Thursday, January 18, 2018

Desperation and Prayer

Mike Hosey, An Elder
There is an interesting story in the bible in which Jehoshaphat, one of good kings of Judah, is being ambushed by an alliance of enemies (2 Chronicles 20:1-30).  The attacking armies are said to be vast. This alarms Jehoshaphat.  Thankfully, the first thing he does is ask God about it, and call a fast.

His move was wise.  In doing so he rallied his people and caused them to focus their thinking, beliefs, and energies on the one power they really had -- the God of everything! His spoken, public prayer is informative. In it, he lifts God up, calling to their remembrance how their Lord rules all the nations, and that no one can fight against him. He recalls the mighty things that God had produced for his people, like driving out the evil hordes that existed in the land before they arrived, and how he had given that land to his people. He asks God directly for assistance in this dire situation.  Ultimately, God answers the prayer, telling them that the won't even have to fight the enemy. In the end, the ambushing armies turn on themselves and collapse.

There is much to be taken from Jehoshaphat's story. But a few things stand out:

1) Jehoshaphat prays directly to God, and in the presence of other believers.  He speaks the words. He doesn't just silently go over them in his head. Everyone hears them. It is faith producing a behavioral result.

2) His words testify and remind everyone of the greatness of God.  Sometimes we forget what God is. We forget that he is master of all, that he has made everything, and that no one is above him, and that he is all powerful.

3) His words built faith because they were a remembrance of the great things God had already done, and everyone had already witnessed. When faith becomes real, people act on it.

4) They put their faith in action. When God told them to march out against the enemy, they did it.  And when they did, God put his power in action, and their enemies fell!

Jehoshaphat saw these things in a moment of desperation. Crisis has a way of creating focus. But these principles are just as valid when there is no crisis.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What's In a Name?

Mike Hosey, An Elder
Being specific is a necessity in so many of life’s domains.  For instance, if you’re going to set life goals, they should be specific, otherwise those goals will have no meaning. “My goal is to be the best,” doesn’t tell you anything. However, “I’m going to be the best by selling the most widgets,” gives you an actual, measurable target. “Lord, please forgive me for my sins,” isn’t nearly as helpful as, “Lord, please forgive me for the way I treated my co-worker this morning.” 

All prayer is the same way. This is especially true when we are praying for others. “Lord, please heal my friends in Sunday School,” is good, but, “Lord, please heal Edward from his addiction,” is exponentially better. Not because there’s any magic in using Edward’s name, and not because God doesn’t know his name or his addiction.  Instead, one reason that it’s better is that using your friend’s name creates a more personal connection in your own mind. It causes your mind to focus on your friend. While prayer is certainly a spiritual activity, it is also a mental one, so using his name will increase your empathy for him, and hopefully increase the earnestness of your petitions to God on his behalf because he’s no longer some fuzzy “anybody” in your Sunday School class. Further, it increases the likelihood of you remembering him throughout the week, and checking up on his progress when you see him again, which in turn will influence your future prayers. There is, more often than not, simply more sincerity in a prayer with a name, than in a prayer without one. 

This kind of sincerity and earnestness is modeled by Jesus.   Consider his plea for Simon Peter (Luke 22:31-32). Jesus calls him by name, twice.  He tells Peter, specifically, that he has prayed for him. The battle that Jesus engaged in was a dangerous spiritual one.  Satan had asked for Peter so that he could be “sifted like wheat.” Jesus entered that spiritual battle with specific mental focus in his prayers on Peter’s behalf. His prayer was personal.

If you want to make your prayers for others as effective as they can be, then don’t neglect to make them specific by naming the person for whom you are praying.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

What Does Prayer Do?

Mike Hosey, An Elder

There are few Christian disciplines as important as the discipline of prayer.  Ironically, there are few Christians who engage that discipline with either the frequency or the intensity that it warrants. In fact, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 commands us to pray without ceasing. What Paul meant by the command was that we should be ever aware of God’s power in our life, and that we should be ever listening for him, and ever focused on him at all times, and in all of life’s domains. Unfortunately, too many of us (me included) walk through our days without nary a thought of God. When we do that, the world will rob us of great power.

Here are a few examples of the great power that prayer offers:

It transforms us: One of the ways that we are transformed into new creatures so that we are no longer chained to the corruptions of this world is by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). Prayer is as much a sacrificial mental activity as it is a spiritual one. When we pray, we focus our minds on God. When our minds are focused on God, our behaviors, attitudes, values, emotions, and spirits will follow.

It provides us with a weapon: In describing the Armor of God to the church at Ephesus, Paul tells them to consider the Word of God as a sword, and then commands them to pray at all times (Ephesians 6:18). He is equating prayer with military hardware in our daily spiritual battles.

It helps us to determine God’s will: When we set our minds on God, and he renews that mind, and transforms us, we are better able to know what his will is (Romans 12:2). When we know what that will is, we are better able to walk in  line with God’s plan for our life.

Prayer brings comfort: The bible teaches us not to be anxious about anything, but to make our requests known to God through prayer, and that when we do, we’ll have an all surpassing peace (Philippians 4:6-7).

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Opportunity Knocks . . . Or Does It?

Mike Hosey, An Elder

Opportunity is best defined as a set of circumstances that make it possible for something to happen. For instance, if you develop a great computer idea that no one else has, and meet a childhood friend with great business savvy who is also interested in computers, there exists an opportunity for you to become one of the wealthiest and most influential people in the world. That’s a bit how Paul Allen and Bill Gates of Microsoft fame became the household names they are.

But opportunity is a tricky thing. It doesn’t always make itself easily known. Unfortunately, the adage that we should open the door when opportunity knocks isn’t a good one. Afterall, how do you know when it’s opportunity knocking and not something nefarious? Well, instead of waiting for opportunity to knock, it might be better to get on the other side of the door and seek it out.  Of course, this has problems as well.  As Thomas Edison noted, most people miss opportunity because it often comes dressed in overalls and looks like work! Edison’s wisdom is profound. If you don’t look for opportunity you will never see it, and if you don’t see it you won’t engage it, and if you don’t engage it, you won’t reap its potential. In other words, Edison is telling us that if you aren’t willing to work on multiple levels, then opportunity is a shadow, and a cruel time-wasting fantasy. The truth is that opportunity is everywhere. There is always, and all around us, sets of circumstances that make things possible.  These possibilities can be either good or bad.  If we look for opportunities to do things that waste our time and harm us, they easily can be found.  If we look for things that can edify us, edify our brothers and sisters, or that can advance the kingdom of God, they easily can be found. Think about it for a second.  No matter how many good things exist in your life, it is highly likely that opportunities to complain will abound if your mind is attuned to complaint -- despite the resources at your fingers. But in the same life, opportunities to better yourself more will also exist, and you’ll have the resources to engage the opportunities. In the poorest of lives, where opportunities seem few, and hardships many, some people shun complaining and rise to higher levels.

Paul cements these truths when he commands us to take opportunity to do good to everyone, explaining that if we nurture our flesh, we’ll get corruption, but if we nurture our spirit, we’ll get life (Galatians 6:6-10).

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Name of Jesus!

Mike Hosey, An Elder

One marvelous evening, the angel Gabriel appeared to Joseph in dream and announced to him that Mary would have a child, and that they would name him Jesus. He explained how this name was appropriate because the child will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Joseph obeyed the angel’s message and they named their miraculous child, Jesus. For those of us who believe, the rest is history. But what, exactly, is the origin of that now wonderful name?

The New Testament is written primarily in Greek. Since the writers of the gospels were advancing their narrative in a mostly Greek world, they used a greek word to translate the Hebrew name given to Joseph by the angel Gabriel. Joseph and Mary were Hebrew.  So the name that Gabriel gave them was a Hebrew name. That name was Yeshua. So follow this if you can.  Jesus is the English transliteration for the Greek version of the Hebrew name, Yeshua. The name means, essentially, “God is our salvation.” Think about that in terms of the other name that Gabriel used.  He also said that his name was Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23). That name means, “God with us.”

Interestingly, if you read through the Old Testament, you will find over and over again the English word, “salvation.”  It is frequently translated from the word, “Yeshua,” which is the Hebrew name for Jesus. Just a few examples (randomly picked) are Psalm 70:4, Psalm 74:12, and Psalm 88:1.

Now, consider that Gabriel told Joseph that Jesus would rescue his people from their sins. His statement assumes ownership, and implies common experience. In his humanity, Jesus is one of us. And when we choose to follow him, we are his people. He has lived with us and walked among us (John 1:14). In fact, he has experienced the temptations that we have (Hebrews 4:15), but has not sinned. He is God with us (Immanuel), and the one who saves us (Yeshua)!