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THE BABYHOOD OF THE SON OF GOD
J. I. Packer

The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man. 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 like any other child. And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth.

 

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

 

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THE HUMILITY OF JESUS
SERMON DISCUSSION  | Philippians 2:6-11
Sean Keefe

Duane began the sermon with some reflections on the modern idea of Santa Claus and compared that with the historical figure of Saint Nicholas of Myra. Did you learn anything new? How were you raised to think of Santa Claus?
Duane showed a video comparing and contrasting Jesus and Santa. How do you think Christians ought to address the idea of Santa Claus in their homes?

I. The Holy Divinity of Jesus
Read through Philippians 2:6-11. This is a familiar passage, but it is not often read in the context of Advent. How might this passage influence your understanding of the traditional Christmas story this season?

In the Scriptures, Jesus is called Immanuel, which means “God with us.” Jesus has always been God, but He was not always a man. Christmas is about God coming to be with us as one of us. When you think of Jesus being born in the manger, what thoughts and emotions come to mind?

How can we make the story of Jesus’ birth fresh and life-giving this Christmas season?

How does knowing that God desires to be with us effect you? How might it influence our attitudes this holiday season?

Duane said the difficult part of believing is not that Jesus lived and died on the Cross, but that in Christ, God became a man. Why is that difficult to believe? Have you ever wrestled with really believing this?

II. The Humble Humanity of Jesus
Duane said the story of Jesus’ birth is the ultimate example of true humility. Do you think it’s important for people to understand that Jesus is humble? What difference does understanding this make?

How does believing in the Incarnation provide hope, both for the lost as well as for those who already believe?

It is in God’s very character to be humble. We often subconsciously apply this character trait strictly to Jesus, but Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s nature. Do you think of God as being humble? Why or why not?

How might believing in the humility of God effect the way you worship or pray?
Jesus didn’t stop being God when He was born, but He did empty Himself of the glory of God (the constant display of His God-ness). What are some ways we could explain this to a non-believer?

III. The Humiliating Gift of Jesus
In 1 Peter 5:5 we are told that God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Jesus’ ministry on earth constantly demonstrated this.

What comes to mind when you hear the word “humility”? When you think of a person being humble, what does that look like?

What comes to mind when you hear the word “pride”? When you think of a person being proud/arrogant, what does that look like?

Duane listed several areas in which pride can be observed in our lives. Pride can be found in…

What we get angry about.

What we are afraid of.

Our motives.

False Humility.

Thinking we know better than God.

Justifying sinful actions/attitudes.

We all have pride in our hearts, but it just manifests differently. Where have you seen pride manifest itself the most in your life?

Humility only comes through the work of a humble Savior in our hearts. Where do we need to let the humility of Christ sink in more this Christmas season?

How might the humility of Advent have practical effects in our lives?

Pray for One Another
Pray that the Christmas story and the season of Advent would be life-giving and joy-filled for each other this year.

Ask God for a greater understanding of the humility of Christ.

Thank God for sending us the greatest gift imaginable in His Son.

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What We Tell Our Kids About Santa
Pastor Duane Smets

Every year in our home we love to fully embrace all the fun that goes along with Christmas.  We decorate our house inside and out, we have a tree, an elf on the shelf and we have fun talking about Santa and playing along in all the fantastic stories about him.  However, usually during our nightly family worship times we have a number of serious discussions about Santa.  Below is what we tell them and the story of how we developed our approach as a family.  

It began in 2009 when my first daughter was about 2.  We were walking by the Santa center at the mall and my daughter stopped, froze her step, and in her pause stared in confusion at the whole hoopla... Santa, his big chair, some elves, reindeer, candy canes and the whole bit. I thought I'd try and help and clarify for her so I said, "that's Santa, sweetie." That only made things worse because then she said, "Santa scares me, daddy." I was sort of dumbfounded at how to reply so I just said, "Well you don't have to be scared honey, because Santa was a pastor just like daddy." To which she then said, "hug, daddy, hug" and she grabbed on to me real tight.

I don't think she really understood at all, how could she? And as I've thought about it more, I'm not sure I do either. Sometimes words just come out of your own mouth without giving them a whole lot of thought that actually bring out something very important. What's the whole deal with Santa and how should we approach him?

The real Santa was a pastor during the third and fourth century who's name is remembered in conjunction with the city where he pastored, "Nicholas of Myrna." The ancient city of Myrna is now the modern town of Kale, Turkey. It's about 700 miles north of Jerusalem. Details of Pastor Nicholas' life are askant but basically what had happened is Jesus told the disciples to start the church and take the gospel out from Jerusalem, into Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Turkey is just north of Samaria. So it took a couple hundred years, but by that time there was a solid church in Myrna as the gospel just started to reach "ends of the earth."

We don't know if Pastor Nicholas started the church in Myrna or was appointed there. Due to many posthumous legends it's difficult to decipher what is actual history and what is fantasy. However, there are two things that are clear about his pastorate.

First, he was present at the council of Nicaea which produced the Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed is a powerful and beautiful declaration of both the divinity and the humanity of Jesus, the Trinity, and the gospel which saves from sins and gives us new life through the resurrection of Christ. It was drafted to protect Jesus' church from a heresy running around which speculated of a Jesus who was not fully eternal God and thus insufficient to fully pay the eternal penalty of sin. Thus, we know Pastor Nicholas cared deeply about doctrine, the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and it's power to save souls.

Second, though there are several extrapolated stories about Pastor Nicholas' generosity and how he extended it...what is consistent is that he was apparently very active in ministering to the poor. Whether it was in the form of money, food, or clothes he consistently made it a point to offer outward expressions of the work of the gospel in the heart which takes a poor and sick soul and gives it new life. Thus, we know that Pastor Nicholas cared deeply about mission and seeing as many people as possible come to know and experience the goodness of the gospel.

It's not much but these two facts about the real Santa paint a far different picture than the caricature of him in popular culture today. Today's Santa looks a lot more like a God figure than pastor who serves as Jesus' servant.

Today's modern Santa is supposedly everywhere present..."he sees you when you're sleeping" and supposedly all-knowing..."he knows when you've been good or bad." Being everywhere present and all-knowing are simply not gifts God gives to pastors, they are attributes which belong to God alone.

In addition, the modern Santa apparently seems to give good gifts regardless of whether or not kids have been good or bad. You never hear the stories about what happens to the bad kids. Does Santa the all-knowing bookkeeper then punish kids for being bad? If he doesn't, is he really good then? If he just sweeps bad under the rug and pretends it isn't real or didn't happen then isn't Santa corrupt for giving good gifts to bad kids? If Santa is really knows when we've been bad or good then he knows we've all been bad and should all get coal in our shoes.

Christmas is a time to celebrate the gospel. The gospel is the good news that though we are all bad kids and deserve not gifts but eternal judgment in hell, God sent his son Jesus to be born as a little baby in order to grow up and take our place of punishment as a substitute and suffer eternally so we would not have to. Jesus is the greatest gift of all that God has ever given unto the peoples of the world.

In 2008, New York magazine did an article titled, Learning to Lie. It addresses how parents breaking their children's trust can be detrimental for them as they grow up.  I’m not sure enjoying the Santa stories qualifies as lying.  I do think as parents we can have fun with fairytales…whether it’s Santa, the Elf on the Shelf or the tooth fairy while at the same time telling them the truth.  Santa is a fun story.  We don’t believe in Santa, we believe in Jesus and so did the original Santa and he would’ve wanted us to believe in Jesus too. By the way, Noel Piper has a helpful article on this you might want to check out too called, Thinking About Santa encouraging parents to have fun at Christmas time but to make Jesus the focus.  And if you want a really fun video to show your kids, I love this one, Jesus and Santa.

Pastor Nicholas was about Jesus. He was about the person and the work of Jesus who came into the world as a gift from God for sinners. He was about pointing as many people as possible through as many means as possible to the only possible person who can save–Jesus.

When my daughter saw the modern Santa, dressed in red robes representing the Catholic cardinal's robes, she said it scared her. I agree. The modern Santa is straight up scary in a hellish kind of way because of how he leads us away from focusing on Jesus. The real Santa was a pastor who made much of Jesus, the savior whom God gave to the world so that we might know him, be forgiven, and filled with inexpressible joy.

May God bless you this Christmas season,

Pastor Duane Smets

 

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THE HOPE OF JESUS
SERMON DISCUSSION | Hebrews 6:13-20
Pastor Ryan Buss

We are starting our season of Advent as a church. Advent has been celebrated for over 1,500 years in the church and is rich with songs and traditions, and symbols to stir our hearts. What are some of your favorite holiday traditions/celebrations? Why?

2016 has been a crazy year, hasn't it? As you pause and look around in your life at the end of the year, what are some ways that you need hope right now?

I. Promise [vs. 13-17]
God’s promises give us hope because they create a vision and expectation of something better. How?

Ryan started off by giving a definition of hope. It is this “Hope is the anticipation and assurance of a better future reality”. What do you think of that definition?

All hope is tied to a promise we have believed, because promises produce anticipation, or vision, of something better. And it’s assurance is based on the promise giver. How have you seen this to be true in your life? What are some promises that you have made, or others have made to you, which still impact your life today? How does this connect to Christ and the passage we studied on Sunday?

In our text, God makes an oath to Abraham. Why is it significant that God makes an oath? What does this do for your faith when you remember how serious God is about fulfilling His promises to His people?

When we read God’s Word, we come across all kinds of promises God makes to us, His children. How does this enable us to relate with God as a Father?

II. Protector [v. 18]
Jesus is our Protector and refuge gives us hope because we have the assurance of rescue and safety.

This point focused on the phrase “..we who have fled for refuge…”Ryan highlighted the fact that this points to our fallen nature as believing the false promises and the vision that the world offers, instead of trusting in Christ and His promises and His vision for us. What are some of the visions for our lives that the world tries to tell us to live for? Are these good visions for our lives? How have you found yourself seeking to live that vision?

As humans, we got into trouble all the way back at the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve listened to the voice of the snake, and the promises he offered, instead of God’s voice. We are still doing this today. We listen to false promises that the world offers. What are some false promises that you have found yourself listening to and putting your hope in?

Jesus is the refuge that we are to run to. How does He keep us safe? How does His promise of safety and rescue give you hope today?

III. Priest [vs. 19-20]
Jesus as our Priest gives us hope because He guarantees our end residing and reigning in the glorious throne room of God.

Ryan finished by focusing on the three pictures of Jesus we see at the end of our passage: an anchor, the curtain, and the priest.

The images of the curtain and the priest remind us that Jesus, as our true High Priest, makes us clean and pure. He takes down the dividing wall between us and God the Father, and ushers us into a renewed relationship with the Living God. The hope we have is the assurance of being with God forever in His throne room. Does this give you hope? Why or why not?

The anchor for the soul is probably the easiest analogy to keep in mind for hope. How is hope an anchor? How does this relate with Christ?

What is something from this passage that you needed to be reminded of or hear in your life today?

IV. Pray for one another!

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ALL HONOR BE TO GOD
Leland Ryken

Honor is a biblical term for respect, esteem, high regard and reward. It appears nearly 150 times in the English Bibles. Honor can be seen as an image for respect paid to superiors:God (2 Sam 2:30; 1 Tim 1:17), Christ (Jn 5:23), the emperor (1 Pet 2:17), church officers (Phil 2:25, 29), the elderly (1 Tim 5:1-3) or parents (Ex 20:12; Eph 6:2). Honor can also be something bestowed as a reward for virtuous behavior: for honoring God (1 Sam 2:30) or serving Christ (Jn 12:26); for manifesting wisdom (Prov 3:16), graciousness (Prov 11:16), discipline (Prov 13:18), humility (Prov 15:33), peaceableness (Prov 20:3), righteousness and mercy (Prov 21:21). Biblical images of honor also include examples of persons whose achievements bring honor to them:Joseph (Gen 41:41-43), Phinehas (Num 25:7-13), Joshua (Num 27:18-20), Solomon (1 Kings 3:13), Abishai (1 Chron 11:20-21), Daniel (Dan 2:48), Mordecai (Esther 8:15) and the apostles (Mt 19:27-29).

To honor someone or something is to acknowledge and show respect for the authority or worthiness of the object of one’s honor. God alone is the possessor of honor and worthy of being honored. God Himself is "full of honor and majesty" (Ps 62:7; 111:3). Psalm 50:23 ties all these verses together: those who have honor must thank God for it, for "those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice to honor Me" (NRSV). The Bible is filled with injunctions to honor various things. Above all, of course, the believer is commanded to honor God with obedience and love.

Paul tells the Romans to “love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom 12:10). The highest example of such honor is the example of Christ: in washing the disciples’ feet he pays them the honor of service, of subjecting his own priorities to their interests. Such honoring of others is tied up with humility, which, as stated above, is the method of obtaining true honor—both honorable character and honorable distinctions in eternity.

Honor is a biblical image for the esteem and high regard due to God, to all human beings and, in a special sense, to human beings like parents, the elderly and those in authority.

 

This is an excerpt from "Honor" by Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III in the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery.

 

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At our church we leave it up to the Christian head of the household to decide whether or not to baptize or dedicate his children. There are good biblical arguments on both sides of the question and there are good godly men and women throughout Christian history who have landed on both sides of the question.  We only ask for both sides to first be considered. Below are resources parents can use to help guide them in their decision. Either read one of the books or articles that presents both sides OR read at least one resource from each position.   

PRESENTATIONS OF BOTH SIDES
God Gives A Ceremonial Sign for Families: Marked By God by Duane Smets (FREE)
Four Views On Baptism by Thomas Nettles, Richard Pratt, Robert Kolb, and John Castelein
Baptism: Three Views by Sinclair Ferguson, Anthony Lane, and Bruce Ware

PRESENTATIONS OF PAEDOBAPTISM
Why Do We Baptize Infants? by Bryan Chapell
Jesus Loves The Little Children: Why We Baptize Children by Daniel Hyde
Baptism in the Bible and Infant Baptism by Gregg Strawbridge (FREE)
Infant Baptism In The First Four Centuries by Joachim Jeremias
What Is Baptism by R.C. Sproul (FREE)
Children of the Promise: The Biblical Case for Infant Baptism by Robert Booth

PRESENTATIONS OF CREDOBAPTISM
Anti-paedobaptism by John Gill (FREE)
A Celebration of Baptism by John Piper (FREE)
Dedication of Infants in Global Anabaptist Encyclopedia
From Paedobaptism To Credobaptism by W. Gary Crampton
A Biblical Critique of Baptism by Matt Waymeyer
Believer's Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ by Thomas Schreiner

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LIFE BY THE SPIRIT
Gordon Fee

Christian existence is Trinitarian at its very roots. At the beginning and end of all things is the eternal God himself, to whom both Jews and Christians refer over and again as the Living God. God's purposes in creating beings like ourselves, fashioned in his image, was for the purposes of relationship — that we might live in fellowship with the Living God, as those who both bear his likeness and cart)' out his purposes on earth. From even before the fall, we are told that God had set about his purpose to redeem the fallen so as to reshape their now misshapen vision of God and thus to restore them into the fellowship from which they fell in their rebellion. God has brought this about, we are told, by himself coming among us in the person of his Son, who at one point in our human history effected our redemption and reconciliation with the Living God, through a humiliating death and glorious resurrection. But he has not left us on our own to make a go of it; he has purposed to come to our aid — and this is the reason for his coming to us and among us by his Holy Spirit.

Thus God's aim in our lives is "Spiritual" in this sense, that we, redeemed by the death of Christ, might be empowered by his Spirit both "to will and to do for the sake of his own pleasure." True spirituality, therefore, is nothing more nor less than life by the Spirit. "Having been brought to life by the Spirit," Paul tells the Galatians, "let us behave in ways that are in keeping with the Spirit."

 

This is an excerpt from Listening to the Spirit in the Text by Gordon Fee.

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GIVING DISCIPLES
SERMON DISCUSSION | John 14:16-27
Gabe Hagstrom

Called Disciples – Called people call people
Eating Disciples – Meaning in a meal
Vulnerable Disciples – Open people, open people
Training Disciples – Kingdom work is work
Correcting Disciples – Correction is for connection
Praying Disciples – To pray is the way

And now finally, Giving Disciples – Given disciples are giving disciples. We’re headed towards a season that revolves around gifts and giving.

As we start to think of gifts, what’s the best gift you remember receiving?

Duane takes us to John 14; 16-27, near the end of Jesus time with His disciples. As he’s preparing to leave them, he tells them of a great gift He’s leaving with them. The Spirit.

John 14:16-27
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

"These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

There were three things Duane wanted to highlight about this gift.

I.   The Gift of the Spirit’s Dwelling
II.  The Gift of the Spirit’s Truth
III. The Gift of the Spirit’s Peace

I. The Gift of the Spirit’s Dwelling
Jesus tells His disciples that He is sending another, a helper. Duane explained that the word here for “helper” is Paraclete, and doesn’t really have a good English translation. It’s an advocate, a legal counselor, a comforter and also speaks of friendship or familial relation.

When you think of the Holy Spirit, what word would you use to describe Him?
What would make a good “Helper” for you? How can you see the Spirit fill that role?

Jesus goes on to explain that the Spirit, isn’t some stranger, it isn’t a new person, it’s Him. It’s God. God who dwells with us and in us.

Have you ever felt the presence of the Spirit? How would you be sure it was the Spirit and not emotions or something else?

II. The Gift of the Spirit’s Truth
Jesus asked for the Spirit to be sent to us, and goes on to point out that He is leaving us the Spirit of truth.

In our time and culture, how do people decide what is true?

Jesus says of truth in John 8:32, that “you will know truth, and the truth will set you free.” Many people, teachers, politicians, and authority figures have claimed to have a monopoly on truth.

Duane gave us two simple ways we can test that Jesus isn’t just making more empty claims.

What Jesus says make sense. God is a God of logic and order. His plan and execution are grand, sometimes terrible, but also elegant and consistent.
What Jesus says pierces our heart. Hebrews 4:12 points out that scripture pierces us to our core, getting right to our thoughts and intentions of our heart. It pulls at and moves our heart, when plain obvious logic isn’t enough.

What area of your life do you struggle to locate the truth? Work? Family? Relationships? If we want to know the truth about these things, how might we go about finding it?

Duane went on to explain that as people given the truth we should seek to give away the truth. The easiest way is by just putting out there the words of Jesus for others to hear. As Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15 sharing “the reason for the hope that is in you.”

How can you share Jesus truth with someone this week? Who will it be?

III. The Gift of the Spirit’s Peace
Jesus asked for the Spirit come and dwell with us, allow us to know the truth, and allow us to know peace.

Duane made some suggestions about what people mean when they want peace, what does “peace” mean in our culture? How would you describe “having peace?”

Jesus has given us peace a couple ways.

The first and biggest is by settling our conflict with God. Romans 5:1 says that because of Jesus things have been made right with God for us.

The second is that He starts the work of cleaning out our internal junk. James 4:1 says our “passions are at war within us” as we seek for things to follow, obtain, and experience that according to 1 John 2:16-17 won’t fulfill us. Once we focus on God and the fulfillment he offers, those passions that used to war can fade away.

What are some passions many people turn to for fulfillment? What passions do you have, good or bad, that you sometimes look to fulfill you?

Jesus came to gives us peace, and leaves us peace through the Spirit. He does so freely. We do nothing.

How can we bring that peace into people’s lives?

Pray for One Another
Pray with your group that we’ll be able to give away the presence of Jesus, the truth of Jesus and the peace of Jesus to someone, in our lives.

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THE PRAYER OF PRAYERS
Tim Keller

The Danger of Familiarity
The Lord’s Prayer may be the single set of words spoken more often than any other in the history of the world. Jesus Christ gave it to us as the key to unlock all the riches of prayer. Yet it is an untapped resource, partially because it is so very familiar.

Imagine you are, for the first time, visiting someone who has a home or an apartment near train tracks. You are sitting there in conversation, when suddenly the train comes roaring by, just a few feet from where you are sitting, and you jump to your feet in alarm. “What’s that?” you cry. Your friend, the resident of the house, responds, “What was what?” You answer, “That sound! I thought something was coming through the wall.” “Oh, that,” she says. “That’s just the train. You know, I guess I’ve gotten so used to it that I don’t even notice it anymore.” With wide eyes you say, “I don’t see how that is possible.” But it is.

It is the same with the Lord’s Prayer. The whole world is starving for spiritual experience, and Jesus gives us the means to it in a few words. Jesus is saying, as it were, “Wouldn’t you like to be able to come face-to-face with the Father and king of the universe every day, to pour out your heart to him, and to sense him listening to and listening to and loving you?” We say, of course, yes. Jesus responds, “It’s all in the Lord’s Prayer,” and we say, “In the what?” It’s so familiar we can no longer hear it. Yet everything we need is within it. How do we overcome the deadly peril of familiarity? One of the best ways is to listen to these three great mentors, who plumbed the depths of the prayer through years of reflection and practice. What did they believe the Lord’s Prayer to be saying?

“Our Father Who Art in Heaven”
This is called the address, not actually one of the petitions. Calvin explains that to call God “Father” is to pray in Jesus’ name. “Who would break forth into such rashness as to claim for himself the honor of a son of God unless we had been adopted as children of grace in Christ?” Luther also believed the address was a call to not plunge right into talking to God but to first recollect our situation and realize our standing in Christ before we proceed into prayer. We are to say to God, “You have taught us to regard you and call upon you as one Father of us all . . . although . . . you could rightly and properly be a severe judge over us.” Therefore, we should start by asking God to “implant in our hearts a comforting trust in your fatherly love.” Calvin agrees that “by the great sweetness of this name [Father] he frees us from all distrust.”

“Hallowed Be Thy Name”
This first petition is somewhat opaque to contemporary English speakers. One reason is that the word hallowed is seldom used today, and another is that the idea of holiness (the basic meaning of the older English word hallowed) is alien in our secularized society. The third is a seeming problem of logic, expressed by Luther. “What are we praying for when we ask that His name become holy? Is it not holy already?” He immediately answers that of course it is holy, but that “in our use of it his name is not kept holy.” Luther points to the fact that all baptized Christians have God’s name put upon them. As name bearers they represent a good and holy God, and so we are praying that God keep us from dishonoring the name by which we are called, that he would empower us to become ourselves good and holy. This petition, however, has a second meaning for Luther, who joins Augustine when he says it is a prayer that God “be glorified among all nations as you are glorified among us.” It is a request that faith in God would spread throughout the world, that Christians would honor God with the Christ-likeness or holiness of their lives, and that more and more people would honor God and call on his name.

Calvin agrees but adds a thought that goes deep into the heart. “What is more unworthy than for God’s glory to be obscured partly by our ungratefulness?” In other words, ingratitude and an indifferent attitude toward God fails to honor his name. To “hallow” God’s name is not merely to live righteous lives but to have a heart of grateful joy toward God—and even more, a wondrous sense of his beauty. We do not revere his name unless he “captivate[s] us with wonderment for him.”

“Thy Kingdom Come”
Augustine says God is reigning now, but just as a light is absent to those refusing to open their eyes, so it is possible to refuse God’s rule. This is the cause of all our human problems, since we were created to serve him, and when we serve other things in God’s place, all spiritual, psychological, cultural, and even material problems ensue. Therefore, we need his kingdom to “come.” Calvin believed there were two ways God’s kingdom comes—through the Spirit, who “corrects our desires,” and through the Word of God, which “shapes our thoughts.” This, then, is a “Lordship” petition: It is asking God to extend his royal power over every part of our lives—emotions, desires, thoughts, and commitments. It is reminiscent of Thomas Cranmer’s “collect” for the fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, “that we may obtain that which thou dost promise, make us to love that which thou dost command.” We are asking God to so fully rule us that we want to obey him with all our hearts and with joy. Luther adds also an outward and a future dimension. The reign of God on earth is only partial now, but the fullness of the future kingdom is unimaginable. All suffering, injustice, poverty, and death will be ended. To pray “thy kingdom come” is to “yearn for that future life” of justice and peace, and to ask that “your future kingdom may be the end and consummation of the kingdom you have begun in us.”

“Thy Will Be Done”
Luther is the most vivid and forthright about the meaning of the third petition. He paraphrases like this: “Grant us grace to bear willingly all sorts of sickness, poverty, disgrace, suffering, and adversity and to recognize that in this your divine will is crucifying our will.” We may be reticent to make such a bold statement, but now we can discern the importance of the initial address. Unless we are profoundly certain God is our Father, we will never be able to say “thy will be done.” Fathers are often inscrutable to little children. A four-year-old cannot understand many of his father’s prohibitions—but he trusts him. Only if we trust God as Father can we ask for grace to bear our troubles with patience and grace. Well, someone asks, how can we be sure God is trustworthy? The answer is that this is the one part of the Lord’s Prayer Jesus himself prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, under circumstances far more crushing than any of us will ever face. He submitted to his Father’s will rather than following his own desires, and it saved us. That’s why we can trust him. Jesus is not asking us to do anything for him that he hasn’t already done for us, under conditions of difficulty beyond our comprehension. Luther adds, following Augustine, that without this trust in God, we will try to take God’s place and seek revenge on those who have harmed us. We will be protected “from the horrible vices of character assassination, slander, backbiting . . . condemning others” only if we learn to commit ourselves to God. If we can’t say “thy will be done” from the bottom of our hearts, we will never know any peace. We will feel compelled to try to control people and control our environment and make things the way we believe they ought to be. Yet to control life like this is beyond our abilities, and we will just dash ourselves upon the rocks. This is why Calvin adds that to pray “thy will be done” is to submit not only our wills to God but even our

Well, someone asks, how can we be sure God is trustworthy? The answer is that this is the one part of the Lord’s Prayer Jesus himself prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, under circumstances far more crushing than any of us will ever face. He submitted to his Father’s will rather than following his own desires, and it saved us. That’s why we can trust him. Jesus is not asking us to do anything for him that he hasn’t already done for us, under conditions of difficulty beyond our comprehension. Luther adds, following Augustine, that without this trust in God, we will try to take God’s place and seek revenge on those who have harmed us. We will be protected “from the horrible vices of character assassination, slander, backbiting . . . condemning others” only if we learn to commit ourselves to God. If we can’t say “thy will be done” from the bottom of our hearts, we will never know any peace. We will feel compelled to try to control people and control our environment and make things the way we believe they ought to be. Yet to control life like this is beyond our abilities, and we will just dash ourselves upon the rocks. This is why Calvin adds that to pray “thy will be done” is to submit not only our wills to God but even our

Luther adds, following Augustine, that without this trust in God, we will try to take God’s place and seek revenge on those who have harmed us. We will be protected “from the horrible vices of character assassination, slander, backbiting . . . condemning others” only if we learn to commit ourselves to God. If we can’t say “thy will be done” from the bottom of our hearts, we will never know any peace. We will feel compelled to try to control people and control our environment and make things the way we believe they ought to be. Yet to control life like this is beyond our abilities, and we will just dash ourselves upon the rocks. This is why Calvin adds that to pray “thy will be done” is to submit not only our wills to God but even our feelings, so that we do not become despondent, bitter, and hardened by the things that befall us. We have considered the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. All our teachers observe the significance of their place in the order—that these petitions come first in prayer. The beginning of prayer is all about God. We are not to let our own needs and issues dominate prayer; rather, we are to give pride of place to praising and honoring him, to yearning to see his greatness and to see it acknowledged everywhere, and to aspiring to full love and obedience. George Herbert expressed it with beautiful economy:

For my heart’s desire
Unto Thine is bent:
I aspire
To a full consent.

Adoration and thanksgiving—God-centeredness—comes first, because it heals the heart of its self-centeredness, which curves us in on ourselves and distorts all our vision. Now that the prayer is nearly half over, and our vision is reframed and clarified by the greatness of God, we can turn to our own needs and those of the world.

“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”
Augustine reminds us that “daily bread” is a metaphor for necessities rather than luxuries. Since we have just spent the first three petitions of prayer recognizing God as our true food, wealth, and happiness, Jesus is charging us to now bring our “prayer list” of needs into line with this new frame of heart. As we have seen, Augustine believes the full petition should be Proverbs 30: 8, “Give me neither poverty (lest I resent you) or riches (lest I forget you).” Calvin follows Augustine’s reasoning when he says that, in speaking of our daily bread, “we do not . . . bid farewell to God’s glory . . . [but we] ask only what is expedient for him.” We come with our needs expectant of positive response, but we do so changed by our satisfaction in him and our trust of him. We do not come arrogantly and anxiously telling him what has to happen. Many things we would have otherwise agonized over, we can now ask for without desperation.

Luther sees a social dimension to this prayer as well. For all to get daily bread, there must be a thriving economy, good employment, and a just society. Therefore, to pray “give us—all the people of our land—daily bread” is to pray against “wanton exploitation” in business, trade, and labor, which “crushes the poor and deprives them of their daily bread.” Ominously he warns those who do injustice about the power of this petition. “Let them beware of . . . the intercession of the church, and let them take care that this petition of the Lord’s Prayer does not turn against them.” For Luther, then, to pray for our daily bread is to pray for a prosperous and just social order.

“Forgive Us Our Debts as We Forgive Our Debtors”
The fifth petition concerns our relationships, both with God and others. Luther, who for years struggled mightily and personally with the issues of guilt and pardon, gives a clarion call to seek God’s forgiveness every day in prayer:

If anyone insists on his own goodness and despises others . . . let him look into himself when this petition confronts him. He will find he is no better than others and that in the presence of God everyone must duck his head and come into the joy of forgiveness only through the low door of humility.

Luther adds that this petition is not only a challenge to our pride but a test of spiritual reality. If we find confession and repentance intolerably traumatic or demeaning, it means “the heart is not right with God and cannot draw . . . confidence from his Gospel.” If regular confession does not produce an increased confidence and joy in your life, then you do not understand the salvation by grace, the essence of the faith.

Jesus tightly links our relationship with God to our relationship with others. It works two ways. If we have not seen our sin and sought radical forgiveness from God, we will be unable to forgive and to seek the good of those who have wronged us. So unresolved bitterness is a sign that we are not right with God. It also means that if we are holding a grudge, we should see the hypocrisy of seeking forgiveness from God for sins of our own. Calvin puts it vividly:

If we retain feelings of hatred in our hearts, if we plot revenge and ponder any occasion to cause harm, and even if we do not try to get back into our enemies’ good graces, by every sort of good office deserve well of them, and commend ourselves to them, by this prayer we entreat God not to forgive our sins.

“Lead Us Not into Temptation”
With this petition Augustine makes an important distinction. He says, “The prayer is not that we should not be tempted, but that we should not be brought [or led] into temptation.” Temptation in the sense of being tried and tested is not only inevitable but desirable. The Bible talks of suffering and difficulty as a furnace in which many impurities of soul are “burned off” and we come to greater self-knowledge, humility, durability, faith, and love. However, to “enter into temptation,” as Jesus termed it (Matt 26: 41), is to entertain and consider the prospect of giving in to sin. Calvin lists two categories of temptations from the “right” and from the “left.” From the right comes “riches, power, and honors,” which tempt us into the sin of thinking we do not need God. From the left comes “poverty, disgrace, contempt, and afflictions,” which tempt us to despair, to lose all hope, and to become angrily estranged from God. Both prosperity and adversity, then, are sore tests, and each one brings its own set of enticements away from trusting in God and toward centering your life on yourself and on “inordinate desires" for other things.

“Deliver Us from Evil”
Calvin combined this phrase with “lead us not into temptation” and called it the sixth and last petition. Augustine and Luther, however, viewed “deliver us from evil” as a separate, seventh petition. It can also be translated “deliver us from the Evil One,” that is, the devil. Luther writes that this petition is “directed against specific evils that emanate from the devil’s kingdom . . . poverty, dishonor, death, in short . . . everything that threatens our bodily welfare.” Augustine indicates that while the sixth petition is for deliverance from the remaining evil inside us, this seventh petition is for protection from evil outside us, from malignant forces in the world, especially our enemies who wish to do us harm.

“For Thine Is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory Forever”
Finally, there is what is called the ascription: “For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” Augustine does not mention it because it was not in most earlier manuscripts of the Bible or in the Latin Vulgate. Luther does not treat it. However, Calvin, while noting that “this is not extant in the Latin versions,” believes that “it is so appropriate to this place that it ought not to be omitted.” After descending into our needs, troubles, and limitations, we return to the truth of God’s complete sufficiency. Here our hearts can end with “tranquil repose” in the remembrance that nothing can ever snatch away the kingdom, power, and glory from our heavenly, loving Father.

“Give, Forgive, and Deliver—Us”
The concluding remarks on the Lord’s Prayer by John Calvin are especially helpful. Like Luther in A Simple Way to Pray, Calvin insists that the Lord’s Prayer does not bind us to its particular form of words but rather to its content and basic pattern. Indeed, even Luke does not set down Jesus’ teaching on prayer in exactly the same words. The Lord’s Prayer is a summary of all other prayers, providing essential guidance on emphasis and topics, on purpose and even spirit. Therefore in our prayers, “the words may be utterly different, yet the sense ought not to vary.” The Lord’s Prayer must stamp itself on our prayers, shaping them all the way down. There could be no better way to ensure that than Luther’s twice-daily exercise of paraphrasing and personalizing the Lord’s Prayer as introduction to more free-form praise and petition. An equally important insight is a reminder that the Lord’s Prayer was given to us in plural form. We ask God to give us what we need, meaning that, as much as possible, “the prayers of Christians ought to be public . . . to the advancement of the believer’s fellowship.” American theologian Michael S. Horton has pointed out that Calvin believed “public ministry shapes private devotion, not vice versa.” Calvin took great care to define public prayers and the liturgy because he wanted private prayers to be strongly shaped by the corporate worship of the Christian church. Prayer is therefore not a strictly private thing. As much as we can, we should pray with others both formally in gathered worship and informally. Why? If the substance of prayer is to continue a conversation with God, and if the purpose of it is to know God better, then this can happen best in

An equally important insight is a reminder that the Lord’s Prayer was given to us in plural form. We ask God to give us what we need, meaning that, as much as possible, “the prayers of Christians ought to be public . . . to the advancement of the believer’s fellowship.” American theologian Michael S. Horton has pointed out that Calvin believed “public ministry shapes private devotion, not vice versa.” Calvin took great care to define public prayers and the liturgy because he wanted private prayers to be strongly shaped by the corporate worship of the Christian church.

Prayer is therefore not a strictly private thing. As much as we can, we should pray with others both formally in gathered worship and informally. Why? If the substance of prayer is to continue a conversation with God, and if the purpose of it is to know God better, then this can happen best in community. C. S. Lewis argues that it takes a community of people to get to know an individual person. Reflecting on his own friendships, he observed that some aspects of one of his friend’s personality were brought out only through interaction with a second friend. That meant if he lost the second friend, he lost the part of his first friend that was otherwise invisible. “By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets.” If it takes a community to know an ordinary human being, how much more necessary would it be to get to know Jesus alongside others? By praying with friends, you will be able to hear and see facets of Jesus that you have not yet perceived.

That is why, Lewis thinks, that the angels in Isaiah 6 are crying, “Holy, Holy, Holy” to one another. Each angel is communicating to all the rest the part of the glory it sees. Knowing the Lord is communal and cumulative, we must pray and praise together. That way “the more we share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall all have.”

 

This blog is taken from Chapter 8 of Tim Keller's Prayer: Experiencing Awe & Intimacy with God and is one of our favorite books on this subject!