Category Archives: Attributes

Paul’s amazing impossible prayer

(Updated re-post)

Paul normally includes an extensive prayers at the beginning of his letters. These prayers normally include some combination of the concepts: love, faith and hope along with some form of a challenge to growth resulting in effectiveness. As you read through the Pauline epistles you quickly see that these prayers (they often accompanying thanksgiving sections) are not just habit but very thoughtful. What he gives thanks for and what he prays are specific to the situation he is writing to.

One of the anomalies in the pattern of prayer is Ephesians. Not only do most scholars believe that Ephesians was a circular letter, not just intended for the church in Ephesus but the surrounding area. But this letter includes two length prayers.

The second prayer, is what I call Paul’s impossible prayer. And it has challenged (exhorted) the kinds of prayers I raise to God.

Before reading this passage, ask yourself, “If I could list all I prayed for this past week–what would it reveal about what I value most?”

Ephesians 3:14-19

Paul’s prayer, a response to (“for this reason”) what he has told his audience about their salvation, leads to a profound Trinitarian prayer for the strength of the Spirit (Ephesians 3:16), the indwelling of Christ (Ephesians 3:17) and the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).

But it is not just a theological statement, it become a daily challenge when we realize the breath of the prayer.

Big Prayer

Ephesians 3:16-17a that according to the riches of his glory, he may grant you, to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–(ESV)

Paul’s prayer begins with a request that God–according to the riches of His glory… and the strength of His power… This is a big prayer. That the God of all glory, the Creator Sustainer Owner of all, would through His mighty power and unlimited resources strengthen us. How much can He strengthen us?–completely. Is there anything His empowering can’t sustain us through?–no.

But this is not just a statement of a fact about God–He is all-powerful. As wonderful as that truth is, Paul takes this core nature of God and asks God to apply it personally. His prayer is not that God would be all-powerful, He is. His prayer is that the All-powerful will apply that power personally and intimately–in our inner being.

Intimate goal

The big prayer continues,

Ephesians 3:17b-19a that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, (ESV)

Paul wants the strengthening to have a specific focus–to comprehend, to understand, to know the whole vastness (breath, length, height, depth) of Christ’s love. Part of what makes this an impossible prayer is that Paul prays that we would know the whole vastness of Christ’s love which “surpasses knowledge.” He wants us to know something that goes beyond our knowledge and understanding. But is not contrary to knowledge or dismisses knowledge.

Paul’s prayer is that we would have an experiential knowledge, a personal experiential intimate understanding of how much Christ loves us! Not just a realization of the fact of Christ’s love, but to fully personally, intimately appreciate the complete nature of Christ’s self-giving love.

All consuming result

The result of this prayer is that

Ephesians 3:19b that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (ESV)

Again, the impossible prayer, ends with another big request–that we finite creatures be fill with the fullness of the infinite God.

The prayer is that as we are strengthened by the All-power–personally, and as we become intimately acquainted with the comprehensive love of Christ that we might be totally consumed by the infinite God.

WOW!

Impossible or the picture of spiritual maturity?

This passage first challenges me to want a greater connection, understanding and a more intimate relationship with God.

Second, the passage challenges my puny, small, weak, selfish, self-focus, concrete time-bound prayers. Not that we should not prayer for those things, but the vast majority of prayers I pray and I hear prayed are so small compared to Paul’s prayer.

Response

The only possible response? Worship.

Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen

What we ask is an overflow of being consumed by God. To Him be glory.

Realization

1. That we pray to the size of our God and faith.
2. God does not fit the limitations of our expectations.

May we learn to pray in a way that honors the majesty, magnitude and the intimate personal nature of God.

“Give thanks to the Lord for…”

This morning I decided to do a quick search on thanksgiving.  I started with the phrase “give thanks to the Lord for…”

What I discovered was interesting.  I expected phrases like “for he is good” or “he is holy.” But the consistent pattern in the Old Testament is…

“give thanks to the Lord for”

1 Chronicles 16:34 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

1 Chronicles 16:41 With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and expressly named to give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.

2 Chronicles 7:6  The priests stood at their posts; the Levites also, with the instruments for music to the LORD that King David had made for giving thanks to the LORD—for his steadfast love endures forever—whenever David offered praises by their ministry; opposite them the priests sounded trumpets, and all Israel stood.

2 Chronicles 20:21 And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

Ezra 3:11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

Psalm 106:1 Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 107:1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm  118:1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm  118:29 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 136:1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. (ESV)

A reminder that whether we are going through difficult circumstances or we are experiencing a time of abundance–the character of God’s does not change.

He is always good.
He is always loyal in His love toward us.

Therefore, we can trust His providence, provision, presence and precepts.

God does not change and His love is indeed steadfast, loyal, unchanging–I thank Him for His faithful.

My Worth Is Not in What I Own

(http://www.gettymusic.com/hymns-myworth.aspx)
My Worth Is Not In What I Own

My worth is not in what I own
Not in the strength of flesh and bone
But in the costly wounds of love
At the cross

My worth is not in skill or name
In win or lose, in pride or shame
But in the blood of Christ that flowed
At the cross

Refrain:
I rejoice in my Redeemer
Greatest Treasure,
Wellspring of my soul
I will trust in Him, no other.
My soul is satisfied in Him alone.

As summer flowers we fade and die
Fame, youth and beauty hurry by
But life eternal calls to us
At the cross

I will not boast in wealth or might
Or human wisdom’s fleeting light
But I will boast in knowing Christ
At the cross

Refrain

Two wonders here that I confess
My worth and my unworthiness
My value fixed – my ransom paid
At the cross

Refrain

By Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, and Graham Kendrick
© 2014 Getty Music Publishing and Make Way Music (admin by MusicServices.org)

Pursuit of His Glory

Just completed a 9 part series–Pursuit of Glory: The story of the Bible in 9 Episodes.

This was a coordinated study–where sermon, ABF lesson and small groups could focus their learning on one main subject. Now that we are finished, I wanted to post my brief summary of each lesson as a review.

It may take a little time to load, if you don't see the presentation below, click this link to view, it will open in a new window or look below for a video version.

 

Video version

God is Proactive

I’ve been in several environment over the last few weeks where the subject of “predestination” has come up in passages we were discussing–causing frustration on the part of some who were interacting with the passages.

And it has dawned on me that the subject–this doctrine–has been taught very poorly, it clashes against either our cultural view of man and God or our sheer individualism.  On top of that we probably all have an inadequate view of God.

For those who are wondering, here are the passages in question (they are by no means the only passages that deal with the doctrine of “predestination”).

Ephesians 1:3—6 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (ESV)

Titus 1:1—3 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior; (ESV)

Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. (ESV)

As I’ve reflected on the reaction to these passage two things have dawned on me.

First, we never pray hoping God is not sovereign and in control.  We pray asking God to intervene, to do something about the situation we are praying about.  And for the most part, we believe He is able and has the right to intervene and change a situation–whether it is a physical illness, a difficult situation, the heart of a boss or even the heart of someone unsaved.

Second, Scripture consistently reveals God as proactive.

God chose to create everything out of nothing for His good pleasure.
God chose to create man positively disposed to Him by making him in the image and likeness of God.
God chose to extend mercy and grace to Adam and Eve, after they sinned, even when they were not looking for Him (actually hiding from Him).
God chose Abraham, a man who could do nothing for Him, to bless him and the rest of humanity through him.
And we could continue in much more detail…but skipping ahead
God continually chose to extend mercy and grace to Israel, in spite of their rebellion, in order to be faithful to His word and to fulfill His plan.
God chose a specific time in which to radically change human history (Galatians 4:4).
God chose a poor insignificant young girl to be the human mother of Jesus, the God-Man.
Jesus chose a motley crew of men to propel His message to the world.
Jesus chose an antagonist to be one of His greatest defenders.

These are just a few of the ways we see in Scripture that God is proactive.  There are also time when He graciously response to individuals and their needs. But the overarching tone of Scripture is that God is proactive.

I am thankful the God is proactive.

(More in subsequent posts–including a definition of “predestination”)

A better glimpse of God

This fall for our men’s mid-week study we will be “looking at God.”  The series is entitled, Seeing God through the eyes of His people: A narrative study of the character and attributes of God”

Rather than listing God’s attributes and finding all that places in Scripture they are address or quoting from those who have study God’s attributes.  We will look at a series of narrative passages (and a few Psalms) to see how God revealed Himself and how people responded (right or wrong).  The goal is to have a fresh, personal understanding of God.

I am convince that if our theology of God is correct then much of the rest of our belief system will fall in line. If our starting point is not accurate we easily veer off.

While the study I’m preparing is not the study of someone’s book, there are a number of very helpful book.

(My approach and recommendation is: We study scripture in order to grow and teach and read book as supplements.)

On my, “I need to read” list:
D.A. Carson, For the Love of God (Vol 1 and 2) and The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.

A few resources as supplements to your own study of God.

Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer
(read it online here)

The Holiness of God, R.C. Sproul (1st published in 1984 or 1985, revised and expanded in 1998) You can watch the entire teaching series free online, click the image.  (I re-listened to this book back in May on a drive to Chicago–excellent)

The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, John Frame (definitely not lite reading, but helpful in my own development)