A Passion for People

Can someone learn how to pray?  While it may seem like an obvious "yes" answer, there are some who live like they cannot learn to pray better prayers.  
They have limited themselves to shallow "God is good. God is great.  Let us thank him for this food" and "Now I lay me down to sleep" prayers.  
Luke 11:1-2 may be familiar verses to some, it provides an interesting challenge.  The Jewish followers of Jesus probably know some basic things about prayer and yet know this is something they can learn from Jesus.  They ask "Lord, teach us to pray."  They have observed the prayers and life of Jesus, John and the disciples of John.

Jesus' response to their question was not "Come on guys, you know this."  He said, "When you pray say..."  Jesus wanted to see the disciples grow spiritually.

Paul is the same as it relates to wanting to see God's people grow in their walk with God.

This week's prayer is 1st Thessalonians 3:9 - 13  In Praying With Paul, D.A. Carson provides some interesting content by beginning the chapter study with chapter two verse seventeen.  Paul's intense longing and great desire drive him to pray for God's people.  His prayers show that he is seeking the good of others.  Carson writes:
The issue is service, the service of real people. The question is How can I be most useful?, not, How can I feel most useful?, not, How can I feel most useful? The goal is, How can I best glorify God by serving his people?, not, How can I feel most comfortable and appreciated while engaging in some acceptable form of Christian ministry? The assumption is How shall the Christian service to which God calls me be enhanced by my daily death, by my principled commitment to take up my principled commitment to take up my cross daily and die?, not, How shall the form of service I am considering enhance my career [and name]?
Paul's desire to be with the church is a desire to be with them to help them grow.  Paul's prayers for people come from his passion for people. (85)  "If we are to improve our praying, we must strengthen our loving." (85)  It is not a narcissistic "I need you to feel good about myself" prayer.

The prayer in 1 Thessalonians 3:9 - 13 is filled with practical things to remember in your own prayers.
  1. What we need is a prayer life that thanks God for the people of God, and then tells the people of God what we thank God for. (88)
  2. Paul doesn't just pray that the people would be strengthened.  He prays that he would be used by God to strengthen the church.
  3. Paul prays that the Thessalonians would love one another and others just as he did.
  4. Paul prays that God might strengthen them so that they could live the life God wants them to live.  
The common thread between these points is that genuine, deep prayers are the words spoken by a person living in dependence upon God

Here are two videos to remind us that God is for God and we need to be for God.
As a pastor/preacher, what would you do if you were invited to preach at a church that holds a different view of the purpose of the church?  Here is what Matt Chandler did.

The full sermon Tim Challies references in #3 of the Great Sermon series.  It would be helpful to watch the video above 


Still Looking for a House

business cards at a house we saw
We have been looking for a house for nine months now and the house we are currently renting just sold.  Over this time, we have been blessed by the Billins, Wilterinks, and Shelners.  We have also been stretched in many different ways.  This week we put our 12th offer on a house.  I don’t even know how many houses we have seen.  We are very thankful for our realtor Taylor and all of his work during this search.  After hearing our most recent offer was not accepted we found out some details about the accepted offer.  There were 24 offers total.  The accepted offer was considerably over the list price, 20% + down, willing to pay over the appraisal, 45 + days until possession and a quick closing.  This is just a snapshot of what the market is right now. 

I know there have been people wondering why it has taken so much time for us to find a house.  Here are a couple “philosophical” reasons why I believe it has been so challenging.

The current market in Grand Rapids:
I explained our current house offer.
Here is a February article about the Grand Rapids market and it has only become more of a seller’s market since then http://fox17online.com/2018/02/15/grand-rapids-continues-to-be-a-sellers-real-estate-market/

The proximity to the church:
We believe it is important for us to live in or near the community we are serving.  This would help with hosting people from the church to our house and inviting people from our neighborhood to church.

Krista’s work:
We have determined that Krista’s priorities are first the children and then the church.  Krista has been working part-time as a para-professional at Northpointe Christian School. Her pay is used to help with the cost of the kids’ schooling. 

Schooling for the children:
We understand as parents it is our responsibility to disciple our children and schooling is a resource to help us with that task.  Recently, we have been extremely blessed by the Northpointe Christian School family.  We would love to have them continue there if that is God's plan. Where the house is related to the NPC schools plays a role in our decision.

Financially wise:
We don't want to make a decision now because we want a home that we will regret later.

This past Sunday's lesson was praying Paul's prayer in 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12 for others.
When praying for people, pray that
their faith would grow,
their love would increase,
they would persevere in their trials,
they would glorify God
they would become more and more Christlike.

While would VERY MUCH APPRECIATE your prayers for a house, 
we would really appreciate you praying these things for us.

Tomorrow is May 18th and Day 18 is one of my favorite entry in the Gospel Primer.  I have shared it before and I am sharing it again, as a reminder to me.
More than anything else could ever do, the gospel enables me to embrace my tribulations and thereby position myself to gain full benefit from them. For the gospel is the one great permanent circumstance in which I live and move; and every hardship in my life is allowed by God only because it serves His gospel purposes in me. When I view my circumstances in this light, I realize that the gospel is not just one piece of good news that fits into my life somewhere among all the bad. I realize instead that the gospel makes genuinely good news out of every other aspect of my life, including my severest trials.  The good news about my trials is that God is forcing them to bow to His gospel purposes and do good unto me by improving my character and making me more conformed to the image of Christ.
Preaching the gospel to myself each day provides a lens through which I can view my trials in this way and see the true cause for rejoicing that exists in them. I can then embrace trials as friends and allow them to do God’s good work in me.

Not About You

Over the last two week's the Wednesday Night Fight Night studies have been designed to help families see some different ways they can use the Fighter Verses at home.  
In this post, I included the activities we do along with the devotional connections.  


Romans 12:14 activity
5 minutes for each person in your group to say verse 14.
and do the following activities:

1. Read information about Adinoram Judson.
2. Answer the question about the quote and ask what stood out in this short story of Judson’s life.

Romans 12:15 activity
5 minutes for each person in your group to say the verse twice,
Have some people share some things that have made them
Pray as a group:  thank God for these things.
Have some people share some things that have made them weep.
Pray as a group:  Ask God to help in these situations.

Romans 12:16 activity
5 minutes for filling in verse 16 blanks,
have each person in your group say the verse twice,
Ask the group what they think “haughty” means based on what the verse says.
Share this definition:   having or showing an attitude of
superiority and for people or things perceived to be inferior

Work together in your group to decide which of the following items would be the best  (1 = best - 4= worst) to have if you were lost in the woods.  Explain why.  There is not a correct answer.
__  baby pacifier 
__  stuffed animal
__  baseball
__  spatula


    Romans 12:14 says "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them."

    This reverse economy of the Christian faith is very challenging.  As a matter of fact, it is impossible to live this way without the Holy Spirit.  

    Jesus Christ set the example for us, as stated in 1 Peter 2:21, "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,"

    It is very easy to love those who love you (Luke 6:32-33).  Even sinners do this.  

    You are to bless those who persecute you and "do good to those who hate you." (Luke 6:27)

    John Stott wrote, “There is no better way to express our positive wishes for our enemies’ welfare than to turn them into prayer and into action.”

    Missionary stories are great reminders of what this looks like.

    The part of Judson story that was read last night is from the FREE book Adoniram Judson:  How Few There Are Who Die So Hard by John Piper.

    Remember it is not about you and your comfort.

    Romans 12:15 says "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep."

    On one hand, these two commands seem a little strange.  What is the challenge in these verses?
    The supernatural living comes when someone is rejoicing while you are facing challenges or another is rejoicing when you believe it should be you.  
    The supernatural living comes when someone is weeping and you are happy something bad happened to that person who may have hurt you. 

    Remember it is not about you and your circumstances.

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

    John Piper states the following in his sermon "Bless Those Who Persecute You"
    Virtually all the commands in verses 14-21 assume that something deeper has happened.  All these commands are rooted in freedom from self-preoccupation and self-infatuation and self-exaltation. And, much more than that—though that is crucial—they are rooted in Christ-preoccupation and Christ-infatuation and Christ-exaltation... 
    We could go to verse 1, look at the words, “I appeal to you by the mercies of God” and show how all of this chapter is the fruit of being overwhelmed by the mercy of God in Christ spelled out in Romans 1-11. That would be exactly right.
    Remember it is not about you.  

    "God's motivation of his love for you isn't that you are great. It's that He is great."  Matt Chandler


    What are you praying for?

    D.A. Carson's book Praying With Paul:  A Call to Spiritual Reformation takes a look at the different prayers he wrote in his letters to the churches.  The Genesis class at West Cannon Baptist Church started a study of this book on May 13th.  In preparing for the class I was personally and deeply challenged.

    Chapters 2 and 3 look at Paul's prayer in 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12.  The prayer is specifically in verses 11 and 12 but 3 through 10 have some great things to consider when we pray.  Carson refers to these verses as the framework for prayer. 

    Verses 3 and 4 give some specific praises connected with the church in Thessalonica.

    Paul gives thanks to God for them.  What does he thank God for?  What do we thank God for?  Have you ever thought about what you most often give thanks for in your prayers."  Our thanksgiving seems to be tied rather tightly to our material well-being and comfort.  The unvarnished truth is that what we most frequently give thanks for betrays what we most highly value."  (41)  

    Paul gives thanks that the church's faith is growing, their love is increasing, and they are persevering under trials. 

    "The church is different [than a local rock-climbing club, regional football team or a socially cohesive local church].  The church is made up of people who are as varied as can be:  rich and poor, learned and unlearned, practical and impractical, sophisticated and unsophisticated, aristocratic and plebian, disciplined and flighty, intense and carefree, extrovert and introvert - and everything in between.  The only thing that holds such people together is their shared allegiance to Jesus Christ, their devotion to him, stemming from his indscribable love for them." (42)
    "When Christians lose sight of their first and primary allegiance, they will squabble."  (42)
    One of this week's Fighter Verses connects very closely with these points.  Romans 12:12 says "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." HERE is a post about this verse.  There is a great reason Christians can be patient in tribulation.  "Christians are prepared to suffer and to endure because they keep their eye on the goal." (45)

    In verses 5 through 10, Paul's focus shifts from what is seen in the church to what will happen in the coming kingdom.  For believers, there will be vindication, the clearing of blame or suspicion.  For others, there will be retribution, punishment for a wrong or criminal act.  At the cross, these two future realities meet.  "The cross simultaneously stands as the irrefutable evidence that God demands retribution and cries out that it is the measure of God's love (Romans 3:21-26)."  (48) 

    After this great set up for his prayer, Paul writes "with this in mind."  "This" is the great fruit of faith, love, and perseverance in the church and "simple confidence in the prospect of God's perfect vindication of his people when Jesus returns.  Because of "this," Paul has some big prayer requests.

    "Paul prays that God might count these Christians worthy of their calling" (51)  In writing to these Christians, Paul is telling them to become what they already are.  Since they are children of God must become what children of God should be.  Carson writes a very convicting paragraph in this section.
    "When was the last time you prayed this sort of prayer for your family?  for your church?  for your children?  Do we not spend far more energy praying that our children will pass their exams or get a good job or be happy or not stray too far, than we do praying that they may live lives worthy of what it means to be a Christian?
    What would this "become what you are" prayer look like for West Cannon Baptist Church?

    Paul then "prays that God by his power, might bring to fruition each Christian's good, faith-prompted purposes."  (55) A new life in Christ results in new goals for the sake of Jesus' name.  We realize that "no Christian can do everything, and none of us should try.  But we can all do something" in God's strength and for God's glory.

    Paul closes the prayer in verse 12 by sharing his two-fold purpose in the prayer.
    • The glorification of Jesus Christ.  "The Christian's whole desire at its best and highest, is that Christ be praised."  (57)
    • glorification of believers.  -Romans 8:29 - 30 says "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."  (emphasis mine)
    "When we glorify God, we are not giving him something substantial that he would not otherwise have.  We are simply ascribing to him what is his.  BUT when we are glorified we are being made more like him, we are being strengthened or empowered to exhibit characteristics that we should not otherwise display."  (59)

    The last line of the prayer is "according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."  This statement reminds us that we can do these things only in God's strength and power. "The Savior himself cannot be glorified in our lives, nor we be finally glorified, apart from the grace that he provides."  (61)

    The 8 Lessons from the School of Prayer can be found HERE