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Remember to Pray

SHERRY LANIER|GUEST

COVID pandemic. Wow! This virus which was unknown until recent days has changed our daily life. It has an impact on everything we do. ‘Did you bring your mask?’ ‘Did you check to see if this business is still open?’ ‘Did you make a reservation for church?’ All of these questions and many more reflect our new reality.

Yet, all that COVID has brought has not been negative. This new reality has also caused us to have new schedules that, for the most part, have given us more time to think, reflect, and remember. To remember is ‘to call back to mind what we once knew.’ For every believer, the importance and priority of prayer is something we have always known. But for many of us, we have had days where the busy-ness of a filled schedule has squeezed out prayer or reduced it to a last resort, used only when we have exhausted ourselves.

During these pandemic days, I’ve had the opportunity to stop and remember much. A renewed excitement about the opportunity to pray has been sweet. Reflecting over those times where the Lord has answered prayers in ways that were amazing and miraculous has brought a renewed joy and excitement about prayer. Praying through this current season and for what lies ahead reminds me of my hope in Christ in all things.

Three Truths to Remember About Prayer

The excitement and motivation to pray has grown for me as I have reflected on a few things about prayer; that prayer is a privilege, an opportunity, and a lifestyle.

First, prayer is a privilege made possible by the sacrificial work of Christ. A privilege is defined as ‘a special right’ or ‘a special honor.’ When we engage in prayer, we have the privilege of entering into the presence of God in a special way; that way, the ONLY way, is through our Redeeming Savior, Jesus Christ Who is ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life’ (Jn. 14:6). We pray in His Name as He has broken down the veil through His perfect life, sacrificial death, and life-giving resurrection which makes our opportunity of praying possible. Through Him we have been given access to the very Throne of Grace so that we might ‘find our source of help in time of need’ (Heb. 4:16). 

Second, prayer is an opportunity to join our Father with what He is doing…

The Joy of Not Being Needed

ELIZABETH GARN|GUEST

There are times when I hear my name called from another room or when my phone dings with another email, that my shoulders droop and I let out a long, exhausted sigh. Someone needs me again.

I don’t know if you’ve felt this way, but trying to juggle work, a pandemic, family life, and everything else that needs my attention can be exhausting. These days, I often feel like I’m needed all day long. And while being needed is wonderful, it’s also hard. Needed implies deadlines, expectations, and a constant stream of things that require my attention.

It’s nice to be needed and I love the life that God has given me. But I have also found that as nice as it is to be needed, I long to be wanted more. Wanted, not for what I can do, but simply for being me.

For a long time, I felt this way about my relationship with God as well. I thought he created me because he needed someone to worship him or fill some void. I thought he had a list of things he needed me to accomplish for him; that he needed me to serve him. Somewhere along the way, I came to believe that my purpose as a child of God was about what I do. It’s an exhausting, defeating, and discouraging way to live and I found myself constantly striving to do enough.

I found hope, however, when I learned that we aren’t needed by God, instead, we are very, very wanted.

The Beauty of “us”

Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” In this verse, the Triune God pauses the creation narrative to announce what he’s about to do— he is going to create humans.

It’s one of my favorite passages in the whole Bible. It’s laden with hope, meaning, and purpose. God is going to create us and he’s going to do it for a very specific reason: we are going to be his images on the earth. We will reflect him, represent him, and declare his glory to the whole earth. It’s the heart of our purpose!…

Five Ways to Love Stateside Missionaries

MANDY|GUEST

“So, how long are you home for?”

That’s a normal enough question, but it always gives me pause. Which home? How long has it been anyways? As a missionary back in the States, I often wonder what to make of this time of furlough or HMA (Home Mission Assignment). This year we have seen more missionaries “stuck” in America for longer than expected.

I’m often asked other questions too, like how does the church minister to missionaries during this odd season— when we are in town for longer than the mission’s conference? There is certainly a need to articulate how we can “mutually encourage one another.” Let me, as one of these stuck-wondering workers, provide five ways the church can love stateside missionaries.

5 Ways the Church Can Love Stateside Missionaries

Give them space. This may mean giving literal space to live in. Missionaries need a home! Different families have different spatial needs, as well as functional needs. Ask questions and work together to make a space a As a homemaker, a few house plants and pretty curtains really ministered to me in our Goodwill-like mission’s house. One church collected clothes to fill our closets with a winter wardrobe. And here’s something important: they did not send us the stuff no one wanted. When they realized slim fit sweaters were hard to come by (for my tall skinny husband), they didn’t give us grandpa’s size 44 suit and polyester pants. They gave a few gift cards instead.

Coming alongside missionaries in homemaking (however that may look; however temporal it might be) can remind all of us of our true eternal home. We can find beauty in the basic needs.

Invite them to the party. Remember missionaries are (mostly) normal people. We want to grill out, go for a hike, or help paint the guest room. We want to do everyday life with you. Stacey met me at a nearby nature center. Rachel brought her boys to celebrate my 11-year-old’s birthday. Tim ran with my husband each week. Stephanie encouraged me to wake before dawn for a neighborhood walk.

When we are stateside, we also miss our “everyday” routine. One church connected me with a piano teacher and gymnastics class for my kids. Adding those activities back into our week helped us gain a bit of normalcy. Now I know investing in people who aren’t going to be here very long (and who travel so often) can have many hurdles. Doing everyday life with missionaries requires selfless intentionality. It’s difficult, but incredibly loving.

Ask about money. This is the obvious one, right? Missionaries are usually very good at asking for funding, and we always seem to need it. It is lovely however, to be asked first. One friend simply emailed us, “We want to increase our giving. Tell me how to make that happen.” Some supporters want to give “an extra gift” and ask what would serve us best (give to the support account, tag it for a specific ministry, gift cards, or a personal check).

Whatever your ability to give more, you can always pray for financial needs to be met. One long-time supporter had to stop her financial giving for a time. Her own finances had taken a hit, and she sadly had to cut some parts of her budget. She let us know (rather than simply dropping off) and then told me she was praying for a new supporter to give in her stead. What a reminder to me that God is working in very specific ways!  Talking about money can be awkward, but we all need to work hard to be generous givers, receivers, and money-conversationalists.

Let them work; let them rest. We do enjoy a break from the work on the field. HMA can be refreshing and a time to regroup, but it’s not a total vacation…

The Resurrection: A Return on Investment

CHRISTINE GORDON|GUEST

If you happen to be an investor, 2020 was a scary year. March sent millions into a panic as the stock market took a huge dive in reaction to the first wave of COVID-19 on US soil. Unlike risky monetary investments, Jesus directs us in the gospel of Luke to an investment that has no risk and a guaranteed payoff at the resurrection. 

We’re not told the particularities of what our reward might be. But imagine how the maker of the sunset, sea animals, and sesame seeds might reward you. I would guess it will be more satisfying and delightful than any list we might make or parameters we could define. God wants to offer us rewards for making certain choices and putting our energy toward specific people while living here on earth. What actions bring such pleasure to the heart of Jesus that he would promise a reward for doing them?

Honor Those Who Cannot Repay

Jesus’s words to a Pharisee who invited him for a meal are helpful to us:

Then Jesus said to the man who had invited Him, “When you host a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or brothers or relatives or rich neighbors. Otherwise, they may invite you in return, and you will be repaid. But when you host a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, and you will be blessed. Since they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12b-14)

Jesus told the man who invited him what really makes God happy: giving honor to those who can’t possibly repay it. Give it away, in big spoonfuls— in buckets, even. Give to those who have absolutely no way of returning in kind. Because that’s what God has done for you. Dignify them not only with a meal, but with your presence. Table fellowship was all about status in Jesus’s day. Sharing a meal signified acceptance, and even equal social capital. Jesus is directing this likely rich and powerful Pharisee to open his home to those who would never usually make it onto the guest list, because they weren’t in his same social circle. He is not shaming them for inviting friends; he is simply encouraging them to also invite the outcasts, the poor, and anyone who has no status. 

But why? 

Because those are the kinds of people God loves to love lavishly— the needy. He knows they cannot pay…

Our Savior’s Moment by Moment Intercession

SUE HARRIS|CONTRIBUTOR

I took some time recently to pray for some of the ministry leaders in my church. I’m not trying to sound super-spiritual. Honestly, I should do this more often since the Holy Spirit is the one who actually does the work of the church. Anyway, I was overwhelmed with how long it took me to pray for each of those leaders by name. For some, I knew what to pray…but not all. I mean, these are women with lives and needs and pains and desires. I only know some details and, frankly, many of the women I had no idea what to pray about for them. Sometimes I just uttered their names, trusting that Romans 8:26 is true and that the Spirit does indeed intercede for those “unspoken” needs.

Jesus’ Intercession for Us

We’ve probably all grown accustomed to identifying the last calendar year as strange, different, or even uncertain. We are all grieving in different ways and facing various challenges in our lives. But I am reminded that regardless of who is surrounding our tables and what lies ahead, we have One who is making intercession for us, who knows what loneliness and grief feels like. We talk a lot about what Jesus accomplished on our behalf in our adoption and justification, and that’s extremely important. But we don’t often think about what he is doing today…like right now in this very moment.

If Jesus completed his task on the cross and subsequent resurrection, what fills his schedule now? What is he doing? More specifically: what has been left undone? Scripture tells us that he always lives to make intercession for us (Heb. 7:25).

Like in the prayer time I mentioned, I know that I can only pray for one person or situation at a time and even that becomes burdensome, but not for our Savior. He is not overwhelmed. Somehow, while he is seated at the right hand of the throne of the God, he is talking about each believer to our Father. He knows it all. He knows every life, every need, every pain, every failure, and every desire. He knows us. How does it make you feel to know that the King of Kings is praying for you right now? 

It drenches me with love…