Thursday, January 29, 2009

Are You Praying for Your President?

Praying for the new president

Mercer Island Reporter Columnist

Last week, I watched Pastor Rick Warren and Rev. Joseph Lowery bookend the Inauguration ceremonies in prayer. As I contemplated from my living room what it would be like to be given such a unique opportunity, I realized I already knew. Well, sort of.

Several years ago, my family lived in a Chicago suburb. A state senator friend invited me to give the invocation at the Illinois capitol in Springfield. I was humbled and honored. Although the scenario paled in significance to what Pastor Warren or Rev. Lowery experienced, I felt honored. At the podium, I called on the Creator to guide the senators and to give them a sensitivity to His will as they served their constituencies.

Three months later, I walked with my senator-friend in an old-fashioned 4th of July parade. At the conclusion of the parade, Peter said that he wanted to introduce me to one of his fellow senators. “Here’s someone with as unusual a name as yours,” Peter said to the tall, 40-something black man. “Barack Obama, meet Greg Asimakoupoulos.”===>Click headline to access complete article . .

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Power of Praying a Blessing

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Let Us Stand for the Benediction
Reclaiming the lost art of blessing.
Lee Eclov

Let Us Stand for the Benediction

I like to ask people new to our congregation about their first impressions of Village Church. Mary's answer surprised me. "I've been part of a church family for as long as I can remember," she said, "but this is the only church where the pastor blessed his people at the end of the service." She always thought the benediction was the last hymn the congregation sang before returning to the world; she didn't know it was God's blessing on his people.

"When you stretched out your arms and sang a song of blessing over us," she said, "I was moved to tears. You weren't just sending us out to face the world on our own; you were pouring out God's blessing and Spirit on us so that we would be better prepared to face the world."

Benedictions have become one of my favorite pastoral privileges. I can't imagine ending a worship service with, "See you next week," or "You're dismissed," when I can offer a congregation God's blessing instead.

"This is how you are to bless …"

There are many kinds of benedictions. Some pastors write a unique blessing for each Sunday, drawing from the texts of the morning. Scripture itself provides the church with many blessings, including Paul's familiar, "Grace and peace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ." But one blessing is the source and summary of all others.

In Numbers 6:23–26, God instructed Moses that Aaron and his sons were to bless the Israelites in this way: "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace."===>Click headline to read the complete article . . .

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Friday, January 16, 2009

A Stronger God Connection

Prayer Power, Peter Lundell, 978-0-8007-3263-9
Prayer Power: 30 Days to a Stronger Connection with God
Your thirty-day journey to an incredible life of prayer.

In the crazy world around us, our prayers may too often seem ineffective. Do you want to connect with God when you pray and receive more direct answers? Prayer Power is the tool you need for building a more powerful, dynamic life of prayer.

Intensely practical and straightforward, Prayer Power helps you improve on thirty essential facets of prayer such as passion, routine, fasting, praying with others, listening to God, handling distractions, and spiritual warfare. In each brief chapter you'll be inspired by stories of people whose lives of prayer give us powerful examples. Prayer Power can be used as a monthlong devotional, as a prayer guide, or as a reference for help in specific areas. Whether you're a new believer or think you've heard it all, this book's refreshing and honest insight will guide you to a deeper connection with God.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Praying from the Second Chair


Cultivating Humility

“There are two ways to attain high esteem. One is the world’s method: Take every opportunity to promote yourself before others, seize occasions for recognition and manipulate your way into the center of attention. The other way is God’s way: Humble yourself. Rather than striving for recognition and influential positions, seek to put others first. Cultivate humility, for it does not come naturally. One of the many paradoxes of the Christian life is that when God sees your genuine humility, He exalts you.” Henry Blackaby

Leonard Bernstein, the late conductor of the New York Philharmonic orchestra, was asked what was the most difficult instrument to play. Without hesitation he replied, “The second fiddle! I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm - that’s a problem. And if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.”

This is the problem we as Christians face. We don’t easily want to play second fiddle, because it’s too humbling a position. We want to be important. In our last letter, we looked at the humility of Jesus. Continuing with that theme, let’s look at how we can cultivate a humble heart in our prayer life. In John 12, Mary of Bethany offered thanks humbly at the feet of Jesus. She freely gave her all with a grateful and abandoned heart. Clothing herself in humility, she poured a perfume on Jesus that he quickly recognized because of the sacrifice. It was costly. Many of us are worried about our finances and are consumed with thinking about an uncertain future. Mary gave her most valuable possession - worth $40,000 in our day - her entire inheritance and future. Most of us are worried about the economy in 2009. We worry about our retirement or money for college.

But take a moment to think about the reality of what Mary did in this one humble act. She freely gave her all to Jesus, and the fragrance of what she did filled the entire room. It seems in a world that is getting progressively dark, a fragrance of humility would make a marked difference. Mary had a humble heart. As we think about out life as this new year begins, what is one of the best things we can give one another and especially those in our own family? Perhaps we can offer a humble heart - A heart that looks out for the interests of others and is not self-seeking or proud - A heart that serves and loves unconditionally - A heart that cultivates humility in prayer. Isn’t this what Jesus wants in our life?

God hates pride and selfish ambition, but He loves the meek and lowly. Did you ever hear about the minister who said he had a wonderful sermon on humility, but he was waiting for a large crowd before preaching it? I think we can all identify with this preacher because we all need to grow in humility. It does not come naturally. Perhaps we need to be more like the scientist George Washington Carver. He developed hundreds of useful products from the peanut! When he was young he asked God to tell him the mystery of the universe. But God answered, “That knowledge is reserved for me alone.” So he said, “God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.” Then God said, “Well, George, that’s more nearly your size.” And he told him.

A good example of both the proud and the humble is the story about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The Tax Collector found favor with God. We read in Luke 18:13-14, “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ ‘I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’” I like Andrew Murray’s description of what humility meant in his own life. He said:

“Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is for me to have no trouble; never to be fretted or vexed or irritated or sore or disappointed. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord where I can go in and shut the door and kneel to my Father in secret and be at peace as in a deep sea of calmness when all around is trouble. It is the fruit of the Lord Jesus Christ's redemptive work on Calvary's cross, manifested in those of His own who are definitely subject to the Holy Spirit.”

Cultivating a Humble Heart in Prayer

“Learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart (Matthew 11:29).

Jesus is our daily example of humility. Mary and the Tax Collector are also excellent examples. As you consider cultivating humility, ask God to develop humility in your prayer life. Meditate long on the humility of Jesus as you apply the following:

  • Have a worshipping heart - Jesus had a worshipful heart. Worship and praise opens the heavens and brings heavens blessing onto the earth. It ushers in the glory of God. Begin your prayer time with a worshipping heart. Enter God’s court with praise.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations (Psalm 100:4-5).

  • Have a grateful heart - Jesus was always grateful. We need to be grateful through our speech. Gratefulness ministers the fragrance of thanksgiving and kindness. It carries a heavenly fragrance. It moves your eyes off of yourself and esteems God. It brings encouragement and victory. A grateful heart changes the atmosphere around you. Are you grateful to God for all that He has given you? Thank Him for specific things He has done for you this past year.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

  • Have an abandoned heart - Jesus gave His all for us. He did not use His divine power for His own ends while on earth but lived dependent on the Holy Spirit and abandoned to God. Jesus emptied Himself completely. Have you abandoned yourself to God in this new year of 2009? In prayer have you laid all your plans and desires at His feet? Why not do it now?

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6-7).

  • Have an obedient heart - Jesus was obedient even to death on a cross. He embraced a type of death that involved indescribable emotional shame and physical pain. In God’s presence, evaluate your life in the area of obedience. Have you obeyed God in every area of your life this past year? Write a prayer to God asking Him to help you in any areas you need to improve in.

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:8).

  • Have a servant’s heart - Jesus was the servant of all. He made Himself of no reputation. He embraced shame and disgrace as a (doulos) servant. He hid his glory under the veil of humanity. He did not insist on His own rights. Are you serving others? Evaluate your heart, and repent of any lack of humility or serving in your life. Take time being still first, and then specifically bring them before the Lord.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve...” (Mark 10:45). See John 13:3-17.

  • Have a considerate heart - Jesus considered others as more important than Himself. He was not self-absorbed or self-preoccupied but absorbed in the good of others. As you pray, consider others. Don’t be preoccupied with praying only for yourself, but bring the needs of others before the Lord in prayer.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5).

Let’s ask God to teach us humility in our daily life and in our prayers. A good Bible study to help us practice humility is Romans 12:14-21. In cultivating this great virtue, here are a few things we can keep in mind: 1) When we see pride in our life, repent quickly. 2) Learn to forgive others daily. 3) Believe the best in others, and practice covering their weaknesses (Proverbs 10:12, 17:9, 19:11). 4) Let others win an argument, and be silent in the face of opposition. 5) Remember to pray and bless those who persecute us. 6) Be gracious and kind in our speech. 7) Meditate on Jesus’ life of humility, and practice humility in our prayer life. If you do a study on the word “humility” in the Bible, you will be amazed at all the verses you’ll find. Luke 14:11, James 1:9, 4:6, 10, and 1 Peter 5:6 are just a few.

Many years ago a Christian professor named Stuart Blackie of the University of Edinburgh was listening to his students present their oral readings. One young man rose and begin to speak, but he was holding his book in the wrong hand. The professor thundered, “Take your book in your right hand and be seated!” Being harshly rebuked in this way, the student held up his right arm. He didn’t have a right hand! The other students were uneasy as the professor hesitated. Then he rose and went to the student. He put his arm around him and with tears streaming down his face, he said, “I never knew about it. Please, will you forgive me?” His humble apology made a lasting impact on the young man’s life.

Some time later this story was told in a large meeting of believers. At the end of the meeting a man came forward. He turned to the crowd and raised up his right arm. He had no right hand! He said, “I was that student. Professor Blackie led me to Christ. But he never could have done it if he had not made the wrong right.” Professor Blackie’s humility made a big difference in this student’s life. He did the right thing and humbled himself when he was wrong.

Simple acts of humility will make a difference in a world that esteems getting ahead and self-promotion. Jesus is our great example. One so strong and tender stooped so low for each one of us. Can we not do the same for Him?

“The most humbling thing one can do is to look upon how Jesus responded to suffering and mistreatment. His whole life was ordered around the attribute of meekness. It was his greatest pursuit. From the moment He was born the Father was contemplating His own humility in the person of His Son. Love would be openly displayed as Jesus went lower and lower. Anyone who truly looks upon the man Christ Jesus and His meekness will be left staring at the great mystery. How can One so strong be so tender as He stoops so low? Looking upon Jesus is the great sanctifier to areas of pride and anger in the human heart.” Allen Hood

Together in the Harvest,
Debbie Przybylski
Intercessors Arise

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