We can do more than watch the war in Ukraine

Disagreements, conflicts, and wars take place every day on a global scale. Some gain our attention more than others. The war in Ukraine is one such war that has the whole world glued to the TV and constantly refreshing their Twitter feed. Not to lessen the devastation of other battles being fought, conflict and loss of life are terrible no matter how small or large. The war in Ukraine, however, effects the world, so we watch with anticipation.

But can we do more than watch?

I believe we can do more. I have two activities in mind.

(1) We can hope and worship with the Ukrainians

While innocent lives have been lost and I am sure more will be lost, the response of the church has given me hope. Ukrainian pastors are not running. They are staying and ministering to the needs of the people. I read an account on Saturday night of one pastor who was preparing his sermon for the next morning. He planned to hold service the next morning, if his church was still standing. In the middle of a war, this pastor is preparing to preach and lead his people in worship!

These reports remind me of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. He writes commending them for their faith and encouraging them with their witness. They received the Word of God under must affliction. Despite persecution and hardship, they were full of joy. They continued to remain steadfast, finding their hope in the Lord (1 Thess. 1:6-10).

What an encouragement the Thessalonians must have been to Paul. What an encouragement the Ukrainian Christians are to us. Not only an encouragement, but a witness to the power and truth of the gospel. I know I am encouraged when I read of their faithfulness. I know I am driven to a greater hope in Jesus. I am driven to worship the Lord for the salvation He provides through their faithfulness.

(2) We can pray for the Ukrainians

While I am hopeful and driven to worship, at the same time, I am burdened. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are facing a life and death situation. While we might not be able to fend off the physical enemy for them, we can still do battle on their behalf through prayer.

What takes place in this world is not solely a matter of flesh and blood. There is a spiritual war raging all around us. One that spills over and is played out in the physical.

We might not be able to do anything except pray.

But don’t discount the power of prayer. Through prayer we are petitioning the all-powerful and all-sovereign God of the universe. There is no greater power than the Lord.

We know from Scripture that the prayer of a righteous man has great effect, so we should pray.

Be encouraged, hopeful, and driven to worship by the faithfulness of the Ukrainians. But also be burdened for them. Be in prayer for their safety, their joy in times of trouble, and their faithfulness to the gospel of Christ in these trying times.

Praise and pray to the Lord alongside Solomon

After Solomon built the temple to the Lord, he prayed the following prayer of dedication. I as I read the text this morning, his prayer struck me. As you read through it, notice:

  • How he calls upon the Lord to act in regard to God’s own character, how He has revealed Himself throughout Scripture.
  • The promises he asks the Lord to keep.
  • The care of the Lord for His people and the foreigner.
  • How he calls his people to follow the Lord and how we likewise should follow the Lord.

1 Kings 8:22–61 (ESV)

22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven, 23 and said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart; 24 you have kept with your servant David my father what you declared to him. You spoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day. 25 Now therefore, O Lord, God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father what you have promised him, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ 26 Now therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you have spoken to your servant David my father.

27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! 28 Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O Lord my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, 29 that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. 30 And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

31 “If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath and comes and swears his oath before your altar in this house, 32 then hear in heaven and act and judge your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing his conduct on his own head, and vindicating the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness.

33 “When your people Israel are defeated before the enemy because they have sinned against you, and if they turn again to you and acknowledge your name and pray and plead with you in this house, 34 then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them again to the land that you gave to their fathers.

35 “When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against you, if they pray toward this place and acknowledge your name and turn from their sin, when you afflict them, 36 then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel, when you teach them the good way in which they should walk, and grant rain upon your land, which you have given to your people as an inheritance.

37 “If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemy besieges them in the land at their gates, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, 38 whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart and stretching out his hands toward this house, 39 then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways (for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind), 40 that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers.

41 “Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name’s sake 42 (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, 43 hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.

44 “If your people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to the Lord toward the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, 45 then hear in heaven their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause.

46 “If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near, 47 yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors, saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ 48 if they repent with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name, 49 then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause 50 and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you, and grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them 51 (for they are your people, and your heritage, which you brought out of Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace). 52 Let your eyes be open to the plea of your servant and to the plea of your people Israel, giving ear to them whenever they call to you. 53 For you separated them from among all the peoples of the earth to be your heritage, as you declared through Moses your servant, when you brought our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord God.”

54 Now as Solomon finished offering all this prayer and plea to the Lord, he arose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had knelt with hands outstretched toward heaven. 55 And he stood and blessed all the assembly of Israel with a loud voice, saying, 56 “Blessed be the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant. 57 The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us, 58 that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers. 59 Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, 60 that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other. 61 Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the Lord our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”

There is no escaping the Lord’s Judgment

“Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Rev 6:15-17)

There is a day coming from which no one can hide. One day the fabric of the cosmos as we know it will roll back like a scroll to reveal the Creator and Judge of all the earth (Rev 6:14). A time of judgement will come. A time where the Lord’s wrath will be poured out.

What, when, and how this will take place is hotly disputed, but the most interesting aspect of the Day of the Lord is that no one can escape. Notice the text highlights “everyone” from those who are in power to those who are slaves. Kings and wealthy oligarchs and influencers will face the same wrath as those who are enslaved, used, and abused by those who wield power.

At the judgment seat, as well as at the foot of cross the ground is level. The ground is level because all are sinners. Sinners are not just those who miss the mark from time to time, or those who fall short of God’s commands, even though that is true. Sinners do fall short of God’s commands. We fall short because we are rebels. Not just because we messed up at that moment. No, we are rebels. We want to call the shots. We want to be King. We want to be Creator. We are rebels. As rebels, we all deserve God’s wrath.

Thankfully, there is a Lamb who was slain for our rebellion. The precious blood of Jesus was spilt on our behalf. Those who believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior are united with Him in His life, death, and resurrection. The Father’s wrath passes over Christians, not because we are better or more righteous than another, but because Jesus is better and more righteous.

There is a judgment coming. The only way to prepare for it is to believe in Jesus. We cannot build a bunker or run far enough away. There is no escaping the Lord’s judgment.

May the Lord strengthen your soul today!

“On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.” (Ps 138:3)

The Lord hears the prayers of His saints. He is not a distant God. He is not asleep. We do not have to wake Him with shouts or sacrificial actions. His ears are attuned to the prayers of His people. He hears us in the morning, midday, and throughout the night. He is attentive to our needs.

Our prayers don’t go in one ear and out the other. He hears us and He answers us. To be sure, His answer doesn’t always match how we want Him to answer. But He answers our prayers. In the case of David, we learn that the Lord strengthened His soul. He did not immediately take away the difficulty he was experiencing. Instead, the Lord provided him strength so that he might continue to press on, worshipping and serving Him despite the difficulties.

May the Lord strengthen you as well. May He provide you what you need in order to keep on keeping on. In order to worship the Lord even when the world is pressing in on you. May you continue to be a witness to the Lord in the midst of a world that rejects His rightful rule over them.

May the Lord strengthen your soul today.

Through the difficulties of life, do you believe the Lord is there?

Let those who fear the LORD say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” – Psalm 118:4

God is a God of steadfast love. We can trust the Lord day in and day out. Because the Lord walks with us, carries us even, we can rejoice in the valley as well as on the mountain tops.

The Lord cares for those who are His. As the psalmist says in verse 27,

“The Lord is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us.” – Ps 118:27a

Do you believe the Lord is shining on you day in and day out? Through the difficulties of life, do you believe the Lord is there? Do you believe the Lord is in the valley just as He is on the mountain top?

Our God is a God of steadfast love. He never leaves us despite the position in which we find ourselves. God is always there.

In Luke 12:22 Jesus provides these words of comfort to the anxious when He says,

And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. – Luke 12:22

God knows our needs. He will provide for our needs. As we daily depend on Him to provide, we grow in our understanding of and in our trust and dependence on God. Life is not about us amassing so much wealth that we can live comfortable lives (see Luke 12:13-21). If God gives us with wealth and the ability to live without worry of money, that is a blessing. But a comfortable life is should not be our goal. That is the American dream, not God’s will for our life. Sometimes we must live uncomfortably, if we even know what that is as middle class Americans, to grow in our trust of God’s provision, care, and steadfast love.

Our God is a God of persistent love. When we recognize God’s persistent love and presence is our life through His day to day provision, we can and will give thanks to the Lord. We can say that He is good. We should praise and worship Him despite our circumstances.

11 Thing to Pray for a Deeper Prayer Life

Men, Lead Out In Prayer!

“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;” (1 Ti 2:8)

According to Paul, men are to put away petty differences and anger. Instead of fighting, they are to pray with one another. Paul gives this command to the men instead of the women because as one commentator says,

“As a general rule, men are more likely to agitate the church…they are critical and competitive. They tend to argue first and listen later. They would rather be right than be reconciled. They get angry when they don’t get their way. So the Bible reminds Christian men not to fight.”[1]

Competitive and Dominate

Men, you know this is true. Being competitive and dominate is what comes naturally. When we don’t win or come out on top, we are more likely to get angry and fight with one another. As Christian men, however, we aren’t supposed to fight and burst out in anger at one another. Instead, as Paul tells us, we are to be spiritual leaders, who lead out in prayer.

Freed by the Gospel

While being a spiritual leader who leads out in prayer might be difficult and unnatural, it’s possible because the gospel has changed us. It has freed us to love others more than ourselves, to forgive and let go, to lift others up and work alongside them.

What the Church and Country Needs

Honestly, prayer is what the church needs. It especially needs men who are willing to lead spiritually, and specifically, to lead in the area of prayer. Men, we can’t abdicate our responsibility any longer to the women in the church. We must lead as God has called us to lead.

I am sure other pastors in other times have said this but I am going to say it now in our time.

Men, if we want our country and community to change, if we want to see people come to Jesus, we have to be spiritual leaders who are leading out in prayer.

I am not just talking to Pastors, Deacons, and Sunday School teachers. I am talking to all men. All of us need to be spiritual leaders, who are leading out in prayer.

Challenge

With that in mind, then, let me issue a challenge to the men in the church. The next time you are with a group of men, your family, or your church family and the conversation turns to a discussion about what needs to change in this country, instead of joining into that discussion, I want you to stop and lead them in prayer. I want you to do that because just talking about what needs to change isn’t going to change anything, but you praying with others will.

Jeremiah Lanphier

If you aren’t convinced, consider the story of Jeremiah Lanphier. He lived in New York City in the 1850’s. New York City wasn’t much different then than it is today. It was a place full of sin. Corruption, gambling, greed, atheism, and apathy toward God ran rampant.

Instead of continuing to complain, Lanphier decided to do something. Believing in the power of prayer, he put an ad in the newspaper calling for a weekly prayer meeting. The first meeting began with six men praying that the Lord would do a work in their city and the world. As they continued to meet, something amazing happened. Within six months, over 10,000 people were gathering daily, instead of weekly, to pray over the lunch hour for their city and the country. Their prayers lit a fire of mass revival [2].

It all started with on man’s burden and an ad calling others to join him in prayer. You see, prayer is powerful. It changes things. So men, let’s be the spiritual leaders God has called us to be and lead out in prayer. The gospel has freed us to do that, so let’s do it.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you realize the gospel frees you to be a spiritual leader?
  2. Are you leading out in prayer in your family and church?

Resources

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[1]  Philip Graham Ryken, 1 Timothy, ed. Richard D. Phillips, Daniel M. Doriani, and Philip Graham Ryken, Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2007), 78.

[2] Adapted from this article: http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/webfm_send/577