Sunday, April 20, 2008

April 21, 2008 - Last of the School Year

A “Go with God” moment,

This is the last Monday memo of the school year, and for you graduates, this is the last one of your undergraduate career. What final words might be significant to the future which looms ominously before you?

If you recall, since Easter, we have been looking together at the early church which is metaphorically in God’s waiting room; the time between the Cross and Pentecost (i.e., Coming of the Holy Spirit; Acts 2). I told you last Monday that 40 days after Easter, Jesus ascends to the right hand of God the Father (Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9, 6:55)…and from that point on Jesus is speaking into the ear of the Father. And this is Jesus’ final destination until His Second Coming.

Now, what implications of the Ascension of Jesus can actually serve as a suitable final word? It has everything to do with the most important spiritual discipline you will have in your personal life and in your ministry for the Lord as you leave the hallowed halls of IWU. It has to do with your prayers. For I know one thing for certain, there will be times in the future (maybe even many times) when you are praying and it appears as if God is not answering. And this may cause doubts to rise in your hearts. You may sense that God does not care or may be ignoring your prayers for some reason. Some of our past students have even drawn the conclusion that God is not even there! On all counts you would be wrong. Remember these words; appearances may be deceiving. The issue may be that your theology of prayer has not incorporated Jesus’ Ascension into it.

Let me explain. Most of us understand prayer in a minimalist way, as a simple cause-effect action. We pray (cause) --> God acts (effect). And when it does not happen in precisely the fashion we originally requested, we think of there are only three possible avenues available to the Lord: (1) Yes, (2) No or (3) Not Yet. However, the ascension of Jesus to the right hand of God tells me there might actually be another viable answer. Jesus takes your prayers to the Father and their response (did you catch the plural?) is not limited to a simple yes or no, nor to an issue of mere timing. In actuality, the Father-Son-Holy Spirit may develop a Trinitarian response which when implemented may only vaguely resemble what you originally requested. Do you really think that the work of God is limited to what we can conceive of in our earthly prayer closets? So, my friends, my parting words to you about prayer is that His answers do not always return to earth in the same form that we originally articulated them. This is Good News. Maybe even Great News.

Let me put it to you this way, the Spirit is at work in the voicing of the request:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)

Personally, this truth enhances my prayer life for I know that praying with absolute perfection is not a prerequisite to engaging in conversation with God. We merely need to start with a desire for God’s will (read fist half of the Lord’s Prayer; Matt 6:9-10). Then the Holy Spirit takes our prayer directly to the Ascended Jesus…
He (Jesus) is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25).

Imagine, a heavenly counsel meeting regarding you and your prayers. And then the answer comes:
When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. (John 16:13-15)

It’s great to know that we do not command God to do our will; but rather we make a human suggestion based upon our perceptions of the world and the needs which surround us…and then we can release them to God to re-create our prayer to be fashioned into the image and likeness of His perfect will.

This hope in the efficacy of prayer is the last thing I want to leave with you this year. God is more faithful than you could ever guess. When it appears as if your prayers are not being answered; when it appears as if God does not care…appearances may be deceiving. God may well be at work in ways you never imagined. He is bigger than the greatest of our meager thoughts. Friends, when the door of despair may appear to be opening wide, and you think God is not listening…remember the Ascension. Jesus is your Advocate, whispering into the ears of the Almighty Father, devising ways to reveal to you and the world how He has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:3). My last words to you; prayer works; but not in our simplistic manner; but with a Trinitarian response of perfection. Please, when the prayers you offer seem ineffective and you think the Lord of the Universe does not care for you; do not forget the words of Stephen as he is being stoned to death for his faithfulness:
Full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55-56)

Because Jesus has ascended to heaven; appearances can be deceiving. Please remember this when you think prayer doesn’t work. In actuality, things are even better than you ever could ever imagine.

Your ways are not our ways.
We pray with human insight and are often ignorant of the complexities of life situations.
Today, we give You permission to act in our lives with the beauty of Holiness
And with the redeeming omnipotent love which characterizes You.
We trust in Your Triune person to always have our best interests at heart.
May we not be deceived by the World’s simplistic substitute.
Rather, we bow low in order to hear and see clearly Your re-fashioned answer.
Lord, Hear our Prayer.

Now…for the summer or for the rest of your life; I beg you, always Go with God!

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