Life In Christ: Saturated Prayer

There are many times a day when others share with me the circumstances of their lives.  Not all of these situations are positive.  And I don’t mind them sharing with me (it’s part of the job of being a pastor).  When they share with me…usually there is an expectation that as a Christian (and as a pastor) that I will pray for them.

And so the “Christianese” words flow from my mouth… “I’m going to pray for you.” And armed with the knowledge of their present status I will pray (when I remember…which is a good reminder to make note of important things to remember).

Here’s the thing… it seems like most of my prayers are reactive instead of proactive.  And I know that if I am going to live a healthy life in Christ…there needs to be activities in my life that are not simply responding to the urgency of emergency.  Certainly, these things happen.  But in my physical life, I am trying to be more more proactive about my health… The same should be true in the arena of my heart, soul, and mind with God.  The frequency of my prayer life shouldn’t be only in response to the amount of difficult situations that fall on others or myself.

So, here I am seeking to find the balance of a healthy practice of proactive life-saturating prayer. We’ve been looking at the topic of living Life In Christ over the past few weeks.

Life In Christ 4

As we study the Scriptures, we see that Life in Christ is about a gracious identity from God which leads to a glorious outcome through God.  This healthy identity will and should also have healthy practices with healthy implications.

We can see this application to prayer that overflows from a Life in Christ when we read various places from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus.  Over this new year we’ve been examining the powerful words of this letter to discover the immense grace of Christ in and through the life of those who believe and the opportunity for those yet to believe to respond to Him in faith.

Let’s take a look at Ephesians 1:15-19…

15 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might

Now to gain understanding from the Scriptures… I encourage you to think about the Four Questions I address here.

So, what can we learn here in Ephesians?

We can take note of a few things here. The letter was written most likely as a circuit letter between 60-63 A.D. while the apostle Paul was in his 2nd (and final) imprisonment in Rome under the reign of Nero. He is writing to a multi-cultural, multi-generational church in the city of Ephesus. This is a church that Paul was continually receiving reports about their great loyalty to Christ and the display of their love to mankind.  In this letter, Paul is trying to help the readers (listeners) understand their identity in Christ and the expected outcome of a disciple through Christ.  He also wants them to understand the healthy practices of this life in and through Christ.

The practice of prayer certainly was something the Apostle Paul actively exercised.  The same practice was being encouraged to the church at Ephesus and is still just as relevant today.

So let’s try to answer some questions…

Question #1 – Why should individual disciples and the church collectively be people of prayer?

  • The Scripture shows that prayer reinforces the truth of our utter dependence and faith in God who provides for His people.

This leads to another question…

Question #2 – How can an individual disciple or the church collectively devote their faith in the sovereign provider to a healthy lifestyle of saturated prayer?

Here’s some answers to that question when we look at the writings of Ephesians 1:15-19…

I.  By Being Thankful – v.16

  • Paul said there was a greater sense of thankfulness in his prayers because of others.
  • Because of what this church was doing, Paul mentioned them with gratitude in his prayers.

This leads us to some spiritual examination.

  • Are my prayers so consumed with “me” or is it for others beyond their difficult circumstances?
  • Is there a greater sense of thankfulness in our prayers because of others?
  • Is there a greater activity of praying to God in gratitude for others that God Himself has divinely and strategically placed in our lives?
  • Am I proactively praying for the goodwill of others and remember their goodwill seen in the world due to their loyalty to Christ and their love for mankind?

Paul certainly made this practice evident and encourages the healthy activity to be continued in Christ’s church (individually & collectively).

II.  By Deepening Thoughts – v. 17

  • Paul prayed that the Ephesians would have something that could only have originated from God, was only sustained by God, and overwhelmingly flourish through God.
  • Paul wanted these disciples of Jesus to have their mindset focused on the person of Christ and the plans from Christ. For this to happen they would need the wisdom and revelation that comes only from Christ.  The same is true for us today.

So this leads to some other questions about the activity of prayer in our lives today and how it matches the biblical prescription of this practice.

  • Am I praying for godly, biblical wisdom that deepens my thoughts beyond the earthly for the eternal?  This means that I’m not willing to live on petty cliches or by an earthly scheme.  To pray for this is to ask God to change the way we think, react, and live…well before anything difficult happens.
  • Am I praying for a godly perspective on how to live life today with a Christ-like focus on what’s ahead?  This means that my prayers for God to shine light on His path would be obedient to His word and His will for our lives.  It would be a healthy practice to ask God to transfix our focus to His God-sized vision for our lives rather than just our daily perceptions.

Paul knew that this prayer could only be answered by God but it was also the disciple’s responsibility to receive that which God so graciously reveals.  It is also the responsibility of the disciple and the church to be obedient to that which God so graciously provides.

III. By Refining Trust – vv. 18-19

Paul was praying for the heart, soul, and mind of each of these believers to be awakened, transform, and repurposed for God’s directions to be accomplished. So these are the things that he asks God to do for the church…

  • to awaken the focus of their hearts so that they could truly see Him and His plan
  • to refine their hope for what God has in store
  • to refine them for the purpose of His calling on their lives
  • to help them trust in the provision of God to accomplish His vision… (btw… provision –> pro-vision…just sayin’)
  • to help the church to trust in the very power that is held by the person of Christ.

So when I think about how this relates and is applied to the lives of disciples today… we must once again examine the practice of prayer in our lives by asking these questions…

  • Are we praying for God to awaken & refine our trust in Him?
  • Are we praying for God to refine our hope in Him to trust His plans?
  • Are we praying for God to refine us for the purpose of His calling & trusting His direction?
  • Are we praying for God to refine us in our trust for His provision?
  • Are we praying for our trust in His power to be refined?

These are questions in need of answers if we are going to worship God by responding to Him appropriately and live a life of worship that also reveals Him abundantly.

Life in Christ is about a gracious identity from God which leads to a glorious outcome through God.  And a healthy life should have healthy practices with healthy implications.

This is the implication of this practice…

A life with saturated prayer to the sovereign provider is a healthy reminder of Christ’s salvation plan.

And every disciple of Christ could use and be fueled for living by more of this.

By His Grace. Through His Gospel. For His Glory. Continue reading

Life In Christ: the Word that is Heard

Hey, lets get together sometime. Sure, shoot me a text or Facebook me and we’ll meet up somewhere.  This is honestly where I find myself initiating or being initiated into a conversation or get togethers these days.  But these are not the only places that I find messages.  Our world is a multimedia platform that bombards you with all kinds of information.  You can find out the news about what is happening in the world (as well as the many different opinions on what should be done in light of the news).  Along the way, you can discover the comical tidings of satirical memes (many I find quite humorous in their sarcasm or use of puns).  Flip over a few pages and/or channels and you can get the word on various recipes and different cuisines.  In just a few more clicks, you can pretty much get a political leader or candidate perspective of the day.  And this doesn’t even count all of the various ads in between trying to compete for the use of your dollar.

In other words… our world is filled with messages… Some of them are quite similar to others while others are not so much.  The fact that you are reading this right now means that you are tuned into some form of communication.  Sometimes, we may wish we could just tuned everything out and calm things down quite a bit…but we would never want and should never want to be out of touch with all the messages.

Words and messages matter when it comes to life.  Transformation and growth in this life is about understanding & applying particular messages.  It is about discerning between bad news and good news and seeing the importance of the words therein.  For there to be discernment, understanding, and application of these words, a message bus be heard, received, trusted, and then in turn, shared.

 

Life In Christ 3

When it comes to Life in Christ and the life of a Christian the right message is certainly meaningful.  This is not just about religiosity.  This is about what is essential for true, real, genuine, authentic life.   Continue reading

Life In Christ, pt. 2 (the B-Side) – An Adoption Story

This blog is a continuation of last week’s message at Eastgate Baptist from our latest series, #LifeInChrist

As we have been sharing over the last two weeks…we can see a great display proclaiming the beauty and mystery of God’s gifts to those who have placed their faith in Him.  When we try to bring an understanding of our identity in Christ…we must come to grips with our adoption story. Two weeks, I wrote about Life in Christ as declared in the Scriptures. They certainly speak of this life better than I could ever write…but they proclaim that Life in Christ is found in the gracious identity from God and they lead to a glorious outcome through God.

Life In Christ Wallpaper

Today it is my hope that we discover further what our adoption story reveals about this Life in Christ…this gracious identity and glorious outcome…from and through God Himself.

The Letter to the Ephesians from the Bible states this in 1:7-12 [nasb]…

7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.

Now to gain understanding from the Scriptures in their context which brings the greatest applications and the relevance of God’s Word to our lives…I encourage people to ask 4 major questions…

  • What do the Scriptures say? This is important so that we don’t lose the details of each intentionally inspired word. My personal opinion is that this is one of the reasons for seeking a close word-for-word translation. (BTW…No English translation is perfect.)  It is also helpful to look at thorough commentaries and/or a good Bible Study software when difficult or confusing scenarios arise. (multiple ones if available).
  • What were the results of this revelation in their specific time and place? God specifically chose the time and place in which He revealed His Word for a reason…if we are going to understand the relevance of His Word today…we can’t skip what it meant then because these are inseparable for how it still applies to us in our present circumstance.  Once again… thorough commentaries and Bible study softwares are quite helpful in this cases.  It is also useful to have a a group of Bible believing, Bible seeking, & Bible studying friends to grow with in your understanding of the Scriptures.  This is one of the reasons why I believe a Bible-teaching church and growing through small groups is so essential to maturing as a disciple.
  • What applications are carried forward from then to now? This is where the living and active nature of God’s Word gets planted in us not for mere entertainment, enlightenment, or encouragement…but to transform our lives in every arena.  This can be tough to grasp and we will need others to help us walk through this process.
  • What am I willing to do about what God reveals? This means responding to who God is, what God says, and what God does. Worship is the responding of man to God. We have not truly worshiped until we have responded to Him as He is. True worship that honors God and is the type of worship that He honestly seeks (John 4:23-24) is that which is of spirit and truth.  It must start with God, respond to God, and be honest with all that God which also exposes the truth of who we are and the motives behind how we approach Him.

So, what can we learn here in Ephesians?

We can take note of a few things here. The letter was written most likely as a circuit letter between 60-63 A.D. while the apostle Paul was in his 2nd (and final) imprisonment in Rome under the reign of Nero. He is writing to a multi-cultural, multi-generational church in the city of Ephesus. He is trying to help the readers (listeners) understand their identity in Christ and the expected outcome of a disciple through Christ.

So… What does our adoption story have to reveal about our Life in Christ?

III. Adoption Reveals A Picture…

II. Adoption Reveals A Provision…

  • God’s Gift of Redemption – this is the costly gift.
    In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” v.7

This ransom frees us from slavery and imprisonment. God gave of His richest and most precious treasure to display His glory and to bring about our good.  Before placing our faith in Christ, we were considered slaves to sin and in debt.  There was nothing we could earn or achieve that would free ourselves from this debt.  Christ gave us the only remedy and ransom available and more than able to clear our indebtedness…Himself.

  • God’s Gift of Forgiveness – this is the freeing gift.
    Forgiveness of trespasses…the removal of guilt, shame, and eternal punishment. We no longer bear the weight of such sin. We have been cleared of our debt of sin and we have also been pardoned of our death sentence for sin.
  • God’s Gift of Wisdom & Insight – this is the elevating gift.
    God provides in Christ the completeness of the Christian for both the eternal and the practical.  We have been given wisdom which is the provision of the knowledge of the eternal and heavenly things in Christ.  We have also been provided insight, which is the knowledge of practical things for Christ.  The scriptures tell us that Christ also provides in this gift…the mystery of His will.  The Christian is able to gain an understanding into the mind and will of God (we won’t know everything…but we will begin to see with greater clarity and discernment…the very nature and direction of God).
  • God’s Gift of Inheritance – this is the eternal and fulfilling gift.
    We obtain an inheritance and future in Christ. We live daily in the present and ongoing into eternity as the inheritance of Christ.

III. Adoption Reveals A Purpose…

There is an eternal purpose that comes from Jesus and takes hold of our earthly present all for Jesus.

to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.” v.12

  • The worship of God is about responding to Him appropriately.
  • The worship of God is about the revealing of Him abundantly.

May you know Life In Christ…

By His Grace. Through His Gospel. For His Glory.

#FollowJesus #LifeInChrist Continue reading

How To Gain Understanding From The Scriptures…

I am sometimes asked… “how can I get the most out of my Bible study time?” or “how can I understand the Scriptures fully?”  I must admit…I am still in the learning process myself.  It takes time and we all need help along the way.  It did and still does for me.  But I want to be able to help others along the way…So Here goes.

First of all, I believe that to gain a greater understanding of the Scriptures starts with God and the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14).   Only those that truly know and seek to know God…will truly ever experience the awesome beauty and power of His Word…the Scriptures.

Secondly, for those that are followers of Christ…this is still not just an easy task.  We must remember that the Scriptures are what we call “special revelation” from God.  Meaning this…the same God who spoke the universe into all its existence…specifically shared special revelation of Himself in Words that were penned by men that were divinely inspired to write what God desired them to write.

Knowing this helps us to understand the context by studying the how, when, and why God delivered these messages. It makes an immense difference on how we can fully apply these messages to our lives as followers of Jesus.

Questions

So…to gain understanding from the Scriptures in their context that brings the greatest applications and the relevance of God’s Word to our lives…I encourage people to ask & answer 4 major questions…

  • What do the Scriptures say? 

This is important so that we don’t lose the details of each intentionally inspired word. My personal opinion is that this is one of the reasons for seeking a close word-for-word translation. (BTW…No English translation is perfect.)It is also helpful to look at thorough (and reputable) commentaries and/or a good Bible Study software when difficult or confusing scenarios arise. (multiple ones if available).

  • What were the results of this revelation in their specific time and place?  

God specifically chose the time, place, people, language, and circumstance in which He revealed His Word for a reason… If we are going to understand the relevance of His Word today, we can’t skip out on what it meant then. That is because these are inseparable for how it still applies (and is still very much just as relevant) to us in our present circumstance.

Once again… thorough commentaries and Bible study softwares are quite helpful in this cases. It is also useful to have a a group of Bible believing, Bible seeking, & Bible studying friends to grow with in your understanding of the Scriptures. This is also one of the reasons why I believe a Bible-teaching church and growing through small groups is so essential to maturing as a disciple.

  • What applications are carried forward from then to now?

This is where the living and active nature of God’s Word gets planted in us not for mere entertainment, enlightenment, or encouragement…but to transform our lives in every arena. This can be tough to grasp and we will need others to help us walk through this process.

Please see again the reasons for being connected to a Bible-believing & teaching church and why resources such as commentaries, Bible-study software, and small groups can be of such help.

  • What am I willing to do about what God reveals?

This means responding to who God is, what God says, and what God does. Worship is the appropriate responding of man to God. We have not truly worshiped until we have responded to Him as He is. True worship that honors God and is the type of worship that He honestly seeks (John 4:23-24) is that which is of spirit and truth.

It must originate with God, respond to God, and be honest with all that God which also exposes the truth of who we are and the motives behind how we approach Him. Worship is very much both a collective and individual response.

It starts with the response of the individual soul to what God divinely reveals about Himself, but it was never meant to be done alone.  It becomes even more beautiful and glorious when connected collectively with other individuals whom God has transformed through the revelation of Himself in and through His Word.I don’t want to be over simplistic.  But these four questions have influenced me greatly as I seek to know God more, to grow more as a disciple, to serve more as Christ’s ambassador, and to worship God more with the life He has given me.

I pray that they will both encourage you and challenge you in your faith as you hopefully choose to know & #FollowJesus.

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Life In Christ, pt. 2 – An Adoption Story

Just for a moment picture an orphaned child in need of adoption.  This child before being adopted lives in an incredibly helpless estate.  They are in need of aid and care.  As they live in their current place, they really exist without hope for the future and no real purpose in the present.  He or she lacks the provision necessary to live fully in a healthy manner and to be productive in their future endeavors.

Now, picture this child discovering the beauty of being adopted.  A family chooses to seek him or her out.  They choose to rescue this child from their current condition.  They choose to fully give and display their love to this child.  They choose to provide care for this little one.  That family has now given this precious life a place to grow in the present and a hope for the future.  Certainly this new existence is also a new identity for the child…and this new identity comes with an expectation.

We must take notice that the child is not adopted because they are the ones who seek the new parents or because they able to first meet a certain criteria or expectation.  They are sought and adopted purely on the choice of the parent.  And the are provided for with the hopes that the child will know love and have a hope for the future in light of this love and provision.

Life In Christ Wallpaper Continue reading

Life In Christ, pt 1 …A Starting Point

Well, six days into 2016 (finding it hard not to type or print 2015) and so far so good with my New Year’s resolutions.  We often begin our years or end the previous ones with plans for a better life.  And it certainly makes sense to do this any time of the year but certainly when the signal goes up for the ending of something past and the start of something new.

It is also makes sense to have a plan because if you didn’t have a plan…how would you know what to accomplish or when you had completed a goal.  I would argue that he who does not have a plan or goal…does not have intentions to change anything.

So what are your plans for this year?

  • Physical goals – lose weight, exercise more, take your vitamins, eat healthier meals
  • Mental goals – take a class, read more, refine a skill, engage in deeper conversations, try something new
  • Emotional / Relational goals – reconcile a relationship, talk to a counselor, communicate with others like yourself, communicate with others from a different perspective
  • Financial goals – Pay off a debt, follow a budget, begin saving, look at ways to give and do it.
  • Spiritual goals – Spend time meditating on the Scriptures, explore the Bible with others, encounter God, experience life together with other believers, grow in faithful practices, let go of obstacles and sin that sometimes inhibit discipleship, connect with a Bible teaching church, serve on a mission

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