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Begin with Prayer

Listen to this Sermon!Last week we started off the new year by counting our blessings. And I dare say that each one of us was humbled by just how greatly God has blessed us. We talked about our physical blessings – 1/3 of the world is starving and we can’t even eat all of the food we have. 1/2 of the world lives on less than $2.33 per day – our minimum wage here in Alberta is $9.75 an hour! We truly are some of the wealthiest people in the world.

But that’s only our physical blessings. We are also relationally blessed – we have friends and family who love us dearly – that’s not the case for everyone in the world. We are blessed historically – To live in Alberta, Canada in 2013 is a blessing that billions of people do not enjoy! And of course, as Christians, we are also blessed spiritually. To know Christ – to have salvation, forgiveness, peace, joy, eternal life – Billions of people die never knowing any of that.

We are truly the most blessed people in the history of the world! And that begs the question “WHY?” Why has God blessed us so much?

That’s the question we looked at last week, and one of the key Scriptures that we found was Romans chapter 11 – verse 36.

“For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.”
Romans 11:36

We came to the conclusion that God has blessed us in order to bring Himself glory. Remember our Spider-man line? “With great power comes great responsibility”

With such great blessings, we have a great responsibility to bring God great glory!

So how are we going to do that? How do we bring God great glory through all these great blessings that He has poured out on us? The answer is that we have been blessed so that we can be a blessing. God intends us to use our blessing to bless others for his glory. In other words, we have not been blessed just to be blessed – we have been blessed so that we can be a blessing to others.

And over the next five weeks we are going to be looking at exactly how to do that – not just with our physical blessings – but with our relational, historical, and spiritual blessings as well. How can we bring God glory by being a blessing to the people around us?

And again for you studious folk who like homework, I’m going to be using a lot material in these next five weeks from a couple of books. You might want to read them for yourself. One book is called “Discover Your Mission Now” – it’s a free ebook and you can find a link to it on our website – The other book is by Bruce Wilkinson called “You were born for this”. If you’re interested in reading this, I can certainly get you a copy.

To help us remember the lessons over these next few weeks, we’re using the acronym B.L.E.S.S.

Begin with prayer, Listen, Eat, Serve, and Story. And so today, we’re looking at lesson #1. B – Begin with prayer.

Now I want to begin with a question for you discuss with the person sitting next to you this morning:

How do you think God spends his time in heaven? What does God do up there? Does he just sit around listening to angels singing all day? What does He do? What’s your image of what God is doing in heaven right now?

Take two minutes to talk about this with the people sitting around you right now: What’s God doing right now?

Now I’m sure there are a lot of different ideas about what God does in heaven. Some are probably accurate – and some are probably not. But what does this have to do with prayer? What does this have to do with us being a blessing to the people around us?

Well, here’s the thing: What we believe about God, what we believe about what He’s doing and what He wants to do, will dramatically affect how & why we pray. Let me say that one more time. What we believe about God, what we believe about what He’s doing and what He wants to do, will dramatically affect how & why we pray.

So this morning we’re going to take a peek into heaven to see what God is up to. Now the Bible doesn’t give us a lot of information about how God spends His time, but it does offer us a few glimpses. We’re going to look at two of those today. The first one is in 1 Kings chapter 22.

Just to give you a quick background to this story, King Ahab & King Jehoshaphat had joined forces to fight against the King of Aram. But before they decided to attack, they wanted to inquire of the Lord to see if He would give them victory.

So they sent for 400 of King Ahab’s false prophets – likely the prophets of Baal – And these prophets all said – “Go ahead – God will give you great victory!” However, Jehoshaphat wasn’t convinced so they called for a true prophet of God – named Micaiah and asked Him whether or not God would truly give them victory. And this is where we get our glimpse into the workings of heaven. 1 Kings 22, Verse 19.

 Then Micaiah continued, “Listen to what the Lord says! I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the armies of heaven around him, on his right and on his left. 20 And the Lord said, ‘Who can entice Ahab to go into battle against Ramoth-gilead so he can be killed?’
“There were many suggestions, 21 and finally a spirit approached the Lord and said, ‘I can do it!’
22 “‘How will you do this?’ the Lord asked.
“And the spirit replied, ‘I will go out and inspire all of Ahab’s prophets to speak lies.’
“‘You will succeed,’ said the Lord. ‘Go ahead and do it.’
1 Kings 22:19-22

Now I find this very interesting. It’s like God is holding a creative strategy meeting with his angels. There is something that he wants to accomplish, and he’s looking for suggestion on how it can be done. That tells me that God has an agenda. He has a to-do list. There are things that He wants done on earth. Now in this case, the task he wants done is enticing the evil King Ahab to go into battle where He will be killed. And that’s exactly what happens. Ahab choses to ignore Micaiah’s prophecy – he listens to his 400 lying prophets and he gets killed in battle. That’s one more item checked off of God’s to-do list.

We also see God’s to-do list in the New Testament. You might remember the time when Jesus talks to the Samaritan woman at the well. Apparently that conversation (which resulted in many people coming to believe in Christ) was on God’s to-do list. Look at John 4:34. Jesus’ disciples are urging Him to eat something after this encounter and here’s what Jesus says…

Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.”
John 4:34

Jesus was working on God’s to-do list. Throughout the Gospels we read of all the amazing things that Jesus does – feeding huge crowds, healing diseases, restore sight, forgiving sins – and ultimately providing salvation through his death on the cross. And He does all those things according to the will of His Father. All of those things were on God’s to-do list.

Now do you think that God’s got a to-do list for today? Do you think God has things that He wants done today in Mirror – or Alix or Bashaw? I’m sure He does. But what does that have to do with us?

Well, that takes us to our second glimpse into heaven. This time in Isaiah chapter 6. Starting at verse 1.

It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. 2 Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.3 They were calling out to each other,
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!”

Jump down to verse 8:

 Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”
I said, “Here I am. Send me.”
Isaiah 6:1-3, 8

Now both of these glimpses into heaven are fairly similar. In both case, God has an agenda. He’s got a to-do list. And in both cases, he’s looking for volunteers to carry it out. The difference in these two glimpses into heaven is that this time, God’s not looking to send an angel. He’s not planning on going Himself. (Although there are times when he does that.) But this time, he’s looking for a person – a human who will carry out His agenda. I think more often than not, God uses people to carry out his work.

We see this all throughout the Scriptures. God tells Noah to build a big boat. God sends Moses to lead the Israelites. God sends Peter to meet with Cornelius. God sends Paul to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles. God sends Philip to talk with the Ethiopian. And the list could go on and on….

My guess is that these conversations in heaven go on every day. I believe that every day God has an agenda. Every day God is looking for volunteers to carry out his work.

And Jesus sets the example for us. In John 5 we read about the time when Jesus healed a lame man on the Sabbath. Of course, that got the Pharisees all worked up, but look at what Jesus says in verse 17. Jesus says…

“My Father is always working, and so am I.” John 5:17

God is continually at work. He is continually accomplishing his purposes in this world. And everyday, He looking for volunteers to join Him. Jesus spent his life volunteering. He spent every day doing the will and work of His Father. And so ought we.

And that brings us right back to what we talked about last week. God’s blessing strategy is that He blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others. In other words, God is equipping us to do His work.

All of these blessings that God has lavished upon us – our physical blessings, our relational blessings, our spiritual blessings – are all tools for us to use to accomplish God’s work. He has equipped us with everything we need to do those things on His to-do list.

He’s just waiting for us to volunteer. He’s just waiting for us to say “Here I am. Send me.”

That’s the kind of prayer that we must begin with. You remember the B in our our acronym BLESS. It stands for Begin with Prayer. If we want to be a blessing to the people around us, we must B – Begin with Prayer. And its a pretty simple prayer. It’s just “Here I am. Send me.” Allow me to help you with your to-do list, God. I’ve got all these blessings you gave me – how can I use them for you today?

I don’t know if God held a meeting with the angels this morning or not, but I know God has a to-do list involving the people of Mirror, Alix, and Bashaw. There are things He wants done. There are people with needs. People that have physical needs, emotional needs, and spiritual needs. People that need the very blessings that you have in abundance.

God wants to meet those needs. He’s got it on his to-do list. God wants to setup some divine appointments where people with blessings meet up with people in need. He just looking for people like you and I to say, “Here I am. Send me.”

What would happen if our church, this community of believers right here, began each day with that prayer – “Here I am. Send me.” Would God set up divine appointments for each one of us? Would God give us opportunities to be a blessing to the people around us? Would God use us to accomplish the tasks on His to-do list? I know He would.

I know that God would use our church to bless the socks off our community. I know God would use us to bless individuals and whole families.

It’s like that verse we read in Genesis 12 last week. Where God says to Abraham,

“I will bless you… and you will be a blessing… All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:2-3

Would God do a similar thing through us? I believe He would. But it starts with a prayer. “Here I am. Send me.”

I’m going to invite you today to join me in a one week experiment. For just one week, every day when you wake up, I want you to begin with that prayer. Begin with “Here I am God. Send me. What’s on your to-do list today?” And then I want you to watch for divine appointments. Watch for the people that God will send to cross your path, because each one comes with a need that perhaps you can meet. Maybe a physical need. Maybe a relational need. Maybe a spiritual need. But each one of them brings you an opportunity for you to be a blessing in some way.

If you will do this for just one week, my guess is that you will be so astonished at how God uses you to bless others, that this prayer of “Here I am. Send me.” will become part of your daily life.

So often our prayers look more like “Here I am. Bless me!” We ask for the blessings. We don’t usually ask to be the blesser – we want to receive the blessing. But that’s not how Christ lived His life. And I don’t think that’s God’s intention for us either.

I’ve been convicted recently by the prayers of my own children. We always have a prayer time with them before they go to bed and I’ve been convicted by the content of their prayers. It usually goes something like this: “Thanks for this, give me this. Thanks for that, give me this. Thanks for that, please give me this. Amen.”

It’s a prayer that revolves primarily around what God does for them. I’m glad that they are being thankful, but still at the core of their prayers, it’s all about me. Where did they learn to pray like that? I guess that’s me.
I’ve got to change the way I pray. If I want my kids to grow up praying “Here I am. Send me.” Then I’ve got to model that for them. I’ve got to be the example.

My kids need to hear me pray “God, please show me how I can bless someone today.” “Thanks for everything you’ve done for me – now what can I do for you, God? What’s on your do-to list? How do you want me to use these blessings for you? Here I am. Send me.”

Do your kids hear you pray like that? Does your spouse? Does God?

God has blessed us so very much. He has given us all we need, plus everything we need to do all those things on his to-do list.

When will we stop asking for more and more blessings, and instead, start asking God for opportunities to use those blessings for his glory?

Can we start this week? Will you join me on this one-week experiment of praying each morning – “Here I am God, send me.” If we do that, I know that God will eagerly set up some divine appointments for us. He’ll bring us the opportunities to bless the socks off a whole pile of people this week. Pray that prayer by yourself each morning. Pray it with your family. And then watch for those divine appointments throughout your day. I think you’ll be amazed at how many times God will use you to be a blessing to the people around you.

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