Something Else for Which Jesus Cares Greatly (Part 5)

Today’s message from John 15:1-11 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

This section from vs. 7-8 as well as next week’s from vs. 9-11 focus on two crucial means of abiding in Jesus for the ensuring of our fruitfulness. This first one has to do with word-saturated prayer.

The love of Jesus goes on display in the farewell discourse as Jesus seeks to equip His disciples for their partnership in His gospel mission. Here He reveals another secret of fruitfulness: With truly actual persevering vital connection with Him there is the practice of means and the promise of certain ends accompanying fruitfulness. Again the first means is word-saturated prayer. The ends are two-fold – God gets the glory by being the  giver as He answers our prayers related to the mission and our salvation status is further assured as those who truly are His disciples, evidenced by the fruit born in answer to prayer.

J. D. Greear, in this month’s resource, Gospel, finishes one of his chapters on prayer shaped by the gospel this way:

I am confident this book has found its way into the hands of someone whose school or city God wants to turn upside down. Or maybe God is stirring your heart to go to one of the 6,600 unreached people groups. Maybe you will believe in God’s compassion for that group, and through your faith their salvation will become a reality. Maybe you are the first believer in your family, and God will use your faith to bring the rest of your family to Him. Where you are, expect great things from God, and then attempt great things for Him. Pray with the confidence that comes from the gospel: “As I pray, I’ll measure Your compassion by the cross and Your power by the resurrection.”

I’ll say “Amen'” to that.

Let us pray for the nations and the people where we live,work, and play with the confidence that comes from the gospel.

Oh, dear ones, let us pray, let us pray, let us pray.

Another New Beginning?

“The victorious Christian life,” said 19th century Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte, “is a series of new beginnings.” He got that right. We start over a lot in the gospel journey of faith. God in His grace always picks us up where we left off and continues His sanctifying work through various means.

This Sunday, as we gear up in our new facility, for the regular full agenda of Sunday ministry activities affords another opportunity for new beginnings. I am referring to the resumption of our adult equipping hour classes. Some of us may have fallen off in our participation after a strong start. Still others may never have joined one of the four offerings in the first place.

With the resumption of the Church History, Evangelism and Mercy Ministry, Parenting, and and Discover OGC classes in our new building, why not consider getting back into one of those offerings or joining in for the first time? Whatever one might have missed in previous sessions in no way diminishes what might be gained in the content yet to come. Furthermore, if you are new to Orlando Grace at this season, the Equipping Hour affords an opportunity to connect on a more personal level with folks in the church in ways the large group worship celebration does not.

Please consult the section in this week’s edition of the enews that describes each class and its location for more information. Maps for the various locations will be available this Sunday for your convenience.

Let’s make the opening of OGC’s new building an occasion for a new beginning in our spiritual lives.

Nothing for Which Jesus Cares So Much (Part 6)

Today’s message from John 14:15-24 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Here’s how I summarized the point of the text:

Jesus’ loving care in thoroughly preparing His own for their mission points yet again to His identity as Messiah that we might believe in Him. Indeed there is nothing He cares so much as our faith, genuine faith that treasures and keeps His commandments. And why are they not burdensome, to use 1 John 5:3 language? Because of the Trinitarian provision for our aid in obedience – the gift of the Spirit in helping us, the coming of the Son in the resurrection for assuring us, and next time, Lord willing, we will consider the indwelling of the Father, and not just the Father but the Son as well, both promising to make their home with us. Amazing!

Praise God for the Trinitarian provision for operation-saving-faith-resulting-in-obedience!

Nothing for Which Jesus Cares So Much (Part 4)

Today’s message from John 14:15-24 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Here’s how I attempted to capture the gist of the section:

Now in campaigning for their correct understanding of saving faith as issuing in devoted obedience and no easy-believism, I mentioned in part three that Jesus further shows His care by outlining for the disciples the stunning provision made for them/us to enable that obedience. Indeed I called it a Trinitarian provision for Jesus goes on here to describe how all three members of the Godhead come into play in what we might call operation saving faith resulting in treasuring obedience. They are the giving of the Spirit (15-17), the coming of the Son (18-21), and the abiding of the Father (22-24).

Praise God that the Helper, Jesus, remains our advocate before the Father’s throne in heaven ANd another Helper, the Spirit, perpetually adds His aid as our advocate, friend, counselor, and comforter as well.

My thanks to Greg Willson for his poignant testimony about advocacy from his recent experience in federal court!

Wanted: Weekend Warriors

Don’t know any other way to characterize my weekend.

Today at 3 PM – Allmand/Taylor wedding.

Tomorrow at 8:30 AM – prayer on the property.

Tomorrow at 9:30 AM – adult equipping hour teaching – So Many Questions: How to Answer Common Questions about Christianity.

Tomorrow at 10:45 AM – worship service preaching – Faith’s Ultimate Display (Part Two), from John 12:1-11.

Tomorrow at 6 PM – annual congregational meeting – state of the church at OGC.

Have already scheduled a complete meltdown for Monday.

Anyone care to join the fray?

Two Ways to Live

If the way you share your faith at this point looks something like this (or worse you don’t share Christ with others at all):

But you would like the way you share your faith to look something like this:

Then make plans to join us for our new 9:30 equipping hour emphasis, Two Ways to Live – Know and Share the Gospel – starting January 2, 2011, in the SDA sanctuary.

Participant guides for the class are available on Sundays in the church entryway for $7.50 a piece, or whatever you can afford.

Please note, at 9:30 this week only we will conduct a Skype video call with Julia Mitchell from Laos. The intro to 2W2L will begin at 10:00 AM.

5000 psi & GIL

“It’s never been cleaned before,” Darlene said.

“I’ve never seen more dirt on a driveway,” Randy said.

“Sorry we took so long to get to it,” I said.

Almost a year ago to the day, the OGC faithful descended on my widow neighbor’s home for a massive painting project. We sought to put James 1:27 into action. We worked to build bridges into our local community for the gospel. I promised we would come back to do the driveway but failed to do so until this morning.

I got by with a little help, who am I kidding, a lot of help, from my friends, deacon Randy and his boy, Andre. Good thing too. Together our pressure washers combined for 5000 psi and we needed every bit of it to tackle the job.

“If you want, you can eat dinner off the concrete tonight,” I beamed.

My neighbor smiled. Her daughter thanked us profusely. The neighbors took notice. I ask for prayer every week for open doors for the gospel in La Floresta. In our postmodern world the way you get them is through acts of love and ministries of mercy.

And so tomorrow we dive into a four month study called Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything during the 9:30 adult equipping hour (including middle and high school students). We want to understand more about how the gospel of Jesus can captivate our hearts, shape our community as a church, and overflow in transforming power into our world. This curriculum from Tim Keller and the folks at Redeemer Pres aims to do just that.

Here’s the summary description for tomorrow’s first session from the GIL website:

In Session 1 we learn that we are not just to seek prosperity and peace in the city where we live, but we are to seek prosperity and peace for the city, as well. We see the reasons that cities were created, how they have fallen under sin, and how we can be a part of redeeming them—how we are a part of God’s story to redeem and restore the whole world for his glory.

From 9:30 to 9:45 we will meet in elder groups to share about our lives and pray for each other. From 9:45-10:00 we will study the Scripture passage of the day together. At 10:00 we will view a ten minute video presentation by Tim Keller, and from 10:10 to 10:30 we will move back into elder groups for discussion about the video. Newcomers are welcome to join any of the groups they like.

Please pray with me and our leadership team that God uses this equipping emphasis in a powerful way. May He make us more a church on mission in the city that we have ever been before!

Coming Events of Note

There are two things coming up in the near future that I want to highlight in this post.

The first concerns Good Friday, April 2. Orlando Grace will participate with Faith Baptist Church, 500 N. Bumby, in Orlando, in a joint Good Friday worship observance from noon to 1:00 PM. Pastor Jack of Faith will preach. I will lead worship and communion. If you are off from work and/or have the lunch hour free that day, please consider joining us for a time of remembering our Lord’s crucifixion and the priceless atonement His death secured for His own. Check the events section of this website for a map on how to get to Faith Baptist Church.

The second concerns new adult 9:30 equipping hour classes for the second quarter of 2010, set to begin on April 4. There will be four offerings from which to choose:

  1. Biblical Peacemaking Training: Matthew Antolick will lead this study in principles of biblical conflict resolution with a view to forming a reconciling team at OGC that will help people with dealing with conflict when it arises.
  2. The Thessalonian Epistles: Delroy Thompson will lead this book study through Paul’s two epistles to the Thessalonians.
  3. The Shorter Catechism (Part 2): Pastor Clay will pick up where he left off at the end of 2009 with another look at the Baptist Catechism.
  4. Discover OGC Newcomer Orientation Series: I will teach another installment of our introduction to the values, mission, and vision at Orlando Grace, the gateway to covenant membership for those interested in learning more about the church.

Please watch for more details on these classes on the website, in the enews, and in the announcements on Sunday mornings throughout the rest of the month of March. Be praying where the Lord would want you to focus attention on your spiritual growth by participating in one of these classes. For more information, feel free to contact the instructor of the course in which you are interested.

A Call to Spiritual Reformation

CarsonI have multiple aims in this post. First, I want to review D. A. Carson’s book by the same title (Baker, 1992, 230 pages). Second, I want to introduce our 9:30 equipping hour curriculum focus for the first quarter of the New Year. The two go hand-in-hand as you will quickly see.

At first glance of the title, you wouldn’t guess the book had much to do with prayer. You have to proceed further to the subtitle for this clarification: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers. This work comes from a series of sermons Dr. Carson once preached on the subject of prayer. Baker then took them and edited them into book form for the greater public.

In the preface, the author lays out this lament:

I doubt if there is any Christian who has not sometimes found it difficult to pray. In itself this is neither surprising, nor depressing; it is not surprising, because we are still pilgrims with many lessons to learn; it is not depressing, because struggling with such matters is part of the way we learn.

What is both surprising and depressing is the sheer prayerlessness that characterizes so much of the Western church. It is surprising, because it is out of step with the Bible that portrays what Christian living should be; it is depressing because it frequently coexists with abounding Christian activity that somehow seems hollow, frivolous, and superficial. Scarcely less disturbing is the enthusiastic praying in some circles that overflows with emotional release but is utterly uncontrolled by any thoughtful reflection on the prayers of Scripture (p. 9).

Carson, as would I, admits that he is part of what he condemns. Who hasn’t struggled with the means of grace called prayer in terms of pursuing it with the passion and consistency Scripture commends to us? This makes his aim in writing all the more attractive to me – to work through several of Paul’s prayers in such a way that we hear God speak to us today, and to find strength and direction to improve our praying (pp. 9-10).

After a relatively brief introduction where Dr. Carson presents his case for this lack of prayer constituting the most urgent need of the church, he brings twelve chapters on the subject of prayer. In all he examines seven of Paul’s prayers including 2 Thess. 1:1-12, 1 Thess. 3:9-13, Col. 1:9-14, Phil. 1:9-11, Eph. 1:15-23, 3:14-21, and Rom. 15:14-33.

Interspersed among the soundly exegetical and practical studies of these prayers are topic headings like Lessons from the School of Prayer, Praying for Others, Excuses for Not Praying, and Praying to a Sovereign God. Only in the last chapter on Rom. 15, Prayer for Ministry, did I feel a bit cheated by a more cursory treatment of the biblical text and its ramifications for those of us in vocational ministry than I would have hoped.

Otherwise, and I have read the book in its entirety, this is by far one of the most helpful resources on prayer I have ever encountered. Given the fact that one of our core values at OGC is intercessory prayer and that, to my knowledge, we’ve not given ourselves to an equipping hour yet on this immensely important subject, our leadership team has decided to make this a church-wide emphasis for adults in the first quarter of 2010. We have purchased fifty copies of this paperback book which are available at our resource table in the narthex throughout December. The cost is $13 or whatever you can afford. If you can help someone else in need purchase a book by an extra contribution to the cause, that would be much appreciated.

We will take one chapter per week over the thirteen weeks utilizing the discussion questions at the end of each chapter. We will also do some workshop praying along the way, so we can practice what we are learning. To start we will meet in the fellowship hall. If the crowd proves too big, a problem I would love to have, we’ll move over to the sanctuary. I will take the point on facilitating the discussion, but I am certain that we will do some smaller group work as well to encourage wider levels of participation.

I urge you to get your copy soon and begin to read Dr. Carson’s work so that you might experience what The Banner of Truth wrote on the back cover – the reader is guided, gently yet persuasively, towards a reformation in personal dealings with God.