Who Prayed For Paul?

The headlines ran red. If there were a secret first century parchment bearing news, prayers and encouragement, circulating the dispersed believers, surely it read, “ Steven, our beloved brother in the faith, perished at the hands of Saul and the religious leaders. He breathed his last yet full of the Spirit and testifying to the goodness of Jesus.”

Maybe, John picked up that parchment or maybe he wrote it, heart aching. What a loss for the early church! No doubt Christians across the known world knelt in their homes and small gatherings, praying fervently for Steven’s family, the progress of the Gospel, their own safety and Christ’s soon return. But who prayed for Saul?

The early church knew who was responsible for much of their terror, and God asked them to do the unbelievable. After Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus, He approached one of His own, a man named Ananias, and told him to go to Saul and lay his hands on him: “ ‘Lord,’ Ananias answered, ‘I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.’ ” (Acts 9:13, 14)

I wonder about that as our own headlines run red. Every single day we learn of more Christians, more People of the Cross, losing their lives for the name of Jesus. And, I kneel. I kneel by my bed and pray with tears streaming down my face. My emotions boil, a hot alloy of anger, fear, compassion and longing for justice. I lift up the Coptic Christians, those in Syria, Pastor Saeed Abedini, the orphans, the widows and those fighting for freedom.

But who prays for ISIS? Who prays for the Muslim Brotherhood? Who prays for Boko Haram and Vladimir Putin? Who prays for Al Queda?

Last Sunday, I served on prayer team at my church. Five of us huddled in the church office praying for the service and everything the Spirit laid on our hearts. We prayed for the church worldwide, but in that hour, none of us prayed for the persecutors. I have to confess, that even on my own time, I am reticent to pray for them. It’s not that I haven’t thought of it; it’s just that I don’t want to.

But in the biblical account, God didn’t let prayer warriors off the hook. In Acts 9:15-17, He replied to Ananias, “ ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.’ Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ ”

If Ananias had refused God, if he had found praying for the murderer of his Christian brothers just too hard, what would have become of Saul? Who would have become Paul? Who would have written the majority of the New Testament? Who would have written Romans, the consummate doctrine of salvation by grace through faith?

God may have asked Ananias to do the unbelievable, but God proved that He will do the impossible. The bulk of our sacred New Testament was penned by the very man who once slaughtered People of the Cross.

Might God dramatically change the trajectory of history if Christians today pray for the persecutors? Can you imagine, for a split second, the magnificent manifestation of God’s glory if those perpetuating evil turned their hearts toward Jesus?

Do you think we should be praying for terrorists? What should we pray?

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March’s Schedule

Welcome to March, well almost. Here, February will slide right into the year’s third month with a poem. We’ll recognize March beginning in its first full week.

Sadly, today I have been inundated with cultural lies that I’d rather not address. The first one slammed me brutal and early from the morning news on the radio. But its aftershock was even worse. I looked up the headline on the internet which led me to a related lie that took my breath away. I wish I felt there was more of a benefit to making you aware of these lies too. Perhaps there is, if only to help you recognize and avoid them; to help you protect your children and fly to the truth that is Jesus Christ. So, I’ll take the first week of March to mention these:

1. An old, pervasive lie that reinvents itself with every generation: young girls convinced that they are ugly and fat. In their minds, this equates to being worthless, rejected, doomed for the rest of their earthly days.

2. Related to the above, Thinspiration. Heard of it? If not, consider yourself lucky. As I share the crux of this lie, I speak from personal experience. I won’t share links. This is the one that sank like a sharp stone in my gut. Oh how it hurts to know and remember.

3. This last one is a world-wide lie. Lost jobs, failed crops. Rising prices, lost homes. Unforeseen bills, surprise broken plumbing, stalled cars and illness. It’s tempting to wallow in hopelessness. It’s tempting to fudge on taxes or look for loopholes in financial obligations. It’s tempting to keep our tithe in bottom drawer.

The second week in March, I am excited to share a dawning truth in my own life. I am in the process of renewing my certification as personal trainer. I let my certification through IFPA lapse nearly 5 years ago. Though I have entertained the idea of doing it again several times, I always shied away, fearful that anorexia and exercise addiction would rear their ugly heads again. I didn’t believe that God could use my weakness in this area, that He could apply His strength in me and glorify Himself as He conquered the sin where I have fallen so many times before. So, as I’m studying, God has been showing me parallels between our physical bodies, training and our spiritual growth and discipline.

During the third week of March, I want to do a character study on Moses. My sisters and I have been studying holiness in a Precept study called, “Living Like You Belong to God.” The study focuses on the unholy behavior of the Israelites as God drew them away from their bondage in Egypt. God drew defining lines around His people. He called them out to be like Himself – set apart and utterly different from the nations around them. The Israelites faltered over and over, despite their very godly leader Moses. God insisted on using Moses, a stuttering, shy man to lead His people. Moses came to be defined as the most humble man that ever lived, a friend of God, and one with whom God spoke face-to-face.

The truth is that God makes us holy. Regardless of where we come from and how long it takes us to get our feet under us as we follow Him – Jesus is the cause, the means and the effect of our holiness.

Finally, week four. I might be saving the best for last. A continual student of Moody Ministries, I will again be reviewing a book that they published, Counterfeit Gospels. That’s pretty obvious, of course we’ll be discussing lies about the gospel that have invaded the pulpit. We will study to be wary, diligent and effective in our own churches.

Join me!

P. S. This picture was too cute NOT to republish! Click on it to visit a beautiful blog.

I Wish I’d Thought of That

Nearly a year ago, I wrote a series of articles belittling the reality show Biggest Loser.  Since that time, I’ve also admitted to enjoying Jillian Michaels’ workout videos. Beth, a dear friend of mine who has guest posted here, and blogs at Exceedingly Abundantly Above , strongly disagrees(ed) with me. I have come around to her side for the most part. I can see the merits of the show.

However, I have big beef with reality shows in general. I find the concept extremely idolatrous (isn’t there even a show exploiting that concept). They either engender an increasingly sick obsession with ourselves, a pure lust for fame; or, they demoralize us “normal” people. This morning, Patrick and I were reading the news during our Saturday morning coffee. We came across this article: Why Americans are Willing to do Terrible Things to be Famous, by Keith Ablow.

My point exactly.