Saturday, September 29, 2012

Prayer for a Stranger

I awoke from a dream wondering about its significance, as it didn’t seem to immediately relate to anything happening in my life.  In the dream, my husband Richard and I, and many people I didn’t know, were wandering through the rooms of a large house that wasn’t really a house. One of the rooms had several tables set up to sell jewelry, and I was surprised and a little sad to see a pair of valuable earrings for sale that had been given to me long ago, and that I hadn’t even realized was missing. 

A petite woman with distinctive but unfamiliar features asked me if I wanted to buy her cell phone. I politely declined, but she kept following me through the building and became more and more insistent that I take her phone, to the point that I became irritated and just wished she would leave me alone. I awoke perplexed and annoyed that this stranger had troubled my otherwise sound sleep.

At breakfast, Richard reminded me that we had tickets for a vintage fashion show that evening. As we walked into the St. Petersburg Museum of History with many other guests, I had an eerie sense of déjà vu. There we were, strolling with the crowd through a large building with many rooms that resembled a house but was actually a museum. One of the rooms had several vendors’ wares on sale, including ornate and costly vintage earrings.

To my shock, it wasn’t long before I spotted the unknown woman from my dream! Her face and build were unmistakeably the same. Apparently she was a volunteer for the museum, and she was wearing a 60’s style pillbox hat. Thankfully, she didn’t ask me to buy her cell phone! In fact, she didn’t speak to me at all, even though we ended up close enough to strike up a conversation while standing around waiting for the runway show to begin.

Now I was really curious as to what the dream meant! All the similarities between the dream and the actual events could hardly be a coincidence. Surely God intended it to be a message, or a warning, or an instruction, but I still had no idea about what. When in doubt, wait upon the Lord (Isaiah 30:18; 40:31; Jeremiah 14:22; so I just stood where I was and didn’t attempt to speak to her, nor did she approach me.

While praying silently that the Spirit would guide me according to His perfect will (John 16:13; Romans 8:27), I felt led to pray for her salvation. Many times while waiting in line at a store, or seated alone at a restaurant table while Richard is at the cashier’s paying the check, or in a theatre when the lights dim and before the show begins, I have prayed a general prayer for all those in the building who are lost.

The prayer is that all will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, the One Who died for all our sins to reconcile us to Holy God, so that by faith in His death, burial and resurrection all can have eternal life (1 Corinthians 15).

Yet this was the first time I felt led to pray for salvation for a specific stranger. I won’t know until I reach Glory whether my prayer had any effect, or even if it was needed, but I feel at peace about obeying God in what I believe He asked me to do (Philippians 4:6-7).

Reflecting later about the symbolism of the dream, I thought about the valuable earrings given to me, misplaced and forgotten, then offered for sale to another. This reminded me of the precious gift believers receive of being able to hear God’s voice (John 10:3,16,27) through the indwelling Holy Spirit. But if we quench or grieve the Spirit too many times (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19), we may no longer be attuned to His voice.

At the moment of salvation, the Holy Spirit indwells each believer and will never leave (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5). At the same time, we receive at least one spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12). Yet like any other gift, if we don’t use it, we may lose it, and not even realize it’s gone until we recognize it in another. It’s not the gift itself that disappears, but rather the opportunities to use it to glorify Him.

In the dream, the beautiful earrings I had received represented a wasted opportunity, as I had not worn them, and no one could appreciate their beauty if I kept them hidden in a box. Similarly no one will see His light shining through us if we hide it under a bushel basket instead of setting it on a candlestick for all to see (Matthew 5:14-16).

God opens doors for us to walk through in obedience (1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3; Revelation 3:8), but if we do not obey, that specific opportunity is lost, and we will suffer loss over it when we see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 3:15).

The ears of Christians need not be adorned with earrings (1 Peter 3:3)  but should be consecrated to His special use, along with our heart and mind, as a channel of communication with Him (1 Chronicles 17:20; Proverbs 23:12; Isaiah 30:21; Matthew 11:15; 13:9, 43). May we always be swift to listen to the Holy Spirit and slow to speak (James 1:17-19) until He gives us the words to say (1 Corinthians 2:11-13).

And why in the dream was this woman imploring me to take her cell phone? A means of communication is only effective in the hands of the right communicator. A state-of-the-art, bells and whistles I-Phone would be useless in my hands right now, as I would have no idea how to use it!  Even if I learned how to use it, what good would it do if I called someone in China who didn’t speak English, since I can’t speak Chinese?

Similarly, many lost people pray, but to whom or what? They may call themselves Christians because they were christened or confirmed or attend a church, but unless they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:10), their prayers are to no avail.

The only prayer of a lost person that God will answer is the prayer of desperation, of realizing that they are a sinner who can do nothing on their own merit to work their way to Heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9). When the lost person comes to the end of themselves, begs God to forgive their sins (Romans 3:23-25; Acts 13:38; 26:18; Ephesians 1:7) and invites Jesus to enter their heart as their personal Lord and Savior, God will always hear that prayer and answer yes with the gift of eternal life! (John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10).

In addition to hearing God’s voice, another precious gift believers receive at salvation is the privilege of intercessory prayer (2 Corinthians 1:11). This unique form of communication is available only to God’s children (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Because of our relationship with Him, we can boldly approach His throne in prayer (Hebrews 4:16), not only for ourselves, our family, and fellow believers (James 5:16), but especially for the lost (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:28). We can and should pray for the salvation of those we don’t even know, because we can communicate with God through prayer, and they are unable to until they trust Christ as their Savior (1 Peter 3:12).

It is not just those who “lead people to the Lord” by hearing them pray the sinner’s prayer who will receive the soulwinner’s crown (Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19). All those who play any part in a soul’s salvation – by sowing the seed of the Word (2 Corinthians 9:10), by witnessing, by supporting missions, or by praying for the lost – will share in that crown and be able to lay it at Jesus’ feet (Revelation 4:10).

What a blessing it will be to hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” (Matthew 25:21,23) for whatever we did to reach others for Him!

© 2012 Laurie Collett

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Christ’s Earthly Ministry: Triplets of Love

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8) – throughout all time He was, is and will be Almighty God. He represents and is the fullness of the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- as cited in three verses (Ephesians 3:19; 4:13; Colossians 2:9). Even in His earthly ministry, which lasted three and a half years, we see the signature of the Trinity reflected in triplets of love.

The apostle John described the Trinity in Heaven reflected in the life and work of Jesus Christ through the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: for these three “agree in one” (1 John 5:6-8). 

John further explained that Jesus came in the flesh (i.e. with human blood and born out of the water in Mary’s womb), empowered by the Holy Spirit. We see the water and the blood again when a spear pierces His side (John 19:34) and Jesus lays down His life to suffer and dies on the cross, which was possible only through the power of the Spirit.

At His baptism marking the beginning of His earthly ministry (Matthew 3:16-17), we see all of the Trinity in one picture: Jesus the Son being baptized, the Holy Spirit descending on Him in the form of a dove, and God the Father announcing that Jesus is indeed His beloved Son.

This was the first of three proclamations from God the Father Himself that Jesus is His Son, worthy of God’s love and glory and our praise and obedience (Matthew 3:17; 17:5; John 12:28). The second of these Divine revelations was the transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1-8). His inner circle of Peter, James and John witnessed three glorified beings: Jesus, Moses, and Elias, prompting Peter to want to build three tabernacles.

After Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness to be tested by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11). Three times the devil tempted Him, appealing to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16) and each time Jesus rebuked the devil by quoting Scripture – three times He replied, “It is written…”

Jesus’ closest friends, apart from His disciples, were Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (John 12:1-3). The precious ointment Mary used to anoint Jesus’ feet was worth three hundred pence (John 12:5). Lazarus was one of three people Jesus raised from the dead (John 12:9), the other two being Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:35-43) and the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-15).

Jesus summarized His work on earth in terms of three types of miracles: spiritual healing, physical healing, and His own perfection, or resurrection from the dead (Luke 13:32). That perfection occurred on the third day, when He had paid all of our sin debt by suffering and dying on the cross, was buried, and rose again, so that all who believe this may also have eternal life (1 Corinthians 15). May we all trust in His completed work and become joint heirs with Him (Romans 8:17), His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20, and rulers in the Millennial Kingdom! (Revelation 20:4)

© 2012 Laurie Collett