Praying for Sunday February 9

Pray Big Feb. 9th from NRH Baptist Church on Vimeo.

The Bible gives us tremendous encouragement to pray. Prayer is a time when you are able to personally communicate with the God of heaven and earth. In the pages of the biblical story, we are told one story on top of another of God taking action because people prayed. Moses prayed for the nation of Israel and God spared them despite their desire to worship a golden calf (Exodus 32-33). The prayers of Moses also persuaded God to stop fire from heaven that resulted in death for many (Numbers 11:1-3). Later, when Israel was at war with the Philistines, the prophet Samuel successfully prayed so the Israelites would succeed against their enemies (1 Samuel 7:1-14). On yet another occasion, we learn of an unnamed man who prayed for the king of Israel’s hand to be restored, and his hand was healed (1 Kings 13:1-6). Jonah prayed while in the belly of a big fish and he lived to share God’s compassion to the people of Nineveh (Jonah 2:1-10). All of these stories are included in the pages of the Bible to encourage us to pray. Indeed, James 4:2 tells us, “… You do not have, because you do not ask.”

On Sunday, February 9, North Richland Hills Baptist Church will feature our third and final offering to complete the first year of Better Together. Because of the special importance of this day, I want to suggest five ways our church family can pray together. Take time to read and reread these avenues of prayer in the coming days.

1. Pray that Christ is honored in how our church handles its business. The church of Jesus Christ has its critics and some people want to see the church fail. Knowing this, our church seeks to handle our finances with tremendous integrity and transparency. The Bible commands that pastors be people who are not greedy for money, but are eager to serve God first and others second (1 Timothy 3:3; 1 Peter 5:2). Pray with me that every transaction connected to Cross Church is done with tremendous integrity.

2. Pray for additional people to form the launch team. We have just enough people to cover the areas of responsibility needed to launch Cross Church. Yet, we need more people to assist with set up and tear down of the equipment when services begin in April at Schluter Elementary School. Join me in praying for more people to serve (Matthew 9:38).

3. Pray that our church family would be generous. While many people think successful fundraising campaigns happen because of great leadership or the excitement of the people, the reality is simple: God ultimately causes His people to give (1 Chronicles 29:6-20). When David collected an offering for the purpose of building the Temple, approximately one thousand years before Christ, David recognized that all human giving is from the hand of God (1 Chronicles 29:16).

Pray that followers of Christ everywhere would use money as a tool for the greater purposes of the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Since how we handle our money is an index of our spiritual lives, pray we would give freely with the same generosity that has been given to us (Matthew 10:8). Pray with me that no one would be prevented from coming into God’s Kingdom because of our refusal to give to reach the world for Christ.

4. As you pray, remember we are involved in spiritual warfare. The Bible is clear that Satan has a territory and he is locked in conflict with God Himself. Evangelism is God’s strategy to reduce Satan’s territory by seeing people come into the light and out of the darkness (Ephesians 5:11). Our church has made efforts to start our fourth worship service (the Spanish speaking service that began in early 2013) and now a fifth worship service (Cross Church beginning in April, 2014). Both of these services reach into the darkness of Satan’s territory with the light of the gospel of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4). If Satan is smart (and he is), he will not take these efforts without resistance; he will come after believers in an effort to retaliate (Ephesians 6:12). Therefore, we must remain vigilant in the fight against Satan (Ephesians 6:18).

5. Pray for resolve. I first asked our church to pray for resolve back in June of 2013, and I repeat that prayer request here. Pray that God would make us steadfast through the entire process of Better Together (2 Thessalonians 1:11). Pray we would not lose heart after starting the second site on April 20, 2014. Pray for the 150 or more people who set up and tear down all the necessary pieces in the rented facility. Pray that God would bring encouragement to our hearts. Pray that we would not become weary in well-doing.

Thank you in advance for praying for this Sunday.

 

Does God Change His Mind?

In reading through the book of Jonah recently, I encountered a problematic passage: “Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish” (Jonah 3:9). For my friends who are still using the King James Version, the text reads, “Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?” (emphasis added). The circumstances surrounding the Scripture is fairly straightforward. God has commanded Jonah to preach to the people of Nineveh, a town several hundred miles northwest of Jonah’s homeland. Jonah’s message is only five words in the original language but eight words in our English translations: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4b)! Remarkably, the citizens of Nineveh leave aside their violent ways for the time being and turn from their sin. Jonah’s message transformed the people of this city in ways that few could have predicted.

Yet, many people wonder if God changed His mind? The answer is simply no. God has never changed His mind and He never will. God is perfect in every aspect. If He were to change, He would have to change for either the better or for the worse. Neither are possible for God for it is impossible for God to improve on perfection. God doesn’t change as He is consistently constant for all of time (1 Samuel 15:29; Isaiah 46:9-11).

Yet, many serious students of the Bible would disagree. They would point to the instance where God added fifteen years to the Old Testament king of Israel, Hezekiah. Here the prophet Isaiah tells Hezekiah a message from none other than God Himself: “Set your house in order, for you shall die…” (Isaiah 38:1). After the king prays, God instructs Isaiah to tell Hezekiah that the king has additional fifteen years to live. Others would also to point to God’s conversation with Moses in Exodus 32:9-14. Here God informs Moses that He is fed up with His people, Israel. God was planning on venting His wrath on His people and starting over with a new nation. Yet, Moses prays and successfully “persuades” God to alter His plan. In both of these instances, modern day people conclude that God has changed His mind.

God makes promises and keeps promises. He delayed in judging Nineveh because His threat to judge proved successful for a period of time (Nineveh was conquered in 612 BC). In fact, had God desired to reign fire and brimstone on the city, He would have done so without warning. Instead, God sent Jonah into the city because He is a merciful God who is slow to anger (Exodus 34:6-7; Jonah 4:2-4). Had the citizens of Nineveh not stopped their violent ways, God would have indeed sent judgment.

God works out every detail of life according to His intricate plan. At times, His plan includes the prayer of Hezekiah to achieve God’s larger purpose where Hezekiah’s life is extended another fifteen years. Or, God’s plan includes the “reminder” of Moses of the situation at hand. In both cases, prayer was a part of God’s plan that changed the events of history. The prayers of believers today are an essential part of God’s ordering of the universe.

God plans the details of history just as He plans the very prayers from His people that change history. No, God has never changed His mind and He never will.