Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Wonderful Time of Prayer

Our congregation is currently having a time of 24 hour prayer at our church. We believe that God opened a door for us to do this a little over a month ago when two members of our prayer group, independent of each other's knowledge, presented a case for 24 hour prayer at our church and did so within a few hours of each other.

As I write this, we are in the tenth hour of prayer and the last hour of the year 2006. This has been and continues to be a blessed time as we reflect on the past year and pray for a spirit of repentance on the individual, family, congregational and national church level. Our pastor today preached in conjunction with our vigil of prayer. He preached on Ephesians 3:14-21 and presented Paul's (and Christ's) grand vision of what the church can and should be. It is my last prayer of the year 2006.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Thank you Lord Jesus for 2006. Be with us in the year 2007, the year of grace.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

In your prayers today, ponder the wonder of God fully manifest in Jesus Christ. True God. True Man. Enough to keep theologians busy for millennia. Profound enough to move us and inspire our prayers for eternity.

To all the readers of this blog, a blessed and Merry Christmas from the School of the Solitary Place!!!

Oh, by the way, the answer to the puzzle. The lockers which are perfect squares remain open (1,4,9,16,...961)

Monday, December 18, 2006

And now for something completely different...

This blog usually contains reflections on personal prayer. However, during this Christmas season, I want to do something completely different for this entry. I'm posting a puzzle.

For the last few years, we have included a Christmas puzzle with our family's Christmas newsletter. In this year's newsletter, I included the URL for this blog and asked our newsletter recipients to see the new blog. So, in this entry, I'm including a bonus Christmas puzzle (to try to make up for last year's newsletter, which, due to time commitments, never got sent out in time.

So, for family, friends and readers of this blog, the bonus puzzle follows:

Santa's 1000 elves each have their own individual locker. These lockers are found one next to each other in a very long corridor of Santa's workshop. All the lockers start out being closed. Elf #1 opens every locker. Elf#2 closes every second locker(i.e. Lockers 2,4,6,8,10,etc). Elf #3 changes the state of every third locker (i.e. if opened, he closes it; If it is closed, he opens it). Elf #4 changes the state of every fourth locker. Elf #5 changes the state of every fifth locker. Each following elf does the same (i.e. Elf "n" changes the state of every "n"th locker).

After Elf 1000 changes the state of Locker 1000, which lockers are open?

Please feel free to post your answers via the Comments. I will have the answer on the Christmas Day entry to this blog. Have fun with the puzzle. Merry Christmas!!!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Some Thoughts on 24 Hour Prayer

Recently, my thoughts have been on 24/7 prayer. Our home church will be having a time of 24 continuous hours of prayer from New Year's Eve into New Year's Day. We are seeking this to be a time to look to God with a heart and mind toward repentance and seeking Him in love and in holiness, on the individual, family, congregational and national level.

In helping to prepare for this time, I have found an excellent brief summary of the history of 24 hour prayer which can be found here. It is a practice which takes our earthly practices and matches them to the heavenly. In the vision of heavenly worship which John saw as recorded in the Book of Revelation, we find:

At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." (Revelation 4:2-11) Emphasis bolded.

The worship of God in heaven is happening non-stop. Those who have started 24/7 prayer in the past have tried to match this pattern.

One last point about this is that 24/7 prayer requires a community of believers. Even if each hour of a prayer watch is being prayed through with only one person per hour, it requires a community of believers to make this happen. It can present an opportunity for both solitary and corporate prayer.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Our Intercessor in Heaven

There are two seasons of the year when Christians will think through the historical events of the life of Christ on Earth. During the weekend of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, our attention is drawn back to the core events of the Christian faith

This Sunday marks the start of the season of Advent as we think through the events surrounding the birth of Jesus over 2000 years ago.

During these seasons, we might imagine what it would have been like to be with the shepherds near Bethlehem as they beheld the unearthly (in the best sense) and heavenly sight of angels rejoicing the birth of Him who forever would link Deity to humanity as the God-Man. We might wonder what that child looked like. In our imagination, we might "fast-forward" over thirty years and ponder what it would have been like to watch Jesus teach, or to sit with Him at the Last Supper, or to watch His agonized prayer in the Garden of Gethsamene, His arrest, trial, torture and crucifixion. We can only imagine what Mary Magdelene beheld that following Sunday morning as her eyes were opened and she saw the resurrected Christ.

Perhaps we can imagine what it will be like when Christ one day returns to Earth. Pondering this has generated enormous thought and speculation in our own time (the "Left Behind" series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins are just one sign of this).

However, have you ever thought about what Jesus Christ is doing at this present moment? The thought really came home to me when I was praying in a chapel on the evening of Maundy Thursday back in 1999. In that chapel was a seven-candle candlestick. As I was looking at it, a passage from the book of Revelation was brought to mind which spoke of Christ as one: "like a son of man,"dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. (Revelation 1:13-15 NIV) and one who walked among the seven golden lampstands (Revelation 2;1) John was seeing a present-day view of Christ in majestic heavenly glory as He was then at the time of the Book of Revelation, over six decades after Jesus walked the Earth with His first disciples.

On this first day of December in the year 2006, what is Christ doing, right now?

We know that His sacrifice for salvation is completed and though He is our great High Priest, the significance of His priesthood now is that His sacrifice is perfect, complete and finished, never to be repeated. (See Hebrews 10:10-14)

So, what is Christ doing right now? Among the things which the Bible tells us about Christ's activities in Heaven, we have one text which indicates that Christ continues a facet of His ministry which He learned on Earth. Once more, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews gives us a view of what Christ is doing at this moment: Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. ( Hebrews 7:23-25 NIV)

In Heaven, the Lord Jesus continues His role as an intercessor in prayer for His people. We have One who stands for us in our behalf before the Father. Some branches of Christianity have overlooked this fact. They will many times succumb to a human tendency to see Jesus as the Judge to be placated. One can easily make the case that this is true for one who is not fully entrusting her/his life to Christ. Equally, one can show that this is not the case for a true believer in Jesus. Rather than shying away from Him in prayer, He welcomes us and prays in our behalf.

Rather than going to a dead saint or a live one to intercede for us before God, the true believer in Christ knows that they may "then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16 NIV). Who better to have praying for us, getting 24/7 access to the Father, than the Lord Jesus, who desires that we model Him in our devotion to prayer.

John recorded in his gospel, the last recorded prayer of Christ before His arrest. In all of His praying, Jesus did not forget us:

I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21 NIV)