Intercessory Prayer Is Power

Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. Matthew 18:19-20

Intercession is very powerful. Intercession is hugely powerful! The scriptures will tell you how powerful it is. It creates revival. It really does.

When you meet Jesus, the first thing you learn is that He loves you. He loves you so much. And it blows your mind! His love is amazing! He redeemed us! He is our brother.

Love this deep and faithful is so life-changing that you start reading about Him. When you do, you find out what an incredible life He lived. You learn about all the things He did, all the things He said, and all the wisdom He taught. Once you know this, you just want to be wherever He is. You want to follow Jesus. You want to run after Him! And you want to do what He did. You want to take care of people. You want to bring them life, and faith, and health. You want to meet their needs and comfort them.

So you go out to help people, and you find out right away that the world is difficult. It’s a really complicated place. It is really wounded. And it can be scary. You go out to help people and you find out right away that their needs are pressing, and urgent, and overwhelming. How do you know what to do?

You ask God, because He will give you wisdom. You can find a quiet place to pray, like a “prayer closet.” You can sit there, and just talk to God. This is really important. We all need to do this.

But I also really like prayer rooms. Prayer rooms are so cool because they are all about intercessory prayer. When you go to a prayer room, you pray the prayers that other people have requested. You pray for people you don’t even know!

I started one of these in Spokane one time, and it blew up. It was unbelievable. People were putting their sins in a shredder right in front of a cross, because that’s essentially what the cross did. It shredded our sins. We told people, write what you’ve sinned about, and put it through that shredder. We wound up with a bucket spilling over with shredded paper. We also invited people to write their prayer requests on the walls, and everyone honored these requests. We prayed. We created a place where people got away from focusing on their own needs, and began praying on behalf of others. We created a place dedicated to intercessory prayer.

Later, we heard stories about healing. We heard about a daughter reuniting with her father because of forgiveness. She needed people to pray for her, and she wrote it on the wall. She wrote her anger and she asked for release. Everybody that came into that prayer room was praying for that girl. And all of a sudden, that week, she was reunited with her father. In joy!

I like the prayer rooms because they get you outside of your selfish needs. When you get outside of yourself, you begin to ask, “What do other people need right now?” Then you see all these different prayer requests and you start praying these prayers. You start praying for people you’ve never met, and maybe never will. You’ll see all kinds of good things come out of it. Intercessory prayer will release you. It’s empowering!

More on prayer next time. See you Thursday.

Prayer is Relationship

Last time, I talked about grace. Those who understand what Jesus did for them live a Spirit-led life in grace. It is a life conceived by God. We live in His kingdom already and not yet. I was very emphatic about this! So you might ask, “Well then, Jeremy, what is prayer for?”

To begin with, prayer is seeking wisdom. The Bible says, if you want to know what to do, then ask. I think prayer is also to encourage. If you use the ACTS method of prayer, you’ll understand. Prayer is for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Above all, prayer is relationship.

I adore my wife, so I tell her all the reasons why she’s beautiful. That’s adoration. I also confess things to my wife. I’ll tell her, ”Honey, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that.” Or I acknowledge where I’ve offended her, and I apologize. That’s confession. I thank my wife for everything she does for me and our family. “Honey,” I say, “I’m thankful to you for raising our kids. I’m so thankful for how good you are to me. Thank you so much for how you serve this family.” That’s thanksgiving. Finally, I will ask her for things. I’ll say, “Honey, this is what I need from you right now.” That’s supplication.

In our marriage, we give adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. This is relationship.

God is our wisdom, our strength, our shield, and our fortress. If we want to be in a relationship with God, we need to do the same thing with Him that we do with our loved ones. Prayer is conversation with God. In prayer, we adore, confess, give thanks, and supplicate. It’s the ACTS method of prayer.

Sometimes I just look up and say, ‘You are good, God. You are so good. Here’s why. Here’s what reminds me how good you are. Here are all the things you’ve done.” I list everything I see that reflects His goodness. That’s adoration.

David did it all the time. “God, he said, “you are good.” David also confessed. Look at Psalm 51, where he said, “God, man, I messed up. I tanked it. I killed this woman’s husband so I could be with her. I blew it. Please do not take your Spirit from me in my stupidity.” In prayer, David confessed.

David was also very thankful. “Thank you, God! I can see how you’ve rescued me from my enemies. You let me hide in the cave of Adullam. I was in a cave, but you rescued me from Saul and his mighty army. Thank you.”

And David asked for the things he needed. We can do that, too. We can say, “God, I need you to provide for my needs. I need you to show me the things I need to know. I need you, in your goodness, to talk to me. God, I need wisdom. I can’t do this on my own. I need these things.”

It’s easy to go straight to the S part of ACTS. Sometimes people just ask for things and forget the rest. Why don’t you adore Him? Confess to Him? Thank Him? That’s relationship!

God is the ultimate, man. He’s the giver of life. Go to Him and tell Him, ”I adore you God, just for that. Thank you!”

That’s what prayer is for. See you Monday.

A Rhythm of Faith and Works

Grace is free and unmerited! It costs you nothing, and you do not have to earn it. You can’t earn it! Only Jesus could give you a gift this huge.

When you understand what Jesus did for you, you can’t help but confess it. The joy of it spills out of you! Your sins are forgiven! No more shame!

Through grace, you walk in the Spirit. Grace is the key to the Spirit-led life. Grace is the reason you don’t have to perform a role, or live in a works mentality, or sink into legalism. Grace empowers you through God’s love. Grace lifts your heart to share His love with all His children!

So when I see a homeless person, grace is the lens I’m looking through. I see the need and I want to help. I don’t respond to the needs of the homeless because I have to. Wanting to help and having to help are two different things. My heart does not say, “Man, if I walk by this guy and I don’t help him, I’m going to feel guilty.” That’s not love, that’s fear. No, my heart says, “This guy is in need. What can I do?” My heart says that because that’s what the Spirit says.

I’ve walked by people who are homeless and yet not helped them. The Spirit did not lead me to help. I don’t know why. Maybe the money they wanted was for drugs. We’re not supposed to fund that habit. Or maybe the Spirit had other plans.

There have also been times when I’ve said, “I’m not helping that guy, because it doesn’t look to me like he’s going to use the money for good.” But in my heart, the Spirit said, “No, you need to help.” When that happens, I listen to the Spirit, and I help.

Grace doesn’t allow you to be legalistic. Grace doesn’t allow you to have a works mentality. Paul says we’re justified by faith alone, and James says faith without works is dead, but there’s no contradiction there. It simply means that if you live by the Spirit, you’re going to act by the Spirit. You come alive with the Spirit! You bear His fruit. You are alive with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. You walk down the street and you see needs and you meet them, because that’s what Jesus did.

Jesus didn’t have to do good works to get to Heaven. But He did them. He did them all the time. And He was not tied up in a legalistic mentality. He came to fulfill the law. That means there is no law. So you don’t feed a hungry person out of fear. You don’t think, “If I don’t do this then I’ll be struck down.” You don’t worry, “If I don’t do this, then God won’t bless me.”

You’re already blessed! That’s what grace is! You’re in the Kingdom of God, a grace-filled, blessings-filled kingdom. You are full of blessings and grace. That’s why Jesus said, “Don’t you want what’s best for your children? How much more do you think God wants for you?” He definitely wants what’s best for you. He’s going to give you what you need, just like you would give your children what they need. Does that mean God has works mentality? No! It means God loves you.

That’s why you long to do good for others when you live in grace. Feeding the hungry and clothing the naked does not contradict God’s grace. It expresses God’s love. Faith and good works don’t contradict. They are one, in rhythm with each other.

More on this next time. See you Thursday.

Sheep, Goats, and Grace

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:31-40

This passage has had a huge impact on my life. Jesus says, “You did it to Me.” The first time I truly thought about that, I realized that when I feed someone who is hungry, I have fed Jesus. That’s awesome! When you feed somebody who’s hungry, or clothe somebody in need, or visit somebody in prison, or do anything to help the hurting, the dying, or anyone in pain, you take care of Jesus. He says, “You have done that to Me, because they are a part of Me. Whether they are living for Me or not, they’re still a part of Me. I created them.”

God created man and woman in His own image. When He did that it was as if He said, ‘I’ve created you with me in you.’

You have God’s spirit inside of you. When you were in your mother’s womb, God said, ‘I created you, in my own image. You are a part of me. Though you may sin, and though you may fail, you will be fulfilled in me.’

If some part of you, something that you love, is under attack, you feel like you’re being attacked. Don’t you? If you attacked one of my sons, I would feel like you attacked me. If you attacked my wife, I would feel attacked. In the same way, if you show my family love and care, then I feel like you love me.

We’re creations of the Almighty God and I think He feels the same way. We are part of His family. So when He sees someone that is hungry, He’s hungry. That’s what He means when He says, “If you do this for the least of these, then you’ve done this for Me.” That’s why He loves the righteous, set at His right hand.

What about those at His left hand? Here’s what He says to them:

‘Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:41-46

I can hear you now. “But Jeremy,” you say. “You always talk about grace. You always talk about the free and unmerited favor of God. This sounds a lot like a performance evaluation to me. Is there a contradiction here?”

That’s a great question, and I aim to answer it in my next few blogs. See you Thursday.

You’re Not a Failure!

How often have you felt like a failure? Sometimes we say, “Man, I’m failing as a Christian. I’m just not a very happy Christian. I should be, but I’m miserable.”

If I heard you say that, I would ask you to take a step back and examine your life. Are you living in legalism? You feel that you are not succeeding as a Christian, but how do you measure success? According to whose standards? Your standards? If you’re trying to succeed according to your standards, you’re right! You will feel like a failure.

There is no doubt about this in my mind. Using your standards to judge yourself is just another way of living in legalism.

The answer is obvious. It’s grace! In grace, you’re not worried about being crushed by your own expectations. You don’t fail yourself anymore. Instead you’re relying on Jesus! You can ask Him for wisdom and He’ll come through, because that’s what He said He would do. You don’t have to expect yourself to come through on anything. Don’t even bother! You don’t even have that ability. Not in your flesh, at least.

Legalism comes with long lists of things you can and can’t do, and maybe even longer lists of things you should and shouldn’t do. It’s a constant struggle to try to meet all of those expectations. And it’s so unnecessary! You can’t control everything and everyone, and you shouldn’t try.

How many times do you walk into church, worrying in the back of your mind about what everyone thinks of you? Does this sound familiar? You’ve got the grace of God, and yet you’re living in fear of shame. You try to control people’s perceptions of you, but all you manage to do is make yourself miserable. There’s no need for that. Don’t live in shame. Don’t live in fear. You don’t have to! Now you’re in Christ! And through Christ, you will find your joy.

I read a story recently about a woman who wound up in her parish’s counseling office, husband in tow. He complained that she was forcing him to go to church. When asked why she forced him to go to church, she explained that he preferred to stay at home to watch cartoons on TV. “But,” the counselor said, “you’re making him miserable.” And she said, “What am I supposed to tell people when they ask me where he is?” And the counselor said, “You tell them he’s home watching cartoons.”

She was floored by the counselor’s answer. “How am I supposed to tell people that?” she asked. “What will people think of him?” And the counselor said, “They’ll think he’d rather watch cartoons than go to church. Big deal!” (Families Where Grace Is in Place, Jeff VanVonderen)

Do you see? She was making them both miserable and it was so unnecessary. Trying to control the thoughts and opinions of other people is an incredibly tough way to live. It will drain you.

Who really cares what people think of you? I don’t let it stop me. Just ask yourself: are you living in righteousness? Are you living your life in Jesus? Yes? Then that’s all that matters. God is smiling on you. Never mind about that legalistic person over there, who is frowning on you. You don’t live for that person. You live for Jesus!

There is so much freedom in Him!

See you Monday.

Want Success? Work Wisely

Joseph succeeded in all he did. Why? Because the Lord was with him. When Joseph went to work, his bosses looked at him favorably. I also think his fellow workers appreciated him and enjoyed his company, because he encouraged them. And when Joseph did something, it produced good results.

All of this happened because he relied on God’s wisdom.

You can do the same! Right now, today, you can say to God, “Help me make a decision that will allow things to prosper in my place of work.” Allow God to talk to you and guide you. Allow Him to show you what you need to do for your employers and employees to succeed. Then you will prosper.

This is how I focus my efforts. When I was pitching, I listened to God. I wanted to be successful, but I needed His wisdom to do it. If I went to the field every day and worked really hard on being a side-armed pitcher, I would not have found success, because that’s not what I was asked to do. Or I could have said,“I’m going to learn to throw a knuckleball.” I could have worked really hard on it. But that’s not what God led me to do. Without God’s wisdom, I wouldn’t have found the success I wanted, no matter how hard I worked!

Of course there are very successful nonbelievers. A nonbeliever works really hard in the areas that he knows brings success. He goes to work and says, “I know what works, so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to work really hard at it and do it well.” And he does, because he knows that success comes from hard work.

Joseph also worked hard. The difference is that Joseph worked wisely. He followed the wisdom that God gave him. Joseph didn’t do what he thought was right. He did what God said is right. God showed him what to do, and that’s where Joseph worked hard. That’s why he gained favor. That’s how he succeeded. That’s how I succeeded!

So think about this. What if that hardworking, successful nonbeliever finds Jesus? Then he will begin asking God for wisdom. He still does his work. He still works hard. But now, he does the Lord’s work too. He helps bring the Kingdom.

When he does that, he discovers a joy that he couldn’t have known in any other way. It’s the joy that cannot be matched, because it comes from God.

Now that is success!

See you Monday.

Rest in God

And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God:
“Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.
“Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.
“Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
“Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
“The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.
“The LORD will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you. Deuteronomy 28:2-8

If you live in legalism, then you eliminate God. “But Jeremy,” you say, “I’m righteous.” And maybe you are! For example, maybe you don’t tell lies. That is consistent with a righteous life. But what if the only reason you don’t lie is because the Bible tells you not to do it?  Then you aren’t depending on God. You’re depending on rules. And what happens when you depend on rules? Things fall apart.

What if you were able to just rest in God and understand that His grace will show you the way? What if you could believe that God gives you His favor, even though you didn’t earn it? As the scripture says, in obedience to God, whatever you say, whatever you do, wherever you walk, and wherever you go, you will be blessed. Your basket will be full. Everything your hand touches will prosper. To put it as simply as possible: in grace, you will find success.

Now, success may not happen exactly the way you want it to happen. In fact, you may be surprised by the form success takes in your life. I sure was! And that’s okay. It’s better, in fact! Let God decide what your success will be. Let God show you what to do. He will show you exactly what to do so that your family will thrive. He will show you what to do so that everyone you meet will thrive. You’re on a journey, you know. You’ve just got to believe that your journey will be one of success.

What happens when you walk and talk with the people you meet? If you let Jesus guide your steps and tell you what to say, then the people you meet will feel really good. You don’t have to be super spiritual and legalistic. You don’t have to quote Bible verses at them. Resting in God is not about soapbox Christianity. It’s not about telling people to accept Christ or else rot in hell. It’s not about telling people that they’re bad. You are here to love. That is your purpose. So ask God to tell you how to love people. He will! He’s our faithful God!

What do you suppose happens when you do that? Man, the people you meet on your journey will love on you! They’ll be inspired to live a righteous life because of you! So listen to Jesus. He will help you tell people exactly what they need to hear. And when you do that, they’ll want to be around you! Maybe they don’t believe in God. Maybe they don’t do all the same things that Christians do. But you’re the one they’ll hang out with, because you won’t judge them. You’ll live with them, in grace.

Allow Jesus to guide your steps. Allow the Spirit to give you wisdom. Do this, and you will find so much love and joy. And guess what? That will be your success.

See you Thursday.