Please Pray for RC Now – in serious condition

20171027_080411

Visiting with RC and his family last month

Hey TD’ers and TD Alum,

May I ask you to please stop for a moment and make a hearty petition to God, asking Him to help heal and restore health to my friend and a hero in my life, Dr. RC Sproul, who is sedated in the hospital in the Intensive Care Unit in serious condition.  His breathing is being supported by a ventilator and he has fluid in his lungs.

His daughter, Sherrie, told me this afternoon that he is a little more stable but is “not out of the woods.”  Please pray that God would lead him out of the woods.

In addition to being a world-class theologian that has helped countless number of Christians in the last four-plus decades to grow in awe and wonder and appreciation of the holiness of God, he is a really good guy.  He is gracious, kind, amazingly sharp and witty, very funny, and yet very humble.

Our entire high school Sunday School curriculum, from 9th – 12th grade comes from his teaching, and all of your Sunday School teachers and TD leaders have been profoundly impacted by his faithful teaching and unique ability to communicate difficult theology in a way that is profound yet understandable.

We were able to visit with RC and his family last month in Orlando (see picture above), and he was as sharp and gracious as ever.  Your prayers for RC, his wife, Vesta, and the rest of the family would be one way you can make a return contribution to him.

Thank you so much – Arthur

Advertisements

Suffering and Jesus (a must see)

Hi TD,

Suffering as a Christian is an integral part of being a Christian.  Period.  Nabeel Quereshi (former Muslim, author of the multi-award winning book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus) is no stranger to this, as he endured emotional and relational suffering after leaving Islam and surrendering to Christ, a cost he knew he would have to pay to come to the Truth. The above testimony/lecture and Q&A, Suffering and Jesus, is valuable teaching, perspective aligning, and very insightful.

The sub-title is “How Suffering Transformed My Life”  and was given earlier this year. imagesLittle did he know at the time  what other suffering God had in His plans for him.This week Nabeel announced a new suffering that God has placed in his life: advanced stomach cancer.  We just saw Nabeel, Michelle, and their new baby girl in June.  The thought of her possibly growing up without her dad is quite sobering:

Dear Friends and Family,

This is an announcement that I never expected to make, but God in His infinite and sovereign wisdom has chosen me for this refining, and I pray He will be glorified through my body and my spirit. My family and I have received the news that I have advanced stomach cancer, and the clinical prognosis is quite grim. Nonetheless, we are going to pursue healing aggressively, both medical and miraculous, relying on God and the fact that He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

In the past few days my spirits have soared and sank as I pursue the Lord’s will and consider what the future might look like, but never once have I doubted this: that Jesus is Lord, His blood has paid my ransom, and by His wounds I am healed. I have firm faith that my soul is saved by the grace and mercy of the Triune God, and not by any accomplishment or merit of my own. I am so thankful that I am a child of the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sealed in the Spirit. No, in the midst of the storm, I do not have to worry about my salvation, and for that I praise you, God.

Unfortunately this means I am no longer able to engage in traveling ministry for the time being. I am canceling almost all my speaking events, with a few exceptions. From this point on until such a time as the Lord might choose to heal me, I intend to blog or vlog about my journey with cancer, transparently offering my heart, thoughts, and struggles in case they might encourage others and glorify God. I will no longer be with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, though it has been an absolute privilege to be on the team for the past 3 years. My third book, No God But One: Allah or Jesus?, launched today, and I still intend to write my next book, 20 Questions Muslims Ask and the Answers that Convert Them. Beyond that, the Lord knows.

Friends and family, may I ask you to fast and pray fervently for my healing? I do not profess to know the will of the Lord, but many of my close friends and confidants are convinced that this is a trial through which the Lord intends to bring me alive and refined. May His will be done, and may I invite you to seek Him in earnest, on your knees, fasting on my behalf, asking our Yahweh Rapha for healing in Jesus’ name.

And as you pray and fast, “I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:18-20)

For His Glory,
-Nabeel

Would you please join us in praying for Nabeel and his family?  Thank you. – Arthur

“Christianese” and Monotonous Prayers

Hey TD!

In writing on “Christianese” worship and living last week in “Let’s Stop the ‘Christianese’!”, I came across a helpful, practical article by our friend, Greg Koukl, from Stand to Reason on “A Solution to Monotonous Prayers”; in other words, “Christianese” prayers; prayers with no weight, meaning, power, or access to God.

Keep working at making your Christian lives fresh, real, and dwell-able by God.  Hope this helps!

A Solution to Monotonous Prayers” by Greg Koukl

Prayer is hard. There’s no getting around it. I know there must be saints who find it easy, but I don’t know any.

Part of the problem is monotony.  How do we avoid, as one person put it, saying the same old things about the same old things?  Recently, though, I’ve discovered an approach that has helped me immensely, and I want to pass it on to you.

In the past when I spent time with God, I’d start with prayer, then read my Bible. Now, I reverse the order and combine the two into one. I start with God’s Word, then let the words in the passage guide my prayers.  There are three different ways to “pray Scripture” that I have used.  Each is easy to employ.

Here’s the first: Pray the prayers of the Bible as if they were your own.  For years, I prayed for my family using Paul’s wonderful prayer to the Colossians found in Col. 1:9b-12.  At first I had to turn to the passage each time, but soon I knew it by heart.  Here is how I paraphrased Paul’s words for my own girls:

Lord, I pray that they may be filled with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that they would walk in a manner worthy of You, Lord, to please You in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in their knowledge of You.  Strengthen them with all power according to Your glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience, joyously giving thanks to You, Lord.

Profound, satisfying, simple.

There are lots of prayers like this in the Bible and they’re perfect for those closest to you: children, spouse, friends, disciples.  Some are short, like 2 Thess. 3:16 (“May the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance”) or  Ps. 19:14 (“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer”). Others are longer, but exceedingly rich, like Eph. 3:16-19, Eph. 1:17-19a, and Phil. 1:9-11.

Guard against repeating these prayers mechanically, taking the life out of them.  Rather, pray the words slowly, with meaning, putting your own emotion into them.

Choose a passage and write the verse on a 3×5 card if you like, though soon you won’t need the reminder.  The words will be hidden in your heart, faithful friends ready to serve you at any moment.  Consider Col. 2:2-3, 1 Thess. 3:12-13 or 5:23, 2 Thess. 2:16-17, or Heb. 13:20-21 (also a wonderful benediction to conclude a church service).

Second, pray the content of a passage.  Pick a Psalm or a New Testament chapter and read through it slowly, talking to God about its meaning in context.  Don’t get creative; just stick with the flow of thought.  Reflect carefully on the theology as you converse with God and apply it through prayer. Pray the words, express wonder, give thanks, offer praise, confess shortcomings, ask questions.

Often you can make the whole passage your prayer.  I frequently pray Ps. 51, using David’s words as my own confession.  Sometimes at night I’ll lie in bed, slowly and silently praying the 23rd Psalm as I drift off to sleep, thinking about its wonderful truth.  The Lord is my Shepherd.  He restores my soul. Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.

Finally, read through Scripture praying about whatever thoughts come to mind that are triggered by the passage, even if they have nothing to do with the text’s intended meaning.  This is the method Donald Whitney develops in his wonderful little book, Praying the Bible.  “This isn’t reading something into the text,” he writes, but rather “using the language of the text to speak to God about what has come into your mind.”  When, for example, you read Ps. 23, you might think of others who need special shepherding from the Lord or need their souls restored.  Pray for them.

These three ways of praying Scripture are incredibly simple, and have the added bonus of taking passages you visit frequently and binding them to your heart forever.  I still pray most of the same things I used to pray for (my “list”), but I pray for them differently, often incorporating my standard requests into my scriptural prayers.

Simply put, let Scripture guide your conversation with God.  Pray 1) the prayers of Scripture, 2) the content of Scripture, or 3) your thoughts as you read Scripture.  Start right away and you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes.

greg

 

TD Friday – “Everywhere & Nowhere SG Study

Hey TD!

In this post you will have nearly everything you need to prepare for our small groups this Friday – the mp3 and small group study of “Everywhere and Nowhere,” as well as a meaningful Slice of Infinity by Margaret Manning Shull entitled, “An Answered Prayer.”  It’s like a TD small group kit!

“Everywhere and Nowhere” (message) – Sandra

“Everywhere and Nowhere” (small group study)

Please prepare as well as you can for our first small group study of 2016!  The better everyone prepares, the better our small groups will be!  Prep well, TD!

An Answered Prayer 

Just type the word “prayer” into an internet search engine as I did the other day and you’ll find almost a hundred million different articles, sites, books, and periodicals on the topic. Discussions about prayer are as ubiquitous as the praying football player in the end zone after a touchdown. Every major world religion has some form of prayer, and in some of the earliest words to the church Christians are exhorted to pray “without ceasing.”

And yet if we’re honest, prayer can be a frequent source of confusion and deep mystery. Confusion comes not only with questions concerning what to pray and how to pray, but also in questioning whether or not prayers make a difference or are being heard at all. Phillip Yancey’s book, which asks one such question in the title, attempts to address many of these questions about prayer. Why does God seem silent so much of the time to our prayers? Why does God seem to answer prayers affirmatively for some and not for others? And when all we seem to receive in response to our prayers is “no,” how are we to understand both prayer’s efficacy and the God who loves us?(1)

If these questions aren’t difficult enough, Jesus’s own bold statements about prayer make us all the more confused. The Gospel of Matthew seems to record some matter-of-fact statements about prayer. After all, Jesus proclaimed, “I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and the one who knocks, it shall be opened.” Likewise, Jesus promises that like our earthly fathers, God longs to give us what is good in response to the asking, seeking, and knocking of prayer.(2)

Yet Luke’s Gospel narrative makes explicit what Matthew’s Gospel keeps implicit about the gifts given in response to prayer. Jesus tells his disciples, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?(3) According to Jesus, the goal of all prayer is the Holy Spirit at work in our lives and in the world. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate “good gift” that God gives in response to our asking, seeking, and knocking.

So, then, Jesus describes prayer in terms of connection and affiliation, a linking of our lives by the Son with the Father who gives the gift of the Spirit. The more this connection grows and develops, the more one desires it. Hence, God promises to give us more of the Holy Spirit-in and through all the circumstances of life-as the deep answer and the good gift in response to prayer.

Further, Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as the comforter, and the one who comes alongside us.(4) This is the same Spirit the apostle Paul suggests “intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words,” and “intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”(5) Therefore, when difficulties come, when our prayers seemingly go unanswered, there is the unfailing assurance that we are not alone. The Father longs to come near to us as tangibly as the human Son of God has come into the world and as assuredly as the comforting presence of God’s Spirit who comes alongside us.

Craig Barnes, former pastor of the National Presbyterian Church, adds:

“Sometimes life gets overwhelming, and we realize we could use a little help. So we pray for our health to get better, for our marriage to work out, for success in our work that has taken a turn for the worse. There is nothing wrong in praying for these things, but they are not what our salvation is about. Don’t expect Jesus to save us by teaching us to depend on the things we are afraid of losing! He loves us too much to let our health, marriage, or work become the savior of our lives. He will abandon every crusade that searches for salvation from anything or anyone other than God. So he delays, he watches as we race down dead-end streets, he lets our mission du jour crash and burn. To receive Jesus as Savior means recognizing him as our only help. Not our only help for getting what we want. But our only true help.”(6)

God’s promise to be present with us through the power of the Holy Spirit suggests that God’s presence with us is the deepest answer to prayer. It is God’s “yes” even if God answers our specific requests with “no.” Ultimately, God desires to bring comfort, not from dependence on the things of this world, but in God’s presence with us and alongside us through the Spirit.

Through the power and presence of the Spirit, God longs to be the very answer to our prayers. Ask, and the Holy Spirit will be given to you. Seek, and you will find the Holy Spirit with you. Knock, and the door of God’s kingdom will be opened to you. For how much more will our heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit, to those who ask?

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

(1) Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006).

(2) Matthew 7:7-11.
(3) Luke 11:11-13.
(4) John 14:16, 26).
(5) Romans 8:26b-27.
(6) M. Craig Barnes, When God Interrupts (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 124-125.

Andy’s Speech at Ignition ’15

20151230_085416-001

20151229_145737

Hey TD!

Here’s Andy’s Youth Speakers Tournament winning speech, “If God Knows Everything, Is Prayer Really Important?” before 1,500 students at the California Southern Baptist Youth conference, Ignition, in Sacramento (our state capital!).  It’s an important question that Andy addresses well.

Here’s Travis Ryan leading the audience in worshiping God with “Good Good Father.”

Prayer Requests from Joni

Hey TD!

Thanks a bunch to those of you who told me you are praying for Joni.  That touched her.  I just heard from Joni and she is asking for specific prayers from us at TD.  I promised her that we would be faithful to do so.  Will you join us in doing so?  Here’s what she writes:

Wow, Arthur, I’m so GRATEFUL for all this prayer support from you and my friends at Total Devotion!  And prayer is needed:  I just came down with a terrible head cold this morning (am leaving the IDC as soon as my meeting with the Zondervan folks is finished).  My head is stuffy, my throat is sore, my nose is running (and I sound like a Mucinex commercial).  All this to say, I need big prayer, asking God that this not descend into my chest (you know how colds can develop quickly into pneumonia when you’re a quad)! 

Please, please tell Total Devotion how grateful to God I am for their prayers.  Here’s how they can intercede…

  • That my health and strength be bolstered and these cold germs be eradicated
  • That God will give me His words and His wisdom with all these many interviews lining up, both Christian and secular.  I want to keep pointing people to the God of the Bible!
  • That the Lord will cover Ken and me with His protection – after watching just 10 minutes of the Grammys on Sunday evening, it is abundantly clear that there are huge dark, spiritual strongholds that grip the minds and hearts of Hollywood people.  In other words, Ken and I feel like there is a bigger target on our back now.  So ask God to give protection, humility, focus on Jesus, and a prayerful spirit!  (The National Day of Prayer this year is going to focus on the entertainment industry; what a wonderful coincidence)!

Thanks for all your interest and support in this Oscar rollercoaster.  Many blessings, dear friend, and love to your family…

Joni

“The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16)  If you are a Christian, Christ’s righteousness is yours.  That makes you righteous!  And that makes your prayers effective.  So, would you please pray earnestly and become a tangible part of the work God is doing through this nomination?  Thank you! – Arthur

Accepting “No” as God’s Will

When you pray, are you really praying for God’s will, not yours, to be done?  Or are you really trying to get Him to affirm and do your will?  A good test of this is to consider your response when God’s answer to your prayers is, “No.”  Please consider this as you read RC Sproul’s thoughts on this.

What theologian has had the greatest impact on my life?  That’s easy.  RC Sproul.  Hands down.  But you could poll tens of thousands of others and they’d give you the same answer.  His impact has been THAT pervasive.  He has been God’s gift to many of us in our lifetime and has been used profoundly to help shape our souls to more appreciate and revere the holiness and righteousness of God.  For me, I also have the honor to be friends with one of my heroes, a privilege I thank God for.  He has helped me immensely in my ongoing journey from an anthropoentric rebel to an undeserving theocentric child of God.

 – Arthur

I am astonished that, in the light of the clear biblical record, anyone would have the audacity to suggest that it is wrong for the afflicted in body or soul to couch their prayers for deliverance in terms of “If it be thy will….” We are told that when affliction comes, God always wills healing, that He has nothing to do with suffering, and that all we must do is claim the answer we seek by faith. We are exhorted to claim God’s yes before He speaks it.

Away with such distortions of biblical faith! They are conceived in the mind of the Tempter, who would seduce us into exchanging faith for magic. No amount of pious verbiage can transform such falsehood into sound doctrine. We must accept the fact that God sometimes says no. Sometimes He calls us to suffer and die even if we want to claim the contrary.

Never did a man pray more earnestly than Christ prayed in Gethsemane. Who will charge Jesus with failure to pray in faith? He put His request before the Father with sweat like blood: “Take this cup away from me.” This prayer was straightforward and without ambiguity—Jesus was crying out for relief. He asked for the horribly bitter cup to be removed. Every ounce of His humanity shrank from the cup. He begged the Father to relieve Him of His duty.

But God said no. The way of suffering was the Father’s plan. It was the Father’s will. The cross was not Satan’s idea. The passion of Christ was not the result of human contingency. It was not the accidental contrivance of Caiaphas, Herod, or Pilate. The cup was prepared, delivered, and administered by almighty God.

“In all our prayers, we must let God be God.”

Jesus qualified His prayer: “If it is Your will….” Jesus did not “name it and claim it.” He knew His Father well enough to understand that it might not be His will to remove the cup. So the story does not end with the words, “And the Father repented of the evil He had planned, removed the cup, and Jesus lived happily ever after.” Such words border on blasphemy. The gospel is not a fairy tale. The Father would not negotiate the cup. Jesus was called to drink it to its last dregs. And He accepted it. “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

This “nevertheless” was the supreme prayer of faith. The prayer of faith is not a demand that we place on God. It is not a presumption of a granted request. The authentic prayer of faith is one that models Jesus’ prayer. It is always uttered in a spirit of subordination. In all our prayers, we must let God be God. No one tells the Father what to do, not even the Son. Prayers are always to be requests made in humility and submission to the Father’s will.

The prayer of faith is a prayer of trust. The very essence of faith is trust. We trust that God knows what is best. The spirit of trust includes a willingness to do what the Father wants us to do. Christ embodied that kind of trust in Gethsemane. Though the text is not explicit, it is clear that Jesus left the garden with the Father’s answer to His plea. There was no cursing or bitterness. His meat and His drink were to do the Father’s will. Once the Father said no, it was settled. Jesus prepared Himself for the cross.

Excerpt from R.C. Sproul’s, Surprised by Suffering.

imagesCAED3CH6