Posts Tagged ‘Bible study’

Care Enough to Pray!

Monday, February 21st, 2011

“In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus….” Daniel 9:1

“Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.” Daniel 9:3

“…while I was speaking in prayer… Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly reached me….” (verse 21)

“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia so that he made a proclamation through all his kingdom….” Ezra 1:1


It has been some time since you heard from me. Sorry! I’ve had writers block and lots was going on.

I am well. I am teaching and God has been blessing the classes. I wish you could be with us in class. This past week we learned about Methodism and the work of John and Charles Wesley—the founders of the Methodist Church in England, Francis Asbury—the founder of the Methodist Church in America, and John Smith—one of the circuit riders who accomplished so much through prayer in England. I think I can safely say the students were greatly inspired by the things they learned. Next week we learn about the great revivalists of history.

How are you doing? I pray well. Though you haven’t heard from me, I have been praying more than ever.

On the “what’s coming” front, I will be in Honduras for a week of prayer in March. Please pray that God will bless those meetings in every way.

Some Bible Study:
I am jumping ahead to the books of Ezra and Nehemiah since there is such a need for revival in our day.

In reading from Ezra 1, I was immediately struck by how quickly Cyrus responded to God’s stirring: “In the first year….” (Ezra 1:1). Cyrus was operating on God’s timeline (Jer. 25:11). Those who had studied the prophecies were not surprised by the coming of the Medes and Persians. Those who study Bible prophecy are always given advance warning of what is going on!

Now there is more to the story of course. It actually begins many years before when a prophecy was given by the prophet Jeremiah that predicted that God’s people would be in captivity for seventy years. Daniel had studied that prophecy and perhaps been checking off the years as they passed. You see he was not only concerned about his political responsibilities, but also the spiritual concerns of his people.

Daniel knew that the “seventy year” prophecy of Jeremiah was quickly running out, which was to conclude with his people returning to their land and the sanctuary being restored as he understood things. He didn’t see any indication, however, that his people would be leaving Babylon any time soon, regardless of what the prophecy suggested. Nothing was changing on the political front, nor were his people in an improved spiritual condition, from what we read in his prayer of confession in Daniel 9!

Recently He had been given a vision, recorded in Daniel 8, that suggested the seventy year period would be extended by a much longer time period, during which awful things would take place, including trampling the host—probably his people, and the sanctuary underfoot, before culminating in what was referred to as the sanctuary being “cleansed” (Daniel 8:14). Daniel might have thought he understood the sanctuary being cleansed since the yearly festivals of Israel included the day of atonement when the sanctuary was cleansed, but he didn’t understand the time extension.

Daniel could have complacently accepted not understanding and gone on—“accepted the unacceptable,” letting other people worry about what was going on with the prophecies. But Daniel carefully studied what Jeremiah had to say and then set himself to praying. This would have been in the first year of Darius the Mede. By that time the Babylonian Empire had passed from the scene, Darius was ruling, and in two years Cyrus would take over (Daniel 9:1).

Daniel sought God with prayer, fasting, sackcloth and ashes (verse 3), beginning with a lengthy confession where he linked himself with his people (verse 4,5), and freely admitted shortcomings.

He asked God to intervene on the basis of His (God’s) righteousness since his people had no righteousness of their own, and asked God to shine His face upon the sanctuary back in Jerusalem, which at that moment was desolate and was going to be trampled further from what he understood. So he prayed on! I would like to believe that he was not only motivated by curiosity and his own concerns, but also motivated by the suffering of his people. We need more people who care enough to pray!

While he was still speaking and confessing the sins of his people, an angel came “flying swiftly” to explain what was going on (verse 21). God was aware that Daniel was struggling and in answer to prayer, an angel was quickly sent to provide answers.

Some things strike me:

1. God has a timetable. There was a timetable for Daniel’s day; there is a timetable for our day. We would do well to learn about that timetable.

2. The timetable can be understood by studying Bible prophecy. The Bible says “Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). Daniel studied with every expectation of understanding the future; we can also understand the future as we study Bible prophecy. The things going on in the world right now will not come as a great surprise if we are studying our Bibles.

3. Great blessings come in studying Bible Prophecy. Daniel had been a Prime Minister of the Babylonian Empire, and now was serving a new king in the Medo-Persian Empire. He had endured the upheavals associated with the moral fall of the Babylonians and the conquests of the new rulers. God was with him and was blessing. But he was also buoyed up by knowing God’s timetable and plan ahead of time. We can be assured of God’s presence with us as well, but we will be greatly helped if we understand what is going on in the world around us by knowing what the Bible says regarding our times.

4. Prophecy is unlocked as we pray. Like Daniel, we need to seriously pray about what we are learning. Daniel was so convinced that God always gives advance information, that he was unwilling to be in confusion on the subject. Too many people are confused in our day. There is a need for FAR MORE study in this regard.

5. Serious prayer often includes fasting! Daniel was a a great and righteous man, but felt the need to humble himself in approaching God. If Daniel needed to pray and fast, so do we! We also need to confess our sins and those of God’s church that keep God from having His way in the world. I continue to believe the only reason other religions are rising to such prominence in our day, is due to the poor witness of those who claim to be followers of Jesus, and the ongoing dishonor of God. Daniel felt the need to pray and fast. We have the same need!

6. God will answer our prayers and send help, IF we keep praying. Daniel kept praying—later in Daniel we find he prays for multiple weeks. We need to keep praying until we get answers. Gabriel was sent “swiftly” and we need to be so serious with God that He will swiftly send us help as well.

7. We have standing before God as we pray in Jesus’ name. Daniel prayed on the basis of God’s righteousness, so should we!

Father in heaven, we are living in a world where everything is going to custard. Father there is unbelievable political, financial, and relational turmoil all over the world. Natural disasters are abounding. There is a looming shortage of food and our water and air is becoming increasing polluted. We are seeing revolutions in North Africa, the Middle East and other parts of the world: oppression on the one hand, sincere efforts at freedom on the other, but also anarchy driven by opportunist who are seeking to take advantage of the sincere freedom-desiring people in those lands. We have no reason to believe things will greatly improve based on what we see in the Bible. The only question is whether we will be faithful. and whether we will take the knowledge provided and make sure we are standing on the side of truth in the last days. Help us to stop being so complacent and begin to study and pray; help us to even add fasting if necessary. Thank you for keeping and blessing Daniel as he endured the great transitions. Please keep and bless us in our day as well. Bless my friend who is reading this today, and might it be a good day for Your Kingdom so far as my friend’s life goes. You know the things that are prayed about. Send help swiftly, bring answers; bring help in just the right way; and do so quickly! I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Proximity and Activity PLUS Obedience!

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

“And the Lord blessed Obed-Edom and all his household.” 2 Sam. 6:11

All Israel had rejoiced when the ark had been returned by the Philistines on a new cart, pulled by oxen who had been mysteriously directed by an unseen hand, with golden gifts to show respect. The submission and showing of respect by the Philistines was a great triumph for God.

David also wanted to show respect, and arranged for the ark to be transported on a new cart, accompanied by the two sons of Abinadab who were priests, and even recruited 30,000 “choice” men to sing and celebrate.

Unfortunately the oxen stumbled, one of the men, Uzzah, tried to steady the ark with his hand, and was immediately struck down.

David reacted with fear and consternation, and left the ark with Obed-Edom, the Gittite.

Obed-Edom didn’t know what to expect and probably viewed the coming of the Ark with fear and trepidation. But it turned out to be a blessing: “The Lord blessed Obed-Edom and all his household.

It isn’t easy serving God in this day and age. Busy schedules, trials dished out by the devil, limited time, distractions, relationships, financial hardships, even facebook and the internet, etc., combine to make it hard to have quality time with God. But God will bless us for doing so.

In writing I am reminded of a time when George Muller was visiting a  man who was so poor and busy that he did not have time for personal devotions. Muller chided the man and told him that if he took time with God, he would have more time. And so it was.

So do you regularly spend time with Jesus?

But there is a sobering reminder in the story: not only do we need to spend time with God, but we need to also follow what we read. Uzzah had not prepared for taking the ark, nor had he pointed out that the ark was being transported the wrong way—neither for that matter had the 30,000 choice men. So when the Oxen stumbled and Uzzah tried to steady it, he was struck down—proximity and activity with the things of God are good, but not good enough if they are not combined with obedience to the Word of God.

Quoting Muller,

If God does bless us in reading His word, He expects that we should be obedient children, and that we should accept the Word as His will, and carry it into practice. If this be neglected, you will find that the reading of the Word, even if accompanied by prayer, meditation, and faith, will do you little good. God does expect us to be obedient children, and will have us practice what He has taught us. The Lord Jesus Christ says If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” And in the measure in which we carry out what our Lord Jesus taught, so in measure are we happy children. And in such measure only can we honestly look for help from the Father, even as we seek to carry out His will.

Read more of what Muller said on a page at

Hanging Out With the Enemy

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Isa. 35:3,4 “Strengthen the weak hands, And make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you.”

1 Sam. 29 finds David hanging out with the enemy Philistines, and marching to battle against the army of his own Jewish people. Immediately ahead of David was Achish, the pagan king who had taken David into his trust, and was believing that David had become his loyal subject. The Philistines were not as convinced of David’s loyalty, and insisted he return home. David loudly protested his dismissal, but I think he was also breathing a sigh of relief.

We’ve all had moments when we were hanging out with the enemy, and marching to his drumbeat more than God’s! Sometimes our plans haven’t worked out, regardless of how we justified our actions, and we’ve found ourselves mercifully dismissed. Deep down we have also been sighing in relief.

That’s where I was going to initially stop reading. Then I ventured to the first verses of 1 Sam 30 where I read of another enemy—the Amelakites—swooping in while David was away with Achish and not keeping a watch on his own family. Taking advantage of his absence, the marauders took David’s wives and children, those of his men, all of their possessions, and also burned their city. Nothing was left.

A lesser man might have thrown in the towel at that point. As it were, David and his men wept, and for good reason. It appeared they had lost everything near and dear, and there was no reason to believe anything would change—they were weeping the consequences of their behavior. I wonder if they were also weeping for their foolish absence when they were marching with the enemy—weeping for their personal responsibility in what had happened? I wonder, do we grieve more for the consequences of our waywardness, than our responsibility for that waywardness?

David more than mourned, however, the Bible says “He encouraged himself in the Lord” (1 Sam. 30:6) In spite of his personal chaos, he recognized that God had once again intervened in rescuing him, perhaps so that he could go and rescue his own family.

Have miseries come into your family due to distracting forays with the enemy? Are you too friendly with those who are opposed to God? Please don’t take my questions the wrong way, but it is possible, and important to consider. As a single parent with a less than ideal relationship with my kids, I confess it is a question I ask myself at times. I can point to many “reasons” for what is going on, but I know there is more below the surface and I seek to know God’s opinion on the question, regardless of how unsettling His response may be.

Fortunately there is hope! Like David we need to encourage ourselves in the Lord. Your life may be going to custard right now. Things may seem entirely out of control? But God is still working behind the scenes and He is working ALL things for your good (Rom. 8:28).

As we continue further through the story, we find David asking God very specific questions as to what he should do. He was having personal time with God and His Word. Fortunately he trusted God and obeyed in pursuing the captors.

So the question comes, are you spending time in God’s Word? Are you asking Him the hard questions? Are you asking in order to obey? Your families will thank you if you do.

In David’s case, the story concludes by telling how David attacked the marauders and how not even one of them survived the battle. The enemy was history. Praise God, enemies can become history when we are working according to God’s plan.

It also says David “recovered all that the Amelakites had carried away, and David recovered his two wives. And nothing of theirs was lacking, either small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything which they had taken from them. David recovered all!” (1 Sam. 30:18,19). Another huge praise God!

Let me say one more thing. Looking back I am convinced that the only safe way to go through life is to go forward in the center of ALL of God’s will. Jesus said under similar distressing conditions, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Living by less than “every” word was the great temptation then; it is still the great temptation in our day.

Father, again I come from Your word in awe that you don’t give up on wayward children. If you didn’t lose hope for David and walk away from his circumstances, than there is surely hope for those reading this and for me. Help us to take a hard look at our lives, to assess in what ways, and to what degree, we may be walking with the enemy. Help us to be sincere and open to your answer. Help us then to take decided steps back to you, and help us to do so today. Thank you that the same victory over the enemy won in David’s day can be won in our day. Thank you that the losses can be recovered somehow as well. I ask this in Jesus’ name, with much gratitude in advance, Amen.


General Charles Gordon: Selected Thoughts

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Charles Gordon’s letters to his sisters are considered by some to be the among the most devotional letters ever written. The BBC described him briefly as follows: “British general Charles Gordon became a national hero for his exploits in China and his ill-fated defence of Khartoum against Sudanese rebels.” He was also a great Christian, as evidenced in the letters he sent home to his sister.  Here are some of his life-changing thoughts on a variety of subjects:

On Envy and Backbiting:
“I can say for my part, that backbiting and envy were my delight, and even now often lead me astray, but, by dint of perseverance in prayer, God has given me the mastery to a great degree; I did not wish to give it up, so I besought Him to give me that wish; He did so, and then I had the promise of His fulfillment. I am sure this is our besetting sin; once overcome it, and there will be no cloud between God and ourselves. God is love—not full of love, but love itself. The law is love; possessed of love, we shall find our other temptations fall from us like scales. We are all dreadfully prone to evil-speaking, but God is all-powerful against it; it is opposed to His nature, so He hates it. I pray for those I most envy, and the feeling leaves me at once.” Charles Gordon, General Gordon’s Letters to his Sister, p. 3  (Gravesend, June 12, 1866)

On Seeking Wisdom:
“Let our endeavors at least make us trust God as much as we would trust man. If we had a powerful friend ever near us, we would often ask his help and trust him; is not God in that relation to us? Is anything too small or too great for Him Therefore in all things make known your wants to Him, and trust Him to relieve them; He never leaves or forsakes. Do not try planning and praying and then planning again; it is not honoring to God. Do not lean at all on your own  understanding. Your heart will call you a fool; but let it call you what it likes, it has often deceived you and is desperately wicked. If doubt should arise in your mind as to what to do in any matter, think which of the two courses will best show forth God’s glory, and follow it; generally this will the be course most contrary to your own wishes. Supposing you have been led to leave the issue of any event to God, and afterwards begin to doubt if you are not called upon to do something to aid it, resist the temptation. All things are possible with God. Do not express your doubts; pray to God to help your unbelief every time it arises; remember we have power over our words, if we have not over our thoughts, and to prevent the tongue sinning is the first step towards the checking of the thoughts, which will soon follow. Act up to your religion, and you will enjoy it.” Charles Gordon, General Gordon’s Letters to his Sister, p. 4 (Gravesend, June 12, 1866)

On Patience, and Seeking God’s Glory:
“We should always remember that His glory should be more in our minds than our selfish desire to feel happy or comfortable. It is selfish to wish that God should hurry for your benefit; if we only wished for the advancement of His glory we might perhaps be impatient, but it is seldom for that we groan.” Charles Gordon, General Gordon’s Letters to his Sister, p. 4 (Gravesend, June 14, 1866)

On Receiving More Light:
“What a thought! “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine” (John 7:17). What a delightful verse! It means this: that just as much as we give up to our Lord, so much the more shall we understand; just as much as we live up to the light He has given us, so much the more light shall we receive.” Charles Gordon, General Gordon’s Letters to his Sister, p. 7 (Gravesend, November 27, 1866)

Trusting God’s Leading:
“To write of the varied scenery one has passed through on a railway journey is unprofitable, and so would be any account of what has been my course of life since we left one another. The longest day comes to an end, and , thanks be to God, the bright morning will soon come. We have not time to look back as yet, He carries us on through all and will never leave us. A passenger is carried in a steamer. He may or may not believe the steamer is proceeding on its course to the appointed haven, but he progresses irrespective of his belief or unbelief of the fact; and thus it with God’s ways. He is carrying out His work, however little we may be aware of it, or however unlike the course pursued is to that which we, in our perverted understanding, would choose.” Charles Gordon, General Gordon’s Letters to his Sister, p. 7 (Gravesend, 1867)

On Rejecting What God Sends Us:
“I am sure of one thing, we lose the very sweetest times by rejecting willfully what God sends us; in avoiding people and disagreeable things. God says, ‘I will preserve thee from all evil.’ ‘I will preserve thy going out and coming in, from this time forth.’ ‘There shall no evil befall you.’ And yet we refuse to believe this for even a second, and go on plotting and praying for more communion with Him; and the moment He begins to work, we fly from Him. I want to realize this more than I do, it is evidently the reason of our deadness; there can be no confidence where there is distrust. If we think we are bound to look after ourselves, if we think these strong expressions are only figurative, or dependent on any particular frame of mind, they are useless to us. Unless we take them in their strength, we shall crawl along all our days.” Charles Gordon, General Gordon’s Letters to his Sister, p. 7 (Gravesend, May 3,1867)

On Reading the Bible:
“I have had, and continue to have, the most exquisite delight in the Bible beyond any past experience I ever felt. All that dead time when I read without interest, merely because I ought to do so, is now repaid me, and God brings the passages back to memory with the power of the Spirit. ‘The Holy Ghost shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance’ (John 14:26). Charles Gordon, General Gordon’s Letters to his Sister, p. 10 (Gravesend, May 16,1867)

On Appreciating Trials:
“I have felt a little of late of rejoicing in trials, and trust I may feel more. I mean really being glad at annoyances, inasmuch as they work experience and hope. This is a very great gift to obtain from God, but it is little to what He will give us if we persevere.” Charles Gordon, General Gordon’s Letters to his Sister, p.11 (Gravesend, May 28,1867)

On Mortifying the Flesh:
“We all have veils over our spiritual understandings; some of us have them thicker than others, we are quite blind till we get the veil removed. The veil is the flesh, it is never entirely removed while we live in the world; it is only made transparent by living in the Spirit, or mortifying the flesh, which are similar things. We all want to live in the Spirit and in the flesh also; this is impossible, thence the struggle. The more we apprehend that the death of the flesh is the life of the Spirit, the more we shall realize His presence. Death of the flesh is painful, but absolutely necessary, for, as we mortify the flesh, so shall we grow in the Spirit; we must feed on our flesh as it were. Charles Gordon, General Gordon’s Letters to his Sister, p. 12, (Gravesend, July 21,1867)

The Great Secret of Life:
“Keep in view 1 John 4:15 (“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”); it has in few words the great secret of the new life. I have known many who have lately come to the truth and peace by asking God to manifest the power of it. As we remember it, we live happily; every time we feel cold or apathetic it arises from not realizing the truth, and God alone can keep that realization before us.”
Charles Gordon, General Gordon’s Letters to his Sister, p. 13,14, (Gravesend, July 21,1867)

On God’s Indwelling:
“I have had very nice thoughts on 1 John 4:14—’Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.’ I think it is the key to much of the Scripture. I am more than ever convinced that the secret of happiness and holiness is in the indwelling of God. The same truth is shown in many other verses, but the above, to my mind, shows it more clearly. Let a man seek the teachings of the Holy Spirit on such verses, and he will grow much in grace. As we believe that text, so we shall realize the presence of God in our hearts, and, having Him there, we have as a sequence holiness and love. He alone can make us believe the truth and keep it in mind.” Charles Gordon, General Gordon’s Letters to his Sister, p. 13,14, (Gravesend, July 21,1867)

You can find more on these subjects at