Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Church, Christian and State

Church, Christian and State
When it comes to the law of the land, Peter seems to contradict himself in just a few short sentences!

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor.

Are we to submit ourselves…to every human authority?  Or are to be live as free people under no compulsion or obligation to obey the laws of the land?  Are we to be God’s slaves and fear Him or to honour the emperor

Do you see the questions this raises?
Are we to surrender to the rules and regulations of the land (good, bad and ugly) or be unconcerned about them?
Are we compliant and placid or antagonistic and fervent?
Do we challenge the authorities or do we capitulate to them?
Do we assimilate indistinguishably into society or withdraw from it entirely?
Are Christians and the church by default patriots (literally the state’s church) or revolutionaries?
Do we have to choose between being a good citizen on one hand and a good disciple on the other?
And what is going on with Peter?  Has he lost his convictions retracting his opinion in the earliest days of the church that ‘we must obey God not men’ (Acts 5:29)

What’s going on here?
Let’s take each in turn.  We’ll find they are an unexpectedly good combination – like strawberries and balsamic or bacon and chocolate or marmite and garlic (go on, try it!).

First he says follow the rules!  Submit to those rules that honour God and help others (even if uncomfortable or costly for us!).

Do you see the qualification in the first sentence: submit yourselves, for the Lord’s sake, to every human authority.  Notice it is for the Lord’s sake.  We submit to those rules, regulations, and legislation that honours Jesus.

Do you see the expansion: who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.  The purpose of government is to protect society against evil and wrong and promote and expand good and right.  Follow the rules that do this.

So we are to strive to be good citizen in every way that honours Jesus and helps people.

But second he says be free of the rules!  Stand against those that dishonour Jesus and harm people.  Peter reminds them that ultimately they are slaves of God not citizens of the state.  When the state’s laws fail to honour God or cause harm to people it is time to act as the truly free people Christians are, answerable ultimately only to God our master.

But how are we to do that?  Certainly not in a way that is just covering up evil.  Peter’s final sentence gives four principles of dissent.  It describes the way we challenge authority.

1.    Respect everyone.  Courtesy, respect, politeness, being civil should hallmark Christian dissent.  Even as we disagree, challenge and battle against unjust rules our resolution and determination is matched by our respect to others, all others – including those we deem are ‘enemies’.

2.    Love the family of believers.  Issues of conscious will vary between Christians.  The risk is we turn on each other and fail to love those in the church we disagree with.  Yes we might try and persuade and convince fellow Christians to change their views and actions, but we do it as brothers and sisters and not as enemies.

3.    Fear God.  Is there a danger that an issue, starting well motivated, becomes a personal crusade?  A win at all costs?  A saving of my face?  True Christian dissent maintains a fear and reverence of God as the primary drive.

4.    Honour the emperor.  Somewhere behind every legislation and law is a person or people in power who advocate or create such laws.  True dissent does not fall into the trap of vilifying a person but honours those in power, even as we disagree with their use of that power.

Of course this is complex – the military, medical and political worlds are just three examples of many where the complexity of capitulation verses challenge are enormous.  In James 1:5 we are reminded that God loves to abundantly give his wisdom to those who ask. 

Wisdom to strive to follow the rules that honour God and help others, especially those rules which do not ‘help’ us but through our adherence to them, benefit others.

Wisdom to courageously and sacrificially stand against those state rules that dishonour Jesus and harm others.

Wisdom that our dissent would be marked by respect, love, fear of God and honouring of the powers that be even as we resolutely and unflinching obey God not man (Acts 5:29).

Wisdom to be thankful for the good government we do have and not to be complacent in areas where reform or change can and should be made.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Pray Continually Autumn & Winter 2016

Autumn & Winter 2016

Pray Continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

1: List ten things you are thankful for – big and small.  Thank God for them.  ‘I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving’ (Psalm 69:13)
2:  Pray we would emulate John the Baptist saying ‘He must become greater; I must become less’ (John 3:30) both in your personal life (what does that mean as a parent, friend, partner or spouse, colleague?) and in our life together as a church.  Pray it is impossible to come to church and not leave with a deep, profound and tangible experience of Jesus.
3: Pray for three Christians you know as they live out Jesus on their frontline of home, work or leisure that we may be ‘Christ’s ambassadors, as though God was making his appeal through us’ (2 Corinthians 5:20)
4: Pray for national and local leaders.  Remembering ‘In the Lord’s hands the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels towards all who please him.’ (Proverbs 21:1)
5: Pray for your role personally and for the church as a whole in bringing justice and righteousness into the world.  ‘Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.’ (Proverbs 31:8-9)  Pray for the work of House of Bread.
6:  Pray for growing courage and readiness to risk for Jesus as reflected in our value of being ‘courageous in mission’.  ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’  (Mathew 28:19)  What would be a courageous step for you?  Pray that to reach people who have not been reached we would do things that might not have been done before.
7:  Think of three people you know who are not yet Christians.  Pray that the ‘God who said ‘let light shine out of darkness’ would make his light shine in their hearts to give them the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:6)
8:  Pray for Smile orphanage in Nepal and the Anusuran Centre in India, both of whom we support.  ‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…’ (James 1:27)  Pray for the building of the new Smile Home.  Pray for Alex, Ruth, Mitchell and Thomas spending ten days in Gimdee, Nepal running children’s camps.  Pray for the trip to support Smile and Regents School in May/June 2017.  Thank God for the precious privilege to support the great gospel work of Smile Ministries.
9:  ‘This life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.’  What legacy are you leaving?  How are you investing time, talents and money?  What is Jesus calling you forward toward?  And why do you hesitate?  Pray, because ‘God did not give us a Spirit of timidity, but power, love and self-discipline.’ (2 Timothy 1:7)
10:  Pray for some of our partner organisations and associations we work within as a church.  For example Baptist Union of Great Britian, BMSWorld Mission, Heart of England Baptist Association. These are those who ‘partner in God’s grace with us.’  (Philippians 1:7).  Pray for Anusuran, the children and women’s education centre in Inidia we support via BMSWorld Mission.
11: Think of three people you know in the church - pray they ‘may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding.’  (Colossians 2:2)  Pray for two courses we are running – ‘Christianity Explored’ in September-December 2016 and ‘Marriage Explored’ in February-March 2017.
12:  Pray for a growing readiness to love everyone and help all people find God as their Father, Jesus as their Lord, and the church as their family.  Our value of ‘loving people’.  ‘I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.’ (Ephesians 1:17)
13: Pray for men.  Pray for three men you know.  Pray for responsibilities they may have – friends, colleagues, husbands, fathers, grandfathers, etc.  Pray that in all these roles and more ‘men everywhere would pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing’ (1 Timothy 2:8)
14:  As we gathering in our main meetings one of the great privileges is to declare Jesus’ praise in song.  ‘Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.  I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will life my hands…with singing my mouth will praise you.’ (Psalm 63:3-5)  Pray we would be a people of praise, delighting to sing of God’s sovereignty and love.
15:  Pray by name for leaders in the church.  ‘Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless – not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.’ (Titus 1:7-9)
16: Pray for God’s hand and guiding to lead us as we pursue a vision of one church growing God’s kingdom across a multitude of ‘beacons’ – Sandon Road, Beacon International Centre, Marston Grange and Highfields.  Pray that we might release mission in significant and impactful ways through this model.  Pray for the releasing of evangelists to lead our four locations out in serving the community.  Pray for Alex and the elders as they seek to teach, steer and care for our one church in those four locations.  Pray in it all we would be ‘filled with the Holy Spirit and speak the word of God boldly.’ (Acts 4:31)  Pray we might be good news in helping to rejuvenate churches that have stagnated.
17: Pray for each of our six congregations with their distinct people and missions.  For our Sunday morning, afternoon and evening services.  For Mid-Week Connect, Chinese Church and ‘Serve’ on Highfields.  Pray they are used by God to reach new people for Jesus and grow disciples, ‘strengthening them and encouraging them to remain true to the faith’ (Acts 14:22)  Pray now for the churches that will be planted from these groups.  Pray for our gospel ambition to initiate or rejuvenate three more additional congregations in 2017. 
18:  Pray for women.  Think of three women you know.  Pray for responsibilities they may have – friends, colleagues, wives, mothers, grandmothers, etc.  Pray in all these areas they may live as ‘women who profess to worship God’ (1 Timothy 2:10)
19:  List ten things you are thankful for - thank God for them.  ‘Cry out, ‘Save us, God our Saviour…that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise.’  (1 Chronicles 16:35)
20: Pray for strenuous, Spirit-powered determination toward three great purposes: Reach new people (‘they preached the gospel…and won a large number of people’); Grow Disciples (‘they returned…strengthening and encouraging them to remain true to the faith’); and Plant Churches (‘they appointed elders for them in each church.’)  (Acts 14:21-23).  Pray Jesus would be honoured always in all things.
21: Pray for the centrality of the Bible in your personal life and our corporate church life.  Pray for those responsible to teach or preach it in all sorts of contexts.  Pray that we might be ‘a pillar and buttress of truth’ and therefore a ‘living church’. (1 Timothy 3:15)
22: Pray for our various ‘lifegroups’. Pray using this description of a church gathering: ‘Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you are called to peace.  And be thankful.  Let the message of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…’  (Colossians 3:15-16)
23: Praise God as the great Creator: ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things and by your will they were created and have their being.’ (Revelation 4:11).  Praise Jesus as the great Rescuer: ‘You are worthy…because you were slain and with your blood you purchased for God people from every tribe and language and people and nation.  You have made them a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’ (Revelation 5:9-10).
24: Pray for Kevin & Wendy, and our new mission on Marston Grange.  Pray for an ‘open door’ into homes and hearts for Jesus. (Revelation 3:8).
25: Pray for how we operate our mid-week Bistro and conferencing facilities used by thousands of people each month as we seek to serve the Technology Park.  We seek to be an ‘above expected experience’ giving people a taste of what Jesus is like over their lunch time.  ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good…’ (Psalm 34:8) 
26:  Pray for a growing reliance and dependence on God’s Spirit as an individual and in our life as a church.  Our value of ‘Spirit dependent’.  ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’ (Galatians 5:22-23)
27: Pray for our Tuesday Group parent-toddler group serving the community and building relationships to explain Jesus through.  Pray for our pre-school that runs throughout the week at Sandon Road.  For children, staff and parents.  ‘And Jesus took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.’ (Mark 10:16)
28: Pray for our finances as we seek to be good and wise stewards with the resources God has made us responsible for.  Pray we may ‘excel in the grace of giving’ (1 Corinthians 8:9)
29:  Think of people who need a particular sense of God’s presence.  Are they ill, sad or alone?  Are finances a challenge, or a relationship strained?  Pray for them.
30: Pray for new ventures, steps of faith and ways we could be used by God to initiative new mission or rejuvenate stagnated churches.  Pray we would have open ears and obedient wills to God’s calling.  ‘It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known…’  (Romans 15:20)  Pray we might not be left wondering what God may have done if we had just trusted more and tried harder.

31:  Pray for clarity or creativity in your own life as to decisions you need to make.  How are you using your life?  ‘Show me O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.’ (Psalm 39:4)  Are there any changes you need to make?  Pray about these.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Plan to make the most of summer

Making the Most of Summer
Summer can and should be a good time.  It’s warmer and lighter and brighter.  For lots of us there is annual leave and holidays and time with friends and family memories made.  That is good.  But don’t let your soul become parched.  In fact, summer can be quite the opposite – a time our souls and hearts also become warmer and lighter and brighter.  Why not also make it the time you spend in extra prayer or re-establishing fuller habits of church attendance or private Bible reading?  Often our time with family, children and friends is more relaxed – round some tins & a BBQ, or a causal game of cricket, or a robust walk.  There is unique opportunities to share our faith and talk deeply.  Grab the chance.  Those of us who are parents should be mindful at best we get 18 summers with our children as children.  Make the most of that. What about books - read something you don't usually have the time to read.  Savor it.  Learn.

Before summer fully kicks in stop, reflect and think.  Make a plan to make the most of your summer, however that is.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Hearing God

As a church we believe God’s voice is heard when God’s Word (the Bible) is taught.  It is one of our values: Bible Saturated.  Yet often it makes us bored, fidgety and unable to remember anything we heard (except perhaps a humorous story told by the speaker!). What can we do?  How can we listen to talks from the Bible so we really do hear from God?

This was the question asked by a number of different people in a number of different ways follow Sunday’s preaching.  Peter told us that the Bible is a ‘living and enduring word’ (not dead, dying, temporary or passing!) and is laden with miraculous potential to cause change so radical it’s like being literally ‘born again’!  (1Peter 1:22-25)

To answer those questions, and you may have them as well, I have reproduced the six hints and helps I think the Bible points us toward.

1) Expectantly
We are to listen to talks on the Bible expectantly because Jesus gives the authority of God himself to the speaker who teaches the Bible accurately, prayerfully and obediently. Of course it is good when people who can, study the Bible themselves privately or in smaller groups, but it is vital (if you want to hear from God) that you hear the Bible taught publicly. According to Peter the living and enduring word of God is the word that was preached to you (1Peter 1:23-25). He goes on to explain that if anyone speaks (and the context is the Bible being taught in church) he should do it as one speaking the very words of God (1Peter 4:11). In the Old Testament Bible teaching is described as a face to face meeting with God (Deuteronomy 5:4-5). Therefore when the Bible is reliably taught we should expect that God will speak and that we will be changed by his Spirit.

Action Point: We do not instinctively hear preaching as the voice of God. Our natural reaction is to take it simply as the voice of people and disregard it (especially if we don’t like them or what they are saying). This is why praying is vital: for the speaker during their preparations; for ourselves and others as we listen; for God’s Spirit to change us as we obey what we hear.  Did you know we pray from 9-10 every Sunday morning, not least for God’s voice to be heard as we gather – why don’t you join us?

2) Alertly
It is not always true that when we hear the voice of the preacher we hear the voice of God. Whether we hear the voice of God or not depends on one thing – is the speaker reliably teaching the Bible? Are they saying what the Bible is saying? Is the speaker’s main point built from the passage or are they just using the passage as a springboard for saying what they want to say? We are not asking how well or poorly the speaker communicated, but whether the message came clearly from the Bible.

Action Point: We should be looking at our Bible and asking the question ‘where did they get that from?’ and ‘is that really what the Bible teaches?’  That is why we have Bibles readily available in our gatherings and encourage people to have them open themselves.

3) Humbly
If a speaker is teaching the Bible reliably then at some point it will hurt! We all come to God with our lives messed up; with prejudices, wrong beliefs, and confusion about God. This is true however long you have been a Christian. I come to the Bible as a thoroughly broken person who cannot think straight, act as I ought, or speak right. Therefore the Bible is going to tell me to do and change things I don’t want to do and change. I need to recognise that God knows best and should be obeyed. I need to listen humbly, admit the Bible is right, and that I need to change, to get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly except the word planted in me (James 1:21). I need to be ready to listen and obey.

Action Point: Work hard not to fall into the trap of criticising the speaker as a way of avoiding the Bible criticising you. Don’t spend lunch lamenting the speaker’s inadequacies or commending their excellence. Rather discuss the Bible truths and life-changes you are going to focus on from the talk.

4) Communally
The normal place for hearing the Bible taught is your local church. God’s purpose is not to shape a collection of individuals, but to form a community of his people. There is no such thing as a ‘virtual’ church. Though it is great that technology means we can access talks on the Bible from renowned teachers, this must never replace our being regularly in our local church (even if our pastor is not quite as good a speaker as those online!). When we listen to a talk online we are not really listening to what God wants to say to us, but to what God had to say to someone else. It is an echo. When we listen to a talk together we are accountable to one another to listen well. It is more difficult to doze off in church than at home alone. And of course at home, if the recorded speaker starts to address a topic we find uncomfortable, we’re in control to switch them off. That’s why Hebrews 10:24-25 says ‘let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good works. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.’ Though it can be supplemented, nothing can replace hearing the Bible taught in your local church.

Action Point: Make being at church a priority. Regularly going to church to hear your pastor speak to you as part of your community is vital to hearing God’s voice.

5) Obediently
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says (James 1:22). We need to be those who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering, produce a crop (Luke 8:15). We must not be those who hear words but do not put them into practice (Ezekiel 33:32). A great threat to obedience when it comes to talks in church is entertainment. We live in a world of entertainment and many of us come to church with an expectation to be entertained. Yet the role of the speaker is not to entertain you but, by God’s grace, to change you.

Action Point: Avoid asking questions about how the speaker could change to be more engaging. Instead ask questions about how you should change to become more like Christ.

6) Demandingly
It is one thing to listen to good talks – and the major part of choosing a church is to make sure whoever does most of the speaking reliably teaches the Bible. But how are we to listen to bad talks that do not explain the Bible reliably, or are so dull it is almost impossible to listen? Good listeners demand and encourage excellence from their Bible teachers.

Action Point: Encourage the good. Focus positively on aspects you want to encourage (which will be far more successful that a long list of complaints). Gently ask for clarity about things that were said which you could not see in the Bible passage. Earn the speaker’s confidence by regularly listening to them, obeying the Bible, and encouraging them where you can.  When was the last time you helped one of our regular preachers by giving considered feedback?  Or encouraging them in the task by showing how it has made a real difference to you?

*based on a blog post from October 9th 2012 and again in May 2014

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Thankful for preachers of the living and enduring Word

This is the word that was preached to you
Peter describes God's word as 'enduring', 'living' and containing all that is needed for for us to be 'born again' (1 Peter 1:23-25).  'This is the word that was preached to you' he says.  This Sunday I will be unpacking this at our Sunday morning main meeting.  It has made me think of a few of those who personally have most helped, encouraged and corrected me as God's Word first took root and continues to endure and live.  

Who has most helped you?    Mine include:

Peter Guinness
Available and Integral
Peter was the first preacher I never heard before, as and after I became a Christian at University.  At its most basic preaching needs to be available to be heard.  I was at University in the town Peter led a church.  That church was open and welcoming of students (not least it had a service starting at 9pm in the evening for us!).  Peter stood up week by week and spoke about Jesus from the Bible.  He made that Word available.  But he was also integral.  When he wasn't preaching, after three earlier services, he would still be at that late evening gathering, usually in T-shirt and teens handling the tech desk.  I knew he didn't just come to preach.  He came because it matter. 

John Piper
Intellectual and Emotional
Preaching should be both deeply intellectual and wonderfully emotionally satisfying.  Preaching should both fire neurons that have lain dead and blaze bright cavities of the heart left too long darkened.  Preaching should be both.  Piper does this.  He taught me God wanted to brith new life in heart and head by his Word.

Graham Daniels
Winsome and Faithful
Preaching should be both winsome and faithful.  Preaching should both be enjoyable and enjoyed (the listener can find pleasure in preacher and preaching); and rigorous and true (God must be pleased with our faithfulness to his Word).  Preaching should be both.  'Dano' taught I didn't need to sacrifice truth on the altar of attractive but preaching God's Word could and should be both.

John Stott
Word and World
Preaching should be both saturated in the Word and intelligent about the world.  In Stott's own analogy preaching holds in one hand the Bible and in the other hand the newspaper and has delved the depths of both.  Preaching should know Christ and know culture and shine the former onto the latter.  Stott, a remarkable man of God, taught me their dual importance.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Wrestle, brawl, scrap, fight - Pray like Paul

Prayer is not peaceful.  It is not content, gentle, easy, laid back, safe.  Not here.  It is bloody, bruising battle ground.  It is not a place of retreat. It is the frontline.  Here the fighting is fiercest.  Here the battle is won.  Everything else is just picking up the pieces.

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favourably received by the Lord’s people there, so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed. The God of peace be with you all. Amen.” (Romans 15:30-33)

1.    We should expect prayer to require at least as much from us as an exhausting fight with a large, sweaty mammoth of a man.

I urge, brother and sisters…join in my struggle…

‘Urge’ is call to arms.  It means graft and effort and striving for a difficult task requiring grit and determination.  Like Paul uses it in 12:1 (“I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice…”), and 16:17 (“I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way...”)
Struggle means to wrestle, brawl, or scrap.  That is how prayer feels to Paul and he calls us to take up arms and join him in that fight.

2.    We need to cultivate the dual motivations of awe at Jesus’ supremacy and love for Jesus’ people if we hope to see that battle through.

…by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit…

It is driven equally by a vertical awe (Jesus is our Lord) and a horizontal love for those around.  A supernatural love for others from the Spirit. 

3.    We starve our lives of vital nutrients if we are too proud to ask for prayer for ourselves.

Paul asks them to pray very practically for himself.  The great missionary hero and divinely called Apostle lives up to his self-given name Paul, which means small, tiny, the little man.  He is not too proud.  If Paul knows he needs prayer can we imagine, for a moment, we don’t? 

Why might we not be asking for prayer?

·         We think our struggles are just a flesh wound and it is more faithful to battle on alone.
·         We are too embarrassed to ask.
·         We have no one to ask.
·         We ourselves don’t pray so we assume other people don’t.
·         We’ve shared something in the past that has been misused by another.
·         It shows an underlining uncertainty about God and our faith.

Find a friend; ask a pastor; tell your spouse.

4.    We should be practical & explicit with our requests, not vague and ambiguous.  Real life should trump spiritual fluffiness.

Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favourably received by the Lord’s people there, so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed.” (Romans 15:31-32)

Paul makes three practical and specific requests.

·         Kept safe from angry unbelievers
·         Favorable received by the church
·         Arrive in Rome with joy

There is no crisis or disaster.  It’s normal life – please pray for me he asks.

5.    We save ourselves a whole lot of anguish by knowing God answers our prayers in the way he sovereignly sees and not always in the limited perspective we have.

Of the three requests, one is answered as Paul requested and two not.  Paul is not especially ‘rescued from unbelievers’ and he arrives in Rome but as a prisoner (so potentially not with the joy he hoped)!  The church welcome him though.

God is sovereign – pray details then trust him.

6.    We will find our prayers more aligned to God’s answers the closer we saturate ourselves in the Bible and therefore pray his will.

The essence of all Paul’s requests are answered, though not in the detail he envisaged, because they are prayers aligned to God’s will.

·         The gospel is not stopped by the unbeliever’s anger.
·         Paul is received well by the church.
·         He arrives in Rome and will look back from eternity with great joy.

He knew God’s will because he knew God’s words.  Jesus says the same – the more we remain in his word the more our prayers, aligned to that word will be answered.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7)

God speaks to us in the Bible, and we repeat back to him his own words made specific to our situation, in prayer.

7.    We should say thank you when people have prayed for us.

“The God of peace be with you all” is a polite way of saying thanks!

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