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June Newsletter-Prayer

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Don’t know about you, but I’ve found too many times that beg for prayer recently.  Whether personally, or for family, friends, country or for the world, I can’t remember a more necessary time to quietly approach the Love of God in prayer for all.  Call it pressure or stress or just plain old fallen world, so many things are in need of repair/salvation that it’s a daily effort to stay on top of all the occurrences of need.  I remember studying prayer in a Bible study years ago.  I was certain that I knew what prayer was not, but struggled to express a definition shared in the Gospel message of Christ as to what prayer was.  I found help over the years having read and re-read E. W. Bullinger’s statement about prayer.  In fact, I thought so much of it I have it printed on the wall of our WBVN studio.

What is prayer?…  “Prayer is the breath of the new nature.”  Just as the natural breath is the sign and evidence of physical life, so prayer is the mark and sign of the possession of spiritual life…  Natural life commences with breathing and the breathing produces a cry.  It is so with the New Birth… From that moment, breathing continues as the spontaneous outcome of the New Life.

No knowledge of Physiology is required for the one (breath), and no knowledge of Theology is necessary for the other (prayer)… The moment it becomes the subject of discussion—its essence is gone…The moment we reason about prayer we make it artificial.  But true prayer is spontaneous.  Our business in natural life is to breathe and not to think about it.  Our business in spiritual life is to breathe (to pray) and not to think about it.  The moment we begin to think about our prayer we are occupied with the means and lose the end…

I’ve read each Bible scripture where Jesus prayed; 25 incidents are cited in Matthew, Luke, Mark and John.  My favorite prayer is the most lengthy one found in John 17, more about that later.   1Thes. 5:17 encourages us to pray always, finding Grace and Help for all our needs.  In the 25 times recorded of Jesus’ prayers, He prayed alone, in public, before meals, after meals, before healings and after healings.  He prayed for guidance and even showed us how to pray in the Lord’s Prayer.  (Matt. 18, Luke 11)  And of course we all grew up with the example of the 23rd Psalm as a Messianic Prophecy prayer about a future Lord.  I do think there’s a difference to be noted in the Old Testament prayer teachings contrasted with the New.  There’s a victory in the New Testament prayers that are only hoped for in the Old.  Something happened in the prayers of Jesus and Paul that confirmed the presence of a new way of praying and relating to the Father, a new confidence in the relationship between the Creator and the human heart.

In John 17, Jesus prayed for himself, his disciples and all believers in a way that’s the perfect place for us to see the heart of God for praying today.  Simply, it’s a prayer of hope established upon Jesus’ unique knowledge of the compassion of God for Him and for us.  To paraphrase:  Father be with me (on the way to Gethsemane)…what We set out to do before there was time, that is finished.  Be with Your people, keep them, be One with them as We are One that they may know that You Love them as You Love Me.  … (know) that the Love I have with You may be in them and I in them…  It was a prayer from a heart of hope and confidence in the One to whom he is praying.  Jesus knew the Father fully, intimately, and knew that His purpose was to do all that He asked from before the foundation of the world.  Jesus knew full well that the Father could be trusted in all things.

One thing Jane and I were privileged to experience during her Chicago hospitalization, during her recovery months later, and even today, every day, is the wonderful position that we’ve been placed in because of the life, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.  It’s a free Gift of God to be trusting and able to put our lives in His hands.  We’ve been placed in a position (as a gift) by One who has accomplished something for us that we are not capable of purchasing with just our own efforts and our prayers.  That gift, to Jane and me in that moment, was a comfort to our hearts, a confirmation to the Father that we get it, we receive it and we know it beyond a shadow of a doubt.  It was, as Jane keeps reminding me, simply that ‘Christ is enough!  That’s really our prayer. A thanksgiving for Him being enough no matter what.  It can be as natural as that breath written about in Bullinger’s definition of prayer.june2016

The Apostle Paul teaches: confess Him with your words, say the same thing about you as the Father says about you, be the same in little and in much.  What we pray in some sense doesn’t have to change much with our earthly circumstances.  What is true about God, what was accomplished by Jesus, what Victory He grabbed for us, is true even in times where they don’t look so true.  I discovered a whole new truth about the scripture that refers to not living by sight while on the 5th floor of that Chicago hospital….no matter what I was seeing in Jane’s health, no matter what was said about her condition, I knew that God was with us.  God was present.  God was her Father, loved her more than even a husband can, and He had said and confirmed with that Love to be with her, to hold her, and have great compassion for her.  Our prayers were prayers of thanksgiving for a God that did not, would not, leave or forsake either of us even in that moment of near death, not even in this time of walking through the valley of shadow of death that we were experiencing.  Our prayers and our hopes were braided together with our trusting in the God that we knew and a Christ that had paid a very dear price to be with us mingled in the middle of our lives, even in the very moment that threatened to extinguish this life itself.

Well, I still don’t know that I know very much about prayer.  I try not to do things described as taking thought in order to pray.  Prayer should be very much a natural conversation with the Father and not labor anymore than our breathing is labor.  The idea of praying without ceasing brings to mind the ease of a continual conversation between believers and The Believed.  That’s part of our gift from God.  It’s an Abba relationship that has been granted to us just like a son or daughter communicating with their mother or father.  One of the real challenges of our Faith is to have the grace and peace to do as Jesus said to do: pray like this, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your Name, Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done…..’ That relationship with God got him crucified; it was a price he was willing to pay for your opportunity to pray that same way!

“…pray without ceasing…”

Jason Gray with Scott MacIntyre

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May Newsletter-Peace

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When questioned by his mother what he learned in Sunday School, eight-year-old Justin answered, ‘We learned when God sent Moses behind the enemy lines to rescue the Israelites from the Egyptians.  The teacher said that when they came to the Red Sea, Moses called for the engineers to build a pontoon bridge and they all just barely got across it in time, because the Egyptians were right behind them, coming in tanks and Moses radioed headquarters on the walkie-talkie to send bombers to blow up the bridge and they did and all the Egyptians were stuck and that’s how Mmay1oses saved the Israelites.’

The mother questioned, ‘Justin is that really the way the teacher told the story?’  Justin quietly confessed, ‘Well, not exactly, but if I told it her way you’d never believe it.’

That’s where we find ourselves today.  We have a story that just seems to be easier to ‘un-believe’ rather than believe.  Yet the whole story is rooted in the fact that believing it is what makes the story so easy. Even the best of us seem to have an innate ability to hear a wonderfully delivered sermon, or read a gifted author, or see miraculous events with our own eyes and two days later (if not two hours later) find ourselves second guessing our heart’s original  interpretation of those events.  Something about our nature interrupts our heart.  I remember writing a couple of letters ago about how for years we’ve been taught that the Gospel is real in our heads but we just can’t seem to get it to drop down in our hearts.  Steve Wiggins has a song on the station about the “18 Inches Journey” describing just that image.  However, after a few years thinking about it, I think we have our image of that backwards.  The Spirit of Christ’s home is in our hearts, He has taken up residence there. Our real problem is that when we come into contact with our heart (and His presence there) we quickly start walking back.  We start losing what’s true in our heart because we simply can’t get what’s in our heart settled in our brain.  Paul taught of a transformation that must take place, a metamorphosis of our minds. A migration from depending upon what we think all the time to what we know in our inner being is the transformation we need.  How many times have you known the right thing to do, the best thing to do, you know that from your heart but your thinking/logic machine keeps you from acting on the Truth contained in your heart? We’re guilty of recalling too much in our heads and dismissing what we know in our hearts.  (Jeremiah 31:33- ‘…saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.’  A New Covenant, a new way for God to relate and to walk with believers!)

may2Part of our problem is that the Gospel is not a logical Faith.  So much of it is upside down contrasted to our training and education.  Jesus was upside down on just about everything.  Losing is winning, giving is receiving, Faith as a mustard seed produces huge Faith, a King without a place to lay His head, the last will be first, etc.  His is a Kingdom, for all practical and logical purposes, that squeezes our ‘gray matter’.  It’s a Message that comes with a brain-struggle and that obligates us to a journey of having to transform our thinking.   Believing in Jesus solves the heart problem-it does not fix the ‘stinking’ thinking problem. :-)

I was doing some lexicon reading recently and noticed that Jesus spoke of Peace and Rest as something that’s generated from Him and not from our own attempts of self management.  The Greek word for Peace of God and for His Rest is used interchangeably most the time.  Freeing ourselves from all care and anxiety, coming to tranquility and un-troubledness (I’ll call it) is a story very much like Justin’s– if I told you the Truth you would not believe.

Simply, real Peace and true Rest come into our lives as gifts from God.  They don’t require us to do something for them, He’s done something already on our behalf that causes us to benefit from His blessing.   This is not the kind of peace that the United Nations claims to be able to give, it’s not sleep for our earth suits, it’s not even a peace or rest that can be described as isolating or promises the absence of stress, pressure or calamity.  This is His Peace and His Rest that’s referred to in Matthew 11-28: ‘Come unto me, all that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you (the) rest.’  It’s the ‘Peace I leave with you, my Peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid,’ of John 14-27.  It’s a Peace the world can’t give!  This is the Rest of Hebrews Chapter 4, not the kind of rest doctors try to produce, this one can’t be purchased at Walmart, politicians and their promises have no access to this Peace.  The Rest is one only God gives as a free gift to those folks that perceive that Jesus is exactly who He said He is.  That’s the problem and the issue that Paul addresses in the metamorphosis described above.  We need to repent of that ‘stinking’ thinking and our logical reasoning, our placing human aspect to God and begin the journey to have our brains get in agreement with the mind of Christ (in our hearts).   We need to follow Christ’s Wisdom by confessing, simply saying the same thing about Jesus, the Spirit and the Father that they say about themselves.  It’s not our job to make the Gospel line up with our reasoning and logic but it’s our role to line up with His ways and His Truths.  It’s amazing when you visit Scripture and realize that in the New Testament you cannot use the words Righteousness, Sanctification, Forgiveness, Atonement, Salvation, Faith, Hope, Love, Holiness without a reference to Jesus Christ. They don’t exist apart from Him.  ‘My Peace I give to you’ is not a statement about us finding something we can produce in our lives by our efforts; any peace we create can be uncreated at any moment.  His Peace is granted and permanent to us in the middle of any storm, fear and weakness:

Rom 5:3-5  … we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given*, given, given! unto us. (*Greek: freely, unforced)

Paul is teaching us that this Peace is a journey, moving progressively through learning to trust as we gain experience and confidence in the inner Spirit of God that dwells within those that believe.  This kind of trust doesn’t come overnight.  Experience and ‘hanging in’ when things are tough puts us in touch with that kind of Rest.  The easiest way to say it: ‘we simply learn to stand! and stand Peacefully.’  Like Justin, this is a Peace/Rest that if expressed scripturally seems like the kind of story we cannot believe in.  I often think about eternity and how this same creature, this creature that so easily forgets or ignores its heart, this creature that so eagerly seems to not remember what it has experienced or seen with its heart, that same creature, once standing face to face with God and in touch with only its heart (not its ‘stinking’ thinking), has the ability to be overwhelmed with the Love of God for all of eternity.  We can surely find a bit of that ability now; it’s inside us by the Spirit of God.  Once the earthly vanishes, what we have left is a creature that can naturally Rest in Who God is. We can start a bit of that now. may3

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