About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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A Return To The Burden  


I was probably about six years old when I first began to be aware of it.  It would happen at times throughout the year, but for sure, you couldn't miss it during the first two weeks of July.  I'd just sit back and watch the commotion.  I had no choice.  I was to young to wander away from my parents.  Outsiders would have thought it all very strange, if not a bit insane. 


From the earliest age I understood the reason for what I saw.  On occasion throughout the year, and for sure the second Friday in July, my dad would sit me in the center of it all.  Being slightly shy and embarrassed by the attention, I just hoped for the best.         


Year after year, at the Free Methodist Church camp meeting, from the age of five, my dad would take me to the altar of a huge tent.  In later years the tent was replaced by a wooden structure we called a tabernacle.  The last Friday of camp meeting was a day of fasting and prayer for the sick.  I wasn't exactly sick.  It was my eyes.  I guess you'd say they were sick.  They still are.  My nose is one inch from large letters on my computer monitor as I type these words.  Around the altar serious petitioning would rise to the Lord from people crying, moaning, and groaning.  They called it "intercessory prayer". 


Just prior to those days Jesus miraculously cured me of Juvenile Diabetes.  If He hadn't, I would have been buried in the local cemetery decades before my parents ended up there.  It was this original healing that caused my dad to give his life to Jesus and then drag me to the altar every few months for a second healing.  My dad figured that if Jesus could heal me once, He could heal me twice.  It was simple math mixed with faith.  In my case, at least so far, the mixture of math and faith hasn't quite worked out for my legal blindness.  So there I was, smack dab in the midst of the loud cries, the groans, and the moans. 


The cries, groans, and moans, weren't heard just at healing meetings.  My parent's generation would often be seen crying, pleading to the Lord for the salvation of their family and friends.  This sentiment was "sort of" seen in one of my dad's favourite country gospel songs.  Some of you may remember, "wait a little longer please Jesus, a few more days to let my loved ones in".       


These were  "old fashion prayer meetings".  Old fashion, not in the sense of being outdated, but in the sense of not being seen much these days.  Such intercession was common in the Free Methodist church back then. 


When the reality of my salvation really hit home with me at the age of 19, (1970) I experienced another type of prayer.  It was heart felt worship.  It was praying and singing in the Spirit, praying and singing in tongues.  It was ecstatic individual and corporate worship, with both hearts and hands raised in submission to Jesus.  It was like nothing I'd ever seen in the Free Methodist church.  Sad to say, those in our church congregation weren't as thrilled about my new found expression of faith as I was.  A few people took me aside and quietly, but very firmly, told me I was dealing with devil worship.  I didn't, and still don't, believe that for a minute.  To dogmatically say that what the apostle Paul teaches about worship in 1 Corinthians 14 is devilish, is not only bad hermeneutics, it borders on blasphemy. 


Like every generation tends to do, I and others, threw out some of our past to embrace that which became new to us.  Looking back on it all, I admit that was a mistake.  It would have been nice if my parent's generation could have admitted their mistake as well concerning what they called "devil worship".      


Was all the fuss that took place around the altar back then real?  Could it have been in the flesh, as some told me my new found worship was?  I certainly admit that lots of what we do in church is fleshly, but I find it hard to believe that what I saw as a child could be fake.  Those people were serious about praying.     


We can't manufacture real intercessory prayer.  We can't turn it on and off at a whim.  We can't organize it into existence.  It's more than weekend conferences in high priced hotels with expensive meals.  It's a burden we carry around with us, a burden that only Jesus can place within us.  It's a burden that causes our hearts to ache.  In Biblical terms it's called "a spirit of grace and supplication".  It's what God promised for Israel in the last days. (Zechariah 12:9)  It's what Christians need today.  In Biblical terms, "to supplicate" means to humbly come to Jesus in serious repentance and submission.  It's often accompanied by fasting.  It's pleading with Jesus on the behalf of others.  If this burden explodes into tears, then so be it.      


God not only promised Israel a "spirit of supplication", but a "spirit of grace" as well.  This is important because it's only God's grace, His divine ability, that  can produce effective intercession.  


In these lasts days, the burden of the Lord, another term for the prophetic word of repentance, judgment, and the return of Jesus, is being proclaimed around the world. (Matthew 24:14)  Unlike the sentiment seen in the old gospel song my dad liked, Jesus won't wait.  His return has been predetermined, fixed to the exact second by the Father.  If you're at all concerned for your family and friends finding Jesus before that exact second arrives, intercessory prayer becomes a serious matter.  So, along with the burdensome proclamation of repentance, judgment and the return of Jesus, comes the burden of prayer and supplication.  The two go hand in hand.  In light of God's judgment, our hearts ache for those who need Jesus.  Eternal judgment is no place for your son, your daughter, your friend, or for anyone.    


On a personal note, I can spend hours studying the Bible, and I almost pray without ceasing, as much of my thoughts are directed towards Jesus, but intercessory prayer is different.  It doesn't come natural to me.  I don't believe it comes natural to anyone.  It's only when God "pours out a spirit of grace and supplication" upon us that we can effectively enter into such prayer.  I've experienced it at times, both individually and corporately.  As the end of this age draws closer, we can expect such a spirit to be poured out on us.  I suggest we make ourselves available for it.  If we're not available, it may pass us by.  Embrace it, even if it looks insane to the onlooker.


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