Saturday, 23 January 2016

Back to Basics - Part 2

This is mini-sermon number 2 which I will deliver on Sunday to the church. It's basic, but we quickly forget the basics.

What do you think the Bible is?

Do you think the Bible is like an inspirational book that gives you a thought for the day, and if you're really lucky, a fuzzy feeling inside before you get going?

Presence Dusty BibleMaybe you think of the Bible like a horoscope that will give you some good news in the drudgery of life. Of course, if it's bad news, you can ignore it, because in your opinion, the Bible, like a horoscope, can't really be trusted.

Or do you understand the Bible to be what it really is, the very Word of God. If we remember that this book is God speaking, we'll take it a lot more seriously than we do.

We're going back to basics and this week we need to remember how important it is to read the Bible. Aim to read it every day. Find a time, perhaps in the morning, or during your lunch break or at night before you go to bed and read the Bible. Personally, I try and read a chapter of the Old Testament, a chapter of the New Testament, and a psalm. If you've never done this before, then start small and aim to read one chapter.
Pray before you read, asking the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you read. Once you have read it through, pray about what you have read. And if you're feeling really keen, you could ask these questions to the passage to help you better understand it. These are questions George Mueller used to ask the Bible:

  • Is there an example for me to follow?
  • Is there a command for me to obey?
  • Is there any error for me to avoid?
  • Is there any sin for me to forsake?
  • Is there any promise for me to claim?
  • Is there any new thought about God Himself?
Before we finish, let me recommend a very helpful little book by Andrew Wilson, called Unbreakable. This is not a book on how to read the Bible, but it is a book explaining to us what the Bible is and why we can trust it. It's well worth a read!

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Back to Basics

This Sunday morning I am beginning a series of mini-sermons, going "Back to Basics". This won't be the main sermon, but will be a 2 or 3 minute slot in the service where I encourage Christians to get back to the basics of Christian living and growth.

We're going to begin with prayer on Sunday morning and I will be recommending two books:

The first is Mike Reeves' book, Enjoy Your Prayer Life. This is a short paperback which could probably be read in one sitting if you had a couple of hours to spare.

The second book is Tim Keller's book, Prayer: Experienceing Awe and Intimacy with God.  Both of these books make the key point that prayer is not about coming to "God the genie" with your shopping list, but about drawing near to your Father who you love more than anything or anyone else. Prayer is enjoying God! We were made to know God and Jesus died to reconcile us to God. When we do not pray we do not properly enjoy the benefits of our salvation!

The Bible outlines a number of ways that we can pray.

Number 1: We are told to go into the secret place.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:6, "But when you pray, go into your room...". It is good to get away from everything and everyone and have fellowship with the Lord on your own. If you don't know what to pray about, then I suggest you simply read a chapter of the Bible and then pray about what you have read. The psalms are particularly helpful in guiding our prayer life, a point Tim Keller makes in his book.

Number 2: We are told to pray with other believers. Acts 2:42 said that the early church devoted themselves to prayer and unless you ignore the context, it's obvious that this is talking about corporate prayer. If you don't know how to pray, you'll soon learn by hearing others pray in the prayer meeting. Sometimes I am so exhausted, spiritually, mentally and physically that I feel unable to pray. But in the prayer meeting, someone else leads me in prayer and I am able to make his or her words mine. What a help brothers and sisters in Christ can be in these times!

Number 3: We are to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:16-18). There is never a time that God is not with us, which means that whatever is on our hearts and minds can be committed to the Lord in prayer.

Tim Keller notes in his book that in 1945 a book was published in the United States called, Quiet Time, which encourages Christians to take time out every morning to read and pray. It became a million copy seller and has influenced Christian thought in this area ever since.

Whilst I personally try and make this my practice (often failing!), it would be wrong of me to think that once this is done, I'm done with prayer for the day. Some mornings I wake up feeling so groggy that prayer is almost impossible. But as the events of the day unfold, I find myself talking to the Lord about what is going on, and my fellowship with him is sweet.

Someone once said to me that he spent more time worrying that he did not pray than actually praying. I thought how true that was for me. But we both acknowledged in this conversation that if we turned every worry about not praying into a word of praise to the Lord, how richer our experience of God would be!

So, let's get praying!