Pray As You Go 3/30/20

Windows of a Prison or a Sanctuary?

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

After two years had passed” were the simple words Luke used in Acts 24 to describe Paul’s confinement at the hands of Felix. Reading some of the Facebook posts these last couple of weeks, the self-imposed or required quarantine may start to feel like two years too many.  We find ourselves sheltered in place because of an unknown and unseen virus. Paul finds himself in confinement as a political pawn in the game of religious power play. Falsely accused and imprisoned, he is now a tool in Felix’s political toolkit to please the Jewish leaders. Either way, confinement forces change, restricts movement and limits choices.

Paul would probably have preferred to go where he wanted, when he wanted and how he wanted. The prison walls of his confinement kept him bound within walls not of his making, yet he made the most of his time. He could have worried. He could have fretted. He could have feared the unknown but he chose to spend his time preparing for the ultimate opportunity to speak before the Emperor of Rome about the true giver of life.

You may find yourself “imprisoned” in walls not of your making – You may have been exposed to the virus and find yourself self-quarantined; Your office has closed, requiring you to work from home; Your children’s schools are closed and you find yourself homeschooling; Your business has shut down and you find yourself without a job; You find yourself in a job requiring you to work in the middle of the crisis. These are walls that keep you from freely moving! Walls can be confining and restricting or freeing, depending upon whether they are walls of a prison or a sanctuary.

Prisons are lonely. In a sanctuary we find peace with Jesus; our one hope, the fulfillment of the promised one. In Luke 24 we find two disciples struggling to understand.  They had watched Jesus’ brutal death yet now hear the rumors of his resurrection. They are walking and talking when a stranger joins their conversation. So deep is their pain, so fearful of the future that they don’t bother to look into the eyes of this stranger. Hours are spent on the road with this stranger until finally they see with open eyes that the one walking with them is Jesus. They were flabbergasted and both spoke at the same time, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us!” Luke 24:32

Paul learned to stoke the fire that burned within him during his time of confinement. The two disciples learned to stoke the fire while in their imposed confinement of doubt and fear. Jesus stoked the fire that burned within him in the Garden of Gethsemane.  If you are one of those who finds yourself in confinement, take time to stoke the fires within you. Oswald Chambers write, “It is the dull, bald, dreary, commonplace day, with commonplace duties and people, that kills the burning heart unless we have learned the secret of abiding in Jesus.

There were others who found themselves in the same prison with Paul during those two years. Prisoners who looked at the walls and mourned their confinement. There were guards who walked the grounds of the prison and only saw the walls of confinement. Prisoners and guards alike, they only could see the world through the window of a prison. Paul looked out the same window but with a heart of prayer and confidence, instead of a prison window; his window was of a sanctuary. What window are you looking out of today?

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;

He will conceal me under the cover of his tent;

He will set me high on a rock.” Psalm 27:5

God is great,

Pastor Lynn Burton

Pray As You Go – 2020/03/23

You Prayed – Now open the door

 

“Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—let him rescue the one in whom he delights!” Psalm 22:8

The world literally is gripped by the coronavirus pandemic. World leaders have likened the pandemic to a war situation where we are under attack and have declared war against the virus. It looks as if this crisis could go on for weeks or even months. There is a shortage of staple items, businesses are closing, schools closed, churches going online for worship, the stock market in the deepest decline since 1987 and retirement accounts struggling. I never imagined such a crisis of this magnitude. Christians are praying. But what are we praying for?

There is an interesting encounter in Acts 12 of how God intervened when God’s people began to pray. The early church finds itself under a life-threatening siege by King Herod who is out to destroy the church to please the religious leaders. He had James and other believers killed and imprisoned many others, including Peter. The day before Peter is to be executed, the church responded the way it should be responding now, “the church prayed fervently to God.”

At a time when fear and panic should have gripped Peter, you find him in the dungeon, curled up next to two guards, sleeping like a baby. Suddenly a bright light shines and an angel appears. A pretty dramatic entrance to be sure, but not enough to wake up Peter. Peter is snoring away without any thought to what is ahead for him. The angel finally walks over to Peter and hits him on the side, waking him up from his deep sleep. The angel tells Peter to get dressed, they are leaving. Walking pass two sets of guards, then out a locked gate; Peter is out. “Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod.”

Peter heads for the house where the people are praying fervently for his release. Peter gets to the house and bangs on the gate. A young lady goes to the gate and recognizes Peter’s voice but, overcome with excitement, she forgets to let him into the house. Rhoda runs into the room and interrupts the prayer meeting telling them Peter is at the gate. Instead of being met with excitement, she is told, “You are out of your mind!” They probably immediately went back to praying. Finally, after repeatedly banging on the gate, Peter is let into the house. So, have you ever prayed so fervently you didn’t know when God was at the door with the answer?

So, what are we praying for? Will we get up and answer the door? It is often a challenge to put voice to what we are asking God. Thankfully God has provided the help you need when you don’t know what to pray. Romans 8:26-27 tells us, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Each of us have lived through dark days which now should give us the confidence to be able to stay hopeful and look forward to what God will do through this situation. These days will be one of the many milestones of our life when we someday look back and tell the next generation: God is able. We will then share together, “Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power.” Psalm 21:13

God is great,

Pastor Lynn

Unleashed: As You Go – Pray

“When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Luke 19:5
Zacchaeus lived the good life. He had the best things money could buy, lived in one of the biggest houses in town, had political influence, and set his own standard of righteousness. Paul David Tripp says it well; “Here’s the danger for me and for you: sin doesn’t always look sinful to us. It’s hard to admit, but sometimes sin actually looks beautiful to us.” Zacchaeus probably decided sin actually looked pretty nice. Except something was still missing!
That something was a someone. That someone was Jesus. Zacchaeus went out of his way to see Jesus. This dignified yet hated leader of the community did a most undignified thing: he climbed up a tree like some neighborhood kid. This was no small feat considering he was wearing a robe! Did he go out to see the latest buzz star in the country? Maybe, but I don’t think so. Jesus got to the tree, looked up and called him by name. Rock stars don’t stop and call you by name, but a Savior who cares about you, He calls you by name.
While others only saw Zacchaeus as a hated tax collector, Jesus saw his heart. When Jesus called him by name, “he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.” There was no hesitation by Zacchaeus to follow Jesus. There was no hesitation by Zacchaeus to give up everything for the sake of the gospel. There was no hesitation by Zacchaeus to right the wrongs he had done.
Forgiveness is a wonderful thing, but we need more. God not only forgives, but he also gets inside of us by His Spirit. The Spirit that now lives inside us is a warrior Spirit, who by grace does battle with my sin even in moments when I don’t care too.
Jesus looked into the eyes of Zacchaeus and spoke these words of life to him. “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
 
Never again did Zacchaeus have to climb a tree to see his Savior. Never again did Zacchaeus live as the outcast in his community. Never again did Zacchaeus see sin as beautiful. Zacchaeus said “yes” to an invitation that would forever change his life. For those who have said “yes” to Jesus’ invitation, life has been changed forever.
Today officially begins our church’s focus on “A Forty Day Journey.” This is a  journey both inward and outward as we seek God’s insight and renewal in our lives. We will read the same scripture passages daily but each of us will receive something different from the passage for our lives. I hope we don’t see the Forty Day Devotions as a program but, rather, as a journey with each other. Spend time soaking in the scripture passage and letting it be a time spent in hearing from God and praying out of the verse(s).
“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be over all the earth.” Psalm 108:5

God Is Great

Pastor Lynn Burton

Unleashed: As You Go – Pray

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” John 10:14

Jesus is so much more than a point of entry for Heaven. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. Occasionally I have found in my spiritual journey that the focus has been only a future tense of salvation: eternal life, or ,in the past tense of sin, forgiveness. Both the future and the past are important parts of our spiritual journey but Immanuel is in the present tense. Yes, I need a Savior for the past and for the future, but I also need a Savior for today, which is Jesus. Immanuel is the source of life for today, allowing you and me to live life, not in fear or doubt, but with hope, joy and confidence.

“Jesus doesn’t send us out with a pack of principles and promises. He doesn’t just guide our travels with a set of rules. No, he does so much more. He comes with us! He knows that we’ll never make it unless he is with us in every moment of every situation, location and relationship.”(Tripp)

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” (Gen 3:8) Adam and Eve had the privilege of daily walks with God until sin ripped the seams of the relationship. Yet God continued to care and provided salvation. Ultimately Jesus would restore the broken relationship. I for one am so thankful that Jesus is not a distance deity but one who walks with us through our daily life.

Probably one of the more famous poems is by Mary Stevenson, “Footprints in the Sand”. It’s been printed on posters, coffee cups and plaques. A simple poem that reminds us that Immanuel is with us through every challenge, every moment, every day of our life.

“One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there were one set of footprints.

This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints.
So I said to the Lord, “You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most tying periods of my life there have only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?”
The Lord replied, “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints, is when I carried you.”
 
“Footprints in the Sand” is a nice reminder but living life with Jesus means a lot more than a poem on a coffee cup. It is the very assurance of God with us. No longer do we walk alone, but we are able to live a life with of restored relationship, a transformed life and in the confident assurance of Jesus in our daily life. Jesus ended his earthly time with the greatest words we could hear in Matthew 28, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Test1

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)
Exciting, breath taking, unexplainable and amazing are just a few of the descriptive words for living in God’s Kingdom. Mountain moving faith isn’t the exception, but it is God’s plan for the way his children should live. There is an interesting exchange between Peter and Jesus in Matthew 17. Peter has been to the mountaintop and reprimanded along with the other disciples about their lifeless faith and confronted with the impending death of Jesus. Then this interchange happens:
“After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” “Yes, he does,” he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes-from their own children or from others?” “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”
Can you imagine the dialogue going on in Peter’s head when he heard what Jesus told him to do? Maybe he wondered, “Did he really say to me “go fishing”? Catch a coin spitting fish? Jesus has told me some crazy things but this tops them all. I don’t understand but I will do it.”
 
Jesus didn’t just tell Peter to go catch a fish and sell it to pay the tax. That would have been a miracle in itself if one fish could be sold for the tax. No, the fish will have a coin. Nothing at this point made sense to Peter but out of obedience and faith he walked to the sea’s edge to catch a fish. Sometimes it takes faith just to walk to the edge.
Peter could have said it wasn’t logical or practical and refused. He could have decided that he had a better way than going fishing. He could have formed a committee to figure out how to pay the tax. Yet he chose to listen to Jesus. Just think what it must have done for Peter’s faith when he took this slimy coin and put it in the religious leader’s hand.
Oswald Chambers says it well, “Oh, the bravery of God in trusting us! Do you say, “But He has been unwise to choose me, because there is nothing good in me and I have no value”? That is exactly why He chose you.”
 
Prayer focus:
Lord, grow the mustard seed of faith in me until I am moving mountains for you. Thank you for allowing me to experience the mountain top vista of your Kingdom.

God Is Great

Pastor Lynn Burton