PRACTICING HIS PRESENCE: a nine-week small group Bible Study based on the Works of Brother Lawrence, Frank C. Laubach, Andrew Murray and other Christian Classics.
REJOICE ALWAYS, PRAY WITHOUT
CEASING, GIVE THANKS IN ALL
THINGS; FOR THIS IS WILL OF GOD
Paul urges us to pray continuously – pray without
ceasing – yet 21st century society trains us to
concentrate for 140 characters, or short sound
bites. So how do we learn to pray continuously
and grow closer to God?
Types of Christian Growth
- Paul: you are a Paul if you have studied hard and devoted your entire life to Christ without falter.
- John Mark: if you jumped eagerly from the starting blocks, ran hard and fast, but have since been told you were lacking. You may have even been asked to take time away to reflect on your life, then you
are a John Mark.
- Timothy: if you earnestly follow Christ, but possess doubts or express a certain lack of confidence in your abilities, then you are a Timothy.
- Lydia: if you are a soul-winner, church-builder, or quiet unpresumuous leader you are a Lydia.
- Peter: if your life has been a teeter trotter, up and down up and down, and often falling to the ground… if you only learn the hard way, then you are a Peter.
- Corinthian: If you are Christian in name, but your life is little or no different from those who don’t even claim to be Christian, then you are a Corinthian.
- Judas… If you have betrayed Christ, you are a Judas.
And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and
disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what
is good for each other and for everyone else.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this
is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit.
-1 Thessalonians 5:14-19
Why We Need to Grow
Most of our readers are mature Christians, or so it seems. You read this blog because you wish to continue to grow in Christ. Some of us, I fear, have reached the point in our walk with Christ where we feel we have “arrived.” We have no more to learn, no growing to do. We await only that moment when we will be transformed in the twinkling of an eye whether through death or rapture. Worse yet, a few of us may believe that, while we may be able to grow more,
there is no point, for there is nothing we can accomplish for God.
Q&A About Growth
1. Do you ever feel that have not grown in your spiritual walk with Christ?
2. Do you ever feel like you have grown as much as possible while on this earth?
3. Have you ever known someone who believes they have “arrived?”
4. Which of these is the biggest obstacle to continued spiritual growth in your walk with Jesus?
A. Lack of time
B. Lack of prayer closet
C. Someone in my life who is an obstacle
D. Lack of motivation
E. I just don’t know how to grow more
F. I don’t need to grow
It is enough for me to pick up a straw from the ground for the love of God.
Crisis and Salvation
A pastor I know is a rare bird. I’ve known him since he was 12. He grew up a Christian and has known since a young man what God would have him do. He has never faltered, never stumbled. Most of us, though, must face a crisis before we are saved. Most must face a second crisis before finding sanctification. We often hit a crisis before major life changes.
A few, like me, must face many crises in our maturing process. We are like Peter, ashamed of our falling away, and, in the end, we are better off for our experiences (although I never wish to repeat many of mine). Brother Lawrence hit a crisis in his life and, in the four hundred years since, generations of people have benefited because of it.
The World to Which Brother Lawrence was Born
Because he was born into an impoverished family, Nicholas Herman (later known as Brother Lawrence) left home younger than he might have. He joined the army where he would be fed and paid, and perhaps earn enough to send money home to his mother. The place was France. The year, about 1625.
1625: John Smyth had only recently begun the movement that would lead to the first Baptists. Virginia had just become a British colony. King James had just passed away.
Not much is known of Brother Lawrence’s service in the army, but given his age and location we can surmise that he served King Louis XIII and likely fought the Huguenots in Southern France. From his writings, we understand that war had a profound affect on his life. He immensely regretted causing harm to others, and that was the crises that eventually drive him to Christ; “it wasn’t, characteristically, a supernatural vision, but a supernatural clarity into a common sight” (Christianity Today. “Brother Lawrence: Practitioner of God’s Presence.
http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/innertravelers/brother-lawrence.html. 2017. Accessed 23 May 2017).
Gradually Nicholas came to realize that to please God and to properly deal with his regret, he must close himself off from the world and concentrate on growing close to the One who saved his soul. He joined a Carmelite Community as a lay brother and spent the remainder of his long life as a menial laborer, washing dishes and cobbling shoes.
Frank C. Laubach
Prayer at its highest is a two-way conversation-and for me the most important part is listening to God’s replies.
Filling the Need
Many people were more capable than of revolutionizing the world through the development of the desktop computer, if they had only recognized the need and focused solely on filling that need. Only 4 people did so: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne. Likewise, Christians cannot see or focus on the needs around them.
Frank Charles Laubach felt called to preach the Gospel and was assigned by his church to be a missionary in the Philippines. From 1915-1930 he allowed God to build His church through him on the island of Mindanao. The mission grew quickly, compelling him to build a Christian college, Union College in Manila. Laubach served as its president. When his term was up in 1930, he was 46 years old and could have left the Philippines and taken a comfortable job as a college president or lecturer in the U.S. He didn’t. God showed him another need.
The Need Seen by Frank Laubach
Laubach could not shake the fact that, despite all the good he had done in the Philippines, his work was not yet complete. Before the end of 1930, he had returned to Mindanao and moved into a Muslim Moros village.
Laubach didn’t try to convert the Muslims with sermons or confrontation. He lived among them, and demonstrated Christ’s love. He soon realized yet another need.
First, Laubach had identified the need of a mission, then, of a college, then he made intimate contact with the Muslim population of 90,000. Now, God revealed the need at the heart of the matter: the Mohammedans could never learn the Gospel because they could not read the Bible. They were illiterate.
At the age of 71, Laubach finally left the Philippines. He had taught half of the 90,000 Muslims in Mindanao how to read (Renovaré. “Living each moment with a sense of God’s Presence: Frank Laubach. 3 Feb 2016. https://renovare.org/articles/livingeach-
moment-with-a-sense-of-gods-presence-frank-laubach Accessed 2 Jun 2017).
Still, he did not retire. In the U.S., there was a significant number of adults who could not read. In 1955, he founded Laubach Literacy which to this day has helped teach 150,000 people a year to read. It now teaches people in 34 nations worldwide.
There is no defeat unless one loses God, and then all is defeat, though it
be housed in castles and buried in fortunes.
5. One can find, even in this brief introduction into the lives of these two Christian mystics, many lessons to apply to our lives. What lessons can you see already?
6. Have you ever done something, like Brother Lawrence, that you so horribly regretted that your remorse compelled you to alter your entire life?
7. Do you see value and growth from crisis within your own life?
8. The Nazarene Church was birthed in a revival that emphasized a crisis experience in the lives of individual seekers. The embers that caused the fire in which it was forged were the hot coals that remained of a series of national crises stretching back to the Civil War. Are we better off not emphasizing the Crisis Experience?
9. Is one ever too old to stop growing or too old to be of use to God?
10. Can one ever grow so close to God that there is no longer a need to grow closer to Him?
We really seldom do anybody much good excepting as we share the deepest experiences
of our souls… We need to struggle for more richness of soul.” – Frank C. Laubach
What Classic Christian works have you read?
What Christian writers have influenced you most?
Besides Thessalonians, where else does the Bible speak of praying continuously?
How do the words “without ceasing,” “continually,” and “continuously” differ?
What are some of your favorite prayers of the Bible?