A Prayer for Newtown

Scripture: Matthew 2:1-18

Father,

Those voices of Ramah have come now, once again, to our own land. That voice of Rachel weeping, inconsolable, cries out once again. Taken once again are children, gone, and they are no more.

We seek to understand. But we know in our heart of hearts that there is no understanding. We seek answers, knowing that nothing ever given as an answer could begin to satisfy our deepest longings to know.

All that is left are sobs of weeping and loud lamentation. No words can tell, no picture can capture, no interview can fathom, no forensic diagram can map the shadows of the heart fallen over us this weekend.

Evil has come into our homes as the pictures of its march through that school glow on our tv screens, computer monitors, and newspapers.  We are at a loss, once again, confronted by the depravity of our race and our ability to turn against one another.

We know that your Spirit murmurs with groans that words cannot express when our prayers come to their end. There has been much of the Spirit’s murmurings this week.

This morning, Lord, we pray for parents, siblings, and other family members who now have a gaping hole in their heart where a child once was. We pray for spouses and co-workers and neighbors who have lost teachers, friends, and advocates. We pray that your perfect peace and infinite comfort would descend on the grieving. We pray that the evil of violence would not spread as a contagion among them. May this violence not beget violence.

We give thanks for the stories of heroics and thoughtful patience on the part of teachers who sought to protect and calm their charges in the midst of absolute terror. And for all the teachers who will tomorrow wake up to face a classroom whose walls will look terribly different, for administrators who will tensely jump at every strange noise from hallways, for every office worker pressing an intercom button who will pause to think what noises that intercom might carry, we give you thanks for their endurance. We give you thanks for their commitment. We give you thanks for their care. And we pray for their safety as they care for our next generation.

For officers, EMTs, firefighters, and other first responders who now carry images in their heads that no one should be forced to remember, we say thank you. We ask for your hand of grace as they do their jobs and sort through details. We pray for understanding from their families and communities as they also deal with tragedy.

For survivors who heard the sounds of the shots and the screams over the intercom, who had to cover their eyes to flee the building, we pray for abundant love to be showered on them from any and all available sources. May they be surrounded and know protection, when trust and safety have been so violated. We pray for sleep for those who are sleepless. We pray for a fading of memories that do not need to define their lives. We pray for a confidence in living boldly, without guilt or questions of why they lived when others did not.

And this morning, we pray for ourselves. Help us to always remember to hug tighter, to kiss more often, to laugh more deeply, to give and receive passionately. And may we not forget to proclaim clearly the message of hope that declares that though we will all grieve as long as this world endures, we do not have to grieve as those without hope.

Out of Newtown, may hope shine. And may you, Father, as in all things, bring yourself glory out of tragedy. May a good that we cannot see and may never know work out of so many deaths too soon, as you promised all things would work for good for those who believe.

We thank you that in the end, evil loses. That in the end, death itself is cast into the lake of fire.

How we long for that day, O God. May it come. And may it come soon, that every tear may be wiped away.

In the name of Jesus, who fully understands suffering, loss, and death, we pray these things. Amen.

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Gospel Faith

Note: This is Part 6 of a series of sermons based on Pastor J.D. Greear’s study, Gospel Revolutions.

Part 1, Gospel Change
Part 2, Gospel Discovery
Part 3, Gospel Acceptance
Part 4, Gospel Approval
Part 5, Gospel Response
Part 6, Gospel Faith
Part 7, Substitute Gospels (Coming March 18, 2012)
Part 8, Gospel Depth (Coming March 25, 2012)


Text: John 15:1-8

In the aftermath of the recent tornadoes that devastated parts of Indiana, Kentucky, Alabama, and so on, Pat Robertson, of The 700 Club, made waves when he suggested that if enough people had prayed, the storms could have been stilled.

John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Michigan, and well known for his views based on Reformed Theology, took away something different from those same storms. Believing strongly in the sovereignty of God, because the tornadoes happened, Piper understands that they were the will of God. And as the will of God, no amount of Christian prayers could have turned them aside.

These are two opposing views of prayer. Robertson says that quantity of prayers could have changed the outcome of those storms. Piper indicates that God’s sovereign control is undeniable, and no amount of praying will change it.

What should we think about the effectiveness of our prayers? Is Pat Robertson right in his assessment? Is John Piper right? When we read verses like John 15:7, where it says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you,” how do we understand them? How do we understand them when facing natural disasters like tornadoes or tsunamis, plagues like cancer, events like the loss of a job, or terrorist attacks in schools or public places?

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How to Pray for Fellow Workers (SBC Call to Prayer)

Text: Colossians 1:9-14

Today is a day when we are joining together with countless other Southern Baptist churches in many different locations to answer a call to prayer. Specifically, the call to prayer is designed to ask for a spiritual awakening at every level, from the intimacy of our friends and family to the fellowship and missions work of our church and denomination and on to the furthest reaches the world. Proverbs 15:29 says, “The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.” And as James 5:16 reminds us in the venerable King James Version, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

There is no need to explain why we need to be in fervent prayer for spiritual awakening in our land and around the world. The news media online, on the television, and in print in newspapers and magazines does a fine job of articulating the darkness and spiritual malaise of the world in which we live.

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Good News

Did you know that God wants to create a family for Himself? And did you know that God wants all of us – you and me and everyone in this room and everyone else in the whole world to be part of His family?

The problem is, we can’t be his family. Because we do things that are wrong that keep us out of God’s family. Things God doesn’t like. Things God can’t have in His house or among His family members. The Bible calls those things sin. And the punishment for sin is severe. The punishment is that we have to be apart from God for all of eternity. He doesn’t want that! We shouldn’t want that, either!

But the Good News – God’s own message to us – is that He loved us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to be one of us, live as one of us, and then take the punishment for our sin for us by dying on a cross. If we had done that, we would be dead forever – separated from God for all of eternity. But not Jesus. Jesus was innocent – He never sinned! After three days, Jesus rose from the dead and now He lives. And because He lives, our debt – our punishment for all of the wrong things we do – is paid. God can declare us righteous and whole and complete.

Jesus is never going to die again. And he wants us to be with Him when this life is over and we die here. We can do that if we believe that Jesus has died for us and our own personal sins. AND if we repent. Repent means to turn away from something and not do it anymore. We have to repent from our sins. We turn away from them and do our best – and God promises to help us here – to never do them again.

We call this being saved. And God wants you to be saved. And He wants me to be saved. I was saved a long time ago – at least to you and me – way back in 1987. I knew then that I did wrong things, I needed God to forgive me (which He promises He will do for anyone who asks). So I asked Him to. And you know what? He did! I’m forgiven. And I trust that I’m forgiven because of what Jesus did for me, and what He did for you.

Because I’m forgiven, I know that I will get to spend eternity with God in heaven and the new creation.

If any of you know that you need to be saved, then maybe you can write me (daryl “underscore” j “underscore” white AT yahoo DOT com) and talk to me about it. I’d love to journey that road together with you!

Remind Us: A Prayer

Again, this morning, Lord, we find ourselves here. The rhythm of our lives draws us to this place each Sunday morning. We gather, we greet, we sing, we pray, we listen, we sing again, and we depart.

On these very grounds, within these very walls, You have met with us. You have sought us out when we pretended to ourselves that we were seeking You. You have called us by name, declaring us to be Your very prized possession. Like that man our Lord told us about who found a treasure in a field and sold everything he had to buy that field, You gave everything You had – Your very Son – to redeem us for Yourself.

Within these very walls, You have performed miracles. Addictions have been broken. Lives have been transformed. Broken hearts have been mended. The hopeless have found hope. Within these very walls these things have happened. But it is not the walls that have accomplished it. It is not the pews that have accomplished it. It is not the musicians or the songwriters or the revivalists who have accomplished it.

No, Lord, it is You who have accomplished these things. It is You who called us out. It is You who transformed a habit of coming here into a passion for being here. It is You who have challenged us to honor Your word, to seek Your face, to proclaim Your truth, to ponder Your wisdom.

Today, Lord, we beg of You to remind us of You.

Remind us of the things You have done for us, that we might forget our own plans and designs for tomorrow in favor of whatever it is You might desire or accomplish.
Remind us of what we once were so that we remain utterly dependent on Your grace, Your love, Your mercy.

Freshen our memories this morning, Lord, so that we see that behind every step, every word, every breath is not a muscle in our own bodies, but the muscle’s designer and creator. Remind us that everything we claim for ourselves is first and ever Yours and Yours alone, given to us as stewards but for a short time.

Remind us, Lord, of the fleetingness of life, that we would live each moment to the utmost, filling it with the best we can offer, the most we can accomplish in it. When the time comes to give an account, may none have been wasted.

Remind us, Lord, that in setbacks and disappointments come new roadways, new relationships, and a greater dependence on You. [You might offer your own petitions for yourself and others in need here.]

Remind us, Lord, in each day that comes before us, of Your plans for us. Plans to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us both hope and a future. Even if none of that is here, in this age, on this earth.

Remind us, Lord, of You. In all things. In every bird’s song, every flower’s scent, every storm’s clap, every morsel’s taste, every laugh’s joy, and every tear’s sorrow.

Remind us of You. In all things. Ever and always.

In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who did not fail to remember even the least of those who were around Him. Amen.