Pathway’s 40 days of prayer campaign runs from Wednesday, February 14 to Saturday, March 31. Join us as we unite as a church in prayer. Our theme verse for the campaign is 2 Chronicles 7:14. Starting on Wednesday, February 14, join your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as we all pray together at 7:14am and 7:14pm. Devotionals and prayer topics will be posted on FB and on our website on a regular basis. Be sure to let us know what’s on your mind and heart throughout these 40 days by using #PBCPRAY40 wherever you post!
I used to hate fishing. I had gone fishing half a dozen times before as a child and as a young adult. The memories of long hours waiting in boredom for a nibble still haunt me. I had never once caught a fish, and so I asked myself, “What was I doing wrong? Was it my bait? Was my line not deep enough? Am I in the wrong fishing spot?” Then something magical happened the last time I went fishing about a year ago: I actually caught one! Then another… and another, and another and another. It turns out that I don’t hate fishing, I just hate fishing and not catching anything! The joy of catching a fish was so extremely rewarding and addictive! I remember after catching a couple fish, I sat there in the fishing boat, happily, but intensely, staring at the ocean water with the eager anticipation for that next fish bite. I had tremendous hope while I was waiting for the next big one to come along.
It is no coincidence that Jesus described His followers as “fishers of men”. There are times that fishermen will go out for a catch and return empty handed, and other times they will hit the jackpot and return with scores of fishes. Likewise, evangelists and missionaries will have to be persistent and keep looking and waiting for those opportunities to share the Gospel and only God knows whether or not those people will positively respond to the Good news. There are many elements that can make Christianity conducive to spreading among a people group, such as the method of evangelizing, the socio-economic climate of the region, or the ethos and culture of the people to be receptive. However, what most Christian historians observe is that Christianity spreads in unreached people groups when there is persecution and also a focus and concentrated effort in prayer. Now, you may personally not like attempting to evangelize or do missionary work, but we can always pray for our missionaries to share and make disciples. We can pray for opportunities to come about, and for that door to open up so that they will persevere and with eager anticipation for the souls that will be saved. And perhaps like me you can learn to love it after you “catch” your first one, and join alongside them.
Last year was the second year that Pathway hosted “Secret Church”, a simulcast conference designed to replicate the small house church environment that churches experience in persecuted countries. Just as those house churches meet for long hours and spent as much time trying to learn about the Bible and pray for one another, Secret Church meets for a time of equipping, but also to pray for the persecuted Christians around the world. The country we prayed for last year was for the persecuted Christians of Iran. I remember vividly a story of one Iranian mother who had to appear in court and was forced to choose between rejecting Jesus or lose custody of her daughter. The Iranian mother shared at that moment she saw a vision of the face of Jesus, and she was powerfully convicted that she could not deny her Savior, and chose to stand firm in her faith and entrust her daughter to Jesus. That was years ago, and she still has not seen her daughter since, and she tearfully awaits their reunion.
Persecuted Christians humble the American Christian. We complain about how we didn’t like the preaching, how the children’s program could be better, how we don’t like the style of music or worship songs, or if the worship service went a little bit longer than usual. Instead, we should learn from the example of our brothers and sisters around the world who have a faith that thrives under extraordinary duress and learn to complain less and be more grateful. In “Divine Mentor” by Wayne Cordeiro, persecuted Christians tell Wayne that they want to be like us Americans, but Wayne interjects, “No! We need to be more like you!” Our prayer is for the persecuted Christians around the world who teach us what it means to live by faith.
When I was younger and I heard about a natural disaster somewhere else in the nation or in the world, I really didn’t think or care too much about it, no matter how large the number of fatalities, injuries or people left homeless. However, as I grew older, my family and friends started being involved in these disasters, both natural and man-made, and my empathy began to grow. I had family in New York during 9/11. I had a friend living in Tokyo at the time of the earthquake and following tsunami. Both friends and family were in danger of being displaced because of the northern California fires last year. A friend had family affected by the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico, and another one of my best friends living in Houston sat on his roof during the hurricane, waiting to get rescued. The image of him waiting for help while a rising deluge continues to form on the streets below in the background is etched in my brain. Unless you are a total robot, it is hard not to feel compassion for people experiencing this kind of anguish, and hope that they would be rescued from it.
If you could capture and recall that immense sense of overwhelming compassion for people suffering through disasters, then you can get a fraction of the emotion Paul felt for his fellow Jews that had not accepted the Good News of Jesus Christ. We read very clearly in the books of Acts how some of the Jews would persecute, beat and almost killed him, his heart’s desire was that his own people would embrace the salvation offered to them through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for their sin. Although Paul was a missionary to the gentiles, he always went first to the Jewish synagogues (meeting places) to preach the good news of how the Messiah they had been waiting for had been fulfilled through Jesus, and they could be saved from the eternal consequences of their sin. Likewise, our heart’s desire and prayer should be that those who do not know Jesus yet may come to know Him, and be saved from their sin and experience a new and eternal life through Him. During this season of Lent, the Milpitas Pastors have agreed to lead our congregations in asking them to regularly pray for three people you know locally that is not a Christian. If we can have such empathy to rescue people from earthly suffering, how much more eternal suffering?
When was the last time you prayed for your boss? Your president? Your country? It can be difficult to pray for those in leadership and authority when we do not agree with their decisions. The National Day of Prayer is observed every year on the first Thursday of May in the United States as a time for Christians to gather and pray for their leaders and their nation. Usually the U.S. President will offer a proclamation encouraging citizens to pray, but I remember one year the President issued a proclamation toning down the encouragement of prayer. That was not well received by the pastors that day. However, praying for our government leaders and politicians does not mean that we necessarily have to agree with their politics, nor refuse to give constructive criticism. It simply means that we are lifting them up to the Lord, so that in His ultimate divine authority He will help them to rule with justice, compassion, wisdom and humility.
When Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, he was under the rule of the Roman Empire. During this time, Christians were often persecuted for refusing the customary worship to the Roman gods and to the Roman Emperor, as he himself was considered a god-like figure. Yet, despite the Roman government’s hostility towards Christianity, Paul instructed the church to pray for their rulers and the governing authority. Praying for our leaders conveys we want what is best for them and the people they exercise authority over, because leadership on any level is difficult and they need help and divine assistance. We also pray with the believe and trust that because of God’s complete sovereignty over all the king’s, rulers, and presidents of this world, He will also bring them to account for their leadership, whether good or bad.
I always find it strange when I ask a fellow Christian if they have a prayer request and they have nothing to share. “No, I’m fine,” they often say, as if everything in their life is going perfect, or they don’t need God’s help, or there is nothing worth mentioning to God because He is too busy with more important matters, such as ending world hunger and reclaiming Christmas from Santa Claus. I’m amazed when a fellow believer doesn’t take advantage of someone praying for them because I have so many things that I need to pray about in my life, and also to pray for so many requests of my loved ones around me. Why would someone pass up that offer?
My advice: Take every opportunity to receive prayer when someone asks you. Take every opportunity to ask someone for a prayer request. Take every opportunity to pray with someone. We are in the middle of Pathway’s 40 Days of Prayer, and maybe you might be overwhelmed with all this talk about prayer and encouragement to pray so often. Or maybe you might be like me and realize that even after all this time we’ve been taking time to pray at 7:14 am and pm, and then again on Saturday service, that we still have so much to pray over. The people of Pathway need all the prayer we can get!
When was the last time you experienced something so amazing that you had to tell someone about it? We all want to experience great things. That which is out of the ordinary, worthy of praise, and grabs our attention to the point of quickening our pulse. Consequently, when we have an awesome experience, we likewise have an innate desire to share that experience with others. That longing to share something so precious and life-transforming is the essence of evangelism. “Evangelism” is related to the root Greek word for “message”, where we also get the word “gospel”/evangelion/ good message (or good news). So evangelism is “gospeling”, or sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave these instructions to His disciples to make disciples of all nations as witnesses of His resurrection from the dead and as empowered by the Holy Spirit. Being a witness meant sharing their first hand testimonial account of experiencing the amazing life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Likewise, Christians today are also charged with being witnesses of who Jesus is and the awesome things He has done in our lives. The heart of evangelism is sharing the good news of Jesus Christ because we experienced a relationship so great that we want to share this with others so that they can experience this joy for themselves. The Gospel either stops or spreads with us.
What comes to mind when you hear the word “fellowship”? Often the picture of fellowship is Christians hanging out, going out for dinner or going bowling, and in general having a fun time together and getting to know one another. There’s nothing wrong with this, however, the biblical definition goes far beyond this viewpoint. The greek word for fellowship is “koinonia”, which may sound familiar to those of you have attended the Pathway retreats at the Koinonia Conference Grounds. Fellowship/koinonia is defined as sharing in a commonality, or having a partnership for a common goal. When you think of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Fellowship of the Ring”, we have a group of people unified for one common purpose: to destroy the One Ring. Another way to think about it is to think of “fellows on the same ship”, meaning people on the same boat and going to a common destination together.
The word “koinonia” makes it first appearance here in Acts 2:42. Eating together was definitely a part of fellowship (“breaking bread”), but we see here that it was so much more. Their fellowship was devoted to being together to do life together, to learn about God together, and to pray. So fellowship encompasses not only the group outings, but even gathering together to mourn together, to study scripture together, to exercise church discipline together, to evangelize together, and to pray together, and it all is centered in the commonality and purpose of worshipping Christ.