Day 1/12 – ‘Help from Heaven’ (Christmas songs countdown)

In the twelve days remaining until Christmas, I thought I’d share some of the best songs I’ve found floating around on the ridges of various compilation CDs. This first one comes from ‘These Christmas Lights’ (2016) by Matt Redman.

There is a moment, every heart needs a rescue
There is a season, every soul needs a break through
Help from heaven, we all need help from heaven

There is a whisper, a voice of hope inside you
There is an answer, a name above to guide you
Help from heaven, we all need help from heaven
Help from heaven, help from heaven

When the world is on our shoulders
And we need a hand to hold us
When no miracle is found, still believe, oh
When the sea of night surrounds us
And all questions try to drown us
Just believe, just believe in help from heaven
Help from heaven

There is a reason, those tears will not be wasted
There is a future, for all those broken pieces
Look to heaven, all we need is help from heaven
Help from heaven

When the road ahead is hidden
And we need a new beginning
When the battle’s closing in, still believe, oh
When we step in to the promise
And the hands of grace that hold us
Just believe, just believe in help from heaven
Help from heaven, help from heaven

Taking heart and holding on, hope is closer than we know
Hand that will not let us go, help from heaven
Taking heart and holding on, hope is closer than we know
Hand that will not let us go, we all need help from heaven

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Four Prayers for Bible Reading | Desiring God

Great article:

When we open our Bibles to read, we’re never alone. The Holy Spirit hovers over and in the words of God, ready to stir our hearts, illumine our minds, and redirect our lives, all for the glory of Christ (John 16:14). The Spirit is the X factor in Bible reading, making an otherwise ordinary routine supernatural — and making it utterly foolish to read and study without praying for our eyes, minds, and hearts.

Prayer is a conversation, but not one we start. God speaks first. His voice sounds in the Scriptures and climactically in the person and work of his Son. Then, wonder of all wonders, he stops, he stoops, he bends his ear to listen to us. Prayer is almost too good to be true. With our eyes on God’s words, he gives us his ear, too.

How then should we pray over our Bibles? Here are four verses you might pray as you open God’s word.

1. Psalm 119:18: Open My Eyes to Wonder

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18). We ask God to open our spiritual eyes to show us the glimpses of glory we cannot see by ourselves. Without his help, we are simply “natural” persons with natural eyes. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand [see] them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14–15).

“Seeing they do not” was Jesus’s phrase for those who saw him and his teaching only with natural eyes, without the illumining work of the Spirit (Matthew 13:13). This is why Paul prays for Christians, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,having the eyes of your hearts enlightened” (Ephesians 1:17–18).

Join the psalmist in praying not just for the gift of spiritual sight, but for the gift of seeing wondrous things in God’s word. Wonder is a great antidote for wandering. Those who cultivate awe keep their hearts warm and soft, and resist the temptations to grow cold and fall away.

2. Luke 18:38: Have Mercy on Me

Pray, like the blind man begging roadside, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” For as long as we are in this life, sin encumbers every encounter with God in his word. We fail friends and family daily — and even more, we fail God. So it is fitting to accompany our opening of God’s word with the humble, broken, poor plea of the redeemed: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13).

Bible reading is a daily prompt to own our failures, newly repent, and freshly cast ourselves on his grace all over again. Prayer is the path to staying fascinated with his grace and cultivating a spirit of true humility.

3. James 1:22: Make Me a Doer of Your Word

Pray that God, having opened your eyes to wonder and reminded you of the sufficiency of his grace, would produce genuine change in your life. Ask him to allow the seeds from Scripture to bear real, noticeable fruit in tangible acts of sacrificial love for others. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). You need not artificially capture one, specific point of application from every passage, but pray that his word would shape and inform and direct your practical living.

Ask that he would make you more manifestly loving, not less, because of the time invested alone in reading and studying his word.

4. Luke 24:45: Open My Eyes to Jesus

This is another way of praying that God would open our eyes to wonder, just with more specificity. The works of God stand as marvelous mountain ranges in the Bible, but the highest peak, and the most majestic vista, is the person and work of his Son.

As Jesus himself taught after his resurrection, he is the Bible’s closest thing to a skeleton key for unlocking the meaning of every text — every book, every plot twist, the whole story. First, “he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27), then he taught his disciples that “everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). And in doing so, “he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45).

The great goal of Bible reading and study is this: knowing and enjoying Jesus. This is a taste now of heaven’s coming delights. “This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). This gives direction, focus, and purpose to our study. “Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD” (Hosea 6:3). This forms great yearning and passion in our souls: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).

Keep both eyes peeled for Jesus. Until we see how the passage at hand relates to Jesus’s person and work, we haven’t yet finished the single most important aspect of our reading.

We are desperate for God’s ongoing help to see, and so we pray.

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David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College & Seminary. He has edited and contributed to several books and is author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.

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http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/four-prayers-for-bible-reading

Prayer Isn’t Simply Plowing Through A List. What Is Prayer? This.

prayer girlBlessings for the New Year! I’m sure that like me you are keen to be more prayerful in 2015. This post from Blazing Center should whet your appetite for more. Keller’s book, referred to in this post, is certainly on my to read list.

What is prayer?

“Prayer is continuing a conversation that God has started through his Word and his grace, that leads to a full encounter with him,” Tim Keller writes in his book Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God.

That’s astounding, if you slow down and think about it. Prayer is talking tTim Keller Prayero the Creator of all that is. Even more, it’s talking back to him, in response to his initiative to start a conversation with us. But even that definition fails to adequately describe what actually happens when we pray. So before he gives a definition of prayer, Keller quotes the English poet George Herbert’s poem “Prayer (I).” Herbert doesn’t define prayer; instead, he describes it, in all its richness and variety. Here is the poem. Don’t rush. Read it slowly.

Prayer the church’s banquet, angel’s age,

God’s breath in man returning to his birth,

The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,

The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth

Engine against th’ Almighty, sinner’s tow’r,

Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,

The six-days world transposing in an hour,

A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;

Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,

Exalted manna, gladness of the best,

Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,

The milky way, the bird of Paradise,

Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,

The land of spices; something understood.

Can we define prayer? Yes, certainly. But is defining it the end goal? By no means. We haven’t exhausted the meaning of prayer until we have personally experienced and entered into the riches Herbert describes. Don’t be content with a definition. Hear God’s invitation to you through Christ: you’re invited to the banquet. Enter the conversation. “For through [Christ] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18).

By Josh Blount
http://theblazingcenter.com/2015/01/prayer-isnt-simply-going-through-a-list-what-is-prayer-this.html

God’s Word leads us in prayer

prayer2Sometimes we can feel like our prayers are going unanswered, or that our feeble efforts to be consistent and persistent in prayer mean God probably doesn’t even want to answer! But God is not like us. He is compassionate and gracious. His grace is new every morning.

“Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.” (Psalm 116:2)

If you need help to get praying again there are plenty of books to read on the topic. There is also journalling, prayer partners and other methods to try. But today I’d like to suggest a few simple points (courtesy of John Piper) to remind you that the greatest help for the practice of prayer is probably God’s Word itself. Consider the following reasons why:

  1. Much of the Bible is prayer (most of the Psalms especially).
  2. The Bible is full of commands and encouragements for us to pray (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  3. We are told to pray according to the will of God (1 John 5:14 ), and the Bible is the revealed will of God.
  4. The Word of God cannot be truly desired (Psalm 119:36) or spiritually comprehended (Psalm 119:18) or savingly spoken (2 Thessalonians 3:1) without the work of the Holy Spirit, whom we ask for by prayer.
  5. Being saturated with the Word of God produces an effective prayer life: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you , ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).

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Now Go, Be the Church

“Don’t think of church as an address or location . . .
but as something deployed.

Don’t think of it as a place you are for an hour each week, but rather WHAT YOU ARE every day of the week.
The Church is the hands and feet of Jesus. . .
Now Go, be the church.”

church has left the buildingThis comes from a great 1.5 minute clip from Igniter Media. We have used it in our church services, when plenty of people were around who don’t normally come to church, or know what it means to follow Jesus. It’s also a good reminder to all of us, of what church is, and isn’t. Hope you can find a use for it. Blessings! (Click link below to watch the clip.)

http://www.ignitermedia.com/products/2202-this-is-church#

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Why Men have stopped singing in Church

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The Power of Thinking

thinkThis may sound like a really obvious thing to say, but when you tell others that you have been thinking about them, something good happens. If I were Oprah W, and had my own talk show, I may tell you that when someone thinks positive thoughts about someone else then it causes a cosmic set of ripples to flow out from you which can cross continents and oceans and contributes good karma to the universe . . or some such. But what I am actually proposing is much more practical and real. Let me explain.

While attempting to jog around the lake today (more of a jog/walk) the thought came to me that I should pray for my children, and specifically for their future spouses (if that is something that will be part of their future). I know many people who have made this a regular practice since their children were small, and I think we did it better many years ago; haven’t really discussed or prayed for them in this way for a while. So I did.

And the outcome? Well there weren’t 3 Christian Prince Charmings lined up at the door with application forms when I got home, but when I mentioned these thoughts and prayers to my eldest girl (15) I know by her response that she felt loved, knowing I cared about her future. No doubt this interaction, these shared thoughts, will lead to more careful thinking on her behalf as well. (Not that she needs to make a choice right now!)

Another example is a young mum who comes to our playgroup at church. She normally is difficult to engage in conversation, but by mentioning a simple thought to her, many new conversations have opened up about quite personal things. (You are probably wondering what ‘thought’ I shared with her? I simply shared that she really reminded me of the lead female character in the Hunger Games film. She checked her out and reported back to me the next week).

We all have so many thoughts about many different people throughout the course of a day. . . some of these are admittedly not always very edifying thoughts! But next time you are thinking, turns those ‘random’ thoughts to prayer, then see what happens if you share them with that very person (and let me know the outcome)!