Prayer Guide – 08/21/2017

Evening Prayer: August 21, 2017

  1. Take a moment of silence to calm and center yourself before God; before you begin to speak to God, first come to Him ready to quiet your heart and to listen.  Allow the Holy Spirit to focus your attentions and affections as you begin.

 

  1. Meditate on and consider this prayer from Psalm 119:162-168:

 

I rejoice at your word

like one who finds great spoil.

I hate and abhor falsehood,

but I love your law.

Seven times a day I praise you

for your righteous rules.

Great peace have those who love your law;

nothing can make them stumble.

I hope for your salvation, O LORD,

and I do your commandments.

My soul keeps your testimonies;

I love them exceedingly.

I keep your precepts and testimonies,

for all my ways are before you.

 

  1. Peace is found in the presence of God and it is a gift to us in Christ alone. Take some time to confess all of the different places you have sought out peace. Ask the Holy Spirit to do a work of repentance in your heart that you might turn to Him for peace both now and in the future. Confess your trust in the Lord for his continued deliverance.

 

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.   – Romans 16:20

 

  1. We receive the peace of Christ in our life by faith in Christ. That faith might be expressed in recognizing the Christ is powerful enough to secure peace for you, and that he is good enough to give His peace to you; all of this by his cross and resurrection. Worship Christ the redeemer and peacemaker. Proclaim the glory of his excellence. Pour out your affection on the one who has made a way for you and brought you to God.

 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.   – Colossians 1:15-20

 

  1. The gospel of peace transforms us into peacemakers and into messengers of God’s peace in the world. Take a moment and consider the Scriptures below, and ask God to do a work in your life as one who brings His peace. What actions do I need to take? What relationships need to be restored? Where should I be preaching the gospel of peace?

 

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” – Matthew 5:9

 

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. – James 3:17-18

 

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

– Hebrews 12:14

 

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. – 2 Corinthians 13:11

 

  1. Pray on behalf of three specific people, entreating God to act on their behalf, to bring them peace, and to meet their deepest and most real needs.

 

  1. Pray that our church, Freshwater, would be a vessel of blessing to this community, that our fellowship would be bound together by the Holy Spirit, that we would be empowered and compelled to carry out God’s mission for us, and that by His mercy, God would release us from all our debts so that we might devote our resources more fully to the spread of the gospel  now and in the years to come.

 

  1. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, Amen.

Be blessed as you go; know that the work of prayer is a work of eternal significance.

“To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world” -Karl Barth

 

My Misconceptions about the State of Israel

Experiencing any culture for the first time can always be a shocking experience. I felt like my time in Israel was especially jolting because I had encountered a form of Israeli society in the Bible. It was too easy to import many of my presuppositions onto Israel. Here are a few examples of the misconceptions I had concerning Israel, and the truth of the matter I discovered.

  1. Only Jews live in Israel

Isn’t Israel supposed to be the homeland for the Jews? Therefore, only Jews should live there, right? On the contrary, Israel contains diversity within its population. Just under 75% of those living in Israel are ethnic Jews, while the second largest demographic (around 21%) are the Arabs.

So what’s the big deal? Why does it matter that not everyone living in Israel is a Jew? Israel seems to exist in perpetual conflict with herself because of the people living within her borders. Arabs are those who lived in the land of Israel (formerly known as the land of Palestine before the founding of the state of Israel in 1948) before Jews started immigrating there in the late nineteenth century. As can be inferred from the statistics above, the fact that so many Arabs still live in Israel to this day means that many are not willing to give up their land just yet. This reality brings with it conflict and racial tension.

  1. Everyone in Israel is religious

Maybe you were confused when I said that the majority of Israel’s population is comprised of “ethnic Jews.” “An ‘ethnic Jew’, you say? I thought Judaism was a religion, not an ethnicity!” Well, yes; Judaism is a religion, but just because a person is Jewish does not mean that they practice Judaism. A person is considered a Jew if they trace their lineage back to Abraham and are originally from the land of Judea (JEW-de-a). Jewishness is usually an ethnicity, not necessarily a religion. Although, a non-(ethnic) Jew can also be considered a Jew if they convert to the religion of Judaism.

Therefore, in Israel you can meet a “secular” Jew, a “religious” Jew, or an “ethnic” Jew. These qualifiers are meant to help us understand that not everyone who is born into a Jewish family decides to practice the religion that is connected to their heritage. It is important that you do not assume when talking to a self-identifying Jew that they are religious.

  1. Jews clearly have the sole right to live in Israel

This is one of the most controversial topics surrounding the nation of Israel. Most people believe that since Jews make up the majority of the population in the land of Israel that this is the way it has always been. As mentioned above, modern Jews did not start arriving in the land of Palestine before the late 1800’s. The land was largely populated by a group of Arabs, with only a handful of Jews living in the region. The Arabic exodus from the land of Palestine occurred for a variety of reasons, but one of the major immigrations occurred after the war for Israel’s independence in 1948. As a result of the war, 700,000 Arabs were forced to seek refuge in surrounding countries.

So now there exists two competing narratives concerning who has the right to the land of Israel. Israelis believe that they have the right to the land, appealing to their religious history. Arabs also believe that they ought to live in the land, appealing to their hundreds of years of existence in the land prior to the Jewish immigration. As an example of these two narratives, consider the names that each people group assigns to the 1948 war. Arabs call that war the Nakba (“the catastrophe”), because it was a day of tragedy for them. Israelis named it the War of Independence, since they gained their freedom from this war. This double narrative constitutes the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When approaching this conflict, we must have humility in the face of a complex reality.

  1. The modern nation of Israel was born out of religious fervor

Israel has been in exile for hundreds of years. They lived under foreign rulers for ages. They longed to return to their land, praying that God would give them that which He promised. This is the narrative I received in the Bible, so I believed that this must be the mindset of modern Jews as well.

Wrong.

Israel was born out of a movement known as “Zionism.” While this movement does have its religious proponents, its founders were mainly secular. Most of the early leaders of the Zionist movement were influenced by the haskalah, which “sought to reform the Jewish emphasis on tradition and collectivism and to import into Jewish society a more rational, analytical, intellectual, and individualistic way of life” (Daniel Gordis, Israel : A Concise History of a Nation Reborn, pg. 13). This Jewish reform directly resulted from the Enlightenment of the 18th century. Zionism mainly concerned itself with establishing a national homeland for the Jewish people, since the Jews had been facing violent persecution in their current European homes. It also desired to create a “new Jew,” unlike those Jews who lived like victims to their European colonial powers. This new Jew would be self-sufficient, strong, and powerful. This movement still exerts powerful influence in present-day Israel. Zionism presents a different picture of Judaism than what we are handed in the Bible, because modern Jews have a very different history than the Jews we find in the Bible (2,000 years have passed since the Bible was written!). We must be sensitive to modern narratives surrounding the Jewish people, not just ancient ones.

  1. Jerusalem looks exactly like it did when Jesus was alive

While this final thought is humorous, it is very true. When we entered into the golden city of Jerusalem, I half-expected to see donkeys, wooden carts, people wearing long robes, and lots of hemp sandals. Sadly, I only saw those things while on a tour in Nazareth at a place which was created to look like the Nazareth of Jesus’ day.

Modernity has reached Israel. On our way to the famous Western Wall, we passed Israeli coffee chains, pizza and burger restaurants, and souvenir shops. Our first night out on the town in Jerusalem included youth dancing to electronic dance music on the top of a van. People drive cars! Israelis wear Western clothes. Modernization has come to Israel, causing it to look very different from Jesus’ day.

I share my misconceptions to help you broaden your thinking about the nation of Israel. Sometimes in Christian sub-culture we can get so caught up in our own presuppositions that we don’t consider the reality of a situation. All that I have shared with you is incredibly condensed, but I hope that this post has stimulated you to consider alternate perceptions of the reality in Israel. I pray that these facts will help deepen your theological thinking about ancient, modern, and end time realities surrounding Israel. Many conversations in theology surround the role of Israel in God’s end-time plan, and some of the facts above have caused me to rethink my positions regarding Israel’s role. I also hope that these facts will help you engage political conversations about the nation of Israel in a more nuanced manner. Nuanced thinking destroys false presuppositions and thinking about Israel in new ways helps us engage theology and dialogue better.

When in Israel

I would like to welcome Collin Campbell to the Freshwater Blog. Collin and his wife, Laura, are apprentices at Freshwater and they have been with us since coming to Bolivar three years ago. Collin can often be found behind the drums on a Sunday morning; he loves coffee, travel, reading and discussing theology, and he really loves the newlywed life!

Over the next several posts Collin is going to be writing for the blog to share his insights from their recent trip to Israel. I hope you enjoy reading Collin’s reflections as much as I have, and I trust they will be insightful and meaningful to you. Please welcome Collin to the blog.    – Pastor Dave

One week after returning from our honeymoon, my wife Laura and I found ourselves on a plane once again. This time we ended up in a part of the world that neither one of us would have expected a year ago: the land of Israel. Neither one of us knew quite what to expect from our time in Israel, but neither one of us expected the land to change our hearts so much.

Laura and I returned from our trip a little over a week ago. Many people have asked us how the trip went, and I wanted to be able to share some of the insights we gleaned from the trip for the whole church. In this post I want to explain the nature of the trip so that you can know the context of some of the things I will be reflecting on in later posts.

First, the trip was sponsored by the incredible organization named Passages Israel. Passages exists to educate Christian leaders from the United States about the historical roots of their faith and the modern geopolitical situation in Israel. While in Israel, we split our time evenly between these two topics. We visited ancient sites such as Capernaum, Nazareth, the Upper Room, and the Mount of Olives, being taught about the historical and biblical significance of these sites. These sites in Israel were no farther than a two-hour bus ride from where we found ourselves at any moment, reminding us just how small the space Jesus spent His life in really was.

On the geopolitical side of things, we heard from speakers from all over the spectrum. We heard from Palestinian journalists, a Christian pastor living in Palestine, a member of Israel’s parliament, and others to garner multiple perspectives on the current political conflicts in Israel. It dawned on me during that the land of Israel is inhabited by more than just Jews, and that the Jews compete with other ethnic groups for the right to exist in the land of Israel. Our group also made visits to Israel’s borders with other countries so that the complex political relationship Israel has with her neighbors could be visualized and understood. Prior to this, I was completely unaware that Israel is not always admired internationally.

In the next few posts I will describe some of the reflections I had while on this trip. One will focus on the misconceptions I had about the modern state of Israel, while two others will describe spiritual reflections I had while on the trip. The state of Israel is a beautiful but complex mess, like most of us. My understanding of the modern state of Israel, my theological/biblical stance on Israel, and my personal faith have all been deeply affected and altered by my time in Israel. Understanding this land and its people have deepened my hope in the gospel and made me more aware of my spiritual heritage.  I hope that these posts can function to encourage you and help you understand these things for yourself as well.

Evening Prayer – June 05, 2017

 

  1. Take a moment of silence to calm and center yourself before God; before you begin to speak to God, first come to Him ready to quiet your heart and to listen.  Allow the Holy Spirit to focus your attentions and affections as you begin.

 

  1. Pray Psalm 131

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;

   my eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things

   too great and too marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

   like a weaned child with its mother;

   like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord

   from this time forth and forevermore.

  1. Praise God for his glory clearly revealed in that which he has created:

The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour out speech;

night after night they communicate knowledge.

There is no speech; there are no words;

their voice is not heard.

Their message has gone out to the whole earth,

and their words to the ends of the world.

In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun.

It is like a bridegroom coming from his home;

it rejoices like an athlete running a course.

It rises from one end of the heavens

and circles to their other end;

nothing is hidden from its heat.

  1. Praise God for the goodness, glory, truth, permanence, and limitless worth of his commands and promises:

The instruction of the Lord is perfect, renewing one’s life;

the testimony of the Lord is trustworthy, making the inexperienced wise.

The precepts of the Lord are right, making the heart glad;

the command of the Lord is radiant, making the eyes light up.

The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever;

the ordinances of the Lord are reliable and altogether righteous.

They are more desirable than gold—than an abundance of pure gold;

and sweeter than honey dripping from a honeycomb.

In addition, your servant is warned by them,

and in keeping them there is an abundant reward.

  1. Ask God to search your heart and reveal the sin in your life, that He would not let you turn a blind eye to the sins you’ve committed by doing what ought not be done or by not doing what He has called you to do. Confess to him with the assurance that if we are faithful to confess our sins, our God is faithful and just to forgive!

Who perceives his unintentional sins?

Cleanse me from my hidden faults.

Moreover, keep your servant from willful sins;

do not let them rule me.

Then I will be blameless

and cleansed from blatant rebellion.

May the words of my mouth

and the meditation of my heart

be acceptable to you,

Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

 

  1. Take a moment of silence to receive with gratitude the forgiveness of sins that is yours through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, his body and blood broken and shed for the forgiveness of sin.

 

  1. As one who has been forgiven, ask God to reveal to you if there is forgiveness you need to grant; is there forgiveness you are withholding from another?  (Matthew 6:14-15)

 

  1. Pray on behalf of others, entreating God to act on their behalf, to meet their deepest and most real needs.

 

  1. Gregory Palamos, a 14th century monk once said: “This is the nature of prayer: that it raises one from earth to heaven, higher than every heavenly name and dignity, and brings one before the very God of all.”

 

  1. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, Amen.

Be blessed as you go; know that the work of prayer is a work of eternal significance.

“To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world” -Karl Barth

 

Hometown Boy

It’s hard to be the “hometown boy.” It’s tough to be the person that everyone assumes they know really well because what people think they know about you can, at times, put some severe limitations on what they believe they can know about you.

 

Jesus knew this pretty well.

 

In Luke 4, Jesus makes his return to his hometown of Nazareth, fresh off having caused no small miracle-driven uproar in Capernaum. This should be a glorious homecoming, and indeed it does begin with some fanfare as those whom Jesus grew up among have no doubt heard chatter about the things their hometown hero has done in neighboring communities.

 

But, at a certain point things go south pretty quick. Jesus senses the proverbial “familiarity” that breeds “contempt,” and begins calling it out by offering his oft-quoted pronouncement about how prophets don’t typically do well on their home turf; people like to think they’ve got others, especially those close to them, ‘figured out,’ so when the crowd who’d come to see a “hometown boy makes good” story get something other, something much harder to swallow from Jesus, things quickly run right off the cliff (pun intended).

 

It’s not uncommon for those of us today, those of us who have believed Jesus is exactly who he claimed to be, to read such stories and puzzle as to how people missed the signs. It is easy to be utterly baffled by the actions of Jesus’ community or to even look at them with contempt.

 

Yeah, that’s easy. What’s hard is realizing that we often live out the same script. Especially for those of us who’ve grown up in church culture or walked with Jesus for some time, it’s hard sometimes to see in ourselves that we assume ourselves so familiar with Christ that we no longer have space in our hearts for him to speak a prophetic word, to call us out, to shock us, to expose the fact that we aren’t as tuned into his mission (outlined via his remix of the prophet Isaiah early in Luke 4) as we might have always believed we were.

 

What does it look like for us to recover that space? What might it look like if we didn’t hem Jesus in under the strictures of our own limiting expectations, treating him as the “hometown boy” with whom we’re so familiar that anything shocking or challenging he might offer us is met with (at best) quick dismissal, dubious indifference, or (at worst) violent rejection akin to the first annual Nazarite Prophet-Tossing competition we nearly see in Luke 4?

 

For the record, it does no good to try and reject the challenging words of Jesus. If Luke 4 is any indication, he’ll simply go on about his mission, leaving us cliffside to work out our indignation.

 

Praying we’d let the prophet be prophet, that we’d have space in our hearts to accept Jesus’ words even when, as in John 6, they are “hard teachings.” For surely Peter was right that it is only Jesus who has the “words of life.”

 

Andy

Christmas Day

I’m almost 37, and though some would laugh if I called myself old, I’ve started to notice some patterns in my behavior suggesting my departure from youth has kicked into a higher gear. What patterns, you ask? Well, for starters, my bedtime ain’t what it used to be. Whereas in my mid-20’s, midnight was the average, now staying up past 9:00 at night feels like a wild, carefree evening. Seriously, managing to stay awake long enough to catch the 10 o’clock news fits my definition of “living dangerously” these days.  

 

But here’s another interesting change in my behavior; I’ve suddenly gotten into staring at birds. A few weeks back, and I still don’t know what possessed me to do this, I detoured into Menard’s feeling some inexplicable  urge to buy a bird feeder. The younger version of myself would never have cared enough about bird watching to plunk down cash on a feeder or seed just so I could stare at them out my window; that’s something older people do, right?

 

Well, I guess that’s me now because last Sunday morning, I sat for roughly an hour by my window, captivated as I watched sparrows, finches, and other winged friends feast just a few feet away. It was awesome, probably one of the most relaxing and engaging hours I’ve had in a long, long time.

 

And here’s another change that’s come with age: I now love when Christmas falls on Sunday. This was definitely not the case when I was young. As a kid, I felt pretty convicted that Christmas morning was to be spent at home ripping open presents and enjoying the spoils of my gift-loving family’s generosity. I remember being a bit perturbed when Christmas had the audacity to fall on a Sunday, thus allowing church services to interrupt my merriment (how inconvenient of the good Lord to schedule on top of my plans, right?)

 

But that’s the mindset of a kid, I suppose, and I’m not a kid anymore (I have the male pattern baldness to prove it). These days, I get excited when Christmas morning involves a chance to gather with others to celebrate the birth of Christ the Savior. Where else would I want to be on that morning than with my brothers and sisters who share the belief that God took on flesh and dwelt among us, those who rejoice that the infinite Creator chose to enter into creation as a newborn laid in a manger, no crib for a bed? What else would I want to be doing on Christmas morning other than singing “Go Tell it on the Mountain” alongside others who know that song isn’t just a catchy seasonal tune, but a charge given to all those who accept the angelic message given to common shepherds of a Messiah born in Bethlehem?

 

There’s nowhere else I’d rather be on Christmas morning than in the house of God, standing shoulder to shoulder with my spiritual family, celebrating that the Word of God put on flesh and dwelt among us, that the Christ came…and he’s coming back again someday.

 

Blessings to you this Christmas; may peace and joy well up in your heart as you as you celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

Weekly Prayer:

Father, just as Jesus’ arrival into the world shined the radiant light of your kingdom into a weary and darkened world, may we who are indwelt by your Holy Spirit carry that same light of hope into every place darkened by confusion, pain, injustice, desperation, and evil. May the faithful presence of your people proclaim tidings of great joy, peace on earth, and goodwill to men.

 

Weekly Readings:

 

Luke 2:1-21

Matthew 1:18-2:12

John 1:1-18

Christmas Air

Serious question: how do you feel about air?

If you’re reading this, then I think I can safely put money on the fact that you’re a fan. You’ve certainly breathed your share of it, right?

If I’m being honest, I don’t think much about air. I know it’s there, and since I am an expert in all things medical (not true), I understand that it’s fairly vital to my survival. However, I don’t recall any points in life where I’ve just stopped and thought to myself, “Oh my goodness, isn’t it astounding that floating around me at all times is the very gas my body needs to survive? And isn’t it a bit crazy that the muscles in my lungs contract to pull that in through my nose and put that gas in proximity to organs that somehow know exactly how to swap that gas out for waste gas, sending the good stuff throughout my body and returning the waste using blood cells?”

No, I don’t think about that much…or ever. I’ve spent almost 37 years repeating this process over and over, my survival dependent upon the abundance of air all around me, but it doesn’t typically leave me in any particular awe or wonder. Why? Because I’m so familiar with it. It’s just so routine that I suppose I’m a bit “cold” to the fact that the whole thing is utterly and infinitely fascinating (to which the biology enthusiasts in the crowd gave a hearty “Amen!”).

I’ve also spent nearly 37 years in church. I’ve been around the Bible as long as I’ve been around. I’ve read the Christmas story more times than I can recall, and after more than three decades of proximity and familiarity, I think I know it pretty well.

So here’s a bit of hard confession. Some days I find myself reading the Christmas story without wonder. There are times when I read about the infinite God of creation entering the world in humility as a child with the same excitement I have when reading a social studies textbook (to which all the social studies enthusiasts gave a derisive glare).

And I wonder if that doesn’t come from some warped sense of familiarity that sets me to thinking, “Oh, I know all this; I’ve read it all before” as soon as I begin reading. Perhaps it’s the worst effect of thinking, “Dutiful Christians read this story around Christmas, and I’m not about to leave that box unchecked.” Familiarity and routine. A lot like breathing, right?

Perhaps there is a connection between the fact that James warned believers to keep themselves unstained by the world around them and Jesus advised his hearers to become like little children, those who have not yet let the world dampen their ability to wonder and be amazed at the things we “serious-minded” adults have become anesthetized to.

So here’s what I’m doing very intentionally this year. I’m repenting of forgetting the beauty, the mystery, and the joy of the Christmas story. I’m praying that God would rid me of the delusion that I’ve somehow seen all there is to see in the Christmas story. I’m praying that I’d have “eyes to see and ears to hear” the limitless hidden treasures of the Christmas narrative that are still there to be found by those who would seek them. I’m asking God, in this Advent season, to awaken in my heart a  childlike imagination that is filled with wonder and amazement, one that is near to the heart of God himself.

Quite simply, this Christmas, I refuse to let familiarity be an impediment to fascination.

May we, followers of Christ, be filled with awe this Christmas season. Truly, there is no story like our story. It is simply too good to be true…and yet it is.

Andy

 

Weekly Prayer:

God, grant me the strength to be like a child. Never let my heart grow cold to the glorious, scandalous, beautiful truth that at just the right moment, you who are infinite became small, entering the world as a child laid in a manger. When I am tempted to hear that story with indifference, make young what has grown old in my heart, fill me with the fascination and wonder and allow me to hear anew in my heart the song the angels sang on the night of Christ’s birth, “Glory to God in the highest; peace on earth, goodwill to men!”

Weekly Readings:

Luke 1:5-25