Week of Prayer – Day 4

Thursday Focus: Pray for a deepened life of intimacy and fellowship with God.

Spirit of God, I open my heart to you this day. Come and do in me that greatest of your works — to reveal Christ’s  reality and person to me. Answer in me what Paul prayed: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” (Ephesians 1:17). How else can I put it? Help me to know you better. Let me experience the fellowship of your Spirit and the deepening of my own relationship with you. Forgive my indifference to you, my passion for things other than you. Let me experience you active and living in every moment of my life. Let joy that is rooted in your presence transcend routine, boredom, drudgery and even pain. Make me alive to your heart and deepen my love for you. Let adoration and gratefulness mark my disposition as you reveal yourself to me. Help me to relish alone times with you and give me grace to defeat the distractions and noise of the world I will navigate today. Help me to also find you in ordinary converstaions with others, tasks done in the power of your Spirit and moments of divine appointment. Take me further with you and in you. You are my heart’s desire and I set my heart upon you today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Week of Prayer – Day 3

Wednesday Focus: Pray for faith and provision for those suffering from the economic downturn.

Dear Lord, we acknowledge you as the giver of every good thing and the ultimate source of our provision. Help our eyes to be upon you today. You told us not to worry about what we shall “eat,” “drink” or “wear” but rather to seek first your kingdom and righteousness and “all these things will be given to you as well.” (Jesus, Matthew 6:31,33). Forgive us for our seeming inability to do that so much of the time. Replace our worry with faith, replace our fear with peace and, where necessary, replace our greed with contentment. We ask you to provide for our needs if we have lost jobs or cannot make the house payments. And we pray for those who are struggling financially all across our nation . We ask that soon we will witness a turn-around in our economy and a new footing economically in people’s lives. Provide jobs and lift people up. Meanwhile give us the courage to reduce debt, to budget wisely and to keep your kingdom principles and priorities first. Provide also for churches and charitable organizations that are feeling the impact of reduced giving. Help your people to be generous and to stay focused on your mission in the world as the opportunities to minister grow in this environment. Through these historically difficult days financially open our hearts to you and meet our needs as we seek you. This we humbly and dependently ask, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Week of Prayer – Day 2

Tuesday Focus: Pray for wisdom and grace for President Obama on his inauguration today.

Sovereign Lord, we thank you for your justice, your righteousness and your Kingly rule. Like Jesus we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We also acknowledge the role of civil authorities in human society. May they, too, serve as extensions of your justice and righteousness in governing the affairs of our nation. On this historic day we pray specifically pray for President-elect Obama. As he places his hand upon Lincoln’s Bible and pledges the oath of office to be our next President, give him unusual grace and wisdom. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” (Proverbs 21:1) Lord, would you do that on behalf of President Obama? Direct his heart in your way, deepen his own personal relationship with you and be his strength today. Give him favor among world leaders and give him supernatural ability to govern our nation well. Like Solomon, give him breadth of understanding and insight. Protect him from ungodly pressures or convictions and make him an instrument of your hand in our day. Bless his family, his staff and advisors, his Cabinet members and all who serve with him. Help him to navigate the incredible expectations that have been projected upon him and may he glorify you as you place your hand upon him. We give you praise for this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Week of Prayer – Day 1

Monday Focus: Pray for righteousness, racial tolerance and spiritual renewal in our country.

Our Heavenly Father, let us never take for granted the freedoms and blessings that are ours in the United States. We are grateful! May your grace be upon our country during this historic week. You said that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34) Turn back the rising tide of impurity, arrogance, self-trust and self-love in our nation. Forgive the legally sanctioned sin of abortion as well as the culturally sanctioned idolatries of sensuality and materialism. Thank you for Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a world where people are judged by character rather than color. Cleanse prejudice from our hearts wherever it may lurk. Help us to love all people and stay prayerful in all ways. Send a spiritual awakening to America. Let the sacrifice and sufficiency of Jesus become our portion and our hope again. Raise up righteousness and build your living church. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ,  Amen.

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From Gethsemane to the Upper Room

Our trip to Israel continues well. We feel safe and at this point we will be able to visit Bethlehem (within Palistinian territory) tomorrow. Meanwhile we pray for a resolution to the tragedy in Gaza as we hear both sides of the issue debated here.

This morning in Jerusalem we walked down the Palm Sunday route from the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane. Here Jesus battled with the ultimate bottom line for every one of us — God’s way or our way and way. Beside the Garden of Gethsemane with olive trees nearly 200 0years old there is a church built around the ‘rock of agony’ where Jesus submitted to the Father’s will. We had the opportunity to kneel and pray there ourselves — this is one of the most meaningful places in the Holy Land for me personally.

We eventually ended up our touring this afternoon in the Upper Room where God’s Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost. In a way it was a fitting follow-through to the Gethsemane visit in the morning. Just as resurrection followed Gethsemane and the Cross for Jesus, the power of Pentecost is the follow-through to our own yielding to God’s will. It is here, at the end of ourselves, that we encounter power not our own. We prayed, sang and worshipped in the Spirit at the Upper Room today. Jesus told his first followers to not even try to be yoked with him in mission and ministry without receiving the Spirit’s power. My best is not enough. I need Christ’s Spirit in a very fundamental and profound way. May it be for all of us! Thanks for praying for us on this journey.

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Crossing the Jordan

It’s Sunday morning here in Jordan. We will be leaving Amman this morning and returning to Israel, crossing the Jordan just north of the Dead Sea. Israeli troups entered Gaza last night, so security might be tighter than usual at the border but otherwise we remain well away from the southwest corner of Israel where the conflicts are taking place. The tour has been wonderful so far.

Over the past couple of days in Jordan we have visited Petra and Mount Nebo. Petra is far to the south, beside “Wadi Mousa” or the “Valley of Moses.” This is the traditional sight of the burial of Moses’ brother Aaron and a place associated with the travelings of the children of Israel as they journeyed north to Moab and the Jordan river crossing into the promised land. Petra is one of the wonders of the ancient world — a city carved in the mountains. During Moses’ time it was inhabited by the Edomites.

Mount Nebo is much closer to Amman. From here Moses looked over the Jordan River to see the Promised Land. It was a very clear day and we could actually see as far as Jerusalem, with Jericho in the foreground on the other side of the Jordan River. Often we use this view as a metaphor for setting our eyes on heaven, our ‘promised land.’ It is also a sobering spot for spiritual leaders to visit. It was because of Moses’ frustration with the people of God that he took things into his own hands and disobeyed God. As a result God would not let him enter the promised land. I appreciate everyone’s prayers for me and our pastoral and lay leaders that our hearts will stay faith-filled, obedient and servant-centered in love.

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Happy New Year from Israel

It is New Year’s Eve here in Israel. Our group made it safely after delayed and missed flights out of the US.  Our first three days of touring have taken us up to the Galilee area in northern Israel. That puts us the at the other end of the country from where the conflicts in Gaza have been taking place. We feel quite safe and our tour is progressing well. Thanks for your prayers for us.

I am having trouble uploading pictures with the hotel internet connection I have right now, but suffice it to say that actually being in the place where so many events from Jesus life took place is amazing.  There is evidence everywhere of the detailed historic and geographic accuracy of the events described in the Bible.  We have seen the altar in Dan where King Jeroboam erected the golden calf and the town of Capernaum where Jesus centered so much of his Galilee ministry. Yesterday we visited the cliff face of Caesarea Philippi where Jesus proclaimed “upon this rock I will build my church” and today we sat on the Mount of Beatitudes looking out over the Sea of Galilee where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. Each place the profoundness and consistency of the gospel message has impacted us.

On Monday we looked out over the Valley of Armageddon while jet fighters and helicopters buzzed the skies above, probably in operations connected to the conflict in Gaza to the south. It was a bit ominous. Closing out 2008, a very unusual year by many measurements, that experience reminds me that Christ’s second coming is now a year closer. On this New Year’s Eve, let me not only say ‘Happy New Year’ but in the words of Jesus, ‘let us work while it is day.’ May 2009 be tangibly blessed of the Lord in your life and in return may we be desperate for him and unusually focused on living by faith with his eternal priorities at the center of our lives. May God bless you to that end and, indeed, Happy New Year!

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