Monday, June 22, 2009

A Checklist for Evaluating Worship

W. Robert Godfrey, in his book Pleasing God in Worship, poses the following questions, which we may well use to help us assess if our corporate worship conforms to God's Word, or better still, if we are worshiping God acceptably with reverence and awe (Heb. 12:29):

√ Does my church love and believe the Bible?

√ Is the worship of my church filled with the Word of God?

√ How much of the service is given to the reading of the Bible?

√ How much of the service is given to biblical prayer?

√ How much of the service is given to singing that is biblical in content and character?

√ What is content of preaching?

√ Is preaching a substantial part of the service?

√ Is the Law of God clearly present in the service?

√ Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ clearly present and central in the service?

√ What is the role of the sacraments [baptism and Lord's Supper] in the ministry of the church?

√ Are there elements of the service that are more entertaining than biblical?

√ Are both joyful thanksgiving and reverent awe expressed and balanced in the service?

Source: Faithwalk, Vol. 3 No. 1, 2003, p. 15

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Saturation Praying

by Rev. Will Bruce, Minister-at-Large

Overseas Missionary Fellowship
10 West Dry Creek Circle
Littleton, CO 80120-4413
Telephone: 800.422.5330 or 303.730.4160
Fax: 303.730.4165

I. Saturation Praying is praying in which we share, unite, and zero in on the target with specific and full coverage.

Luke 11:1 "Lord, teach us to pray." We are commanded to pray: 1 Thess. 5:17. We are invited to pray:John 14:14. We are the losers if we do not pray: James 4:2b.

We talk to God, the Father through Jesus Christ, the Son, helped by the Holy Spirit. We talk with God simply and naturally as we would talk to others, yet with reverence.

It is hard to change old habit patterns and adopt that which would prove to be more effective in relation to answers for ourselves and for others. Involve the whole family or group in praying--no spectators, all participate. We move on from panic or crisis praying to protective praying.

God loves us, accepts us and cares for us. He will also forgive and cleanse us as we repent. "We are His workmanship." Ephesians 2:10. He is a living God who hears and answers.

II. General Rules:
Brief--back and forth
Only one formal opening and closing
Avoid simply "Lord, bless so and so."
Specific. Not shotgun praying. Luke 11:5,6.
Saturate one subject at a time.
Pray in agreement.
Everyday language but not crude.
Honest and open.
One step at a time.
Then move on to another subject.

An example of saturation praying for a missionary coming home on furlough. Items for prayer will include: extra strength for the multiplied duties prior to his leaving; handing over the work to others; health problems; travel arrangements; safety in travel; needs of the family (change of schools, new friends, culture shock); relationships with family members at home (including unsaved or bereaved ones); a place to live; a ministry in the home church; deputation opportunities; need of a car, furlough studies; ability to communicate the challenge of the field, etc.

Evelyn Christenson has an excellent book on prayer and a leader's guide for teaching prayer. She suggests these 6 simple steps:

1. Subject by subject.
2. Short prayers.
3. Simple prayers.
4. Specific prayers.
5. Silent prayers.
6. Small groups.

III. Five suggested steps for praying, with full freedom to move back and forth between steps:
1. Tune in: Psalm 46:10; Ps. 27:14, and think of:
a. What He is.
b. What He has done for us.
c. What we are in Him.
d. What we have in Him.

2. Praise Him (worship): Phil 4:4-7; 1 Thess. 5:16, and thank Him for:
a. Who He is.
b. What He has done for us.
c. What He will do.
Be specific. Give thanks for NEW LIFE, HEALTH, FAMILY MEMBERS, ANSWERS TO PRAYER, etc.

3. Share personal needs: James 5:13-16. In honesty, in openness, with reality. Use "I" for expressing a need or in confession, not "We."

4. Bear one another's burdens: Gal. 6:2. Have a real concern for and understanding of one another. Use your imagination concerning the needs of others. Ask God for guidance.

5. Reach out in earnest, specific, in-depth prayer for other Christians and those without Christ in your neighborhood, nation, and world.

IV. Benefits:
1. A new awareness of one another.
2. A new sense of being loved.
3. Timid ones begin to participate.
4. Praying is more thorough, therefore more effective.

Some recommended books on prayer:
Prayer Power Unlimited by J. Oswald Sanders
Born for Battle by Arthur Mathews
God's Powerful Weapon by Denis Lane
Prayer without Pretending by Anne Townsend
Mountain Rain by Eileen Crossman, The biography of J.O. Fraser. Gives an ideal example of what is accomplished on the mission field through prayer in the home country.
The Prayer of Faith by J.O. Fraser
Effective Prayer by J. Oswald Sanders

Overseas Missionary Fellowship
10 West Dry Creek Circle
Littleton, CO 80120-4413
Telephone: 800.422.5330 or 303.730.4160
Fax: 303.730.4165

Friday, June 12, 2009

Quarreling Forbidden

Trying to shift blame from ourselves to another person is a common practice. Whether it is an extreme case, such as the Nazis on trial after World War II who said they were only following orders, or a less heinous situation, such as a young child saying that his brother made him steal a pack of gum, all people like to point the finger when they are caught in sin.

Jacob's sons knew that truth about what had really happened to Joseph would have to come out once they were charged with telling their father the good news that Joseph had not died. Remember that Jacob's sons lied to him after Joseph was sold into slavery, telling him that "a fierce animal" had slaughtered their brother (Gen. 37:31-35). To explain why Joseph was still alive would necessitate a full revelation of their betrayal. Though all (except Benjamin) were guilty of this crime on some level, the tendency to shift blame would create opportunities for the brothers to accuse one another of responsibility in hopes of being held less culpable for their act.

Joseph moves to prevent this arguing in Genesis 45: 21-24. First he moves to assure them that there is no need to blame one another through the gift of "a change of clothes" (45:22). The clothing each brother receives is an outer garment that is also used as a blanket. In other words, it is a tunic, recalling the coat of many colors that helped prompt the brothers' jealousy of Joseph (chap. 37). By this gift Joseph gives further proof of forgiveness and reconciliation, for special coats can now be given without any worry of inciting strife.

More important are Joseph's instructions for his brothers not to quarrel. For the first time in decades, Jacob's sons are at peace with one another, and nothing must trouble this accord. Today, we must heed these words as well and avoid foolish arguing, not only over blame, but over relatively minor matters as well (Rom 14:1). John Calvin comments: "We ought to imitate this kindness of Joseph; that we may prevent, as much as possible, quarrels, and strifes of words; for Christ requires of his disciples, not only that they should be lovers of peace, but also that they should be peace-makers."

Source: Thomas, Derek W.H., "Quarreling Forbidden," Tabletalk October 2007, page 30.