Preach // Healing // Spiritual Gifts // John 9

Preach from TRINITY Church 6.30 / 25th June 2017

based on John 9 and 1 Cor 12:9-10

INTRO //

Recommend books:

The essential guide to healing – Bill Johnson and Randy Clark

Those controversial gifts – George Mallone

There is More – Randy Clark

 

Well here we are in our series on the gifts of the spirit (in our life and church) and today we are looking specifically at healing and miracles. Our main focus is still the passage from 1 Cor 12, and particularly today vs 9-10

Slide >>>

to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers…

But I’ve also chosen the John 9 passage we just heard to take us a bit further than that.

My view point //

And I need to say I come at this from the view point that the spiritual gifts are for today and for now. I have seen them at work in my life and in the lives of others and I think we need to embrace them more, so I won’t apologise for being very enthusiastic about this subject!

However I will say that if you don’t agree with me or you have questions do come talk to me or to one of the leadership team, because we really want people to embrace this subject, but we also recognise it is a difficult one.

Facts //

So healing is our focus today.

Did you know that out of nearly 4000 verses in the 4 gospels, 727 relate specifically to the healing of physical and mental illness and the resurrection of the dead – that’s 1/5th of the gospels.

Healing was a big part of what Jesus did and how he taught people about the kingdom of God.

So then if that’s how he taught, shouldn’t it be the same for us as we share about the kingdom of God?

We had a phrase at my last church and it was ‘there is more’ (from the RC book)

Because I believe there is so much more to life following Jesus than we are seeing right now.

We are only seeing a tiny fraction of the kingdom of heaven and what that means for us here on earth now. We really need the gifts of the spirit to step into the fullness of what God has for us. I was taught in that environment that we should always be seeking the more. And I have carried that with me ever since.

 

 

John 9 / doubts etc

Now I imagine some of you are still unsure about this kind of stuff and perhaps not ready to totally embrace it yet or step into it for yourself. So I chose this passage from John 9 because there is so much in it – there is of course the healing miracle, but there is also doubt and questions, and there is even humour too:

You can see later on the man who was once blind is obviously getting a little bit exasperated with the questions from the Pharisees and he says:

Slide >>>

“I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

now that’s some banter right there. The pharisees are seriously important guys and our guy here is giving them some serious sass – it’s like a comedy routine almost!

But as well as humour there is also doubt and questions as well as the miracle of course.

All of which can help us relate to the idea of healing with our own questions.

Because questions are ok – I think we can grow in our faith by asking questions but let’s question intelligently – and let’s hold our doubts tension with the truth of who Jesus is, with what scripture says about him.

I want to show you a video clip now, this is of a man called Randy Clark who I believe has been given the spiritual gift of healing and has seen hundreds if not thousands of people healed. And here he is interviewing people who have been healed during one of his conferences:

 

>>>CLIP Randy Clark video 3 mins ish


Now, I’d be really interested to know what do you think when you see that? Anyone want to tell me – what is your immediate response to seeing that clip? Honestly.

Get responses… >>

perhaps you are inspired and in wonder at the power of God.

Or perhaps you find it really challenging. Did God really do that? Why? How? are they even telling the truth? Is this fake… it’s all pretty unbelievable right?

And that’s ok, it’s ok to have questions about stuff and especially when we don’t understand it or haven’t experienced it.

/////

You know, I literally was writing this preach sat in the Royal Alex hospital this week with my son who broke his arm – ironic right ?! I was writing this surrounded by sick kids who needed healing.

That was really hard, I was like should I be going round offer to pray for healing?!

And here’s the thing he had lots of prayer for healing and the bone did not get healed,

So about now I could be thinking, well I know God has the power to heal and he hasn’t and why hasn’t he? But if I focused on that I would be missing the answers to prayer that we did experience.

When we left the hospital on the day he broke it, we were told he’d need surgery and to come in on Monday for the op. So we began praying he wouldn’t need surgery. Monday morning after he’s already fasting – nil by mouth – we get a phone call to say they are not going to operate after all, they’ve taken another look and can he come in the next day to have it manipulated instead. Praise God!

Plus his pain levels which were through the roof even maxed out on paracetamol and ibuprofen dropped hugely, meaning he could go to school in between hospital visits to finish his end of year exams.

So I can take comfort in the fact that God has been with us all even if he didn’t heal Elliott as we would have liked! So I can hold the question of why didn’t he get healed this time alongside what I know to be true that God loves him and wants the best for him.

And I can’t say it enough, it’s key that we recognise that it’s ok to have those questions, so long as they don’t take over. So long as we hold them alongside the truth.

///

Here, in our John 9 passage we see 2 different ways of dealing with questions.

Firstly you’ve got the Pharisees with all their rules and objections:

: But it’s the Sabbath

: He must be a sinner because he did this on the Sabbath

: But how can he be a sinner and have the power to heal?

And so on…

 

But they just end up tying themselves in knots with all their questions and seem to deny the truth which is right in front of them, that Jesus healed a man who was once blind.

And then you’ve got the man who was blind – our second example – he says it all when he says:

“Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

It’s as simple as that! He doesn’t care who or how or why, he just knows, he can see!!

But still the Pharisees question. In fact they end up where this passage started – the idea the disciples suggest in v1 when they say:

“You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!”

they just can’t get beyond their objections and questions to see the truth.

Let’s not get too bogged down in what we don’t understand, it will just cloud our vision…

 

///////

 

So what are the gifts for?

So, we believe that these gifts are for today, well what are they for? Or Why are they there, why should we take notice?

Well I’ve got 3 reasons here but you might have others…

Slide >>

For the Common good

To bring Glory to God (Evangelism)

Jesus told us to

 

  1. For the Common good

 

In our 1 Corinthians passage v7 we see that the spiritual gifts are given for ‘the common good’

Slide >>

v7:

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

 

And that theme is picked up later on in the passage from verse 12-22 when it talks about us being one body with many parts

Slide >>

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ

 

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable

 

We are in this together people!

We all have a part to play.

Just imagine as our passage says, one part of the body says to another, I don’t need you.

What happens? The body doesn’t function completely as it should.

So say the hands don’t work, well that would make life very difficult but the body would still be alive right – my son has only one working arm at the moment and it’s a challenge! But he’s still living, going to school, etc but it means his body is not functioning to it’s full potential.

So take that metaphor to the church. What happens if we say, well we don’t need that bit of the church, we don’t need that part of worship, or that part of belief. What happens?

>>The church doesn’t function to it’s full potential.

 

So if we do away with part of what God has for us, we are missing out big time. If we say well the spiritual gifts are not for now, or God doesn’t heal today, or that’s not for me, then we are not achieving our full potential as Christians or as a church.

 

2 For the glory of God

Slide >>

Paul says in Romans 15:

 

17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18 I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— 19 by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God.

His service is all about bringing glory to God and look at how he notes that through these signs and wonders the HS is doing through him, he is leading gentiles – ie: non believers – to come to know the Lord

Do you know what happens when people get healed?

They are so full of joy and excitement they tell people about it. See our clip earlier – look how excited they were to tell about what had happened to them!

Slide >>

In our John passage, verse 3 Jesus says of the blind man:

 

this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

When signs and wonders happen the glory is for God. And more than that – when God’s glory is displayed people want to know more.

There’s an example of this in Mark 5 when Jesus healed a demon possessed man. And afterwards it says:

Slide >>

20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

The miraculous power of God at work, inspires people to give glory to God and to share about who he is…

 

3) Jesus told us to

Ok , one of my favourite scriptures really speaks into this – it is from Matthew 10:8 when Jesus sends out he 12: and he says:

Slide >>>

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

So he says: preach this – the kingdom of heaven has come near. And then the action is to – heal the sick, raise the dead etc. The two are connected.

Now I love that passage because of the message but more… this is as much for us all now too, that we should both proclaim the kingdom and act accordingly – and if you’re not convinced let’s look at Mathew 28:19, The Great Commission – Jesus tells the disciples to:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing 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.

Ok so they are to make new disciples – ie: preach the kingdom of heaven – and then teach those new disciples to do what they are doing. Yes, get that? Ok so what did he tell them to do back in Mat 10?

Yep you got it:

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.

So this is as much for us now as it was for them then! Make sense?

 

Hard stuff //

Now before I finish I do want to touch upon the difficult stuff –

God doesn’t always answer our prayers, for healing or otherwise, in the way that we would like.

And that can be really difficult, I am sure there are people here who haven’t received healing through prayer or have had a bad experience with people praying for healing for them. And it can be quite damaging actually. We need to recognise that and be super sensitive when we are teaching about and praying for healing.

People can come up with all sorts of reasons people aren’t healed – just like the Pharisees saying well he must be a sinner that’s why he’s blind.

I’ve heard for example:

  • well you haven’t got enough faith
  • there’s something blocking your belief.

 

Well you know Jesus himself said in Luke 7:

“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

A mustard seed – do you know how big a mustard seed is? tiny! I am pretty sure we could all muster up a mustard seed’s worth of faith!

(no pun intended)

Or you get those over zealous pray-ers – you know the type – people rock you around, pushing you over, or getting shouty, trying to force healing to happen… I’ve experienced plenty of that and it’s just really distracting, in fact I find it decreases my faith because I am just thinking ‘will you stop shouting in my ear you are spitting on me…’!

And those kind of experiences can just leave people with even more questions or with their faith damaged as a result

We have to remember it is not us that are the ones doing the healing, our role in praying for healing or anything else in prayer ministry is to bring that person closer to God, to help them to meet with the Lord in their situation. It is the Holy Spirit that does the work not us. They should be able to walk away from prayer feeling they have drawn closer to God whether healed or not.

And for some of us in those kind of situations, when being prayed for, trying to hold onto the truth of God, alongside what we are seeing in front of us can be really really tough.

If that’s you I’d recommend the book of Job, I have found it really helpful – in it there is a whole discussion going on between Job to whom terrible things have happened, and his friends who are trying to justify and answer and come up with reasons why all this has happened.

And then God shows up. And asks ‘where you there when I laid the earth’s foundation? Or when I made the clouds? Have you given orders to the morning, or seen the gates of death, or comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? And this goes on for some time!

And the answer is No, so how can you possibly understand!?

Because at the end of the day He is God and we are not.

Now I know some people think that is a cop out, they want to explore and argue and come up with answers to everything and I know because as a Christian I’ve been accused of being foolish, thick, naiive, brainwashed.

They think faith without proof is mumbo jumbo, a crux for the weak. But I say the opposite, wow I mean how much strength and courage and boldness does it take to believe in Jesus? It’s rarely easy!

The thing is he is God, He’s God! If we could fathom him out and answer all our questions then we’d have no need of him in the first place!

We have to get to a place where we can be comfortable with an element of mystery.

  

We don’t always know the answers, perhaps one day when we are up there we will, perhaps we won’t but for now :

What we don’t understand we hold alongside the truth.

So let’s finish with some truths…

Healing and the spiritual gifts are for now as much as in Jesus time.

They are for the common good

They glorify God and point people to Jesus

: Jesus IS the Son of God, he loves us and want to know us more and for us to know him more.

: He will be with us in any circumstance, no matter what we’ve done, no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in.

We are a church that wants to see lives transformed by the love of Christ.

The more we know Jesus in all his fullness, we more we get transformed, the more we see others lives transformed.

Randy Clark said this:

 

“God is not looking for the well financed, the well educated nor even the well experienced in “ministry.” He is simply looking for those who are willing to yield their hearts and lives to all He wants to do working through them. He is looking for those who are willing to believe for more, because there is more!”  p.26 RC There is More

 

so my question today is – Do you want to see the more?

 

Lead into prayer…

 

A Priesting prayer. ( Or just some rambling thoughts…)

Chichester Cathedral in glorious sunshine

 

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

 

I often hear people utter in prayer: ‘less of me and more of you God’.

I don’t know about you but I really can’t stand it. It just makes no sense to me at all. Oh yes I know what the sentiment is, before you all holler: it recognises our own brokenness and the need of a saviour, I get all that, we want to be more like Jesus. But for me, focussing on that phrase just leads us down the path to self denial, to dark and condemning thoughts, it leads us away from the truth that God made us, that he knit us together in our mothers wombs.

Look, of course there are always the few who think the sun shines out of their own derrieres, but there are many many more who question themselves, not fully convinced of their identity in Christ. Lack of self worth and recognition of the talents and characteristics that form us into unique and beautiful individuals, leads us away from God, not to him.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

In the same breath that the Psalmist asks God to search him, to sift through his heart, to seek out the specks of offense, to lead him into the light, he notes:

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

So wouldn’t a better prayer be: ‘more of the me who you made me to be and more of you God’?

….o0O0o…

I write less than 48 hours after being ordained a Priest in the Church of England. 72 hours ago I was heading off to retreat with my fellow Curates, feeling utterly convinced of my own brokenness, less than prepared and with a host of reasons why God was wrong about sending me to this.

(I know it’s common to feel that way and it was suggested to me over the weekend that if I didn’t feel that way I shouldn’t be doing it anyway).

I was walking towards the retreat and Priesting with my head hung low, making my bed in the depths. And yet over that 24 hours God spoke to me saying:

Where can you go from my Spirit? Where can you flee from my presence? all the days ordained for you were written in my book before one of them came to be.

Gently lifting my head, speaking precious words over me and leading me towards the way everlasting…

….o0O0o…

It all started with a few words: ‘I’ve re-discovered Jesus through you…’

– an unexpected email arriving moments before leaving for retreat gushed with such love and encouragement for my ministry. I believe God sent me those words to break through the wall of condemnation I had built around myself. To remind me that I am doing what he has called me to do. That really it’s not about me, it’s about him, and about the people round me. I’m just the bee busily buzzing round in the middle, hoping to pollinate those I come across with the potential for new life, for transformation and growth. I sobbed as I read that email, knowing that yet again God was peeling back the darkness and revealing his truth.

Then a few hours later, a suggestion from an advisor to focus on Psalm 139. I know it well of course, but an hour spent sat in the gorgeous surroundings of the Bishops Palace Garden, and taking in those words peeled away more. Noticing the beauty in the detail of God’s creation all around me, a robin coming to join me for a snack so close I could see the detail in his tiny feathers, the light glinting in his beady eye fixed on me, seemingly searching my heart. As I sat, prayed, wondered and read, those words spoke warmth and validation into my soul afresh.

And then the words of the Bishop himself, ‘charging’ us afresh for the ministry of a Priest, encouraging us to be ourselves, but ourselves with Christ in us. That people see our face – they want to see our face, our humanity, our reality, our humanness, not a ‘clerical cardboard cut out’.

Then finally the moment arrived, my robes which felt so alien just a year ago, now feel like a faithful friend (though I’ve only worn them a handful of times!) and we process in together, surrounded by those who have taken this journey before us, those who stand and support us now and those who are beside us in the work we are doing.

You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

We stand and face the congregation as they are asked to affirm their support for us, I am face to face with my Vicar – someone who knows me, has seen me in distress, in anger and in doubt. And as he looks me straight in the eye and tells me he supports me and will pray for me and encourage me, I feel those last bits of self doubt falling away.

Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.

Then one at a time we kneel before the Bishop, again someone who knows me well, who knows my frustrations, my hopes and fears for the church, and in spite of this he prays for the Holy Spirit to fill me, equip me for the office and work of a Priest, gives me a bible and anoints my hands asking for the empowering of God upon me.

We turn and stand before the congregation to rapturous applause and cheering and I am undone.

 

…o0O0o…

Despite my self doubt, despite my failings, my mistakes, my frustrations, this feels right. It seems completely insane, I still wonder why God has called me to this, but I know it’s right and recognsing the gifts God has given me and my characterisitcs, they are there to enable me to fulfill this role. Traits I’ve thought were negatives in me, suddenly become essential tools for ministry; emotions that I find hard to handle, appear as necessary to support others; and my wilfullness and stubborn nature become the backbone I need to survive ministry.

I feel affirmed.

 

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

 

So, Lord, now as I step into this future, I pray :

more of the me who you made me to be, and more of you God.

Amen

Holy Week Reflection 7 // Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday – in the Grave

Read: Luke 23:50-56

  • What, if anything, stands out to you?

Listen: Stations of the Cross by Malcolm Guite 13 and 14 click on the numbers to get the audio

 

Artwork: two choices today:

‘The Deposition’ Ugolino de Neriolook close up at the faces of Mary and Jesus 

 

or Michelangelo’s ‘Pieta’ sculpture (click on the titles to see the paintings)

 

  • Both these pieces depict the raw emotion of a Mother with her dead son. Can you feel the sorrow through the artwork?

 

Prayer Points:

  • As we come to the end of the week’s reflections, why not commit yourself afresh to the Lord? You could use this prayer – The Methodist Covenant Prayer which Methodists repeat every year in committing themselves afresh to the Lord.

 

I am no longer my own but yours.

Put me to what you will,

rank me with whom you will;

put me to doing, put me to suffering;

let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,

exalted for you or brought low for you.

Let me be full, let me be empty,

let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things

to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

you are mine and I am yours.

So be it.

And the covenant made on earth,

let it be ratified in heaven.

Amen.

 

 

 

Holy Week Reflection 6 // Good Friday

Good Friday – The Crucifixion

Read: Mark 15:21-41 perhaps 2 or 3 times

  • What, if anything, stands out to you?
  • Imagine yourself in the text, at the foot of the cross, how does it make you feel?

Listen: Stations of the Cross by Malcolm Guite 11 and 12 click on the number to get the audio

Painting: ‘St John of the Cross’ by Salvador Dali Click on the title to see the painting

 

  • This painting was inspired by a drawing, kept in the Convent of the Incarnation in Avila, Spain, which was done by Saint John of the Cross after he had seen a vision of Christ during a powerful spiritual experience. Dali talks of the unity of the world in Christ through his own interpretation. What does it speak of to you?

 

Song: Strange way by Martyn Joseph

 

  • A cleverly written song on the Crucifixion, have a listen to the lyrics and see what stands out to you and think about why.

Prayer Points

  • We sometimes talk of nailing our burdens or our sin to the cross. What do you need to let go of and give to the Lord right now? Lift it to him in prayer.
  • Pray for those who are persecuted for their Christian faith around the world.
  • Pray for those you know struggling in their faith

 

Holy Week Reflection 5 // Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday – The Last Supper

Read: Luke 22: 7-30 and/or John 13:1-17

  • What, if anything, stands out to you? 

Listen: Stations of the Cross by Malcolm Guite 9 and 10, click on the number to hear the audio

 

Painting: ‘Journey with Jesus’ by He Qi click on the title to see the image

 

  • There is much symbolism and many references in this picture, what stands out to you?
  • Where would you be in this picture?

 

Prayer Points:

  • Focus on the line from Luke ‘…my blood is poured out for you…’ Spend some time thanking God for the amazing sacrifice he made for you.
  • Pray for those in positions where service is key, perhaps the emergency services, medical staff or armed forces.
  • Pray for those who serve you personally. At home, work, church or in the community…

 

 

Holy Week Reflection 3 // Tuesday

Tuesday – The Greatest Commandment

Read: Matthew 22: 34-40, perhaps 2 or 3 times.

  • What, if anything, stands out to you?
  • How important are these commandments to you in your life? In what ways do you show the love of Christ in your daily life?

 

Listen: Stations of the Cross by Malcolm Guite 5 and 6(click on the numbers of get the audio)

Painting: ‘God Hold Me’ by Charlie Mackesy

Available here but you need to scroll down to item 74

 

 

  • Can you imagine yourself in this painting?
  • Can you think of a time when you have experienced God holding you in this way? Perhaps you might need to experience this now in a situation you face?

 

Article: Holy Week in an Unholy World

 

  • Does this article resound with you?

 

Prayer Points:

  • As above, imagine God holding you in an embrace like the painting. Can you invite him into a particular situation you are facing?
  • For situations in the world that need God’s embrace more than ever right now, for example for those grieving in Syria
  • For someone you know who needs to feel God’s embrace afresh today

 

Visit: Pop into our Easter Encounter Space at TRINITY Southover, open all day today from 10am – 10pm. Explore the Easter story through the prayer stations.

 

Holy Week Reflection 2 // Monday

Monday – Cleansing of the Temple

 Read: Mark 11: 15 – 19, perhaps 2 or 3 times.

  • What, if anything, stands out to you?
  • What are the things that make you angry? Why not spend some time thinking about a time when you were angry, frustrated or annoyed recently. Spend some time reflecting on how Jesus might have reacted to that situation?

Listen: Stations of the Cross by Malcolm Guite 3 and 4Click on the numbers to go to the audio.

Illustration: Modern interpretation of Christ driving the money changers from the temple’ by Anthony Freda/Daniel Zollinger (click on the title to see the image)

  • What is your instant reaction to this picture? What emotions does it raise in you? Do you think it is fair as a modern interpretation?

Article: Following Jesus Means Being Political and Advocating for “The Least of These”

Following Jesus Means Being Political and Advocating for “The Least of These”

  • Does this article resound with you?
  • Does following Jesus mean being political to you?

 

Prayer Points:

  • If you feel led to do so, pray into the situations you thought about above where you experienced anger.
  • Pray for an issue of injustice, for example those who suffer because of race, religion or sexuality.
  • For those you know who struggle with unresolved anger

Holy Week Reflection Resources

For Holy week at my church, I have gathered a selection of resources and ideas to use as an aid to prayer or as a reflective tool, as we remember the week that Christ. Feel free to reuse or point people to it.

I have included passages of scripture from the Holy Week narrative, paintings and images, poetry in the form of Malcolm Guite’s, ‘Stations of the Cross’ and prayer points, so there is plenty of variety. You might find you just want to focus on one theme, perhaps just choosing to listen to the stations of the cross each day and reflecting on those, or looking at the paintings and seeing what thoughts they raise in you, you can do as much or as little as you would like or have time for.

There is a section for each day and I have kept the items, questions and prayer points simple so that if you are short of time you could do all of it in 10-15 minutes each day, but there is also scope to spend much longer if you would like.

The purpose of this set of resources is to encourage and enable you to interact with the truth of the gospel message afresh in your personal faith. Some of the ideas might be more accessible to you than others, some might challenge you or make you think, others you might simply skim over. There is no right or wrong way of going through this, it is up to you…

 

First one up tomorrow and I’ll publish them each day until Holy Saturday…

Book Review // Songs for Suffering by Simon Stocks


It’s great to be asked to review this book as Simon was my biblical studies tutor at college during my ministerial training. I am a big fan of the Psalms, but I also recognise that they are a bit like marmite, with some people choosing to read them as infrequently as possible. But I would say, don’t let that put you off, this might just be the book that helps you combat that!

Songs for Suffering is a wonderful guide for those in a season of struggling or as Stocks notes ‘for anyone who is going through tough times, whatever form that takes’. And it really is for anyone, written simply and not full of theological jargon, making it hugely accessible, but with a depth of knowledge evident from Stocks’ own academic experience.

Focussing on psalms of lament, the book takes us on a journey. Using personal reflections and stories from peoples lives, the author encourages the reader to deal with questions in their own lives, from personal failure, to issues of identity, and deeper still to despair, grief and personal suffering.

Each chapter guides us though a particular theme, asking questions for the reader to consider and pointing us to specific psalms for individual needs or circumstances. It is written in a very practical way, addressing how we can personally use the words of the psalms to deepen our own prayer life and each chapter finishes with some suggestions for what to do next.

However this is not just a practical guide, but a book filled with the authors own experience of life and pastoral ministry, written with compassion and a deep understanding of what it is to encounter personally, and come alongside those who suffer.

Stocks doesn’t shy away from difficult themes like shame, doubt and anger, but on the contrary embraces them with confidence, bringing a sense of assurance for the reader, encouraging them to engage with the themes for themselves.

Although my sense is that this is a book to work through from start to finish, it could also be something to dip into in particular times of trouble, or in supporting others facing difficult times, and in fact a helpful index at the end points to specific psalms for different circumstances.

Stocks reminds us afresh that The Psalms are a wonderful resource, passed down through the ages and used as the bedrock of Christian prayer for centuries, that are just as useful today, giving us the tools to pray in ‘just about any situation imaginable’ keeping us in touch with God even when pressures threaten to stop us.

The author notes: ‘may you find deeper connection to God, as you do so, even in the toughest of times…’ and this truly is a book that will help you do that.

Songs for Suffering will be published by Hendrickson Publishers Inc in April 2017. and can be pre-ordered at most good book stores online including Eden (priced £12.99) and Amazon (priced £11.99). There is also a website that goes alongside the book and will host other resources linked to lament at: www.cryhard.org

 

Simon Stocks

The Rev’d Dr Simon Stocks teaches Biblical Studies at St Augustine’s College of Theology, England (formerly known as SEITE). He is Chair of the Theological Educators’ Network and also ministers in the Anglican parish of Christ Church, Purley. After a career in civil engineering, he trained for ministry and worked in parish ministry in the Diocese of Southwark, before undertaking doctoral studies. His research interests include the interactions between poetic form and interpretation in Hebrew poetry, and the theology of lament.

Preach // John 17:6-19 // Standing in the Gap

Preach // John 17:6-19 // Standing in the Gap 

Now available to listen to here: Just click under the speakers tab and choose my name and you can see it.

TRINITY: 9.30 4/9/16; 10am & 11.15am, 18/9/16

moody1JPG 

Anyone know who this is?

Have you heard of a man called D L Moody? D L Moody is known as one of the world’s greatest evangelists. He lived in the 19th Century and travelled mostly around America and England sharing the gospel. In a period of just 40 years he saw 1 million people become Christians as a result of his teaching and preaching. 1 million people. That’s staggering isn’t it? Even in today’s era of mass communication.

But more than that he also planted churches, founded Christian schools, launched a Christian publishing business, established a world-renowned Christian conference centre, supported the poor, and inspired literally thousands of preachers to win souls and conduct revivals.

And one story I love about Moody is that in his lifetime he wrote a list of 100 friends who he decided he would pray for to come to know Jesus. And he prayed for them regularly. By the time he died, 96 of them had become Christians. Pretty cool, right? But there’s more – the final 4 of the 100 – converted at his funeral!

Moody was a man who knew the power of prayer.

Why am I telling you this? because the passage today is Jesus’ prayer. And we are going to be looking at prayer this morning.

So a quick recap – we are continuing in our series from John’s Gospel, and we are looking at this passage which we should remember takes place at the last supper, in that upper room, the last time Jesus and the disciples are gathered together before he is arrested. And this passage is part of a prayer and also right at the end of what is called Jesus’ ‘Farewell discourse’ which runs from Ch. 13-17.

It was actually a fairly common practice in the ancient world, to give a parting speech or ‘farewell discourse’. When someone knew their end was approaching, they might share with those close to them, some thoughts, possibly some words of comfort and sometimes a prayer. So what Jesus is doing, or what John tells us of what Jesus does is not that uncommon and would certainly make sense to the Greek reader at the time.

 

So we are looking at Jesus’ praying…

And it’s actually interesting that very few of Jesus prayers are actually recorded. We know he prayed alone, at night, often by himself, withdrawn from others, he prayed for children as they came to him, he prayed outside in nature, on the mountainside or in lonely places, he prayed for his persecutors… In fact he prayed in lots of ways or situations but we don’t often see what he prayed in any detail. We have the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ of course, but this in fact is, I believe, the one time in the bible where we see the words Jesus prayed, recorded at length.

So Jesus’ prayer here has 3 strands to it, first he prays for himself, then as we have heard today, for his disciples, and then later for all believers.

This prayer is an intercessory prayer – it is Jesus interceding for the disciples, he is lifting them up to the Father – as we sometimes say, standing in the gap for them. He is the go between, the connector, the wifi router if you like. The one that connects them with the source.

So that is what I want to focus on today, for us to look at what it means to intercede for others in prayer, what we can learn from how Jesus prays and our role to intercede for others.

We are of course starting with this passage but we are going to look at a few other scriptures, so we will have them on the screen but if you have your bibles and want to look them up please do…

 

What does it mean that Jesus is an intercessor for us? 

We sometimes have the ‘intercessions’ in church – prayers in the service that specifically lift up others before the Lord.

And to intercede means: to act or interpose on behalf of someone in difficulty or trouble, by pleading or petition…

So Jesus is the one who stands before the Father on behalf of us, he stands in that gap between us and the Father and brings the two together. He mediates on our behalf.

And in fact this isn’t the only passage in the bible on this theme of intercession.

In our Romans passage earlier (Romans 8: 28-39) we heard that ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ and that’s it, Jesus, as God, is soooo for us. He’s our biggest fan! And that passage goes on to say that God doesn’t condemn us, no, he is the one who intercedes for us and that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus. Nothing!

Because he will always be there, as our cheerleader, our encourager and mediator…

Hebrews 7 talks about what it means to be a Priest and notes that Jesus as our great high priest : ‘is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them’.

He is ALWAYS interceding before God, for us.

Isn’t that pretty amazing? It’s like having someone continually beating your drum, saying how amazing you are, but also defending you when you need it, being the one when you make a mistake who stands up for you, who fights your corner.

Who does that for you? Anyone? … Always?

Well Jesus does it for you, before the one who matters most, before the Father…

 

 

Other biblical examples of intercessors

There are other examples of great intercessors in the bible too – there are many people in the OT who were like forerunners of Jesus, from whom we can learn so much about Jesus. Moses is a great example and an amazing intercessor. He was interceding for the nation of Israel. So many times they messed up and he went before the Lord and pleaded for them, on behalf of them.

There was also Abraham prayed on behalf of the people of Sodom, Daniel prayed for the people of Israel, and then there’s this in Job:

 

Job endured great suffering, pouring out his heart to God and to his friends, says this (from the message version) Job 16:18-21

 

‘O Earth, don’t cover up the wrong done to me! Don’t muffle my cry!

There must be Someone in heaven who knows the truth about me,

 in highest heaven, some Attorney who can clear my name—

My Champion, my Friend, while I’m weeping my eyes out before God.

I appeal to the One who represents mortals before God

as a neighbor stands up for a neighbor.’

 

Who does that sound like if not an intercessor? If not THE intercessor.

 

So that’s just a few examples of bible heroes, if you like, who were great intercessors too.

 

But here in our passage, we have THE greatest intercessor, Jesus, interceding for his disciples,

So. What can we learn from how Jesus prays here? He is praying specifically for his disciples, he is not at this moment praying for all believers (see v. 9), that is to come.

As we know, this is the last supper. The last time Jesus will be with them before he is arrested and then killed. He has shared some thoughts with them, his final words or discourse and now he prays, in their presence it seems.

He knows what trials they will continue to face. To suffer persecution and pain and for all bar one of them (John interestingly) to die horribly, martyred for their faith.

What could he possibly pray for them?

I wonder how many times you have prayed for someone and just thought, what can I possibly pray? Their situation may seem so hopeless or impossible that we might find ourselves with so little faith.

But of course Jesus also knows here what great things the disciples will achieve in his name, and I think much of intercessory prayer is about stating some truths, biblical promises, declaring them over people, over situations, the truth of God.

Jesus does this too. So let’s just look at a few of the things he prays for and the things he declares:

 

He starts by declaring who he is, who the Father is and who the disciples are.

He says that disciples were the chosen ones of God in v 6: … ‘They were yours; you gave them to me’. Declaring that they belong to God, putting a spiritual seal on them if you like – like I’ve just been naming my kids uniform this week as they have just gone back to school – putting a label on which basically says: ‘this belongs to Joe Smith’. It’s a bit like Jesus is putting a label on them saying, these guys here, they are mine, they belong to God.

 

He goes on in verse 7-8

‘…they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me’

he is saying, declaring, this group of people, they are believers, they are followers of me, it’s a declaration of salvation. They have chosen to be part of the Kingdom of God.

Then in verse 10 he says they are bringers of God’s glory:

‘And glory has come to me through them.’

Again he is declaring what they have done, their work for the kingdom, and this is how God sees them.

 

He talks of the power of his name slide

v. 11-12

 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me

 

He is declaring over them, the power of Jesus name – that his prayer, carries great authority.

don’t forget they are there whilst he is praying – And he’s actually using words they would recognise, from their Jewish scriptures, our OT – praying for them but by declaring amazing truth through God’s word.

 

Proverbs 18:10:

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower, the righteous run to it and are safe.

 

Jeremiah 10:6

No one is like you, Lord, you are great, and your name is mighty in power.

 

We pray: in Jesus name, it is the authority he has given us, through his name. Hugely powerful, and often I don’t think we grasp how powerful.

 

He prays for unity for them too

 

‘So that they may be one as we are one’. Again he is declaring the truth of who God is, here God as the Trinity – 3 in 1 and that the disciples will be united in the same way.

You know there is something so powerful about being united in God. Our Christian faith brings us together, unites us with people we might never have met or known otherwise.

 

Part of my old job involved me gathering churches in our area to work together for social justice and community projects. It was not easy work for sure! But it was so worthwhile. Spiritually I think it is powerful, I think the devil has only a few strategies to tear us from God and he uses the same ones over and over again! And this is one of them, to try and pit us against each other and so often even within the church, we fall for it.

Unity is powerful … and more than that it is also a great witness to those round us too, that we are a people of love and we love each other just as much as those who don’t know the Lord yet.

 

Unity is a weapon against the enemy and that’s what Jesus wants for the disciples – protection – he says it in verses 11,12, 15

 

15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one

 

Round up –

When we intercede for others we are not pleading with God – we are declaring the truth even when it is not visible, even when it seems impossible. We might say of someone:

 

You ARE a child of God

You are a follower of Jesus Christ

You are loved by God

God is a healer

God is our guide

He is our comfort, our shield, our strong tower

These are all biblical truths of who God is.

 

 

And lastly here,

He prays for sanctification – the disciples are set apart. That’s what sanctification is, to be set apart, to be holy

And he says, verse 17:

‘Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.’

It’s a round up of what he has just been praying – he has declared the truth over them, God’s word, God’s truths – and so the conclusion of that is that they can be set apart for the kingdom. He is enabling them to be dedicated to their cause – Jesus’ cause.

 

 

So what does all this mean for us?

 

Jesus continues to intercede for us, we have seen the scriptures that tell us that, in Romans: Jesus is: is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

In Hebrews: ‘He he always lives to intercede for them

And we’ve seen examples of other great intercessors, pointing the way to Jesus: Moses, Abraham, Daniel, Job

 

But for us?

 

Well, just as the disciples had a mission to continue the work of Jesus, we have work to do, and part of that is to pray. And there are many ways of praying, and intercession is just one of them but it is a very important role.

 

I started by looking at DL Moody who saw millions of people won for Christ and for those closest to him he prayed them into the kingdom, with his list of 100 people. He was clearly an extraordinary man with an extraordinary faith but you know one thing he said was :

 

‘If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men and women of average talent’

 

Men and women of average talent! Not super spiritual people, not extraordinary people, just normal people, like any of us. And you know earlier this year the Church of England ran a campaign around prayer called ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, they used the story of Moody’s list to help encourage people to pray for others and they suggested just choosing 5 people to pray for and to commit to praying for them, to intercede for them, to stand in the gap for them….

 

Who are you interceding for? Who are you standing in the gap for?

 

Some people have a real calling for this kind of prayer and will spend hours interceding for others. I have a friend who has been seriously ill for years and is often housebound and can’t get out. So she spends her time praying and she feels that is her calling. If I ever send out a prayer request via email I can guarantee she will be the first to answer.

But whether you have a particular calling for this, or not, we can all pray for others and I am sure we all know those who need prayer. Those who are sick or suffering. Those in need, those known to us and those not – persecuted Christians across the world for example.

Unanswered prayer;
And I just want to say here, I am sure there are many of you who are praying for others, or who have done, and yet you don’t see prayers answered, or you feel downhearted if people aren’t healed or their situations improved. And I’m afraid I’m not going to focus on that today, on why prayers don’t seem to be answered, on the disappointment that brings, except to say 2 things. 1 – I know that pain, I have been there, praying for others who haven’t been healed and also for myself, many people have prayed for me as I have a long term back condition which is not healed. So I know what it’s like. BUT, secondly, I think we have a choice. I have a made a choice – to trust in Jesus and all we know about him. And in the bible we see him healing everyone who came to him, we see miracles and prayers answered. That is my God. And whilst I may not understand why prayers don’t seem to be answered how we would like them, I refuse to get bogged down in that, so I choose, we can choose to focus on who God is and what he can do.

 

 

SO… let’s be great intercessors. I really feel that God is stirring up a hunger in people to pray more in this way and for our own communities, towns and countries too. I mean let’s just look around us, at this town of Lewes. I would love us as a church to really commit to praying for Lewes. And not because the church is doing it because as a family we feel stirred up as individuals to do that.

 

I mean there is so much to pray for here, in our town: The people, schools, how many schools are there here for example?! there is a hospital, a prison. In fact I love to go prayer walking – I just walk and pray, I go up on the downs so I can look over the town and pray and I come down by the back of the prison and I often wonder about the people in there.

 

Then when I was preparing for this preach I came across this story and I want to finish with this:

 

Jackie Pullinger is a missionary who has spent much of her life in Hong Kong ministering to drug addicts and criminals. At one time she went to visit the brother of a local drug Lord, in prison every week. She told him about Jesus, sharing the gospel every week for 9 months but he was completely unmoved. (Recommend book: The Lost Art of Intercession – by James W Goll)

She then asked others to pray, to intercede for him and to fast for him every Wednesday when she visited. Then a strange thing happened…

One day the governor of the jail was passing his cell and could smell something strange, like a perfume. Ali himself, the prisoner himself could not smell anything so they searched his cell. When they found nothing they searched him. Still they found nothing but they could still smell it. Ali asked himself what is that smell?! And as he did he felt something inside of him reminding him it was Wednesday and he realised he was smelling the aroma of prayer, like a holy incense of hundreds of prayers prayed just for him and pointed at his cell.

Of course he then talked to Jackie about it and finally a few weeks later he became a Christian devoting his life to the Lord. A hardened criminal, facing charges for murder and yet the power of prayer was so strong he could not resist.

And if you want to know, by the time he went before the judge, the judge just released him without even hearing the case! How’s that for the power of prayer!

 

 

Well, if you don’t know what to pray for – why not start with the inmates of the prison? Because whatever they have done wrong, you can bet that God’s heart is breaking for them as much as for their victims. Many prisoners have their own stories of heartbreak and how they came to be inside.

 

 

But lets ask ourselves.

Who you can pray for perhaps? Who can you stand in the gap for? Who is God asking us to stand in the gap for? Because there are millions of people around the world, millions of situations who need our prayers, let alone those on our own doorstep.

 

Let’s be the ones that stand in the gap….