Greetings all !
How has your week been ? Has the time change thrown you for a loop like it has our family ? Getting tired and going to bed earlier … getting up earlier ? Plus, almost two full days this week without sunshine ! I hope you are able to enjoy some of the sunshine today, and that you find the Son shining in your heart.
I’m looking forward to this coming Sunday and what might be considered the centerpiece of Daniel’s prophecies – Daniel 9:24-27. Hope you will be there. Someone has called this passage “the backbone of prophecy” and “the greatest of all-time prophecies.” You won’t want to miss it ! Plus, I’m going to aim at answering my favorite preaching question : “So what ?” Once we’ve read all of Daniel’s prophecies, … so what ? What is the relevance, or meaning, for you and me today ? “Heaven rules” continues to be our theme.
Below are some disconnected thoughts from my week. Thanks for letting me share with you. I hope these thoughts will resonate with you and encourage you as you finish out this week.
See you Sunday !
As I’ve read through more of A Praying Life, by Paul E. Miller, I’ve been struck by the concept of “add-on Christianity.” For some people, faith in Jesus Christ looks like something good just to “add on” to our already good – but incomplete – lives. Who wouldn’t want the hope of eternal life ? Who wouldn’t want a shepherd to guide through life ? Who wouldn’t want words of comfort and peace (and maybe even material prosperity ??) that people draw from the Bible ?
But true discipleship is not an “add-on” ; it’s an exchange. It’s exchanging all I am and all I have for all that Jesus is. God’s work is, first of all, an inner work. His goal – if we are willing – is to remake us to be people more like Jesus. As we’ve said before, what would a world look like that was populated with people like Jesus ? What would Emmanuel look like if made up of people like Jesus ? What would your family look like if it consisted of people like Jesus … or even if you only were more like Jesus in your family ? What would our neighborhoods look like ? What an amazing possibility ! God is crafting us in that way and preparing us for an actual life (in a new Heaven and a new Earth) where people will be like Jesus.
Getting there is not an add-on. People who came to Jesus in the Bible were helpless people. Paul Miller demonstrates in his book that that’s one of the reasons why you and I have such trouble praying – we’re not really helpless. At least we don’t consider ourselves to be so. It’s a challenge for people in a church like Emmanuel because many of us are good planners ; we have a personal history of significant accomplishments ; we’re creative ; we have an abundance of financial resources at our disposal. So, … we don’t really feel the need to pray much or with much earnestness. Even a pastor can fall into this kind of thinking :
- “I don’t need to pray daily for the church ; I just need to convince people to give more money.”
- “I don’t need to pray daily for the church ; I just need to get people to work harder at ministry.”
- “I don’t need to pray daily for my children ; I just need to read another book on parenting and maybe yell a little harder next time.”
Miller says that in the gospels we see people coming to Jesus because of their helplessness. “The Samaritan woman has no water (John 4). Later in that same chapter, the official’s son has no health. The crippled man by the pool of Bethesda has no help to get into the water (John 5). The crowd has no bread (John 6). The blind man has no sight (John 9). And finally, Lazarus has no life (John 11).”
I’m not sure personally how to get to that point of total helplessness except to keep giving away more of what I am and have. A couple of practical examples :
- We have a number of appeals for special aid in our church right now ; as we give away generously to touch those needs, we reach a point of helplessness and greater dependence upon the Lord.
- As I point my children to lifelong service to the Lord, either vocational or in the marketplace or home (and maybe, yes, even marrying a missionary or a pastor – a point of discussion in Sunday School last Sunday !), I give them away and reach a point of helplessness.
I find my motivation for praying ; I experience a Christ who is everything – more than an add-on – and who gives back to me greater things than those I released to Him.
Discovering Spiritual Maturity 201
The question of add-on Christianity cropped up in our first “Discovering Spiritual Maturity 201” class last Sunday morning when we considered these two verses of Scripture :
- And Jesus was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).
- You have laid aside the old self with its old habits and have put on the new self …. (Colossians 3:9-10).
In our class (Sunday mornings at 9:00 during the month of November), we’re talking about the habits of a disciple of Christ. It’s not especially hard stuff … but good stuff ! It’s a refresher course that we all need at Emmanuel if we hope to stay focused as a church and accomplish God’s work together. Please join us this Sunday ! There will be activities for children ages 3-11.
Reflections on last Friday’s Day of Prayer
Thanks again to all of you who came to the church last Friday during the day and early evening for prayer. We prayed with very few interruptions for eight hours. Many requests – small and large – were prayed for. Some have already been answered ; at least one was answered right on the spot while we were praying ! A few words come to my mind in thinking back on that experience :
- pairs of people praying together who may have never prayed with each other before
- answered prayer
Hope to do it again soon … maybe at the first of the new year. Thanks again !
Here are three verses I “stumbled” across while reading through Proverbs 28 last Sunday morning before church. All three stuck out to me. Do they mean anything to you ?
- He who tills his land will have plenty of food, but he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty (28:19).
- He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with the tongue (28:22).
- An arrogant man stirs up strife (28:25).
Do you know M-Owens ? My kids and I enjoy spotting the “M-Owens” license plate and car around town. However, Mary told me she’s going to change the license to “G-Owens” since she’s a grandmother now.
Mary has a gift for expressing her thoughts in writing and frequently leaves me her sermon notes or other writings after a Sunday service. I asked her if I could share something she has written, so I’ve re-printed it below. I hope you are encouraged by it.
By the way, Mary wants to share information with you about Veteran’s Day activities next week in Hermann. There is information on the bulletin board next to the kitchen, or talk to Mary this Sunday. Thanks !
Heaven rules ; Satan drools … for God’s power ! Trust God – He can handle any and all troubles we are dealt.
In what ways is God trying to get our attention ? Can we find thanks in all ? SAD, BAD, HAPPY PAINFUL – find thanks to God in all.
Can we look back and see when God warned us by actions and we didn’t listen ? Why do I have to listen to Someone I can’t see ? Maybe because I’m prideful ? I’ve been put in my place, walking next to my Savior – not before, not behind, … next to. I’m even being carried by Him when I’m not strong enough to go on.
God has the ending in sight. Who knows better the ending than the one who has written the story ? Listen to the author ; let Him guide your footsteps. He knows where the stone is that will break your toes, and if we are trusting we will stumble but only bruise, not break.
How many times have we stopped just before we accomplished God’s purpose because Satan got our attention and moved us from our path ? We return again and again for our second, our third, our millionth chance because God will never walk away from us. He gave His all – can I be “all in” for Him ?
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