Morning prayer of a Christian Writer

“My heart is overflowing with a good theme. I recite my composition concerning the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” Psalm 45:1

writers prayerI praise You, O God for the gift of this day. I desire to live it for Your glory — to be of enjoyment and usefulness to You today.

I acknowledge that You created me with a desire and skill to write words which change lives. I am a steward of this gift. May I manage it today in a way that pleases You. Give me Your words.

I offer again to You in surrender my mind and my heart, for this is where You must put Your thoughts. Stir up my soul with Your truth, excite my pen with Your thoughts. Write to someone You love through me today.

Open Your word to me that I may glimpse more of Your glory.

Deepen my understanding of Your wisdom and grace. Let me see beyond the veil to behold more of Your beauty, the beauty this ugly world needs to see, even longs with desperation to see. Let me feel You power today, that I may strengthen that one who is weak.

And finally, grant me grace to do the unpleasant tasks of the writer who must work to publicize his words. Put me out onto the highways, that I may announce the good words You give — not for my own reputation, but to wave the flag of the good news.     Amen

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Have our fears sent Jesus away? (Pt 3)

We are looking at the curious incident where villagers witnessed Jesus delivering a man from demon possession, and then asked Jesus to leave. We’ve had a first and second post on the spiritual effect of fear. In this post I am wondering: What if the villagers who sent Jesus away because of fear decided instead to invite Him to stay? Or considering an applicational question:

WHAT IF WE WELCOMED JESUS TO CALM OUR FEARS? If we invite Jesus to come fully into our families and congregations, what would He do? What might His deliverance look like?

  1. If we welcomed Jesus fully, His presence would expose our fears. When Jesus set foot on the shore, the demons of fear were exposed, while the afflicted man ran toward Jesus in worship (Mark 5:6). We may be ignorant of deep fears which lie behind our attitudes of prejudice. We must spend time in prayerful invitation for the Holy Spirit to reveal to us these deep fears and anxieties which have become embedded in our hearts. We may experience internal resistance from those very fears as they are exposed, and fearful friends around us will surely entrench against such exposure.
  2. If we welcomed Jesus fully, we would identify fear-mongers around us. Society has become so filled with fearful voices that some have become deadened to scenes of violence. “Evening News” should more accurately be called “Evening Fears.” Christians should no longer allow purveyors in fear to speak into our living rooms or mobile devices. In fact, where possible, we should expose and rebuke their actions.
  3. If we welcomed Jesus fully, He would replace our spirit of fear. Scripture says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). If we will invite Jesus to stay with us, we will be launched in a new direction which will last all our lives.

We will increasingly receive God’s power to think, speak, and act against fear. The resurrection power of Christ will give courage to stand against the tide and willingly suffer for kingdom righteousness. We will experience victory over fear, for “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4b).

We will increasingly receive God’s love for others. Scripture says that perfect love casts out fear (1 Jn. 4:18). With love, the desire to perfect lovedefend the vulnerable will replace our need to protect ourselves. With love, the willingness to take risks for what is right will replace our need for control and safety.

And as we welcome Jesus to stay, we will increasingly receive a sound mind. The naturalistic culture around us constantly bombards us with multitudinous fears. But scripture tells us to not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:1,2). We do that by intentionally seeking and embracing the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5). Be warned, the mind of the world hates the mind of Christ. This single fact should be a warning to those of us who seek consensus with the broad way. But it should embolden us to pursue the narrow way which leads to life.

[photo credit: celebrationchurchlive.com]

 

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Have our fears sent Jesus away? -6 observations

As promised in my prior post, I draw these six observations from the story in which Jesus cast demons out of a man, after which the village asked Jesus to depart because they were afraid (Luke 8:26-39).

  1. Where demons bring fear on one person, they have affected many others as well.  Let’s not imagine the possessed man was an isolated case. This was a society infected with a spirit of fear. The deliverance of the man was needed by many others. So why didn’t many others desire deliverance?
  2. A group of people can be so held by fear that they fear deliverance. I expect some say that the people wanted Jesus to leave so He would not ruin any more herds of swine. This misses a more significant truth. The people were seized with fear. This incident teaches us about spiritual dynamics of fear, as well as Jesus’ response to it.
  3. The beginning of deliverance triggers increased demonic resistance. This is not primarily a story of pigs and villages, but of spiritual conflict taking place on earth. The presence of Jesus stirs up trouble in the demonic world. The demons know they could be cast from terra firma into the abyss by a word from Jesus. We earthlings are that close to the spiritual battle (Lk. 8:31). The demons did not want to be sent out of that area (Mk. 5:10). They clung to hold on to the control they had gained.
  4. The presence of Jesus does not remain where a spirit of fear asks Him to leave (Lk. 8:37). We rightly struggle when rejected for our commitment to Christ. We are burdened by the plight of the lost who are destined for hell. Jesus is very realistic as He encountered rejection of His help. Hr provides us an example. It is a matter of fact that fear eliminates the possibility of seeing God at work. American society, and even Christians, are seized with fear today. No wonder the presence of Jesus is being withdrawn from us.
  5. Those who have been delivered by Jesus are charged to remain as witnesses of His miraculous power. Jesus forbade the man from accompanying Him and instead charged him to stay and proclaim all that Jesus had done. We are not told whether the delivered follower had any positive effect. The point is that Jesus entrusts His witness to those who follow Him.
  6. Jesus was not, and is not deterred by rejection, but brings His word intentionally to resistant cultures and leaves a witness. Jesus was rejected in His home town because people were offended by Him (Lk. 4:28-30). Here, on the far side of the lake, He was rejected because people were afraid of Him. But that did not prevent Him from going there.

Does Jesus withdraw Himself from Christians today, regretfully hearing us protest His deliverance as we cling to our cherished fears?

Do we idolize safety such that we fear the risk of the cross-life? Do we fear disease and extremism such that we have abandoned faith in His power to deliver?

Do we treasure government and medical science to the extent He can do no miracles in our society nor heal our diseases? Do we assess the risk to our livelihood and beg Jesus to leave our possessions undisturbed?


fears cripple

In our next post, we’ll look at what can happen if we invite Jesus to stay and help us with our fears.

[photo credit: christianchat.com]

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Have our fears driven Jesus away? (pt 1)

There is a curious story in the gospels about a group of people who witnessed a wonderful miracle and then begged Jesus to leave their region! You would think they would want Him to stay for awhile and help with more problems. But they begged Him to depart.

Then and now, why do people send Jesus away?

Jesus had traveled by boat to a region that was rife with demonic activity (the story is thrice recorded in Mark 5:1-20, Matthew 8:28-34, and Luke 8:26-39). Parenthetically, if you are a skeptic about things spiritual or demonic, bear in mind that this story is (a) inspired by the Holy Spirit, (b) told and believed by Jewish writers, Matthew and John Mark, (c) told and believed by the Gentile writer, Luke. I suggest to you that the worldview of the Bible may be more accurate than yours or mine!

demon delivered manSo, when Jesus crossed the lake and landed on the east side of the Sea of Galilee, the record says He was met by at least one man who desperately wanted to be delivered from the host of demons which possessed him. This cadre of demons was numerous, such that the man had so lost his identity that he had renamed himself “Legion.” The legion, realizing Jesus was able and ready to cast them into the “abyss,” asked Him to at least let them be embodied in a herd of pigs. Jesus granted this, and the herd ran wildly into the lake and drowned.

This brings us back to the curious response of the villagers. They have seen one of their tormented citizens (surely a relative of some of them) restored to his right mind, and their city cleansed of multiple demons. Why then did they beg Jesus to leave their region? Luke tells us the reason:

When the people gathered around the man who had been delivered, sitting at the feet of Jesus, “they were afraid” (Luke 8:35b).

Then the whole multitude asked Jesus to depart from them, “for they were seized with great fear” (Luke 8:37b).


Are we sending Jesus away?

An African-American woman emailed her white pastor on a Saturday following yet another police shooting of a black man: “Dear pastor, you know that I love our church, and I so appreciate you and your family. But this week has left me so hurt that I need to be in a church where I receive some comfort. So you won’t see me tomorrow because I know you won’t mention anything about the trouble my community is experiencing.”

A Muslim woman had been searching for spiritual reality in her life. She had expressed real openness in talking with some friends who are Christians. But recently she went out to her car and found, written in ketchup, “MOVE.”  Contrast that with a Facebook post by a friend of mine: “My dear Muslim friends, you are welcome in my home. You are welcome at my table. As for me and my family, as followers of Jesus, we love our all our neighbors and are thankful for you. We stand with you. Please don’t be afraid. Even though many evangelicals voted for Trump, we will remind them (and him) to read and obey the teachings of Jesus (in the Bible) that commands us to welcome strangers and to even love our enemies. So, we will pray for President-elect Trump and support him in good policies. We will also stand up and fight his bad policies. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…We love because He has first loved us.” 1 John 4:18-19.

A man stands at the back of a crowd that has gathered peacefully. He holds us a sign that reads, “God hates fags.”

A white pastor has worked and prayed for a long time to increase the diversity in the congregation. In one sermon recently he mentioned “white privilege” and several long-standing members stood up and walked out.


Is our fear sending Jesus away? In my next post, I suggest six observations from Jesus’ encounter that may offer some insight.

[photo credit: chongsoonkim.blogspot.com]

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Sabbath is God’s, “You’ve done enough”

The reason God gave His people the sabbath was not to add a legalistic requirement but to let us feel His approval. That is why, in our need for approval through performance, we need to recover and practice the sabbath-principle.

Sabbath let’s me hear God approvingly announce “enough.” He smiles on the work I have done and tells me it is sufficient, and that He will make up the lack. Sabbath changes the responsibility from “mine” to “ours”. Practicing sabbath changes my schedule from work-dominant to balanced trusting. It acknowledges that God cares about my time and what I do with it. He cares that I am productive but guards me against idolizing what I do.

My first thought was that sabbath is a way I invite God into my life, but on further reflection I see it as a way God invites me into His life. As God balances productivity and contentment, I am welcomed into the same balance and experience more of God’s way of living.

How do we share in God’s way of doing work and sabbath? How do I stop short of completely defining what I will do, leaving space for God to move in and share the work with me? How do we share the steering wheel with God?

I don’t have answers for you, but here is how I relate to this. One thing I can do is to stop manipulating my opportunities. Instead, I can watch for what God brings and flow with that. I can nurture the relationships God brings my way. These may not be the ones I would have sought. They may not seem strategic, but they are God-sent.

I can also watch for, and honor the giftings and passions of the people God brings. These people may take us in directions we did not foresee, but again they are ways God can invite us into His life.

A third way is to acknowledge my inability and dependency to accomplish the work myself. This makes room for God. I can do this with joy, not with guilt or frustration, for it means the work is a partnership with God. (The feeding of the 5,000 exemplifies this: “You feed the people.” “Well, what do you have?”  “Ok, I’ll work with that — have the people sit down.”)

I don’t think there is any part of my work that is exactly what I want it to be. Could that be a gracious working of God in showing me how we can share the load? My perpetual feeling of inadequacy is God’s invitation to sabbath and His assurance, “I like what you’ve done. It’s enough. Now rest.”

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What the church must have.

“We have lost perspective when we see other churches as the competition, vying for prominence and distinction. Instead we should find ways to demonstrate our unity and serve each other.

“The Church must draw inspiration from Whose it is, to rise to its greatest calling, to cease striving within and rise above. Instead of thinking conformity, the Church must think creatively. Instead of merely having an impact, the Church must settle for nothing less than transforming its culture through manifesting its Savior. Rather than working to boost its attendance, the Body of Christ must rise to the full stature of Christ’s character in the beauty of diversity of size, ethnicity and form.

“The issue is not house churches versus traditional ones. Not post-moderns versus moderns. Not ethnic or Caucasian, nor denominational over independents. What matters is this: Where is the Spirit of Christ present, and where is the truth of Christ found? If these exist, their flickering flame must be coaxed into a hungry fire and blown into roaring conflagration.

pablo4From THE AMAZING POTENTIAL OF ONE SURRENDERED CHURCH, Robert E Rasmussen, pp. 42,43.

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A prayer for community

“You’ve heard of missing persons. Have you ever thought about missing prayers, prayer requests that God ought to hear regularly but that we scarcely speak? The prayer for spiritual discovery ought frequently to grace our lips.

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you,
we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding”
(Colossians 1:9).

candle prayerFrom SAFE IN HIS SANCTUARY, by Robert Rasmussen (Multnomah 1999), p161.

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The church called “Community Dinners”

The church formerly called Westminster Community Church has changed its name to “Community Dinners.”

I celebrate their motive — to live out their community life in a way Jesus would.

I admire their innovation — leaving their building and the time, energy, and expense it consumed, and becoming a group that congregated in various locations around northern Seattle.

I love their practicality — serving dinners to any who will come, planning to build affordable housing, offering skills training all in Jesus’ name.

For those who are worn out on the term “missional” read their story here and be encouraged as they seek to be just that.

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Walk to the park

A young couple with kids lives intentionally in an urban black community. One day they were heading to the local park for a walk. A child from a house next door asked, “Can I go with you to the park”?

“If your mother and dad tell us you can go.”

The child took off running to get permission.

In the time it took for her to return, 11 kids with at least one parent showed up to join in.

It was quite a walk to the park that day.

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