Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Highest Aims

 

Article by Francis Foulkes

http://www.ffoulkes.org/timothy/study23.php

 

‘But as for you, man of God, shun all this; aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the presence of God who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep the commandments unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; and this will be made manifest at the proper time by the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see. To him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen’

1 Timothy 6:11-16

 

 

Much of what the apostle has said in 1 Timothy 6: 3-10 has been about the love of money, the desire for personal gain, personal power, personal importance. Now the apostle says to Timothy, ‘shun all this’. Whatever others may do, he, as a ‘man of God’, must ‘keep clear of such things’ (Phillips). But the apostle is not satisfied to speak only in a negative way about the ‘man of God’. He also speaks of the high aims that he should have.

 

Christian character

Timothy is to aim at six qualities of Christian character.

Righteousness – that is, striving to be upright in all his daily activities. ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness’ Jesus said (Matthew 5:6)

Godliness – this word, often used in this letter, comes again. He is called to live a godly, God-centred life.

Faith – this can mean both relying on God and reliability.

Love – that quality which stands first of all for the Christian ( 1 Corinthians 13 and Galatians 5:22), and which is beyond everything else the mark of the Christian (John 13:35). ‘Make love your aim’ says the apostle in 1 Corinthians 14:1.

Steadfastness – the word has the sense of patient endurance to the end whatever the difficulties, This quality is mentioned many times in the New Testament.

Gentleness – the Christian must stand for what is true and right with all courage and boldness, but at the same time with humility, with thoughtfulness for others, and with great kindness in dealing with them. ‘With the help of God’, says the apostle, ‘aim for these things, and then you will be seen by the world as a man of God.’

 

Christian warfare

The Christian life, however, is not just the quiet development of Christian character. A person can only live as a ‘man of God’, by fighting ‘the good fight of the faith’ against the evil that is around him and within. The Christian life is no easy life; from beginning to end it is a struggle. Paul uses again here that word from which we have the English word ‘agony’ (see 4:10). In his time it was used to describe the different contests in the Greek games in which the athlete or boxer would struggle with every ounce of his strength. The Christian life is warfare, but it is the one ‘good fight’ that there is (see note on 1:18). In our Christian calling we, by faith ‘take hold of… eternal life’, and we struggle to keep hold, and to live for the things of eternity, whatever forces may try to tear us away from Christ.

 

Christian witness

In verse 12 Paul takes Timothy back in thought to a great day of his life. When he was baptized, ‘in the presence of many witnesses’ he confessed that he believed in Jesus Christ, that he belonged to Him, he would serve Him, and ‘fight manfully’ in ‘the good fight of the faith’. ‘Go on,’ the apostle says, ‘go on to the end, witnessing faithfully to your Lord.’ In verse 13 Paul takes Timothy’s thoughts further back to a still greater day, when Jesus Christ his Lord ‘before Pontius Pilate made the good confession’. Though the cost was death, the shameful death of the cross, He would not deny the truth before the Roman Governor (see John 18:33-37). Paul is saying, in effect, to Timothy, ‘Remember Him, “the faithful Witness” (Revelation 1:5), and keep your own witness true.’

 

Christian obedience

There is a particular work that Christ had commanded and commissioned Timothy to do – and we also have work that He has given to us. For Timothy, and for us, there should be one aim, and one standard – to ‘keep the commandment’, to do His will, and to do it perfectly. ‘Unstained and free from reproach’, the apostle says (compare 3:2 and 5:7) – and that means not allowing the standards to slip in anything.

Finally Paul says, ‘Remember that all that you do is in the sight of God. Remember that you will give account of your witness at “the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Remember the greatness of the God whom you serve, the “only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see”.

A mighty and glorious God is the God whom we are called to know and to serve – what an amazing privilege this is! And He promises to be with us to strengthen us in Christian character, in the Christian warfare, and in our Christian witness, that from our lives there may be honour and glory to Him.

 

Lord God Almighty, Thou didst come to Saul of Tarsus as a blinding light, and the glorious light of Thy presence never left him. Come to us in the light of Thy glory; humble us; direct us; burn up in us all that is evil and useless; and may we walk in increasing light until the day of the appearing of Thy Son Jesus Christ, whom by His grace we will see Thee face to face, AMEN.

 

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Cornerstone

 

 

Christ alone; Cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Saviour’s love
Through the storm, He is Lord
LORD OF ALL 

 

 


Prayer for the Realisation of the Presence of God

 

Article by Francis Foulkes

http://www.ffoulkes.org/prayer/ch8k.php

 

“One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.”

Psalm 27:4

 

The request for the realisation of the presence of God can be said to sum up all other prayers, and many prayers in the Bible explicitly ask for a deep sense of the presence of God, or for a greater realisation of his power and his glory. Moses prayed to know the unfailing presence of God with the people as he pleaded, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” (Ex.33:15 and cf. 34:9). Moses’ personal plea was that he might see the Lord’s glory (Ex.33:18). The Aaronic blessing in Numbers 6:24-26 was truly a prayer for the realisation of God’s presence, by the experience of the light of “his countenance” on his people. The prayer of this blessing is echoed frequently in the Psalms as there is the request that the light of the face of God would shine on his people (e.g. Ps.4:6, 31:6, 67:1, 80:3,7,19, 119:135). In Solomon’s prayer when the temple was dedicated, there was in particular the request, “The Lord our God be with us as he was with our ancestors; may he not leave us or abandon us” (1 Kgs.8:57). We have the prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:10, “O that you would bless me! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from hurt and harm.” The longing of the psalmist (in Ps.16:11) was to know “fullness of joy” in God’s presence, at his right hand “pleasures for evermore” (cf. Ps.23:6).

 

In Old Testament prophecy and then in a fuller sense in the New Testament the prayer for the realisation of the presence of God is prayer for the Holy Spirit. In the vision of the valley of dry bones Ezekiel’s being called to “prophesy to the breath” can be understood as prayer for the Spirit of God to come and bring new life to Israel (Ezek. 37:9-10). When we come to the New Testament we have the great words of Jesus in Luke 11:13, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Prior to Pentecost the disciples had to wait prayerfully and expectantly for the Spirit (Acts 1). Now the Spirit is given, we ask for the realisation of his presence in all the ways that we have been considering in this chapter.

 

Prayer is thus rightly made not just for the fruit of the Spirit or for any of the qualities or gifts that the Spirit bestows, but for the realisation of the very presence of the Spirit. The promise of Luke 11:13 referred to is in effect claimed when prayer is made for the presence and power of the Spirit. We have such prayer for the Spirit in Acts 8:15-17, and in other cases teaching and prayer with the expectation of the coming of the Spirit (so Acts 9:17, 19:5-7). The request in 2 Corinthians 13:14, for “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” is best understood as prayer for the supporting presence of the Spirit. The desire for the “filling with all the fullness of God” in Ephesians 3:19 must similarly be considered as a prayer for the Holy Spirit, and similar to it is the prayer in Romans 15:13 that Christians “may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”.

 

Often the teaching of the Church down the centuries has referred to the paramount work of the Spirit in the lives of Christians as a sanctifying work. He sanctifies by bringing the fruit of the Spirit into the lives of Christians. In terms of consequences it is making their lives holy and righteous, and there are in the New Testament several prayers for just that. Paul’ prayer for his readers in Philippians 1:10-11 is “that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God”. So also Colossians 1:10 “that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God”. Then again we have in 1 Thessalonians 3:13, “may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” Similarly 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, “May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely, and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.” The benediction of Hebrews 13:20-21 is a similar prayer, “may the God of peace — make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever.” In Colossians 4:12 Paul speaks of Epaphras as a man who “is always wrestling in his prayers on your behalf, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in everything that God wills.”

 

The presence of God is always more than all the gifts of God. It is one of the simplest and most basic of prayers as in Romans 15:33, “The God of peace be with all of you.” Or, “The Lord be with your spirit” (2 Tim.4:22). (Cf. ‘The Grace’ in 2 Cor.13:14.) In such a way the Christian can always pray for the realisation of the presence of God. It is a prayer for the presence of the Spirit in the whole community of those who believe. It is also a very personal prayer that can be made every day and hour of life and under all circumstances.

 

 


A Covenant With God

 

The Methodist Covenant Prayer

 

I am no longer my own but yours.

Put me to what you will,

rank me with whom you will;

put me to doing,

put me to suffering;

let me be employed for you,

or laid aside for you,

exalted for you,

or brought low for you;

let me be full,

let me be empty,

let me have all things,

let me have nothing:

I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things

to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

you are mine and I am yours.

 

 


Prayer for the Qualities of Christian Living

 

Article by Francis Foulkes

http://www.ffoulkes.org/prayer/ch8g.php

 

“… wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured”

Colossians 4:12

 

I asked for strength that I might do greater things,

I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health that I might do greater things,

I was given infirmity that I might do better things.

I asked for riches that I might be happy,

I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men,

I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life,

I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for – but everything I had hoped for.

Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am among all men, most richly blessed.

WORDS OF AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER CAST IN BRONZE IN THE LOBBY OF THE INSTITUTE OF PHYSICAL MEDICINE AND REHABILITATION IN NEW YORK CITY.

 

 

Scripture, especially the New Testament, abounds in prayers which in effect are for the qualities of life that those who serve God are intended to display. To pray for such qualities is to move from the orbit of ‘Give me’ to that of ‘Make me’ (Fosdick). Here we can best be guided by the teaching about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 as the qualities named in that passage comprehend many of the most significant qualities of Christian living.

Thus the prayer for love is a truly Christian prayer, and one that we find often in the New Testament. This was in the Lord’s prayer for his disciples in John 17:26. It is Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 6:23, and in 1 Thessalonians 3:12 he prays, “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else”. In 2 Thessalonians 3:5, Paul’s prayer is, “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” So also Philippians 1:9, “And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight” “Rooted and grounded in love” and the knowledge of “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” is the expression of the prayer of Ephesians 3:17 and 19.

The prayer for the unity of Christians (as supremely in the Lord’s Prayer for his disciples in John 17) and the prayer for peace are linked closely with the thought of praying for love. Paul’s prayer in Romans 15:5-6 is in the spirit of the Lord’s prayer in John 17, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Briefer but in the same spirit is the prayer of Colossians 2:2, “I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love.”

We need, however, to be clear that prayer for love is not a request simply for warm feeling or emotion. Love for God “poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given to us” (Rom.5:5) is involved, and that love must be expressed in obedience and service. Love for others similarly must find expression in sensitivity towards them, and in sacrificial helpfulness in words and actions.

Joy follows love in the list of the fruit of the Spirit, and often in the New Testament there are prayers for joy, joy whatever the circumstances, even if they involve suffering. It is the kind of joy that is what it is, because it is linked with ultimate hope. The apostle’s prayer in Romans 15:13 is, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Cf.Col.1:11 and Jude 24.) Jesus himself prayed that his disciples might have such joy, the “full measure of (his) joy” (Jn.17:13).

Peace comes next in the fruit of the Spirit, and as we have noted already, the greeting of “peace” that begins most New Testament letters can be understood as a prayer, a prayer for peace with God, for peace in the heart, for peace in relationships. So Paul expresses his confidence in the fact that when people pray rather than being anxious, they will find that “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard (their) hearts and (their) minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil.4:7). In 2 Thessalonians 3:16 we have the prayer, “may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way.” (Cf. also Rom.15:33 and 1 Pet.5:14).

After peace comes patience, and the patience that Christians need is both patient endurance in dealing with difficult situations and patient forbearance in dealing with difficult people. Patience in the face of trying circumstances is made possible as it is realised that the future is in God’s hands and so the present is not just governed by random circumstances. So the Bible speaks repeatedly of waiting patiently on the Lord and for the Lord. Patience and hope thus belong together, as they do in effect in the prayer quoted above from Romans 15:13.

In the fruit of the Spirit kindness and generosity follow, qualities for which the Christian can surely pray. Then comes the word that can be translated faith or faithfulness, and for both we can pray. Like the disciples we can ask, “Lord, increase our faith” (Lk.17:5). Jesus says that he prayed for Peter that his faith might not fail (Lk.22:32). In Ephesians 6:23 Paul asks for his readers, “peace — and love with faith”. Faithfulness and patience are in effect linked together as in the prayer for power to endure, as Colossians 1:11 has it, “May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience –.”. Jesus taught his disciples to pray constantly to escape the terrible temptations that must come on the world, and so in the end “to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).

The consideration of the fruit of the Spirit is not, however, the only way to think of prayer for qualities of godly living. Prayer for correction in wrongdoing is another significant kind of prayer, and one always relevant to our human lives. An example of this is the godly and humble prayer of the prophet Jeremiah, “Correct me, O Lord, but in just measure; not in your anger, or you will bring me to nothing” (Jer.10:24). A similar prayer is involved in several petitions of Psalm 119, “Deal bountifully with your servant, so that I may live and observe your word,” “Put false ways far from me, and graciously teach me your law”, “Turn my heart to your decrees and not to selfish gain” (Ps.119:17, 29, 36). Psalm 139:23-24 expresses this as the yearning of the psalmist’s soul, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

 

 


One Life To Lose

 

 

I’m torn again between my pride, my old friend

And who you’ve called me to be

I’ve sworn again to lay it down, to bring an end

To this life lived for me

 

For I’ve one life to lose, one chance to find

A newer, better me, the old one left behind

For there’s one Lord who leads though steep the cost

I have learned when I am lost, it’s there that I am found

 

I am found as your daughter, as your child

As one purchased by Your blood

And though there’s nothing I can add to such a perfect sacrifice

How can I offer you less than all my life?

 

For I’ve one life to lose, one chance to find

A newer, better me, the old one left behind

For there’s one Lord who leads how steep the cost

I have learned when I am lost, it’s there that I am found

 

For I’ve one life to lose, one chance to find

A newer, better me, the old one left behind

For there’s one Lord who leads how steep the cost

I have learned when I am lost, it’s there that I am found

 

 

 


Faithful God

 

 

May the grace that sought my heart on that first day

Be the grace that binds my heart to stay

May the truth that opened up my eyes on that first time

Be the thoughts on my mind that never go away

For You are a lamp to my feet

A light to my path

You’re the hand that’s holding me

 

Faithful God

Every promise kept

Every need You’ve met

Faithful God

All I am and all I’ll ever be

Is all because You love faithfully

Faithful God

 

May the love that caught my heart to set it free

Be the love that others see in me

And may this hope that’s reaches to the depths of human need

Be the song that I sing in joy and suffering

For you are the love that never leaves

The friend that won’t deceive

You’re the one sure thing

 

Faithful God

Every promise kept

Every need You’ve met

Faithful God

All I am and all I’ll ever be

Is all because You love faithfully

Faithful God

 

How deep, how wide the love

That pierced His side, the love

Redemption’s mine, O Love that will not let me go

How deep the love (How deep, how wide the love)

How deep the love (That pierced His side, the love)

Redemption’s mine, O Love that will not let me go

How deep, how wide the love

That pierced His side, the love

Redemption’s mine, O Love that will not let me go

 

Faithful God

Every promise kept

Every need You’ve met

Faithful God

All I am and all I’ll ever be

Is all because You love faithfully

FAITHFUL GOD.