Back to Writing – and Praying for East Lake

I thoroughly enjoyed making the video for last week and being able to pray out loud instead of in my head and out through my fingers/keyboard. What I did not enjoy was the face I’m making in the frame the video decided to use as the screen-shot thingy. (My brain is not coming up with the right word.) Clearly, I am a novice with the whole video-making thing. If any of you have any helpful hints, feel free to share them! I hope to do more videos from time-to-time in the future – IF my boss approves. Ha!

As you know, these past few months we have been focusing our prayers on the East Lake community in Birmingham. This coming Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 7pm, New Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church will be hosting a city-wide prayer gathering for East Lake. Their worship team will be leading us in musical worship, and our prayer times will be facilitated by Pastor Thomas Beavers, pastor of the host church, Pastor Keith Stanley of WorkFaith Birmingham, and Pastor Kevin Moore of Mission Birmingham. Most, if not all, of the ministries we have prayed for this summer will be there. As I keep saying, it will be an incredible evening of prayer, and I hope you will be able to join us!

If you keep track of the local news at all, you probably have heard about the recent shootings in Gate City, which is located in East Lake. One was killed and five were wounded. This community desperately needs our prayers. They need the Lord.

The passage we will be praying out of Wednesday evening is Colossians 1:15-29:

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.
24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. 25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

Lord Jesus, You are the Creator, the Ruler, the Sovereign One over every. single. thing in existence. Every nation, every city, every community, every person exists through You and for You. Our eyes are on You because You are our Head. You are the Beginning; You are the One who sustains; in You are “the fullness of the times” (Eph. 1:10). You gave everything to reconcile us to the Father even while we were full of every evil thing. You do not wait for us to clean up before You save us; You save us so that You can set us free from our rotting graveclothes and chains, and so that You receive all the glory that is due Your great name. We praise You, Lord! Hallelujah to the Lamb! You are worthy!

We lift up East Lake, and especially Gate City, this week to You, Lord. We know it grieves Your heart when violence and hate have their way. Yet, in Your Sovereignty, You allow it. In Your power, You are more than able to cause these tragedies to turn to good for those who love You and are called according to Your purpose. You can take what man meant for evil and turn it for good. So that’s what we’re asking for today, God. Take these shootings and the fear, and the anger, and the grief they bring to this community and turn it into the very things that bring people to trust in the Lord with all their heart, and to stop leaning on their own understanding. Cause them to acknowledge You in all their ways so that You can direct their paths. (from Prov. 3:5,6)

We pray for the ones who are caught up in committing acts of violence. You’ve created them for more than this. You know their stories and what brought to that place of hate, fear, and apathy for life. You know that some of them feel they are too far gone into darkness to ever be received by the Light. God, we beg You to rescue them. Do not let the enemy have his way with them any longer. Cause the power of the Gospel to come fully to bear in their lives. This is not too hard for You. Your arm CAN save. Your mercy IS that deep and wide. Gun-control policies cannot save lives, rallies can’t change people, not even well-meaning charities can change someone; ONLY YOU CAN GOD! Do what only You can do for these men and women, for Gate City, and for the East Lake community. IN YOUR ALMIGHTY and GLORIOUS NAME we ask this, Jesus. AMEN!

Praying for The Way Community Church

Happy Friday! For a lot of students and teachers, this was the first full week of school. I work for an after-school program, and so I witness just a fraction of the craziness that the first week can be a lot of times. Before we begin praying for our non-profit of the week, will you take a minute to pray for the students, teachers, and staff in the schools in your area? Pray for their peace, for time management, for wisdom, and for God to be evident in every classroom.

This week we are praying for a new church plant called The Way Community Church, pastored by Danny Brister. The church plant hasn’t launched just yet, and I think it’s a wonderful privilege and opportunity to pray for a brand-new part of the Church in Birmingham.

Acts 2:37-47 – “37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” 40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Lord God, You birthed Your Church through a miraculous move of Your Holy Spirit, made possible by the shed blood of Your Son and His resurrection. You chose to use the Church to be agents of Your kingdom and to bring many souls into a relationship with their Creator and Redeemer. You have equipped it with the fullness of Christ, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, the riches of His Word – everything we need for life and godliness according to His divine power (2 Peter 1:3).

Forgive us, Lord, for replacing those gifts with the traditions of man and worldly thinking. Purify our hearts and our minds. We love You; help us love You more. We need You; make us see how much more we need You. Convict us and lead us to repentance for the ways we have sinned against You. Thank You for redeeming us and calling us by Your name. Thank You for forgiving us of our sins – for Your grace that covers all our sin and restores us.

We pray for Pastor Danny Brister to be a man ever more devoted to You. Protect him and his family from every effort of the enemy to thwart him from what You have called him to do. We thank You, Father, that Your Word says in Job 42:2 that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. We pray that You would shepherd him as he shepherds Your flock that You entrust to him.

We pray for The Way Community Church to be a church that is filled with and functions by the Holy Spirit. We pray that every person who comes to this church would feel a sense of awe. Let this local body be devoted to Your Word, to fellowship, and to prayer. Let it be a place where believers bear one another’s burdens and are able to give mutual support and care for one another. Empower this church to be a sign to the community of Your awesome power, amazing grace, unconditional love, and uncompromising holiness. Let this church shine Your light and Your glory for the whole East Lake community, and even all of Birmingham, to see and to be drawn to it. Use them to lift high the name of Jesus. Use The Way Community Church to bring many into Your Kingdom. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

I have to admit, I’m not sure I’ve ever prayed specifically for a church plant in my own city before. Have you? What else would you pray for? Leave a comment!

 

Praying for Serving You and WorkFaith Birmingham

Today we are getting to pray for two for the price of one! The two ministries share a common office space for their headquarters. WorkFaith Birmingham, led by Walvid King, is a Christ-centered initiative designed to help churches join together to address urgent physical and spiritual poverty in the urban areas of Birmingham. We were able to pray for this ministry last summer as well. You can find that post here.

Serving You, led by John Gibson, has recently moved from Trussville to the East Lake area. Their purpose is to be a ministry arm to area churches and corporations using each person’s spiritual gifting to reach a lost and hurting world. Their website has a page that lists specific ways you can pray for their ministry.

2 Thess. 3:3-13 – 3 But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. 4 We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.
6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; 9 not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. 10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. 11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. 13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.

Dear Lord, thank You for being so faithful to us even when we are unfaithful. In a world that is full of uncertainty, we can rest in Your unfailing promises. You do protect us from the evil one, so that even when storms come, we can hold fast to the Anchor of our hope.

We also thank You for work. We were created to work, and even before sin entered the world, Adam and Eve were told to work to take care of the Garden. Yet our sin nature acts as though work is something to be avoided, and our culture takes full advantage of that mindset, especially among young people. We pray that You would change their perspective to see the joy and satisfaction that can come with fulfilling that part of us that was created for work.

We pray that Your freedom would come for those who are trapped in the cycle of poverty and/or unemployment. We pray for provision that would reinforce their dignity as humans while also inspiring them to get a job. We pray for provision and training that would bring them to know You. Use the Church to be Your means of provision to those around us who are suffering and are in need. For those who are being proactive to find their way out of unemployment or poverty, we pray that You would provide strong mentors who would not only serve their felt needs, but who would also minister the Gospel to them.

We pray for Serving You and WorkFaith Birmingham and ask that You would supply all their needs to fulfill the calling You have put on each of them. For John and Walvid and their teams, we pray that You, Lord, would direct their hearts “into the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ” (v. 5) Please give them wisdom and discernment as they seek to lead their ministry by serving the people in the East Lake community. We pray that You would encourage them and strengthen them – uphold them with Your righteousness. We pray all this in Jesus’ name, amen.

Please join in by adding your prayers in the comments!

 

Praying for Abiding Hearts Home Care

I’m going to call the summer of 2016 The Summer of Rainbows. I have seen more rainbows this summer than I have in the previous 2-3 years. Not only beautiful, rainbows are also a powerful reminder of God’s covenantal love toward His children and a picture of His mercy  and grace. The bow is a war-bow, as in a bow-and-arrow. It is pointing into the heart of Heaven, reminding us that God has provided for our deepest need by sacrificing His own Son, and as Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” As this summer has been full of conflict and violence here and around the world, and as we head into the home stretch of the 2016 Election Season more fractured as a nation than ever before it seems, I do not believe the abundance of rainbows is an accident of nature. I believe the Lord is reminding us of His Sovereignty, His love, His faithfulness, His provision. That reminder is also a call to “walk in a manner worthy…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:1-3)

Today we are visiting and praying for Abiding Hearts Home Care, which was started by Randy and Courtney Johnson. From their website:
“We are a Christ-centered non-profit in home care ministry that provides living assistance, nursing and home maintenance care to the sick, elderly and widowed in our community for the purpose of sharing the love of Jesus. The care that we provide meets practical life needs and offers fellowship, respite, connection to resources, advocacy and peace for individuals and their families in the comfort of their homes.

The mission of Abiding Hearts Home Care is to come alongside supporting churches, individuals, organizations and other community advocates to serve people in our community in practical ways that will meet their physical, spiritual and everyday needs, enhance their joy and quality of life, and most importantly display God’s love for them.”

I highly recommend checking out their website directly. Everything I read was so encouraging and inspiring.

Matthew 25:31-36, 40 –31 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 

40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”

James 1:27 – “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

Lord God, one day You will come in all Your glory and “make everything sad come untrue” (from The Jesus Storybook Bible. It’s awesome! Get it for your kids.) We so look forward to that day, and we are filled with awe and wonder that until that day comes, You have called us to advance Your kingdom here on Earth as it already is in Heaven. We rejoice in the hope that we have in You, even in the face of hard things. There is coming a day. You will make everything right. The old things shall pass away and all things shall become new. And we will see You ruling in Your power, Your justice, Your strength, Your majesty, Your holiness, Your glory. Hallelujah to the Lamb, who is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!!!!

We pray for Abiding Hearts Home Care ministry today as they answer the call You placed on all of us to care for those who are unable to care for themselves and to share the love of Christ with everyone around us. Keep their eyes fixed on You, the Author and Perfecter of their faith, and keep them connected to You as their Vine, so that they have the fruit of the Spirit to share with all those that they serve. We pray that You would protect them from the fiery arrows of Satan and from the distractions all around us. Please raise up Your provision to meet every need they have as they meet the needs of their community.

We pray for the Church to also respond to this call to be Your hands and feet to those who need You most. Do not let us be lukewarm and complacent in our safe pews and safe routines. Reorient our perspective so that our eyes are fixed on You, and we choose to step out on the water. Let us not be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation to all who believe. (Rom. 1:16) Wash us with the water of the Word so that we can be blameless and undefiled by the world in order to be Your ready Bride and to bring You glory as we serve You. Use us to advance Your kingdom for Your name’s sake, Lord Jesus. You are worthy of our lives, our strength, our time, our resources, our everything. Amen.

 

 

Praying for Oak Tree Ministries and Marks Village

This week we are praying for Oak Tree Ministries. Founded in March 2013, OTM labors with the people of Marks Village in fulfillment of God’s promise to raise up for Himself oak trees of righteousness for the display of His splendor. They do this by focusing on Reconciliation – people to God and people to people, Relief for crisis issues and chronic issues, Rehabilitation of people and community, and Relationships, which is at the foundation of everything they do. Oak Tree Ministries is about people, building relationships with them so that they can have a relationship with God through the power of the Gospel and then discipling them in their walk with God. Alex Leath is the director of Oak Tree Ministries. You can find out more about this great ministry by checking our their website.

Isaiah 61 – 1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; 2 to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, 3 to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.

4 Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, they will raise up the former devastations; and they will repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations. 5 Strangers will stand and pasture your flocks, and foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers. 6 But you will be called the priests of the LORD; You will be spoken of as ministers of our God. You will eat the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. 7 Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, and instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land, everlasting joy will be theirs.

8 For I, the LORD, love justice, I hate robbery in the burnt offering; and I will faithfully give them their recompense and make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Then their offspring will be known among the nations, and their descendants in the midst of the peoples. All who see them will recognize them because they are the offspring whom the LORD has blessed.

10 I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, so the LORD GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

Lord God, You alone are worthy of our praise. You are faithful and true. You cause all things to work according to Your perfect will. You make an everlasting covenant with those who are called by Your name. Your plans for us are always for our good and Your glory. You will not let injustice reign nor the ungodly go unpunished. You are a good God and a good Father. You are our source of hope and strength no matter what happens to us or in the world around us. Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!!!

We pray for the community of Marks Village, while giving thanks for the work You have done over the years there. Lord, You know how this community has struggled in the face of poverty and crime. Yet, You have not left them to be abandoned to those struggles. You have raised up people and ministries, equipped with the power of the Gospel, to bring about restoration for lives and for the community as a whole. We pray that You would bind up the broken-hearted, and declare freedom to the captives of poverty, violence, drugs, politics, and hate. Let Your beauty rise from the ashes of desolation. Reverse shame and poverty with honor and Your provision. We pray that Your Holy Spirit would dwell in the midst of this neighborhood, and that You would deliver people from the strongholds of division, hate, poverty, violence, that have been rooted there for so long.

This neighborhood was originally built in the early 1950s as a “whites-only” development. So, Lord, we confess and agree that segregation and the oppression of the black people of this city was unjust and sinful. We plead the blood of Jesus Christ over this community and in Jesus’ name, we uproot those foundations of hate and bigotry. We pray that You would give them recompense through the eternal covenant we have through the Gospel. We declare this community will be seen as one that is blessed by the Lord.

We lift up Oak Tree Ministries to You, Father, and thank You for the calling You have put on them to be Your Kingdom agents of change in this community. We pray that You would continue to pour out Your anointing on them to declare Your favor and Your freedom to the people of Marks Village. We pray that You would provide the resources they need to serve this community and to proclaim the Gospel. We pray that You would continue to guide Alex Leath, and give him wisdom and discernment as he and his team serve Marks Village. We often talk about an anointing as if it’s always great and exciting. Jesus used these very words from Isaiah 61:1 to announce Himself in the synagogue, and we see from His life that an anointing is hard, heavy, and requires one lays down one’s life for it. So we pray that You would strengthen the people of Oak Tree Ministries, as they carry this anointing and all of the challenges it brings with it. We pray that like Jesus, they would abide in You for their strength and joy, and that through You they would maintain their Kingdom perspective for Marks Village.

Thank You for hearing our prayers. Thank for Your anointing and for the strength to carry it. Amen.

Summer Prayer Journey: Praying for Banks Academy

This week we are praying for Banks Academy, which is a private Christian high school which opened in August of last year in Eastlake. As they enter their second year of operation, they are welcoming 9th and 10th grade students. A grade will be added each year until all four high school grades are established. Students who meet the qualifications to enroll at Banks Academy are offered scholarships to help cover the cost of tuition. Surrounded by public schools who are struggling with low test scores and high drop-out rates, parents in the East Lake and surrounding communities now have a choice when it comes to their children’s high school education. The school is named after the original Banks High School, which also started with just a 9th grade class in 1957, but went on to become a pillar of the community and a school recognized on a national level because of its academics and athletics. Dr. Kathy King is the school’s principal.

From their website:
Our school provides:
A safe and secure school building and environment.
A group of teachers committed to getting students caught up to their grade level.
A vision for the future in which they are taught to be self sufficient.
A quality education that is based on merit and not on pushing them through the system.
A cutting edge school in which successful strategies of learning are implemented.
A Christ centered setting in which the authority of our lives is Jesus Christ and the written word of God.

Deut. 6: 4-9, 20-25 – 4 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

20 “When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What do the testimonies and the statutes and the judgments mean which the LORD our God commanded you?’ 21 then you shall say to your son, ‘We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the LORD brought us from Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Moreover, the LORD showed great and distressing signs and wonders before our eyes against Egypt, Pharaoh and all his household; 23 He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land which He had sworn to our fathers.’ 24 So the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today. 25 It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the LORD our God, just as He commanded us.

Lord God, there is no god like You! There is no god like You in the earth or in the heavens. You keep covenants and show mercy to those who walk before You with all of their hearts. (from I Kings 8:23) You are never-changing. You are the same God who rescued Your people from Egypt, and who rescued Your people from sin and death at the cross. Hallelujah! Let Your deeds and the wonders of Your love be proclaimed from generation to generation!

Father, children today are not taught to remember You. We confess that somewhere along the way, we became too comfortable and we forgot You. As a result, our young people are growing up in a culture of fear, violence, anger, and immorality. Forgive us, Lord God, and rescue this generation! Cause us to be diligent to teach our children about You. Turn the hearts of this generation to You, Lord. Do not let the enemy continue to harm them and destroy them. Let the Way, the Truth, and the Life be made know to them.

We pray for Banks Academy as they gear up for their second school year. Equip Dr. King and her staff with the wisdom, discernment, strength, and the fruit of the Spirit as they impart knowledge and truth into their students. We pray that every young person who comes to Banks Academy would come to know You as their personal Savior and Lord, and in so doing, let it change their lives, their families, and their community for their good and for Your glory. By the time they’re reached high school age and can attend Banks Academy, a lot of these kids have already seen and experienced a lot of harsh realities. We pray that You would empower the teachers and staff to continually speak and demonstrate the love of Christ to each student. Let generational strongholds be torn down in Jesus’ name. Let wounded and hurting hearts find peace and healing through the power of the Gospel as it is lived out through the staff at Banks Academy.

We also pray that You would meet the practical needs this ministry has going into the new school year. We pray for more donors so that they can continue offering scholarships to their students. We pray that You would provide physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual protection for Dr. King and her staff, for the students, and for the board members of Banks Academy. Let the staff keep their eyes fixed on You, committed to Your Word and to prayer. We pray that Banks Academy would be a school that fears the Lord. Amen.

Feel free to add your prayers or comments below. I love hearing from those who are joining us in prayer!