Prayer At Church This Morning

GCPC Congregational Prayer – Nov. 28, 2021

Almighty God, You are the Holy and Compassionate God Who gives us eternal hope in Christ. This morning we lift Your Name high as we meditate upon Your abounding Goodness, Your Truth, and Your faithfulness to all generations. With humility we approach Your Throne of Grace with freedom and confidence, understanding that You see us and hear our prayers.

Holy Spirit, we ask that Your providential purposes in our nation, state, and local governmental agencies be fulfilled and that believers who serve in government, military, or in first-responder capacities will look to You for wisdom and courage to lead as You direct. Give us pure motives as we live in obedience to Your Word and live in accordance with governing authorities.

Gracious Father, we are thankful for all those who worship You. Thank You for Your transformative work to change our lives so that we might reflect the love of Jesus and the power of the Gospel. We ask that You would bring great encouragement to our church staff with our determined and continual prayer support. Give us all the desire to serve in the church, thereby lightening the burdens of responsibility necessary to complete the gospel work in our community and the world, to which God has called each of us.

With Thanksgiving, we raise our hearts and voices, remembering that this season is one that leads us to the celebration of our Savior’s birth and reminds us of our enduring spiritual treasures found in Him alone. We pray that in every Christmas-related outreach to our community and world during this season that You will bring the Gospel to the forefront, moving hearts to embrace the great gift of Your Son Jesus.

Father, we ask for Your protection and provision for our missionaries, military personnel and others who risk their lives to serve You in hostile places. We ask You to strengthen the hope and perseverance of the persecuted church around the world. We pray that, by Your Grace, the spread of the gospel would be unhindered in all areas where it has been previously prevented.

We praise You for the gift of new life. We pray that you will continually protect and provide health to our expectant mothers and their unborn children. We praise You for recent births in our church family, and especially your healing work in reversing the effects of perilous birth complications among these. As well, we ask for Your tender care of our women who face great losses in unfulfilled motherhood. We pray for effective outreach to provide care to women facing those hard seasons.

Great Physician, we pray for an end to the pandemic and its suffering. We pray for those most vulnerable to the virus or those who are already infected —, the elderly, the weak, those with chronic conditions, the poor, the hungry and the isolated. Let us meanwhile continue in our loving commitment to protect our family members, neighbors, and friends from its harm. For the sick, the lonely, the grieving, and the disconnected in our church, we ask for Your intervention, both spiritually and physically. For those suffering with recurring health challenges, we ask that You provide them with the gifts of perseverance and steadfast hope, even when circumstances do not lessen or become removed. We also ask that You carry those who have recently lost loved ones through the valley of grief with a great sense of Your presence, mercy, and comfort.

We pray for the next generation – our college students and our young people. We ask that they come to fully trust in You, Lord, and become like trees planted by streams of water, whose leaves are always green and who yield fruit even when the heat of drought comes. May they not conform to the pattern of this world, but instead develop a keen ability to test and approve Your perfect and pleasing will. Give them great discernment and great dependence upon Your Holy Spirit for strength and endurance.

Rock of Ages, grant us all, adults and children, fresh confidence that “there is no future where You are not present, no sorrow where You are not near, no tears not kept in Your bottle, and no locust-eaten years You will not restore (quote from a prayer by Walter Henegar, Senior Pastor of Atlanta Westside Presbyterian Church).”

Today move us to reflect Your generosity with our tithes and offerings. Open our hearts to the message of Your Word preached here today.  Create in us a receptive spirit and an open heart, and a new energy to be obedient and fruitful in Your Kingdom.

In the Name Above All Names, Jesus Christ Our Lord, we offer these prayers. Amen.

Second Chances

Christmas is the celebration of the Gift of abundant and eternal life through Christ Jesus and the escape of believers from God’s righteous judgment. In the most amazing manner, the baby Jesus entered the world so that redemption would be offered and that we would enjoy many second chances in our lifetimes to believe the Christmas miracle – to believe in the Son of God, our Redeemer.

But, we are very good at ignoring second chances. We let ourselves forget the true Christmas story. We endure so many narratives these days that we often drown in an ocean of falsehoods. It is difficult to swim against the powerful tide of our irreverent culture. If I’ve learned anything from God’s enduring Word, it is that there is still unlimited mercy offered by God. He is faithful to give us so many opportunities to turn away from darkness and believe in Him. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we must block out the noise of the godless and give ear to God’s truth this Christmas and always.

The secondary tidal wave that pulls down on Truth-believers is a kind of minimalism – the temptation to simply succumb to the crushing wall of culture that rebels against the Holy God of the universe, even while still believing in Him. It is the temptation to have minimal or no redemptive influence in the world. Genesis 18 and 19 records the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. If you know the story, then you might identify with Lot. (Please don’t bristle at such a parallel). There is truly “a lot of Lot” in all of us.

In the surrounding Genesis story, God gives multiple opportunities for Lot’s community to repent before the pronouncement of final judgment. The same is true today. The true Christmas narrative is surely a story of second chances. We stand at the same crossroads, belief or unbelief, redeeming influence or wasted legacy. Lot is a sad example of a believer characterized by the “everlasting reality of a wasted life.” Minimal influence. So distracted by the world, so distracted by the culture, so absorbed by the eternally insignificant that Lot exercised no redeeming influence among his family or friends.

Although God preserved Lot (sigh of relief), Christmas reminds me that my days as a believer can either be fruitful or unimaginably fruitless. I am reminded that my expression of love for God involves the valuable act of obedience. The valuable act of being prepared for eternity with Him. The valuable act of being a recipient of His preparation of me for glory. I should not waste another second on earth by not studying and not taking to heart His Word, or not taking on His attitude toward others, or not taking on His heart to spread His gospel, or not taking on His heart to save.

Christmas is the story of our Redeemer. As I ponder the second chance I’ve been given today, I pray that Jesus Christ removes the legacy of Lot from my life so that I really can be a believer who exercises a redeeming influence around me. I pray that I don’t get comfortable with marginal belief and no interest in heart transformation. I pray that I don’t let culture win and thereby become a reflection of culture – self-centered, rude, all about comfort, all about self-preservation, all about recognition, all about hating and judging…

Christmas is a heart check. It is a call to make use of another second chance to move away from minimalism in faith and toward joining God in His redemptive work.

Titus 2:11-14 says, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.”

Sign Posts

Christmas is our great sign post that God Himself took upon Himself a great personal cost by placing the consequences of sin on His Son Who was purposefully sent into our world to provide redemption to us through His death and resurrection. The price got paid. What an amazing gift! We were given a second chance at true life. Not just physical life, but more importantly eternal life. What a great cause for celebration!

True life! True life is found in Jesus Christ and the truth that comes from the Word of God. Yet, since Adam and Eve, we have struggled with the Word of God. We simply do not like limits. We don’t like boundaries, even if they are meant to protect us. We are more comfortable with the denial of truth and the priority of personal independence. Genesis 3:2-3 says, “The woman [Eve] said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” And then, we know what happened… Sign post ignored.

Hmmm. More than a decade ago, probably two decades ago, I got two speeding tickets in the span of one month. The month was April. Both were local traffic zones that had recently reduced their posted speed limits from 45 mph to 35 mph. I was stuck in a 45 mph habit and was on autopilot both times. Guilty, I simply paid off the first ticket, and then I went to traffic court for the second ticket, hoping for some mercy. What a hassle! But what a lesson about the consequences of ignoring sign posts!

Since that time, I am much more aware of speed limits and have realized there is no need to rush anywhere, especially at such a cost. It is more than that actually. Freedom to operate a car and travel at will comes with responsibility. I have always loved to drive, especially because of the freedom to just “go.” My car is my freedom. My freedom to go places. My place to be alone. My way to escape. My insurance policy against isolation. The car has always been my ticket out. It’s like sitting in the back row of a meeting room – easy to slip out.

Nothing has highlighted the value of personal freedom more than the 2020 pandemic. Yes, I can go places and still drive anywhere I want, but I have to be so mindful of protective limits – where I can go, how long I can stay, what time I go, what safety protocols must be prepared for, what are the risks, and will I be mindful of others in the process? There are plenty of sign posts. Risks are now more apparent than ever as are the elements of freedom that I have generally taken for granted.

In the Garden, Adam and Eve defied the limits that God gave them and tumbled mankind into a world of sin sickness. The first man and woman exercised their God-given freedom, while not taking responsibility for observing God’s loving limits. Life is so like this, isn’t it? We enjoy that same God-given freedom, but drift easily into the 45-55-65-75-85 mph avoidance of limitations, at terrible costs. We hurt ourselves and others constantly by refusing to regard sign posts placed there for our safety, especially our eternal safety.

Just as speed limit signs were posted for all to see, God has given us His Word for all to see. But, do we embrace God’s truth and honor His loving limits? I guess you first need to be convinced that His limits are loving… A story for another day, another blogpost.

Don’t get stuck in a habit of disregarding God’s truth. God’s loving limits. God’s fence of protection around those who have faith in Him. Remember the reason for the celebration of Christmas – the birth of God’s Son and subsequent provision of salvation for those who do not drift into deception on the autopilot of sin. Real wisdom is possessing faith in God and His promises – the culmination of which greatest promise was the baby in the manger who went on to the Cross on our eternal behalf. Therein lies true freedom.

2 Timothy 1:10 says, “But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Christmas is the great Sign Post we must not take for granted! The great freedom that salvation gives us – freedom from sin, freedom from death, freedom to exalt our Righteous Savior – leads us to the responsibility to treasure Christ by following Him faithfully.