The works of God in the ordinary

From D.A. Carson, commenting on Neh. 4: “If God is God, if he has graciously made himself known in the great moments of redemptive history and in visions and words faithfully transmitted by prophets he has raised up, why should we not also think of this God as operating in the so-called “natural” course of events? Otherwise we have retreated to some myopic vision in which God works only in the spectacular and the miraculous, but otherwise is absent or asleep or uncaring. The God described in the Bible is never so small or distant. ”

This is my encouragement for the day, to look for the amazing hand of God in the ordinary events of life. And once I see His hand, to worship Him in thankfulness and awe, that He is so intimately involved in every aspect of my day.

Prayer for 2011

It’s the time of year that we think about New Year’s resolutions.  There are things about us that we want to change, so we make a list of habits to get rid of or habits that we want to add. I’m not here to give you advice about how to lose weight or save money or make better use of your time. I do want to help you think about your goals for growth as a Christian in 2011.

At Faith Bible Church, we have 3 main priorities. We call them “growth” priorities, because everything about our Christian life should be about growing, not remaining stagnant. We have a priority of personal growth, which we define as Pursuing our love for Christ. A key verse related to personal growth is Matthew 22:37: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. We also have a priority of church growth (not about numerical growth), which we define as Helping one another grow in Christ-like Maturity. A key verse related to church growth is Eph. 4:14-15 Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way…into Christ, from whom the whole body…when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. We have a goal of gospel growth, defined as Declaring in word and deed the gospel of Christ. One of the key verses that speaks about gospel growth is Acts 1:8, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.

Here are some more key verses relating to each priority, along with prayer suggestions to voice the heart for each area. May God bless you and answer these prayers in you according to His perfect will.

New Year’s Prayer for personal growth, church growth and gospel growth

Personal Growth

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you,

as in a dry and weary land

where there is no water.

Prayer for personal growth in 2011

  • Seeking after God
  • Thirsting for Him
  • Keeping a soft heart before Him

Church Growth

Heb. 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Prayer for church growth in 2011

  • Prayerfully helping fellow Christians towards love and good works
  • Encouraging each other by regularly meeting together
  • Exhorting each other that the Day of the Lord is near

Gospel Growth

Rom. 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes

Acts 4:29 And now, Lord, … grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness,

Col. 4:3-4 …pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, …that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

Prayer for gospel growth in 2011

  • Pray for a heart that is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ
  • Pray for boldness to share the gospel with words as well as deeds
  • Pray for open doors and opportunities to clearly speak the gospel of Christ

I Must Tell Jesus

Some Sundays I get the privilege to play a brief instrumental “meditation” after the message. For me, it’s a time of prayer and reflection that is expressed through music. It quiets my heart and helps me reflect on the truth just preached in the message. It is worship, plain and simple.

I don’t plan what I’m going to play. I do this for a couple of reasons.

First, I like the musical challenge of making something up on the spot. It helps me stay sharp as a musician/arranger/composer. I don’t ever mean to do it from a prideful standpoint. Some people serve and minister in ways that I could never dream of. This is something that I can do, so I just try to offer it to the Lord from a grateful heart.

The second reason I don’t plan what I’m going to play is that I like for the Holy Spirit to move in me, leading me to a song that might be appropriate for the morning. Sometimes, that song is an old hymn. Sometimes the song is a contemporary song. Sometimes, I just improvise something new, in the moment…playing a “new song”, as it were.

I listen to the sermon like everyone does. I am challenged and encouraged as I trust everyone is as God’s Word is preached and proclaimed. I then respond, in that moment, with worship of a song. My prayer for the body is that you will respond with worship according to the way God has gifted you. Serve, speak, encourage, exhort, teach and lead according to the way God has gifted you, as an act of worship to Him.


This morning’s song (Oct. 31) was an old hymn, called “I Must Tell Jesus”. Several of you asked about it after the service. The words are printed below. I trust they will be an encouragement to you…

I Must Tell Jesus

by Elisha A. Hoffman

I must tell Jesus all of my trials;
I cannot bear these burdens alone;
In my distress He kindly will help me;
He ever loves and cares for His own.


I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
I cannot bear my burdens alone;
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

I must tell Jesus all of my troubles;
He is a kind, compassionate friend;
If I but ask Him, He will deliver,
Make of my troubles quickly an end.


Tempted and tried, I need a great Savior;
One Who can help my burdens to bear;
I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus;
He all my cares and sorrows will share.


O how the world to evil allures me!
O how my heart is tempted to sin!
I must tell Jesus, and He will help me
Over the world the victory to win.

Hebrews 2:18 “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (ESV)

Hebrews 4:15-16 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need”

Joining with you in prayer,


Jesus, Messiah

2 Cor. 5:21 says this: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (ESV)

When we sing the song “Jesus, Messiah”, we sing an abbreviated version of that verse: “He became sin, who knew no sin, that we might become His righteousness.” Now, I love the song. It contains several other direct Scripture references. For instance, the very next line of the song (“He humbled Himself, and carried the cross…”) is a direct reference to Philippians 2:8. In many songs that contain direct Scripture reference, though, words can be left out for the sake of lyrical flow. Such is the case here.

Notice how the original verse begins with 3 dumbfounding words: “for our sake…”  Pause for a moment and let that sink in.

For our sake, He (God the Father) made Him (Jesus the Son) to be sin. “God regarded and treated “our” sin (the sin of all who would believe in Christ) as if our sin belonged not to us but to Christ himself.” (ESV study Bible note) Thus begins a direct, concise statement of the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. Christ died for us, having received in Himself the punishment for sins that He never committed. Again, the ESV study Bible says it well: Christ took our sin upon himself and, as our substitute, thereby bore the wrath of God (the punishment that we deserve) in our place (“for our sake”).

Where else in Scripture do we see this kind of description of Christ’s work on our behalf? Well, look first to Isaiah 53. Several verses, quoted below, make similar statements of this staggering, humbling truth. (Note that the word for “sin” is translated in several different ways, highlighted in bold italics.)

As a devotional thought, before reading each of these verses, say “for our sake, in our place.”

“surely he has born our griefs” (Isa. 53:4); “He was crushed for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5); “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6); “he shall bear their iniquities” (Isa. 53:11); “he bore the sin of many” (Isa. 53:12).

So then, Christ, as a substitute for us (“for our sake”) has paid the penalty for our sins. A few verses earlier, Paul says this: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV) Our newness of life was purchased through a death: the death of a sinless, perfect Savior. As we rejoice in our position as new creations in Christ, let us never lose the impact, the sobering impact of the cost paid for our new life. “For our sake…”

Look at the last part of the verse: “in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Can you see how staggering the implications are? Our sin was put upon Him, imputed to Him. (Quick dictionary moment. Impute: to credit by transferal (a virtue or the benefit of a good work) to the account of someone else.) Our sin was “credited by transferal” (and was by no means a virtue or benefit) to Christ upon the cross. Likewise, His righteousness was “credited by transferal” (the greatest benefit in human history) to us. We enjoy a reconciled relationship to God (2 Cor. 5:18) because of God’s plan and Christ’s willingness to suffer punishment in our place and because God then credited us with Christ’s perfect righteousness.

So much beauty and horror present in the same verse, and yet it is the soberingly glorious truth of the gospel that we celebrate when we sing, “He became sin, who knew no sin, that we might become His righteousness.” Jesus, Messiah indeed.