Friday, May 30, 2008

Prayer Is The Work!?!

Below is a devotional that I did for the Africa Revolution board meeting this past Monday. I am hesitant even to write much or talk much about prayer, because I feel like I too often give lip service to the importance of prayer that is not backed up with a lifestyle of continuous & earnest prayer. Nonetheless, I was challenged as I shared this with the board on Monday, and the power and priority of prayer very much resonates with me.

The following excerpts from “Prayer And Missions” by E.M. Bounds within The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds and are slightly adapted…

“Prayer has a great deal to do with missions. The success of all real missionary effort is dependent on prayer. The life and spirit of missions are the life and spirit of prayer. Both prayer and missions were born in the divine mind. Prayer and missions are bosom companions. Prayer creates and makes missions successful, while missions leans heavily on prayer (p. 142)”

“The key of all missionary success is prayer. The Africa Revolution board on her knees fasting and praying (alongside of both African and American churches in prayer), is the great base of spiritual supplies, the sinews of war, and the pledge of victory in this great work of the Lord. Financial resources are not the real sinews of war in this fight. Machinery itself carries no power to break down walls, open effectual doors, and win hearts to Christ (nor can it bring about holistic redemption). Prayer alone can spark a revolution! (p. 143)”

“The Africa Revolution board has done a paltry thing when she furnished the money to establish missions and support her missionaries. Money is important, but money without prayer is powerless. Prayerless giving breeds barrenness and death. Poor praying at home is the solution of poor results in the field. Prayerless giving is the secret of all crises in the missionary movements of the day, and is the occasion of the accumulation of debts in missionary boards (p. 143).”

“It is truly wonderful how great a part money plays in the modern religious movements, and how little prayer plays in them. In striking contrast with that statement, it is marvelous how little a part money played in primitive Christianity as a factor in spreading the gospel, and how wonderful a part prayer played in it (p. 144).”

“The grace of giving is nowhere cultured to a richer growth than in the closet. If all our missionary boards were turned into praying bands, until the agony of real prayer and travail with Christ for a perishing world came on them, real estate, bank stocks, bonds would be in the market for the spreading of Christ’s gospel among men. If the spirit of prayer prevailed, missionary boards who individual members are worth millions (or maybe thousands in our case), would not be staggering under a load of debt and great churches would not have a yearly deficit and a yearly grumbling, grudging, and pressure to pay a beggarly assessment to support a mere handful of missionaries, with the additional humiliation of debating the question of recalling some of them. The ongoing of Christ’s Kingdom is locked up in the closet of prayer by Christ himself, and not in the contribution box (p. 144).”

“Is the harvest great? Are the laborers few? Then, “pray ye the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into his harvest.” Oh that a great wave of prayer would sweep over the Africa Revolution board asking God to send out a great army of laborers into the harvest fields of the earth (Africa)! No danger of the Lord of the harvest sending out too many laborers and crowding the fields. He who calls will most certainly provide the means for supporting those whom he calls and sends forth (p. 148).”

“The one great need in the modern missionary movement is intercessors (p. 148).”

Mark 1:35
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
Luke 5:16 (NIV)
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray.

Acts 1:14
All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

Acts 4:31
And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Acts 12:5
So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
Acts 12:12
…he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.

Acts 15:3
Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them (Paul and Barnabas) and sent them off.

Acts 16:25
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God…

Matthew 9:36-37
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

1 Thessalonians 5:17
Pray without ceasing.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thinking About Legacy

The week before last (May 15-17) I attended the Urban Youth Worker's Institute (UYWI) national conference in Azusa, CA. The theme for this year's conference was "Living The Legacy." Each general session focused on a different element of legacy: legacy of faith, legacy people, legacy at-risk, legacy of love, and legacy unwritten. All of the messages were very inspiring. During the first two messages we were reminded of the hall of faith found in Hebrews Chapter 11, which Hebrews 12:1 refers to as the "great cloud of witnesses." We were exhorted to take the baton from the saints that have "ran the race" before us - both from the saints of the OT mentioned in Hebrews 11 and from historical figures such as Billy Graham, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mother Teresa. The emphasis was on us as the next generation of leaders to run with endurance, but we were also challenged to think about who we were passing the baton to. We were asked the question, "what legacy are you writing?" or "what legacy are you passing on?"

Part of my trip to California also involved spending time with my grandpa and grandma Clark. My grandpa is 91 years old. I discovered on this trip that he accepted Christ when he was 23 years old. His parents were not believers to my knowledge. So he was the first to carry the baton on my dad's side of the family. He has been running for Jesus ever since. He pastored 4-5 different churches over the span of many years, and he is still a man of God's Word. He has run well for many years. Spending time with him, and then attending the conference, made me think about the fact that he passed the baton of fatih on to my dad. My dad has been running for Jesus ever since he came to know Christ. My dad, in turn, passed the baton of faith onto me. I began running for Jesus at the age of 19, and I have sought to follow Him ever since.

During my visit, and since returning I have been thinking about who I am passing the baton to. Lord willing, one day it is my desire to pass the baton of faith onto my biological sons. In addition to any biological children that I may have in the future, it is also the desire of my heart and a huge part of my calling to pass the baton of faith on to spiritual sons. During the closing session of the conference we were instructed to make a list of those whom we were seeking to pass the legacy of faith onto. I have been thinking about that ever since.

In 2 Timothy 2:1-2 Paul writes to Timothy, "You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." Within these two verses, Paul refers to a legacy of faith that passes through 4 generations:

Paul > Timothy > faithful men > others.

I am reminded then that as a follower of Christ I must have a "legacy mindset." It is not optional. It is a mandate - "Go and make disciples of all nations..." I have been thinking much about running with endurance and passing the baton. In the midst of this, God has spoken powerfully to me through Hebrews 12:2, and reminded me that in order to run or pass that my focus must be on Christ.

Hebrews 12:2

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

California Love

I spent Sunday May 11th through Sunday May 18th in southern California. I was able to spend part of the time with family and the other part of the time at UYWI (Urban Youth Worker's Institute). It was a great trip - very refreshing. I will write more later, but here are the picture highlights from the trip...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

National Day Of Prayer

Today is the national day of prayer. There are many things that need to be lifted up in prayer. I could write several entries and not come up with an exhaustive list. However, I would like to encourage everyone to lift up Chicago in your prayers today. Specifically, I ask that you would pray against the violence that has been occurring recently in the city. This school year alone approximately 25 Chicago Public School students have been killed as a result of violence (they weren't necessarily killed "at school" but they are all students within the school system). This number is possibly even higher than this because not all incidents get the same amount of news coverage. Two weekends ago there were 30 shootings in Chicago over the course of the weekend.

All of this violence has hit close to home this year (and in recent years) because it effects the young people that I work with - it effects my kids. In September a 14 year old young man was shot across the street from my building. When I cam walking home on that Friday evening, there was yellow tape marking off the scene of the crime. The student that was killed that night was a part of the 8th grade classroom that I volunteer in. The teacher has intentionally left his desk as it was. His name tag is still on the desk. No one moves his chair. Everyone in the classroom was effected in some way by the incident. Recently, as the violence in the city has picked up the most consistent prayer requests from our tutoring kids (2nd through 5th graders) is for safety for them and for their families and for their friends. Whether a young person is 7 or 16, they are very much aware of the violence and of what seems an ever-present sense of the threat of violence.

Here is a video that was on the Chicago Tribune's web site today that highlights the effects that violence has on kids.

In future blog entries, I am going to highlight what ministries and community organizations around the city and in my neighborhood (Woodlawn) are doing to combat this violence. But in this entry, I am asking that you join with me in prayer. Pray that peace would reign in the streets of our city. Pray that the young people and their families would be protected. Pray also for those that are caught up in the violence - those who see limited other alternatives and possibilities outside of the streets. Pray that a sense of hope and love would overwhelm them. Pray for God's people in the city. Pray that we would not retreat, but that we would raise up and have a real presence (Real ministry happens within the context of real relationships). Pray that God would move and that Christ would be lifted up.