I Pledge Allegiance to Jesus and His Kingdom

As I’ve meditated on the SCOTUS decision to apply the 14th amendment to same-sex unions I’ve noticed that my reaction is not one of anger or surprise at the fact that the court made this decision. It figures. The world acts like the world. I am bothered by sin and rebellion against Father’s truth. I am disappointed. I am saddened. I’m just not bothered by world systems acting like world systems.

I had hoped for a better and more accurate dealing with the law not a political statement disguised as law. It’s not so much a legalization as much as a redefinition of marriage. That disappoints and saddens me.

If I were an African-American man, I’d be fired up about the application of the 14th amendment to this issue because the intent has been to equate the civil rights movement to this issue thus equating race and sexual orientation. That is trash. Only a few black men that I know of (Voddie Baucham and Herman Cain) have brought this issue up. Maybe there are more. I just don’t know about them. This is the hidden issue we Christians should be making some noise about as well in defense of our minority brothers and sisters in Christ.

But enough has been written about the decision of SCOTUS by folks a lot smarter than me. See Albert Mohler and Russell Moore. I these respect these men and learn from them. They have written excellent pieces on the issue.

http://www.albertmohler.com/2015/06/27/everything-has-changed-and-nothing-has-changed-the-supreme-court-and-same-sex-marriage/

http://www.russellmoore.com

I suppose what seems to be bothering some and not bothering me is this: the perceived loss of a Christian America that was morally upright. Perhaps that’s not what is bothering some, but it seems like it from my observation. Some live under the belief that America is the last great moral hope in the world. Some believe America to have been a Christian nation that is no longer a Christian nation. That’s debatable. Were many of our founding fathers Christians? Yes. It’s clear. Did they intend America to be the church, the community of the kingdom of God? No. They intended freedom and a clear moral framework as the means to keep us free using their predominant world view, Christianity or some semblance thereof. Is that a Christian nation? I’m not sure. I really don’t care to die on that hill. Call it what you want.

For me, I’ve not viewed my nation as the shining city on a hill for a long time. There have been times when citizens of Jesus’ kingdom who were Americans led the world in right actions, but that’s not the same as the national entity itself being a bastion of the kingdom.The kingdom of Jesus Christ is my goal and my allegiance. American is part of the kingdom of this world and will one day be overcome by the kingdom of God. I can’t have two masters. Because I will love the one and hate the other. I serve Jesus’ kingdom first, not America.

Why?

First, the Kingdom of God is not geo-political nations. The kingdom is the supernatural power of God breaking into created order to reconcile all things back under the rule of Jesus Christ and bring about the rescue of those the Father has given the Son through the proclamation of the good news of the kingdom from all nations that will call them out from death to life. The church is the community of that kingdom, not America.

Second, as a Scot-Irish/Cherokee whose distant grandfather was a Cherokee Chief (John Jolly, Ahuludegi Oolooteka), I’m quite aware of my country and state shutting down the first successful Christian mission among the Cherokee by a Moravian, Anna Kleist Gambold, in order to set my people on the Trail of Tears, all in the name of expansion. John voluntarily led a group of Cherokee west to Arkansas before this time from Tennessee knowing it was coming. They would eventually be forced to leave northwest Arkansas for Oklahoma, but he fought the continual upheaval as best he could using civil methods. That act of removal was done in the breaking of treaties. It was illegal, but as long as you are in the majority, who cares? Right?

My wife and son’s just toured the Vann House with some friends on a summer excursion and learned more about how our relatives were treated by our government. Every time we talk about it I feel primal anger rise in me as I think about the injustice done in the name of what some would call a “Christian nation.” Shutting down a Christian mission house among my people to kick us off of our land and march men, women, children, the older and weak west as they bury their dead along the way in unmarked graves…is that Christian? Call me jaded.

Finally, I just can’t get past Roe v. Wade. In the name of America, we have a state sponsored genocide of minorities paid for by tax dollars. Most Christians have even given up on this one and some don’t see the problem with it. They are content to feed the hungry but let the genocide of minorities continue using God’s money taken by the state. Sounds harsh, but its a fact Jack.

I suppose the ideal of America died for me a long time ago.

Is America the best thing going today? Perhaps. Are we the freest nation in the world? Perhaps not. At least not economically. We rank out of the top ten on that list. Check how much you pay in taxes either outright or embedded. It’s a stiff chunk. Some of that is getting used to kill minority babies. Let that stew for a few minutes….feel that?

Is this information about my country good for me to know and process? Yes. The realities I’ve mentioned help sever ties to a temporary kingdom and bond me deeper with greater allegiance to the kingdom of Jesus Christ. It helps me to know that I don’t have a political party to call my own. Many Christians falsely equate America or a political party to God’s vehicle for freedom and salvation. This is just not true.

Is there room for patriotism? Sure. In spite of my heritage, my family has spilled blood in the Revolution, Civil War, WWI, WWII and Vietnam to secure what we have. I’d go to war if I had to as well. I’m not advocating for the demise of the government I’ve been placed under. However, I’m not fighting for it at the Lord’s return, if I’m alive and kicking. I’m going with King Jesus. I’m just not surprised when America acts like the world. It’s not the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

In Christ we have been transferred to the kingdom of the Son from the kingdom of this world. America must necessarily fall and will do so when King Jesus returns, if not before then. But the kingdom of Jesus Christ as been and will be forever (See Daniel 7:14).

I pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ and his kingdom. On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand.

The fact is I’m not surprised this has happened. I’m no longer taken aback when the world system acts like the world system (lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and pride in possessions, 1 John 2:15-17). I love the King and his kingdom. I’m fascinated by and drawn to the rule of Jesus manifested in his church. I love the global church. I love how the rule of Jesus is so thick in the persecuted church, and I long for that kind of power in the western church.

Perhaps this SCOTUS ruling will put us in a place of humility and dependence on the Spirit, and that may bring about a greater manifestation of the kingdom. That will be good for us! The church, historically, has not flourished in peace and ease. The church does well when she’s under duress. Maybe this is a good grace from the Father to bring about an awakening. We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28), don’t we? This is good for us as a kingdom of priests to our God.

So, Father in heaven, make your name great. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily provision so that we can have the strength to do your will and bring about your kingdom rule. Forgive us as we forgive others and love as you love us. Lead us not into temptation, but rather deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory!

Ephesians 6:21-24: Benediction of Ephesians

Ephesians 6:21-24

Benediction of Ephesians

The introductions and benedictions of the letters of the New Testament are easy to over look in a mad dash to get to our “life verses” or “favorite passages” that are often read, interpreted and applied out of their meaning.

However, when one slows down they can mine spiritual gold in the form of a kingdom worldview.

Remember, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God maybe complete, equipped for every good work.” – Timothy 3:16

This includes closings of letters in the New Testament. So, lets not skip over this closing and miss some beautiful grace from the Lord.

Be Content Being A Tychicus

“…Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord…”

Tychicus is mentioned five times in the New Testament: Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7, 8; 2 Timothy 4:12; Titus 3:12

Tychicus was a Thessalonian, meaning one of Paul’s early disciples and appears in Acts at the end of Paul’s work in Ephesus.

He probably witnessed the silversmith’s riot against Paul that prompted them to leave for Macedonia (Acts 19:35-20:1).

Tychicus is called a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant (almost exact same wording in Eph 6:21 and Col 4:7 only “fellow servant” added in Colossians).

When Paul decided to return to Jerusalem where he would be arrested, Tychicus was one of the folks accompanying Paul as a traveling companion and helper (Acts 20:4).

When Paul was arrested, Tychicus along with Luke, stayed with Paul for his epic travels to Rome that would include a long stint in jail, Paul’s defense in front of high ranking officials, a shipwreck, a snakebite without effect and finally his house arrest in Rome awaiting trial.

Tychicus was sent to Ephesus by Paul, (reflected in 2 Timothy 4:12 and Ephesians 6:21) thus helping us to date and locate Ephesians’ dating and occasion as before Paul’s death and as written from his imprisonment.

Tychicus is often the runner of Paul’s messages and perhaps even his scribe.

Tychicus is not what many would call successful or an exceptional talent.

He’s no Paul, right? Wrong. He’s faithful and obscure. And as the Lord said, the last will be first.

I’m not exactly sure how that will play out when the kingdom is fully established, but you can bet that Tychicus’ faithfulness is written down and his treasure in the kingdom is his to inherit, and his background role will be fully rewarded.

No matter what role we are given from the Lord, our mindset would be just right if it were that of Tychicus.

I’m sure he wrestled, like all of us, with bouts of pride and over-inflation, but I’m also sure the Spirit’s work of sanctification had it’s powerful results too. Paul speaks so well of this brother.

Tychicus left no writing that survives, he did not feats that Luke would record in Acts, but his legacy of faithfulness is one that upholds kingdom work.

For the loss of a nail, lose a horseshoe;

For the loss of a horseshoe, lose a horse;

For the loss of a horse, lose a soldier;

For the loss of a soldier, lose a battle;

For the loss of a battle, lose a kingdom.[1]

We may not read words that Tychicus wrote or celebrate great feats done by the Lord through him, but everytime we read our bibles we should give thanks for the faithful background work of Tychicus and people like him in the kingdom.

  1. Background work is essential in the kingdom and highlighted as first in the

kingdom

Listen to the lyrics of Lecrae’s song, Background:

It’s evident you run the show, so let me back down

You take the leading role, and I’ll play the background

I know I miss my cues, know I forget my lines

I’m sticking to your script, and I’m reading all your signs

I don’t need my name in lights, I don’t need a starring role

Why gain the whole wide world, If I’m just going lose my soul

And my ways ain’t pure if I don’t live according to Your Word

I can’t endure this life without Your wisdom being heard

So word, to every dancer for a pop star

‘Cause we all play the background, but mine’s a rockstar

Yeah, so if you need me I’ll be stage right

Praying the whole world will start embracing stage fright

So let me fall back, stop giving my suggestions

‘Cause when I follow my obsessions, I end up confessing

That I’m not that impressive, matter of fact

I’m who I are, a trail of stardust leading to the superstar.

I had a dream that I was captain of my soul

I was master of my fate, lost control, and then I sank

So I don’t want to take the lead, ’cause I’m prone to make mistakes

All these folks who follow me, gon’ end up in the wrong place

So let me just shadow you, let me trace your lines

Matter of fact, just take my pen, here, you create my rhymes

‘Cause if I do this by myself, I’m scared that I’ll succeed

And no longer trust in you, ’cause I only trust in me

And see, that’s how you end up headed to destruction

Paving a road to nowhere, pour your life out for nothing

You pulled my card, I’m bluffing, You know what’s in my hand

Me, I just roll and trust you, You cause the dice to land

I’m in control of nothing, follow you at any cost

Some call it sovereign will, all I know is you the boss

Man, I’m so at ease, I’m so content

I’ll play the background, like it’s an instrument. – Lecrae

We are all background because Jesus is the Head. We get in trouble when we think we’re not background and have some kind of starring role. Be content being Tychicus.

  1. Neither your work nor mine, in the Lord for the kingdom, is ever irrelevant, no matter how obscure it is.

Be Spiritual Family Rather Than Agenda Driven Spiritual Users v. 21-22

“So that you also may know how I am…that you may know how we are…he may encourage your hearts.”

Paul was sending Tychicus with this letter of instruction along with news on how the “fam” was doing personally and in the work they were sent to do.

Paul spent a lot of time at Ephesus, and this was family. So, Paul wanted those he cared about and those who cared about him to be up to speed and be encouraged in spite of his imprisonment. Paul was concerned with them while in prison because he loved his family.

The imprisoned one was concerned with those well and whole precisely because they are linked in kingdom and therefore, soul.

I’d like to share a modification of a sheet that we use at Northwood in our relationship to Bob Roberts as a spiritual “father” to us planters. We are using these distinctions here in helping those who want to plant a new campus and for those interested in planting independent / pioneers churches to know what we expect relationally. This document contrasts “sons” versus “hirelings”.[2] These distinctions come from biblical principles on family and authority and sons and fathers and help us overcome worldly ambitions and replace them with kingdom ambitions.

These biblical truths apply to the life of the church as well, so I’ve modified them for family versus users.

The reason is that in the west the church is inundated with people who shop the church for what they want / (perceive) need to the detriment of the whole. These are takers and not givers. These are irritated when things are not perfect and uproot with every wind of change they don’t like. These are some of the reason the church in the west does not look like the kingdom. These make the church more of a spiritual Wal-Mart rather than a community of the kingdom.

Here are some contrasts between family and users:

Family:

Has the family’s success as their own success. Family is family first.

Users:

Have their own ends and think in terms of their wants / needs / rights only.

Family:

Uses the language of us, we and our.

Users:

Use the language of me and mine.

Family:

Honors headship and taking care to make up for the weaknesses of others.

Users:

Takes delight in highlighting the weaknesses and failures of others, particularly those they should honor.

Family:

Honors submission.

Users:

Always looking to redefine authority because they don’t care about submission. Selective about who they submit to.

Family:

Loves working together and getting along. They don’t have to focus on loyalty because it’s built in to their family DNA.

Users:

Have to look for people who’ll be loyal to them because they are really looking for position in order to work their agenda (looking for an advantage).

Family:

Transparent. Tells all.

Users:

Shares only what they want others to know. They control the narrative.

Family:

Ready for input and they carry an open heart.

Users:

Carry offenses and look for opportunities to get even.

Family:

Care about all generations and wants to share life with all generations. Care about the family as a whole.

Users:

Self-focused and care about their own “calling” and “ministry” opposed to the overall end of the family. Care only about certain demographics.

Family:

Seeks to get new and weaker people into the family for the person’s good.

Users:

Bond new and weaker people to themselves for a following.

Family:

Focus on the welfare of the family.

Users:

More concerned with appearances, numbers, events and “success”.

Family:

Secure to accept change, uniqueness and healthy feedback.

Users:

Change, uniqueness and healthy feedback offends and threatens their secure place.

We are a fellowship constructed on the vision of the glory of God, glocally, by the radical life. The culture produced is a KDSC culture. That vision and culture makes us a family.

One of the evidences of our strong family culture is that when truly committed people leave TRCC they have trouble finding the same thing again. They’ve been ruined for the ordinary. It’s because the vision and culture are thick, and this is a gift of the Spirit. It’s because we are a family not a confederation of users. Users don’t last long at TRCC. The culture roots them out.

Be family, don’t be a user who wants to take and pick and choose. Continue to be the family of TRCC that epitomizes the vision and the value of KDSC.

Be a Blessing With Our Words In The Fellowship v. 23-24

“Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith…Grace be will all who love our Lord…”

Let me be clear. There are always times when we need to bring the thunder with our words. When we are dealing with issues that break doctrinal orthodoxy, unrepentant sin, intentional hurting of others, subversion, using the tongue to curse rather than bless, gossip, etc.

But most of the time, at least in our fellowship, these things are needed less often, and I’m speaking of membership as a whole not just pastors.

However, even when we do not have to righteously use harsh words, it’s tempting to use our words to hurt or subvert or accuse or condemn in a passive aggressive kind of way. It’s easy to use our words and even good intentions to put people down or lift ourselves and our opinions above others.

We must be careful with our words.

Listen to the Lord Jesus on this:

““Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” – Matthew 12:33-37

No doubt Paul brought correction: See Galatians. But when Paul closes his letters to his loved people, he speaks blessings.

Speaking blessing over each other is not playing magical fairy; speaking blessing is a way of pleading for the grace of God to be showered mightily in the lives of the people we are speaking blessing to. One can do this with the speaking of Scripture or kind words or even prophetic words from the Spirit over each other.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” – Proverbs 18:21

The Lord speaks with precision and care and sustaining purpose. Hebrews 1:1-3 reminds us that the Son is upholding the universe by the word of his power. This means that the precision of gravity and angles and trigonometric functions are at work by his precise decreeing of them.

The Lord breathed out Scripture in precision and is bearing witness to the precision of the written text of Scripture.

As image bearers, we can’t be God, but we can speak intelligently, precisely and thoughtfully. The fall wrecked that ability to an extent, but in Christ we have Holy Spirit in us and we have the word written to us and we have been rescued from darkness and transferred to the kingdom of light, therefore, we can speak rightly to one another and know that although not infallible, our words can bless rather than curse.

We all know the power of intentional and unintentional words and thoughts that have wounded us deeply.

We also all know the power of a fitting word rightly placed.

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” – Proverbs 25:11

Words of blessing are centered on the importance of others.

Words of “not-blessing” are centered on the getting of one’s way or justifying one’s sinful or silly actions.

Paul ends his correspondence with his family in a word from the Father and Son and a prayer / wish from himself for the family.

Notice that “peace” and “love with faith” are sent via Paul from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The only conclusion one can make from this language is that God delights in delivering his words to us through the vehicle of fellowship in the kingdom.

Paul has a word for them from the Father and Son, and indwelling Holy Spirit will take delight in and affirm this as being the words of the Father and Son.

So we conclude that it’s our pleasure to speak blessing from the Lord to each other.

What did Father and Son want Ephesus and us to hear?

  1. Peace v. 23

Not necessarily peace without, but necessarily peace within.

Jesus promised we would have difficulty without, but we are to take heart because Jesus has over come that world system and his kingdom is coming with power.

Our hope is that when it’s storming on the outside that we have peace within.

“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say, ‘it is well with my soul.’” – Horatio Spafford

  1. Love with faith v. 23

The Father and Son communicate that they love them and are sustaining their faith.

This not so subtle reminder of the Father and Son’s love for them, I would argue, serves to exhort the Ephesians to stay the course in love that issues from faith. To love people the way God does requires faith that not giving retribution will be ok.

We know the Lord reminded Ephesus in Revelation 2 that they had abandoned the love they had at first. We can only conclude that their desire for doctrinal purity had led them to be cold in the love department.

Father reminds them he loves them and has sustained their faith. Therefore, the Ephesians and us TRCC’ans are to be reminded we are loved and sustained and should love as we have been loved.

  1. Grace v. 24

Paul issues his prayer / wish for the people: Grace be with all who love the Lord Jesus with love incorruptible.”

Grace, the unmerited favor of God, is showered richly whether common grace in rain for crops even for the unregenerate or special grace in new birth to salvation for his elect. Paul desires that those who love Jesus taste the abundance of grace from the Father.

No doubt, this prayer is answered as immediately as the Ephesians here the words of Paul in the letter.

No doubt this prayer is answered for us as we are ministered to by the Spirit in the gathering of the saints.

Father’s grace is abundant and rich, and with eyes to see, we can live in great hope that Father is providentially taking care of us just as he did the Ephesians.

Blessing of TRCC:

Three Rivers Community Church, may peace be yours in abundance regardless of the external chaos that may abound. May you taste the love of the Father and sustained faithfulness to love as you have been loved, and may you have eyes to see the rich grace lavished on us as beloved children of God in Jesus Christ.

Corporate Worship is Our Fitting Response

Psalm 147:1 “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”

In response to the fact that all things are being reconciled to King Jesus under his rule so that we can live in a manner reflecting that reality, let’s worship. It’s the only fitting response.

[1] Kent Hughes, Epheisans (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1990) p. 259.

[2] Omar Reyes and Bob Roberts created the Sons versus Hirelings chart and we are using it in defining our relationships. I am modifying it’s contents for our purposes today.

What Flag Will You Fly?

Matthew 7:12 is the only banner that a Christian should be truly defending. We must remember that we are citizens of a different kingdom that carries its own flag. It’s impossible to be in full allegiance to one set of values and give proper attention to another set of values. One cannot serve two masters. He will love one and hate the other (Jesus said that). As followers of Jesus Christ we don’t stand for everything the United States says and does and we don’t stand for everything the Confederate States said and did. We are not republican and we are not democrat. We are Kingdom of God.

Regarding flags, original intent is what it is, but original intent goes away when others take what was used for one cause and use it for another. The civil war is much more nuanced and complicated than most care to learn about or communicate because education is hard and watching TV is easy. Coming to grips with complicated history is hard and ignorant hating and blaming are easy.

For instance, if the Confederate battle flag (not the flag of the CSA) represented the armies of Northern Virginia and some other armies of the CSA and then that same flag was later used by others when lynching fellow humans without a trial, then for those who experienced the effect of lynching that’s what it means. That’s the way it is. Why would I want to fly that in the face of a fellow image bearer?

Here lies the problem. We are trying to have our allegiances in two camps. We are not members of the USA, the CSA or any other country first. If you are a Christian, then you are first a citizen of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, and his kingdom is what you pledge allegiance to. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for proper patriotism and service, there is. It’s just not first on our list of values. Jesus’ kingdom is.

Jesus waves the summary of the Law and the Prophets over us in Matthew 7:12 when he says, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

I’m a former teacher, and as such, proud to say a professional educator. I’m also a father to a black son. Truth in history matters and so do those who are racially different from me along with their experiences. I’m going to teach history and love others the way they need to be loved. I’m not going to rub history in people’s faces and I’m not going to neglect to love people rightly. I want to follow Jesus.

This flag issue is not about one or the other. For the Christian, this is an opportunity to stand firmly on the side of Jesus not a temporary nation that will be brought under the rule of Jesus in time whether it likes it or not. Stand on the eternal kingdom of God. Jesus’ kingdom will not fall.

For the Christian, we are to understand how others want to be treated and then treat them that way. This is self-sacrificing, others-centered, hard, but required.

So, don’t fight a battle for a flag that is doomed to fade. Fly the flag of Matthew 7:12 and find a narrow but sure path that lead to life rather than a broad and sure path that leads to destruction.

Walking Worthy of the Gospel: Keeping alert in Prayer for Bold Proclamation of the Mystery of the Gospel

Ephesians 6:18b-20

Walking Worthy of the Gospel: Keeping alert in prayer for Bold Proclamation of the Mystery of the Gospel

“To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for al the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

The whole of verses 18-20 modifies the “…stand against the schemes of the Devil.” v. 11, “…to stand firm.” v. 13, and “Stand, therefore…” v. 14.

Standing firm through armoring up by prayer in the life of the church as one of the ways we walk worthy has a purpose simply beyond us surviving spiritual warfare.

The grand purpose of spiritual war is not my survival, but the bold proclamation of the Mystery of the Gospel through the sustaining and persevering prayer of God’s people.

When the allies launched the invasion of France on June 6, 1944 no one believed there would be no casualties. They knew this was hard and they expected to give up lives, if necessary, to rid the world of the evil of the Nazi regime. The mission was not preserve every life. The end was Berlin through smaller missions that led to the ultimate mission.

When we come to spiritual war we must recognize that many of us are going to fall victim to the schemes of the evil one along the way (we are going to believe lies, we are going to propagate lies, we are going to be rash and foolish with our mouth, etc.), but the mission is not avoiding spiritual war. It’s not possible. The mission is God’s fame through reconciling all things (people and domains of society) in all nations through the proclamation of the mystery of the gospel and this is achieved through the sustaining and persevering prayer of God’s people.

Let’s take a look at the bold proclamation of the gospel, but first review the means of such bold proclamation, prayer for such boldness.

  1. Prayer is tangible ministry

Pray always – “praying at all times”

This obviously does not mean “always saying prayers.” We are not heard for our “much speaking” (Matt. 6:7). “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17) says to us, “Always be in communion with the Lord. Keep the receiver off the hook!” Never have to say when you pray, “Lord, we come into Thy presence,” because you never left His presence! A Christian must “pray always” because he is always subject to temptations and attacks of the devil. A surprise attack has defeated more than one believer who forgot to “pray without ceasing.”[1]

  1. Living in the awareness of and practicing the Spirit’s presence and his pleasure or grief over our actions
  2. Private worship
  3. Repentance
  1. Communicating like we truly have a good and loving Father who never leaves us

Pray with all prayer – “praying at all times…with all prayer and supplication”

There is more than one kind of praying: prayer, supplication, intercession, and thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:1). The believer who prays only to ask for things is missing out on blessings that come with intercessions and giving of thanks. In fact, thanksgiving is a great prayer weapon for defeating Satan. “Praise changes things” as much as “prayer changes things.” Intercession for others can bring victory to our own lives. “And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10).[2]

  1. Supplication – appeal made to someone in authority
  2. Intercession – appeal made on someone else’s behalf
  3. Thanksgiving – giving of thanks

Pray in the Spirit – “in the Spirit”

The Bible formula is that we pray to the Father, through the Son, and in the Spirit. Romans 8:26–27 tells us that only in the Spirit’s power can we pray in the will of God. Otherwise, our praying could be selfish and out of the will of God. In the Old Testament tabernacle, there was a small golden altar standing before the veil, and here the priest burned the incense (Ex. 30:1–10; Luke 1:1–11). The incense is a picture of prayer. It had to be mixed according to God’s plan and could not be counterfeited by man. The fire on the altar is a picture of the Holy Spirit, for it is He who takes our prayers and “ignites” them in the will of God. It is possible to pray fervently in the flesh and never get through to God. It is also possible to pray quietly in the Spirit and see God’s hand do great things.[3]

  1. Pray in step with the Spirit’s will
  2. Pray in the power of the Spirit’s gifting, discernment and joy
  3. Pray in the assurance that the Spirit may give to ask for certain things

The best way I can illustrate this is for you to get George Muller’s journals for $2.99 and invite you to pray like that.

Pray alertly – “keep alert”

Some translations translate the phrasing as “pray watching” or “keep watch in prayer”.

Watching means “keeping on the alert.” (as the ESV translates it)[4] The phrase “watch and pray” occurs often in the Bible. When Nehemiah was repairing the walls of Jerusalem, and the enemy was trying to stop the work, Nehemiah defeated the enemy by watching and praying. “Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch” (Neh. 4:9). “Watch and pray” is the secret of victory over the world (Mark 13:33), the flesh (Mark 14:38), and the devil (Eph. 6:18). Peter went to sleep when he should have been praying, and the result was victory for Satan (Mark 14:29–31, 67–72). God expects us to use our God-given senses, led by the Spirit, so that we detect Satan when he is beginning to work.[5]

Keeping alert is also what will happen as we pray in step with the Spirit.

Holy Spirit will inform us of what we need to know and pray for and how we need to go about it.

Praying alertly is also being at the ready. It’s being ready to go to prayer. Prayer does not have to be a formal activity requiring gear up.

  1. Pray in real time (know what is happening and engage)
  2. Be ready to get to prayer in the second
  3. Don’t get too comfortable with things and become a target
  4. Expect spiritual struggle

Keep on praying – “with all perseverance”

The word perseverance simply means, “to stick to it and not quit.” The early believers prayed this way (Acts 1:14; 2:42; 6:4); and we also should pray this way (Rom. 12:12). Perseverance in prayer does not mean we are trying to twist God’s arm, but rather that we are deeply concerned and burdened and cannot rest until we get God’s answer. As Robert Law puts it, “Prayer is not getting man’s will done in heaven; it is getting God’s will done on earth” (Tests of Life, [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1968]). Most of us quit praying just before God is about to give the victory. Not everybody is so constituted that he can sincerely spend a whole night in prayer, but all of us can persevere in prayer far more than we do. The early church prayed without ceasing when Peter was in prison and, at the last moment, God gave them their answer (Acts 12:1–19). Keep on praying until the Spirit stops you or the Father answers you. Just about the time you feel like quitting, God will give the answer.[6]

  1. Luke 18:1-8 Faith prays without giving up

Pray for all the saints – “making supplication for all the saints”

The Lord’s Prayer begins with “Our Father”—not “My Father.” We pray as part of a great family that is also talking to God, and we ought to pray for the other members of the family. Even Paul asked for the prayer support of the Ephesians—and he had been to the third heaven and back. If Paul needed the prayers of the saints, how much more do you and I need them! If my prayers help another believer defeat Satan, then that victory will help me too.[7]

  1. Pray for our workers in our UPG
  2. Pray for the future parents of our foster home
  3. Pray for each other

Now, what are we to be asking for in all this praying?

  1. Bold proclamation of the mystery of the gospel

Note that Paul did not ask them to pray for his comfort or safety, but for the effectiveness of his witness and ministry.[8]

Let me share with you three quick observations:

  1. Paul wanted them to pray that bold words would be given to him from God

Paul wanted boldness.

  1. Paul wanted them to pray that he would proclaim the mystery of the gospel

Paul wanted clarity and comprehensiveness.

This mystery is that in Jesus Christ all things are being reconciled under his headship by the powerful working of his kingdom.

This is a spiritual message that can only be heard with spiritual ears and empowered by the Holy Spirit in the mouths of its beautiful footed messengers.

  1. Bold proclamation got Paul a jail sentence to preach to prisoners

The reality is that bold proclamation, not dumb and careless actions, are going to have implications in our context.

The freedom to speak about what the bible hails as valuable will probably not diminish legally as much as socially. The pressure to cave to social norms is increasing and we must recognize prison may be a cake walk compared to the beating one may take in the court of public opinion and that could spill out into violence done to Christians.

In the first couple of centuries of Christianity, what was not state sponsored was socially sponsored for fear that the monotheistic, non-state sponsored religion thought to be atheistic due to its monotheism, was brutally persecuted by the public. We could find ourselves here again.

We must be bold with the message of the Scriptures, and we must pray for this kind of super-natural boldness.

  1. Bold proclamation as an ought not as one unsavory option

Boldness is the content of the gospel presented not the methodology of actually getting in front of people.

Paul is not referencing how one gets in front of people (Not talking about methods of evangelism: relationships, tracts, service ministry, domain engagement, etc.). Paul is referencing the way we speak of the gospel when we are in front of people. Paul, the bible, assumes we are going to be talking to people about the kingdom.

Note that boldness does not mean dominating a conversation, meanness, and loudness or invading people’s personal space.

Boldness does mean that we speak about the content of the gospel without reservation or shame.

In other words, we don’t mince words hoping that we can win people with a diluted message that really has no explanation of how the gospel, the metanarrative of the truth, answers the ultimate questions.

Boldness: Answer the question: “who are you?” You are a broken image bearer that was broken from conception and cut off from the life of God and in need of transformation and rescue from darkness.

Why am I different? I am different, because God being rich in mercy, when I was dead toward him, made me alive through the good news of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and his transforming and rescuing power.

What is your purpose? You were made to delight in and make much of Jesus Christ in fulfilling your created purpose, for his glory and your joy, in the completion of taking this message to all nations. Your created purpose has a deeper end than you making a living.

How does one get into the kingdom of God? Repentance from the rebellion you were sold into from conception and faith in Jesus to make that happen. But that can only happen through the new birth work of the Holy Spirit regenerating you to life and causing you to see that you are in need of: repentance and faith. Then you start following Jesus by getting involved in a bible believing and bible preaching church to begin growing in discipleship and start reading a bible as part of the that growth (give them one).

Boldness: Tell the whole story of the metanarrative in four parts from Genesis to Revelation.

Creation / Fall / Redemption / Restoration

Boldness: Invite people to know Jesus if you see the regenerating work of the Spirit going on.

Boldness: Invite people to church. Talking with some of you I know that this comes with some caveats you have to give people because you know what is going to be spoken from the front. You let them know we believe and teach the bible.

Boldness, according to the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/06/16/here-are-three-reasons-why-southern-baptists-are-on-the-decline/?utm_source=Evangelism+Georgia+Baptist+Convention+List&utm_campaign=0edaf23ab9-washpost_evangelism&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_a9e20895f7-0edaf23ab9-230273381

  1. Get serious again about the evangelical distinctive of sharing one’s faith.
  1. Doctrinal rigor must remain at the center of our churches.
  1. Make sure politics, particularly Republican Party Politics, remain a secondary concern (may I add, a non-factor)

Alan Hirsh chronicles the situation for the church between AD 100 and AD 310 in which the estimated population of the church went from 25,000 to 20,000,000 and asked how they did this without any systems?

They were an illegal religion during this period.

They didn’t have any church buildings as we know a church building. (discovered chapels are converted homes and were the exception not the rule)

They didn’t have the Scriptures as we know them. (the canon was being formed)

They didn’t have an institution or the professional form of leadership normally associated with it.

They didn’t have seeker sensitive services, youth groups, bands, seminaries, commentaries, etc.

It was actually hard to join the church.[9] (by late 2nd century, aspiring converts had to undergo a significant initiation period to prove they had believed and were coming out of their pagan background)

How did they do this?

(Hirsh’s answer is a more nuanced and dangerous one for those who like control and linear patterns, so go read the book.)

A nutshell answer is: it’s the supernatural power of God’s kingdom at work in his church as they are boldly proclaiming and living in the gospel of the kingdom.

Application of simple boldness: Try this for the upcoming week:

  1. Get quiet for an extended period of time daily
  2. Read your bible (use a bible reading plan)

http://about.esvbible.org/resources/reading/

  1. Listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit

You will only know the voice of the Spirit through learning to get quiet an reflecting on the Scriptures and on a desire to be led by the Spirit and the discipline to discern out your thinking from the voice of the Spirit. The bible assumes we will know. There is no systematic teaching on this. It’s learning to pay attention to holy moments and distinguish them from events of your own creation. Will you mess that up frequently? Yes. Will you learn to listen better? Yes. Will the Lord speak more clearly some times than others? Yes. Will he be silent? Yes. It is messy, but this is why the Scriptures teach us to test things by the word in fellowship.

  1. Obey what the word and Spirit say

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.” – 1 Samuel 15:22-23a

  1. Let’s be bold in the content and execution of our worship

Psalm 147:1 “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”

It is a great and frankly, unspoken, end that I’d love TRCC’s worship to be driven not by a style or a show. Although these guys do a great job and Adam does a great job of leading them, their job is not to generate a buzz to get you hyped into singing to the Lord. Worship is what happens when God’s people are enamored with the Lord and that worship transcends any style or location.

Worship is good and pleasant and fitting. And worship of the Lord that transcends the natural is bold.

Let’s go there.

[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 60.

[2] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 60.

[3] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 60.

[4] Parenthesis mine

[5] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 60.

[6] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 60.

[7] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 60.

[8] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 60.

[9] Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2006), p. 19-20.

Worthy Investment: College Students

At Three Rivers Community Church we are graced with one of the most dynamic gifts we could ever be given, college students. The legacy of college students spending their time with us and then launching to engaging their domains either locally or globally has been far reaching.

What is fascinating to me is that there has not been a systematic training of college students. College students have been folded into the life of the church whether with senior adults or with high school students or with everything in between, and it has resulted in the fruit of our ethos, building the church local and global by being and producing racial followers of Jesus Christ.

My spiritual Dad, Bob Roberts, gave me an assignment to sound this idea out a bit, and I wanted to share the post with you guys on this blog.

Click the link below to read the article.

The Power of Working with College Students