Behind the Beards – It Didn’t Just Happen


girlpraying

No one can deny the unparalleled success of Duck Commander/Buck Commander and the wildly popular show “Duck Dynasty“. Why has it all happened? Is it fate? Chance? I don’t think so. The bearded bunch really are people of deep faith in God. But so are many of their fans.

The best thing about my part-time job at Duck Commander is meeting the fans/customers at the Duck Commander/Buck Commander store in West Monroe. This past Friday I met a nice young couple and their eight year old daughter. We had a nice conversation. Near the end of our brief chat the young mother told me that her daughter, (a pretty little freckle dotted face with a disarming smile), prays for each member of the cast of Duck Dynasty every night by name. “She has memorized every name and for several months has prayed for every one of them in her nightly prayers”. There’s a clue!

I think it would be safe to say that you can multiply that little girl by tens of thousands of fans who regularly pray for my friends the Robertson’s and the other cast members. I believe that behind the beards God is at work. I get emails and comments on this blog about how watching this loving family on TV has been the imputes for someone coming to surrender to Christ or to reconnect with the church. There is no doubt in my mind that this funny reality show is at least in part a God thing.

It made my heart glad to look into the eyes of a sweet, smiling eight year old and to know that she is a little prayer warrior.

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Thinking out loud about prayer


 

 

                                                                                                      family-praying
The dustiest place in the home of most Christians is the prayer closet. It’s that special place of solitude where you can get away from the phone, computer, TV, and other distractions to talk to God. I’ll be first to raise my hand and say that my prayer life is wanting. What about you?

Of all the benefits the Lord gives to those who trust him is the invitation and encouragement to pray. So why don’t we do it more? I think it’s symptomatic of our lack of inherent good and shows our failure to trust God as we should.

So far as I know, prayer (asking God) is the primary way we creatures are to get what we need from the Creator. There are some very big promises given to those who pray! The best one is that God will answer! I have often said “Only those who pray get their prayers answered”, and it’s very true. If you develop the habit of going to God to ask for what you need, and even want, you are very likely to see results. Of course we don’t always get what we request in prayer for a variety of reasons, the most common is that we ask for the wrong things for the wrong motives. And, one thing is certain, if you don’t ask you will not receive an answer.

I believe that regular answers to specific prayers should be the usual experience of Christians, and not unusual. I am keenly aware of my spiritual limitations and the distance between where I am as a follower of Jesus and where I ought to be. I am far from being the best example. But you know what? God often answers my humble prayers. I could write a book about the many, many specific answers to specific prayers in my long life. I also had the privilege to observe my mother’s prayer life over many, many years. Her prayers were child like in that they were simply a child asking her father for what she needed.

My father died in the late spring of 2003. After dad’s death my blind mother lived alone for several years. Her remarkable prayer life seemed to become even more remarkable after dad was gone. When mamma needed a gallon of milk on a snowy night it never occurred to her that she should call a neighbor or one of her nephews or nieces,  not mamma, she simply said to God “Lord, I need a gallon of milk for the morning”. Perhaps 10 minutes later there was a knock on the back door. When mamma opened the door a neighbor (at about 10:00 p.m. in a snow storm) said to her, “I’m going to the store and thought I’d see if you needed a gallon of milk or anything”. Coincidence? No, there were far too many such answers to her prayers. It always seemed to me that the only reason she shared so many of those stories was that it was her opportunity to brag on her God!

The failure to pray is a first indication of a lack of faith. When you read the Bible it defies logic that a child of God would need something and not ask God for it. By the way, if you study the prayers of the Bible and all of the teaching about prayer in the Bible you will find that prayer is simply asking. If there is no asking there is no prayer. Many books and seminars, and even sermon series on prayer, often are not much more that a bunch of reasons why you should not expect clear answer to your prayers. Meditation on God and his word are good but not prayer. Thanksgiving often goes along with prayer but is not itself prayer. Confessing of sins is good and we ought to do it but it isn’t prayer.

Will you pray? As my friend  Dr. Keith Roberts titled his book, “God Waits for you to Pray“, and He does. There are many disciplines associated with Christian growth and moving toward maturity in Christ but in my opinion, most of them are futile exercises if you are not regularly praying.

Here are some suggestions.

  • God’s isn’t impressed with King James English. Just use your normal manner of speaking and vocabulary and simply ask God for what you need and want.
  • Regular and focused prayer will resolve many other issues such as personal sin, broken relationships, and allowing Jesus to be solely Lord of your life.
  • Pray the moment you think of something you should bring before God. Often when someone approaches me about praying for something I’ll do it right on the spot. I’ll either silently pray or more likely say, “Let’s do that now so I wont forget” and I’ll begin to pray.
  • There is nothing that expresses your utter dependence on God as well as praying.
  • God has everything you need, he loves you, so ask!
  • I admit, I don’t do this but keeping a prayer journal could be very helpful. Logging prayers and then seeing how God has answered is a faith building exercise.
  • Glorify God when he grants your request! Tell someone about his faithfulness!
  • Don’t pray to be heard by others. Be very careful, especially in public prayers, to be brief, to be specific and only pray to God. He doesn’t need to be taught a Bible lesson or preached to. He just needs to hear you ask for what you need.

Prayerfully,

Royce

Some Observations about the church from New Testament


I have started this article a few times and after two or three paragraphs, deleted the whole thing and started over. I want to share some thoughts without being critical of churches that think they have arrived at the ideal. Are there some local congregations of Christians who closely resemble those churches we read of in our Bibles. I believe so. I also believe they are few and far between. What are the characteristics of that church that is so intimately related to Jesus Christ that it is called in the Bible his bride? I’ll share some of my observations over the next few weeks. What has my attention will not be exhaustive, but will be at least a few of the most obvious ways to spot a local church that mirrors well the church of the first century. Maybe you see some others, I hope you will share them.

Emphasis on prayer, especially corporate prayer.

The very first thing that I notice is how much they valued prayer. Immediately after they had witnessed Jesus’ ascension the Bible tells us what they did.

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. (Acts 1:12-14)

They had heard the words of Jesus. They had his marching orders. But the first order of business was to pray together! Jesus had told them to go to Jerusalem and wait for the power of the Spirit and they knew instinctively what “wait” meant. And so they prayed together. There is something very special, and I’ll say very powerful, about Christian believers praying “together”.

We don’t have to go very far to find them praying again. It was time to replace Judas, to select a new apostle. Did they poll the congregation? Did they appoint a committee? No, they simply prayed.

23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias.24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” (Acts 1:23-25)

Again and again we read about those earliest believers emulating their Lord of whom it is written again and again in the gospels “and he prayed”. Anyone who has read about the life of Jesus knows that he prayed early, all night, intensely, and often. Just prior to the great historic events of Pentecost we read about in Acts 2 the Bible says of the apostles and the others,

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. (Acts 2:1)

I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume what they were doing while they “were all together in one place”. Of course they were praying together! Later, in chapter four of Acts a crisis had arisen and their response was to pray. Both the church and the state were in opposition to what they were doing. They were preaching Jesus, folks were being healed, and by now their number had grown to about 5,000. This fist mega church caused the religious people and the politicians lots of grief. So, after the authorities had threatened them not to speak in the name of Jesus any more, this was their response and the results.

23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,

and the peoples plot in vain?

26 The kings of the earth set themselves,

and the rulers were gathered together,

against the Lord and against his Anointed’—

27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.(Acts 4:23-31)

I love this story! Rather than cower to the wishes of the ministerial alliance or the local ordinances  they simply prayed together and the result was that they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the Word of God with great boldness. Do we want our churches to grow, do we want our message to be powerful for God and for the people? Then we, like our ancient family of the faithful, must pray together.

It is a wonderful exercise to pray alone, in your private place. Every believer ought to be praying about everything. But there is something special about Christians praying together. Couples, families, small groups, and even large church gatherings are the right places to pray together.

The New Testament church was a praying church. How about yours? How about mine? How much do we emphasize prayer and specifically praying together? In my view, a local church will not be what God wants it to be unless prayer is a priority.

Will we pray together? I hope so.

Royce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mixed emotions of praying for the sick


Yesterday I joined some great men to pray about the impending surgery of one of our long time leaders as he faces the 3rd surgery in several weeks. I am confident he will be fine. We also prayed for another leader facing surgery tomorrow a.m., his 3rd in a year. He will be fine too I believe.

And, I and a friend stood by the bedside of an elderly sister who was hardly clinging to life, her body ravaged by cancer, and we prayed for comfort, for peace, that she would soon see her Lord. Not many weeks ago one of our dear brothers asked to be anointed with oil and prayed for. Our elders honored his request. He is now near death. It is increasingly obvious to me that God’s intention is not to heal everyone who asks or has someone asking on their behalf. How do we know what to pray for the sick?

Because I don’t know any better option I follow these guidelines.

I ask for healing. God invites is to ask for anything we desire. He gives specific instructions regarding prayer for the sick. So I obey and simply ask.

I trust God the very best I can. I often find myself in harmony with the Bible character who asked “Lord I believe, help my unbelief..”. That is my place often. With my limited faith I cling to God’s promises and expect Him to act.

I depend heavily on God’s promises. He has promised that He is making every event in our lives work for our good, even the bad stuff. I must believe that and cling to it tight-fisted in order to grapple with seeing a friend, a good God trusting man, die.

I pray for God’s will to be done. Some call this a crutch for unbelief. Well, I’ve already confessed to my unbelief, but since Jesus taught the disciples to pray “Thy will be done…” why should I do less? Jesus himself prayed “Never-the-less thy will be done” as he agonized in prayer before his crucifixion. It’s always right to want God’s will done. I want ALL my friends healed. But God’s will always trumps my will.

When we come to God with humility, simply asking for what we desire as a child asks his father, and trusting our Father to do what’s best, what will please him, I believe we are on safe ground. I know God heals in answer to prayer. My father was instantly healed of lung cancer. Once when I was a young man a preachers wife asked me to pray that God would heal her arthritic hands and He did. And in many, many cases when I joined others to pray for someone’s healing God’s sweet answer was “Yes”.

I prayed for many, many years for my dear mother’s blindness to be healed and that same trustworthy, promise keeping, loving heavenly Father, said “No”. I believe I was right to ask and I think it was OK to question God many times with “Why?”. Finally I discovered that in that particular case God’s “No” was absolutely best. Mom touched many, many lives and there will be lots of folks in heaven because of her sweet disposition and witness to Christ and his goodness to save.

Just today I received a report that yet another brother has the bad news that he has cancer. So, I will pray that God will heal him. And I’ll trust God the best I can and then I’ll see what God will do. Whatever the outcome, God is good, and loving, and just, and does what is best for His own. That I know for sure.

Agape’
Royce