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Archive for the category “OUR BIG PRAYERS FOR 2015”

Fanning the Flames of AWE (Chris Francis)

This past Sunday we talked about the importance of Awe — how there is a difference between believing in the truths about Jesus and having an awe over those glorious truths. Belief alone — in the sens of an intellectual agreement — does not lead to worship or life change or freedom. Awe does.

 

That was the purpose of the sermon on Sunday as we looked at 3 Stories of Awe.

 

But I wanted to write a follow-up about how we can Fan the Flames of Awe in our hearts.

 

Of course only the Holy Spirit can only spark that flame, but we are also called to fan those flames. So below are some thoughts:

 

The first are what have been traditionally called….

 

SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES.

 

  • Reading the Bible to see God At Work — The bible is not primarily a moral guide. It is not primarily a book of wise counsel. The bible is primarily the grand story of humanity in desperate need of a Savior and Redeemer, and how God has been acting as that Savior and Redeemer in a huge huge way since the beginning of time. When we read the bible in order to see God at work, rather than to just get a moral nugget, then our hearts are stirred with awe and it leads us to worship him. And out of worship will flow morality…..but morality without worship is simply religiosity.
  • God-Centered Prayer — There is a self-centered way to pray, where I am focused on my need for security, my need for comfort, my need for justice….and there is  a God-centered way to pray, where I am focused on the Bigness of God and all that he has already secured for me in Christ. God-centered praying does not deny reality or pretend like our needs and desires do not exist, but it does emphasize God’s faithfulness and grace and sovereignty way more.
  • Fasting — Fasting from food, fasting from tv, fasting from facebook. Fasting is a way of saying “Shhhh….” to the physical and psychological longings that we feel. And it amplifies the spiritual longings that we should feel — the longings to know Jesus more and to see him do what we are unable to do in our own strength.
  • Being in Church Community — If we are not connected to the ups and downs of a church community, we will miss out on a big way that God reveals himself to us. We talked about this at the end of the sermon, so I won’t go into detail here.
  • Singing Songs — Singing songs is a spiritual discipline that sometimes flows out of awe, but often we do it in order to regain our awe. Like many of you, I don’t always like to sing in the beginning of a church service. But I need to. I need to lay aside my anxieties, my worries, and sing, and it may feel like discipline, but a discipline that leads to a renewing of my awe.

 

Then there are other things that we can do to stir our hearts that may work for one person but don’t necessarily do it for others. I’ll list a few of mind as well as some other peoples’.

 

Taking a Walk in a Cemetery

Sounds strange, I know. But when I’m in a cemetery, and looking at all the tombstones, I’m reminded of how short my life is, regardless of how much I succeed or fail. It reminds me of how God has given breath to all those lives, and how the purpose of giving breath to those lives has been to praise and honor him with their lives.

 

It reminds me of how nobody is going to talk about me for too long after I’m gone, and how I may go at any minute (because a good many of those tombstones have birth and death dates less than years apart) and so my primary pursuit should be to honor the one who is sovereign over all those lives and deaths.

Enjoying our Big & Beautiful Creation

Swimming in the ocean (especially at sun-down when most other people are gone) or standing at the top of the mountain helps to remind me of the grandeur of God’s great sovereignty over this world, and how futile it is to try to control things.

Remembering My Story

Thinking back over my life and about how God has orchestrated it, forgiven me and transformed me, blessed me when I least deserved it reminds of how much my life is in His hands.

Reading Biographies

Reading about the lives of men & women who have been rescued from sin & shame and then used for God’s glory on this broken Earth fuels my awe.

Studying Science

For some people, studying the human body or astronomy or biology points to God’s infinite Creative power.

 

There are many other things that might stir our affections for Jesus Christ, but the point is that we should intentionally work those things into our schedules. Because our Awe of Jesus is so important that we must protect and guard it.

Loving Those Who Are “Stuck” (Chris Francis)

stuck
One of our Big 7 Prayers for 2015 is:
 
5. That God would give us love for those whose sins offend us….and also the boldness to have awkward conversations to help each other grow.
Paul speaks to both parts of this prayer in Galatians 6. 
 
Galatians 6:1
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.
 
This “caught” is not about someone caught in the act of doing something naughty; it’s more the idea of being caught, like an animal in a trap,  in a habitual sinful behavior or habitual sinful mindset. It has the idea of fallen, rather than a deliberate & planned sin. 
 
If someone is stuck in something that is damaging to them, an area of  their life that they are not trusting God with, that they can’t get out of, Paul says something must be done. What is it that must be done? 
 
He says “you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.” You who live by the Spirit — you who have been praying for that person, who are lead by the Holy Spirit, who are humble and compassionate. You must restore that person gently. They are not to be ignored. They are not to be excused. They are not to be enabled. They are not to be destroyed. They are not to be pushed away. They must be restored gently. 
 
How to do this requires patience and compassion and wisdom. Hence, it requires “you who are spiritual.” In our flesh, we tend to either react too harshly or turn a blind eye to sin. We need the leading and guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit to restore our brothers and sisters who are caught in a sin.
 
But then Paul urges a warning – “watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” What is he talking about? I think he is talking about the temptation towards pride and self-righteousness. Because that is our tendency, isn’t it? To look down on those “caught in the sin.” To see them as our projects. To gossip about them. To be angry with them. To give up on them. To deem them not worth the effort. 
 
But we must remember that without Christ, we are all stuck in our sins in every way, with no way out. If Jesus decided not to get involved, we would all be stuck on death row, waiting to pay for the penalty of our sins. If Jesus decided not to suffer for us, we would all be stuck in slavery to sin. If Jesus decided not to conquer death on our behalf, we would all be stuck in this dying world that is full of the presence of sin. 
 
But Jesus did get involved. He did suffer for us. And he did conquer the grave. And so it should change everything about how we deal with others who are stuck.  

God’s Glory In Your Extraordinary Story (Jon Bloom)

Our First Big Prayer for 2015 is that God would fill us with such awe of Him that we value and pursue Him more than anything else.

I hope that God uses the following blog post, which we stole from Desiringgod.org, to do just that.

God’s Glory in Your Extraordinary Story

Statistically speaking, you should not exist.

Think about it for a moment. How unlikely was it that your parents ever met? And even when they came together, you were just a bad mood or argument or headache or television show or phone call away from never being conceived.

Take a generational step back, and ponder your grandparents’ stories. What were the twists and turns and near misses in their experiences and relationships — any of which, had there been even a minor change, would have resulted in your non-being?

Then keep going back further and further into your ancestral history, and consider the millions and millions of converging conversations and glances and illnesses and unexpected vocational changes and books and storms and dreams and religious choices and travels and schools and wars and ambitions and sorrows over the centuries that, had they been altered just slightly, would not only have resulted in your not being born, but in the world’s population being very different.

The more you think about your unlikely existence and what had to take place in order for you to be sitting here reading these words, the more you’ll realize that your story is wilder than anything humans have imagined. It adds a whole new level of breathless awe to the thought that God “commanded and they were created” (Psalm 148:5). The reality behind that simple statement is incomprehensibly complex.

Nothing Truly Ordinary Ever Happens

What this means is that nothing that happens to you today is, in fact, ordinary or insignificant. Every small and great thing you encounter or do has millions of stories behind its existence or occurrence, and if you could trace them back they would keep you enthralled for weeks.

And your extraordinary life is continually shaping, and being shaped by, many other lives, human and non-human, as you move through time. In ways both witting and unwitting, your words and actions are influencing the course of other lives. Your choice of a parking spot or your seat on a plane could have a life-altering affect on someone else. Your choice of church, school, and workplace certainly will.

The Glorious Reality of Divine Selection

Do not let a belief in the sovereignty of God dull your amazement over this — as if everything just happens like a machine. Let his sovereignty multiply, not subtract from, your wonder. Just think of how God designed his creation to occur!

Fifteen million birch tree seeds in a season might produce a tree or two. A few hundred ova and a few billion sperm might produce a few children over the course of a marriage. Some 200 billion galaxies and more than 70 sextillion stars might produce a planet that sustains life, not to mention incomprehensively complex, marvelous, conscious beings who can contemplate the glory of such improbabilities.

Some look at such phenomena in creation and see meaningless randomness and natural selection. What do you see? Do you see the staggering glory of divine selection (election) out of all the contingencies and possibilities? This is the world that the God who spoke all things into existence brought into being when he said, “Let there be . . .” And all that glory before we even get to the most glorious story: Christ’s redemption of sinners. The height and depth and length and breadth of the wonder infinitely expands.

Think Long Enough to Savor the Glory

You are a tiny but extraordinary creature living in a universe that is filled with trillions, septillions, bazillions of creations, some incomprehensibly huge and others inconceivably small. And the existence of each one, just like you, so unlikely, so improbable as to be miracles, is meant to cause each of us to exclaim in worship,

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)

You only need to stop long enough to think. There is so much divine glory to see in your truly extraordinary story.

Yep, It’s Gonna’ Be Awkward…And That’s Okay (Chris Francis)

One of our 7 Big Prayers for 2015 is as follows: “That God would give us love for those whose sins offend us….and also the boldness to have awkward conversations to help each other grow.”
I’ve been praying this one a lot lately – particularly the 2nd part of it — because I’ve been hearing about the need for quite a bit of these awkward conversations to be initiated by people within True Life. I’ve been hearing about people needing to ask for forgiveness, express forgiveness, or point out something in a friend’s life that they could easily consider “not my problem.” And so I’ve been praying for boldness and courage for those people and God’s grace over those conversations…..and God has been delivering! Some of those awkward conversations have happened, and God has showed up in big ways.  Relationships are on their way to being restored, blind spots have been confessed and repented of, and most importantly, Christ has been exalted because people trusted him by stepping into the unknown. 
 
And so I want to encourage some of you who still need to have that awkward conversation by saying this: The fact that it’s going to be awkward means it feels a bit out of your control…..and that means you are dependent on God to make good out of it….and that is a great thing because God loves to come through for us when we feel in over our heads. 
 
So pray, jot down some thoughts, and then set up a time to talk to that family member / friend / spouse / boss / neighbor that you know God wants you to talk to.
Yep, it’s gonna’ be awkward. But that’s okay. Because God’s power “is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

 

Starting the Day with Awe (Chris Francis)

Every morning I try to have what I call “time with God.” Time alone in prayer, reading the bible, reading a portion of a book, listening to God. 

Some times I walk away from that time filled with awe over the grandeur of God’s grace, God’s bigness, God’s sovereignty, God’s power. 
Some times I don’t walk away with that awe. 
 
And it makes all the difference for the rest of the day. 
 
Our First Big Prayer for 2015 is that  God would fill us with such awe of Him that we value and pursue him more than any other treasure. 
 
Awe leads to peace, joy, trust, confidence. 
 
A lack of awe leads to anxiety, frustration, fear, insecurity, striving, depression. 
 
Now you might be thinking, “He’s over-simplifying my situation…..my depression, my hurts, my frustrations, the chaotic situation of my life. He doesn’t know what I’ve lost, he doesn’t know what I’ve been diagnosed with, he doesn’t know who I live  with.”
 
 Here’s why I say that – if Jesus was to return today, each of us would be filled with one of two types of Awes– awesome Gratitude……or Awesome Dread. 
 
In Revelation 1:7, the apostle John makes a powerful declaration:
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail[c] on account of him. Even so. Amen.”
 
If Jesus returned today, I’m pretty darn sure all my anxiety and frustrations and insecurities would vanish. 
 
And I’m pretty darn sure that for those who reject him, all their petty frustrations and anxieties would be replaced by one Big Awesome Dread. 
 
When the King of Kings returns, the weight of his glory will be unavoidable, and the glory of everything else will crumble in comparison. So if we could just taste and experience a hint of that glory each day, I believe it will greatly put things into perspective.  
Because we can pray with a small view of God. We can read the bible like it’s a self-help book. We can listen for God’s leading in “big decisions” as if those decisions will make or break everything. 
And so, I have made it a goal every morning to not just pray, to not just “read the bible”, but to do so with the goal of being filled with the awe of God. That’s my number one goal each day. 

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