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FOCUS ON COMMUNITY

FOCUS ON COMMUNITY

Written by Laura Jobe

 

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  1 Timothy 2:1-2

 

Today’s passage is from Paul’s first letter to Timothy, one of his faithful disciples. Paul appointed Timothy to pastor the Ephesian Church.  In this new role, young Timothy faced all kinds of battles –particularly the issue of false teachers spreading different doctrines (1:3-7).  In today’s economy, this would be similar to self-proclaimed experts spreading fake news.  Paul knew that Timothy would need all the prayer and pastoral coaching he could get!  Let’s look at Paul’s advice to Timothy…

 

In verse 1, he begins by issuing a call to prayer.  Notice his use of the words “first of all” –giving prayer top priority.  We’re to do it first –before anything else. Do you make prayer your first line of defense and a top priority for your day?

 

Now take a look at how Paul emphasizes the broad scope of prayer. He tells what type of prayers to pray and who we’re to pray for, “all people”.  “All” means everyone and reflects God’s love for all people everywhere –He “wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (v. 4).  As believers, we’re to have the same heart as our loving Father.  As intercessors (those who pray on behalf of others), we’re to pray beyond ourselves –even for our enemies (Matt 5:44). 

 

In verse 2, Paul says to pray for “kings and all those in authority.”  Because of severe persecution under Emperor Nero, this would have been a very tough thing to do!  Compare this to what’s happening today with overseas terrorism and all the hatred being hurled at the leaders in our own country.  What should our response be?  We’re to pray for them so “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives.”

 

God in His sovereignty has chosen to release His power through the prayers of His people.  What God wants to do on the earth –in our homes, neighborhoods, Shelbyville, Houston, and Brazil & beyond –He’ll do through believers like you and me.  How amazing that the God of All Creation has chosen us to do His work through our prayers!  IF WE PRAY, we can become God’s “change agents” having influence to affect circumstances and the course of events.   Are you putting God to work with your prayers?

 

PRAYER APPLICATION:

Lord, thank You for choosing to work through our prayers to accomplish Your purposes. As You are calling SCC to increased involvement in our community, give us a greater heart for You and for all the people You love.  Help us to pray like never before to change ___.  (Ask God to reveal a specific need or circumstance to you. Visualize how it might look if God were to change that circumstance.  Pray that it will become a reality).

 

 

 

FOCUS ON COMMUNITY

FOCUS ON COMMUNITY

Written by Tim Hampton

 

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.  The power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised him from the dead and sealed him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  Ephesians 1:18-21

 

The past few years have been challenging for our family.  My wife was diagnosed with cancer on two separate occasions and I had to go on disability due to a serious chronic illness.  During this season of our lives it has been the faithful prayers of God's people that have sustained us.  As I write this devotional I am doing so with a heavy heart as I grieve the loss of my father who passed away a week ago.  During that same week I spent four days in the hospital due to poor kidney functioning.  On my cell phone are texts and voice mails from the people of SCC offering prayers of love and support to me.  These prayers have given me the strength to carry on with faith and hope.               

 

As the apostle Paul sat down to pen his letter to these young believers in Ephesus he knew that prayer, more than anything else, would be the necessary ingredient to aid in their continued growth and maturity.  This is perhaps why such a large portion of Ephesians is actually a prayer.  The verses that we are considering in this devotional are part of his prayer that includes verses 15-23.  Verses 15-17 were considered in a separate devotional.

 

In verse 18, Paul uses an interesting expression, "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened."  that phrase "eyes of your heart" is speaking of an inner awareness provided by the Holy Spirit.  "Heart" speaks of our whole  inner self, including our mind, will, and emotions.  In verse 19, Paul reveals to his fellow believers what he wanted the Holy Spirit to reveal to them deep in their heart.  The one that I want to consider is the last one that he mentions, "His incomparably great power for us who believe."  I love the Phillips translation of this, "how tremendous is the power available to us who believe in God."  The Christians of Paul's day as well as all of us today, need to have the eyes of our heart opened to the fact that God has empowered us mightily and equipped us wonderfully as we seek to serve, love and care for our community.  Acts 1:8 is Jesus's promise to us, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in Samaria, and the ends of the earth".

 

This verse makes it clear that there is a vital relationship between the ministry of the Spirit in our lives and the working of spiritual power.  While it is true that this verse is the Great Commission, it also states a fact:  when the Holy Spirit comes upon us, we will indeed receive power and will be witnesses to the ends of the earth.  That is the Spirit's function - to empower us for witness about Christ among nations.  I want to encourage you to pray for one another that we would be filled with the Holy Spirit, and that we would all trust and believe that as God opens the door for new opportunities for ministry, He will also empower and equip us.

 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I thank you that you love us.  I thank you that you have saved us and filled us with your precious Holy Spirit.  I thank you for opening the eyes of my heart to see....................

 

 

 

 

FOCUS ON COMMUNITY

FOCUS ON COMMUNITY

Written by Kathy Horn

 

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. Luke 18:1

 

A careful reading of the parable shows us how we can effectively pray.

In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, "Grant me justice against my adversary."  For some time, he refused. But finally, he said to himself, "Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!"

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly.” Luke 18:6-8b

 

First, we can see from this parable that we should pray BOLDLY.  The widow had little social standing and yet she boldly approached the judge.  We boldly approach God because we do have standing—we are His beloved children.

In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Eph. 3:12

 

Second, we should pray PERSISTENTLY.  The widow repeatedly kept coming to the judge with her plea. She had no other options.  We truly don’t, either.  

Apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:5b

If we do not boldly persist in prayer then we “are quietly confident that time, money, and talent are all we need in life.  We’ll always be a little too tired, a little too busy to pray.  But if, like Jesus, we realize we can’t do life on our own, then no matter how busy, no matter how tired, we will find the time to pray.”  (A Praying Life by Paul Miller)

 

Finally, we should pray TRUSTINGLY.  The widow boldly persisted in pleading with an unjust judge in whom she had no reason to trust.  Our Heavenly Father loves us so much that He sacrificed His own Son to death on a cross in order to pay the penalty for our sins. His sacrifice gave us the opportunity to be in relationship with God when we trust Him for our salvation.  We can now trust Him to hear our prayers and to answer.

 

The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in Him.  Nahum 1:7

As we pray for the needs in our community, may we not give up. Let us pray boldly, persistently, and trustingly.

 

Dear God, our Heavenly Father, only You are able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us. Please move in our hearts and give us an even deeper love for our community.  Give us Your wisdom as we expand our ministries.  Give us courage to not only meet physical and emotional needs, but spiritual needs as well.  May this be the year that we each obey your command to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

FOCUS ON COMMUNITY

FOCUS ON COMMUNITY

Written by Jim Johnson

Do you ever find yourself sitting and staring, not at anything, but at everything? I’m blessed with this human dilemma! Life is a bunch of newsreels flashing in my mind sometimes. Whenever I have time to sit and reflect (sometimes in a worried state), contemplating what I need to pray for, who I need to pray for, how I need to pray for, when do I pray for, why do I pray for; well you get the gist of what I’m talking about.

It’s not always this way but sometimes we can’t help but get overwhelmed with thoughts of how many responsibilities we have just to provide for our family's needs let alone the needs of our community.

 

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26

 

In this passage the apostle Paul is talking to the believers in Christ, the ones who’ve been set free from the bondage of this world and all of its circumstances that would take our eyes off the true prize— the hope of our salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus. He’s telling us point blank, "Don’t be discouraged when life gets hard! That’s when God does his best work through the Holy Spirit who abides in us. God is not confused!!"

 

And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  Romans 8:27

 

So as God examines our hearts with the intercession of the Holy Spirit on our behalf, He does it ACCORDING TO HIS WILL! You, the believer, should take great comfort in this truth!

All this said to ask you to prayerfully consider what God would have you do through the Community Outreach Ministry to reach those who don’t know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, those who don’t have the comfort that we enjoy.  Even when we don't know what to ask for, God does, and He helps us with His Holy Spirit, according to His will. 

Pray for our leaders, the pastors, the elders, the small groups, and the teams of volunteers to reveal the WHO! Who am I supposed to reach, who am I supposed to help, who do I know who needs to know the truth of the hope that is within us. How can we all be the hands and feet to the lost?

Dear Father God, help us, Lord! Reveal to us, Father, what it is or who it is that You’ve already made provision for. Use us, Lord, to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the best of our abilities and please, please, please don’t let the world or circumstances, doubts and fears, the enemy, keep us from doing those things that you have called us, Your disciples, Your people, to do each and every day to spread Your Love, Your Hope, Your Grace, Your Mercy!

In Jesus' Name,

Amen

FOCUS ON COMMUNITY

FOCUS ON COMMUNITY

Written by Jeff and Tammy Achenbach

 

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of Him.  1 John 5:14-15

 

John is speaking to fellow Christians and tells them they can be confident in God hearing their prayers. Knowing and praying God’s will produces the results we hope for and accomplishes His plan. A wonderful example of this is when the 2017 Christmas offering far exceeded our need!  It is God’s will for SCC to reach our surrounding community and the prayers of many were answered in true God-like form.

The health of our state, county, and ultimately our world begins with community. Praying God's will for our community and for SCC’s role in achieving it, as stated in 1 John, will produce miraculous results. We can all be confident in that.

 

Prayer:  Holy Father, we are thankful for the confidence You have given us in what we pray for. So now we come boldly before You asking these things for SCC and our relationship with our Community. We ask You to use us to do Your will! Let us see people the way You see people.  When our Community looks at us may they see You.

FOCUS ON COMMUNITY

FOCUS ON COMMUNITY

Written by Mark Farnsley

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.  Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”     Ephesians 6:18-20

Ephesians chapter 6 addresses our reality; as a community we exist in a war zone. The apostle spells out the essential equipment provided for our success as fully equipped, trained soldiers and then directs the soldiers to do what?  Pray.

Do you remember the first time you were with an adult around a piece of equipment like a lawnmower, a tractor, or a vehicle, and that person turned to you and said, “Here, you try it”? In that moment, you were struck with the moment of entrusting.  You got to put your own hands on the wheel and see the results.  The directive to pray is a non–stop reliving of that exciting moment from long-ago when He decided we were destined to rule. Not from our own wisdom, but from His— daily experiencing His over–the–top goodness that could literally turn a lost world upside down through the work of a community called the Church.

Pray. Take the wheel. Don’t be scared. You are part of a community where imperfect is ok.  Starting for the first time is ok.  

In his book Victory in Spiritual Warfare, Pastor Tony Evans writes,

            “Simply defined, prayer is earthly permission for heavenly interference.”

Does that surprise you? Good. Let go of what you thought prayer was. It isn’t the spare tire in your trunk for “just in case.” It is the essential steering wheel and you should grab onto it and hang on!

It’s true. God is waiting on us to choose, to set aside ourselves as the focus and serve with the excitement of children with their hands on the wheel for the first time. And since it’s God we’re talking about, think BIG!  Heaven is waiting for your directive, celebrating your coming joy and amazement as you decide you want one thing: His glory. With that mindset, prayer is the connection to the bewildering vastness of unthinkably great possibilities. We stay close to the Church, the body, and persevere, persistent in anticipation like anxious children knowing something great is about to happen for the lost around us. Pray. God trusts you to live out the love of His Son, Jesus. “Here, you try it!”

Prayer:  “Lord, help me get past dressing up for battle and not showing up for it. I need the pure joy of a child climbing down from your lap anxious to try out the life of prayer. I need you to set aside ____________ in me. Rule over my distractions!  Whatever they are, they aren’t lasting and can’t bring me joy.  Take my heart past all that to the real, compelling adventure of praying for the community around me.  Help me grip the wheel and not let go! Amen.”

FOCUS ON COMMUNITY

FOCUS ON COMMUNITY

WRITTEN BY JASON CHENOWETH

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”  And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.  But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant...  Matthew 21:12-15

 

Reading these verses, we’re taken to the temple in Jerusalem during Jesus' last week. He drives vendors out of the temple, flips tables, and braids a whip (we’re told elsewhere) to drive home His point.  Quoting Isaiah 56 and Jeremiah 7, He describes the temple as a “house of prayer” filled with thieves.

What is Jesus driving at?  Why the whip, flipping tables, causing a HUGE scene, and quoting these verses?  The people had got the whole “church” thing wrong.  They’d built a place where people with money could buy their forgiveness with expensive sacrifices.  The poor and the outcast were excluded.  Church had become a place where they could do a certain set of actions and leave feeling good about themselves.  Jesus called them “robbers”.  They came for themselves, excluding everyone who wasn’t like them.  It was meant to be a place where everyone, no matter how different, could come together, and meet with God, on His terms, in humility before Him, with His good as the focus.

They had turned the church upside down from God’s plan.  Jesus flipped it back over.

How does this impact us?  We’ll naturally drift towards becoming a community of robbers.  We have a tendency to forget what our life of faith is all about, and it becomes about us.  We pray for comfortable lives, we go to church to “get something out of it”, and we view the world as “us and them”.  It’s a natural drift downward.  Prayer is meant to stop the drift, and re-orient us upward.  In prayer, we need to pray for God’s will to be done in us, for His kingdom to come in our world, and for Him to lead us.  We give away our comfort, knowing His plans are far better than ours.

As you pray, know that our lives are meant to be “houses of prayer” where people very different than us, who make us uncomfortable, are meant to find a place to belong.  Often we think our church buildings are supposed to be a “house of prayer.”  But the Bible is clear that as Christians, there is no holy building anymore.  That went away with the temple being torn down.  You and I are the temples now.  We are the “house of prayer” for all nations.  As we pray individually, and with others, it is meant to be with our hearts open to them and to His leading.

 

Some things to pray about:

  1. Who are the “outsiders” in your life that you avoid?  Ask God to put them on your heart and mind.  Don’t fight Him, but just listen.
  2. Why are they “outsiders”?  What qualifications do they not meet?  How does God feel about that?
  3. What is your ultimate goal in prayer today?  Comfort or obedience?  Talk to God about whichever it is.
  4. Pray for your “outsiders”.  Pray for huge blessings in their life.  Pray that God would open your heart, and help you be a welcoming “house of prayer” for other people.