Life Group Prayer Challenge

Here is the prayer challenge.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can hardly get words off of my brain or out of my mouth to the Lord. There are a few reasons why we don’t pray, and we will talk about that in session 1 of the 2-part series. But just know that I don’t take lightly that sometimes you can FEEL too depressed, overwhelmed, anxious, busy, etc. to pray (that’s a cue for us to pray 😊) – or that it doesn’t really matter if you pray (that’s 1 of the 3 reasons we’ll hear about in the session on why we don’t pray).

Even before I introduce the challenge, I want to say this: Don’t make it a matter of your worthiness. There is nothing you can do to make God love you more or less. This is simply about strengthening our prayer muscles. Just a little. If you’re already regularly engaged in prayer more than this then keep it up. But even so, if it’s not too much to ask, add this so that as a group we are all praying for the same thing.

Challenge: We are going to pray for something I can guarantee is part of God’s will for your life. Does it sound like a trick? It’s not. There are certain things in the Bible we know for certain are part of the Lord’s gracious, merciful, kind, sovereign, loving will for us. This is one of them.

Pick a time where you are most likely to be free for 1 minute over the next 3 weeks until we meet again (there are 5 Mondays this month – next meeting 11/6). Set an alarm on your watch or phone daily for that time. If you can add a name or label to the alarm, call it “Eph 4:1”, “pray”, or something meaningful to you. When it goes off take a moment to breathe, calm your mind, and recognize that no matter what is going on in the world and in your life, God is not surprised and He loves you.

I’ll paraphrase the part of Ephesians 4:1 to which I am referring: “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” So, after you have calmed your mind, ask our all-powerful and all-knowing Lord, “Gracious Father, help me to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which I have been called.” And if you want to add to it, add your family. In my case I would add “… and help Kathleen, Hannah, Noah, Seth, and Zach to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have called them.”

Commentary on this verse:
4:1 therefore. This word marks the transition from doctrine to duty, principle to practice, position to behavior. This is typical of Paul (see Rom. 12:1; Gal. 5:1; Phil. 2:1; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:1). the prisoner of the Lord. By mentioning his imprisonment again (see 3:1), Paul gently reminded Ephesian believers that the faithful Christian walk can be costly and that he had paid a considerable personal price because of his obedience to the Lord. walk worthy.“Walk” is frequently used in the N.T. to refer to daily conduct. It sets the theme for the final 3 chapters. “Worthy” has the idea of living to match one’s position in Christ. The apostle urged his readers to be everything the Lord desires and empowers them to be. calling. This refers to God’s sovereign call to salvation, as always in the epistles. See note on Rom. 8:30. The effectual call that saves is mentioned in 1:18; Rom. 11:29; 1 Cor. 1:26; Phil. 3:14; 2 Thess. 1:11; 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 3:1[1]

[1] MacArthur, J., Jr., ed. (1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed., p. 1808). Word Pub.

Devoted – Part 1, by Brian Hammond

On October 7, 2018 at The Church at South Lake, the sermon was delivered by Senior Pastor Brian Hammond. The sermon title was “Devoted – Part 1.” It should be available on the church’s website (watch or listen) or podcast feed in the next few days.

Notes from the sermon follow. If something is in brackets it is a question or thought of mine.

Acts 2:42-46: 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Reflecting on past 20 years with a friend, Brian was asked what he worried about the next 20 years. He said it is that we would become devoted to wrong things or casually devoted to good things and less devoted to the most important thing.

Like mowing if you don’t keep a fixed reference point in the horizon your line won’t be straight. We wobble and we have to self-correct (see admonish).

Paul was afraid of a similar thing at one point: 2 Corinthians 11:3: But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. Genesis 3:1-5 serpent deceived Eve. How? “… will be…” Eve was deceived into believing God was keeping something from them that He had already given them. Eve had everything she needed. But she saw “….”. Nothing inherently wrong with some of these things but a selfish pursuit results in a wrong devotion. This is the root of wrong devotion: a selfish pursuit of a right desire.

  • What? Devotion to gathering. Hebrews 10:24-25: 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
  • How? Colossians 3:16: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. The regular corporate gathering of the church is on of the most beneficial devotions of a Christian’s life.
  • Breaking bread. Jesus said that all of the years of observing Passover with the Bread of Affliction was not really about deliverance from Egypt but rather pointing to the day when I would deliver you from your sin.

Close with Communion.

Winning by Losing – Reece Mashaw

On June 3, 2018, at The Church at South Lake, the sermon was delivered by a guest speaker (but no stranger!) Reece Mashaw. The sermon title was “Winning by Losing.” It should be available on the church’s website (watch or listen) or podcast feed in the next few days.

Notes from the sermon follow. If something is in brackets it is a question or thought of mine.

We erect a tower of things we do, strengths, accomplishments, roles, achieve, etc. and on top of it sits our basket of “status” in which our weight of value goes.

  • Value by achievement
    • Life becomes a competition > Breakdown with others.
    • You can never feel secure > Breakdown with self.

2 Cor. 11:21b and following:

Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? (NIV)

Background: Think about the humanity of Paul being turned away because he had no credentials for his authority. After spending a year and a half in Corinth establishing that church. And he says, in essence, “If I am going to boast in anything I am going to boast in my weaknesses.”

He is not saying we don’t play to our strengths but that we don’t boast in our strengths. How does Paul roll out a list of failures and not have his self-worth shattered?

  • The status you really need can’t be earned, it is given.
  • My status is fixed by Christ. Not performance. Not achievement. Not strengths. There is no such thing as “earned grace”.
  • We can spend our entire life trying to earn something that is offered for free.
  • Why? A life built on our strengths is too limiting for what God has for us.
  • There’s a secret you must know:
    • 2 Cor. 12:9-10: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (NIV)
    • We will never know true strength unless we allow ourselves to be weak.
  • What great thing could be left undone if you live the natural life where we play it safe going on our strengths rather than being defined by the grace of Christ.
  • The transaction with Christ is a one-time event. However, Every day we decide where to put our value.
  • [Who gets the honor in where we place our value?]