The Antidote for Anxious, Fearful Hearts

In corporate worship, we invest time in prayer. We do this because God commands us to seek Him in prayer. Prayer also serves as one of the main ways that we exercise our faith in His promises as well as an antidote for our anxious hearts (Luke 18:1; Philippians 4:6-7).

Prayer is hard work and all of us struggle to pray well. Therefore, we constantly need our Lord’s guidance. This is why we regularly use the Lord’s Prayer as a pattern for our own praying. According to His prayer, evil exists in the world and has its origin in the Evil One. All of us are prone to succumb to the devil’s agenda which is to profane God’s name, oppose God’s kingdom, resist God’s will, fail to forgive those who sin against us, and to fail to resist temptation.

On the contrary, Jesus’ prayer helps us to refocus on the Lord: His praise, His program, His plan, His provision, His pardon, and His protection. Today when you pray, remember that you are participating with our Lord in His uprising against the disorder of your hearts and your world. Ask Him to strengthen your capacity to trust Him for He has promised to rescue you from this perilous life on earth and bring you safely home to heaven.

The Fundamental Reason of a Ruinous Revolution & the Need for Prayer

Alexandr SWhen he received the Templeton Prize in Religion in 1981,
Alexandr Solzhenitsyn explained concisely the demise of Russia and the extermination of 60 million of her citizens:

“Over half a century ago, while I was still a child,
I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia:

‘Men have forgotten God;
that’s why all this has happened.’

Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years
working on the history of our revolution;
in the process I have read hundreds of books,
collected hundreds of personal testimonies,
and have already contributed eight volumes of my own
toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by the upheaval.

But if I were asked today to formulate
as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution
that swallowed up some sixty million of our people,
I could not put it more accurately that to repeat:
‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this happened.’”

Let us pray for our nation and all nations:
That the Lord’s people, who are called by [His] name,
would “humble themselves, and pray and seek [His] face
and turn from their wicked ways,
then [He] will hear from heaven
and will forgive their sin
and heal their land.

(Quoted by Cal Thomas, in The Death of Ethics in America, p.27).

Treasuring the Temporal or the Eternal – Luke 16:19-31

Here are three practical implications from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

A.  DANGER: Treasuring the temporal blinds us to the eternal.

  • Money and wealth blind us. We see this danger of wealth in the life of the rich man.
  • He was not sent to hell because of his wealth, he was sent to hell because his obsession with wealth blinded him to two things: His need of a Savior and the needs of others.
  • We tend to go through life like the Pharisees thinking that wealth is a mark of God’s favor and that poverty is a mark of God’s displeasure. This parable pulverizes the wildly popular prosperity gospel… This parable dismantles the belief that wealth is a sign of God’s blessing and illness is a sign of His displeasure. The one who is saved in the end lived a life of abject poverty, sickness, disease, and lack of food and provision. The one who is lost in the end lived a life of unusual material prosperity, affluence, and ease.
  • J.C. Ryle writes: “Those whom God justifies and glorifies are seldom the rich of this world. If we would measure men as God measures them, we must value them according to their grace. ‘Let not the rich man boast in his riches. But let him that boasts boast in this, that he knows and understands Me'” (Jeremiah 9:24).

B.  DUTY (vv.24-28): There is a sphere of blessing to pursue and a place of torment to flee. Both of these spheres and places are the eternal, unchangeable conditions for the saved and for the lost.

  • The Bible insists that there are incredible benefits to trusting and walking with Christ now, but also there are wonderful blessings to trusting Christ in the world to come. There is a place of blessing to pursue and a place of torment to flee.
  • There is life after death. D.A. Carson declares that “if you are a philosophical materialist and you believe that matter, energy, space and time is all that there is, then you must abandon this philosophical belief to become a Christian.” When a person dies, you do not die like a dog. There is further existence. You are not done after your physical life on this earth.
  • Biblical Christianity is focused on how to flee the place of torment and gain the place of bliss talked about in our passage. New heavens and new earth is a place where there is no more sin, pain, and suffering. We will delight in God and love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We will love each another without fatigue or delay.
  • Here heaven is described as “Abraham’s side or bosom.” To be in Abraham’s bosom was a phrase used to describe the highest bliss of Paradise. This imagery is that of being the guest of honor at a banquet. See Matthew 13:28-29 for study purposes. Lazarus dines with Abraham at a table of sumptuous feasting.
  • Jesus paints a very graphic picture of hell. It is a place of torment… where the worm does not die… a place of unending weeping and gnashing of teeth. A place without repentance and a place without hope.
  • We don’t take glory in people suffering this fate. Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem. We need people who will ask the Lord to break our hearts over our own city and weep for it like Jesus did Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37ff). We do not believe this because we think we are any better than anybody else, but because we acknowledge that the only hope and help we have in eternity is Jesus.
  • This is why Fernando Ortega sings “and when I come to die… when I come to die… when I come to die… give me Jesus!”

C.  DELIGHT (vv.29-31): Let us find our delight in God’s Book because we find there a God who helps the spiritual bankrupt and destitute. 

  • Who are the ones whom God helps? God doesn’t help those who help themselves. He helps those who are utterly powerless and who willingly acknowledge their own helplessness.
  • What really justifies a man before God? The rich man was not condemned because he was rich, any more than the poor man was justified for being poor. The issue was whether or not these men were rich or poor, but whether or not these men believed the Scriptures and trusted in the Redeemer to which they testify.
  • How are you doing at stewarding your opportunities to hear, read, study, meditate and memorize the Word of God? What a treasure it is to have Moses and the Prophets. This parable highlights how easy it is to take for granted that we possess the written word of God.
  • May the Lord lead you to embrace the passion and commitment of John Wesley to the Word: “I am a spirit come from God and returning to God… I want to know one thing. The way to heaven… God Himself has condescended to teach me the way… He has written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri (a man of one book). Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone. Only God is here. In His presence I open, I read His book; for this end, to find the way to Heaven.”
  • In Moses (the Pentateuch), what are some of the things that we learn about our promised Redeemer who was to come?
  • God will provide for Himself the lamb (Gen. 22:8a). …When I see the blood [of the lamb] I will pass over you (Exodus 12:13b; 1 Corinthians 5:7). …It shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it [the serpent lifted up], he will live (Numbers 21:8b;John 3:14). The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him (Deuteronomy 18:15).
  • Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
  • Jesus died of thirst so that you could have living water.  He died in torment so that you could have the cool water of God’s favor. He was laid in the dust of death so that your thirst could be satisfied.

Hungry Hearts

Like Bruce Springsteen said, all of us have hungry hearts.

We have a hunger to experience the transcendent.
We have a hunger to love and be loved.
We have a hunger for purpose and meaning in life.

Left to ourselves, we generally look to satisfy our hungry hearts
with the treasures and pleasures of this world.
In his Confessions, Augustine explains where this approach ends:
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord,
and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

In a world where people are crushed by pessimism and despair,
Jesus promises us life . . .abundant, spiritual, and eternal.
Blaise Pascal, the French philosopher and scientist asserts:
“It is good to be weary and frustrated
with the fruitless search for the good (life),
so that one can reach out one’s arms instead to the Redeemer.”

Worship involves us reaching out to our Redeemer.
Joseph Hart sets forth this joyful privilege:
“Come ye needy, come, and welcome, God’s free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance, every grace that brings you nigh.
Without money, without money, come to Jesus Christ and buy.”

Prayer of Preparation for Reformation Sunday

Prayer to prepare your heart based on Psalm 46:

Lord God, our refuge and strength,
when the restless powers of this world
and the waters of hell rise up against your holy city,
watch over it and keep it safe.
By the river that flows from the throne of the Lamb,
purify us, your new Jerusalem,
as your chosen dwelling,
for You are with us, our stronghold now and forever. AMEN.

Proclaiming the Gospel to Ourselves in Corporate Worship

One of our main purposes of gathering corporately for worship is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. We aspire to do this throughout our whole worship service by cultivating in all who gather three things:

  • A dawning realization of the greatness of your God,
  • A growing awareness of your own sinfulness
  • But also a fresh and continual discovery of the pardoning grace of God revealed in the cross of Jesus Christ (This last phrase is adapted from Jack Miller and his book Outgrowing the Ingrown Church.)

This is why we regularly confess our sins corporately and personally to the Lord. After our time of personal confession, we hear one of our pastors speak to us God’s assurance of pardon from the Scriptures. How can we be so bold to assure people of God’s forgiveness? God’s Word contains countless promises where He assures His people of His forgiveness.

One of the high moments of our worship service occurs when we hear right after the assurance of pardon: “…if your faith is in Jesus Christ this morning, then I assure you, based on the sure promise of the Word, that your sins are forgiven….”

Oh what a blessing to know that you are completely forgiven, totally accepted and profoundly loved by our Lord! Why not reflect on the wonderful and assuring promise of the prophet Micah: “Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity… who delights in mercy… You will subdue our iniquities; and cast all our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:18-19)?

What is so amazing about grace?

If I care to listen, I hear a loud whisper from the gospel
that I did not get what I deserved.
I deserved punishment and got forgiveness.
I deserved wrath and got love.
I deserved debtor’s prison
and got instead a clean credit history.
I deserved stern lectures and crawl-on-your knees repentance.
Instead, I got a banquet spread for me.

One who has been touched by grace will no longer look on those who stray as ‘those evil people’ or ‘those poor people who need our help.’
Nor must we search for signs of ‘loveworthiness.’
Grace teaches us that God loves because of who God is,
not because of who we are.
— Philip Yancey