He Prays for You

My prayer life is inadequate. There I said it. Anyone willing to join me in my confession? It’s not often enough. I don’t always know the words to say. And sometimes it feels like I’m just going through the motions. The truth of the matter is, I wonder how often I’m even aware of what I really need?

dennis-inadequateprayersEach night when I put my kids to bed I try to give them an opportunity to pray. It is often a simple list of thankfulness or requests for a fun day. Sometimes they recall people who are sick, or thank God for Jesus’ death on the cross, and sometimes they don’t feel like praying at all (and I don’t make them). But there are also times when they want to pray, but just don’t know what to say. It is these times that they ask if I will pray with them, for them, so they can repeat after me. They want to pray, but they feel inadequate.

Sounds familiar?

Hebrews 7:25 says of Jesus, “Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

Jesus always lives to make intercession for us. He is our great high priest. Our great “go-between” who knows the right words to say. This week I was encouraged by this paragraph:

“It is a consoling thought that Christ is praying for us, even when we are negligent in our prayer life; that He is presenting to the Father those spiritual needs which were not present to our minds and which we often neglect to include in our prayers; and that He prays for our protection against the dangers of which we are not even conscious, and against the enemies which threaten us, though we do not notice it. He is praying that our faith may not cease, and that we may come out victoriously in the end.” Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 403

So take heart, friends – the right prayers always being offered by Jesus on your behalf and God is pleased to answer Him. Let that knowledge encourage you, not to skip prayer, but to go ahead and join Him. Because, as my kids will tell you, it’s always easier to pray when you know someone else is too. So pray. Pray with Jesus, knowing He prays for you.

 

a week late #3 – reflections: Ephesians chapter three

(Due to the busyness of last week I have several posts I hand intended to write, but just never got to them… here is number three)

Chapter three of Ephesians serves as a prolonged capstone to the ideas presented in the first two chapters. Paul starts by turning to prayer, but then is sidetracked into a discussion of why he is a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles, and then finally returns to his prayer for his readers. Here are my reflections:

Ephesians 3:1-13

  • Distractions can be from God. When I was first trying to understand the structure of this section I kept getting annoyed at the seeming disconnect between verses 1 and 2. Finally, with some help of smarter people (scholars), I recognized that Paul was beginning in prayer, but had a thought… and he chose to follow that thought (for 12 verses). Paul recognized that as a prisoner of Christ Jesus, this may cause some disconcertment to his readers and they needed to know more about his story.
  • Our own story of change can present the Gospel and God’s mighty hand. Paul makes sure his readers know that his change was not one of his own cleverness, but the God who had grace on him and poured out revelation. Paul saw himself as the “least(er) of God’s people” and so was able to point to God’s mighty power in whatever was accomplished through Paul.
  • The mystery was in the mechanism. The great mystery of Christ was not that Gentiles (foreigners, non-Jews) were brought into the people of God, but how it was done… through the death of Jesus Christ and the proclamation of His Gospel message. These mechanisms of the mystery then allowed not just conversion to the old system, but being made into a new people with equal standing. Through the Gospel, in Christ Jesus.
  • The purpose of the Church – make God’s manifold wisdom known. Yes, Jesus died so that God could be reconciled to man, and so that he could dwell with a holy people, but this is only the penultimate goal… the ultimate goal: God’s glory. That by taking a rebellious and divided people and bringing them together (church) and to himself, God can show off to the world and to the heavenly beings his incredible multifaceted wisdom. Declaring that His ways are the better ways. Even in suffering, loss, poverty, and abuse, God’s people will continue to praise God, prove Satan wrong, and actually be happier in their sufferings than Satan’s people are in their maximizing of possessions and pleasures… this is the manifold wisdom of God displayed.
  • We need to know and proclaim the wonder of the Church.  Paul never got over the wonder of the great doctrine of the church, nor that he had been commissioned to make it known to the world. We are notn apostles, as Paul was. We have not received fresh revelation. But the revelation is ours no less than it was his, and our responsibility to know it and proclaim it is the same as Paul’s.
  • We need to be the wonder of the Church.  God saw it fit in his plan to take a divided people and unite them together to display his glory and wisdom… we should therefore desire greatly to be those people… united; declaring to the world that we are his disciples by loving one another.
Ephesians 3:14-21
  • Prayer is worth getting back to. As I mentioned before, Paul takes a diverting thought for a few blocks, but here he returns to the very prayer he had already intended. Paul, a man who knew that God was sovereign and working out His divine plan was compelled to be part of it through praying for his fellow believers.
  • We need God’s power. Having done all that Paul can to help his readers understand who they are in Christ, Paul does not simply jump to telling them to just live it out on their own strength. He knows that left on their own they will be discouraged and defeated. Instead, he prays for the Spirit to empower them.
  • We need Christ’s presence. This is the verse from which I took my blog’s name. Paul is praying for Christians, so it is not for non-believers to initially come to Christ, but for Christians to submit themselves to the continual rule of Christ in their heart. Christ’s presence, His dwelling is a ruling presence/dwelling. This blog too is for believers: to encourage you to be filled with Christ, His Word, His Spirit, His rule…
  • We need to grasp Christ’s love. It is vast! It is knowable and yet it also surpasses knowledge. It is most clearly seen in Jesus on the cross.
  • We need to mature into who God has us to be. A wonderful result of being empowered by the Spirit, indwelt by Christ, and understanding His great love… we change, we grow, we mature.
  • To the glory of God, who does more. More than we can have asked for or imagined.
  • This can be a disappointing prayer. It may not be the prayer we would have prayed for ourselves (Lord, give me this or change this or fix this), but it is the prayer we need. God is a good Dad and cares about our hurts and wants and needs, but He also is a Dad that is working out something even greater in us: that despite pain, or hard times, we as His children can praise Him, can bless others, can reveal His great wisdom and glory into this world… by His power, His presence, His love, and His fulness revealed in us.

a week late #1 – sermon (Eph 3:14-21)

(Due to the busyness of last week I have several posts I hand intended to write, but just never got to them… here is number one)

Okay, so, I know that I mentioned last week that I’d be posting the sermon audio the next day… unfortunately we ran into some technical difficulties and what normally would have been a clear recording sounded more like an underwater circus from the seventies. All that to say, no message audio to be had. So, in its place I have two alternatives for you: 1) some brief quotes from my message that I happened to think were mildly interesting (and most likely stolen from better sources) and 2) a far away, web cam video with web cam audio of the entire night; now the benefit of this is that you can get a taste of the entire South Shores Remix service including the public reading, prayers, and music (led by Dana Dill, Rebecca Zeulner, and Tim Aney), as well as the sermon. However, the quality is not superb… but again on the bright-side, you can’t see me that well, so almost as good as having just audio. Enjoy.

QUOTES

Power:

Because God is insanely rich, but is also insanely generous… He’s the one Paul asks for these things. He is going big on asking, but he’s asking the right person. Do you believe God has the ability (resources)? Do you believe that He is generous and wants to give? This power is sourced in God’s richness and generosity and it is put to work in you by the Spirit.

Presence:

Asking Jesus into my heart (because of our connotations of hearts with love and valentines) has kind of become a cutesy kind of thing… but what it refers to is not cute at all: I am making Jesus king of my life When we first put our faith in Jesus, we hand him the throne of our life… the Spirit comes and changes the placard, places His seal on it, and Jesus is ready to rule us: our decisions, our desires, our passions. But in our immaturity we still veto His decisions. Through sin we say no to Jesus in our life, not in a saving sense, but in a present, ruling sense. Paul is praying that Christ would exercise His rule actively over all we are and all we do through faith, that we trust Him to make our hearts His home.

Power & Presence:

Paul prays for power, but the power he prays for is rooted in the presence of the Spirit and Christ in our life. The more the Spirit empowers our lives the more we are transformed into Christ’s likeness, by obeying his rule.

Love:

We don’t have to know all about Jesus’ love (God’s love) to come to Him.  We can come to Him because He has come to us. We can love Him, because He first loved us. And we can spend the rest of this life and the life to come understanding Christ’s love.

Love:

If you are in Christ and you think that you are not loved or are unloveable, this will hinder Christ’s work in your life. The truth is we all were unloveable, but at the cross Jesus declared: I love you, I love you, I love you.

Maturity:

And as we come to know that love and live in light of that love, we are different. We grow. We mature. The final part of Paul’s petitions of prayer, that we would be filled to the measure of all fullness of God.

To the Glory of God:

This is Paul’s prayer: The empowering of the Spirit; the presence of Christ ruling your life; comprehending the love of Christ; as you spiritually mature into the man or woman God wants you to be. The Ephesians may have expected a different prayer, but this is a better prayer. Not of easy fixes and temporal happiness, but the lasting presence of God and our development into being like His Son… perfect as he is perfect. Because this is what results in God’s glory.

VIDEO



Video streaming by Ustream

 

(we figured out the problem, and should be back to our regularly scheduled broadcast this week)

resources: suffering for what?

This weekend as I was preparing my sermon for last night (Sunday, 10/30/11), the direction of my message took a very different turn than I had expected. Due to some conversations I had had this past week and just a general knowledge of a lot of pain going on in the lives of people in our church (and even my own small group), I began to look at Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians (and other readers) as one that not only encouraged and brought confidence, but also one that points us to what God may be doing and desiring in our life even when we might be desiring something different (specifically how does our suffering correspond with an Almighty God who loves us, tells us to pray to Him and is able to do something about our situations). Tomorrow I will post the sermon audio (thanks to Randy Taylor) and a few corresponding thoughts from the night, but for now I wanted to point you in the direction of some better writers and thinkers regarding this idea of suffering in the Christian life. How do we respond to it? How do we continue on? How do we view God accordingly?

 

Kevin DeYoung – When You Feel Like Death (Part two) – Blog

(Taking a different approach to the same topic, I think you will find he ends in the same place)

One morning I will not wake up.  Or one evening I will not go back to sleep.  I’ll die.  You’ll die.  You will be at the moment as helpless as you were when you were born.  Will you and I learn before that point that it is folly to rely on ourselves?  Will we be able to say like the Psalmist, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes”?  We will also suffer.  We will all die.  We will all watch others die.  But, I pray, we will not grieve like those who have no hope.  We confess and we sing and gather to remember that Jesus rose from the dead.  A new body.  New life.  No more death.  As it was for Jesus, so it will be for us.  Encourage each other with these words.

We can have hope in the midst of affliction because our God raises the dead.

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2011/10/27/when-you-feel-like-death-part-2/

 

D.A. Carson – How Could a Good God Allow Suffering – Video

(Long, but thorough and very intellectual)

Christians ought to learn how to die well and to live now.

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2011/10/11/how-could-a-good-god-allow-suffering/

 

John Piper – Making Known the Manifold Wisdom of God Through Prison and Prayer – Video/Audio/Summary

(Piper is actually looking at the specific section of Scripture we just looked at: Ephesians 3:14-21)

When Paul was willing to go to prison for the sake of Christ, he showed the nations that Christ is more precious than freedom. When he was willing to suffer for Christ, he showed the nations that Christ is more precious than comfort and security and prosperity.

In other words, the infinite value of the unsearchable riches of Christ shine brightly not in Paul’s prosperity, but in his imprisonment. With his suffering, he draws the nations to the glory Christ and displays the wisdom of the cross.

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/conference-messages/making-known-the-manifold-wisdom-of-god-through-prison-and-prayer

 

Mark Driscoll – How to Image God through Suffering – Excerpt

(Incredibly brief, but poignant)

Every moment is a sacred opportunity to be captured for his glory, our joy, and others’ good.

http://theresurgence.com/2010/04/28/how-we-can-image-god-through-suffering

 

 

John Piper & Various Authors – Suffering and the Sovereignty of God – Book

(This great and free resource can be downloaded as a PDF. It is vast, but covers many different topics from both theological and personal viewpoints of pain.)

The ultimate purpose of the universe is to display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God. The highest, clearest, surest display of that glory is in the suffering of the best Person in the universe for millions of undeserving sinners. Therefore, the ultimate reason that suffering exists in the universe is so that Christ might display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God by suffering in himself to overcome our suffering and bring about the praise of the glory of the grace of God. – John Piper, p 89

PDF Download

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/online-books/suffering-and-the-sovereignty-of-god

sermon & board notes (Eph 3:1-13)

October 23, 2011 – “The Purpose of a Servant” (or “Our Calling and the Manifold Wisdom of God”)

I first just have to say that last night was awesome. Everything about it, just wowed me. The people, the worship, the response of many people choosing to stick around and get to know other people (just like I hoped they would!)… it was all sooo good. My board notes are very similar to last week, I simply added a little bit to last weeks. In all fairness my board notes were simply to help clarify and review the last half of chapter two because it is the foundation of the first half of chapter 3. Feel free to share any of your own notes if something stuck out as important to you (I’d love some comments!).

The real thing:

i have not stopped giving thanks for you

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. (Ephesians 1:15-16)

I want to tell you about Charlie. Charlie is a friend of mine. We didn’t grow up together; he didn’t just live down the street; we didn’t play video games until crazy hours in the night. In fact, Charlie is old enough to be my grandfather, but for the past 16+ years Charlie has been one of my biggest advocates through prayer.

In the second half of the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he begins a prayer. But before actually praying he lets the believers of this church know that he thinks of them, gives thanks to God for them, and commits them to prayer. This idea of praying for others in known as “intercession” — praying on someone’s behalf for things they can’t pray for, or to add your voice to what they are also seeking of God. At Remix we talked about how this prayer of Paul’s (found in verses 17-23) can be understood as being for us, but can also be a motivator for us to be in prayer for other believers as well. Paul is modeling for us that we should be thinking of, thanking God for, and praying for other believers.

My friend Charlie followed Paul’s example. When I was in fourth or fifth grade he took notice of me at our church and, without me knowing, began to pray for me that God would grow me and use me for His glory. Now, I didn’t show any great potential back then (I’m still not sure I do), but for whatever reason (because he is a godly man, seeking to do godly things) Charlie decided the he would faithfully pray for me. For the first years of this I didn’t even know that he was doing it. Sure, I got to know who he was (the dad of our Senior Pastor) and enjoyed talking to him at church, but I’m not sure I actually discovered he had been praying for me until I was in high school. Suffice to say I have cherished our relationship greatly and have always counted on those prayers. Not only have they given me a greater confidence in my endeavors, but it has also given me the joy of sharing with Charlie the different ministry related milestones in my life (going to Biola, graduating from Talbot, preaching my first sermon) as well as the more personal milestones of my life (marrying Rebecca and the birth of our son).

It was a cool moment as I was preparing for a sermon I gave a couple of Sundays ago on this very passage when I realized two things: 1) Charlie is a great example to me of a Paul praying for other believers, and 2) I was studying out of an Ephesians commentary that Charlie had given to me as a graduation gift! What a blessing this man has been in my life, and in turn I thank God for him whenever he comes to mind, and I pray for him as well. Thank you Charlie… may I too be a measure of God’s grace in other people’s lives.

What about you? Who are you praying for? Thanking God for? And who is thanking God and praying for you? Now is a great time to find both.

This is from last Christmas when Charlie got to meet Hutch for the first time.

you’ve got to pray

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when we made the road trip (10 maybe?), but I do remember my tunes.

It was during Christmas break and my family of four loaded into the suburban and made our way north to Washington and then over to Idaho to visit family for Christmas. What did I listen to in my Sony Walkman? My beloved MC Hammer tape, Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em.

Now, we will set aside the various questions of how did I end up with this tape, why did my parents let me listen to this tape and whether or not I had my own home-made “Hammer Pants,” and move on to what is important: prayer.  One of the hit tracks from this tape/album (second to “Can’t Touch This”) is a song entitled “Pray.” Now, if you search this on YouTube or grab the lyrics online, I don’t recommend you build any sort of theology of prayer around this (it tells you more about pop hip-hop culture in the early 90s than it does prayer). However, I will always remember the much repeated line, “You’ve got to pray just to make it today.”

It’s true. Prayer is necessary, and often forgotten. This coming Sunday we’ll be studying from Ephesians 1:15-23, where Paul gives thanks for the faith of his readers and reminds them that he is praying for them all the time. Then he gives what he is praying for them… it is powerful. Here is a quote from Peter T. O’Brien, New Testament scholar, that was meaningful to me as I prepare to teach on this passage:

“[Paul] recognizes that the Christian growth of his readers, as well as the furtherance of his own ministry of the gospel, is wholly dependent upon the living God, who gives generously to his children when they call upon him in prayer.”

Take time today to go before the Father in prayer; He gives generously to his children.

“That’s why we pray.” (thank you Reverend Hammer)