Excerpt on Prayer from Engaging the Powers by Walter Wink

As we go through our DT’s on the topic of prayers, here is an excerpt that was read during our prayer meeting last night from the book, Engaging the Powers by Walter Wink:  EngagingThePowers_WalterWink_Excerpt_20111004

October 5, 2011 Devotion Sharing (Numbers 11)

Submitted by Timothy R. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Numbers 11:4-17

What can I learn about Moses’ relationship with the Israelites from this incident?

Moses deeply cared about the Israelites as evident in this prayer to God. He wasn’t simply carrying out some job. He didn’t have the mindset that this was just something he was “supposed” to do. As he expressed, he felt the burden for caring for them that a parent feels about the burden for caring their child. It was a burden that he felt very heavily. It was so heavy that he said it was getting too heavy for him and that he would rather die.

It says so much about Moses’ character that he chose to accept this burden in this way. He fully embraced his role. As Moses cries out in frustration, he “didn’t give birth to them.” Yet he finds himself thrust into this role of leading these obstinate, complaining rabble. He never asked to be appointed as their leader in the first place. For all these reasons, he could have very well detached himself from them and had the attitude “What’s wrong with them?! What ingrates they are after all I did for them. I am going to walk away from them!” And he very well could have walked away from the responsibility of caring for them and could have washed his hands clean of them. To his credit, even though he cries out to God how heavy the burden is, he doesn’t cease being their leader. He remains and continues to embrace his role that God assigned to him. That’s why he feels so burdened because he accepts it and doesn’t abdicate his role.

I am really challenged and inspired by Moses. Many times I feel sense of burden that feels quite heavy for me to bear but of course it’s nothing compared to what he’s going through. I cannot imagine what it would feel like to be in his shoes. Yet just as Moses full embraced the role that God assigned to him, I must bear whatever burdens and responsibilities that God assigns me. This was true of Moses, this was true of Paul, this is true of my spiritual leaders who bore that burden when I was a source of burden to them, and most of all this was true of Jesus. Jesus bore the full burden and weight of my sins and the world’s sins.

What can I learn from Moses’ prayer?

Similar to with Abraham, similar to Moses’ prayer in Exodus 32, Moses is not afraid to completely honest before God. He is so genuine and authentic in his prayer. He’s not some robot, super-leader. In his prayer, he is so honest before God. He doesn’t try to sound more spiritual than he is actually feeling. He doesn’t fake being more gracious, more patient, more stronger than he really is. He doesn’t say “After all these years, by now I should be ____.” At this point, Moses feels quite overwhelmed and understandably so. And he freely pours out his heart before God. Tying this back to the first question, to fully embrace the burdens God gives me doesn’t mean that I can’t be honest before God about how I feel. God invites me to come before Him with whatever is burdening me and weighing me down.

What can I learn about God from the way God responds to Moses’ prayer?

God doesn’t get angry at Moses. God doesn’t answer “What about me? The people are complaining and now you are complaining too!” God is actually very sympathetic towards what Moses is going through. There is no reproof, no anger, no condemnation in what God says. Instead God validates how Moses must be feeling by coming up with solution to help Moses from being overwhelmed. And God’s solution shows that He fully understood what Moses was going through. From God’s response to Moses, I am reminded that even though He is God almighty, Creator the universe, He is not distant and unsympathetic to my cries of weakness, to my needs. As incredible as it seems, God really understands what it’s like being in my shoes. And when I think about it, it shouldn’t be surprising that God would be like this. For Jesus came to earth, and incarnated among us to experience all that we go through e.g. our temptations, our weaknesses, our limitations, etc. What an amazing God I serve!

September 22, 2011 Devotion Sharing (Colossians 2)

Submitted by James K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Colossians 2:1-5
What can I learn about Apostle Paul’s heart for the church at Colosse and Laodicea from this passage?
Apostle Paul’s heart for the church at Colosse and Laodicea was all about them knowing Christ fully. He struggled for them, and even for those people he had not met in person.  But simply because of the fact that they were at that church, he would struggle for them to be encouraged and united as a church, ultimately so that they would know Christ.  Apostle Paul was “gospel-centric”, which was demonstrated in his hopes and heart for the Colossian church, so much so that he would actually struggle for them.

 

Do I know what it takes to “struggle” for other Christians, in order that they be “encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ?”  What does this struggle look like?
Struggling for other Christians, I think, can take several different forms.  But all under that umbrella of being “gospel-centric” as Apostle Paul was.  It means getting into people’s lives, knowing what’s going on in their hearts and how they are living. It means praying for them, struggling in prayer over them, to receive wisdom on how to guide them, or that they would be led to repent or struggle with their sin or take steps of faith so that they could grow.  It could mean providing for them avenues through which they could take such steps of faith, or provide them contexts in which they can learn how to love other people or how to take themselves seriously as Christ followers.  It could mean being creative in trying to help them to see themselves or to align their worldview and values with the word of God, with God’s values and view.  And of course it means bringing them to the word of God, for the word to teach, correct, rebuke and train them in righteousness.  All of these things birthed out of being “gospel-centric,” myself being filled with the word and engaging in spiritual battle over myself and over them.

 

Are there ways that I may be trying to avoid this struggle in my life?
The ways that I could be trying to avoid this struggle in my life is by withholding myself from the people that I’m ministering to, but not wanting to get the details of information because I know that I’ll need to deal with those things.  Or perhaps by withholding myself emotionally, so that if I’m rejected by this person either leaving the church or rejecting me personally that I won’t feel the pain. The more I care about somebody, the more it hurts when that rejection happens.  I haven’t taken these avenues of avoiding this struggle, but I know that those are the ways that Satan tries to offer me.

 

Colossians 2:6-7
What does it mean to “just as you received Christ as Lord, continue to live in him?”
Continuing to live in Christ as I did when I first received him as Lord means to keep my relationship and love for him fresh, the place of “first love” as the song says.  It means to live out my commitment as clear as it was when I first came to him 17 years ago when I saw that I was a church-attendee, but my life was utterly indistinguishable from the rest of the world and I surrendered my life as a soldier who wants to please his commanding officer.  It means going to the word and prayer with the same zeal and expectation and hunger from my commitment when I first made it. It means to engage the world and the people God brings in my life to love them and bring the gospel to them, raising them up to be more faithful and devoted Christ followers with the same excitement as when I first made that decision.

 

It means for me to be faithful with that which I’ve been given with the same energy as I started out running with.  That translates into leading the seniors and staff in Kairos to greater faith, greater commitment, teaching them how to love God, love others by bringing them the gospel, by embodying the gospel, and by loving one another within the church as well, the corporate embodying of the gospel.  It means to provide for them opportunities to grow, avenues through which to experience a greater prayer life, a heightened sense of ownership over the people of their generation and in their contexts.
And of course, it means bringing the gospel to all the new people that God has led to our group, as so many of them are just finding out about Christianity through Kairos, or just simply enjoy being with us.  That’s such an opportunity to bring them the life-saving, life-changing good news of the gospel.

Reflect on the words “rooted and built up in him,” “strengthened in the faith as you were taught,” “overflowing with thankfulness.”  What do each of these look like? Assess how I am doing in each of these areas.
Being rooted and built up in him means going to the word and allowing for it to work its way through me and out into how I live my life, the decisions that I make, the reactions and responses I have to different situations in my life.  Being strengthened in the faith as I was taught means to put into practice the ways of love that have been poured out for me.  As my leaders spent time with me, got into my life, guided me, answered my questions, exhorted me, encouraged me, demonstrated Godly values and choices to me through their lives… likewise I am to strengthen my own faith in these ways by living likewise.  And overflowing with thankfulness is to reflect, remember, realize all the ways that God has loved me through my life and continues to do so on an ongoing basis.

 

I think with regard to overflowing with thankfulness, that’s something that isn’t so strong in me.  I go through my days, my weeks needing to get things done, or at least have that mentality.  A lot of times my heart and mind doesn’t take the opportunity to marvel at what God has done and is doing.  I take time weekly to reflect over all that I have to be thankful for, which is something that I greatly benefit from.  That’s something that I need to discipline myself to do on a daily basis, so that I’m overflowing with thankfulness.

September 20, 2011 Devotion Sharing (Colossians 1)

Submitted by Jammy Y. from  Gracepoint Riverside Church
Colossians 1:21-23

Reflect on how much .v21 was true of my life before Christ, and is true today of people outside of Christ. 

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior

Verse 21 was definitely true of my life before I met Christ.  When I think about the kind of person I was, half the time, outwardly I came off like I was an innocent person.  Outwardly I did my best to say the right things and to do the right things.  However, while attempting all this, I knew that my mind was bent on evil, bent on how I can perhaps manipulate this person or use this person for my gain.  My mind would be focused on myself and focused on my selfish gains.  I see that my evil behaviors such as stealing, hatred, anger, lust, laziness only fueled my mind to think about such things.  All these things alienated me from God.  God is love and His desire is to love people, and in my evil behavior, in my quest to look out for myself, I alienated myself from God because, as an understatement, he is completely opposite of me.

Think about the way God reconciled me to Himself. 

22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—

It’s amazing to think, that in regards to the kind of person I was, that God would still love me.  It’s amazing to think that God would subject His one and only begotten Son to die for my sins, and not only that, but through his death, would present me holy in sight, without blemish free from accusation.  Who am I to deserve this?  Who am I that the God of the universe, creator of all things would consider me? It says in v.16…

16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

This description of God would almost seem like He could just make ‘reconciliation’ happen, but this is far from the truth.  Instead, God chose suffering, sacrifice and eventually death to reconcile us.  This is the language of love that we all understand and that we can all identify and say, God really meant it.

Reflect on the words “to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” What is amazing about these words, and to what extent have I fully entrusted myself to these truths?

The result of Christ physical body being put through death is that I am presented to Him as holy in his sight, without blemish, and free from accusation.  These words are amazing because they are simply not true of me, yet in God’s eyes they are true of me.  I think about my almost two-year old daughter, Ellie, and how when I look at her I don’t think about all the times she was whiny, threw a fit for no good reason, or when she says no to me when I ask her to do something. No! But when I look at her I think about how she’s my precious daughter, I think about how much I lover her and how she’s the cutest baby in the world.  In the same way God sees me that way.  He knows that I’m a sinner through and through, but He also knows that there was something He did to take that away and to reconcile me.  I think on my better days these truths ring loud and true and when that happens there is a confidence in God that encourages me, that gives me strength to serve Him and courage to take risks for Him.  However, I know that there are days when my sins weigh me down, and when I feel defeated by failed attempts to struggle with my sins.  I recognize then how important it is to immerse myself in God’s word, to pray daily, and have personal times of worship so that I can fully entrust myself to these truths.

What do I need to do to “continue in [my] faith, established and firm?”  What is it that moves me away from the hope held out in the gospel?

23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

In order to “continue in my faith, established and firm,” I need to daily remind myself of these truths, through DT, through bible study and through messages. I need to hear the gospel message over and over again.  I also need to proclaim it, to preach and share it.  As I do both of these things I also need to take on the attitude of a servant as Apostle Paul did.  It is because of this gospel message that he labors to no end.  It is because of this message, that transformed his life, that he gives his all.  As I think about this coming quarter, I am thankful for the meaningful work he’s given me to do because I can both hear and proclaim this message.  I have the opportunity to serve and to take on that servant attitude.  As I think about the students we will meet, my prayer is that I will be able to struggle ‘with all his energy’ that is ‘powerfully’ working in me, to preach and share the message of reconciliation.

 

Devotion Time September 19 – October 1, 2011

Here are the DT Packets for September 19 – October 1, 2011 on Colossians

1. Colossians-DT-Sep19-Oct1

2. Colossians-DT-Sep19-Oct1_questions-only

3. Colossians-DT-Sep19-Sep24-Chinese-1

4. Colossians-DT-Sep19-Sep24-Chinese-Questions-1

5. Colossians-DT-Sep26-Oct1-Chinese

6. Colossians-DT-Sep26-Oct1-Chinese-Questions

Devotion Time August 29 – September 17, 2011

Here are the DT Packets for August 29th – September 17th, 2011 on 2 Samuel:

1. 2Samuel-DT-Aug29-Sep17

2. 2Samuel-DT-Aug29-Sep17_questions-only

Commentary on 2 Samuel 19

To help us better understand the context of 2 Samuel 19, here is an excerpt from New Bible Commentary:

19:1–15 Preparations for David’s return. This section is concerned with three distinct groups of people: David’s army, Absalom’s northern supporters, and the representatives of the tribe of Judah. David could easily have offended any of these. He had to show graciousness and forgiveness to former rebels without angering loyal supporters.

At first, he was in danger of offending his victorious army, till Joab once again took firm action. David’s decision to make Amasa the commander of his army (13) had two motives. First, it would show all rebels the extent of David’s forgiveness, since Amasa had been their commander. Secondly, David took pleasure in displacing Joab, who had been responsible for killing Absalom.

The northern tribesmen were ready to accept David as king once more, but plainly Judah showed some hesitation. We may infer that Absalom’s revolt had divided Judah, and as a tribe they were uncertain about David’s attitude towards them. It was, however, essential for David’s position that his own tribe should give him solid support, and he made it his priority to win them over. Some friction between north and south resulted (see vs 40–43).

19:16–39 David’s return. This whole section is set at the River Jordan, and it is the dramatic reversal of 16:1–14. The individuals who had reacted to David in various ways when he had been fleeing from Jerusalem now came to meet him as he returned victorious. David was forgiving to enemies like Shimei (18–23) and he rewarded those who had been truly loyal like Barzillai (31–40). Ziba once again reached David before his master Mephibosheth, but this time Mephibosheth presented himself and tried to undo the harm Ziba had caused (17–18, 24–30). Perhaps David could not decide which man was telling the truth, or else he felt that Ziba’s loyalty deserved some reward. The important consequence was that Mephibosheth lost some property but retained his life and presumably his honoured position at court.

19:40–20:13 Rebellion in the north. The final verses of ch. 19 revert to the tense relationship between Judah and the northern tribes. The northern group were half-hearted about David (40), even though they claimed a greater share in the king (43). The friction between them and Judah resulted in another revolt against David, led by Sheba (20:1). It was in reality a small affair which ended without a battle, but it had wide appeal nevertheless (20:2).

The personal interest centres on Joab and his relative Amasa. Amasa showed that he was a poor general, and it was Joab yet again whose ability and loyalty to David would defeat the enemy. The story also demonstrates again Joab’s brutal and ruthless character.[1]


[1] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994). 2 Sa 19:1–20:13.

September 7, 2011 Devotion Sharing (2 Sam. 17)

Submitted by Steve K. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

2 Samuel 17:1-14

“Hushai’s successful effort to counter the advice of Ahithophel is a classic use of the principles of rhetoric being used to convince a person to take a certain action. He appealed to fear, to the desire for military glory, and to Absalom’s strong desire for personal achievement.”

What can I learn about Absalom’s character from the fact that he was persuaded by Hushai’s advice over that of Ahithophel’s?

The fact that Absalom was persuaded by Hushai’s advice tells me that he is someone who is prone to responding to advice that appeals to his fears.  Hushai reminds Absalom about how his father David is known to be an experienced fighter along with the men who are with him.   Hushai goes on to mention that ‘if’ David and his men attacked Absalom’s troops first, then people will say, “There has been a slaughter among the troops who follow Absalom.”  Hushai suggests that if this happened, then even the bravest soldier will melt with fear.

What Hushai was suggesting was a big ‘if’, but it was enough to cause Absalom to be persuaded.

To further persuade Absalom to not listen to Ahithophel’s advice Hushai paints a picture of how mighty and glorious he could be in facing his father’s troops head on.  Hushai suggests gathering a massive army first around himself, so that he can attack his father wherever he may be found.  This alternate future would’ve appealed to Absalom’s ego.  It’s a future that makes him look almost invincible.

What can I learn about God’s sovereignty from v. 14 and the fact that these events were an answer to David’s prayer in 2 Samuel 15:31?

This reminds me of how ultimately God is in control, and because this is true I can fight against my impulses of responding in fear.  I can be calm and react with proper discernment, wisdom and just a sense of peace about how in the end God will hear my prayers and create a way to bring about His ultimate good.  This embrace of God’s sovereignty over my life and over history in general frees me up to not grasp for things and react feeling like I might miss out on something or that I will have regrets.  I can put into practice God’s words like…

Philippians 4:6-7

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

In light of God’s sovereignty over my life, my ego can be put in its right place, which will free my heart and mind up to be genuinely “other centered” and able to submit myself to what God instructs me to do each day through DTs.  Also knowing that He hears our prayers and that He is faithful in answering our prayers encourages me to daily go to God in prayer for all that’s on my heart from little to big concerns.  I can ‘in everything…present my requests to God’ and anticipate that His peace will guard my heart and mind in Christ from folly, blunders and sins.

September 6, 2011 Devotion Sharing (2 Sam. 16)

Submitted by Sue Y. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Reflect on David’s response to Shimei.  What is amazing about David’s response?  What does this show about David’s view of God?

10 If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, Curse David, who can ask Why do you do this? 11 …Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today.

As I think about David’s response, I see a man who is humbled by his own sins, someone who is painfully aware of his own failures and shortcomings and as a result he doesn’t take any personal offense at the accusations and curses from Shimei. Even though Shimei accusations and curses were not based on truth, David is totally surrendered in how he thinks he should be treated, he is surrendered in how others think of him and he trusts that whatever God chooses to do then let it be so. David is not wrapped up in his own ego and he is not defending himself in any way.

David painfully knew what he deserved and thus he took in curses without any defensiveness on his part. He was a man who lived before God and trusted God that even though the curses came from man, he did not emotionally flare up to defend his name before people. He saw God as the ultimate judge and therefore was at peace that if these words were coming from God he knew that he could not say anything before.

I think about David’s response and it is so challenging to me b/c even though I know my own sinfulness yet when I am met with some unfair or unjust words, I find myself being defensive and I see myself  wanting to find something good and redeemable about myself before people.  I see how much I need to allow my sinfulness to really break me in the core so that whatever negative words come instead of wanting to defend my name, my posture needs to be one of humility and acknowledging that if people knew even more of me that it would be more humbling.

September 5, 2011 Devotion Sharing (2 Sam. 15)

Submitted by Sarah S. from Gracepoint Austin Church

2 Samuel 15:13-14

What can I learn from David’s response in these verses?

It’s a different kind of action that David takes than someone would who really wanted to hold onto their title or retain their position, who is really into retaining their own honor. Initially, I wasn’t sure whether David’s response was perhaps another manifestation of his passivity—he still had the ability to fight and try to keep his kingdom it from Absalom. However, in thinking about it more and reading the commentaries, I see that what David did was actually wise and selfless. It shows that he wasn’t someone who held onto this title or position as king so tightly like Saul…or placed his own ego or perhaps his own security as king ahead of anything else. A king like that would have reacted with retaliation, gathered his men and tried to fight to retain his kingship. However, instead, David’s response is that he knows Absalom and knows that for him to stay in Jerusalem would mean death for many of his officials and all out war within the city, and he didn’t want to see this kind of bloodshed happen. He backed down and didn’t immediately retaliate and react to the news, but in him choosing to flee the palace meant that he was sparing many innocent lives, preventing an all-out war but at the cost of looking like a coward in front of his men, appearing weak and already defeated. But his ego was not the most important thing but what would be the best for his people.

How can I apply this to myself? I think that the picture of David as someone who wasn’t into this position or ego is a lesson that I need to take away from this text. He could have fought back to protect his kingship and ego. But he didn’t. I think it’s a lesson for me to see that when criticism or attacks come towards me that hurts my ego or words that may come as threats against my reputation and I’m in a position to fight back, to retaliate and engage in battle of words or tear down the person who is negative towards me, it’s so tempting to just react. It’s so tempting to just fight back, take action. However, from David’s response I can learn that in such situations the wisest thing is not to fight back. David had to be humble; Running away would be opposite of the world’s values, which is to show your strength, crush the enemy, don’t be weak but get even. You’re being a coward if you don’t fight for your own honor. Here, David doesn’t fight for his own honor…it seems cowardly of him to run away, but his concern wasn’t about his own honor but about the well-being of his people. In the same way, if I am someone who is committed to my own ego and reputation and honor, if anyone comes and attacks me or criticizes me, then my reaction will probably be to ramp up and show off my skills, to fight back with words or to have an “I’ll show them” attitude, or to lash out. But what would be consequences of that? I would probably do something really stupid and foolish in my anger or in wanting to get back at that person. I would probably hurt a lot of people, innocent by-standers who could be my children, my husband, friends, and others as I try to prove myself and just solely focused on proving my worth and ability and neglecting the needs of the people around me or using them as some kind of project or instrument to boost my ego or image or prove myself.