The Motivation To Pray

The Lord Jesus Christ supplies us with a truthful and timely word about being motivated to pray. He spoke about the need to be watchful – “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38). To be watchful is to be alert, attentive, and observant. It’s a focus word. Jesus is teaching us that the urgency, and frequency, of prayer can be traced back to taking a close look at things. It’s seeing things as they really are. The disciples were not mentally and spiritually alert to the magnitude of this moment in the Garden of Gethsemane. Great eternal issues were unfolding in this place, but they were not sharp-eyed and on full alert to what was happening around them. They slept through this intense and immense battle being fought, and won, by Jesus. It was because He was keenly aware of the wicked work of the enemy coming against Him, that Jesus prayed so fervently and passionately.

Ponder the words that Jesus spoke to His disciples: “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.” It was so unlike Jesus to speak this way! As they had consistently observed, Jesus was always fearless and on top of all situations. This was clearly different, but because they were not watchful in this moment of crisis, they failed to stand up and be accountable to the Lord’s invitation for them to join in this historic battle. They did not pray – none of them. But what about us? So often in life, we are facing our own titanic trails and temptations. And like the disciples, we are not on full alert as we should be. Think about it. The devil is always busy – busy all the time. He’s always up to no good. The battle is fierce and ferocious. The outcome is very clear – victory or defeat. May God give us a head and heart that is spiritually watchful. The results! We will pray as we should and win the victory like our beloved Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. – Van Hardin

Having A Strong Heart

     You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

     (James 5:8)

     On December 22, 2005, Matt Long, a member of the New York City Fire Department was riding his bike to a training session when he was hit by a twenty-ton bus. The bus didn’t just knock Long down; it ran over him. Long was impaled by his bike. Amazingly, he was not killed even though he suffered numerous injuries. Rescue workers extracted his body from the wreckage and transported him to a hospital where he received 68 units of blood and had 22 surgeries before his release five months later. The doctors working on Long were astounded that his heart was still pumping until a family member explained that Long had just qualified for the Boston Marathon. Because he was in top physical condition, Long’s heart was strong enough to keep pumping even though his body was seriously injured. His heart was strong!      For the child of God, dealing with so many trails, troubles, and temptations, a strong spiritual heart is an absolute must. We must keep our heart strong – very strong – through the spiritual disciplines of daily prayer, fasting, the diligent study of God’s word, and maintaining devotional times with God. Yes, the Devil is busy. Yes, life can be harsh and hurtful. Yes, people will misunderstand you and wrongly judge you. But there is a spiritual answer to this real-life stuff. Keep your heart strong in God. With a strong heart, you will experience the growth and victory that God has ordained for your life. Don’t settle for weakness! Be determined to have a strong spiritual heart in your journey of faith. Let’s believe it and declare it. The increase, advancement, and growth of the Waterbury congregation will require that our people have strong hearts committed to God’s will and work. – Van Hardin

This Time I’ll Get It Right

     It’s possible that we begin every new year – looking back – at the things we didn’t get right in the previous year. The new year begins with a burst of optimism and gratitude for God blessing us to see a new year. The year kicks off with a celebratory spirit! But then, we come face to face with the reality of the missteps and mistakes that we can’t seem to overcome. It’s a new year, but some of the old defeats have been brought into this new moment in time.

     Of course, some people are not troubled about the defeats of yesterday. They say, “I’m just human.” But there are others who enter the new year driven and determined to confess and address the spiritual failures that have been largely overlooked, excused, and rationalized. If we’re thinking right, and set on doing right in the new year, we will be determined to live victorious in more and more areas of our life. Think about it! Is there any reason why we should not enter the new year focused on being victorious over the habits, behavior, and bad ways of doing things that are not God’s will for our life. Perhaps most of us, if not all of us, have areas in our life that we’re not getting right. And the new year should bring us to declare, “this time I’ll get it right.” This is the attitude that lines up with God’s word: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57.      The new year is a great opportunity for us to look honestly and closely at any wrong that needs to be made right in our life. From the start of the year, we should make a bold proclamation that “this time I’ll get it right.” We are spiritually born, and Holy Spirit filled, to live victorious in Jesus Christ and His Church. Paul declared it – “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17. So let me make this suggestion. Write down a few things that you’re not getting right in your journey of faith. Bring this list before God in a prayer of humble contrition. Speak these words: “Lord, it’s a new year that You have brought me into, and I’m presenting some things to You that I didn’t get right last year. But this is a new year. And in Your power and good guidance, “this time I’ll get it right.” What a mighty God we serve. We can get right and stay right through Him! – Van Hardin

2024: Getting Our Praying Right to Receive What Is Needed

As God brings us into a new year, there’s so much to get right before God. Right at the top tier of our “got to get this right list” is our prayer time with God. Prayer is never – ever – wasted time. It’s an opportunity in time for us to live out the promise set forth by James: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8). Right praying is not accidental or incidental – it’s intentional. We must be intentional, from the depths of our spirit, to pray right in God’s presence. This means bringing the right mind and motives into our prayer moments with God. Right thinking produces right doing. So when we think right in prayer, we will do right in prayer. Jesus put it this way: “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6).

Let’s lean into these words. First, Jesus implies that we will be committed to a life of prayer. He says, “when you pray.” Right praying is an extension of our daily life. We come to believe that “to live is to pray.” Second, Jesus calls attention to the secret, private, isolated, shut off from others, requisite of right praying. Yes, public prayer, and group prayer, is essential praying. But we must spend time, much time, alone with the Lord our God in prayer. The word picture of shutting the door conveys the idea of shutting things out that we may be a hundred percent locked into the prayer moment. Unnecessary distractions will interfere with the spiritual focus essential to right praying. Last but not least, is the right attitude about God that is essential to getting our praying right. Jesus declares we must know for sure that God “will reward.” The Greek word for “reward” means: “to grant, to furnish, to supply, to give.” Get the idea. In prayer, and through prayer, we will receive from God exactly what is good, right, and necessary in 2024.   This year, as with every year, there’s every good reason for us to get our praying right. This is why we’re taking a close look at prayer in our Wednesday pm Bible class. The topic is: God Centered Prayer That Produce Timely Outcomes: Principles For a 2024 Prayer Life. Why not join us! It’s an opportunity, even at this early start of the new year, to get our thinking right and praying right. Remember, Jesus promised, God “will reward.” See you in class!!! – Van Hardin

A Date and Destiny Marked on The Calendar of Your Heart

In this time side of life, we always seem to have some date penciled in on our calendar. Something we’re looking forward to in the days ahead: a graduation, a date set for a career promotion, a vacation, and yes, a wedding day. Many others have dates set on the calendar that are troubling, hurtful, and sorrowful: the date when a sentence will be handed down in a court of law, a date for a diagnostic health test, or a date when a beloved family member is funeralized and laid to rest. Dates matter, rather it’s an occasion for joy or mourning.

For the baptized believer, is there a more significant date – or moment in time – when we transition from life to our promised eternal reward? It’s what we’re praying for, living for, working for, and waiting for – in God’s time. Ann Ross Cousins was a British poet, musician, and song writer. Before her death on December 6, 1906, she wrote several popular hymns that are treasured to this very day. Her best-known hymn, “The Sands of Time Are Sinking,” has captured the hearts of millions. The very first verse sets the stage for all that follows. “The sands of time are sinking, the dawn of Heaven breaks…” Great song and great hope!

Heaven! No matter what you’re going through, or dealing with in time, stay laser focused on heaven. Wake up thinking about heaven, think about heaven throughout the day, and sleep restfully thinking about it. This was Paul’s reminder: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:20).

No doubt, we have some significant dates penciled in on our calendars. But child of God, make sure that as you travel through time, even in the year 2024, keep the hope of heaven stamped deeply in your heart. And yes, it’s worth living for and waiting for.   by Van H. Hardin

Turning Back the Hands of Time

Way back in 1970, Tyrone Davis sang into the airways a song that reached number one on Billboard’s R & B Chart. The best-selling hit, “Turn Back the Hands of Time,” spoke to the sentiments of the masses. Down through the ages, countless numbers of people have said it: “If I could turn back the hands of time!” Davis was singing about a broken relationship that he wanted to recover. And like Davis, so many others long for a do-over moment in life – crying out from the depths of their spirit for an opportunity to redo something that went terribly wrong in their past. But there’s hope, because the Living God is a God of a second chance in time.

God’s second chances – in time – are ultimately all about getting our life right with Him. But when we think about “Turning Back the Hands of Time,” our focus is most often on something we want to set right in the natural. But for God, another shot, a new opportunity, a second time is all about the heavenly things and eternal things that are so much more important than this present life. But are we willing to think like God?

 
 Of course, men and women need to be open and honest before God about the wasted time spent in bad thinking and bad living. Paul calls it out, “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air…” Ephesians 2:2. That was back then! But now, the God of the second chance in time has set us right and made things right: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17. Yes, we completely blew it in the past, but our loving God “Turned Back the Hands of Time” by washing us in the blood of Jesus and took away all the sin debts from our past. Now that’s great news!!! – Van Hardin

Being Open to The Plain Bible Truth About Time

Fully and faithfully aligned to God’s Time – this is the Biblical focus of our Sunday sermons from January to March. I think the topic is worth – our time – to give our full attention to. Time is valuable, precious, and substantial in determining our eternal destiny. The thing that we must always keep in the forefront of our  minds is that we have time now, but not forever. Give some thought to this text: But concerning the times and the seasons, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2). This truth is intended to grab hold of our attention. To keep our heads and hearts locked in on the end of time when the Lord Jesus Christ returns for His beloved Church. The text points out that this climactic event will be both sudden and surprising. Many will be unsaved, and unprepared, for this divine shutting down of time. 

That’s why, at this first getting started quarter of 2024, we’re preaching and teaching what God’s Word reveals to us about time – God’s time. One author writes this about time, “When a person gets into the habit of wasting time, he is sure to waste a great deal that does not belong to him.” Good observation! Let’s be clear, we cannot think right, live right, and even die right if we’re thinking wrong about time. This Sunday, our sermon is titled: Revisiting the Doctrine of God’s Time part 1. Let’s hear and receive the Word and be blessed.

– Van H. Hardin

Fully and Faithfully Aligned to God’s Time

Last Lord’s Day we kicked off a sermon series on the issue of time: Fully and Faithfully Aligned to God’s Time. Big question! How important is time? Well, what we decide to be, and do, in the time that God gives us will determine our destiny in eternity. This makes time all-important for us. In the brief span of time that it took me to write this article, people departed this time side of life and moved into eternity totally unprepared to meet their God. It’s alarming, tragic, and sad.

In the opening lesson of this sermon series, we called attention to two invaluable gifts that we have from God. The gift of truth – God’s saving gospel truth in Jesus Christ. And then, there’s the gift of time – sufficient time for us to hear, believe, understand, and obey the truth that Jesus saves. We spoke about the words of Jesus regarding truth and freedom: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” John 8:32. Fully bought into God’s truth on this time side of life will shield and protect us from destruction. We will be protected from self-destruction, unnecessary destruction, and eternal destruction.

If we’re ready and willing to receive it into our minds and hearts, this sermon series will greatly impact the days, weeks, and months of 2024 in the very best way. Think about the inspired words of Isaiah at the start of this new year – “Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times…” Isaiah 33:6. This is exactly what this sermon series is all about. To lovingly challenge us to embrace the wisdom and knowledge to be fully and faithfully aligned to God’s time. The results, we will be blessed to accomplish and attain what God has in mind for us in 2024.

– Van H. Hardin

Going Back To School On Faith

For the child of God, faith is the main thing that must always be the focus point of all that God is calling us to be, calling us to do, and where He is calling us to go. This explains why God keeps us in the classroom of life learning to pursue and perfect faith. Of course, our motivation to be all about faith is found in what God’s word reveals about the meaning and magnitude of faith. We are saved by faith, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. (Ephesians 2:8). We are richly blessed with God’s supply when we lift up the prayer of faith: And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. (Matthew 21:22)

And let’s never forget, we please God – we satisfy Him – by remaining in the space and place of faith. But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6).

Throughout December, faith has been the focus of our Lord’s Day sermon. But think about it, the titles and topics may change, but we are always being instructed, encouraged, and admonished in the way of faith. Paul put it this way, For we walk by faith, (2 Corinthians 5:7).  Translation! We get up each day, in God’s love, grace, and guidance to get faith right.

What’s happening in your life these days? Are you going through something difficult? Are you facing the unknown? Are you dealing with a situation that is clearly unfair. Say it, and embrace it – the Lord is bringing me back to school on faith. And yes, have the conviction to declare the outcome. I will come through this better and stronger because faith always wins. Faith never loses! And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. (1 John 5:4).