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Episode 15 - How Do We Keep Growing?

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Date: September 19, 2018
Run Time: 12:26
Host: Dr. Gregory R. Perry
Guests: Dr. Steve Brown, Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr.
From the Series: Growing Bold, Not Old, in Our Faith

Program Notes

"Unbelievers don’t pray because they’re afraid God is going to show. And, if God shows, they’re in trouble, because they can’t be God anymore. Christians don’t pray because they’re afraid God won’t show … [but] God does show.” Join us as Dr. Steve Brown and Dr. Richard Pratt discuss:

  • Why coffee and Jesus get Steve up in the morning
  • What happens when everything safe and secure almost disappears
  • The role of suffering in relation to Christian growth

Sponsor this Month: Key Life Network

Our guests this month are Dr. Richard Pratt, the founder and President of Third Millennium and his friend, Dr. Steve Brown, President of Key Life Network, an organization that encourages lots of folks through its weekly broadcast on over 600 radio stations. Please go to their website at keylife.org to experience their programs and many other resources, which are designed to help us understand God's astounding grace to us in Christ. Both of these men have been pastors, seminary professors, quite unconventionally we might add, in order to provoke Christians to stop playing it safe, but to truly be 4 the World as Jesus' witnesses.

Podcast Transcript

4 THE WORLD PODCAST
EPISODE 15: How Do We Keep Growing
Guest: Dr. Steve Brown and Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr.

4 the World is a production of Third Millennium Ministries where we believe every Christian deserves a well-trained pastor. To study Scripture deeply or to learn more about how you can partner with us to provide Biblical Education. For the World. For Free. download our App to your phone or visit our online classroom at Thirdmill.org. And now, your host 4 the World, Dr. Greg Perry.

Welcome back everyone. We've been benefiting from this conversation with Dr. Richard Pratt, the founder of Third Millennium Ministry and our friend and guest, Dr. Steve Brown, the president of the KeyLife Network. And this month we've been referring to several really good resources over at Keylife.org including some of Steve's books, so you'll want to point your browser over there and go take a look.

COFFEE AND JESUS IN THE MORNING

Steve and Richard, a lot of our listeners are getting back out in the yard; they're getting back out in the garden. Things are really starting to grow again here in central Florida. We kind of know what makes things grow in the yard, but how do we keep growing as followers of Jesus? My wife is an introvert. I'm not. But she likes to be out in the yard because she kind of processes a lot of things and it gives her time to pray. Now, for others of us like me, we tend to want to avoid time alone because praying is not easy for us. So, Steve, why don't we pray? What are some of the reasons why we don't pray?

Steve: Well, unbelievers don't pray because they're afraid God's going to show. And if God shows, then they're in trouble, and they can't be God anymore. Christians don't pray because we're afraid he won't show and that we've invested our lives in something, and if God doesn't show, then we're… And I want you to know I'm an old guy. I've been doing this a long time. Both Richard and I have written books on prayer. God does show. He really does come. But there's something that happens before prayer and the means of grace that we use for growth, and that is that we're loved. You know, I don't want to pray to a god who is a child abuser, and I don't want to pray to a god who every time I get out of line breaks my legs. I don't want to pray to a monster who scares the spit out of me. I want to pray… I love spending time with my Father, and so prayer's not an effort for me. I get up in the morning… Greg, I get up a lot earlier than you do because I'm more spiritual than you are.

I don't doubt that, Steve.

Steve: But it takes a long time to confess if you're like me. This sounds so pious, and I hate even saying I have to repent of it, but I'm a man of prayer, a real man of prayer. And that sounds so religious, but it's not.

It's like breathing.

Steve: Oh it is. It really is. You know, coffee and Jesus get me up in the morning.

Richard: Yeah, that's right. And in that order.

Steve: Exactly! And sometimes, you know, I'm prostrate on the floor. Sometimes he doesn't show, or I don't think he does, and I play solitaire. But by and large, that time in the morning is why I keep doing what I do when no sane person would. I wouldn't do this for anybody but Jesus, and I wouldn't do it for him if he didn't constantly reinforce that time through his Word and through prayer and through brothers and sisters in Christ. And so, when Paul says, "I'm constrained by the love of Christ," he isn't just talking about "I'm nice because of the love of Christ," or "I don't screw around because of the love of Christ." He's talking about his whole life. The love of Christ is the motivator that makes you want to ask the question you asked, and makes your wife want to work in the garden so she can pray.

WHEN SAFE AND SECURE ALMOST DISAPPEARS

Richard, you've written about prayer in terms of not just what's going on with us in prayer but how even kind of the shape of our prayers can guide us and move us in particular directions with God. I'm thinking about the Psalms, that there are different kinds of prayers in the prayer book.

Richard: Right. I think that the Psalms and the Bible are our prayer book. They teach us how to pray. And not only do we use them, even read them in prayer, but they give us different kinds of prayers to pray, which is a very broad range of different kinds from times of heightened ecstasy where you're out of your mind with joy, all the way to the despair of everything in the world being wrong and everything in between. Okay? And that's what the Psalms have and they offer that to us because God offers that kind of interaction with him. I'd have to say that the thing that drives me in prayer is a little bit different than Steve — not contradictory of it, but just different — is that I think because I fail so much and because I've taken on so much in my life, I've risked so much in my life, I have a very profound sense of how much I need him, and that a lot of the things that feel like they're safe and secure, I've had almost everything at some point in my life that most people would think is safe and secure, almost disappear on me. Okay? And I just know that there's nothing in this world that I have done or accomplished or established as sort of a pillar in my life, a wall of my life, that isn't just on the very edge of falling to pieces, and the only person who can hold it together is him. I mean, that's how desperately I need him. It's really true. I pray for my grandchildren, pray for my daughter, pray for my wife, pray for my ministry, pray for me. You name it, friends, whatever it may be. I mean, I just can't do it; it's so far beyond me to hold these things together.

BRINGING US TO THE END OF OURSELVES

Well, this raises another resource in terms of growth. My grandparents were farmers and ranchers out in west central Texas. They had to dig a little deeper to get to the well water. They had to flip the fields and sort of break new ground if they were going to have the same or similar yield to pay the bills. But they were desperate in prayer. And the resource that we don't maybe like to talk about, especially here in the West, is the resource of suffering, the resource of limits, the resource of our own frailty and weakness. What is the role of suffering in relation to Christian growth? How have you seen that? You're not only professors and speakers, but you have been pastors, you talk with people individually, you counsel people in desperate situations. How have you seen God use suffering in your own life and also suffering in the lives of his people to drive us to grow?

Steve: I think God's in the business of — and I don't want to seem simplistic — but of bringing us to the end of ourselves. And Paul talks about that all the time. Then I believe that every time a pagan gets cancer or a Christian gets cancer so the world can see the difference, and every time a Christian loses his business, a Christian loses his or her business so the world can see the difference. I think every time a pagan is scared because you realize I'm in over my head, a Christian is at that point too, and the difference is God. It always is.

Richard: Anybody who is self-aware at all of who they are really realizes everything you've worked for your whole life can go right down the drain. When you realize… And again, when you see that, usually what we do is we try to run from that as hard as we possibly can. And what I'm suggesting is, and what Jesus did — how about this one? — is rather than running from it, he ran toward it. He walked right through it. You know, we often think of suffering as something that's not a privilege but — I said this in our weekly staff meeting the other day in a devotional — why does James say, "Count it all joy, brothers, when you suffer all kinds of trials," it's because that's the only thing that gets me up off the couch, it's the reality that how much life is tenuous, how weak it is, how threatening it is. It's not safe. It is not safe. And we need him, I need him. I just can't make it without him.

Steve: That's so good. And as you realize that, the discipline of saying, "I place it, all of it, on the altar. If you want to burn it up tomorrow, go ahead." By the way, I haven't suffered very much. I should. I smoke too much, and I don't exercise the way I should, and I ought to be suffering a lot more, and I keep waiting for the other shoe to fall. So there is a sense in which I speak as an outsider to this thing. I've often said I don't want to be like Job. I don't want God saying to Satan, "Have you seen my servant Steve?" I want to be just a little bit under the radar. I don't need that kind of stuff.

Richard: You know, when you look at the Bible and you see the people that God loved so, so much, they're the ones that really had a hard time. And I do pray — humbly I say this but I really mean it — "I've got enough love, thank you."

Steve: Yeah, I don't need any more.

Richard: I don't need you to love me that much. I mean, if you do, just love me gently, please.

Steve: And that in itself, that kind of honesty, this kind of conversation — going back to what we talked about before — is powerful stuff. I mean, people are watching and listening now and they're saying, "Goll… these are really religious guys!" And that needs to be done more often.

Well, prayer is a desperate connection because God is the one who is strong and we're not.

Steve: It is. There's nothing else. We don't have a prayer except in his lovingkindness.

Thank you, gentleman, for helping us just think a little bit for a short time about what it means to be "in the garden" and the challenges of that, and the desperate opportunity we have in prayer and through the means of suffering to realize our need for the Lord every day.

Next week on 4 the World, we're going to look at not just what it means to be in the garden, but how do we stay in the race to the end when we feel like giving up. We'll see you next week on 4 the World.

4 the World is a production of Third Millennium Ministries where we are reimagining biblical education for Christian leaders in a global church. Each week we bring you conversations to cultivate your curiosity about God's word, to inform your intercessions for God's people, and to equip your efforts in God's mission for the world. Our host is Dr. Greg Perry. Our sound engineer and editor is Christopher Russell. Our web designer is Ra McLaughlin. And I'm your announcer, Cindy Sawyer. Today's podcast was brought to you by Keylife.org where you can find radio programs, weekly devotionals, and books produced by our guest, Dr. Steve Brown. He's also our host for The Book of Revelation in our online classroom. Enroll at elearning.thirdmill.org today. And we'll meet you next time on 4 the World.