Let’s Pray for Those Impacted by the Grenfell Fire

My friend, Philippa Robb, has written a helpful summary of how we can pray after the horrific fire just a mile from where we worship in Shepherd’s Bush. As Paul states in Romans 12, may we “weep with those who weep” and seek to “overcome evil with good”.  And in it all, may the name of the Lord be praised! 

Can we remember those who died in the very places they should have been at their safest.

Can we remember those who have lost family, friends and precious possessions. Many of those living in Grenfell House were from refugee or poor backgrounds who already were burdened with life’s big issues and now have the added burden of having to start again – some carrying immense grief in their hearts.

Can we pray for swift resolution for them – they need somewhere to live and they need to be given the option to stay in their community rather than being shifted to the outer reaches of far East London.

Can we remember the emergency services – the fire, police, doctors, nurses, social workers, support workers, religious leaders; that the Lord strengthens them all and provides them with deep wisdom as this situation unfolds.

Can we also pray for the newly-elected MP, for the local authority and for the landlord; that despite the difficult questions that will need to be answered and the heads that will inevitably roll, it is the community that benefits and not the skin that is saved at the community’s cost. That this tragedy is never repeated.

Can we pray for the organisations that have thrown open their doors to beleaguered residents. The churches, the mosques, the community centres and the Westway Sports Centre.

And finally, can we pray for the media and for calm. For calm on the streets; for the peace and the protection of London. We have so much to be thankful for. We have life. Let’s pray, let’s give thanks and let’s live each moment to the full.

The Gospel, the Kingdom and the Church

My friend and boss, Bob Heppe, recently returned from a three week trip to India where he taught in various settings. In this post, he shares an outline of what he taught (and what he passionately teaches to anyone else who will listen):

Bob
Bob Heppe in his office with his grandson, Micah

The corporate and cosmic scope of the gospel: King Jesus is not merely saving us out of the world, but saving a people to be sent as his renewing and transforming agents of this fallen and broken world. We have a gospel that reaches “far as the curse is found”.

The missional purpose of election: The pattern of God’s dealing with man from Abraham through Israel, David and the church, is to call a particular people for his universal purpose. We are not elected instead of the world, but for the world.

The church as the sign, instrument and foretaste of the Kingdom of God: We are called into the blessings of that final shalom of the consummated kingdom, to experience and embody it in advance in communities of grace, love, embrace acceptance, unity, and joy and celebration.

In light of this glorious and exhilarating purpose of God for the world and the church, we then began to address the other side of the story, that there are forces of sin and darkness still very much at work both from within and from outside of us. Given the intense opposition of the world, the flesh and the devil, we began considering:

  • The necessity of lifestyles of repentance. We spent considerable time considering the subtle self-serving, self-reliant depths of the flesh and of the need to practice repentance: the constant reorienting of our lives around Christ and His kingdom, and regular rejection of self-dependence by returning to Christ to find grace through faith-dependence on Him.
  • The necessity of seeking grace for lifestyles of peacemaking, reconciliation, and forgiveness and love. To paraphrase Leslie Newbigin, a gospel of cosmic and corporate shalom must be communicated in and by communities which are embodying (“if only in foretaste”) that reality.
  • The utter appropriateness of lifestyles of joy, celebration, and acceptance and embrace of one another. Again, we saw the need of repenting of self and seeking grace to see and relate to others in light of the great love, welcome and embrace we have known in Christ (Col 3:12ff; Rom 14:17, 15:7).
  • Finally, we considered our prayer lives in light of the gospel and the present state of the world. Reflecting upon the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18 (with the help of David Wells’ “Prayer: Rebelling Against the Status Quo”), we saw that we must seek to cultivate a mindset that will not accept the suffering, injustice, oppression, idolatry, sin, selfishness, materialism, brokenness, sorrow, misery hopelessness, bondage, apathy, compromise, division, sorrow, … that we should not accept this world in its fallenness as natural, normal or inevitable.

Passionate, persistent intercessory kingdom prayer dies when God’s people become insensitive or reconciled to the fallen world’s status quo. We saw we must nurture a proper faith perspective about our Father in heaven. He is not like the unjust judge. His passion for reversing the effects of the fall is evidenced by the cross where His own Son bore the full force of its evil. Our God and Father wants to rid this world of sin and its consequences.

Jesus’ question at the close of the parable is, essentially, “Do we really believe it?” Lord, I believe.  But there is so much contrary evidence. Help my unbelief!

Shalom,

Bob Heppe (rheppe@whm.org)

Frontline Prayer Meetings

Jack Miller, in his book Outgrowing the Ingrown Church, makes a distinction between two types of prayer meetings: Maintenance and Frontline. Miller confesses to having led both kinds in churches he pastored.

Miller writes, “people came to the Frontline prayer meeting to be changed. They discovered what Augustine had emphasized, that man’s chief need is to fellowship with Ingrown churchGod, to find fulfillment in Him, and to experience the abiding presence of Jesus. (Psalm 27.4; Psalm 36.7-9; John 14.18-23; John 15.1-10)  So they came to be changed, and they were changed because Jesus kept his promise to be wherever two or three gather in his name. (Matthew 18.19-20)  From him they received grace to confess and forsake their sins, to be touched with his compassion for the lost, and to go forth to ‘put feet on their prayers’ through witnessing by words and deeds of love.”

 

“…The Frontline prayer assembly has a revolutionary purpose.  The prayer of those who attend it is summarized in the words: ‘Thy Kingdom Come’.  Their spirit imparted desire is to see the power of God’s kingdom revealed and to see the social segregation of the ‘turned-in’ church replaced by a welcoming community of faith and love.”

By God’s grace, may New City be a church of Frontline prayer meetings.

Justice will be done

Recently, I came to meet the vicar at St. Stephens for our regular Tuesday afternoon Church_of_St_Stephenmeeting. As I walked up, there was a man sitting on the steps smoking a cigarette who I’d just met briefly two weeks before. I sat down and we got to talking about God, life and his struggles.

He’s not sure if he believes in God.  Said, “I guess I’d call myself agnostic” and the primary reason he gave was that the world is so evil. There is so much trouble – wars, pollution, abuse of men against women, the list goes on and on.  He couldn’t accept that if there was a God who was all powerful – why hadn’t he stopped the evil in the world? So therefore, the all powerful God of the bible probably doesn’t exist or at least is not an active player in this world.

Habakkuk, the prophet, would differ in this analysis of the problem of evil.

In the book of Habakkuk, we find a dialog between the prophet and God.  In Habakkuk - smallchapter 2, God answers the question, “What about evil?” Habakkuk understands that God is using evil men to punish his people, but is that the end?  God says no – the day will come with those evil men will face the consequences for their sins. There will be a day of reckoning.

Verse 6 of Habakkuk 2  states “Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing,”

Who are the all these? They are the people in verse 5 which reads: “He gathers for himself all nations and collects as his own all peoples.”  The “all these” are the victims of oppression; those who have been gathered up for the purposes of evil men.

What follows in chapter 2 are the words of the oppressed people who will rise up and taunt their oppressors.  These victims go on to say are 5 “woes” against their oppressors. Notice in verse 6, 9, 12, 15 and 19. The English word “woe” is not one we normally use. It comes from the cry that people have at a funeral when the emotional pain of death is released in a verbal outburst.  In the Bible, it is often used by the prophets to call upon God to bring judgement on evil deeds.

When we acknowledge the reality of evil, not just theoretically but with real people, we are led to call for the judgement of God out of compassion just like the prophet Habakkuk.  We should pray for the end of the abuse of women and children. We should pray for the end of modern day slavery.  We should pray for the end of war, poverty, racism and any other degrading of human beings made in God’s image.

Evil is real. And this reality leads us to call upon God to bring judgement upon the oppressors. Our timing may not be God’s timing but evil will not rule in the end.

Justice will be done.  The victims will not be silent forever.

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