Intercession is praying on behalf of someone else to God the Father, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus closed the gap between us and God when He died on the cross. Because of Jesus’ mediation, we can intercede in prayer on behalf of other Christians or for the lost, asking God to grant their requests according to His will.
James 5:16 instructs us to “pray for one another”. 1 Tim 2:1 says, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people.” The passage goes on to says that this “pleases God.” These prayers may involve praying in a general way for such things as the church or the government, or offering up more specific prayers based on your knowledge of a specific person’s need. Think of intercession as coming between two sides to settle differences like a lawyer. So, when we pray for someone, we are coming between God and the person and presenting and pleading the person’s case to God.
We may have lists of needs to pray for and probably have an outcome we are asking God for, but there should be room for the Holy Spirit to show us how to pray and lead us to know the will of God. Romans 8:26 says, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for; but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” The Spirit’s communication transcends our words and gets to the true thoughts and intentions of our hearts.
If we are listening to the influence of His Spirit, then our prayers will never be self-centered or have the wrong motivation behind them; instead they will pertain to building up His kingdom. Richard Trench, Anglican archbishop and poet said, “Prayer is the means in which God gets His will done on earth, not the means in which man gets his will done in heaven.” Intercessory prayer seeks God’s glory, not our own.
Our intercession can move the hand of God. He is anxious to answer our prayers! In Matt.7:11, we see this promise: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?”. Whether the need is big or small, it is not beyond what He is capable of providing. He is the Great Provider, Jehovah-Jireh. When you see a need that someone has, ask God to fill it for them. James 4:2 says, we “have not because we ask not.”
Intercession enhances our own spiritual growth. Praying for others causes us to become more like Christ, who spent many hours praying to His Father for others. We cannot pray for the Lord to strengthen others without ourselves being strengthened. We cannot ask for God to soften someone else’s heart without our own heart being softened also. We grow closer and closer to God each time we pray for someone else.
When we intercede, it helps us to focus on someone other than ourselves. Praying for others forces us to take our minds off of ourselves. Jesus was selfless, always preferring others above Himself, always praying for another person’s needs. As we see how God intervenes in the lives of those we have prayed for, it gives us the chance to thank and praise Him for all His goodness. It is so exciting to see the ways in which God answers the prayers we have prayed for others.
There are millions in the world who do not know God. The lost people should be our first priority in intercessory prayer … the lost we know and those we don’t. We should pray for those who ask us to pray and for our “enemies” like Jesus instructs us in Matthew 5:44. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “In intercessory prayer the face that may have been strange and intolerable to me is transformed into the face of one for whom Christ died, the face of a pardoned sinner.”
The Lord urges us to pray because He knows the power of prayer. He knows what prayer can do, not only for the ones for whom we have prayed but for us as well. We need to pray, not to impress God but because it increases our faith. Intercession helps us to see with spiritual eyes, the needs of others and to lift our voices to God’s throne in behalf of others. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Happy new year both Western and Lunar! There is a phrase I often hear during this time of year saying, “New Year, New Me”. We often approach the new year as an opportunity to make new resolution or new goals to become better versions of ourselves. As FECC, we adopt a similar mindset. We enter 2023 with new members in our board of directors and our board of deacons and we bring to God our hopes for growth within our church. We look to see how God will bring about a “New Year, New Church”.
And this is why we have adopted this theme of Renovaré. We look to see renewal in our church as God brings about fresh things to our community. Our theme verse in Isaiah says to forget the former things and do not dwell on the past. And it also invites us to see and perceive the new things God is doing.
Seeing what God is doing is critical, but what keeps us from perceiving as we should? Here are three things that perhaps can keep us from seeing.
1. We are not looking. As individuals and as a community, we can be familiar and comfortable with our routines and be oblivious to what God is doing. We stay to what has worked and we do not actively see and look for what God is doing.
2. We are looking backwards. God is ahead of us making a way but we might be focused on looking at our past successes and how God showed up in our history. Isaiah says to forget the former things. While we thank God for His work in the past, we need to turn our eyes to the present and the future and see what God is doing now.
3. We are looking too narrowly. God might be doing a new thing completely different from what our expectations. We often times confine God to work in a particular context or a particular form. If we are to see what God is doing, we need to be open to notice God in perhaps some unexpected locations or means.
As we embark on this journey into 2023 and follow God’s direction for us, my prayer is that we would have eyes to see. Let us ask God to give us clear eyes to see and may we be empowered by God to faithfully follow Him in the direction he reveals!
In the letter to the Romans, Paul has two main aims. The first, in chapters 1-11, his aim is to explain God’s ultimate plan for the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles. The second begins here with one of the significant “Therefore’s” that always signals Paul is changing gears. From chapter 12 until the end of the letter in chapter 16, Paul is interested in the “So what?” that derives from the first 11 chapters. If God has transformed the world, if everything is cosmically different because of what Christ has done, if old divisions are healed and nothing can separate us from the love of Christ – what does that mean in our daily life?
In today’s passage, there are two answers to the above question. The first (vv. 1-2) is that God’s transformation is not magic. We have free will, and He does not transform us automatically. We have to be willing to be transformed. We have to offer all of ourselves – bodies (v. 1) and minds (v. 2) – for grace to work on. In many Christian traditions, what happens in Romans 12:1-2 is what we know as sanctification. In the moment of justification, God counts us as righteous because of Christ, but in all the moments afterwards we need to submit to the hard work of actually becoming righteous.
In Romans 12:3-8 Paul makes an application of this theme, and it’s the second answer to what Christ’s transformation of the cosmos means for our daily life. As we daily become sanctified, undergoing our own personal transformation and offering ourselves to Christ every single day, we will learn that each of us has a calling and that no calling within the body of Christ should be given pride over any other calling.
This can sometimes be a hard passage for a pastor like me to hear, but I think it’s a necessary passage. I am called to a ministry of preaching the Word, administering the sacraments, and loving and serving God’s people and I need to fulfill that calling. But I can’t be everywhere, and neither can any other pastor. Nor do I have every gift. For the body of Christ to function as it should, everyone needs to exercise those gifts – in and out of the church building – so that the world is taught, healed, cheered, and ministered to.
Since we’ve entered the pandemic, many of us have discovered exactly how essential it is that people exercise their gifts outside of the church building. Making technology function correctly. Teaching children remotely. Laboring in hospitals to help the sick. Calling those in power to account as we seek to quell the suffering. Exhorting others to carry on.
We stand at a crossroads in society today—not the first or the only crossroads that Christians have ever come to, but the crossroads that has been given to us. From Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Rings” we get the following exchange: “I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Are you willing to be transformed?
Lord, we are so grateful that You have saved us and that nothing can separate us from your love. Now empower us to minister in our callings to help heal the world in this moment. Amen.
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelations 21:5)
In the beginning of a new year, we hear a lot about newness: new hopes, new resolutions, new scandals, new diseases, and so on. But, in fact, there really isn’t much that’s actually new, other than the change in the calendar. We can pretend that the new year is a big deal, but, in reality, it’s pretty much a continuation of last year. Even things that feel new will soon become familiar and routine.
Contrast this with what God says in Revelation 21:5: “I am making everything new.” Not just the year. Not just a few things around the edges of reality, but all things! Everything! When God engages in renewal, all things are transformed.
The context for God’s making everything new is the “new heaven” and “new earth” we read about in Rev. 21:1. The “first heaven” and “first earth” have “passed away” and the new is coming, by God’s power and grace. Rev. 21 gives us a glimpse of the future. But this glimpse can also inform how we live today.
First, notice that God is making “all things new.” God is not obliterating all things and shooting our souls into Heaven for eternity. Rather, God is renewing all things on earth and in heaven, restoring them to what God had planned from the beginning. This is a powerful affirmation of the value of material things to God, who, after all, did once create them and regard them as “very good” (Gen. 1:31). This world and all that is in it matters to God and will one day be renewed by God. Thus, we should be sure to value this world as God values it.
Second, the fact that God will one day make everything new underscores the fact that our world is in need of serious renewal. Things are broken, tarnished, dysfunctional, and badly in need of, not just repair, but complete renovation. So, while we value this world and all that is in it, we also recognize how messed up it is. Christians should not be surprised when bad things happen, even to good people. We should expect injustice, even as we seek to do justice in this world (Micah 6:8). We should anticipate mourning, even as we get to rejoice in the midst of our sorrows.
Finally, God is the One who is making everything new. Only God can do this. You and I can’t. This ought to give us a fair measure of humility in our jobs, our families, our churches, and our politics. Yet, the fact that God and God alone has the power to make all things new does not mean we are irrelevant, mere bystanders to God’s renewing work. On the contrary, God has chosen to make His renewing power available to us through Christ. Though we can’t fix the world, we can, by God’s strength and Spirit, be channels of God’s renewal in our slice of the world. God wants to work through you and me to bring greater wholeness to our workplaces, families, communities, schools, churches, and countries.
In 2023, may we celebrate even more the One who will make all things new. May we rejoice in the fact that we get to experience a foretaste of this renewal in our lives today. And, in 2023, may we be available to God who wishes to use us as agents of renewal in this world.
All praise be to You, O God, because You are making all things new! Amen.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within (Psalm 51:10)
Happy New Year!
What are your hopes for this new year? We have many hopes for a new year, hopes for our individual lives, for our families and friends, for our workplaces and churches, for our country and our world.
A new year requires some adjustment, liking writing “2023.”. But, in truth, the fact that the calendar has changed actually makes relatively little difference in our lives. The year may be new, but for the most part, you and I haven’t undergone some magical, overnight renewal. We’re still the people we were yesterday, only perhaps more tired if we stayed up until midnight, celebrating the new year, with appropriate social distancing, of course.
When I stop to think about it, I’m not really all that excited about changing my calendar. The newness I crave goes much deeper than this. The yearning of my heart is captured perfectly in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” That’s what I need today, a heart cleansed by God’s grace, a spirit that is new and right. Yes, that’s it!
Notice that this kind of renewal is not something you can I can produce on our own. Only God can “create” a clean heart and a new spirit within us. This is clear, not only from the request of verse 10, but also from the use of the verb “create” (bara’ in Hebrew). This verb is found in the first verse of the Bible, as God created the heavens and the earth, and it is used in Scripture exclusively for God’s activity. God alone has the power to create the universe. God alone has the power to create a clean heart and new spirit within us.
This does not mean, however, that we cannot participate in this work of divine renewal. We can, according to Psalm 51, by coming before God as we are, acknowledging our brokenness, relying on God to forgive, restore, and renew us. Then we can participate in practices that help us grow in relationship with the Lord. These included sacrifices offered in the temple (51:19). For us, practices that contribute to our inner renewal include prayer, worship, biblical study and reflection, silence, journaling, Scripture memorization, community, gratitude, hospitality, loving-kindness, doing justice and walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8). None of these disciplines make us instantly new. But they all help us grow in God’s grace, thus opening our hearts to ongoing renewal by the Spirit.
So, as you celebrate the beginning of a new year, ask the Lord to renew you from the inside out. As you ask, make yourself available to the Spirit by engaging in practices that open your heart and mind for the work of God within you.
Where do you need to be made new? In what ways you need God to renew you in 2023?
Gracious God, create in me a clean heart. Renew a right spirit within me. Do in me what I cannot do myself, Lord. Make me new by Your grace. May I engage in practices that open my heart to You, practices that form me in the image of Christ. All praise be to You, O God, for You are making all things new . . . including me!