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This week’s sermon is available on podcast.  John 6:41-59 is our text.  Here are some after thoughts:

As I mention in the sermon, this passage of Scripture is a passage of judgement upon the Jews.  This is why he changes the word he uses for “eat” after verse 54.  The more specific and earthy phrase is intended to confuse the listeners in the synagogue, and in fact spells out their judgement.

In the Bible, the enemy being eaten was the ultimate symbol of judgement.  So, here Jesus speaks to the Jews about eating/chewing on his flesh.  The passage has been the source of lengthy conversations regarding the Eucharist (and I agree that the Eucharist context is correct), but it doesn’t have to do with the nature of the elements of present day communion.

Jesus’ declaration identifies him as the “new” Moses:  He leads and guides his people like a shepherd; He feed his people like Moses did with Manna – He is the bread from heaven;  He teaches his people as the Word, identified by the people as the Prophet in chapter 6.  The Jews do not accept this new Moses and now are susceptible to judgement.

The Jews choices here are put into the metaphor of eating the bread of life.  Had they believed they would have partaken of the bread of life, the Word that was Jesus.  Since they don’t believe, they actually function as the priests who sacrifice the lamb of God in judgement for sin.  They judge Jesus (ie eat his flesh).  This misunderstanding of the Word and rejection of Christ is their doom.

The book of Revelation picks up this idea in chapter 19.  There we see the vision of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  In this meal though (also a Eucharist/Passover context), the meal is not the lamb.  It is the Marriage Supper of the Lamb but there is a significant difference in Revelation:  Jesus is not the meal.  His enemies become the meal as seen in Revelation 19:17-18.

So this passage has roots in Numbers 11 and comes to fruition in Revelation 19.  The Bible is an amazing book.

 

 

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Capital S: John 4:23-24

John 4:23-24

These are my more in depth notes from today’s sermon.  I summarized these points this morning, here is the more fleshed out and technical background…

23 “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
A main emphasis in worship is that we worship God in Spirit and in truth. What does it mean to worship God “in Spirit” (ἐν πνεύματι)? This post will examine this phrase. First we will discuss the preposition “in” drawing the conclusion that is used in the sociative sense as opposed to the locative sense. Secondly, in all the modern versions the word “spirit” is left un-capitalized, I will challenge that interpretive decision and make the case that it should be capitalized.

The preposition “in” (ἐν)

It may seem a small and insignificant word, but in fact determining the meaning and emphasis of this preposition is critical. Contrary to silly political evasion (remember Bill Clinton’s evasiveness concerning the word “is”), “in” can have different nuance of meaning. For instance, one way to understand “in” has to do with location: “she is in the kitchen.” But another way to understand “in” is call the sociative use: “she is in trouble.” It is not speaking of location rather she is “associated” with trouble.

Now the Greek word “ἐν” is not an exact equivalent to the English word “in” which sometimes causes the variations we see in the English translations. This is one of the challenges with the related phrase to ours here in John 4:23, like the phrase “baptism in the Spirit” in John 1:33. “ἐν” can mean: in, within, by, by means of, with, on, among, when. The meaning is determined by many contextual considerations. So determining what Jesus means by worshiping the Father “in spirit/Spirit” is not as simple as it may first seem. But we all make some conclusion upon reading the phrase.

Maximilian Zerwick in his helpful (highly technical – you won’t find this book at Berean) book Biblical Greek gives this explanation:

“The preposition “ἐν”, thanks in part at least to the influence of Semitic be, increases its scope to a very great extent. In Biblical usage the value of “ἐν” seems to be very ill defined, and often to be very far indeed from the local sense. Thus where Mk 5:2 speaks of a man ἐν πνεύματι ἀκαθάρτῳ (with an unclean spirit) one might feel that it would be more logical to say the spirit was in the man rather than the man in the spirit, and one might explain the preposition as meaning that man was in the power of the spirit. Later however, in the same chapter (5:25), such an explanation will not avail, for the woman with the flux of blood is said to have been ἐν ῥύσει αἵματος (with a flow of blood).
“The question has a certain importance when one wishes to understand what Paul means by saying sometimes that we are in Christ, or in the Spirit, and at other times that Christ, or the Spirit, is in us. Indeed the distinction in Paul’s mind between the two notions seems to be so small, not to say non-existent, that he explains and as it were defines the one by the other; Rom 8:9: “you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God dwells in you”. So he is “in the Spirit”, in whom the Spirit is, or as the apostle goes on to say, who “has the Spirit”: “but if anyone have not the Spirit of Christ, the same is not of Him”. In John also the dwelling of God (Christ) are two correlative and inseparable aspects of the same reality, cf 1 John 4:13, 15, 16; John 6:56; 15:4f; in John 8:44 it is said of Satan that he is not in the truth because the truth is not in him. Thus “ἐν” (not without Semitic influence) is practically reduced to the expression of a general notion of association or accompaniment, which would be rendered in English by “with”: a man with an unclean spirit, a woman with an influx of blood.”

John 4 is the story of the Samaritan woman by the well. There was a turf war that went on between the Samaritans and the Jews. Jews worshiped at the temple in Jerusalem; Samaritans worshiped at Mt. Gerazim (although their temple at this time was in ruins). She asks Jesus for a location (we worship in this mountain, Jews worship in Jerusalem) and Jesus answers with:
“Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither ἐν this mountain nor ἐν Jerusalem will you worship the Father…but an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father ἐν spirit and truth.”

Our options are to take the phrase to mean “in the location of the spirit/Spirit” or “in association with the spirit/Spirit.” To take in the locative sense would require us to identify the where of the spirit/Spirit. So it could refer to the spirit of man, that inner place of man where the spirit is located. Or it could be referring to a location where believers gather and where two or three are gathered, that being characterized in Matthews gospel as a “place” where Jesus is present. Those views are both possible, and even accurate, but is that what Jesus is talking about? Is he saying that as opposed to Jerusalem or Gerazim, the “new” worship will take place in churches? or internally as opposed to corporately? I imagine that is possible, but as we shall see, it isn’t the strongest view. The context of chapter 4 and the gospel of John draws a more powerful conclusion that is connected to the temple (2:13ff, 4:20ff, 14:23).

The sociative sense of the word “in” would give the sense that Jesus is saying that true worshipers worship in association with the Spirit. Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman are both told that the key element in their encounter with Jesus has to do with the Spirit and his life giving operation. In the Nicodemus encounter, Jesus tells him that he must be born from above and equates that activity with the operation of the Spirit. He uses the metaphor of wind to dramatically describe the activity of the Spirit. In the story of the Samaritan woman Jesus speaks of the gift of God which he describes as the water of life, later identified with the operation of the Spirit (7:38).

It is safe to say that true worshipers are those who have been born from above and those who have drunk of the living water. They are true worshipers as a result of their “spiritual” transformation and it is in this sphere that they worship. They agree with the Spirit’s testimony regarding the truth who is Jesus as they are now believing. This is the characteristic of the new worship and worshipers, it is the direct result of regeneration; the new creation.

Jesus is contrasting the worship of the Jews and Samaritans in a certain location (Jerusalem and Gerazim) with the true worship which is not related to location but is associated with the Spirit. It is not worship in a particular place but with a particular person, the person of the Holy Spirit. The type of worship is being emphasized, not the location of the activity of worship. This doesn’t exclude the activity of worship connected with a location, but emphasizes the nature of the future true worship behavior – as it is going to be a global activity. The Great Commission moves the worshiper outside the boundaries of Israel and hence moves beyond location.

“Spirit” or “spirit”

Capitalization in the Bible is not always a straightforward translation issue. Since the Greek New Testament, the manuscripts, don’t have capitalization cues for the translator, the translator must designate where capitals should be used. This passage is one of the debatable “to capitalize or not to capitalize” passages. We don’t have access to the discussion that surrounded the decision to leave “spirit” in John 4:23 & 24 lower case on the part of the translation committees. I argue that it should, in fact, be capitalized, that is, as a reference to the Holy Spirit.

If you leave the translation “spirit,” it can be taken in at least two different ways.

First, that Jesus is saying that instead of worship happening in a physical place in the future, it will take place in the spirit of the true worshiper; maybe akin to the modern claim of being able to worship anywhere; therefore ,the “I don’t need to go to church” mentality. True worship takes place in the realm of my spirit; the essence of worship is, therefore, personal rather than corporate. Since my spirit is localized, the nature of worship is inward and independent.

This view is rejected. Jesus is not affirming a personal form of worship here. He is not interested in establishing individual temples compartmentalized from a larger body. He is not saying that Jerusalem/Gerazim are rejected in favor of the spirit of man.

Second, that Jesus is saying that worship is a spiritual activity and not a physical activity. We worship in spirit then has the sense that worship is a spiritual activity. The important part being that worship is spiritual and that the physical is peripheral. It is the heart of worship that really matters, not simply the physical location, activity or posture.

This view is rejected as well. It leads to an unnatural dissection between the physical and the spiritual. True worship is not worship that simply has to do with my spiritual side; we reject any gnostic notion that the spirit is good and the material or physical is evil. Jesus is not espousing a purely spiritual and non-physical expression of worship.

A third, mid-stream addition: I just heard a pastor use this phrase: “my parents are here in spirit”.   These kind of odd statements have a life that is not founded in the Scriptures or in reality. I think what he meant is that they would be here if they could, but since they can’t, they would be supportive. But not everyone dissects the statement that way; some believe that there is some actual spiritual presence. This kind of language was probably not in mind here.

Though there may be truth in these positions, I don’t see that as the thrust of Jesus’ teaching here or elsewhere, and I see no reason to not capitalize the word Spirit here as it is usually done elsewhere in the Bible. Of the 51 times this phrase occurs in the Bible it refers to the Holy Spirit. I don’t see a compelling reason to remove the divine dynamic from this verse, in fact the passage almost demands it.

John has a strong link between the Spirit and truth. He is called the Spirit of truth (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13; I John 5:6). In John 14 there is a strong linkage to the Trinity, with Jesus also being identified as the truth. In this passage, maintaining the capitalization emphasizes that the nature of worship is trinitarian in nature, in keeping with the message of John: Jesus leads us to the Father and the Spirit leads us to Christ (John 14:26). In John 14:17 the Holy Spirit “abides with you and will be in you (could also be rendered “abides in you and will be in you).

The nature of worship is that it is performed by “true worshipers,” and true worshipers worship in/with the Spirit. It is the Spirit who makes the worshiper “true” and the Spirit who guides the worshiper. It is the Spirit whose presence makes known the truth of the Father and the Son. It is through His presence that we are able to experience the presence of God. It is through His presence that we are quickened and made alive to God. Without the Spirit, the spirit is incapable of worship.

Grammatically, if we take the “ἐν” in what is called the sociative sense (association) as opposed to the locative sense (location), it makes more sense to associate the true worshiper with the Holy Spirit in this context. So when we combine the two parts ἐν πνεύματι, it makes more sense to capitalize “Spirit.” The Trinity is present and the believer is invited into the relational wheel in the context of worship: The Father is the object of worship; the Son is the truth component who reveals the Father to us in word and deed and sacrifice; The Spirit is the activator who reveals the truth to the believer and enables him to approach the Father and the Son. The “true worshiper” finds his place in the dynamic mix of Father, Son and Holy Spirit fulfilling the prayer of Jesus: “That they may all be one; even as You, Father are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

Maybe the most dramatic reason to take this passage as referring to the Holy Spirit is it’s connection to Ephesians 5:18: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,” where “with the Spirit” here is represented by the same Greek phrase as we find in John, ἐν πνεύματι. Jesus and Paul are talking about the same phenomenon. When you are filled with the Spirit you can worship in/with the Spirit, the result being an expression of worship as summed up by Paul:

speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;
21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. (Eph 5:19-21)

The Character of the Worshiper & Worship Leader

Seeing this strong association with the Holy Spirit and true worship leads us to ask how it is that we practice this “worship in Spirit.” The linking together of character and worshiper in this paradigm is inseparable. Since it is an association and not simply an activity, and since it is an activity linked with the person of the Spirit as opposed to a place the transformational and character issues are prominent. Worship is not simply an activity, it is part of my new nature in Christ. Worship becomes a work of the Spirit both individually and corporately. Worship becomes a work of the Spirit both in body and soul. Worship becomes a part of my waking and sleeping not simply my segmented and scheduled behavior.

Having said that, the fruit of the Spirit seems to be the best place to glean the directives with regard to the character of the Worship leader. If worship is a by-product of association with the Holy Spirit, the fruit will also be a by product of this association. The symbiotic nature of fruit and worship stems from the centrality of the Spirit in the life of the true worshiper.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).

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Rylands Fragment of John

The Papyrus Rylands Greek 475  also known as p52. is a fragment of the Gospel of John that dates from around AD 135. Fascinating.  It is an important fragment.  p52 is the earliest known New Testament manuscript. It measures 3.5″ x 2.5″, and contains lines from the Gospel of John 18:31-33 on the front and John 18:37-38 on the back. You might ask why this is important.

We have no original documents.  The original gospel that John wrote is not extant (that means we don’t have it, it is apparently lost).  The Rylands fragment is one of the earliest copies of the NT that we have and even though it only contains a small portion of the full gospel it tells us at least one important thing:  the Gospel of John was written in the first century.  This fragment is a papyrus fragment that was discovered in Egypt.  We believe that John wrote the gospel from Ephesus.  In order for the gospel to make its way as far as Egypt you have to allow for several decades of copying and circulation.

It is believed by most (I actually lean toward an earlier date) that the gospel was written by the apostle John in the late first century.  Irenaeus is an important reason we think that the apostle was the writer (liberal scholarship wants to say that the gospel was written by someone other than the apostle John).  Ireneaus was mentored by a man named Polycarp who was personally with John as his disciple.  He is only one step removed from the apostle.  Here is what Ireneus says:

“John himself, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned back on Jesus’ chest – he, too, published the Gospel while he was staying at Ephesus in Asia”  (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.1.1)

“I can remember the events of that time…so that I am able to describe the very place where the blessed Polycarp sat…and the accounts he gave of his conversation with John and with others who had seen the Lord” (Irenaeus as quoted by Eusebius, Church History 5.20.5-6) both quotes cited by Robert H. Gundry in A Survey of the New Testament p. 256.

That last quote actually sent shivers up my spine, imagine sitting with people so directly connected with the eyewitnesses of Jesus!   Tomorrow we begin our study of the Gospel – don’t miss this great book!

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Watermelon Sermon, Part 2c

The watermelon metaphor helps us to understand that transformation in the Christian life from the before Christ state (old man) to the after Christ state (new man) is a transformation from the inside out and that new man is different.  The first area we talked about was The New Man Speaks Truth, secondly the New Man Expresses Anger Without Sin, and third The New Man Gives.  We continue with the last two points:

The New Man is Gracious

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).

This emphasis on truth in the passage highlights the importance of words; We are entrusted with the gospel of grace, the truth. As proclaimers of the holiness and righteousness of truth, our words should not be “rotten.”  Out of the same mouth cannot some bitter and sweet water is what James tells us and that is the same emphasis here.  The evangelist, bearer of good news, consistently speaks in a wholesome manner.

The character of these words has three facets:

  • The wholesome words we speak are good for edification.  They build up rather than tear down.
  • The words we speak are appropriate and timely, “according to the need of the moment”.  The speaker uses discernment to match the mood and tense of the context.  Weeping with those who weep, etc.
  • The words we speak are marked with grace.

Paul puts it this way in Colossians:

But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices  (Colossians 3:8-9)

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person  (Colossians 4:6)

the Psalmist this way:

Psalm  37:30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, And his tongue speaks justice.

Psalm 45:2 Thou art fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon Thy lips; Therefore God has blessed Thee forever.

This list of verses in the Bible that speaks about our words is long.  This important facet of the Christian life should not be neglected as we strive to discipline our tongue.

The New Man does not Grieve the Spirit

The Grieving of the Holy Spirit must be read in contrast to v. 27. The Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. The Devil is the father of lies. In the infamous story of Annanias and Sapphira, the accusation is why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit.

When we live lives that reject the truth of God, it grieves him. We so understand this passage if we are parents.  We so understand this passage if we are friends. When you see someone suffering for stupidity, you are burdened, grieved. There is a loss.  We lose out when we ignore the truth of God’s word. When we settle for a season in the pleasures of sin. So cooperate with the Holy Spirit.

Grieving the Holy Spirit may be connected to two activities in the Bible:  complaining and rebelling.

Here is how those things amount to lying.

Complaining in a Christian context is telling God he is wrong.  He is wrong about my circumstances, trials, burdens, struggles, physical makeup, personality or whatever.  Whatever we are complaining about says that God has let us down and not taken care of his part of the bargain, ie to take care of us.  The nation of Israel is the prototype for this lesson.  The wilderness wanderings shed light on our tendency to complain even when God is delivering us and preparing blessing for us. Instead of being grateful, they began to murmur and grumble.  We might even see the “good” reasons for  this. That kind of travel/camping trip sounds like a nightmare; we can hardly blame them.

This is how the Psalmist describes God’s view of their complaining:  “For forty years I loathed that generation, And said they are a people who err in their heart, And they do not know My ways.

God was guiding them, taking them in His ways, and they were complaining about everything.

The New Man replaces grumbling with thanksgiving, gratitude.  Gratitude is the recognition and acknowledgement that God is at work, His providence is in place and I rejoice even in difficulty.

Rebellion is complaining in full bloom.  When I allow complaining to mark my life, constantly in disagreement with God by calling him a liar, we give ourselves permission to rebel and disobey God.  These things grieve the Holy Spirit as they do when we as parents see our children suffering in their stupidity (sometimes they are like we were…are…will be, ouch).

Stop it.  Give thanks in all thinks.  As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

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Watermelon Sermon, Part 2b

This is a continuation of my Watermelon Sermon from August 8, 2010 and my Watermelon Part 2 sermon from August 15, 2010
The watermelon metaphor helps us to understand that transformation in the Christian life from the before Christ state (old man) to the after Christ state (new man) is a transformation from the inside out and that new man is different.  The first area we talked about was The New Man Speaks Truth, secondly the New Man Expresses Anger Without Sin.  We continue with…

The New Man Gives

We were created to work, as God works.  The Biblical paradigm for working is found in the creation story and the creation commandments (or mandates as many call them).  We find a model for our labor practices in the creation story which speaks of the work of God in creation as consisting of 6 days, and of resting on the Sabbath.  Often when we speak of the Sabbath it is reduced down to one day, but the Sabbath command is as much about the 6 days of labor  as it is about the one day of rest.  The labor is the reason for the rest – don’t work and you won’t need to rest.  In Exodus where Ten Commandments are listed, the Sabbath day command consists of four verses whereas murder gets one simple phrase.  The sabbath command is as much a command about 6 days as it is about 1 day.  The sabbath controversy today is a detour.  It keeps us focused on the wrong emphasis.  The Sabbath is not about what day we worship, it is about resting after labor.  The resting part is only one part of the whole command and emphasis though – the underlying foundational assumption of Sabbath is labor!
To labor is to fulfill our purpose.  We were created for work, we were redeemed so that our work might become “good work” that we might perform good works.  Work finds its root in the mandates given at creation.  We are told to be fruitful, multiply and fill Continue reading Watermelon Sermon, Part 2b

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Watermelon Sermon, Part 2

The watermelon metaphor helps us to understand that transformation in the Christian life from the before Christ state (old man) to the after Christ state (new man) is a transformation from the inside out and that new man is different.  The first area we talked about was The New Man Speaks Truth.  We continue with…

The New Man Expresses Anger without Sin

26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.
(Eph 4:26-27)
There are 4 imperatives or commands in this passage:
Be Angry.  Anger is an emotion that is at its beginnings is morally neutral.  I used to say that all the time.  I am beginning to re-define that.  Here it is a command.  “Be angry.”  There are situations and circumstances in which it is inappropriate to hold back anger or to tell yourself that everything is ok.  It is interesting to me what makes the believer angry, and what things many people don’t get angry about.  The anger that is commanded here is an anger that is rooted in justice/injustice.  It is appropriate to be angry at certain things.
I just finished a book about Dietrich Bonhoeffer – he was a pastor who lived in pre-Nazi and Nazi Germany.  He was executed for Continue reading Watermelon Sermon, Part 2

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My Watermelon Sermon

We will see how long this lasts.  I am not a manuscript sermon guy, but want to be.  So here is Sunday’s Sermon in manuscript form.  I don’t normally go for the catchy sermon title:  Ephesians 4:25-32 was the official title, but a blog is a more titillating venue.

Ephesians 4:25-32

Truth in all of Life:  The Old Man vs. the New Man
Continue reading My Watermelon Sermon

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Prayer for True Knowledge

Here is a prayer written by Thomas a Kempis:

Grant me, O Lord, to know what I ought to know,
To love what I ought to love,
To praise what delights Thee most,
To value what is precious in Thy sight,
To hate what is offensive to Thee.
Do not suffer me to judge according to the sight of my eyes,
Nor to pass sentence according to the hearing of the ears of ignorant men;
But to discern with a true judgment between things visible and spiritual,
And above all, always to inquire what is the good pleasure of Thy will. Amen
(The Moral Compass, William J. Bennett p. 754)

and a corresponding prayer for knowledge by the apostle Paul:

For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints,do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.
(Ephesians 1:15-19 )

After Paul gives thanks he prays that God may give to the Ephesians a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ and that the eyes of their heart may be enlightened.  All of those phrases are knowledge phrases.  He asks that they will be enlightened in three ways:  hope, riches, greatness.  Paul is assuming here that their is a tendency in believers to have misconceptions about appropriate hope, true riches, and the nature of greatness.  Listen to my sermon from this week (will post the link when the sermon is up) for a perspective on true hope, riches and greatness.

A major thrust of the believers prayers should be in the arena of the mind and to renew our mind so that it conforms to the mind of Christ.  Prayer can be defined as mind work.  It is the place where I examine my mind, my thinking, my values, my  hopes, my philosophy, my understanding of truth, my wisdom.  Hence Paul prays that we have wisdom and that the veil over our minds be pulled back and that our hearts may be brought into the light, that is out of the darkness.

Paul had a practice of sharing his prayers with his readers.  As a result we have a treasure of examples of how to pray for one another.  I have made it a practice to use the prayers of Paul as a template for how to pray for others.  Here are some good ones:  Ephesians 1:15-23; Ephesians 3:14-20; Colossians 1:9-12; Colossians 4:2-4; Philippians 1:9-11; Philemon 1:4-6.  Pray for one another.

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