What is S.U.P.V.?
For those new to our church, website and this blog, here's what it's all about: SUPV stands for the Straight Up Prayer Vigil. It is a virtual prayer vigil that happens every Wednesday (God willing). The Straight Up refers to the times of 6:00 a.m., noon, 6:00 p.m., and midnight--you choose whatever time works for you--and you pray for our church, those on prayer list, and prayer requests that are included in the blog post or are sent by email, normally at the beginning of the week for that Wednesday.
O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself;
It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.
There are many plans in a man’s heart,
Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.
Back in 1986, Janet Jackson came out with a song entitled “Control”, and the lyrics to one of its verses and the chorus are as follows:
Got my own mind
I wanna make my own decisions
When it has to do with my life, my life
I wanna be the one in control
I’m in / Control
Never gonna stop / Control
To get what I want / Control
I like to have a lot / Control
Now I’m all grown up
Now Janet “Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty” Jackson was twenty years old when that song came out, catapulting her to pop icon. The song was a declaration that she wasn’t going to just stay in the shadows of her older brothers, she wasn’t going to be managed by her father Joseph Jackson any longer, she was a young adult who took charge of her own music career. Songs from the album of the same name spoke of self-empowerment, and gave young women a rally cry. No longer did one have to march to someone else’s drum; she could make up her own mind and do whatever it was that she wanted to do, now that she was all grown up.
Praise the Lord!
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
Who delights greatly in His commandments.
His descendants will be mighty on earth;
The generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches will be in his house,
And his righteousness endures forever.
Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness;
He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.
A good man deals graciously and lends;
He will guide his affairs with discretion.
Surely he will never be shaken;
The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance.
He will not be afraid of evil tidings;
His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is established;
He will not be afraid,
Until he sees his desire upon his enemies.
He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor;
His righteousness endures forever;
His horn will be exalted with honor.
The wicked will see it and be grieved;
He will gnash his teeth and melt away;
The desire of the wicked shall perish.
I am a member of Generation X, that age demographic classified by those born in the mid sixties to the early eighties (give or take a few years on both ends). I remember hearing about the proverbial “Me generation”, a term that referred to the baby boomer generation with its self-involved qualities that some have attributed to that generation (according to Wikipedia. Not me, I swear!). Writer Tom Wolfe coined the nickname in the 1970s, with another writer furthering its use by commenting on the rise of a culture of narcissism among the younger generation. Per Wikipedia, “the phrase caught on with the general public, at a time when “self-realization” and “self-fulfillment” were becoming cultural aspirations among young people, who considered them far more important than social responsibility.” Trends such as discos and hot tub parties, self help programs and books (I distinctly recall I’m OK, You’re OK being in my parents’ library), New Age spirituality, and health and exercise fads are all hallmarks of the Me generation’s focus on self. When I was younger, I didn’t understand the reference—jogging suits and leisure suits worn with Qiana nylon shirts with oversized collars didn’t seem to be too bad of a thing (though I have to say that I can still recall the now cringe-worthy robin’s egg blue and the light yellow ones my dad wore once or maybe twice—don’t say anything to him when he comes to visit, okay?!?), and when you think about it, is self-realization a bad thing? Perhaps the Me generation deserved to be focused inward, given all of the things that had happened in the world in the sixties and seventies—Vietnam, civil rights movement, riots, unemployment, fuel shortages, President Nixon resigning—that seemed to be a large amount of unease and uncertainty.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 2: 42-47
Look up the word “fellowship” in a dictionary and you’ll find that the first definition is something like “friendly association, especially with people who share one’s interests.” Sounds congenial and light, hmm? The fellowship that Luke refers to in the second chapter of Acts, though, is the Greek word κοινωνία, or koinónia (koy-nohn-ee’-ah). It is defined literally as partnership, with sub bullets of:
- contributory help, participation;
- sharing in, communion
- spiritual fellowship, a fellowship in the spirit.
Those have a little bit more “oomph”, don’t you think? A little bit more of a commitment, involvement, a lot more skin in the game?
The second chapter of Acts, you’ll recall, starts with the Holy Spirit coming down at Pentecost. Those in the room were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues. To dispute the accusations by some in the crowd that the apostles had been drinking, Peter addressed the crowd by citing the Old Testament words of the prophet Joel and by talking about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. He witnessed to the crowd, and Luke records that “about three thousand were added to their number that day.” (v 41). 3,000!
So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness. Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain and there was no rain on the land for three years and six months! Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land sprouted with a harvest.
I can pray this because his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence.
2 Peter 1:3
First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior, since he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:1-4
“Lord, feed the hungry and bring peace to all of mankind. How’s that?” says Bruce Nolan, the main character in the movie Bruce Almighty, played by Jim Carrey. The scene is near the end of the movie, in which Bruce has been endowed by God, played by Morgan Freeman, with His divine powers. Bruce has allowed the powers to get the better of him throughout the entire movie, using them to get ahead in his work as a television anchor person. After losing his girlfriend Grace, he realizes his mistake, and surrenders his life to God in the middle of a rainsoaked highway. He is struck by a semi and wakes up in heaven. God gives Bruce a set of prayer beads that Grace’s preschool class had made him and tells Bruce to use them to pray. So Bruce says a safe yet glib prayer. God’s response? “Great, if you want to be Miss America.” God chides Bruce to really pray and asks him what he cares about. “Grace,” Bruce tells him. God asks him if he wants her back. “No,” Bruce responds after some thought. “I want her to be happy, no matter what that means. I want her to find someone who will treat her with all the love she deserved from me. I want her to meet someone who will see her always as I do now, through Your eyes.” God’s reply? “Now THAT’s a prayer!”
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
James 2: 14-17
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:
“Whom shall I send,
And who will go for Us?”
Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
I was on a team for a Walk to Emmaus over the first weekend in August. One of the constant messages that came out over those three days was that we aren’t meant to merely take care of those who are suffering, we are meant to address the cause of the suffering. That thought has been rolling around in my head this past week, and it wasn’t until after Pastor Kevin’s sermon Sunday (8/9), that kind of confirmed for me that this is the message for this week’s devotional.
We know that the sacrifice of our talents, tithes, and time is a good thing, given that the motivation is to glorify God and nothing else. And we do know that there are things going on in this world that we feel helpless to do anything about, and feel that we are probably not in any position to even effect any difference in anyone’s situation—sex slavery, human trafficking, rape, domestic abuse, child molestation—the list is endless, and we feel helpless. But we aren’t, with God’s strength.
We need to realize and be open to all that He would have us to. We need to understand that it’s not enough only to donate money to a cause, or say a quick prayer for someone who is hurting and continue on our way. If we give to the homeless, but do nothing about the root cause of what has made them homeless, what have we done?
Now, that’s not to say that a single act of kindness can’t change a person, or turn them around, or be the one positive straw that causes that person to see Jesus. God can do what He wants to with our acts. But we need to seek to be used further—for His purposes, for His glory, in His will. We can no longer sit back and assume that God will send someone else—someone who is more qualified than us to tackle the evils of this world.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
I remember being quite young, watching the face of a very angry Donald Duck turn increasingly red over something that happened. He then was reminded to count to ten, and begins to do so, his anger abating as he reaches that double digit number. (I Googled the video and found it on YouTube. It’s an episode entitled “Self-Control” from 1938. What a timeless concept, hmm? And…it’s a fruit of the Spirit!).
I know that as my Spirit Walk progresses, I have called on James 1:19 in times of direct conflict (not that there are many), because I want to be obedient, and also because I’ve seen the devastation words said in anger can cause to a person. As one whose love language is “words”, I am keenly sensitive to the effect of words on a person’s mental and emotional well-being. I’d walk my lips on broken glass that’s caked with salt before I would intentionally say something that would hurt someone else. I also try to subscribe to the old saying about God giving us one mouth and two ears, so we should be listening twice as much as we should be speaking. There are many conflicts that can be defused simply by one person listening to what the other person is saying, or seeking to understand the reason for what they are saying, instead of being defensive, or thinking of their next retort, or loudly berating the other for the purpose of “winning” the argument. (just a side note, if you will: no one wins when this happens. It may feel like a win, but it truly isn’t.)
I won’t go so far as to say that verse 19 is more often quoted than the verse the follows, but what I an say is that it more well known by me. So when the Holy Spirit included verse 20 as the scripture for this SUPV, it made me think that it needed to be elevated into everyone’s consciousness a bit more than it already is.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
About four years later, I moved into a support area in which I was the business point of contact for an enterprise application used by our member service representatives. My manager asked me if I wanted a Blackberry, because I had a valid business case to carry one (only slightly prior to that did executives get to have a Blackberry). I agreed, of course, because I needed to have access to my emails when I was away from my desk in the many meetings I had to attend in this new role.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
My mom never cared for Robin Williams. I don’t know if she was bothered by his frenetic pace, his irreverent antics, his zaniness—not sure. I, on the other hand, enjoyed him as an actor. I won’t go so far as to say that he was my favorite actor and that I’ve seen all of his movies, but I appreciated his quick wittedness and cleverness, his range of acting—typical comedy and atypical serious roles—and could count on some of his movies to make me laugh (The Birdcage) or make me think (Good Will Hunting; Dead Poets Society). I think my reaction to his suicide was typical of almost everyone else’s: shock, disbelief, layered in with incredible sadness. Disbelief and shock at the thought that someone who seemed so full of life and energy could be in such pain as to move to take their own life, and sadness that he was in such pain. It goes without saying that I did not know him personally, but I would like to think that had I known him, I would have been able to sense that something was going on and perhaps reach him? If not that, at the very least pray for him?
Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous!
For praise from the upright is beautiful.
Praise the Lord with the harp;
Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings.
Sing to Him a new song;
Play skillfully with a shout of joy.
For the word of the Lord is right,
And all His work is done in truth.
He loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
Psalm 33: 1-5
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!”
Isaiah 6: 1-3
The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
“…pray without ceasing…”
1 Thessalonians 5:17
Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’”
Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily… Luke 18:1-8a
There has been a prayer—a very personal one—that I have prayed on and off, for a fairly long time. Actually, there are quite a few prayers that I have prayed for what seems to have been forever. I know that there are some who might pray for a certain thing once or twice, knowing that their request is in His hands. There are others, like the widow in the parable above, who have a tenacity within that drives them to pray repeatedly. I own up to being somewhere within that continuum of pray-ers, settling closer to the persistence side than the “say it once and leave it” camp. I admit to trying to temper the frequency with which I pray for certain things, lest the object of my prayer overshadow the importance of the One to Whom I pray.