Things I saw before service
Beginnings - Buddy and his description of the next weeks
He got up there to preach and one of the first things he said was to excuse the staff if there were any imperfections, as they tried to work things out in the first few services. He also said, he liked to know what to expect when he got into something, so he was going to tell us what he planned to talk about. That's definitely true for me.
He said, first! We're going to open the Bible. And weren't going to read it. And ask the Lord to speak through His work. Usually, we'll start in a book of the Bible and go to the end of it, chapter-by-chapter, sometimes sentence-by-sentence. At one point, he preached through the book of Luke for two years, he said, and the series ended up getting titled "Lost in Luke," which brought about much laughter.
But, he said, recently, he and others have been burdenend about prayer and how much we need it, so he was going to be skipping around looking at passages that spoke about prayer. This statement made me completely overjoyed of course. Here are the notes for this week's sermon, below.
Blessing and cursing: the importance of our words
James 3:1-12, "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. 3 Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. 4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.
See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh."
James 5:13-18, "13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit."
Stories that Buddy told
He laughed and said that he'd been arrested in more than one country. Last Sunday, someone related a story about him saying, that at one time he'd asked if Buddy could be a chaplain of a high school football team to a guy. The guy laughed and said, "That would be great! If he could get out of jail first." At the time, he was in jail in Iraq. Buddy looked over at one of his friends and pointed and said, it was really all his fault. His friend shook his head and said no, no. I was amused. It sounds like there's a story there. What other countries has he been arrested in, I wonder?
Interlude - story - amazing heart surgery: He also talked about the part of James 5 that said "the prayer of faith will save the sick." He said the congregation probably didn't realize what had happened with him in the last six months, but basically, six months ago, his aortal arch had exploded. He went to the emergency room and his blood pressure was 45/20. Basically, the doctors said, he should be dead already, it was amazing he wasn't and to make his goodbyes. He said goodbye to his family and told them he was proud of them. He said, but he was so excited! Kind of like getting to the finish line in the Peachtree road race, he was at the finish line of life.
The doctors said they were going to do surgery, but they expected it to be a hopeless case. He asked them for the odds and they said, there were none. He had the surgery. Doctors told family that they should expect nothing for him for at least three weeks. Three hours after the surgery, elders of the church prayed over him, touching his feet. While they were doing so, his foot twitched, and the nurse asked, did his foot really twitch?? After he made a full recovery, some people said, oh well, Buddy, you're just hard to kill. But he said his doctor, who wasn't a believer, told him that he'd done surgery upon surgery, and he would be willing to sit down and sign a document that Buddy's recovery was a complete miracle. It never should have happened. Thus is the power of prayer.
We can be like Elijah. He was just like us!
Thinking about it, I think I can understand Elijah's lack of faith. I've seen some pretty incredible things lately. I've felt the power of the Lord upon me. And yet, even now, I wonder sometimes if it was all a dream and still get scared of things. I guess I'm acting just like Elijah did when he doubted God.
The power of our words - to bless or to curse
Numbers 6:22-27, "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, 24 The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. 27 “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
Deuteronomy 30:19, "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death,blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, ..."
What blessing is and what cursing is
God also likes to be blessed, for it says in James 3, that we bless God, and in Psalm 134. What possible benefit could He receive of that? I don't know, but don't you want to give God what He wants?
We also need to bless ourselves - speak positively about ourselves. Don't curse yourself. If we're not careful, we can be constantly cursing ourselves.
Wrapping up the service
After service: talking to people, Esther and Buddy
Also, I found Esther, and we got to meet for prayer, finally - the first time in about two months. She updated me about what was up with her and Edward and we prayed over each other's lives. I told her the things that had happened to me. She said that she had foreseen this nervous breakdown I had had coming, but she didn't know how to warn me, and felt, maybe God didn't want her to, because He had to teach me something through it I couldn't have learned any other way, and it was clear that He was making me stronger. He doesn't want me to live in fear and shame isn't from Him. I needed to reject both of those.
I waited until the second service was over so I could talk to Buddy. I wanted to ask him to pray for me, and also, I asked him, had he ever felt the power of the Lord? He said yes. I'm not sure though if he knew what I meant or not. I was hoping he could advise me, but maybe he can't. It's hard for me to know who to ask things to. Really, the only one I know of is Esther. He did pray for me, for which I am grateful. So many people prayed for me and have been praying for me, during the weeks I was in the hospital, I found out, that I'm sure God must be doing something catastrophically good, because so many prayers surely can't go to waste.
Conclusion: the Lord seems to say victory is coming
I'm not sure what victory looks like. But I feel it's soon. I feel it, and He says so, whatever that means. I finally surrendered to the Lord and told Him that He could give me whatever kind of victory He wants to. I doubt it'll look like what I'd expect. When God tells me something like this - it never looks like what I expect - ever - it always surprises me catastrophically. I wonder if I'll ever get used to that.
I kind of feel as if He's leading me, with His hands over my eyes saying, "Walk a little more!" And He's getting ready to show me some surprise party. *shrug* Could I be wrong? Sure. But that's just what it feels like. And when He's said things like this before, He's always delivered - unless of course - I've been hearing Him wrong for 3 months. If something does happen, and the Lord says it's ok, I'll talk about it here. But if not, I won't. Because, I have no idea what He's doing! Ha ha. That's the definition of a surprise, I suppose.
So, I claim this victory that the Lord says is coming soon. I claim it and pray it really is more amazing than I could imagine, because God can do that. Could you readers out there pray that for me too? This is what I was asking people at church to pray with me about today. It's hard for me to believe, some days, that the Lord could be bringing any such thing about; but, I believe it since He says so.
And if it's something big or small, or if I heard Him wrong, either way, God is God, and I'm so incredibly thankful for Him and for all the healing He's brought to me, and look forward to coming to Him and resting in His arms, as I go through this last week, before I join the Salaita lab. I've wondered if joining the lab has anything to do with it. I don't know. I do know that all the good things seem to be happening at the same time: I join the Salaita lab kind of, on the 7th. I get my new glasses then. And we have our first services at Grace New Hope this week. It all feels kind of suspiciously good. I like good things happening all at the same time, surprise or not! Thanks Lord, for all these good things and for whatever else You're bringing our way!