Pray Without Ceasing

Over the last couple of years we have been blessed to have Bill Elliff as our guest for our Renewed Weekend. As you know, his life, his ministry and his church have been built on prayer and the power of God. It should come as no surprise that many of his books are based upon the subject of prayer and its centrality to the life of a believer.

With that in mind, I wanted to bring to you a couple of thoughts from his devotional book entitled Prayer with No Intermission. This book delves into God’s point behind the familiar admonition in 1 Thessalonians 5:17—“pray without ceasing,….”

The first chapter very straightforwardly looks at the meaning behind the phrase “pray without ceasing.” We know that we are not called to be in a sort of semi-conscience, meditative state chanting to an aloof deity. Rather, as Elliff states, “Prayer is to be the running dialogue we are now offered with the God of the universe and His Son who loves us with perfect, unceasing passion. It is not merely one of the things we do as followers of Christ. It is a description of the atmosphere in which we can now love. The life-giving air we can now breathe.” It is a lifestyle of turning to God rather than turning inward for the big or small moments of life.

In another chapter Elliff brings to mind a common experience for us all—sorrow. The night before His death, Jesus stares down the future of the cross, a trial incomprehensible to us. We also see that the disciples are facing their own version of sorrow. From their perspective they are seeing a supposed end of the cause to which they dedicated their lives. However, Elliff shows us two different approaches to sorrow on the Mount of Olives, “When the disciples were sorrowful, they slept. When Jesus was sorrowful, He prayed.”

Highs and lows, sorrow and joy, are the commonalities of the human experience in a broken world. Take to heart the admonition of the Father, and the example of the Son. Pray without ceasing. Pray in the midst of joy; pray in the midst of sorrow.

Richest Blessings,

Pastor Mason

Vacation Bible School/Building Update Meeting

Church Family,

I want to say again “thank you” to everyone who invested in Vacation Bible School last week through volunteering your time, giving generously and bathing the week in prayer.  We had a wonderful week of fun, fellowship and vibrant Biblical teaching.  We had several decisions for Christ, and many families exposed to the beautiful message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Continue to pray for these children and their continued commitment to follow Christ.   

Also, I want to invite everyone back to the church this Sunday evening, July 28, at 5:00 p.m.  I want to encourage you to make every effort to join us as we gather to discuss building updates and direction.  

Richest Blessings,

Pastor Mason

“Pastor, I thought I was done with homework.”

First of all, I want to give you a couple of links for the “homework” I assigned during my sermon this past Sunday. If you are reading a print copy of this article, simply search some of the keywords below.

The first is a three-minute clip from the S.M. Lockridge sermon “Sunday’s Comin.’” This is the famous section of one of the greatest sermons on the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRiIpsbJW8o

The second item of homework is a Breakpoint Podcast episode featuring J. Warner Wallace. Wallace is a former detective with the Los Angeles Police Department and a former committed atheist. Wallace came to faith in Christ after examining the evidence of the claims of Jesus Christ and the evidence for His resurrection.
http://www.breakpoint.org/2019/04/podcast-evidence-for-the-resurrection-of-jesus-with-j-warner-wallace/

Proverbs: Continually Relevant
If you have ever done a study or even a cursory reading of the book of Proverbs, you know that it is a book of eternal relevance. The entirety of the Word of God is perpetually relevant, and nothing illustrates that more than the book of Proverbs. For example, just listen to this gem: Proverbs 12:15 –”The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.”

As you read this collection of practical wisdom, you will be amazed at just how fresh and applicable the truth is in the twenty-first century. This is why I believe it is a perfect focus for our next sermon series.

Preaching the book of Proverbs is not without its challenges. At first blush, it can seem like a random collection of very important, yet disconnected nuggets of wisdom. In fact, one title for a sermon series on the book of Proverbs was, “God’s Post-It Notes.” I wish I had thought of that! However, the more you examine the book, the more you see that there are themes that rise to the surface.

Allow me to pull back the curtain for a moment regarding good preaching. Many of you have heard the term expository preaching. Without getting into the manifold variations, expository preaching basically means that you allow the text to speak for itself. The opposite, and I believe poorer practice, is to start with one’s own thoughts, and then attempt to interpret the text in such a way that it supports those thoughts. All too often this practice destroys coherence, draws scripture out of context, and most damagingly, clouds the overarching thrust of the preeminent author, the Holy Spirit of God.

After some good research on the plans that expository preachers have used through the decades, I believe I have some good direction. Practically, I will walk through the first several chapters of Proverbs in sequential expository format. The second part of the sermon series will follow a topical expository format, arranging the remaining verses of Proverbs around common themes that arise naturally from the text.

I would also like to challenge you to make the book of Proverbs a part of your daily reading during this sermon series. Nothing will drive these truths home like your own personal study reinforced by collective examination of the scripture. As you may know, the book of Proverbs contains thirty-one chapters, so that breaks down nicely to one chapter a day for most months.

Finally, I encourage you to come to this series with an open heart and active mind. The book of Proverbs is a book that is continually relevant.

Richest Blessings,

Pastor Mason

 

Puritans Joyful?

I recently read an article on gospelcoalition.com by Joel R. Beeke entitled “Five Reasons the Puritans Were So Joyful.”  If you are like me, this article caught my attention because larger culture had characterized the Puritans as stuffy, stick-in-the-mud, and killjoys not as those who experienced great joy.  Admittedly, I have read enough biographical literature to realize that culture’s characterization is often misguided as a broad-brush sweep of the Puritan movement.  Nevertheless, this was still an intriguing subject matter for an article.

The term Puritan was originally a 16th century term of derision.  In English society there were the Roman Catholic “Papists,” and on the other the Puritans who were characterized by many as ones who believed themselves to be pure and therefore holier-than-thou.[1]  When one reads the original Puritan material, nothing could be further from the truth.  They realized their own sinful frailty as part of humanity

 As believers in the truth of scripture, we should not be surprised that a group of people, striving their best to live by scripture, would be joyful people.  In fact, they faced challenges in the New World the likes of which we cannot imagine.  If we believe the Bible is the Word of God, and that it has the correct answers for all of life and its challenges, we shouldn’t be surprised that those who live by its principles will experience joy.  Yes, we will experience grief, but joy should characterize the believer’s life.

 The first point of joy for the Puritans that Beeke reveals is Happiness in the Fear of God.  Psalm 128 says “Blessed is the one who fears the Lord.” Beeke summarizes the fear of the Lord, as the Puritans understood it, as being “the smiles and frowns of God are of greater value than the smiles and frowns of man.”  It is living reverentially, always valuing what God values.   

 Secondly, Beeke highlights Happiness in Your Work.  The God-fearer sees his work as a calling from God to be done with integrity and diligence, all the while trusting God for provisions.  They also handled disappointments with tremendous maturity, as they trusted in the sovereignty of God for said provision. 

Third, there is joy that comes from Happiness in Your Family.  There is joy that comes from a God-fearing spouse.  There is joy in the companionship in marriage, and joy in godly counsel.

Fourth is a joy in worship that comes from Happiness through Preaching and the Sabbath.  They called the Sabbath the marketplace of the soul.  This was a day that they would gather to hear afresh and anew from God.  They reflected upon the glory of God in their forgiven sin and were overcome with joy.            

Finally, Beeke informs us that the Puritans had a future joy, a joy focused on Happiness Through God’s Covenental Faithfulness.  They saw God’s faithfulness to His people ring true with the people of Israel, and they saw it ring true in lives of Christ followers throughout the centuries.  With this in mind, they knew that God would sustain them through the difficulties of life.

Let me encourage you to follow the link below, or search the title of the article.  You will be enriched with the insightful principles that Beeke brings to bear.  May we too walk in the light of the Word and experience the joy of the Lord.

Richest Blessings

Pastor Mason

[1] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/5-reasons-puritans-joyful/

 


RENEWED Conference

I want to challenge you once again to be a part of Renewed Sunday, this Sunday, March 31st. We will be joined again by Bill Elliff, the pastor of Summit Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. Last year, our Renewed Conference was a powerful catalyst for us to examine our own spiritual vitality and life of prayer. As an example, since last year we have reinvigorated a wonderful time of prayer each Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m. in the worship center. Let me take this opportunity to encourage you again to attend this weekly time of prayer. This year Bill will be leading our morning service at 10:50 a.m., and a special evening service at 5:00 p.m. Please make every effort to attend and to invite your friends.

Also, please join me in prayer these next few days leading into Renewed Sunday. Pray in general for our ongoing need of brokenness for the lost in our communities. Pray for openness to repentance, restoration, and accountability in our relationships. Pray that we might have courage to carry out God’s vision for the future of Metropolitan. Pray that we might have love for, and a vision for the city of Wichita and our individual neighborhoods. Pray that we might have compassion on those in our communities dealing with tremendous struggles. Pray for a greater thirst for prayer. Pray for the presence of Jesus in our church.

People are not pawns…

It is not revolutionary to state that addiction is difficult.  As I reflect upon this last week’s sermon, that becomes self-evident and further reinforced.  Whether it is substance abuse, pornography, technology, gambling, food or a myriad of other issues, addiction can seem helpless.

What is our response as a church?  How can we feel like we can have any effect?  Is it fair to ask if we are wasting our time?  Am I wasting my time to take on a discipleship relationship with a person consumed with an addiction?  Are we as a church wasting our time working with addicts?  The answer is a resounding “No!”  The answer is “no” because people are people.  People are not pawns.  People are not pawns in our game to grow a church.   

If we see people as pawns to grow our church, or as pawns to help us personally advance in life, then we will see their struggles as a waste of our time—not to mention that we are blindly forgetting our own struggles.  Just imagine if Jesus had that mindset.  What if He would have seen the struggles of ordinary people as a roadblock to building His kingdom?  If humanity had drawn up the plan for Jesus, He would have spent His time exclusively with the ruling elite.  If humanity had drawn up the plan, Jesus would have never spent time with the leper, the woman with the issue of blood, the man born blind, nor His inner twelve for that matter. 

However, all people are created in the image of God and therefore have infinite worth and value.  The King knows this truth, but often we, His servants, can easily forget.

Let us be people who do not automatically calculate the time that people will consume, but let us see them as our fellow image-bearers.  People are not pawns.  We are all image-bearers with scars of a fallen world.

A Review of “Seven Traits of Healthy Churches”

Last month I shared thoughts on the first part of the article “Seven Traits of Healthy Churches Today” by Thom Rainer. Below is a review of healthy church traits one through three:

  1. They truly believe in the power of the gospel.
  2. They have courageous leaders.
  3. They embrace change.

This month we will finish the list, and review traits four through seven. Rainer captures the straight-forward essence of what a healthy church looks like, and how its people interact with the world.

4. “They are not nostalgic.”
There is nothing wrong with fondly remembering the past. In fact, I consider myself to be pretty nostalgic. However, we can never allow memories of the past to keep us from being effective in the future. The mission of making and maturing disciples never changes. However, the methodology has always, and will always, continue to change.

5. “They see reality.”
This trait deals with a church being honest with itself. This kind of church is not afraid to look at its own warts. In fact, this type of church looks to seek fresh eyes in order to get a fresh perspective on what it can improve.

6. “They intentionally intersect their lives with non-Christians.”
Would you like to give fresh perspective and purpose to that drab job and the difficulties you face? Well, how about having God’s perspective about your job. He sees it as a mission field that is ripe for the harvest of the lost coming to faith in Jesus. What about the people you know from your kids’ activities? Mission field. What about your neighbors? Mission field. The waitress that you see often at the restaurant you frequent? Mission field.

7. “They accept responsibility.”
Healthy churches recognize that cultural changes may not always be for the best, but they always provide opportunities for the gospel to change lives. Healthy churches do not see other churches as competition but as partners in the enormity of the task of reaping in the field of missions.

For further reading, check out Thom Rainer’s full article at https://thomrainer.com/2018/08/seven-traits-healthy-churches-today/

Richest Blessings,

Pastor Mason