From the first Sunday of the month of September our church has studied through the seven letters found in Revelation 2-3 written from Jesus to the seven churches in a sermon series called Dear Church. What we discovered was that these letters of commendations, rebukes, resolutions and rewards were in actuality love letters from Jesus to His bride. In Ephesians 5:25-33 Paul shows us how our earthly marriages are specifically designed to point us to something much greater and that is the marriage between Jesus and the Church. Jesus showed us the greatest love anyone could ever experience in eternity; this was displayed when He hung on the tree. In fact, Paul tells husbands that Jesus' example of love is the standard for which we're to love our wives ("Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..." - Eph. 5:25 ESV). This is the foremost way anyone can love someone else: that he lay his own life down for someone else (Paraphrased from John 15:13).
While this is the greatest way spouses can love each other, I believe the second greatest way is by lifting one another up in prayer. Not only did Jesus give His life for our transgression and raise from the dead for our justification, He is still ministering to His bride. Romans 8:34 tells us, "Christ Jesus is the one who died - more than that, who was raised - who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us" (ESV). Jesus, in this very second, is still showing us great love by pleading to God on our behalf, by praying for us. Jesus loves His bride so much that He prays for her.
Because of this, to wrap up this sermon series, we used this past Sunday to join with Jesus in praying for His bride, the Church. We built our church gathering around three main levels of prayer for the church: the local church (in our case, Beach Lake FM Church), the National Church (American Church), and the global church (The worldwide Church). We looked to the seven letters from Jesus to guide our time in prayer and developed prayer points from the various exhortations and commendations Jesus gave each of the churches. It was an incredibly grace-filled and powerful time as our church family gathered for prayer.
I am convinced many still want to continue in prayer for churches all around the world, therefore I wanted to provide the prayer points we used on Sunday morning to guide our time. You can access them in the slideshow below, or feel free to download the prayer guide for your own uses. Please commit to saying with Jesus, "Dear Church, I'm praying for you!"
By: Pastor Scott Brodd
Dear Government Leaders persecuting Christianity,
Thank you. From one who loves and follows Jesus and is a shepherd of one of His churches inside the comfortable borders of the United States, thank you for creating a hostile environment for Christians to publicly live out their faith in your country. Because of your efforts, more and more people are giving their lives to Jesus Christ at a faster rate than anywhere else in the world. Though I deeply mourn the sufferings and afflictions of my brothers and sisters in Christ, I am convinced they wouldn't trade the persecution of their faith for the freedom to go public with their faith because they will not "cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ" (Acts 5:42 ESV), no matter how severe things get. They are resolved. In fact, the environment you are creating in your country is one similar to that of when Christianity's roots first began to sprout. First, it was the Jews who persecuted the Christians, Saul (who later became Paul) being foremost among those who attacked Christianity. Once the Roman government discovered Christianity was distinct from Judaism and taught a treasonous message to the Empire, they too began to persecute Christianity. All you are doing is bringing Christians back to their roots.
If there is one truth about the environment of the persecution of Christians it is this: it is a catalyst for church growth and gospel preaching. When Peter and John were arrested for preaching Jesus (Acts 4:1-3), many people believed the Gospel and were saved (4:4) and the church became increasingly bold in their evangelism (4:31). When all the church leaders were arrested, beaten, and commanded not to preach about Jesus (Acts 5:17-18, 40), they rejoiced for being able to suffer for Jesus and continued to preach the gospel boldly (5:41-42). When Christianity was blessed with its first martyr Stephen (Acts 7:58-60) it actually worked to advance the reach of the gospel of Jesus by sending Christians into new places across the map (8:1) who continued to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified (8:4). You see, your efforts to create an environment of persecution in your country in reality works against your desires to disarm and dissolve Christianity. In fact, statistics prove that the Christians in your country are more committed to Jesus Christ and bold about sharing their faith than Christians who live in religiously free countries. For example, in North Korea (ranked #1 in extreme persecution of Christians) evangelical Christianity is growing annually at a rate of 6%. In Iraq (ranked #2) Christianity is growing at an annual rate of 3.4%. And yet, in the United States of America and the United Kingdom, the annual growth rate of evangelical Christianity is 0.8% and 0.0% respectively. It is apparent according to the Bible, church history, and what we see happening today that persecution is a catalyst for church growth. The greater the persecution, the greater the church growth.
If you truly desire to disarm and dissolve Christianity in your country, implement religious liberty. Again, look to the USA and the UK; both countries have laws securing religious freedom and yet Christianity has been reduced down to leading a moral life and going to church on Sundays with almost no evangelism. In America specifically, a majority of Christians are prone to keep their faith to themselves, according to a study done by Lifeway Research. Religious freedom creates an environment susceptible to complacent, inactive, even silent Christianity (though such Christianity is not true Christianity). So if you really want Christianity to stop growing in your country, give them their religious freedom. Take away their discomfort, and they’ll get comfortable, just like we have.
For His Glory and Our Joy,
A Free and Comfortable Pastor
P.S. I believe all people should have the freedom to practice their faith, regardless of religion, and no individual should be mocked, beaten, or killed because they too are made in the image of God. Please do not take this letter as a celebration of persecution or the condemnation of Religious Liberty. Please read this as a wake-up call to the American Church and a commendation and a comforting reminder to those in countries of persecution that they are being counted as worthy to join in the sufferings of our precious Savior (Acts 5:41).
By: Pastor Scott Brodd
Taken from his sermon When Sinners Collide
(This is the second of two articles written on how to fight well with your spouse. If you haven't read the first one, check it out here).
Here are 7 methods, or 7 steps to fighting well; when you find yourself in the ring, follow these methods, all of which are pulled from various passages of scripture and common wisdom.
1) Pray, Confess & Repent
No, this isn't a follow up book to Elizabeth Gilbert's book Eat, Pray, Love, this is the first step in fighting well with your spouse. When the first punches are thrown in a marital conflict, you’ve broken both horizontal and vertical relationships. Step away and take some time restore the vertical first, and start by praying strategically. Invite God to convict you of your own sin.
Ps. 139:23-24 – “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me...”
Trust me, He’ll find some and when he does we must confess our sin to God.
1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Not only do we confess, hopefully we will be so grieved by our own sin that we’re led to repent from it.
2 Cor. 7:9-10 – “As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief... For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret,”
Ask God to provide you the grace not to transgress Him in that specific way.
Now, once we have the vertical relationship restored, we must then move to the horizontal. However, if the wounds of the fight are still fresh, you ought to keep in mind method two and...
2) Cool Off
One of the worst times to try to resolve a conflict is in the midst of heated rage or raised voices. If you cannot speak to your spouse with your inside voice, then take some time to step away and cool down. The other night, my wife called me out on something I shouldn’t have done, and she was right to do so. I immediately wanted to yell at her and defend myself, but instead I actually remained quiet, left her presence for 10 minutes and thought through things. I then came back and was able to have a normal conversation with her about it, owning up to what I did. If you can’t talk peaceably to your spouse when fighting, call a timeout and take some time to yourself. However, you don’t want to take two long, so...
3) Don’t Let it Fester
Some of the worst smells in the world come from dumpsters in the summer... trash that has been sitting out and baking, festering in the hot sun... no body wants to go near it. If there is conflict festering in your marriage, nobody is going to want to come near you... you’ll both be avoided like a smelly dumpster. A good rule of thumb for this comes from...
Eph. 4:26 – “do not let the sun go down on your anger” – Don’t go to bed angry.
Try to keep a conflict with your spouse within one day. Let’s be sure to understand this principle though: it says don’t let the sun go down on your anger, not your conflict. If you cannot resolve the conflict before going to bed, at least work through your anger, establish a mutually agreed upon truce, and go to bed. Now, when you finally are in a place where you can talk peaceably...
4) Own Up
This is where I, in humility, confess my sin to my spouse. “Baby, I should not have reacted in anger and thrown a chair out of the window.”
Confess your own sin, and don’t call out your spouse’s sin.Remember, we take the log out of our own eye first. Our confessions should end with the words, “I’m sorry, please forgive me.” Those words won’t taste sweet coming out of your mouth, but it is totally worth it. Hopefully, as the Holy Spirit works in confession, your spouse will be convicted of their part as well. And when they do begin to confess...
5) Listen Up
Don’t start nagging them, don’t be the Holy Spirit for them, and don’t point out their flaws... just listen.
James 1:19 – “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger”
Listen to your spouse, and when you’ve heard them out, no matter how convicted they might seem, if they’ve asked for forgiveness...
Col. 3:13 - “[bear] with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, [forgive] each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive."
Ask that God would allow you to forgive them, and say the words, “I forgive you.” Now, once things are forgiven, there should be peace in the relationship. However, sometimes we can cut our spouses so deep that they need some time, which is the last method.
7) Give Time
For example, just this past week I made a statement about something that was worrying me and asked Kaitlin her opinion. She began to speak, but for some strange reason, I picked up my phone and started diddly dallying. I didn’t hear a word she said. She saw me and said, “you didn’t hear a word I just said did you.” I looked up like a deer in head lights, threw my phone on the table and tried to make nothing of it. But I had really sinned against my wife; I neglected her, ignored her, devalued her wisdom and input. So I realized that immediately and asked for forgiveness. She said, “I forgive you.” I then asked, “Ok, tell me what you said,” but she couldn’t. I thought she was just being immature, but it was really because the pain from what I had done was still there. She just needed some time to heal. So, even though grace has been shown and forgiveness given, give some time to heal as well.
So, I believe these are 7 biblical & wise methods any of us can use the restore relationships broken by conflict.
By: Pastor Scott Brodd
I can hear the words in my head over and over again, the words I often recited with the rest of the congregation on Sunday morning in response to the pastor's cue. He would start out the chorus by declaring, "God is good..." then we would respond, "All the time!" Then, to solidify that truth in our heads, he would then reverse the wording by repeating the congregation's words, "All the time..." then we would respond with the original promise, "God is good!"
As I sit here holding our 3-month-old daughter, the baby who the odds were stacked against because of a high-risk pregnancy due to a rare pregnancy-related condition Kaitlin (my wife) suffered from, the same baby who the head of the OB/GYN department at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital said, "all we can do is pray," I can't help but repeat over and over again my pastor's promise...
GOD is GOOD
What a great promise that is! Our God is morally, perfectly, supremely, eternally good in all of His ways. His Word is saturated with reminders of this refrain: "You [God] are good and do good..." (Ps. 119:68 ESV), "Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good..." (Ps. 107:1 ESV), "The LORD is good to all..." (Ps. 145:9 ESV), "Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!" (Ps. 34:8 ESV). There is no doubt about it... God is in fact good, and "[He] is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Heb. 13:8 ESV).
However, when is it that we most often joyfully recount this three-word promise of God's goodness? What posts or tweets are worthy enough to merit the hashtag #Godisgood or even a short comment from friends, "God is good!"? Usually, those events/posts that are deemed worthy concern something joyous or favorable happening in our lives. If you do a quick search on Facebook or twitter of the hashtag "#GodIsGood," you will discover a vast array of exciting and positive events in the lives of your friends (or even your own) that have been tagged with this very promise. For example, "I have an interview for a new job with better pay and benefits... #Godisgood," "Thankful that we were able to spend our Thanksgiving together with family this year... #Godisgood," "We're moving into our new house today...#Godisgood," "Our baby was brought into this world alive and well, despite a deadly pregnancy-related condition...#Godisgood," Now, of course, God is good and everything good that happens in our lives is because of His handiwork, from new jobs to new babies, all because of that amazing truth. To not attribute "every good and perfect gift" (James 1:17 ESV) as coming from God's goodness would be sin.
By: Pastor Scott Brodd
Adapted from his message When Sinners Collide
Let’s suppose that, all of a sudden, I got the urge to start fighting in the UFC, where almost anything goes. I think I could handle myself pretty well, though my wife would say otherwise! Now, what do you think would happen if I were to immediately sign up for a fight and jump in the ring? No prior training, no strategy, just cold turkey fighting... I would probably fail miserably. I wouldn’t know how to spar, how to escape, how to pin, or even how to land a good punch. But all of this could be remedied if I had gone into the fight with the proper training. I can only have success in the ring when I’ve taken the time to train myself outside of the ring. In the same way, we can only have success in our fights with our spouses when we've taken the time to train ourselves before stepping into the ring.
Now for many of you, you’re thinking, “yea lets train so I can win the fight; I want to come out on top.” Let me stop you there; there is a huge difference between fighting in a boxing match and fighting with your spouse. In a boxing match, you aim to win the fight; in your marriage, you aim to win your spouse. Did you catch that?
I’ll explain that a bit more in a few minutes, but to preface all of this, of course we want to do everything we can to avoid entering into the fighting ring as best we can. We ought to kill our own sin, destroy any temptations that raise their heads... we do everything we can to keep the peace.
1 Cor. 1:10 - “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment."
However, because each of us have the potential for war lurking in us because we have sin still dwelling in our bodies, we must know what we’re doing when we find ourselves standing in the fighting ring with our spouse. Therefore, we have to think rightly about our fights before we can know how to handle ourselves during the fight. So, when there are unmet expectations, or conflict, we must first have...
There are three that I think we all need to keep in mind.