Is Jesus Praying for You?

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In the middle of his sufferings and grief, Job felt alienated from God. He raged, he complained, he lamented. He even wished that he had never been born. He said that he wanted someone to be his advocate before God, to speak for him to God.

He cried, “If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more” (Job 9:33-34).

Is there such an arbiter who is qualified to represent us before God? The New Testament answers with an emphatic “Yes!” That one is Jesus. Jesus is praying for his people. It is said that the Bible records over 650 prayers, none more important than the prayers of Jesus. The gospels describe Jesus praying on 21 different occasions.

One of those occasions is when Jesus prayed in John 17 before his death on the cross. In that prayer, our Lord prayed for himself, for his disciples who were with him at that time, and for all who would subsequently believe on him. Are you one of those believers? If so, Jesus is praying for you!

This is called Jesus’ “high priestly ministry” on behalf of his people and John 17 has been called his “high priestly prayer.” That is because it represents Jesus’ prayer requests before the Father in heaven. Can you imagine the Father ignoring or denying a request from his holy Son?

So Jesus prays for his believing people in all times and places. “My prayer is not for them alone (the disciples). I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21). 

Believers in Jesus are a spiritual community of faith called the Body of Christ. Jesus prays for unity within the Body that will reflect the unity of the Trinity. The people of God have been given the power to display that unity through the Spirit of God. This is “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). He says that this will be a convincing witness to the world.

Jesus goes on to express his desire that believers will “be with me where I am and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you have loved me before the creation of the world” (John 17:24). This is an amazing prayer that all of us who believe in him might share his glory in heaven. What could be better than that?

Until then, we live in this world, a world that does not know God (John 17:25). So our Lord prays that his people will be sustained by God’s love. His prayer is “that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them” (John 17:26).

Some of God’s people are, like Job, going through very hard times. I am personally aware of some who are enduring physical suffering, bereavement, personal failure, or intense loneliness.  Maybe you are going through a difficult time right now. It is encouraging to know that we have an advocate in heaven “who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 2:1-2).

He is our great high priest. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Maybe Job was given a glimpse of this truth when, through his anguish, he admitted, “Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. my intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend” (Job 16:19-21).

Pastor Randy Faulkner

A Reminder to be Thankful

I fell recently. Planted my face in the asphalt and knocked myself out. Broke my nose. My face was covered with scrapes and bruises. It looked like I had been hammered with an ugly stick. Pickleball is not for the faint of heart!

Thankfully, the CT scan in the ER showed no brain trauma. I do mean thankfully. I am thankful that the injuries were relatively minor and of short duration. The outcome could have been much worse.

This has reminded me of how thankful we should be for daily blessings from above. I am afraid that for too long I have taken for granted the gift of good health. The Parkinson’s diagnosis has reminded me how fragile and tentative life can be and how grateful I should be that God is holding me in the hollow of his hand.

Not long ago I was reading about how Nehemiah led the Jewish people in a celebratory ritual of thanksgiving. As a leader he wanted to impress upon the people the importance of taking time away from the routine of life to think about God’s blessings and to thank him.

God had brought them back home from a long captivity in Babylon and Persia. They had successfully rebuilt the city walls of Jerusalem. God had protected them from enemies. They had formally renewed their covenant relationship with God.

Now it was time to give thanks. Priests and Levites led liturgical prayers of thanks and praise. One of them was “Mattaniah . . . the director who led in thanksgiving and prayer” (Nehemiah 11:17). Some of them were musicians who “were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving” (Nehemiah 12:27).

Nehemiah and Ezra then assembled the leaders of Judah to ascend to the top of the wall of the city. They were led in a procession by two large choirs and instrumentalists. They marched around the city of Jerusalem on top of the wall in a boisterous celebration of thanks and praise to God. One group went in one direction led by Ezra. The other group, with Nehemiah following, went in the other direction.

The groups met at the temple area to publicly thank the Lord for all he had done to help and provide for them. Men, women and children “were rejoicing because God had given them great joy” (Nehemiah 12:43).

We are reminded every day of reasons to be unhappy. News of wars, dangerous weather, political scandals, social problems, moral decay, random and meaningless violence, for example, fuel our feelings of anxiety. We know that if our attention stays too long on these the mental and emotional cost will be high.

Nehemiah 12 helps us to look at the dangers of life through God’s perspective. Difficulties are not going to go away. They will always be there. But our faithful father in heaven in not going away either. He has promised he will be with us through whatever hardships we may face. He will be present to help us and sustain us.

We may fall, but he will be there to lift us and hold us. So let’s not forget to keep our eyes on him and give thanks.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

The Only Perfect Father

Parents make mistakes. I know because I am one. More than once I have felt the need to apologize to one of my young children for being overbearing or impatient in my correction. I regret that I did not always set the right example of what a father ought to be. I am grateful that in adulthood my children accept and love me, in spite of my shortcomings.

Every year on Fathers’ Day I realized that some in the congregations I served had a hard time relating to God as “father.” Some struggled to hold onto their faith because they had absent fathers, authoritarian fathers, or abusive fathers. Best-selling books have been written chronicling the spiritually-perilous journey some have taken from thinking of God as a bully who waits in the shadows to punish us, to a nurturing father who draws his children into a relationship based upon grace and love. They discovered, in spite of their human fathers, that God is the only perfect father.

I have been thinking about this as Fathers’ Day approaches. Some phrases from the King James Version of the Bible have been spinning around in my head which are reminders of what our heavenly father is really like.

Father of Glory

“Glory” is a descriptive term which implies God’s magnificence, his brightness and his beauty. It reveals his power, as seen in creation (Psalm 19:1), and in the resurrection of Christ (Romans 6:4, 1 Corinthians 6:14). Glory is associated with heaven. Since God is glorious, his abode is also suffused with glory (Luke 2:14, 19:48).

So when we read in a prayer of Paul’s that God is the Father of glory (Ephesians 1:17), it means that he wants his children to share in his glory by getting to know him more completely through the Holy Spirit. This process will be completed when in the resurrection all believers will share in the glory of God (1 Corinthians 15:42-44, Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:17).

Father of Lights

When the apostle James declared that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of heavenly lights” (James 1:17), he was speaking of the consistent generosity of the heavenly father who knows how to give good gifts to his children (Luke 11:13).

If the heavenly lights are the stars and planets, James may be referring to God’s creative power and sovereign control over nature. If our heavenly father can control the heavenly bodies, what can he do for us?

In addition, this infers that God is the source of all light, physical, moral, intellectual, and spiritual. Unlike the changing appearance and movements of the planets, the sun and the moon, the light of God is unchanging and eternal.

Father of Spirits

The author of the book of Hebrews wrote to people who were immature in their faith and forgetful of God’s promises. It contains a reminder that God, like a good human father, must sometimes correct his children. “We have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the father of our spirits and live!” (Hebrews 12:9).

“The Father of spirits” is a unique expression found only here in the Bible. It is God who created and who sustains the human spirit. He breathes into it, as he did at first with Adam, the breath of life. He has imparted his Holy Spirit to empower and guide. Through his loving correction, the father of spirits shapes and guides our spirits to make us more like himself with perfection as the goal (Hebrews 12:23). When we respond with submission and obedience, the result is life as it was meant to be.

Father of Mercies

The problem of undeserved suffering perplexes us, as it did the people of the Bible. In 2 Corinthians the apostle Paul talked about some of the sufferings he had had to endure for the sake of the gospel. He took courage by thinking about God. In the opening passage of the letter he praises God as the father of mercies, or compassion (2 Corinthians 1:3).

This truth enabled him to receive help from “the God of all comfort.” The comfort he received was not for his benefit alone, but so that he might be an encouragement to others. The hardships we may have to endure allow us to be equipped to minister to others. It has been said that God prepares us for what he is preparing for us. It is always helpful to remember that God is the father of mercies and that  “his compassions never fail. They are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Father of our Lord Jesus

This is a favorite expression of the apostle Paul’s. This is because Jesus wanted his followers to know that his father is also their father (John 20:17). When he called God “Abba father,” as he did in Gethsemane, it was so that we would feel free to come to God in the same way, with intense familiarity (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6).

If your memories of Dad on this Fathers’ Day are filled with anger, shame, or regret, remember that there is Another who wants to be your father, just as he is the father of the Lord Jesus Christ. The above titles teach us that he is glorious, generous, good, and gracious.

If your faith is in Jesus you may be sure that you have a perfect father in heaven who loves perfectly. Jesus said, “The Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God” (John 16:27).

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Is the New Testament a Pious Fraud?

“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and  training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

“But God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10).

“For prophecy never had its origin in the  will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1 :21).

Some who want to dismiss the claims that are made about Jesus in the gospels try to do so by dismissing the gospels themselves. They say that the stories about what Jesus said and did were inventions of the Christian community in the second and third centuries, and not based on historical fact.

This is an important question. The Christian message is the good news of eternal salvation. It is not merely a set of philosophical precepts, invented by human thinkers. It is a supernatural message communicated in a supernatural way. The truth-claims of the Christian message are bound up in the truthfulness of the New Testament.

From the writings of the Old Testament prophets who thundered “Thus says the Lord” to the epistles of the New Testament which claimed the same divine authority, the entire Bible claims to be the revealed word of God.

Thus it is the Christian belief that the Spirit of God inspired the writing of the Old and New Testaments. The Holy Spirit also controlled the preservation, selection, and collection of the books of the Bible. Jesus laid the foundation for this belief when he told his disciples, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you” (John 16:13-15).

These words may be taken to illustrate the point I am making.

The Spirit of truth is the One Jesus called the “counselor,” or “comforter,” or “helper.” In John 14:16 the Lord foretold the future coming of the Spirit upon the disciples. He said that the Spirit would remain in them and never leave. Jesus said that when the Spirit came to live in them, he would be the very Spirit of Christ: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:17-18).

The phrase “he will guide you” takes us back to John 15:26-27 where Jesus had said that he would send the Holy Spirit from the Father to “testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” Our Lord further told his apostles that as they bore witness, the Spirit would guide them into all truth. This refers to the special inspiration of the apostles which enabled the composition of the New Testament.

“All truth”  is the completed revelation of doctrine that had not yet been given. The Lord had explicitly told the disciples that there were truths that he had not revealed to them as yet because they were not ready to receive them (John 16:12). At this point the disciples did not fully understand the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection. But when the Holy Spirit enlightened them, they would be given the insight and wisdom to  write God’s revealed word in their epistles. This teaches us the sufficiency of holy scripture. We should expect no further revelation than that which has been given for our learning in the New Testament. This brings to completion the truth Jesus wanted his followers in every generation to believe.

“He will bring glory to me.” This is the Spirit’s purpose and mission in the world. It is not the Spirit’s purpose to call attention to himself. He proceeds from the Father in heaven to magnify the Son of God (John 15:26). He did this, in part, through the writing of the four gospels and their accounts of Jesus’ words, ministry, death, and resurrection. Since the words and works of Jesus were the words and works of God (John 16:15), the Spirit, through Christ, reveals God to us.

Finally, Jesus alludes to the unfolding of the future, the doctrine of last things. The phrase, “He will tell you what is yet to come,” is a reminder that the Holy Spirit also inspired the writing of the last book of the New Testament. It contains prophecies about future events surrounding the return of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the central theme of the book of Revelation. The message of the book was given to John the author as he was “in the  Spirit” (Revelation 1:9-10, 4:2).

I believe that it stretches credulity to ask us to believe that such a collection of writings as we have in the New Testament, the epistles, the gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the book of Revelation could have been composed and collected by liars and forgers, no matter how pious their intentions. The New Testament bears the marks of divine authority and authenticity. It must have been inspired by the Holy Spirit. It points us to Jesus as savior and calls us to believe in him.

Pastor Randy Faulkner


Heaven is a Real Place

Polls consistently show that the majority of Americans believe in the existence of heaven. Admittedly, some of this belief may be wishful thinking or based on made up stories, or accounts of near death experiences in books and movies.

The best source of information is the Bible and the word of Jesus. He said, “I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven — the Son of Man” (John 3: 12-13).

“I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38).

“I have come here from God. I have not come on my own. God sent me” (John 8: 42).

Jesus taught that heaven is a definite, specific place. It is not a state of mind, a fantasy, or an illusion. Jesus said to his disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:3). He called heaven a “place.” The word in Greek is topos, which gives us the English word topography, a word used by  surveyors, civil engineers, and explorers.

Most of us have a sense of place. My wife’s is her small hometown in the Virginia Highlands. We love going back there year after year. It feels like home. We possess an oil painting of the house in which I grew up in Tennessee. It is a reminder of the place where my brothers and I were reared.

Last year Connie and I moved from our pleasant home place in Oklahoma City after 32 years there. We now live in Valdosta, Georgia, to be near our daughter Carrie and her family. Last week we moved into a new house in a new neighborhood. Again we are adjusting to a new place.

Heaven is the place where God is. King Solomon dedicated the temple in Jerusalem with these words, “Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place, Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive” (1 Kings 8:30).

The apostle John spoke of heaven as the New Jerusalem, the dwelling place of God and redeemed humanity when he wrote, “Look, God’s dwelling place is now among the people and he will dwell with them. They will be his people , and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3).

Jesus promised the dying criminal on the cross next to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The man was promised a place in heaven because he trusted in Jesus and asked for salvation. You and I may have the same assurance of heaven if our faith is the Savior who came from heaven to take us there.

Heaven is a real place populated by real people. I hope to see you there.

Pastor Randy Faulkner