How to Change: Pray!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Conclusion and Recap

We started the week with a memory verse: 2 Corinthians 5:17. I’ve been trying to show why this verse, to me, is so closely tied with prayer. So let’s go over everything from earlier this week and try to tie it all together.

2 Corinthians 5-17

We started by talking about why we need to pray. The main reason I pointed out is that Jesus explicitly commands it. According to our verse in 2 Corinthians, if we are doing what Jesus said to do, then we will become a new creation, leaving our old selves behind.

 

Then we moved on to talking about what we should do with our bodies when we pray. This was a little different because the Bible doesn’t tell us how we should or shouldn’t pray, although it does give us some examples. Jesus would pray alone, some people prayed in front of others, some prayed in their hearts and some others prayed kneeling. Find the way that you can have the most productive prayer time and follow through with it.

 

On a similar note, we talked about what things we should pray for and what our words should sound like. Our prayers should consist of praises (things we love about God), petitions (things we want and need from God) and Repentance (asking for forgiveness and pledging to turn from our error filled ways). It’s important to hit all three categories and not exclude one because this is how Jesus himself taught us how to pray. We also need to be sure to pray, not to be heard (like the hypocrites who babble) because God already knows all of your prayers, but rather to make these prayers known to yourself.

 

Making the prayers known to yourself is what I claimed the entire purpose of prayer is. When we prayer, it’s not like God thinks “Oh, so that’s what Nathaniel needs from me!” No. He already knows what I need. We pray to remind ourselves of the greatness of God, to change ourselves and also to be able to turn from our sin. This is how the change comes about; it is how we become a new creation.

 

And finally, I tried to tackle a very big, very difficult question: Why do some prayers go unanswered? My thoughts on this are that the way God set up the world to work many years ago was to be able to function without his direct influence. He created humans with the capacity to learn and to love and he created a universe that makes sense and follows logical rules. I believe that he very rarely chooses to intervene and grant miracles to those who pray for them. Instead, he gave us, his servants, the tools to carry out his will. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail.

 

All of this together wraps up my thoughts on prayers. Maybe you have additional thoughts or even different opinions. That’s great! Just keep studying and looking to Jesus, because when we are in him, we are a new creation.

-Nathaniel Johnson

 

(Editor’s Note: We apologize for the picture that was included on Sunday.  It gave an incorrect reference for the verse.  Today’s is accurate.  Thank you for reading!)

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How to Pray: Words

Wednesday October 4th, 2017

Lord's Prayer

Unlike when we discussed the posture you should have when you pray, the Bible actually has a lot to say about what words you should use when you pray. Jesus gives a great lesson on prayer in Matthew 6:5-15. I want to start by looking at what the Lord’s Prayer can show us.

We can split the topics of prayer into three categories:

  1. Praises (Matt 6:9)
  2. Petitions (Matt 6:11)
  3. Repentance (Matt 6:12-13)

You might notice that this is one category more than we usually talk about when we pray at church. Jesus himself says that we need to pray for repentance, so make sure you don’t forget to add this to your prayers. Praises and petitions are a lot more familiar to most of us, though. When we praise, we thank God for who he is and what he has done and petitions are when we ask God to provide for us.

Another thing Jesus says is to not babble (Matthew 6:7). Repeating yourself does not make yourself heard. Keep your prayers to the point. Especially when you are praying for a group of people. You don’t need to make your prayer sound special and eloquent. God already knows what needs to be said, so you don’t need to repeat yourself. This is not to say that you shouldn’t continue to pray for something.  If something is on your heart, you should pray for it continuously. In my opinion however, the reason for this is not so that God will be more likely to consider your prayers. More on that tomorrow.

Here a few interesting things to note. Discussion can be a form of prayer. In Luke 9:18, Jesus is praying and talking to his disciples. I believe that when we discuss our prayers with each other, we are participating in a form of prayer. Another form of prayer is music. We can praise God in our songs or we can ask for His help; we can even repent through song.

Jesus gives a few more commands regarding how we should pray in Matthew 6.  For one, he says that we should pray in private. But he also says that God already knows what we need before we ask him (Matthew 6:8), so why do we need to make these prayers in private? You’ll have to come back tomorrow to hear the answer to that one, but I’ll give you a hint now. It has to do with our memory verse: being changed.

-Nathaniel Johnson

 

What Was Jesus About?

Mark 1-3

mark-1-15

Monday, May 8

When you think of Jesus what do you think of? The cross? The suffering? The Resurrection? Feeding 5000? There are a great many things that Jesus accomplished while He walked this planet 2000+ years ago. Whatever Jesus choose to spend His time doing we should also spend our time doing.

 

As we begin to read from the Gospel of Mark we see that Jesus did a great deal of healing, and this resulted in crowds coming to Him. When people gathered to Jesus, he made teaching a priority. In chapter 1 verses 14, 15 it says, “Jesus came into Galilee preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’”  Later in verse 38 He says, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” Jesus clearly states that the reason He came was to preach and teach to bring people to repentance, “for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

 

Sometimes Jesus shared the word verbally and other times he shared it in action. Regardless of where Jesus was or who was around He was always focused on sharing the gospel of the Kingdom of God, in whatever way He could. We need to take after Him, after all we call ourselves CHRISTians. Not only that but also in chapter 3 verse 14 it says that, “He appointed twelve, so that … He could send them out to preach.” The twelve were the first disciples, we are the disciples today. Take the time to preach the gospel message in everything you do!

-Bill Dunn

 

(Photo Credit: https://dailyverses.net/mark/1/15)

Don’t Be That Guy

Obadiah and Jonah

obadiah

Sunday, April 16

Don’t worry, God hasn’t forgotten.

Obadiah is the shortest book among the minor prophets, yet it’s message is anything but minor or insignificant. To grasp the content of Obadiah we have to go through a brief history lesson. History was my favorite academic subject in school, so other history nerds, you’ll enjoy this. Also, understanding the historical context of the books of the Bible is one tool used in hermeneutics (the study of how to interpret biblical texts). In other words, to be responsible interpreters of the Bible we should always attempt to reconstruct the historical context of the passage.

Though Jeremiah attempted to convince the people of Judah to surrender to the invasion of Babylon of 586/587 BCE, they refused. The context and content of Obadiah is situated in the aftermath of the destruction and exile brought on by Babylon. Verse 1 tells us that God gave Obadiah a vision concerning the nation of Edom. Edom is the cousin nation to the people of Israel. The patriarch of Edom is Esau and Jacob is one of the patriarchs of Israel. From the time of Jacob and Esau being in the womb to long after their deaths, they and their people have had rocky interactions, including the one described in Obadiah. Verses 2-9 describe judgement and wrath awaiting the nation of Edom, however we’re not told why until verse 10.

The first line of verse 10 says “Because of violence to your brother Jacob…”. Then from verse 11-14 the phrase “on the day/in the day” shows up nine times! When Babylon ransacked Judah, the Edomites, the cousin nation of Israel, just stood on the sidelines watching and did nothing. God is telling the Edomites they will be judged for what they didn’t do “on that day!” They didn’t come to the aid of the Israelites and instead enjoyed and gloated over their doom. Obadiah is writing to those who have been left behind to encourage them and remind them that God has not forgotten the wrong done to them.

There are two lessons we can take from Obadiah. First, just as God had not forgotten the wrong done to his covenant people Israel, likewise God doesn’t forget the wrong done to you. We serve a God who takes action in the present. And even if a wrong is not vindicated in this present evil age it will certainly be reversed at the return of King Jesus. Second, we see that God equates ignoring justice and not taking action as doing “violence”. Are you someone who shies from standing up for what is right? Do you stand by idly while injustice occurs? The New Testament places a great emphasis on taking care of other believers in the body and being there for them. Do you do this? Edom didn’t take care of their family and it displeased God greatly. Shoutout to God for having a significant message tucked away in a tiny unsuspecting book.

 

 

Don’t be that guy: The Story of Jonah

            The story of Jonah we have all heard in one capacity or another. Whether it be in Sunday School, a sermon, or just having a superficial awareness of Jonah and his short yet interesting story. The four chapter story can be summed up fairly easily: Jonah is called by God to bring Nineveh, a great terrible city, to repentance. Jonah then runs away but is swallowed up by a great fish-spewed back onto land and again given the charge to preach repentance to Nineveh. He preaches and Nineveh repents and as a result God does not smite the Ninevites. Meanwhile, Jonah stews about how they were saved not demolished.

Consensus about the purpose of Jonah among Old Testament scholars is that there is none. There are a bevy of interpretations concerning the purpose and point of the book. However, there is one thread that stuck out to me the most that connects the story of Jonah to our own contemporary world. We see Jonah as someone who knows the true God and thus is part of the people of God. God gives Jonah a mission to preach repentance to the Ninevites, so that they may turn from their life of pagan idolatry and a life without knowing the true God, to living lives in a manner that is reflective of the truth of the God of Israel, the one true God. But Jonah isn’t down with this plan and flees the opposite direction.

In a parallel manner, you and I have been called to evangelize to those who do not know the truth of Jesus and the kingdom of God. Be honest with yourself, as a disciple of Jesus, do you share the gospel with those who do not know it or have not accepted it? We can think of many reasons why we can’t or we shouldn’t, but is this being faithful to the call Jesus has given us? It’s uncomfortable, I get that. It can be awkward, you’re absolutely right. It’s scary, exactly. But let’s not be Jonah and run away from the message we have been given to proclaim.

Pray for boldness, confidence, and opportunity. Get the gospel message embedded in your heart and mind so that you know where to take someone when you dialogue with them. You got this, you can do it. Don’t be Jonah, be faithful.

-Jacob Rohrer

Bio: ABC (Atlanta Bible College) grad.  Ohio native. Kingdom citizen

 

And Another Thing…

Hosea 5-9

susan mon

Monday, April 10

Have you ever experienced this?

Your parents are lecturing you about something you’ve done wrong.  Really laying into you.  It seems to go on and on and on.  Finally, they pause and take a breath and you think they’re done.  But instead, they start in again with a new wave of, “And another thing…!”

In chapters 4-6, we see God get riled up.  He’s mad.  He is laying it all out in phrases like:

  • You ignored the law of your God
  • You exchanged glory for disgrace
  • Your deeds do not permit you to return to God
  • You’ve moved boundary stones. (I love this phrase, would be an interesting one to dig into)
  • Your love is like a mist…here one minute, gone the next.
  • God has withdrawn from you.

Yeah, He’s mad.

Then He pauses, takes a breath, and starts the second round, where he lays out the consequences of all of this (9:7-9):

The days of punishment are coming,
    the days of reckoning are at hand.
    Let Israel know this.
Because your sins are so many
    and your hostility so great,
the prophet is considered a fool,
    the inspired person a maniac.
The prophet, along with my God,
    is the watchman over Ephraim,
yet snares await him on all his paths,
    and hostility in the house of his God.
They have sunk deep into corruption,
    as in the days of Gibeah.
God will remember their wickedness
    and punish them for their sins.

Don’t miss these phrases:

  • Punishment is coming.
  • The days of reckoning are at hand.
  • God will remember.
  • Punish them for their sins.

We are so fortunate that, because of Jesus, we don’t have to have our sins remembered by God.  They can be wiped away.  Forgiven here and now.  That doesn’t let us off the hook, though.  Jesus calls us to continued repentance and obedient living.

But what wonderful news that we get to choose if our parental lecture ends with punishment or forgiveness.  When does THAT ever happen?

-Susan Landry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bearer of Bad News

Ezekiel 24-26

ezekiel 24-26 amber

Sunday, March 26

When I think of Ezekiel, the phrase “bearer of bad news” comes to mind.  After completing numerous acts of valor such as eating a scroll, becoming mute, laying on his side for over a year, shaving his head, and scattering his hair among the Earth, Ezekiel continues to be one of the few servants of God in his time.  As a major prophet, he does not have news of prosperity and victory to recount to the people.  Instead, he continues to call the rebellious people in exile (and in the surrounding nations) to repentance, ultimately forewarning of their destruction and the destruction of Jerusalem.

 

To me, Ezekiel is no “easy read”.  At times, these scriptures seem abstract and I have a hard time finding application to my daily life. Therefore, I have created a visual to help me, and hopefully some of you understand some of the main concepts in these passages.  I hope these illustrations help some of the content “stick” and become real for you.  If my amateur doodles aren’t your thing, I completely understand that too J

 

Here are a few of the main points/interpretations and moments of personal application that I picked out in our passages today as noted by the visual above:

  • Parable: Jerusalem as a Cooking pot
    • Pot = Jerusalem
    • Scum = corruption of the people *notice this corruption is visible; it cannot be hidden from God.
    • Choice meat = God’s chosen people
    • The meat (God’s people) is thrown out because it is ruined from the scum (corruption/sin)
    • The pot must be set on coals until it’s impurities are burned away (Jerusalem must be destroyed).
    • Application to our lives: Don’t let the scum of your life keep you from bearing good fruits. Find your peace and fulfilment in God, not in the approval of others, your work, sin, the media, and other worldly influences. These things will fail you, God will never fail you.

 

  • Death of Ezekiel’s Wife
    • Ezekiel is told not to mourn, but “groan quietly” (24:17)
    • Interpretation: God instructs Ezekiel and the community not to mourn as he tries to give them perspective into their behaviors. The rebellious people do not mourn when the temple, which should be “the object of their affection” (25:21), is destroyed.  Therefore, they ought not mourn when something of lesser tragedy takes place.  God should be the top priority of all men.
    • Application to our lives: Where are your priorities? Do you value the gifts of this earth more than you value the glory of God? Do you worship the approval of others, celebrities, idols, your children or spouse on accident?

 

  • Prophesies against nations near Judah
    • Because the nations of Ammon, Moab, Tyre, Philistia, and Edom did not care when the temple was destroyed or when the people of Judah went into exile, they will also be punished. The entire nation will know that HE IS GOD.
    • Application to our lives: Earlier in Ezekiel we read that Ezekiel will be held accountable for the sins of others if he fails to spread God’s word. Here we see that other nations are held accountable to a similar degree. We too must spread the good news to ALL nations! What a blessing and a privilege!

 

Do you allow yourself to accept the peace that only God brings?

-Amber McClain

 

Amber McClain cannot wait for the Kingdom.  If she won the lottery she would 1.) Buy a helicopter so that she could spend weekdays learning and teaching in the USA and weekends with our brothers and sisters abroad.  2.) Pay for her fiancé, Josiah to get his helicopter-flying license, and 3.) Throw a world-wide pizza & prayer party; everyone in the world is invited!

Graphic Material

Ezekiel 5-9

ezekiel 5 14

Monday, March 20

This portion of Ezekiel is, admittedly, difficult to read.  It’s a pretty graphic account of God impending judgment against the city of Jerusalem and his people, Israel.  God tells Ezekiel to shave his head and beard.  This would have been an act of mourning for most people, but it was double disturbing for Ezekiel, since he was a priest and normally forbidden from shaving his head or beard.  Ezekiel was told to burn, take a sword to, and scatter his cut hair.  This was to symbolize what was to happen to Israel.  A few hairs were kept back, symbolic of the remnant who would not be destroyed.

God accuses his people, Israel, the chosen nation, of being worse than the other nations.  They broke the law more than the nations that did not have the law.  God was bringing his judgment against His own people.  The description of the siege almost defies comprehension, including cannibalism of both parents and children.  This was to serve as a warning to the other nations: if this is how God treats his own people for their idolatry, beware of what he will do to you.

In Ezekiel six God makes it clear that their judgement is upon them because of their idolatry. However, there is a remnant that will be spared and live in captivity and will come to repentance.

In Ezekiel seven, a special emphasis is made regarding their idolatrous attachment to gold and silver.  This wealth that they turned to and fashioned into idols will be unable to save them from the coming judgment.  All the money in the world can’t save you from judgment.

In Chapter eight Ezekiel has a vision of the temple in Jerusalem.  This includes the “Idol of jealousy” which we discover is the pagan god Tammuz.  Tammuz was the Sumerian god of food and vegetation.  At the summer solstice there was a period of mourning as the people saw the shortening of days and the approaching drought.  Sacrifices were made to Tammuz at the door of the Jerusalem Temple.  This was an absolute abomination to Israel’s God, YHWH as He made it clear that He alone was to be worshipped as God (see Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

In Chapter Nine an angel is sent out to put a mark on all of the people of the city who did not commit idolatry and worship Tammuz.  They would be spared.  But then all those who did not receive a mark would be destroyed.  This is reminiscent of the story of Exodus, when the doorposts of the Israelites were to be marked with the blood of the sacrificial lamb, and those with the mark were spared their firstborn sons dying when the Angel of Death passed over their houses.  It also points to the future (See Revelation 13) when the beast will cause people to have a mark on their forehead or they would not be able to buy or sell.  This is contrasted with those in Revelation 14 who have the name of God and of the lamb on their foreheads.

God is a God of love and mercy.  God has provided a means for us to be rescued from the consequences of sin.  There is a way for each of us to be spared the final judgment of God that is coming.  Jesus Christ, the lamb of God is the only means by which we can escape judgment.  Along with God’s mercy is His holiness.  God will not allow sin and rebellion to continue on earth forever.  A day of judgment is coming for all the earth just as it did for the nation of Israel.  God tolerated their sin for only so long, and then came the time for judgment.  Mercifully, God spared those who repented by placing His mark upon them.  God has been tolerating sinful rebellion on earth, but a day is coming when He will destroy sin and sinners who have not repented and turned away from their sins and turned to him through Jesus Christ.  Ezekiel’s harsh imagery should remind us that we must not forget that God’s wrath is coming from which we all need to escape, and we need to warn others.  This won’t make us popular, but doing God’s will is seldom popular among the rebellious.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

 

(Photo Credit: http://w3ace.com/stardust/)