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“You know the value of prayer: it is precious beyond all price. Never, never neglect it!”
In her book A Place of Quiet Rest, Nancy Leigh DeMoss includes several chapters on prayer. In a chapter titled “The Privilege of Prayer” she discusses a period of prayerlessness in her life and her growing conviction that she had to get to the root of it. “As God opened my eyes to this matter of prayerlessness, I asked Him to let me see it from His point of view. Here is what I wrote in my journal one day when God first began to deal with my heart.” She does not attempt to provide a doctrine of prayer or prayerlessness as much as a reflection on what prayerlessness means in her own life. I found it very helpful.
Here is what she says:
I am convicted that prayerlessness …
- is a sin against God (1 Samuel 12:23).
- is direct disobedience to the command of Christ (“watch and pray,” Matthew 26:41).
- is direct disobedience to the Word of God (“pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
- makes me vulnerable to temptation (“watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation,” Matthew 26:41).
- expresses independence—no need for God.
- gives place to the Enemy and makes me vulnerable to his schemes (Ephesians 6:10-20; Daniel 10).
- results in powerlessness.
- limts (and defines) my relationship with God.
Author: Susan Verstraete
James and Amelia Taylor loved their children and, like all doting parents, they enjoyed giving them little treats on occasion. But once in a while, when Amelia brought a dessert to the table for her family, James would say, “Who will see if they can do without today?” He explained it to the children this way:
By and by, you will have to say “No” to yourself when we are not there to help you, and very difficult you will find it when you want a thing tremendously. So let us try to practice now, for the sooner you begin, the stronger will be the habit.
The children were not punished if they chose not to give up the sweet, but if they were able to go the entire day without it they were rewarded with some other treat and most importantly, with the loving approval of their parents. Hudson Taylor took this lesson to heart and learned early how to say “no” to himself. He went on to live a life characterized by self-denial for the sake of the gospel, and yet, when he looked back over his long life he said, “I never made a sacrifice.” How could he honestly say such a thing?
From his conversion in his teens, Hudson Taylor had a deep passion for God and desire to serve him as a missionary in China. All through his young adulthood his focus on this goal never failed. Most of China’s inland cities had never seen a foreign missionary and a million Chinese each month were dying without having heard the gospel. Taylor could not understand how any believer could be unmoved in the face of such staggering need. He left his home in Barnsley in 1850 to study medicine in London, planning to go to China at the first opportunity as a medical missionary.
Taylor was touched by the plight of the poor in the slums of London. He chose to live among them in order to devote as much of his small income as possible to medicines and tracts to alleviate both the physical and spiritual suffering of the community. The damp, smelly neighborhood (aptly named Drainside) in which he rented a room was a full four miles from the hospital, which meant Taylor had at least an hour’s brisk walk each way in every kind of weather. He willingly made that sacrifice to serve the poor.
During his studies at the hospital, Taylor was required to dissect a cadaver. While working on a particularly dangerous specimen, a small open wound on Taylor’s finger allowed contaminants from the cadaver to enter his own blood stream. He became ill almost immediately. As soon as the teacher on duty learned what had happened and diagnosed “malignant fever,” he urged Taylor to hurry home to get his affairs in order. “You are a dead man,” he said grimly, expecting Taylor to die within hours. And though Taylor did get very sick, he recovered fully. The physician who cared for him credited Taylor’s careful lifestyle and his long walks to and from the hospital as giving him the stamina to survive. Suddenly, his choice to live in Drainside didn’t seem like a sacrifice.
During this same period of Taylor’s life, the woman he loved refused to marry him unless he gave up his dream of serving in China. Taylor ended this relationship with tears. He trusted that God (like his parents at the dinner table) would have something better for him later if he denied himself for the sake of the gospel. And his faith proved true. God provided a wife in China—one who shared his passion for missionary work. Maria grew up in China, the daughter of English missionaries in Shanghai. She was as fluent in Mandarin as she was in English and became great help and comfort in Taylor’s work. “It never cooled, my love for her,” he said forty years later—”It has not cooled now.” The relationship he gave up in London no longer seemed like a sacrifice.
In China, Taylor found that to gain an audience with the people, he first needed to give up his European dress and customs. He adopted a pigtail and chopsticks and traveled from town to town, living in boats, in small shacks or in attic garrets, usually battling insects and vermin. Once, on a journey to an inland city, he was robbed of his traveling bed, spare clothes, surgical instruments, and a Bible given to him by his mother. Taylor decided not to prosecute the thief because of the harsh Chinese penal system, but wrote the culprit a letter instead, urging him to repent. He described his plea to the errant servant in a letter sent home to England. That letter somehow fell into the hands of George Mueller of Bristol. He was so impressed by the spirit of the writer that he became a supporter of the mission. Taylor’s sacrifice of the right to prosecute the man who stole his bed resulted in a supporter who would provide over $10,000 per year for the mission and would be a friend and advisor in times of trial. Looking back, giving up the right to justice did not seem like a sacrifice.
Taylor endured many hardships including arrests, insults, slander and poverty, but lived his life believing what Christ said in Mark 10:29 and 30—that if we give up anything for the sake of the gospel we will receive blessings one hundred times better in this life, and eternal life in the world to come. With that perspective, he could truly say, “I never made a sacrifice.”
Quotes included in this article are taken from the books, Hudson Taylor In Early Years and Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Missionby Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, OMF International, 2005
Copyright © 2007 Susan Verstraete.
Permission granted for reproduction in exact form. All other uses require written permission.
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by JOE CARTER
The Rev. Edward Casaubon had a handsome, intelligent wife, but squandered his marriage—along with his health and his life—in a futile attempt to write his masterwork,The Key to All Mythologies. When she wrote Middlemarch, George Eliot probably intended for readers to scoff at the dusty and deluded scholar-cleric trying to unlock the secrets of ancient myth. But I can relate to the good reverend. Like other film and comic book geeks, I’ve wasted hours trying to find the key to some modern folk mythology when I could have enjoyed time with my bright, beautiful bride.
But unlike Casaubon, I have actually found a key. Not to all mythologies, of course, but to one of the most intriguing—Christopher Nolan’s series of Batman films.
The interpretative key to the Batman films is obvious once you notice what is missing.
Batman Doesn’t Know Jesus
Of course, you might say, Jesus is absent from almost all mainstream films. True, but not wholly true. While direct acknowledgement of Jesus is rare in movies today, there are few epic trilogies set in modern times in which allusions to Christ do not appear at all. Yet during the entire 456 minutes of the Batman series, thousands of characters appear in a diverse urban landscape, and not a single image or symbol alludes to an awareness of Jesus. There are no priests or nuns, no Bibles or churches. In the one funeral scene in the film, the reading is not from Scripture but from . . . Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities.
Nolan has scrubbed all references to Jesus—intentionally I believe—in order to present a pre-Christian pagan universe, a world in which Christ’s earthly ministry has not yet begun.
” The word of God is the food by which prayer is nourished and made strong.”
“Prayer is not learned in a classroom but in the closet.”
“The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history.”
The Huffington Post | By Laura Hibbard Posted: 07/22/2012
“The minister of Christ is placed in a position where his labors and his troubles are incessant … The dark suggestion crosses his mind, “Give it up; leave the work…”
Friday, July 20, 2012
The news hit the airwaves like a sudden onslaught, and the truth began to sink in. It has happened again. This time, 50 people shot while attending the midnight premier of the last in the Batman sequence, “The Dark Knight Rises.” According to press reports, a 24-year-old man burst into the crowded theater, wearing a gas mask and carrying an arsenal. After deploying what is believed to be tear gas, he opened fire with a shotgun, a rifle, and two handguns. At least 12 people are dead, and dozens are injured, many critically.
Over 100 police officers responded to the scene in Aurora, just a few miles from Columbine High School, where in 1999 two high school students killed 12 fellow students and one teacher in a rampage that also injured 21 other students. That school massacre became a milestone in the nation’s legacy of violence. Now, yet another Denver suburb joins that tragic list.
The inevitable media swarm focuses on the data first — the who, what, when, and where questions. Then they, along with the public at large, begin to ask the why question. That is always the hard one.
The same vexing but inescapable question comes every time a Columbine happens or an Anders Behring Breivik attempts to justify his mass homicide. How could such a thing happen? How could a human being do such a thing?
There is no easy answer to this question. The easy answers are never satisfying, and they are often based in the confused moral calculus of popular culture. We assume there must have been a political motivation, a psychiatric disturbance, a sociological pressure . . . anything that will offer a satisfying explanation that will assure us. Wave after wave of analysis is offered, and sometimes some horrifying clues emerge. But the moral madness of mass homicide can never be truly explained.
Christians are driven by instinct to think in biblical and theological terms. But, how should that instinct be guided?
The Reality of Human Evil
First, Christians know that the human heart is capable of great evil. Human history includes a catalog of human horrors. The twentieth century, described by historian Eric Hobsbawm as the century of “megadeath,” included a list of names such as Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Pol Pot, and Charles Manson. But those murderers did their killing from a distance, at least usually. Those who carry out the murders themselves are even more haunting to us. The young man arrested in this case, 24-year-old James Holmes, looks disarmingly normal.
The Fall released human moral evil into the cosmos, and every single human being is a sinner, tempted by a full range of sinfulness. When someone does something as seemingly unthinkable as this, we often question how anyone could do such a thing. The prophet Jeremiah spoke to this when he lamented, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it?” [Jeremiah 17:9]
Human beings are capable of unspeakable moral evil. We are shocked by such atrocities, but only because we have some distance from the last one. We cannot afford to be shocked when humans commit grotesque moral evil. It tells us the truth about unbridled human sin.