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40 Days of Prayer, Day 34

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Day 34, Friday, September 23

Just a reminder that we will host a prayer time on Sunday morning at 7:50 in the conference room, hosted by Josh and Marcy. We will also have a time of prayer on Sunday evening at 8:00 PM. Also, on Sunday from 12-6PM we are hosting a time of prayer where we are asking individuals or families to sign up to pray in 30 minute blocks of time. You can come to the church and pray together in the conference room. You can also pray together with your family and friends at your own home. We will provide some suggested items for prayer focus that will hopefully help guide your 30-minute prayer time.

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3

The Contrite Heart and the Bearing of Fruit
The bearing of fruit marks the penitent, humble servant of God. Fruit comes from the work of God’s Word within the life of the contrite. As we can see in this Psalm, rejecting sin and embracing God’s Word produces fruit, “like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither.” Working from the end result back to the fundamental cause, let’s take a moment to consider the type of fruit God has in mind. In other words, if I am living a contrite-hearted type of life, what evidences will manifest themselves in my life? This is so critical. Psalm 51 gives us a great promise. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” I want my life to be an offering to God that is acceptable to Him. This promise from God provides such assurance. If we offer to Him our contrite and broken heart, He will receive our lives as an acceptable sacrifice to Him. But the challenge becomes ascertaining whether my heart is authentically contrite. If we are contrite, we will bear fruit. We will be like a fruit tree with an abundant supply of water. What fruit? What types of attitudes and actions would we see in our lives if we are truly living the broken and contrite-hearted life?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus provided the means by which we can measure the authentic citizens of His kingdom. “You will know them by their fruit. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” Just like the first psalm promised fruit in the life of anyone who loves God’s Word, Jesus promised fruit as the outcome for anyone living out His words. From the content of the Sermon on the Mount there are several attributes that must be resident in the life of those living in His kingdom. First, there should be the fruit produced in our lives as described in the Beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit…blessed are those who mourn…blessed are the humble…blessed are those who hunger for righteousness…blessed are the merciful…blessed are the pure in heart…blessed are the peacemakers…blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of Christ and His righteous standards…” These attributes distinguish a follower of Christ from those outside the kingdom. Notice, even in this list, Jesus begins with the contrite heart, those who are “poor in spirit.” Do these attributes in the beatitudes reflect our daily lives? We see further in the Sermon on the Mount that the bearing fruit, hearing the teachings of Christ and following them, will be seen in the way we love others with authentic, godly love. We will love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We will withhold our murderous anger that resides in our hearts. We will keep our thoughts about others pure. We will keep our words pure, speaking truth with kindness. “You are the salt of the earth…you are the light of the world…do your good works in such a way that people will see your good works and glorify your Heavenly Father.” In contemplating these righteous standards as presented by Christ, do these types of actions reflect our lives? Are we bearing fruit in these areas?

The yielding of fruit, according to the Sermon on the Mount, will also be seen in how we give, pray and fast, so that our external religious activities are motivated by our worship of God and not by a desire to empress others. “When you give…when you pray…when you fast…do so in secret and your Heavenly Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” The bearing of fruit also includes a use of our resources for the sake of the kingdom. Fruit-bearing followers use their resources as a means to establish the kingdom. Contrite-hearted followers of Christ seek after heavenly rewards and not earthly treasure. Jesus said, “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Kingdom citizens see their resources as a means of saving for the future, not in retirement in this life, but in heavenly reward in the next life. One mark of fruit-bearing living is the way we spend our time, money and gifts. The “poor in spirit” live with their hands open. The contrite-hearted live with their resources focused on the needs of others for the sake of the kingdom of God. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things will be added to you.” In Matthew 7 Jesus provided some additional distinctives of the “poor in spirit.” If we are humble before God and others, we live free of the judgment and condemnation of others, but instead we will live with the constant desire for good in others. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Tomorrow we will exam fruit bearing attributes from other texts throughout the Bible. For today, we should to take a moment of self-evaluation. Does my life appear to be bearing fruit, fruit as Christ described in the Sermon on the Mount? If I am truly living with a contrite heart, then do my attitudes reflect the beatitudes? If I am truly living the contrite-hearted life, then does my worship reflect the God-centered worship as described in the Sermon on the Mount? If I am humble before God and others, does an analysis of my time, money and other resources reflect God’s kingdom priorities? Am I forgiving and gracious toward others? Do I treat others the way I would want them to treat me? We are thirty-four days into the study on the contrite heart. Is there any transformation in my life that reflects the biblical standards for those with broken hearts before God?

Prayer Focus
Oh Lord, work in my life. Test me Oh Lord and reveal to me areas where I am not bearing fruit. Give me a contrite heart. Out of a contrite heart, produce transformed attitudes and actions. May Your kingdom be evident in my priorities today. May Your kingdom be a constant focus of my heart. Impact my life through Your Word. Impact others through my transformed life. In the name of Christ, Amen.

From Bunyan’s The Acceptable Sacrifice
Man, as he comes into the world, is not only a dead man, a fool, proud, self-willed, and fearless, but he is a false believer concerning God. Let God report of himself plainly, man by nature will not believe this report of him. No, they are vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart is darkened; wherefore they turn the glory of God, which is his truth, into a lie (Rom 1:21-25). God says, He sees; they say, He does not see; God says, He knows; they say, He does not know: God says, None is like himself; yet they say, He is altogether like them: God says He will do good; they say, He will neither do good nor evil (Job 22:13, 14; Psa 50:21; Job 21:14, 15; Mal 3:14; Zeph 1:12). Thus they falsely believe concerning God. Now, what shall God do to save these men? If he hides himself and conceals his glory, they perish. If he sends to them by his messengers, and forbears to come to them himself, they perish. If he comes to them and forbears to work upon them by his word, they perish: if he works on them, but not effectually, they perish. If he works effectually he must break their hearts, and make them, as men wounded to death, fall at his feet for mercy, or there can be no good done on them; they will not rightly believe until he fires them out of their misbelief, and makes them to know, by the breaking of their bones for their false faith, that he is, and will be, what he has said of himself in his holy Word. The heart, therefore, must be broken before the man can come to good.

 

40 Days of Prayer, Day 33

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Day 33, Thursday, September 22

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3

The Contrite Heart and the Bearing of Fruit
The contrite heart is marked by sorrow over sin. The contrite in heart have a humility toward others and compassion for those who are broken. Those with a contrite heart see God as glorious as He has revealed Himself through His creation. Those with a contrite heart also see God as glorious in His revelation to us through His Word. The contrite in heart submit to the Word of God. In contrast, those with a humble and contrite heart do not submit themselves to people or ideas that run counter to the Word of God. The contrite-hearted delight in the Word of God, taking time each day to meditate on His truths. “In His law he meditates day and night.” The continual meditation on God’s Word produces a significant blessing on the contrite. Delighting in God’s Word produces fruit. The contrite will be “like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”

Alas, the phrase, “he prospers” may cause us a bit of confusion. For we know many faithful followers of Christ who have experienced tremendous trials. How do we reconcile the faithful servant and the trials they face? How does that person prosper? What sort of fruit comes to the contrite in the midst of trouble? Is “prospering” marked by personal wealth or pleasure or ease of life? The following is a helpful commentary from Spurgeon’s Treasure of David on this verse. And whatsoever he does shall prosper. Blessed is the man who has such a promise as this. But we must not always estimate the fulfilment of a promise by our own eye sight. How often, my brethren, if we judge by feeble sense, may we come to the mournful conclusion of Jacob, "All these things are against me!" For though we know our interest in the promise, yet we are so tried and troubled, that sight sees the very reverse of what that promise foretells. But to the eye of faith this word is sure, and by it we perceive that our works have prospered, even when everything seems to go against us. It is not outward prosperity which the Christian most desires and values; it is soul prosperity which he longs for. Even here there is a true prospering, for it is often for the soul's health that we would be poor, bereaved, and persecuted. Our worst things are often our best things. As there is a curse wrapped up in the wicked man's mercies, so there is a blessing concealed in the righteous man's crosses, losses, and sorrows. The trials of the saint are the work of our Divine Gardener, by which he grows and brings forth abundant fruit.

Prayer Focus
Oh Lord, bear fruit in my life. Use Your Word to produce Your desired transformation in me. Remove the obstacles to the bearing of fruit. Remove the barriers to my faithfulness to Your Word. Reflect Your divine priorities within my heart and life. Help me to see trials as means to greater fruit. Use difficulties for good in my life. Protect me from the despair that comes with life’s struggles. Give me a divine vision and understanding to see how You are at work. Protect me from the self-reliance and the pride that may come when my life seems to be trouble free. Give me a grateful heart for such gracious, daily provisions. In all of these things produce fruit in me for Your greater glory and for my greater joy. Amen.

From Bunyan’s The Acceptable Sacrifice
And yet they do not fear God: alas! they do not believe these things. These things, to carnal men, are like Lot's preaching to his sons and daughters that were in Sodom. When he told them that God would destroy that place, he seemed to them as one that mocked; and his words to them were as idle words (Gen 19:14). Fearless men are not won by words; blows and wounds, are the things that must bring them under fear. How many struggling fits had Israel with God in the wilderness? How many times did they declare that there they feared him not? And observe, they were seldom, if ever, brought to fear and dread his glorious name, unless he beset them with death and the grave. Nothing, nothing but a severe hand, will make the fearless fear. Hence, to speak after the manner of man, God is pressed it to go this way with sinners when he would save their souls; even bring them, and lay them at the mouth, and within sight of hell and everlasting damnation: and there also charge them with sin and guilt, to the breaking of their hearts, before they will fear his name.

 

40 Days of Prayer, Day 32

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Day 32, Wednesday, September 21

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” Psalm 1

The Contrite Heart and the Careful Selection of Friends
This psalm is such an appropriate introduction to the entire Book of Psalms. The first word of the book, "blessed," indicates the tremendous benefit to hearing and following the truths of this particular book of the Bible, in addition to the benefits of following the truths communicated throughout the entire Bible. The connotation of being blessed by God runs counter to our transient culture. We often pursue happiness. Happiness is driven by our circumstances. Happiness often derives its pleasure from our own selfish motives. Ironically, chasing happiness can hinder our experience of true joy because it runs counter to God’s standards for blessings. As happiness seeks immediate pleasure, on our own terms, blessedness seeks joy on God's terms. Happiness is ultimately idolatry, the worship of the self. Blessedness comes from an act of worship by seeking God above all else. Blessedness invokes the inward joy that comes from God. It comes from outside us and it comes to us on God's terms.

In this opening verse, the psalmist identifies hindrances to divine blessing. How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! Avoid those who are wicked, sinners and scoffers. Avoid them for they assault our very pursuit of joy. Paul says, "bad company corrupts good morals.” Here we see that bad company also hinders divine blessing. If we long for the joy that only God can give, we must be careful how we spend our life. We must be careful of the company we keep. We cannot fellowship with people who are dominated by sin. We must be careful where we get our advice and where we get our priorities. The wicked come at us from all sides, constantly speaking with authority into our lives saying, “Live this way!” “Embrace this idea!” “Follow this dream!” Their ways sound good because they come with promises of happiness in the near term. The way of the lost sounds promising, but the result is destruction and misery. The one with a contrite heart discerns the fading promises of the broken culture. The contrite in heart quickly identify the false messages from those who do not love God and do not submit to His Word.

In contrast, verse 2 juxtaposes a life committed to the negative influences of the wicked with that of a life committed to the Word of God. Notice the joy in this. That individual "delights in the Word of God." The blessing does not emerge from mere obedience to the Word of God. Rote submission to the Bible will not do, but instead delight, meditate, and abide in the Bible. Then comes this beautiful picture in the third verse - this picture of the blessed life. If we hear and follow the teachings of the Bible, we are like a tree planted deep, near a good source of water, producing good fruit.

Prayer Focus
God, keep me from godless voices that would rob me of the truly blessed life only You can give. Keep me in your word. Help me to abide in Your Word. Grant me wisdom so that I might discern what messages and ideas come into my life that I should avoid. Grant me courage to embrace the messages that come into my life that affirm Your Word. Produce a delight in my heart for You. Amen.

From Bunyan’s The Acceptable Sacrifice
Man, as he comes into the world, is not only a dead man, a fool, proud, and self-willed, but also a fearless creature. 'There is, ' says the text, 'no fear of God before their eyes' (Rom 3:18). No fear of God! There is fear of man, fear of losing his favor, his love, his good-will, his help, his friendship; this is seen everywhere. How do the poor fear the rich, the weak fear the strong, and those that are threatened, them that threaten! But come now to God; why, none fear him; that is, by nature, none reverence him; they neither fear his frowns, nor seek his favor, nor inquire how they may escape his revenging hand that is lifted up against their sins and their souls because of sin. Little things they fear the losing of them; but the soul they are not afraid to lose. 'They fear not me, says the Lord' (Mal 3:5). How many times are some men put in mind of death by sickness upon themselves, by graves, by the death of others? How many times are they put in mind of hell by reading the Word, by conscience, and by some that go roaring in despair out of this world? How many times are they put in mind of the day of judgment. Still they have no fear of God and His judgments.

 

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