God Always Answers Prayer

God always answers prayer, even though sometimes He may not give us the answer we particularly want, or when we want it. He does not ignore His children. He always answers sincere prayer – but His answer is not always yes.

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Childlike and Stupid

Oswald Chambers, in his typical pointed way, wrote: “There is only one kind of person who can really pray, and that is the child-like saint, the simple, the stupid, supernatural child of God; I do mean ‘stupid’.”

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A Great Prayer Story

I remember a wonderful story about a woman whose young daughter was taken ill one morning at school. After the mother received a call from the school, she picked up her little girl, took her home, and called the doctor and described her daughter’s symptoms. The doctor reported that there seemed to be quite an outbreak of this flulike affliction, and because of the number of people coming in to be treated for it, he wouldn’t be able to see the girl until later in the afternoon. For the meantime, he suggested an over-the-counter medicine that the mother could pick up to help her daughter.

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Ten Leading Indicators of a Healthy Church

CENTRALITY OF GOD’S WORD

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful…so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

A healthy church is committed to a proclamation and the teaching of God’s Word that is clear, theologically sound, and communicated in a relevant and practical way. The end result of the preaching of God’s Word is to equip the people who can then apply His Word to every area of life in ways both appropriate to the cultural context as well as being biblically countercultural.

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The Life That Is Light

Paul writes – the Holy Spirit states – “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel…” (2 Corinthians 4:4). This is, of course, true. I see it daily when talking with unsaved people in the coffee shops, stores, and even the dog walk here in my city. The devil has blinded the minds of those who do not believe – even those who have gone to church in the past and no longer do. Yes, even those who say they are born again but still live like they did before they were born again…

But note what Paul states – they do not see “… the light of the gospel…” What is the light of the gospel. I mean put a gospel outline in a dark room and it does not glow in the dark and so a written copy of the gospel is not “the light.” Put a Christian in the midst of a number of non-Christians and see if anyone notices that they are a believer? Do they glow in the dark while no one else does? When we share the gospel do our words light up the atmosphere around us? I mean – what is the “light of the gospel” and where and how can it really be seen or even heard by a non-believer so that they would no longer be in spiritual darkness and thus blind to the wonders of God being offered through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection?

Think biblically! Jesus said that “you are the light of the world” if you are a disciple of the Lord. (Matthew 5:14).You are the light! Do you glow in the dark? Are you shiny and bright so that others notice you are different and come to you to find Jesus and hear the gospel? If you are the light – how do you turn the light on? Is it already on?

The truth is found in a comment made about Jesus. In John 1:4 it states, “In Him was life and the life was the light of men.” Note what it does not say. It does not say that Jesus is the light. That’s is what most people say when I ask them to tell me who or what the light is after slowly and carefully reading the verse to them. It states that the very life and nature of God (Zoe) in Him is the light of men. It was “life” that attracted people to this man from Nazareth.

That very life and nature is in every born again believer who is truly following Jesus as a disciple. It came into you when you were born again. So, don’t hide the light under a basket but instead be like a well lit city on a hill – to be seen by all (Matthew 5:14-16).

You – His life in you – is the light of the world. You are to live, talk, relate, act as a believer – as Jesus would – in every situation and within every relationship so that the very life of God shines from you and can be seen by others. You are to be different than the world – not weird different – but different because you love, accept and forgive everyone as Jesus did.

Personal Pride and Opinions

Many people think there are many things wrong with the Church as it is today. I agree! After 40+ years of preaching and pastoring I think I have earned the right to say that I believe there is much that is wrong with the Church as we know and see it today. And, much that needs to be eliminated, removed, or changed drastically.

However, I have trouble with those who believe things need to change but are not willing to jump in and help to bring those changes about. The armchair coaches – the critics who see what is wrong and yet won’t put the effort into finding out how to fix it or get involved relationally with those who are fixing it.

These are people who are quick to tell you the problem they see – and a little thin on any solution to the problem. Folks, critics are a dime a dozen and they are everywhere. If you see a problem in the Church and can’t offer some simple solutions as well as being willing to become involved on a team to help bring the changes about that will fix the problem – shut up and sit down – over there out of the way. Oh! And, by the way, we really don’t value your opinion whatsoever. And, here’s why.

The Bible states, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

If you do not have the integrity to stand up and help – if all you have is an opinion then you have a “lofty opinion” based in pride and arrogance and we don’t need to hear it. But, if you have an opinion, can offer some suggestions on what to do, AND are willing to jump in and become committed to the body of Christ and help it come to a place of health and wholeness – then welcome aboard and we would love to hear your thoughts on the Church as you see it.

I think in worldly terms this is called “Put up or shut up.” We don’t need more critics – we need more committed, and dedicated disciples of Christ willing to put their hand to the plough and and never looking back – committed to working with the team and building relationships in the local church as an active and vital part of the community of faith.

The one that did not get away - a 1500 Kilogram (3300 pounds) fish from the Black Sea - Russia caught during one of Ralph’s visits

We Are Ambassadors

We are called, as disciples of the Lord, to become FISHERS OF MEN. This is not an option open to us where we can accept or decline the offer. This is a fact of being a disciple.  Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you a fisher of men.”  If we are not fishing then we are not following. Plain and simple. Read more

The Experience That Changes Everything

Hearing and answering a call from God is the most awesome, life-changing moment a human being ever experiences. No one is ever the same again. Not only is the person changed, but also the way that person goes about exercising his or her faith undergoes radical transformation.  And, every disciple of the Lord is called to ministry. Every disciple has a ministry that God has planned for them since before they were saved. Read more

No Retreat, No Return, No Regrets!

Anne Graham Lotz – 62 year old daughter of Dr. Billy Graham – states that the best advice her father ever gave her regarding her ministry is: “Pray! Pray! Pray! And, live life in such a way that there would be no retreat, no return and no regrets.” Good advice – not just for your personal life-ministry but also for your personal life.

I believe one of the weakest areas of the walk of most disciples today is personal prayer. Most Christians I talk to are totally dissatisfied with their prayer life and many have simply given up – actually stopped praying on a daily basis. Sometimes our dissatisfaction is God-given because God wants us to change and this is one of the ways He gets our attention – frustration and the “there has got to be more than this” feeling. However, this time I don’t believe the frustration is God-given but that it is man-made. The issue is on our end. As a result, in many areas we are retreating, not returning to our intimacy with the Lord that we once had, and we do and will have serious regrets one day.

So, what has gone wrong? What have we been doing wrong? I believe we think that prayer is all about us – our needs, our wants, our agenda. Where, in reality, prayer is really about Him – all about Him – His will, His, plans and purpose, His Kingdom. We have made prayer man-centered and it was always meant to be God-centered and focused on what He is doing and not what we want Him to do (for us and for others). I believe that because of this it is time for a radical revolution in the realm of personal prayer.

I believe we need to learn how to enter into stillness and silence – an inner stillness and silence as well as an outer one – and simply listen for and hear the voice of our God on a daily basis. Ah! That raises another issue, doesn’t it? Most believers do not believe that they hear God. But, until we take the time to be still and silence the inner voices that scream for attention we never will come to realize we are hearing God and be able to differentiate His voice from the many others.

It is time for disciples of the Lord to enter back into the basics of their discipleship – learning to be still and to be quiet (silent) and alone (another ‘s’ – solitude) before the Lord on a daily basis so that we can come to touch His heart, hear His heart, know His heart, and then pray in line with what we have touched, know, and hear. This makes prayer a dynamic part of daily life as we “plug into” God’s will for the day and the plans He has made for us to touch others with His love.

Pray! Pray! Pray! And, then you will live life in such a way that there would be no retreat, no return and no regrets…

Unconditional Promises

After telling us to ask, seek, know (see the last blog) Jesus goes on in Matthew 7:8 to make some unconditional promises. Notice what He says:

“Everyone who asks…” What’s the next word? RECEIVES

“He who seeks…” What’s next? FINDS

“And to him that knocks, it will be…” Will be what?” OPENED

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