With the situation in the Middle East being paramount on our news channels recently especially concerning Israel and Gaza, this book gives an excellent overview to the historical events that have lead up to the modern day problems of this often fought over land. It’s a situation that has caused much debate within the church as well as outside it, and Christians need to have a clear understanding of the spiritual as well as the historical issues involved. Steve Maltz provides a lively , easily-to-read introduction and overview to the subject with its complex historical issues. But it is not a comfortable read with many difficult questions requiring answers and perhaps a rethink on some aspects that may differ from current world thoughts and attitudes to the Israel/Palestine question. May I recommend this book to those who wish to try and understand the background of this situation but be prepared to be challenged too.
1) How do we inspire people to pray & to encounter God?
Pete Grieg said “Our issue is care not prayer”
Matthew 9:35-38 (NLT) says…
Jesus travelled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”
Jesus cared for the lost, confused & helpless and this motivated him to pray & to inspire others to do the same.
What do we care about?
Matthew 6:21 (NLT) says…
Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
Where does your mind go in idle moments? That is what we will care about most.
If your doctor diagnosed you with cancer & gave you six months to live, your condition would consume most of your thoughts & you would probably not find it hard to pray.
It appears that suffering motivates us to pray.
I can testify to this. I would speak about prayer to others but my own personal prayer life lacked any real desire & discipline. I was wrapped up in a busy lifestyle that left little time for personal devotions with God.
Then after nearly 3 years of being unemployed, experiencing repeated failures & disappointments, with limited prospects, no vision, a family to look after, this has driven me to cast aside every distraction & fall to my knees in humble prayer. To seek God with all my heart & being for there is no other way. Prayer has become my central focus, my lifeline on which my whole life depends upon. Through the storm He is Lord, Lord of all.
I want a Damascus road experience, to be taken up in the spirit, to be called up to God in the third heaven in praise & worship, to converse with God like a friend, to know his plans & purposes for my life, to become so infectious with Him that it causes others to want to know & experience Him for themselves & to see churches, communities & nations changed because they encountered God for themselves. This fuels my desire & passion to pray.
Every significant move of God or lasting transformation within a community begins with prayer.
The Hebridian Revival began when two elderly women in their eighties, Peggy and Christine Smith prayed. The women & their community encountered God & were completely transformed!
This is a golden age of opportunity for all of us to help those in need & to encounter God if only we will begin to pray.
As the darkness draws in our lights should burn brighter.
2) What is stopping or holding us back from encountering God?
Exodus 33:1-3 (NLT) says…
The LORD said to Moses, “Get going, you and the people you brought up from the land of Egypt. Go up to the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I told them, ‘I will give this land to your descendants.’ And I will send an angel before you to drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. Go up to this land that flows with milk and honey. But I will not travel among you, for you are a stubborn and rebellious people. If I did, I would surely destroy you along the way.
This is a very sad moment in Israel’s history. They were to experience God’s presents (gifts & blessings) of the promised land but were no longer to experience God’s presence (relationship) because they were a stiff necked, stubborn and rebellious people.
Are we any different as a people, as a church today? Are we a stiff necked, stubborn and rebellious people? Have we sought the gifts as opposed to the giver or the created as opposed to the creator?
Please take a moment to look at the cross as I read from
Hebrews 12:1-3 (NLT) says…
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.
What is stopping or holding us back personally & corporately from focusing & encountering God for ourselves?
Is it busyness? Unbelief? Unforgiveness? Fear? Sin? We each need to be open & honest with ourselves, each other & God, so nothing stops us from encountering God.
3) Will us men answer the call to prayer?
Just like Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, God is on the move today, and is motivating us his people to pray, especially the men in the church.
Ephesians 6:12 (NLT) says…
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Whether we like it or not we are locked into a spiritual battle, and unless we start exercising our spiritual authority in Jesus Christ we will be picked off by the enemy. It is time for the men in our church to awaken, to stand up in prayer, to lock shields & fight the enemy for our families, our church, our community & our nation.
Will us men answer the call to prayer?
A big thank you to Durham Diocese for the funding we were awarded for our Praise Puppets. Without their generosity it would not have been made possible at this time. The Praise Puppet Team are overjoyed with their professional puppets. Our recent rehearsals have produced a lot of laughs.
Sunday 9th September was a special occasion at our church as seven members of our congregation were being baptised. It was also our first live performance and offered something completely different and refreshing for our congregation. In addition it offered an excellent opportunity for our non-Christian visitors to see a break from tradition, to see something both entertaining, engaging for people of all ages and to hear a modern secular tune with Christian Lyrics. Our rendition of ‘Everybody Praise Now’ proved a hoot and everyone is looking forward to our next performance. One of the surprising feedback comments was ‘It was really good, I didn’t expect it to be so professional’, a very high accolade. We are hoping at our next performance to do three songs from Sister Act.
Puppets are an excellent and versatile tool for evangelism in delivering a Christian message or topic in a fun and relevant way. The Puppets have an instant engagement factor with the audience and are very forgiving. There is freedom to make mistakes (even produce some extra laughs) as it does not detract from the performance. It also offers a great opportunity for others to take part in this ministry especially among the youth and those that might be difficult to reach. This is a ministry that engages people of all ages, requires only a couple of rehearsals and offers great results.
There will be no Sunday services on Sunday 1st July 2012 as the congregation will be celebrating Tom Worsley’s ordination by the Rt Revd. Justin Welby, Lord Bishop of Durham in Durham Cathedral at 10:00am.
Tom Worsley would be very grateful for your thoughts and prayers.