One of the great obstacles to a thriving prayer life is unanswered prayer. I’ve known many believers discouraged from and despairing over their prayer lives because of the belief that God isn’t listening, hearing, or able to answer. What has led them to such a conclusion? The perception of unanswered prayer.
Perception is the key word. When we consider the character and power of God, we should conclude that he answers all prayers. He is able to do anything he desires (Ephesians 3:20), and he desires to give us every good gift (Luke 11:11-13). He never ignores his children, either through indifference or inability. If it seems like he isn’t answering a prayer, even a prayer offered faithfully and persistently for years, the reality is that he is answering – but in a way that is unexpected.
God never ignores his children, either through indifference or inability.
What does answered prayer look like? I see at least four kinds of answers to prayer. (more…)
Every once in a while, one of my children will misbehave. (Shocker.) Often when this happens, I will catch them. Frankly, my kids aren’t very bright about their misbehavior, having not yet learned the art of concealing their rebellion. (“No, dad, I didn’t eat the cake that was on the counter,” said my chocolate-mouthed progeny.) (more…)
On Sunday morning at Capitol City, we unpacked the glorious doctrine of justification by faith alone. Many churches like ours will celebrate this truth explicitly at some point this year as we recognize the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses.
Justification by faith is the absolute heart of the gospel. No work of ours can ever make us right in God’s eyes. Only the perfect, finished work of Christ can. Nor can we add to Christ’s work. The gospel is not good news that says, “Now you must get to work.” It is good news that declares, “It is finished” (John 19:30). We can only accept Christ’s work for us – that’s where faith comes in. It is absolutely essential that we uphold and cherish the wonderful truth of justification by faith alone. (more…)
“Carson, you shouldn’t mess with the blinds when you are in bed,” I said to my four-year-old as I straightened the wildly askew blinds above his window.
Through his tears, he said, “I know, but I wanted to see outside.”
It was late, yet some of the neighborhood kids were playing in the yard outside his room. Always inquisitive, Carson wanted to see who was still awake at this late hour – and especially what game they were playing.
“I realize you wanted to see outside, Bud, but its late and you need to be asleep.”
The whole conversation started with his tearful admission to me that he had “broken” his window. Fortunately, tangled and twisted window blinds are easy enough to fix. My heart warmed to my little guy, clearly affected as he was by his misbehavior. Carson knows that he shouldn’t touch the blinds above his window, especially at night when he should be sleeping.
I pressed just a bit, wanting to clarify the rules. “I know you wanted to see outside, but remember that the blinds are fragile. When you are in bed, you need to sleep. And don’t touch the blinds, okay?” (more…)
“You’re on the wrong side of history.” This rhetorical jab, often thrown at those attempting to maintain a biblical view of marriage and human sexuality even as the surrounding culture moves further from that view, is a handy way to say, “Hurry up. You’re going to lose the debate eventually, so why not give up now?” When the tide of culture is turning, and when the new moral “normal” seems inevitable, this can feel like a foreceful argument, indeed.
But there is one problem: What makes us think that today is the day we should judge the right side or the wrong side of history? Yes, what we view as true and right and good today is different than it was even 100 years ago. But what if our view changes once again? And it will change once again. (more…)
When we pray, as Jesus taught us to, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt 6:11), we are trusting that the Lord will provide for our daily needs. Most clearly, Jesus has our physical and material needs in view. He wants his disciples to walk in daily dependence on the Lord for the material things we truly need in this life. God is the sovereign ruler of the world, and therefore, in his perfect love and wisdom, he provides his children with all that we need.
This abundant provision is not limited to material needs, however. (more…)
The joy in Luke 15 is striking.
A man loses his sheep, only one of one hundred. But he goes searching for it. “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing” (15:5). Then he calls to all his friends: “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost” (15:6). Then they celebrate, and Jesus says, “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (15:7). A sheep is lost and then found. The shepherd parties. Sinners are lost and then, through the gospel, found. All the angels party. (more…)