Romans 8:26-27 – The Prayer Helper

praying

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. (NLT)

There are times when we are so distressed that we have difficulty forming any kind of words in prayer. There are seasons where our spirits are so sad and angry that our minds cannot focus enough for prayer. And there are events that come upon us unexpected and with such emotional impact that our souls feel pummeled and beat up to the point that all we can do is groan.

In recent days, I have found myself with just such feelings. Feeling the sheer weight of 100,000+ deaths due to COVID-19, as well as the literal weight of a Minneapolis police officer on the neck of George Floyd resulting in death have me groaning both inside and out. I am deeply concerned for my African American brothers and sisters and for the many grieving families, including my own encounters with them, who lament the loss of loved ones.

Yet, I am strangely and mystically warmed with the Holy Spirit’s abiding presence within me – because the Spirit takes my feeble sighs and silent sobs and himself groans before the Father. God feels what I feel and has both the mercy and the authority to do something about it. In my inability to voice prayer with any kind of erudition to the heavenly Father, the Spirit works with the simple grunting of my soul. Like a skillful translator of languages, the Holy Spirit effectively takes every heartfelt muttering and expresses a divine groan to the Father which perfectly expresses my raw and real intentions.

The Holy Spirit is an expert on knowing our concerns, knowing God’s will, and bringing the two in harmony with each other. 

Since the Spirit helps us in our weakness, we possess the confident expectation that we will not always be in this position. Meanwhile, we learn to slow down our breathing to receive the breath of the Spirit. We sit in silence, anticipating the gentle voice and refreshing breeze of the Spirit. We become versed in moving with new rhythms of rejoicing and groaning; praising and grieving; hope and lament; faith and agonizing patience. We discover that the Spirit is our ultimate essential service in an upside-down world. Above all, we tenaciously hold onto our imperfect prayers, confident that the Spirit will groan them in the ear of our gracious heavenly Father.

The Holy Spirit is the One who stands in the gap between where we are and where we need to be and intercedes for us, bridging the chasm and bringing us deliverance from our impatience.

One of the oldest definitions of prayer is this: Lifting mind and heart to God. Too often in our efforts to pray formally (both communally and privately) we fail to actually lift our hearts and minds to God because what is really inside us is not something we generally connect with prayer at all. Our frustrations, bitterness, jealousies, lusts, curses, sloth, and quiet despair are sometimes understood to be the opposite of prayer, as if they are things to be overcome so that we can then pray.

Prayer, however, is a conversation, a dialogue, in which we lay bare our deepest thoughts and emotions to a God who graciously receives them and responds in his good time. The great comfort of prayer is that when you cannot put words to it, God hears your heart. And with the Spirit animating those prayers, they never have an expiration date. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is our personal prayer helper.

So, may you know the merciful presence of God’s Holy Spirit this moment, throughout this day, and every day. And may that presence fulfill you, sustain you, and nurture you now and forever. Amen.

Exodus 13:17-22 – The Presence of God

Pillar of Cloud and Fire

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was nearer; for God thought, “If the people face war, they may change their minds and return to Egypt.” So, God led the people by the roundabout way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of the land of Egypt prepared for battle. And Moses took with him the bones of Joseph who had required a solemn oath of the Israelites, saying, “God will surely take notice of you, and then you must carry my bones with you from here.” They set out from Succoth, and camped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. (NRSV)

From a human perspective, God makes a lot of nonsensical decisions in the Bible. Telling Noah to build a big boat in a place with no water; Abraham to leave everything, and later, to sacrifice his son; Moses to stroll into Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let the people go; and, the people to walk through a body of water without getting wet. Indeed, its as if God has an odd predilection for making weird requests of people.

Although today’s Old Testament story gives us a glimpse into God’s thinking, the people were not privy to that information. Yes, God’s people were experiencing an unbelievable exodus out of Egypt. Their wildest dreams could not have imagined such a reality as strolling out of slavery having seen not one but a string of miraculous wonders. Yet, God was not done with the miracle thing.

Although many people would really like to see a miracle happen in their lives, rarely do we think about the circumstances we might need face for that miracle to occur. God typically asks folks to do some outrageous-sounding things to set up the miracle.

An entire nation left Egypt with celebration only to be told to go in a misdirection toward the Promised Land, as if God were somehow geographically challenged. I can imagine that decision had Moses raising a Spock-like eyebrow and the Israelites wondering if God was off his celestial rocker. There is, however, a reason why folks like Noah, Abraham, and Moses obeyed instructions that didn’t make sense to them at the time: The Presence of God.

It is the personal Presence and power of God which makes all the difference.

For God has not promised to create an existence with a zero factor of hardship. God, instead, has created a world that is full, vibrant, and alive with Presence – and a zero tolerance for bullies like Egypt. The uncertainty, doubt, and mystery of the future is thoroughly mitigated with the effusive Presence.

When sitting with patients in the hospital who struggle with the unknown of why they are there and what will become of them (and their families) the last thing I do is try to fabricate reasons so that it makes sense. It doesn’t, and I’m not going pretend that it does. Rather, I remind them of what I do know: The Presence of God is here. God does not go out of his way to give us an easy life. God does, however, go far out his way to communicate his glorious Presence with us.

Pillar of Cloud and Fire 2

God kept constant vigil over the ancient Israelites, powerfully seen with the pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. Nothing was going to happen to the Jewish people without first passing through the mighty hands of God. Not only do I know God is with us, I also know he neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121). When God keeps vigil, God keeps vigil! No smoke or bathroom breaks with God. God’s vigilance is relentless and wondrous, giving assurance to the godly and terrifying the ungodly.

Once we are out in the wilderness of uncertainty, there is no turning back.

That’s okay. The Presence of God patrols the area and divinely guards our every move. For the Christian, the Presence has found its fulfillment in the person of Jesus. Although Christians everywhere serve a risen and ascended Christ, the Divine Presence remains with glorious constancy through the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the One who is consistently alongside us, empowering us and advocating on our behalf. The beautiful theological truth here is that God is both transcendent (far above us) and immanent (intimately close to us) at the same time, all the time.

Armed with such a robust theological understanding, trust and confidence come to us without having to resort to ginning up positive thoughts. Instructions and commands which seem like nonsense? No problem. The Transcendent and Immanent One has the Presence all over it. In between a rock-and-hard-place (or an Egyptian army and a Red Sea)? Not an issue. I willingly place myself there knowing that with the Presence, the miraculous is about to happen. We need not buck the difficult circumstances. The Presence has got this.

So, then, let us pray for the Church and for the world, and let us thank God for the great Presence: In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, we pray to you, Almighty God, and Father. From the rising of the sun to its setting, we pray to you, ever-vigilant Lord, on behalf of those in despair and darkness, that they may find the hope and light of Christ; those in fear of death, that they may find faith through the resurrection of Jesus; prisoners and captives, widows and orphans, and all those who today need a blessed assurance of the Presence; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit are one God, now and forever. Amen.

Click God With Us written and sung by Terrian Woods as we contemplate The Presence among us.

John 14:1-14 – “I Need Jesus!”

Welcome, friends! Simply click the video below and we will have a time together centered around the Lord Jesus.

You can also view this video at TimEhrhardtYouTube

Mindful of the many wonderful mothers and women which surround me, here are a few links with females leading us in worship of God:

Down to the River virtual choir of women

Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) this version of the Chris Tomlin song produced by BYU Records.

May you experience the way, the truth, and the life of Jesus as present and powerful today and always.

Peace be with you, my friends.

Isaiah 25:1-5 – Against Violence

“Violence brings only temporary victories; violence, by creating many more social problems than it solves, never brings permanent peace”. —Martin Luther King, Jr.

AgainstViolence

Lord, you are my God.
I honor you and praise you,
because you have done amazing things.
You have always done what you said you would do;
you have done what you planned long ago.
You have made the city a pile of rocks
and have destroyed her walls.
The city our enemies built with strong walls is gone;
it will never be built again.
People from powerful nations will honor you;
cruel people from strong cities will fear you.
You protect the poor;
you protect the helpless when they are in danger.
You are like a shelter from storms,
like shade that protects them from the heat.
The cruel people attack
like a rainstorm beating against the wall,
like the heat in the desert.
But you, God, stop their violent attack.
As a cloud cools a hot day,
you silence the songs of those who have no mercy. (NCV)

These wonderful words of celebration were uttered not in a time of peace and plenty but in an era of hardship and loss. It seems the Jewish people have always faced a plethora of others who would rather see them wiped off the face of the map than existing with their own customs and religion. It was in one of those times of experiencing problems from Gentiles that this poem was crafted. It is precisely in the adverse times that we need to flee to the open arms of God and enjoy the divine embrace of security. In the sixteenth century, John Calvin reflected on these verses:

“When our minds are perplexed by a variety of uneasy thoughts on account of numerous distresses and afflictions which happen daily, we ought immediately to resort to God, and rely on his providence; for even the smallest calamities will overwhelm us, if we do not betake ourselves to him.”

God Almighty is the One who intervenes on behalf of the poor and helpless. The Lord God is the divine Protector who hears the voice of those overwhelmed with a crushing load of hard circumstances. The great “I AM” is the ultimate refuge and shelter for the vulnerable who possess no resources of their own. There is no bully, whether in the form of a person, an institution, or a government which can stand against the God who bends his ear to listen on behalf of the forgotten and the faint-hearted. Brutality and arrogance might touch our lives, yet it is the Lord to whom all those who exploit others must give an account. The violent, using cruelty and ruthlessness, shall not survive under the shadow of the Almighty God.

The poor and the needy may have no apparent chance against abusive persons and systems of the world. However, no power on earth can take on the Ruler and Sustainer of all creation and expect to have their way. God is the defender of the powerless. He specializes in tearing down the walls of oppression and lifting-up those in need of mercy.

So, then, I shall be explicit about the ancient and almighty God and our present circumstances:

  • Pandemic is a ruthless enemy which knows no pity from both rich and poor, the healthy and unhealthy; and, God is a merciful Deliverer who transcends all disease.
  • Poverty is a cruel master which is never satisfied; and, God is benevolent, bringing both spiritual and material satisfaction to life.
  • Patience is a virtue exemplified and amplified through the divine who desires to see all persons realize new life; and, impatience is a vice of the arrogant who demand their needs be met immediately without any regard to the common good of all.
  • Peace is a harmonious and wholehearted life gifted by God, even despite the surrounding storms of hardship; and, pride is the stance of the privileged who either cannot or will not see those who are underprivileged, and, so, they live in a constant state of unrest and disunity.

Wherever you find people speaking of their individual rights without emphasizing their communal responsibilities, there you will find a situation ripe for God to destroy the walls built by the selfish in order to create a safe place for the afflicted.

The Lord will silence the songs of the unmerciful; and, shall allow the shouts of the ones crying out for mercy to be heard. And he will do it in his own good time and grace.

Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you that through your death on the cross you disarmed the powers of evil. Help us, we pray you, to enter your resurrection victory and to stand in your authority against all evil. Send forth your light and your truth. Bring to light the deeds of darkness and let plans of violence be revealed. Through the power of Holy Spirit, almighty God, disarm every evil power and influence in your good world; and, bring loving connection where there is hatred and cruelty. Amen.