I enjoyed church today. I had the opportunity to baptize a lady. We had some cool testimonies. I enjoyed preaching on the Holy Spirit. I praise God for a good day of worship. However, none of those were "firsts."
This morning at breakfast I was reading an article in the "Alabama Baptist" about a Chinese pastor they called Pastor Zhou. That is not his real name. They changed it for security reasons. It was an amazing story. Pastor Zhou was not a believer until a time in his life when he had a tumor on his leg. He went to the doctors about it. His mother, who is a follower of Jesus, encouraged him to pray about it. He did and asked God to heal him in 30 minutes so he would know it was God. God healed him in 30 minutes. Awesome!
These days Pastor Zhou is the pastor of a church. His church has grown powerfully. He also leads a Bible college to train pastors. His heart is to reach out to men who are called by God but live in financial poverty. He provides education for these guys plus their meals at no charge.
Sometimes (OK, pretty often) when I read a story like this I have doubts about the validity of it. This pastor has had 3 of our well known Alabama Southern Baptist pastors to go and teach in his college. It sounds pretty legit and cool. So far, he has trained and sent out 218 pastors. Pastor Zhou receives no salary from the Bible College. He has also been arrested twice for sharing his faith in Jesus
I read this and was just taken by this story. That's usually about as much as I do with a story like that though sometimes I'll use it in a sermon. Today I thought about what I could do for this man. I'd love to be a partner with him. It occurred to me that I could pray for him. Typically, that would mean to ask God to bless and protect him (OK, maybe a little more but sadly not much more usually). Today, I decided to set my clock and pray for 15 minutes for this guy's ministry whom I have never met and only read about in a newspaper. I do believe that's a "first" for me.
So, I prayed for 15 minutes (that's longer that one might think until you actually put the clock to it) for Pastor Zhou and his ministry. If I truly believe in prayer and the promises God makes about prayer, then it's a powerful ministry we can have in each other's life. Too often I just throw a sentence or two heavenward and off to the next thing I go. It was a lot better to take some time and really intercede for this man.
As I did, I was convicted by God's Spirit. Would I keep preaching if I had been arrested twice? The article said that after a full day of study, many of his students will still be poring over the Scriptures after midnight. Do I or the people I preach to have that kind of hunger for God's word? The prayer time was partly confession time. I offered myself to help with Pastor Zhou's ministry in any way God would want me to. Nothing else may ever come of this, but then again when God's people pray, you never know. It would not be the first time I've been to China.
Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for him. His request is recorded in Ephesians 6: 19-20 (NLT): And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.
Praying for the abundant life
3 things I thank God for today
1. People that pray for me
2. Jim Cymbala's book "Fresh Wind Fresh Fire"
3. I can eat a delicious lunch (which included bread pudding with caramel sauce) at church that helped raise money for the Ugandan Mission Team