Holy, majestic and mighty God we gather there this morning to praise your name. Your way is perfect. Your word proves true. You are a shield for all who take refuge in you. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. And your name is most hallowed in person and work of Jesus Christ. By the indwelling presence of your Holy Spirit saturate our souls and stir our affections for Jesus. May his grace shape us; may his sacrificial love motivate us; may his death humble us; may his resurrection overwhelm; may his gospel delight us; may his mission overflow through us.
We pray this morning for Restoration City Church, and for J and D as they begin to plant that church. Give them much grace in these early days as they work through the logistics of trying to start a church. And give them, and all those connected to Restoration City Church, a great zeal to know and share Christ. We also pray for Capitol Hill Baptist and Grace DC and Christ Reformed Church. May these churches faithfully shepherd your people and seek that make disciple making disciples.
Father, in the name of Jesus, we pray for those peoples around the globe that have not heard of the name of Jesus. We pray for the 588 language groups in SE Asia that do not have the Scriptures. Bring your word to these peoples we pray. And we pray for the 43MM Rajput Hindis in India and the 17MM Isan in Thailand. For the glory of your name, raise up missionaries to carry the gospel to these peoples.
Father often times we are so concerned with our own little lives, we neglect to think and pray for those who do not know you. Our hearts are often cold toward your global glory. Forgives our sin, we pray. Give us hearts that yearn to make Christ known locally and globally. We pray for our brothers A and L as they finished up their work among the T people. In these last few months give them great grace to finish well and praise you for all that you’ve done in and through them.
We pray for our own church; make us a people marked with a supreme delight in Christ; a people who make disciples of our Lord Jesus. As we study your word this morning, use it to shape us and strengthen us and sustain us. Use your word this morning to exhort the wayward, comfort to afflicted, encourage the weary, and spur on the faithful. We pray for our efforts to plant a Spanish speaking church in Columbia Heights. Use the Bible study already taking place to draw men and women to yourself. And we pray for our continued efforts to strengthen Haitian pastors. We thank you for the funds our people raised to translate What is a Healthy Church? and pray for Pastor Enel as he finalizes that translation. For the fame of Jesus, use this resource to strengthen Haitian Churches that they might plant more and more healthy churches.
Father, in the name of Jesus, we pray for the continued unity of our church. Help us reflect you – God the Father, Son and Spirit in perfect loving unity. May we be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit of the bond of peace. We praise you for the way this church body sacrificially serves one another; that’s an evidence of your grace and we thank you for that. Help us to be quick to confess and repent of our sin. Help us to be quick to forgive one another. Fill us with your Spirit that we might be a community marked by humility and grace and compassion and zeal for Christ.
We pray this morning for our brother R. Give him an increasing joy knowing that he has been ransomed by Christ Jesus. May your word be sweet to him this week. And we pray for N and A. We praise you for the many ways they serve our church. Use their marriage to reflect the gospel of Christ. And we pray that as they raise J and E in the Lord, you would save these two little boys for the glory of your name.
And we pray for ourselves. We gather here this morning knowing that we fall short of your glory, short of perfection, short of worshipping you and you alone. In fact, if we’re honest, we know that we don’t just fall short but we, at times, willingly rebel against you. We knowingly lie trying to protect our name. We chase sexual immorality and looking for companionship. We burst out in anger trying to right where we think we’ve been wronged. We self-righteously compare and condemn trying to prove our goodness. We pursue drunkenness and getting high looking for pleasure or escape. Father, in these ways and more we have sinned against you. We are sorry. We repent of our sin. We trust in Christ knowing that only he can cover our sin and bring us back to you. Thank you for the sin-bearing death of Jesus and his sin-defeating resurrection. It is in Christ that you are our Rock and Refuge, our Savior and Deliverer. We praise you in the name of Christ. Amen.
Here is a prayer to pray before taking the Lord’s Supper:
Father, we come to you, we come to this table, relying only upon the finished work of our gracious Redeemer and only King, Jesus Christ. We come confessing and forsaking our sins – forgive us our greed and gossiping; forgive us our lust and laziness; forgive us our pride and selfish anger; forgive us our bitterness and unforgiveness. We repent of these sins. By your Holy Spirit, apply the salve of the gospel to our hearts, to our minds; point us not to our sin, but to our Savior.
We come to this Table in need. We come to this Table to be refreshed from battles with sin. We need to be fed again. We need to receive the sustenance that only Christ can give us. By faith at this table you meet us in Christ, and we receive the nourishment we need as we take this broken bread and juice, as we remember the Jesus’ atoning work for sinners and weaklings like us; and we look forward to the hope of heaven, your forever Kingdom where, with all our brothers and sisters in Christ, we’ll eat and drink anew in your glorious presence. Amen.
This past Sunday I (Nathan) talked about having a two pronged attack against sin and sexual immorality in particular. The first of those steps was to be good student of God’s past grace. I mentioned that those who are hardly able to identify Gods grace to them will be hard pressed to over come sin because they don’t see the abundant goodness of God in His plans for our lives.
I just walked in the door from half of my Tuesday spent and I thought I might share with you how Gods grace was abundant to me in just the last few hours as a way to possibly help you in the same. I don’t pretend to be a model in this, however it has been a particularly sweet day thus far.
1. Word & Prayer: I started working on Sunday’s sermon a bit earlier than normal this week for various reasons, but this mornings study of 2 Samuel 14-19 was particularly sweet. Hopefully you will see it and feel it on Sunday, but the grace that drips from these pages led me very naturally into prayer. What a gift from God to have such beauty on the pages of scripture.
2. Kyle Mayes: I meet with Kyle about every other month for lunch and I am always so encouraged by his honesty and intentionality. This brother humbles and convicts me in the way of evangelism and I couldn’t help but thank God for bringing he and Nicolete (and Nolan and Naomi) to us.
3. A “Chance” ride: While I was waiting on the bus to take me back home after lunch my lovely bride and my youngest came riding by. I stuck out my thumb and wouldn’t you know that I got a much more pleasant ride home in addition to seeing my family mid day. What a gift from God to have that “chance” encounter.
4. Joey: As I was riding home I needed to call Joey for something. Over the last 5 years I can hardly think of a few days where Joey and I don’t talk to one another. Most of what we discussed was typical shepherding items…nothing of any great consequence. But I was reminded of God’s kindness in providing me (and us!) with a shepherd so careful and thoughtful. I have the opportunity to talk to quite a number of pastors regularly and I have yet to find a relationship that we enjoy…what an amazing gift from our amazing God.
5. Postcard/Note: When I came in the door I had two things sitting on my little desk. The first was a postcard that had an old painting of Ulrich Zwingli on it and I immediately knew who it was! What a joy it was to read the words of my sister Ruth from the other side of the earth…how she was mindful of my love of the Reformation…but more so, her words were an incredible encouragement to me. I stopped and considered the abundant grace in her life over the last few years.
The other note was a note from my Mom. She had dropped a card in the mail for me to have on Fathers Day. Many of you may not know that my Dad passed away very suddenly of a heart attack when I was 22. What a gift from God that my Mom was mindful of the day and gave me a note to reflect on Gods kindness to me in giving me my Dad, even for only 22 years. I lingered in thought and considered God’s goodness to me as I read my Mom’s words over and over.
I could list out a 100 more things from just today, but I think you get the point. When I am tempted to disobey the Lord I can reflect on just this day and be reminded that He is better than any sin I may be tempted to imbibe. May we all fight to be good students of Gods invariable grace for it is indeed abundant!
This past week we looked into 2 Samuel 9, the beautiful story of Mephibosheth. This story teaches us many things, and one of those is about God’s gospel covering our shame. This is a wonderfully important and glorious aspect of the gospel, but it’s not talked about and applied as much as it should be.
Here’s an excerpt from the sermon to help you to continue to think about this aspect of God’s grace in Christ.
God’s covenant faithfulness and undeserved kindness covers our shame
Mephibosheth has lost his family; he lost his position; he lost his wealth; he lost his ability to walk.
By the world’s standards, Mephibosheth has nothing; no great job title; no charismatic personality; no large bank account; no good looks; no impressive resume; his life is of little value. He’s unworthy. He’s marked by shame.
But, shame does not have the last word. The king’s kindness does. Mephibosheth goes from a position of shame and defeat to a position of honor and respect. Mephibosheth goes from a humiliated foe to an honored friend.
We are Mephibosheth
We are undeserving of the King’s grace. But in spite of our lame, weak, undeserving, shameful condition, God chose to set his love upon us because of His love for His son Jesus Christ. God loves and blesses us not because of what we do, but because of Christ did.
I read this story recently:
A young husband sits in the recovery room where his wife lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish looking. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth severed. Her mouth will be disfigured from now on.
“Will my mouth always be like this?” she slurs. The doctor responds, “Yes, it will.” She nods and is silent. But her husband smiles. “I like it,” he says, “It is kind of cute.” Then he bends to kiss her crooked mouth; he twists his lips to accommodate hers, to show that their kiss still works; when their lips touch, her sense of shame melts away.
On the cross God’s twist’s his lips to kiss us in Christ and removes our shame.
There is probably not a person here who does not struggle with some type of shame. Maybe its shame and guilt from something you’ve done in the past – hurtful words that you wish you could take back or immoral actions that replay in your mind. Maybe it’s shame and a sense of unworthiness from something that’s been done to you – sexual abuse or physical abuse or you were made to compromise your morals in some way. Maybe it’s shame and disgrace from where you are in life; you think you’ve failed to accomplish or attain something the world says you already should have.
Whatever the case may be, I want to point you to the cross of Christ.
Stricken, smitten and afflicted
See him dying on the tree!
It is Christ by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, it is He, it is He!
On the cross Jesus Christ becomes Mephibosheth for us. There he hung on a tree – beat, mocked, humiliated, scorned. He was shamed. He clothes torn from him. His hands and feet were crippled with nails driven through them; spikes crushing his bones, piercing his flesh. There, on the cross, Jesus hung his head and died shamed by the world. But he rose again that you might look up and live to see the smile of God.
Shame melts in the face of Grace
I want you to know, there is no shame so great that it can keep you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Jesus comes not just for the prim and proper; he comes from the weak and shamed. For those who are so shamed it’s all they can do to life their eyes up from the ground. But when they do, they are astonished to find the eyes of Jesus open, staring back at them, deep with understanding and gentle with compassion.
If you’re here struggling with some type of shame, let me invite you to come to Christ. Instead of feeling trapped and unworthy or tirelessly trying to gain the approval of others to overcome your shame, come to the cross.
You don’t have to clean yourself up or try prove yourself to those around you because in Christ you have the approval of the God of the universe. How silly to try to make yourself feel better by looking to the approval of that friend, of that boy or girl, or spouse, teacher or coach, or parent.
It’s not wrong to have the approval of others; it’s wrong to find your identity in that approval. That’s the way the world would have you live – it would tell you that the more influence, the more status you have, the prestige of your job title or type of degree you have determines your worth. How refreshing to know your identity, worth, value, status does not depend on what you have or haven’t done; what can or can’t do.
Christian remember the words of 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “If anyone is in Christ, the old has gone the new has come.” Christ took your shame that you might have his spotlessness.
God’s outrageous grace sets us free from shame and from chasing the approval of the world because everything we need is proven and provided in Christ. Oh, the freedom and the satisfaction found in Jesus.
Yesterday, we looked into one of the most important chapters in the entire Bible, 2 Samuel 7. One commentator writes this chapter is “the dramatic and theological center of the entire Samuel corpus. Indeed, this is one of the most crucial text in the Old Testament for evangelical faith” (Walter Brueggemann, First and Second Samuel, 253).
In this chapter we come across what is called the “Davidic Covenant” – or to use layman’s terms, God’s promise to David. It’s one covenant with many promises:
- Vs. 9: Make a name for David
- Vs. 10: Appoint a Place
- Vs. 11: Rest from enemies
- Vs. 11: Make David a House
- Vs. 12: Raise up an Offspring of David’s
- Vs. 12: Establish his Kingdom
- Vs. 13: Establish the throne
- Vs. 13: Establish a Forever Throne/Kingdom
- Vs. 14: Be to him a father, he will be a son to the Lord
- Vs. 14: He will discipline him
- Vs. 15: Steadfast love will not depart from him
Reading Luke 1:31-33 shows us that Jesus Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of this promise.
What is the proper response to such a gracious God? Humility and wonder. Just like David in 2 Samuel 7:18-29.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. That’s our prayer, Lord God Almighty; that your name would be hallowed, treasured, savored, cherished, prized, esteemed above all things. We give thanks to you, O Lord, with our whole heart; before the gods of this world, we sing your praise. We give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.
All this, and you have set your grace upon us in Christ. Who are we, O Lord God, that you have brought us this far? Who are we that you should have set your affections upon us? Amidst our sin and rebellions, how infinite your tenderness toward us. How astounding your glory that you should have chosen us before the ages began. How amazing your grace in forgiveness and redemption. All that we have and all that we are and all that we will be are bound up in your Son, Jesus Christ. Oh, that he would be our greatest delight.
In the name of Jesus, we earnestly plead that by your sovereign might and majesty we may not only know, but truly grasp, the all-encompassing love of Christ. We want to taste and see that you are good. Let Jesus’ compassion, mercy, and kindness overwhelm us and overflow from us. Through your Spirit, make us strong in our inner being. With Christ in our hearts, make us steadfast that we may not give up in the face of suffering, or give in to cultural pressures, or give ourselves over to the lusts of the flesh.
We pray for our members taking mission trips this summer: for H, K, N, R – give them an ever-increasing love for Christ that he might be the overflow of their lives. We pray for our brother O as he raises support this summer; give him faithfulness in this endeavor and use him to make disciples on the campus of GW. Father, in the name of Jesus, Christ, we pray that you would use our church to boldly herald the good news of Jesus both near and far; that we would be a church marked by a zealous fervor to make Christ known. Give us grace to steward our financial resources wisely, to make much of your name. Raise more men up from this church to be church planters in North America. Raise up more men and women from Restoration Church to go to unreached peoples across the globe, specifically to the BKs. Yes, Father, our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
We pray for our brother J today as he marries J. As the two become one flesh, use their marriage to showcase the glories of Christ Jesus. May their marriage reflect the permanent, uncompromising, sacrificial love Christ has for his bride, the church. And we pray for our brother D. May he work as unto the Lord in his internship this summer; and above all things – above the accolades and promises of the world – may he delight in the supremacy of Christ Jesus.
Father, we pray that we would be one of many churches laboring to advance your gospel here in Washington, DC. For the glory of your name, use Zach Randals at Waterfront church to faithfully preach Christ crucified and resurrected. Grant Tommy Hinson at Church of the Advent and Russ Whitfield at Grace Mosaic much grace as they labor to faithfully feed your sheep the life-giving, soul-satisfying Word.
Holy Spirit, as we listen to the written word preached this morning, point us to the Living Word, Christ Jesus. May we behold the glory of our Lord; may we be transformed into the image of Jesus from one degree of glory to another. We pray all of this in the matchless name of Christ. Amen.
In two previous posts we covered two reasons for fellowship meals to be a regular practice within our Community Groups. First we said, that just because these meals might have small talk does not mean it’s of small consequence. We also considered how a normal meal can be anything but normal in its aim to cultivate maturity within the church body.
And here’s a third reason…
Because Jesus is more than a hobby. Jesus is not just relegated to 2 hours on Sunday morning and a couple hours during the week. It’s not only important for us to remember this, but also to model it for those who may not know Jesus. It’s not uncommon for our Community Groups to have non-Christians in them. In fact, there may not be a better time to invite a non-Christian to your Community Group; they may not be ready to jump in and come to a Bible study, but they have to eat, so why not invite them to eat with your group? And when you do, what an opportunity to show Jesus is more than a hobby to us!
As they hear us talk, hopefully they’ll hear the gospel bounce from one person to the next; hopefully they’ll see we truly like one another and enjoy each other despite the differences we have. This will help give them a holistic picture of what it means to follow Jesus. And we’ll be reminded that Jesus is more than a hobby and they just might learn the same thing and begin to trust in him for salvation.
This is yet another reason for Community Groups to regularly have fellowship meals.
And let me give you one more reason…
Because it points to the joy found in the gospel. Too often Christianity is thought to be dull and boring. Rightly understood and lived out, following Jesus will be many things, but dull or boring should not be among them. It’s okay – and commanded – to have joy as a Christian. Yes that joy can certainly come from a more formal setting where we pray, discuss the Scriptures and apply the gospel to our lives. But joy and the gospel, like life, are multifaceted. And I think eating good food and hanging out with people that are different than us joyfully models the gospel in ways a more formal discussion does not.
If you stop and think about it for a minute, my Community Group is quite a motley crew. People from at least five countries in various stages of life – high school, college, law school students; homemakers; working professionals; married and unmarried; parents; those scared to be parents as my kids run around; introverts and extroverts. And my group is not somehow different than the others; all of our groups are marked by diversity.
The diversity is rich. Yet there is a joyful unity – all in the gospel. There is no other reason for this random group of people to get together and share a meal and genuinely care for one another other than the gospel. And the best part is that we get to have great joy in living out the bond of the gospel.
So we get to share a good meal and have fun while pointing to joy found in the gospel? Sounds like a pretty good reason for a Community Group fellowship meal to me.
To use the words of Paul, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Amen.
Earlier we considered one reason behind fellowship meals in our Community Groups. Remember, what we said? These fellowship meals foster informal conversations where brothers and sisters in Christ can get to know each other better. Informal? Yes. Inconsequential? No.
And here’s another reason…
Because a normal meal can be anything but normal. Fellowshipping with our brothers and sisters is not a ‘break’ from pursuing spiritual growth, but rather one means of spiritual growth. So a regular ‘ol meal can go from a mundane necessity to a divine opportunity to build our brother or sister up in Christ.
Taking time to talk with other group members over a meal reminds us maturity in the Christian life comes not just by having a Bible open in our lap; rather it’s also fostered as we speak about both the mundane and momentous with a view toward Jesus as our King. During these meals we can be intentional in our conversation with those we may not regularly interact with.
Remember during these meals, you, in large part, determine what is discussed. You can be intentional during your conversations. Have conversations with people that maybe you wouldn’t otherwise – learn more about them as a person, ask how they’ve been encouraged by a recent sermon, ask how they’ve been challenged by Scripture lately, ask how you can pray for them, ask how their job is going, learn about what books they are reading, get them to tell you about something fun they’ve done recently, and in turn open up your life – not just the spiritual parts, but all it – to them.
When this happens, a normal meal can be anything but normal. And this is another reason we encourage fellowship meals.