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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Showing posts with label prayer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label prayer. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Making the Most of your Daily Devotions (Free Bible Download)

I am in the book of Revelation in my devotions this morning, reading the message of Jesus to the church in Ephesus. Jesus praises the Ephesians for their passionate and diligent pursuit of truth. However, he also warns them they were in danger of losing their place because "You have forsaken the love you had at first." (Rev. 2:4, ESV). This first love seems to be tied to the good deeds they did at the beginning of the church's ministry. Because of this, commentators see the first love to refer both to the love of Jesus and their love for one another.[1]

All Christians need to cultivate and nurture their love of Christ and for others. The first and best discipline to do this is during your daily devotions. As an apologist, my devotion time is critical, as it would be easy to slip into a habit of faith-defending without love. However, a few years ago, I noticed that even my devotions started to become a rote exercise. My prayer time would be dominated by my requests and my reading was all about quickly finishing the chapter so I could move onto something else.

In order to break out of this habit, I decided to be more deliberate in approaching my prayer time. I liked the ACTS outline of prayer (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication) but needed a grid in which to place it. So, I came up with the following outline that I keep in my Bible and update monthly. I've created a downloadable template for you to save and use for your own devotion times. You can grab either the PDF or the editable Word version. Fill it in, print it out and keep a folded paper copy in your Bible to use each morning. Then, update it each month.

Here's my approach:

1. Contemplating the Nature of God through the Names of God

In God's word, God reveals different aspects of who he is through the various names he uses for himself. So I took eleven different names of God and laid them out in a two-week grid — one for each weekday and a dual-meaning name for Saturday and Sunday. I then contemplate in my prayers the different ways God fulfills the attributes of the "name of the day."

For example, if I am thinking about "Jehovah Sabbaoth - The Lord of Hosts," I contemplate how my holy God s the God over the armies. He can command legions of angels. He is the one who nothing or no one can overwhelm. I let me mind work on that aspect o God's character and I see if I can find new ways of understanding God as the Lord of hosts. Because this is a two-week cycle, it keeps my thoughts about God fresh and my desire to more keenly understand him.

2. Contemplate the Cross and the Sacrifice of Salvation

Coming to the Cross is hugely important. I think about Jesus and what it meant for him to give his back to the torturers. I think about his taking my sin upon himself. I think as a father with children about the sacrifice the Father made as he gave his beloved son to die so that I may live.

3. Ask for forgiveness of sins.

This is the place where I review and confesses my sins. It may be something big or small, but even a sin of hubris or not trusting should be honestly offered here. Make sure you use the Christian's bar of soap (1 John 1:9)!

4. Give thanks for blessings.

We all have more to be thankful for than what we can imagine. I normally open my eyes during this part of my devotional time, so I can be reminded of the many blessings I do have. When I do devotions outside, this drives me to be thankful for God's creation and the oxygen in my lungs.

5. Pray for self.

Here's where I begin the Supplication area. First, I pray I would reflect Jesus in what I say and what I do and what I think. I want to see others the way Jesus would see them. I then pray of my responsibility as a father, as a Christian witness, and any immediate needs I have.

6. Pray for family members

Next, I list out each immediate family member and pray for then. Usually, I pick four or five areas that I pray for. I always try to make sure I think about how can God change/use myself to be more effective in helping them as opposed to "change this thing I don't like" kinds of prayers. Also, because I update this list monthly, it is god practice to come up to your spouse and your children and ask them "What can pray for for you this month?" This ai a great way to stay in touch with your kids and hear what's critical in their, lives.

7. Pray for ministry/job/household finances, etc.

After I've prayed for people, I thin pray for my job or ministry, any financial issues, any difficulties our family may be facing, and other issues affecting us.

8. Weekly rotating prayer for community

Lastly, I use a one week rotation of specific, focused prayer for the larger community. The breakdown is below and also on the template:
  • Mon - Church
  • Tues - Martyrs & those suffering
  • Wed - Government and elected officials
  • Thurs - Apologetics ministries
  • Fri - Educational institutions
  • Sat/Sun — special requests
This list has helped me in my daily devotional time to really pray better, to draw closer to God and to focus my prayers more specifically. I hope it helps you in your devotional time as well. Let me know of any additions or suggestions you have. I can always learn more.


1. See note for Revelation 2:5 in The ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008. Print. 2465.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Attacking Prayer Shows How Far Culture Has Fallen

The news was overwhelming and sad. Fourteen people were killed by a man and woman in San Bernardino. As the events are still unfolding, we don't yet have a clear picture of what their motives were or how much of the attack was planned. We don't know if this was a planned terrorist target, a reaction by a disgruntled employee, or something else. It's best not to speculate until the facts are in.

However, the shock of the events had people wanting to express themselves so the first reaction people had was to pray for the comfort of the victims' families and any injured in the attack. Government officials and presidential candidates offered public statements to that effect. Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted "Please keep the victims of #SanBernardino, California in your prayers." Senator Ted Cruz tweeted, "Our prayers are with the victims, their families, and the first responders in San Bernardino who willingly go into harm's way to save others." These sentiments were joined by many thousands of others.

The turn in all this was the snide reaction of others to the idea of praying in response to a tragedy. Cruz's tweet was met with comments like these:

Those in the media also assaulted any public call for prayer, like the headline of the New York Daily News:

The Huffington Post ran a piece with the lede "Another Mass Shooting, Another Deluge Of Tweeted Prayers: Seems to have been an ineffective strategy so far."

The fact that one's commendation of prayer is now condemned by media and a segment of the general public shows just how far down the rabbit hole our culture has fallen. I realize that much of these railings against prayer are by people and organizations who want to establish gun control laws. But why would they choose the encouragement of prayer as their target when their motivations are a political stance? How does that follow? We don't know anything about where or how the killers got their guns, why they were shooting people, or what their ultimate objectives were. Therefore, we cannot know that any kind of gun control measures would be effectual at all. The killers had also constructed at least three bombs, which were defused by authorities. How come no one is asking for more bomb-control legislation?

More tellingly, this reaction shows just how out of touch these folks are with religious ideas as elementary as prayer. Notice the theme in the incendiary reactions to prayer. They all talk as if we are praying God would somehow stop all shootings. That isn't what people were being asked to do. They are praying for a safe resolution to the evil actions committed by sinful human beings. They are being asked to petition for a level of solace for the victims' families. They are praying for the recognition that whether it's a gun, homemade bombs, knives, airplanes, or something else, the evil inherent in mankind will continue to express itself in the death of others until Jesus comes back.

Prayer is one way we demonstrate that we as human beings don't have all the answers. We can try to reduce the evil we see in the world to some extent, but to think that we don't need prayer because we can legislate all evil away is an uncanny mix of stupidity and hubris. We need prayer not only so God may offer grace to those suffering, but to remind ourselves that we are beholden and answerable to an authority above ourselves. And those who pray are more likely to offer grace and mercy in other, more tangible ways as well. So, let's encourage prayer.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Why Won't God Heal Amputees? (video)

One objection to God's existence that has become popular in atheist circles is the fact that God won't heal amputees. A web site of that name argues, "The Bible clearly promises that God answers prayers... So what should happen if we pray to God to restore amputated limbs? Clearly, if God is real, limbs should regenerate through prayer. In reality, they do not."

In this short video, Lenny answers the charge that God is not real because he won't heal amputees and shows why the objection fails.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Atheists Contradict Themselves by Seeking Invocations

Many times when I have debated atheists, they assert that they don't need to prove their atheism. As Richard Carrier put it, "It is not necessarily incumbent upon me to provide evidence for atheism. I mean if we say that aliens don't exist, then I don't have to prove to you that they don't exist; rather, you need to prove to me they do, or that there are fairies in the woods or demons or so forth. The claimant has to actually establish the fact."1 The common refrain that atheism is not a belief but simply a lack of belief shows up over and over, even though atheists are making a truth-claim about the world.

Here's the interesting thing, though. When placed in other contexts, atheists themselves deny this position. Take government meetings as an example. After the Supreme Court ruled earlier this year in Greece v. Galloway that opening local legislative meetings in prayer was constitutional2, the Central Florida Freethought Community took a different tack; they decided to petition to offer invocations at various government meetings, even providing a model letter so that other atheist groups could do likewise.

Justice Kennedy, in writing for the majority on Greece v. Galloway, captured the purpose of offering an invocation:

The principal audience for these invocations is not, indeed, the public but lawmakers themselves, who may find that a moment of prayer or quiet reflection sets the mind to a higher purpose and thereby eases the task of governing…

The inclusion of a brief, ceremonial prayer as part of a larger exercise in civic recognition suggests that its purpose and effect are to acknowledge religious leaders and the institutions they represent rather than to exclude or coerce nonbelievers.

Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government to alter or define and that willing participation can be done with a brief acknowledgement of their belief in a higher power, always with due respect for those who adhere to other beliefs. 3
But this is exactly where the atheist has a problem. If an invocation is to point to a higher purpose and to recognize specific religious beliefs, then it follows that invocations are ways of communicating a faith, which means that there are real claims being made about the nature of the world. The freethinkers, in asking to offer invocations, are asserting a belief system. Therefore, to claim that they bear no burden of proof is absurd.

Imagine a group petitioning a city council to provide an invocation on the grounds that there are no aliens or fairies in the world. They would immediately be rejected because the fact that they don't believe such things cannot support any kind of meaningful invocation. It would do exactly what Kennedy said invocations shouldn't: it would mock other belief systems.

Atheists here are caught in a contradiction. Either they are simply holding to the non-existence of an entity or they are advancing a particular belief system, complete with claims about man, the universe, origins, morality, and the nature of reality. They can't have it both ways. Seeking invocation opportunities betrays the atheist's claim that they simply lack belief. it's a contradiction, and contradictions about the fundamental nature of a worldview by its adherents underscore its implausibility.


1. Transcript from "Esposito vs. Carrier, The Great God Debate: Does God Exist?" Come Reason Ministries. 2012. Available at

2. Town of Greece, New York v. Galloway et al. 572 U.S. ___. Supreme Court of the United States.
2014. . Web. 5 Mar. 2014.

3 Town of Greece, 19, 23.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

The Supreme Court, Christian Prayer, and Town Meetings

The Supreme Court decision in the Town of Greece v. Galloway case is a step in the right direction for religious freedom. The case centered around Greece, a Rochester, NY suburb, inviting local pastors to open their town meeting in prayer. The town did not preview the prayers nor did they limit the invitation to any religious affiliation; they simply opened the opportunity up to local clergy. It so happened that the clergy who asked to be included were all Christians and they (understandably) prayed Christian prayers.

However, the overt Christian terminology used in the prayers bothered at least two town residents (identified by USA Today as an atheist and a Jew) who filed suit and petitioned the court not to ban the practice of opening the meeting with prayer, but "to limit the town to 'inclusive and ecumenical' prayers that referred only to a 'generic God.'"1 The Second Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld the lawsuit, but the majority of the Court disagreed and overturned the verdict on a 5-4 decision. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy made some lucid points about the problems with the suit. I'd like to look at some key points. (All emphasis in the quotes below is mine.)

The Historical Precedent for Prayer

First, Kennedy pointed to both the historical and legal precedent for allowing government meetings to be opened in prayer. Citing both a 1983 decision (Marsh) on the government funding of chaplains and a 1989 case of groups displaying specifically religious holiday displays on public lands, Kennedy writes:
There is historical precedent for the practice of opening local legislative meetings with prayer as well. Marsh teaches that the Establishment Clause must be interpreted "by reference to historical practices and understandings." … Respondents' insistence on nonsectarian prayer is not consistent with this tradition. The prayers in Marsh were consistent with the First Amendment not because they espoused only a generic theism but because the Nation's history and tradition have shown that prayer in this limited context could "coexis[t] with the principles of disestablishment and religious freedom."
Kennedy further notes that the First Congress, just after crafting the First Amendment, voted to appoint chaplains and they opened their meetings in prayer, thus demonstrating that their intent was not to quell these activities.

The Problem of Governmental Censoring of Prayer

Kennedy then notes that if the law were to require governmental agencies to preview and approve or disallow specific prayers based on their use of sectarian language, it would create a much bigger problem. It would, in effect turn a bureaucrat or the court itself into the faith police. This would open up a can of worms. Government, the courts, or even the majority view judging which prayers should be banned and which are permissible becomes subjective and makes government more involved in religion than the current practice does.  He writes:
To hold that invocations must be nonsectarian would force the legislatures sponsoring prayers and the courts deciding these cases to act as supervisors and censors of religious speech, thus involving government in religious matters to a far greater degree than is the case under the town's current practice of neither editing nor approving prayers in advance nor criticizing their content after the fact. Respondents' contrary arguments are unpersuasive. It is doubtful that consensus could be reached as to what qualifies as a generic or nonsectarian prayer. It would also be unwise to conclude that only those religious words acceptable to the majority are permissible, for the First Amendment is not a majority rule and government may not seek to define permissible categories of religious speech.

Understand that the Government isn't the Final Word

Another salient point Kennedy makes is that respectful, ceremonial prayer before a government assembly, no matter which creed administers it, serves a function for all. By appealing to God and asking a blessing on the proceedings, the invocation essentially declares that governments and those that run them are never the last word. People are fallible. Political organizations are fallible. We must recognize that while our representatives seek to make the right decisions and serve the will of the people as best they can, their decisions are not themselves foolproof.
The tradition reflected in Marsh permits chaplains to ask their own God for blessings of peace, justice, and freedom that find appreciation among people of all faiths. That a prayer is given in the name of Jesus, Allah, or Jehovah, or that it makes passing reference to religious doctrines, does not remove it from that tradition. These religious themes provide particular means to universal ends. Prayer that reflects beliefs specific to only some creeds can still serve to solemnize the occasion, so long as the practice over time is not "exploited to proselytize or advance any one, or to disparage any other, faith or belief."

Even those who disagree as to religious doctrine may find common ground in the desire to show respect for the divine in all aspects of their lives and being. Our tradition assumes that adult citizens, firm in their own beliefs, can tolerate and perhaps appreciate a ceremonial prayer delivered by a person of a different faith.

The Difference Between Offense and Coercion

The last key phrase I'd like to point out is one that I would hope extend well beyond this particular decision. Our culture today is sick. People have assumed that the pursuit of happiness somehow means that they should never feel any discomfort or disagreement while participating in a public function. Kennedy succinctly dismisses this claim:
In their declarations in the trial court, respondents stated that the prayers gave them offense and made them feel excluded and disrespected. Offense, however, does not equate to coercion.
To that I say "Amen."


1. Town of Greece, New York v. Galloway et al. 572 U.S. ___. Supreme Court of the United States.
2014. Web. 5 Mar. 2014.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The First Christmas Eve - A Devotion

The day before the first Christmas was a normal day; it was just like any other. People awoke and began their chores. There were fish to catch, meals to prepare, fields to tend, shops to open. Oh, sure the cities were a bit busier than usual, what with the census causing many people to travel, but that just meant the opportunity for more business in the merchants' eyes. Everyone else was inconvenienced by the crowded roadways and the disruption of schedules. Traffic makes it difficult for locals to finish their responsibilities. But such was part of life in this part of the world.

So, people went about their day not thinking twice about what kind of a day it was. The herdsmen took their flocks to the pastures outside of town to find them food. An old prophet and prophetess sat at the temple in Jerusalem, each praying as part of their daily routine, one that they duplicated for so long they had lost count. They pray that they might catch a glimpse of the power of God to rescue their people. But they don't mark this day as anything more. It's simply one more opportunity to petition the Almighty.

There were the common complaints about politics. Some complained that the government taxed too much, others that we should submit to the status quo. Those that sought to overthrow the power structures were seen as zealots, but even they saw today as another day in their quest for autonomy, claiming God was on their side.

Herod was sitting fat on his throne, probably feeling fairly content. His partnership with Rome had brought him considerable power and success. He felt he had the power to vanquish any threat to his rule and his building and construction projects had made him famous. This day he felt no particular worry about losing his title as King of the Jews.

Everyone across the world didn't note this day as anything more than another day. They did not have the luxury of history that we have today. They didn't know that tomorrow would bring the birth of one child and the beginning of end of their world. They didn't realize that one infant arriving in a small backwoods town would be an event so enormous that all of mankind would reckon time by it. Those shepherds didn't know that tomorrow heaven would be so filled with joy that they would see it burst at the seams and hear glorious praise spill onto the earth. Herod didn't know that he would soon be dead and in less than a century his glorious Temple project would be wiped clean from the mount as well as the Jewish worship rituals it supported. Simeon and Anna didn't know that they would have their prayers answered in just a few days, cradling in their arms the Messiah of the Lord. Even Caesar Augustus didn't know that this child would turn Rome inside out.

That first Christmas Eve was remarkable because it was utterly unremarkable. Today we remember His coming and tomorrow we celebrate with friends and family. But come January 30 or March 22 or September 16 we will be back to experiencing ordinary days. I pray that as we think about the birth of the Savior of the world, we would reflect on God's promise and His deliverance not only on December 24, but on those ordinary days, too. Be like that old prophet or prophetess. Make worship and expectation that God is working part of your daily routine. Because you never know, God may make tomorrow earth-shattering.

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Psalm for the New Year

My devotions today happened to include Psalm 20, in which Israel prayed to God and thanked Him for their fortunes, asked Him to respond to their troubles and reminded themselves of His power. "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God." I think this is a great psalm to reflect on as we close out one year and begin another. It also makes a great prayer for the New Year.

May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble!
   May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary
   and give you support from Zion!
May he remember all your offerings
     and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices!   Selah
May he grant you your heart's desire
   and fulfill all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your salvation,
   and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the LORD fulfill all your petitions!

Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
   he will answer him from his holy heaven
   with the saving might of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
   but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. 

They collapse and fall,
   but we rise and stand upright.

O LORD, save the king!
   May he answer us when we call.

The great encouragement of this is that we're given the answer to the people's petition in the very next Psalm--God heard David's cry and provided him with his heart's desire.  May your  year ahead hold the same promise and blessing!
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