Cashless Society and the Last Days

bitcoinWould a cashless society move us more quickly to an economic climate conducive for the last days? The Bible prophecies that in the last days, our world will be joined together under one government. While it seems to me that a one-world government will not happen without some sort of global catastrophe, there are several additional things happening in our world today that will make this global unification possible. One thing of interest is the financial unrest being experienced around the world. In order for one man to rule the world, world economies must be unified. This means that there must be some sort of global currency that is accepted in every marketplace. A global currency will either be preceded by a global economic failure that happens instantly around the world, or it could happen gradually as a result of struggles within several key nations. The unification of global markets may seem to be a good solution to a widespread problem. Once key nations agree to a unified economy, the smaller nations will soon follow. I believe there was a time in our nation’s history when this unification would have been very difficult, but today this feat will not be as challenging. One difference is that fewer people carry cash in their pockets. Experts tells us that debit card usage has increased dramatically over recent years, and now people can even use their smart phones as a means of making purchases. There was a time when people carried a number of bills in their wallets, but now those days are slowly drawing to a close. While some people still use cash, many of us depend largely upon our debit cards. According to Retail Touchpoints, cash is no longer king in the marketplace and hasn’t been since June of 2012. J.P. Morgan is now announcing their plans to initiate a “mobile wallet” to their customers. A number of consumers use PayPal on a regular basis as their means for paying for items at the checkout register. Once our society has totally bought into a cashless existence, it will not matter to our citizens if we call our cash dollars or euros or whatever. One currency that is growing in popularity is the bitcoin. This is a virtual currency that is being recognized around the world, and it is easy to see how it could one day be the currency of choice. The Bible teaches that Jesus is returning for Christians in what we often refer to as the rapture. I do not know if the rapture will happen before this one-world government is finalized, but we can see evidence of it slowly taking shape. One evidence will be a global currency made much easier through a cashless society. Jesus said to be watchful; He is coming back. So, the next time you swipe your debit card or pay for your products with your PayPal account, just know we are one step closer to the return of Christ.

Using Scripture in Prayer – Prayer Day 7

prayer5God tells us that His Word is useful. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states that “all scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” We have often thought of scripture being useful for teaching or correction, but how can scripture be used to equip us for the work of prayer? There are several ways.

Scripture reveals God to us

In order for our prayer life to be effective, we must have a growing relationship with God. As we consider the value of scripture in our prayer life, we must acknowledge its worth in helping us to get to know the Father. Through careful study of the scripture, we come to know His wonderful attributes which help us to know how to relate to Him. Also through this understanding, we know better how to praise Him. We can even use those very passages which teach us about God as the content of our prayer. This passage could easily find its way into our prayer of praise, “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth.”

Scripture contains prayers

Scripture is also valuable in our prayer life because he contains specific prayers to God that can become our own expressions. As we read the prayers of the saints of old, we not only see a model of communication with the Heavenly Father, but we can even say those very word back to God. An example of this would be where David confessed his sin to God in Psalm 51. As we deal with a particular sin in our life, we could use the very words of David to seek God’s grace and mercy through repentance. One could even use Paul’s prayer for the church at Philippi as they intercede for their brothers and sisters (Philippians 1:9-11).

Scripture can stimulate

As we read the scripture, we are stimulated to think the thoughts of God. As we think these thoughts, we many times need to express ourselves to the Lord in response. One might could read Psalm 23 and then express himself to God by saying, “Lord, you are my Shepherd and I have no need. It is as if you make me to lie down in green pastures as you provide my daily provisions. You lead me beside the still waters as you bring refreshment to my soul and peace to my troubled mind.” This same passage could be used in intercession: “Lord, I pray that you would help ________ to come to understand what it means to relate to you as Shepherd. Help him to realize that as he submits to your leadership and guidance that he will have no need. I pray that you will allow him to see that apart from your provisions he will never lie down in green pastures or find the peace in his life of still waters.”

Regardless of the application, scripture is very useful in many areas of our life, including our prayer life. As you journey together with God through His Word, allow Him to stimulate you in discovering new ways to make His Word profitable in your life.

Confidence in Prayer – Day 6

prayer4Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have all your prayers answered? I know that God answers all of our prayers with either yes, no, or wait, but what if we knew how to pray in such a way that God’s answer was always yes? This is actually possible, and God tells us how to do it in 1 John 5:14-15: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” Did you see the last phrase of this verse? It says, “we know that we have what we asked of him.” Prior to that it says, “whatever we ask.” God is clearly telling us that it is possible to pray in such a way that God always responds positively to what we ask for.

God actually sets the first part of this passage up by saying that we can pray with confidence knowing that God will answer. This sounds like New Testament praying. It is reminiscent of Jesus calling Lazarus from the grave or Peter saying to the lame man, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” How can you have that kind of confidence in your prayer life? I do not like putting prayer into a formula, because it is a relationship, but there is a formula suggested here in this verse. God says that we must first ask according to His will. The first step of effective praying is to determine the will of God about a matter. Our first prayer then should be to ask God how to pray about a certain issue and then go about seeking to determine His will regarding our request. This will lead us into searching the Scripture, seeking advice from godly friends, and spending time in quiet meditation and prayer. Once we have discerned God’s will about a matter, then we can pray about it and “know we have what we asked of Him.” Let’s not be so quick to read off our prayer list to God. It would do us well to apply God’s revealed truth, the Bible, to our prayer life before we ever ask of God. When we know the will of God, our confidence in prayer rises, and we will see God acting to accomplish His will on earth.

Prayer of Confession – Day 5

prayer3Today is the fifth day of our week of prayer. If you have not read the previous four blogs on prayer, I encourage you to do so. Today, we will focus on prayers of confession.

King David prayed, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” What do you think about that prayer? I have used the whole fifty-first chapter of Psalms in my prayer life, taking the words of the Psalmist and making them my own, on numerous occasions. Here’s something we should consider about this verse. It was written in about 1050 BC, which was over a thousand years before the death and resurrection of Jesus. David’s perspective on sin and forgiveness is different than ours. He was praying this prayer before Christ’s atoning sacrifice. The cross changed everything! Once we are a Christian, we are not asking God to wash away all of our iniquities, because they were washed away at our salvation. Consider this. If you are a Christian, you received Christ into your life, confessing your sin and asking for forgiveness, and Jesus forgave you of all of your sin. Romans 4:25 says, “He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.” This passage says that because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, our sins are forgiven and we are justified. To be justified means to be made “just-as-if-I’d” never sinned: justified. Since the resurrection, believers stand before God clean and forgiven. The fact is, you were cleansed from your sin the moment you became a Christian.

How does this truth affect our prayer of repentance now? God still wants us to confess our sin, and we should repent of our sin. The difference between us and King David is that the permanent sacrifice for sin has now been made through Jesus, and Christ’s blood has cleansed us from our sin. When we go before God to confess our sin now, we are not really asking God to “forgive us of our sin,” because He already has. We are acknowledging our need for the cross, agreeing with Him on how wrong our sin was, and thanking Him for our redemption in Christ. We are reminding ourselves that it was for that particular sin that Jesus died. It is because of this truth that God says in Romans 8:1, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

This is a wonderful truth. We do not cower before God asking for forgiveness as if He may not forgive. We should be broken before God over our sin, but grateful for the forgiveness that is ours through Christ. This means when Satan tries to wear us down with accusations and shame, we remind him that we are justified through Christ and not condemned. When we pray David’s prayer of Psalm 51, maybe we should add the words “thank you” to the beginning: “Thank you for washing away all my iniquity and for cleansing me from my sin.” Confess your sin to God today with the full knowledge that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Thank Him for the cross and for the privilege of being His child.

A Life of Prayer

prayer2Prayer is a life and not just an event. I have learned in my Christian walk how naturally it is for me to fall into a pattern of compartmentalization. By that I mean that I create small compartments through which I live my life. I can have the pastor compartment, the husband compartment, the father compartment, etc. While these categories are quite harmless and acceptable, I can also create the Christian compartment and the secular compartment. I can even create compartments of activities such as one for Bible reading and one for prayer. Here’s the problem. My spiritual life cannot just be a compartment. For that matter, spiritual disciplines cannot just fall into a neat category. Prayer cannot just be an activity I perform, and when I am done, I fold it up and put it away until it’s time to pull it out again. I do not have a spiritual life; I am a spiritual life. Everything about my journey with God defines my being.

 

Prayer is one of those things that can so easily be compartmentalized, but God says it should be synonymous with the life we live. Consider the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” These three words make up a very strong and informative imperative. We are commanded by the God of the universe to pray without stopping. This means that prayer is not just a thing we do. It is the life we live. We are to communicate with God 24/7. Okay, it may be a little hard to communicate with God in our sleep, but I suppose it is possible . The point is that we should wake up with a prayer on our lips. Our conversation with God should continue throughout our entire day, and then we close our eyes with the final words of our prayer for the day on our hearts. This means that we talk with God about everything in our lives. Here is the awesome thing: God is interested. He wants you to talk with Him about every little detail of your life. Imagine how incredible it would be if we really did pray without ceasing. Here’s the thing. When you are praying without ceasing, you cannot worry. I think it is impossible to pray and worry at the same time. When you pray without ceasing, you cannot hold a grudge, have a lustful thought, or say ugly words. You can’t cheat on your income taxes, watch a movie that doesn’t honor the Lord, or slander your neighbor if you are constantly talking to the Lord. Do you realize how amazing it would be if you started your day with “Our Father” and ended it with “Amen?”

 

Give it a try. Continuous prayer changes things, and the biggest thing it will change is you. Go ahead. Start praying and don’t stop. God is anticipating your conversation.

Prayer of Praise – Day 3

praiseWe are by nature selfish people. I hate to say that because I would rather not think of myself as selfish, but there is a very natural bent in all of humanity that can lead us to a self-centered life. Thankfully, our relationship with Jesus and the fruit of the Spirit (agape love) helps to overcome this natural tendency in us. This natural move toward self is evidenced many times by the content of our prayer life. If we could somehow sift through all of our prayers, I believe we would find that many Christians spend the vast majority of their prayer time in asking for help, deliverance, provision, or victory over a struggle. Though there is no way for me to know for sure, I think we might find that most of our prayer life focuses upon ourselves instead of upon God. Do you think that is true?

First of all, we must come to the conclusion that prayer is not ultimately about us. God did not provide for us the wonderful avenue of personal conversation with God just so we would have a means to get our needs met and our happiness quotient filled. For one thing, prayer is the means by which God accomplishes His work on earth. Remember in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Kingdom come Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” There is one type of prayer that is so overlooked by many Christians that will help us get our prayer life into proper perspective. It is called the prayer of praise.

The prayer of praise is a prayer that simply focuses upon the character of God. We are quite familiar with prayers of thanksgiving, which thanks God for what He has done. Prayers of praise declare who God is. Praise causes us to focus our attention upon the nature of God and remove our gaze from ourselves. Consider the opening words of Psalm 90: “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” Do you see how the focus of this prayer it totally upon God? It is not a prayer asking God for anything, not that asking is wrong (we’re actually commanded to ask in Matthew 7:7). This prayer does not focus on any personal benefit we receive from knowing God. It is a prayer that declares God’s nature.

As you pray this week, read through the Bible (especially the Psalms) and find examples of prayers of praise. Pray them back to God as your own declaration of His nature. I think we will find that the more we focus upon God, the more we realize His greatness and power. This leads to greater trust and deeper love. It moves us to more consistent obedience and total dependence. Try spending some time in prayer where you only praise God. You may find it difficult but ultimately refreshing.

Prayer and Fasting – Day 2

Fasting

When I was a boy, I was taught that prayer is simply communication with God. It is amazing that God invites us to an intimate, personal relationship whereby He is available to us at any time in any place. We can enter His throne room for a personal conversation just through bowing our hearts in prayer. This sounds quite simple, yet sometimes real prayer can be a challenge. Sometimes the challenge comes from our own making, and at other times, it is the result of spiritual warfare. Satan oftentimes creates hindrances to meaningful prayer in our lives. Overcoming distractions is important as we seek to connect with God, and one discipline to help us deal with these distractions is fasting.

When many people hear the word fasting, images come to their minds of strange people who live weird and extreme lives. Donald Whitney stated, “Fasting is the most feared and misunderstood of all the Spiritual Disciplines…and yet it’s mentioned in Scripture more times than even something as important as baptism” (Spiritual Disciplines). Fasting is typically connected to refraining from eating food, but it can relate to many other things as well. You can fast from food, television, internet, or any other practice that has created interference in your spiritual life. Fasting should not just be refraining from something, but it should also include replacing something. For example, instead of eating a meal, you could spend that time in Bible reading and prayer. Fasting is an intentional clearing away of time in our lives to give focused attention to God.

Jesus seemed to indicate that fasting should be normal for those who follow Him. In Matthew 6:16, Jesus began sharing some thoughts on fasting with these words, “When you fast…” He did not say, “If you fast,” but rather “When…” It seems as if Jesus was saying that fasting should be a part of our spiritual experience, and when we practice fasting, we should do so for the purpose of seeking God and not seeking attention from others. If you have never fasted from eating before, here are a few suggestions that will help your experience to be meaningful:

  • Calendar your fast so that you can make sure your experience will provide the meaningful spiritual encounter with God you desire. This means you choose a time when you have the most opportunity for focused prayer and Bible reading.
  • If you have never fasted before, start small. You could begin by just skipping one meal and using the meal time for prayer. You can slowly move to skipping additional meals.
  • During your time of fasting, increase your Bible reading and prayer time.
  • Gather additional resources that will help your fasting time be meaningful such as devotional books and worship music.
  • Keep a pad or computer available where you can write/type your thoughts during your time of focused prayer. As you sense God leading and speaking to you through His Word, make some notes of things you might do to follow up on these spiritual insights. You can use this as a spiritual journal of your experience so that you will have your thoughts on paper and be able to go back and prayerfully review your time with God.
  • You can also use this pad to make notes of other things that come to your mind that otherwise might be distracting to your prayer time. I find that my mind races with things that are distracting, and I have discovered that if I write these ideas down, I can free my mind of the thought knowing that I have made a note to which I will return at the conclusion of my fast. Satan will inundate your mind with distractions, so this method has helped me to free my mind of these interruptions.
  • While you should not publicize your plans for fasting, involve someone who is close to you for the purpose of encouragement and support. This could be a family member. If you have children, use this as a teaching opportunity to help your children see the value of planning times of focused prayer in their lives.
  • Drink plenty of liquids. Fasting is a time of physical cleansing as well, so water will be a valuable resource.
  • Establish goals for your fast before you begin. Write your goals down and plan things you will do during your fast to accomplish your goals.
  • Consider reading some resources on fasting and prayer, like The Power of Prayer and Fasting by Ronnie Floyd or The Transforming Power of Prayer and Fasting by Bill Bright.
  • Share your experience with some close, Christian friends afterward as a testimony of God working in your life and to encourage others to practice this life-changing discipline.

Prayer and fasting is life-changing, and I believe you will find your personal relationship with Christ deepens as you seek Him during this focused experience. Do you know of any additional thoughts that will help us practice this discipline? Share them below. Tomorrow, I will write about one of the least practiced prayers in the church: the prayer of praise.

Prayer – Day 1

prayer1Prayer may be one of the most talked about and least practiced experiences in the church. This is interesting when you consider that Jesus said that His house should be called “a house of prayer for all nations.” Why do so few Christians really pray? When I say really pray, I do not mean the prayers of desperation where we cry out to God for help, though I have had God respond to those types of prayers many times in my life. I am not referring to the rote prayers that we could say in our sleep because a number of Christians may methodically tack on a prayer before a meal. I am talking about a real conversation with God whereby we share our heart, our mind, our burdens, and our joys.

The fact is, God commands us to pray about everything. Philippians 4:6-8 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I love that passage of scripture. God is saying that he wants us to pray about every situation, every need, every burden, every pain, and every joy. It elevates prayer to more than just an experience. It is a life which we live. If we pray about everything, it means that we get out of bed in the morning with a prayer on our lips and slip off to sleep at night with the final “amen” of the day. When we do this, God says that His peace comes and sets up a guard around our hearts (emotion) and our minds (intellect).

For those who attend SonRise Baptist Church in Newnan, we are beginning a week of prayer emphasis September 14 – 20. I invite anyone reading this today to join with our church family in praying for our nation, our world, our churches, our families, and our lives. God wants us to pray. The verse above says that He does not want us to worry about anything but pray about everything. Will you join us this week in prayer? I’ll post comments on my blog every day during this week of prayer. Come back daily, read my thoughts, and then share your thoughts below. Tomorrow, I’m going to share some comments about fasting.

Prayer:

Lord, You told me not to worry about anything but pray about everything. I am sorry for the times I choose to worry instead of to trust. I do feel under attack by the enemy many times, and I want to learn how to trust in you. You are faithful and true. You never leave me or forsake me. Thank you for being my God and for calling me to prayer. I submit my mind and my heart to you as I begin a week of focused prayer. Could you help me to encounter you this week in a significant way as I seek You? In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Truett Cathy

truettA great man closed his eyes this morning in the presence of his earthly family and opened them again in the presence of his heavenly family. When Truett Cathy passed away this morning, the world was greatly impacted because Mr. Cathy was a man who not only showed the world how to live, but he also showed us how to die.  I suppose many people in the Atlanta area could tell a Truett Cathy story, but mine involves a young teenager named David who needed a place to live. He lived in my home for a while, but because I have six children (and at the time my brother, his wife and five children lived with us), we really did not have room for him. I called Mr. Cathy’s assistant, and she told me to bring my young friend to their corporate office. We were ushered into Mr. Cathy’s office, and he treated us as if we were the most important appointment on his agenda. Never mind that he was late leaving to catch a plane for Europe where he had an important meeting, Mr. Cathy talked to David about choices in life. He offered my young friend a place to live and a very bright future, but he told David that he would have responsibilities and had to follow the rules. David agreed, and Mr. Cathy had his assistant take us up to the top floor of the office building. The top floor looked like a huge department store filled with name brand clothes and shoes of every size (for young people). David was allowed to choose clothes and shoes, and we were both overwhelmed by this man’s generosity. The next day, David went to live at one of Mr. Cathy’s homes for children.

Truett Cathy is an example of a man who lived from the inside out. Many years earlier, he had surrendered his life to Jesus Christ allowing Jesus to sit as King of his heart, and this decision impacted every decision he made for the rest of his life. This decision also determined his eternal destiny. While we sometimes wonder why Christians do not live out their faith, that was not the case with Truett Cathy, and the world is a better place because Mr. Cathy let his light shine for Jesus Christ. He is a model for the rest of us. Romans 1:17 says “The just will live by faith.” In other words, our lives should be different because we are people of faith. The world is desperate to see authentic Christianity, and Jesus has commissioned us to be like salt and light in the world. May the life and testimony of Truett Cathy not be forgotten as we press on to the day when we too will cross over to the other side.

Growing Antagonism Toward Christianity

IraniPastor Behnam Irani’s days may be numbered. As an Iranian Christian pastor already imprisoned for his faith, he now faces the death penalty after recently being given the new charge of “spreading corruption on earth.” In 2011, he was sentenced to five years in prison for his Christian activities in Iran, but this new charge brings with it the sentence of death. It seems that these charges against Pastor Irani are consistent with the persecution other Christians are facing in the country since Hassan Rouhani became the new president in Iran. Christianity is growing significantly in Iran, and the radical, Muslim leader evidently feels threatened by the number of new Christian converts. Pastor Irani is already quite ill, but this new charge against him is very serious in this country where being a Christian is considered a threat by national leaders.

Once again, the persecution of Christians has found its way into the headlines of global news. How should we respond to this? It would be easy for us to think, “Well, that’s many miles away in an Islamic nation,” and excuse the thought from our minds. However, we must remember that Pastor Irani is a part of our spiritual family. The Bible says that when he suffers, we suffer with him (1 Cor. 12:26). It is also our responsibility to pray for Pastor Irani in his time of great need. We should pray for his strength and courage as well as for his witness as he continues to shine the light of Jesus even in the darkness of an Iranian prison.

As antagonism grows toward Christianity, one must wonder if this kind of persecution could ever come to the United States. While we see small examples of Christians being persecuted in our country, is it possible that we will one day see Christian leaders thrown into jail her in the U.S. for “spreading corruption on earth?” The Bible speaks of persecution of Christians in places like Matthew 5:10-12: “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Notice in this passage, Jesus said “Blessed are you when…” He didn’t say, “if.” Jesus seemed to be telling the Church to expect persecution. Jesus also told us in Matthew 24 that persecution of Christians would become commonplace during the last days. Do you think we can expect to see Christians persecuted at a greater level in the days to come? How do you think the Church in America will respond to persecution? Share your thoughts below and pass this blog along to a friend for their comments by clicking on the appropriate social media button.