Prayer

Quiet(ly Working) Weekend

We had a reasonably quiet weekend.  Steph and Emily are both sick, so we basically locked ourselves in our room and “vegged”.  I was able to get caught up on a bunch of reading, which was nice.  Here are some things I read and learned:

Finished Lucky: How the Kingdom Comes to Unlikely People by Glenn Packiam.  You should read this book.  Not just because Glenn pastors the church we attend here in Colorado Springs, but rather because it presents a beautiful (and easily understandable) look at the Beatitudes and the Kingdom of God.  It is well-written and packed with truth.

I read about a third of The Sermon on the Mount by John Wesley.  This volume is a collection of Wesley’s sermons and commentaries on Matthew 5, 6 and 7 (aka The Sermon on the Mount).  As with most of Wesley’s sermons, these aren’t for the faint of heart.  Sermons in Wesley’s era were much deeper than a lot of the sermons we hear today.  Yet, these are loaded with deep truth of God’s Word and His Kingdom.  Well worth the read (keep a dictionary handy).

I read the Psalms.  I can’t even begin to tell you the beauty that I find in these chapters.  Wow.  I am convinced that it is impossible to walk away from a reading of the Psalms and say, “That was a waste of time.”

I read Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians.  This quartet of books by the Apostle Paul make up my second favorite book in the Bible (Job is first).  While the overall thematic ideas are the same between the four, Paul tweaks each one just enough to give you the nuggets of truth in different ways.  At the heart, though, is a recognition that grace supersedes all else.  And through that grace we are made to be the Righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.  In Ephesians, we get this incredible cosmic view of God followed by a “this is then how we should live” section.  Finally, Paul says, “You can’t do that on your own, so let me tell you how to walk in the Spirit.”  Even though God is BIG, He is still relational and wants to walk through your day with you.  Beautiful.

I read First, Second and Third John in five translations.  I love John’s epistles.  John gives us a view of the love of God unlike any other view in the Scripture.  Written toward the end of John’s life, he has come to understand what Jesus was trying to teach back in the Sermon on the Mount.  Love must be central.  All else is noise unless there is love (1 Corinthians 13).  John came to a deep understanding of this revelation and then said, “Here, church, live this.”   Throughout his letters to the four churches (Ephesus, Galatia, Philippi, and Colosse), Paul prays that they may have a deeper revelation of that love.  To Ephesus he writes, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and huh and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19).  The Love of God.

Finally, I caught up on the news from around the world (by specifically reading media out of about 7 geographical regions, 4 other areas with socio-political situations currently percolating, 2 other areas that God is talking to us about).  The world is a hurting and broken place.  It’s chaotic.  It’s confusion.  It’s darkness.  Yet, we know the Light!  We know the Bringer of Orderly Order!  And we look for Kingdom to come in those situations.  We pray.  We hope.  We give.  We work.

So, how do I sum up what I learned this weekend?

  • God is a big God with big plans, dreams, goals, and visions.
  • God is not just “some god” who chooses to take an inactive role in the universe.  Rather, He is constantly working (ofttimes quietly) to set up His Kingdom.  Yet, He needs His people (you know, “those called by His name…” (2 Chronicles 7:14)) to be active through prayer, giving, and service in order to bring that Kingdom to pass.
  • Jesus came to show the world that the law wasn’t just a set of rules to follow.  Rather, at the heart was a Heart.  A big Heart.  A Father’s Heart.  The law was written because people didn’t love, honor, and serve one another.  So, Jesus sits on a mountainside and tells a multitude that there’s more than just not murdering, or not seeking vengeance, or worrying about tomorrow.  That more, as Paul and John teach us, is that there is a Father.  That Father loves us beyond our comprehension.  And, as a response to that love, we should love others beyond comprehension.
  • No matter how dark a particular situation may be (I’m thinking of North Korea and some things I learned about it earlier in the week), God is at work in the background.  He’s preparing.  Piece by piece.  Poco y poco.  Bringing it all together.  The darkest hour is just before dawn.
  • Finally, keep praying.  Prayer unlocks things.  Prayer changes things.  Prayer positions things.  As Karl Barth said, “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”  (Acts 2 prayer class, that should sound a lot like John 1.)

Emily’s Prayer

Sunday afternoon, we had a scare with Emily’s eyes.  They had symptoms that resembled the dreaded Pink Eye.  We all went into what has become a standard procedure for moments of pressure.  We prayed.

And prayed.

And prayed.

And asked others to pray.

Throughout Sunday night, Emily struggled to sleep.  She kept waking up with her eyes stuck shut and saying that she just wanted to be able to open her eyes.

We kept praying.

We also had a Get The Word Out “Healing” Word CD playing all night in her room.

And, once again, the morning brought us news of His unfailing love!

Emily woke up with her eyes looking better.  They were still puffy, but the draining was gone.  The redness in the eyeballs was gone.

By late morning, even the puffiness was gone.

Emily's Prayer

Emily's Prayer

As we were having our quiet time yesterday morning, Emily was praying for God to complete the healing process on her.  She wrote a letter to God as her prayer.

Then, during worship time yesterday morning, the kids were asked to go to the front and pray over adults that came to them for prayer.  It was quite special seeing our daughter laying hands on people seven and eight times her age and praying over them.  What a moment!

All made possible, by God’s unfailing love to once again bring healing.

We were asked yesterday what our gut reaction was when troubles come our way.  As Steph and I thought about it and talked about it and remembered the last several storms that we had been through, we said that our reaction was to pray and trust.  We have learned to not hang on to that which we can’t control.  We have learned to immediately turn it over to God and then leave it on the altar.

As I laid in bed and thought about all of this, and prayed through the other “storms” that are hovering around, I went back to the prayer of Jehoshaphat.

O YHWH, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven?  You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.  O our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?  They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgement, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’

But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them.  See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance.  O our God, will you not judge them?  For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.

— 2 Chronicles 20:6-12 (NIV, emphasis mine)

Lent 2012: 1.2 – Praying, Fasting, Giving, Living the Kingdom

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, we thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.  If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven.” — Matthew 6:1 (NIV)

What motivates your good deeds?  What is more important?  That you give the appearance of knowing God?  That people consider you to be a Godly person?  Or that you personally and intimately know God?

Many of us have seen the couple who, when they are out in public, appear to have the best relationship and to be head over heels in love with each other only to find out days later that the relationship has been falling apart for a long time and has now reached the end of the road.  Let’s not give the falsification of knowing and loving God, but let’s have true, authentic relationship together with Him.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” — Matthew 6:2-4 (NIV)

It can be very humbling to be in the place of need.  Who are we really trying to benefit when we give?  Are we putting our generosity out in public so people will regard us well?  Or are we discreetly giving to the needy so as not to draw undue attention to their position of need?  In other words, do we honor the needy, or do our selfish acts of giving humiliate them?  Let’s not rob the poor of their dignity in order to feed our pride.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” — Matthew 6:5-6 (NIV)

Sometimes, we want so badly for people (typically other Christians…at church) to see us as having a close relationship with Jesus that we’ll eloquently compose a beautiful prayer in the presence of those we wish to impress, while in the privacy of our own bedrooms we have not spent time developing relationship with Father.

Have you ever been popular or a guest of honor and had people you don’t know come up to you and talk to you as if you were good friends?  You start to get the idea that they’re hoping to make themselves look more important in the eyes of others.  It just feels fake.  Do you see what I am saying?

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others that they are fasting.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”  — Matthew 6:16-18 (NIV)

Ah, fasting….the dreaded abstain from food.  We consider fasting such a sacrifice that we begin to think ourselves extra holy and perhaps a bit radical when we are doing it.  And, of course, the more people who know about this great sacrifice we are making, the more significant we esteem it.  And the smaller our stomach shrinks, the bigger our head grows.

No.  This shouldn’t be.   It’s not about us.  It’s all about God.  All of our worship, our giving, our prayer, our fasting, our sacrifices.  They’re not about us.  The Kingdom of God is not a “me” society.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” — Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

Whose kingdom are we working to expand?  Do we pour our wealth into the largest house we can afford with the most beautiful furnishings, making sure that our children are in the most and best extra-curricular teams and lessons and activities that our schedule can possibly fit, driving the nicest car on the block, wearing the latest fashions, dining out any day of the week, and taking our families on the most luxurious vacations?  None of that is eternal, and it focuses our hearts on ourselves.  What would the body of Christ look like?  What would we be capable of if we realized that our worth does not come from all of our “stuff” and if we all lived humbly with very modest means and invested our wealth into the Kingdom of God?  What if it were said about us, “there were no needy persons among them?” (Acts 4:34)

Let’s do this, family.  Let’s live the Kingdom life together, bringing glory and honor to Father who sees us and loves us.

Lent 2012: 1.1 – Prayer Response to Isaiah 58:1-12

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, we thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins! — Isaiah 58:1 (NLT)

Lord, sanctify my mind, my will, and my emotions. Help me to keep guard at the gates of my heart, taking care to be intentional about what I allow myself to see and to hear, to keep my heart from being polluted by sin. Please help me not to love sin or tolerate sin, but to stand firm against it. May I not be ashamed of the way You have called me to be set apart. May Your light come into places of darkness and through Your power, drive the darkness out, releasing more of Your light. May I be faithful to You in being the “light of the world” as you have called me (Matthew 5:14).

Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me. — Isaiah 58:2 (NLT)

Father, expose any hypocrisy in my heart that I may repent. Help me to keep an authentic relationship with You at the core of my desires, and if I ever fall into a place of just pretending and acting like I know who You are rather than truly knowing You personally, I ask that You open my eyes to the deception I’m hiding behind and teach me again what it is to know You.

‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ — Isaiah 58:3a (NLT)

Lord, sometimes in my sinful pride and arrogance, I expect some sort of recognition for the things I’ve done in the name of religion. Father, forgive me. I renounce the sin of pride from my life and ask that You fill me with Your Sprit of humility. I offer my body to You as a living and holy sacrifice as my spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1).

“I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me.You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the LORD? — Isaiah 58:3b-5 (NLT)

Jesus, I’m reminded of your warning against hypocrisy to the teachers of the law and Pharisees in Matthew 23. I ask you to wash me from the inside out. I want to pure through and through. Please teach me the discipline that it takes to continually be allowing You to make me holy by cleansing me by the washing with water through the Word (Ephesians 5:22).

“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. — Isaiah 58:6-7 (NLT)

Father, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in myself and to fall into the lie that it’s all about me. But I will not settle for the illusion that I was simply saved from darkness to light without being saved for making Your name great. I ask You to reveal to me Your heart for the imprisoned, burdened, oppressed, bound, hungry, homeless, and needy. I want to see them through Your eyes. I want to represent You to them. Please increase my faith, and may my faith and deeds go together hand in hand. In James 2, Your Word says, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:14-17). Increase my faith. Fill me with your spirit of compassion, grace, and love.

“Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind.Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. — Isaiah 58:8-9a (NLT)

You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to You (Psalm 86:5). Thank you for saving me, healing me, leading me, protecting me, and answering me when I call. I praise Your glorious name.

“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. — Isaiah 58:9b-10a (NLT)

Jesus, may I continually be spreading Your gospel and Your kingdom and not vicious rumors. May I point others to You where they can find rest for their souls (Matthew 11:28-29). Father, just as is said about Jesus in John 5, I want to do only what I see you doing. As your beloved child, I want to imitate You, Father (Ephesians 5:1). Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and make me willing to obey you (Psalm 51:12).

Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes. — Isaiah 58:10b-12 (NLT)

Lord, I trust You. I trust that the entirety of Your Word is truth (Psalm 119:160). I trust You as my Shepherd, my Father, and my God. Lord, I know that I can trust you more. Help me to do that. Help me to trust You wholeheartedly and always. I want to grow and mature and for Your kingdom to become more fully established within me. Thank you for being faithful to me as You transform me into Your likeness.

Amen.

 

Prayer Alert: Kashmir

I have spent the better part of today exploring the situation in the Kashmiri region.  This is an extraordinarily complex issue that goes back to the mid-sixteenth century when the region lost its sovereignty.  For the past four hundred years, they have struggled to maintain an identity that is uniquely their own, while they have been passed, traded, and conquered by nation after nation.  

The region lies at the top of India between Pakistan and China.  All three countries claim that (at least parts of) the land should rightfully be theirs while Kashmir would prefer to be restored to their own soveriegnity.  Yet, the situation goes much deeper than just border disputes.  Many will remember from several years ago that this area was the catalyst for what was nearly a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan.

There is also a religious element to the struggle.  Sufi Islam and Hinduism both lay claim to the area, and are struggling to live peaceably.  In addition to the struggles between these two religious groups, there is also widespread persecution of Christians in this region.  This persecution especially occurs when a member of the family converts to Christianity.  While the area is not closed (at least the Indian occupied area), creative means of sharing the Gospel must be found and used.

Compounding the issue is the struggles within Kashmir between rebel militants and sovereign governments.  In both the Indian-Occupied and Pakistani-Occupied regions, we find these struggles.  Each sovereign government is attempting to keep the area in line, while also keeping peace with the other soveriegn government.  

All of this has led to Kashmir being an area sitting in a delicate balance.  On one side sits the risk of war between Kashmiri religious elements, militants and sovereign governments, or India and Pakistan.  On the other side the hope for a lasting peace that seems to imply Kasmiri sovereignty.  

The bigger thing that this study has done is really generated within me a keen interest in the region and it’s future.  While, I don’t know what that means for the long-haul with our ministry, I do know there is much for which we can all pray.  

On a related note, the YWAM base which we have applied to works in this area, and there is potential that our outreach time could be in this region.  You can view a short video about some of the work YWAM is doing in among the Kashmiri by clicking this link.

So, here are some prayer points for the Kashmir:

  • Pray that the Kashmiri people would not be caught in the midst of a turf war between two powerful nuclear countries 
  • Pray that oppression on the Kashmiri by the sovereign nations will come to an end
  • Pray that if (when?) the Kashmiri regain their independence they will select wise leadership
  • Pray that if (when?) the Kashmiri regain their independence a reasonable and intelligent division of regions will occur that will help to resolve (at least part of) the religious conflicts
  • Pray that creative means of sharing the Gospel will be found and used
  • Pray for the Christians in the region that they may stand firm in their faith

 

Two 1Q 2012 Announcements

At the end of last year, we knew that God was planting us in Edmond.  As a part of that planting, He led us to a fantastic united Methodist congregation called Acts 2.  The church is built on the foundation of Acts 2:42.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42 NIV)

We have been immensely blessed by this congregation and its Pastoral staff.  Our Senior Pastor, Rev. Mark Foster, is a fantastic teacher and has a huge vision for the Kingdom of God.

In our first meeting with Pastor Mark, we chatted about the history of our family, Led By The Word, and Acts 2.  It was evident that there was a commonality in focus, prayer, and Kingdom world-view.  We wanted to be a part of it.  We also knew that God was telling us to come alongside and serve in whatever capacity the church wanted/needed us to serve.

Since then, we have had further conversation about what that service would look like between now and our anticipated departure for YWAM on April 5.  Two things have bubbled up.

We are happy to announce that we will be leading a trip to Omaha, Nebraska between March 4 and March 10 for up to 15 members of the Acts 2 family!  We are super excited about this trip.  We will be working with the Missouri River Conference of the United Methodist Church in the inner-city of Omaha.

We will be ministering in a variety of venues including senior citizen’s center, interact programs, food pantry, and community gardens.  The concept is to bring to light Social Justice issues that exist just off the church’s doorstep.  This is a fantastic opportunity for Acts 2 to see new ways that we can be the hands and feet of Jesus in our own parishes.

Secondly, we will be leading a weekly series through February and March on prayer.  We will be discussing prayer throughout the Bible, as well as tools/techniques/resources available to us for prayer.  We hope to culminate this time with a week of 24/7 Prayer that will be ended with a Seek-and-Soak gathering.

Please, join us in prayer for these events.  We are so grateful to serve this fantastic community!  Pray that as we do so, we will be open to hearing God’s voice and will lead God’s people deeper into relationship with one another and with Him.

If you would like to help us financially with the trip to Omaha ($1,170 ($390 each for Stephanie, Emily, and I)), then jump over to our Partner With Us page.