Article copyright by Bob Rogers
As a hospital chaplain, I often meet people who believe in God but don’t believe in the church. Some are angry with the church, and many just don’t have any motivation to be connected to a church. They are fed up with the hypocrites. I get that– I have been one of those hypocrites, and perhaps you have, too. They are tired of church fights. I get that, too. One guy told me, “I can catch hell at home; I don’t need it at church.”
Yet I submit that we need the church. (I’m talking about the people, not a building. The early church met in houses, and many churches meet in homes today.) In fact, there are at least five spiritual practices that a Christian cannot appropriately do without the church.
1. We can’t use our spiritual gifts without the church. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to all believers, but it is always in the context of the church. Romans 12:5-6 talks about how we are all part of the body of Christ as we have different gifts. It says in 1 Corinthians 12:7-12 that every believer is given a spiritual gift for the common good, because we are all part of the body of Christ. Prophesying, teaching, serving, giving, leading, showing mercy, and so many other spiritual gifts are either done among members of the church or together with members of the church.
2. We can’t show we are disciples without the church. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). We are told to serve each other, teach each other, feed each other, pray for each other, encourage each other. I may know I’m a disciple but I can’t show I’m a disciple if I sit at home alone and don’t show love for fellow believers. No wonder Hebrews 10:25 commands believers not to forsake gathering ourselves together, but instead to encourage each other.
3. We can’t experience God’s greatest presence without the church. Matthew 18:19-20 tells Christians to agree together in prayer, and where two or three are gathered that way, God is there. God is real in private prayer, but this is a clear scriptural promise that God is present in a greater way when we pray together. No wonder the Psalmist proclaimed, “Better a day in Your courts, than a thousand anywhere else!” (Psalm 84:10).
4. We cannot appropriately pray the Lord’s Prayer without the church. Jesus gave us this beloved prayer, found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-6, as a model on how Christians should pray. The repetition of the words “our” and “us” throughout the prayer is constant reminder that Jesus taught us to pray with other believers and for other believers. While a Christian may certainly pray this prayer alone, we cannot continue to pray this prayer with sincerity and remain alone.
5. We can’t take communion without the church. By definition, the Lord’s Supper is meal of Christians gathered together to remember the body and blood of Christ given for us upon the cross. In 1 Corinthians 11:17-26, the apostle Paul continually uses the phrase “come together” to describe observance of the Lord’s Supper. It says in 1 Corinthians 10:17 observes that by sharing the bread of communion, Christians are expressing their unity: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” Since we cannot take communion without expressing unity with the church, it follows that refusal to express communion with the church is a refusal to express communion with Christ.
Christ died for the church.
Christ is the builder of the church.
Christ is the head of the church.
Christ is the shepherd of the church.
Christ is the groom for His bride, the church.
Christ is coming again for the church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against His church!
Keller, Timothy. God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotionals in the Book of Proverbs. New York: Viking, 2017.
I loved this daily devotional! I have read Keller’s devotional through Psalms, and I find this one to be an excellent companion to it.
Keller wisely (pun intended) groups the devotionals into topics, rather than trying to go through Proverbs chapter by chapter. By including verses from different parts of the book in a day’s devotional, he gives a greater balance and thoroughness to each, as he often includes wisdom sayings that give different perspectives on the same topic, or give further elaboration and illustration on the same topic.
Keller also includes some selections from other wisdom books, especially Ecclesiastes and Job, and ends during the Christmas season with insights from the New Testament and how Jesus is our ultimate source of wisdom.
I highly recommend this daily devotional! It will challenge you to think deeply and live wisely.
Copyright by Bob Rogers
Jesus blessed the food and gave thanks for it when He fed the 5,000, but the Bible doesn’t tell us the words that He prayed. So what should you say when you pray before a meal? That’s up to you, but in case you would like some ideas, here are 27 prayers that I have collected over the years. Where I know the source, I list it in parentheses:
CLASSIC, TRADITIONAL PRAYERS
“Lord, bless this food to our nourishment, and us to Your service. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” (Traditional prayer I heard in my Baptist family.)
“Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive, through Thy bounty through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.” (Traditional Roman Catholic prayer.)
“Christ God, bless the food and drink of Thy servants, for Thou art holy, always, now and ever, and to the ages. Amen.” (Traditional Eastern Orthodox prayer.)
“Thank you, Lord, for the food we are about to receive, and for the nourishment to our bodies. For Christ’s sake, Amen.”
“Humble our hearts, Oh Lord, and make us thankful for these and all our blessings. In Christ name Amen.” (Shared by Brenda Holloway and Darren Thomas)
PRAYERS MENTIONING FAMILY AND FRIENDS
“Heavenly Father, bless this food, and bless our friends and family who’ve come to dine with us today. Amen.”
“God, we give you thanks for the delicious food on our table, for the loved ones gathered around, and for you, who make it all possible. We are humbly grateful. Amen.” (Norman Vincent Peale, A Prayer for Every Need)
“Dear Lord, we’ve gathered to share good times, good conversation, good friends, and good food, which we thank you for all. Amen.”
“Bless the food before us, the family beside us, and the love between us.” (Shared by Lynda Easterling Stinson)
PRAYERS REMEMBERING THOSE IN NEED
“Give us grateful hearts, O Father, for all thy mercies, and make us mindful of the needs of others; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (1928 Book of Common Prayer)
“For food in a world where many are in hunger; For faith in a world where many walk in fear; For friends in a world where many walk alone; We give you thanks, O Lord. Amen.” (Huron Hunger Fund, Anglican Church of Canada)
“Oh Lord, make us grateful for this food that we are about to receive, as we remember those who do not have enough to eat. Amen.”
PRAYERS MENTIONING THOSE WHO PREPARED THE FOOD
“Thank you, Lord for this food, and bless the hands that prepared it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” (Traditional prayer I heard in my family.)
“God, many hands made this meal possible. Farmers grew it. Truckers drove it. Grocers sold it. We prepared it. Bless all those hands, and help us always remember our dependence on you. Amen.” (Norman Vincent Peale, A Prayer for Every Need)
“You are mighty Lord, and all providing. We thank you for this food we have been given for nourishment and delight. We ask a special blessing to those who prepared this meal with love and care tonight. Amen.”
“God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. By His hands, we are fed. Give us, Lord, our daily bread. Amen.” (Traditional children’s rhyme.)
To the tune of Frere Jacques (“Brother John”): “God our Father, God our Father, We thank you, We thank you, For our many blessings, For our many blessings, A-men, A-men.”
“ABCDEFG Thank you, God, for feeding me.”
To the tune of Superman Theme: “Thank you God for giving us food. Thank you God for giving us food. [Both hands pointed up.] For daily bread, that we are fed. [One hand moves to the hip on ‘daily bread’ and then alternate with other hand on ‘we are fed.’] Thank you God [hands up], for giving us food” [hands move to the hips and voice deepens.](Shared by Joseph & Beth Copeck)
“Thank You for the food we eat, yum yum! Thank You for the friends we meet, ho ho! Thank You for the birds that sing, a-ling a-ling! Thank You, Lord, for everything, Amen!” (Robin Anker Peterson of Perth, Scotland, sang this happily to his young children.)
PRAYERS IN OTHER LANGUAGES
“Some hae meat and cannae eat. Some nae meat but want it. We hae meat and we can eat and sae the Lord be thankit.” (Some have meat and cannot eat. Some no meat but want it. We have meat and we can eat and so the Lord be thanked.) (Scottish blessing.)
“Alles das wir haben (All that we have), Alles ist gegaben (All of it is a gift), Es kommt, O Gott, von dir (It comes, O God, from you), Wir danken dir dafuer. (We thank you for it.)” (German blessing.)
“Cristo, pan de vida (Christ, bread of life) Ven y bendice esta comida. Amen. (Come and bless this food.)” (Spanish blessing.)
WITTY, PITHY PRAYERS
“Good food, good meat, good Lord, let’s eat. Amen.”
“Lord, bless this bunch as they munch their lunch.”
“Grace in the kitchen, Grace in the hall, please O God, don’t let them get it all.” (Shared by Buddy Wasson)
“Lazarus rose, Moses led, Noah built, Jesus fed. Amen.” (Debbie T. Alsup)
What prayers do you pray before meals? Please share one in the comments below, and I may add it to the list. After all, we need to keep our prayers as fresh as the food we thank God for giving to us.
I rarely do this in a book review, but I give five stars to The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, by Arthur Bennett. A former pastor, Darryl Craft, introduced me to this amazing book of prayers when he quoted it in worship. I decided to buy a copy and spend this year slowly reading them in morning devotions.
To say this is a popular, influential book is an understatement. First published in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1975, it has been through numerous printings in the U.K. and USA. Collected and edited by British author Arthur Bennett, The Valley of Vision contains over 200 prayers of Puritans such as Richard Baxter, David Brainerd, John Bunyan, Isaac Watts, and Charles Spurgeon (whom Bennett calls “the last of the Puritans”). However, Arthur does not identify the authors of the individual prayers. The prayers are grouped by sections under ten subjects such as the Trinity, redemption, penitence, and service. The final section are a collection of morning and evening prayers for each day of the week. These prayers use poetic rhythm and repetition to deliver a powerful emotional punch. For example, the prayer “Spiritus Sanctus” (p. 27) begins, “O Holy Spirit, as the sun is full of light, the ocean full of water, Heaven full of glory, so may my heart be full of thee…” Others use poetic imagery, as the prayer “Humility in Service” (p. 178), which includes the line, “O bury my sins in the ocean of Jesus’ blood…”
Modern readers may find many of the prayers to be extremely self-deprecating and so full of humility that the reader appears too hard on himself. For example, “After Prayer” (p. 150), says, “Let me be as slow to forgive myself as thou art ready to forgive me.” I would question the spiritual healthiness of being slow to forgive oneself. Yet with that caution, modern culture has gone so far in the opposite direction, that most modern Christians could benefit from a healthy dose of feeling the heaviness of sin.
If you want to be inspired to pray with conviction, read this book, but read it slowly, to savor every morsel. Then read it again. That’s what I plan to do.
God the Father, who gave us Your Son,
What shall I render You for the gift of gifts?
Here is wonder of wonders:
He came down below to raise me above,
was born, like me that I might become like Him.
Here is love:
when I cannot rise to Him He draws near on wings of grace, to raise me to Himself.
Here is power:
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart He united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreated with the created.
Here is wisdom:
when I was undone, with no will to return to Him, and no intellect to devise recovery,
He came, God in flesh, to save me completely,
as man to die my death.
O God, as the watchful shepherds enlarge my mind,
to hear good news of great joy, and hearing to praise You,
Let me with Simeon clasp the newborn Child to my heart,
embrace Him with undying faith.
In Him You have given me so much that heaven can give no more.
Adapted from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett.
Many people like to get a book with devotional readings for the entire year. If you are shopping for an annual devotional book, the two classic, all-time best, in my opinion, are Experiencing God Day-by-Day, by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby, and My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers (I recommend spending a little extra to get the updated edition of Chambers, because his work was originally written in 1917, and the language of the original can be difficult to follow.) Both of these devotionals are strongly rooted in the scripture, with penetrating insights that will drive you to deeper prayer and faithfulness.
Another excellent classic, Morning and Evening, by Charles Spurgeon, provides readings for morning and evening every day. A Year with C.S. Lewis provides great selections from Lewis’s writings for every day of the year. The Songs of Jesus, by Timothy Keller, has a year of brief, Christ-centered daily devotionals through the Psalms. The prayers Keller offers are particularly inspiring. Keller has also published a devotional on the Proverbs (which includes some passages from Ecclesiastes and Job), God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life. It groups wisdom sayings by topics, and does an excellent job of balancing different perspectives of practical, moral, and social issues. All of the above devotionals will cause you to think deeply and inspire you.
My brother Todd highly recommends the two-volumes of devotionals by D.A. Carson, For the Love of God. It is designed to go with a two-year daily Bible reading plan, and goes into depth. It is not light reading.
If you want a lighter devotional, Daily Guideposts, published annually by Guideposts magazine, include many inspiring stories by a different author every day. They are well-written, although they lack as much substance as the other devotionals mentioned above.
New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp has received many great reviews by people whom I respect, so I bought it to read as my devotional in 2020.
Jesus Calling by Sarah Young is an extremely popular devotional that uses the literary device of speaking to the reader as if it is the words of Jesus Himself. The devotionals in Jesus Calling are brief but quite encouraging, especially to those who need to find peace in their lives. However, the devotional has been criticized because the author claims she received the messages directly from Jesus, and some authors have pointed out minor errors in her book that prove not all messages were directly from God. (For more on this controversy, check the excellent book review by Tim Challies here.) Despite these criticisms, I think her devotional is very helpful, and to her credit, Young includes scripture references at the end of each devotional. Young also has published spin-off devotionals that are similar, such as Dear Jesus.
Voices of the Faithful, edited by Beth Moore, has devotional stories by missionaries.
If you are looking for a devotional for married couples, Our Love Is Here to Stay: A Daily Devotional for Couples, by Tony and Lois Evans, is the best one I have read on the subject. It is well-written, interesting, and full of practical wisdom.
Article copyright by Bob Rogers.
There are more things to worry about than sand on the seashore. But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Don’t worry about your life… or about your body” (Matthew 6:25, CSB). Jesus followed that statement with five reasons why we don’t need to worry. In each of these reasons is a truth that teaches us how to replace worry with something else!
1. Life is about more than things (6:25). Jesus said, “Don’t worry… Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?” This question teaches us to overcome worry by changing our priorities in life. Once Jesus turned down lunch from his disciples and said, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about” (John 4:32). He was referring to the satisfaction in His soul of leading the Samaritan woman at the well to faith. Jesus didn’t worry about things, because His priority was spiritual.
2. Since God provides for His creation, you can trust that He will provide for you (6:26). “Consider the birds of the sky,” said Jesus. “They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?” This truth teaches us to replace worry with faith. Instead of turning over negative things in your mind, meditate on positive gifts from God. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything” (Philippians 4:6, NLT).
3. Worry doesn’t change your problem (6:27). Jesus asked, “Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying?” This truth teaches us that worry is a waste of time—time that could be spent doing something useful, such as taking action to deal with the problem. My friend Melisa Grubbs says, “I can be a worrier or a warrior.”
4. If you focus on God instead of your problem, God will provide (6:33). When you hold a small object close to your face, it looks bigger than any object in the room. Worry is like holding your problem close to your face, instead of looking to God. Jesus promised, “But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” He was teaching us to replace worry by looking closely at God instead of looking closely at the problem. Scripture and prayer help us focus on God. Some helpful verses are: Psalm 27:1, Psalm 34:4, Isaiah 26:3, Matthew 11:28-30, Philippians 4:7, and 1 Peter 5:7.
5. Learn to live in the present (6:34). Jesus said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself.” How often have you fretted in anticipation of something out of your control, and later learned it was not an issue after all? So, replace worry about tomorrow by living in the present. Don’t miss the beauty of today by imagining things that may not even happen tomorrow.
No wonder Jesus Himself could sleep through a storm, and then wake up and calm the sea (Mark 4:38-40). Rest in the Savior, and He can calm your storm, as well. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7, NLT).
In case you missed them, here are the top five blog posts that I wrote in 2017, in order of how many reads they received. Click on each link to read the post:
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
Many people enjoy displaying the Christmas cards that they receive during the holiday season, but what do they do with them after the New Year begins? Stick them in a drawer? Throw them away? Several years ago, my wife Mary and I adopted a simple tradition of praying over our Christmas cards in the New Year.
When we receive Christmas cards, we enjoy looking at them, and then put them in a basket. We place the basket on our dinner table, and sometime in early January, we begin to pray for the people who sent each card, one card at a time, one week at a time. Here’s how we do it: On Monday evening when we sit down to eat dinner, we draw a Christmas card from the basket and look to see who sent it. We share memories of that person or family, and needs they may have. Then as we say the blessing for our meal, we include that household in our prayers. We pray for them at each dinner that week. The next week, we draw the next card from the basket, praying for that family each day of that week. We continue the process throughout the year, and sometime in the fall we empty the basket, as we finish praying for all of the people who sent us cards. Then the basket is ready to refill during the next Christmas season!
Many times we have drawn a card and prayed for somebody at just the time that we know that person has a special need. At other times, we have prayed for them with no idea what they are going through, only to learn later that the timing was perfect. Of course, there is no bad time to pray for another person! This simple tradition has been a blessing to us, too. During the busy Christmas season, we have little time to savor each Christmas card when we first receive them, but later in the year, we have a whole week to reflect on each and every one. It’s an easy and meaningful tradition that you could adopt in your own home.
Article copyright by Bob Rogers.
Here are four lessons I have learned from a thorough study of Jesus’ prayer life:
1. The priority of prayer. He made prayer a high priority. Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16; 6:12-13; 11:1. If prayer was so important for Jesus, how much more necessary is it for us?
2. The privacy of prayer. He constantly prayed in private. Matthew 14:22-23; Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16; 9:18. Oh, how we need to get alone with God like Jesus did.
3. The pinnacle prayer principle. He loved to pray on mountains: Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:46; Luke 6:12; 9:28. However, the fact that He often withdrew to “deserted places” (Luke 5:16) shows that the important thing was to be alone in God’s creation. Your place in nature may be a lake, a small garden, or front porch, or backyard swing. Even if you live in a crowded city, you can find a balcony or quiet room to focus your thoughts on God. The point is that Jesus knew that He had to be in a place where His total attention was upon the Father.
4. The people prayer principle. The more people, the shorter the prayer, the fewer people, the longer the prayer. His public prayers were short. Luke 10:21; John 11:41-42; Matthew 27:46. He condemned long prayers for show in Mark 12:40. His longest recorded prayer, John 17, was with a small group, while His longest prayer of all was totally alone (Luke 6:12). Too often we reverse this and pray too long in public and don’t pray enough in private.
Article copyright by Bob Rogers.
Many people say that they believe in Jesus but don’t believe in the church. Yet I submit that it is impossible to be a disciple of Christ apart from the church. Why do I say that?
1. We can’t use our spiritual gifts without the church. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to all believers, but it is always in the context of the church. It says in 1 Corinthians 12:7-12 that every believer is given a spiritual gift for the common good, because we are all part of the body of Christ.
2. We can’t show we are disciples without the church. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). I may know I’m a disciple but I can’t show I’m a disciple if I sit at home alone and don’t show love for fellow believers.
3. We can’t experience God’s greatest presence without the church. Matthew 18:19-20 tells Christians to agree together in prayer, and where two or three are gathered that way, God is there.
4. We can’t take communion without the church. By definition, the Lord’s Supper is meal of Christians gathered together to remember the body and blood of Christ given for us upon the cross. In 1 Corinthians 11:17-26, the apostle Paul continually uses the phrase “come together” to describe observance of the Lord’s Supper. Since we cannot take communion without expressing unity with the church, it follows that refusal to express communion with the church is a refusal to express communion with Christ.
Christ died for the church. Christ is the builder of the church. Christ is the head of the church. Christ is the shepherd of the church. Christ is the groom for His bride, the church. Christ is coming again for the church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against His church!