Praying Over the World

Sitting on the front row at The Church at Avenue South, I had a thought totally unrelated to the sermon from Genesis 45. Yes, I paid attention to the message about Joseph and his brothers and the need for reconciliation and forgiveness.

I was thinking about my friend, John Paul, lying in the ICU in Memphis. I may not be able to go to him in person, but I believe strongly that when I am interceding that I am just as present in that room.

It’s a mind-blowing concept that you can reach places through prayer that you’ve never seen with your own two eyes and you can connect with fellow believers that you might never meet in person on this side of heaven.

It’s feasible to me that when we do arrive in heaven, our impact will have been greater than we ever could have imagined. All those nights spent on our knees interceding for those missionaries halfway across the world will not have been in vain.

I truly believe that those we prayed for will have felt the presence of our prayers in those overwhelming moments. Maybe they will sense that we were with them in spirit, if not in the flesh, to agree with them in prayer.

I don’t make any claims to infallibility and I may be speculating more than just a little bit here, but I do believe that we may never physically get to all the places where the unreached people groups live, but we can go in spirit through prayer and intercession.

We can be near those who are hurting and dying through the gift of intercessory prayer, just as surely as the God to whom we pray is there.

Most importantly, the God who heals and answers prayer is there. The Holy Spirit who is interceding for both the one who prays and the one who is prayed for is there. Jesus, who ever lives to intercede for us before God in heaven, is there.

That’s what really matters.

 

More Borrowed Wisdom From One Mr. Lewis

I have the crud, so I invited a guest blogger to share his thoughts. Well, I copied and pasted from something C. S. Lewis wrote. It blew my fuzzy, hay-fevered mind. I hope it blows your mind as well.

“An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He is trying to get into touch with God.

But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him.

But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God—that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him.

You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying—the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on—the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal.

So that the whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers. The man is being caught up into the higher kinds of life—what I called Zoe or spiritual life: he is being pulled into God, by God, while still remaining himself” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).

You’re welcome.

Praying starts and ends with God. Sure, I bring my needs and wants to God, but sometimes there are no words. Sometimes, I need to know that God inside of me is praying to the God above me through the God in Christ who is beside me.

That’s prayer.

 

Those Sleepless Nights

I had a rough night last night. Well, that may be overstating things a bit. Last night, I didn’t sleep as well as I normally do. That’s more accurate.

I tossed and turned until after 1 am, then managed to wake up several more times in the night. At least I didn’t wake up one minute before my alarm is set to go off. That’s the absolute worst.

So I’m tired.

The Bible says that God grants sleep to those He loves.

I know that more than a few of you know what it’s like to go whole nights without sleeping. It can get to be a frustrating process, with you getting more and more weary and less and less able to sleep.

Maybe God has you up in the middle of the night for a reason. Maybe He’s putting something (or someone) on your mind to turn over to Him in prayer.

Pay attention to what God whispers in your ear on those sleepless nights. Maybe cease from all your tossing and turning and be still. Listen for that still, small voice that calls you Beloved.

I hope that I’ll sleep better tonight. I think I will. But in case I don’t, just know that I will likely be praying for some of you.

 

Intercession

“True intercession involves bringing the person, or the circumstance that seems to be crashing in on you, before God, until you are changed by His attitude toward that person or circumstance. People describe intercession by saying, ‘It is putting yourself in someone else’s place.’ That is not true! Intercession is putting yourself in God’s place; it is having His mind and His perspective” (Oswald Chambers).

I heard someone say recently that intercession is being with God for someone else. I have to give credit where credit is due, so most of what follows is based on what I heard from Mary Lou Redding in a prayer talk she gave recently.

It’s not necessarily me praying what I think that person needs. It’s not even sometimes me praying for that person for what they need.

Sometimes the best kind of intercession is the kind where I am silent before God as I visualize bringing that person into the light of God’s presence and letting God decide how best to meet that person’s need.

I do believe we are to pray specifically for others and their needs and we should always pray for people for what they ask us to pray for. I also think that sometimes the best kinds of prayers for others don’t involve words at all.

It’s not like God will do less than what we ask. Oftentimes, He will do more. If you look at the four friends who brought in their paralyzed friend for physical healing, what they got was not only the physical healing but salvation for their friend as well.

I’ve mentioned before that sometimes the way I pray for family and friends is to visualize a chapel with Jesus standing at the front. I see myself bringing that person to Jesus and I see Jesus enveloping that person in a big bear hug. I envision healing washing over that person I am praying for as Jesus wraps His arms around them.

That said, I think all of us who claim the name of Jesus need to do better at praying for others. Not so much in saying, “I”ll pray for you,” and never following through but actually praying for people and letting them know we are praying for them. I know I need to do better.

Maybe today’s a good day to start.

 

Blindsided!

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I had a friend who got blindsided recently at her job. Basically, her boss sat her down and proceeded to tell her EVERYTHING she’s been doing wrong for the entire year.

I’ve had that happen a time or two where someone I know doesn’t give me any warning before reading me the riot act. I know you have, too.

Tonight in my Life Group, we talked about how Jesus has High Priest is able to sympathize with us in everything as He’s been through everything we’ve been through, temptations and all, and passed the test with flying colors. To put it in more churchy language, He didn’t sin.

If anyone could blindside us, it would be Jesus. He’s seen it all. He knows every false motive, every impure intent, every dark thought, every secret sin. He could sit me down and blast me into smithereens with everything He’s got on me.

But He doesn’t. He doesn’t choose to “blast” anyone. Hebrews says that Jesus as High Priest intercedes for His children. He prays for you and me.

Maybe that should change the way I act when someone blindsides me. Or when I feel strongly tempted to blast someone when I see all sorts of red flags popping up in their life.

The unfortunate part of blasting someone is that you might be able to seek and receive forgiveness, but you can never recall those words you spoke. You can never undo the wounds and scars you created. You can never restore the relationship to what it was pre-blast.

So maybe instead of letting someone else have it, try letting God have it. As in taking it to God in prayer, not blasting God.

PS Sometimes you need to vent out loud to God. He already knows what’s in your heart anyway, and He can take it.

PPS As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

 

No Fear

“Since in Jesus, the Son of God, we have the supreme high priest who has gone through to the highest heaven, we must hold firm to our profession of faith. For the high priest we have is not incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us, but has been put to the test in exactly the same way as ourselves, apart from sin. Let us, then, have no fear in approaching the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace when we are in need of help” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

These were the main verses used by Aaron Bryant in his sermon this morning at The Church at Avenue South. Most translations that I’ve ever read render the last verse as let us “come boldly” to the throne of grace. I like this version, taken from the New Jerusalem Bible.

“Let us, then,  have no fear in approaching the throne of grace.”

I think most of us live in one kind of fear or another. Maybe it’s anxiety. Maybe it’s paranoia. Whatever the case, fear saps the very lifeblood from our veins.

Who is it that can say to me to not have fear as I approach the throne of grace? The same one who said in 1 John 4:18 that perfect love casts out all fear. The same one who invites me not to a throne of judgment or condemnation, but a throne of grace. And best of all, the invitation comes at just the perfect moment– in my time of need.

I love that Jesus is like me and yet so unlike me. He’s like me in that He’s been tempted in every way I’ve ever been tempted, yet He’s also so unlike me in that He never once caved in to any of those temptations. Not once. Props to Aaron for that concept.

Let us come boldly and with no fear to that throne of grace, not just for ourselves but for those around us whose lives are defined and dominated by fear.

 

Friends, Frothy Monkey, and Franklin

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A lady I work with remarked that the only good cats were dead ones. Obviously, she’s not a fan of cats. Lord, forgive them for they know not what they’re missin’.

I had another great night in downtown Franklin. I had a spectacular roast beef and provolone sandwich at my very favorite place to eat on Earth, which as you should know by now is McCreary’s Irish Pub. Seeing as I chose to eat at the optimal senior citizen dining time of 4:30 pm, I got prime seating on the patio on a picturesque Autumn afternoon.

Later, I ran into one of my favorite friends who always makes my heart happy when I see her and never fails to encourage me and make me smile. She and her dad were headed over to Sweet CeCe’s for some fro-yo (that is frozen yogurt for the novices out there). I recommended the pumpkin pie flavor, which is exceedingly delightful.

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I had a sweet potato pie latte at Frothy Monkey and sat on the patio while I sipped my little cup of heaven and reveled in just how very blessed I am. If I counted all my blessings, I’d easily surpass the 1,500 I came up with in my Things I Love series. I’d lose count before I ran out of blessings.

I got treated to an organ concert at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Well, it was more like the organ dude practicing and me showing up at the right time. I prayed a bit, sat still and silent for a bit, and just tried to be in the moment. A girl sat directly across from me, deep in prayer. I still don’t know who she was or what burdens she carried, but I did my best to intercede for her and agree with her in prayer for whatever she was asking from God. It felt like genuine New Testament Church.

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I had ol’ Hank Williams (Sr., not Jr.) providing the soundtrack to my ride home. With the windows down and the volume cranked up. It was magical.

Now I’m sitting here typing this on my iPad while my cat reposes in my lap. To many people’s great and lasting disappointment, she’s not dead. Only very sleepy. Probably dreaming of tuna again.

 

Making Mondays Good Again

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At first, it may have seemed like a typical Monday. First, I locked my keys in my car at Starbucks. I knew the moment my hand went to shut the door that I had messed up. Sure enough, there were my keys, still in the ignition.

Then, after my trusty sidekick and savior of the day a.k.a. Mom brought my spare keys, I went to start the car. Nothing. Other than a very annoying clicking sound. I was beginning to get annoyed myself.

I had AAA, so I got them to send a wrecker who was able to jump start my car and get me running. I ended up needing a new battery.

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Sounds like I should write off this Monday as yet another in a long line of bad days. Right? As Lee Corso says, “Not so fast, my friend.”

I woke up this morning, a privilege many didn’t get. I breathed in and out fresh air out of my lungs, felt my heart pumping life through my limbs, and got to experience the gift of another day of living.

There’s still not a moment where I’m not sustained and held together by the grace of God. There’s never a second where I’m out of God’s sight or not in His heart.

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I know I have so many people rooting for me on both sides of Heaven. I know I have saints lifting up holy hands in intercession for me. I know Jesus never ceases praying for me and His Holy Spirit never stops translating my sighs and groans into petitions and praises.

I’m good. I’m more than good. I’m blessed.

If God never did one more thing for me, if He showed me my empty box of blessings because I had used them all up, I would be good. I would still have enough reasons to give thanks and be grateful for the rest of my life.

Eternity will be too short for me to express my thankfulness to God for who He’s been to me and how He’s proved Himself faithful over and over. I’ll never get tired of finding new ways to say “Thank you!” to the King of the Universe who is also my Abba Father.

I’d say that makes even Mondays blessed.

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Who speaks for you? (expanding on an idea I heard at Kairos)

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When the accuser of the brethren comes against you with accusations of your past, who stands up in your defense and speaks for you?

When other people judge you and make assumptions about you, who speaks on your behalf?

When the voices in your own head are full of condemnation and shame and guilt, who will be lone voice of dissent that will overpower all the other voices?

When you yourself have reached the verdict of guily with the maximum sentence of hopelessness and despair with no chance of parole, who will take your place?

There is one. He who sits on the throne at the right hand of the Father and who ever lives to make intercession for you. Jesus is the one who speaks for you. He is the one who took the blame for all the mistakes and blunders and failures, paid the penalty for those sins and make a spectacle of triumphing over the Enemy on the cross. When all these voices are giving you names (and you give yourself names I can’t print here), Jesus is the one who gives you a new name written on a white tablet that only He knows. And one day you will know it, too.

The One who knows the most about you– and has the most right to condemn you –doesn’t. The One who spoke the first words of creation and will speak the last words at the end of all things speaks the final word on your behalf: “It is finished.” No one else will ever be able to bring up accusations against you again. Jesus is your Advocate and He will never, ever, ever, ever, ever stop fighting for you.

I’ve always loved the saying that goes something like: “When the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.”

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Thanks, Mike. These words were a revolution to my mind. I am thinking radically different than I was yesterday. Most of all, thank you, Jesus!