Monday, March 28, 2011

Visionary Monday

....bring them (children) up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph 6:4)

I found some very significant and weighty words for my 'Visionary Monday' post. These are words that the Church needs to hear today.

Parents are not so much unwilling to provide more substantive training to their children as they are ill equipped to do such work. According to research, parents typically have no plan for the spiritual development of their children, do not consider it a priority, have little or no training in how to nurture a child’s faith, have no related standards or goals that they are seeking to satisfy, and experience no accountability for their effort. ~ George Barna

You are not likely to see any general reformation, till you procure family reformation. Some little religion, there may be here and there; but while it is confined to single persons, and is not promoted in families, it will not prosper, nor promise future increase. ~ Richard Baxter

An old writer well said, “A family without prayer is like a house without a roof, open and exposed to all the storms of Heaven.” All our domestic comforts and temporal mercies issue from the loving-kindness of the Lord, and the best we can do in return is to gratefully acknowledge, together, His goodness to us as a family. Excuses against the discharge of this sacred duty are idle and worthless. Of what avail will it be when we render an account to God for the stewardship of our families to say that we had not time available, working hard from morn till eve? The more pressing be our temporal duties, the greater our need of seeking spiritual succor. Nor may any Christian plead that he is not qualified for such a work: gifts and talents are developed by use not neglect. ~ Arthur Pink

The advantages and blessings of family worship are incalculable. First, family worship will prevent much sin. It awes the soul, conveys a sense of God’s majesty and authority, sets solemn truths before the mind, brings down benefits from God on the home. ~ A. Pink

Thursday, March 24, 2011

And proclaim as you go, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' (Matt 10:7)

Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you." ~ Luke 17:20-21

It's been a desire of mine to be more intentional and focussed about my Bible study time. I have so much that I want to learn, by God's grace, and I won't have my undisciplined self keeping me from it! I want to dig deeper into my basic beliefs and allow the Spirit to challenge me by and through Scripture, as well as to be drawn into a deeper intimacy with my Lord. I desire to grow in a greater reverence for His living Word and to decrease in my regard for worldly things (a weighty desire, I must confess, that isn't as often accompanied with intense passion and devotion as I would like!). During my time at Ellerslie last summer, a simple, but very profound and significant truth was drilled into my heart: The Word of God in text should lead and draw you to the Word of God in person, namely Jesus Christ!
This week, my focus has been the Kingdom of God as I have been wanting a more real, in-depth understand of what it means to be 'delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of his beloved Son' (Col 1:13) . What is the Kingdom? What is it's purpose? How is it manifested here on earth? What is the behavior/lifestyle of those who live within it?
I've been using various commentaries and website (and hope to extend those sources), but for now this is what I have started with and my purpose is to build upon it. Although I do read and use commentaries, I hope to (during my private times of study) come to a real understanding of the Lord's Word not just by Christ-exalting theologians/teachers (thank God for them!), but through the Holy Spirit's guidance and confirmation.

Kingdom - Basilea (Strongs G932)
1) royal power, kingship, dominion, rule

a) not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom

b) of the royal power of Jesus as the triumphant Messiah

c) of the royal power and dignity conferred on Christians in the Messiah's kingdom

2) a kingdom, the territory subject to the rule of a king

3) used in the N.T. to refer to the reign of the Messiah

The deeper spiritual meaning of Kingdom - The rule of Christ within the soul of a man. The possession of the inner man by the Spirit of Christ. Christ the King of Kings making the heart of men his first claim upon this earth. He will make his second claim, returning in wrath and judgment, accompanied by the host of heaven to dispossess Satan once and for all of his claim on this earth. And every knee will bow, both in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every mouth confess that Jesus Christ is the rightful master, legal possessor, and true Lord and King over all earthly territories (both the lives of men and the physical lands of this earth). ~ Eric Ludy, notes from the message - Kingdom: The Ruling Domain

The Kingdom is primarily the dynamic reign or kingly rule of God, and, derivatively, the sphere in which the rule is experienced. In Biblical idiom, the Kingdom is not identified with its subjects. They are the people of God's rule who enter it, live under it, and are governed by it. The church is the community of the Kingdom but never the Kingdom itself. Jesus' disciples belong to the Kingdom as the Kingdom belongs to them, but they are not the Kingdom. The Kingdom is the rule of God; the church is a society of men. ~ George Ladd

Five points summarized by Ladd:

(1) The church is not the kingdom (for Jesus and the early Christians preached that the Kingdom of God was near, not that the church was near, and preached the good news of the Kingdom, not the good news of the church).
But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. ~ Acts 8:12
And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. ~ Acts 19:8
And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. ~ Acts 20:25
And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. ~ Acts 28:23
Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him. ~ Acts 28:31

(2) The Kingdom creates the church (for as people enter into God's kingdom they become joined to the human fellowship of the church).

(3) The church witnesses to the kingdom (for Jesus said, "this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world," Matt 24:14).

(4) The church is the instrument of the kingdom (for the Holy Spirit, manifesting the power of the kingdom, works through the disciples to heal the sick and cast out demons, as he did in the ministry of Jesus).
Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. ~ Matt 10:8

And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. ~ Luke 10:17-19

(5) The church is the custodian of the kingdom (for the church has been given the keys of the kingdom of heaven).
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. ~ Matt 16:19

Therefore we should not identify the kingdom of God and the church (as in Roman Catholic theology), nor should we see the kingdom of God as entirely future, something distinct from the church age (as in older dispensational theology). Rather, we should recognize that there is a close connection between the kingdom of God and the church. As the church proclaims the good news of the kingdom, people will come into the church and begin to experience the blessings of God's rule in their lives. The kingdom manifests itself through the church, and thereby the future reign of God breaks into the present (it is "already" here: Matt 12:28, Rom 14:17; and "not yet" here fully: Matt 25:34, 1 Cor 6:9-10).
Therefore those who believe in Christ will begin to experience something of what God's final kingdom reign will be like; they will know some measure of victory over sin (Rom 6:14, 14:17), over demonic opposition (Luke 10:17), and over disease (Luke 10:9). They will live in the power of the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:28; Rom 8:4-17, 14:17), who is the dynamic power of the coming Kingdom. Eventually Jesus will return and his kingdom reign will extend over all creation (1 Cor 15:24-28).
~ Wayne Grudem

The Christian's purpose is to bring about a full and correct portrayal of God's Kingly glory and lordship, to be fully possessed and given to Him and filled by Him.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
~ Rom 14:17

...we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
~ 1 Thess 2:12

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God...
~ 2 Thess 1:5

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology. Pg. 863-864.
George Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

This is our God upon whom we wait...

The LORD preserves the faithful...~ Psalm 31:23b

For the LORD loves justice;
he will not forsake his saints.
They are preserved forever..
~ Psalm 37:28

The LORD preserves all who love him...~ Psalm 145:20

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
~ Psalm 146:5-7

Monday, March 21, 2011

Back to visionary mondays...

It has been nearly a year since I made a Visionary Monday post. I have missed blogging them so I thought I should return. This is just a simple post, but I hope to gather up some resources (books, verses of virtue, and various bloggers) these next few upcoming weeks to make more focussed posts
Here are some beautiful reflections for this week...

It's always a joy to take a peak into simple, old-fashioned living by Miss Mia: Blessings of Everyday

A beautiful summary of keeping home by Miss Jen:

"Six things are requisite to create a happy home. Integrity must be the architect, and tidiness the upholsterer. It must be warmed by affection, and lightened with cheerfulness, and industry must be the ventilator, renewing the atmosphere and bringing in fresh salubrity day by day; while over all, as a protecting and glory, nothing will suffice except the blessings of God." ~ Rev. Hamilton 1878

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."~ Philippians 4:8

And lastly, some words of wisdom by Amy Carmichael that I often need to be reminded of.

"If monotony tries me, and I cannot stand drudgery: if people fret me and the little things of life set me on edge; if I make much of the trifles of life, then I know nothing of Calvary's love."
~ Amy Carmichael

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A call for Christian families to return to Christ...

It has been awhile since last I posted a book review. I'm not sure if this one counts as an official one since I've yet to complete this book. But I'm well over half-way through it and what a rich trove of wisdom it has been for me!

I have been blessed by Voddie Baucham's teaching on family before, but I hadn't gotten around to reading one of his books until now. His purpose for writing this book was to address and offer Biblical instruction for the horrifying reality of "Christian" children from Christian families departing from the faith. Maybe "horrifying" sounds a bit strong to describe the condition of today's "Christian" youth, but it's simply the sad truth. Baucham gives his readers a "lay of the land" by quoting some statistics:

"Between 70 and 88 percent of Christian teens are leaving the church by their second year in college."

"a number of researches have discovered that the overwhelming majority of our teenagers who still attend church and identify themselves as Christians have belief systems that mitigate their claims. According to researcher George Barna, 85 percent of 'born again teens' do not believe in the existence of absolutely truth. Over 60 percent agreed with the statement, 'nothing can be know for sure except the things you experience in your own life.' More than half of those surveyed believed that Jesus sinned during His early life."

Voddie goes on to quote more research statistics, but he makes a point that most would find shocking:

"...we should not be surprised that young people are fleeing the church in droves. Why would anyone remain faithful to an organization with which they largely disagree? How could anyone remain faithful to a belief system that is relegated to the outskirts of their lives? The problem is not that these children are leaving Christianity. The problem is that most of them, by their own admission, are not Christian! Hence their leaving makes complete sense. The apostle John put it best when he wrote:

"They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us, but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us." (1 John 2:19)"

Baucham doesn't apologize for the "can of worms" that he opens within the first chapter. His goal is simply to awaken Christian parents to this reality and begin to turn them to the One who can equip them to raise their families in multi-generational faithfulness.

I went to bed quite depressed the first night that I picked up this book. It's not just the fact that I was reading this reality in black and white, but that I've witnessed it, experienced it, and known countless souls who are part of those numbers. Real, living souls.

Voddie Baucham writes, "Shelves are chock-full of books about new, innovative approaches to youth ministry. Others say the answer is to get them earlier and lay a better foundation by focusing on children's ministry. Still others believe the answer is to integrate the two areas do that the transition is smoother and better coordinated. This book argues for neither approach.

I believe we are looking for answers in all the wrong places. Our children are not falling away because is doing a poor job - although that is undoubtedly a factor. Our children are falling away because we are asking the church to do what God designed the family to accomplish. Discipleship and multi-generational faithfulness begins and ends at home. At the best, the church is to play a supporting role as it "equips the saints for the work of ministry" (Eph 4:12)."

"This book is an effort to put the ball back in the family's court and to motivate, correct, encourage, and equip families to do what God commands concerning the next generation. The Bible is clear about what God expects out of the home and about how it is to be accomplished. Unfortunately, most Christian did not grow up in a home that taught these truths. Thus, we continue to repeat the 'sins of the fathers.'"

Baucham is honest enough to admit his mistakes. He and his wife lived ignorantly of this truth for some time and they made mistakes in the early stages of their marriage and their children's lives. However, in his pursuit of the Lord, he was awakened to the calling and the purpose of his role as husband and father. His passion and heart for the reformation of the family is clear as he shares his experiences and meetings with broken fathers and mothers, whom he has met along his speaking tours to preach the the message of multi-generational faithfulness. He tells story after story of parents grieving over their lost children and parents who invested everything they could invest into their kids, but had completely left out every bit of spiritual substance from their lives. His words on this echo like a battle cry:

"We cannot stand idly by while our children leave the faith in droves. We cannot simply shake our heads and accept defeat. We must fight for our sons and daughters."

"There are many worthwhile pursuits in this world, but of them rise to the level of training our children to follow the Lord and keep His commandments. I desperately want my sons and daughters to walk with God, and I am willing to do whatever it takes, whatever the Bible says I must do in order to be used by God as a means to that end."

Through the following chapters, he begins to lay a foundation and build upon it. He gets wonderfully practical while remaining Biblically-focussed. He discusses making Christ Lord over your life and family life, having a God with "no rivals", and thoroughly covers examples in Deuteronomy with encouragement and instruction from Ephesians (instructing readers how to watch their walk, to be good stewards of the time, understanding God's will, constantly yielding to God's Spirit, and ordering their relationships by the book).

In addition, he devotes an entire chapter to love, clearing up false, worldly views of what it is and contrasting it with Biblical, Spirit-born, Christ-exalting love. He also explains how such love in Christ overflows into and transforms the family circle. He then moves on to establishing a Biblical world views and talks about why children need it - knowing what you believe about God, man, truth, knowledge, and ethics. In that same chapter, he makes some helpful pointers about watching out for legalism. Although he fully believes that "parents must diligently protect their children from ungodly influences," he makes it clear that setting "limits and rules are insufficient in and of themselves." He furthers this point in the chapters that follow, which address teaching and living the Word at home. Now, these have been some of my favorite chapters because of the way that he turns the reader to Scripture to learn how children are to be brought up in the "nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph 6:4). He comments on Deut 6:7 ("You of them (God's words) when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."): "Moses makes it clear that multi-generational faithfulness is an all-day everyday process."

The discipline, training, and discipleship of children is, quite literally, a 24/7 job. It requires a humble, patient, loving parent who is secure in their walk with Christ to pour into a hungry, fussy, tired, and defiant child. Although he places emphasis on prayer, I would say my only complain about his book is that he did not devote an entire chapter to prayer and intercession for children. Parents must grasp the centrality of prayer in their lives before they can dare think about taking up the task of raising a child. If that's going to mean rising two hours earlier than your children in the morning, then so be it. A mother is either going to stand on the inexhaustible wisdom, strength, and grace of God or the frailty of her own flesh.

Learning to live the Word should (ideally) start in one's single years, but Voddie knows well the pangs of having to learn along the way with a wife and children. Nevertheless, from the years of diligently seeking, he became humble enough to receive correction and then became able to apply and give it. He says that raising our children in discipleship cannot be done without first asking for and receiving their hearts in discipline and training. Otherwise, there will be no trust and respect built for them to willingly receive discipleship. This opens up a clear path into understanding how to build in the right order with one's own children. It's a reminder to redeem the time and not to reject the countless opportunities you have as a parent to win their trust and love. In the same way that our Heavenly Father pursued us in laying down the life of His Son, we are also called to lay down our lives to win our children's hearts. This is not the job of the church, youth ministry, a trusted babysitter/nanny, other friends, family - this is the calling of a father and a mother! And it takes up the entire lives of the parents! How I pray that God would continue to sanctify fathers and mothers to take seriously the souls that have been entrusted to them and correctly raise up their children in the fear of the Lord.

The chapters from his book are so incredibly full of Biblical principles and helpful methods in how to begin taking action in your home. He even devotes an entire chapter to family worship that I am looking forward to reading! I am thankful that there are leaders in the Church speaking on the reformation of the home and fighting for the restoration of the family. A few years ago, this message probably wouldn't have pulled on my heartstrings as much as it does now. The difference between then and now is that the Lord is faithful to lead His children through His refining flames and give us His heart for lost souls. An ever-increasing passion of mine has been for the reformation and restoration of Christian homes. The more I read, hear, and witness the state of modern families, the heavier it becomes on my heart.

I have been discipling a 12 year old girl for little over 5 months now. She is one of those numbers in the statistics listed above. There are many obvious factors that have contributed to why she is where she is now. However, the main point is that she desperately needs Christ, but she has absolutely no desire for Him. I was excited to begin mentoring/discipling her when asked by one of her parents, but over these months, I have faced the reality of the condition of her heart. Although she silently sits for each devotional and lesson, she is completely unwilling to receive discipleship. It is evident in her easily-distracted, bored gaze and her cold silence. Why? Because her heart was never first won by her parents. Because Christ was never displayed to her through those around her. Because, to her, Christianity is just a set of rules, not a vibrant life with the Lord of lords! Because she doesn't KNOW Christ!

I know the condition of her heart because I once walked the same way. Everything and everyone else in the world was far more appealing to me than Jesus Christ. This girl would rather be listening to the latest Lady Gaga hit than hear someone share with her about the Gospel and how worthy, fulfilling, and satisfying Christ is. The only way that I am able to truly fight for her soul is to continue interceding for her.

A friend of mine on Facebook posted a link concerning the state of the Christian home that truly resonates with what Voddie Baucham preaches. This is part of an excerpt from that link, Saddest Letter I've Ever Read, in which a young woman shares her heart with her pastor:

Our parents did not spend time teaching us to love God. Our parents put us in Sunday Schools since K4. Our parents took us to church every time the doors opened, and sent us to every youth activity. They made sure we went to good Christian colleges. They had us sing in the choir, help in the nursery, be ushers, go soulwinning. We did teen devotionals, and prayed over every meal. We did everything right. And they made sure that we did.

But they forgot about our hearts. They forgot that the Bible never commanded the church to teach children about God and His ways. That responsibility was laid at the feet of our fathers. Unfortunately, our fathers don’t have time for us. They put us where we are surrounded by the Bible. But they didn’t take time to show us that God was important enough to them to tell us personally about Him. So to us, Christianity has become a religion of externals. Do all the right stuff, and you’re a good Christian. So, some of us walk away from church. Some of us stay in church and fill a pew. Many of us struggle with stuff that our parents have no idea about because they hardly know us.

Lord, turn the hearts of the Father's back to their children! Malachi 4:6

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Looking for Your presence
It's time to seek Your face
May the windows of heaven
Open up today

Let us flow with your rhythm
The Spirit and the Word
And pick up your burdens
Walk the land and pray

Carrying You
Carrying You
Into the City streets and homes
Carrying You
Carrying You
We hear the footsteps of the Lord

Can Your heavy glory...
Can Your heavy glory...
Can your heavy glory...

Rest on me?

And the name of the City from that day shall be - THE LORD IS THERE.
And He said My presence shall go with you.
For God has planted them strong and graceful oaks for His own glory.
(Ezek 48:35b; Exo 33:14, Isaiah 61:36)
...always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (2 Cor 4:10)

Song by Godfrey Birtill, from the album Outrageous Grace.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Put in the Fire for the Sake of Prayer

I was going through a bunch of old notebooks yesterday with the intent of finding notes that I had remembered taking on a prayer sermon from John Piper, as well as notes from Jonathan Edward's Religious Affections. It has been on my heart to compose a post specifically on prayer, discipline, and trials and how they are related. Most of these are direct quotes as well as notes from his sermon. It is a wonderful sketch of the prayer life found in the Gospel of John. First, he begins with some foundations on prayer.

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. ~ John 14:13-14

Jesus connects praying with the glory of God with Himself as mediator. God is glorified in answering prayer; therefore, the aim of prayer is the glory of God. If we pray a me-prayer (my importance, my wants, my interests, my pursuits) and don't implicitly mean "Hallowed be Thy name" - that is not God-honoring prayer. The Lord protects this verse from selfish prayer.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. ~ John 15:7-8

That's the qualification. The words of Christ should live in us. We should be so immersed in His Gospels and the NT that our thinking is transformed and we are able to discern the will of God. The asking is about fruit - Lord make me more loving, patient, humble, and servant-hearted!
Verse 16 connects 7 and 8.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. ~ John 15:16
In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. ~ John 16:23-24
Prayer is for our joy. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

The thing about prayer that I have been wrestling with is keeping the right mindset about it. In fall '09, upon acceptance into Ellerslie: School of Honor, I was challenged by Steve Gallagher to begin my days in prayer. He didn't give me a time set, but he stressed to me the need to give the first moments of my day to the Lord. Naturally, it was difficult at first. For months I struggled with focusing my morning's on Christ. It seemed like my prayers were so weak and dry and short. I wanted to grow in my prayers, but it seemed nearly impossible. Well, living around prayer-filled people for 11 weeks at Ellerslie certainly changed that. All of sudden, I found I was hungry. I wasn't dulled and bored by prayer anymore; I became inflamed with it through daily meditation on the Word and worship and fellowship. Yeshua became my dearest Beloved! Being around devoted brothers and sisters can humble you into such a place. Nevertheless, it's been an entirely different experience in the past several months for me. As this season in my life has made way for many trials and challenges, I have found this hunger in my soul to pray, but sometimes keeping it merely out of the discipline that I've obtained through the entire year and half of waking up early with one aim and motive. Oh sure, I can wake up at 7:30 (haha, it took months to break my 10:00 wake-up hour) and give an hour+ to Christ.....but, honestly, am I yearning for Him? Or, am I doing it out of self-discipline? I read this quote last month from Desiring God:

We don't need self-discipline to pray continuously; we just need to be poor in spirit. ~ Paul Miller

It convicted me that I do get up and pray some mornings out of a sense of duty. It's not that I wake up thirsty to drink from His fountain of Life, but rather that I know that if I don't pray, then my days aren't going to start off on the right foot. While the latter can be true, it's more than just beginning my day right. It's about this incredibly deep need that I have in me to know Yeshua, to draw all life, love, and strength from His sweet presence. It's about the fact that I'm incredibly self-seeking and I have these awful, fleshy inclinations in me that need to be purified! It's about the fact that there are hurting people around me that need to know Christ's particular love for them through my allowing Christ to serve and love them through me, rather than to push them off, correct or rebuke them whenever they say hurtful or un-Biblical things, or deal impatiently with them. It's about Him having complete lordship over my life so that He would be on display in all my actions, words, feelings, thoughts, etc. And it's about Him being the first Love of my heart and life!

Try saying that to me in the morning. haha!
I need to preach this reality to myself moment by moment or else I look away and become consumed with some frivolous self-interest.

So, is regular, disciplined, Christ-exalting, God-glorifying prayer a duty? John Piper powerfully states,

"It’s a duty the way it’s the duty of a scuba diver to put on his air tank before he goes underwater. It’s a duty the way pilots listen to air traffic controllers. It’s a duty the way soldiers in combat clean their rifles and load their guns. It’s a duty the way hungry people eat food. It’s a duty the way thirsty people drink water. It’s a duty the way a deaf man puts in his hearing aid. It’s a duty the way a diabetic takes his insulin. It’s a duty the way Pooh Bear looks for honey. It’s a duty the way pirates look for gold."
"Just as there are physical means of life, there are spiritual means of grace."

Amen, amen!!!

Now, perhaps one of the most beautiful and painful things about prayer is the way that the Lord often teaches it to us. John Piper explains that in Zechariah 13:8-9 we are told "one of the main ways that God awakens earnest prayer in his children, namely, in the refining fires of suffering. Don’t worry about when this passage is talking about. Just see, for now, how God works, and use this word to prepare yourself for God’s prayer school."

"Verse 8: “In the whole land, declares the Lord, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive.” So the one third represents God’s remnant—his faithful, imperfect, weak people, who do not pray with the kind of discipline and desperation and joy, and hunger for God, that they should. So what is God’s remedy? What is his school of prayer? Verse 9: “And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested.” Notice carefully what is happening. In his great love, God saved the one third from being cut off with the two thirds who perished (v. 8). And then as part of his love for them, he puts them in the fire to be tested and refined. That is normal Christianity. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12)."

God rescues us from the flames of hell and puts us in the refining flames. He puts us in fire to awaken in us urgent prayer. We're not to teach Him how to teach. We submit to His school of prayer, not turn from it. This is His love.

In 1746, Jonathan Edwards wrote in his book, Religious Affections, "Trials are threefold benefit for true religion. It shows what is true religion. It distinguishes between what is true and false by testing. It not only manifests its truth but also enhances its genuine beauty and attractiveness. True virtue is loveliest when it is oppressed. It purifies and increases true religion. It frees it from false admixtures."
By the way, what he means by "religion" is true, Spirit-born, saving faith in Christ.
I cannot compare this season of trials to others or say it is harder than what others are currently going through. I can only submit, accept, and embrace the Father's loving purposes for this season. And Jonathan Edwards gives us good reason to embrace the hour of trial. We must remember this...

God's every motive in our life is love. He loves us too much to leave us how we are. ~ Eric Ludy

And to add to that, I would say that God is also working for our joy in Christ. I think this reveals to us that the opposite of joy is not suffering. It's despair in suffering. I want to be always patient in the hour of trial and testing.

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage;wait for the LORD! ~ Psalm 27:14

Prayer is for the soul whose one cry is for Christ! Always and only ever Christ. May every trial, no matter how great or small, awaken in us a more intimate devotion to Christ, instruct us how to pray by His Spirit, and burn away all that is not of Him!