THE POWER OF ELECTION PRAYER

The Power of Election Prayer

Let others lose sleep over the election.  Let others grow bitter from party or petty rivalries.  Let others cast their hope with the people of the elephant or the donkey.  Not followers of Jesus.  We place our trust in the work of God.

How many kings has he seen come and go?  How many nations has he seen stand and fall?  He is above them all.  And he oversees them all.  So, while others get anxious, we don’t. Here is what we do:  we pray.

“First of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”  (1 Tim.2:1-4 NIV).

It is time to take this job seriously.  Over the next hours and days ahead, turn your heart toward heaven and ask God to:

  • Unite our country
  • Strengthen us
  • Appoint and anoint our next president

God’s promise is clear:

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  (2 Chron. 7:14 NIV).

Only God can unite the nations. On this election day, let’s ask him to do just that with ours.

Dear Heavenly Father,

You have given us this promise: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

So, we pray to you. We turn from evil and look to you, our God. Please:

         Unite us

                 Strengthen us

                         Appoint and anoint our next president

In the name of Christ we pray,

Amen

Disowned for Jesus

WHAT I LOST AND FOUND IN CHRIST

Article by

Pastor, Frisco, Texas

When I left Islam to follow Jesus, I didn’t know what it would cost me. I hadn’t realized what it would take to deny myself, lay my life down, and take up my cross (Matthew 16:24). I wasn’t aware that even the precious relationships of my family should not come between me and following Christ — that I should even hate my family compared to my love for Jesus (Luke 14:26).

But God taught me that if I do take up my cross and lay down my life, then I’ll find my life. Over time, I have come to experience this truth. My life of following Jesus has not been the life I envisioned for myself, but it has become the life I want: a life used for the glory of God as I grow in the knowledge of Christ and make him known to others. That’s what I discovered when I was forced to choose between Jesus and my father.

From Iran to Texas

I was born in Houston and grew up in a devout Muslim home. My dad was very involved in the Iranian Muslim community. Growing up, I was taught the five pillars of Islam and that if I did them to the best of my ability, then maybe I’d get to heaven. When I was two years old, my family moved to Iran, where my parents are from. But at age six, the Islamic Revolution of the late ’70s hit that country. My father, who was a doctor, had the means to get us out of the country, so our family moved back to Houston.

I spoke Farsi, not English, and so God, in his incredible plan, provided a Christian lady who tutored me, teaching me the English language every day by reading books to me. In the second grade, she said to me, “Afshin, I want to give you the most important book that you’ll ever read in life.” As she handed me a small New Testament, she told me that I would not completely understand it now, but asked me to promise to hold onto it until I was older.

She gave me that Bible during the Iran hostage crisis, a time during which my family and other Iranians in America were ostracized and hated by many. This lady, however, earned the right to be heard by the way that she loved me, showed me the love of Christ, and poured her life into me. Because the Bible came from her, I believed it was important, and held onto that New Testament. She had planted a seed in my life in the second grade that wouldn’t come to fruition until ten years later.

Leaving Islam

As a senior in high school, I used the Lord’s name in vain while playing basketball. A guy on the court walked up to me and said, “Hey, that Jesus whose name you just said — he’s my God.” As a Muslim, I’d been taught that Jesus was a prophet, so I thought the guy was nuts. A few days later, while watching TV, I stumbled onto a historical documentary on the life of Jesus, where I heard, “Some worship Jesus as God, and they’re called Christians.” My mind went back to the words of the guy on the basketball court, and the Lord reminded me of the Bible that I’d received ten years earlier. That afternoon, I found that small New Testament at the bottom of my closet and began to read in Matthew.

Every day, I’d read under the covers in my bed with a flashlight so that my parents wouldn’t walk in and see what I was doing. Meanwhile, at my high school, a Christian student sat across the table from me at lunch and told me about Jesus. I’d debate against him each day, and then at night I’d go home to read more about his Jesus.

One day, I got to the book of Romans, and the third chapter completely changed my life. I read about a righteousness that comes apart from the law, apart from what I do for God. I read that this righteousness comes as a gift to be received by faith. I was struck by Romans 3:22, which says that this righteousness comes to all who believe. I thought I was born a Muslim and would always be a Muslim, but that verse said that this righteousness was for anyone who believes, of any ethnicity. A couple weeks later, a guy invited me to an evangelistic crusade (always an interesting word for a Muslim!), where I heard the gospel proclaimed and came to faith in Christ.

As an aside: I’m often asked what form of evangelism I believe to be most effective. God used evangelism in a variety of forms in my life. He used a teacher loving and tutoring a kid, a guy sharing one-on-one in a cafeteria, a guy speaking up for the name of Christ on a basketball court, an invitation to an evangelistic event, and the preaching of the gospel in a corporate setting. I believe in each of these forms of evangelism because God used each one of them in my own life.

Disowned

I made my commitment to Christ public at that evangelistic crusade, but driving home from the event is when it hit me: “What am I going to tell my family? What am I going to tell my father?” My father had always been the most important person in my life, the guy I’d always looked up to. I’m ashamed to say that I decided to hide my newfound faith from him and the rest of my family. I would sneak out to go to church, intercept mail from the church I was attending, and hide my Bible.

Finally, one day my dad found out. He’d seen my Bible, and he’d also seen other evidences in my life. He sat me down and said, “Son, what’s going on? There’s something different about you.” I said, “Dad, I’m a Christian.” He said, “No, you’re not, young man. you’re a Muslim and you’ll always be a Muslim.” I said, “Dad, the Bible says that if I trust in Christ alone for my salvation, then I’m a Christian — and I do.” My dad said, “Afshin, if you’re going to be a Christian, then you can no longer be my son.”

Everything in my flesh wanted to say, “Forget it. I’ll be a Muslim.” I didn’t want to lose the relationship with my dad. So even I was surprised when I opened my mouth and said, “Dad, if I have to choose between you and Jesus, then I choose Jesus. And if I have to choose between my earthly father and my heavenly Father, then I choose my heavenly Father.” My father disowned me on the spot.

Not Peace, but a Sword

I went upstairs to my room, and in the defining moment of my life, said, “God, how could you do this to me? Jesus, if you’re real, how could you take my dad away from me?” The Lord led me to where Jesus says,

“Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father.” (Matthew 10:32–35)

I read this just moments after my dad disowned me, and thought, Whoa! This just happened for me! Jesus goes on to say,

“I have come to set . . . a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:35–39)

That’s when I first understood what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Life Lost and Found

I had to lose my father to follow Christ. But I learned firsthand that when you lose your life, you find it. God gave me a roommate in college who was also a former Muslim and was also disowned by his father. After college, God led me to seminary. He provided a businessman in Dallas who paid for my entire seminary degree and a church internship, which eventually led to a position as a college pastor. God gave me a fifteen-year speaking ministry where I traveled all over the United States, preached the gospel, and saw Muslims come to faith in Christ.

I have partnered with a ministry that reaches into Iran with the gospel, and have had the privilege of training and equipping Iranian pastors, helping to spread the gospel in the same nation from which my family came. I now pastor a church in Frisco, Texas, where I get to weekly remind our people to count the cost of following Christ. As a result, we have grown, planted three churches, and sent out several missionaries around the world. Finally, I am thrilled to say that my relationship with my dad has been restored, and I continue to pray for his salvation daily.

What Has Jesus Cost You?

I’m passionate for people to know that there’s a cost to following Jesus. What is it costing you to follow him? It might be that the thing you’re holding onto is the thing that’s keeping you from living for his glory. For me, it was my dad. For you, it might be something else.

There is a huge difference between being a follower of Christ and merely giving mental assent to the truths about Jesus. The call of Christ isn’t simply “Believe the right things about me” but “Follow me.” And following Jesus is defined by losing your life. It is laying down your dreams, your pursuits, your idols to grab ahold of the greatest treasure in life: Jesus. When we lose our lives, God will leverage our lives for his glory and for others to know Jesus. There is no greater joy and fulfillment in life than this.

 (@afshinziafat) is lead pastor of Providence Church in Frisco, Texas. His passion is to teach the word of God as the authority and guide for life, to preach Jesus Christ as the only Savior and Redeemer of mankind, and to proclaim the love of Christ as the greatest treasure and hope in life. He and his wife, Meredith, currently reside in Frisco with their three children.

You Can Memorize Scripture This Year

Article by

Professor, Bethlehem College & Seminary

When you think about memorizing the Bible, do you feel guilty and defeated? It’s one of those activities that you know is good for you but that can be hard to do consistently — like praying or exercising or eating well or managing money wisely.

With the New Year here, I want to encourage you: you can memorize Scripture this year. It does not take superhuman skill or fanatic devotion to write God’s word on your mind and heart. It requires some passion, planning, and persistence. But before I give some suggestions for Scripture memory, we need to address three of the main reasons Christians don’t consistently memorize the Bible.

1. I don’t have time to memorize the Bible.

Are you wisely stewarding the time God gives you? To answer, it’s helpful to consider a time-management grid:

If you are typical, then you want to spend more time in quadrant 2, but you actually spend most of your time in quadrants 1 and 3. What is urgent dictates what you do.

And when you feel pressured to complete urgent tasks, that tempts you to unwind by escaping to quadrant 4. Perhaps you fritter away time by consuming social media candy — a cat video, a feel-good story, so-called “breaking news” about a celebrity you don’t really care about. Social media can be like a magnet in quadrant 4 that constantly pulls you in and keeps you longer than you want to stay.

That’s why productivity gurus emphasize that you should do important things first. Stephen Covey often demonstrated this in seminars by placing a large clear cylinder on a table along with some big rocks, medium-sized rocks, little rocks, and sand. The big rocks represent items in quadrant 2. The only way all the items could fit in the cylinder is to put the big rocks in first and the sand in last.

For a Christian, memorizing the Bible goes in quadrant 2 — important but not urgent. I’m not going to repeat reasons you should memorize the Bible — including big chunks of the Bible. But if you really believe that memorizing the Bible is important, then it should be part of your daily routine. It’s one of the big rocks.

If you need help revamping how you organize your time, read Tim Challies’s Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity.

2. I don’t feel like memorizing the Bible.

We often don’t feel like doing what we should do.

Kids don’t always feel like doing their schoolwork or household chores. But parents try to train their children to consistently do what they’re responsible for. Parents don’t always feel like shepherding their children well when they’re squabbling. But that’s what faithful parenting entails. A physically healthy employee might not feel like going to work. But responsible people go to work whether or not they feel like it.

I don’t always feel like keeping a disciplined plan for strength training and eating, but I’ve consistently done it for about the past year and a half. It’s now ingrained into my routine to the point that it’s automatic; I don’t deliberate whether or not to do it each day. And I’ve grown to enjoy it more and more. I know it’s good for me, I’m feeling better, and it’s improving my health and energy level so that I can serve others better.

It takes discipline to do what we don’t always feel like doing. A strategic way to approach those activities is to develop healthy routines. That’s a way to fight for joy. We exist to glorify God by enjoying him forever. We most glorify God when he most satisfies us. And memorizing the Bible is one of the richest ways that God satisfies us.

The main reason to memorize the Bible is not to accumulate more data in our brains. It’s a way for us to enjoy God. Activities such as prayer and Bible reading and Bible memory are spiritual disciplines or means of grace. They are activities that God has designed to satisfy us with God himself.

If you need help revamping how you practice the means of grace, read David Mathis’s Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus Through the Spiritual Disciplines.

3. It’s hard for me to memorize the Bible.

Do you know your birthdate? Your phone number? Your address?

There are certain facts that you have already memorized. You may even memorize some information without trying to — such as recipes you often use, statistics about your favorite sports teams and players, biographical information about your favorite actors or musicians, or jingles from commercials you heard as a child. God has given you an amazing mind. And your mind includes the capacity to memorize.

Your mind is like a muscle, and memorizing is mental exercise. Memorizing is to your mind what working out is to your body. Memorizing makes your mind stronger, healthier, sharper, more energetic. And the more you work at memorizing, the better you get at it.

Memorizing Bible passages is hard work. But it’s not that hard. You can do it.

If you need help with strategies to memorize the Bible, check out my article “11 Steps to Memorizing an Entire Book of the Bible” and Joe Carter’s five-part series on using memorization to increase Bible knowledge and develop a sanctified imagination.

How Can I Start?

1. Start small. Something is better than nothing — even if it’s spending just sixty seconds a day memorizing. You may not be able to run a marathon today, but could you walk a lap around the track — just a quarter-mile?

2. Choose a feasible plan. Here are three plans to consider.

First, you can memorize passages that others have helpfully collected, such as the Topical Memory System by the Navigators or Fighter Verses by Truth78. (My wife and children memorize Fighter Verses with our church. Some of our friends recorded the passages as songs to make them more memorable.)

Second, you can memorize a small book of the Bible (such as Ephesians, Philippians, or James) or a small portion of the Bible (such as Psalms 1–2, Matthew 5–7, Romans 8, or Revelation 21–22).

Third, you can memorize a collection of passages that produce delight, comfort, and awe or that help you fight a particular sin (such as anger, anxiety, bitterness, covetousness, impatience, joylessness, judgmentalism, laziness, lust, pride, or worldliness).

3. Stick with it. Set aside a small block of time every day to memorize the Bible, and don’t miss a day for 100 straight days. Be consistent. On average it takes about 66 days for a behavior to become automatic.

4. Memorize with someone else in your church. Team up with a friend or a group of friends in your church, and be accountable to each other as you memorize.

With God’s help, you can consistently memorize the Bible this year. Godspeed!

Come What May

Finding Patience and Joy in a Slow Calamity

Article by

Executive Editor, desiringGod.org

A slow-moving calamity rolled through the ancient world, now more than 2,500 years ago, crawling, at a haunting pace, through one nation after another.

Unlike Pearl Harbor, or a terrorist attack, or a tsunami along the Pacific Rim, this plague caught very few off guard. Every king, every nation, every citizen saw it coming. They heard the reports. They lived under the specter. The world’s greatest city at the time, Nineveh, didn’t fall overnight, but over painful weeks and weeks, even months. Jerusalem came next. Waves of destruction came to the holy city, first in 605 BC, then eight years later in 597, and finally total decimation eleven years later in 586.

What threat paralyzed the world’s great cities not just for hours and days, but for weeks and months, even years? The rising power of Babylon and the slow march of its army from one capital to the next, setting up months-long sieges, and toppling the world’s leading cities as their supply lines ran out and the people began to starve.

And all the more, the coming calamity should have been no surprise to God’s first-covenant people. Even in the middle of the seventh century before Christ, while Assyria was the reigning world power, and Babylon was only slowly on the rise, God’s prophets, like Isaiah, told of the coming disaster decades ahead of time. As did a far less prominent prophet named Habakkuk, who may have an especially striking word for us in our present slow-moving distress.

God Does Not Look on Idly

Unlike any other Hebrew prophet, Habakkuk never turns and speaks directly to the people in his short, three-chapter book. He reports his dialogue with God and God’s surprising work in him, leaving personal application to the reader. The book’s outline is rather simple, as far as Hebrew prophecies go.

First, Habakkuk begins with his seemingly righteous frustrations, perhaps slightly overstated. He asks, “How long, O Lord?” to the rampant wickedness he sees around him, among God’s own people, in an era of spiritual decline (Habakkuk 1:2–4). God responds with a revelation the prophet not at all anticipated (1:5–11). Essentially: Yes, little prophet, my people have become wicked — and I am not looking idly at it. In fact, I am raising up the Babylonians to destroy them.

Habakkuk reels and rocks. He thought he had justice problems before. Now all the more. He responds with a second complaint (1:12–2:1). How can God “idly look at traitors” (Habakkuk 1:13), Babylonians even more wicked than God’s backslidden people? The prophet becomes more defiant: “I will take my stand . . . and look out to see what [God] will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint” (Habakkuk 2:1). He presumes God’s response to his second complaint will not suffice, and he’ll be ready to answer back.

But God’s second response (2:2–20) does silence him. The prophet never registers a third complaint. God will not leave Babylon unpunished. His full justice — his fivefold woe — will be served in his perfect timing. The hand of justice indeed will fall, destroying the prideful and rescuing the righteous who live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4).

How Do We Live by Faith?

The core of the book’s message, from the voice of God to the hearts of his people, is live by faith in unprecedented days, come what may. God doesn’t promise the anxious prophet that soon he’ll make things better. In fact, he promises to make things much worse before they get better. Utter devastation will come first, then deliverance. First total ruin, then final rescue.

To the disoriented, panicked prophet, God exposes the folly of human pride, and issues a fresh call to humility and faith, to patiently receive God’s mysterious “work” of judgment (Habakkuk 1:53:2). To trust the divine in the toughest of times, in days of looming trouble. Here we have God’s timeless call to his people in mysterious times, Habakkuk’s and ours: live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4).

But what does that mean? “Living by faith” can sound so vague and general. What might it mean for us here on the ground, under the present (and coming) threat?

Will We Wait Quietly?

After he has been silenced, Habakkuk speaks again in chapter 3, but now in prayer, not complaint. He has heard and heeded the divine voice and now celebrates God’s unstoppable power and uncompromised justice. The prophet’s prayer concludes with two “Yet I will” statements. First, he says he will exercise patience. The prideful and unbelieving may ride it out with all sorts of panic and noise, but Habakkuk will wait quietly:

Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble
to come upon people who invade us. (Habakkuk 3:16)

His faith in God’s perfect justice has been renewed. He will adjust the clock of his soul to God’s timetable, not presume the converse. God is not standing idly by, of this we can be sure. He is watching. He is attentive. He sees every movement, every detail. In the end, the world will see that he has done right, never treating any creature with injustice.

And as prone as we are, in our finitude and sin and anxiety, to want to force on God our own timetable for resolution, he calls us to quiet patience, even as painfully slow as the present distress may unfold.

Will We Rejoice?

The second and final “Yet I will . . .” comes in verse 18: “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” And the prophet says so precisely with the worst-case scenarios on the table:

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:17–18)

In other words, though the supply lines should fail, and the shelves be bare, and the economy tank, and the virus come to our own city, and street, and even home, yet — even then — this newly humbled prophet will rejoice in the Lord. Will we? Not in our supplies. Not in our health. Not in our own security. Not even in the defeat of the enemy. There is one constant, one unassailable surety, one utter security, one haven for true joy in the most challenging of journeys: God himself. He holds himself out to us as he removes our other joys. Will we lean anew into him?

Those puffed up in pride will certainly be destroyed in time, whether sooner or later. But those who welcome God’s humbling hand and bow in faith — in quiet patience and trans-circumstantial joy — will find God himself to be “my strength” in such days (Habakkuk 3:19). So too for us, living by faith in such times will come to expression in patience and joy. But what again might that look like?

Will We Rise in Song?

Among the many ways God may inspire his church in the coming days, we at least have one clue from Habakkuk what such patience and joy sounds like: singing. That’s the stunning and unusual way this short interaction between the prophet and God ends — with the prophet singing praise. That’s why he ends with directions for corporate worship: “To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.” These final lines are not only a prayer. They are a song for others to join.

There’s not anything else quite like this in all the prophets. Habakkuk begins with as much feistiness and (what seems like) defiance as we find anywhere else. And yet God graciously moves his soul from protest to praise. Which should be an encouragement to those honest enough to admit to finding this pandemic tripping up the feet of our faith so far.

As we’ve seen, Habakkuk didn’t come into the news gracefully. Yet God met him there, in his pride and defiance and fear. The little prophet foolishly took his stand, and God mercifully brought him to his knees. God humbled him, and the prophet received it, humbling himself. He received the disorienting, inconvenient, painful purposes of God in the coming judgment, and he abandoned his protest, bowed in prayer, and rose in praise.

Will we do the same in the lingering confusion and disorientation of the slow-moving uncertainty we’re living in? Will our protests, however justly conceived, lead to bent knees? And will our prayers lead us to sing?

Prayers are powerful

I am listening to the sad news and thank God for His blessing. Many people are killing themselves because of losing hope financially. We make it payday to payday but God blessed my husband with a job that is needed and is only because of God’s Blessings we are not desperate. I pray for all the sick to be healed and cry for the Families and our Country but, even now God is in control and nothing happens without a reason. I have no idea why so much pain in the world but praying is all I can give. I am a true believer in the power of prayers and hope that all of us will continue to pray.

God bless you and keep you and your loved ones safe.
Pat,

Child of God