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FIRST OF ALL

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Here, in the second chapter of First Timothy, the Apostle Paul is instructing Timothy and the body of Christ on practical matters. 

The apostle beings with the phrase “first of all.” In other words, he is saying, “Let me begin with…” or, “First, let me emphasize…” This is the only time the phrase “first of all” appears in the Bible. Paul uses this phrase to make us recognize the importance of what he is about to say. 

 He then continues by saying that, “supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men.” I would like to emphasize, first of all, that the prayer life of the believer should always include prayer for others, for all people. We are not to just pray for some people, not just the people you like or the people you feel especially need God’s help. Paul says all men. He then proceeded to explain why we are to pray for all men. As he shares in verses 4-5, Jesus Christ would have all men be saved. He died for all! To put it plainly,

 

Pray for all because He died for all. 

Jesus became the mediator for all the world! While it is true that not all accept Him, not all choose His sacrifice, not all make Him their Lord and Master; we still must pray for all because He died for all. 

In this portion of Scripture, the Apostle Paul calls to our attention a specific group of people we are to focus our prayers on. This group affects our lives whether we know them personally or not. In verse two, Paul says specifically, “For kings, and for all that are in authority.” What would the world look like if we, first of all, were to pray for all men, especially for those in authority? What would the world look like if the body of Christ truly interceded day after day for our leaders? 

It is easy for us to pray for someone who fights for righteousness and biblical values in our laws. But it is just as important for us to pray for those leaders void of God who have no knowledge of the truth of Jesus Christ. These leaders do not have the Holy Spirit guiding them. 

The Bible says in Romans 13:1 that all authority has been given by God. Whoever is currently in authority may not always be the perfect will of the Lord as was the case with King Saul. God wanted to lead Israel, but they wanted a king; so He gave them Saul. He allowed them to have the leader they wanted. And yet ultimately God is the one giving the power. Therefore,

 

We are to pray for ALL in authority even for those with whom we don’t always agree.

At the time of Paul’s writing, who were the kings that were in power? The leader of Rome was the infamous Nero who was one of the most brutal dictators in not only Rome’s history but also world history. He was responsible for the death of countless Christians. We can only imagine how difficult it was for the early church to pray for such a person. As the Christians in the early church were walking the streets of Rome, they could hear the clash of gladiators battling in the arena or the roar of lions waiting to eat their fellow church members. They could see the sight of believers being burned as torches lighting the city in brutal death. In Israel, there were also leaders like Pilot and Herod. There have always been and will always be evil people who opposed the gospel. But Paul clearly says to pray for even those who do these abominable things. He was asking the early church to do an incredibly radical thing. 

As a matter of fact, the Roman historian Josephus wrote that a war was started between Jews and Romans over this issue. The Romans wanted the Jews to pray for their leaders, and they refused. Blood was spilled over this issue. Paul is saying here in First Timothy that we as Christians should pray for our leaders no matter what their beliefs or opinions are. And the early church did pray. One of the bishops of the church in Smyrna Polycarp who was one of John’s disciples who himself died in the coliseum said, “Pray for all the saints; pray, too, for all kings and powers and rulers, and for your persecutors, and those that hate you, and for your cruel enemies.” He was echoing the words of Jesus, “Love your enemies, pray for them who despitefully use you.” 

We in America don’t face anything even close to what the early church faced. But Paul faithfully reminds the church of that era as well as the church today that we are to pray for those in authority regardless of their views, their opinions, or their political parties. 

In addition to telling the early church who to pray for (all men, kings, and those in authority), Paul also does not neglect to share the why. He gives two reasons for why we should pray for all these men. 

First, he says in verse two, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” How can this be true?! The early church was suffering so greatly, and many were being killed at the hands of Nero. What does Paul mean by talking about a peaceful and quiet life? The early church certainly did not experience tranquility at all. He is saying that this is the goal for us as Christians. Our desire is to be at peace and live quiet, godly lives.

 

We are to pray and pray and pray until we see this type of change even if it is not in our lifetimes.

We do not always see revival right away, but it comes through much prayer. Similarly, we will not see peace and quiet lives immediately, but it will eventually come through prayer. 

The second reason Paul gives as to why we should pray for our leaders is that they may “come to the knowledge of the truth,” that they may recognize that Christ is a mediator between God and man, that they may recognize that the man Jesus Christ took the penalty of sin and paid for it on our behalf. Paul could say this better than anyone else. He had previously been a man with authority coming against the body of Christ. He was once Saul of Tarsus void of truth who persecuted the church, but he was then radically transformed by the truth. 

Paul is definitely not the only one to have experienced this radical change. Nebuchadnezzar was worse than any leader we could ever imagine, yet through the power of God, he humbled himself and found God. Cyrus the Great was another pagan King whose heart was yielded to the Spirit of God and brought peace and restoration to God’s people. 

What would happen to the world if men and women of authority all over the world would turn to Christ through the prayers of the saints?! What would happen if, first of all, we interceded for our Governors, for President Trump, for our delegates, and for state senators as we never have before? If we were to do this faithfully, the changes we would see would be great indeed! There would be a change that would transform the whole world.

Today, in these tempestuous times, I implore you that we would, first of all, pray for our leaders. Let us in the body of Christ stand in the gap for kings and all that govern over us.

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Amazing Grace: Songs of Revival

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We are all very familiar with the song Amazing Grace. Even those who don’t profess to be Christians will stop to listen if the song is being sung, and almost everyone knows the words to the iconic first verse. But fewer know the bloody but beautiful story behind the hymn or the role it played in the Second Great Awakening.

This song was written by John Newton in 1772. Newton spent a short time in England’s Royal Navy, but left disgraced and directly entered the world of slave trading. Caught up in the money it provided, he transported people from their homeland to England. However, one travel found his ship in the midst of a terrible storm where he realized that it would only be by the grace of God that he would survive. It was then he answered the call of the Holy Spirit on his life, and gave himself to Christ. While he did not immediately quit the slave trade, a few years later found him rejecting that life style and pursuing the ministry. He later published a tract, Thoughts Upon the African Slave Trade, which did much to open the eyes of the public to the horrors of slavery. Newton’s life and story were also fundamental in William Wilberforce’s fight to abolish slavery in England.

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Men and Women of Faith: Thomas Jefferson

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Our own native Virginian, Thomas Jefferson, was a Founding Father of the United States and was the primary draftsman of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the nation's first secretary of state and the second vice president. As the third president of the United States, Jefferson stabilized the U.S. economy and defeated pirates from North Africa during the Barbary War. He was responsible for doubling the size of the United States by successfully brokering the Louisiana Purchase. He also founded the University of Virginia. Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, at the Shadwell plantation located just outside of Charlottesville, Virginia.

Jefferson was born into one of the most prominent families of Virginia's planter elite. His mother, Jane Randolph Jefferson, was a member of the proud Randolph clan, a family claiming descent from English and Scottish royalty.

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REFLECTION FOR NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER

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 2 Chr. 7:14, “ If My people, who are called by My Name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their 
land.”
 
If you go back to the Scripture records, you will find that the men who lived nearest to God, and had most power with Him, were those who confessed their sins and failures. Daniel, confessed his sins and those of his people. Yet there is nothing recorded against Daniel. He was one of the best men then on the face of the earth, yet was his confession of sin one of the deepest and most humble on record. 
In his words you find seven circumstances that Daniel uses in the confessing of his and the people’s sins; and all to heighten and aggravate them. First, ‘We have sinned;’ secondly, ‘We have committed iniquity;’ thirdly, ‘We have done wickedly;’ fourthly, ‘We have rebelled against You;’ fifthly, ‘We have departed from Your precepts;’ sixthly, ‘We have not hearkened unto Your servants;’ seventhly, ‘Nor our princes, nor all the people of the land.’ These seven aggravations which Daniel reckons up in his confession are worthy our most serious consideration. 
Job was no doubt a holy man, a mighty prince, yet he had to fall in the dust and confess his sins. So you will find it all through the Scriptures. When Isaiah saw the purity and holiness of God, he beheld himself in his true light, and he exclaimed, “Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips!” 
I firmly believe that the Church of God will have to confess her own sins, before there can be any great work among God’s believing people.
I sometimes think it is about time to give up preaching to the ungodly, and preach to those who profess to be Christians. If we had a higher standard of life in the Church of God, there would be thousands more flocking into the Kingdom. So it was in the past; when God’s believing children turned away from their sins and their idols, the fear of God fell upon the people round about. Take up the history of Israel, and you will find that when they put away their strange gods, God visited the nation, and there came a mighty work of grace. 
-Prevailing Prayer
D.L. Moody 
 
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Ravi Zacharias Excerpt- Answered Prayer Series

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Our book excerpt today is not in the usual “Answered Prayers” format. But this lesson taken
from Ravi Zacharias’s book, The Logic of God, teaches us about the correlation between
obedience, faith and prayer. We know that Daniel was a man of great prayer, and as you will see,
his life is a testimony of what prayer can accomplish.

“Think of the prophet Daniel’s three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego facing King
Nebuchadnezzar’s very real threat to toss them into a fiery furnace if they did not bend to his
authority. He was not a charitable man, but they refused to disavow their commitment to God,
boldly declaring: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver
us from it…But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve
your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” God honored their faith and, in His
mercy, delivered them even after they were thrown into the fire. They, in turn, experienced the
triumph of faith when they stood their ground.

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I Will Not Let You Go — Prayers of Note

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“Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, ‘Let me go, for the day breaks.’ But he said, ‘I will not let You go unless you bless me!’” Genesis 32:25-26

 A couple things stand out here. First, the angel is wrestling with Jacob. When we wrestle with God, it is usually during a time of trials. Jacob had just come from fleeing Laban and was under the threat of his brother’s retaliation the next day. It was not an easy time for him. Just as now, under quarantine and in the midst of a global pandemic, we are not living through an easy time.

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Breaches

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A God-fearing Armenian Christian was sending some merchandise to a distant city. There were no railroads in that part of the country, and as it was a valuable lot of goods, the merchant himself accompanied the caravan. 

Such caravans usually camp at night, and this is an opportune time for the highwaymen, who make their living by attacking caravans, to steal unnoticed by the campers. At the chosen time, under cover of the night, the Kurds drew near. All was strangely silent. There seemed to be no guards. But as they pressed closer, imagine their astonishment to find high walls where walls had never stood before. The next night they found the same impassable walls. On the third night they found the same walls, but there were breaches in them through which the robbers entered. 

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Songs of Revival: Shut in with God

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As we meditate on Passover, Good Friday, and Easter this week, much more comes to mind than previous years. This will be the first Easter celebrated out of church in the recorded history of the United States. As the Israelites were during the Passover, so are we, shut in with God. 

For most of us, before the coronavirus epidemic our time with the Lord was very limited, but for many of us now we have more time. 

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Men and Women of Faith: Spurgeon’s Response to Tragedy

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“For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.” Psalm 91:5-8

As we delve into the mighty words of Spurgeon, on the happenings of the great Cholera outbreak of 1854 in London, we are happily reminded of our many blessings. Compared to the tragedies that have struck mankind, with our current ‘crises’ we have scarcely known the heartbreak that most humanity has known.
May we take to heart, bravely, as David, Joshua, and Caleb did. When the naysayers shouted the negativity, the impossibility, the doom, the giants; the great men of faith shouted only His miracles, His greatness, His provision, His care for His children. There are 365 proclamations of “fear not” in the bible, one for each day of the year, plenty to supply. May we shine as we are called to in these times, with bravery and kindness and do not as the Israelites and give into fear, mumbling, and complaining. Let’s look at the attitude of one of the great men of faith, in a time deadlier than our own:

“In the year 1854, when I had scarcely been in London twelve months, the neighborhood in which I labored was visited by Asiatic cholera, and my congregation suffered from its inroads. Family after family summoned me to the bedside of the smitten, and almost every day I was called to visit the grave.
All day, and sometimes all night long, I went about from house to house, and saw men and women dying, and, oh, how glad they were to see my face! When many were afraid to enter their houses lest they should catch the deadly disease, we who had no fear about such things found ourselves most gladly listened to when we spoke of Christ and of things divine.
At first, I gave myself up with youthful ardor to the visitation of the sick, and was sent for from all corners of the district by persons of all ranks and religions; but, soon, I became weary in body, and sick at heart. My friends seemed falling one by one, and I felt or fancied that I was sickening like those around me. A little more work and weeping would have laid me low among the rest; I felt that my burden was heavier than I could bear, and I was ready to sink under it.
I was returning mournfully home from a funeral, when, as God would have it, my curiosity led me to read a paper which was wafered up in a shoemaker’s window in the Great Dover Road. It did not look like a trade announcement, nor was it, for it bore, in a good bold handwriting, these words: “Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.”
The effect upon my heart was immediate. Faith appropriated the passage as her own. I felt secure, refreshed, girt with immortality. I went on with my visitation of the dying, in a calm and peaceful spirit; I felt no fear of evil, and I suffered no harm. The Providence which moved the tradesman to place those verses in his window, I gratefully acknowledge; and in the remembrance of its marvelous power, I adore the Lord my God. “Rather, the Christian “need not dread sickness, for he has nothing to lose, but everything to gain, by death.””

Spurgeon source:https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/spurgeon-ministry-cholera-outbreak/

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Prevailing in Prayer

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Luke 18:1, “Men ought to always pray, and not to faint.”

 To always pray means to pray continually — no matter the circumstances, no matter the delay, no matter how big the mountain or how deep the valley. We are not to faint or fail with Christ’s command!  We are to prevail in prayer! 

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The Deaf will Hear-Answered Prayer Series

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We’re living through a difficult time right now but through it all we hope that you are finding the little joys that this time of quarantine and social distancing can offer. We hope you’re able to spend more family time gathered around God’s word, more time able to rest, and most importantly more time in prayer.

Today, if you’re feeling discouraged by what is happening around you we want to encourage you with this account of prayers answered. This excerpt is taken from Lee Strobel’s Case for Miracles.

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OVERCOMING THE DARKNESS THROUGH PRAYER

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 “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.“ Ephesians 6:12

What is happening today in our country is a spiritual battle against the powers and rulers of darkness. In these battles it sometimes appears that the situation is as bad or worse than before we began to war. It may seem our prayers are not being effective. It may even appear that the enemy is the one who is advancing and pushing back the light rather than the other way around. But it is during these times, when it seems as if darkness is prevailing, that we need to have strength and faith. 

The darkest hour is just before the dawn. This is not only true naturally but spiritually as well. 
 
When we study the visitations of the past, God visited during very dark times when His people prayed and cried out to Him.

When our Lord and Savior was hanging on the cross dying for our sins, it seemed as though the wicked had won. They were rejoicing in their victory over Christ and His followers. What darkness, and agony of heart, mind, and soul for Christ’s disciples! But not only were they three days away from the greatest victory ever known to man, but they were also standing on the threshold of the greatest revival ever!

To be sure we are in a time of darkness, but let us all join in unity of prayer and push back the darkness. Let us not grow weary but let us strengthen ourselves in the power of God’s might and  put our hope and trust in Him who created all things and is well able to defeat the powers of darkness that seem victorious at the moment. 

When darkness seems to be prevailing, it is truly the time to pray from greater depths of our heart. Let us during these days find the depths of prayer which brings us to the heights of God. Let us pray for light to prevail over darkness. Let us pray for a revival in the hearts of our government officials! 

If God could change Nebuchadnezzar’s heart and the heart of King Manassas, one of the most wicked kings of Israel, He can change the hearts of any of those in our government. 

God has proven that the prayers of His people will prevail! May our hearts and strength be revived; may the church in America be revived! Let our heritage to those who come after us be that we did not succumb to the darkness, but rather that we overcame the darkness.
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John Bunyan on Prayer

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Today’s post is about one of history’s most well known and long renowned authors, John Bunyan.

John was born in 1628 in a small England village to his mother and father, who was a tinker. While his parents were poor, they managed to send John to school where he learned to read and write. John was not the good sort of boy that mother’s try to teach their sons to be, but made a name for himself by cursing, swearing and lying. Yet, already, at a young age he was tormented by thoughts and dreams of hell. John grew up and joined the army for a few years, only to later return and take up his father’s profession of tinkering. He left the army in 1647 and married shortly thereafter. While the couple was quite poor, having almost no furnishings for a house, his wife did have a copy of The Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven and The Practice of Piety. John relearned the long forgotten skill of reading, through these books and the help of his new wife.

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Answered Prayers Series: Hudson Taylor 

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J Hudson Taylor was a British Protestant Christian missionary to China and founder of the China Inland Mission (CIM, now OMF International). Taylor spent 51 years in China. The society that he began was responsible for bringing over 800 missionaries to the country who began 125 schools and directly resulted in 18,000 Christian conversions, as well as the establishment of more than 300 stations of work with more than 500 local helpers in eighteen provinces.

His repertoire of achievements and skills are vastly phenomenal and deserve their own article, and has been written in many books but the most impressive, we believe, is his belief and stance in prayer. From humble beginnings and prayer, did his journey start. 

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Prayers of Note: President George Washington

Prayers of Note: President George Washington

“It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”
- George Washington

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Andrew Murray: "Casting Thyself on Christ"

Andrew Murray: "Casting Thyself on Christ"

This week we’re going to look into the life of Andrew Murray. Well known for the phrase “casting thyself on Christ” and his many authored works, Murray has valuable lessons to teach us regarding prayer and self sacrifice.

 

Andrew Murray was born in South Africa in 1828. His father, a Dutch Reformed minister, was in his own right, a prevailer in prayer. He read weekly to Andrew and the rest of the family, stories about past revivals and prayed with them regularly for revival in South Africa. Later, Andrew moved to Scotland to stay and study with his uncle who was also a reverend. It was here that Andrew was, no doubt, affected for the rest of his life when Revivalist William Burns visited and spent long hours into the night discussing God with the Murrays. Burns himself had a deep burden for lost souls and would often weep and pray for hours, giving Murray a lifestyle to model.

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Answered Prayers Series: God’s Wonder Working Power

Answered Prayers Series: God’s Wonder Working Power

Today we will be looking at a short devotional penned by the great man of faith, Smith Wigglesworth, a man who had experienced and documented the many miracles and answered prayers performed by the God he called upon.

 

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Thankful For Your Prayers!

Thankful For Your Prayers!

This time of year, the holiday season, and more specifically, Thanksgiving, it’s good for us to consider back over the year all of the wonderful things God has done. It’s important to remember them, to be thankful for them, and to allow them to grow our faith. Because of this, we want to share with you all a wonderful work God has been doing in the schools in Fredericksburg.

 

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Men and Women of Faith: Elisabeth Elliot

Men and Women of Faith: Elisabeth Elliot

As one of the most influential writers of our Christian faith, Elisabeth Elliot has truly known the meaning of sacrifice, forgiveness, and perseverance. A short biography will never do her justice, and can read multiple biographies on her life and never truly touch who she is and her relationship with Christ until you delve into her breathtaking books, which tackle some of the hardest life topics with an immense amount of grace. 

 

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God Never Fails

God Never Fails

Sometimes it seems as if God doesn’t hear our prayers.

 

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