A couple of weeks ago we jumped into a study of 1 & 2 Peter as a church. I believe that the Lord has something He wants to say to us, and I hope we can do this together. Studying the scriptures individually and as a people is hugely important, and I want to urge you to take this opportunity to renew your commitment to God’s Word.
There are multiple ways we can and should engage with the scriptures. The public proclamation through teaching and preaching is huge (see 1 Timothy 4:13). This is one of the big reasons we as the br began meeting on Sundays. In spuds, we have the opportunity to have open discussions around the Bible and to share how God is speaking to us and how we are responding. This is so significant. We can also form Discipleship Groups (D-Groups), in which we read the Bible with one or two others and focus on submitting to the Word in obedience. And of course we benefit greatly from spending time on our own reading God’s Word. He can and will speak to you.
If any of this — or even all of it — seems like a drag, I understand. I’ve been there. There have been times I’ve loved listening to preaching, but hated trying to sit down with the Bible by myself. The professional teachers were able to pull so much more from this book, and my own feeble attempts seemed pathetic and dry. At other times, I’ve not wanted to listen to preaching. I honestly thought I had nothing much to gain anymore of real significance, and it simply wasn’t worth the effort. Clearly not true. I think of Peter’s words: “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have” (2 Peter 1:12). And I’ll say this — if a teacher makes you feel like you need him or her to truly understand the message of the Bible, they’re not doing their job. And if your own experience and reading of the scripture does not cause you to appreciate what you can glean from teachers who put time into studying and delivering messages, you’re also missing out.
In addition to all that, at times earlier in life I doubted if I could really trust what I have in my hand as God’s Word. Isn’t it hard to understand? Who can really know what it means? And how do I even know it’s been preserved well? What about the translation process — surely it has been strewn with errors?
I read a story about Billy Graham many years ago that has impacted me greatly. He said that there was a time when he was haunted by doubts about the truth and the accuracy of the Bible. His evangelistic ministry was just beginning to be very fruitful. Thousands were coming to hear him preach. And yet he was inwardly tormented. He had a good friend who always cast doubt on the Bible, and his arguments sometimes made sense. One day, Billy went to an isolated place to wrestle it out with God. He couldn’t take it anymore. After spending time in prayer, he came to a decision that he would believe and put his trust in the Bible from that day, and would not pursue his doubts any longer. That decision freed him from the agony of unbelief, and of course he went on to preach confidently for many decades.
I’ve made that same decision, and have also become convinced that I can understand everything that I need to. I trust the Bible. I submit to its authority. I trust that the Holy Spirit has hovered over these writings for millennia — watching over the copying and the translating. I’ve had to leave feelings or questions aside sometimes and simply make the choice. I believe that God speaks to His people through this book. He gives us the ability to understand it. In fact, most of it — including that which is most significant — is easy to understand, but very difficult to follow.
When I read ‘rid yourselves of all malice,’ (1 Peter 2:1) I know what is being demanded of me. Like I shared on Sunday, I find that there is malice in my heart towards people, and God’s Word is telling me to get rid of it. I am obligated to obey. When I read, as we will together this Sunday, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21), I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it. When I read, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9), I honestly have to think on it some more. I need to work to understand what is being said here — but by God’s grace, I can - at least in part. And then I have to struggle to believe it. We’re a chosen people? Really? Yes, we are. I’ve decided I’m going to believe this book and I am going to endeavor to obey it. It's a central priority in my life. This has made reading it myself, with a few friends, and in the bigger congregation such a different experience. God is talking! To us! What a gift!
To be honest with you, I love the Bible now. I really do. Even when I read very demanding sections, I get inspired. When I read of the Father’s love for me, I believe it — and sometimes I experience it right then. When a preacher reminds me, through the Scriptures, that I need to repent or pray or stop being jealous, I get convicted. Truly God’s Word is living and active! (Heb 4:12). Does that mean that every time I read or listen or discuss something magical happens? Heck no! I often don’t feel anything. But I have faith that something is being built up in me. And sometimes I do sense it. I know God has spoken, and I can almost feel the transformation happening. A mini spiritual growth spurt. But the point isn’t in the felt experience of the moment. The point is in the lifestyle of being molded and matured and strengthened by His Word. And we all need that — whether it’s easy, hard, exciting, fun, boring, or whatever.
Of course, this could come across as a guilt trip. That’s obviously not my intention. But I am writing to people who sincerely long to know God and to grow in Him and to do His will. We need the grace of God for any of that to happen — And that grace includes pursuing it in the ways He has given us. One of the most powerful gifts He has given is the Bible. The Bible is a grace for us from God. Let’s take full advantage of so wonderful an invitation!
Man, I am so grateful for this weekend and the prayer vigil. Thank you all for participating and supporting this truly special time. Seriously, I am grateful. It struck me throughout the weekend how tremendously significant and essential it is for us to take time like this and seek the Lord as a people. Jill did an amazing job in creating a space that draws the soul into prayer.
Both times when my scheduled slot in the room ended, I was disappointed and not ready to leave. This has not necessarily been my experience in prayer lately, and I am so so grateful for the beautiful and powerful grace of Jesus towards me. I will say — and I do not understand this or really know if it’s true — but it seems to me that He does tend to extend this grace for prayer in special places that are dedicated for that purpose. The very atmosphere seems to draw my heart and soul upward. Like I said, I’m not sure about all that, but I do know that my prayer times this weekend were refreshing and energizing.
I’m so grateful for the Merchant. It’s been at least a decade that I’ve been asking God for a prayer space in or near downtown for the boiler room — one that we could use for special seasons of prayer, but also for all the in-between times (yes, I realize that was before there actually was a boiler room). This weekend my mind wandered back to many times of walking around downtown, asking the Father for such a place. I also thought about the history we as the boiler room have had with prayer rooms. When we started eight years ago, we had a dedicated prayer space in the Harvest Market. Remember that?
Then we moved on, and wandered from place to place. I remember Karissa early on saying something to the effect of (sorry if I get this wrong) God is causing us to be the prayer room - a mobile prayer room. That we as a people would host His presence and foster prayer wherever we are. It seemed this was a significant lesson for us to learn, and an essential piece of who God was (and is) calling us to be. As this became a reality, we’ve created many spaces for prayer — some more temporary than others. Remember the old Ida Red in Brookside? The CORE Center? Retreat weekends at Shepherds Fold. Of course the Jesus Inn. The BC prayer room. Our homes. Wasn’t there a dance studio at some point? Last Fall Jill created a prayer shed in our back yard and we had a week of prayer there.
I’m grateful for all of those places and the things the Lord taught us, and how He used those experiences to shape us and grow us. And I am so grateful for where He has us now. Family, this feels like an answer to some deep longings I’ve been carrying in my heart for a long time. A place of prayer that is also a place of hospitality and significant Gospel ministry to the poor and the marginalized. A place of creativity and discipleship and partnership and mercy and equipping and welcome and transformation and sending. I'm so glad to be walking this out with you.
I’m incredibly grateful for the open-handed and generous way Paul and Debbie have invited us into this space to partner with them. I’m grateful for their desire to extend this invitation to others in the city, and I’m ready to do whatever the Lord requires of us to facilitate this.
I can’t end this without mentioning my gratitude for you who participated in our time of prayer together as a church family Sunday morning. The testimonies that were shared towards the end brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face. Thank you for your vulnerability and faithfulness to give praise to the Father. We heard about people set free from addictions and depression and suicidal thoughts and severe anxiety. About the lonely welcomed into family and hearts of stone turned to clay. About the homeless being given homes and wandering souls received by the Father. God has done powerful things for us. These stories were not about distant people we barely know, but it was us and those we love the most. We are a people redeemed. A people whom God has set free, and is setting free. Praise be to Jesus!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.