Pastor Matt’s Blog for September

Dear Family in Christ,
I’m very excited about my fall preaching series. Let me give you a preview. It’s called
“Tough Conversations.” You’ve heard of tough love? In the OT, the people of God dared
to pray tough prayers – prayers that were bold, intrepid, and sometimes outrageous.
Prayer at it’s most elemental is “How to talk to God like an ancient Jew in any and every
circumstance and know that He IS responding.”
Consider it: God actually responds. So prayer is really two-way: a conversation.
Prayer is tough too. Ancient Jewish prayers wrestle with God over real-life and usually difficult circumstances.
They risk God saying, “No!” and sometimes He does! Such prayers position sinful, needy and vulnerable people
before the presence of a Sovereign God, who binds Himself to them as their Lord in an unbreakable relationship,
and yet One who never sacrifices His character or kowtows to their whims. Indeed, through tough conversations,
God treats us seriously.

Still, God never changes: He is always ready to listen, always responding, and always leading His people forward to something better. I expect will take other forays into prayer, such as…

  • Prayer brings real influence upon God, because God really listens and really responds – He’s not some Static Being in the sky, fating everyone to a predetermined and rigid course
  • Prayer is encountering God’s character / glory! See Numbers 14:13-23
  • Many prayers are about getting justice now. Sometimes God takes away the chaos now and grants more justice later.
  • Crying aloud is honest and necessary, insistence is not pride – Moses for water (Ex 15:25), Ex14:10-18, Moses at the Red Sea, and especially when Israel groans under Egyptian bondage in Ex. 2
  • Prayer faces God as judge — should we be scared?
  • Thinking / meditating is not emptying
  • We hope to submit / surrender in the end, but struggle is important, wrestling in prayer
  • What happens when our prayers meet sheer silence?
  • Praise and thanksgiving are means of expressing real gratitude and the pinnacle of a solid relationship; thanksgiving and praise are not mere formalities offered in a religious way, i.e. dutifully, as most people think of religious gratitude

Psalm 131:1 is fascinating “My heart is not lifted up…I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me”… is this appropriate prayer? Shouldn’t we seek God’s glory?

Perhaps most importantly, in tough conversations, we should envision prayer outside the realm of religious formality, because many people associate prayer with “those religious people” or “something those guys do at church”.

We at ECC need to re-discover what it’s like to live and pray in the shoes of people just discovering God’s faithfulness. So let’s consider the ancient Jews, who had to figure out the best way to follow God in the wilderness, or under Egyptian bondage, or in starting a family, when they’d been trying for years and could never get pregnant!

This sermon series is a precursor to our emphasis as a church in 2019, to live into our biggest purpose as a church: to exist for those on the outside, to truly reach out and be on a mission to introduce others to the friendship with God. Indeed, God is the One who can handle any conversation as His Spirit draws people close to His Son.

Looking forward to many discoveries with you this fall.

Warmly, Matt

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