Posts Tagged With: prayer

Wine or the Spirit: Part 1

“Then Eli said to her, ‘How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you’” (1 Samuel 1:14; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Photo by form PxHere

I attend a church that celebrates communion every Sunday. We include actual wine, not grape juice, which might trouble people from more conservative Christian traditions. After one service, my then-teenaged son joked about ways this could create trouble; for example, what if a young child grabbed the chalice out of the deacon’s hands and drank it all? This led us to a more serious discussion about the parallels and differences between alcohol and the Holy Spirit.

I grew up in an alcoholic home. For most of my youth, my father drank heavily; he became sober while I was in high school, and his life dramatically changed. I saw the impact of alcohol. If you drink a large amount of alcohol, it changes your behavior. If you stick with it, it changes your character. Alcohol becomes an obsession. It takes control of the alcoholic’s passions, desires, and goals. (This is true of many forms of addiction.) In this case, it is not a good thing.

However, when God comes into your life, He also changes you. He changes your behavior and character. Instead of performing the deeds of the flesh, we bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit:

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:19-23).

As this fruit grows, God can become an obsession that takes control of our passions, desires, and goals. Alcoholism is destructive, but the abundant life in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit are productive and life-giving.

However, such a passion for the Lord can look foolish to non-believers. Scripture tells several stories of people of faith whose zeal for God made them appear silly and drunk to observers.

First Samuel 1 introduces us to a woman named Hannah. In ancient Israel, polygamy was an accepted practice, and Hannah’s husband Elkanah had two wives. The other wife had borne him several children, but Hannah was childless. Such barrenness was embarrassing in those days, and the other wife abused her about it. Driven to desperation, Hannah prayed at the doorpost of the temple. In her shame and agony, she did not speak out loud but just moved her lips as she expressed her burden to the Lord.

The priest, Eli, saw her quivering lips, assumed she was drunk, and scolded her. When she explained herself, he relented and pronounced a blessing: “Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him” (1 Samuel 1:17). God did answer her prayer; she bore a son, named him Samuel, and dedicated him to the Lord’s service. As a child, he ministered at the temple in Shiloh (a prominent place of worship before the temple was built in Jerusalem) and became one of Israel’s greatest prophets, bridging the gap between the rule of the judges and the reigns of Israel’s kings. He is considered the last judge, and he coronated the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David.

Samuel’s birth came about because his mother was desperate enough to seek God’s blessing even if it made her look like a drunken fool to a leader of God’s people. Once a failure who looked like a fool, she became a role model for mothers everywhere.

I will share more about this subject from the New Testament next week. Stay tuned….

I would like to hear from you. Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sacrifices of Praise

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (First Thessalonians 5:16-18; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image created by the YouVersion Bible app.

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks. Praise God in all circumstances. If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you have heard these words of counsel. Maybe you have given this advice to others. It sounds like a few simple steps to become a spiritual giant.

That is not how Paul meant it. This was not advice for prosperous people with great health, social standing, high-paying jobs, and a comfortable lifestyle. This was written for people facing persecution. Some Thessalonians probably wondered if God had abandoned them. These were the people whom Paul urged to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in every circumstance.

The Thessalonian church had a brief but colorful history before Paul wrote his two letters to it. It was formed when Paul visited the city, with his partner Silas, on his second missionary journey. Not long before, they had been imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16:16-40). Their ministry in Thessalonica got off to a good start: Paul preached in the local synagogue, and several people received the good news. Soon thereafter, though, persecution broke out against the young church, and the new Christians persuaded Paul and Silas to flee for their lives to Berea (Acts 17:1-10).

The church continued to grow, but persecution continued. Furthermore, false teaching arose in the church as some preachers claimed that the second coming of Jesus had already occurred. Some scholars think they were teaching that Jesus was not literally coming back and that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was His “second coming.” It would be easy to lose heart.

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks. Even when times are hard. Even when you are suffering. Even when tempted to think God has forgotten about you. Do not give up.

I recently published my wife’s healing testimony on this site. In that, she shared how she had developed a habit of “memorizing scripture about healing, spending time praising God, thanking Him, and praying.” While her church was having a prayer meeting devoted to her healing, she was at home “worshipping and praying while listening to praise music.”

We might be tempted to think that 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is a message to act upon when life is going well. That is not correct. It is easy to be happy when life is going well; rejoicing takes effort when sickness controls your life. It is easy to pray regularly when God seems to be taking care of you; it is difficult when marital difficulties and financial problems linger for years. It is easy to give thanks when your refrigerator and bank account are overflowing; it takes a lot of effort when you do not know how you will get your next meal or feed your children.

A statue of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus did not give in to despair or depression, but He prayed fervently during the hardest night of His life. Statue at the Malvern Retreat House, Malvern, PA. Photo by Michael E. Lynch.

Yet, this is when 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 becomes a power passage. This is when it becomes spiritual warfare. The real blessing and real spiritual power are when we follow these instructions when our circumstances and emotions tell us it is time to quit.

There are times when it is easy to get angry at God. Do not deny it. If you are angry, tell Him so. Feel free to yell at Him. Tell Him how furious you are. Tell Him how you really feel. Be honest. Be brutal. God knows how you feel. In fact, the Book of Psalms has several prayers/songs that are perfect for times like this. David and the other writers did not avoid expressing their anger, fear, or dismay in their songs and prayers. Jesus quoted Psalm 22 on the cross when He cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). He probably recited the entire psalm, including its expression of faith at the end (Psalm 22:25-31). When we bring our burdens to God—even when we think He is the burden—He takes our cares from us and brings comfort, hope, and healing.

No matter what happens, do not avoid Him. No matter how angry you are, God is big enough to handle it. He is also merciful enough to forgive you.

When your life hits bottom, it may be at that point that you will realize that God is all you have to hold onto. No matter what you are going through, hold onto Him with all that is within you. He will hold onto you with all of His power.

Rejoice always, and soon your joy will not just be an act of the will; it will be genuine and unstoppable. Pray without ceasing, and eventually, it will flow as you see God turning your life around. In everything give thanks: Before you know it, you may realize that you have had reasons to be thankful all along.

Scripture often urges us to offer up a sacrifice of praise to God (Hebrews 13:15; Psalm 50:23). Sacrifices can hurt. True faith worships God not only when it is easy, but even more so when it is a sacrifice—when we choose to worship God when it would be easier to ignore Him.

I would like to hear from you. How do you worship God in hard times? What helps you to worship Him when it is not easy to do so? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Spiritual disciplines | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hallelujah! The Lord is Risen Indeed!

Alleluia. Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us;
therefore let us keep the feast,
Not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia.
Christ being raised from the dead will never die again;
death no longer has dominion over him.
The death that he died, he died to sin, once for all;
but the life he lives, he lives to God.
So also consider yourselves dead to sin,
and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Alleluia.
Christ has been raised from the dead,
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since by a man came death,
by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die,
so in Christ shall all be made alive. Alleluia. (Book of Common Prayer)

Image via pixy.org. Published under a Creative Commons 4.0 license.

The above prayer, named “Christ our Passover” or “Pascha Nostrum,” is based on three New Testament passages (1 Corinthians 5:7-8; Romans 6:9-11; 1 Corinthians 15:20-22). The Book of Common Prayer includes it as part of the morning Daily Office of prayer every day during Easter week. One can also pray it on any mornings between Easter and the Feast of the Ascension (40 days after Easter; in 2021, it will be May 13). If you are interested in praying the Daily Office, you may familiarize yourself with it by following the daily prayers and readings at the website of the Mission of St. Clare.

Many Christians forget that the church calendar views Easter as an entire season. It begins on Easter Sunday (Resurrection Sunday in some churches) and ends seven weeks later on Pentecost. Easter is not just one day for bunnies, colored hard-boiled eggs, chocolate, new clothes, bonnets, etc. It is the fulcrum of our faith. The entire Christian life hinges on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and its assurance of our future resurrection. So, we can celebrate Easter every day. It does not matter whether it is April 4, May 2 (Eastern Orthodox Easter this year), December 25, or any other day. Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again. Because He has risen, He has triumphed over death, and in Him, we can all be made alive forevermore.

Hallelujah! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Hallelujah!

I would like to hear from you. What are your thoughts about the importance of Easter and Christ’s resurrection. Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thomas Aquinas on Prayer

Stained glass window at St. Joseph Catholic Church (Somerset, OH) depicts Thomas Aquinas conversing with the crucified Christ. Photo by Nheyob, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

“It is clear that he does not pray, who, far from uplifting himself to God, requires that God shall lower Himself to him, and who resorts to prayer not stir the man in us to will what God wills, but only to persuade God to will what the man in us wills” (St. Thomas Aquinas).

quoted from Mark Water, The New Encyclopedia of Christian Quotations (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000).

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was a Catholic priest, scholar, theologian, and philosopher. His masterpiece, the Summa Theologia, is considered one of the most influential works in Western thought. Many churches commemorate him on January 28.

The quote above provides timeless guidance for all Christians as we examine our motives in prayer. Do I seek to draw closer to God by allowing Him to lift me higher spiritually, or do I try to bring Him down to my level? Do I ask to know God’s will? Do I seek wisdom and courage from Him to do what He desires? Or, do I decide what I want to do, without considering God’s will, and then ask Him to bless my self-centered choices?

“Lord, teach us to pray…” (Luke 11:1).

Share your thoughts about prayer by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Spiritual disciplines | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Election 2020 Thoughts: Part II of II

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Corinthians 10:3–4; all Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Bible, unless otherwise indicated).
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority…” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Photo by Harley Pebley, published under a Creative Commons license, via Wikimedia Commons.

This post continues my comments from a post earlier this week.

3. No matter who our President is, we have a biblical obligation to pray for him. Until further notice, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are on my prayer list. I may not agree with them, but they need the prayers of the faithful. I pray that God will stir their hearts and give them the wisdom to do what is best for the American people. I pray that He will draw them to seek His wisdom and strength.

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves” (Romans 13:1–2).

Remember, Paul wrote this under the direction of the Holy Spirit while the Roman authorities were persecuting and killing Christians. If God expected first-century Christians to submit to Nero Caesar and pray for him, we can do the same for Biden and Harris.

God’s Word commanded Christians to pray for persecutors like Nero Caesar. We have no excuse for refusing to pray for our President. Photo by Helen Cook, published under a Creative Commons license, via Wikimedia Commons.

“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1–4).

(I wish I was exempt from praying for Biden and Harris, but if they win the election, I have no excuses.)

4. Finally, we must avoid allowing hatred and wickedness to rule our government and society. Both Biden and Trump voters need to hear that.

I have heard many Biden supporters—or, perhaps more accurately, Trump opponents—who accused Donald Trump and his supporters of being “haters.” Yet, many of them speak and write in hateful, nasty tones that make Trump’s Twitter feed sound like an episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. At one rally, pop singer Madonna said she had thought of blowing up the White House. Comedienne Kathy Griffin posed for a photograph of her holding a mock severed head of Donald Trump. (You may click on the link to view the picture if you want. I refuse to force my readers to view such garbage.) Those are just two examples. Seriously, people: Where is the hate? If that is not hateful, what is? What is the difference between calling a group of people “deplorables” (Hillary Clinton’s word for Trump voters and other conservatives) and “subhumans” (Hitler’s word for Jews)? Many of the people who criticize Trump’s personality commit the same sins.

Some people voted for Trump because the hatred on the left troubled many conservatives and Christians. We have endured a summer of riots, looting, and violent “protests,” often supported and even encouraged by Democratic mayors, governors, and politicians. Trump’s opponents in the media and the Democratic party use all kinds of hateful language against his supporters. While Trump’s mannerisms may be rough, he has supported religious freedom and traditional Judaeo-Christian values.

Looking at current events, I wonder how long we can continue in a climate of hate. In the 1920s and early 1930s, far-right and far-left political activists protested and rallied throughout Germany. Eventually, one of those sides won: The Nazis gained power; the Communist Party was outlawed, along with every other party; and millions of Jews and others were slaughtered. Do we want to reach that point in our own country? How many emergencies and crises can our nation endure until we slip into tyranny?

We need less hate. We need more love. We need more communication. We need to work together to improve the lives of all Americans. Finally, my fellow Christians, we need to live as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

May God have mercy on us and bless and heal our nation.

Feel free to share your thoughts by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below. Keep it cordial.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Christians and Culture, Current events, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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