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June 21, 2018
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From the Pulpit, 3-10-18

This article was published March 10, 2018 at 5:00 a.m.

Sparks from the Gospel Anvil

Matthew 6:5, 6

It is said that the pulse of the Christian life is made in the closet. No outward ministry is effective that has not been filled from the hidden springs of closet communion with God. The tearful and tender spirit that touches the hearts of men and turns them to God; the messages that move the sinner to repentance and faith in the Saviour, are born in the secret place of prayer, when alone with God. It is in the secret chamber that the Holiness of God is revealed, as well as our weakness and selfishness. Even the enemies of Daniel could find no fault in him, save his faith in God and unceasing prayer. Inspiration and help for Holy living and efficient service must be found in the secret chambers. Any duty can be performed, any trial endured, any burden born when this sense of God is realized and relied upon. The late David Brainerd illustrates this divine law. After a night of importunate and prevailing prayer, as he preached to the Indians, radical and remarkable changes in their lives took place, beginning at once to practice family prayer, keep the Sabbath and all the duties and privileges of God’s people, showing the stamp of the spiritual parent on the children. Jonathan Edwards says of him: “His life shows the right way to success in the way of ministry. He sought it as the soldier seeks victory in siege or battle. Anointed with the love of Christ and souls, how did he labor? Always fervently. Not only in word and doctrine, in public and private, but in prayers by day and night, wrestling with God in secret and travailing in birth with unutterable groans and agony, until Christ was formed in the hearts of the people to whom he was sent. (Reference Galatians 4:19) Some notable examples of praying men will help us to practice this heavenly ministry of prayer.

It is found in the Holy Scriptures the lives of the Elijah prayed, in fact this could be the title of his biography from God. He Prayed; Elijah was a man of like passions as we are yet he prayed. That is the victory over vice; this is the answer for us as Christians today, to be in direct communication with our Father, Who sees us in secret. Did you pray today? Elijah prayed and he conquered kings, controlled the weather, raised the dead and restored a widow’s supplies. Why? Because He prayed and the Book of James reminds us that, “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much”. Are we righteous? Or is our righteousness as “filthy rags”; only through the righteousness of Christ can we lift up our prayers to Him; who is our Great High Priest in that Christ, “daily intercedes for us”. Other examples of a person’s prayer life can be found in the likes of men such as the founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley. It is said that John Wesley spent two hours daily in prayer, and often more than this. He began at four in the morning. One who knew him well says of him:, “He thought prayer to be more his business than anything else, and I have seen him come from his closet with a serenity of face next to shining.” John Fletcher stained the walls of his room with the breath of his prayers. Sometimes he would pray all night. Martin Luther said, “If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning the devil gets the victory through the day.” His motto was: “He that had prayed well, has studied well.” Bishop Francis Asbury of the Methodist Church said, “I propose to rise at 4 o’ clock as often as I can and spend two hours in prayer and meditation.” Robert Murray McCheyene spent from six to eight a.m. and an hour after tea shut in with God.

The Welsh Evangelist Christmas Evans knew the value and power of prayer, which brought to him “the anointing of the Holy One, which worketh mightily in the inward man. This is the mystery of effective preaching. We must be endued with power from on high”; and it was said of Evans preaching brought conviction of sin like a deluge over the people in Wales. According to Joseph Cross, who penned the memoirs of Christmas Evans stated that, “Christmas was eminently a man of prayer. Prayer was his daily bread, the very breath of his spirit. He considered himself entitled, through Christ, to all the blessings of the gospel, and came boldly to the throne of grace in every time of need. During his whole ministerial life, much of his time was spent in the closet. It was his custom for many years, to retire for devotion three times during the day, and rise regularly for the same purpose at midnight.” (Sermons And Memoirs of Christmas Evans by Joseph Cross; foreward by Warren W Wiersbe: © 1986; Kregel Publications). How we too need to spend time in our closet of prayer to know the Lord, can we say that we truly know the Lord? Do you know why the average Christian have so little faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is because we are so little acquainted with Christ. We don’t spend time with Him. We say we know of Him, but we really don’t know Christ at all. When was the last time you spent a full hour in prayer? Not for pride or to brag to your friends of your relationship with Christ, but to get to know Christ more and more each day. May we realize like the hymn writer penned, “Without Him I could do nothing; Without Him I’d surely fail; Without Him I would be drifting; Like a ship without a sail (Chorus) Jesus, O Jesus, Do you know Him today, Do not turn Him away; O Jesus, O Jesus, Without Him, how lost I would be!”

Lt. Charles Smith is commanding officer of the Salvation Army of El Dorado.

• • •

Ancient Words: Miracles of Faith—Power of Angels (2)

Three Bible stories display God’s use of Angels thousands of years ago yet the power displayed is relevant to our society of today. In Genesis 19, we read about the plains of Sodom having 5 cities which were corrupt and vile beyond measure. Abraham tried to strike a deal with God and save these cities from destruction but could not find 10 righteous people out of thousands living on Sodom’s plain. Sexual immorality was the sin and it was rampant among men, women, and children. Lot (Abraham’s nephew), with his wife and two daughters, were the only righteous citizens of Sodom. Two angels approached the city and were met by Lot, who urged them to stay at his house. The perverted mindset of Sodom’s male population descended upon Lot’s house knowing that two strangers, no doubt striking in appearance as the Lord’s angels, were inside. They (the males outside) desired the males (the angels) inside. The angels strike all the men blind and then hurry Lot and his family toward safety as fire and brimstone descend from God’s heaven and destroy all 5 cities on the plain. Paul writes of events yet to come for us today: 2Th 1:5-9 “All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might…(this includes sexual immorality).” God’s power of destruction of evil carried out through angels.

In Exodus, the writer explains the power of angels for Israel as a nation. Over 2 million people have left the “comfort” of Egypt for 430 years and now find their home in a massive desolate desert for the next 40 years. God speaks to Moses with the assurance of protection by God’s angel: Exo 23:20-22 “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you.” Food, water, clothing and shelter will be provided by God through angels—-they will at God’s bidding protect this chosen people from any enemy seeking to destroy them. God’s power of protection for the good of a nation carried out through angels. This protection extends to the living body of Christ, the church today.

King David had just made a run of successful battles as recorded in the final chapters of 2 Samuel. No doubt he was proud of his accomplishment and ask for a census of his fighting men to be taken. Going against the advice of Joab and other commanders, David’s order was obeyed and 1.3 million men were counted (See both 2 Samuel 24 and I Chronicles 1). Satan incited David as written in 1 Chronicles and God was not pleased—his anger burned. Through Gad, the prophet, David is given 3 choices of punishment involving 3 years, 3 months, or 3 days. The King chooses the 3-day punishment and 70,000 of the King’s nation die from a plague administered by God’s powerful angel. The innocent died because of the guilt of one. Mercy steps out, however—God is grieved and the sword wielding angel’s hand is stayed. David weeps and repents. The angel stands on the threshing floor of Araunah where a thousand years earlier an angel stayed the knife-held hand of Abraham as his innocent son was offered to die. Mercy was the victor in 2,000 BC, mercy was the victor in 1,000 BC and in true God fashion, mercy became totally the victor in 33 AD—-all taking place on the threshing floor of Araunah. This time, the angels stepped back, God looked away while the innocent Lamb was offered and slain for the guilt of many—-then rose on day 3—so that we, the guilty, in him, through him and by him might live! God’s power of salvation thru grace and mercy is seen thru the power of angels in times past yet demonstrated in fulness by the Son of God at exactly the right time!!

Scott Johnson is pastor at East Faulkner Church of Christ and author of the BRG Bible. Bible questions can be sent to brgbible@gmail.com.

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