Sit Walk Stand [re-launch]

Sit Walk StandThis coming Sunday we re-start a series at Calvary Assembly of God which we began last year called Sit Walk Stand: A Study In The Book Of Ephesians.

Why Ephesians? Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, who preached 232 sermons on this book to his packed-out church, said, “It is very difficult to speak of Ephesians in a controlled manner because of its greatness. Many have tried to describe it. One writer has described it as the crown and climax of Pauline theology. Another has said that it is the distilled essence of the Christian religion, the most authoritative and most consummate compendium of our holy Christian faith. What language! And it is by no means exaggerated.”

It is my desire that our congregation be as biblically literate as I can encourage and resource them to be. So Tom Kaastra, a 38-year veteran pastor, is going to co-teach with me again this year as we continue our attempt to master this powerful epistle.

The name of our series—Sit Walk Stand—comes from Watchman Nee, who wrote, “Of all Paul’s epistles, it is in Ephesians that we find the highest spiritual truths concerning the Christian life. The letter abounds with spiritual riches, and yet at the same time is intensely practical.”

Please join us this Sunday at 10:30am.

Whether you were with us last year or not, I posted some sermon recaps each week which will help prepare you as we re-launch this series. Click on the links below:

3 Reasons Why We Don’t Ask Largely Of God

Ask LargelyI don’t have a clever introduction for this post, so let me just give you the conclusion right up front―God has more desire to give than most of us have desire to ask.

Elisha told King Jehoash that God was ready to give him complete victory over Israel’s enemy, but Jehoash had a hard time grasping this (see 2 Kings 13:14-19). He was hesitant to ask God for too much, so he only asked for a little. This mad Elisha mad!

I think the reasons why Jehoash was timid in his asking of God are some of the same reasons we wrestle with today.

(1) Elisha was dying, so maybe he thought God’s Spirit would depart with him.

Maybe you’ve had a spiritual giant in your life, and when they died you thought, “Who is going to be able to pray for me now?” God doesn’t have favorites. He desires that all of us come to Him.

(2) Jehoash was sinful and didn’t think God would want to help him.

You can’t increase your value in God’s sight because you live perfectly. God loves you perfectly just as you are. Don’t get me wrong: the Holy Spirit will speak to you if you need to repent, but God doesn’t only listen to “perfect” people.

(3) Jehoash thought God had a limited supply, or he thought he had a quota in how many requests he could make of God.

The whole genie-in-the-lamp concept has crept into the mindset of too many Christians. We think our genie-God will grant us a limited number of wishes, or we think He will try to find a loophole to get out of a difficult request. God desires that we keep on asking Him, keep on seeking Him, and keep on knocking on His door (see Matthew 7:7-11).

God is glorified when we ask Him to do what only He can do.

God is pleased when we keep asking of Him largely.

Again. And again. And again. AND AGAIN!

I’ll say it again―

God has more desire to give than most of us have desire to ask

If you would like to read some other thoughts on prayer from our series The Prayers Of Elishaplease click here and check out all the links in the comments.

Fill-In-The-Blank Differently

God gives backHow would you fill in this blank: “The Lord gives, and the Lord ________  _________.”

I had some misconceptions about God when I was a kid. I didn’t want to pray, “God, You can use me however You see best” because I just knew He would send me to do something gross. Or we would sing a song like I Have Decided To Follow Jesus and one of the verses said, “Though none go with me still I will follow.” I didn’t really like that because I liked my friends and family; I liked my life just as it was.

Job was a righteous man, and some really bad things happened to him. He’s the one who said things like, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21), and, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10).

But there was still another 40 chapters to go! In the very last chapter of his story we read this―

After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. (Job 42:10)

In hindsight, I think Job might have said something different: “The Lord gives, and the Lord gives back!” But this insight would have come only after “Job had prayed.” Getting into God’s presence helps us capture the heart of God.

  • A grieving mother learned this when God gave her a son and gave back her resurrected son to her (2 Kings 4:8-37).
  • And then again when God gave her their family land and gave back the lost income (2 Kings 8:1-6).
  • The apostles learned this when Jesus gave them His presence and gave back a position of authority (Matthew 19:27-28).
  • We can also know that Jesus will give us a hundred times what we’ve given up for Him, and give us eternal life too (Matthew 19:29).

God never takes anything from us unless He intends to give back something even greater, something eternal, something unbreakable, something un-losable!

You will only begin to see this better when you get in His presence. “The object of secret prayer is to unite us to God that we may know His abiding presence with us” (Andrew Murray). It’s time to fill-in-the-blank differently! 

I’ll be continuing our series on The Prayers Of Elisha this coming Sunday, and I would love to have you join me!

Your Greatest Stress Reliever

Stress relieverSadly our country is anxious and worried. Based on the number of anti-depressants that are prescribed each year, we are a people dealing with a lot of issues!

When worry or fear begin to interfere with normal thinking and functioning, doctors call it anxiety disorder―that is, disorder in our lives creates the anxiety, and more anxiety creates even more disorder.

What causes anxiety in the first place? One of the main culprits is chronic stress. Things like marital problems, financial pressures, relationship breakdowns, emotional traumas trigger the fight-or-flight responses in our bodies. This leads to increased blood pressure and heart rate, interrupted sleep patterns, digestion issues … and all of this leads to the chronic stress, which leads to anxiety, which leads to even more disorder!

But here’s the great news―Getting into God’s presence could be your greatest stress reliever!

There’s a story in 2 Kings of a woman who is clearly stressed out. Her husband has died, she’s exhausted all her resources trying to settle up with creditors, she has sold nearly everything in her home, and one creditor is ready to carry her sons off into slavery. Talk about anxiety!

Elisha asks this widow two questions:

  • How can I help you? Jesus said that our Heavenly Father knows our needs before we even ask Him, but in the very next verse Jesus says, “This then is how you should pray…” (Matthew 6:8-9).
  • What do you have? God will use even what we think is insignificant to show His superabundance in our lives!

God did meet this woman’s needs. He gave her enough to pay off her creditor. But that wasn’t all―God also gave this family enough to keep on living stress-free!

God Who, by the action of His power that is at work within us, is able to carry out His purpose and do superabundantly, far over and above all that we dare ask or think―infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams. (Ephesians 3:20, AMP)

Don’t try to carry all your stress yourself, cast ALL your anxiety on Him because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

I’ll say it again―Getting into God’s presence could be your greatest stress reliever!

We are continuing our series on prayer next Sunday, and I hope you can join me!

Pray & Dig

Pray & DigThe fact is far too many of us get ourselves into hot water all on our own, and then we want to call on God like an insurance policy to bail us out. We usually have some reasonable-sounding excuses:

  • “It seemed like a good idea at the time”
  • “It was so practical and common sense I didn’t think I needed to pray about it”
  • “I’ve done this dozens of times before and never had any trouble.”

There’s a story in 2 Kings where three kings got together for a battle. To them it seemed like a pretty good idea―there were three of them going to war against just one king, they knew the terrain, so it would be an easy victory.

Except it wasn’t.

The Bible says that after a 7-day roundabout march, the three armies were out of food, out of water, stranded in the desert, and about to be defeated without the enemy ever firing an arrow or swinging a sword.

One king wanted to blame God. The king of Israel said, “Bad news! God has gotten us three kings out here to dump us into the hand of Moab.” (2 Kings 3:10, MSG). But fortunately the king of Judah thought to ask, “Isn’t there a prophet of God around that can call on God for us?” (v. 11).

Here’s one of the most amazing things: Elisha―the representative of God’s presence―was right there with them! Think about that … these kings hadn’t asked God for help, and hadn’t invited Elisha along, but there was the prophet right in their midst!

It’s a good reminder for us: God is ALWAYS with us. But it’s up to us to recognize Him and go to Him in prayer.

When these kings finally asked God for help with their water problem, Elisha said, “It’s an easy thing for God to provide water for you. You’ve prayed, now it’s time to prepare for His supply.” The armies were called on to dig lots and lots of ditches. God would send a supply of water without rain to take care of the troops. And if that wasn’t enough, God also said He would give them victory over their enemy. As Matthew Henry wrote, “God’s grants out-do our requests and expectations.”

Pray first. Pray continually. Pray always. And then when God tells you to dig ditches, get ready for His abundant blessings. But get the order right: Don’t dig and then pray; pray first, then dig!

If you’re in the Cedar Springs area, please join me next Sunday as we continue our series The Prayers Of Elisha.

Pray Like Jesus

Private prayerThere’s a really interesting story recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. It’s the one where a father brings his demon-possessed boy to nine of Jesus’ disciples to ask for their help. But the father sadly reports back to Jesus, “But they could not help.”

Jesus calls His disciples out. He says that their faith is lacking. Even the boy’s father is short on faith. He says to Jesus, “If you can do anything, please help us.” To which Jesus says, “‘If you can’? Anything is possible if you believe.” Jesus rebukes the demon, which immediately comes out of the boy.

Now here’s the interesting part: His disciples asked Him, “Why couldn’t we do that?” Jesus says, “This kind comes out only by prayer.” Let’s review all the words Jesus said to the father and his boy:

  • “How long has he been like this?”
  • “‘If you can’? Anything is possible if you believe.”
  • “Demon, come out of him and never enter again.”

So here’s my question―Jesus said the demon was cast out by prayer. So when did Jesus pray? Look at those words He said again … which of those was His prayer?

Actually, if you look through all four gospels you won’t find Jesus laying His hands on people and saying, “Heavenly Father, will You please heal this leprosy?” Or, “Please bring life back into this little girl.” Instead He says, “Be clean” or “Little girl, get up.

So I ask again: When did Jesus pray? The answer is―He prayed all the time.

  • Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed. (Mark 1:35)
  • After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone. (Matthew 14:23)
  • But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16)

Do you want to pray like Jesus? He prayed all the time. He had times of prayer with His Heavenly Father, but He was in unbroken communication with Him.

Private prayer leads to public power! 

That’s how we can pray like Jesus!

We will be learning more about prayer in our series The Prayers Of Elisha next Sunday. Please join us!

The Prayers Of Elisha

The Prayers Of ElishaElisha was a prophet whose name means “God is salvation.” And God did show His saving, healing, sustaining power through Elisha in 28 separate miracles.

But here’s the cool thing to me: Elisha is a regular guy. He comes from an average family, from one of the lesser known tribes of Israel. Elisha was a farmer, and had a few guys working for him. Other than that, we don’t know much about his background. Elisha truly was an Average Joe.

Elisha is a perfect guy for us Average Joes to learn more about the power of prayer. What God did through Elisha, He wants to do through all of us too. Please join me this Sunday as we kick-off a new series called The Prayers Of Elisha, and get ready to see your prayer life grow.

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