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#Advent16–Pray for the King

A reading from the Psalms.

O God, help the king to judge as you would, and help his son to walk in godliness. Help him to give justice to your people, even to the poor. May the mountains and hills flourish in prosperity because of his good reign. Help him to defend the poor and needy and to crush their oppressors. May the poor and needy revere you constantly, as long as sun and moon continue in the skies! Yes, forever!

May the reign of this son of mine be as gentle and fruitful as the springtime rains upon the grass—like showers that water the earth! May all good men flourish in his reign with abundance of peace to the end of time.

Psalm 72:1-7 (TLB)

This is the Word of the Lord.

Today’s text is a prayer from the Psalms for the king. It is a prayer that the king would rule with justice for all. It is a prayer for prosperity. It is a prayer for the poor to be defended against their oppressors.

What would our nation be like if we prayed this prayer every day?

Prayer changes things. Not necessarily because of the prayer itself, but because prayer ultimately sparks the one saying the prayer to action. So, when we pray for the king to rule with justice, we are sparked to ensure that the king is ruling with justice.

We pray. God moves. We act as a response to God’s movement. We bring ourselves inline with His Kingdom and work to ensure that His Kingdom is being brought to earth.

So, yes, believers should be politically active. However, our action must be filtered through the lens of the Kingdom of Heaven. “Your Kingdom come,” we pray.

Yes, believers should pray for the leaders. But, praying for the leader to see politically or morally the same way as we do is not what we are called to pray. We are called to pray “Your Kingdom come.” We are called to pray for the king to act justly for all people.

Rich.

Poor.

Homeless.

Homeowner.

Natural-born.

Immigrant.

Refugee.

We pray that the king would act with equal justice for all people. Additionally, we act with equal justice to all people.

When unjust laws are made. We need to continue to act justly. We don’t yield to the laws of the land when they stand in opposition to the laws of the Kingdom of Heaven. We continue to do the Kingdom thing.

Here is where we must be careful. Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of Heaven more than any other subject. We need to seek to understand the principles that he outlines in these words. The best way to do that is to read prayerfully the things that He said. The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most succinct places to start. For we Kingdom Citizens, it is our constitution that sits above all other constitutions.

Here’s my challenge to all of us. Let’s take time every day to prayerfully read the Sermon on the Mount. And, then, let’s try to live it out. As we do, let’s pray that the king lives it out as well.

Pray for the king. Pray for him to acts justly to all people. Pray for the prosperity of the land in which you dwell. Pray for the poor to be defended. Pray for those who oppress the poor to be stopped.

And, work to make it happen.

#Lent14 — A Photo Meditation On Psalm 121

As we have done in previous Lent and Advent seasons, we are again blogging our way through the Lenten Lectionary Texts.  In this season, our prayer is that we will bless and inspire you in your walk between the Now and Not-Yet of the Kingdom.  We pray that our meditations will be life-giving to you in your journey.

A reading from the Psalms.

I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains?  No, my strength comes from GOD, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.

He won’t let you stumble, your Guardian God won’t fall asleep.  Not on your life!  Israel’s Guardian will never doze or sleep.

GOD’s your Guardian, right at your side to protect you—shielding you from sunstroke, sheltering you from moonstroke.

GOD guards you from every evil, he guards your very life.  He guards you when you leave and when you return, he guards you now, he guards you always.

Psalm 121 (MSG)

This is the Word of The Lord.

I love this Psalm.  It’s such a beautiful reminder of the goodness and protection of our God.  He stands guard over us—waiting and watching for the enemy to attempt an attack.  He shields us from the sun in the heat of the day and from the cold of night.  He guards us from evil and watches over us in our comings and goings.

In lieu of using a bunch of words to explain and paint pictures of this Psalm, I decided to share with you a few pictures that we’ve taken in our travels that serve to illustrate it.  As you look at each picture let it inspire a prayer of thanksgiving to God for His diligent protection of you.  We’d love to have you share some of those prayers in the comments below.

The hills around Huapoca, Chihuahua, Mexico

The hills around Huapoca, Chihuahua, Mexico

From the hills above Yalova, Turkey.  Overlooking the Marmaras Sea and Istanbul.

Overlooking the Marmaras Sea and Istanbul from the hills above Yalova, Turkey

From "Gypsy Hill" overlooking Kuşadası, Turkey.

From Gypsy Hill overlooking Kuşadası, Turkey.

The mountains around Antalya, Turkey

The mountains around Antalya, Turkey

Sheep Pasture in Antalya Province, Turkey.

Sheep Pasture in Antalya Province, Turkey.

Phaselis, Turkey

Phaselis, Turkey

Volcán de Agua, Antigua, Guatemala

Volcán de Agua, Antigua, Guatemala

#CA13 — Rescued by Prayer

It was a Friday.  It had come at the end of a really long week.  That week had fallen at the end of a really long month.  We were in our fourth week in our second country of #CA13.  Life was hard and not getting easier.

Mid-afternoon on that Friday, we found ourselves having a serious family discussion.  We had reached a boiling point.  Things had gotten really tough.  There were a myriad of issues from illness, to behavior, to frustration with the language and culture shock.  At one point in the day, we even discussed changing our tickets and getting out of there.

Then Saturday dawned.

We have a wonderful 90-year-old lady from our home church who is on our prayer team.  She rarely attends church on Friday night since she teaches Sunday School on Sunday.  But, this particular day, she went on Friday.  At some point during the service, she said that she came to church because she felt like the church needed to pray for us immediately.  So, the church prayed.

We had grown close to a couple of veteran workers who “happened” to be in the same city with us for the first half of #CA13, and then had come to this second country for different reasons than hanging out with us.  Nevertheless, we got to hang out with them.  What a great couple!  That, Saturday afternoon, we were able to spend a few hours with them before they headed back to the states.  They gave us a ton of encouragement, parenting, guidance, wisdom, and (most importantly) stopped to pray for us.

When we got up on Sunday morning, things had definitely shifted.  We were feeling better.  In our home fellowship, God gave me a word saying that we were doing the right thing, in the right place, with the right people.  Early in our time of praying about going into this line of work, God told us that we would know who we were to be with, how long to be there, what to be doing, etc.  So, this was confirmation.

During the week that followed, our pastor provided us with some great insight on how to react/respond/handle some anxiety issues our kids had been experiencing as well.  He had a sense that this behavior was acting as a bell-weather for us to elements in the supernatural.  He suggested that when we were experiencing these issues, we stop and pray for the 360° view in both the physical and spiritual realms.  This advice was crucial for us over the remaining time in the “Land of Fire”.

Never underestimate the importance of the “feeling” to stop and pray for someone.  You could be the person who shifts the atmosphere for that someone.  Your prayers could be the ones that change the world and strengthen people.

The other day, we sat in the living of that 90-year-old lady.  As we shared the importance of her prayers, and how they were truly atmosphere-shifting.  She looked at us and said, “I’m learning the importance of telling people when I’m praying for them, and what I’m praying.”

I relate that as a way of encouraging you to pray for the people whom God brings to your mind–whenever they are brought to your mind.  But, don’t stop with just praying.  Take the time to let them know that you’re praying for them, and, specifically, what you are praying.

Your prayers are important.  They are powerful.  They are life-giving.  Please, in your prayer-time, remember us.  Yet, also, remember those–all across the planet–with whom we have the privilege of partnering.

For more on how to partner with us in prayer, you can jump over to the “Parter With Us” section of our website by clicking here.

Caleb praying over a friend in Central Asia

Caleb praying over a friend in Central Asia

A Call To Prayer

Caleb praying for a friend in Central Asia

Caleb praying for a friend in Central Asia

One of the great privileges that we have in our work is meeting some amazing people who live and work in some fascinating places around the globe. While we miss these folks incredibly when we aren’t with them, we strive to maintain relationship with them even when we are in another part of the world. This week we are learning of three situations from three of our friends that desperately need prayer.

First, for the amazing family that hosted us in Central Asia this past summer. Each of the three members of this beautiful family are having health issues. It is clear that these issues go beyond physical and are nothing short of a spiritual attack on them. These folks are involved at a foundational level with one of the agencies leading the work in that particular country. Additionally, they are instrumental in aiding the church in that very closed nation to establish wholly indigenous forms of worship. In this family, the husband is in need of surgery on his shoulder. The wife is struggling with a protuding disc in her back. The daughter has a rash and some occasional bleeding.

Second, for a family that we spent the spring of 2012 with in Colorado Springs who are now serving in Thailand. This family is in the midst of a process of revisioning with God. New strategies have been given to them and they are beginning the process of walking those strategies out. The enemy clearly sees the risk to his kingdom that these new strategies are, and is attacking this family in physical and emotional ways to stop them before they get started.

Finally, for a young girl in a very closed nation in Central Asia. This young girl needs an appendectomy. However, because of the disastrous state that perpetual war will put your medical system into, it will be four weeks before she can have this surgery performed. Yet, this positions itself as a huge opportunity for God to reveal Himself to a lot of people who desperately need to see Him. It is truly an opportunity for His Kingdom–that place of orderly order–to come to a war-ravaged chaotic mess.

So, please join with us in prayer for these situations. Each one of them is poised to become a testimony of God’s greatness, mercy, and love. Each is an opportunity for Light to break into Darkness and Orderly Order to emerge from Chaos.

If, in your prayers for these situations, you are given scripture, words of encouragement, or other things from The Lord, then please email them to us at prayer@ledbytheword.com and we will pass them forward.

Thank you for standing with us for our friends.

 

All That’s Left

(Photo courtesy of Mission InfoBank)

Syria. It's a nation that has dominated the news cycles for the past few days, and has been a recurring fixture in the media for the past couple of years. I'm not even going to begin to try to rehash or explain what's going on there. Many others have done a good job doing that already (for instance, this piece from the Washington Post).

What's a Christ-Follower to do in the face of so much chaos?

Brian Zahnd does a fantastic job of helping us try to find an answer to this question by inviting us into his inner monologue.

And we would be remiss to have a conversation regarding the Middle East and a Jesus-Followers response to it without hearing from Carl Madearis. In this post from the other day, he urges us to ask, “Who would Jesus bomb?”

What do we do when we don't even know where to start?

I'm grateful for friends like the great folks over at 24-7 Prayer who help us by giving us some suggestions for how to pray into the situation.

And for Jesus-Followers like Rachel Held Evans who posted this beautiful piece on her blog this evening. As I read it, I kept coming back to something that's been hounding me for the past few months now.

What do we pray, when we don't know what to pray?

Lately, I've found myself in that position more often than not. As I see the hurts and struggles of people close to me and of those that I've never met, I find myself without words to even pray.

So, what now?

Even in writing this post, I've found myself trying to find the right thing to say and the right way to say it. As I said on my FaceBook page last night, I struggle to put my thoughts into words:

“Weighing what I want to say with what is prudent for me to say with what God wants me to say.

“Knowing that my words won't change the situation, yet feeling compelled to use my words to spark prayer, contemplation, and love from those who believe that God longs to bless, redeem, and bring shalom–nothing missing, nothing broken–to the situation.

“Finding it hard to bring hope–confident and joyful expectation in the goodness of God–in the midst of despair.”

Here is what I know: God is good. God is not the author of confusion or chaos, rather God is the Creator of Orderly Order. God's desire is for people to be blessed–not for their own benefit, but rather so that they can bless others. God longs for His Kingdom to be established on earth as it is in heaven.

His Kingdom–that place where what God wants done is done as Dallas Willard described it.

His Kingdom–where in the midst of chaos, we see orderly order emerge as John the Gospel Writer described it.

His Kingdom–where the life of God is made accessible to man, and they enter its enjoyment here on earth as Andrew Murray described it.

His Kingdom–where His shalom becomes our reality.

I'm coming to learn that all I can pray is the prayer that our Savior taught us: “Your Kingdom come.”

As I search for words to pray in regards to the situation in Syria, I'm left there. I'm left with nothing other than the words of Jesus. To pray anything else would be to pray my opinion. It would be to pray out of my own understanding. Instead, I have no cry other than “Your Kingdom come.”

It's a cry for mercy.

It's a cry for grace.

It's a cry for hope.

It's a cry for justice.

It's a cry for Shalom.

It's a cry for that which is missing to be found.

It's a cry for that which is broken to be repaired.

There's a beautiful passage in the story of the birth of John the Baptist (the one who proclaimed that the King was coming and in His coming was bringing the Kingdom–much like we are called to do as followers of The Way). It's in the prophetic prayer that Zechariah prays over John the Baptist at his circumcision. In that prayer are these words:

Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God's Sunrise will break in upon us, shining on those in darkness, those sitting in the shadow of death, then showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace. — Luke 1:78-79 (The Message)

And, so, all that's left is for us to pray. “Your Kingdom Come.” May Your sunrise break in upon the people of Syria. May it shine on those in darkness. May it bring life to those in the shadow of death. May it show the way–one foot at a time–down the path of peace.

YOUR KINGDOM COME!

 

Lent 2013: BUT!

As we have done throughout previous Lenten and Advent seasons, we are again blogging through the Lectionary readings in this Lenten season. This year, however, due to our travels in Central Asia, we have asked a number of guests to blog for us. These guests are individuals who are influential in our lives and work. We're honored to share this space with them-and with you–in this season of reflection.

A reading from the Psalms.

Have pity, Lord! I am hurting and almost blind. My whole body aches. I have known only sorrow all my life long, and I suffer year after year. I am weak from sin, and my bones are limp.

My enemies insult me. Neighbors are even worse, and I disgust my friends. People meet me on the street, and they turn and run. I am completely forgotten like someone dead. I am merely a broken dish. I hear the crowds whisper, “Everyone is afraid!” They are plotting and scheming to murder me.

But I trust you, Lord, and I claim you as my God. My life is in your hands. Save me from enemies who hunt me down. Smile on me, your servant. Have pity and rescue me.

— Psalms 31:9-16 (CEVUS06)

One of my favorite words in the Psalms is the word “BUT”. Time and time again, we find the Psalmist in a rough spot, and after he goes through the litany of things that are not really going all that well he begins a phrase with “BUT”. Today's reading is another of those times.

Things are not in the best of shape.

His entire body aches.

People are plotting to murder him.

BUT.

As I write this, two different faces float through my mind. One whose entire body aches. The other has people that would plot to kill them if those people knew who they were.

And, yet, in both cases, I can hear them utter, along with the Psalmist, “BUT!”

These are two very real people with very real issues.

One lies in a hospital bed. Her body is slipping into a coma. Liver is not functioning. Doctors are saying there no reason for the tumors that have been benign for years to suddenly turn aggressive. And in the midst, she whispers, “BUT.”

And, her husband screams it.

The other works to understand the world of human trafficking. God has put them in positions to talk to those actually involved in the trafficking process. When they ask about their plans, this person simply tells them what the Bible says. And, while the world goes on around them, this friend whispers, “BUT.”

And, with them both we ask that you to whisper out a “BUT” for them.

See, the Psalmist understood something that we often miss. He understood that when things looked the most impossible he could still trust in The Lord. He could still lean on the breast of his Lord and say, “But, I trust.”

So, here we are, on a crisp night at the beginning of Holy Week in Central Asia. We think of these two friends–and many others. We reflect on what we know of the Character and Nature of our Father God. And, because of this knowledge, we raise our palms to heaven, look upward, and cry out, “BUT.”

And, we ask that as you read this you too take a moment to whisper a prayer for our friends. Both locked in a spiritual battle that goes way beyond any of our abilities to overcome. Yet, both trusting. Lift your voice with ours and theirs and together let us cry out “BUT!”

The church in Ephesus

The church in Ephesus

UPDATE:

Between the time of writing this last night and waking up this morning, we were notified that our friend, Cathy, had passed on. She had been battling cancer, and now she rests in the arms of our Saviour.

Cathy, and her husband, had spent the last few years rebuilding the church that Paul started and John the Beloved led in Ephesus. We had the honor of meeting them, and serving alongside them, last summer. Our lives were made richer by that time.

Cathy was also a new grandmother. Her first grandchild had been born only a few weeks ago.

So, this morning, between our cries of “WHY?”, we cry out “BUT”. We cry it out for Mike. We cry it out for their family. We cry it out for their church.

And, as we continue our march to the cross, we ask that the Messiah in His grace and mercy would be Shalom in this time. May He comfort their sorrow, and wipe their tears.

Communion at the Church in Ephesus

Communion at the Church in Ephesus

 

Lent 2013: Caleb and the Dragons

As we have done throughout previous Lenten and Advent seasons, we are again blogging through the Lectionary readings in this Lenten season. This year, however, due to our travels in Central Asia, we have asked a number of guests to blog for us. These guests are individuals who are influential in our lives and work. We're honored to share this space with them-and with you–in this season of reflection.

A reading from the Psalms

Live under the protection of God Most High and stay in the shadow of God All-Powerful. Then you will say to the Lord, “You are my fortress, my place of safety; you are my God, and I trust you.”

The Lord Most High is your fortress. Run to him for safety, and no terrible disasters will strike you or your home. God will command his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will carry you in their arms, and you won't hurt your feet on the stones. You will overpower the strongest lions and the most deadly snakes. The Lord says, “If you love me and truly know who I am, I will rescue you and keep you safe. When you are in trouble, call out to me. I will answer and be there to protect and honor you. You will live a long life and see my saving power.”

— Psalm 91:1, 2, 9-16 (CEV)

Anyone who knows my son, Caleb, knows of his great affection for dragons (both fire-breathing actual dragons and dinosaurs). He loves them, and has for a couple of years now.

The other day in our worship time with our team here in Central Asia, we were tasked to draw out what we felt God was saying about the city or nation in which we are living. I watched as Caleb very meticulously selected pencils and highlighters and markers and worked on his drawing. After some time, we shared what each of our drawings represented. Here is Caleb's drawing, and below is the explanation.

Caleb's Prayer Picture

Caleb's Prayer Picture

Caleb explained that the various colored lines in the outer edges of the picture were dragons. In the center of the picture inside of the “walls” were the people in this city who followed Jesus. The walls were protecting them from the dragons.

As I listened to him explain this picture, and then as various of our team members prayed about the imagery, I kept coming back to today's passage. He who dwells in the fortress that is our God will be protected from the strongest lions and deadliest snakes.

All manner of evil exists in the world. In this part of the world, the danger of following Jesus is extremely real. All sorts of risks are taken by individuals and families who say, “I will follow İsa (Jesus).” Risks that could range from being ostracized from family or community to death.

And here, in the pen of a four-year old boy, we are reminded that in the midst of the dragons there is a place of refuge. There is a place where the righteous can run and be safe.

It is important, however, that we view safety through a different lens. It isn't enough to assume that safety means there will never be a “successful” attack of the enemy. Safety is not God airlifting us out of the places of danger. Rather safety is knowing that as we walk through those places of danger, He is walking with us. He has parachuted into the midst of it and is walking with us through the heat of the battle. It is in this journey with that we find ourselves in the refuge of.

In this Lenten journey, we find ourselves like the believers in Caleb's drawing. We are surrounded by the dragons on every side, yet we rest in the midst. Our table set before us in the presence of our enemies. And, here in this time, we find our Lord not airlifting us out of it, but rather walking along with us through the heat of it.

As we continue on our journey between the manager and the cross, let us not forget those who truly are in the heat of it. Please, stop and pray–even now–for those who are risking family, friends, jobs, and life itself for the beauty of following the Messiah. Pray, not that they would be airlifted out, but rather that God would parachute in and walk with them through the fire. And that in their walking they will be ever bringing their friends and family closer to Messiah, and would be transforming their communities into refuges from the dragons.

 

Zechariah: 1. Persistent Prayer

As Advent–the journey to Christmas, and ultimately Easter–began, I began a journey of my own. For sometime, I felt that God was leading me to concentrate my reading and study on the Gospel narrative. To go back to the basics of what Jesus said and did. Strip out the third party, and just stay on the story of Jesus.

Today's reading brought me to the story of Gabriel appearing to Zechariah and foretelling the birth of John. I've read this story many times and have even written about it previously on this blog, but a couple of new things stood out to me in today's reading. We'll examine these things over the next three days.

Our text is from the Luke 1:5-25 (NIV) (emphases mine):

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.

Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of The Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

Then an angel of The Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him:

“Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He wil be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of The Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to The Lord their God. And he will go on before The Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous–to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

 

 

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.”

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

The first observation that I had was that it was Zechariah who had been praying for a son. What we don't know from this verse is whether or not Elizabeth was in on this prayer of her husband. Could Zechariah have been praying secretly for a son? Could he have been quietly praying in the other room while Elizabeth was cooking dinner?

This brings back memories of our own journey back to Jesus.

Jesus had brought Stephanie back to Himself in the fall of 2009. But, it was another 6 months or so before I answered the call to “cast our nets on the other side.” During that time, Stephanie would quietly and secretly pray in the other room, while I worked or studied or read. When she would hear me coming, her secret prayers would look at lot like laundry folding.

Yet, after months of faithful prayers, I answered Jesus' call to re-enter relationship with Him.

The text is silent on whether or not Zechariah and Elizabeth were in agreement on this whole “baby-in-our-old-age” thing, yet we do know that she hid out for five months and was grateful that her “disgrace” had been taken away.

The other thing that we don't know from the text is how long Zechariah (and Elizabeth?) had been praying for a son, yet it would be safe (culturally) to assume that it had been for a long time. Luke makes it a point to tell us that they are old. It is likely a safe assumption that the prayer for a child was one prayed many times over the course of many years.

I think about three sets of friends who have walked this same journey as Zechariah and Elizabeth.

Wanting children.

Praying for children.

Yet, not having children.

Until, one day, God answers.

I don't know why God waited to answer in either the case of Zechariah or our friends. While I don't understand it–and wish that He wouldn't delay–He has a timing that is far superior to our timing. In the case of John, He waited until the time was fulfilled for Jesus to be born. He had a purpose for John–just as He has a purpose for each one of the children of our three friends, our own children, us and you.

And, so, Zechariah prayed.

His prayer was answered.

John was born.

For what are you praying? Don't give up on your prayers!

 

Emily as a baby

Emily as a baby

Caleb as a baby

Caleb as a baby

 

Advent 2012: Preparing The Path: When You Can’t See The Shepherd!

As we did throughout Advent 2011 and Lent 2012, we are blogging our way through the Advent 2012 Lectionary Readings. We love this time of year, and sharing with you in this way. Our overarching theme during this season is “Preparing the Path” and our prayer is that as we march together toward the manger, we will prepare the way for Emmanuel.

Rev. Mark Foster

Today, we are excited to once again have a special guest post from Rev. Mark Foster. Pastor Mark is the Founding Pastor of Acts 2 United Methodist Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. He married his wife Chantelle in August 1991. They have two sons, John Mark and Noah. Pastor Mark is led by the Spirit and is passionate about seeing people come to know Jesus. We met Pastor Mark in October of last year when we began to attend Acts 2 UMC. We are blessed to call him our Pastor, and are honored that he has written today’s guest post.

A reading from the Psalms.

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us!

Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure. You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves.

Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

— Psalm 80:1-7 (NRSV)

I am shocked and amazed at the boldness of the writer of this text. The writer is calling God out saying, “Listen, Shepherd, throw beams of light from your dazzling throne . . . Get out of bed – you’ve slept long enough!” This is the interpretation of Eugene Peterson in The Message Bible.

You can’t talk to God like that can you? Well, apparently you can. You can even sing it as a group. This scripture would have been sung by the earliest followers of our Lord. Yet, these are the words of a desperate person, of a desperate people.

You can hear the frantic cry, “Save us before it’s too late!” These are the cries of people who see themselves as the least, the last, and the lost. Not only are they hard-pressed on every side, but their enemies and acquaintances are laughing at them in their misfortune. It is one thing to have a bad day, bad week, bad year, or even bad generation. It is another thing to have our enemies poke fun at us day after day in the midst of our misery. These are folks in need of a Savior! These are the people who long to see a smile in any part of their day even from a stranger.

They need a God who can make a difference in their lives. They need the God of the Angel-Armies who can shake the earth with a whisper. Yet they feel ashamed, forgotten, and ridiculed. Somehow they know that if God will just turn His face a few degrees towards them, everything will change with His smile. With a mere turn of His cheek, the cold chill and hardness of winter will begin to break into the warmth of spring and bring new life to that which has looked dead for months. While they have been drowning in their own salty-tears, they know that even the slightest glance of the King of Kings and Maker of the Universe will change their fate.

“God come back!” they cry.

The Psalms are the people of faith’s songbook. Can you sing this with them and all who have gone before us? Or is your song more contemporary? Many other songs compete for this response. Frank Sinatra’s, “I Did It My Way” has been a hit among many for decades in America. While we might not agree concerning the lack of reverence of the singers of Psalm 80, they do at least grasp the truth about the situation that God is the answer and our salvation.

There is something quite familiar with this text. Have you ever felt forgotten? Can you remember those early days of elementary school when your parents were running late? Do you remember how your heart would begin to race when you realized that, “They should have been here by now?” If you have lived long enough to raise a teenager to driving age, you know this feeling well. It is easy to feel forgotten in the waiting seasons of life.

We are a smart people whose tiny hearts grow afraid when things do not go our way. We become aware of our humanity, vulnerability, and mortality. We, too, need a big God who will not forget us. Fortunately for us, we do have a God who is bigger and beyond our thinking or imagination! Our God is not asleep. Our God does not slumber. If He is silent, it is for our good. If He is out of sight, perhaps behind us for a moment by our own frantic pace, it is for our protection. If God seems out of reach to us, perhaps it is because we have forgotten that it is not we who grab hold of God but God who has a hold of us in one hand and the entire universe and future in the other.

So we cry out with the Psalmist, “Come Lord Jesus!” And the beautiful gift of Advent serves as a reminder again and again that the Lord does reign even when hidden within the womb of a pregnant teenager. The Lord does come to us even when we cannot find Him at the finest hotel. And we are afraid, “I thought He’d be here by now.” In Truth, He is here but in the alley.

We cry, “Come Lord Jesus before it is too late!” And the Lord Almighty “God-of-the-Angel-Armies” replies, “I am time. I am all time!” And they said to Jesus, “If only you had come sooner.” And Jesus the Great I am replies, “Rise!” Friends, there is no such thing as “too late with Jesus.” Just ask Lazarus and his sisters. There is no such thing as “too late” with the Lord, just ask Moses as he awaited the parting of the Red Sea. Friends, there is no such thing as “too late with God’s Spirit” for you or for me.

So, Lord God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we ask not that You would come, but that You would reveal to us how you are and have always been with us, Emmanuel, “God with us” forever and always, Amen.

 

Engaging The Spheres: Arts/Entertainment and Media

For background on the ENGAGING THE SPHERES campaign, please review our earlier post: Engaging The Spheres: Overview.

On Tuesday, we presented a way for the Family to be engaged through prayer and finance with our family in the work of fulfilling the Great Commission.  Wednesday, we showed how Churches and Businesses can be involved.  Yesterday, we talked about the Education and Government sectors. Today, we turn our attention to Arts/Entertainment and Media.

Arts/Entertainment

Intercession

One of the things that God has placed on Stephanie’s heart is to help the indigenous church connect the Word in their heart language with the artistic expression that is at the core of their culture.  In other words, redeeming the culture and turning it into an expression of worship to the Creator.  From a prayer perspective, we are looking for three songwriters, worship leaders or worship teams, who would be a “prayer SWAT Team” for Stephanie.  This team would be “on-call”.  We would send you a schedule of when Stephanie was going to be leading worship, teaching on worship, or recording worship music/expressions, and ask you for specific prayers for those times.

Financial

Financially this area has a couple of dimensions.

Stephanie leading worship in Central Asia

Stephanie leading worship in Central Asia

First, Stephanie has written a number of worship songs.  We would like to get into the studio and cut at least one (maybe two) albums of Stephanie’s own “indigenous” worship.  At present there are 21 songs that she has written.  We are looking for 20 people who will sponsor 1 recorded track at $100.

Second, we want to purchase equipment which will allow us to do professional recordings in live indigenous settings.  We have the technological backbone we need, yet we need sound equipment.  We have found an ALESIS set-up that will work with the iPad and allow us to record up-to 4-tracks in real-time.  This set-up will be about $550.

The beauty of this is that we will be able to provide to you recordings of indigenous worship from around the world!

Media

Intercession

One of my big desires is to write a book.  What I envision this to be is a combination of Scripture, prayer, and stories from around the world of how God is changing live, communities, and nations.  We also want to publish some of these stories here on the blog, and use video/audio where appropriate and safe.  We would like to find three people who are published authors who would be willing to pray specifically for relationships with indigenous believers who would be willing to be interviewed and have their stories safely told.

Financial

As with the Arts/Entertainment financial needs, we have a financial need to make this all work.  We need to be able to record the conversations that we have with people (obviously with their permission) so that we capture their story.  We would then use that audio/video to put podcasts together, presentations, and serve as source material for blogs and books.  This equipment is a microphone/app set-up that costs about $250.

Finally, we would  like to purchase a projector that we can carry with us everywhere.  The particular projector is a 3M ultra-portable and runs (with the connection kit) about $325.

How to say “Yes”

If you would like to be involved with the aforementioned items, then here’s how to say “Yes.”

If you are a songwriter, worship leader, or member of a worship team, or you are an author and would like to commit to interceding for us, then you can email us at prayer@ledbytheword.com.  We will make sure we add you to our prayer alert and will keep you up-to-date with our schedule.

If you would like to sponsor a track for recording, or would like to help us purchase equipment, then simply email us at giving@ledbytheword.com.