Equipping Christians & churches for whole-life discipleship in the world.

Pray4Life: Aligning with God’s Strategy

October 29, 2015
29 Oct 2015

The person without the Spirit does not accept the
things that come from the Spirit of God but considers
them foolishness, and cannot understand them because
they are discerned only through the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 2:14

A communications strategy is important if we want to get a message across – be that advertising a company’s products, conveying vital information, or inviting our friends and family to a social get together. Crafting the message and choosing the right communication channel for your target audience takes great skill. But what if the desired audience is deaf? Or blind? Or speaks a different language? Or even is dead? The Scriptures use designations like these to describe non-believers. We may desire to be Messengers of the Gospel, but is anyone listening to our message?

When Paul was appointed by God as a witness to the Gentiles, he was told that he was being sent to ‘open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins’ (Acts 26:18). The conversion of all unbelievers involves this same rescue from being under the power of Satan. We should not be surprised, therefore, if there is an element of spiritual warfare in someone coming to faith in Christ. The good news is that the price for their release has already been paid by Jesus on the cross. Satan is defeated, so now has limited power for a limited time.

Yet spiritual warfare requires spiritual weapons, and key amongst these is prayer. Paul understood this as a first and vital component in communicating the gospel: ‘Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message’ (Colossians 4:2-3). If we desire that our friends and colleagues hear the gospel message, we need to pray for blind eyes to be opened, deaf ears unstopped, and deadened spirits to be quickened. Only then can they see, hear and respond.

Next Monday (2 November), LICC is launching a revised Pray4Life journey which is designed to encourage and equip us as we seek open a door for the gospel through our prayers.

Sign up at licc.org.uk/prayerworks to join this important journey!

Bev Shepherd

Pray4Life – Connecting with God’s Heart

October 29, 2015
29 Oct 2015

So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
Luke 15:20

The story we know as ‘the parable of the prodigal son’ (Luke 15:11-32) tells of a Father who longingly and lovingly awaits the return of his rebellious son, and a self-righteous older brother who becomes indignant when that return is celebrated. It’s set in the context of the Pharisees and teachers of the law questioning why Jesus would socialise and eat with sinners (Luke 15:1-2). The answer, given in the form of three parables, is that Jesus has come to seek and save the lost. Why? Because he shares the Father’s heart – God’s love and compassion for those who do not yet know him.

Praying for our colleagues to know Jesus makes deep demands on our faith, particularly when cultural influences encourage us to give precedence to our personal interests over the needs of others. We might even find ourselves identifying more with the attitude of the older brother in the parable than the loving heart of the father. Yet, as Douglas Steere writes in Prayer and Worship: ‘When we hold up the life of another before God, when we expose it to God’s love, when we pray for its release from drowsiness, for the quickening of its inner health, for the power to throw off a destructive habit… only then do we sense what it means to share in God’s work, in his concern; only then do the walls that separate us from others go down.’

Praying for the lost may involve loving them enough to sacrifice time and energy to bring them home. Praying for the spiritually dead requires a real concern for the eternal consequences of their rejection of God. Whilst we may well feel this level of passion and commitment to pray for unbelieving family and friends, it’s perhaps harder to pray sacrificially for our work colleagues. We need God’s help! Sometimes our prayers for others may need to begin with asking God to give us his love and compassion for them. When Paul wrote about being a messenger of the gospel, he was able to say, ‘For Christ’s love compels us’ (2 Corinthians 5:14) – can we?

On 2 November, LICC is launching a new 40-day prayer journey, Pray4Life, which sends short, daily email prayer prompts, equipping us to pray for friends and colleagues.

Join us as we learn together what it means to be structured and focused in how we might pray for people to come to life spiritually. Be re-energised in praying for those you care about to come to know Jesus. Be encouraged as we share answers to our prayers.

Join this exciting journey!

Bev Shepherd

Pray4Life: Connecting with God’s Mission

October 29, 2015
29 Oct 2015

Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’
Matthew 28:18-20

Mission statements, designed to specify purpose and direction, are everywhere. Companies, charities, and churches carefully articulate them on their websites and in their brochures. You may even have a personal one, or one for your family. As followers of Christ we have been given a mission statement. Under Jesus’ authority, we – the church – are to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). It’s a mission motivated by love – love for God and for others, be they friends, neighbours or colleagues.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). But when we consider getting involved in his mission and being a messenger of the gospel, especially at work, many of us feel overwhelmed. Perhaps we feel daunted by a possible negative reaction, worried that we don’t quite live up to the good news we want to share. Or perhaps we’re concerned about the effect that even mentioning the name Jesus will have on our career. Understandably, we might wonder if it’s an appropriate use of our working hours.

However, mission in the workplace is not primarily about evangelistic conversations, putting on events where people can explore the claims of Christianity, or even role modelling a godly lifestyle and work practices. Although mission in our organisations and teams certainly includes all of these, it is also vital that the spiritual atmosphere is changed so that spiritual life can grow.

How do we do this? John Wesley said of evangelism that ‘God does nothing on the earth save in answer to believing prayer’. Yet many of us have never been taught how to pray into this vital area.

On 2 November, LICC is launching a new 40-day prayer journey, Pray4Life, which sends short, daily email prayer prompts, equipping us to pray for friends and colleagues.

Join us as we learn together what it means to be structured and focused in how we might pray for people to come to life spiritually. Be re-energised in praying for those you care about to come to know Jesus. Be encouraged as we share answers to our prayers.

Join this exciting journey!

Bev Shepherd

Pray4Life: Faith to Pray

June 4, 2012
04 Jun 2012

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.
Matthew 17:20-21

The project had been axed. The team had worked precious evenings and weekends to meet deadlines and now some decision from ‘on high’ meant it was all for nothing. Sent on a training course, they sat in front of me, tired and disillusioned. Who wouldn’t be? None of us likes wasted effort.

The same is true of prayer. If I am to spend time and energy praying that friends and colleagues will become spiritually alive, I need faith, even as small as a mustard seed: faith in our God who answers prayer, and trust that my prayers will make a difference. I need to know that this ‘project’ has approval from ‘heavenly places’ and is totally aligned with God’s mission. I need to believe that my colleague is not beyond God’s power to save.

So how are we to grow in faith? Firstly, by recognising that when we are praying for unbelievers to come to know Jesus as Lord we are praying completely in line with the will of our God who ‘wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth’ (1 Timothy 2:4). Peter echoes this when he says the Lord does not want anyone to perish, ‘but everyone to come to repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9). Secondly, we build our faith by recognising that there is no person who is beyond God’s redeeming grace; if God can convert the murderous Saul of Tarsus, then he can save those for whom we are praying.

Throughout the Bible God seems to delight in bringing physical life in the form of a baby to couples where this seemed impossible – such as for Sarah and Abraham: ‘Is anything too hard for the Lord?’ (Genesis 18:14), and for Elizabeth and Zechariah: ‘For nothing is impossible with God.’ (Luke 1:37). When it comes to birthing spiritual life, God is not limited by the seeming impossibility of the circumstances.

The Father rejoices over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7), and his work of bringing life from death is one project that will never be ‘axed’. Be encouraged in your faith and join with us on the second prayer pathway, Pray4Life, so that there may be parties in heaven!

 

Beverley Shepherd

Pray4Life: Blinded

May 28, 2012
28 May 2012

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
2 Corinthians 4:3-4

I needed the loo! Despite an exhausting week working in Washington, D.C., sleep eluded me on my transatlantic flight back to Heathrow. Not so for my fellow passenger whose slumbering form blocked my exit to the aisle. His eye mask firmly in place, ear plugs inserted, and a few glasses of alcohol earlier in the flight all meant he was deaf and blind to my increasingly urgent ‘Excuse me, please’. Eventually I prodded him awake.

Have you ever wondered why friends and colleagues sometimes seem deaf to the claims of Jesus and blind to the truth of the gospel, however well presented? Paul tells us that the enemy has veiled their eyes as effectively as if they were my fellow passenger. How has he done this? He has established ‘strongholds’ in their minds based on ‘arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God’ (2 Corinthians 10:5). As Paul Barnett comments, in The Message of 2 Corinthians (IVP), ‘we do well to follow Paul in his realistic estimate of the entrenched power of unbelief and pride in the human mind’.

‘Arguments’ represent a person’s philosophy of life, their views and mindset. When someone hears the gospel, it is filtered through these existing belief systems. ‘Pretensions’, translated in the New American Standard Bible as ‘every lofty thing’, implies self-promotion, pride, or an attitude that wants to remain independent of God and ‘in charge’ of one’s own life.

As Paul says, ‘the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world’, but have ‘divine power to demolish strongholds’ (2 Corinthians 10:4). And in many of his letters, he points to the powerful weapon we have been given in prayer. Let’s use it, and be specific as we do so. Ask God to reveal the mindsets, pretensions and thought barriers that exist in the people for whom you are praying. Ask the Holy Spirit to prod them awake, as effectively as I did my fellow passenger, so that they can respond to the invitation of Jesus.

Join us on our Pray4Life pathway as we pray for the removal of the blindfold and earplugs from our colleagues and friends.

 

Beverley Shepherd

Pray4Life: ‘I Did It My Way’

May 21, 2012
21 May 2012

Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.
Luke 15:13

It’s a favourite at funerals, or so I’m told by a friend who regularly officiates at the local crematorium. Mourners leave to the rousing notes of Frank Sinatra singing ‘My Way’ – a song as old as Eden. The enemy is a master tactician and his goal, evident from the first insinuations whispered to Eve, is to cause us to doubt the Father’s love and become self-reliant. It’s echoed in Jesus’ parable of the lost son – a story of rebellion against the father’s authority, rejection of relationship with him, and a selfish desire to live as he pleases. A story repeated in the lives of those around us.

The father describes his son’s state before returning home as ‘dead’ and ‘lost’ – ‘for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found’ (Luke 15:24). This description is repeated in Paul’s letters – ‘as for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins’ (Ephesians 2:1) and ‘when you were dead in your sins’ (Colossians 2:13). This is the spiritual state of all those who are not believers. It is impossible for anyone to respond to the truth of the gospel, however brilliantly presented, while they are dead! Only God through his Spirit can bring forth spiritual life – only he can make those who are dead, alive in Christ.

So, what is our role? God’s resurrection power works in us and through us. As John Stott, commenting on Ephesians 3:20, writes: ‘the infinite ability of God to work beyond our prayers, thoughts and dreams is by the power at work within us, within us individually (Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith) and within us as a people (who are the dwelling place of God by his Spirit). It is the power of the resurrection… that is the power which is at work within the Christian and the church.’ No wonder James can say that ‘the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective’ (James 5:16). Our role is to pray that the Holy Spirit will ‘resurrect’ those for whom we are praying that they may live!

Our second prayer pathway, Pray4Life, encourages us to pray powerfully and effectively for friends and colleagues to be ‘alive again’. Do join us.

 

Beverley Shepherd

Pray4Life: Connecting with the Father’s Heart

May 14, 2012
14 May 2012

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him.
Luke 15:20

The Father is watching. The father is waiting. The father is longing for his child to come home. This is a father who has constantly scanned the horizon, day after weary day, for some sign of his son’s return; a father whose heart has longed for the relationship with his beloved child to be restored.

This story is told by Jesus after the Pharisees ask him why he is socialising and eating with ‘sinners’. His answer, given in three parables, is that he has come to seek and save the lost. Why? Because Jesus shares the Father’s heart. Indeed, the whole message of the gospels is that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).

On 9 June 2012, we launch our second Prayer Pathway – Pray4Life. Our focus will be praying for those who are currently ‘away’ from God’s love to ‘come home’, for those who are spiritually dead to become alive in Christ.

Pray4Life is about identifying with God’s heart of love for those who don’t know him. Praying for life involves reconnecting with the mission of Jesus ‘who loved me and gave himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20). Praying for the lost means loving them enough to sacrifice time and energy to bring them home. Praying for the spiritually dead is fuelled by a genuine concern for the eternal consequences of their rejection of God.

Whilst we may well feel this level of passion and commitment to pray for unbelieving family and friends, it might be harder to pray sacrificially for our work colleagues. We need God’s help. We need Christ to ignite us with his passionate heart so we see them with his eyes and are compelled by his love. Let’s reengage with the conviction that – as the 1945 report, Towards the Conversion of England, put it – the UK ‘will never be converted until the laity [you and I!] use the opportunities daily afforded by their various professions, crafts and occupations’.

Join us as we learn together what it means to be structured and focused in how we pray for people to come to life spiritually. Be re-energised in praying for those you care about to come to know Jesus. Be encouraged as we share answers to our prayers. Join this exciting journey!

 

Beverley Shepherd