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Friday, October 4, 2013

Familiar Words Packing a Fearsome Claim

Matthew 18:19 (ESV) 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
This morning I read this verse and paused longer than normal to make myself take note of the outrageous thing Jesus said. I read it often but sometimes treat it as run of the mill information like, “if you eat right, you will be more healthy.” Yawn. What Jesus says here is a little more like throwing a grenade on the table.

Now read it in its larger context.
Matthew 18:15–20 (ESV) 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
You can’t isolate what Jesus says in verse 19 from what the whole paragraph is about. And by the way, these verses are not about “letting someone have it” who gets out of line, but rather taking risks to rescue people trapped in sin which they won’t be able to escape without help. So in v. 19 when Jesus says “again” he is repeating himself so that we will be sure to get it. Jesus directly connects our praying to rescuing people.

Jesus gives no qualifications to his prayer challenge. We squirm knowing there are many things we’ve prayed for in the past that God didn’t answer the way that we wanted So we have questions about how this works. But I’m convinced we talk ourselves out of boldly praying for “impossible” ministry outcomes, instead of believing Jesus and praying with boldness and confidence.

(The rest of the post is specific to Bethany Place)

So I wonder how we might strategically pray together about God’s vision for our church? Sunday, October 27th is Vision Sunday at Bethany Place. We will openly explore God’s vision for Bethany Place Baptist Church for 2014. I have specific images on my heart that I and the elders have been praying over and discussing. I suspect you may as well. On that morning, we will serve breakfast for everyone at 9 am. At 9:45 children will go to their classes, while adults and youth remain in the fellowship hall where we will share the specifics of the vision. At 11:00 we will worship together and issue a challenge to take up your part in moving toward the future as a church. A part of that challenge will be to pray specifically agreeing together as Jesus challenged.

I wonder, what new ministry initiatives would God have us agree together about?
  • A certain number of people who would take up the task to make disciples that make disciples?
  • Beginning a critical new ministry?
  • Hiring a new staff member?
  • A way to bless the community around us by mentoring young people?
  • A specific increase in the amount of money we give to missions and the number of missionaries we support?

I’d love to hear what you believe God is leading you to pray for Bethany Place. A picture of the future is forming. Please do all that is possible to be present on October 27th as we seek to hear God’s vision for us.

This Sunday, I am fired up about what God has burned into my heart to share with you. I believe that we will hear a spine stiffening encouragement that will move us forward, not because of me, but because of the powerful word of God. You can see the scripture and outline here.


Gene

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