Dear "Strangers" of EBC,
I'm enjoying our study in 1 Peter and I want to encourage you to "get your feet wet" in the book if you haven't done so already. We will be working straight through the book throughout June, July and most of August. Peter writes to believers who are going through tough times because they are Christ-followers. He writes during the decade in the early church where the Apostle Paul was beheaded by Nero and where Peter himself will soon follow Paul in martyrdom when he is crucified upside down. They are powerfully aware that their lives are out of sync with the culture around them. As followers of Christ, they feel like aliens and strangers even though they live where they grew up! Throughout, Peter is teaching his people how to always be in a state of readiness in mind and body to set apart Christ as Lord in every area of life (see 1:13-15; 3:15; 4:1-2).
James Eldred got us started with a look at the identity of a Christ-follower laid out by Peter in 1:1-2. He reminded us of the truth that how we think about who we are will affect how we live (he did a nice job by the way, didn't he?). Do we understand that our relationship with God was secured by him through the work of the Holy Spirit based on the work of Christ? We are his chosen people! And as his chosen people, we have been called and enabled to come under his good rule and to serve his purposes for his glory, our blessing, and the blessing of our brothers, sisters and neighbors. This makes us his children. We are his heirs entitled by God's grace to all his riches in this life and, in full, in the life to come. It means that we are freed from enslavement to our sins and the old, toxic life we used to live. But it also means that we will no longer feel at home in a world still in rebellion against God. As his people, we will be strangers and aliens. Where his people gather together, it will be like an outpost of another kingdom in foreign territory. At the same time, we will live with a heart that yearns for those who are enslaved to sin to know the freedom we have found by God’s grace. And, we will labor to live out and explain the good news of what God offers them through Christ. Nevertheless, we expect opposition from the evil one and those committed to the rebellion against our God, the Creator and Deliverer of everyone. Is this how we think about ourselves? How would that affect us if we did?
Last week we looked at the soaring praise that marks the opening to the body of Peter's letter (1:3-12). Writing to people suffering persecution and hardship, Peter shows them and us how to get our bearings so that life's challenges and difficulties do not distract or defeat us from the wonder of God's blessings that we have been given in Christ. He teaches us that the practice of praise prepares the believer’s heart: 1) to trust in God’s good greatness without wavering and 2) to embrace his game plan fully no matter what the circumstances.
To get “praise prepared” let’s follow Peter’s practice of praise. Below, I have given you a guide for writing your own praise to God. Over the next weeks, see if you, or you and your family or friends can write your own expression of praise to God that you can pray (and/or sing) back to him. As you do, we want to give opportunities for you or someone on your behalf, to bring those to us as a body to help us get praise prepared as we worship and serve together. Here is a short one (short for me :) I wrote out of the passage I’m studying for this week’s sermon (1:13-25):
Holy Father, I praise you because you are free from any evil. There is nothing in you that is attracted to evil and nothing in you to move you to do evil. You always act consistent with your good greatness. You are always merciful. You are always gracious. You are always just. And you are always faithful. And I praise you that you have made me your child. Out of your mercy and grace you conspired with your Son to provide a way for me to be freed from the power and consequences of my sin. Even when I ignorantly followed my own evil desires in rebellion against you, you provided the costliest of sacrifices in the willing death of Jesus so that your justice would not be compromised as your mercy and grace were extended to me. Then you invited me to come to you! You graciously convinced me to abandon any trust in myself and throw myself on you as the only one worthy of total trust and the only one that can be counted on to bring me to life, both now and forever. You alone are my hope! And now, you empower and invite me to increasingly experience this new freedom from the old life that had enslaved me and to run with joy on this new path of life you have opened up for me while I wait for the full and complete experience of all that life means when Christ returns. You urgently desire that I increasingly live into and know the blessing of my new identity as your child, to be holy as you are holy. Who am I that you would do such a thing as this!? May I never forget who you are and who I am. May I never get over the immensity of your love. May I never doubt your good intentions and purposes. You alone are Holy. You alone are my Father. To you alone my I give glory in my thoughts, my affections, and my actions.
You give it a try. Do something simple and short or complex and long, but take this opportunity both to give God deserved praise and to encourage us all to see him better (and so get a better view of ourselves and each other!). I look forward to praising God together as God works through our body!
Writing Prayers of Praise & Thanks
Scriptural Names for Addressing God
The following scriptural names for God are provided to help us prepare to address God in prayer. Often the following names are combined in various ways, such as “Almighty, everlasting God” or “Holy God, our provider.” Start your prayer with the name that speaks to the circumstances for your prayer.
A Selection of Names of Address for God in the Scriptures:
Alpha and Omega (Rev. 1:8; 22:13); Almighty and loving God (Gen. 1:1; Ps. 68:1-6); Almighty God, giver of strength (Gen. 17:1; Ex. 6:3-8; Ps. 68:4-14); Creator (Isa. 43:15; Rom. 1:25; 1 Pet. 4:19); Everlasting God (Gen. 21:33; Isa. 40:28); Faithful God (Deut. 7:9; 32:4; Ps. 31:5); Father of compassion and God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3); Father of mercies (2 Cor. 1:3); God, our healer (Ex. 15:26); God, our provider (Gen. 22:14); God, our peace, or God of peace (Judges 6:24; Heb. 13:20); God, our purifier (Ex. 31:13; Lev. 20:8); God, our righteousness (Jer. 23:6); God, our shepherd (Gen. 49:24; Ps. 23:1; 80:1); God and Father of Jesus Christ (Rom. 15:6); Gracious God (Jon. 4:2); Holy God (Lev. 19:2; Josh. 24:19; Isa. 5:16); Living God (Jer. 10:10; 2 Cor. 3:3; 6:16); Lord (Gen. 15:2; Ex. 3:14-15; Acts 3:22); Lord God (Ps. 68:32; Dan. 9:3); Lord of hosts (Josh. 5:14; 1 Sam. 1:3; Ps. 24:10); Most High God (Gen. 14:18; Ps. 9:2); Our Father (Isa. 64:8; Matt. 6:9; Eph. 1:2); Redeemer, covenant God (Ex. 3:14-15; Isa. 49:26); Refuge (Ps. 28:8; 46:1; 91:2); Rock (2 Sam. 23:3; Hab. 1:12; 1 Cor.10:4); Triune God (derived from 2 Cor. 13:13 and other passages).
Actions and Attributes of God
The following lists cite actions and attributes for which we praise and thank God in prayer. We ground our petitions in God’s character by naming particular attributes and actions of God and praising God for them. The following actions or attributes can be included briefly in a form of address to God (such as “Almighty God, you have given us the gift of the Holy Spirit to lead us to Christ”) or in an extended prayer of thanksgiving. These lists merely offer suggestions on the many actions and attributes of God we can refer to in prayer.
Actions: Gracious God…
you created the world in beauty . . . you created us in your image and yet more wonderfully restored us in Christ . . . you are re-creating the world in Christ . . . you revealed yourself to us in Christ . . . you allow us to glimpse your glory in the face of Christ . . . you teach, comfort, and challenge us by your Word . . . you govern this world in power and love . . . you lead us faithfully . . . you led your people by fire and cloud . . . you prepared the way for the coming of your Son . . . you sent your Son to the world for its salvation . . . you led the Magi by a star to worship your Son . . . you anointed Jesus your Son with your Spirit at his baptism . . . you raised Jesus from the dead through the power of the Spirit . . . you send us out into the world to make disciples . . . you sent your Holy Spirit to point us to Christ . . . you send your Holy Spirit to empower the church . . . you hear our prayers in Jesus’ name . . . you promise always to be with us . . . you promise the coming of Christ’s kingdom . . . you alone can bring healing . . . you alone can bring unity out of dissension . . . you alone can conquer evil . . . . Others?
Attributes: Gracious God…,
we praise you as the one who is . . . abundant in truth, almighty, beautiful, eternal or everlasting, ever present, faithful, good, gracious, holy, incomprehensible, infinite, invisible, just, living, long-suffering, loving, perfect, wise, or…?
For extended expressions of praise, each attribute may be linked with a particular text, a story of God’s actions in history, or an experience of God’s blessing in your own life or in the lives of those you know and love (such as “Gracious Lord, we praise you as the one who was faithful to Abraham and Sarah, Boaz and Ruth, Joseph and Mary, and even to us . . .”).
Using the above names or addresses, and actions or attributes of God, write several expressions of praise or your own prayer of praise! Here are some of the many Biblical examples you could follow (1 Chron 16:8-36; Psa 100, 104, 118; 1 Peter 1:3-12; Eph 1:3-14; 2 Cor 1:3-7; Rev 4:8,11; 5:9-10).