Prayer Before Words, Prayer After Words

Pastor, as you are putting the finishing touches on your message for Sunday, even as you are getting ready to begin the service, consider this counsel from Augustine of Hippo—

“He should be in no doubt that any ability he has and however much he has derives more from his devotion to prayer than his dedication to oratory; and so, by praying for himself and for those he is about to address, he must become a man of prayer before becoming a man of words. As the hour of his address approaches, before he opens his thrusting lips he should lift his thirsting soul to God so that he may utter what he has drunk in and pour out what has filled him.”

Pray for yourself—that you would be a living example of what you preach.

Pray for your vocabulary—that the Holy Spirit would direct your words.

Pray for your ego—that you would not be puffed up nor brought down by the people’s response.

Pray for your congregation—that they would receive and apply the Word of God.

Pray for your community—that they would desire the life of Christ that is evident in you and your congregation.

And on Monday morning perhaps you will pray this prayer of commitment from Augustine—

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. 

Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. 

Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. 

Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. 

Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. 


I’m praying for you this weekend!

Thursdays With Oswald—Temptation

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.


     The old Puritan idea that the devil tempts men had this remarkable effect, it produced the man of iron who fought; the modern idea of blaming his heredity or his circumstance produces the man who succumbs at once. … 

     When we say a thing is “satanic” we mean something abominable according to our standards: the Bible mean something remarkably subtle and wise. … The Holy Spirit is the only One who can detect the temptations of satan, neither our common sense nor our human wisdom can detect them as temptations. …

     satan does not tempt to gross sins, the one thing he tempts to is putting myself as master instead of God. …How are we to face the tempter? By prayer? No. With the Word of God? No. Face the tempter with Jesus Christ, and He will apply the Word of God to you, and the temptation will cease. “Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). The moments of severest temptation are the moments of His divinest help. 

From Disciples Indeed 

There’s not much to add to Oswald Chambers’ words, except this: Beware of your pride which says, “I am above temptation.” The Bible says,

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Corinthians 10:12).

And one more thought: Beware of your pride which says, “I can defeat temptation on my own!” In order to defeat temptation you need (a) God’s Word to fortify you, (b) the Holy Spirit to apply that Word; (c) Christ’s nature to stand up to the tempter; and (d) iron-sharp friends who will hold you up and hold you accountable.

You will be tempted.

You can defeat temptation.

You cannot defeat temptation on your own.

Disciples Indeed (book review)

If you’ve been keeping track of my reading habits, you will know how much I appreciate the wisdom of Oswald Chambers. If you are not as familiar with his works, a great book for pastors and ministry leaders to get initiated into his wisdom is Disciples Indeed.

One reason that My Utmost For His Highest has been so popular (I believe) is the singular thought that Chambers presents each day. In Disciples Indeed you are taken into Chambers’ classroom at the Bible Training College in London, where he is instructing those preparing themselves for full-time vocational ministry. His teaching style was not to weigh his students down with lengthy lectures, but to give these students a place to think more deeply about the things of God.

Disciples Indeed is made up of nearly two dozen lectures. Each lecture presents a single thought in a series of small paragraphs, some of them only a single sentence in length. Chambers’ style of teaching in bullet-point fashion was intended to present profound truths upon which the student could meditate at length. Each chapter appears short on the pages of the book, but there is so much in each lecture for us to ponder.

I highly recommend Disciples Indeed to all “Christian workers” (as Oswald Chambers called his students) who have answered God’s call on their lives to step into a role of teacher, pastor, evangelist, youth leader, or the like. I am confident that your biblical thinking will be greatly enhanced by “sitting in” on these lectures.

Need Power?

In many ways, Labor Day marks the beginning of a “new year.” The summer fun is behind us, a new school year is starting, and everyone is settling back into their normal routine.

Undoubtedly many people begin this part of their “new year” with the same excitement as New Year’s Day, with a renewed passion to accomplish greater things. Perhaps you are thinking about some new habits for this “new year.” Or maybe you are taking a deep breath before you have to dive in to all that awaits you in the next few months.

In any case, the greatest and best thing we can do to prepare ourselves is prayer.

I always start January with a week of prayer, so I want to begin this “new year” with a week of prayer as well. So we will be having a special prayer focus September 4-7. The church will be open each evening from 5:30-6:30pm, but I encourage you to pray with us wherever you are during that week.

Here are some great quotes on the power we can gain in prayer:

“Prayer does not equip us for greater works—prayer is the greater work.” —Oswald Chambers 

Prayer provides the powerto do what we love to do, but can’t do without God’s help.” —John Piper 

“The most healthy state of a Christian is to be always empty in self and constantly depending upon the Lord for supplies; to be always poor in self and rich in Jesus; weak as water personally, but mighty through God to do great exploits…. As the runner gains strength for the race by daily exercise, so for the great race of life we acquire energy by the hallowed labor of prayer. …Prayer girds human weakness with divine strength, turns human folly into heavenly wisdom, and gives to troubled mortals the peace of God. We know not what prayer cannot do!” —Charles Spurgeon

14 Quotes From “Billy Graham In Quotes”

There are just way too many great quotes from Billy Graham In Quotes to share them all here, since the whole book is basically the best from all of Rev. Graham’s books and sermons. You can read my full review of this wonderful book by clicking here.

Normally I share some of my favorite quotes from the books I have reviewed, but that’s next to impossible for this book. So let me just say here are 14 quotes that seemed to stand out a little more to me this afternoon:

“America is said to have the highest per capita boredom of any spot on earth! We know that because we have the greatest variety and greatest number of artificial amusements of any country. People have become so empty that they can’t even entertain themselves.”

“The great flaw in the American economic system has finally been revealed: an unrealistic faith in the power of prosperity rather than in the ultimate power and benevolence of God.”

“What makes us Christians shrug our shoulders when we ought to be flexing our muscles? What makes us apathetic in a day when there are loads to lift, a world to be won, and captives to be set free? Why are so many bored, when the times demand action? Christ told us that in the last days there would be an insipid attitude toward life.”

“Our generation has become well versed in Christian terminology but is remiss in the actual practice of Christ’s principles and teachings. Hence, our greatest need today is not more Christianity but more true Christians.” 

“The very ones whose social pressure cause you to compromise will despise you for it. They probably respect your convictions, and many of them wish they had the moral stamina to stand alone. May the Lord give you added courage to be a witness for Him, even in a hard place.”

“When the Christian or the church becomes popular with the unbelieving world, something is seriously wrong. Because Christ runs counter to evil and because we are Christ-owned, we must also stand against evil.”

“Talk about God can become dreary and lackluster if God isn’t in you. Church can become a drab thing and the Bible an irksome Book if the Holy Spirit does not illuminate your soul with His indwelling presence.”

“The Gospel shows people their wounds and bestows on them love. It shows them their bondage and supplies the hammer to knock away their chains. It shows them their nakedness and provides them the garments of purity. It shows them their poverty and pours into their lives the wealth of Heaven. It shows them their sins and points them to the Savior.” 

“Some people have said that man has improved . . . [and] that if Christ came back today, He would not be crucified but would be given a glorious reception. Christ does come to us every day in the form of Bibles that we do not read, in the form of churches that we do not attend, in the form of human need that we pass by. I am convinced that if Christ came back today, He would be crucified more quickly than He was two thousand years ago. Sin never improves. Human nature has not changed.”

“It has always been a mark of decaying civilizations to become obsessed with sex. When people lose their way, their purpose, their will, and their goals, as well as their faith . . . they go ‘a whoring.’ It is a form of diversion that requires no thought, no character, and no restraint.”

“God wants to use you right where you are. Every day you probably come in contact with people who will never enter a church, or talk with a pastor, or open a Bible—and God wants to use you to point them to Christ. You may be the ‘bridge’ God would use to bring them to Himself.”

“There is not one verse of Scripture that indicates you can be a Christian and live any kind of a life you want to. When Christ enters into the human heart, He expects to be Lord and Master. He commands complete surrender.”

“The Christian should stand out like a sparkling diamond against a rough background. He should be more wholesome than anyone else. He should be poised, cultured, courteous, gracious, but firm in the things that he does and does not do. He should laugh and be radiant, but he should refuse to allow the world to pull him down to its level.”

“Our world needs to be touched by Christians who are Spirit-filled, Spirit-led, and Spirit-empowered.” 

This is an amazing book… go get it!

What Is Happening Is God Is Happening

The Apostle Paul is in prison and on trial for his life, and yet he pens these words: 

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. (Philippians 1:12) 

Huh?! How can being in prison be a good thing?

First of all, the word know here means experiential knowledge; the kind of insight you only get from personal, intimate, hands-on experience. No one can teach you this, you just have to know it through experience. In essence, Paul is saying, “It might look like a setback from where you’re seated, but I know personally that this is a good thing!” 

Then notice the phrase has happened (I also like this in the King James Version: has fallen out). This isn’t the best translation of this phrase from Greek to English. It’s what is called the middle voice, so that means it’s in the present and imperfect tense. My translation:

It’s happening right now AND it’s not done yet!

  • IF I mean it when I pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven…”
  • IF I truly understand that God is working all things together for His glory…
  • IF I really believe that God is directing my steps…
  • THEN I can know that what IS happening IS a God-thing! 

God is up to something that will glorify His name!

And I’m a part of what IS happening to fulfill God’s plan!

So if things aren’t looking too good (even if you’re in prison or on trial for your life!), take note—GOD IS STILL UP TO SOMETHING AND IT’S A GOOD GOD-THING!

Billy Graham In Quotes (book review)

My admiration of Billy Graham goes back to my earliest childhood. I can vividly recall the sermons and books from Billy Graham that my grandfather had on his shelf. I used to listen to those sermons when I visited his farm. In many ways, reading Billy Graham In Quotes was like a walk down memory lane.

Billy Graham has been relevant to every generation that has heard him preach because his life and ministry are solidly grounded on the timeless principles in the Bible. So every problem that society faces, every challenge that each generation is trying to conquer, every doctrinal argument that needs to be solved, Rev. Graham brings God’s Word to bear.

This book is arranged topically, and it’s amazing to read in every topic the same theme: focus on Jesus, read His Word, bring your life in alignment with His life. Time after time after time the solution is right there!

I received this book on my Kindle as a gift from my sister and brother-in-love. I enjoyed reading the book, but the search features and cross-referencing in the ebook format have been a real treat as well.

Whether or not you’ve heard a Billy Graham sermon or read a Billy Graham book, I am confident you will thoroughly enjoy Billy Graham In Quotes.

The Power Of United

One of my highlights every summer since I have moved to Cedar Springs is our annual United service. All of the churches in the Cedar Springs Ministerial Association cancel our regular Sunday morning services, and join together for a united worship service in the park. How incredible it is to see people from so many churches—United Methodist, Free Methodist, Christian Reformed, Evangelical Free, Assembly of God, Church of God, Weslyan and non-denominational—praising God together!

Kevin Reed shared in yesterday’s service the blessings of being one in our worship and in our lifestyle. He highlighted Jesus’ prayer just prior to His passion:

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message [that’s us!], that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. (John 17:20, 21)

I tweeted what Pastor Kevin said next…

I love that thought: When all who love Jesus unite, we show the world the love of God Who sent His one and only Son to reconcile us to Himself!

In the few days leading up to our United service, some of my friends in other parts of the country contacted me to say they wished that there was cooperation like this among the churches in their community. I know that we are truly blessed in Cedar Springs to have this sort of unity among our churches. But with all of these comments from my friends still on my mind, I stumbled across this great thought from Shane Claiborne…

I pray that you can begin to build the bridges that will start to start create the oneness—the unity—in your community. Start becoming the church God dreams of!

United In Prayer

Here are a couple of photos I took this morning at the United service. As the service concluded, people formed prayer circles to prayer in unity. How amazing to see folks from different churches, different denominations, different backgrounds all united in prayer to the one true God!

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! (Psalm 133:1)

Holy Spirit-Controlled

I am loving my time reading Spirit Rising by Jim Cymbala! This passage I just read leapt off the page:

“Many of us want more of God but not to the point of being ridiculed. Our Western minds think, I will serve the Lord, but I will remain in control as I do it. But whether we like it or not, that’s not how the church began. The church began with Spirit-controlled Christians who yielded themselves to God. That’s radical, yes, but that’s the way the Lord did it.

“Some might say, ‘Yeah, but we’ve improved upon the New Testament style of Christianity.’ If that’s true, I want to see the spiritual fruit our improvements have produced. People may have mocked those first, ‘unsophisticated’ Christians, but thousands got saved in the first four chapters of Acts. The Word of God was treasured. The churches were filled with sacrificial love. A holy excitement pervaded the atmosphere. Have we really improved upon that?”

Oh, how I want that in my life, and in Calvary Assembly of God, and in my city!

If it takes being “unsophisticated” and ridiculed, bring it on, Lord! 

I want to be totally Spirit-controlled.

Bring. It. On!

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