God’s Purpose in Prayer

God is doing something big inside praying people. He is not primarily interested in our coming one by one as single, solitary individuals, asking for certain things, receiving them, and then going off by ourselves and remaining unchanged during the whole process. God will not have that, because He is far more interested in us than in what we ask – although that does certainly interest Him.

Instead God is working to change us through our asking, through all that He allows to come into our lives, through the Scriptures, through the Holy Spirit, through the providences, the hard things, the hurtful things, and the happy things. He is active in all these things to shape us into the likeness of Jesus, so that we will be at the place where the Holy Spirit is able to intercede, work, and plead inside us, reflecting the tones of the voice of Jesus.

Ultimately, it its not so much what we ask, but who we are when we pray that counts the most.

– Douglas Kelly, pp. 82-83.

God’s Sovereignty and Our Prayers

The sovereign God on His throne, who has planned all things from the beginning to the end, has arranged His plan in such aa way that the prayers of the saints are one of the major means He uses to accomplish His final goal. Instead of the sovereignty of God clashing with the prayers of the believer, the two actually presuppose one another and fulfill and undergird one another.

– Douglas Kelly, If God Already Knows – Why Pray?, p. 53

The Holy Community

In its preoccupation with heart attitudes, Luke’s portrait of early Christian koinonia is a discomforting challenge to economically-comfortable Christians, relentlessly probing our motives. When confronted with another person’s need, is our first impulse to help or to edge away? To find a way to meet the need or to find an excuse for avoiding involvement? When brothers and sisters are in need, the normal response of people touched by God’s Spirit is to share together as members of a family do. How normal is the evangelical church today? Luke sums up the result of the Christian’s sense of family partnership, “there was not even a needy person among them (Acts 4:34).” His words deliberately echo the Lord’s ancient promise of blessing toward Israel, if Israel were to prove faithful (Deut. 15:4-5), “There will not be a needy person among you, for the Lord your God will greatly bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to inherit as your portion. If you listen intently to the voice of the Lord your God to keep and to do all these commands that I am commanding you today.” This promise assured Israel of God’s blessing and material prosperity if Israel proved faithful to the Lord and His Law. Israel disobeyed and received a curse rather than blessing, but now God’s promise of a blessing that erases want is coming to fulfillment in the church, not through abundant harvests but through open hearts. The fulfillment of God’s promise through hearts turned inside out – from protective selfishness to risky liberality – is a more marvelous work of God than ample rainfall and bumper crops from Palestinian soil would have been. The practical koinonia in the church is the fruit of the Spirit who removes the curse, making dry ground fertile once again.

– Dennis Johnson

Sermon Text for May 28th – Acts 17:22-31

This Sunday we’re going to be starting a new series – titled “Who Is the Lord?” – in which we will be considering how the Scriptures describe the nature and character of our God. Here’s the text I’ll be starting from:

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“ ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “ ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ 

29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Click here for the sermon audio.

Sermon Text for May 21st – 2 Timothy 1:8-10

Excited to have my good friend Andrew Pack – a former church planter who now serves as the Executive Director of the 3Strand Network – bring the Word this Sunday. Here’s his text:

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

Click here for the sermon audio.

Sermon Text for May 14th – 2 Peter 3

This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Click here for the sermon audio.

The Danger of Depending on the Wisdom of the Masses

The second test with respect to the wrong way of testing the false prophets is the fallacy of always assuming that if the teaching is popular it must be right. ‘Many shall follow their pernicious ways,’ says Peter. False teachers are going to arise amongst you, he says, and they will attract a crowd…Surely this fallacy hardly merits any prolonged attention, but I have to refer to it because one still hears the glib phrases, “Everybody believes it’, or to put it negatively, ‘No one any longer believes the Bible; no cultured, educated person believers; look at the masses outside the church.’…What is the lesson of the New Testament and of the Bible on this matter? Go back to the Flood for an answer – you will find the whole world was wrong and only eight people right. The many were against God at the time of the flood; only eight people were saved. Is a thing true because everybody says and believes it? Then go on to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah – what do you find? Exactly the same thing; the many, the mass, were all on the wrong side. Lot and his family alone were rescued. That is the teaching of the Bible. It has always taught the doctrine of the remnant – the many, the popular, the crowd all going in the wrong direction and just the small remnant remaining true. To me one of the saddest features , even of modern religious life, is the tendency to estimate truth in terms of results, popularity, crowds, movements. It is an utter denial of the biblical teaching. You cannot estimate spiritual truth by polls; the counting of heads is not a biblical way of discovering whether teaching is right or wrong. You do not take a census and ask people to fill in certain details. ‘To the law and the testimony’! Popularity and numbers are a very false test of truth.

– Lloyd-Jones, Expository Sermons on 2 Peter, pp. 127-128 (emphasis added).