prayer

Three Ways To Pray For God's Kingdom To Come

Image As a church, we want to pray throughout 2014 for God's kingdom to come to Athens. I was reading Paul Miller's fantastic book, A Praying Life, and he mentions three kingdom prayers that we seldom ask:

  • Change in others - because it feels too controlling...too helpless
  • Change in me - because that feels too scary
  • Change in things that I don't like in our culture - because change feels too impossible

Miller lays out some helpful suggestions for praying for change in these areas on our own and reminds us that our underlying struggle in prayerlessness is an overconfidence in our abilities and a lack of confidence in God. Simply put, the reason we don't pray is because we don't trust God.

One additional practice to help us grow into kingdom prayer is to learn to do this together. Every week across our city, our church hosts prayer groups that we call community groups. They're great places to pray because you're in an extended family environment - eating a meal together - with the express purpose of connecting relationally and growing spiritually. So here are three ways that I'd encourage community groups to pray:

  • Change in us - pray for the things we share that we want God to change in our lives
  • Change in our church - pray for the things we see in our church family that we want God to change
  • Change in our city - pray for the things that we don't like in the people and places around us who don't know Jesus (yet)

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Sermon Review - The Rich Ruler (Luke 18:18-30)

Image Big Idea: We need a good God to convince us to give up control of our life.

Summary: A wealthy man asks Jesus to help him find what's missing in his life. Jesus shows him that what he needs is a God who is so good that He'll dive into what controls this man: his money. Like the rich ruler, we'd rather walk away from Jesus than to give up control of our life. And the only way that we'll give up control of our money or our comfort is for God to overwhelm us with his goodness.

Next Steps:

  • Whenever God speaks, we respond - either in obedience or disobedience. Doing nothing is disobedience.
  • Obedience to God is built on repentance and faith - honesty about our sin and hope in Jesus' work on our behalf.
  • The Holy Spirit fuses God's message to our life. How are you supposed to respond to what you heard this week?
  • Who is helping you follow Jesus this week? Discipleship in isolation is a recipe for frustration.

A few ways we can help you as a church:

  • If you're in a community group, take time to pray this week for God to overwhelm our church with his goodness.
  • If you're looking for a way to take in the goodness of God, here is a sermon by John Piper that you can read or listen to.
  • If you have the day off tomorrow for Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday, take time to watch his I Have A Dream speech or read his Letter from Birmingham Jail. See the world through his eyes and give yourself a different perspective.
  • Since God is gathering a people called the church and remaking them into a new humanity that transcends culture, staying where we are as a predominantly white church is not an option. While the path forward is unclear, consider your part in the journey:
    • If you want to help us take next steps in becoming a transcultural church, email me (madair@misionathens.com)
    • Let's all persevere with both patience and persistence. No turning back. No getting ahead of God.
    • Let's pray that where our demand to be in control keeps us from being who God intends for us to be, God will be gracious to us and overwhelm us with his goodness.

You Need A Budget - If you haven't signed up for next Saturday's personal finance seminar, you can change that right here. It's free, it's simple and it will give you a way to change how you handle your finances.

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Sermon Review - Jesus and Children (Luke 18:15-17)

Image Big Idea: Will we trust Jesus with our helplessness and with the needs of the orphan and the unborn?

Summary: When parents bring their infants to receive a blessing from Jesus, his disciples try to keep them away from Jesus. Jesus takes it a different direction, inviting the children to come to him while reminding us that everyone matters to Jesus. Seizing on the opportunity to make a point, Jesus asks whether we will trust him with our helplessness the way that a baby trusts their parents? And since we're near the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, this story is a good place to talk about the orphan and the unborn.

Next Steps:

  • Whenever God speaks, we respond - either in obedience or disobedience. Doing nothing is disobedience.
  • Obedience to God is built on repentance and faith - honesty about our sin and hope in Jesus' work on our behalf.
  • The Holy Spirit fuses God's message to our life. How are you supposed to respond to what you heard this week?
  • Who is helping you follow Jesus this week? Discipleship in isolation is a recipe for frustration.

A few ways we can help you as a church:

  • If you're in a community group, take time to pray this week for the orphan and the unborn.
  • There will be lots of news over the next ten days about abortion. Pay attention.
  • Pick up a copy of Russell Moore's Adopted For Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches. Pay attention.
  • Press into the needs that are immediately around you - in our church, in the city, in your neighborhood schools.
    • Thank you for the big and small things that you're already doing. Everything matters.
    • If you're not sure what to do next, email us (info@missionathens.com) and we'll start a conversation.

Build What You Love. After the gathering, we had an all-church meeting to say 'thank you' for 2013 and to encourage all of us to 'build what we love.' And what we love is helping each other follow Jesus together as a family. Are you connected relationally? Where are you serving? Let's build something great together.

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BLESS: Begin with prayer

Image Jesus reminds us that real, everyday life can be summarized as love for God and for neighbor. God in his wisdom and providence has put the particular people around us that he intends for us to care for. And while there is something familiar about this notion of loving people, we've learned as a church that all of us struggle to go about this task with clarity and confidence.

So with the notion that principles are strengthened by sound practice, we are learning to live out the principle of loving our neighbor by implementing a practice we call BLESS:

  • B - Begin with prayer
  • L - Listen
  • E - Eat
  • S - Serve
  • S - Share

Over the course of the next week, we'll talk more about each of these. For today, I would encourage you to notice the people that God has put around you - in your neighborhood, at work, in class, as you go about the business of your day. Pray for them. Ask God to help them know the greatness, glory, goodness and grace of God today. Now would be a good time to pray for whatever you need to love them like Jesus. Perhaps you don't know your neighbor's name. Or maybe you work with someone who is a particular character and your office has responded by effectively shunning them. Whoever God has put around you - Christian or not - they have been put there for you to love them towards Jesus.

God wants you to love your neighbor today. BLESS them - begin with prayer. Start now. Watch for opportunities during the day.

Friday - We BLESS people by Listening to their story.

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Sermon Review - The Parable of The Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8)

Image Big Idea: Let's pray for it to be impossible for anyone around us to ignore the real Jesus in 2014.

Summary: During this week's gathering, we heard Jesus tell us in Luke 18:1-8 to pray and keep praying and then pray some more so that we won't give up. And while that's an invitation to be persistent about anything we need to pray about, the conversation Jesus has in Luke 17 about the kingdom of God gives us a clear application for prayer in 2014. While we wait for Jesus to return and for everything to flourish and for everyone to thrive both anywhere and all the time, prayer is how we express our faith in Jesus' promise to finish what he started.

Next Steps:

  • Whenever God speaks, we respond - either in obedience or disobedience. Doing nothing is disobedience.
  • Obedience to God is built on repentance and faith - honesty about our sin and hope in Jesus' work on our behalf.
  • The Holy Spirit fuses God's message to our life. How are you supposed to respond to what you heard this week?
  • Who is helping you follow Jesus this week? Discipleship in isolation is a recipe for frustration.

A few ways we can help you as a church:

  • Paul Miller's book, A Praying Life, has done more to help me understand prayer than anything else I've read.
  • If you're wondering who to pray for, start with the people who live next to you and work with you. The way we love our neighbor (BLESS) starts by B - beginning in prayer.
  • Our Prayer 2014 series continues each Sunday in January. Next Sunday we'll connect prayer to our involvement in starting new churches.
  • We've created community groups as a place for you to connect relationally and grow spiritually. If you'd like more information about community groups, fill this out.
  • We've created DNA Groups as the place for you to go deep in the Bible as you get deep with other people. For more information about DNA Groups,  read this and that; then drop us a note at office@missionathens.com if we can help you start a DNA Group or get connected with one that's already up and running.

If you have any questions or want to add to the conversation, look at the box on your left and 'leave a comment.'

Have a great week and thanks for allowing us to help you follow Jesus!

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January 5 - A Gathering For Quitters

Image At some point in 2014, life will get hard and you'll want to quit. Or self-medicate. Or take it out on someone else.

As we continue our journey through Luke's story about the life of Jesus, we walk in on Jesus talking to us about hard days and what to do when we want to throw in the towel. It's part of our Prayer 2014 series in January that helps us start off a new year with a renewed focus on prayer as we live our lives, help start new churches, and pursue justice for orphans, the unborn and victims of racism and classism.

I hope to see you tomorrow. Here's how you can get ready:

  • Take a look at the worship guideJanuary 5 Worship Guide
  • Read Luke 18:1-8 and ask God to help you listen to Him and do what He says.
  • Invite someone who needs to get 2014 off to a great start.
  • Ask God to fill the room and to convince us that he loves us.

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Paul Miller - Seven Simple Suggestions For Praying In The Morning

Image From Paul Miller's A Praying Life, my favorite book on prayer:

Here are seven simple suggestions for how you can spend time with your Father in the morning:

  • Get to bed. What you do in the evening will shape your morning. The Hebrew notion of a day as the evening and morning (see Genesis 1) helps you plan for prayer. If you want to pray in the morning, then plan your evening so you don't stay up too late. The evening and morning are connected. 
  • Get up. Praying in bed is wonderful. In fact, the more you pray out of bed, the more you'll pray in bed. But you'll never develop a morning prayer time in bed. Some of my richest prayer times are at night. I'll wake up praying. But those prayer times only began to emerge because I got out of my bed to pray. 
  • Get awake. Maybe you need to make a pot of coffee first or take a shower.
  • Get a quiet place. Maybe a room, a chair, or a place with a view. Or maybe you do better going for a walk. Make sure that no one can interrupt you.
  • Get comfortable. Don't feel like you have to pray on your knees. For years I was hindered from praying because I found it so uncomfortable to pray on my knees. 
  • Get going. Start with just five minutes. Start with a small goal that you can attain rather than something heroic. You'll quickly find that the time will fly. 
  • Keep going. Consistency is more important than length. If you pray five minutes every day, then the length of time will slowly grow. You'll look up and discover that twenty minutes have gone by. You'll enjoy being with God. Jesus is so concerned about hanging in there with prayer that he tells 'his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up (Luke 18:1)

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An Example of REAP

Image

Yesterday, we introduced a way to read the Bible called REAP. Here's an example of what REAP looks like, using our next sermon text in Luke 18:1-8:

READ

Jesus tells a story to help his closest followers keep praying while they wait for the coming of God's kingdom. 

EXAMINE

What will I do in the crises that I'm going to face today - will I ask God to save me or will I spend today trying to save myself? God is nothing like this judge - he listens and responds when I need his help. He blesses and blesses and blesses and he promises to come through with impeccable timing. How often is my failure to pray an indictment on my frustration with God's timing and my lack of belief in his willingness and ability to help?

APPLY

I've turned prayer into an infrequent, episodic, formalized event that puts my unwillingness to trust God in pious language. The way forward is not a plan to pray more in 2014; the way forward is throwing myself on the mercies of God in the hope that he might pry open my soul to the glories of 'Jesus, ready stands to save you, full of pity joined with pow'r'.

This doesn't mean that rhythms and patterns of prayer are unnecessary or unhelpful. My hope is that God will transform practices of prayer into something that transcends ritual.

PRAY

Father, save me. Give me the persistence of this widow to ask and keep asking for your help, as the Spirit reminds me how desperately I need you and how willing you are to help.

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