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Monthly Archives: July 2015

Again………what is prayer?

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Question: “What is intercessory prayer?”

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Answer:Quite simply, intercessory prayer is the act of praying on behalf of others. The role of mediator in prayer was prevalent in the Old Testament, in the cases of Abraham, Moses, David, Samuel, Hezekiah, Elijah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. Christ is pictured in the New Testament as the ultimate intercessor, and because of this, all Christian prayer becomes intercession since it is offered to God through and by Christ. Jesus closed the gap between us and God when He died on the cross. Because of Jesus’ mediation, we can now intercede in prayer on behalf of other Christians or for the lost, asking God to grant their requests according to His will. “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). “Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34).

A wonderful model of intercessory prayer is found inDaniel 9. It has all the elements of true intercessory prayer. It is in response to the Word (v. 2); characterized by fervency (v. 3) and self-denial (v. 4); identified unselfishly with God’s people (v. 5); strengthened by confession (v. 5-15); dependent on God’s character (vv. 4, 7, 9, 15); and has as its goal God’s glory (vv. 16-19). Like Daniel, Christians are to come to God on behalf of others in a heartbroken and repentant attitude, recognizing their own unworthiness and with a sense of self-denial. Daniel does not say, “I have a right to demand this out of You, God, because I am one of your special, chosen intercessors.” He says, “I’m a sinner,” and, in effect, “I do not have a right to demand anything.” True intercessory prayer seeks not only to know God’s will and see it fulfilled, but to see it fulfilled whether or not it benefits us and regardless of what it costs us. True intercessory prayer seeks God’s glory, not our own.

The following is only a partial list of those for whom we are to offer intercessory prayers: all in authority (1 Timothy 2:2); ministers (Philippians 1:19); Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6); friends (Job 42:8); fellow countrymen (Romans 10:1); the sick (James 5:14); enemies (Jeremiah 29:7); those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44); those who forsake us (2 Timothy 4:16); and all men (1 Timothy 2:1).

There is an erroneous idea in contemporary Christianity that those who offer up intercessory prayers are a special class of “super-Christians,” called by God to a specific ministry of intercession. The Bible is clear thatallChristians are called to be intercessors. All Christians have the Holy Spirit in their hearts and, just as He intercedes for us in accordance with God’s will (Romans 8:26-27), we are to intercede for one another. This is not a privilege limited to an exclusive Christian elite; this is the command to all. In fact, not to intercede for others is sin. “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you” (1 Samuel 12:23).

Certainly Peter and Paul, when asking others to intercede for them, did not limit their request to those with a special calling to intercession. “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him” (Acts 12:5). Notice it was the whole church that prayed for him, not just those with a gift of intercession. InEphesians 6:16-18, Paul exhorts the Ephesian believers—all of them—on the fundamentals of the Christian life, which includes intercession “on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Clearly, intercessory prayer is part of the Christian life for all believers.

Further, Paul sought prayer on his behalf from all the Roman believers inRomans 15:30. He also urged the Colossians to intercede for him inColossians 4:2-3. Nowhere in any biblical request for intercession is there any indication that only a certain group of people could intercede. On the contrary, those who seek others to intercede for them can use all the help they can get! The idea that intercession is the privilege and calling of only some Christians is without biblical basis. Worse, it is a destructive idea that often leads to pride and a sense of superiority.

God calls all Christians to be intercessors. It is God’s desire that every believer be active in intercessory prayer. What a wonderful and exalted privilege we have in being able to come boldly before the throne of Almighty God with our prayers and requests!

Spirit-Filled Community

congregation

Spirit-Filled Community

September 4, 2014

I am firmly convinced that the reason the message is not growing deep roots in the hearts of many today is because we as the message bearers have lost connection to the power.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  Acts 1:8

How do you know when you are ready to plant a church?

Think back to that moment when God tapped you on the shoulder.

Did you feel ready?  Willing?  Capable?

Or did you question if God knew who it was he was calling?

For many church planters, the calling to plant a gospel community begins with training, experience, and exposure that lead to the heart for planting a new expression of the church among an unreached people.  For me, it begins with mouse ears on top of my head.  Yep, Mickey Mouse ears.  On a family vacation to the “happiest place on Earth,” I found myself overwhelmed with a calling that I could not shake.  As I sat on the balcony of our hotel, with a perfect view of Cinderella’s castle in the Magic Kingdom, God had my heart and mind’s attention on a different kingdom.    As a college pastor in a sleepy Southern town in the heart of the Bible belt, I felt as if God was beginning the early leadings towards rethinking “church” in the Southern context.  Before the missional vocabulary had ever been introduced to me, I knew in my heart that in many cases, the church lacked the taste and flavor that was present in the early church.  And I wanted to rediscover it.

So there I was, untrained and insufficient, decked out in Disney gear wrestling with God on the who, what, when, where, why, and how’s of pursuing this calling.  I had every excuse under the warm Florida sun to offer to change his mind, but the calling I felt that day was undeniable.

Fast-forward six months to a group of about 50 people sitting together under a neon sign in a local bar in our downtown area tangibly seeing this vision for our city unfolding as we gathered together to worship, pray, and dialogue on the hope for our city.   Our church didn’t begin with a flawless plan, a dream team of leaders, or a fool proof plan.  There are still so many areas of insufficiencies that cause fear and concern for sustainability as we seek to impact our city with the gospel.  So what keeps us moving on despite our insufficiencies and inabilities?

From the conception of the New Testament church, followers of Christ did not have a prescriptive method for “doing” church.  There were no labels, denominations, defined methodologies, or shared language.  The church was simply a group of people who had been changed by Jesus, and who were being led by the Holy Spirit.  If we had no outside influence on the understanding of ecclesiology other than what we learn from God’s word, it would be undeniable that God’s intention for his church was to catalyze the spread of the gospel by infusing the power of the Holy Spirit into the lives of common people who had experienced Jesus.  He said that they would not only receive power, but they would be the means by which he would choose to spread the gospel to the ends of the Earth.

In our church culture today, the strategy that we often attempt to implement in order to saturate our contexts with the gospel often lacks any influence from the Holy Spirit.  We create processes and systems to achieve the desired outcome.  We no longer spend time in prayer for the Spirit to grow the church both deep and wide because we have marketing to do that.  We no longer pray for life on life discipleship to be happening in our communities because we have assimilation to accomplish that.  We no longer practice the Biblical definition of hospitality (kindness to strangers) because we have welcome teams and plans to accomplish that.  Now let me be quick to say that out of our dependency on the Spirit of God at work, these things may/should very well be present; however, if our church experiences overshadow the powerful work of the Holy Spirit among our people then we will not witness “immeasurably more” than our anticipated outcomes, but we will witness exactly what we expected to happen through our efforts.

We have the good news in our hands through the gospel of Jesus.  In our understanding, we recognize the fabric of the gospel woven together with the threads of creation, fall, redemption, and ultimate restoration.  We may even understand how to communicate this to those around us.  So why do we still live in a culture that often seems void of the gospel?  How is my context, in the middle of the religious South, still full of so many who have access to the gospel, but have not responded to the grace of God through Jesus?  I am firmly convinced that the reason the message is not growing deep roots in the hearts of many today is because we as the message bearers have lost connection to the power.  Though this is by no means an exclusive list, I see several reasons to believe this is true:

We have lost an undeniable reliance on the Holy Spirit’s power

The early church recognized the necessity of the Holy Spirit to empower the gospel, like they recognized the necessity of oxygen to empower their physical bodies.  How else do you explain a distinctive community described in Acts?  How else do you explain the contrast between Peter’s denial of Christ in one instance and his proclaiming of Christ that leads to the salvation of 3,000 people in another?  The power of the Holy Spirit.

We have lost an unwavering sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading

Build community

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Don’t You Forget About Me.”

I think for my self and my life I would hope my life speaks to people to stop being afraid of each other. I hope my life speaks to people about slowly and wisely building your circle of friends.Often I use the Jesus model.He had three super intimate friends. He had a bigger circle of twelve. then he had a small troop of about 120 people that were cohorts with him.

And i hope that when people look into my life they would see this worked out. We live a very different kind of life .We are a blended family with different belief systems attached. We have learned to love enough not to let our core beliefs get in the way of loving each other. And it is work…..but so worth it when you learn to talk through our differences.

Keith

Encouragement from Ephesians 2:10

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“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10

Beloved by God, do you know who you are?

You are God’s masterpiece (“For we are his workmanship”). He has made you just like He wants you. You are his unique one of a kind YOU. He wants you to be the best healthiest, humblest, most powerfulest (it’s a word, look it up!) YOU possible. His eye is upon you and He is rejoicing over you with loud singing. You have all the gifts He wants you to have right this moment, therefore you have all you need for this moment, because you have HIM and He has you.

Beloved by God, do you know who you are?

You were saved by grace through faith. That means his favor rests upon you because He simply chose it to be so. He loves you because he decided to love you. You weren’t worthy so you don’t have to now prove you were or are now worthy. It is finished. This salvation is not your doing, nor your work, but it is yours to enjoy. It is in fact yours forever. It is the gift of God. His love is free. His acceptance is free. His adoption of you is free. It is a gift that he delighted to give you. His affections were upon you from eternity past. You were predestined for adoption as sons. You belong to Him and You belong in his family. He loves you as his kid this very moment with everything that is true about you. He doesn’t love the future you. He loves you completely right now. Yes, he has feelings for the flawed, lonely, hurting, sad, angry, fearful YOU. Deep in his gut, he feels compassion for you.

Beloved by God, do you know who you are? 

You have been given every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. He will one day present you holy and blameless before him. He will. It is certain. He who started a good work in you will complete it. Rejoice. Relax. It is a done deal. You can believe it because He is doing all this for his own purpose.  His glory. His purpose is that his glorious grace will be magnified now and forever. You are a trophy of his grace. That’s right, you are part of his eternal plan. A plan to unite all things in him: Things in heaven and things on earth.

Beloved by God, do you know who He is? 

Today, He is working all things after the counsel of his perfect will. He is sovereign. He is powerful. He is King. He is God. As He does His work He wants you to believe you have significance, you have purpose, and you have meaning. In fact, He wants to remind you, “we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” We get to be blessed to be a blessing. We get to spread this News that is so good to our ears. We get to! He won’t love us more if we don’t, but we get to! He won’t love us more if we do, because he already loves us to the max. It is amazing news that He wants to remind you these good works were prepared before hand for us to walk in. We get to spread joy. We get to accomplish in time what He designed for us in eternity past. Life is not a game. It is not a waste. It is a war, but we are more than conquerors through His victory at the cross. Our enemies are real, but defeated. Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. Who is in you? The risen conquering King Jesus dwells in you.

Beloved by God, do you know who you are?

You are God’s masterpiece. He has unique good works for you to walk in. I pray two things for us at this moment: 1) I pray today that we will remember the we in Ephesians 2:10, “we are his workmanship.” Because he is not simply writing individual stories, He is authoring our corporate story as His church in Jonesboro. We are truly the people of God, saved by power of God, indwelt by the Spirit of God, for the purposes of God.” Therefore I pray we each individually live out our calling so that we corporately can live out our calling. We are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (2:22);

2. I pray today Paul’s prayers in Ephesians 1:15-23 and 3:14-21. May our eyes be opened to see, experience and spread this wonderful news! To him be glory in the Church.

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