Response to Truth; September 21, 2021

Acts 7:57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him.

It’s amazing sometimes what people will do when confronted with unwelcome truth. The thing that jumps out at me about this is how they both yelled and covered their ears. They didn’t want to risk hearing another word Stephen said! We make a joke of it, with people putting their hands over their ears and saying, “La la la la I can’t hear you,” but in this case it was deadly serious. We don’t like to be confronted with unpleasant truth, and how we respond speaks volumes about our spiritual and emotional maturity. Al Gore became famous, and even received a Nobel Prize, for producing a movie called An Inconvenient Truth, but the only problem was that it was largely made up of distortions and outright lies. That he himself didn’t believe the things he was proclaiming is proved by the fact that he lived in a huge house that used several times as much energy as the average home, and he had his own private jet in addition to that. Those who have been swept up in that “movement” are always loudest about other people reducing their “carbon footprint.” When you are speaking genuine truth, you don’t have to silence your opposition. The fact that some people are working so hard today to silence opposing viewpoints on various subjects makes it very clear that truth isn’t on their side. When we are dealing in God’s truth, as Stephen was, we tend to get much the same response from some quarters that he did. That’s why we need to be wise, but that doesn’t mean we need to be silent. That’s coming out right now in response to Critical Race Theory. Thankfully, the opposition to children being indoctrinated with CRT, along with totally unscientific concepts of sex and gender, is rising to a high level, with parents standing up for their children in various ways. That such theories exist isn’t the issue, it’s that they push them on the most impressionable and that they insist that all other viewpoints be shut down – just like the people who stoned Stephen!

I’m very thankful to have been raised to value objective truth, and that God was always presented as the ultimate Truth. After all, Jesus said explicitly, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) Also, I am very grateful for my 7th Grade English teacher, who taught me to expect and recognize bias in what was presented to me as truth. Bias doesn’t mean something is untrue, just that it isn’t the total picture. My occupation is that of Truth Presenter, both as a pastor/missionary and as a school teacher. I have problems with inaccuracy at times in both those roles, and I have had to apologize. I am not to be hesitant in presenting what I know to be true, but I must remember that I personally don’t have the whole truth, (1 Corinthians 13:9-12) and always speak the truth I know in love. (Ephesians 4:15) When I am given information that is unwelcome to me, I am to let the Holy Spirit be my filter first of all, and then examine things objectively. I must not imitate the men who stoned Stephen!

Father, there’s so much junk being proclaimed as truth these days. Help me stand for Your truth without attacking those who are deceived by the lies. May my life be a demonstration of the truth I proclaim, for the blessing of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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Delegation; September 20, 2021

Acts 6:2-4 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

This actually was a major inflection point in the early Church, when things could easily have gone either way, and going the wrong way could have essentially doomed the Church as an organization. There are always important things to be done, but there are also priorities. Ordering those priorities can make or break either individual lives or large organizations. God gave the apostles wisdom, just as He did to Moses’ father-in-law thousands of years before, because the answer is often delegation. (Exodus 18) There is only so much a given individual can do, and there is always more to be done than one individual can handle. It’s not that things aren’t important, it’s a matter of focus and concentration. Just as people are spiritual beings who inhabit bodies, (as I brought up in the message a week ago) the Church is a spiritual organism that is made up of people and deals with all sorts of things involving the material world. If we forget that the first priority is spiritual, everything falls apart. The devil does all he can to distract us with the physical in various ways, both with pleasurable things and unpleasant things like pain and conflict. The only way out of it is, as Jesus said, to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33) That’s why we need to start each day by taking time with the Lord, regardless of how urgent other things might seem to be. Here, the apostles faced a situation that threatened to tear the Church apart, so by the wisdom of God they delegated, allowing the people to choose their representatives so that it wouldn’t be seen as a top-down solution but would have everyone’s agreement. However, they set clear guidelines. Those chosen should be “full of the Spirit and wisdom.” The Japanese includes the characteristic of “well-spoken,” which the NIV leaves out but in my view would be very important for this particular job. (Some translations say, “of good reputation.”) These men needed to know how to get along with others. Peter may have been especially aware of this, because that wasn’t one of his outstanding characteristics! That at least Stephen was very gifted with words comes out right after this, when he is arrested for being too effective as an evangelist. In any case the point here is that a genuine issue was acknowledged and people were assigned to deal with it, and a crisis was averted.

Delegation has always been an issue for me. I tend to do everything myself, or at least try, and all too often that makes a mess of things. I am gifted in many ways, and often doing things myself is the easiest and simplest solution, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best. I need to involve others in the church far more consistently, for them to grow and the church to grow. Today I am conflicted because of the various things that need to be done, but at the moment I don’t have anyone else to call on. However, starting with this time in the Word and prayer is certainly the right thing to do! With the size and current composition of the church I don’t have options for some of the things, but this is a wake-up call for what we need to do from here. Today, I need God’s wisdom as to the order in which to do things, and indeed, what is to be done today and what later. In the future, I need to be active in seeking the participation of others, so that God’s work may be done by God’s people for God’s glory.

Father, thank You for this strong reminder. I know many things in theory that I don’t apply in practice. James 1:22 was written for me! Help me keep growing so that the church can keep growing and indeed, the Church keep growing, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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Persecution; September 19, 2021

Acts 4:29-30 “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

Reading this I am reminded of something I read just yesterday, that the number of Christian believers in Afghanistan is increasing with the Taliban takeover. That is certainly not what the Taliban, or really anyone else, expected! However, anyone genuinely familiar with Church history should not be surprised at all. The same thing has been happening in Iran, to the point that the Islamic government seems to be in genuine danger. We tend to look at the rise of anti-Christian forces in the US and panic, forgetting that God is looking at the whole world. God is waking up His children in the US by allowing the enemy’s activities to be exposed, and at the same time He is strengthening His children in places where the enemy seems to be in full control. We forget that, as the chorus says, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” We look at external factors, but He sees people’s hearts. We are limited to a temporal perspective, but He sees all eternity at a glance. The believers in Jerusalem set a precedent that all believers down through the ages should follow: meet opposition with faith and boldness, regardless of the immediate consequences to your own flesh. Martyrdom started with Stephen (Acts 7) and multiplied from there, to the point that John son of Zebedee is said to be the only one of the original 12 apostles to die a “natural” death. (Why do we ever think of death as unnatural? Our bodies are mortal, and we shouldn’t think otherwise.) We forget that our word, martyr, comes from the Greek martyrion, meaning “witness.” When Jesus said that we would be His witnesses when the Holy Spirit came on us, (Acts 1:8) He wasn’t excluding martyrdom! When our hope is fully and firmly in Christ, then we are witnesses whatever happens to our physical bodies.

This is something I have been aware of for a long time as objective fact, but I don’t know how well I have lived it out. I haven’t experienced much persecution for my faith personally, but I am very aware of the persecution that is going on around the world. I am never to take suffering lightly, particularly when it is that of a brother or sister in Christ, but at the same time I am never to think that suffering is the end of the story. As I quote frequently, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) Getting your head cut off, particularly slowly, with a knife, is hardly something to look forward to, but even hours of torture are momentary when compared to eternity. I am to be as bold as these believers in Jerusalem, and pray for my brothers and sisters around the world who are in the middle of persecution that they would be so as well, so that we may all be effective witnesses to the grace and power of our Lord.

Father, I’ll confess to being surprised by the report of increased believers in Afghanistan so quickly after the takeover. O me of little faith! Help me indeed trust You fully, whatever my news feeds are telling me, so that I may be a faithful, effective servant in whatever capacity You desire me to be, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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Peter; September 18, 2021

Acts 3:16 “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.”

Peter could hardly have been accused of being subtle! Every record we have of him speaking he pulls no punches. To us today it seems almost surprising and unnecessarily harsh for him to have been so accusatory toward his hearers in the three verses just before this, but he was establishing their need for repentance, which is sadly lacking in most preaching today. “Political correctness” is certainly a tool of the devil! We don’t know exact numbers, but verse 4 of the next chapter indicates that there were a lot of conversions that day. As an American evangelist told me over 40 years ago, we can’t save anybody; our job is to help them understand they are lost. When we are so careful not to offend, that’s not likely to happen. We aren’t to offend needlessly, but all too often fear of offense muzzles the truth and even denies it. Peter was far from being a trained orator; he was an exemplar of the “ignorant country hick.” That’s why it was so astounding to the members of the Sanhedrin that he spoke as he did. (4:13) Education and training are certainly not bad, but they are no substitute for the anointing of the Holy Spirit, even though, sadly enough, they are often taken to be so. It is a travesty that some denominations require academic testing before they will license and ordain someone to preach. Peter would never have passed such testing! When we substitute human criteria for the calling of God, we are guaranteed to fail at advancing His kingdom.

I have always been blessed and encouraged to read about Peter and read what he wrote. I am amused that the first letter with his name on it is used for teaching Greek because it is so beautiful and grammatically correct, but 2nd Peter is the opposite, showing that it was written directly by him rather than being “grammar-checked” by Silas or some other trained scribe. (1 Peter 5:12) That said, 2 Peter 1:9 has been enormously helpful to me personally. We all need the “unvarnished truth” much more than we like to admit. Coming from an academic family and being a seminary graduate, my “credentials” don’t have much in common with Peter’s, so I’ve got to be careful not to rely on gifts or training, but rather on the Lord my God. My gifts and training can be useful tools, but they are worthless and even counter-productive if they aren’t totally submitted to God.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for the example of Peter, who had some of the biggest failures but also was used by You gloriously to bless countless generations of believers. Help me likewise take my eyes off of myself and fix them on You, to walk on water as called for and draw many into Your kingdom, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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Pentecost; September 17, 2021

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

The events on the day of Pentecost were momentous in every way, and here we have the response to them. That there were 3000 commitments to Jesus Christ as Lord in one day, without benefit of modern sound systems or anything of the sort, is an indication of how God had prepared the people to receive the message. It had been less than two months since the Crucifixion, and with none of our current electronic distractions to give them a “24 hour news cycle,” people were probably still talking about it, particularly with all the rumors of resurrection that were doubtless going around. The thing is, everyone has big events in their life; it’s how we respond to them that really makes the difference. The Japanese translation here gives a slightly different slant on the people’s response. Whereas the English says, “They devoted themselves…” and then goes on to list the various activities, the Japanese says, “They strictly obeyed the apostle’s teaching, had fellowship, broke bread, and prayed.” The point seems to be, their first goal was to absorb everything they could about Jesus from those who had been with Him, and the other things followed from there. The thing is, the more we know of Jesus, the more we are going to delight to be with His children and the more we are going to pray. There is discussion of exactly what is meant by “breaking bread,” whether it means celebrating Communion or simply eating together, but if the latter, it seems a little trivial to include it here. In any case their faith-encounter with Jesus consumed them, and the foundation for the Church was laid.

As a pastor, and particularly one ministering in Japan, I have always looked on Pentecost and the events following with more than a little bit of longing. Japanese people today are close to the opposite of the people in Jerusalem on Pentecost. They have no foundation in the Old Testament, certainly, and the culture itself has a very distorted concept of sin, repentance, and forgiveness. If I hadn’t been born and raised here, and particularly if God hadn’t commissioned me to serve here, I would have chosen an easier place to work! That said, I am daily reminded that nothing is impossible for God. The things that happen are generally very small, but they are reminders that God is at work. Just yesterday I was called in by the chairman of the school where I teach, wanting me to speak on “Giving” to the Rotary Club. I cautioned him that I would definitely be quoting the Bible! Also, my wife has discovered the online prayer meetings hosted by Don Moen, and when she sent a comment and he noticed it was from Japan, he recalled a vision he has had of revival sweeping Japan, from the west to the east – and Nagasaki is the westernmost prefecture in Japan! These things are little at this point, but they are reminders that God hasn’t given up on this nation, and I must not either.

Father, You have been giving various hints that my ministry is going to change, but I can only guess as to what that might mean. I pray that I would be as available as Peter and the other apostles were on the day of Pentecost, whatever, whenever, and however You want to do, so that Your name may be acknowledged as holy and Your kingdom come as Your will is done, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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Decisions; September 16, 2021

Acts 1:24-26 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

This frankly strikes me as strange even today, but there is a very long history of this sort of thing, even in the Bible. From Exodus 28:30 on, the Urim and Thummim are mentioned many times as a means of determining God’s will. No one is sure of the details, but apparently they were stones (or some other material) of different color that were otherwise identical, and when drawn from a pouch, sight unseen, were taken as a yes or a no from God. (We don’t even know which was which.) This is very much in that tradition, but it still feels strange, because we are used to people hashing things out and deciding on the basis of human reason. In this instance, human reason and criteria were involved in choosing the candidates, but the final selection was left up to God. I have heard various people say that Paul was actually God’s intended choice, but even given the time factor, he wasn’t a witness of Jesus’ resurrection until the dramatic encounter on the road to Damascus, and in any case he hadn’t walked the roads of Judea and Galilee with the group. I have nothing against Matthias, the man chosen here, but I wonder if the very idea of “needing to complete the number” was a strictly humanistic thing that God didn’t care about particularly. We have trouble not only in making accurate decisions, but even in knowing which decisions are important.

Like everyone else, I deal with decisions constantly. I had to decide what to wear this morning! I have come to the awareness that God indeed cares about every one of our decisions, since He even keeps track of the number of hairs on our head. (Luke 12:7) However, not all decisions are of equal importance, just as it doesn’t matter particularly if I have a few hairs more or less. The problem is, I often fail to recognize the relative importance of my decisions. Going on to a different dorm after the first girl I was interested in wasn’t there turned out to be an extremely important decision, way back in 1969, but I didn’t think much of it at the time. The longer I live and the more I learn, the more I realize I really don’t know anything! Casting lots might or might not be the way to go about it, but I need to seek God’s will all the time, in decisions big and small. The bigger the decision, in my perspective, the greater the stress. However, as I just illustrated, I often have no idea how big decisions really are. I’m back to what the Lord told me several years ago: I need to rest, relax, and rejoice. He is more interested in my decisions than I am, and if my heart is fixed on Him, He will guide me.

Father, thank You for this reassuring reminder. Thank You for the many, many ways You have guided me over the years. Help me indeed keep my heart fixed on You so that I will recognize and follow Your guidance in every instance, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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Perception; September 15, 2021

Acts 1:14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

It is interesting to try to imagine the atmosphere in this prayer meeting. They were obeying what Jesus had said that Luke recorded at the very end of his first book: “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) However, what was most different, I think, from previous gatherings was that Jesus’ mother and brothers were with them. My guess is that Jesus had appeared to the members of His genetic family individually after His resurrection the way He did for Peter. (Luke 24:34) What a shock that must have been! To know, without a shadow of a doubt, that your weird older brother, whom you thought had really flipped out, was actually the Son of God! I have a feeling that their previous attitude had a lot to do with something He said at the point He announced the start of His ministry: “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” (Luke 4:24) They were used to thinking they knew Him better than anybody, but now they were with a group of men whom He had chosen and trained, and those men knew Him better and deeper than they did. They certainly adjusted, however, and James eventually became the leader of the Church in Jerusalem, and Jude wrote one of the letters included in the New Testament, never calling Jesus his big brother but rather calling Him “Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Jude 1:25) We too tend to think of people from a strictly human perspective, rather than as God sees them. It’s like Paul said, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” (2 Corinth­ians 5:16) We all need God to correct our perspective on people, even on ourselves. It won’t be until we are before God’s throne that we will be able to know ourselves and others with full accuracy, (1 Corinthians 13:12) but until that point we need to keep allowing the Holy Spirit to “correct our vision,” so to speak, so that we will see things more and more as our Father does.

I’ve certainly had this issue! I have both been conceited and had inferiority complexes about myself, and I have looked at others through a “fleshly filter” all too often. I have had people I thought were dear friends disappoint severely, and I have had people of whom I thought very little turn out to be God’s instruments. I need to remember that God sees all of our faults but loves us anyway, and also that all of our “good points” are no better than filthy rags before Him. (Isaiah 64:6) I am to walk in God’s grace that requires repentance, repenting of my own sins and allowing others to repent of theirs. I wonder how Jesus’ brothers felt about how they had sometimes treated Him? I think we all tend to feel that our perception of things is accurate, but that is manifestly not always true. I need to walk in genuine humility, allowing God to show me what is real, about people, about myself, and about the world around me, so that I will respond as He wants me to, for His glory.

Father, thank You for this clear reminder. It’s an interesting Word for my birthday! The world sees me as a “senior adult,” but in Your eyes I’m still just a kid! Help me indeed see myself and others as You do, to be Your agent of grace, blessing, and salvation itself, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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Assignments; September 14, 2021

John 18:11 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

John doesn’t record Jesus’ agonized prayer about this “cup,” but at the time he wrote that was already circulating through all three of the other Gospels. John wanted to make very clear that Jesus consciously accepted His assignment, even knowing the agony it involved. We all receive various assignments in life, some of which might delight us and some much less so. Sometimes we receive assignments for which we are woefully inadequate, but if we will depend on God, He will accomplish them through us. The thing is, we aren’t put on the earth just to exist. As Paul put it, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) Some people are very aware of their calling, feeling driven to fulfill it, but the majority of people are much less so. Sometimes that calling, those good works, seem big and important, and sometimes they might seem inconsequential to us or to others. However, our perspective is extremely limited. I’ve always liked the illustration of someone making a hand-knotted tapestry. From the perspective of the one tying the knots, it’s a tangled mess, hard to recognize as a distinct image of anything. However, from the other side it’s a beautiful picture of a scene or a person or something else. When we’re busy “tying the knots,” it can be very hard to imagine the beauty that God sees. Jesus’ flogging and crucifixion were the ugliest of ugly, but from the other side, they were the absolutely glorious victory over the devil and the redemption of all who would believe. Jesus had the advantage of knowing the purpose of His assignment, and we don’t necessarily have that. However, if we will be faithful to “tie the knots,” the resulting “tapestry” will have a beauty beyond our current imagination.

I’ve experienced this and I’ve seen it in others. I’ve been eager to accept some assignments, only to discover how difficult they were. I’ve been reluctant to accept other assignments, only to discover how rewarding they were. And some things I haven’t even recognized as having been assignments until after they were done! The point is to remain open and obedient, whatever the Lord has for me to do. This morning, His assignment was to sleep an hour later than I usually do! That’s not exactly a hard assignment, but I’m convinced it was part of His plan for me. With a birthday coming up tomorrow, it’s a time of reflection over what assignments I have completed, and which are still in progress. I know that my ultimate assignment is to grow to be like my Lord, and that will only be completed when I am before His throne. In the mean time, I am to keep speaking the truth in love, (Ephesians 4:15) comforting others with the comfort I have received, (2 Corinthians 1:4) and allowing God’s Spirit to flow through me (John 7:38) for the blessing of many and for His glory.

Father, thank You for Your various assignments. I’ve certainly done better with some than with others! Help me not be anxious but simply faithful, applying all that You supply to the task at hand, so that Your plans may be fulfilled on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You, Praise God!

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Identifying with Christ; September 13, 2021

John 17:14-15 “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”

It’s not at all that this passage was unfamiliar to me, but I find myself blown out of the water right now as I read. The degree to which Jesus identified with His disciples, placing them on the same level as Himself, is absolutely astounding. Even though they were still dense, not grasping much of what He was telling them, He still says here, “They are not of the world any more than I am of the world.” That is an incredible statement! And then in verse 20 He explicitly included all the spiritual generations of believers who would come after, having believed because of the apostles’ message – and that includes all believers today. That said, we need to remember that Jesus didn’t have an easy time of it. It was a matter of a few hours at most until He was arrested, abused horribly, and then crucified. We can certainly not demand better! Just last night I watched a video report of the persecution that is going on today in India. The “untouchables,” the people at the very bottom of the caste system, are coming to Christ because in Him they discover they have value, they are loved, but they are being attacked even by the government, because being at the very bottom of the pyramid they in effect support everything above them, and when they get out of the caste system by faith, the whole rest of the system collapses. American Christians don’t know how good they have it, even with the current hostility toward Biblical positions on life, marriage, and morality. That’s why Jesus prayed for us all that we would be protected from the evil one. We must not forget that we have an enemy, and that our eventual victory may go through as much suffering as that of Jesus. At the same time we must remember, as Paul reminds us, that “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) Jesus was fully human, just as we are, but here He is saying that, again as Paul said, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” (Philippians 3:20) When we identify with the world, we do so to our own loss.

We once lost a potential church member when, at the close of a service and I was issuing an invitation to commitment to Christ, I said, “Take my hand as though you were taking Jesus’ hand.” She thought I was claiming to be Christ! That was certainly not the case, but at the same time, believers indeed represent Christ. One of my spiritual children has recently been told, “You are like a Buddha,” meaning that his character was so good as to seem “other-worldly.” I too need to be that way, not to draw people to myself but to the Lord whom they see through me. I could easily name countless things that would seem to disqualify me from that, but that would be placing the focus on me instead of on my Lord. I stumble all too often, but I must remember that I am no more of the world than Jesus was while He walked the earth, and so live like it.

Father, thank You for this Word this morning. Thank You for all You did in the service yesterday, with several non-Christians present, and evidence that they were touched by Your presence. I do pray that each of them would come to repentance and faith for salvation, and that in the process the current believers would be encouraged and come alive as Your disciples, Your representatives, drawing many into Your family for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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Praying for the World; September 12, 2021

John 17:9 “I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.”

This verse in English has always bothered me a bit. It feels like when God told Jeremiah not to pray for the Jews. (Jeremiah 7:16, 11:14) However, the Japanese makes it a little easier to take. It says, “I request for them.” Etymologically, “pray” does mean “request,” as we have to remember any time we read Shakespeare, but we generally attach very specific feelings to the word today. That said, I think we need to learn something here. What we are to pray in relation to the world is that God’s rule and reign be established and His will be done. (Matthew 6:9-13) If we aren’t careful, prayer can devolve into love for the world itself. In his first letter, John made it very clear what our attitude should be. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15) That’s not to say we shouldn’t enjoy, even “love,” nature, but we need to remember that everything physical is temporary. People get all worked up about “climate change,” when everything about the physical universe is changing. We are accountable to God for what we do with the physical things around us, but they in no way approach the value of a human soul. In praying for people who are not yet in God’s family, and even for those who are, I like a prayer my mother often prayed: “Keep them from unnecessary pain.” Sometimes pain is indeed necessary to grab our attention and force us to turn to God. The thing is, we aren’t infinite, and we are to focus our prayers under the direction of the Holy Spirit. If we try to pray too broadly, we run the risk of loving mankind while despising individuals. When even Jesus focused on those closest to Him, we are not wrong to do the same.

Often as a pastor I want the believers to lift their eyes and pray for more than “I-my-me-mine.” I get newsletters that seek to keep me updated on persecution around the world, and right now you can’t turn on the news or the Internet without being bombarded with situations that cry out for prayer. However, I must be careful that I myself don’t fail to pray for those close to me, being distracted by those far away. I am greatly bothered by those who try to “guilt trip” people into supporting various causes, but I am not to allow that to turn me off to genuine need. Again I am back to needing the Holy Spirit to guide me. As Paul said, we don’t know how or for what to pray! (Romans 8:26-27) I am not to be uptight about it, but pray freely, earnestly, and often, however He directs.

Father, thank You for this Word. I really do feel overwhelmed at times at all the things to pray for, and I tend to retreat into not praying. Keep me from that! Help me be effective as Your instrument to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) through proclaiming Your will, Your Word, in prayer, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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