Relationship with God

Get on Your Knees, 29 May 2022

Get on Your Knees!
Series—Alliance Core Values
Philippians 4:6-7
Series Big Idea: After a 2021 reveal of our First Alliance Core Values, this series is a presentation of the Christian & Missionary Alliance Core Values.
Big Idea: Prayer is the primary work of God’s people.
The year was
1988 and musician Bobby McFerrin hit big with a little ditty called Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Nobody in 1988 could imagine the amount of worry people in 2022 would be facing. Anxiety is running rampant. Mental health professionals have seemingly endless job security. Fear continues to rise over COVID, inflation, Ukraine, …and now monkeypox?! Wouldn’t it be great if we could simply stop worrying and become happy?
Our scripture text for today conveys a similar message, but one with much more power.
Don’t worry…pray! That’s essentially what Paul said to the church in Philippi, a city in modern-day Greece.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. (Philippians 4:6a, NLT)
That would be a great verse to memorize…or shall I say half of a verse. These words are on the wall of our bathroom at home. They comfort me—and sometimes convict me—in my moments of worry.
What about you? Are you prone to fear…or faith? Worry or prayer? Anxiety or petition?
Prayer is one of those things everyone knows is a good idea, but most find challenging. How many of you eat your veggies? Floss your teeth? Exercise?
Prayer is work. The city of Toledo logo says as much…to work is to pray. Sure, a quick prayer before a meal is simple, but how do we pray when life gets hard?
We’ve been going through a series on the core values of the Christian & Missionary Alliance, our global family. We have previously noted
-       Lost people matter to God. He wants them found. Luke 19:10
-       Everything we have belongs to God; we are His stewards. 1 Chronicles 29:14
-       Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully-devoted disciple. Matthew 28:19
-       Knowing and obeying God’s Word is fundamental to all true success. Joshua 1:8
Today’s core value states
-       Prayer is the primary work of God’s people. Philippians 4:6-7
I said it’s work, but that’s because all relationships are work. They require time. They involve effort. I’ve never met a couple that said, “We’ve had a great marriage for decades. We never really talk or do anything together, but we are so close!” Never. Marriage is hard work, but it’s worth it.
Friendship can be hard work, too. I was recently in a meeting with a good friend and he said and did some things which made me feel like my input was worthless. I was tempted to let it go, but it was really bothering me and I knew my friend was clueless about his actions. After an hour or two of prayer and planning, I confronted him as graciously as I could and lovingly confronted his behavior. He apologized, thanked me for drawing it to his attention, and we hugged. It was work, but it was so worth it.
By the way, the enemy loves to steal, kill, and destroy…especially relationships. Just look at our cancel culture today. If you really want to kick the enemy in the teeth, work on reconciling a broken relationship. Not all relationships are mendable, but if you speak the truth in love and experiencing restoration, it’s an amazing feeling! Relationships are work, but they’re worth it.
Prayer is work, but what really is prayer? I used to think it was talking to God, but it’s more than that. For years I thought it was talking with God, but it’s more than even that. I submit to you prayer is doing life with God. Marriage is not just talking to or with someone. It’s doing life with them. Life is what we do. It’s non-stop. Perhaps that’s why Paul wrote elsewhere,
Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV)
Pray continually. Talk with God continually. Do life with God continually. How?
There’s actually more to verse six in Philippians chapter four:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. (Philippians 4:6, NLT)
Don’t worry. Pray. I wish I could tell you I’ve mastered this, but I’m a fellow pilgrim on the journey toward a worry-free life! I want to be in control…or think I’m in control! Many of the things I fear never even occur. What a waste of energy…energy that could’ve been spent praying for others or just being with the LORD.
How do we pray, then? We could do an entire sermon series on prayer. Countless books have been written on the subject. The scriptures are filled with examples (though most are rather short). We’ll scratch the surface today, but examining our text, it says, “Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Of course, He knows already, but He loves to hear your voice. I think your voice is the most beautiful sound to Him. The next verse tells us what happens when we pray:
Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7, NLT)
Who wants peace in their life? How many of you want God’s peace? This might be one of the few formulas in the Bible, but it’s clear.
Prayer leads to peace. Our world needs more peace, doesn’t it? We try negotiation tactics, call on law enforcement, hire mediators, defend ourselves, …but there’s nothing like God and His peace.
Notice Philippians 4:7 says God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds. That’s God’s protective custody. How
does that work?  When we thank God, we’re reminded of His goodness, power, and thankfulness. Our problems often seem small once we realize God is great. Someone said, ““Kneeling to pray is what gives you the strength to stand.”
This should be obvious, but the power of prayer is not in the person praying, but the Person to whom they are praying. You can pray to a volleyball (Tom Hanks almost did in
Castaway!) but nothing will change. I’m fascinated with the popularity of meditation in our society. It’s huge! Scripture is filled with encouragement to meditate, but the real issue is the object of our meditation…on nothing, ourselves, or God and His Word? The same is true for prayer. It’s about doing life with our Creator. Prayer is an alternative lifestyle! We simply need to work, take time, be present with God.
"Most Christians want to experience spiritual transformation. But many are frustrated by the limited progress of our spiritual self-improvement efforts. We find our praying burdened by a sense of obligation and failure. But prayer is not merely something we do; prayer is what God does in us. Prayer is not just communication with God; it is communion with God. As we open ourselves to him, God does the spiritual work of transformation in us." - David G. Benner
I think too many people think of prayer as a magic power to get God to do what we want…and then we get disappointed when He doesn’t serve us on demand. “Prayer,” said Robert Law, “is not getting man’s will done in heaven. It’s getting God’s will done on earth.” It’s all about a relationship. I think prayer is a lot like marriage.
I’m married to my wife. I’m always married to my wife, 24/7/365. I’m married without ceasing. It’s a state of being as well as a state of doing. I’m still married when I’m not with her. I obviously feel more connected when we’re having dinner together, but sometimes we connect via text, phone, or FaceTime. Sometimes we’re physically together but not even communicating, like when we watch a movie together or even when we take a drive in the car and say nothing. Marriage is all about communication, honesty, and experimentation…and so is prayer.
Obviously, prayer involves communication. Honesty is a given with God (uh, He knows everything!). And
it’s important to experiment with prayer. I want to give you some tools to get you started.
ACTS. This is a popular acronym to guide your prayers. Begin with Adoration, praise, worship. Tell God how awesome He is! This is not to butter Him up, but to remind yourself who it is you’re talking with.
C is confession. Get real with God. Again, He knows it all. There can be great joy and freedom in confessing, agreeing with God how you’ve sinned, and being reminded of the joy of forgiveness.
T is thanksgiving. We spoke of this earlier. It’s not just an annual holiday! It should be a part of our rhythms to be grateful.
S stands for supplication or requests or petitions. Tell God what you want. Pray for others. Pray for yourself. He’s a good, good Father who loves to give gifts to His children…though not always when and how we desire. Daddy knows best!
Another prayer tool is a
journal. Write out your prayers…on paper or a laptop. I hate to burst your bubble, but I don’t spend three hours each moment on my knees with my eyes closed in prayer. It would quickly become a nap! Some of my best times of prayer involve me essentially writing a letter to God. It keeps me focused…and I can go back and see how God responded to my prayers.
Praying with others is another thing I do. It’s harder to fall asleep praying when you are with others! We have Zoom Prayer every weekday from 9 AM to 9:30 AM. You’re all invited! It’s a great way to meet people and love well, praying prayers of blessing, hope, and healing over one another. Life Groups are another great forum for prayer.
Listening is another prayer tool. I know that might sound unusual, but we need to give God an opportunity to speak, too! What has God been saying to you? What are you going to do about it?
I’d be the first to admit I’ve never heard God speak audibly, but He does speak…through other people, circumstances, dreams, and sometimes an internal prompting. But the primary way God speaks is through the Bible. If you’re not reading it, don’t be surprised if you’re not hearing from God.
If we’re honest, sometimes we don’t want God to speak to us! Maybe we choose to live busy, noisy lives in hopes that He doesn’t speak! Such an attitude says a lot about our view of God. He’s a good, good Father who loves His children. Yes, He does discipline us, but He always has our best interest at heart. Really!
I realize a relationship with God can be challenging. After all, you can’t see Him, hear Him, or even text Him! But He has created you first and foremost for a love relationship with Him. Prayer is work. Relationships are work. They take time and effort. They’re don’t always feel warm and fuzzy! But they’re worth the effort.
Perhaps you’ve been told Christianity is just about praying a prayer so you can go to heaven when you die. If so, I’m deeply sorry! It’s a tragedy to think prayer is a one-time thing…or even something we do at bedtime or at meals as a ritual. It’s a rhythm of life!
“Jesus tells us to pray for daily bread, but we’d rather have a Costco relationship with God. We’d rather have stuff in bulk so as not to come back to God so often. But we can’t live without daily dependence.” – Rich Villodas
God wants to do life with you! The Creator of the universe wants to spend every moment of your life with you! How cool is that?! Will you make yourself available for Him? Will you get on your knees?
Prayer is the primary work of God’s people. Philippians 4:6-7
I want to offer one final tool before we close. It’s a free app called
Lectio 365. I may have mentioned it before, but it’s a simple way to make room for God, to be fully present. It takes about ten minutes in the morning and about ten minutes at night to be still and listen to these guided prayers with scriptural meditations. It’s probably the best tool Heather and I have found to develop our spiritual life together. We use it most every day. They have an acronym, too…PRAY.

Pause to be still
Rejoice and reflect
Ask for God's help
Yield to His will
There’s so much that can be said about prayer—and so much has been said—but know it is work, but anything worth having is worth the investment. It is how we do life with God, and that relationship is at the core of the meaning of life.
Prayer is the primary work of God’s people. Philippians 4:6-7
“Don’t worry, be happy.” – Bobby McFerrin
“Pray and let God worry.” – Martin Luther

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

The Glory of God's Presence, 27 June 2021

The Glory of God’s Presence
Series—Exodus: Journey to Freedom
Exodus 40

Series Big Idea:
The book of Exodus describes God’s gracious liberation of the Jews from slavery to freedom.

Big Idea: We are blessed to be invited into God’s presence.

What’s the most incredible experience you’ve ever had in your life? For some it might be their first time seeing Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World or the green grass at a Mud Hens game. A visit to the Grand Canyon or skydiving would be amazing. There might’ve been a defining moment such as a graduation or new job. Maybe it was the birth of a baby or your wedding day. Last Sunday we looked at what may have been the prophet Isaiah’s most incredible experience.

Isaiah 6:1    In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Isaiah 6:4    At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

Isaiah 6:5    “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

Isaiah was wrecked by the glory of God’s presence…and aware of his own sin and inadequacy. We said God is holy, and remarkably He calls us to be holy, too, something made possible not by our goodness by His amazing grace through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Hallelujah!

Today as we conclude our month-long series on Exodus, we’re exploring God’s presence. We saw in Exodus 3 Moses saw a burning bush and was told to take off his sandals for he was standing on holy ground. Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. The experiences of both Isaiah and Moses teach us that…

God’s presence is truly awesome!


Where is God?

In a word…everywhere! God is omnipresent. Psalm 139 asks,

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

God appears in the first verse of the Bible.

Genesis 1:1   In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

We understand the earth, but the heavens are not as clear. The original Hebrew word,
shamayim, refers to the sky, air, and indicates something lofty. The scriptures describe God in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve until The Fall, the disobedience which brought sin into the world and with it the death of our intimacy with God. He speaks to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and later Moses who led the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt to the edge of the Promised Land. That journey we call the Exodus, also the name of our book of study in June. It was during those forty years of wandering in the wilderness that…

God’s presence was usually confined to the Tabernacle.

God is everywhere, but His manifest presence was especially present in the Tabernacle. Exodus 40 gives a detailed account of the Tabernacle. It was known as the tent of meeting and required more than a little setup!

Then the LORD said to Moses: 2 “Set up the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, on the first day of the first month. 3 Place the ark of the covenant law in it and shield the ark with the curtain. 4 Bring in the table and set out what belongs on it. Then bring in the lampstand and set up its lamps. (Exodus 40:1-4)

The next verses were filled with detailed instructions for setting up the tabernacle.

“Bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance to the tent of meeting and wash them with water. 13 Then dress Aaron in the sacred garments, anoint him and consecrate him so he may serve me as priest. 14 Bring his sons and dress them in tunics. 15 Anoint them just as you anointed their father, so they may serve me as priests. Their anointing will be to a priesthood that will continue throughout their generations.” 16 Moses did everything just as the LORD commanded him. (Exodus 40:12-16)

Then we’re told additional details about Moses setting up the tabernacle, preparing the special place for God’s presence. If you owned a house and learned the Mayor or Governor or President were coming over, would you take a moment to clean, to prepare? Of course! In this case, God told Moses how to prepare a special house, a special place for His glory.

Then he put up the curtain at the entrance to the tabernacle. 29 He set the altar of burnt offering near the entrance to the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, and offered on it burnt offerings and grain offerings, as the LORD commanded him. (Exodus 40:28-29)

He placed the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it for washing,
31 and Moses and Aaron and his sons used it to wash their hands and feet. 32 They washed whenever they entered the tent of meeting or approached the altar, as the LORD commanded Moses. (Exodus 40:30-32)

Then Moses set up the courtyard around the tabernacle and altar and put up the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard. And so Moses finished the work. (Exodus 40:33)

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
35 Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. (Exodus 40:34-35)

I can’t imagine the incredible experience of God’s glory. Wow! The tabernacle was portable and the people moved it as God guided.

In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; 37 but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. 38 So the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels. (Exodus 40:36-38)

The writer of Hebrews gives us some details about the tabernacle.

A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. (Hebrews 9:2-4)

A few verses later we’re told,

But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. (Hebrews 9:7)

Eventually Joshua led the people into the Promised Land in what we now call Israel. Generations later,

God’s presence was moved to the Temple.

King David assembled the materials and his son, Solomon, led the construction of the Temple

Solomon covered the inside of the temple with pure gold, and he extended gold chains across the front of the inner sanctuary, which was overlaid with gold. (1 Kings 6:21)

At the dedication of both the tabernacle and the temple, God’s glory appeared in a powerful way, demonstrating His presence.

Last month we talked a bit about the
temple, the center of Jewish life, one of the wonders of the ancient world. It was a most impressive structure with a variety of designated areas, including the Most Holy Place.

Despite its grandeur and beauty, it was destroyed in AD 70 by the Romans just as Jesus had predicted. While that was a devastating time for the Jews, the impact for the first Christians was somewhat less because the Temple was no longer the sole location of God’s presence. You might say that years earlier on Good Friday, God left the building! It occurred as Jesus breathed his last breath. Matthew tells us…

Matthew 27:50    And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

Matthew 27:51    At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

That’s an incredible experience I’d love to witness…even if it would scare the stuffing out of me! I’ve been through some mild earthquakes, but I’ve never seen rocks split. I’ve certainly never seen tombs open and zombies roam a city, if you can say that!!! This was literally the walking dead, raised to life in the midst of Jesus’ death. But perhaps the most important aspect of this scene was the curtain of the temple torn in two from top to bottom.

God’s presence was unleashed on Good Friday…and Pentecost

Jesus said,

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Acts 2 tells of the coming of the Holy Spirit who dwells inside every follower of Jesus. In fact, Paul told the church in Colossi,

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

God lives inside each believer. Where is God? In us! We are the temples of God.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

This is why we need to pay attention to our bodies, our physical health, and our sexuality. If you are a follower of Jesus, your body is not your own. It belongs to the LORD. Although it’s a radical thing to say in our culture, you are not permitted to do whatever you want with your body. You were made by God. You were made for God. You were made for God’s glory.

I can understand God showing up in the Garden to hang out with His creations Adam and Eve before they rebelled and sinned.

I can understand a holy God dwelling in a sacred part of the tabernacle and later the temple.

I can somewhat understand the sacrifice of Jesus granting us access to the Most Holy Place and making possible a relationship with Almighty God.

I find it nearly impossible to understand God dwelling inside of me, living in me, making my body His temple. This, of course, does not me that I am a God, but rather that God chooses to make His home in my heart…if I make room for Him.

So What?

I want to close with two quick thoughts. First,

God’s presence doesn’t mean we will not suffer, but we are never alone.

Where is God when it hurts? Where was God when you were suffering? He was with you.

Romans 8:37    No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Hebrews 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”

I know that raises the question, “If God was with me, why didn’t He stop the pain?” I can only say when we hurt, God hurts. He grants us free will, including the ability to hurt one another. He has a habit of redeeming pain and using it for our good, but beyond that I don’t have any quick, easy answers…but I trust God. Your story’s not over. Perhaps soon you’ll understand. I have many stories of understanding weeks, months, and even years later the purpose for pain in my life. I found this paragraph at

Our lives are like a quilt. If you look at the back side of a quilt, all you see is a mess of knots and loose ends hanging out all over. It is very unattractive, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the work. Yet when you turn the quilt over, you see how the maker has craftily woven together each strand to form a beautiful creation, much like the life of a believer (Isaiah 64:8). We live with a limited understanding of the things of God, yet a day is coming when we will know and understand all things (Job 37:5; Isaiah 40:28; Ecclesiastes 11:5; 1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2). Where is God when it hurts? The message to take with you in hard times is that when you cannot see His hand, trust His heart, and know for certain that He has not forsaken you. When you seem to have no strength of your own, that is when you can most fully rest in His presence and know that His strength is made perfect in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). –

Be comforted to know God is with you. He has not left you. He has not abandoned you. And nobody knows pain like Jesus. If you doubt me, watch
The Passion of the Christ again…or for the first time.

And finally,

Someday we will experience God’s presence in unimaginable ways.

1Corinthians 2:6    We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived” —
the things God has prepared for those who love him—

1Corinthians 2:10    these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

One day we will see God face to face.
One day there will be no more suffering or pain or tears.
One day we will experience the full glory of God’s presence…forever!

In the meantime, let’s enjoy every moment when heaven kisses earth, where God’s Kingdom comes and His will is done on earth as it is in heaven…the place where God dwells.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Gift of Reconciliation, 10 December 2017

The Gift of Reconciliation
Series—The Gifts of Christmas
1 John 4:7-12

Big Idea: Jesus came to reconcile us to the Father…and one another.

Skit Guys Video


An old man who just wants to make things right with his kids. That’s sounds so reasonable, doesn’t it? He seems like a nice enough guy. What kind of person would reject love? He’s done everything he can think of so this time...this season...he goes...himself. He gives himself....a new beginning.

We’re in the middle of a series called The Gifts of Christmas. Two weeks ago we talked about the give of expectancy. Advent is about arrival, anticipation, and waiting. Last week we examined the gift of grace, unmerited favor. None of us deserve forgiveness, love, peace, forgiveness, or hope, yet that’s where God’s amazing grace becomes so vital to not only experience but also share. Today we’re talking about the gift of reconciliation, a word that reflects reunion, understanding, and resolution. In a world full of brokenness, reconciliation is desperately needed.

It has surprised me over the years how many good parents are estranged from their children. Don’t good parents produce good kids? How could someone walk away from the love of a father—or mother? Why would a “Christian” family have any division or unresolved conflict? Why are there so many prodigals amongst our First Alliance family? And then I look at the gap in my own family photo. Why? What happened? Can I fix it? If so, how?

Let me state from the beginning relationships require at least two people, and reconciliation requires at least two, also. The holidays are a time when people gather—with family, co-workers, and friends—for parties, meals, and for Christmas. I have nothing but good memories of childhood Christmases, not only tearing open brightly-wrapped presents and stuffing myself with cookies but seeing relatives I dearly loved.

It’s very different for me now. Obviously the wonder of gifts under the tree is different as an adult and I think twice before eating too many cookies, but while I love the family and friends in my life, I’m also reminded at this time of year about those with whom I am not connected. Many of my favorite people will be spending Jesus’ birthday with Him rather than me, which his bittersweet.

What’s more bitter and not at all sweet are those broken relationships. There will be one very empty chair at our table on the 25
th for the second year in a row, and while our relationship with our daughter has taken some baby steps forward, it has a long way to go. How could someone reject the love of a father?

Tragically, it happens every day, and not just with human fathers. Our heavenly Father went to the most extreme of measures to show us His love. We can accept or reject it…it’s our choice. He made the first move. The ball’s in our court.
We’ve looked at our text for today—written by one of Jesus’ best friends, John—before, but it bears repeating. It begins

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)

This sounds so familiar to anyone who has cracked open the Bible, but this is revolutionary among other religions. Love comes from God? Those who love are born of God? Those who love know God?

And what if we don’t love? What does that say about us? The command here—and elsewhere in the Bible—is to love…one another.

What is love? That’s the question! Hollywood will tell you one thing, Hallmark cards another. A man I knew searched the Bible to understand the true definition of love when he came upon this next verse.

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)

God is love. He’s the definition of love! Love is a person. Love is also a verb. It is action.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9)

Love is more than words. The verse describes the purpose of Christmas itself. God showed His love by sending Jesus into the world, Emmanuel, God with us, that we might live, the we might experience abundant, satisfying, purpose-filled life.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

Jesus came to die for our sins on the cross, to be the perfect sacrifice, to reconnect us with our Creator in a relationship destroyed by our sins, our pride, our rebellion, our offenses against God. Elsewhere in the Bible it says

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:9-11)

We have received love.
We have received reconciliation.
We have received an invitation to know our Creator—not just know about, but know.

Why would a holy God want to reconcile with sinners like us? Why would a righteous deity want to make the first move in mending a relationship we destroyed? That’s the love of a Father…a good, good Father. He takes the initiative to fix things when life happens. He sets the perfect example for us in our human relationships…our messy human relationships. You know…words get said, feelings get hurt, blame gets assigned, misunderstandings occur. It’s so easy for once-beautiful families and friendships to be strained or even severed. That’s where love comes in.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:11-12)

Let’s take a moment and meditate on those verses. Wow! God so loved us. We are to love one another. If God is love, what does it look like to love one another? It means looking out for the best interest of the other person. We’re naturally selfish, thinking about our own needs, desires, and opinions. Loving another means putting ourselves in their shoes for a moment. It can be so easy when they like us and are like us. Loving someone different…that’s another story! But it’s possible when God’s love is made complete in us.


Sometimes the most difficult people to love are those closest to us because they are capable of not only great love but great pain. You might know the story of the prodigal—or extravagant—son. Jesus tells his audience…

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.  (Luke 15:11-12)

Then the prodigal son takes the extravagant gifts of inheritance from his generous father, takes off for a foreign land, and parties until he’s homeless and hungry. In fact, the text says

He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. (Luke 15:16)

That might sound gross to us, but to a Jew, even being near pigs was horrifying, much less eating their food.

I love the beginning of the next verse.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. (Luke 15:17-20a)

The soundtrack for this moment is, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas!”

The son could be home for Christmas if only in his dreams. He showed up ready to beg for a job as a servant. After all, he already played his son card, walking off with half of the father’s wealth, a scandalous thing given an inheritance is received after someone dies. He is ashamed, humiliated…but desperate.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)

In 1985, Benny Hester wrote a song called When God Ran, about this verse. He sings:

The only time I ever saw him run/ Was when He ran to me/ He took me in His arms/ Held my head to His chest/ Said "My son's come home again!"/ Lifted my face/ Wiped the tears from my eyes/ With forgiveness in His voice He said/ "Son, do you know I still love You?"/He caught me By surprise, When God ran

That’s reconciliation. That’s grace. That’s love!

The father in the drama leaves his home and goes out to meet his family, just as the prodigal son’s father went out to meet his son.

Seeking Reconciliation

When we seek reconciliation, there are no guarantees. It takes two to tango, but someone needs to make the first move. Perhaps that someone is you. Maybe this Christmas is the one where steps are taken toward the healing of broken relationships. That is certainly the prayer for my family.

One thing I love about our God is there is nothing too difficult for Him. Prayer is powerful. There is no hopeless relationship. Nothing is beyond repair. No relationship is beyond fixing. That includes our relationship with God and our relationship with others.

God saw that the space between us and Him had become too great. So He ran to us. He came down to us at Christmas. Love comes down at Christmas.

So What?

We love God because God first loved us.
We love others because God first loved us.

He has done everything possible to show you His love, to have a relationship with you. It’s your move. What will you do?

Perhaps you’ve done everything possible to show others your love, to have a relationship with them. It’s their move. There might not be anything else you can do other than remain faithful, pray, and wait.

I’m there. Many of you are there. The gift of reconciliation means God took the initiative and has reconciled us to Himself which then allows us to potentially be reconciled to others.

Will you receive the gift of reconciliation with the Father?
Will you extend the gift of reconciliation to someone this Christmas?

Credits: title, drama, and some ideas from The Skit Guys.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Sin Knows No Strangers, 12 March 2017

    Sin Knows No Strangers
    Series: A Love That Never Dies
    Romans 5:6-11

    Series Big Idea:
    Throughout Lent, we prepare for Jesus’ death, resurrection, and return

    Big Idea: Because of Jesus, we can be friends of God rather than enemies.

    I believe the two most important questions in life are

    Who am I?
    - Who is God?

    Our text today addresses some powerful issues of identity we must all ponder carefully in order to answer those two questions.

    What words describe you?
    What words describe God?

    A Love That Never Dies. Ever so briefly yet dramatically, these words describe our Lord’s love for us, and they serve as our overarching theme in these weeks leading up to Easter. God’s love for us is a love that never dies, and that’s a good thing! For “sin knows no strangers.” Sin is pervasive, powerful, and persuasive. In both its global and most intimate forms, sin seeks to draw us away God.
    Listen for those truths in today’s text:

    Paul, once known as Saul of Tarsus, is in the midst of writing to the first Christians in Rome. He offers them rich insight into their identity.

    You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6)

    For whom did Christ die? The ungodly.

    When did Christ die? When we were still powerless.

    Why did Paul mention “we” and then “ungodly?” You’re a good person, right? You’re in church. Most of you haven’t murdered anyone or robbed a bank. Jesus died on the cross because we’re good people, we are loveable, and he loves us.

    I think most people think they’ll go to heaven when they die because they’re good people. They pay their taxes. They vote. They brush their teeth!

    Jesus died for the ungodly. That’s me!

    Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. (Romans 5:7)

    Let that sink in for a moment. Would you die for someone? Your child? Your best friend? Your spouse? What about LeBron James? President Trump? Putin?

    But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

    This is stunning. I’ve heard it 100 times, but it is truly remarkable.

    Jesus died for the powerless and feeble (v. 6)
    Jesus died for the ungodly (v. 6)
    Jesus died for sinners (v. 8)
    Jesus died for his enemies (as we will see in verse 10)
    Jesus died for you and me.

    Drop the mic! That’s incredible!

    You don’t have to hope God loves you.
    You don’t have to wonder if God loves you.
    God loves you. He demonstrated it. He proved it. His actions speak as loud as his words.

    He loved you and me while we were unrepentant sinners.

    Isn’t this good news? Isn’t this great news?

    We celebrate the death of Jesus last Sunday. It’s called Good Friday because Jesus dying for us—hopeless, helpless sinners—provided a pathway for forgiveness, reconciliation with our Heavenly Father, peace, joy, and hope.

    But it gets better…and worse.

    God’s Wrath

    When you mentioned words to describe God, how many said, “Wrath?”

    God is love.
    God is kind.
    God is forgiving and gracious and merciful.

    Yes. But God is also just. And justice includes wrath.

    Does God hate people? Absolutely not…but He hates sin. He hates sin! And we are sinners. You know this. Earlier in chapter three, Paul states the obvious:

    …for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)

    That’s one of the most depressing verses in the Bible.

    Have you ever felt short?

    God is perfect. 100% pure. He has a zero tolerance policy for sin. Zero! So when we sin—and we all sin—where does that leave us? Separated from God.

    That’s the bad news. But the good news is Jesus’ death covered all of our sin.

    Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:9-11)

    We have been justified. That means God approves of us because of Jesus, an acquittal that sets of free from the penalty of our sin. Justification happens now. On judgment day we will be saved from God’s wrath. It will be awe-inspiring to see and be spared of God’s wrath.

    Because God is just, He must judge. He must be fair. We will all get what we deserve…unless we follow Jesus and receive grace—unmerited, undeserved favor.

    Have you ever thought of yourself as an enemy of God? Paul says that’s what we were, enemies of God.

    You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

    But Paul says we’re reconciled. That’s becoming one of my favorite words. We don’t hear it often because it doesn’t happen often. It’s easier to remain bitter, angry, or even silent. Reconcile means

    - Restore friendly relations between
    - Cause to coexist in harmony; make or show to be compatible or consistent
    - To compose or settle (a quarrel, dispute)

    It’s as if we wore white t-shirts, our sin stained them with dirt, and Jesus wraps a white robe around us, allowing us to stand before God perfect and pure. Jesus does the heavy lifting. We just open our arms and say yes.


    To summarize…

    Sin has made us enemies of God.

    God’s grace, mercy, and never-ending love have rescued us.

    Through Jesus, we can be friends of God.

    I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)

    And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”  and he was called God’s friend. (James 2:23)

    This is a truly amazing reality. We weren’t always friends of God. We were enemies, yet through Jesus we can be reconciled. We can know God…not just about God, but truly know God.

    Are you a friend of God?


    Some ideas from Rev. Steven H. Albers, CTA.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Daily Office & Sabbath, 15 May 2016

    Discover The Rhythms of Daily Office and Sabbath
    Series: Go Deeper
    Daniel 6:10-12; Exodus 20:8-11

    The Big Idea: The fifth pathway to emotionally healthy spirituality is to discover the rhythms of the Daily Office and Sabbath.


    The essence of this series is our lives are like an iceberg. Some of it is visible to others, but most is buried out of sight from the world, sometimes ourselves, but never from God. The sooner we can get real with ourselves, others and God, the sooner we will experience growth and breakthroughs. We’re all messed up and in need of help…which is where God and His people become so vital. We need God. We need one another.

    Author and pastor Pete Scazzero said his book
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

    “Emotional health and contemplative spirituality, when interwoven together, offer nothing short of a spiritual revolution, transforming the hidden places deep beneath the surface of our lives.”

    We’ve been looking at emotional health and for the conclusion of this series we will be looking at contemplative spirituality, tools and practices that help us to know God and His Word and become more like Jesus.

    A Disclaimer

    I hope it goes without saying, but let me emphatically state our authority at First Alliance is God and the Bible. I pray that I will never preach or even say anything contradictory to the Bible…and if I do, I urge you to tell me. I do not have the final word, and certainly Pete Scazzero or Billy Graham or John Stumbo or any other pastor or writer has the final word. I don’t agree with everything Scazzero has written and I especially don’t agree with every author Scazzero quotes. If you read
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality or any other book, be careful. Read with discernment. Ask me, an elder, or your group leader questions if something seems off. Some of you have, and I greatly appreciate it. We’re not always going to completely agree about everything in the Bible, but we need to sharpen one another…and I never want to speak anything but truth.

    Connecting With God

    All of life is about relationships. Just as there are many ways I can build a relationship with my wife—date nights, texts, phone calls, conversations at the dinner table at home, vacations, etc.—there are many ways we can build our relationship with God.

    How do you connect with God? Many people engage in religious activities to learn about or appease God. The essence of Christianity, however, is a relationship with God. All relationships require time, effort, and dedication. Today we will be discussing two powerful tools to help you grow in your relationship with God. These are not two things to add to your to-do list. They are not a measure of your spirituality. If used, however, they will radically enhance your relationship with God and yourself.

    We begin in the book of Daniel. Allow me to set the scene. King Belshazzar, the king of the Babylonians, was slain and Darius became the new king. Daniel was one of his top assistants. In fact, we are told

    Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. (Daniel 6:3)

    This made his colleagues envious.

    At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.” (Daniel 6:4-5)

    They go to the king and ask him to make a law making it illegal to pray to any god or man except the king during the next thirty days.

    Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or man except to you, O king, would be thrown into the lions’ den?” (Daniel 6:10-12)

    If you don’t know the rest of the story, check out Daniel 6.


    Our culture knows nothing about rhythms. We live life 24/7, an expression that was unknown a decade ago. We use words like chaos, scattered, distracted, stressed, and overwhelmed to describe our existence. We are always on the way to something or somewhere. We strive for bigger, better, and faster.

    How do I have a calm, centered life that is oriented around Jesus?

    You were created to know and love God and be known by and loved by Him.

    We need to slow down to connect with God. How?

    You cannot jump off a moving treadmill. You must slow it down first.

    The Daily Office and Sabbath bring rhythm to our lives daily and weekly.

    The Daily Office or Fixed-Hour Prayer: daily rhythm

    The Daily Office is simply about making space throughout the day for God. Office (
    opus) means “work of God” in Latin. Our work is to seek and be with God.

    Daniel is essentially at the University of Babylon. His name is changed and the leaders attempt to take God out of him. Our culture is much like Babylon, trying to make us think and act like the world rather than God.

    Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. (Daniel 6:10)

    Daniel prays three times each day on his knees. Do you?

    One of my favorite questions to ask of a biblical text is whether it is descriptive or prescriptive. Does it describe what someone did or does it prescribe for us today a behavior to imitate.

    I don’t think God commands us to go to an upstairs room, open our windows toward Jerusalem, and get on our knees three times a day to pray…but it’s not a bad idea!

    How do you meet with God each day? Reading the One Story Bible plan? Prayer at a certain time of day? A devotional?

    David wrote

    One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. (Psalms 27:4)

    That is David’s work. An office is about being with God, not trying to get things from God. Paul wrote to the church in Thessaloniki:

    Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

    I think that is a prescription. I believe it’s a timeless mandate for all followers of Jesus. But how can we pray continually? How can we be aware of and conscious of God throughout the day? One way is to stop and pause throughout the day to be aware of His presence.

    Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws. (Psalms 119:164)

    It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, (Psalm 92:1-2)

    Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. (Psalms 55:17)

    The Psalms are a prayer book. The Daily Office is frequently associated with Catholics or highly liturgical denominations, but all followers of Jesus can benefit from books of prayer that incorporate Scripture and reflection. The issue is not what you do, but getting connected with God through Scripture and silence where you can be still in the presence of God. The idea of the Daily Office is to stop several times throughout the day to pause and remember God. It is a discipline to order your day to remind you what is important in life: God.

    Meals provide such a rhythm for many of us, praying three times a day at morning, noon, and evening. Bedtime is another common time to talk with God.

    The Daily Office may involve prayer, reading scripture, journaling, taking a walk, or whatever helps you connect with God throughout the day. There’s no magic formula, but intentionality is crucial. What’s most important in your life? Show me your calendar and prove it!

    If your only time with God is an hour on Sunday, you can’t possibly have a deep relationship with God. You will develop spiritual anorexia. Just as I can’t expect to have a great marriage by talking with my wife for an hour on Friday night, I can’t expect to truly know God by only “going to church.” It’s a great practice, but more is needed. Spend time with God daily…the Daily Office.

    Sabbath: weekly rhythm

    Knowing and following God is radical. It is counter-cultural. It is revolutionary. Few things are more radical than Sabbath, a 24-hour break each week during which we rest. The word “Sabbath” appears 116 times in the NIV translation of the Bible. The seventh day is the first holy thing mentioned in the Bible. Sabbath is found in the Ten Commandments. Without the fourth and longest commandment, you cannot do the other nine.

    God’s Top Ten: Exodus 20:1-17

    1. You shall have no other gods before me
    2. You shall not make for yourself an idol.
    3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.

    4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord our God. On it you shall not do any work…For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11)

    5. Honor your father and your mother.
    6. You shall not murder
    7. You shall not commit adultery.
    8. You shall not steal.
    9. You shall not give false witness.
    10. You shall not covet.

    God commands rhythm in our lives of work and rest. Do you know what the penalty was for breaking the Sabbath?

    Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. (Exodus 31:14)

    Notice the Sabbath is listed in God’s Top Ten ahead of murder, adultery, and stealing.

    I know, it’s the Old Testament. We don’t follow the Old Testament law, right? It seems to me Jesus not only followed God’s instructions, He made them more challenging. He called lust adultery (Matthew 5:28) and unholy anger equivalent to murder (Matthew 5:21-22).

    Jesus said,

    Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27)

    Sabbath is about
    rest. We need it. We were created to need it. Science merely confirms the wisdom of the Bible.

    [A study from Stanford] found that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that there’s no point in working any more. That’s right, people who work as much as 70 hours (or more) per week actually get the same amount done as people who work 55 hours. (

    Sabbath is also about
    trust. Do you trust God can do more with six days than you can with seven?

    My Story

    I’ve had good and not-so-good seasons of Sabbath. Presently, I try to devote Saturdays as my unproductive day. Just saying that word “unproductive” sounds so wrong, but I believe that’s the intention of Sabbath. It’s like a weekly “snow day!” It’s a day to play, to relax, to delight, to reflect, to do things that replenish, to be grateful to God, to enjoy family and friends. We taste heaven on the Sabbath.

    Needless to say, you must prepare for the Sabbath. You can’t just do it. It’s not a punishment but a gift. There is no place for legalism, it is to be a delight.


    We live in Babylon. Our culture is diametrically opposed to God. We are bombarded by subtle and not-so-subtle messages that seduce us away from the things of God.

    If you are serious about following Jesus, you will need to do radical, counter-cultural things with your time, talents, and treasures. An hour on Sunday is not enough to maintain a relationship with God. A quick prayer at dinner or bedtime is not sufficient either. None of us—myself included—are able to spend all of our waking hours in prayer and Bible study, but we can periodically incorporate Scripture and silence into our daily lives and pause for one day a week to do nothing.

    There are no shortcuts to relationships. Ever!

    We were created to know God. The Daily Office and weekly Sabbath are biblical, powerful, and revolutionary ways to breathe deeply, be with God, and become like Jesus.

    All healthy relationships require time, intentionality, and variety. Experiment. There are biblical patterns for daily time with God that include prayer and time studying the Bible. There is a biblical pattern for a weekly Sabbath, a day of rest and refreshment. The goal is not following a formula but rather following Jesus…day by day, week by week, year by year…until He returns.

    Questions for Discussion

    What does this text tell us about God?

    What does this text tell us about ourselves?

    How did Daniel’s prayers affect his work? His life?

    Are you willing to make the sacrifices necessary to truly know God?

    Why is silence so difficult for us?

    Why is Sabbath so difficult for us? What prevents you from practicing Sabbath?

    What difference would a weekly Sabbath make in your life?

    What small step(s) can you take this week to know God?

    A Sample Daily Office For Groups

    1. 1. Pause for two minutes of silence (Psalm 46:10)
    2. 2. Read aloud Psalm 90:4, 12, 17
    3. 3. Pause for 15 seconds of silence
    4. 4. Read aloud Psalm 33:20-22
    5. 5. Pause for 15 seconds of silence
    6. 6. Read aloud Matthew 6:9-14
    7. 7. Pause for 15 seconds of silence
    8. 8. Read aloud Isaiah 30:15 and Psalm 86:11, 13a
    9. 9. Pause for two minutes of silence

    For Further Reading

    Praying with the Church: Following Jesus Daily, Hourly, Today by Scot McKnight
  • Credits and Stuff

    Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

    Series outline and ideas from
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero (Thomas Nelson, 2006).

    Some study questions from Lyman Coleman (
    The Serendipity Bible and The Serendipity Student Bible). Used with permission from the author.

    Other study questions from
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Workbook by Peter Scazzero (Center for Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, 2007).

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Covenant & Kingdom: Moses, 21 September 2014

    Big Idea: God made a covenant with Moses out of which he led the God’s kingdom people of Israel.


    In previous weeks we said the Bible is a big book. It’s actually a library of 66 books. We usually study it verse-by-verse, like looking through a microscope. This series will look at it through a telescope, examining the big idea of the Bible.

    Covenant and Kingdom are woven throughout the Scriptures like a double helix is woven in DNA.

    Covenant is a sacred treaty in which two parties become one. In ancient times, this always involved the shedding of blood by an animal to imply consequences for failure to fulfill the agreement.

    God made a covenant with Abram, promising blessings to him and his offspring in order for them to bless the world.

    Covenant is about relationship. Being. Invitation.
    Kingdom is about responsibility. Doing. Challenge.

    Life is filled with tension between being and doing, relationship and responsibility, being invited into relationship with God while also being challenged to represent Him and bless the world.

    As we look at this idea of challenge, of kingdom, of doing God’s work in the world we are going to look at one of the most important characters in the Bible—Moses.

    Who are you?
    That is one of the two most important questions you and I must address. The other is, “Who is Jesus?” Earlier this year in our series Who Do You Think You Are? we looked at the book of Ephesians and saw the ramifications of being “in Christ.”

    Identity comes from many places. It begins with our name and family of origin. What does your name mean? Do you know why it was chosen for you? What messages did you receive as a child? You may be troubled to even think about the answer or you may recall great memories. We are a product of our past, for better or worse.

    One of the great things about the kingdom of God—the church—is regardless of our past, God dictates our present future when we entrust it to Him.

    Like Abraham, we are invited into covenant with God, surrendering our individual existence to become “one” with God and His people. We are given a new name—child of God. We enjoy the same rights and freedoms of God’s other children, including Jesus!

    Like Joseph, we are a part of God’s kingdom, representing God and taking responsibility and authority, exercising the power of forgiveness.

    There are so many fascinating Bible characters and few as important as Moses. You may be familiar with the stories of his life, but I want to encourage you to encounter them in a fresh way as if you had never heard them before.

    Our story begins in Exodus 1. Joseph is Pharaoh’s right hand man providing provisions to his family and other Israelites in Egypt. A new king sees this growing Israelite population and makes them slaves, working the ruthlessly. Furthermore, he told the Hebrew midwives to kill all baby boys so the Israelite population could eventually die (1:16). When they refused, he ordered every baby boy thrown into the Nile river.

    This isn’t pretty. It’s actually horrifying. The Bible can be quite graphic and disturbing…because humans can do some pretty disturbing things, as we see every day in the news.

    A woman has a baby, hides him for three months, and realizes she can no longer hide him. She puts him in a basket in the very river where she is to drown him.

    Pharaoh’s daughter sees the basket, opens it, sees the baby, and keeps Moses as her son.

    One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”

    The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”

    When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well. (2:11-15)

    Charles Swindoll says, “Here we see the beginning of a narrative that is all of our lives. We are blessed, broken and then we are used. Used by God.”
    Perhaps you’re waiting for God to use you while He waits for you to be broken, not in a harmful way, but in a way that causes you to be desperate for Him.
    Jesus said “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
    That’s lordship. That’s what it means for Jesus to be king, to be Lord. Die to yourself and live with and for Him. That’s the message of baptism, we die and then live.
    Who do you think Moses thinks he is?
    Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. (3:1)

    If youʼre in the desert, embrace it. Go into it and pass through it. Moses embraces the desert and finds there the symbol and metaphor of the desert that is woven throughout Scripture: Desert leads to dependency on God.
    There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight — why the bush does not burn up.” (3:2-3)

    Fire is the symbol of God’s presence.

    When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

    And Moses said, “Here I am.”

    “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. (3:4-6)

    God knows Moses’ name. He knows his identity. He knows his past living in privilege in the palace and later hiding in the desert after committing murder. This is God’s invitation into relationship with Moses. Covenant.

    The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey — the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (3:7-10)

    “And I have heard the cry of my people.” Not of “the people” but of “my people.” “I am their God because I have a Covenant with them. And I will stay faithful to them. And out of that Covenant security, Moses, Iʼm sending you to do the work of my Kingship.” This is God’s challenge for Moses to be involved in kingdom work.
    God’s promises can be trusted. Where He guides, He provides. He doesn’t promise we’ll be happy and healthy all the time, but He honors obedience and faithfulness.

    So Moses is excited, grateful for the opportunity to lead the people of Israel, and joyfully accepts the challenge. Hardly!

    But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (3:11)

    And Moses says, “Not me! Anybody else but me!”
    Why does he resist?
    And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” (3:12)

    I will be with you. That’s a promise. It’s a promise that’s echoed throughout the pages of Scripture.

    Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? (Ps 139:7)

    And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt 28:20b)

    Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5)

    Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

    God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob — has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation. (3:13-15)

    God speaks to him about the Covenant: “I am the God of your Fathers. You are the Son of Abraham, the Son of Isaac, the Son of Jacob, that Identity comes from me and you know it!” And already we have the resonance of Fatherhood. Why are they fathers? Eventually we find that they are fathers because they are in Covenant with THE FATHER. But right now, in the unfolding revelation of Scripture, is a matter of life and blood and bone. But Moses hears from God, that God is in Covenant with him. “Youʼre mine.”
    “And I have heard the cry of my people.” Not of “the people” but of “my people.” “I am their God because I have a Covenant with them. And I will stay faithful to them. And out of that Covenant security, Moses, Iʼm sending you to do the work of my Kingship.” And Moses says, “Not me! Anybody else but me!”
    God invites Moses into relationship and challenges him to lead the people.

    But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” (4:13)

    Have you ever said that?

    Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. (4:14-16)

    What follows is a series of exchanges between Moses and Pharaoh, ten plagues, the last a plague of death in which the first-born child and animal of everyone in Egypt was killed—except for those Israelite homes that had the blood of a lamb on the sids and tops of the door frames. The death angel passed over those homes which leads us to call the celebration Passover. Finally, Pharaoh lets Moses and the people go.

    Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. (12:40)

    God was their king. Isn’t that great?!

    By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. (13:21)

    Moses surely thought the worst was over. The exodus from Egypt was going great…until Pharaoh had a change of heart.

    The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. (14:8)

    The Israelites are furious.

    Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (14:12)

    Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (14:13-14)

    Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. (14:15-16)

    The rest, as they say, is history.

    Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. (14:21-22)

    The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. (14:23)

    During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.” (14:24-25)

    Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen — the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. (14:26-28)

    But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. (14:29)

    And they all lived happily ever after! Hardly! For forty years they wandered in the wilderness, complained, disobeyed God, and drove Moses crazy!

    Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” (19:3-6)

    What is the “If?” It’s the Ten Commandments, not rules to follow, but instructions to obey.

    Who are you?

    Israel is to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. That may sound far from a group of Gentiles like us thousands of years later, but actually it applies to us. Through Jesus—whose live, death, and resurrection allowed us to be grafted into God’s story, we are a part of the kingdom. The kingdom is a people. It’s a people of priests. It’s a holy nation.

    The Rest Of The Story

    Moses leads the grumbling people for 40 years in the wilderness. There are highs and lows, but God remains faithful to Moses and the Israelites.

    So what?

    Without identity, obedience is just rules. With identity, it is an expression of love, something we desire to do.

    You can’t make God love you more by obeying Him. We can never be good enough, but Jesus is and we take on His identity.

    Moses understood his covenant identity and knew he had the backing of the King of heaven.

    For the Israelites and many of us obedience without Identity becomes the mark of their lives.


    You know itʼs a great thing to be obedient to the Lord, but he wants it to be out of your identity. And if you can be obedient out of your identity then you can function in power because you have received his authority. You see, identity and authority go together, and obedience and power go together. These are the key concepts of Covenant and Kingdom and they function as the Father, who is our King, reveals himself to us. Our identity is tied up with him. Because our identity is tied up with him, we are the children of God. And because we are the children of God we recognize that whatever he is, we are. Heʼs the King. We have royal blood running through our veins so we have the Kingʼs authority.

    Because power is tied up with obedience, and obedience flows out of identity. The way that it works is this: We know we are the children of God and out of that authority of being the children of God we are able to dispense that power that God places into our hands because authority will always lead to power. Because power without authority is always tyranny. And God never wants that. He wants his people to break the bonds of tyranny. He wants his people to feed the hungry. He wants them to lift up the weak and the broken. He wants them to come, in his authority, dispensing power, breaking the chains of the Kingdom of darkness. And we can only do this successfully and sustainably if you know both your Covenant and your Kingdom calling.

    Iʼve watched it so many times. The Kingdom becomes the subject. The Kingdom becomes the agenda. And people rush to do the works of the Kingdom and they begin to become detached from their sense of identity and they have no idea about the rhythm that is woven into their lives that is spoken of so clearly in Scripture:
    There is a rhythm of advance...and then return. There is a rhythm of working and resting. Of taking the works of the Kingdom and doing something for God and then returning and abiding in Jesus and being with him. And if you donʼt know that rhythm, you wonʼt sustain the work of God. Do you see that?

    Itʼs so important that we hear this. Itʼs out of our understanding of our Father that we reflect that our Father is the King.

    - Mike Breen


    Ideas for this series taken from book of the same title by Mike Breen and

    Loneliness, 8 June 2014

    Big Idea: We are never alone, must embrace that reality, and ensure others are loved and connected.

    There are droves of lonely people in the church, and that includes senior pastors and priests. The isolation comes from a lack of identification and identification comes through open communication. When we can be vulnerable and honest with one another, we understand each other in a profound way.

    A lonely person may walk in to a church alone and leave alone each Sunday. Although they appreciate the free coffee and donuts the fellowship hall offers, what they really want is fellowship. Taking time to get to know the people around you and then reaching out to them outside of the church will allow for a greater, more stable community.

    Of course, every church is different and while one church may be stronger in one area, it may be weaker in others. These are just a few issues that we as the Church Body need to be willing to address. And as we talk about them, we must remember to address them with humility, understanding and grace, keeping in mind our role as fellow hospital patients, not museum curators.



    What is the one factor that produces
    happiness in people? According to a recent study it is the presence of rich, deep, meaningful relationships.

    This should come as no surprise. Let’s go back—way back.

    Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26)

    God exists in community.
    God said let us make man in our image. Although we worship one God—unlike many polytheistic religions of the world—God exists in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and the often neglected God the Holy Spirit. One of our most precious hymns vibrantly declares this theological truth:

    “God in three Persons/Blessed Trinity” (
    Holy, Holy, Holy)

    God exists in community. I can’t entirely explain it, but there God
    is community. God is all about relationships.

    If you don’t believe me, turn a page or two to day six of the creation account in Genesis 2.

    The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

    The only thing that was not good during creation was a single man. It is not good for man to be alone! It is not good for woman to be alone.

    Is it any wonder that loneliness can be so devastating?

    “Ah look at all the lonely people.” -
    Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles

    Recent Studies on Loneliness

    If I had time, I could cite a barrage of research that indicates the negative effects of loneliness. It can affect our overall well-being. Disconnected, lonely people are more prone to an early death.

    Elderly people without adequate social interaction were twice as likely to die prematurely as those with friends.

    The increased mortality risk is similar to that of smoking and twice as dangerous as obesity.

    While loneliness is hardly new in our culture, it is growing. In the 1980’s about 20% of USAmericans were categorized as lonely.

    One study of those 45 and older revealed 37% of men and 34% of women were lonely, though the older one got the less lonely they felt.

    The percentage of lonely people has nearly doubled since the 80’s.

    How can this be when we are connected with cell phones, text, e-mail, video chat, and, of course, Facebook? After all, I have over one thousand Facebook friends so I couldn’t possibly ever experience loneliness. Right?!
    A recent study of Facebook users found the more time you spend on Facebook, the less happy you feel throughout the day.

    Are you lonely?

    The Loneliness Quiz (based upon the UCLA Loneliness Scale;

    Even if you scored low, there is no guarantee you will never feel lonely. Let’s face it, there are seasons of life during which we feel more lonely than others. I have certainly felt more lonely since my relationship with my dad began to erode with his terminal dementia.

    One study said 90% of men don’t have a true friend. That’s far more than a season. I must confess other than my wife, my best friend has lived in Delaware for more than twenty years. I cherish my relationship with him and we’ve been together at least once every single year, yet sometimes I wonder why I’ve been unable to establish such a relationship with someone local in more than two decades.

    If you’re feeling lonely, you’re in good company with me, King David, and probably every person that has ever breathed air—including Jesus.

    In our remaining time together I want to present three things:

    1. Jesus understands loneliness
    2. Jesus is with us in the midst of our loneliness
    3. As followers of Jesus, we are called to wipe out loneliness

    Jesus understands loneliness

    If you are lonely today, Jesus understands. Really.

    • - man of sorrows

    He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:3)

    • - homeless

    Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20; Luke 9:58)

    • - betrayed by one of His disciples, Judas
    • - one of His closest friends, Peter, denied Him three times
    • - His best friends deserted Him in the hour of His greatest need in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to His arrest (Matthew 26; Mark 14)
    • - He was tempted in every way and this included isolation (Hebrews 4:15)

    No matter how lonely you have felt, none of us have experienced the ultimate loneliness Jesus experienced on the cross—for us. Not only was He alone above the crowds (except for the two thieves hanging beside Him), He encountered the most horrific of all loneliness: separation from God.

    About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” — which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; this was a quote of Psalm 22:1)

    Hell is eternal separation from God and others. It is ground zero for loneliness.

    Jesus suffered my hell for me that I might one day enjoy His heaven with Him.

    Jesus knows loneliness.

    Jesus is with us in the midst of our loneliness

    The final words of Jesus recorded by Matthew as Christ ascends into heaven are

    …surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b)

    God said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5b; see Deuteronomy 31:6)

    I realize it’s very possible to be lonely even though you
    know God is with you, but let’s face it, sometimes it’s hard to acknowledge something you can’t see.
    For example, right now there are dozens and possibly hundreds of messages being sent to you and me. Can you hear them? Can you see them? Perhaps not, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t here. You can deny such waves exist, but that doesn’t make them go away. What we need, in fact, is a receiver to fully appreciate these messages. Any
    radio or television will allow us to tune in to these invisible waves.

    If Jesus walked into this room or any room in which you find yourself lonely, would you be less lonely? Of course!

    Jesus said something interesting when He left our planet.

    But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)

    Jesus is not here in this room in the flesh, but God is here. The Holy Spirit of God was unleashed on our planet about two thousand years ago and dwells within all believers. When we receive Jesus, we get the Holy Spirit, too.

    If you are a Christ-follower, declare God’s truth over the lies of the enemy. Satan wants us lonely, depressed, and discouraged. We can’t threaten his agenda of death and destruction when we are consumed with our own sadness.

    I’m not saying fake it and put on a happy face, but I am saying we need to know and speak the truth. If God is for us, who can be against us? We need to claim the authority we have in Jesus and the promises of God and acknowledge the presence of God with us. The Bible is like our radio or television, helping us see the reality of Emmanuel, God with us.

    But if God was enough, there was no need to create Eve. Adam had God in the Garden of Eden, yet God said it was not good.

    We need one another.

    As followers of Jesus, we are called to wipe out loneliness

    Look around the room. This is your family. I know, some of us are strange, but we’re all related by blood, the blood of Jesus. God has given us two simple yet daunting commands:

    • - love Him
    • - love others

    If we truly devoted ourselves to one another, I wonder how often we would be lonely. If we got beyond ourselves and intentionally reached out to one another, would it even be possible to be lonely?!

    Perhaps the problem isn’t the people in this room but it’s you. Maybe you’ve refused the invitations of others into deeper fellowship. When did you stop trusting people? Many have been so hurt by others that they build walls to protect themselves from being hurt again. Does that describe you? I’m not saying it’s easy, but I urge you to be vulnerable. Be honest. Open up. Trust. It may not be the entire church, but what would happen if you took a risk and shared something with your Life Group or even one or two people? Last Sunday David Hobson courageously shared with our entire church his struggles, and doing so encourages us to respond to him with our story.

    “You can only be loved to the extent that you're known.” That’s intimacy. I believe many are lonely because they’ve not let anyone in. I urge you to try…again. You might want to begin with a professional, biblical counselor. Family Counseling and Samaritan Counseling are two local centers that I’ve experienced. Their contact information:

    Family Counseling 734.477.9999 (quality Biblical counseling)
    Samaritan Counseling 734.677.0609 (quality Biblical counseling)
    Eileen Aveni, (quality Biblical counseling)

    Another great loneliness killer is serving others. Volunteer at Hope Clinic or another area non-profit. Serving others takes the focus off of ourselves and our pain and frequently opens new relationships to us.

    A Challenge

    Scio Community Church, I want to urge you to intentionally welcome the stranger(s) among us. As followers of Jesus, we are called to wipe out loneliness. How can we love our neighbor if we ignore them. I’m not suggesting we harass them (!), but as we have said in recent days, people aren’t looking for a friendly church. They are looking for friends. As we have guests, we must do more than shake their hand and smile, though that’s a good start. The only way we are going to see new people join our family is if we get out of our comfort zones and seek relationships with them. Here are a few simple things you can do any Sunday:

    1. Invite them to Life Group following our worship gathering
    2. Invite them to lunch after Life Group
    3. Invite them to coffee this week
    4. Get their phone or e-mail, if appropriate, and contact them
    5. Invite them to your home for a meal or party

    Scio, we offer one of the greatest things people today are seeking—relationships! Our annual theme is
    connect and we’ve been called by God to connect people up to Him, in to one another, and out to our world.

    The Bible is filled with exhortations regarding hospitality which is welcoming the stranger. Why? Because God is all about relationships. Are we?

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    We Are Heard, 23 February 2014

    Big Idea: We are heard by our Father—Daddy!

    Ephesians 3:14-21

    Our world is filled with noise. I don’t mean just sound, though sound is certainly a type of noise. We are daily bombarded with messages—thousands of them—from billboards to telemarketers to television, radio, texts, tweets, Facebook posts, phone calls, e-mails, snail mails, …

    Stop the madness!

    Is it any wonder that we struggle to communicate? Are we surprised that people are misunderstood? Despite all of our communication tools, we do not always effectively use them.

    This is especially true in interpersonal relationships and listening. How many times have you realized someone didn’t listen to a word you said? I’ve got great news this morning. God listens to us. God hears us. He’s with us right now, wants to speak, wants to listen, and wants to do life with us.

    We are in the middle of a series called “Who do you think you are?” a study of the book of Ephesians that examines our identity in Christ. We are in Ephesians chapter three, continuing what Jonathan Hurshman began last Sunday. J.I. Packer offers some profound thoughts about those first fourteen verses of Ephesians 3, a paragraph with a particular pattern:

    Paul is Christ’s prisoner because he’s a preacher of God’s plan and purpose to pagan people, Gentiles (3:1). He counts it a personal privilege to be such a preacher (8) because of his previous poor performance and the power that prepared him for preaching (7) and because of the preciousness of the Person and promise he proclaims (6, 8) and because of the pleasure and the profit produced by his proclamation. He has performed with his pen (3) and now prepares to pray for true perception of the glorious things of which he has been speaking.

    We have earlier noted how the first three chapters are filled with doctrine while the second half deals with application and ethics. Much of these first three chapters is actually a prayer rather than mere information including our text for today which begins:

    For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. (14-15)

    Paul was a man of prayer. He bows before the Father. Posture is important. It communicates to us, God, and sometimes others.

    raise hands
    lay prostrate on the floor

    It’s not uncommon at the PACT Pastors Prayer Summit for people to kneel or even lay on the floor in prayer.

    Paul prayed to the
    Father in the name of the LORD Jesus Christ. This is a model. Jesus said:

    In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 16:23)

    Jesus is our intercessor. He prays for us. We are to pray to the Father or Dad. I actually prefer the word “Daddy.” I love it when my kids call me “Daddy” or even “Dad” since Father seems so formal.

    Paul’s prayers were brief. Jesus’ prayers were brief, including John 17 (the Lord’s prayer for us). Actually, all prayers in the Bible are brief. We need not use vain repetition.

    The shortest prayer in the Bible is…Peter as he was sinking:

    But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30)

    I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (16-19)

    Being a Christian is more than praying a prayer. It is to become a little Christ. Paul wants Christ to live in us. Christ is to be our possession.

    New Testament scholar N.T. Wright translates verse 17

    that the king may make his home in your hearts, through faith; that love may be your root, your firm foundation…

    I love that. Jesus does not want to merely be an historical figure or even a living Person far away; He wants to live in our hearts. We talk about being Jesus with skin on or being the hands and feet of Jesus, but ultimately Jesus wants to live in our hearts. He wants us to be full of Himself!

    This is the only place in the Bible where it says to have Jesus in your heart. He doesn’t want your heart to be a hotel where He stays occasionally but a home where He resides. He wants to live in us and work in and through us.

    Are you full of Jesus? That’s His desire. He wants us full of love and power—His love and power. More of Jesus, less of me! Jesus wants to do life with us.

    He wants us to know God and His love.

    Only the Holy Spirit can lead us into God’s love (again we see the Trinity).

    Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (20-21)

    God hears and answers! This is a fantastic way to conclude a prayer! Listen to these words:

    immeasurably more
    His power
    within us
    glory in the church
    glory in Christ Jesus
    all generations

    Prayer is exciting and powerful!

    You can pray for others…or yourself. It’s ok. Paul prayed three times for God to remove a thorn in his flesh (2 Cor. 12:7-8).

    He is able to do more than we can imagine. I love that! I have quite the imagination, yet I often pray small, weenie prayers! The book of James tells us that “we have not because we ask not (James 4:2). We need to pray big, bold, audacious prayers and see what God does in response. He’s not a cosmic genie, but He loves His children.

    Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)

    Present your requests to God!

    Thoughts on Prayer

    Are you satisfied with your prayer life? Have you ever felt guilty because you don’t pray more? I’ve heard stories about people who spent hours every day on their knees in prayer and I think I’m a loser in comparison; after all, I get paid to pray 40 hours a week, right?!

    Like evangelism, helping the poor, and giving money to charity, we all know prayer is the right thing to do and we
    should do it more, but it’s not easy. In fact, sometimes prayer can be work.


    The key to prayer is the recipient. Who is God? If you view Him as a weak grandpa or an angry monster, prayer will be difficult!

    When we pray, we’re talking to our Dad. That’s it. You don’t need to use fancy words or get formal about it. Just talk to Dad. Don’t focus on prayer but on the Father.

    For some of you, you had a bad dad and have father wounds or you didn’t know your dad. Start with God and His character rather than your earthly father. He promises to be a Father to the fatherless (Ps 68:5).

    I’ve been blessed to have a great dad and watching his health deteriorate has been one of the most gut-wrenching things I’ve experienced. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to pick up the phone and call him, only realize we haven’t had a conversation in years. Nevertheless, the time I’ve spent with my dad has shaped me into the man I am today.

    Becoming a dad has helped me understand God more than anything else. God loves me even more than I love our kids, which is a lot!

    I love it when our kids talk with me. With one in Delaware, one in Grand Rapids, and one occasionally at home it’s often a highlight of my day to receive a text, e-mail, phone call, or—best of all—a FaceTime call from them. On Monday I celebrated a birthday (thanks for the cake last week!) and there was a moment when I was home with Heather and Kailey and I was video chatting with Trevor on one iPhone and Rachel on another so I saw all three of our kids at the same time! It was fantastic!

    They could’ve said “happy birthday” and hung up but, instead, we had a great family conversation for a while, almost as if we were all together in the same room. I loved every second!

    That’s how prayer is to God. The most beautiful sound in the universe to Him is the sound of your voice.

    He loves it when you praise and thank Him for things, just as I do as a dad.
    He loves it when you confess, apologize, and reconcile, just as I do as a dad.
    He loves it when you ask Him for things, just as I do as a dad.
    He even loves it when you are just still and quiet with Him, just as I do as a dad.

    Your Dad loves to be with you, hear from you, and know you!

    There’s nothing like time with your kids, regardless of their age. God doesn’t need us but He wants us.

    How To Pray

    Jesus’ followers struggled with prayer much like we do. In fact, they finally asked Jesus how to pray and He famously said

    “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:9b-13)

    Notice Jesus said “our” Father. There’s something special about God’s children praying together. I could’ve had three individual FaceTime chats with our three children on Monday but there was something special about us all being together at once. Dad loves it when His kids get along and share their hearts together.

    Individual Prayer Ideas

    Perhaps you—like me—find it easier to pray with others. Maybe your mind wanders when you’re alone…or even fall asleep when you close your eyes to pray! I have a few practical suggestions for you.

    Pray with others. That sounds obvious, doesn’t it? The Scio Soul lists various prayer gatherings that occur within Scio, including our 8:45 AM Sunday group. They would all love more participants.

    Write out your prayers in a notebook or even a laptop. Some of my best prayers are done on my Mac. I don’t do it daily, but I have literally years worth of prayers that I’ve typed and they provide a great reference for me…and maybe someday my children.

    Use a prayer list. This past week I realized I hadn’t looked at my prayer list in a while and discovered several prayer requests had been answered. A prayer list reminds you not only of things to pray for but also God’s faithfulness with past requests. Remember, God always answers our prayers, just not always how and when we desire.

    Pray continuously. When our children are home, we talk throughout the day. We don’t have to set up a formal appointment. We may schedule a long conversation about a particular matter, but often the best chats are spontaneous and short. Talk with Dad…wherever, whenever. Sometimes I’ll turn off the stereo in my car and talk out loud as if He’s with me—because He is! It’s not uncommon for me to marvel at a sunset, pray for a friend when I see them on Facebook, or grab Heather’s hand and pray when alerted of a crisis.

    Pray on the spot. Have you ever said to someone, “I’ll pray for you” and forgot? It’s embarrassing to have someone thank you for praying when, in fact, you never did! Years ago I e-mail a prayer request to a friend and he e-mailed a prayer back! I’ve done that on several occasions. I’ve also paused from activity to pray with or for someone in the moment.

    Sing. Prayer doesn’t have to be just words. Praise and worship is one way to talk with God.

    Listen. God speaks. It’s usually not audible, but through His Word, circumstances, the church, and prayer He is able to encourage, challenge, convict and guide us. My favorite verses in the Bible, Proverbs 3:5-6, tell us that if we trust Him, He will guide and direct our paths. He has certainly done that in my life more times than I can count. Prayer is not a one-way message but an interactive—albeit unique—conversation.

    If there’s one thing to know about prayer, just do it! Talk with Dad. He loves you. He loves your voice. He’s listening, and your prayers—our prayers—are heard. Hallelujah!


    Our Dad loves us. He wants to know us. He loves to talk with us. He hears us.

    Listen to Eugene Peterson’s translation of the final eight verses in
    The Message:

    I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength— that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

    God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. (16-20)
    Glory to God in the church!
    Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
    Glory down all the generations!
    Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes! (21)



    Some ideas from

    J.I. Packer, Ephesians (sermon series audio)
    Mark Driscoll,
    Who Do You Think You Are (book and podcast series)
    GLO Bible
    Louie Giglio, Passion City Church sermon series
    J. Vernon McGee
    , Thru The Bible,

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    The Vine & The Branches, John 15:1-17, 2 June 2013

    Big Idea: We must remain in Christ, even when we are being pruned.


    As we continue our series on the Gospel of John, Jesus continues His farewell address to His eleven disciples. They were in the Upper Room together before Jesus said, “Come now, let us leave” (14:31).

    Now they are probably between the Upper Room and the Garden of Gethsemane. John 15 and 16 are likely describing their conversation during their walk.


    Jesus may have walked by the gates of the temple. The gates were gold and woven with vines that stood for the nation of Israel.

    There are several instances when vines are mentioned in the Old Testament as a symbol of Israel. In each, however, Israel was lacking somehow.

    You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land. (Psalm 80:8-9)

    I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. “Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it.” The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress. (Isaiah 5:1-7)

    I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine? (Jeremiah 2:21)

    Israel was a spreading vine; he brought forth fruit for himself. As his fruit increased, he built more altars; as his land prospered, he adorned his sacred stones. (Hosea 10:1)

    Jesus is going to talk about the vine, an image of the nation of Israel. Notice what He says.

    “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. (15:1)

    Jesus is not just any vine but the true vine. It’s easy for us to see this as merely a gardening metaphor but its symbolism is even more rich. If the vine is Israel and He is the true vine, He’s making a very bold statement.

    True can be the opposite of false or the opposite of a counterfeit. Jesus is saying, “I’m the genuine vine.” Religion is not enough. Ceremonies and church attendance and giving to the poor is not enough. We need to identify with Jesus.

    We must be joined to Jesus, the vine, in order to bear fruit.

    He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (2-4)

    “In” when it precedes Jesus refers to being in Christ, trust Him as both Savior and LORD. This passage is about believers.

    Every unfruitful branch is cut off. Ouch!

    He prunes/purges/cuts or washes it. The Word of God is a cleansing power.

    “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (5-8)

    The Parable of the Sower describes planting and harvesting.

    What is fruit? The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

    J. Vernon McGee said the fruit is

    Prayer effectual (8)
    Fruit perpetual (8)
    Joy celestial (11)

    How does God remove the branch? He takes them from the place of bearing fruit. They’re no longer effective in their ministry or they die (Ananias and Sapphira are an example).

    Purge or pruning actually means “to cleanse” in the Greek. They used water to wash the vine from bugs and debris.

    Pruning can be painful but it’s done to promote growth. We rarely grow through success, health, and happiness. Our greatest growth comes in the midst of defeat, loss, and suffering. A popular TV show years ago was called “Growing Pains.” No pain, no gain.

    Pruning is not a sign that God is against us but that He loves us, He wants the best for us. As difficult as it is, we need to embrace pain.

    The closer we get to the LORD, we less pain we feel. If you are ever in a fight, step toward the person.

    Several years ago around New Year’s Day I was driving I-75 from Florida to Michigan. It’s a long drive, nearly 24 hours, and with everyone else in the vehicle sleeping I took some time to prayer, seeking God, His voice, and direction. I still remember five distinct words, not audible but clear: the tree will be pruned. I immediately knew He was speaking of the church where I was a pastor. It was a powerful, prophetic word that guided me throughout that year. We saw people leave our church, the numbers decreased, but the church became more healthy and strong.

    Sometimes less is more. Sometimes God wants to clear out the baggage in our lives in order for us to produce more fruit—love, obedience and faithfulness in our lives.

    Speaking of love, now we come to some love verses. Don’t mistaken these for greeting card sentiment. Jesus is going to tell us what love really is.

    As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (9-11)

    He again connects love and obedience.

    He also mentions joy, part of the fruit of the Spirit.

    My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. (12-17)

    We can’t…unless we are connected to the Vine.


    I have one simple question: are you connected to the true Vine?

    The metaphor is clear: if we’re disconnected, we die.

    There are many good things in our world that will give you inspiration and energy, but connecting a branch to a can of Coke or an electric socket or an iPhone or even the Bible won’t allow it to grow. The only way a branch can grow is if it is connected to a living, breathing vine, in this case Jesus Christ.

    I want to conclude with some thoughts from A.W. Tozer’s class book
    The Pursuit of God. Notice what he says about knowing Jesus Christ.

    There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives…Thanks to our splendid Bible societies and to other effective agencies for the dissemination of the Word, there are today many millions of people who hold "right opinions," probably more than ever before in the history of the Church. Yet I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the Church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the "program." This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us.…The modern scientist has lost God amid the wonders of His world; we Christians are in real danger of losing God amid the wonders of His Word. We have almost forgotten that God is a Person and, as such, can be cultivated as any person can.
    A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, quoted in Intuitive Leadership by Tim Keel (p. 125)
    How is your relationship with Jesus? Living things grow. Remain in Him!

    You can listen to the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Listen to God, b.l.e.s.s., 13 January 2013

    Bless Everyone
    Series: b.l.e.s.s.

    Big Idea:
    Listen to God.


    Last week we began our new year with our new series and annual theme, b.l.e.s.s. We said that we have been blessed to be a blessing. This is a theme throughout history, most prominently in God’s covenant with Abram.

    The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

    We have defined success for Scio Community Church:

    We exist to fulfill the Great Commission and follow the Great Commandment by 

    - serving our communities

    - sharing our story
    - sending disciples to bless the nations

    so that God is glorified.

    Last week’s challenge was...bless one person. Who and how did you bless last week? Don’t stop! It is my hope and prayer that Scio is known as a community of people that bless others. Today I’m going to introduce a second thing that I hope we are known for, but first let’s pray.


    We just prayed. What is prayer? I used to think it was talking to God, but it is talking with God.

    Do you like to talk? It has been said that we were given one mouth and two ears, suggesting that we ought to spend more time...listening.


    Today’s word is “listen.”

    Have you noticed how hard it is to get someone to listen...really listen? You can’t even call customer service and get someone to have to wait for twelve pre-recorded prompts before you can even talk to a human being!

    I find it challenging to be a good listener. Do you?

    It has been said that the opposite of listening is not speaking, but rather waiting to speak. It’s easy to think about what you want to say rather than truly hearing the other person.

    Don’t believe me? Check out these gems from

    “I don’t like to think before I speak. I like to be just as surprised as everyone else by what comes out of my mouth.”

    “I wasn’t ignoring you, I just simply forgot to listen.”

    “If I’m not trying to interrupt you, I’m probably not listening.”

    “Thanks for listening to my problems and somehow making it all about you.”

    “Sure, I’m a good listener. As long as we are talking about how great I am.”

    Being fully present in the moment and truly listening to another is rare. Listening may be as powerful as anything you ever say.

    How many of you have heard God speak in an audible voice?

    If we’re honest, we might not want God to speak to us. We might be afraid that He’ll send us to Africa or take away all of our fun. The truth is, our Father loves us and wants the best for us...always. Always. It’s a matter of trust. If prayer is more than talking to God, it obviously involves listening to God.

    How Do I Listen?

    “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

    Being still and listening to God can feel very awkward.

    There are actually many ways in which we can hear from God. The first one—seen in the video clip—is the Bible. This is why it’s essential for us to be in God’s Word every day—not simply to tell everyone at the end of the year that we’ve finished reading the New Testament, but to listen to God.

    He also speaks through circumstances, people, and often a still, small voice in our hearts, a voice that is not audible, but often just as real.

    What has God been saying to you lately?

    God’s Timing

    As much as I love to think about prayer as a conversation with God and not merely talking to God, I must admit that many of the most significant things that God has spoken to me were not instantaneous responses to my prayers/questions. In fact, when I have set aside a minute or an hour or a day...or even a few days at the annual Pastors Prayer Summit, He rarely speaks on demand. I always leave those listening times at peace, though, knowing that I quieted my heart in order to hear God if He did have something to say to me at that moment.

    I found this brief interview with Mother Teresa. I can’t very its authenticity, but it seems legitimate.

    Interviewer: So you talk to God?
    Mother Teresa: Yes.
    Interviewer: What do you say?
    Mother Teresa: Nothing.
    Interviewer: Does he talk back?
    Mother Teresa: Yes.
    Interviewer: What does he say?
    Mother Teresa: Nothing.

    Actions speak louder than words. Sometimes words get in the way. Presence is all you need.

    God wants to speak to us. He wants nothing more than a relationship with us. Some Christians talk about a relationship, but what they mean is Jesus died, they prayed a prayer, and now they’re going to heaven and can live life like everyone else.

    Friends, God

    I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. (Proverbs 8:17)

    You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

    I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.

    Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. (Habakkuk 2:1-2)

    Often, when I least expect it, God speaks to me...surprise! I don’t know if He would speak as clearly, though, if I had consistently ignored Him. Spend time with God and you will hear His voice...eventually.


    The challenge this week is simple:
    spend one hour listening to God. You have 168. Can you spare one?

    “What do I do for an hour?” you may ask.

    Be still. Be quiet. Some of you are ready right now and others are freaking out!

    In case you are envisioning sitting in your room, silent, for an hour, staring at the wall, let me suggest some tools to assist you.

    1. Prepare. This might include fasting or even asking others to pray for your time. It involves setting aside time. Don’t rush. You cannot expect to share a great dinner with a friend in 60 seconds, nor can you expect a great conversation with God on the fly. Also, find a good—usually quiet—place.

    2. Ask Questions. One of the best ways to listen to God is to simply ask Him a question. Following last week’s message and our annual theme bless, ask God, “Who and how can I bless today?”

    3. Listen

    My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,... (James 1:19)

    4. Take notes. Write down whatever thoughts/impressions you might have.

    I often do what I call red-letter journaling. I will type out my prayers on my laptop and then change the text color to red, ask God to speak, and I type everything that comes to mind.


    A man once asked God, “Why don’t you feed the starving people around the world?” to which God replied, “Why don’t you feed the starving people around the world?”

    Note: God may speak through others. Keep your ears open!

    How Do You Know It Is God?

    Many cults have been formed after a person thought they heard God...and didn’t. How do we know it is God? First, it takes time. Imagine that I called you on the phone for the first time...a phone without Caller ID! You’d probably be pleasant for a while and eventually ask, “Who is this?”

    Disclaimer: for those under 25, a phone call is what we used to do with phones before texting!

    If I called you a few more times, eventually you’d recognize my voice and say, “Hi Kirk!” You know my voice.

    There are few ways you can test whether the message you
    think is from God is not bad lunch...or wishful thinking...or the enemy.

    Jesus said, “
    My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

    1. First and foremost, what does the Bible say? God will not contradict Himself. Period. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

    1. 2. Seek wise counsel. Godly men and women can often discern the source of messages. (Proverbs 11:14)

    1. 3. Pray for confirmation. If the message is persistent, it may be valid. (Matthew 18:16)

    4. Is it possible? If it is, it might not be from God. He loves to work through our weakness. If it seems crazy, it
    might be from God! (2 Corinthians 12:10)

    1. 5. Do you have peace about it? (Colossians 3:15)

    1. 6. Obey God. This goes back to the first test. You have to know the Truth...Jesus and His Word. Don’t expect it to be politically correct, either!

    Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

    Jesus Listened

    Have you ever noticed how many times Jesus got away to pray? I used to think He did all of the talking, but He listened to the Father. He spent forty days fasting and praying before selecting the twelve disciples. He asked if there was a Plan B in the Garden of Gethsemane before He was arrested and crucified. He made time for the Father. See Luke 22:39-44 as an example.

    I doubt Jesus spent time asking the Father for more safety, comfort, or pleasure. He was seeking the will of the Father, and we can seek it, too...but be prepared to act.

    Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25)

    Acts 12:25 – 13:3
    When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.

    In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

    How did the early church listen to God?
    They heard from God as they worshipped and fasted…as they were laying down their own agendas for God’s. As the early church leaders were worshipping and fasting, they heard from God. God inspired them to send out Barnabas and Saul for the sake of blessing other people.

    My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers

    They said to Moses, ’You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die’ `—Exodus 20:19

    We don’t consciously and deliberately disobey God— we simply don’t listen to Him. God has given His commands to us, but we pay no attention to them— not because of willful disobedience, but because we do not truly love and respect Him. “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (
    John 14:15). Once we realize we have constantly been showing disrespect to God, we will be filled with shame and humiliation for ignoring Him.

    “You speak with us, . . . but let not God speak with us . . . .” We show how little love we have for God by preferring to listen to His servants rather than to Him. We like to listen to personal testimonies, but we don’t want God Himself to speak to us. Why are we so terrified for God to speak to us? It is because we know that when God speaks we must either do what He asks or tell Him we will not obey. But if it is simply one of God’s servants speaking to us, we feel obedience is optional, not imperative. We respond by saying, “Well, that’s only your own idea, even though I don’t deny that what you said is probably God’s truth.”

    Am I constantly humiliating God by ignoring Him, while He lovingly continues to treat me as His child? Once I finally do hear Him, the humiliation I have heaped on Him returns to me. My response then becomes, “Lord, why was I so insensitive and obstinate?” This is always the result once we hear God. But our real delight in finally hearing Him is tempered with the shame we feel for having taken so long to do so.

    For Further Study

    Credits: some materials borrowed from Charles Kiser (

    You can listen to the podcast here.