Ephesians 3, love, Paul's Prayers, Power

LOVE in 4 Dimensions.

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 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, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ever heard the kids song, Jesus love is very wonderful?

It’s chorus goes “So high you can’t get over it, so low you can’t get under it, so wide you can’t get around it, oh wonderful love!”

Yet with my literal understanding as a child made this love sound like some form of impenetrable wall, until I had an epiphany when I heard another children’s story/song ‘I’m going on a bear hunt’ which has the chorus “you can’t get over it, you can’t get under it, you’ll have to go through it”.

It’s based on the end part of Paul’s prayer for the Church in Ephesus which talks of God’s love being a love in four dimensions.

God’s love isn’t a wall, barrier or constraint but rather it needs to be experiences as an ever present reality that surrounds us, the psalmist says “where can I go from your presence, if I go to the heavens you are there, and if I make my bed in depths of the earth you are there too”.

The love of God is an inescapable reality for Christian, God’s love for us is eternal and ever present, it is beyond our understand and comprehension “a love that surpasses knowledge” and although this love exceeds our understand, our experience of it can grow and grow as we walk on further, longer and deeper with God. The image Paul uses here is of the Christian putting the roots of their life down deep down into God and his love for us. Interestingly in times of draught a plants roots dig down deeper in the hope of finding water, this is the image Paul is using become more firmly embedded in the love of God, for finding ourselves in him is where we gain our identity and purpose.

John reminds us that “God IS love” -not just God is loving, or God feels love, but God is the very embodiment and personification of love- God the Father uniquely revealed in Christ the Son “if you have seem me you have seen the Father”, Jesus is “love with skin on.

Yet although Paul’s prayer is that we are transformed by experiencing God’s love but this love is also backed by power and authority as children of God, God who is at work in us, and in his Church “more than we can ask or imagine”. God not only loves us but is able to help us and work through us the book of Romans reminds us that “God’s ear is not deaf to our call or his arm is not too short to save”.

Often our prayers become limited by either our belief that God is not actually good, or not actually powerful enough to make a difference, yet here Paul’s prayer makes it clear both our true. God is All powerful and All Loving ,Omni-powerful and Omni-loving.

There is another kids song I know which asks the question “Have we made our God too small, too small? Have we made our God too small? For he made the heavens above and earth and sky and has the time for you and I, have we made our God too small, too small?”

So, let’s rediscover God’s awesome love and power, that transforms our identity as we pray to him, we discover afresh who we are, we are because he is “for this reason I kneel before the Father from which every family on earth derives its name” -a joke about two similar words in Greek, but making the point that without God we are nothing, as Corinthians (and the marriage service) reminds us “without your love our deeds are worth nothing” or as St. Francis said “without you we cannot please you” but in him “we live and move and have our being”. This is a reminder of our total dependence, fully reliant, on God who made us, sustains us and has through Christ redeemed us.

So, let us echo the words of Paul in our prayers for ourselves that we are transformed by having this fresh and fuller revelation of who God is, that in turn transforms us by the revelation of who we are.

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Carrying burdens, community of grace, Discipleship, Godliness, Partnership, Paul's Prayers, Phillipians, vocation

“Don’t just ‘SUPPORT’ me, ‘PARTNER’ with me” (Updated).

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Can you say a little prayer for us Vicar?

Would you mind if I said a little prayer for you?

I don’t want to pray a LITTLE prayer!

A “Little Prayer” sounds as though we lack confidence in Gods power to transform lives and circumstances.

I want to be like Paul praying big, hairy and audacious prayers rendering heaven.

I’ve been thinking too often we have dumbed down our language and expectations of prayer, mission and discipleship.

Recently, I came across (via Jackie Davies) a William Booth quote: “I’m not waiting for a move of God, I am the move of God”.

This is God’s plan for the transformation of his world, you and I living for him, stepping out in faith, and partnering with him.

This was reinforced for me recently with two things that happened this week…

The first when I prayed for someone to be healed, and they were, and I was more shocked than they were, which led me to have an interesting discussion with myself afterwards!

The second when I was sharing at a Church meeting the work I am doing in the community, and quite frankly it was pretty obvious they couldn’t care less…

My experience of this healing miracle made me think about living out my calling to partner with Christ (if you are a Christian, that is all of our callings!) and wondered am I really pulling my weight here, am I working with him, alongside him, or doing my own thing.

My experience of the DCC made me feel unsupported, certainly not feeling like we were in any real sense ‘partnering together’.

I was talking to another minister type mate who and said about supporting him, he said “I don’t want people to support me, I want people to partner with me”.

The same is true the other-way around, I don’t want to just support my congregations in mission, I want to partner with them.

The word SUPPORT conjures up images of sitting there with a sympathetic and slightly constipated look, offering milky coffee and making polite noises for a few minutes until the conversation returns to something less uncomfortable and more superficial.

Whereas the word PARTNERSHIP conjures up both people investing heavily in something, standing shoulder to shoulder, battling together amid blood, tears and sweat.

Partnership is a word about mutual investment, were the outcome really matters to those involved.

Support, sounds more like offering a hand, lending a fiver, giving someone a lift, making a cuppa (all good things, but has the image of superficial investment and involvement).

Paul wasn’t after support from his fellow Christians, he didn’t want “Oh Bless him” platitudes, he wants the disciples partnering with him to carry on fighting for the Kingdom cause as fearlessly as he did when he was on his missionary endeavours -especially as now he is in prison, in chains, for talking about Christ.

Paul’s prayer shows his aspiration for his team.

This left me wondering, is this the kind if thing we pray for ourselves? Our Churches? Our home-groups? Our friends involved in Christian Unions at work? Our Kingdom allies locally doing things like work based Alpha, Street Pastors, outreach work or whatever it is God is calling them too?

Or do we pray that God would just “help” them or “bless” them…

Over the next few days I’d urge us to grow our intersessions vocabulary, and realise that as we pray we are doing something bigger more amazing, more powerful and beautifully supernatural..

So let’s rediscover afresh the awesome power of prayer, connecting us with the awesome power that comes from almighty God.

Let’s up our support of one another so that it feels more like partnership.

Let us review how response to God’s partnership offer, are we partnering with him, pulling our weight and keeping in step.

To the original readers of the scriptures the word partnership would lead people to think of Oxon partnered together under a yoke, journeying together, in step, both taking equal share of the weight…

Yet for us the Yoke is a three person yoke, shouldering our partnership with God, and with one another, a call to carry one another’s yokes or burdens -and let them carry yours- as we all partner together to fulfil the heartbeat of creation to see God’s Kingdom come on earth as in heaven.

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Colosians, Mission, Mission Shaped Church, Paul, Paul's Prayers, prayer

Colossians 4

Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Sounds like wise words from Paul about how to approach 2017….

Being devoted to prayer.

Watchful (although I think ‘expectant’ is a better word as it is less passive).

And being thankful, expectant of God to be at work and praising him for seeing him at work.

Praying also for me, pray for each other… -interestingly if you’re a leader sometimes you can feel as though everyone’s gunning for you and very few are praying for you, Paul probably is feeling pretty low as he’s banged up in prison-, but I think the important thing here is to pray for each other, we’re a community, a family, we are meant to be carrying each others burdens, supporting one another in prayer, but too often the individualism of our culture creeps in and it becomes ‘all about us’.

Pray that God opens the door for his message, so we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, Pray for those divine appointments, real and genuine opportunities to honestly talk with people about our faith in natural and helpful ways.

For which I am an ambassador in chains -let us this new year be people that remember the persecuted Church, especially as I think the political/social landscape is changing and I think pluralistic secularisms voice is getting louder and so being a Christian is going to get tougher.

Pray I may proclaim it as clearly as I should, pray that God gives us the words to say, -that all sharing of our faith will not only be with the right heart but also spirit lead.

Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders… One of my favourite verses my friend Mark Rich quotes is “Zeal without wisdom is folly” often howe act pushes people away from Christ rathe r than drawing people towards him? So many things Churches do and individual Christians do, that is simply really unhelpful.

 Making the most of every opportunity… God gives his people, both us as individuals, and collectively as his Church so many opportunities, so many  I think we simply don’t see, so many we choose not to see as it sounds like a tough call “opportunities are missed because they come in work overalls”, some we think are too big for us, and some we sadly (sometimes) think are beneath us “I’m not doing that?” or “I’m not going there”. Jesus says “Open your eyes the fields are white to the harvest” 

Let your conversation be always be full of grace… Some of the emails I get from Christians, some of the conversations I hear in Churches,  leave me wondering “where is the grace?” and if we can’t even manage to be gracious and loving to each other as a community, why would anyone want to travel with us in following Jesus? People want to see a different community, one that loves, one that builds up, Kingdom living is attractive, let people see, hear and experience it, when we remove grace from our lives together it is like a alkali burn -its what’s not there -the absence of acid- that burns us-, sin of omission if you like.

Interestingly, our conversation needs to be always full of Grace, yet sometimes hard to find trace elements of it. Interestingly we are called to have conversations full of grace, yet also seasoned with salt. how often it is the other way around, full of salty Christian rhetoric, but no grace?

Seasoned with salt… The image of our conversations making people thirsty for Christ is an exciting image, as a parent of a young child, I realise that often we are watched and listened too even when we don’t realise it. 

Also, lets not be afraid, to mention the name of Jesus, to be open and honest about our faith, and give people opportunities to talk… Seasoned with salt, unashamed of the gospel, giving people openings and opportunities for further discussion.

If your conversation is like this, then people will be drawn to you and want to explore Christ with you, so you may know how to answer everyone.

 

 

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Bravery, Colosians, Discipleship, Godliness, Leadership, mentoring, Mission, Mission Shaped Church, Paul, Paul's Prayers, prayer, Spiritual Health, vocation

Praying with Paul 1

2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

One of my favourite passages… Here Paul, a prisoner, isn’t simply praying (as most of us would) “GOD GET ME OUTTA HERE!”
Instead his heart is for God to be glorified.

He challenges the disciples to devote themselves to prayer, incIdently the word “devote” has the same root word as to “vote” (which has somehow been lost in our modern day political systems where we put a cross on a peice of paper ever 5 years) the idea is more about throwing your life behind your choice of how you live your life. Imagine if that was how we thought of voting, not just a tick in a box but throwing our lives behind now we think the world should be, voting everyday for the world we want to live in and for our children to live in.

This isn’t the polite Anglican intersessions some of us have become used to, here the idea of Praying as though your life depended on it.

The idea too of watching with thanksgiving is the idea of being expectant and grateful that God is at work in his world and too see him answer our prayers.

To often Christians pray with their eyes shut, praying not expecting to see God answer or move in the situation we are praying about… And when he comes through are we grateful? Or do we attribute it wrongly saying this like “that was lucky”?

So, what is Paul urging us to pray for? That people would hear the message of Gods good news of Christ crucified and resurrected.

It’s the message the world is literally dying to hear. Described in Phillippians as “the word that gives life”.

A message so powerful we need Gods help in handling it wisely.

A great picture of God going a head of us and opening doors for our message, which in fact is his message.

We as Christians partake in the mission of God, his mission, he’s the evangelist yet choosing to work through me and you his people.

God is setting up Divine appointments for us to bless and encourage us as we see people drawn to Christ through what he is doing in us.

I love Paul’s humility when he prays that he may ‘proclaim the message as faithfully as he should’.

God wants us to speak his words faithfully and in fact he promises to give us the words to say.

The prayer here shows a humbleness of heart which knows his need of Gods help in evangelism, this help he needs especially when chatting to people who aren’t yet Christians.

Paul realising he’s an ambassador of Christ, how he behaves will effect what people think of Jesus. Therefore he asks God to make him wise in his actions that any encounter he has will draw people to Christ.

Thr idea about being “seasoned with salt” is an interesting one.

Interestingly too much salt makes people sick -which is what happens when people go for it with evangelism unwisely, “zeal without wisdom is folly” (or foolishness the opposite of wisdom) but just enough salt makes people thirsty for the everlasting streams or springs of living water which can only be found in Christ.

This idea of being united and unified in Christ, being joined together in him through the proclamation of the gospel -which binds us all- where one suffers we all suffer and where one rejoices we all rejoice.

Let’s looks at Paul’s prayer, which I think only comes from heart that realises what actually ultimately matters, ordinary people coming to know Christ, his good news and awesome love for them.

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