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One of the earliest and the most outstanding intellectuals, leaders and defenders of the Christian faith was Augustine, the fourth century writer of the “Confessions of Saint Augustine,” one of the most famous tell-all autobiographies written. Young Augustine was a hedonist, a philosopher, an agnostic, and a rebel, but his mother Monica was a godly, persistent, and resourceful woman. Augustine often laughed at her mother’s pious ways, mocked her faith, and deliberately defied her continual pleading for him to repent of his pagan lifestyle, to convert to Christ, and to live an exemplary life. When Augustine wanted to leave the shores of Carthage, North Africa, for the bright lights of Rome, his mother feared the worst for her son, dreaded the outcome of his leaving, and often fled to the church for solace, prayer, and advice. In her despair, she would often weep uncontrollably for her son. One day a minister noticed her painful cries, and asked her why she was so bitter. She told him of his wayward son, but the bishop assured her with these words: “Go in peace; as you live, it cannot be that the son of these tears should perish.” Augustine avoided his mother as much as possible and ignored her warnings time and again, but he could not escape her continuous prayers. Monica painstakingly prayed, wept, and looked for her son for 30 years until Augustine surrendered his life to Christ. Life has its heartaches, and none is as heartbreaking as a rare, a stubborn, or an unspeakable illness that is dreaded for its physical onslaught, financial cost, and mental, emotional and physical toil. The Chinese saying, “Long-sick folks have no filial or obedient child by their bed.”
More than anyone else Christian parents can have the most influence on their children, because when Christ died upon the Cross the veil was ripped open so they could enter into the presence of God who sits on the Throne of Grace. The call to pray is from God’s Word and we are given a sure promise, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16b) One mother who knew this truth was Monica Augustine, the mother of St. Augustine who after a long struggle was converted to Christianity. St. Augustine was born in North Africa (Tagaste, Numidia) to a Christian mother and his father was a pagan until very late in life. Augustine’s childhood was marred by stealing pears and his ability to learn led him to one humanistic philosophy after another. He even had an obsession with the occult for a season in his life. During his period of exploration he lived a life of excessive fleshly desires causing him to become the father of a child by a mistress. After his conversion to Christ Augustine became the author of many great works writing about the “…City of God,” “On the Trinity,” “On Faith,” “Hope,” “Love” and “Christian Doctrine.” Augustine’s most widely read book is “The Confessions” which are several books that record how he felt about the Lord and his prayers to God. Studying Augustine’s life during that period of living in selfish sin shows that the Christian living he saw in his mother and the Christian teaching he received was not a waste of time. Thirteen years before his conversion he was moved in his prayers to return to God (Confessions #3:4) but he could not make himself do so. One year before his conversion Augustine was influenced by a man (Ambrose) who he knew was presenting “healthy teaching on salvation,” yet he could not return to the teaching and lifestyle he saw in his mother because of self-living. Listen to these confessions of Augustine while he struggled with sin and surrendering to Christ. “I was storm tossed and you [God] held the tiller.” “I was swept away by your beauty [Lord] and then I was torn away from you by my own weight [of sin] and fell back groaning toward these [lesser] thing [in life].” While being exposed for nearly a year to “healthy teachings of salvation” he wrote, “But salvation is far from sinners of the kind that I was then.” When Augustine was being moved to prayer to return to God he writes, “[I was] on fire to leave earthly things behind and fly back” [to God]. But there was an obstacle that kept Augustine from reaching God, he writes, “The Name of Christ was not there…” Augustine writes about how the Name of Jesus Christ was his mother’s milk and His Name touched his heart tenderly, but the fruit of his life was surrendered to self-will and not God’s will. Finally in early August 386 Augustine abandoned his teaching career and his proposed marriage and went off with some friends to live a life of contemplation. One day he heard how some men had moved to give their whole heart and life to serve the Lord. Augustine was suddenly confronted with his sin of self-living. He rushed out into the garden and flung himself under the fig tree and wept bitterly, crying out to God, “How long, how long, why should not this hour be an end to my baseness?” From a neighboring yard he heard the voice of a child say, “Take and read” Augustine went over to a bench where laid a copy of the Apostle Paul’s Epistle and he read Romans 13:13-14, “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Romans 13:13-14) At that moment Augustine put on Christ, took on the Name that was missing, the only key person missing in his life that would enable him to live for God. Long before we even came into this world the grace of God confronted Augustine as dramatically as God’s grace did the Apostle Paul. At age 31 Augustine’s struggle came to an end and through him came teachings and service that laid the foundation of Western theology. Augustine has often been call “Bishop of Hippo” and “Doctor of the Church.” The opening prayer of Augustine’s “Confessions” sums up his whole experience in life. He writes, “Our hearts are restless until they can find peace with you [Lord Jesus].” Augustine and one of his friends put on Christ and they went and told Monica his mother. Fredrick S. Leahy wrote about this time in Christian history, “Over the years she had prayed for her wayward son with tears. Now her prayers were answered yes to and her heart’s wishes granted.”
“Just Ask Him!” Judges 16: 28-30 Key verse(s): 28: “Then Samson prayed to the Lord, ‘O Sovereign Lord, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.’”
Has there ever been a time in your life when things have gotten so bad, that your sins have become so burdensome, that God simply wasn’t anxious to hear your prayers? Doubtless there isn’t a Christian among us who would answer that question in the affirmative. Sure, God always listens to our prayers no matter how poorly we have lived our lives. The Bible tells us that this is so. Yet, how many of us really believe it all the time no matter what the circumstance?
Many years ago I remember studying about the great king of the Ostrogoths, Theodoric. He reigned for decades over the fading splendor of the Roman empire and was known for his great bravery and cunning. During his reign the empire, or what was left of it, experienced a very rare period of peace. Yet in his last years, Theodoric disrupted that peace with a brutal act that would affect the remainder of his reign and his life. He put to death two men, Symmachus and Boethius. Both these men were honorable men but posed what Theodoric believed was a threat to his reign. Both were brutally killed. This was an act that haunted the emperor for years to come. He experienced difficulty making decisions and often awoke in the middle of the night in a sweat and great fear.
Remorse had closed itself upon Theodoric. His conscience pestered and plagued him mercilessly to the point of distraction. Finally, one evening at a feast Theodoric beheld the head of a fish that had been served on a platter and it instantly become the visage of the brutally murdered Symmachus. Theodoric removed himself to his bed chamber and became very ill. Trembling with fright and regret, he finally fell to his knees and repented to his physician of his great guilt. Three days later he died calmly and in a peace with His Lord.
Theodoric found that even though the burden of his guilt was great, the prospect of forgiveness and peace was many times more alluring than escape. He bent the knee and unburdened his heart to the Lord. Although he had allowed that guilt to effectively block his prayer pathway for years, it finally became too much of a burden. Prayer overcame fear. So too with Samson. Despite his terrible sins, God still loved Samson. He was willing to hear and answer his prayer of confession and repentance and use him one final time to do his will. His way leads to peace even when it seems that His way is blocked by the burden of sin and sorrow. That’s the horrible thing about sin. It often keeps us from going to God when we need most to be there. Don’t let feelings of guilt separate you from the grace and mercy that God has waiting for you to claim. He still has great things for you to do--just ask Him!
DEFINITION OF MISSION
I think mission was put very nicely by the ’Sunday Times’ journalist Matthew Parris – a man, who is by his own confession, not a Christian.
’The New Testament offers a picture of God, who does not sound at all vague.
He has sent His Son to earth. He has distinct plans for each of us personally and can communicate directly with us.
We are capable of forming a direct relationship, individually with Him, and are commanded to try.
We are told that this can be done only through his son. And we are offered the prospect of eternal life – an afterlife in happy, blissful or glorious circumstances if we live this life in a certain manner.
Friends, if I believed that, or even a tenth of that, how could I care which version of the prayer book is used?
I would drop my job, sell my house, throw away all my possessions, leave my acquaintances and set out into the world burning with desire to know more and, w...
A NATIONAL PRAYER OF REPENTANCE
Joe Wright is the pastor of Central Christian Church in Wichita, KS. On January 23, 1996, He was asked to be the guest chaplain for the Kansas State House in Topeka. He prayed a prayer of repentance that was written by Bob Russell, pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. According to an article in the Kansas City Star from January 24, 1996, his prayer stirred controversy, and one member of the legislative body walked out. Others criticized the prayer.
The controversy didn't end there. Later that year in the Colorado House, Republican representative Mark Paschall angered lawmakers by using Joe Wright's prayer as the invocation. Some members there also walked out in protest.
Paul Harvey got a hold of the prayer and read it on his program. He got more requests for copies of it than any other thing he had ever done. Here’s what he prayed:
"Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, "Woe to those who call evil good," but that’s exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values. We confess that:
We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism.
We have worshipped other gods and called it multi-culturalism.
We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it a choice.
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.
We have abused power and called it political savvy.
We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.
We have polluted the airwaves with profanity and called it freedom of expression.
We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.
Search us, O God, and know our hearts today; try us and see if there be some wicked way in us; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of Kansas, and who have been ordained by You, to govern this great state. Grant them Your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of Your
For thirteen extraordinary days in October of 1962, the world stood on the brink of an unthinkable catastrophe. Across the globe, people anxiously awaited the outcome of a harrowing political, diplomatic and military confrontation that threatened to end in an apocalyptic nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union.
There is an interesting late night scene in “Thirteen Days,” the movie that chronicles the events. Kenny O’Donnell, an advisor and friend of President Kennedy, is walking down the street and passes a Catholic church, when he sees a long line of people in front of the church. He looks to see why people are lined up when he sees a sign that says, "Confessions 24 hours. Pray for peace."
Kenny stops. Pauses. And then gets in line.
God’s ear is always open when we come to him in prayer. We don’t have to wait in line, and we don’t have to wait for catastrophe. Under any circumstance prayer is always the best thing to do. (Fresh Illustrations, http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html )
A Graduates Call
(Lord, teach us to pray)
Once Christian Graduates are continually feeding on the Word of God, the Holy Spirit will move them to be like the disciple who came to Jesus and said, "...Lord teach us to pray..." (Luke 11:1)
A popular term used today is "What would Jesus do." He would pray about everything. Jesus prayed at His baptism, (Luke 3:21) He prayed before the choosing of the twelve, (Luke 6:12) when the crowds began to increase, (Luke 5:16) before He asked the twelve for their confession of faith, (Luke 9:18) and at His Transfiguration. (Luke 9:29) The disciples knew that He often prayed alone (Mark 1:25) and it is only natural that those who know Him would ask Him to teach them to pray. If Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God depended on prayer during His days on this earth (Hebrews 5:7) then why should it seem out of place for us to be obedient to God's Word that tells us to, "...pray continually..." (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Prayer finds its heart in the personality of God, His ability and willingness to communicate with us through the power of the Holy Spirit. It involves a sure knowing that He has personal control in everything in our lives, in all things and over all creatures. Christians who believe these truths have no problem connecting with God in prayer. Abraham's servant connected in prayer and the Lord directed him to the person who should be the wife to his master's son. (Genesis 24:10-20)
Christian graduates are to be like Ezra and Nehemiah. Nehemiah prayed and asked the Lord to grant him favor with the Emperor of Persia. (Nehemiah 1:4-11) Ezra knew that it was God who put it in the king's heart to honor the house of the Lord. (Ezra 7:27-28)
Christian graduates who will enjoy Biblical success are those who will approach Jesus in every part of their lives and say, "Jesus, teach us to pray!
I recall the story of the sea captain who was a Christian and given to much prayer. A great storm was blowing and someone came the wheelhouse where the Captain was. It was a great storm. A man shouted to the Captain, "Why are you not praying?" The Captain said, "I pray during the calm and when the storm...
In a poem attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero, entitled "Prophets of a Future Not Our Own," he states:
"It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the church's mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not Messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own." End quote. 
(From Ronald Harbaugh’s Sermon "The Kingdom Is God’s Gift to the Church, Not Individuals")
MAKE IT RIGHT
The great evangelist D.L. Moody told a story of a lady in the north of England who said that every time she got down before God to pray, five bottles of wine came up before her mind. She had taken them wrongfully one time when she was a housekeeper, and had not been able to pray since. She was advised to make restitution.
"But the person is dead," she said.
"Are not some of the heirs living?"
"Yes, a son."
"Then go to that son and pay him back."
"Well," she said, "I want to see the face of God, but I could not think of doing a thing like that. My reputation is at stake."
She went away, and came back the next day to ask if it would not do just as well to put that money in the treasury of the Lord.
"No," she was told, "God doesn't want any stolen money. The only thing is to make restitution."
She carried that burden for several days, but finally went into the country, saw that son, made a full confession and offered him a five-pound note. He said he didn't want the money, but she finally persuaded him to take it, and came back with a joy and peace that made her face radiant. She became a magnificent worker for souls, and led many into the light.
"My dear friends", Moody concluded, "get these stumbling stones out of the way. God does not want a man to shout "Hallelujah" who doesn't pay his debts or confess his sins. Many of our prayer meetings are killed by men trying to pray who cannot pray because their lives are not right. Sin builds up a great wall between us and God. A man may stand high in the community and may be a member of some church "in good standing," but the question is, how does he stand in the sight of God?
If there is anything wrong in you life, make it right."