Archive for September, 2009
The introduction is now online for Tim Keller’s next book, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters. It will be published in October 2009.
This introduction is absolutely worth reading. Like his most recent book, The Prodigal God, this one should be very helpful.
HT: Justin Taylor
“My passion isn’t to build up my church. My passion is for God’s Kingdom.”
Ever heard someone say that? I have. It sounds large-hearted, but it’s wrong. It can even be destructive.
Suppose I said, “My passion isn’t to build up my marriage. My passion is for Marriage. I want the institution of Marriage to be revered again. I’ll work for that. I’ll pray for that. I’ll sacrifice for that. But don’t expect me to hunker down in the humble daily realities of building a great marriage with my wife Jani. I’m aiming at something grander.”
If I said that, would you think, “Wow, Ray is so committed”? Or would you wonder if I had lost my mind?
If you care about the Kingdom, be the kind of person who can be counted on in your own church. Join your church, pray for your church, tithe to your church, participate in your church every Sunday with wholehearted passion.
We build great churches the same way we build great marriages — real commitment that makes a positive difference every day.
The Bible tells us to be doers of the word, not just hearers (James 1:22). This means that we should be constantly thinking of how to apply God’s unchanging word to our ever-changing lives and situations. A great example of this is Kristie Braselton’s recent post applying 1 Corinthians 13 (the love chapter) to motherhood.
If I have obedient, well-behaved children and everyone tells us what good parents we are, but we have not love, it is emptiness and means nothing.
If I get everywhere on time and no children bother me while I’m checking my email, and if I have a clean house and serve great meals and get lots and lots done in a day, but I do not love my kids, then none of it matters, and I am nothing.
If I have a vast ministry that impacts many and I accomplish great things in my lifetime, but I did not love my children, then I missed my first importance and I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not wish its kids were like someone else’s when they are embarrassing or take credit for how wonderful they are when they are charming and sweet. It is not condescending and it is courteous, even to small children who won’t call you out on it. It does not hold the schedule or the to do list above the people they were meant to serve. It does not walk around like a grumpy martyr for all the things it has to give up for these people. It does not discipline in anger or feel a sense of retribution for itself, but rejoices when the truth is expounded to its children and God is honored and revered. Love holds up under the constant pestering, it gives its children the benefit of the doubt, it hopes great things for them and works to that end, and it withstands every offense. In every moment choose to love, and it will never let you down.
This past Sunday, the Schmersahls shared about their summer Community Group and some of what they learned about Kingdom-Centered Prayer. Below is an excerpt from the study guide that they used (just a $5.00 download), written by Tim Keller.
Biblically and historically, the one non-negotiable, universal ingredient in times of spiritual renewal is corporate, prevailing, intensive, kingdom-centered prayer. What is that?
It is focused on God’s presence and kingdom. In Outgrowing the Ingrown Church, Jack Miller talks about the difference between “maintenance prayer” and “frontline” prayer meetings. Maintenance prayer meetings are short, mechanical, and totally focused on physical needs inside the church. But frontline prayer has three basic traits:
1) A request for grace to confess sins and humble ourselves;
2) a compassion and zeal for the flourishing of the church; and
3) a yearning to know God, to see his face, to see his glory.
It is quite clear whether these traits are present when listening to a prayer meeting. Most interesting is to study biblical prayers for revival, such as in Acts 4, or Exodus 33, or Nehemiah 1, where these three elements are easy to see. Notice in Acts 4, for example, that the disciples, whose lives had been threatened, did not ask for protection for themselves and their families, but only boldness to keep preaching!
It is bold and specific. The history of revivals shows one or a few or many who take the lead in praying fervently for renewal. Their pattern is Moses (Exodus 33), who pitched a tabernacle outside Israel’s camp where he and others prayed for God’s presence and to see his glory. Such prayer need not (indeed, usually does not) begin as an organized church program. Rather it is a private field of strong exertion and even agony for the leaders. The characteristics of this kind of prayer include:
a) Pacesetters in prayer who spend time in self-examination. Without a strong understanding of grace, this can be morbid and depressing. But in the context of the gospel, it is purifying and strengthening. They “take off their ornaments” (Ex. 33:1-6). They examine their hearts for idols and set them aside.
b) They then begin to make the big request — a sight of the glory of God. That includes asking:
1) for a personal experience of the glory and presence of God (“that I may know you” [Ex. 33:13]),
2) for the people’s experience of the glory of God (v.15), and
3) that the world might see the glory of God through his people (v.16). Moses asks that God’s presence would be obvious to all: “What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
This is a prayer that the world would be awed and amazed by a show of God’s power and radiance in the church; that it would truly become the new humanity that is a sign of the future kingdom.
It is prevailing and corporate. By this we mean simply that prayer should be constant, not sporadic and brief. Why? Are we to think that God wants to see us grovel? Why do we not simply put in our request in and wait? But sporadic, brief prayer shows a lack of dependence, a self-sufficiency; and thus we have not built an altar that God can honor with his fire. We must pray without ceasing, pray long, pray hard. We will find that the very process is bringing about that which we are asking for — to have our hard hearts melted, to tear down barriers, to have the glory of God break through.
As we begin Community Groups this week, I can’t help but think of a great quote by Randy Frazee from his book, The Connecting Church, about our longing for community.
“For most of the last decade of the twentieth century, two television shows, Seinfeld and Friends, consistently received the top awards from the People’s Choice Awards…What both shows have in common is a small group of friends that go in and out of each other’s lives and apartments spontaneously more times in a half hour than most ‘real’ Americans experience in a year. Seinfeld even promoted itself as a show ‘about nothing.’ Why would busy Americans watch a show about nothing? Because it wasn’t about nothing—it was about a group of great friends spending lots of spontaneous time together, talking about everyday stuff and loving every minute of it.”
I can’t promise that being involved in a Community Group guarantees this level of interaction, but it’s at least a step in the right direction.
Not in a group yet? It’s not too late. Click here to get signed up.
I was honored to be asked to pray a memorial prayer at this morning’s Patriot Day celebration for the town of Queen Creek, at 9am at the Queen Creek Library. Here’s what I’ll be praying:
Father God, on this day when we remember our fellow Americans who died in the tragedy of September 11th, we thank you that your word tells us that you are the “God of all comfort” and that you are close to the brokenhearted. We pray that the families and friends of those who were killed would experience your comfort today as they remember their loved ones.
We thank you for the courageous service of the firemen and police officers who sacrificed their lives attempting to rescue others, and we thank you for providing our town with brave men and women who protect and serve us.
We thank you for the men and women of the armed forces who have valiantly served us in fighting to protect our safety and freedom. We pray that you would grant them protection and success as they continue to fight and that they would be able to return home victoriously very soon.
Jesus taught that we should “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us,” so we pray today for those around the world who hate America and our way of life. We pray that you would soften their hearts, as only you can, so that they would stop planning and doing destructive acts of violence.
Father, as we remember the courage of our firemen, police officers, military personnel, and even our fellow citizens from Flight 93 who willingly gave their lives to save and protect others, it reminds us of the sacrificial love of your Son, Jesus, who went to the cross and gave his life so that all who treasure him might have eternal freedom, joy, and peace. We look forward to the day when he will return to wipe away every tear from our eyes and put an end to suffering and death forever.
In His Name we pray, Amen.
Any idea why we are calling this new series, “The Christ-Centered Life”? Check out this graphic from Wordle.net using the entire text of Colossians (click it to see a bigger version).
Sanctification here at The Village begins by answering two questions. What stirs your affections for Jesus Christ? And what robs you of those affections? Many of the things that stifle growth are morally neutral. They’re not bad things. Facebook is not bad. Television and movies are not bad. I enjoy TV, but it doesn’t take long for me to begin to find humorous on TV what the Lord finds heartbreaking.The same goes for following sports. It’s not wrong, but if I start watching sports, I begin to care too much. I get stupid. If 19-year-old boys are ruining your day because of what they do with a ball, that’s a problem. These things rob my affections for Christ. I want to fill my life with things that stir my affections for him. . .
We want our people to think beyond simply what’s right and wrong. We want them to fill their lives with things that stir their affections for Jesus Christ and, as best as they can, to walk away from things that rob those affections—even when they’re not immoral.
You can read the whole thing here.
I’m thrilled for our church to begin a new series this week called, “The Christ-Centered Life: A Study of Paul’s Letter to the Colossians.” Here’s what we wrote on the back of the study guide book that we’ve produced (which is available this Sunday for $5):
Jesus Christ is the most important person in history. He’s the hero of the True Story of the World, and he deserves complete devotion. Not only is life with Christ at the center appropriate, but it’s also better. It’s a fulfilling life that results in God’s glory and our joy. Paul’s letter to the Colossians is a theological celebration and practical description of the Christ-Centered Life. It’s filled with helpful, straightforward, and Christ-exalting truth that can transform us from the inside out.
With all our Community Groups going through this study together, I think it will be a great season of spiritual growth for our church and for me. If you’re part of Second Mile, I hope you’ll bring a friend to discover the beauty and greatness of Jesus.
Want to get ready? Click here to read a great introduction to Colossians (from our study guide book).
Every Saturday is a Sabbath day for our family, and every fall is a kind of Sabbath season of watching college football. We start at 7am with College GameDay and then revel in the day we now call “Football Freakshow.” Tomorrow our Fighting Illini square off against rival Missouri. Should be fun!
To download a very cool nationwide college football schedule (the famous helmet schedule), click here.