Pray For ALL PEOPLE

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We should pray for ALL PEOPLE! No doubt, this is easier said than done, yet we must do so. Consider the words of Paul written to Timothy…

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:1-6)

As we read these words from Paul, we do well to notice a few things…

First, notice that Paul writes “First of all.” This means “of first importance.” If you are familiar with 1 Timothy, you know that Paul is writing to Timothy to encourage him to deal with the false teachers that have arisen among the church in Ephesus. And the place to start is by returning the times of which they gather together into times of prayer.

Second, Paul wrote that we should pray for ALL PEOPLE. And when he says all people, he means ALL PEOPLE. Did you notice that Paul mentioned authority figures such as kings? It might be tempting for persecuted believers to omit praying for the leaders responsible for their persecution, but Paul puts them first on the list.

Third, Paul specified that the church should pray for peace so that they may live a life honoring to God. In a world of hostility, a life of peace does much to show the goodness of God as believers trust in Him. Paul wanted the church in Ephesus to live lives that demonstrate hope in the midst of potential crises of the day.

And fourth, Paul wanted to make it clear that the reason he was encouraging prayer for all people was because there is only one God for all people who wants all people to be saved. And it is this one God who has given himself as the ransom in which all are to be saved. “It is the fact that Christ died for all men,” writes J.N.D. Kelly, “without any kind of favoritism, that makes it obligatory for Christians to pray for all without distinction.”

So do we PRAY FOR ALL? In a world full of chaos, violence, and terrorism, do we realize that God died for all and therefore, we must pray for even those who seem to us the least likely to deserve God’s grace?

I admit this is hard to do. And yet it is something that I believe if we practice, it will change not only our hearts, but the hearts of those we pray for. Therefore, will you pray for ALL PEOPLE?

 

Quote Of The Week

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In my lifelong study of the Bible I have looked for an overarching theme, a summary statement of what the whole sprawling book is about. I have settled on this: “God gets his family back.” From the first book to the last the Bible tells of wayward children and the tortuous lengths to which God will go to bring them home. Indeed, the entire biblical drama ends with a huge family reunion in the book of Revelation.

(taken from Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey, p. 51)

5 Thoughts On Loving Others

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We know we should love others. The Bible makes it pretty clear. The difficulty however, is in the doing. Therefore, how do we go about loving others in the ordinary day to day activities of our lives? There are dozens of things that could be mentioned in answering this question, but I just want to allude to five.

Pray.

In his book The Praying Life, Paul Miller asks the question as to whether we can really love someone without praying for them? Prayer is no small thing. It should be the first and foremost activity of loving people. This is why it’s at the top of the list.

Listen.

The greatest gift you can give someone is your time. This is especially true in our hurry-up-gotta-get-things-done-already-running-late world. So stopping to listen is a huge deal. And the reality is that many around us are starving to have someone listen to them.

Seek To Understand

Seeking to understand others follows right along with listening. It concerns learning to walk in another’s shoes. We are sometimes quick to judge others without knowing their story. Therefore, we do well to remember that behind every face is a story. So seek to learn that story.

Be Patient.

Our culture teaches us to be impatient. We have fast-food, high-speed Internet, and over-night delivery. So, being patient with others is not always easy. But being patient is so important. It’s about giving people a break when they make a mistake. Or it’s listening for an extra five minutes. Whatever it is, learn to walk with others at their pace, not the pace you think they should walk.

Be Forgiving.

Be a person of grace. I don’t know if you know this or not, but people make mistakes. And by the way, you are one of those people. So learn to forgive. When you do so, you bring an aroma to the room that seems to freshen everyone.

These five things are not novel concepts, but they can be revolutionary. I dare you to practice them. After all, are these not ways you want to be treated?

 

 

 

20 Questions

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Below are some random questions. Some are more reflective than others, but all are ones that cause me to think and do a bit of “soul searching.” Hope you spend some time thinking through them as well.

Isn’t discipleship much more than just information?
Why are we always in such a hurry?
Why do we not share the gospel with others?
Why have mission trips become so popular?
Can a church be too big?
Why is contentment so hard?
What does it mean to be the church?
Have we complicated what it means to do ministry?
Is reaching the world as simple as beginning a movement of making disciples who make disciples who make disciples…?
Why does it seem that church planting is becoming more popular than pastoring existing churches? Is this a good thing?
As technology grows, does it appear that we are becoming more impatient?
Why are many afraid of being bored?
Why do we like to brag about how busy we are?
What does it mean for a church to be growing?
Do we really understand the power of prayer?
Is it okay to be ordinary?
What does it really mean to be successful?
How difficult is it to treat everyone, including the guy who cuts you off in traffic, as someone created in the image of God?
Why is it hard to say “I was wrong?”
Do we really know how amazing the love of God really is?

Quote Of The Week

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We too readily think of mission as extraordinary. Perhaps that’s because we find it awkward to talk about Jesus outside a church gathering. Perhaps it’s because we think God moves through the spectacular rather than the witness of people like us. Perhaps it’s because we want to outsource mission to the professionals, so we invite people to guest services where an “expert” can do mission for us. But most people live in the ordinary, and most people will be reached by ordinary people.

(taken from A Meal With Jesus by Tim Chester, p. 91)

The Kingdom Is The Good Life

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Jesus said some interesting things about the Kingdom of God. Two parables however, which are much the same, stand out to me.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:44-46)

So what is the Kingdom? There has been much thought about this, but I tend to conclude that it is the reign of God through Christ in which hope and a future are now guaranteed. It is a people oriented to the ways of Christ. Now granted, this is a pretty simple definition, but it will do for what I think Jesus is trying to tell us.

This Kingdom, says Jesus, is most valuable. In fact, it is worth everything. If you really saw it for what it truly is, you would sell everything in order to get it. That’s what these guys in the parable do. They sale everything to get that one thing that is the ultimate treasure. No cost is too great.

I don’t believe Jesus is telling us we can buy the Kingdom. We don’t earn it. What he is giving us is a picture of how beautiful it is. Living in the Kingdom, under the reign of Christ, is the good life. And that should capture our hearts and change everything about us. James K. A. Smith writes that “our ultimate love is oriented by and to a picture of what we think it looks like for us to live well, and that picture governs, shapes, and motivates our decisions and actions.”

Do we picture living in the Kingdom to be the good life? Do we visualize how living under Christ is the way to joy? Are we convinced of the value of orientating our lives to the ways of Christ? To do so requires more than just knowledge however. It requires a reorientation to what we do.

“So, what if we sought to discern not the essence of Christianity as a system of beliefs,” writes Smith, “but instead sought to discern the shape of Christian faith as a form of life?” In other words, our obedience and formation to Scripture moves us deeper into desire and love than just mere knowledge. We obey, therefore, in order to truly have our hearts changed.

Jesus told us that the Kingdom is of ultimate value. But we will not have our hearts shaped by that unless we begin to live under the graceful, loving rule of Christ. Our loves will not be moved to live such a good life until we approach the Scriptures beyond information. We must come to God’s Word in worship, ready to receive transformative grace as our hearts become attuned to that which is presented to us as the true picture of the good life.

God, may we be awakened a bit more today to see how the Kingdom for what it truly is. And may it reorder what we love. Amen.

The Protection of Grace

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We live in a world that can be graceless! We are told that “You get what you deserve” and “There’s no such thing as a free lunch!” There is also a sense of entitlement that rears its head as well. It can become easy to think that because of who we are or what we have accomplished that we have certain privileges that others do not. After all, we have earned it.

It can be dangerous to live amidst gracelessness as we can slowly become “discipled” into being merciless. Instead of people who are give grace, we become people who demand more from others and are quick to judge when they don’t do their part. We forget about our own short-comings and only look at the faults in others.

So what do we do? I think we have to continue to immerse ourselves in the truth about ourselves and the reality of how much we need grace. If we don’t, we will end up like the Pharisee who went to the temple to pray. “God,” he prayed, “I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get” (Luke 18:11-12)

How righteous this man was. Much more righteous than the poor tax collector that happened to be in the temple praying at the same time (notice his allusion to him in his prayer: “even like this tax collector”). This religious leader had earned his right standing before God and others. And he had worked hard for it. But he had become blind to his own need. He was good at comparing himself with others, especially this tax collector, but he had forgotten his own need for grace and as a result, became graceless.

We do well to realize that we are in daily need of God’s grace and mercy. We must become like the tax collector in this story who when he came to the temple to pray, he stood in a corner, cast his eyes downward, beat his breast, and cried out to God for mercy. He knew he was not fit to stand before God and pray. And yet we find that he, not the religious leader, was the one who walked away “justified before God” (Luke 18:14).

It is when we understand who we are as people in need of mercy, and then dive into the grace of God, that we protect ourselves from becoming graceless people. In fact, I think understanding our daily need for grace protects us. Specifically, it protects us from at least three things…

Grace protects us from being judgmental

Our world is quick to judge others. In fact, when it comes to first impressions, scientists tell us that in takes only a tenth of a second for us to determine in our minds who that person is and how we will treat them. Like I said, we are quick to judge!

Being judgmental also carries with it the attitude that communicates that we are better than others. Remember the Pharisee and how he viewed the tax collector? If we are not careful, we can become like him, look down our nose at someone else and say things like: “I can’t believe he would do that.”

I believe that self-righteousness is the most dangerous sin. And it’s probably why Jesus addressed it so often with the religious leaders of his day. As we come to think that we are beyond the grace of God, we become people who wonder why people can’t live up to our level of goodness. And we judge them for not doing so.

Grace protects us from being separated from others.

When we think we are better than those around us, we generally don’t associate with them. Or if we do, we have such a “holier than thou” attitude that no one wants to be around us. The reality is that we have just as many problems as everyone else. Just because we sin differently than others doesn’t mean our sin isn’t as serious. It’s amazing how I am quick to notice others with huge sin problems while only viewing myself as struggling with a few bad habits.

The danger of being separate is that you can’t love people from a distance. And they can’t see that you, too, are human. The reality is that we are like everyone else in that we all want to be loved and accepted for who we are. And our deepest need for love can only be met by God Himself who created us in His love.

Grace protects us from ungratefulness.

When we understand what God has done for us in and through Christ, and how wonderful our salvation really is, we become grateful people. I like the words of Martin Lloyd-Jones when he wrote:

Do you habitually think of your own salvation as the greatest and most wonderful thing that has ever happened to you? I will ask a yet more serious question: do you give your neighbors the impression that you have found the most magnificent thing in the world? I have a terrible fear that many people are outside the Christian church because so many of us give them the impression that what we have is something very small, very narrow, very cramped and confined. We have not given them the impression that they are missing the most glorious thing in the entire universe.

Paul, at the end of Romans 11, after he has expounded quite profoundly in all the previous chapters about the salvation we have that comes from God alone, seems to get caught up in all that he has written and can only conclude by writing:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

How amazing is the grace of God? We can’t speak enough about it and yet we must swim in it daily lest we forget our greatest need and become judgmental, aloof, and ungrateful people. Let’s continue to have the heart of the tax collector.

Quote of the Week

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Service is the greatest act humans can do, as it imitates the self-giving life of God. If Jesus is the most deserving recipient, then denying ourselves and serving Jesus is the most satisfying thing we can ever do. The road may not alway be easy, but have you ever met anyone who regretted taking up their cross and following Jesus? I’ve never heard an older saint say, “You know what? I wish I had lived a little less committed to the Lord. If I had to do it over again, I would have been a bit more selfish with my time and money, especially when I was establishing my family and career. I would be better off if I had served Jesus less.”

(taken from Becoming Worldly Saints by Michael Wittmer p. 83)