House of Prayer
I am borrowing from the letter the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write to address you, my brethren at CCLW, in this House of Prayer, as this is likely the last House of Prayer message I will write to you, since Edie and I are still on track to move to Florida. Now, I in no way consider our move to Florida to compare with Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, but I do have the same confidence that God has ministry for me and Edie to do in Florida, in the same way Paul was convinced that God had further ministry for him. (See Philippians 1:12-26.) What I do want to express is my love and Christian care for you all at CCLW, which aligns with Paul’s affections for the believers in Philippi.
So, I too thank my God in all my remembrance of you, for I have been very blessed by God to minister to and with you all, including those of you who have moved from CCLW but still receive and read the House of Prayer. We have much for which to rejoice and to praise our Lord, for He has been ever faithful in His provisions, protection, and directions to us in good times and, especially, in various trials we have endured over the 14+ years of the existence of this church body. Paul wrote that he thanked God, “always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.” (1:4,5) I also pray very frequently for CCLW corporately, and also for many of you individually by name; yes, even for a number of you who no longer attend CCLW. You have all had participation in furthering the ministry of CCLW, of faithfully and intentionally sharing the gospel, of proclaiming boldly the authority of God’s word, of earnestly depending upon God through prayer, of exalting the Lord Jesus Christ in worship, and in the enjoyment of genuine Christian fellowship we have as followers of Christ Jesus. (The Five Foundational Footings of CCLW.)
I consider that I personally benefited more from knowing and ministering with you all, than you have from me. The Holy Spirit has driven me to study the Scriptures, and He has sanctified me with increasing maturity in the faith as I have observed the faith of many of you. And I have especially learned from the Holy Spirit as I have had to wrestle with a variety and a number of issues over the years as one of the elders of this church, from being Cornerstone EFC, Harvest Bible Chapel New Lenox, and as Cornerstone Church of LincolnWay. We have enjoyed many laughs together, and we have had many deep discussions in working out struggles we have faced together. You have all been kind and patient and encouraging to me.
Like Paul’s confidence in God for the saints in Philippi, I too “am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (1:6) I am blessed to have seen the maturing and strengthening of so many of you in your faith and walk with Jesus Christ, our Lord. I praise the Lord God for those He has used, and is using, in leadership positions here at CCLW. Many of you have responded to the prompting by the Holy Spirit to teach, whether with children, youth, or adults; to lead Small Groups; to participate in leading Sunday worship, whether playing an instrument, singing, or providing vital technical support; others have helped with VBS, 5th Quarter, setting up and/or cleaning up, ushering, greeting, and on and on. For some of you that has been easy, you being accustomed to serving so, but for others it took a large leap of faith to minister in new ways, but it has all been to the praise of the glory of God, as He called, gifted, and placed you in CCLW.
What a tremendous blessing it is also that our God has gifted men who serve as elders and men who serve as deacons in this church, all men who well meet the biblical qualifications for elders (overseers) or for deacons. I am confident in the Lord’s entrusting this church body to these men whom God has so gifted: Pastor Arvid, Pastor Caleb, Pastor Dave, Elder Chairman Rob, Elder Jeff, Deacon Chair Doug, Deacon Mike, Deacon Howie, and Deacon Kevin Grundhofer. Pray continually for these dear men who care for you all. And pray for their wives and families as helpmates and support for them.
I pray for you all, as Paul had prayed, “that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (1:9-11)
And I urge all you all with the words the Lord gave Paul to exhort the saints, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:4-9)
Thank you all for your love and grace to me and to Edie!
- Jesus Christ be exalted in the love we have for one another, for continued unity and harmony, even when we discuss differences of opinion on non-essential matters.
- the Holy Spirit fills each of us daily, that He would direct our thoughts, words, attitudes, and actions.
- our Father God be praised to His glory for who He is and for all with which He graces us, even trials that strengthen our faith through endurance whenever we are tested.
- Jesus Christ be held and proclaimed by each of us as our Lord and the only Savior, God, the Son, and risen Redeemer.
- the Holy Spirit makes us acutely aware of temptations, even of the occasions for temptation, and would direct us to take the way out He provides, that we would immediately flee and not dwell for even a second on thoughts that would dishonor our Lord and God.
- the Lord God Almighty be glorified always in and through His use of CCLW, that He provides the growth, spiritual and numerical, that is best.
- the Holy Spirit prompts each of us to take advantage of opportunities daily to share the gospel with whomever we encounter.
- the Holy Spirit keeps the teaching and preaching at CCLW faithful to sound biblical doctrine, to the exaltation of Jesus Christ and to the praise and glory of God.
- the Lord continues to provide the resources needed to maintain and to effectively operate the ministries of CCLW, and that we be good stewards of what He does provide.
March 24, 2017
Romans 12:1,2 (NASB), “Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Undisputedly, the Apostle Paul was the human author, inspired by the Holy Spirit, of the doctrinally rich Epistle to the Romans. Most likely Paul authored this letter from the city of Corinth, from where he was preparing to go to Jerusalem to deliver an offering from the churches in Achaia and Macedonia to financially help the poor believers in Jerusalem, who had long been under persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ. Paul, of course, had been mightily used by God as “the apostle to the Gentiles” to preach the gospel and to plant and establish churches throughout a vast portion of the Roman Empire, but apparently, at the time of his writing this letter, he had never been to Rome, which was the most important and capital city of the Roman Empire. A very large number of the 1 million residents of the city of Rome were slaves, many of whom were taken from various parts of the provinces Rome had conquered and subjected. Slaves made up a large part of the Church in Rome. The vast majority of the “rich and influential” citizens of Rome were too comfortable in their worldly lives to even consider the gospel of Jesus Christ. Most likely some of those Jews from Rome who were converted on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:10) had returned to Rome and founded the church there. Perhaps a few may have known Paul, but at least the majority had never seen nor heard Paul, though they probably had heard of Paul and his ministry. John MacArthur notes, “In God’s providence, Paul’s inability to visit Rome (Romans 1:13) gave the world this inspired masterpiece of gospel doctrine … to believers who had never received apostolic instruction … The Roman church was doctrinally sound, but like all churches it was in need of the rich doctrinal and practical instruction this letter provides.”
The first eleven chapters of the Letter to the Romans is primarily doctrinal, focused on emphasizing the righteousness of God; i.e., the amazing and wonderful truth that it is God who sovereignly justifies guilty and heretofore condemned sinners by grace through faith alone in Christ Jesus alone as Lord and the only Savior. In these eleven chapters Paul presents principles on spiritual leadership (1:8-15); God’s just wrath against universally sinful mankind (1:18-3:20); divine judgment (2:1-16); justification by faith alone (3:21-4:25); assured security of salvation (5:1-11); sanctification (6:1-8:39); and sovereign election by God’s perfect will (Chapter 9); the need of all, Jew or Gentile, to hear and believe the gospel (Chapter 10) and God’s faithful plan for Israel (Chapter 11).
In Romans, Chapters 12-16, Paul presents very practical applications of the great theological truths, which are pertinent to each and every believer. Many of you have, and/or are facing very real trials and tribulations, physical, or financial, or relational, or spiritual, and I do not mean to down-play nor to dismiss any real struggles, but, as Paul urges, re-read this epistle and prayerfully reflect upon the amazing grace and mercies of God toward each of us who are His saints. In 12:1 Paul urges the brethren, each and every believer, to present our bodies (plural), in reality our very selves, jointly as a a living and holy sacrifice (singular), in light of the abundant blessings of God’s love, peace, righteousness and gift of saving faith. Paul is stating that, even as the Old Testament sacrificial system of the bodies of animals has been supplanted by the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross once for all, we are to have the mindset of offering with thanksgiving our whole being, individually and corporately as a church body, to the service of the Lord. Such offering is worship that exalts Jesus Christ.
Can we do this” Consistently? Only when we walk by the Holy Spirit. Then we are led by the Spirit to utilize the gifts He gives us to serve together in harmony with one another. We then are much less inclined to conform to this world, but we yield to the Holy Spirit who transforms us by the renewing of our mind. We serve for the benefit of the body of Christ, to the praise of the glory of God, not for self-gain, not for boasting, not for fleshly worldly benefit. We are then witnesses for Christ Jesus to the world around us.
How do we do this? For beginnings, heed what the Holy Spirit teaches us in this epistle: love without hypocrisy, abhor what is evil, cling to what is good (see also Philippians 4:8,9), love the brethren, rejoice in hope while persevering in tribulation, be devoted to prayer, give help to one another, be hospitable. Bless those who persecute you for your faith, don;t be partial nor proud, be at peace and be peacemakers. We are all to be in subjection to the governing authorities, for they are so placed by God.
We are also exhorted to lay aside the deeds of darkness (those things which we once reveled in before we were regenerated), and put on the Lord Jesus Christ, imitating Him. We ought not judge another who is serving Christ Jesus, nor to be a stumbling block. We are to bear one another’s burdens.
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”(Romans 14:13 “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which … now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets … has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience in faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:26-27)
- Jesus Christ be always exalted in the offering up of ourselves to His Lordship.
- the Holy Spirit be not grieved but that He be pleased as we heed and obey His leading and direction, that we would exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.
- the Father God be praised for His infinite glory, as we bear testimony of His grace and lovingkindness to all with whom we have contact.
- Jesus Christ be proclaimed as God the Son, Lord and Savior, in all that we do, as we genuinely have love for one another, showing the world that we truly are disciples of Jesus.
- the Holy Spirit matures our faith that we would rejoice always, even persevering in tribulation, clinging to what is good and enjoying genuine Christian fellowship with our brethren at CCLW.
- the Lord God be blessed as we trust and obey Him, utilizing the spiritual gifts He has given us to build-up and encourage one another.
- the Holy Spirit continues to direct the preaching and teaching at CCLW to always accord with sound biblical doctrine, and that we would always remember our first love.
- the Lord continues to provide all the resources needed for CCLW to remain healthy and to grow, and that the Holy Spirit keeps us being good stewards of all that our Lord does provide.
- the Holy Spirit continues to direct the leadership of this church, the elders in all the decisions they make, the deacons in diligence to maintain the facilities, the pastors in loving care for the flock, keeping watch over us all.