The Wrong Way to Pray

Often we pray for God to change our circumstances. I have done it and you have too.
Meanwhile, God might have orchestrated your circumstances so he can change you.

So, instead of asking for things to change so we can be happy, maybe we should ask, ” Lord
help me to see how I need to change in my present circumstances”.

Living by faith as we follow Jesus is not a “get-out-of-jail-free-card”. How indulgent of anyone
to beg God to make things better while that person is still involved in sinful behavior and still making
stupid decisions.

Never forget that many of God’s most useful servants found themselves in big time trouble. Even
when you are doing your very best to be what God wants you to be and when you are “faithing” it
best, your circumstances will often be undesirable and difficult.

So what is the answer? Live every moment in recognition that God is sovereign, that His love for you
is unchanging, and trust Him with the same fervor in darkness and in light, in the valley and on the peak
of the mountain. “In ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path”. If we work on
conforming our ways to His ways our current circumstances will matter less and less and He will matter more and more.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:3)

Royce Ogle
Monroe, LA

The comprehensive scope of the gospel of Christ

The gospel, or “good news”, about Christ is very, very good news because the truth about human beings without Him is so horribly bad.

Every person who is born is born helpless. On this point surely there can be no disagreement. Our precious babies must be cared for in every way. They must be fed, diapers changed, bathed, carried, calmed when they are uncomfortable because they can’t speak, and the list goes on. Babies, even the strongest and brightest are equally helpless. As they grow, gain strength and agility, and learn, slowly they become less dependent on Mom and Dad. Soon they begin to talk, to walk, and do a variety of the cutest things. Then, all too soon for most parents and grandparents, they grow up and are out of the house and on their own. (Some not soon enough)

When children mature into teens and young adults they are still just as profoundly helpless but in a totally different way. Some of them will still lean on dear old Mom and Dad and Gran and Pap longer than anyone wishes, but apart from that each person old enough to do what they know to be wrong. and do it any way. share some problems they are helpless to cure of their own resources. This is true in every place on the earth in every culture and in every tribe and tongue.

Humans are ungodly and can’t do anything to become godly.

Humans are unrighteousness and can’t do anything to become righteous.

Humans are alienated from God and can’t do anything to be reconciled to Him.

Humans are everyone going to die and can do nothing to avoid dying.

Humans will face the wrath of God and can do nothing to avoid that wrath.

Humans have the capacity to commit all kinds of offences against God and His law and can do nothing about it.

The Bible is unambiguous and crystal clear about the condition of a person without God. The bad news about our universal condition is indeed very bad! The precise reason the gospel of Christ is such joyous good news is this, every human problem announced in the Bible about sinful people is gloriously solved in Christ alone. Owing only to His work for sinners the ungodly can be made godly, the unrighteous can be made righteous, aliens can be reconciled to God, physical death will only be the grand entrance into life everlasting, those facing the just wrath of God will not be appointed to wrath, and the penalty, power, and even the presence of sin will be taken away, and knowing God forever will be their joy! This is the best good news possible! No other good news compares.

These passages of Scripture give a broad view of the good news for sinners. What I say, or any person for that matter, is only relevant to the degree what he or she says can be confirmed by the Word of God. So, what does the Bible say about the things I have mentioned?

Romans 1:14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.

The great Apostle Paul knew a personal obligation to share the good news about Jesus with everyone possible. To “Greeks” and “barbarians”, to “wise” and to “foolish” and even to those who were already God’s people, “you also who are in Rome”. Some translations use the word “debtor” for the phrase “under obligation”. Paul felt he owed everyone the good news and he intended to pay that debt.

So why was Paul so “eager” to preach the good news? “ is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” it. Jews and Greeks alike (the whole of humanity) need to be saved from themselves and their helpless and hopeless condition, and here it is! “The righteousness of God is revealed” in the gospel! Here is good news for unrighteous people, God reveals His righteousness to those who believe the good news about Jesus and his work. 

Later in his letter to the Romans Paul gives more good news!

Romans 5:For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

This is a remarkable passage! If every seminarian and every Bible school student and every preacher/teacher trainee understood this wonderful passage our churches would be far different. Vibrant missions works will never happen unless those who go understand the gospel of Christ for sinners.

God meets us where we are, in “weakness”. He comes to us in our present condition, “ungodly”. He works for us while we are still “sinners”. It is very good news that Christ died for the “ungodly” because that is all of us! He didn’t ask us to reform ourselves. He did not ask that we prove ourselves by doing good, going to church, etc. No! Christ died for ungodly sinners. That’s you! That’s me!

You and I might die for a good friend, for a good person, but not for an enemy, not for a bad person. But God’s love is not like our love. It is bigger and better! God put his love on display for the whole creation by dying for sinners! But what does his death mean to me, to you?

“We are justified by his blood”. This means that when Christ bled and died on the cross you and I were “set right” with God. We, though sinful to the core, are declared not guilty based wholly upon the sacrificial death of Jesus. The old song asks “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus” and so it is. We are not approved by God because of our performance but by Christ’s performance. Never forget, this saving work of Christ was done for you but outside of you. You were totally helpless to fix your broken condition.

But there’s much more! “much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” What wonderful news! We sinners were facing the wrath of God! Through Christ we will be saved from the wrath of God. The time will come when the fury of God’s just wrath against sin, against those who ignore his love and continue in their evil ways, will be poured out without measure. I don’t pretend to know all that entails but it is very, very bad.

We are saved by his life. Christ died for us reconciling us to God and because He was raised from the dead he promises we too shall live. Because he lives I live. Because he can not die I can not die. I am saved by his life!

But there’s even more! Better than being justified, better than being saved from God’s wrath, better than being reconciled to God, and even better than knowing we will be saved by his life is that we can rejoice in God forever! 

Yes, God saves us from our sins. Yes, God saves us from wrath to come. Yes, God makes us righteous. Yes, God gives us eternal life! But far better than these things is that God intends that we have joy. Joy whose source is Jesus, joy unending, joy unfettered by worldly affairs. joy forever, joy to the full!

Life present you with some questions you can’t answer? Jesus is the answer!

There is no life gone to far. There is no sinner to sinful. There is no rebellion to rebellious. There is no one to far away from God.

Christ died for you. He died for your sins. Why not receive the benefits of Christ’s saving work for you? Repent of living to please yourself. How is it working out for you? Turn your whole being over to Him. Believe that God came in flesh, lived a perfect life and offered that perfect life as a sacrifice for you, and took upon him all of your dirty sins, then died the death you deserved. On the 3rd day Jesus arose from the grave alive to die no more and by his life you too can live, free from the guilt and penalty of sin and made righteous as He is righteous. All of your greatest needs are met only in Christ and the cross of his death and his triumphant resurrection.

This is GOOD NEWS!

Royce Ogle
Monroe, LA

Nuggets of Fudge – Living in the overlap

The Age to Come has broken into the Present Age and we now live in their overlap. The New Testament refers to this period of overlap in a variety of ways, sometimes by specific expressions, sometimes clearly portrayed but left for us to name. For example, the New Testament directly refers to this overlap as “the last days” (Heb. 1:1-2) and as “the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:1-2). But those who wrote the New Testament make very plain that this period of overlap is also appropriately called “the gospel age” (Matt. 28:18-20), the interim of Jesus’ visible absence (John 14:2816:16), the time of the Spirit (John 14:16-18), and the era of grace-gifts (John 16:16; 1 Cor. 1:7-9).

This is the period of God’s conquests, which began when heaven received Jesus, who was enthroned at God’s right hand–“until” the last enemy, death, has been destroyed (Psalm 110:1). Then will come the redemptive restoration of all things spoken by the ancient prophets (Acts 3:20-21). In both respects, we live between the Already and the Not Yet. In the case of each of these symbols, we already can see, touch, taste, and experience the eternal reality (Heb. 6:4-6), although we do not yet possess any of these symbols in its fullness. On that basis, we eagerly hope, and groan, and willingly wait (Rom. 8:18- 25).

Because of the nature of the times in which we live, we learn to hold lightly to things that are passing away (1 Cor. 7:29-31). This does not mean that we live inauthentic lives, merely going through the motions. It does mean that every earthly circumstance, relationship and event is transitory and that it derives its value from its relationship with what is permanent. Nothing now is ultimate (Heb. 12:26-29). Yet, for God’s sake, every occasion is significant and every person is important.

Edward Fudge, gracEmail


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Royce Ogle

Is your biblical theology biblical?

Every person who claims to be a Christian will tell you that he believes what he believes because it’s what the Bible teaches. Even the most over-reaching TV evangelists,  whose goal is to separate folks from their dollars,  lace their talks with passages of Scripture to lend legitimacy to what they say. It is uncomfortably common for even some well-known and well-respected preachers to use Bible texts out of context to prove up some point of doctrine they are pushing. It is a dangerous practice to cobble together a string of proof texts, lifted out of their contexts, and pass that off as Biblical doctrine or Biblical theology.

There are some ways to guard against over using your Bible’s concordance or Google searches to validate your beliefs.

Begin with prayer – God wants us to know his truth and the One who is Truth. This is the reason he gave us the Bible. It is his revelation to us so that we can know his heart, his will, and his ways. Only from Holy Scripture are we able to know who God is and what he has done for sinners like us. Begin each reading with asking God to teach you his truth from the texts you will read today. Be open to have what you believe challenged by what you find in the Bible. Trust that God will answer your request and read God’s words knowing that you have his attention and with the expectation that you are going to know God better than before. Come to the Bible with an open heart asking God to teach you His truth, not to prop up the truth you already are comfortable with. You might find your truth to be wrong.

Read whole books of the Bible – I often hear someone say about a current movie, “Did you read the book?”, and then some comment about it. Most people I know read posts on social media, news articles, magazines, etc. but likely never read a book of the Bible. Yet,  a long book like Paul’s letter to the Romans can be read by almost anyone in a fairly short amount of time. There are others that I read often that I can read in a few minutes. Ephesians, Galatians, Colossians, 1 John, 1 Peter and others are examples. Even though many books of the Bible are much longer, even the longest books such as Matthew, Luke and the Acts are easy to read in no more than a few hours. It is worth the effort.

Only by reading whole books of the Bible (I have not forgotten the Old Testament…) can you get the full intended message of that book. If you only lift out a verse here and there, you will miss much of what is being said. I like to read a book, for instance one of Paul’s letters, 4 or 5 times in succession over a few days so that I become very familiar with who the audience was, what the issues were that Paul was addressing, and what solution he offered. It will be amazing how much more clearly you understand familiar verses once you see them in context. (Context includes, geography, culture, spiritual condition, and time among other things)

One of the last books of the New Testament to be written was the Gospel of John. Some time around 95 AD the great Apostle, and then elder of the church in Ephesus, wrote a summary of what he had seen and experienced. Some of the most profound truths in all of the Bible are found in this book that is focused on the person and work of  Jesus who is the Son of God. For many years I recommended that new believers read John first and then other books. Now, in my old age, I believe every Christian should read it and reread it until it becomes familiar. John was written for a major purpose. In the 20th chapter verse 31, ” these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” What better reason to read a book than this? It was written so that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by that believing we may have life in his name. Have you read this book? Read it now. It can change your life!

A proof text is often a pretext if taken out of context – You might wonder “What is a “pretext”? “Pretext = a reason given in justification of a course of action that is not the real reason“. To say it bluntly, it becomes a lie. Politicians do this all the time. A person making a speech will have every word scrutinized and often one sentence or phrase is lifted out of that talk and taken out of its original context and presented in a way that causes unsuspecting listeners to believe the person said something he did not really say or intend. Unfortunately both political parties use this tactic. And sadly, Christians use the same tactic to bash some minister or group that they don’t like for some reason. The way to avoid the danger of being caught up in such an ugly and unChristian activity is to give attention to context. When reading the Bible answer these questions the best you possibly can.

To whom was the statement addressed?

What was the culture like where those people lived?

Where did they live and why?

What problem, or problems, was the writer addressing?

Is the same idea or theme repeated in other places in the Bible?

What result do you think the writer hoped for?

The words you are reading are God’s words. What was (is) His message?

What principal(s) can I take away from this to apply to my daily living for God?

When you quote a passage of Scripture to prove a point you are making be certain, the best you can be certain, that you are being honest with God’s Word. Was the original speaker or writer making the same point you are trying to make? if not, be very careful.

After reading the Bible,  write out what you have learned - Writing might not be as helpful for you as it has been for me but I think it is a good practice. It makes you think. And, I believe what our churches desperately need are pews packed with believers who think! People are needed who have carefully sought out doctrines for themselves and have reasoned answers as  to why they  believe what they believe and can communicate it well. The only way to have sure footing, a solid foundation for your faith, is to know the Word of God for yourself. None of us is an island, we need community, we must have other believers to help make us the people God desires but our faith is personal and must be rooted in the revealed Word of God, not in what someone said about it.

Make it your business to know why you know what you know and believe what you believe and you will never fall. If you rely on “what we have always believed…” or “that’s what Brother Voidhead said” you are open game for the enemy of your soul. Find your own faith for yourself but thankfully you don’t have to do it by yourself. In our church there are men and women leading studies where books of the Bible are studied each week, line by line. Get involved, find a couple of trusted friends you can call on if you can’t decide how to interpret a difficult passage.

Do all you can to be sure your beliefs about God and His loving work for ungodly people is biblical. Read your Bible for all it’s worth. It’s worth everything!

May God bless those who read His book and cause them to treasure Christ above all others.

Royce Ogle
Monroe, LA

By Royce Posted in Bible