Beyond Cameraman Prayers

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Matthew 21:22

cameraman So, I ask for relief from financial distress, safety in travel, smooth relationships, healing from every sort of malady that I hear about.

Aren’t they the best prayers?  Don’t those requests reveal my belief in the truth of this verse?

Yes and no.  I think my eye gets so fixated on what comes after the comma that I fail to weigh the significance of the words that come before.  “If you believe…”

The second part of the phrase really has no substance or benefit apart from the first.
It raises the question, what do I have to believe in order for the second phrase to stand in all its truth?  Psalm 145:13 answers that question.

The LORD is faithful to all his promises.”

“This, then, is the prayer of faith: to ask God to accomplish what He has promised in His Word.  That promise is the only ground for our confidence in asking.” ((Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone, Reformation Trust 2007, p. 146))

So, if I believe — that is, have unswerving confidence in the promises of God, how will that affect my prayer life?  Both Peter and Paul address this question:

“He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”  2 Peter 1:4

“Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”  2 Corinthians 7:1

These verses reveal that through God’s promises He reveals His goal of holiness.  The promises that I believe impact what I will pray and what I pray is intended to impact what I become.  With promises in mind, my prayers would be focused not on health, comfort, ease, convenience, prosperity and approval but for God to progress His promised plan of transformation within me!

“It’s as though we each look at life through a video camera and ask for changes in everything except the person filming.  The cameraman is never in view.  We will pray with parents for their straying teenager to straighten out; we rarely pray for the parents not to be fearful, bitter or controlling.  We will pray for a person to get a job; we rarely pray that he would grow in faith as he learns not to fret about money.  We pray for the conversion of someone’s loved ones; we rarely pray that the believer would grow more loving and honest in the way she treats the loved ones.”  ((David Powlison, Speaking the Truth in Love, New Growth Press 2005, p.118))

As a cameraman whose view finder is full of the disruption of joblessness, today I want to believe more and pray something bigger than, “Lord, please bring us a good job.” Today, with reverent trembling I want to pray, “Lord, you have promised to perfect holiness in me–that will mean purifying my heart from so many contaminating loves that reside there. 

Let me love your transforming work and the tools you use to accomplish it. I believe you are accomplishing your promised goal of helping me escape the corruption of this world, so I am bold to ask now, allow me to be a participant in the divine nature. 

That is a promise prayer too wonderful for me to comprehend.  I believe that you are working out 1 John 3:2 and so I say, your will be done Father.  In the name of Jesus.  AMEN

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure

In Christ Alone

564 I first heard Sinclair Ferguson speak at a Faith and Life Conference at All Saints Presbyterian Church in Richmond, VA. 

A few years later I was at a Ligonier Conference in Orlando and listened to him present deep truths from the Gospel of John that were all the more compelling as they came wrapped in the sound of his rich Scottish accent.  Because his teaching always challenged and enlarged my heart and mind, I was anxious to read his new book:

In Christ Alone.

I had a sense as I moved from chapter to chapter that I was reading something "greater than" other books that I have delighted in.  Early on, my mind stopped referencing my fondness for Sinclair Ferguson because I became enthralled with the glory and supremacy of Christ.  I found myself intending to stop at the end of one chapter only to be grabbed by the title of the next and reading on. It was thrilling to see how many ways and through how many topics he remained commitedly Christocentric.  I know that this will be a book that I will return to again and again.  It is such a gift of concise, enriching Jesus exalting teaching.

Some of the questions dealt with are:

  • What does it mean to abide in Christ?
  • What is a legitimate prayer?
  • Why did Jesus weep at Lazarus’ tomb?
  • How well do you play second fiddle?
  • What does it mean to come to Christ for rest?
  • What does contentment look like and why does it have to be learned?
  • What can we know about our enemy the Devil?
  • What am I to think in light of struggles and suffering?
  • How am I to exercise the liberty that I have in Christ?

ferguson Having just completed a study of Hebrews, I was especially interested in the chapters that unpacked the meanings of that book.

Ferguson asks a question that he called a touchstone of truth so that a reader could discern the influence that a particular teaching was having on them.  "Is this teaching by which I am being influenced leading me to love and trust Jesus more? Or less?  (p. 67) 

I can say with deep appreciation and joy–this book certainly led me into a deeper love of my Savior Jesus!

The Gospel is Strong Wind!

"For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep doing…What a wretched man I am!   Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!…Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

Romans 7:19, 24-25, 8:1

mistress1 What a gift to a believer’s heart are these words from Romans 7-8!

From his own experience, Paul describes the struggle of having new creation wants and desires coexisting and battling within the same body that still houses the desires that he had before being indwelt by Christ. 

He turns not to the law to resolve the inner conflict–he turns to Christ and the glory of the gospel!

"The law can tell us what obedience looks like and can chart our course for it, but it cannot give what it commands, and this is as true for the Christians as it is for unbelievers. 

Continue reading “The Gospel is Strong Wind!”

Nailed!

stations11 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away.

Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins.

He canceled the record that contained the charges against us.

He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross.  

Colossians 2:13-14 NLT

What record of charges is against me?

  • A record of infinite debt that I have amassed as one who daily breaks the perfect law of God.
  • An endless I.O.U. that I have no hope of being able to pay back — all I have to offer in payment is sinful self effort–which only increases the indebtedness.
  • A bill of debt with my signature at the bottom –  I cannot blame or accuse another–that means I have signed my own death warrant. (Romans 6:23)

How did what was nailed to the cross change things?

  • Jesus was nailed to the cross and was crucified – His death paid the sin debt in full. (Colossians 2:13)
  • Pilate insisted that Jesus’ true title be nailed to the cross.  God’s way of teaching that while it appeared Jesus was being shamed; He was actually being exalted. He is “The King of the Jews”. (John 19:19, Isaiah 52:13, Isaiah 53:5)
  • God the Father nailed to the cross our record of charges. That record was destroyed–erased–blotted out–obliterated. (Colossians 2:14)

My sin–O, the bliss of this glorious thought!

My sin, not in part but the whole.

Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more;

Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O my soul!

 

from “It is Well With My Soul” by Horatio Spafford

Jesus’ last words were “It is finished.

This phrase means, it stands finished and it always will be finished.

Like an artist completing a picture that He had begun in eternity past.  CrossSalvationHeavenWhen Jesus said “It is finished,” He meant the picture of redemption is now complete.

His sacrificial death was the final brush stroke needed to pay our debt–nothing more could be added to His finished masterpiece!

 

Does This Taste Stale to You?

I have recently finished a book that asked the question, “Does your spiritual life taste stale to you?”  I guess that question touched a responsive chord because I plopped down the $12.99 retail rather than searching on-line and bought the book.  It was difficult to walk on by after the title grabbed my attention: I became a Christian and all I got was this lousy T-shirt. 

30121_detail It was written by Vince Antonucci a man raised by a Jewish mother and abandoned by his poker-playing father.  He now pastors a church in Virginia Beach known as Forefront Church.

I found his storytelling captivatingly honest and the weaving of biblical principles through the stories fresh and inviting. It is funny and poignant and the first book in quite a while that I could not put down.

Imagine a believer suggesting that Christians should buy a bumper sticker that reads “Stop Having a Relationship with Jesus.” 

When the shock of that statement wears off you see that he is pointedly inviting you to consider whether just a relationship with Jesus is enough for you.  He helps you think about something that might be more precious.  Here is how he makes that point:

Continue reading “Does This Taste Stale to You?”