Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Reflections on Spending One-Hour Thanking God - Happiness

Our Week of Prayer continues at Grace Fellowship Church. Last night we devoted our meeting to thanksgiving. I don’t think I have ever observed so clearly the relationship between gratitude and happiness. As the night progressed and folks thought of more and more things for which to thank God, my joy rapidly increased.

Gratitude seems to do the same thing confession does – make you happy in God.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17 ESV)

There is not a single good thing in our lives that is self-generated or self-maintained. All our good is a gift from Him. This is profound. Especially if you are willing to believe that every breath, every beat of your temporary heart, is a “good gift.” How many times does my heart beat in a day? (On average 75 beats per minute… 1440 minutes in a day… 108,000 gifts a day… almost half of which I receive while sleeping!) Every day I have over 100,000 reasons to thank God.

The power of giving thanks is that it reminds me what an amazing Benefactor our God is to us and all the world. And this makes me very happy.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Public Confession of Sin and Giving Thanks - Attracting God's Attention

The last few years we have begun our Week of Prayer with a time of confession. Of all our meetings I think this one freaks people out the most. Get together and publicly confess sin!? Who does that?

I admit my own hesitation to this early on. In fact, it was only upon reading a description of Spurgeon’s Week of Prayer at the Tabernacle that convinced me it was worth a try. At the end of this meeting I am always left asking why we do not do it more.

            But this is the one to whom I will look:
                        he who is humble and contrite in spirit
                        and trembles at my word.
                       (Isaiah 66:2b ESV)

I think this is the power of public confession. We attract the attention of God. When my brothers and sisters are pouring out their hearts to God and admitting their failures over the past year, God gets glorified. His forgiveness, His patience, His longsuffering, indeed, His abundant grace, all get made much of. And He looks toward them - He gives them "more attention."

Tonight we will seek to spend the hour of prayer thanking God. Thanksgiving tends to work like water breaking through a dyke. What starts as a slow trickle ends up gushing forth in abundant praise to the One who has done so much for us.

I think it is great to prepare for these meetings. One thing you could do for tonight is spend the rest of the afternoon jotting down things for which you are thankful. Bring your list to our meeting and help us all glorify the One who has given us so much.

Monday, January 06, 2014

8 Reasons to NOT Come to Week of Prayer (with Biblical Refutations!)

I am of the opinion that coming up with excuses to miss a prayer meeting is about as easy as opening a can of pop. It does not take a profound imagination to concoct reasons to skip. With that in mind, I sometimes remind myself why prayer must be kept essential rather than supplemental. I like to use the Word to re-frame my desires. If you are a member of Grace Fellowship Church and starting to think of why you should stay home tonight or any night this week, here are some of my Monday afternoon reflections.

Answer the Tempter with Truth!

I am tired.
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 24)

I have more important things to do.
“For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” (Luke 12)

I do not like to pray.
“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5)

I can pray better on my own anyway.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2)

I forgot about it.
“They forgot his works
and the wonders that he had shown them.
Yet he, being compassionate,
atoned for their iniquity
and did not destroy them;
he restrained his anger often
and did not stir up all his wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh,
a wind that passes and comes not again.
How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
and grieved him in the desert!” (Psalm 78:11, 38-40)

I don’t feel like it. Have you even been outside?
“Another of the disciples said to him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.’” (Matthew 8)

I don’t see the need to confess my sins in front of other people.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5)

I have to get ready for school/work tomorrow.
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6)