It’s Time to Pray

The word to Christians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), assumes that God wants to hear from us. Any time is a good time to pray.

Perhaps we can identify with the sentiment of President Abraham Lincoln who famously said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.” We know we need to pray to God, especially now, at this consequential time in history.

The Jewish holy day, Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement, is on Monday, September 28. It concludes the ten days of repentance that began with the Jewish new year (Rosh Hashana). Yom Kippur is a day dedicated to prayer, meditation, and confession of sin.

Before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians, the  anointed priest would bring the blood of a sacrificial animal into the Holy of Holies. He would sprinkle the blood on the atonement cover (mercy seat) that rested atop the Ark of the Covenant, thereby making atonement for his sins and for the sins of the nation.

This was followed by another sacrifice. Two goats were selected, one for sacrifice, and one to be a scapegoat. The blood from this sacrifice was spattered on the atonement cover in the Holy of Holies, and also upon the altar in the outer portion of the sanctuary. This was to make atonement for the sins of the people.

The priest then laid his hands on the head of the second goat, thereby ceremonially transferring the people’s sins to the innocent animal. That goat was taken out into the wilderness and released. This pictured God’s willingness to forgive and release us from our sins (Leviticus 16:1-34).

These and other preparations, ritual washings, and additional sacrifices are explained in the New Testament book of Hebrews. There we learn that now, because of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, believers may come “with the full assurance that faith brings” into the very presence of God. Those who trust in Jesus Christ for salvation are invited to “draw near to God” (Hebrews 9:19-22).

The author of Hebrews contrasts the obsolete ritual baths, special clothing, and animal sacrifices of the Day of Atonement with the freedom and confidence we enjoy through our Lord Jesus Christ. “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Our observant Jewish neighbors will observe Yom Kippur on Monday. But they will celebrate this holy day without  the necessary sacrifices for their sins, as required by the law of Moses. They have no Temple, Holy of Holies, Ark of the Covenant, or altar of sacrifice. Oh, that they would recognize the complete sufficiency of the sacrificial death of Jesus the Messiah. He is our High Priest, Passover lamb, and “the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1John 2:2).

I am glad for the reminder the Day of Atonement gives us of the need to confess our sins and meditate on God’s gracious willingness to forgive. I want to follow the example of President Lincoln and to pray. Any time is a good time to pray, but I intend to let Monday be a reminder to pray for our nation.

Pastor Randy Faulkner


Not Me, God!

One of the great privileges of serving the Lord, has been for me to be a member of the executive board of ABWE International. This mission agency provides opportunities, resources and services to over one thousand missionaries in 71 countries worldwide.

I have just returned home from a board meeting at our international headquarters in Harrisburg, PA. We engaged in three days of prayer, strategic planning and receiving reports of what God is doing through his missionaries around the world.

The Lord is still calling out workers for his spiritual harvest. These people are being sent by their churches eager to do evangelism, discipleship,  and church planting. Mission boards such as ABWE support those sending churches by enabling their missionaries to accomplish God’s mission.

They are being called by God to proclaim the saving gospel of Jesus Christ through relationship-building, medicine, education, literature, youth ministries, leadership development, and a host of other creative initiatives. They are being called to incarnational ministry.

That is what I spoke about when I addressed the board in a devotional message on the first day of our meetings. My talk was based upon Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus was informing his disciples that they were being sent into the world on the same mission and with the same motives as his own(John 20:21).

The Lord used the title “Son of Man” for himself to identify with humanity. In the same way his missionaries seek to identify with the people to whom they go, learning their language and immersing themselves in their culture, yet without sacrificing their personal identity and authenticity.

The Lord Jesus came to serve, not to be served. Likewise his disciples are called to ministries of servanthood. The word “serve” Jesus used was the word for the lowliest household slave. I wonder how many of Jesus’ 21st century disciples see themselves this way? Someone has said that the test of whether a Christian has the attitude of a servant is how he reacts when he is treated like one!

Then the Lord spoke of his death. In my talk I reminded the group of the sacrifices of missionaries like Adoniram Judson who, when he proposed marriage to Ann Hasseltine said, “Give your hand to me, and go with me to the jungles of Asia, and there die with me in the cause of Christ.” We remembered together the deaths of missionary Roni Bowers and her daughter Charity whose missionary flight was shot out of the sky in 2001 in a case of mistaken identity. It was a drug interdiction gone wrong and our ABWE missionaries died.

What a tragedy, we say! But isn’t that what missionaries sign on for when they say “yes” to the Great Commission of Jesus to give their lives for the gospel? In fact all Christians are called to die to the world, to die to self, to die to sin, with the real possibility of dying physically for Christ.

Several years ago I wrote the following lines, imagining a response to the call of God.

Not Me, God!

Not me. Surely you don’t mean me when you say “pray.” After all, you’re the Lord of the harvest. What can my prayers do, when it’s all up to you?

Not me. Surely you don’t mean me when you say, “share.” After all, you own it all anyway. What can my giving do, when it’s all up to you?

Not me. Surely you don’t mean me when you say, “go.” After all, there’s so much to do here. What can my going do, when it’s all up to you?

Not me. Surely you don’t mean me when you say, “tell.” After all, I am shy and ungifted. What can my speaking do when it’s all up to you?

Not me. Surely you don’t mean me when you say, “love.” After all, I have only so much love. But wait — I think I see, the word I speak, the place I seek,  the wealth I share, the act of prayer, the love I give … is what you gave to me.

Pastor Randy Faulkner


A Pandemic Prayer

Dedicated to all who are grieving,  unemployed, or fearful. “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)


Jesus, in this moment, are you here to sense my pain?/ Jesus are you listening to these thoughts I can’t explain?/ Jesus, do you hear it — this pulsing, choking cry?/ Jesus, are you present as this night is dragging by?

Every word you’ve spoken, friend, is one I’ve heard before./ Every ache and longing, every loneliness, and more/ is a feeling I have felt before, a sorrow I have known./ Come to me with anything; you’ll never be alone.

Jesus, do you mean it when you say your load is light?/ Jesus, this dark heaviness is turning day to night!/ Jesus, do you matter now, or is this just a game?/ Jesus, in this sadness now, I want someone to blame!

Lay your blame on me, good friend; the nail has pierced my hand./ Thorns were on my head. (I don’t ask you to understand.)/ I felt the lash; I heard the curse (and you speak of blame!)/ In the dark I freely took your weight of guilt and shame.

Jesus, are you real, or not, and are you truly there?/ Jesus, can you answer when I try this thing called prayer?/ Jesus, are you God, or not, and if so why not speak?/ Jesus, why is my believing so unbelievably weak?

Once I spoke, I’m speaking now, to show you that I care./ If I’m silent, friend, it doesn’t mean that I’m not there./ I call you “friend,” not slave, so you’ll know that you are free/ to question, rage, to ask, to doubt; come share the yoke with me.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Old Testament Lessons for Today

I recently read a book review in a religious magazine. The book’s author, a prominent pastor, claimed that the Old Testament is not as authoritative as the New Testament. Perhaps he meant to say that it is not as applicable, or relevant as the New Testament. But to say that it is not authoritative is to question its truthfulness and value, something no Christian should do.

The New Testament plainly says that Christians should study the Old Testament and apply its lessons to our lives. Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”

In 1 Corinthians 10, the apostle Paul based his teaching to New Testament Christians on the experiences of Old Testament people. In verses 6 and 11, he repeated the phrase, “These things happened to them as examples, and were written down as warnings for us.”

When Paul wrote to Timothy that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching” (2 Timothy 3:16), he was not saying that every Old Testament Scripture is equally useful or applicable to Christians today. But he was saying that it is useful and practical for what it teaches about God, his will, his mighty acts in history, and how he worked in the lives of his people in the ancient past.

One example might be the life of King David. When he was at his best, David provides a model for us in how to live with a heart for God. When he stumbled morally, his story is a solemn warning about the consequences of sin.

David provides an example of a warrior spirit, courage and boldness. He discovered that if he obeyed God’s will, the Lord himself would be with him (1 Samuel 16:18). When the youthful David fought the Philistine hero, Goliath of Gath, he recognized that he was facing more than a military problem. This was a theological problem. Goliath was insulting the Living God! And you know what happened to Goliath.

We are tempted to think of our problems as financial problems, or psychological problems, or interpersonal problems, or health problems. And to us they are. But on a deeper level they reveal our opinion of God. If we, as David did, recognize God as “the Living God,” then we are in a position to entrust our problems to him, as David did.

On the other hand, when David sinned, his story is a warning to us about the terrible cost of disobeying God’s moral law. Even though David confessed his sin and repented, the natural consequences of his failure brought devastation to his family and to the nation of Israel. Hundreds of lives were lost in the civil war that ensued. David’s sons fought among themselves and brought grief to the heart of the king.

One of the timeless lessons from this part of the Old Testament is that God’s children cannot get away with sin. Our heavenly Father disciplines his children. His correction is always because of his love (Proverbs 3:11-12).

Another lesson from the Old Testament story of David is that it is possible to be forgiven and restored to fellowship with God. David’s psalms teach us that, especially Psalms 32 and 51. The sorrows that followed David’s great sin changed him and prepared him to resume his role as the anointed king of Israel. He passed along a legacy of faith to his son and successor, Solomon.

The theme of David’s life was that he was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Psalm 89). I think this means that at the core of his being, David’s heart was compatible with God’s. Surely this is what we want to be true of ourselves. We learn these lessons from the Old Testament.

It is truthful, trustworthy, practical, applicable, divinely inspired, and, yes, it is authoritative. These lessons from the life of David are proof of what our Lord Jesus said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God'” (Matthew 4:4). Every word, the Old Testament as well as the New.

Pastor Randy Faulkner