Sunday, July 2, 2017

Becoming a Circle Maker

Becoming A Circle Maker       July 1 and 2, 2017
Scripture: Mark 10: 46-52

Today we begin a new journey called The Circle Maker. This is a 4 week series on prayer, but even more than that, it’s a 4 week series that stretches our walk with Christ and invites us into a deep and bold faith. (You can check out more of this awesome book/sermon series here: www.thecirclemaker.com. You can also join us for a 4-week small group experience beginning Tuesday, July 11th at 6:30 at the Koffee Shoppe.)


There’s a story of an old Israelite sage named Honi that’s been passed down from generation to generation. Honi, who lived several hundred years before Jesus, was famous for his prayerful heart but especially for his prayers for rain. And that served him well during an extremely dry season in Jerusalem. It was a time of drought, the type of drought that leaves behind a wake of devastation. Animals were dying; people were suffering; the wells were all dried up. And so was the faith of the people. It had been a long time since the people had seen God move in mighty ways. All they had was a distant memory of a God who existed in stories and legends. But there was one, a man named Honi, who still believed.


As the story is told, Honi takes his staff and slowly begins to draw a circle in the dirt, then as he is standing in the circle, he cried out these word: Lord of the Universe, I swear before your great name that I will not move from this circle until you have shown mercy upon your children.” The boldness of the prayer shocked those who heard. Honi’s confidence was unlike anything they had seen. And then they felt it. A raindrop. Little by little, small raindrops began to fall. But that wasn’t enough for Honi. “Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain that will fill cisterns, pits and caverns.” As the prayer ascended, the rain fell harder and harder until it was a torrential downpour. But Honi remained in the circle. Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain of Thy favor, blessing and graciousness.” And the downpour transformed into a steady summer rain that had the effect of not only raising water levels and filling up the cisterns, but raising up faith and filling up the spirits of those who just a day before were discouraged and defeated. It was a prayer that, some say, saved a generation of people. And that’s why this story has been passed down from generation to generation. You won’t find this story in the Bible, but what you will find is a powerful reminder of what one prayer can do.


Now, we know that prayer is important. I don’t think there’s anyone who would argue that point. But what you might be surprised to discover is that our prayers are important to God. One of the principles we see throughout Scripture is that bold prayers honor God and God honors bold prayers. Now, we need to think more about this, because there are those who might think it’s not right to be bold with God. In fact, there were those who chastised Honi for his aggressive praying. How dare he think he can talk to God that way! And we might feel that way too. We don’t want to come across as prideful or arrogant or somehow offend God. But in the Scriptures, we actually see Jesus inviting us to pray like Honi, to pray prayers that are both bold and specific. Ask. Seek. Knock. Why? Because these prayers honor God! Think about it for a moment. When we pray with boldness, we are making a statement of faith. When we pray prayers that only God can answer, we are essentially telling God, “Nobody can do this but you. Not me. Not anyone. Not the government. My trust is in entirely in You!” We might even say that the only way to offend God is to either not pray at all or to pray prayers that are so small we don’t really need God to intervene. We ask boldly because we believe God can do it. And when we move in this courageous way, when we draw this circle, God’s heart is stirred to pour out blessings on his people and God gets the glory. When something happens that can only be explained by God, guess who gets the glory? God gets it! So if I were to ask you right now, what is one big bold ask you have for God? What would your answer be? You need to draw the circle.


There’s a story in the Gospels about a man named Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus lived in Jericho, which is a place where God once answered an amazing prayer. A thousand years earlier, God had his people march around the city walls 7 times and the walls came crashing down. God delivered this mighty city into the hands of his people. They kept drawing the circle, knowing that the only way this city would be taken would be by the hand of God. And it happened. With a loud shout, the walls came tumbling down. Now as Jesus enters Jericho, there’s another wall that Bartimaeus has been trying to knock down since his birth: his blindness. Bartimaeus caught wind of Jesus’ passing and began to cry out, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” And there were those around who tried to hush him up. Why do you think he’d bother with you? He’s not going to listen to you. He has more important things to do. But he kept crying out. He kept circling. Finally, Jesus made his way to the man asked this all-important question: What do you want me to do for you? You see, the man was genuinely seeking mercy, but Jesus asked him to get specific. He already had mercy. The moment Jesus looked his way was a moment of mercy. But Jesus called him to go deeper. What do you want me to do for you? I want to see again!


I don’t know exactly how they answered that question, but I do know that we stand on the shoulders of those who have prayed such big, bold, courageous prayers. Over a hundred years ago, there were those praying that God would make his mark in our Blairsville area. And God moved in the hearts of men and women to start churches that we have called home for the last 150 years or so. Your place of worship and your opportunity to gather like this is the culmination of somebody else’ s prayers and dreams. And those prayers are still being answered when people walk into these doors. And just a few years ago there was a group of people that began to circle those with no church home, and out of that dream Connect Church was born. There were a lot of walls that had to come crashing down in order for this to happen, a lot of bridges were required for people to get on board with this dream. And God answered that prayer. When I think of the people who have come to know Jesus because of our Parish and Connect Church, I remember a group of people who years ago began to pray boldly and began to dream, believing that God wanted this even more than we did.


We need to remember that God is a bigger dreamer than we are. He is waiting for us to call out to him; he’s waiting to answer and bless and give, because that’s his nature! God is for you! And even more than that, God is for that which is life giving and holy. So when we pray bold prayers that honor God, glorify God and seek to grow God’s kingdom, God doesn’t hesitate to answer those requests. Listen to these words spoken by Jesus: What father would give his son a stone when he asks for bread? What father would give his child a snake when she asks for a fish? God is a good father who loves to bless his children. He doesn’t always answer in the ways we think he will, but his answers are always better than even our best thoughts. So let’s circle back around and ask that old Bartimaeus question: What do you want God to do for you?


This might seem like a selfish question, but it’s not. It’s a statement of faith; it’s a desire see God build his kingdom in you and his kingdom all over the world. Now, we’re not talking about God helping us to win the lottery or giving us a private jet (that’s a surefire way to recognize that our prayers really aren’t about God). We’re talking about prayers that build God’s kingdom and bring him glory. So what is your Jericho? What is the dream you want God to fulfill? Who is the person you want God to redeem? What is the miracle you want to God to deliver? Maybe you have a friend who you think needs Jesus. You need to circle that person in prayer. Maybe there’s a ministry that God has placed in your heart, but you’re not sure where to begin. You need to circle that ministry in prayer. Maybe you want to go back to school or get out of out debt or save your marriage. You need to circle that in prayer. And as you do, you need to put God on your calendar. And what I mean by that is to find an intentional place and time where you will meet with God to march around those prayers. I long for us to be a generation that doesn’t shy away from praying for big things. I long for us to be the type of people who believe God can do more than even our wildest imaginations might suggest. And I long to be part of a church that commits to praying boldly and courageously.


Over the next five weeks, I’m inviting you to deepen your faith by praying big, bold, courageous prayers. Today you’ve been given two items to help you pray intentionally. The first is a small stone that you carry with you. Scripture tells us that God is our Rock, our Fortress, and our Cornerstone. I want you to go home and write down your God-given dream on this stone and carry it with you wherever you go. When your hand brushes against the stone or your eye catches sight of it, take that as a Spirit-inspired prompt to pray. The second item is a half-sheet in your bulletin where you can make a personal prayer commitment. On that sheet you’ll find a circle. Write your big, bold prayer request in that circle and then drop down and fill in the blanks and establish a meeting time with the Lord. Make a covenant with God to meet with him and pray every day. Friends, God responds to hearts that yearn for Him and turn to Him. So for the next few weeks, let’s call out to God like we’ve never called before and lets give God a chance to be glorified in amazing ways. Amen.


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