Today's Word for Pastors...
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Today's Preaching Insight...
When Prayer Doesn't 'Work'
Whether it's a struggle with health, relationships, finances or sin, all of us, I would wager, have experienced what we conclude to be 'unanswered prayer'. Sometimes our struggle has reached a point where we wonder whether Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, didn't have it right when he wrote: "A leap over the hedge is better than good men's prayers. "
There is nestled in the center of the Old Testament book of Psalms what I would call the saddest prayer I have ever read. Amongst uplifting and encouraging psalms, we have this desperate appeal to God for help. From what we can gather, the writer of this psalm is experiencing an illness that has rendered him near death. Some Bible scholars believe the psalmist is battling leprosy - an infectious disease that attacks the skin, nerves and muscles. It mercilessly wastes away a person's body. We know that leprosy in the Ancient Near East was incurable and resulted in a person becoming an outcast: destitute and treated as wholly unclean. The psalmist writes how his affliction has been with him since youth, has left him near death and set apart, repulsive to others. He cries out to God, "Why, O Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?"
The writer of Psalms 88:1 wrestled with the question of whether or not prayer 'worked.' He wonders whether he is like the dead, who are not remembered. Perhaps the most unsettling aspect of the psalm is its ending. Virtually all the psalms close with the writer praising God and rejoicing in His goodness and faithfulness. Psalm 88, however, ends with the refrain: "darkness is my closest friend". And yet, the psalmist turns to God as his only hope; he says, "In the morning my prayer comes before you." Why?
(To read the entire article "When Prayer Doesn't 'Work'" by Philip A. Gunther at Preaching.com, click here)
Accountability and Peer Pressure
David Jeremiah notes that, "On February 26, 1995, Barings Bank, England's oldest, declared bankruptcy after losing nearly a billion dollars. How could such a thing happen? Lack of accountability. A twenty-eight-year-old Barings trader in Singapore had been given too much authority - like letting a school boy grade his own tests. He lost money in stock trades and no one knew about it - until all of the bank's money was gone.
"If that trader had been surrounded by associates who were closer to him, his failures might have been caught before they turned into a freefall. It's hard to overestimate the positive influence that good and godly friends, mentors, and role models can have on our lives - or the negative results which accrue when we live life with a "lone ranger" mentality. Not only can friends keep us from going astray, they can move us in the right direction as well. Surveys have shown that in our disconnected culture most people have few, if any, close friends. How about you? Don't be a stranger! Be a good friend and you'll have good friends who can help you find, and stay on, the right path.
"Peer pressure can have a negative or positive effect. Make sure your peers are of the positive kind."
-Turning Point Daily Devotional, 7/23/03
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