LOVE (42)


I have recently been made more aware of serious problems in our nation, and of spiritual attack in the lives of people that I love. These things are frustrating. And one of the most frustrating factors in my seeing these things is that I cannot see anything I can do to have any appreciable effect. But while I cannot help in the physical realm, I know I can have great effect in the spiritual realm where the real battle will be fought. Paul wrote about this in 2 Corinthians 10. Verse 3 says as much.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.”

I am not exactly sure how to apply this truth. Paul is warning people who have not repented of sins against the church that he is coming with spiritual authority. But how he applies this seems to fit a much larger set of circumstances, including those that I am dealing with right now. Look at the following verses. Verse 4 reads,

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”

Paul says the weapons of spiritual warfare are not fleshly efforts. They do not come by screaming at people, although God can speak thunderously.  On a broader scale, they are not political, although they can affect governments. When Paul says they demolish strongholds, he is talking about the strongholds of demonic forces in the world and in the lives of people, sometimes even believers. This certainly describes things I have seen in the lives of people who cannot seem to let go of attitudes that are destroying them and others. It also applies to some who are being attacked by jealousy, intrigue, and infighting among colleagues. And I can see this in the culture of my own country, and around the world.

We see something of how this works in verse 5.

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

How do we confound ungodly arguments? Let me point out three crucial factors. The first is love. God's love for people will often overcome opposition. When we speak of spirituality, we have to include all the fruit of the the Spirit listed in Galatians 5. But possibly the most powerful of them is agape, the infinite, ultimate love of God in our lives. Next is spiritual knowledge. This must begin with the gospel by which lives are transformed. Sometimes this means simply speaking the truth even when it is opposed. When he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Jesus just quoted Scripture. He did not convince Satan, but Jesus was not swayed by the temptation.

Finally, and many ways most important is prayer. In Ephesians 6:10-17 Paul gives us what are mostly defensive weapons. But in verse 18 he concludes with the power of prayer.

“Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”

We break the power of the enemy by prayer. We extend the Kingdom of God by praying. And we can trust the power of God as we become more and more intimate with Him. You may not see revival as you pray. But you can know God is at work. And you never see revival without extraordinary prayer. You may not avoid evil in this world. Abraham interceded for Sodom. But it was still destroyed. Jesus could have avoided the cross. But I am so thankful that He did not. You will not be able to to keep the Antichrist from rising in the last days. But you will be able to endure all that comes upon the Earth. And you can build a shelter of prayer around those you pray for. And again and again you will turn the hearts of those for whom you pray back to the God of the Bible.



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He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of His people. - Psalm 113: 7,8
November 10, 2018
Dear Praying Friends,

November 10 is the International Day of Prayer for Yemen when Christians around the world will be uniting to pray for Yemen.  As you know, PTAP has been encouraging much prayer for Yemen due to the immense suffering of the Yemeni people from the horrors of war, resulting in the worst humanitarian disaster in the world today.  So please join us in prayer again, united in the Spirit as one body of Christ, for God to have mercy upon the people and country of Yemen.  

Most of all, pray for the end of the civil war!!!  Pray for successful negotiations and a resulting ceasefire.  Pray for all fighting and killing to stop. Pray against famine and cholera and all disease.  Pray for all humanitarian efforts to be successful. Pray for normal life to return so that the country can start to heal and prosper again.  
Below are links to resources to help you pray.  Also, we recommend the following:
  1. Spend a dedicated time of personal, focused prayer for Yemen.
  2. Fast if possible.
  3. Lead your family, small group, church, etc. in a time of corporate, focused prayer.
  4. Share on social media that November 1o is the International Day of Prayer for Yemen and encourage your friends to pray.
PTAP's Yemen page:
PTAP's Facebook: 
PTAP's Prayermate mobile app:

Here is a short testimony from a Yemeni believer and also recent prayer requests from Yemeni believers themselves.  Let's pray along with our brothers and sisters. They are greatly encouraged when they know that we are praying with them.  

My story
"I used to live with fear and hatred, and I was tired of living this way.  It made me sick. So one day, I fervently prayed to God to free me from this unrighteousness, and God sent me a brother who was actually my neighbor.  He spoke to me about Christ. I saw Christ in his life. God gave me freedom like I have never experienced before.
Now, when I encounter challenges (people of another faith who want to harm me and give me trouble), the only thing I have to give them is love, joy, peace, patience, and reassurance in Christ.  No more fear, no more hatred.  I have complete freedom. I can now trust in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ because He lives in me."
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I am not sure we fully appreciate the value of communication in these days. We live very near the old American Pony Express route. For a year and a half in the mid nineteenth century, until the telegraph service finally crossed the continent, riders carried the mail on fast horses from station to station from Colorado and points east to California. That was an expensive and often dangerous undertaking all for the sake of mail service.

We live a little over ten miles from the little town where snowshoe Thompson lived. In the same era as the Pony Express Thompson carried mail on 10 foot skis across the high Sierras from Mormon station to Placerville California.

Of course, most of us in America receive far more mail than we would like. Much of it is what we call junk mail. But letters from important people or people we love are still precious. I love the story of Kathy Keller, Tim Keller's wife, receiving several letters from C.S. Lewis when she wrote him as a 12 year old girl. They were actually written within weeks of Lewis’ death.

But no letter would be as valuable to any of us as direct communication from God. That is what we have in the 29th chapter of Jeremiah. Jeremiah sends a letter to the exiles who had been carried off to Babylon. And in that letter he gives them and us direct communication from God himself. This is not unlike the letters from Jesus to the seven churches in Asia Minor at the beginning of The Revelation.

Many of us are familiar with Jeremiah 29:11.

“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I recently heard someone say that our putting this verse on t-shirts and greeting cards, and applying it directly to our lives is a misuse of scripture. The person said you could only apply this to your life if you were in fact one of the Israelites exiled to Babylon in the 6th century before Christ. I believe that is a mistake. We have this letter in Scripture because God speaks to us from it. And this letter reveals important things about the character of God, and how he deals in our lives today.


First God declares in this passage that He has plans for you. I need to be honest here. I am not very good at making plans. I am always cynical about my ability to know what will happen in the future. But I understand that meaning in life comes from purpose. And God gives us assurance here that He has a plan. God assures the Israelites in exile that they are not simply in the hands of blind fate. And even though it may look to us like God does not know what He is doing, He knows. This brings to my mind His promise in Romans 8:28.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

This verse does not say everything will be good in our lives. That was certainly not true for the children of Israel under judgment. But God was assuring the people that He was going to work even this evil, even this hardship, for good in their lives.

The Children of Israel were deported to Babylon because they had rejected God. But God still had plans for them. Someone recently asked me if I believed in the perfect and permissive will of God. He told me he had not done something that he was convinced was the will of God. And he felt he could no longer have God's best for his life.

I said I didn't think that was a good or biblical way of looking at the will of God. I would rather say the will of God is dynamic. He has a specific will for you no matter what happened in your past. A good example of this is found in 1John 1:9.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

So, suppose I sin. That is completely out of the will of God, is it not? Now, what is God's will for me? God's specific will for me is to confess that sin to Him. You have already strayed in significant ways from the will of God. But He still has a specific will for your life. His will may not be easy. But it is perfect for you.


It was very difficult for the people of Israel to see any good in their captivity in Babylon. And it is sometimes impossible for us to see good in our immediate situation in life. But God is saying to them and to us, “I know.” You and I cannot know what the future holds. But God knows; and we can trust Him.


In Jeremiah 29:11 the NIV says God has plans to “prosper” us. The ESV says plans for our “welfare.” The Hebrew word here is Shalom. The foundation of the word shalom is peace. But it is used in the Old Testament for a much broader concept than simply the absence of war. It refers back to the time of prosperity particularly under the reign of David and Solomon. Of course God's peace begins with a right relationship with God. God is saying His plans for you begin with your getting right with Him. And Shalom has to refer more to spiritual welfare then it does material prosperity.

And God says His plans are not to harm you. Now here the Hebrew word for harm is the word for evil. It is the same word that is used in the garden of Eden for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God's purpose in His judgment of the children of Israel was not their final destruction, but repentance.


The blessing of God is primarily relational. God's nature and his purpose for us is wound up in His infinite love. God desires a relationship with you. The very next verses in Jeremiah 29 read,

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”


In this letter God and Jeremiah tell the people to settle down where they are and live in Hope. There is a theology that is often being applied in our day which simply says wouldn't it be wonderful if the Lord would come back today and this world would burn. But God is saying, “Don't give up. Keep on serving Me. You have hope.” This reminds me of 1 Corinthians 15:58 which God has often used to encourage my soul.

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”


I am in an unusual place in life. I have terminal cancer. And I need to say, nothing in my life has helped me get a grip on the future as much as my cancer. I am able to see significance in every moment of my life.

I see relationships in a new light as my time on this Earth is shortened. That is not to say that I am always kind or patient with people. I am certainly tempted not to be kind. But I hunger to love them with Christ's love. And I pray for God to do things in their lives that I could never accomplish.

Prayer itself has become much more important to me. My cancer brings me to Exodus 33 where Moses cried out to see the glory of God. And I am convinced that God will use my prayers to touch the lives of those around me.

And I still need to minister. I need to pour myself into God's purpose. I am thankful that He allows, has even called me to write. And I think it is important to see that whatever ministry God calls you to will make life more meaningful.

All of these things relate to the future. Those of us who believe in Jesus have eternal life. And life beyond this life will be a continuation, even an expansion of the purpose and fellowship that He lavishes on us on Earth. That hope makes everything more meaningful now and forever.




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Matthew 5:7

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

This is the first of the Beatitudes that may come close to making sense to modern Westerners. However that is because we really do not understand. This almost sounds like Jesus was saying, “If you are nice to people, they will be nice to you.” There is some truth to that. But it misses the reality of human nature and society. The world is not made up of nice people who will always be nice to you. If you only know those kinds of people your life is indeed sheltered.

I recently heard a testimony of a man who shortly after coming to faith in Christ heard Brother Andrew, God's Smuggler, talking with a prominent Near Eastern Sheikh who was ordering the death of 8 Israelis because 4 Palestinians had been killed. Brother Andrew ask him, “But where does forgiveness come in?” The sheikh answered, “That is only for those who deserve it.”

Much closer to home, I heard a woman tell about a man in her child’s Public School who mistreated and lied about her daughter. This was a horrible time for their family. Later she got some perspective on the events because the man was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She said, “I can forgive him because we found out his behavior was affected by the tumor. But I can't forgive other School Employees, and even friends in our church, who believed him when he said those things, even though they had known our daughter all her life.”

I understand her hurt, and why she said what she did, but that was not what Jesus taught. Christian Mercy does not end with those who are excusable. Later in this same chapter Jesus tells us we are to be like our Heavenly Father who sends sunshine and rain on the just and the unjust. We are even to love our enemies with the love of God.

What some of you are already thinking is important to understand. It is not true that your enemy will show you mercy, if you show him compassion. What then did Jesus mean? Like all of the Beatitudes this looks beyond the rewards given by other humans on this Earth. Jesus was pointing to the ultimate mercy of our Heavenly Father.

Toward the end of Mark 11 Jesus gives us one the most powerful promises of praying in faith. And then in verse 25 he extends what he says about faith with these words.

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Jesus clearly links trusting God to forgive our own sins with forgiving those who have wronged us.

Matthew 5 concludes with the words, “Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” How in the world are we ever going to obey this command? The only way we could do it is through the gospel. When we receive Jesus Christ, we receive His mercy, His righteousness, and His forgiveness for all who who receive Him. Are you striving and praying to show His mercy toward those around you? We receive His power in our lives to love and forgive as He forgives. But we will not know our final Christ-like perfection until we stand before the Father in His forgiveness and grace.



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St. Andrew's Anglican Church in Abu Dhabi opens doors for Iftar
ABU DHABI: St. Andrew's Anglican Church in Abu Dhabi opened its doors to serve Iftar to Muslims in an unprecedented ecumenical gesture during the holy month of Ramadan.

Muslims and non-Muslims alike gathered for the fast-breaking evening meal at the church in the heart of the UAE capital. Khalid Al Ameri, the Emirati columnist and social commentator, was welcomed to St. Andrews by the Reverend Andrew Thompson.

Pray for the Anglican Church and all those who are coming to break fast at this church. Pray that God may soften people's hearts and welcome to love of Jesus into their hearts.
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Have you ever asked, “Why me?” when you faced pain or heartache? How can a church or a church leader minister to hurting people who are asking the question, “Why?”

Let me propose three crucial facets of ministry to people who might ask this question in the midst of hardship. We must deal with this issue by teaching, love, and encouragement.

Teaching is foundational to ministry in such situations. The question itself can be prompted by bad theology. Many of us living in sheltered and affluent societies have the notion that if you are a Christian, or possibly a good person, God will not allow terrible things to happen in your life. This is a false doctrine. You will not find it anywhere in Scripture. I believe it is legitimate to ask God that you not be led into the temptation that comes in trials. But in John 16:33 Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation.” Your people need to know that God has not promised them the American dream. The purpose of life is not comfort or pleasure.

However, it is important to note that you need to teach these things before your people come into heartache. The parents of a teenager killed in a car accident don't need your teaching in the crisis. They need God's love through you and through your church. Sometimes the less you say in a tragic situation the more God's love can be poured out through you and your presence with them. It is more important to pray with them than it is to teach them. They need your prayers and the prayers of the whole church family to endure the trial.

Even in trials you can encourage people to pray, to seek God, and to see that He is at work in the situation. And you can encourage them to seek God's glory in the midst of crises. There is an answer to the question, “Why.” It is actually the same answer to the question of why God blesses us. The purpose of heartache and blessing is to glorify His name. One of the ways God will be glorified through trials is by the character that He develops in you. You can encourage people to trust that God is working in their lives. James 2 calls us to rejoice when we fall into many kinds of trials, because we know that tribulation develops patient endurance. James goes on to say we must let endurance produce its perfect work in our lives. In Romans 5 we find the same promise. There Scripture tells us that endurance develops character. And character produces hope. And hope does not disappoint because the love of God is poured out on others through our lives. 2 Corinthians 1:3,4 speaks to this.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”


So, let patience have her perfect work


Of character and hope in and through our lives.





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Life Changes

Life changes and is never stagnant, if you allow yourself to grow. Growing takes effort. Reading His Word and applying His principles to your life. They are good principles, adding value to life. This does not mean you’re going to hop on a fluffy soft cloud and float through life with no heartache or pain. It does mean that you have God to lean on. It means when you seek Him, He will answer. When you follow His principles the hardships in life can be overcome. He cannot always keep you from harm, but He can help you heal from it. He does not control anyone. He is not a control freak. He is here to guide you when you ask but you must listen when He answers. He is your healer, but not always in the way you expect. You only think in the ways of man. You cannot always comprehend what He is doing in your life. This is where trust comes in. If you are following Him, reading His word, praying and soaking in His presence you will have greater understanding and greater healing from life’s hurts.


He is here for His people! The one’s who choose to follow Him. Being a follower of His Son Jesus does not make you weak. Instead it makes you strong. Spiritually strong. Align yourself with the Holy Bible. Align yourself with a Bible believing church that teaches Agape Love above all else. Learn of His ways. Learn to love others and His Son. Learn to love yourself. Many people have done so much wrong, been taught wrongly, or mistreated so badly, even by those who call themselves Godly, that they are confused and refuse to hear His Word. But know that I do not control them and they can choose to misconstrue His Word, or twist it for their own glory or excuses. He is the ONE and ONLY TRUE GOD who love’s your soul. Who forgives your sins and longs to guide you to the truth of the Word. He is peace when there is no peace around you. He is Love when there is no one to love you and even when you do have people to love you. He is the Great I AM, here to guide and save His people. You must choose Him as He has already put you on the list of HIS Chosen. He has given you the opportunity and the right to follow Him and seek His peace in your life.



Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

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I fear that the church in these days, especially in the West, has become shallow in our understanding and practice of forgiveness. We sometimes confuse forgiveness with overlooking sins. And agape* love in the church family certainly covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8) But the depth of forgiveness in the church family must be more than putting up with one another's faults and weaknesses. Nor is forgiveness the same as understanding. I have heard someone say, “Well, I can forgive him because I understand why he did that.” Real forgiveness does not demand understanding. It can come while you still hurt. Such forgiveness is the key to true reconciliation that releases the power of God in our midst.

In the years that I was pastoring churches I always used the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17 as a guide for church discipline when someone had sinned against the whole body. I believe that is justified to some extent. But that is really not the context in which Jesus spoke those words. They begin, “If your brother sins against you.” Because of the importance of this passage I want to present it here in its entirety including verses 18-20. And I encourage you to read it slowly and thoughtfully before I begin to unpack some of it.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

First, notice the goal of reconciliation. When someone wrongs you, you are not to go to them as the judge pointing out how wrong they are. Your goal is to heal the relationship. From the start you need to have worked through your willingness to forgive, and restore the relationship, possibly deeper than it ever had been before.

This requires humility produced by the Holy Spirit through time spent agonizing in prayer for the person. And that humility extends to a willingness to sit down with a person before an outside party. When you bring in another party, or failing that, go before the entire church, you have to be open for them to see things you haven't seen in the issue. And you have to be humble enough to submit to their authority over you for the sake of reconciliation. This will require nothing short of the agape* love that God is developing in our lives and in the fellowship of the church.

And even the judgment of the church, is to be carried out in heartbroken agape*. While treating people as non-believers does not mean we have no more contact with them, it does mean that the whole purpose of the body of Christ is broken. And seems to be very serious. Jesus says rather forcefully here, “Whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in heaven.” He says identical words in John 20 where He breathes on his disciples the Holy Spirit.

“And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

(John 20:22,23)

Finally we see the depth of agreeing together in prayer that can only come from forgiving from our very hearts. Peter comes to Jesus and asks how many times shall he keep on forgiving someone who has wronged him. Jesus tells the parable of the servant who has received great forgiveness, but won't forgive his fellow servant. And he concludes with verse 35.

“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

*Agape is the ultimate love of God poured out in our lives. The fullest description of agape in 1 Corinthians 13.



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Make Love Your Aim


If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
-1 Corinthians 13

Now notice an interesting phenomenon. When you start to read this chapter—one nods in agreement, particularly when there is everything to love. But what if things don't go one's way? What then? If one really gets the point of Paul’s chapter, they probably wouldn’t be agreeing so much.

Love is patient, kind, never jealous, boastful, arrogant, or rude. It never insists on its own way, is not irritable, pouty, or peevish. Love is never resentful, and on and on.

Think about it: at first the call to love appears simple. But usually by the time we get to the end of the catalogue of what love implies it becomes pretty obvious that whatever we intend and promise to be toward others never really gets very high off the ground. The kind of radical love God requires of us is far beyond us. The way just gets too steep and the air too thin at those high altitudes.

So what’s the solution to the love problem? How do we get from how we really are to how we ought to be? How do we ever reach the higher levels of what love requires?

First, we come to recognize in all humility that we can’t really pull it off—we’re just not all that good. It’s not in us to be so loving. We want to be, but we’re not. That’s an enormous realization, and it requires brutal honesty. The person who reads the love chapter and says, “Yep, that’s me alright!” has completely missed the point.

Second, we come to realize that in our insufficiency is God’s sufficiency. In our weakness, God’s strength is manifest. What we can’t do, God can. So we join with St. Augustine when he said that all the great commands of God are impossible for us to keep in our own strength and pray: “Lord, give what you command.” In other words, “I can’t do it, you can, so empower me to do what you want me to do.” This is the key to the life of faith, the life in the Spirit. Chapters 12 and 14 are about the Holy Spirit and his power to transform all of life. In other words, Paul is telling us, don’t even think about producing a Spirit-empowered life without the Spirit. It can’t be done. But with the Spirit of Christ at the center of everything, anything is possible.

Finally, the truest and most noticeable mark of the Spirit’s presence in someone is not their spiritual vocabulary, the way they look, or their Sunday behavior, but their love—their daily interactions and caring ways.

If resentment, anger, or hatred has replaced love and joy in your life, do a heart-check and see if you can determine the root cause of your problem. If someone hurt you, keep a heart of love ready to forgive them the minute they ask for your forgiveness. If you've hurt someone, reach out to them and ask them to forgive you. Not in some fake doing the Christian thing way, but in total, genuine humility, setting aside your pride and rancor. As Christians, we are called to a higher path.

Make love your aim—today, tomorrow, and always.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

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Do you know the central teaching of Scripture? It can be found in every book of the Bible and brings it all together. It is the gospel. “For God so loved the world. . .” “That Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” That, “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.”

On the day of Pentecost Peter stood and explained what God was pouring out into the world and in Acts 2:22-24 Peter focused everything on the gospel.

Men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

It is important to understand that Peter did not present the gospel as an abstract concept.

Look at Peter’s words. “Hear these words, ‘Jesus of Nazareth!’”

Jesus is the gospel. If you have never come to know Jesus Christ personally, you need to understand that Jesus Himself is reaching out to you in His incomparable love. In John 14:6 Jesus said He was the way, the truth, and the life. 1 John 5:20 tells us He is eternal life.

You who are believers need to understand that the gospel is not something you will ever grow beyond. The privilege of knowing Jesus is the wonderful foundation of everything you will ever learn, or need, or enjoy in Christ. Let me point out just one narrow application of this truth. Do you know why the fellowship of the church is so wonderful? It is because Jesus indwells us. You can see Jesus, you can hear His voice and feel His embrace when we get together in the church.

But there are many applications of the gospel in our lives. If we look at the fruit of the Spirit for example. Galatians 5:22-23 begins the list with love. “We love because He first loved us.” The next is joy. At the birth of Jesus the Angel told the shepherds he brought them “Good news of great joy!” Next comes peace. “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The list continues from patience through self-control. Each of these and every other facet of spiritual growth comes as we understand and apply the gospel to our lives. And the gospel is Jesus Christ. We do not believe in it. We believe in Him.

This and the next few entries in this blog come from a sermon I preached at Crosspoint Church in Reno, NV. You can find the recording on their website.

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PTAP: Prayer for Seekers

Pray for a young man who is asking many questions about Jesus Christ. May he embrace the truth and surrender his life to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Pray for a Muslim national that has been attending a service of expatriate believers for some time. She has asked many questions comparing various religions, so it's not clear yet that she has decided to trust in Christ. However, she continues to have a warm relationship with believers. Please pray and ask God to draw her to Him. 
Pray that God will show Himself in supernatural ways and demonstrate His perfect love and kindness to those who live in fear of Him. Pray that those who have had encounters with Jesus through dreams and visions would be insatiably curious and hungry and seek out believers to find out more about Him.

Ask the Lord to give believers opportunities to share stories from the Word and to open the hearts and minds of hearers to believe and long to hear more.
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Ramadan begins this coming Saturday (May 27), and many throughout the Arab Peninsula will be fasting, going to special prayers at the mosques, and spending time reading the Qur'an more. Pray that Jesus will visit many in dreams and visions during this special time, and that there may be a hunger for Truth among many in the Arabian Peninsula. Also pray for the Muslim background believers during this time--that they will hold on to their faith with steadfastness and not be ashamed of the Gospel. 

Pray that believers in the Arabian Peninsula will keep themselves in the love of God (Jude 1:21). Ask that the believers will gladly receive the never ceasing stream of living water, i.e. the love of God, with praise. Pray that the believers will sense the love of God in the workplace, streets, in conversations with local neighbors, in whatever they do... 

A cholera epidemic has hit the country of Yemen with over 50 deaths in the capital alone according to  Reuters news. Garbagemen have been on strike because they are not being paid. The people have been told that vegetables are contaminated. Please pray for those who are grieving the loss of family. Please pray that the epidemic will be contained and eradicated. Please pray for peace in Yemen.
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"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:  that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of them are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, and to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born."

The gospel is not something that wise men thought about and conceived through eons of time. It is the good news of Jesus. And the witness of the gospel is essential. Hundreds of people saw Him alive, followers, enemies, family, and strangers. To this day people say Jesus has forgiven me. He has embraced me with the gospel of His love and grace. He is alive! I have experienced Him in my life too.

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I recently finished the rough draft of a book on AGAPE. I have to admit that writing it has been a thrill. One of the things that God pressed on me is that agape, the love of God, the love the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have lavished upon one another from before time, is at the heart of our bond with God. And agape needs to be the driving force of our prayer. Let me point out some natural expressions of the love of God that should shape our prayers.
Prayer for the Needy
God cares for the poor. He loves them with a special love. (James 2:5) You can pray in general for ministries to the poor. Thank God for them. And of course real agape and real prayer will give to such ministries. But that is not enough. You can pray for people you may pass every day. You may see them on the side of the road or in the grocery store. You may very well see them in church. And you can pray for opportunities to get the know some of them personally, and find personal ways to pray for each of them.
The neediest people you will ever meet are people who are lost without Christ
Prayer for the Lost
God cares for the lost. Jesus began His teaching in Luke 15 with this parable. Which one of you who has a hundred sheep but loses one of them will not leave the 99 in the open field to go after the one lost sheep? When he finds it, will he not put it on his shoulders with joy? Coming home he will call his friends and neighbors saying, “Celebrate with me because I have found my lost sheep!” Jesus concluded, “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
Are you praying daily by name for people who do not know your Lord? I assumed many of us would have to look for needy people. But that is not true about lost people. God has placed you in the midst of family members, neighbors, coworkers and acquaintances who need Christ. He has trusted them to you. Pray for a clear witness to them. Pray for softened heart. Pray for every need they have. Pray for His power in their lives.
Prayer of Forgiveness
As Jesus hung on the cross He prayed, “Father, forgive them.” Who do you think He was praying for? He was certainly praying for the Roman soldiers who were carrying out His crucifixion. I believe He was praying for the multitude shouting, “Crucify!” I believe He was praying for the men who had condemned Him. But He was also praying for me. His whole crucifixion was a powerful prayer for God to forgive me and you. That prayer was a declaration of the will of God from before the foundation of the universe.
Are you praying for God to forgive those who have sinned against you? They probably include people whom you love, people who are close to you. They will include people who hate you. They will include people who hurt you deeply, and people who are not at all sorry about it. This kind of praying requires spiritual growth. And it will be a major factor in your growing more and more in the love of Christ.

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Possibly even more than Romans 3:23, the passage we last dealt with in this blog, Romans 6:23 sounds like anything but good news. That is partly because we have been bombarded all of our lives with the nonsense of self-esteem. You are important! You are wonderful! You are flawless! You are a winner! You can be anything you want to be!

But as helpful as that thinking may be, it strikes many of us as unreal, a little like the Easter Bunny. We were on the ball team where everyone got a meaningless trophy when we didn't win a game. Or we told a friend she had a beautiful hat, when we were just too shocked to speak the truth.

But in His love God speaks reality to our hearts. Romans 6:23 reads,

“For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Let me point out two crucial things this verse teaches.

1. This verse brings us to the Desperate Need of the Gospel.

The world promises wages in its counterfeit currency. The true wages of living our lives as if we didn’t need God are lostness and death without Him.

So you have cancer. You go to two doctors. One of them smiles, gives you pain pills and a fishing poll. The other doctor says we are going to operate on you to remove the tumor from your body. I have been there. The hard words are the good news?

2. This verse also teaches the Wonderful Gift of the Gospel.

The gospel is not something you earn. It is the gift of God's love.

Many years ago I served in a church that was unhappy with me. God gave my wife and I great comfort in Revelation 3:9. He assured us that the people would come to know that He loved us. At first I wanted to say, "No God. I want them to know that I was right." But after His word began to wash over us, we decided we needed His love in our lives more than we needed to be successful or impressive.

Every wonderful thing in life comes from His love and the gift of the gospel. It is eteranlly good news!

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2 Chronicles 7:3
When all the people of Israel saw the fire coming down and the glorious presence of the Lord filling the Temple, they fell face down on the ground and worshiped and praised the Lord, saying, "He is good! His faithful love endures forever!"
Psalm 31:20
You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues.
Jude 1:24
Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.
Pray that God would take His people (Muslim-background believers in the Arabian Peninsula, missionaries, other Christians living in the Arabian Peninsula) deeper in the presence of God. Pray that they all find their souls satisfied in God. Pray that they have a deeper hunger for God. May these ordinary people find themselves growing deeper in Him. May their own prayer life increase with fervent prayer and fasting. Pray that as they grow deeper, Muslims around them will see and yield their lives to Him as well. Lord draw the people living in the Arabian Peninsula to Yourself. 
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In a prayer time that I was leading shortly after September 11, 2001 a six-year-old boy spoke up. “We need to pray for the terrorists!” I answered without thinking. “Pray that they will be caught and killed.”

That incident and the real danger of enemies on our door step plunged me into a serious quandary of how to love them. In Luke chapter 6 Jesus gave us a list of specific applications. And while I need to say these directives are personal rather than political, they should affect every area of a Believer's thinking.

Luke 6:27

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”

You have to begin by listening. Are you willing to listen to things Jesus says that go against what you consider common sense? Have you considered what good thing God has arranged for you to do for the person who lies about you or opposes something important that you need to accomplish?

Luke 6:28

“Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Desiring God's blessing on someone is a foundation of intercessory prayer. I have several lists of people that I pray for every day as a personal spiritual discipline. And from time to time God impresses me to add someone to one of those lists that I just don't like. I have to pray for God to develop His love in my heart for them as I try to ask Him to bless them.

Luke 6:29

“If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.”

This  may be the most practical and difficult application of loving our enemies. And while the command to turn the other cheek, not to mention the ensuing commands Jesus gives us here, leaves us terribly vulnerable, it meant much more than that to the people who first heard it.

Some years ago I went on a mission trip to what you might call a “kiss culture.” Especially in the churches there, men greeted one another with a kiss on the cheek, often on both cheeks.  It did not take us very long to discover that the one receiving the kiss has to turn his cheek. If you did not turn your cheek, you got kissed on the mouth.

We were never comfortable with this custom, but we quickly came to understand the depth of relationship they were expressing. In such a culture turing the other cheek was an offer of relationship. In the case of an enemy, it was a vulnerable offer of reconciliation.

Let me skip down to Luke 6:35,36, a good conclusion to this passage.

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Genuinely loving your enemies requires a work of God in your life. We grow in this complicated and humanly impossible discipline as we spend time in His presence. To love like this you must be a child of the Most High. God must plant His spiritual DNA into your heart.


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In Battle with Black Magic

Black magic is a reality on the Arabian Peninsula.  Although orthodox Islam forbids magic of any kind, local women still resort to it in order to gain power and influence in societies where they have little power.  Those who practice magic seek different things such as getting pregnant, harming a woman whom she is jealous of, and seeking favor for their children.  Currently, in one city which is in the heartland of black magic in this Arabian Peninsula country, there is a local woman who has been casting curses on believers.  She goes to witchdoctors and has used amulets to cast these curses most likely due to the witchdoctor's advice.  In short, she has caused work-related and relational chaos for these believers.  Most recently, she has been inviting these believers to several different parties to "celebrate" them.  However, they suspect that she is doing something evil to the food and wanting them to eat it.  Some of them got sick from her food before and it seems like she is using food as an "innocent" weapon against them.

Pray that these believers would stand firm, taking up the shield of faith with which they can extinguish the flaming darts of the evil one (Eph 6:16).  Pray that the Son of God would come and destroy the works of the devil in this woman as He promised (1 John 3:8).  Pray for the believers, that no harm would come to them and that they would be a strong witness for Jesus Christ.  Pray that God would have mercy on her soul, deliver her from all evil, and give her true faith in Jesus Christ alone.  May the truth of Christ set her free! (John 8:32)

This week one of our friends was approached with a request for a Bible. As this book is forbidden in the country but readily available for download, the person was guided on how to get a Bible App. She read large portions of the NT that very night and had all kinds of questions! She was able to discuss in her heart language with a second friend who spoke better Arabic.  "Whatsapp" turns out to be a great resource for guiding her through her questions in the context of relationship.  Please stand with us in prayer that this woman will recognize the authority of the Bible and respond to His call of love to follow Him even if this would mean being persecuted.
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But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, I you of little faith?  

Matthew 6:30

Prayer is the first expression of faith. If you believe in God, you will pray. Praying faith is propositional. We trust what Scripture tells us about God. By faith we risk ourselves in the confidence that God is able to meet our needs. We believe that the One who made us knows what we need before we ask Him. We believe that He who feeds the sparrows and clothes the lily will provide what we need.

But praying faith is also personal. We not only believe that Almighty God can meet our needs, we trust in His love for us. We do not just trust God to give us what we want. We can know that God loves us even when He withholds what we want or think we need. By faith we throw ourselves into God's embrace. I remember being terrified up on a roof as a child. I yelled and screamed. My father came and stretched his arms up to me. "Jump, David." Closing my eyes and gritting my teeth, I jumped into my father's arms.  

Praying faith is exclusive. We often hear faith touted as if it were a good in itself. But I would not have survived if I put my faith in the sidewalk to catch me. In prayer we decide to put faith in God rather than in our doubts or fears, rather than our wants and thoughts, rather than the goals and promises of the world around us.


I need to write on faith again next week. I want to key on the words, "their faith" in Matthew 9:2.

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Prayer Changes Things

Pray for the country of Y as unrest continues. Now that the port of A is open, pray that ships bringing food will come and that those who need the food will receive it. Pray for all the logistics necessary to make this happen. Pray for peace in Y. Pray for a number of believers who are in great need now - without jobs and means to provide well for their families. Pray that some of this food will go to them and that they too would provide for those in need (Luke 10:25-37).
In the same country, pray for a young man who is searching for Truth due to trauma in his childhood. Thank God that he now has access to the Scriptures. Ask that the Holy Spirit will help him understand them. Pray that he and his whole family will believe. In addition, pray for a believer who was put in prison last week for trying to help meet the material needs of other believers. Pray for his release, spiritual encouragement, peace and joy (Matthew 5:10, 11), and boldness to speak God's word (Acts 4:29).
In another country, there had been a budding church of nationals coming together. However, a jailing of one of the new believers, then a court case between two of them, etc. caused the group to crumble. Pray for the long-time tentmakers and these believers, that they will all have renewed faith, love, hope, guidance, encouragement from the word (Romans 15:4), and wisdom from the past, to see God's chosen church established together in the faith in unity (Psalm 133, Romans 15:5-7).
Pray for the young men in another country who live in a small, conservative town. Some of them are hostile to the truth but they are still willing to discuss the issues. They are hungry for spiritual substance in contrast to their peers who only care about material comfort. Pray that God would grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth that they may escape from the snare of the devil who has captured them to do his will (2 Timothy 2:25, 26).
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