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A Shepherd’s Care … September 20, 2013

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The seventh statement in our Philosophy of Ministry says:

7. Small Group Priority. We recognize the need for small groups for fellowship and spiritual growth within the body and encourage them. We shall make it a priority to train spiritually gifted leaders for these groups and provide a framework for the groups to begin and continue to grow. We shall emphasize the value of these groups in forming close intimate friendships, opportunities for the recognition and meeting of genuine needs, accountability, prayer and spiritual growth.

I’ve highlighted “close intimate friendships” for a reason. We had a great discussion at our recent small group leaders’ meeting about how a significant purpose of this ministry is to foster friendships. In preparation, I surveyed the biblical landscape and found that there is much more there about friendship than I realized. It is important. Here are a few observations:

Friends talk face-to-face (Exo. 33:11). Friends love each other like their own soul (Deut. 13:6). Friends do projects together (Deut. 19:5) and share important experiences (Judg. 7:13). They are devoted in hard times (2 Sam. 15:31-16:18). They seek to comfort and sympathize in times of great adversity (Job 2:11). They trust each other (Psa. 41:), love each other like family (Prov. 7:4), and love at all times (Prov. 17:17). Friends are willing to say hard, sanctifying words (Prov. 27:6). They share the most important things of their lives (John 15:15). And they greet one another by name (3 John 15).

So I ask you (and myself), are you a friend to others at FRAC? How can you be a better friend to people in your small group? What can your group do better to foster friendships?

Fostering with you,

Pastor Doug

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A Shepherd’s Care…

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(I wrote an article last year that more than one person encouraged me to resend occasionally. I have decided to do it today. There is no particular reason other than when I asked the Lord what I should write for this week, it came to my mind. Whether He meant it particularly for you or just as a general reminder to all of us, it is worth considering. I know I need to be reminded of it often.)

It’s the era of texting and tweeting, emailing and IM’ing. Conversations are at our fingertips 24/7. For many, digital discussions have become the preferred way to communicate. It’s quick and convenient. It’s also very dangerous.
James’ warnings about the tongue apply with equal severity to the keyboard. You have the same potential to ignite a digital forest fire or commit verbal murder with an email as with a face-to-face attack. I have been accosted enough times by email that I almost always tense up when opening my inbox. People have written things to me they would never have the guts to say to my face (then later they greet me in the foyer as if they had not “said” them). I am ashamed to say that I have written such things to others. Email should not be the means of rebuke or confrontation when it can be done in person. Nobody likes to receive harsh emails, but we seem very comfortable sending them. I am persuaded that it is the cowardly, unloving, selfish way to approach it. If we don’t love a person enough to go to them, we probably should refrain from expressing our concerns. (If they are out of reach, use the phone. For calling!)
I am thankful to live in this day of instant communication. I can send my wife a quick statement of my love for her, or advance notice that the elder meeting is going a little longer than planned. I can interact with friends and family who live thousands of miles away. But I can also hide behind the computer screen, and let the aggression build, and formulate precisely the words that will strike my opponent down. Then switch apps and do a Bible study. My brothers and sisters, it ought not be this way. Let us be careful what words we say with our fingers. Every careless one of those, too, will be brought into the judgment.
Trying to be careful with you,
Pastor Doug
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A Shepherd’s Care … August 9, 2013

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We are trying to learn how to pray better. The goal is not so much to change the words of our mouth but the desires of our heart.
The Need—Power in the Inner Man (v14-16)
 
Our “outer man” is decaying (2 Cor. 4:16), but the “inner man” (our will, faith, hope, knowledge, wisdom, and love) can grow stronger. We call it maturity. We need power from God’s Spirit (cp. 1:19-21).
Are there Christians who you believe to be stuck in immaturity, laziness, self-pity, and all spiritual weakness? They’re not stuck. They need power. Paul prays for power!
Request #1—That our hearts become a permanent home worthy of Jesus (v17a)
  1. When Jesus takes up residence in our lives, He doesn’t enter a beautiful, clean, organized, well-constructed, stable structure. He finds a dirty, run-down, moldy, smelly, fragile shack. It needs renovation and renewal. That is what Paul prays for, that our hearts become a worthy home for Jesus to dwell in for a long time.
  2. Renovation and renewal of a person’s heart comes through the Spirit’s power (God’s part) and through growing trust (our part). Our faith must increase. We cannot please God without faith (Heb. 11:6).
  3. We must pray for one another because we all struggle with doubt and selfishness. You are not surrounded by people who have it all together. We want things we shouldn’t want. We fear failure and conflict. We pass by gospel-opportunities. We take matters into our own hands because we doubt God. Pray for each other!

Request #2—That we would know the unknowable love of Christ (v17b-19)

 
What are the dimensions of Jesus’ love for the Christian? What are its limits? Where does it hit the ceiling, bottom, wall? How far would you have to go before you come to the end of Christ’s love?
 
The love of Jesus is no mere feeling, it’s an action-oriented, self-sacrificing, eternal love. Like parental love. Early on, it’s all one-way. Hard work, sacrifice, giving and serving with no return benefit, constant selfless cost for the good of another. At times, it feels like a parent has given his or her whole life to bless the child. Jesus did give His life for us. He died for us. He suffered God’s wrath in the place of rebels.
What are we guilty of? Adultery, fornication, lust, hate, bitterness, abuse, stealing, laziness, neglect, harsh and unloving words, merciless actions, withholding affection, unkindness, racism, self-righteousness, pride, impatience, lying, greed, judgmental attitude, selfishness? All of these made us God’s enemies, rebels, sinners. Yet Jesus died for us (Rom. 5:6-8).
His love is beyond knowing, yet Paul wants us to know it. That takes power in the inner man by the Spirit. We need to pray that for each other.
 
The outcome—The result of knowing Christ’s love is that we become filled with God’s fullness, i.e. complete, mature (v19b)

We cannot become all that God intends without a deep experiential understanding of His love. If a fellow believer (husband, wife, children, friend) seems immature, childish, weak, stunted in their Christian life, pray for the power of the Spirit to teach them of Christ’s love in the inner man.

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A Shepherd’s Care … August 2, 2013

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As we continue to think about praying like Paul, here is a summary of the main points from the prayer of Ephesians 1. It may be a helpful way to keep your prayers Christ-centered.
 
Paul’s first request—For the Spirit to grant wisdom and revelation so that believers would know God (v17)
  • Do you know God well? Both in Colossians and here, knowledge of God and His will are at the forefront of what Paul prays and wants for believers.
  • Jesus is the ultimate expression of God. Thus the way to know God more deeply is to know Jesus more deeply.
  • The more the Spirit reveals God to us, the more we will love Him; and the more we walk in true wisdom, the more we will know how to obey Him. We will walk worthy of Jesus, pleasing Him in all aspects.
  • Paul passionately wanted the church to please Jesus. He prayed for it. So should we.
Paul’s second request—For a heart that can see the benefits that are ours because of Christ (v18a)
We need to see (“know”)…
  1. The hope of His calling (v18b).
    • The benefits of His “call” were described in v3-10.
    • We have been called to an inheritance (v11-14), the eternal kingdom of Christ (5:5; Heb. 9:15; 1 Pet. 1:3-5).
    • All of this is true for believers (that means you).
    • We must pray for one another. This hope does not persist easily for many people.
  2. That we are Christ’s inheritance, a “rich and glorious” gift to the Son (v18c).
    • Our worth comes from being in Christ, and it is real value.
      • How would your marriage be different if you regarded your spouse as Christ’s inheritance?
      • How would you treat your children differently?
      • How would you talk about believers who disagree with you on some things?
    • We need to know this. We don’t always know this. We need to pray for one another.
  3. The immensity of God’s power available to us (v19-21).
    • The same power that raised Jesus from the dead, and which He now wields as ruler of Heaven and earth, is ours.
    • The specific content of this prayer is chapter 3 (which we will look at next week.)
Thoughts:
  1. How important is it really if the boy gets the scholarship but graduates with a greater knowledge of engineering than of God?
  2. How important is it really if the missionary makes it to the creative access field but ends up making more coffee than disciples?
  3. How important is it really if your friend gets the new job or promotion but grows more miserable because he/she isn’t finding happiness in Christ?
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A Shepherd’s Care … July 26, 2013

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As I mentioned last week, while we work through some of Paul’s prayers in the sermon, I will use this space to help you apply it. Here is a recap of the major aspects of prayer in Colossians 1:

 
Why Paul Prayed—
  • Because they displayed faith in Christ, love for the saints, and the hope of heaven, and because the gospel was bearing fruit and increasing in their lives (v3-6). (The catalyst was not crisis, it was their devotion to Jesus.)
    • We often gravitate toward praying for health issues, financial struggles, life decisions, etc. because we pray for what matters to us.
    • What matters most to Jesus? What is He most concerned about? Do the topics of our prayers correspond well to the prayers in the Bible?
    • Our prayers, like everything else, should be centered on Jesus’ priority list: love, faith, hope, righteousness, gospel. 
  • The things of v4-6 are true of FRAC people. Thus we should pray for each other, and give thanks (v3).
  • Because God Himself is the power source behind the faith, love, and hope of our brothers and sisters, we should give Him thanks (regularly and specifically).
What Paul Prayed—
For Christians to be filled full of the knowledge of God’s will in all Spiritual wisdom and understanding (v9).

  • God’s will is not merely future choices (spouse, job, etc.)—Psalm 143:8-10; 1 Thes. 4:3-5; 5:16-18; Eph. 5:15-18; Rom. 12:1-2—It is faithfulness, obedience, gratitude (FOG).

God’s will is that “we walk worthy of Jesus and please Him in everything” (v10a).

  1. Bearing fruit in every good work (v10b).
    • Do you know what good works your brothers and sisters are pursuing? Pray!
  2. Increasing in the knowledge of God (v10c).
    • Pray for each other that we would grow in our love for God.
  3. Being strengthened in power for perseverance and patience (v11).
    • Most people want to quit at some point (maybe often). Pray!
  4. Giving thanks to the Father who qualified us to share in the inheritance (v12-14).
    • Your brothers and sisters are redeemed and forgiven. They are citizens of the Kingdom of Christ. Give thanks for them!
Thoughts:
  1. Paul prays for these things repeatedly (“have not ceased to pray,” v9) because every believer needs these things constantly.
  2. It is hard work to keep praying these kinds of things again and again for people, but we need it.
  3. Pray like this and you will always have plenty to pray about.
  4. Pray like this and see what God does in our midst. (Much good is happening. But how much more…?!)
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