Confidence in Prayer

As a church, one of our areas of focus for 2019 is prayer. We are hoping that, by God’s grace, we all will grow in the area of prayer this year. In his book, Why We Pray, William Philip offers four reasons why Christians pray. One of the reasons that he emphasizes is our adoption in Christ. We pray to God the Father because we have been adopted as His sons. Philip explains:

We are all sons of God through faith (Gal. 3:26)—not just children but sons and full heirs. (Gender is not at issue here, but status; hence the insistence that we are sons, not just children. The point is that we all share in the full inheritance of the firstborn, Jesus himself.)…which means everything that is his by right of birth is now ours by right of adoption. That’s why we pray. In Jesus Christ we are all sons of God; we have received adoption, and now we all share the extraordinary, privileged, legal status before God the Father of Jesus himself, his only Son. (pg. 52, emphasis mine)

He continued:

Now, this is of vital importance to grasp. Your prayers and mine will not be heard by God because of our sincerity but because of our status. We are sons of God, which means that God cannot not hear us. We are his sons. That’s gospel truth. (pg. 52, emphasis original)

The truth of the Gospel gives us great confidence in prayer. Philip writes:

…being confident in prayer is not presumption; it is faith. It is simply honoring the Lord Jesus Christ and his great salvation, which God has given to us in his abundant mercy. (pgs. 53-4)

To doubt this is to doubt the sufficiency of Christ, Philip says. He concludes:

Your prayers and mine will not be heard because of our faithfulness but on account of Jesus’s great faithfulness. Our prayers will be heard not because we deserve a hearing but because he does. Our prayers will be heard not because of our perfection but because of his marvelous perfection. (pg. 55, emphasis original)

Let us go to the Father in prayer with great confidence and humility.

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Let’s Get Started Right

We love new beginnings, this is why every New Year folks make resolutions as they think about areas of their lives where they would like to see change. The New Year provides a kind of new beginning, a blank slate and fresh start. As Christians, we all should want to grow in the gospel in 2019. Who wouldn’t want to be more Christ-like one year from now?

Here are some resources I’d recommend to assist you this coming year.

Bible Reading

Without a doubt, the first and foremost important need is regular time in God’s Word. There are many yearly Bible reading plans that can help you pace yourself and stay consistent in reading the Bible this year. Ligonier Ministries has compiled a list of many of these Bible reading plans. Take a look here.

Prayer

Here are two good books that will help you grow in your prayer life.

Prayer by John Onwuchekwa

Onwuchekwa wrote: “My hope is that this book will be a guide and a springboard that helps you enjoy the amazing gift of prayer we have as a church.” (pg. 15, emphasis original)

Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney

Whitney writes: “Why don’t the people of God enjoy prayer more? I maintain that people—truly born-again, genuinely Christian people—often do not pray simply because they do not feel like it. And the reason they don’t feel like praying is that when they do pray, they tend to say the same old things about the same old things.” (pg. 11, emphasis original) Whitney’s answer? Pray the Bible!

Gospel Growth (Sanctification)

 The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges

Bridges said: “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”

How To Grow by Darryl Dash

I really like this book. It’s very practical but theologically driven at the same time. Dash wrote: “This should be our prayer…that we grow in our knowledge of the riches we have in the gospel, and that we begin to live with the knowledge that all these riches are ours and more.” (pg. 35)

Habits of Grace by David Mathis

Mathis says: “…the point…(is) to understand the key pathways of ongoing grace and seek to create regular habits for these principles in life.” (pgs. 17-18)

The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung

DeYoung wrote: “My fear is that as we rightly celebrate, and in some quarters rediscover, all that Christ has saved us from, we are giving little thought and making little effort concerning all that Christ has saved us to.” (pg. 11, emphasis original)

Daily Life

I wanted to recommend three books I read in 2018 that were really helpful. Two are on productivity and one is on being overly busy.

Do More Better by Tim Challies

Challies says: “Productivity is effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God. Productivity calls you to direct your whole life at this great goal of bringing glory to God by doing good for others.” (pg. 16, emphasis original)

 He continued: “Are you a stay-at-home mom? Are you a CEO with a corner office? Are you a teacher, a toolmaker, a doctor, a driver? This is the measure of your productivity (bringing glory to God by doing good to others).” (pg. 17)

How to Get Unstuck by Matt Perman

This is a more detailed and comprehensive book on productivity. Perman says: “In a nutshell, many of us feel like we are not getting done what really matters to us and what we are truly capable of doing.” (pg. 13)

Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About A (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung

DeYoung writes: “My outline is as simple as three numbers: 3, 7, and 1: three dangers to avoid (chapter 2), seven diagnoses to consider (chapters 3-9), and one thing you must do (chapter 10).” (pg. 18)

He continued: “We are here and there and everywhere. We are distracted. We are preoccupied. We can’t focus on the task in front of us. We don’t follow through. We don’t keep our commitments. We are so busy with a million pursuits that we don’t even notice the most important things slipping away…We wake up most days not trying to serve, just trying to survive.” (pgs. 20-21, emphasis mine)

Happy New Year!

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He Came To Save Us

In his book, Hidden Christmas, Tim Keller wrote:

In 1961 the Russians put the first man into space, Yuri Gagarin. Nikita Khrushchev was the Russian premier, and he said that when Gagarin went into space, the cosmonaut discovered that there was no God there. In response C.S. Lewis wrote an article, “The Seeing Eye.” Lewis said if there is a God who created us, we could not discover him by going into the air. God would not relate to human beings the way a man on the second floor relates to a man on the first floor. He would relate to us the way Shakespeare relates to Hamlet. Shakespeare is the creator of Hamlet’s world and of Hamlet himself. Hamlet can know about Shakespeare only if the author reveals information about himself in the play. So too the only way to know about God is if God has revealed himself.

The claim of Christmas is infinitely more wonderful than that. God did not merely write us “information” about himself; he wrote himself into the drama of history. He came into our world as Jesus Christ to save us, to die for us. (pgs. 114-115)

Just as Mary did on the first Christmas, let’s ponder on these things and treasure them in our hearts (Luke 2:19). Merry Christmas!

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King of kings

On Sunday, we looked at Matthew 2:1-18 and saw that King Herod’s response to the news of King Jesus’ birth was to attack, seeking to kill Jesus. Herod felt that his kingship was threatened by Jesus’ Kingship. We saw that the Gospel confronts us all in the same way as it did Herod. In our sin, we all have sought to usurp God’s authority and be king of our own lives. When we are confronted with the Gospel we will either “surrender or attack,” to borrow from Sinclair Ferguson.

King Herod attacked, he wasn’t going to surrender his kingship for one moment. Look at how Ferguson outlines the reach of Herod’s kingship and influence. He wrote:

Mary and Joseph had taken Jesus to Egypt for safety.

After Herod’s death Joseph and Mary were instructed to return home. Joseph then heard that Herod’s son Archelaus was reigning over Judaea, and ‘he was afraid to go there’ (with good reason). He therefore took Mary and Jesus to live in Nazareth in Galilee.

Years later the brother Archelaus, Herod Antipas (‘the Tetrarch’), had John the Baptist beheaded. It was this Herod who connived in Jesus’ crucifixion. In due season Herod the Great’s grandson, Herod Agrippa I, had the apostle James executed. The last time we meet this dynasty Herod Agrippa II is mocking the apostle Paul with his sneering words: ‘In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?’ What a dynasty, set against the infant child of Bethlehem!

But think about this: How extensive is the kingdom of King Herod now?

And on this: How extensive is the kingdom of King Jesus now? (Child in the Manger, pg. 200)

Yes, Herod’s influence went beyond his own life, but his greatness doesn’t match the Greatness of the King of kings, Jesus Christ. What about you? Will you attack, continuing to futilely assert your kingship or will you surrender before the King, who serves?

Christian, what earthly authority intimidates you and gives you second thoughts about your loyalty to Jesus? Yes, the nations rage and plot against the Lord’s Anointed, but remember it’s all in vain (Psalm 2). Just like Herod, all of their rage and plotting is futile and will never succeed in thwarting the Kingship of Jesus. In the end, only Christ will be standing, with all others surrounding Him on bended knee confessing His Kingship (Phil. 2:10-11).

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Worship or Weariness?

In his book, The 10 Commandments, Kevin DeYoung asks:

Are we teaching our kids that Sunday is the day we go to church or the day we try to squeeze in church? Is Sunday my day of climax of collapse? (pg. 73)

These are good questions. Often, we don’t think enough about how we order and structure our week. The way we structure our week sends a message to our kids about our priorities and is training them for what their priorities should be. The way we structure our week sets us up for Sunday being our climax or our collapse. I’ll let DeYoung explain:

Too many see corporate worship as a good thing to do if the weather is nice but not too nice; if the football game is uninteresting, and the sports practice doesn’t interfere; or if they’re not too tired. Somehow we’ve gotten the idea that gathering with God’s people to worship at God’s throne and to hear from God’s Word is something that’s fine to do when it fits in our schedule. This is not the New Testament ideal (Heb. 10:25).

For many of us, Friday and Saturday are climax, with dinners and parties and games and late nights out. Sunday is the day we try to get through as we get ready for Monday. If we are going to make the Lord’s Day a day of worship instead of weariness, we need to plan ahead. (pg. 73)

How can you be more intentional in the structure of your week, or more specifically your weekend, so that Sunday is a day of worship instead of a day of weariness?

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Book Table

We are restocking the book table and adding lots of new titles. I wanted to provide a list of the titles that will be available starting this Sunday. Find a good book to read with a friend in hopes that the Lord will use it to grow you in holiness and strengthen your faith. They would also make great Christmas gifts.

How to Grow: Applying the Gospel to All of Your Life by Darryl Dash

The Hole In Our Holiness by Kevin Deyoung

Diehard Sins: How to Fight Wisely against Destructive Daily Habits by Rush Witt

Caring for One Another by Ed Welch

The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield

Why Trust the Bible? by Greg Gilbert

Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney

Married for God by Christopher Ash

The Rule of Love: How the Local Church Should Reflect God’s Love and Authority by Jonathan Leeman

Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies

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Talk to Yourself

During the sermon on Psalm 42 this past Sunday, I made mention of Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ comments on the importance of Christians talking to themselves as opposed to only listening to themselves. I thought it would be helpful to offer his comments in their fuller context here. Lloyd-Jones wrote:

The main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself, ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been repressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you’. Do you know what I mean? If you do not, you have but little experience.

The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’–what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’–instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God’. (Spiritual Depression, pgs. 20-21)

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Christmas Reading

It has been several years since I have recommended some good books to focus your mind and stir your heart during the Christmas season. Here are two helpful books I’d highly recommend:

Hidden Christmas by Tim Keller

Child in the Manger by Sinclair Ferguson

Here are some great Advent devotional books:

Come Let Us Adore Him by Paul Tripp

 Love Came Down At Christmas by Sinclair Ferguson

The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper

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Overview of the Psalms

This Fall we have been going through some selected Psalms in our sermons together. Here is a helpful video from The Bible Project that offers a quick big picture overview of the entire book.

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Maturity In Christ

This week I have been reading Darryl Dash’s helpful book, How to Grow: Applying the Gospel to All of Your Life. I found Dash’s thoughts about maturity in Christ to be helpful, challenging, and encouraging. As a church, we have been thinking about Gather Grow Go the past few weeks. Our desire regarding Grow, is to grow more and more in gospel maturity. What does that look like? These distinctives of maturity from Dash are helpful in giving us a glimpse.

Mature Christians are marked by humility:

Ironically, the more we grow, the more we’re aware of our sinfulness. Mature Christians, therefore, don’t feel spiritually mature. (pg. 77, emphasis original)

Maturity and humility go together. (pg. 77)

Mature Christians know they haven’t arrived:

I don’t think they would even think of themselves as mature. (pg. 78)

Maturing servants of Christ continue to discover deeper levels of repentance, and experience more of God’s love and healing. (pg. 78)

Mature Christians attract other Christians:

They always seem like safe people. Because they’re aware of their sinfulness, they’re not surprised by mine. Because they’ve been broken, they’re not put off by others who suffer. (pg. 78)

Mature Christians help other Christians grow:

Maturity (is)…helping others to grow. (pg. 157)

This is what sets them apart: not that they are experts, but that they’re intentional in helping others grow. (pg. 77)

In the process of growing ourselves, we’ll begin to help others grow. That’s the real mark of maturity. (pg. 157)

Mature Christians persevere:

Maturing believers demonstrate faithfulness over a long period of time. (pg. 78)

If you’re at the maturing stage, you may not even know it. Keep going. Be unimpressed with yourself but impressed with Christ. Allow your sufferings and your awareness of sin to draw you closer to Christ. Revel in the gospel. Continue to share your life with others, and trust that God will use you in your weakness. (pgs. 78-9)

I pray, by God’s grace, this maturity marks our lives as we seek to Grow in the Gospel.

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