Category Archives: Prayer

Hands and Feet, Old and New.

I’m not sure if I’ll get flack for this. The reason I type that is because I’ve grown up in and around Christian circles that, generally speaking, believe that being the hands and feet of Jesus is somehow more difficult, painful, and frightening than being pressed by Him. As if it takes a certain kind of courage to leave the comfort of our house and home and travel somewhere new, exotic…unreached.
Now of course, no one would outright say that. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe wholeheartedly that being the hands and feet of Jesus is difficult. It is painful. And it is certainly frightening. Especially when He calls you (generally speaking) out of the comfort of house and home and places you into a place that is new, exotic and unreached.
I believe, although I would never outright say it, that in the past, I held missions (being the hands and feet of Jesus) as the avenue in which the highest difficulty with following God lay.
And then I began attending the Gathering. I am fond of the Gathering. I love it. Through loving the Gathering, I understand why Jesus states that if I love Him, I will also love the Church. It is here that I began to have a paradigm shift. It is at the Gathering that I no longer viewed living out God’s mission, furthering His kingdom, as something incredibly frightening, that takes the greatest amount of courage. Part of reason is, I believe, that I was now surrounded by men and women who were willing and eager to go. and I was surrounded by men and women who have gone and have experienced the same fears of going and frustrations of coming back, and so I could talk to both groups. They were/are an encouragement. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that missions trips (no matter how big or small) do take a great amount of courage. It takes a willingness to obey God, and trust that He has something much bigger, much grander, much better than our mud pies.(this is a vague C.S Lewis reference)
Jesus has used the Gathering to press me in places I do not want to be pressed. And now I am just beginning to understand the terrifying nature of the prayer that I pray both for myself and others. The prayer that Jesus would press us.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: I believe I am awesome. I don’t say it jokingly. Of course I wouldn’t say it out loud. But how I act, how I think, how I talk indicate at the very core of me, that there is a strong sense of selfishness, pride, arrogance and sense of entitlement. It is here that God has been cutting. It is here that God has been working. And it is here that I am terrified/unwilling to really go, and let go. It is at this place that those dangerous prayers (that Jesus would press me), and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are taking me. It is here that I know, I will see who I really am…in light of a mighty and Holy God. And it is here I am absolutely terrified to look. Terrified because I know what I will find. Terrified because I know that when I take a look, I will see something ugly. I am afraid to look because I will see that in front of a completely Holy Righteous God, all of me (good, bad, ugly) is nothing but filthy rags. And I know that the process of sanctification, the discipline of God is often times painful.
These are the moments that I need. I don’t need more knowledge about God. I will only know about Him. However, during these moments of sanctification, I will get to know Him. Not only His standards, but His love for me. I will come to understand that His discipline is because He understands that there is something much better if I follow His commands. He knows that it’s better for me in the end, if He holds off on answering certain prayers.
In the end, I find it slightly easier to go and serve than I do to have Jesus open me up. At least I don’t have to look at myself for who I really am. But even in the pain, I know that His Grace is sufficient for me. Even in that despair, I know I will be comforted because of His finished work on the Cross.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” – Matthew 5:4

Dear Jesus,
Thank you for the finished work on the Cross. Thank you for your promise that you will comfort those in distress. Not only over the loss of a loved one, but also for those that grieve over their own fallen, self-destructive sinfulness. Thank you for Your Grace. Thank you for everything. I ask that even as you bring me towards places I do not want to be, sanctify me in those places. Remind me that Your Cross has even paid for it, that I am no longer tethered by it, and I am free to let go. Thank you that because of what You did, because I am clothed in You, I am no longer who I was. But I am counted as righteous in Your sight.
In Your Amazing name,
Amen

Hansen

Biking + Worship + Praise

I don’t get it too often, but when I do get it. It hits. Hard.

What I’m talking about is an overwhelming paralyzing fear of an uncertain future. Uncertain for me at least. Don’t get me wrong, I find extreme comfort in the fact that God has a plan for me. But I have also learned to not try and guess and organize my life around what I think it is. Which at times brings me joy, calm and peace, and at other times makes me completely terrified.

Today was one of those days where the fear just absolutely pulverized me, to the point where I was beginning to hyperventilate. Was it because I didn’t trust God enough that He was still in control of my life? Perhaps. There are many possible reasons on why I would feel the way I did. I don’t want to coldly sweep them away by over-analyzing them, nor do I want to be consumed by the emotion of it all.

Before it could overtake me, I put on some music (Robbie Seay Band and Ascend the Hill) and began riding my bike around Peterborough. The intent was to make myself so tired that I wouldn’t be able to think about it, but before I knew it I began to pray. I wasn’t asking for anything like clarity, or peace or anything like that. What flowed out of my mouth was nothing by praise for my God. In that moment of biking, listening to old hymns and new p&w songs, and praise prayers, my worries and fears began to fade away. What a strong reminder to my soul that it is Jesus who is in control. Holy and mighty. What peace it brings to just praise Him.

I’m not saying that it’s a secret remedy to no longer worry or to not be frightened, but I recognize that at this exact moment this is what I needed. This is what my soul needed (before I realized that it was what I needed). And the Holy Spirit delivered, perfectly.

“It’s in times like this the world will come
Tempt me to just give You up
Oh but I’ve decided to trust
Completely in Your blood
I will run
Blindly, I’ll press into You ” – The Nehemiah Band “Press into You”

Dear Jesus,
Thank you for everything that you are. All you have done. Let the words that leave my mouth, whether in fear, anger, sorrow, joy, etc. be words of praise forever for You.

In your wonderful name,
Amen

Ch.2 The Paths and the By-Paths: The Hike

It has certainly been a long time since I last updated this chapter write up. If the previous section write up is a little fuzzy you can go here to give it a little bit of a refresher. Today we will be looking at what J.I Packer calls “The hike.”

In this section, Packer, equates the life of a Christian as a hike. The reason he does this is because, like a hike, our lives go through various stages and challenges. This section borrows heavily from John Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress. Rather, Packer references Pilgrims Progress quite a bit. Packer and Nystrom note that Christians (the character in Bunyan’s book) progress can be split into four parts.
1) In the first part Christian finds saving, converting Grace. He sees and believes the Cross and finds himself a new man and his burden gone.

2) The second part is conflict. This is where Christian fights the destroyer and ventures through the valley of the shadow of Death. Where thoughts of despair surround him

3) The third part is companionship. Christian sees Faithful and they swap stories. He will lose Faithful during his journey but be joined later on by Hopeful, where they will journey the rest of the way together.
– it is here that J.I Packer states, and I agree (after learning the hard way), that every believer needs another person where they can walk closely with.

4) In the fourth part, Hopeful and Christian explores moral and spiritual compromise through a meeting with a man named By-ends and also by another man named Demas. They escape those two men but are later locked up in Doubting Castle.

Packer notes that through Bunyan’s writing, we can see that if we are not faithful, we will undoubtedly lose our assurance of salvation. Before I go on, I would like to state that Packer doesn’t seem to be implying that we will lose our salvation. It seems that Packer is saying that we will lose our confidence that we are saved, we will call into question whether or not the Gospel changed us. We will question whether or not we are playing church rather than living a Gospel-driven life. And in our doubts, not only will we lose our assurance of salvation (though not necessarily our salvation. It is vitally important to remember that) but also the Truth of the Gospel.

Packer then states that the authentic Christian life is a many sided affair if it is viewed from the outside. However, from the inside of this life it is just a quest for more of God and more of life both here and later.

The way that Bunyan describes trials, truimphs ditches and deliverance essentially describes the path that Christians walk in which so many by-paths seem to call. These by-paths MUST be resisted if we are not to go astray.

Packer and Nystom want to paint the Christian life in three stages. Of course, like all analogies it isn’t perfect, but I do believe it does paint a fairly accurate picture.
Like a painter who lays down first the green and blue hues, then red and gold and finally the pinks and oranges. The hike is just like the green and blue. Next is God is with us in faithfulness which is like the reds and golds. and finally to finish off the painting, the love of our “best friend” Jesus, who is always beside us is the pinks and oranges. Using all three hues completes the picture that is the Christian life.

This one was a relatively short section. However our next one combines the section entitled “The good companions” and “Hiking with Jesus Christ.”

Some things to remember before ending this entry:

– Packer notes that when we do not press into Jesus (through prayer, reading meditation etc) we, not only lose our assurance of salvation but also the truth of the Gospel. Losing the truth of the Gospel is very much tied to losing our assurance of salvation. Let me be clear, I do not necessarily believe you will lose your salvation. However you will very much lose the confidence that you are saved by Jesus, and in all honesty, you may very well not be. It is during these storms of doubt that we find out whether the Cross of Christ has made us alive, or if we have been playing religion for most of our lives.  Press in, wrestle, Study the Word, Pray and Seek.

– Our lives are very much like a picture. Just as a painting loses some of it’s beauty when one or more colour is missing, so too, does our lives. If we forget about the faithfulness of God and/or forget that Jesus is always beside us, our lives do lose it’s beauty. again Press in, Wrestle, Study, Pray and Seek.

Hansen

Psalm 29

Ascribe to the Lord Glory

A Psalm of David.

29:1 Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, [1]
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. [2]

3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over many waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.

7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

9 The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth [3]
and strips the forests bare,
and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless [4] his people with peace!

Epic. and Amen.

Dear Jesus give me a faith that is both vertical and horizontal. Let me be captivated by You and not what You do, so I can glorify You like You deserve. But let me recognize and praise You for what You do and have done.  Teach me to pray like, through and in the Psalter. In your precious name, Amen.

Ch.2 The Paths and the By-Paths pt.1: Authentic Paths

I owe you all an apology. I know I said I had hoped to put this up in a few days (a few weeks ago) and I know it didn’t happen. It has been a rough few weeks for me spiritually. I honestly did want to put it up. But at some point of doing these chapter write-ups it had become a joyless, soulless chore that needed to get done, instead of a joy-driven, soulful, encouraging activity that I desired to do. The fact of the matter is that this heart issue stemmed from, not a lack of reading God’s word, but from a heart that begrudgingly read God’s word and begrudgingly prayed to Him. As if He (and I) would find pleasure and joy in me doing those things from a heart that desires not to. I believe that this begrudging submission would show through in my writing.  It was this past Sunday that the Holy Spirit gripped my heart again, and once more, reminded me that I get to pray to God, I get to understand God’s Word, and I get to walk with Christ because of what Christ did on the Cross. I don’t have to try to keep God’s moral law (which I will ultimately fail in keeping, and exhaust myself in doing so) but rather because of Christ (who fulfills the law), I desire to please God by following His commands. So thank you, dear readers (all 6 of you) for waiting patiently. Here is part 1 of Chapter 2 of “Praying” titled: The Paths and the By-paths.

J.I Packer starts out this chapter by talking about sheep farms in Britain. While describing these sheep farms he talks about how in the English countryside there will be two different kinds of paths. One of them will take you to a destination while the other will take you to a dead-end. The paths that lead to nowhere are in fact created by the sheep looking for food. By-paths can look like real paths or even shortcuts but in the end will not take you anywhere. J.I Packer then states that “as in walking trails, there are by-paths in life and in prayer, and some Christians get onto them and find themselves stuck. In this chapter we will take note of how that happens so that we may by God’s grace make sure that it doesn’t happen to us.”

To illustrate this point and show us how damaging it can be to follow a by-path to a Christian, J.I Packer uses a scene in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. In this scene Christian and Hopeful are walking along the path beside the river, drinking the water and eating the fruit from trees being watered by the river. After a moments rest they continue on the path, however the path soon diverges away from the river. This is how John Bunyan writes what happens next:

“The way from the river was rough, and their feet tender by reason of their travels; so the souls of the pilgrims were much discouraged because of the way (Num 21:4). Wherefore, still as they went on, they wished for a better way.
Now, a little before them, there was on the left hand of the road a meadow, and a stile to go over into it, and that meadow is called By-path meadow. Then said Christian to his fellow,
CHR. If this meadow lieth along by our wayside, let’s go over into it.
Then he wnt to the stile to see and, behold, a path lay along by the way on the other side of the fence.
CHR.It is according to my wish; here is the easiest going. Come, good Hopeful, and let’s go over.
When they were gone over, and were got into the path, they found it very easy for their feet…
[and so they went on for quite some time until] night came on, and it grew very dark…and now it began to rain, and thunder, and lightning in a most dreadful manner. And the wather rose amain. Then Hopeful groaned in himself saying:
HOPE. Oh, that I had kept on my way!
CHR. Who could have thought that this path should have led us out of the way?…
By this time the waters were greatly risen, by reason of which the way of going back was very dangerous. (Then I thought that it is easier going out of the way when we are in than going in when we are out.) Yet they adventured to go back;but it was so dark, and the flood was so high that in their going back they had like to have been drowned nine or ten times.
Neither could they, with all the skill they had, get again to the stile that night.”

J.I Packer warns us that we need to be wary of trails that lead us away from true praying, if we desire and struggle to become men and women of prayer. It is here that J.I Packer makes a fantastic point to end off the introduction to the chapter. Packer writes “True praying is an activity built on a theology, so we cannot look at either the work of prayer or the study of prayer in isolation from each other. We need to detect the ways and attitudes and beliefs in regard to prayer that undercut the reality of praying. Though praying ought to be a means of grace and of fulfillment to the heart, it doesn’t always operate as such. Why not? Perhaps because we’re doing it wrong.” As I was reading that closing statement I didn’t quite agree with everything that was written. However after reading it multiple times, I now understand what J.I Packer was saying. The point that J.I Packer was making was essentially a challenge to us to wrestle holistically with our prayer lives. If our prayers are dry, lifeless, and joyless,  if when we pray it feels more like a chore, maybe we should take an honest look at our attitudes and beliefs towards prayer. It maybe because our starting point or what we pray for is wrong. It is through this paragraph that Packer transitions into his first sub-topic: Authentic Paths.

Authentic Paths

J.I Packer starts out this topic by stating “Counterfeits are always best identified by comparison with the genuine article. So before we loook too closely at by-paths, we need to take a careful look at the authentic path of prayer.” Packer states that there are 3 points we must focus on:
The first point J.I Packer states is that authentic prayer follows teaching from the Scriptures. In Psalm 27:11 the psalmist writes “Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path.” J.I Packer writes: “If we want to pray rightly, we must take instruction from God through his Word, the Scriptures. His path for us in prayer, as in the rest of our living, is not one we know by instinct but is a learned way, one he teaches. If  we want to walk the true path, we will diligently receive that instruction and heed it.” We must be taught how to pray rightly, just as we need to be instructed to live rightly. We learn to pray, as we learn how to live rightly, through His Word.

We learn how to pray correctly by the “Precepts and promises about praying” that “abound in both Testaments.” Much of the Psalms are models of praise and thanksgiving or of petitions and intercession or meditations. On this J.I Packer writes that the psalmist models “should lead straight into one of these modes of addressing God. But how many in our day have taken these prayer models seriously to heart?” J.I Packer then encourages us to use the Psalms as well as other prayers found within the Bible as a pattern for our own praying.

The second point of authentic prayer expresses a God-taught commitment to a way of life. What this statement, according to Packer, means is that “This is a way of living in accordance with the teaching that Scripture presents.” It is from the Scriptures that, we Christians, are taught and learn how to live Godly lives. Therefore, it is from the Scriptures that we are taught and learn how to pray correctly. J.I Packer states that the authentic path of prayer leads to “a happiness that I begin to enjoy from the time I take my first steps on that true path, by my personal repentance of sin and faith in Christ as my sin-bearing Savior. As the path to life is embracing God’s instruction, so the path of life is living according to that instruction…If our praying is authentic it will reflect throughout the fact that this is the constant direction of our life.” Packer then mentions that if our prayers are not learned through Scripture then it will be nothing more than by-path praying.

The final point of the Authentic path is that it requires a purity of heart. Packer begins by unpacking how the modern world views the word heart, as spoken in a metaphorical sense. He states that “In contemporary society, when we speak in the metaphorical sense…we are likely to be thinking of either a flood of emotions (I love you with all my heart) or a flow of robust enthusiasm (his heart is in what he is doing) and not of anything more.” However, Biblically, the word heart is used to indicate who we are “the deep source of our character and purposes, of our attitudes and responses, of our self-image and self-projection, in short, of the total human being that each of us is.” The God of the Bible looks at us from a unitary perspective, that is God looks at us from a holistic perspective (actions, thoughts, words, and motives) and Biblically we are judged by our heart. For it is from our heart that every thing flows. J.I Packer then describes the vast difference in how we look at others and how God looks at others. On this he writes “We today assess people from the outside in grading them mainly by their skills, and we label them good people, despite their moral lapses, as long as they use their skills to do what we recognize as a good job…God, however, assesses everyone from the inside out, measuring us entirely by the state of our hearts. It is with God’s method of assessment, which digs so much deeper than ours, that we must all finally come to terms…” To follow the “authentic path” of prayer, as J.I Packer labels it, our hearts MUST be assessed, not by human standards but by God’s. Which then of course leads to the question: if by God’s standards, we fail, how then can we pray? J.I Packer, and I believe this myself, that we first need to define what a pure heart is. Packer writes “If in everyday speech we refer to pure hearts, we are likely only to be identifying some people as not inclined, as others are, to sexual shenanigans or to the underhand exploitation of others for personal advancement or to cruel abuse of them fro some perverted self-gratification.” This is how we tend to define a pure heart, at least from a worldly perspective. However the Biblical definition of a pure heart is quite different. In Matthew 22:37-38 Jesus says “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” Through this verse  as well as Matthew 5:8 in which Jesus says “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” J.I Packer concludes that “Purity of heart is indeed a matter of willing one thing, namely to live every day of one’s life loving God.”

In those verses it appears that Jesus is calling us to love God with everything that we are. Which essentially defines for us the purity of our hearts. Being pure in heart is desiring and valuing “fellowship….with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ”(1Jn1:3) more than I want or value anything else in this world…it is a matter of developing, as Jonathan Edwards developed, “a God-entranced vision of all things,” so that the thought of everything being God’s property and in God’s hands, and  of God as in reality doing all things well, despite short-term appearances, brings unending joy. And it is a matter of making knowing and loving and pleasing and praising God my life task, and of seeking to lead others into the same God-glorifying life pattern.” I think what Jonathan Edwards, as well as J.I Packer is getting at, to put it simply is that we must, I repeat, MUST take hold and press into the fact that what we were created for is worshiping God.If we grasp, desire and believe that, our lives will be forever joyful. It won’t always be happy, but Christ’s joy dwells deep. Or to use John Piper’s line “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” That is what brings us along onto the authentic path of prayer. So from this definition the answer to the question: how can we pray? is every single renewed Christian can pray. And here’s why: J.I Packer writes “For in the new birth God re-creates our disordered, egocentric anti-God, anti-moral hearts in such a way that the personal disposition we have described and which we see perfectly embodied and expressed in the Lord Jesus’ earthly life and ministry, has now become our personal disposition at the deepest level, natural and normal to us in the sense that we only know joy, peace and contentment as we act out what we now find our heart prompting us to do…To behave in a Christlike way, forming habits of loving and serving God and neighbor, and resisting the promptings of sin in our spiritual system…” Because of Christ, what He did on the Cross, we have now been given a new nature, a new heart. We have been changed deeply, and once when we would have pursued selfishly our own desires, if we are God’s our hearts will move us into pursuing what God desires so that He maybe glorified.

J.I Packer then makes a point that I don’t necessarily fully agree with, and I’ll explain why after I put the quote up. Packer writes “Many Christians, it seems, do not appreciate what has happened to them in their new birth and are careless about obeying and pleasing God; many more have desperate struggles against long-standing sinful habits that in effect have become addictions to unrighteousness, and they often lose the battles they fight, and there are many who evidently think it does not matter whether one strives to perfect holiness of life or not. But it does!-for without a purpose of holiness(purity of heart, that is!)-there can be no authentic praying.” Now I agree with much of this quote. I agree that many Christians (I include myself in this as well) have not, or even now, do not really care about knowing or understanding the cost of their salvation. In the same vein, because of that indifferent attitude, they also do not understand the incredible importance of pursuing a life of Biblical holiness. However, what I don’t necessarily agree with the implication that a Christian struggling with sin, and desperately wanting to be freed from sin isn’t serious about pursuing a life of holiness. I know, of course, that God looks at the heart of the Christian that struggles and sees far more than I do. And in that context, I agree and believe it to be true. If someone should read (like I did) that quote without the context of God looking at the heart of the person struggling with sin, the implication would be that the person struggling with sin cannot pray to God, at least authentically.  J.I Packer then makes a final few points before ending off this part. He says that authentic prayer comes from “an all-around commitment to Christian living” whereas by-path praying comes from a lack of understanding about this commitment.

Next we’ll be looking at our walk with the Triune God in our lives and in prayer entitled The Hike

Some points before ending off:

– What is our attitude and beliefs towards prayer? Do we find it a chore, something we begrudgingly do because we ought? Or is it something we desire to do because we get to communicate with our Saviour, Creator, King and Friend? Wrestle with these, in prayer and with Scripture.

– J.I Packer mentions that the pursuit of God in everything we do (praying definitely included) should be our greatest joy and our main goal. Where have we lost sight of that (in our day to day lives, in our praying)? What we maybe praying for maybe good, but apart from God, it will become a joyless, soulless endeavour. Continue to pursue “a God-entranced vision of all things.”

– Finally, God calls us to a very high standard. One that we will never be able to attain on our own merit and strength. But thank God for Jesus, and all that He did on the Cross.  Because of that we can be transformed to pursue a life of Godly holiness, not on our own strength but because of the Grace of God. Press into the Cross. Preach the Gospel to yourself everyday. We need the Gospel even now, to permeate our hearts and our lives. It is the only way we can pray rightly, and pursue God fully.

The God we pray to pt.4: This is your God pt.2

We are finally nearing the conclusion of the first chapter. Sorry it has taken quite a while to put this one out. If you are joining us now, let me just bring you up to speed. We are looking at the first chapter of a book called “Praying” written by J.I Packer and Carolyn Nystrom. In this book, both of the authors look at what it means, and how it looks to have a prayer life that is vibrant and growing. The first chapter is the main theme throughout the entire book. It establishes who is the God we pray to, and why it is good to pray to Him. From there, I believe the other chapter summaries will make the most sense. So I encourage you, dear readers, to take your time with the previous three posts and just wrestle and pray through it.

The previous post we looked at the first 4 truths of our God. I believe that each truth flows and builds directly into one another. In this post we will look at the final 4 that make up the 8 truths of God. Now I understand, and fully believe that God cannot be relegated to just 8 simple truths. For He is much larger than that. However, I believe understanding these truths will not only give us a sense of how immense He is, but it will also be encouraging because we do get a fuller (though not complete) look at who God is. So without further delay lets look at the final 4 truths that J.I Packer has listed for us.

Truth 5: God is purposeful

God never does things without a purpose. In the end, He always knows what He is doing. So then the question is, according to J.I Packer, “What is God’s purpose in the world that He has made?” J.I Packer claims that it is twofold. The first purpose is ” the honoring and glorifying of his incarnate Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who in turn glorifies the Father by his obedience.” This is vitally important to remember. I believe what J.I Packer is saying, and rightly so, is that the first and foremost purpose of God in and for this world is that He, in Trinity, gets the glory and honor due Him. This purpose is throughout the entire New Testament. Packer highlights a key moment that Jesus glorifies the Father in His obedience. That moment of course being His crucifixion. Prior to the trial and crucifixion, we see within the Scriptures, that Jesus knew the torment that was awaiting Him. And He prays to the Father “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Despite that prayer, Jesus knew what must be done, and He continued to honor the Father by obediently taking the path set before him “to the point of death, even death on the cross.” Of course, we also see the Father honoring the Son. First at Jesus’ baptism where the voice of the Father announced “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” and then once more when Moses and Elijah appeared at Jesus’ transfiguration. It is a relationship that honors and glorifies both parties because as we see later that Jesus after his humiliation is then glorified. It is here that Packer finishes this profound statement with a beautifully written transition into his next point. He writes “The divine purposes were formed before time and extend to eternity. We, the followers of Jesus, are drawn into those purposes through Christ’s love, death, risen life and ongoing intercession for us. No higher destiny can be imagined.” It is through Christ, through the Cross, through the empty tomb that God pulls us into Himself. And that in turn draws us into what His purpose is. In essence, we get to play and participate with what God is already doing in the world.

The second point, Packer states is tied to the first point. and second point is “the holiness and happiness of God’s adopted family, which is the church…millions of redeemed sinners including you and us. Then a third element of it is a consequence of…the second, namely the church’s grateful worship, which belongs to the happiness of which we are speaking.” So then, our worship of God is tied into, and comes forth from God’s relationship with Himself. We are given the privilege to participate within God’s relationship, and inevitably have a relationship with God because of what Christ did. J.I Packer explains it clearly when he writes “the Son, as the Father’s agent and the mediator of his grace, gives the saints glory, that is, the blessing of a new inner life, a new heavenly hope and a new present joy, while the saints give the Son, along with the Father, the honor and praise that are jointly their due.” What J.I Packer saying is that Jesus, through what He did, gives us all things new. Everything that is of utmost importance is new. It is here that Packer points out that the word glory is used in two sense in the Scriptures. He writes “Glory in Scripture means both God on display (the glory God shows) and people praising God (the glory we give). We give him glory for putting himself on display in our lives and for out eternal benefit.” It is a glory that is both given for and created by God himself. Blessing is the same way, Packer argues. Much like the word glory, the word blessing is used in two senses. Primarily it is what God does that allows us to do after. This order, I believe is incredibly important. So for blessing “The Father blesses us by the gift of His Son, and the Son blesses us by his gift of salvation. Then we bless God by words of gratitude, devotion, thanksgiving and joy in his presence.” As we can see, the use of glory and blessing in the Gospel, first and foremost comes from God has done (and not what we have done), this in turn allows us to respond in worship. So then from this we can conclude, as does J.I Packer, that the purpose of God is first and foremost His glory and honor which, in consequence, leads to our (the church’s) holiness and happiness. Which includes our praise for everything good.

It is with this that we should remember, know and believe that we can enter into an incredibly close relationship with God. “The Christian life, is a matter of developing friendship with God, friendship that flows from the Father’s gift to us of our Lord Jesus Christ, who on his own behalf, now makes friends with us in his own way…a transforming friendship with our glorified Savior whereby our life becomes a case of friend loving friend, friend serving friend, friend enjoying intimacy with friend, all along the line.” It is this friendship that we should, and must, live out through prayer.

Truth 6: God is a promise keeper

About this truth Packer writes “…a promise-keeper was a character quality that God established as his own. So the basis of all our asking in prayer, as of all our trusting in God, is and must be knowing his promises, claiming them, relying on them and holding fast to them whatever happens, in the confidence that they will always be kept.” This is incredibly important to remember, dear Christian, J.I Packer’s point is this: that the only times we rightly ask in prayer are when we know, hold fast, trust, and believe in God’s promises. It is receiving these promises from God that are vital and foundational in a Christian life. Not just in prayer, but really in how we live, grow and change. On this point Packer writes “receiving God’s promises and trusting those promises is an integral building block, a truly foundational activity in a Christian life. Promise-based prayer is the reality of which we will be speaking throughout this book.” This is one of the key points of the book, that to pray well, and pray Biblically we NEED to know, trust and believe God’s promises. It is for this reason that “Promise-trusting faith is indeed at the center of the Biblical prayer pattern.”

Truth 7: God is paternal

This means that God, in his perfection, cares for His children in a way that a perfect father should, and in all honesty, God does. J.I Packer writes “The biblical ideal of fatherhood blends authority, fidelity, affection, care, discipline, long-suffering and protection in a course of sustained love  that aims always at the children’s advance into strength, wisdom and maturity.” This means that God, in his perfection fulfills the Biblical ideal of fatherhood, and everything that He does (discipline, protection etc.) has one aim and that is to grow us (the church body and individually) in strength, wisdom and maturity. Packer then writes an incredibly beautiful passage in which he describes just how God brings this about. He writes “He, the eternal Father of Jesus the eternal Son, in whom we have been brought into our new life, adopts us sinners to be his sons and heirs with Jesus, who thus becomes our elder brother. Now by means of the ministry to us of the Son and the Spirit, our heavenly Father is leading us home to full Christlikeness and eternal glory.” So this is how God brings it about. He uses His Son, and because of what Christ did, we can be adopted. And because we are adopted, God the Father will eventually bring us home into full Christlikeness and glory. We can now therefore, due to our adoption, communicate with the Father through prayer, just like He communicates with us.

Truth 8: God is praiseworthy

“God is personal, plural, perfect, powerful, purposeful, promise-keeping, paternal, and, finally, in light of all that has preceded, a praiseworthy God.” This line pretty much sums up why the God we pray to, the God of the Bible is a praiseworthy God. It is here also that we are given a distinction between praise and thanks and the way we express both. To make this distinction J.I Packer writes “Prayers of thanks focus on some extent on us. We thank God for particular gifts given to us and others personally, and for general gifts bestowed on all. Praise, on the other hand, focuses directly on God. We praise him because of who and what he is. It is the difference between one spouse saying to the other, ‘You are the most understanding person I know; that’s one reason I love you so much’ and ‘Thanks for the sandwich; I needed it.” Using that spouse analogy J.I Packer makes a clear distinction between a prayer of thanks and a prayer of praise. Keep in mind however, that Packer is not saying that prayers of thanks are not wrong. In fact, he claims and believes, and rightly so, that both kinds of prayers (thanks and praise) are appropriate. We just naturally tend to focus more on prayers of thanks because we are self-centered creatures and “God’s gifts and mercies to us constantly fill our minds.” In Psalms 147:1 it says “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God;for he is beautiful, and a song of praise is fitting” With this verse we can see that it is good for us to focus the attention away from ourselves and focus on God with praise.

As this chapter comes to a close, J.I Packer then reveals the purpose of this book. He writes “What this book offers, as you can now see, is less a ‘how to’ than a ‘who to’ (more grammatically, a ‘to whom’) approach to praying. Realizing the reality of God, as we have described him, is the exercise of heart that sets prayer on the right footing. And now note what follows. In the light of this knowledge of who and what our God is, you and we have to be clear who we are when we come to God (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) in our prayers. And that is a major matter.” So this is a book that doesn’t offer steps in how to pray, but it reveals to us who we pray to and, should you or I read it while honestly and openly allowing the Holy Spirit to move us, it reveals who we are in light of that. It is a book that should be encouraging, challenging, and convicting. It is a book that doesn’t teach us techniques but rather reminds us what prayer is all about and that is “When we ask God for an interview, requesting his attention (which is what we actually do when we pray), we need to be very clear in our own minds not only about who he is but also about who we are and what constitutes a humble, honest, realistic, reverent attitude towards him.” So with that in mind, who are we in light of God? We are sinners saved by Grace. We are rebellious sons and daughters who have been redeemed by Jesus. We are servants. We are adopted children of God the Father. We are His disciples. We are His friends. How amazing is that? There is just so much to be encouraged by, humbled by.

J.I Packer ends off  the chapter with an encouraging and humbling thought. He writes “So approaching God as Father with a full realization of all that is involved not only in doing it but in being able to do it is where real, realistic Christian praying begins. And then the more we appreciate the holy love of our God in Christ, the more we will realize what sinners we are, and the more we realize what sinners we are, the more we will appreciate the holy love of the Father, the Son and the Spirit, and the more real our praying will then become.” True, vibrant, passionate praying begins when we know God. When we come to understand deeply the Gospel and His love for us. Not only for us, but when we, even moreso, understand the love God has for Himself (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). It is there that I believe that we must start because it is there that every amazing attribute of God, that makes Him worthy of praise, builds and flows out of. Our prayer life is built, grown, and flow out of understanding and appreciating deeper and deeper Christ’s love for us sinners.

This is the end of the first chapter. Chapter 2 is entitled Paths and By-Paths. Hopefully I will get that out in the next several days.

Some final thoughts before ending this:

– as with the first part of “This is your God” these four truths flow into and build upon each other. In fact, taking both parts in entirety, all these truths of God flow into one another flawlessly. Again, dear reader, I implore you to remember, hold onto, trust in, and believe in these truths. It is only from knowing who our God is that we may be able to truly pray.

– We often tend to focus more on ourselves. Thanking God for the many blessings that we have. Now don’t get me wrong, that is an appropriate prayer, and we should thank God for the many blessings and mercies that we receive. However how much time do we (I include myself in this as well) spend thanking God instead of praising Him? If we were to ask ourselves honestly, do we tend to interchange praise and thanks, even though they are different? I want to challenge us (you and I) this week to focus more on just praising Him.

Hansen

The God we pray to pt3: This is Your God pt1

In the last post, we ended off at the point where we would look at who God is through 8 truths. If you would like a refresher on all that was said you can look here.

In the book, this section of this chapter has 8 truths to it. However, for the sake of readability and to somewhat keep the length somewhat short, I have split “This is Your God” into two parts.

In the post prior to this one,I wrote that J.I Packer argues that we have problems praying correctly because we have an incorrect view of God. He argues that we give too much credence to our own opinions using phrases like “I like…” or “I think…” which, because of our sinfulness, will undoubtedly be wrong. He therefore invites us to move past our own opinions and theological guesswork and instead look at what the Bible says about the God of the Bible. So let us then take a look into what these 8 truths of God are.

Truth 1: God is personal

Though it may sound fine and dandy to make God sound impersonal. Something/Someone we can never reach or understand or really communicate with, impersonal ideas about God is not better than who He really is. To illustrate this point J.I Packer tells a story that C.S Lewis told ” of a young lady who was brought up by parents who saw themselves as exponents of advanced thought. They believed that the personal category was unworthy of God, and so they taught their daughter to think of him as ‘higher substance.'” Packer then says that when she got older and “unpacked the contents of her mind, she realized that all these years she had been thinking of God as an infinitely extended rice pudding. Since she wasn’t a devotee of rice pudding, it was not in fact at all a helpful idea.” Although a humorous story, I think that Packer (well in this case, C.S Lewis) makes an accurate point that sometimes in an effort to explain God in an “unoffensive” way, we strip Him of any personable attributes. Packer argues, and I would wholeheartedly agree, that a “Depersonalized deity is, thought wise, always a disaster.”

However, the God found in the Bible is a completely personal God. He addresses himself as “I” and us humans as “You.” God isn’t an object, he interacts and speaks to us in a personal way. On this point Packer writes “From Genesis to Revelation, not only do we find him speaking that way, but we see him relating to people, person to person, in a fully personal way. God is not an it, and we must not allow ourselves to think of God as an object, as if we could stand apart from him as observers watching him in the way that a biologist might watch the antics of a tadpole…God is always a subject, never a mere object…God presents himself to us in personal terms, and we must always think of him in personal terms as the God who is here and who confronts us and has his eye on us and takes an interest in us as persons just as we being persons ourselves, take a personal interest in each other.” What J.I Packer is saying is pretty straightforward. God isn’t an impersonal object, God isn’t an abstract force that has no personality. No, God is fully personal and He interacts with us. He is a being that is knowable. And the fact that it is one truth out of eight (instead of assumed) means that it is vitally important that we remember and believe it.

If God wasn’t personal, if He was an abstract force He would not be able to communicate with us by His word or by prayer. He would be, as C.S Lewis put it “an infinitely extended rice pudding.” And although I do enjoy rice pudding every once in a while (though not often), rice pudding makes one horrible god.

Truth 2: God is plural

The mystery of this notion is revealed to us in Gen1:26 when God states “Let us make man in our image.” Notice in this statement two important words the first one is “us” and then the second one is “our.” The plurality of God isn’t taken much farther after that but, Packer writes “…in the New Testament, God is revealed as truly and personally plural.” Of course we know this as the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). J.I Packer gives a beautiful explanation on what the Trinity is, not their roles, but who they are and what they do as a whole. He states that the Trinity is “three persons within the unity of God’s being, three persons who relate to each other as persons, and who operate as a team for the salvation of God’s people.” Meaning that the three persons of God (who are in perfect unity with each other) each have personalities, and each have a part to play (together, perfectly) in saving God’s people.

Although the word and concept of the Trinity wasn’t really developed until the later centuries, Packer states that “the reality was there ‘in solution’ all along…the three persons…are distinct in the New Testament, though it has no technical terms for expressing their shared life…when they say ‘God’ (in the Bible) they are usually, like Jesus, speaking of the Father rather than of the three together, but they make it very clear that the three are one in both being and purpose, and they work together for our salvation.” The nature of the Trinity is beyond our understanding, meaning that is a mystery. However this doesn’t mean that it isn’t a truth and a doctrine because the Trinity is clearly shown throughout the New Testament. It is here that J.I Packer unpacks the gospel in relation to the doctrine of the Trinity. He writes “The gospel is the good news of God the Father planning our salvation, God the Son, the Mediator, achieving it for us, and God the Holy Spirit applying it to us as the gracious, willing guest who indwells in us.” It is clear that God the Father, Son and Spirit works together to achieve and maintain our salvation. Denying the truth and reality of the Trinity will lead to everything else falling apart.

Truth 3: God is perfect

What this truth means is that God isn’t lacking in anything or needing improvement. Meaning that He is beyond all that because, as Packer puts it “he is already and eternally perfect, of his own kind, which is a kind that is unique to himself.” Meaning that he (God) is the only one that is perfect in the eternal sense. In Biblical culture, a name was incredibly important. It showed the nature of the person. In Exodus we see instances where God shows himself to Moses and states his name. The first is at the burning bush, where God commands Moses to go back to Egypt and free His people. Moses asks God what name to give the Israelites if they ask him who sent him. To this God replies “I AM WHO I AM” which becomes Yahweh, translated to I AM. The question that Packer then proposes is “What is going on here?” Why did God give Moses that name to say, instead of another? J.I Packer then says that it is “the covenant name God gives Himself to express His commitment to His people.” He continues, “In that far-off world, God would not be your God if he did not give you his name. For God’s people to know his name was thus the sign and proof of his bonding with them, and by telling them God’s name, Moses would be confirming that fact.” This means that, Biblically, if we were in that culture, this is the way that we would know that we belonged to God.  His name can also be translated to “I AM WHAT I AM” or “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE” which then answers the question of “How does God exist?” Meaning that He exists as the “God of eternal and self-sustaining self-determination. He simply is and always was and ever will be, working out his will in sovereignty over his world. He is the God who is there, who is everywhere present and everywhere in control. He ordained what is now and ordains what will be.” Simply put, He perfectly exists, and He always has, and He always will. He sees and works His will over the world that He has created. He has seen and allowed what is present and what will happen in the future.

The next question that is then posed for us is “How does he behave?” We find the answer in Exodus 34. The two verses from that chapter that J.I Packer highlights are verses six and seven. “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.” Here we see that God will be merciful and show grace to humans. But we also see that God is Holy and Just. J.I Packer puts it well when he states “he [God] acts toward humans in grace and mercy, which they need, yet also in holiness that will express itself in retribution toward those who do not take him seriously and do not responds in penitence for sin to his overtures of love…The purity that sees lawless, self-aggrandizing action and loveless, self-seeking motivation as polluting defilements is integral to his perfection, and makes his grace to sinners endlessly amazing in the eyes of all who receive it.” God’s perfection is necessary, for God to be God. The purity of God sees us, truthfully, as who we really are: rebellious creations who would rather seek praise for ourselves rather than seek God. This nature conflicts with Gods perfect nature and therefore must be dealt with. If not for Jesus we would all be doomed.

Packer ends this truth with two beautiful sentences that are encouraging and, at least for me, stirred within my heart a desire to just praise Him:

“Yes, God is good, God is great, and all that he does is worthy of praise. God is perfect in every way.”

Our final truth for this post is Truth 4: God is powerful

This truth is pretty straight forward. In truth, theologians have used the word omnipotent to describe this truth. They describe God as omnipotent because He is able to do what He chooses to do. They also use the word omnipresent to also press home this truth. Meaning that God, as J.I Packer would put it, “permeates every bit of his world, all the time…” The final word that theologians use is omniscient, meaning that He knows everything. Past, present and future, and He knows us through and through. That is how theologians describe Him.

In the Bible, J.I Packer lists off several Psalms that state that God reigns. It is through these passages that shows that God is King. These Psalms are: 93, 95:3, 96:10, 97, 98:6, and 99. In the ancient world, Kings were considered absolute monarchs. Meaning that they completely controlled and were fully in charge of all that was within their kingdom. J.I Packer explains that these psalms “are saying that God is that sort of king-and to a degree of absoluteness that no earthly monarch ever could match. He is always and everywhere on top; he is absolute master in his own universe…Nothing escapes his cognizance and his control. This is a constantly stabilizing thought for the people of God.” What I find interesting is Packer’s sentence “He is always and everywhere on top”. This means that no one, no matter their accomplishments nor fame, will not and cannot be as powerful as God. Even if we deny His presence and existence, He is still perfectly in control and He has not dropped the ball on ANYTHING. Even if we can`t see the purpose for it all.

We are nearing our final part of chapter 1. In the next few days, we will look at the final 4 truths of God. And as we shall see, these 8 truths are extremely vital for our prayer life, indeed for our entire Christian life.

Some thoughts before I end this post:

– The first four truths, God is personal, plural, perfect and powerful build and flow into each other (just like the eight in its entirety flow and build into each other). If we lose the specifics of one, I believe we lose the specifics of the rest. So I encourage you, dear readers, to take these amazing truths to heart. Grasp them, lean on them, believe them for these claims that God makes about Himself are truthful and incredibly vital for a vibrant Christian life.

– “Yes, God is good, God is great, and all that he does is worthy of praise. God is perfect in every way.” This sentence by J.I Packer, though found in Truth 3, permeates every other truth. In what ways have you and I, short-changed our view of God? I encourage you to ask yourself this question (in prayer) and let the Holy Spirit convict us, and move us to a deeper, more satisfying relationship with Himself.

Hansen