Tag Archives: Apostle Paul

Intercession – My heart’s desire and prayer

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praying chrch movement diamond 2We saw in the last post how the woman in Revelation 12 could be seen as Israel. Now we look at the second option of her as the Church. This time the twelve stars could be seen as the twelve disciples and the sun and moon representing the breadth of the Church as her members “shine like stars” in a dark world. However adding metaphor to metaphor is not the real point. We, as a Church,  are a people called to pray.

The early apostles set the identity of the Church and Paul, like a Moses of old, wrote down the grace principles in his letters and his life. In one word Paul modelled intercession. He, like the sign of the pregnant woman, knew all about making disciples through painful spiritual travail.

“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…” Galatians 4:19

We see this same committed intercession at the end of Romans 8, a passage which “hinges” significantly to the beginning of Romans 9, and which shouldn’t be stopped by the chapter numbers,  but should flow on to reveal Paul’s pained identification with his brother Israelites. One thread  of chapter 8 is the incredible commitment and love that God shows in Christ to His people. There is NOW, “no condemnation”. For If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”  There is also no accusation:Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died– more than that, who was raised to life– is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” And no separation: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”  Romans 8:31-35

The climax to all this come in the last verse as Paul emphasises the certainty and indestructibility of our place in God’s heart:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” v.38-39

He is emphasising the “no separation” love he knows of Christ – and yet he is prepared to go beyond promise, beyond even his own blessed experience of Christ’s intimacy, stepping boldly into the realm of identification and suffering for his own people.

“I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit – I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers , those of my own race, the people of Israel. ”  Romans 9:1-4

The man who so confidently proclaimed to the Philippian church: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” now has unceasing sorrow for his brothers. This is the paradox of our Christian pilgrimage on earth. Sorrow and joy often meet in the same heart, sometimes in the same instant, both intensely real and yet not hijacking one another in the mature believer. Tears and laughter can share an instant in the hidden heart of the intercessor.tears and laughter

Like his ancestor Moses of old, and his beloved Jesus of the cross,  he is willing to sacrifice even his own salvation, such is the passion of his prayer.

“But now, please forgive their sin– but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” Exodus 32:32

Christ’s living body on earth also modelled the obedience of intercession as an almighty God identified with the pain and lostness of His people with powerful tears.

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.”   Hebrews 5: 7

Before a waiting and watching world, imprisoned in the depths of sadness and suffering, the Church, the body of Christ, stands. May the multitudes see our tears and prayers as we are sent out in the same intercessory spirit as Christ himself.

Paul makes an interesting statement of Christ’s passion in Colossians 1:24,

“Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”

What is lacking? Surely there is no lack on the side of Christ’s full redemptive act. The lack is on the other side of the cross, as the Church is challenged to pick up the missionary baton of intercession and take Christ’s love to the end of the earth – on knees first, and then aeroplanes! It is not a redemptive lack, but an intercessory missionary lack! The power and passion awaits those who dare “rejoice” in suffering for the Gospel.

“To this end I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” v.29

This is a call for the church to “labour”, to birth the reigning male child, Christ’s Kingdom, into the world.

I’ll end by going back to Romans 10:1, which encapsulates Paul’s longing – the Church’s longing and hopefully our own longings in intercession, for people to be saved. Paul prays for his brother Israelites here, but you can use these lines to pray for those closest to your own heart.

“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.”

Intercession – Calling all Mums

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Pregnant womanEvery Mum is an intercessor !

All mums display the three essential ingredients of intercession that we mentioned in the previous article. They fully identify with the growing baby in their womb, they suffer in that identification through the initial birth and permanent care of the child and they have their own motherly authority of love over their offspring.

The Bible is full of this “Motherhood factor”, –  the literal or spiritual birthing of significant children, the birthing even unto Christ through intercession; the power and the pain. Let’s consider a few key verses :

” All these are the beginning of birth-pains. ”  Matthew 24 :8

“To the woman”  he said, ” I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing ; with pain you will give birth to children.”       Genesis 3 :16

The world had been lost through sin. God began his redemptive strategy by giving prayer and work to mankind. Adam was to sweat it out labouring the fields, getting rid of the thorns and thistles while Eve was to cry out in labour giving birth to new lives. It is interesting that the monastic movement founded by Benedict in the middle ages which transformed Europe had these two principles as its founding credo: “Orare Laborare” – Prayer and Work. Eve, our ancient mother,  began redeeming the fall through the “gift “ of labour pains, suffering – intercession. The previous verses of Genesis 3 :15, which speak prophetically of Christ’s intercessory victory over Satan,  emphasise the warfare context of such labour.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

The ancient battle and enmity between Eve and Satan traverses history, stretches into the future and finds ultimate incarnation in the fruit of Mary’s womb.

“But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever ; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1 :30-33

Even the natural world of “Mother Nature” seems to be flowing in this ancient rhythm of intercession inherited from the first fallen creation.

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time…In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray , but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. ”  Romans 8 :22,26

The natural world, frustrated by decay, is our ally in intercession.

A place of barrenness in our lives, lands and ministries is always an opportunity for fruitfulness via intercession. Don’t blame the barrenness but sing beyond it.virgin-mary-stylized1

“Sing, O barren woman,
you who never bore a child ;
burst into song, shout for joy,
you who were never in labour ;
because more are the children of the
desolate woman
than of her who has a husband. “  Isaiah 54 :1

The great pioneer Paul, also took up Eve’s spirit as his entire life was consumed with the birthing and nurturing of churches through his apostolic intercession.

” My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you,.. ”  Galatians 4 :19

In the same breath he mixes a number of metaphors – as does John in Revelation where a Bride interchanges with the Heavenly Jerusalem, pointing to a heavenly principle which echoes the redemptive birthing of the early garden and brings it to fulfillment:

“But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.” Galatians 4 :26

The veil is mysteriously drawn back in John’s Revelation of the Church and Christ and their ultimate victory and consummation is described from a variety of colourful, metaphorical and gloriously sacramental viewpoints.

At the beginning of Revelation 12, the scene shifts into showing some of the hidden spiritual rhythms and realities lurking behind history and reaching through our present into the future:

“A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven : a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth…The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre.”  Revelation 12 :1-5

Another Mum!

What does this breathtaking sign mean? Who is this woman of Revelation 12?

Let your mind and spirit do some creative thinking for a few days until I come back with the next article to add a few more thoughts to the exciting debate.

Happy meditation!

Go now and leave your life of sin…

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Is it really possible to “love the sinner but hate the sin?” It was probably St Augustin who first coined this phrase when writing, in parenthesis, to a few nuns: “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum,” which translates roughly to, “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.”

Is it possible to separate the actual person from their sin? In our righteous anger at sin, are we not in danger of becoming people haters as well?  D.H Lawrence in his short story, Daughters of the Vicar, gives a vivid description of a minister’s decline into such hatred.

“At last, passing from indignation to silent resentment, even, if he dared have acknowledged it, to conscious hatred of the majority of his flock, and unconscious hatred of himself, he confined his activities to a narrow round of cottages, and he had to submit. He had no particular character, having always depended on his position in society to give him position among men. Now he was so poor, he had no social standing even among the common vulgar tradespeople of the district, and he had not the nature nor the wish to make his society agreeable to them, nor the strength to impose himself where he would have liked to be recognised. He dragged on, pale and miserable and neutral.”

Perhaps one of the keys here lies in the “unconscious” self-hatred. The apostle Paul, writing in Romans 7, didn’t seem to see “sin” as a separate entity out there somewhere, but as an intimate indwelling part of his very make up.

“Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”

He hated himself for it!

“For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do…What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

Can we hear the cries to be rescued rising up within and around us?

You don’t throw a stone at a person who wants to be rescued. You throw a life line!

There are only two types of people in the world – man and woman, gay and straight, black and white, rich and poor, good and bad? No…the answer is found in 2 Corinthians 2:15:

“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

Those who are “being saved” from the sin and hate, and those who “are perishing.”

We desperately need a Saviour – and like St Paul we can cry, “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

The ultimate fragrance of salvation and forgiveness of sins was released from the crucified body of Christ as His blood paid the full price for all of mankind’s sin. God’s absolute hatred for sin fell on the sinless innocence of Christ.

We can be rescued by faith in Jesus!

This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance(and for this we labour and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, and especially of those who believe.” 1Timothy 4:9-10

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

The lifeline of Jesus is available to a perishing world.

There is a beautiful story of Jesus’ encounter in the gospel of John 8:1-11 with a woman caught in adultery.

The religious establishment is poised to stone the sin – and no doubt the woman along with it! Jesus exposes their own need to be free from sin, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her,” and the stones are quietly dropped.

He alone has the right to throw, but he extends stone less hands of embrace to the broken lady. She looks up with a brow used to habitual beatings from men and is astonished to meet the forgiving gaze of Christ’s love. “Neither do I condemn you.”

She feels his strong supporting hand pull her gently to her feet, a pure masculine touch that is all give and no take. For once in her life she finds acceptance and grace. She can learn to live again.

Having manifested the surpassing power of his love, He speaks the word of truth over her negative lifestyle.

“Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Having encountered Jesus, that must have been the one piece of advice she really wanted to take!

This is the position the church, the Body of Christ, must take up to reach out to the perishing and broken. Put your stones and hate on the back burner and liberate the perfume of Christ’s grace and forgiveness through the Gospel message.

And with all the love shed abroad, don’t forget the essential advice to turn away from sin and live close to Christ.

So, immensely love the sinner, and create a discipling context for the turning away from sin.

I’ve added a video to finish which is a bit of a mixture of many Biblical passages but which sums up the essence of Christ’s forgiveness.