Take Time to Pray

A Prayer Devotional By Dr. Ben McWilliams

Dr. Ben McWilliams - Life Stage Pastor at Christ Chapel Bible Church

“Take Time to Pray” are weekly devotional reflections by Dr. Ben McWilliams. Ben serves at the Life Stage 6 Pastor at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth, Texas. He also leads the intercessory prayer ministry called “Mondays with the Master.” He is a dear friend and mentor. I am delighted Ben  has granted me permission to share “Take Time to Pray” as a regular feature.

Harmony - Dec. 1, 2021

Harmony

Romans 12:16: “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”

Harmony. We all wish to have it…but at what cost?? The apostle Paul astutely recognizes that our desire for tranquility and peace, is largely to be achieved by our responses to the surrounding background dissonance that permeates so much of our lives. Again, Paul wisely reminds Christ Followers to can our pride and to lose the habit of thinking ourselves to be overly clever and full of wisdom. But just how are harmony and its lack, related to pride? For starters…these two conditions are polar opposites. They cannot, shall we say, harmoniously co-exist! Everyone recognizes overt pride. While we tend to recoil from its overt state, how quick are we to sense its subtleties, its pervasiveness, or its certain disturbances of peaceful relationships. Paul goes another step. He cautions those who are Christ’s disciples, to be aware of these disturbing habits and to consciously avoid them. How so? We are never to be wise in our own sight! Elsewhere, scripture clearly commands us to never exalt ourselves…not even a little bit…but to trust that to God’s purposes and timing. In due course, God will exalt His children. He has promised to do so!!

Paul’s final instruction to the Roman Christians is found in verse 16: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Not an easy assignment! Yet, in the power of the Comforter, doable. A harmonious spirit is largely dependent on my choosing to follow God’s twin commands…avoiding prideful behavior and actively living peacefully with others. The coming holidays will provide a wonderful opportunity for all of us to practice these most basic relationship skills.

Let Colossians 3:12-14 be our closing prayer:

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

In the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Casting Off - Nov. 17, 2021

Casting Off

Casting is one of those utilitarian words which is mostly used unthinkingly. It is generic enough to use most anytime one thing is being put aside or separated from something else. A ship casts its mooring lines from the pier to allow it to be untethered and free to move out to open water and journey onward to its next destination. Old, unused, or simply worn-out articles of clothing are cast into the trash or perhaps into a recycle bin. Then we have the memorable phrase,
“The die is cast!” A numbered cube is tossed and whatever is to be is set irrevocably into motion…win or lose.

The biblical use of the word, “cast” or “casting” encompasses all these various hues of meaning. Psalm 55:22: “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall.” I don’t know about you, but as attached as I am to my many “cares”, truthfully, most of them are shopworn and need to be tossed away! They only serve to moor me to the docks of anxiety, worry, or fear. While I’m tethered to these docks, I’m not free to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and to be fully obedient to God’s commands. My life is meant to be a journey of joyful service to my Savior, not a permanent anchorage caused by a disabled spirit. And speaking of casting the die, what a magnificent and irrevocable set of promises are given to those who choose to cast their cares on the Lord…He will sustain us and never let His righteous ones fall.

1 Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on God because He cares for you.”

Abba, Father,
How much You love Your children!! We fret over, we cling to, and we refuse to cast our cares and anxieties onto Your sovereign providence. We choose to be bound to them and their disabling ways. Forgive us! Strengthen us! Enlarge our vision to see through Your eyes and Your promises. Teach us to freely cast our burdens onto You…and to fully trust You to carry them.
In Your strength and for Your glory,

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Whose Eyes? - Nov. 3, 2021

Whose Eyes?

Matthew 6:22-23: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”

Eyes are often used as a metaphor or symbol representing a portal through which one chooses to view the world. A broader understanding of this metaphor can be seen as a person’s overall viewpoint…or in a word…their worldview. We all have one. The only question then becomes…do you really know what your worldview encompasses? Simply put, one’s worldview is the philosophic or conceptual lens through which you receive, process, and respond to the surrounding world. It’s the very bedrock foundation on which you have built your daily life. It informs your every desire and decision. One’s underlying worldview is deeply entrenched in their psyche…largely hidden from their conscious awareness. Parts of our worldview are intentional, while other parts are largely, and unconsciously, absorbed from our cultural interactions. For virtually all of us, some parts of our deeply held worldview, pose quite a shock, when we occasionally catch a glimpse of them unexpectedly surfacing.

So how do we go about familiarizing ourselves with our own worldview? As always, God’s Word is the single best starting point!! When we ask the Holy Spirit to square our whole worldview with the whole of Scripture…we are in for quite the ride! There will be lots of editing, unlearning, relearning, some resistance, and, in the end, a great deal of joy. This is to be an intentional life-long commitment. I close with two verses from the New Testament.
1 John 2:16-17: “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

Ephesians 1:17-18: “…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…”

Truly…whose eyes do you choose to see the world through??

Lord God,

Thank You for not leaving Your children totally grasping about in a sin-darkened world. Thank You for the gift of the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation, which opens the eyes of our heart when we call on You. Please give us an unquenchable desire to fill our hearts and minds with the light of a clear understanding of Your pathway to righteousness and joyful obedience. May we always seek to see with Your eyes and not our own. In Your strength,

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Lavish Love - Oct. 20, 2021

Lavish Love

For those who have spent much time reading God’s Word, a certain caution must be exercised to prevent the subconscious “editing” of long familiar scriptural passages. As an ancient adage admonishes, “Familiarity tends to breed contempt”. With the Bible, this is more of a complacency or comfortableness, that readily allows one to skim across the surface of verses without truly seeing or comprehending the richness of their layered meanings. One must read with intentionality, if the verse’s context and the surrounding matrix of supporting passages is to be properly understood. I think this tendency toward inattentive reading is readily illustrated by the numerous, well known verses proclaiming God’s love for His followers. I find myself seeing the word “love”, assume that, “God loves me…this I already know”, and then fail to carefully note just how or why it is, that “God loves me”!!

I have chosen a few verses, which hopefully, will give a deeper insight into the how and why of God’s unfathomable love for His children. God’s love is never passive, incidental, or thoughtless. It is preordained, intentional, and full of purpose! It is eternal!! And it is lavish…lavish beyond description!!! Please read the following selection of verses in a meditative fashion, asking the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind to the extravagance of God’s love for each of His own.

Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

Psalm 139:16: “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, everyone of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Romans 5:8: “…but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Ephesians 3:17-19: “…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Revelation 21:3-4: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Our Father God,

How lavish is Your love for humanity!! It is far beyond our comprehension…yet…Your Word continually assures us of its eternal reality. Thank You for loving me!! Thank You for giving my life a kingdom purpose, one that allows me to obediently respond to Your loving kindness showered upon my very existence. Holy Spirit, please help me to see the Father’s love at work in my life, to never take this perfect love for granted, and to actively share His love with all whom You place in my life’s journey.

In His strength and for His glory,

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Sparrows and Lilies - Oct. 13, 2021

Sparrows and Lilies

If you are like me, I’m quite sure that you do not spend much time contemplating such seemingly arcane subjects as the common sparrow and the lilies of the field. For most of the year, living in this part of Texas makes it very difficult, to find much of anything blooming in our water starved pastures…much less beautiful lilies! And let’s face it, unless you are an avid “birder”, I doubt you can even remember the last time you saw a sparrow, much less tell me which species of sparrow and whether it was a male or female. For the record, there are six different species of sparrows which regularly inhabit all or various habitat niches scattered throughout our state. Most people, at best, would give the general description of sparrows as being small brown birds of little significance…and if you have a bird feeder near a window from which you enjoy watching the different birds tussling for their share of food, you most likely would add that sparrows are mostly a nuisance. Sparrows can be fiercely defensive of “their” perceived territory!! As beautiful as lilies are, few can flourish in the harsh conditions of an overlong Texas summer. Several native species of mostly small, and botanically speaking, insignificant lilies may successfully produce a brief fragile blossom before disappearing for the bulk of the year. It’s little wonder, sparrows and lilies are rarely thought about!!

I find the descriptors used to note the sparrows and lilies’ purposes, significance, and often their futile efforts to flourish, uncomfortably similar with those so often used to describe fallen humanity. We are fiercely grasping of what we consider to be “our” rights and “our” property. Whole masses of our society have been deemed “insignificant” and consigned to the barest margins of society or to oblivion. Only the few “privileged” who are momentarily perched at the top of humanity, seem to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Yet for the observant student of Scripture, sparrows and lilies were the very examples used by Jesus, to rivet attention, to the prominence of God the Father’s watch-care over all His creation. In God’s eyes, there are no insignificant flowers nor creatures nor persons!! None whatsoever!!
In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He extolled the beauty of the common lilies. Though their “life” span was brief, their delicate radiance was loved by their Creator, who graciously provided for their very existence and purpose. Later in Matthew, Jesus again, sharply reminded His followers that even though two sparrows were daily sold for a pittance, not one of them would ever fall to the ground without the Father’s notice.

Christ’s conclusion: “Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Heavenly Father,

How often I find myself fretting about “my” rights, “my” significance, or “my” life. Forgive me for forgetting the inestimable price with which You value all Your children. Our ransom was nothing less than Your Son’s becoming sin, obediently yielding to death by crucifixtion, while fully trusting His Father to raise Him from the dead, and to return Him bodily to sit at Your right hand in the throne room of heaven. Should I trust You less?? Please forgive me when I do! Open my eyes to see Your perfect watch-care and provision for every plant, creature, and human carefully placed in the preciseness of Your sovereignty. All glory, honor and dominion are Yours!!

In the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Unblemished - Sept. 22, 2021

This is, beyond all doubt, a peculiar title for a devotional! It causes us to squirm a bit at the thought that we may not be unblemished…at least not as much as we prefer to think we are. For me, a brief glance into the nearest mirror quickly dispels all doubts! But I am not thinking about the physical. It’s those “inner” blemishes…those times when I choose to let self, have the reins of my life…or I cleverly maneuver to put self, first, just to make sure that I get my fair share, or whatever else that self wants…you get the idea. Generally, no one, but an unblushing narcissist will have the temerity to truly think they are perfect, faultless, and blemish free.

Given fallen humanity’s state, one should not be surprised that God’s Word weighs in on this matter of imperfections from a variety of fronts. Starting with Moses and Aaron…a pair of deeply blemished characters…we find God instructing them on the intricacies of the first Passover, including the sacrifice of a year-old male lamb that “must be without blemish”. As we well know, by the long and checkered history of the Israelite people, from that time onward, their corporate sin had to be atoned for by the yearly sacrifice of an unblemished lamb. A perfect, holy, and “unblemished” God could never accept any less!! 1 Peter 1:18-19: “…knowing that you [each Christ follower] were ransomed from…futile ways…not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” This is the cost of our becoming unblemished in God’s sight! I so often forget what eternal value and depth of love Jesus has for His saints, who collectively form Christ’s eternal bride…His Church. Ephesians 5:27 succinctly clarifies His love for His bride: “…so that Jesus might present the Church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” For the Christ Follower…these verses are talking about you!!

I close with Colossians 1:22: “But now God has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you [Christ Followers] holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation…” For the Christ Follower…we are indeed, reckoned as unblemished in our Heavenly Father’s sight. When those inevitable times of doubt or feelings of failure or seasons of spiritual despondency seek to rob you of spiritual peace and hope…gently remind yourself of how God sees His redeemed saints…”unblemished”…through the finished work of Jesus Christ!!

Abba, Father,

Thank You for washing me in the precious shed blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ. How incredibly gracious is Your love for each of Your children. Lord, You know that I do not feel “unblemished”, that I stumble and fall far short of what I wish to be, that so often I choose selfish ways that do not honor You. Yet, in Your great love and forgiveness, You have declared that for all eternity, even this very minute, that as Your redeemed child, I am seen as holy, reconciled without accusation, and as unblemished! Praise Your holy name!! Father God, grant to me the constant desire and strength to live in this eternal truth.

In Jesus name,
Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Spiritual Amnesia - Sept. 1, 2021

Psalm 38:8-10: “I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart. O Lord, all my longing is before You; my sighing is not hidden from You. For my heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.”

Have you ever felt this way? Especially when times (the moment) seem overwhelming or hopeless or even inexplicable? Of course…at one moment or another…we all have! There are times when this complex of emotions seems to be the appropriate option. This past year’s troublesome woes certainly have not been the worst in history…but for many of us, this historical nicety matters little. We have all lost family, friends or suffered through our own health issues, or have had our faith in a holy, perfect, and loving God assaulted or shaken in some fashion or way. In short, we have all been caught up in a “moment” in life that was far beyond our own “self-sufficiency’s” ability to comprehend or to manage. The result is very often a “spiritual amnesia”!! When under unrelenting duress, one shifts into a survival mode with its inevitable tunnel vision, and the jettisoning of all non-essentials. This is the classic “fight or flight” mindset. In certain circumstances, this may well be a life-saving strategy.

However, this is not the case with our spiritual lives. Rather, God repeatedly admonishes His followers to remember His promises of steadfast love, His Word filled with evidence of His faithful provisions for His own, and to remember the many times that He has delivered you from difficulties when no one else could or would. We are always to hold dear the promise, “God never forsakes nor abandons His own”. He never has, never does, never will!! God does not want His people to ever suffer from any form of “spiritual amnesia”. When we forget God’s great works of deliverance in our lives, we soon “forget” His intense love and steadfast faithfulness. With time, God’s commands will grow burdensome and neglected. The end result…we drift from God, we lose our keen desire to serve Him, and worst of all…we forget His story of redemption! In essence, we become trapped in the “moment” and lose sight of where we are in God’s eternal “story”. A vibrant spiritual health demands that I keep my focus squarely on God’s story of His Creation/Man’s sin and fall from grace/Christ’s Redemption and ultimate return for His Bride (His faithful Church). It’s a non-negotiable and eternal story that has and will involve every person that has or ever will live on this earth.

Jesus’ disciples offer us a prime example of “spiritual amnesia”. They had traveled with Him throughout Galilee, as He was “proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and affliction among the people”. They had heard Jesus preach His magnificent Sermon on the Mount to the enthralled masses. It seems that later that same day, they were present as Jesus instantly healed Peter’s mother-in-law of her febrile illness. Hours later, the disciples found themselves in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, with Jesus, sound asleep from exhaustion. The problem: an unexpected and vicious windstorm was swamping their boat faster than they could bail…they were sinking!! In a panic, they woke Jesus up, pleading with Him to save them from drowning. His response seems harsh…asking them why they were afraid, and then rebuking them for their faithlessness. Jesus rebuked the storm, immediately bringing a great calm. The disciples were left wondering, “What sort of man is this, even the winds and the sea obey Him”! This is a classic example of “spiritual amnesia”!! Before you are tempted to stand in judgement on their lack of faith, how often do we, in the heat of the moment, suffer from our own case of “amnesia”, muttering to ourselves, “Where is Jesus, when I need Him?”

Yes, we must attend to these crisis moments that abruptly intrude into our lives…randomly sowing discord, disorientation, and dismay throughout our “well-ordered” lives. But we must not let these amnestic “moments” long distract our focus on the “story” with its Divine capacity to reorder, reorient, and restore His followers to the proper spiritual perspective. We must never forget who Jesus is!! He is the eternal “story” that encompasses all the “moments” of my life. As Christ Followers who have become one with Him, His Divine story of victory, becomes our own victorious story!! Never let “spiritual amnesia” rob you of this amazing reality!

Heavenly Father,

Forgive me, when, in the midst, of difficult circumstances, I fail to remember that You have promised to never abandon nor forsake me…no matter what!! Holy Spirit, help me to live in the promised peace and hope and awe that the disciples experienced day in and day out, as they walked with Jesus. Never let me forget Whose I am, and the price paid for my life. Bring, to mind, daily, that You have chosen to allow me the greatest privilege of all…to live daily in service to You and under the pavilion of my Savior’s love…walking moment by moment in Your eternal story.

In His Strength,
Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

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