Prayer Practicum: Covenant Prayer

Prayer Practicum: Covenant Prayer Sermon Audio Here

Galatians 3:15-20

In a contract, we exchange promises; in a covenant, we give OURSELVES to each other; God GAVE Himself for us (John 1:1, 14), and we are to give ourselves to God (Romans 12:1). Let’s look at four aspects of

Our Response-Abilities in Covenant Prayer

We Respond in Obedience ~

  • John 13:36-38 – Not just promises
  • Peter makes promises; how does that play out?
  • Instead, 1 Peter 1:2 tells us we have been chosen for obedience
  • 2 John 1:6 ~ Christian love IS to walk in obedience to Christ
  • So What? Jer. 29:12 God WANTS us to pray; when we pray, we obey

We Respond with Time ~

  • Acts 3:1 – notice the reference to the TIME of prayer
  • Psalm 5:1-3 – What time do you see here?
  • 1 Thes. 5:17 – challenge to pray always
  • So What? make and keep regular appointments with God in prayer

We Respond With a Place ~

  • Acts 16:13-16 – a formal place of prayer; how formal is YOURS?
  • 1 Kings 8:27-29 – How does this “place” affect prayer?
  • Matthew 14:23 – How does Jesus’ example affect ours?
  • So What? the LOCATION doesn’t matter; Pick a place to pray!

We Respond With Heart Preparation ~

  • Habakkuk 2:20 – how do we prepare for God’s presence?
  • Psalm 103:1 – how does this interact with Hab. 2:20?
  • So What? ask yourself: are you “all in” in prayer? what’s holding you back?

“Blessed Savior, I pace back and forth at the altar of commitment. I really do want a fixed habit of prayer. At least, that is what I want right now. I’m not sure if that is what I will want two weeks from now. I do know that without some kind of consistent communion with you I will not know holy obedience. So, as best I can, I promise to set aside time regularly for prayer, meditation, and spiritual reading. Strengthen me in this covenant. Help me to so delight in your presence that I will want to come home to you often. In your name and for your sake I make this covenant. Amen.”1


1. Richard Foster, Prayer, the Heart’s True Home, pg. 77

Kodi-fying an old computer

(Here’s another Linux entry that I’m posting to remind me of what I’ve done to solve a problem. If you’re a regular reader of my sermon blog, this entry might not make sense to you.)

A friend came over to my home and saw my living room Linux computer set up to play media: movies, music, pictures, that kind of thing. He asked how it was done, and I mentioned the program KODI as the media server I was using. He was impressed, and asked if I could convert an old computer (or three) that he had to do the same thing.

“Of course!” I replied, with a far too inflated view of my own competence.

So, a few days ago, he dropped off the two computers he could find. Once was an eMachine AMD 2650e, with 1GB of RAM running Windows XP. The other was a Dell tower, with 512MB of RAM running Windows 7. (Don’t ask me how.)

I tackled the eMachine first. Getting the latest version of Lubuntu Long Term Support version was a matter of using the alternate install iso, burned to a USB. Nothing out of the ordinary to set it up: I installed the bare minimum I could, added just the packages I wanted to install a **very** minimal desktop (jwm, if anyone’s curious), and rebooted.

The challenge came in when my friend wanted his NTFS external USB 3.0 drive to be recognized. It’s got a lot of his media on it, and he wanted it available for his Kodi use. But it was NOT as easy as just plugging in the drive. (And here’s where I’m posting stuff for my own remembrance, and you, good reader, will probably have your eyes roll back in your head. Sorry.)

After MUCH experimentation, I had to add an entry into /etc/fstab that read:

UUID=<his identifier> /home/hismountpoint ntfs-3g nofail,x-systemd.automount,x-systemd.device-timeout=1 0 0

And that made the drive viewable by Kodi after I got it to start. (I also did an autologin for Kodi, but I won’t post that info here: it’s available by Google search. Just remember that now that Ubuntu is using systemd, I had to created a kodi.service which launched an xinit session. I warned you that your eyes would roll back, didn’t I?)

All is hunky-dory, right? Well, the eMachine was a 64bit computer… and the Dell was a 32bit computer that wouldn’t boot correctly from the USB stick, no matter what I tried. I had to old-school burn a DVD with a 32bit alternate install iso, and once that booted, I chose the expert install option, to replicate the same packages I selected for the first machine.

But the Dell would NOT recognize this drive upon boot, even when I copied the /etc/fstab word-for-word from the eMachine. It kept hanging: my guess is, it didn’t like the USB 3.0. SO… I created this kludgy workaround in the .xinitrc file:

dbus-launch Thunar
xmessage -center -geometry 300x120+0+0 "Attach external drive now"
sleep 30
pulseaudio &
killall Thunar
kodi &
exec jwm

And THAT allowed me to boot up, and step by step plug in the external USB drive so that Kodi could recognize it and use it.


Prayer Practicum: Formation Prayer

Prayer Practicum: Formation Prayer Sermon Audio Here

Phil. 2:12-13

“The primary purpose of prayer is to bring us into such a life of communion with the Father that, by the power of the Spirit, we are increasingly conformed to the image of the Son. This process of transformation is the sole focus of Formation Prayer.1

God’s Sculpting Of Our Lives Includes

Pursuing and Being Pursued ~ Phil. 2:12-13

  • v12 “work out your salvation” {work to finish}
    carry arm full of wood – “you got it? Yeah, I got it from here”
  • v13 “God works IN you” 1) to WILL {emotionally desire} 2) to ACT {energize; same as “works”}

Picking out Our Part ~ 1 Tim. 4:7-10

  • v7 train yourself – this takes work
  • v8 it’s worth it, both short term and long term
  • v9/10 Hope is important ingredient; reason to keep going

Peering Into The Abyss ~ Gal. 2:19-21

  • v20 live our lives by faith in Jesus
  • v21 depend upon God’s grace

God started the process; we’re supposed to be an ACTIVE part of it too! Faith that Jesus can live our lives WITH us, and make them BETTER (John 10:10b) is what happens when we decided to live by God’s grace instead of only our ability.

“Dear Lord Jesus, in my better moments I want nothing more than to be like you. But there are other moments…. Help me to see how good conformity to your way really is. In my seeking for you may I be found by you. I love you, Lord. Amen.2

1. Richard Foster, Prayer, the Heart’s True Home, pg. 57
2. Ibid., pg. 66

Prayer Practicum: Simple Prayer

Prayer Practicum: Simple Prayer Sermon Audio Here
Click here to play the file

Mark 9:14-29

In seminary, I took a class on Prayer. We used a number of materials, but I was inspired by the book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard Foster. Our Wednesday night small group looked at this book at the end of last year, and I thought it would be helpful to prepare for the approaching Advent season by considering a number of aspects of prayer.

PLUNGE into Prayer: Just As We Are ~ Mark 9:14-19

  • v17 brought my son TO YOU
  • v18 disciples couldn’t help
    • we often try do deal with stuff on our own first… only after it doesn’t work do we finally take the problem to God

The well-known theologian Charles Hodge wrote about his early years at Princeton: “It was my privilege to be the pupil-assistant of Professor Joseph Henry, the illustrious scientist. When, for the first time, electric signals were sent from point to point, the earth itself being used for the return current, Professor Henry put me at one end of the circuit, while he stood directing the experiments at the other. I can well remember the wonderful care with which he arranged them. Very often, when the testing moment came, he would raise his hand in adoring reverence and call upon me to uncover my head and worship in silence. He would say, ‘Because God is here, I am about to ask Him a question.’”

SoWhat? set your heart at rest by recognizing God’s presence – you’re not alone {1 John 3:19-20}

The PROBLEM in Prayer: Beginning Where We Are ~ Mark 9:20-24

  • v20/22 boy in the midst of trouble; doesn’t wait to “clean up” before going to Jesus
  • v23/24 our lack of faith is a lack of trust;
    • we don’t want to admit that WE aren’t in control, even though we never are

Money magazine reported in its January 1997 issue that a group of people were asked which is longer, the Panama Canal or the Suez Canal, and then asked how certain they were that their answer was correct. Among those who were 60% certain, half of them got the answer right–meaning that this group was only a little too sure. But among those who were 90% certain, only 65% got the answer right, meaning that this group was 25% too sure.

SoWhat? continually converse with Christ – choose to connect {1 Thes. 5:16-18}

The POINT of Prayer: Conversion of the Heart ~ Mark 9:25-29

  • v28 The disciples didn’t believe like the father did (v24); Jesus had given them authority. But he had not given it to them apart from God. They needed to rely on God, to know without a doubt the truth that Jesus later expressed, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)

The story goes that one time when Bill Moyers was a special assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson, he was asked to say grace before a meal in the family quarters of the White House. As Moyers began praying softly, the President interrupted him with “Speak up, Bill! Speak up!” The former Baptist minister from east Texas stopped in mid-sentence and without looking up replied steadily, “I wasn’t addressing you, Mr. President.”

SoWhat? to see God at work in us, we must focus on Jesus {2 Cor. 4:6}

Prayer isn’t about saying fancy terms, or being spiritually impressive; God wants to connect with us just as we are, right in the moment… so we can be more like Jesus.

NOTE: all blockquotes are sourced from 10,000 Sermon Illustrations by Galaxie Software; Biblical Studies Press, (c)2002

Ruth: The Rest of the Story

Ruth: The Rest of the Story Sermon Audio Here

Ruth 4:9-12

Ever wonder what the point is of the “Biblical Begats”? What do all those lists of ancestors teach us? The main lesson I see in them is that God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things… and there’s always a story behind what God is doing in those lives.

Scriptural Story Shapes Us

As We Share With Our Community ~ Ruth 4:1-12

  • 1-8 Boaz negotiates on Ruth’s behalf; he is granted right of redemption for Ruth
  • 9-10 Boaz shares his commitment with the community
  • 11-12 Community blesses Boaz for his commitment
    • SO WHAT? Untold Stories don’t change anyone; there is power in shared story to change lives

As We Carry Out Our Commitment ~ Ruth 4:13-22

  • 13-16 God blesses the family; Naomi is provided for
  • 17-22 commitment has long term consequences: Boaz becomes great-grandfather of King David
    • SO WHAT? Undone Commitment is merely intention; intention alone doesn’t change anything; we must choose (again and again) to put our commitments into action

Luke 1:67-75: reference that Jesus was the answer to the promise for the House of David – which came through Ruth. Jesus is the Point of the Story of God, the reason which gives meaning to our lives. God committed Jesus for our sake; we respond to His call for God’s glory.

Ruth: Sudden Redemption

Ruth: Sudden Redemption Sermon Audio Here

Ruth 3:7-13

Have you ever found yourself In over your head, with no idea how you’re going to get help? Ruth did, and shows us a great example of what we can do…

How Can God’s People Navigate Their Need?

Ruth Takes a Risk ~ Ruth 3:1-8

  • v1-6 summary: Naomi knows Boaz is extended family; he might be persuaded to care for Ruth
  • v7 teaching: uncovered his feet (legs);
  • Ruth puts herself in a situation to demonstrate her need
  • v8 he wakes up; legs are cold? Boaz responds to situation

Ruth Dares to Request ~ Ruth 3:9-11

  • v9 “your servant” (‘AMAH’, Jewish, instead of ‘foreigner’ 2:10);
  • ~ “spread your garment” (in 2:12 for God’s refuge);
  • ~ “kinsman-redeemer” (re: transfer of LAND, to keep in family)
  • Ruth boldly asks to be protected and cared for
  • v10/11 Boaz sees her request to be “covered” as a kindness;
  • she’s asking on behalf of Naomi as well as herself;
    Ruth’s request reflects her unselfish motives

Boaz Bargains for Ruth’s Benefit ~ Ruth 3:12-13

  • v12 Boaz knows there’s someone with a closer claim on Naomi’s husband’s land; Boaz doesn’t take advantage
  • v13 I’ll make sure you’re covered, one way or another; Boaz promises Ruth she’ll be cared for

SO WHAT? When we find ourselves in difficulty, what can we do? Like Ruth, we can take a risk by showing we’re in need. Like Ruth, we can dare to ask for help instead of trying to go it alone. And when faced with a needy situation, like Boaz, we can step up and work to find solutions… and sometimes, we ARE the solution ourselves.

Ruth: Rewarded in Refuge

Ruth: Rewarded in Refuge ~ no Sermon Audio available

Ruth 2:8-16

How is Ruth rewarded in the midst of dire circumstances? Through the actions of a kinsman-redeemer, she is supported and sustained. Learning how Ruth receives these rewards can help us be better receivers ourselves.

To Receive from a Redeemer,

Recognize His Right To Support – Ruth 2:8-11

  • summary of 1-7: introduction of Boaz, relative of Naomi’s husband – “a man of standing”
  • v8 Boaz offers protection
  • v9 Boaz offers provision
  • v10/11 When Ruth asks why, Boaz offers understanding

Believe in His Ability To Bless – Ruth 2:12-16

  • v12 Boaz offers blessing (“May the Lord…” )
  • v13 Boaz offers comfort
  • v14 Boaz offers sustenance
  • v15/16 Boaz offers a covering (for her inexperience)

The challenge when reading narrative is to assume that God is bound to do the same things for us that He has done for others in the text. Our goal: not to focus on our circumstances, which always change; rather,to focus on God’s faithfulness, which does not change.

Think of what Jesus, our Redeemer has done for us: He protects us from a lost eternity; He provides everything we need for spiritual growth; He understands our weakness and doesn’t hold it against us; He blesses us with His Word; He comforts us with the Holy Spirit; He sustains us by His loving will; and He covers us with His own blood to mark us as His own.

Pastor Ed Backell

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Pastoral Tweets

  • Our Response-abilities in Covenant Prayer We Respond With Heart Preparation (Habakkuk 2:20) 2 days ago
  • When we pray, we obey. Make & keep prayer schedule; pick a place to pray! Ask yourself: are you “all in” in prayer? what’s holding you back? 2 days ago
  • Our Response-abilities in Covenant Prayer We Respond With a Place (Acts 16:13-16) 2 days ago
  • Our Response-abilities in Covenant Prayer We Respond with Time (Acts 3:1) 2 days ago
  • Our Response-abilities in Covenant Prayer We Respond in Obedience (John 13:36-38) 2 days ago

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