You.[23] Punish those who do wrong. Encourage those who do right.
  • Bless my ___________________

You are the Fountainhead from whom all blessings flow. The list of our needs and our requests is endless.  Please.  Bless our doctors. Our lawyers. Our bankers. Our teachers. Our commissioners. Our farmers.
 
  • Bless our preachers, Bible teachers, and seminary professors.  Like Ezra of old, stir their hearts to be devoted to You first, then to the study and the preaching of Your Word.[24] When they preach or teach, compel them to preach the Word, not books about the Word. Motivate them with holy fear of standing before the Judgment Seat of Christ to give an account for the way they have impacted others by their words and by their deeds.  Remove those whose lives are out of sync with their lips. Raise up a generation of spiritual leaders that You approve of as workmen who do not need to be ashamed because they correctly handle the word of truth. [25] Fill them to overflowing with Your Spirit.
  • Bless our families. The unloving spirits of infidelity, dishonesty, treachery, hypocrisy, immorality, pornography, and adultery are sweeping through our homes. The enemy seems to be attacking us on every level, on every front.  A vast army of evil seems to have been unleashed against the home.  Especially the homes and families of Christ-followers. “We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”[26] We plead for Your divine protection.  We plead for Your divine wisdom to counter the attacks so that our families are strengthened in their relationship with You. Be the center of our homes.
  • Lord of love, we pray for You to bless our enemies. Yes, we do. Open their ears to the Truth. Open their minds to understand the Gospel. Open their hearts to long for Your love. Draw them to Yourself as moths are drawn to a flame. Your Light is stronger than their darkness. Bring them into the Light. Save them for all eternity. BUT if they reject You, we ask that You turn them on each other. Distract them.  Destroy them. Prevent them from continuing to attack and persecute the righteous.
  • Lastly, O God our Father, bless us.  Bless me. Make me into a vessel of honor, an instrument “…for noble purposes, made holy, useful to our Master and prepared to do any good work.”[27] I know the night is coming when work for You will cease.[28]  Help me to redeem the time. Use me now for Your Kingdom and Your glory. Open my lips to boldly and fearlessly make known the Gospel:[29] the Good News of redemption for the past…hope for the future… joy for the present regardless of circumstances… love that is unconditional, boundless, and eternal[30]…found at the Cross.  Open my lips to just give Jesus to a world that is increasingly desperate. Use me as an ambassador of peace on earth by first leading people into a right relationship with You, then with each other. When the world around me unravels, help me to stand strong on my faith in You. And when people see me standing strong, help them to see You.
Bless me.
  • Make me into ___________________
  • Help me to ___________________
  • Use me for ___________________

And now, God of grace, as we preprayer for the New Year, we ask bottom-line that You fill our circles with Your glory. Send down Your Holy Spirit in fullness. Ignite the fire of revival in our own hearts. Protect us. Defend us. Comfort us.  Empower us. Equip us as we put on the full armor of God so that we can stand against the devil’s schemes…so that when the day of evil comes, we may be able to stand our ground…taking up the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God…and pray. With this in mind, we remain self-controlled and alert while we keep on praying until we prevail in prayer.[31] And we keep on watching expectantly. Is 2016 the year of Your return?  We hope so!  Come Lord Jesus…[32]

For the glory of Your name…
 
Amen.

 
* Please click here to view the PDF version of this prayer.


[1] I first read the story of Honi in the introduction to Mark Batterson’s book, The Circle Maker.  The account I’ve shared in this book is based on the writings of Josephus, a first-century scholar and very credible historian who was born in Jerusalem shortly after the first coming of Jesus Christ. His writings are held in high regard, and have been used by the secular world as the primary source for both Jewish and Christian history.
[2] Taken from The Daniel Prayer; Chapter 7; Anne Graham Lotz; by permission Zondervan Publishing; May 2016
[3] Isaiah 40:25-26, Psalm 19:4, 6; 139:7-8
[4] Isaiah 59:1
[5] 2 Chronicles 20:6
[6] 2 Chronicles 7:1
[7] 1 Samuel  17:1-50
[8] Psalm 46:9
[9] 2 Kings 4:1-37; Luke 7:11-16; 8:40-42, 49-56; Ephesians 1:17-21
[10] Psalm 2:2
[11] Psalm 46:2-3
[12] Psalm 46:6
[13] Psalm 37:14
[14] Nahum 1:3
[15] 2 Chronicles 6:18
[16] Psalm 76:7
[17] James 4:8
[18] Jeremiah 29:11-13
[19] Deuteronomy 11:11
[20] 2 Chronicles 15:1-17
[21] 2 Chronicles 19:4-20:32
[22] 2 Chronicles 34:1-33
[23] 2 Chronicles 19:8-11
[24] Ezra 7:10
[25] 2 Timothy 2:15; 4:1-2
[26] 2 Chronicles 20:12
[27] 2 Timothy 2:21
[28] John 9:4
[29] Ephesians 6:19
[30] Ephesians 3:14-19
[31] Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 Peter 4:7
[32] Revelation 22:20