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PASTORAL THOUGHTS ON POLITICS
Pastor Duane Smets

This is now the sixth national election I’ve experienced as a voting age adult. Every election year seems to bring with it a swath of cultural emotion, tension, and strong opinions. You see it and hear it on the lips of conversations among friends and strangers and all over the media and entertainment industry. A sense of national anxiety rises as people across the board are worried, scared and frustrated which leads to high crime rates every election year.

I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m older now and pay more attention to politics or whether there really has been something different about this election year, but this year definitely has seemingly evoked some of the strongest reactions I’ve witnessed. Back in 2008, while I was still a young pastor, I was wrestling with the Christian and the church’s role in the political sphere. The result was a document I wrote titled, “Pastoral Thoughts On Politics” which surveys what the Bible and the biblical story has to say about human governments.

My conclusion and central argument is that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. Knowing that, believing that, and living that out as our chief political allegiance brings much comfort and confidence to Christian living under laws and leaders in the various lands God has placed us. I’ve updated a few things and added some resources. Give it a read and consider what it means for Christ to be King.
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The Biblical Government - Theocracy

"The LORD said to Samuel…they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.” – 1 Samuel 8:7 

“God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! God reigns over the nations.” – Psalm 47:7-8 

The Biblical worldview combined with the common grace of general revelation teaches mankind that God is King and ruler over the earth and that mankind ought to worship and serve Him as governing King over our lives, families, and societies.

The Biblical Theocrat - Jesus is King

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” – Matthew 2:2 

"Then Pilate said to him, 'So you are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.'" – John 18:37 

For Christians, Jesus is our God and King and we listen to His voice.  Jesus clearly demonstrated and stated He is King, regardless of whatever current leaders may be ruling in a particular geographical local, country or time.

The Dual Advent of King Jesus - A Kenotic Incarnation

"Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." – Philippians 2:5-8 

“Perceiving then that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him King, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.” – John 6:15 

In Jesus' first coming He refrained from displaying His divine military power and political glory in order to live a perfect human life and die for those He came to save.

The Dual Advent of King Jesus - A Triumphant Parousia

"…the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." – Matthew 24:29-31  

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems, and He has a name written that no one knows but Himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which He is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” – Revelation 19:11-16 

In Jesus' second coming He will fully display His military power and political glory, defeating all nations and rulers, and set up His physical kingdom.

Pre-Parousia Methodology of Jesus - An Apolitical Ministry

"He  (Jesus) said to them, '…render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's'… And they began to accuse him, saying, 'We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a king.'" – Luke 20:25;23:2  

“Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” – Matthew 26:52-56 

In Jesus’ first coming His ministry method was apolitical, placating the current non-Christocrat government.  Jesus instead put His focus and energy in preaching, teaching, healing and training people in the ways and nature Kingdom of God He came to bring.

Pre-parousia Methodology of Jesus' Church - The Apostles' Imitation

"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." – 1 Timothy 2:1-3 

“It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.” – Acts 24:21 (Paul before Felix the Roman governor) 

The apostles consistently replicated Jesus' approach toward the given political government of the day and were martyred not for attempting to change or take over the government but for preaching that Jesus rose from the dead.

Misc. Issues - Laws of the Land and Voting

Regarding Law

1.  Christians are to abide by the laws of the land, in so far as the laws allow us the freedom to worship Jesus and spread his mission (Dan. 3:18; Acts 5:29; Rom. 13:1-7).   

2.  Christians are to be subject, hupotasso (Greek definition: subordinate, not contentious or rebellious) to the administers of justice in the land (Rom. 13:1-7).  This means, "Don't run from the cops and the IRS!" And it also means if there is a law one disagrees with, one must work within the legal system to change it even it means suffering injustice.

Regarding Voting

1.  Voting is unique to democratic governments (in contrast to monarchies, oligarchies, and communist systems).  The Bible nowhere commands Christians to vote and one is not required by law to vote.  Democratic systems like the U.S. and others did not exist in Bible times and therefore one cannot superimpose a democratic worldview onto the Bible and hypothesize what the Biblical writers would say about it.  From a democratic perspective, voting is considered a privilege and one of the ways citizens of a democracy express their freedom and influence.

2.  Christians main goal is to be about the mission of Jesus.  The mission is the Gospel in the message of the Kingdom of God.  Until Jesus returns, the biblical call is to follow Jesus' and the Apostles' apolitical ministry method.  If churches get heavily involved and invested in the current politics of the land it sends a mixed message to the individuals and cities Jesus' Church is on mission for.

3.  Christians must beware of getting distracted from putting a false hope for peace, joy, and justice in any other government but a theocracy where Jesus rules as King.  All governments will ultimately fail.  To become passionately devoted to a particular person, political party and/or system can end up becoming spiritual treason to the theocracy of Christians who belong to the Kingdom of God.

4.  It may be wise for Christians to vote if the culture of the land they are living in is a voting culture.  Voting demands being politically aware and involved which helps to understand and build a bridge with the people we are living among in order to reach. 

5.  Christian involvement in other political sectors such as government, military, elections, etc. is acceptable as long as the main goal is to put the Gospel on display to the people they work with.  It is good for Christians to be involved in the world and to work to uphold the universal moral law, as long as Christians are careful not to attempt to legislate Christian beliefs.

6.  Christians should live their lives in light of the Bible regardless of wherever they live and whatever is happening within the political sphere of the country they live in.  A real and lasting difference is made in a city by the quality of Christians' lifestyle before friends, neighbors, and co-workers and not through political involvement and/or influence.

7.  Christians are to abide by the laws of the land (Rom 13:1).  Section 501(c)(3), Part VIII, of the Internal Revenue Code, prohibits a Religious Non-Profit Organization, to "Support or oppose candidates in political campaigns in any way." OR "Attempt to influence legislation."  Thus, within the U.S. churches who desire to have a tax exempt status under this provision must be careful to follow the law in regards to elections as stated in IRS code.

Conclusion

In light of the above sentiments, The Resolved Church, where I pastor, is committed to being about the Gospel, always trumpeting our allegiance to the Kingdom of God revealed and fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  We commit to praying for the people in our land, our spiritual and political leaders and the Kingdom way of life in San Diego.  We commit to living godly, law-abiding lives.  We commit to being apolitical in our collective church endeavors.

For further reading:

Center Church by Tim Keller (particularly chapter 16, "Cultural Responses of the Church:)

Christian Mission in the Modern World by John Stott

Sojourners and Strangers by Gregg R. Allison

The Church by Edmund Clowney (particularly chapter 13, "The Kingdom, the Church, and the State")

The Gospel of the Kingdom by George Eldon Ladd

The Mission of God by Christopher Wright

Why Cities Matter by Stephen T. Um & Justin Buzzard

 

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VULNERABILITY WITH DISCIPLES
MARK 14:32-42 | SERMON DISCUSSION
Gabe Hagstrom

After discussing “Calling the Disciples” and “Eating with the Disciples” our “Walking Together” series continued this week with “Vulnerability with Disciples.” A look at Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane during one of the lowest points of Jesus’ life here on earth. A time revealed to us that shows Jesus as extremely vulnerable.

We see Jesus model the idea of vulnerability here. How would you describe vulnerability? Is it different than transparency? Who in your life have you seen model vulnerability well?

Let’s read about Jesus:

And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” – Mark 14:32-42

Mark describes a scene where Jesus is open with his disciples, and with the Father. At a time where being open with them meant sharing some incredibly complex and deep feelings. Duane pulled three ideas to work through regarding vulnerability from this passage:

I.   Being Real
II.  Being Weak
III. Being Courageous

I. Being Real
When we pick up the passage Jesus has one night left on earth. The following day, He knows, is the day He dies. His emotions and feeling are at a high. And even though He’s stressed and troubled, He doesn’t head out alone. He brings His disciples and specifically brings Peter, James, and John to be with Him during this night.

How do you respond when you’re distressed and troubled? Do you seek to be alone or seek people to be with? Do you spend time with people while maintaining a facade?

In Genesis 3 we see sin coming into the world and with it comes hiding, fakeness and a lack of transparency. Adam and Eve sin and immediately hide from God. God finds them having covered themselves to make themselves “look better” and they proceed to lie to God.

What’s wrong with trying to make yourself look better as Adam and Eve did? What are some ways you try to make yourself look better when presenting yourself to people?

Jesus often said to His disciples and followers “truly, truly I say to you.” He spoke the truth and expected truth from His disciples. We see in 1 John 1:6-8 that God wants us to live in His light, and that if we claim to live without sin then the truth is not in us. It’s pretty simple, portraying yourself as someone without sin, not talking about your sin, covering up your sin makes you fake.

Are you living an open life with your friends? How can you be more open? What would make you more comfortable to share things that you instinctually want to hide?

II. Being Weak
If we’re being real, people are going to quickly find out that we’re weak. We see this here in Mark with a glaring display of Jesus human weakness. We see Him call to God as Abba, and hear Him lament that His soul is so full of sorrow He just wants to die. He’s the picture of weakness.

Can you empathize with Jesus feeling here? what else might be going through His head and heart this night?

We’re shown Jesus weakness, and for most it just makes us love Him more. We know how he ultimately conquered, but we also know as described in Hebrews 4:15, that because He’s been weak, and subject to this broken world, He can perfectly empathize with us no matter what we’re going through.

Is there something that you’re struggling with, or have struggled with that you felt is outside Jesus realm of understanding?

Paul was a great man we meet later in the New Testament. In 2nd Corinthians 12:8-10 we see this great man, being real, and discussing his weakness. He turns it around and explains that his weakness is a gap where we can get out of the way and allow God’s glory to shine through. In this way, his weakness is a strength.

How has God used someone else’s weakness to inspire you? How has your weakness brought God glory?

III. Being Courageous
Showing vulnerability and weakness is not easy. In the passage we see Jesus opening up to His disciples…and His disciples falling asleep. Repeatedly. Jesus courageously continues on, saying “rise, let us be going.” And continued on towards His death on the cross.

What do you think fueled Jesus courage to continue on here? What can you use to fuel your courage to keep being open and vulnerable with others?

In 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11, Paul shares with us Jesus purpose in continuing on. “To obtain our salvation, so that we might live with Him.” He goes on to say that WE, must encourage one another, and build each other. Duane pointed out that encouraging was to receive someone’s story with their whole heart. For believers, that story we receive is the story of Jesus.

Know these things, how can you encourage people in your family? Community group? unbelievers?

Pray with One Another
Pray with your group that we’d follow Jesus example of being real, revealing Himself through our weakness, and grant us courage through His act on the cross to share all these things.

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In the gospel accounts, the religious crowd accused Jesus of being "a friend of sinners" (Matt. 11:19). He was known to hang out with people who lived overtly sinful lifestyles. As the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, said, "This man receives sinners and eats with them" (Luke 15:2). Jesus was seen with sinners, spent time with sinners, and knew sinners to the extent that the Pharisees thought he was a sinner as well. Consider Matthew 9:10, "As Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples."

In the first century, eating with someone meant welcoming them as a friend. Jesus once attended a dinner at a Pharisee’s house where he welcomed the love of a notoriously sinful woman. It would cost him his reputation among some people. Jesus, however, didn’t care that people were against his spending time with sinner—in fact, he made a point to clearly contradict what everyone would say about his reputation. To the surprise of the Pharisees, he proclaimed the sinful woman to be a model of faith and forgiveness (Luke 7:36-50).

Jesus would go on to be accused of being the friend of everyone from tax collectors to prostitutes, categories of people that cover the entire social spectrum of rich and poor. You see, Jesus was an equal opportunity sinner lover. Jesus even loved the worst kind of sinners—the religious kind. He ate with them and pursued them even though they would eventually kill him. Now that’s commitment to befriending sinners!


This is an excerpt from Harvey Turner's Friend of Sinners: An Approach to Evangelism.

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Hey Everyone!

During the week of October 10-15 we will be canceling all community groups and instead be using that time to have dinner with someone we don’t know that well. We’re calling it strangers and stories. The goal is to get to know someone’s story.

Getting to know someone’s story is one of the best and natural ways for God to work through, so that they might come to know His goodness and grace in Jesus. By listening well, you develop relationship and through that relationship learn how you can best help people see the connections to God they are longing for.

Jonathan Dobson writes in his book The Unbelievable Gospel,

“Like good counselors, we must listen to others well to know how to effectively communicates the unsearchable riches of Christ in a way that speaks to their unique life story.”

My friend, Harvey Turner has written one of the best books on this subject, Friend of Sinners. He writes,

“In the gospel accounts, the religious crowd accused Jesus of being ‘a friend of sinners’ (Matthew 11:19). He was known to hang out with the people who lived overtly sinful lifestyles. The Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, said, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2).”

I’d highly encourage you to pick up Harvey’s book. It’s only $9. You can read it in an hour or so. It’s an easy read. You’ll love it and it will be super helpful.

So this week be thinking about WHO you’re going to invite over or go out with for dinner so that you can get their STORY.

Some great questions to ask are:

- Where did you grow up?
- What was your family like?
- Was your family religious?
- Where did you go to school?
- What do you do for fun?
- What are your goals in life?

Have fun this week. Invite a person, a couple or even a family over or out. Don’t feel like you’ve gotta force the Jesus and church stuff but trust the Holy Spirit help you know what to say or if it’s even the time (Luke 12:12). People simply want to be loved and listened to and often the result is they start asking you questions because they can tell you really care.

I’m so excited for this Strangers & Stories week. May God use it to open the door for the gospel in the relationships He enables us to form.

Much Love,

- Pastor Duane Smets

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WALKING TOGETHER: CALLING DISCIPLES
SERMON DISCUSSION
Ryan Buss

We are starting a new sermon series called “Walking Together”. It is a follow up from our Psalm 23 series which we titled “Walking with Jesus”. The whole goal of Psalm 23 was to focus on Jesus, to take time to know Him more intimately and walk with Him in our lives. As we finish up Psalm 23 we want to shift our focus to now walk with others, as we are walking with Christ.

This first sermon is all about what it looks like to walk with Jesus in the context of others. The first thing we see when we look at Jesus is that He calls disciples to Himself, which is both a description of what Jesus did and also an example for us to follow.

I. Calling the Called
Calling people to Christ takes getting to know them and their story first. What does it take to get to know someone? What is your favorite way to get meet people and get to know them? What are barriers to meeting people and getting to know them?

How does Jesus do this with His disciples? What can we learn from that?

Calling people to Christ means that those who respond were ones who were meant to be His in the first place. Does this give you more or less confidence in sharing Christ with your friends? Why or why not?

II. Seeking the Savior
Mankind naturally seeks for meaning and for truth. It is a universal experience that drives much of what we do and why we do it. How have you experienced this in your life? What are things in your life that gives you meaning? What is truth? How do you know it is true?

We are seeking truth and meaning in people and relationships. Jesus is the truth and the meaning for our life. Do you know Jesus this way? Why or why not?

III. Following the Faith
The word that is significant is the word: follow. In the word in a response, a following through with action. Why is this word so important when seeking to understand Jesus? How are following Jesus and being a disciple related?

What are ways that following Jesus and being His disciple effect our lives? What are things that change? Job, money, relationships. How does being a disciple change each of these things?

How might Jesus be leading you to respond to His message? Is there something in your life that needs to change?

IV. Pray for one another!

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“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt . . .”
Colossians 4: 6

Eventually, it will be time to share the gospel of grace, so communicate it graciously. Let your heart be so filled with the love Jesus has for you that when you teach others about his love they sense it in you. 

Be kind and friendly. Don’t get frustrated if they argue or disagree. As the Apostle Peter says, “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3: 15, emphasis mine). Gentleness and respect are key to any relationship, but especially in a situation where you are confronting a person’s core beliefs. If they have real questions about Christianity, see it as an opportunity to instruct rather than an argument to deconstruct. God can use someone’s contentions with Christianity and the gospel as the very thing that brings him or her back to Jesus. Keep in mind that the people who usually are the most contentious are wrestling with the concepts. So, be gracious. They just need time and someone to help them talk things through, answer questions, and spur them on to think about the things of God. There’s no reason to be threatened by their pushback. Of course they will struggle. Think about it—you are telling them their life is not good enough to earn God’s approval and they need a Savior who wants control of their life. These are not small things! Be gracious and let the Holy Spirit do his work. When God draws someone, nothing can stop him—have patience, have confidence, and by all means, be gracious! Answer their questions, talk about their issues, but keep bringing them back to Jesus. 

I try to keep the conversation focused on the issue we’re discussing instead of taking up a “me versus them” attitude in the conversation. Also, realize most unbelievers don’t accept the Bible as an authoritative book, so it’s best to approach conversation in a non-argumentative way. I do this by prefacing what I say with general statements like “from a Christian perspective,” or “Jesus said,” or “the Apostles taught,” or the “Jewish Scriptures teach us.” This seems to be much more helpful than telling them that they are wrong or making them feel stupid in how you respond to them.

Don’t forget that you also have a lot to learn from your unbelieving friends, and they can teach you many things about life, relationships, and happiness. When you do learn from them, make sure to thank them for the example they have set.

Remember, you are trying to win a person not a debate. Debates are about winning arguments; relationships are about winning people. Relationships require give and take, time, and attention. Relationships require emotional investment.

You will also need to be gracious with other religious and moral views. If those you are evangelizing feel you lack respect for them or their tradition, they won’t listen to yours. Sympathize with their worldview to the degree that you can. Atheists and people of other religions are smart people too. These folks have good reasons and logic for why they believe what they believe. Remember that, given their set of circumstances, background, and information, you might believe similar things. Also, remember that, apart from the Spirit of God opening your eyes to the gospel, you would be just as lost. Humility is key. Graced people grace people.

This is an excerpt from Harvey Turners' Friend of Sinners: An Approach to Evangelism.

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FROM DUTY TO DELIGHT
Tim Keller

We should not drive a wedge between seeking personal communion with God and seeking the advance of His kingdom in hearts and in the world. And if they are kept together, then communion will bot be just wordless mystical awareness on the one hand, and our petitions will not be a way of procuring God's favor "for our many words" (Matt. 6:7) on the other.

Prayer is both conversation and encounter with God. These two concepts give us a definition of prayer and a set of tools  for deepening our prayer lives. The traditional forms of prayer–adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication–are concrete practices as well as profound experiences. We must know the awe of praising His glory, the intimacy of finding His grace, and the struggle of asking His help, all of which can lead us to know the spiritual reality of His presence. Prayer, then, is both awe and intimacy, struggle and reality. These will not happen every time we pray, but each should be a major component of our prayer over the course of our lives.

 

This is an excerpt from Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller.

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JESUS' HOUSE OF PRAYER
SERMON DISCUSSION | Matthew 21:12-17
Gabe Hagstrom

Having finished Psalm 23 last week a prayer of David, pastor Duane this week takes us to Matthew 21 to explore more deeply the act of prayer.

The chapter opens with Jesus approaching the temple, the church at that time.
Church is a sensitive and dynamic idea. How do you explain a church to your friends? and coworkers? What do you do there? What is it for?Let’s read the passage:

Let’s read the passage:

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there. – Matthew 21:12-17

Jesus is righteously angry about what is happening at the temple. The people have forgotten the purpose of the temple and started to treat it like a market.
Duane pointed out that we can often treat Churches as something they are not. We overemphasize the building and start to see it as a place, or the work and start to see it as a business, or the people and start to see it as a social club.

Which of those three things (building, work, people) resonates as a way you fall into seeing the Church?

Jesus defines Church as a House of Prayer, and Paul in 1st Timothy 3:15 called the Church God’s house. It’s Jesus’ House of Prayer.

Duane had three points about Prayer in Jesus’ house:

The Perils of a Prayerless People
The Privilege and Prayers of Petition
The Pleasure and Prayers of Praise

THE PERILS OF A PRAYERLESS PEOPLE
Jesus was outraged at what was happening in the temple. He turned over tables, scattered people, and chased them out with a whip.

Why such a strong reaction from Jesus? What were some things happening in His house that set Him off? What are some things this reaction can tell us about God and His values?

God’s house is supposed to be a place where we come and meet with Him. To hear from Him. God’s house is also an example of what our houses should be, we’re not limited to just our Sunday visits with Him, we should listen for Him at our houses also.

What keeps you from meeting with God the other six days of the week?

Why do you think God gets upset when people don’t pray?

Duane observed that prayer is almost universally seen as a good thing. Studies after studies have come out showing that any sort of daily meditation has vast positive effect, just imagine the benefit of daily meditation sitting next to our creator!

Why do you think prayer is seen as universally positive? Have you experienced that in your life? In this San Diego culture?

THE PRIVILEGE AND PRAYER OF PETITION
Like any all communication prayer can be done multiple ways and for a variety of purposes. Tim Keller distilled all those ways down into two categories: communion centered prayer and Kingdom-centered prayer. Praying to know more about God and become more like Him, or praying to further and see His Kingdom.

Which type of prayer do you feel more comfortable with? Why do you think that is?

All throughout Jesus’ ministry people were coming and petitioning Him to heal them, basically praying to Him for healing. We see it in this passage in verse 14. The physical healing Jesus does is a picture of the spiritual healing everyone needs. It's good to pray and bring our spiritual ailments to Him to be healed. He’s already cured us of death, Duane gave examples of other “ailments” (Blindness – not seeing ourselves and others as God sees them, Cripple – wounded, broken and struggling through life)

What could be some other things that Jesus healed people from, that we may petition to be spiritually healed from?

Matthew 7 paints an amazing picture of God as a Father, our Father who wants to give us only good things. The caveat being, we should ask. Which leaves us with a tough question:

What do you really desire? How can you find out?

THE PLEASURE AND PRAYERS OF PRAISE
Duane shared Psalm 8:2 where is God is glorified by infants, even those unable to yet speak. Sometimes prayer isn’t saying anything, it’s conscious acknowledgement of the presence of God.

How much of your prayer time do you spend listening to God? What makes time alone with God special? Where do you go to spend your best time with God?

 “Communion with God is the apex of true religion” is how Tim Keller described time with God. It’s a powerful thing, an amazing presence to enjoy. Wherever you’re at, the answer is in the presence of God (Psalm 16:11).

What struggles in your life, on this city, in the country that you might bring in prayer, so you can listen to God’s heart about them?

 Pray for One Another
That we would be able to easily meet with God, that we would make time to meet with Him, that we would be present when we meet with Him.

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THE SUPREME MYSTERY: ETERNAL GOD BECAME MAN
J. I. PACKER

The supreme mystery the gospel confronts us, lying not in the Good Friday message of atonement, nor in the Easter message of resurrection, but in the Christmas message of incarnation. The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man.

It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the most profound and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie. ‘The Word was made flesh (John1:14);’ God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child.

The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the incarnation. If Jesus had been nor more than a very remarkable, godly man, the difficulties in believing what the New Testament tells us about his life and work would be truly mountainous.

But if Jesus was the same person as the eternal Word, the Father’s agent in creation, ‘through whom also he made the worlds’ (Heb. 1:2), it is no wonder if fresh acts of creative power marked His coming into this world, and His life in it, and His exit from it.

It is not strange that He, the author of life, should rise from the dead. If He was truly God the Son, it is much more startling that He should die than that He should rise again. Once we grant that Jesus was divine, it becomes unreasonable to find difficulty in any of this; it is all a piece, and changes together completely.

The incarnation is in itself an unfathomable mystery but it makes sense of everything else that the New Testament contains.

 

This is an excerpt from J. I. Packer's classic book, Knowing God.