Devotional writer S. D. Gordon said: “The greatest thing anyone can do for God and man is to pray. It is not the only thing. But it is the chief thing. The great people of the earth today are the people who pray-not those who talk about prayer; nor those who say they believe in prayer; nor those who can explain about prayer; but those who take time to pray.”
Corrie ten Boom’s family hid Jews in Holland during World War II. She was placed in the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp for her actions. After being released near the end of the war, she traveled the world sharing her testimony for Christ for over four decades. She believed her ministry was sustained by praying and she said, “When a Christian shuns fellowship with other Christians the devil smiles. When a Christian stops reading the Bible, the devil laughs. When a Christian stops praying, the devil shouts for joy.”
Here are some scriptural insights on praying effectively:
Pray thankfully. The Psalmist reminds us to “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise: (Psalm 100:4)
Pray unceasingly. The apostle Paul noted he felt the need to pray night and day. I Thessalonians encourages Christians to pray continually.
Pray earnestly. The apostle James reminds us that “the earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results”. James 5:16
Pray practically. We are to pray about everyday affairs. All of life is lived under God’s watchful eye. Nothing is too small to bring to his attention.
Pray specifically. Life a rifle scope that takes pinpoint aim at the target should be our requests to God. Specific prayers get specific results.
The Apostle Paul spent a lot of time imprisoned for preaching the Gospel, but he had an interesting view of that time. He said in Philippians 1:12-13, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.” Almost 25% of Paul’s active ministry to the Gentiles was spent in jail, but this is exactly where God wanted Paul to be.
The word “vocation” literally means “calling.” For us Christians, our vocation means where God has called us to be. The great and mighty “Apostle to the Gentiles,” the man who performed numerous outstanding miracles, the man who met with the resurrected Christ on numerous occasions, Paul’s calling for those years of his ministry was to be in prison. Our vocations from God may not always be easy for us. For example, a woman who is a stay-at-home mother, who is going on four hours of sleep, doesn’t receive a medal for her work. No matter how many diapers she changes or spit up she cleans, there are no heavenly trumpets for her. But still, this is where God has called her. This is her divine vocation at this point in her life.
Each and every one of you has a vocation, or a calling, from God. Not sure what that is? Just look at your lives. You may be called by God to work a 9-5 job. That is your vocation. You may be called right now by God to spend your final years in a retirement home. That is still your vocation from God. So, what is our reaction to our callings from God going to be? We could sit around and bemoan our vocation. Paul could have whined that he was in prison; he could have grumbled that he wasn’t being allowed to do something more glamorous in worldly eyes. From that calling to be in prison, Paul was able to witness to all those around him of the mercy of Christ. You also can be like Paul. You can accept your various vocations as callings from God. And from those vocations, you can serve God faithfully and, in doing so, give a witness to those around you of the love of Christ.
What should be our main focus as a church? Sometimes churches focus just on survival – paying the bills and making sure that the facilities are in order. Other churches focus on comfort — am I comfortable when I come to worship? Is everything to my liking (songs/sermon) ? Were the people friendly enough to me today? Still there are other churches that worry about relevancy — are we cool enough to attract persons A, B and C? Hopefully we are not focused on any of those things. Jesus told us that we are to be about two things, both as a church and as individual members of the body of Christ: the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. We are to be primarily focused upon two things as a church: loving God with all we are and out of that love being obedient to make disciples and help them to grow. Anything else must be secondary to Christ’s command.
How do we make disciples? We make disciples the same way you taught your children to play ball or learn to cook or mow the lawn. You
demonstrate before them what the desired result is. You spend time with them helping them with the task until they have mastered it. And, you probably enjoy the time together. That is discipleship. Disciple making means to get involved in people’s lives, to love them enough to spend time getting to know them and sharing Christ with them through our life. It means being able to share the hope that we have in Christ and to live our life before them, showing them what it means to live out that hope. It means to share with them how you are growing and how they can grow as well. Discipleship is not an option if we want to be faithful to Christ. Remember, Christ said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” We have a mission field right at our door (and inside our church). Pray with me that we keep the focus of Aldersgate United Methodist Church on what is on God’s heart.
The mission of the United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The Book of Discipline notes that “local churches provide the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs”. Through the leadership of clergy and lay persons, individuals come face to face with those who have taken on the mantle of Christian discipleship, become acquainted with Christian service to others and the sustaining benefits of prayer, acquired an understanding of the great connectional relationship each church has with other local churches, and been taken into the faith through baptism and profession of faith. The local church is made stronger by the linkages formed by the United Methodist Church. United Methodists worldwide are able to recognize that though we are of different cultures, we are able to function as one body through the United Methodist connection. The primary tasks of the Church are summarized in the Book of Discipline as follows: “the heart of Christian ministry is Christ’s ministry of outreaching love…all Christians are called through their baptism to this ministry of servanthood in the world to the glory of God and for human fulfillment”. Christians are called to empty themselves for others so that God’s love will be realized. In the face of a hurting world, Christians recognize that they are called to go to the ends of the earth without hesitation or reservation. We are also called to faithful stewardship of the world. This faithful stewardship involves taking hold of the Christian life in such a way that there is no doubt about our purpose or who we serve. When others hurt, we hurt. When the world is broken, we too are broken. Through prevenient grace our hearts are opened to an understanding that all, whether they realize it or not, are led by the Holy Spirit. We are commissioned to show them the way through our words and actions. We are called to lead others to acceptance of the workings of the Holy Spirit and knowledge of God’s will. The Church can show that service is a manifestation of the leading of the Holy Spirit and therefore an affirmation of God’s call to sacrificial unconditional love.
In Christ, Bro. Barry
Is your closet too crowded? Maybe the single greatest indicator of the overload that we have in our lives is closets. It doesn’t matter how big our closets are. Sooner or later we fill them up. Sooner or later if you keep getting more clothes you either have to get more closet space or get rid of some clothes. Even as our closet hinges strain to keep from bursting, we still try to put more stuff in. Time is like closet space. We have a limited amount of it. We keep putting more and more things in until our time is cluttered. The more cluttered it gets, the more things are out of place. The time that we should be sleeping, we’ve got something else in that space. The time that we should be spending with family, we’ve got something else in that space.The time that we should have to ourselves to do whatever we do to help our spirit, we’ve got something else in that space.Take a look around your closet of time right now. How much has accumulated that you should have gotten rid of long ago. We have habits that we formed in our teenage years that should have long ago been removed from our closets. As you change and grow, you should change what’s in your closet. Maybe we don’t need more stuff in the closet. Maybe we don’t need a bigger closet. Maybe we just need to clean out some stuff and not with the purpose to make room for more stuff. Jesus said go into your closet to pray, but for many of us, there’s simply no room. We may just need to clear out some space for time to meet with God. Go look at your bedroom closet right now. Chances are, it will reflect your closet of time.
In Christ, Bro. Barry