Tag Archives: community

Reasons To Pray When Things Don’t Make Sense

I vividly remember the phone call I got late that night. I knew that at some point my brother was to come home. I was just hanging out watching TV and, “ring ring…”. I answer the phone call and it’s the authorities letting me know that my brother had gotten in an accident and is unconscious. It was me and my parents at home that night. I remember us and people from the church praying and asking God to have mercy and deliver him, there was no script, there was no perfect way of saying it, but what we were saying was, “God, spare my brother’s life… please God, Spare my brother’s life.” I knew, somewhere deep inside to pray, we had nothing, there was absolutely nothing to grab a hold of at the moment except God. For this particular story, my brother was miraculously spared. I know this is not always the case, but we were overjoyed that he was conscious again by the time he reached the ER.
We all have a story like that don’t we? Sometimes it is filled with doubt, maybe you don’t have all the facts, but you are begging God to deliver, you, a friend, maybe a marriage for deliverance from danger. We want God to move, we want Him to change things. We want Him to move on our behalf.  So what are some reasons to continue to pray when things don’t make sense?

1. Because God is Sovereign

The whole concept of God’s complete sovereignty is a hard one for a lot of people to swallow. We want some sure way of understanding everything we see.
“Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Ps. 115:3). “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Ps. 135:6). He “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Rom. 11:36). “For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him” (1 Cor. 8:6).
Long story short here is that God does what he wants and the early church understood as the context of their prayers. Even in times of uncertainty, they trusted God to do His work, His will and in His way. We know this was true because we see a prayer in the midst of persecution early in the Book of Acts.

“Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them,… for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

(Acts 4:24, 27-28)

The people knew exactly what was going on, and they knew it’s been part of God’s plan all along.
There is no “secret way” of knowing how God will judge. Fervent prayer is how the church must operate in our core. It is this kind of faithfulness that will spread the church to the ends of the earth.
In a way, by God being Holy, by very definition, He does what He wants. There will not be expected conclusions to how God interacts with us, but we are to pray for God’s revealed will since we don’t know His hidden will.

Yes. Pray. God is sovereign. Pray. Remember, the communication we have with God is one that should be unceasing. Pray when you want God to move in your life and in your community’s life. Pray for the souls of those you are reaching for Christ. Pray in the context knowing that God has a plan in the midst of your confusion.

2. Because We Are Not Alone

So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church… When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place. (Acts 12:5,12-17 ESV)

Within the context of what was spoken of earlier in Acts 4, and the prayer that the community of faith said together, there is just something about all of these passages that make the most difficult things just a little easier to swallow; it is that we are not alone.

And if it’s a true community, it’s gonna be real. It’s gonna be messy, and it’s not gonna be perfect. A community full of faith in God and love for one another is a community that is authentic. You can see this authenticity here in this passage when you get to the nitty gritty of how the community responds… during a prayer meeting on behalf of Peter seeking God’s provision.

There are people that are dealing with doubts, fears, and uncertainty. Here, they definitely made it obvious in scripture. Are you being this honest? This how we edify and build one another up.

3. Because He Always Hears Us

So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (Acts 12:5 ESV)

In Verse 5 the ESV reads as ‘earnest’ prayer, This word is only used a few times in the NT. It is a very strong word meaning “to reach out in a tense, resolute eager way” or “Prayer was going up”. This means they were praying intensely, with resolve and had an expectation to see God answer. Nothing else mattered but God and His everlasting kingdom!
Fervant or earnest prayer is how the church must operate in our very DNA. It is this kind of faithfulness that will spread the church to the ends of the earth.
Luke, who is the writer of Acts uses this word in another place in scripture.

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:44 ESV)

Hopefully we can see this intensity noted by our Lord as He is praying earnestly before getting betrayed and all the emotion that is tied knowing is to become of you being in the governments hands.
The important aspect to note about the Lord listening to His children, is noticing that our Lord prayed earnestly, but He earnestly asked for His Father to do His will. In this prayer Jesus did not sin by asking God to take the cup from Him if there was another way.

The big difference between our sometimes fleshly prayers and that of our Savior King Jesus is that He desired His Father’s will above anything else, yes, even if that meant dying a cruel death on a bloody cross for us while we were still sinners.

Praying according to His will is the key. Praying that God has His way. It’s the heart of the matter where we don’t expect God to align to our desires but our desires to be aligned with His.
When you pray, and the answer doesn’t turn out for the good you expect, does not mean that God is mean, nor does it always mean you don’t have enough faith. It just means that sometimes the answer is no, sometimes it’s yes and sometimes it’s wait.
You might feel like the father in the Gospel of Mark with the sick son.

…“I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

It’s all about Jesus and caring for one another.

He is a good father and He listens to His children. He doesn’t always answer the way we want, but He does hear us.

Ethical Christian Unity

I was just a little guy at the time but what I do remember at such a young age were the anxieties and unknowns of walking into a church for the first time. My parents were wonderful people. Although the surface level we may have appeared to be disheveled and not as put together as those around us, my parents really loved Jesus and knew who they were in Christ.

With that being said ,one of the most impressionable aspects of Christ’s church happened to me at a very young age; feeling accepted into the family of God. This act of love, devotion and acceptance has shown me what church family can be.

The Church should exemplify love and acceptance like this,  to be so in step with the Spirit that we are a place where walls are torn down and reconciliation is made. I believe with a deep conviction that a thorough understanding of the gospel produces actions of real love.

If you’ve been at a church for any amount of time, there are things that divide us, in regards to Christian living and ethic, that don’t really matter in light of eternity. I hope that through the power of the gospel we can understand that Christian unity is the greater good when it comes to open-handed or non-essential issues regarding Christian living, practice and ethic.

WHAT TO UNDERSTAND

Stop judging people where you have no place to judge, and accept each other as Christians in open-handed issues of Christian living and ethic, and do everything to the glory of God.

Romans 14:1-12

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

WHAT IS IT SAYING?

Paul’s desire is for the strong and weak in faith to set aside secondary issues for the greater good of Christian unity.

  • The Weak: Those used to laws and are often subject to moralistic purity that is sincere which includes a lack of awareness of the full implications of Gospel living
    • Paul’s unifying plea to the weak is to not judge the strong and not judge what only God can judge.
  • The Strong: Those understanding the Christian liberty in Christ.
    • Paul’s unifying plea to the strong is to not despise the weak and not exercise such liberties for the sake of love for one another.

HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO US?

This chapter is speak of things that a local body needs to work out. This is NOT speaking of denominational doctrinal distinctive. This is talking about you and me disagreeing about petty things and how we must dish out grace to one another for the sake of Christian unity!

STRONG OR WEAK?

Out of the two personalities in regard to Christian ethic, which one are you?

1) The Strong

You accuse the non-intellectual, or the less theologically informed, for not understanding the ‘liberties of a Christian’.

What you say…

  • Those people will understand once they are educated
  • Everyone who disagrees with me is always wrong when is come to my way of Christian practice and ethic
  • I don’t care what they think, I know what I can handle
  • people need to ease up a bit

Have you considered those you offend? Do you rejoice in your freedom as worship to God? Or do you choose to be haughty and gloat in your freedom? If one grew up in the south and has a conscience, right nor wrong, about the use of alcohol, do you drink in front of them? I sure hope not.You never know if the one thing that is against someone’s conscience may cause them to be put in a place of destitution.  Everything you say and do should be to honor the weak.

The kingdom work of Christ includes those you disagree with as being ‘fundamentalist’ or ‘legalistic’. God has them in your life and in your local body to be in your family. The deep things of God include those you disagree with as far as our lifestyles go. Don’t be a reverse Pharisee by thinking too highly of yourself and not considering others in love. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Allow the ethos of your relationship with Christ to drive your ethical practice with those around you. When I use the word ethos, what I mean is just that. It’s the very character of the value system that fuels your ethics or how you interact with others. You shouldn’t define yourself ever by what you can DO, but by who YOU SERVE. You serve Christ and love His church. The gospel of grace should incline you to restrict yourself for the sake of others occasionally

2) The Weak

You judge those around for not ‘taking extra’ precaution to live righteously.

You judge on (but not limited to):

  • Economic Political Views
  • Cultural views on work ethic
  • Structure of home life
  • Homeschool vs public school
  • The consumption of Alcohol
  • Music styles
  • Healthy food
  • Income levels
  • Dress code
  • etc…

God is asking you to receive whom he has already received. Why do you continue to question the motives of others, when those motives may not even exist? Do you trust in Christ? Paul would take this a step further by asking, ‘who do you think you are?’ Don’t you know these are your brothers and sister falling under the same banner of grace as you? No one has to prove jack to you, only to the Lord. God is the final judge. Whatever you choose to do, do it to glorify Christ, not yourself. And don’t pass judgment on others who do not live as strict as you, hopefully you do it to worship Christ. If you see the gospel, you must see freedom, and if you see and know the gospel, you must see those you disagree with as being part of your faith family. The implications of the gospel require you to be sharpened by those you disagree with. There is a reason why Paul clarifies his leanings personally by calling ‘the Strong’ as being stronger in faith because it is not in itself sinful to act out our freedom in Christ.

Don’t be a Pharisee. You can’t define yourself by what you’re against.

THE REMEDY FOR DISUNITY? THE GOSPEL.

The point is this in verse 9 Paul directs the readers’ attention to the Gospel truth of reconciliation…

“For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”

We need to run to the gospel of Christ every time. Not some of the time, but all the time. How do you view the person across from you? How do you view each other as we sit across from each other in these rooms as we break into small groups? I pray that we view each other with gospel lenses and the mercy of God. Nothing more, nothing less.

We must believe that the cross of Christ and His resurrection has changed things. What He did for us has changed how look at our neighbors in Christ. What Paul said in chapter 12 about the renewing of our minds, this is where it takes place by the powerful work of The Spirit.

The Weak, whatever you do, do it to the glory of God. If you don’t drink, don’t drink to make yourself appear more religious, rather do it because you choose to worship Jesus with your abstinence, but don’t call another sinful because they have a glass of wine with their steak.

The Strong, whatever you do, do to the glory of God. If you like to drink wine with your steak, do it, but not around your brother that is convinced it’s sinful.

Ephesians 2:13-16

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

A Farewell…

So the story goes a little like this…

10 years ago or so, I remember leading worship at a youth gathering event in our area where 150+ students came together for the sole purpose of worshiping Jesus under one roof, no matter the denomination. It was around the time in modernism where you would see evangelical ecumenicism a little more often. Either way, it was a good thing. The church that the gathering was held in was a United Methodist Church, from the outside, you would usually expect a totally different vibe, but it was surprisingly refreshing. I guess I thought there would be lots of robes, candles and wood.

Anyway, that night I had the pleasure of meeting Melinda, the youth pastor who spoke at the event for the evening as she was in the rotation to speak. I didn’t think she would remember me since at the time I probably sounded like an underdeveloped guitar player who ‘thought’ he could sing. (Side note. I actually listened to a song the other day that I wrote back then, that if it ever got leaked, I really don’t know what I would do. It is one of the most awful things I’ve ever heard. For those of you who may have a copy, please burn it.)

Years pass, and along the way I am able to build more connections with pastors across the city and more specifically with First United Methodist Church via the Music Minister at the time and Melinda through city-wide youth pastors meetings. The opportunity had arose at FUMC to apply for a new role at the church for professional staff to develop the growing contemporary music ministry at the church. I thought “nah… I don’t have a masters, so I won’t even try.”

Any-who… This was a very difficult season for me and my family five years ago that I wasn’t sure at the time how things would pan out, and out of the blue I get this call from Melinda. She says, “dude, I put in a good word in for you, please apply. You’re really what the church is looking for, at least start the process…”

After that, honestly, my first question was like, “I don’t think I could work at a Methodist church, aren’t they like theologically liberal and won’t I need to play the organ and stuff?” I remember her replying with… “this place is different, just apply man…”

The Staff…

So I applied, did the interview, and got the job. Thank you Pastor Craig Curry and FUMC Staff Committee circa 2009 for giving me a shot at it, I don’t know if you all realize that this big shift made waves for my growth and future as a pastor. I still can’t believe I got it, I wasn’t ready in so many ways, but through the strength of The Spirit, He carried me through  journeys that I will never forget. It would take me too long to describe the valleys and mountain-tops of working and being so trusted to pastor so many people through tears, counsel, prayer and through leading worship.

Over my time at FUMC there has been staff that have come and gone and a few that have stayed. The main-stay through my tenure has been Melinda. What a good friend and partner in ministry you’ve been. From worship planning, Tuesday’s tear-filled prayer, outreach and mission; everything seemed to be in sync. Thank you for your patience with me. So sorry I have to say good-bye in this functional capacity, but if you ever need a wild badger delivered in a manger in your office, please let me know… (inside joke…)

Thank you Pastor Dave for being a patient and prayerful man. Every time you would leave the office to pray, it was so encouraging to me as a young man in ministry to see that diligence. You have been able to navigate our church through some difficult seasons, thank you for that. I will miss our impromptu prayers sessions, your leadership will not be forgotten.

The People…

About a year ago we started community groups at FUMC. I don’t if any of us in our group expected to see such life-giving moments of nitty-gritty christian community. Every week in our home was more than worth it, we couldn’t wait to see every single person every week. It’s been so amazing to see work by The Spirit in people’s stories and lives. Thank you so much to those who have trusted so much of your time and energy to see what God can do when we are mindful about His mission of seeing us reach out and invite others to what we do, love each other. I know Travis and Kory will serve you well, they are generous and passionate about the move of God in our communities.

One of my favorite things about working at FUMC is their encouragement for me to grow through education, and to give me opportunities to feed into others lives. One of my giftings is to mentor teenagers and young adults, and through the past 5 years I’ve been able to feed into so many lives. You all know who you are. Thank you for allowing me to speak into all your lives, and I hope this won’t change even though I’ll be serving someone else. I care for you all so deeply.

The Music…

When I arrived at FUMC in 2009 I knew it would take a little time for me figure out the type of sound, flare and dynamics that would begin to identify the music of the church. ‘They’ say it takes 3 years before you first notice significant shifts in culture and process in anything you do, no matter the type of organization or program. (I believe the standard calculation looks like this in these cycles; 3, 5, 7 and 10 years are the big shifts in vision and culture…FYI) I can verify that at 3 years, all of our bands began to change. I believe they started to see the possibilities that could take place if we focus our attention to Jesus,  expectations of leaders, and excellence in our craft.

The Sound EPIt was at this time we produced our first EP. I couldn’t believe we did it. I was so proud of what we all accomplished in little ol’ Farmington, and how much we all learned together. And of course above you can see the Live Recording we did this last year…

All of you have been so impressive to me. Your consistency, talent, passion and friendships have all been so influential to me. The AAD jam sessions and practices filled with tears by worshiping together with the gifts of music I will never forget. The video will help explain a little bit… but thank you for everything, thankfully our family is staying in Farmington so we can jam here and there together, just call me!

A Farewell…

My prayer is that FUMC in Farmington is faithful to Christ. Never abandon Christ. Love Him and His Word before anything. This local church showed me what genuine friendships look like. Continue to be intentional about local mission. FUMC is probably one of the most active churches in the community that I’ve ever seen, just always remember to proclaim the Gospel by sharing the Good News. Be bold. Be loving. Be the Church.

In Community For Jesus

Have you ever seen ants work? I know it sounds ridiculous to start a lesson with that, but really, have you ever looked at ants and how work together? They work so well with each other, even without a leader, and yet they get things done, and they get them done together. The Bible actually mentions ants in Proverbs 6:6 and in 30:25. If you look real hard, they are carrying food, protecting their land, and even carrying their wounded off to safety. We try and do everything on our own without anyone’s help and along the way we’ve convinced ourselves that we’ve brought some good to the world by being independent. And the truth is, we actually need each other.

Living in Community

In Acts 20:17-38 ESV we read about Paul’s probable final meeting with the Ephesians elders. This meeting was very full of teaching the Gospel, warning and storytelling, In the final few verses it says this,

And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.

Within this time of Christian community we see so much life, teaching, and love on the part of everyone. I know for most of us as people, we desire this. I love this is quote by Bill Clem, “A community of believers following Jesus can image God in ways that an individual simply cannot.”1 If you really pay attention to any book of the bible, most of them are full of commands and graces that are meant for listeners that in a community context rather than an individual. This word community has been distorted over the years and will probably conjure up ideas of communism or exclusive types of cults. This is not the case, God has a plan for us to work and image Him together. We must get out of our lone-ranger mentality of life and ministry.

There are marks of a Christian community worth mentioning, so that imitations can be easily pinpointed. First, a Christian community worships. This means that a Christian community loves truth, prayer and enjoys eating together. Second, there is belonging that cannot be found anywhere else in the world because there people that forgiven by Jesus, so they forgive. A beautiful picture of belonging is when Jesus washes Peter’s feet in John 13; we see the perfect example of servant leadership and refreshing friendship. And third, we image God together on mission as a witness.2 When we love the world together, more can happen then what we could ever do on our own. The real question begins to be, are you a consumer? Or are you a giver?

Common distortions when it comes to community are often caused by sin. Sometimes, difficulties in community can also stem from various ways in which certain members have experienced generous, fun or unbiblical fellowship. Four common distortions3 an slowly sneak their way into a community; therapeutic, business network, programmatic, and exclusive. I think we have all been there, therapy looks like an accountability group, networks are business meetings, programs are boring, and exclusive groups are creepy. “Community distortions prevent us from experiencing and expressing the salvation Jesus died to provide.”4

Memorize This Scripture

Mark 9:50 (ESV)

Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

Personal Reflections

  • Read Acts 2:42-47
    • How would it look for our church for these descriptions to be true in our setting?
    • Does this excite you? Why?
    • Does this concern you? Why?
  • What type of distortion do you see you most prone to be involved with; therapy, network, program, or exclusive?
  • Take time now and plan to go to dinner or lunch with a group and find ways to integrate each other into the rhythms of everyday life. This might seem uncomfortable, but you all are mature adults, make it happen.

Things to Pursue on Your Own

Spiritual Discipline

  • For a lot of people, the use of imagination sounds secular, though it can be secular, it doesn’t have to be. The imagination can be used5 to the glory of God when fenced in by scripture, God gave us our imagination. Spend time in prayer and worship imagining in your mind the beauty of God and joining with other faithful followers in worshiping Him. Imagine what it can look like to be faithful Christians together, and mirroring the church as described in Acts chapter 2.

Personal Study

  • Are you currently in community with other Christians, besides scheduled gatherings like Sundays or required meetings?
  • Read the beatitudes in Matthew chapter 5.
    • Could these teachings be applied to both an individual and in plurality? If so, why?
    • Look at the beatitudes, and make note in your journal how each can be applied in your personal and community life.
  • Study the scriptures laid out in table below, and evaluate if your life is bearing such fruit in your local community.6

 

Biblical Community
'One-Anothers' SCRIPTURE
Care 1 Corinthians 12:25
Forgive Colossians 3:13
Be Kind Ephesians 4:32
Submit Ephesians 5:21
Be Honest Colossians 3:9
Love John 13:35
Peace 1 Thessalonians 5:13
Hospitality 1 Peter 4:9
Serve Galatians 5:13
Instruct Romans 15:14

Action Points

  • While considering your family first, go out of your comfort zone and invite a family in your neighborhood to dinner inside your home, or out to a restaurant if you feel safer with that. I know, big step, but you’ll be surprised what doors can open when steps of kindness are pursued in the Name of Jesus.

Footnotes

COVER PHOTO Photo © Eko Adiyanto

Source: 1x


  1. Clem, Disciple, 123. 

  2. Ibid., 130. 

  3. Ibid., 141. 

  4. Ibid., 150. 

  5. Demarest, Satisfy Your Soul, 148. 

  6. Clem, Disciple, 136.