Here Comes King Jesus

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John 12: 12 – 19

12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,

“Hosanna!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the King of Israel!”

 14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,

 15 “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion;
see, your king is coming,
seated on a donkey’s colt.”

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 16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.

17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

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This short passage marks a significant turn in the life of Jesus and His ministry on earth.  Up to this point, whenever Jesus had performed a miracle, He kept asking the people to remain quiet concerning His identity.  Now Jesus knew who He was, the Son of God.  But He wanted people to know that there were many other aspects involved in who He was.

John accomplished this in his gospel account by using a number of “I am…” statement by Jesus.  Such as “I am the Good Shepherd,” “I am the Light of the World,” “I am the Bread of Life,” “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”  Each of these statements gives us more insight into the nature of who Jesus is, and what He can do for those who believe in Him.

John’s gospel also began with a statement made by John the Baptist, who said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)  And now we see Jesus being hailed by the people as “The King of Israel”.  Are these two ideas in conflict with each other? We know a lamb was brought to an altar to be killed as a sacrifice, and a king comes to a throne to rule.

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The incredible thing about Jesus is that He was both the Lamb and the King at the same time.  Once His first mission was accomplished of raising up a group of followers who believed in Him as their Messiah (the One whom God had chosen to save His people), then Jesus turned towards Jerusalem to be “crowned” as the King of Israel.

Notice His humility though as He rode in calmly and quietly on the back of a donkey.  He knew that what would await this new King of Israel would not be a throne, but a cross where He would be crucified.  The way He would lead His people would be through the road of sacrifice and death to self.  As verse 16 says above, even Jesus’ disciples, His closest friends and companions did not realize at that time what was happening that day, or in the week to follow.

But the people who welcomed Him into Jerusalem saw their hope of a new era to be ushered in for the Jewish people.  Many times before this passage, the religious leaders in Jerusalem had threatened to kill Jesus, and they had issued orders to the general populace that they would be thrown out of the Temple and synagogues if they followed after Jesus.  But even this threat could not stop the praise of the people on this “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem.

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What I think is worth commenting on now at this point is to consider the things that people offered to Jesus as they worshipped Him as their coming King.  I heard this in a sermon recently, and I think it’s worth passing along.  We know from the other gospel accounts (see Matthew 21:1-11 for example) that the disciples went ahead of Jesus to ask a man who owned at least two donkeys to give them up for Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem.

We can suppose that this man was wealthy, or at least well off, having multiple domesticated animals.  And so out of his wealth, he gave to Jesus as a way to honor His arrival.  Then we see a number of people taking off their outer cloaks and spreading them on top of the donkeys and on the road before Jesus as He rode along.  They gave out of what they personally owned that had value.

Some people had come to Jerusalem ready to celebrate the coming of the Passover Festival and had not brought anything extra with which they could offer something to Jesus.  What were these people to do?  Did they have anything they could give to Jesus?  And the answer was yes, according to Matthew.  They went into the fields and cut down palm branches to wave over Jesus and spread on the road to make it a smooth ride for Him as he entered Jerusalem.

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And how about you?  Have you recognized Jesus for who He really is?  He is the Lord of Life, and Sacrificial Lamb who gave His life in order that we could live eternally.  And He is the Coming King, for He will come again one day to gather all those who believe in Him.

And all of us have something that we can offer to Jesus, even if we do not feel like we can offer much.  The most important thing we can offer is our own lives, being obedient to Him as our Lord.  In addition though, we all have some resources nearby, like those people who found the palm trees, that we can give to God as an act of worship.  And God is pleased with whatever it is that we give to honor Jesus, the King of the Universe.

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Glimpses Of God In Papua New Guinea

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Pioneer Bible Translators’ missionaries have lived and served among the Aruamu since the mid-1980s. The people now have the New Testament in their language and the missionary translator who helped to see that happen is now working on the Old Testament with several national men whom she has trained to help insure the translation clearly communicates the meaning of the original Hebrew in a way the people would say it.

Last August, Pioneer Bible Translators’ Church Relations Director, Wendy Beerbower, went to help the missionary for a month doing whatever she and the national co-translators needed her to do so they could spend more time focused on the holy task of Bible translation. Below are some excerpts from the report Wendy wrote after returning home: She entitled it, “Glimpses of God.

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Through Prayer
He works at the Christian Bookstore next to the Pioneer Bible Translators’ office in Madang.  He’s young, short, slim, quiet, has a big smile and expressive eyes.  When he opened the meeting with prayer, I was blown away.  This man knew how to worship God!  “Alpha, Omega, one who sits on the throne,” he began in a soft voice.  “Exalted Father, Holy One, Creator of heaven and earth,” he continued, more strongly.  “The one who provides for us…”  He went on and on for several minutes, worshiping God, speaking more enthusiastically and loudly as he continued.  He moved on to confession, more quietly now:  “We humble ourselves before you Exalted Father, we are unworthy…forgive us…”  He eventually ended his time with the Lord.

I NEVER would have expected that prayer from this young Papua New Guinean man.  I had never before been taken before God’s throne in such an amazing way.  It’s wonderful to worship with brothers and sisters from different cultures.  How much I have to learn from them.

Through Worship
As one of the national translators led the translation team in worship this morning, I thought, “There will be many people from this language group worshipping around the throne in heaven!  They will be there!”  Revelation 7:9 is being fulfilled already for them as they worship God now.  “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.”

Through Work
Who could have known that after one week I would feel this way?  I had just sat in on a translation “checking session.”  Eighteen translators and checkers are going over the Psalms they have just translated into their language.  This check is to verify that the national translators’ rough draft accurately portrays what the Scriptures say.  The man who had translated this particular Psalm read his draft out loud. 

Then the translation consultant who had come to check it, and who had Bibles in three languages on his lap, asked the checkers (those new to the text) some questions to ensure that the passage was understood correctly.  The checkers answered his questions and were all intently discussing, answering, writing down notes or changes on their copies.  It was a beautiful thing to see–they were so intent on getting it right, just right. 

I barely know these guys and yet I love them!  I love them because they love God’s Word and they want to see the Old Testament completed in their language.  I love them because they are serious about the work.  I love them because they are my brothers in Christ.  It brought tears to my eyes to see such a committed team.  They want the translation to say what God wants it to say–nothing more, nothing less.

Through Commitment
It hadn’t rained in two months.  The gardens were extremely dry, but today, it poured for a number of hours.  It was a good soaking rain, the kind that would allow the men to turn their gardens tomorrow.

Understand that these aren’t just any gardens.  These are subsistence farmers – they live off the land.  If they don’t plant gardens, they don’t eat.  Once a garden is planted, they must care for it until harvest.  In the meantime, they slash and burn off another plot of land to prepare another garden, so that they can continue to grow and harvest food all year for their families.  This is their livelihood.

But the next day, instead of going to work in their gardens, eighteen men showed up to continue with the Psalms checking sessions in which they’d been participating all week.  Their commitment level was amazing.  Instead of going to their gardens to plant future food for their own families, they were here translating and checking God’s Word, preparing eternal food for their whole language group of 10,000.  Truly, man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4).

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[Editor’s Note: It will be my privilege to work with these same men next month (March 4-15) to check their book of Exodus, chapters 1-24.  And then I will work with them again from April 22-May 17 to help check their work on Psalms 119-150.  It is exciting to work with a group that now has the New Testament in their heart language and now is working on trying to complete the entire Bible in that language.  Pray that God’s Word will continue to work at transforming this people group here in PNG.]

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Jesus, More Than A Prophet

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John 4:16 – 26

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman – Pt. 2

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.

20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

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In last week’s article about the conversation between Jesus and this Samaritan woman (read here), we learned some important things that show how unusual the conversation really was.  Culturally, it was not really proper for Jesus, a man, to have a social conversation with a woman in public.  Even more significant was the fact that there was a religious stigma attached to Samaritans, and so it was highly unusual for Jesus as a Jew to be talking with this woman.

Then we explored the idea that this woman may have even been a social outcast even in her own small town.  The hint we got from the previous verses was that she was coming down at noon in the heat of the day to get water from the well.  Normally, women would go down either in the cool of the morning or the evening to get their water and would socialize with each other.  But this woman did not appear to be accepted and for this reason came down at noon.  We can see from our passage above the reason for her being ostracized due to being a woman married to five husbands, and now sleeping with a sixth man.

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But Jesus looked past and cut through all these walls of social stigmas and saw a person of worth in front of him.  But how could he do this in a gentle and non-threatening way?  He used her need for daily water to attract her attention by offering to give her “living water”.  This did intrigue her and so the conversation began.  But Jesus also saw all the social and religious baggage that this woman carried and he had to lovingly go slow to bring her to the point of wanting to accept and believe in Him who was the true Living Water.

Jesus began then by asking the woman about her home.  His question seems so simple and innocent, “Go call your husband.”  I believe that Jesus was testing the woman to see if she would be honest with him that she was not actually married to the man she was currently sleeping with.  She does tell the truth, opens up herself on one level, and Jesus takes this opportunity to let her know that in fact Jesus knew all about her home life situation.

Seeing this kind of perception, the woman naturally thought that Jesus must be some kind of prophet.  She is not quite ready to open her heart up further yet, so she counters Jesus with a side topic of worship, pointing out that Jews worship in Jerusalem, but the Samaritans had the religious habit or worshiping God up on Mount Gerazim in the Province of Samaria.  (Was she perhaps trying to impress Jesus that she was a religious person?)

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 But Jesus cuts through that statement to make the bold statement that worship is not to be defined by a specific ritual done in a specific place, whether that was in Jerusalem or on Mount Gerazim.  For as Jesus goes on to explain, true worship of God occurs within a person’s heart.  You see, real worship is based off of a relationship with God and a heart attitude of love, adoration and obedience.  Worship should never be limited to our physical posture and place of gathering.  No, we can worship God anywhere and at any time from out of our heart to God.

This is when the woman clearly sees the point, but deflects Jesus by saying that when the Messiah comes, the One whom God anointed to bring salvation to people, then He would explain things to her and she would be able to worship God in truth and in spirit.  Do you see how gently Jesus led this woman down deeper and deeper into spiritual truth to the point that she admitted her need for the Messiah in her life?  And then Jesus gives his grand statement to her, “I who speak to you am he [the Messiah].”

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What a wonderful passage this is.  And as we will see later, what a wonderful joy came to this woman who had discovered her Messiah.  But let me ask you this now in closing.  Where are you in your relationship with Jesus?  Have you let Him come in to affect positively your life at home?  Are your religious activities just routine habits?  Or have you accepted the face that Jesus is in fact the Messiah, the One whom God chose to bring salvation to the world.  Have you given your heart to Jesus?  Perhaps it is time to do just that.

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What Is Wrong With This Picture

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Jesus Clears Out The Temple

John 2:13 –  17

13 It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. 14 In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. 15 Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. 16 Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”

17 Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”

While growing up, I loved to do all kinds of games and puzzles: logic problems, crosswords, find-a-word, hidden objects, etc. Even today I enjoy working on these kinds of mind games. One of them was called, “What’s wrong with this picture?” You compared two pictures side by side and you tried to see what the difference was between them.

As I was looking over the verses for today’s study, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something terribly wrong with this picture, and I think there is much that we can learn from it. In fact, there is a lot wrong in what happened when Jesus went into the Temple area, but to appreciate what was going on, we will need a little background information.

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 In the Old Testament period, during the period of the kings, according to the Laws and Regulations handed down by God to Moses, the people of Israel were to come to Jerusalem at least three times a year to hold a celebration feast that honoured God for what He had done for them in the past. The Temple was seen as “God’s dwelling place among men”, and so Jewish people from all over the land would come to the Temple to offer their sacrifices and thanks offerings.

Certainly one of the greatest Festivals was the “Passover”, which was a time to remember how God had sent a “Destroying Angel” to kill the first-born sons of every Egyptian family for their enslavement of the Israelites. But God would spare the sons of the Jewish people if they killed a perfect lamb and put its blood on the doorposts of their house. Seeing the blood, the angel would “pass over” their house and spare their family. (See Exodus 11 – 12)

Thus, when the people came each year to Jerusalem to remember God’s grace and mercy that delivered them from the Angel of Death, it was to be a time of great joy. And part of that celebration was to offer sacrifices to God at the Temple. The only problem was that it was a long journey for most, and so it would be difficult to bring an animal with you on the trip. Instead, you would just buy an animal for sacrifice when you got to Jeruselem.

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Now here is where the picture really starts to go wrong. Over time, the religious leaders had determined that only animals that they considered to be “perfect” could be purchased for the sacrifices. They ended up having a monopoly on “sacrifice animals” and sold them in the outer courts of the Temple.

These leaders further considered that Roman coins (the currency of the day) were not “sanctified” and could not be used to purchase these animals. Instead, people had to use Jewish Temple money. And to assist travellers with this, the religious leaders approved currency exchanging “money tables”. And of course there was a mark-up on the exchange rate which resulted in even more profit for these religious leaders.

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No wonder that Jesus was so upset when he came into the Temple area on that Passover. Not only were the religious leaders “scalping” the people by having a monopoly on the sacrifice animals, but they were gouging them too with excessive exchange rates so that worshippers made sure they had the right currency to buy the animals.

This is one of the few times that show Jesus being outraged by the evil intentions and hypocrisy of the religious leaders of His day. He demonstrated what we call today “righteous anger”. But note that His anger is not on account of what the leaders or others did to Him. He is angry at how they were abusing God’s Name and His House, and he was angry at how they were defrauding the people of God who had come with the intention of honouring and worshipping God.

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So here is my question for this study: Are there churches and leaders among us today who have used religion to bring profit to themselves, instead of bringing glory to God? Sure! We can think of a handful of televangelists and money schemes done in the name of God that were in it for what they could gain. And we ought to be “righteously angry” against such practices.

But let me bring this a bit closer to home for some of us. Haven’t we built some churches in North America that go beyond presenting God to the people to merchandising God for the people? We have bookstores in our lobbies, and we sell the sermon series on DVDs, and hold sell-out crowd performances, all in the name of “feeding” the people spiritually.

Jesus said that God’s House was to be a “house of prayer”. What has happened to good old fashioned prayer meetings, where people come to lay their lives before the Lord in confession and in worship? Have we perhaps gone too far in our western capitalism and commercialized God too much? Jesus gave His life to fight against this. What are we prepared to do to return to true and honest worship of our God?

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Christmas Traditions

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We Wish You a Merry Christmas…

Life seems to constantly be changing.  That is why having and keeping some traditions is important.  It helps keep a continuity and meaning to life, and certainly this is important at Christmas.  Compared to some people, we don’t have a lot of traditions.  But there are a few that we have kept that are meaningful.  And of course there is always room to start a new tradition.

It is harder now that we are all adults to coordinate our schedules to be able to complete some of our traditional activities.  We didn’t all pile into the car and drive around the neighborhood to ooh and aah at Christmas lights on houses.  It doesn’t look like we will get time to bake and decorate our sugar cookies this year.  And we haven’t watched Christmas movies each night for the week leading up to Christmas.

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There is one more tradition that we did not do this year that I want to tell you about.  It has been a very important tradition for most of the growing up years of the boys.  It’s a wonderful tradition, and I hope some of you who read this article might adopt this idea.  After I explain it, I will also tell you why we did not do it this year.

So here is what we did for many years to help make Christmas special and meaningful for our boys.  Like many others, we often found that Christmas morning would arrive and there would be a very large number of presents under the tree.  But everyone in our family knew that though there were many presents, most of which did not cost much, there would always be three specific special presents for each person.

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Following the example of the Christmas story in the Bible, we would mark three gifts to be the “gold” gift, the “frankincense” gift, and the “myrrh” gift.  Like many other children, our boys would make a “wish list” of things they hoped they might get for Christmas.  Of course there was no way we could ever buy them all the things they wanted.  But they always knew each year that they would receive one present from their list, and being as it was so special to them, it became their gold gift.

Frankincense in the Bible was a special incense that was burnt as part of the regular worship of the True God in Heaven above.  Therefore, we would give our boys some form of a spiritual present, like a Christian music CD, a devotional book, or a calendar with Scripture verses on it.  The myrrh, which was a special ointment for the body, was used as a symbol for us that it is okay to “treat” yourself at times.  So we would buy some funny toy or the latest movie DVD that they liked.

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The point for us as we traditionally sat around the Christmas tree opening presents, was to remember the first Christmas, when three wise men from the east visited baby Jesus and gave these three special gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant who is the King of Kings.  In this way, we were able to keep our Christmas from being overcome with all the pizzazz and commercialism that we face in today’s world.

But this year, we did not hold to this tradition.  Not because we no longer like it, and certainly not that we have outgrown making Christmas meaningful.  Actually, it was just the opposite for us this year.  In fact, we all had said to one another this year, “Let’s try to not have presents, and just enjoy being together for Christmas.”  (You know we almost did it, but we still snuck a few presents under the tree.)

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What we did do though I think was even more special.  And it was the first time to do this as completely as we did this year.  After we had all enjoyed our yummy Christmas dinner, we all gathered in the living room to have a sharing and praying worship time together.  Each of us would take a turn and tell what were the highlights of 2011 and what God had done for that person.  And then the person would share ideas and hopes and prayer needs regarding the upcoming year.

After the person had shared, then whoever was on the right would pray for all the things mentioned.  Following that, the person who shared would pick out a Christmas carol or two and we joined our voices in praise to God who is the Author behind the Christmas Story.  It was truly a wonderful, spirit filled evening that the six of us shared together.

This is not to say that we haven’t had similar Christmases where we ate, and sang and worshiped God together.  But this year, we were all fully adult people.  And yet like little children we opened our hearts to each other and before God as we shared, and cared and prayed and worshiped.

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I don’t think we will ever get to the point that we don’t have some presents at Christmas time.  That is so much a part of the tradition of Christmas.  But with the decrease of presents, we had to let one tradition slip away, the giving of the three special gifts.

In its place, we may have just started a brand new tradition, to focus even more on worshiping our Great God, and caring for each other in our family.  May you too also find your own way to make each and every Christmas special and have Jesus be in the center of whatever you do.

Merry Christmas!  And God bless you in the coming New Year!

The Purpose of Prayer

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“We Believe in Prayer” – Part 3

This is the third article in this short series on “Prayer”.  We first considered the Power of Prayer.  Most believers today will say that prayer is powerful when offered in faith. (See James 5:16)  And yet many Christians in the West often seem surprised when God does answer a prayer in a dramatic way, or perhaps I should say, they aren’t too surprised if their prayers are not answered.

This led us to consider the next important lesson regarding the Passion for Prayer.  If prayer is viewed as just a daily routine that one does just before each meal (i.e. saying “grace” at dinner time) or is to be practiced mainly when a terrible crisis confronts us, then no wonder some people do not see the great privilege we have to go to God in prayer and be more active and passionate in our prayer life with God.

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This brings us then to the next important topic on prayer, which is to consider what is the purpose of prayer.  Now I would venture to say that if we did a large random poll of the general population, we might find that one of the most consistent answers we would get when asked what the purpose of prayer is, would be that people would say it is to ask God for something or for Him to do something.

In a way, this is a valid answer, for they are recognizing that God is the source of power to be able to grant these requests in the times when we are in need of something or there is a crisis in our life and we need help.  But if this is the only answer a person gives, it is so woefully inadequate as a response for it is basically a self-centered response which goes beyond asking for what we “need” to us asking for the things we “want”.

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As I did in the last two articles, I will summarize some of the key ideas and points that were presented to us in the Sunday School lesson time that I attended last month at Crossroads Christian Church in Grand Prairie, Texas.  And here is the Overview that was included for us at the top of the lesson:

This lesson is to help us see that prayer is not intended to help us get what we want, but rather, it is the means by which we know God’s will.  Even as we pray for God to provide the resources to reach more children, more youth, more adults and more families for Christ, we do so seeking His will.  The real purpose of prayer is actually for God to get what He wants!

The context for this Overview above, as well as the whole series on “Prayer” is that Crossroads is about to launch a building campaign to construct a huge Children’s and Youth’s Activity Center.  It could so easily be interpreted that the church leaders just want another big building which they hope will impact the lives of young people.

But from all I hear, it would appear that God has opened up so many doors into the lives of people in their community, that the only way to focus the potential of these open doors is through the use of a large central building.  Put in this context, it is God’s direction and providence, not the desires or ambitions of men, that is the key impetus behind this building campaign.  This distinction will help us to understand the following key points that our teacher touched on in our lesson.

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Key Point #1:  The Purpose of Prayer is to Build a Relationship With God.

In Psalm 42, the writer reveals with a heartfelt honesty how discouraged and downcast he is feeling.  We don’t know all the circumstances of what was happening, but he appears to be far from the Temple in Jerusalem where he was free to worship and pray to God.  And he longs desperately to return there to continue doing that, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” (v. 1) The greatest joy of a human ought to be like the Psalmist, to desire to be in the presence of God.

Key Point #2:  The Purpose of Prayer is to Acknowledge Our Dependence Upon God.

We think that we are in control of our lives.  That is so untrue.  Circumstances of life and even just the forces of nature show us that is not true.  And so we are a people characterized by great anxiety.  Scripture tells us though in Philippians 4:6-7 to not be anxious for anything, and God will grant us supernatural peace.  And Matthew 7 tells us that God is like a great loving Father who will not be cruel or stingy to His children, but will be generous to us when we put our trust in Him.

Key Point #3:  The Purpose of Prayer is to Get Our Needs Met.

This point must not be taken out of context, such as quoting Jesus in John 14:14, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”  We still must pray within His sovereign will.  And even more important, we must distinguish the difference between our true needs and our wants as I mentioned above.  So taken within context, Matthew 6 makes it clear that when we seek God and His righteousness (doing all God says is right to do) then God will provide us with our basic needs, such as our food and shelter and clothing.

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There is so much more than could and needs to be said about the purpose of prayer.  But I do hope that this has been helpful to all who read this article.  Let me just say in closing that as you look at the three points above, you will notice that we start with God, put ourselves under His authority and Lordship, and then end with humble requests concerning our real needs which ultimately come from Him.

Worshiping God Produces Good

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Worship On The Way – Part 2

Two weeks ago, we began looking at the importance of joining together with fellow believers and worshiping God corporately. Many people will agree that when we worship God together with others that we can connect with God and therefore build our relationship with Him to be even deeper and stronger. And when we stay in connection with God, it is not unusual to find that God has put a bubble of protection around us to help us get through the coming week and all that it has in store for us.

These are the first two reasons that Atteberry gives for us to maintain our corporate worship of God in his book “Walking with God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel.” In this article,  we will consider two more reasons for going to a local church and worshiping God. We will come to see that worshiping God produces good not only within us but also has a positive effect on those who may be watching us.

1.  Worship Improves Your Outlook

Somehow, this reason for worshiping God with other believers in the local church should be rather obvious, and yet for many this is not the case. When we feel sick or tired or depressed or just frustrated with life, you would think that going to church would be a “pick-me-up” and so a positive thing to do. But instead of going to fellowship with other believers and coming out feeling better about life, I have talked with many who have believed that going to church would not help them, and so they stay home and often their mood or situation gets worse.

I do recognize that there are some places and some times that this will be the experience one might have, but it is my experience that this is the exception, not the rule. Personally, I think we need to check what attitude we have before we enter a church, and also try to determine what it is that we expect to find when we go to worship. Consider Atteberry’s words here:

I will tell you right now that if you go with the right spirit to the right church, and open your heart to God, you will come away with a brighter outlook on life. I don’t care how bleak and dismal your world looks when you walk in, worship just has a way of infusing our hearts with hope.  (pg. 136)

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Certainly in this ideal picture that he paints, we are bound to come away feeling more positive than when we first entered into worship. And immediately I can hear some people telling me, “But you don’t know our church!” And they’re right, I don’t know what negative things may be happening in their church. Perhaps it may be time for them to consider being in a better fellowship in order for them to experience God were positively.

But notice that I underlined three things within that quotation. Often, people will equate the “right” church with the “perfect” church. And as long as there are people involved with church (which is obviously the case) we will never be able to find the perfect church here on earth. As the saying goes, “A church is not a sanctuary for Saints, but a hospital for Sinners.”

More importantly, the other two important aspects in this quote have to do with you and me personally and are within our control. What is our attitude when we go to church? Is our heart truly open to receive a word from the Lord? In other words, if we go to church openly and honestly seeking God, we will find Him and be renewed and refreshed. Even in poor church situations we can still have these encounters with God, and that alone is a good reason to continue going to local churches to worship God.

2.  Worship Enhances Your Witness

Here is one last thing to consider as we talk about reasons to go to church on a regular basis. Think of all of the activities and behaviors that you display throughout a week and ask yourself this question, “What things do I do that people can see and will clearly know from it that I am a Christian?” Being nice to others is good, showing consideration and love is very good, but you do not need to be a Christian to show these kinds of attitudes and behaviors.

On the other hand, going each Sunday to a local church is a clear signal that you identify with that church, and it is assumed that you would in fact be a Christian. Now we do know that just going to a church does not make a person a Christian; believing in Jesus and accepting him as Lord and Savior of your life is what makes you a  Christian. Still, going to church regularly is a form of witness to your faith.

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This is how our family felt while we lived in our village in Papua New Guinea. There was a local church there, but it was based mostly upon ritual and form that had been imported by foreign missionaries decades earlier. There was not very much life in the church, and very little understanding of faith and the Gospel. But to not attend that church would send the wrong signal, and would likely have a negative impact later upon our credibility as “Christians”.

So even though we felt that was the “wrong” church for us, we still went with open hearts and a desire to seek God and worship Him. And you know what? We often still had a personal encounter with God, and the people appreciated us coming and identifying with them. This allowed us to build our relationships with the people and to impact them later in our ministry to them.

So there are some very good reasons for all of us to continue attending our local church, to worship God and fellowship with others. It pleases God, it can lift us up, and it can have a positive effect on others. Any one or all of those are good reasons for us to worship God corporately.

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