DANGEROUS PRAYERS-FILL ME UP
September 23, 2018
Some of you might recall the name of the late George Plimpton, the legendary popular author who was known as a “participatory” journalist. He always sought to experience first-hand whatever he was writing about—so he boxed with Archie Moore and pitched to Willie Mays. He endured football training camp with the Detroit Lions, resulting in a best-selling work entitled Paper Lions.
I also recall a TV special he recorded with the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. circus. He was training to be a trapeze artist. And as the cameras rolled, you witnessed up close and personal the fear in his eyes as he climbed that flimsy ladder to the top of the circus tent and reached out to take hold of the trapeze bar.
And even with a safety harness rigged to his waistline, Plimpton initially could not bring himself to let go of the bar. He would swing out, and then back, his hands locked in a death grip on that bar, his face frozen in terror. He would later say that, of all the experiences he put himself through to get the personal angle on a story, that hanging on to that trapeze bar was by far the most frightening. And yet, once he did muster the courage to let go, he said it was the most awesome and rewarding feat he ever accomplished.
Our prayers often revolve around praying it safe, begging God to protect us and bless us. We never let go of the bar, beseeching God to mold us and make us into more of what he would have us to be.
Yet, it’s only when we let go of that bar, when we begin to pray dangerously, that faith becomes kindled and dynamic and real to us!
Such dangerous prayers might include the petitions asking, pestering, perhaps demanding that God Clean Me Up, Shut Me Up, Sign Me Up, Coach Me Up, Use Me Up…. and today – Fill Me Up!
In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul offers this admonition:
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit…
This succinct, straight-to-the-point verse calls us, first of all, to search ourselves with this question:
LORD, AM I INTOXICATED WITH ESCAPISM?
Paul writes his letter to the Ephesians from his prison cell in Rome. Ephesus is a cosmopolitan port city on the Mediterranean coastline. Like most Roman cities, it has a seedy underbelly of criminal activity. And certain times of the year things really spiral out of control during the Bacchanalian festivals. These festivals, devoted to the pagan god Bacchus, make Mardi Gras look like a Baptist Sunday School convention. Folks just simply go off the deep end, spending days in unending drunkenness.
Paul warns, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery or dissipation…” Debauchery and dissipation are terms that mean wasted. Do not waste your life getting wasted.
When you’re the youngest child, you have to devise ingenious methods of torturing your older siblings. When I was a kid, I remember hearing my 17-year-old brother John stumbling up the stairs to the neighboring bedroom three-sheets-in-the-wind late on a Friday night. He was moaning and groaning and banging into stuff as he fought his way into bed. Unbeknownst to him, I had released an entire jar of lightning bugs in his room earlier.
At 3 am, after sobering up a bit, John opened his eyes and began to scream and cuss in bloody terror at all the lights flashing in his room. And when my mom and dad came running and discovered him in his inebriated state, that was the last time he drove the car for a long time!
Do not waste your life getting wasted, says Paul. And that’s a word you and I need to hear today.
Why do many folks work so hard to get wasted? I believe there’s a deeper issue Paul is addressing here. Could it be we have become intoxicated with escapism?
Folks especially today are running away….seeking to leave tension and depression and boredom and meaninglessness behind with the help of a bottle or a pill or a fanatical obsession or an illicit relationship or …. And ultimately what they are running away from are themselves. They will do anything to avoid looking in the proverbial mirror and coming to terms with the state of their heart and soul.
Sometimes there are terribly tragic endings. David Katz, 24 years old, was a compulsive video gamer. From his early teenage years on, he would go days without bathing, staying up till 4 am, skipping school. His entire life and identity revolved around gaming. It was his escape. And he could not take losing.
In late August, he entered a Madden 19 tournament in Jacksonville, FL. He was talking smack to the other participants. When he lost during the early rounds, he pulled out a gun and killed two other participants, then turned it on himself.
Yes, that is an extreme example, I agree.
But the question remains, “Am I intoxicated with escapism?” Am I avoiding that spiritual hole in my life by running away not only from myself but also God, becoming drunk on lesser, hurtful things? Indeed, as Augustine put it, “Our hearts are restless until they find rest in thee.”
Paul points us to a better way of living:
Be filled with the Spirit!
Can I bring myself to pray…
LORD, INTOXICATE ME WITH ENGAGEMENT!
Help me, teach me, to surrender myself to your abiding Spirit, O God! Fill me up!
How does this happen? First, it means that…
We live with consciousness of the Holy
This is my father’s world
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres
This is my father’s world
He shines in all that’s fair
In the rustling grass, I hear him pass
He speaks to me everywhere
We sing this, but do we believe it? Experiencing the filling of God’s Spirit begins by paying attention to his presence surrounding us. We put our electronic devices in our pocket or purse and we notice the God moments…his presence greeting us in the dawn of a sunrise, embracing us in the warm hug of a loved one, comforting us through the caring conversation of a friend, encouraging us through a word of scripture or quiet moment of prayer.
We even reach the point of baring our motives to our Lord…”Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my deepest thoughts!” Psalm 139:23 And then,
We grasp the grace of our identity
I never tire of telling and retelling this encounter related by Fred Craddock, UM pastor and former professor of preaching at Candler School of Theology:
One summer Craddock had traveled to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to take a short vacation with his wife. They found a quiet little restaurant where they looked forward to a private meal – just the two of them.
While they were waiting for their meal they noticed a distinguished looking, white-haired man moving from table to table, visiting guests. Craddock whispered to his wife, “I hope he doesn’t come over here.”
He didn’t want the man to intrude on their privacy. But the man did come by his table.
“Where you folks from?” he asked amicably. “Oklahoma.” “Splendid state, I hear, although I’ve never been there. What do you do for a living?” “I teach homiletics at the graduate seminary.”
“Oh, so you teach preachers, do you? Well, I’ve got a story I want to tell you.” And with that he pulled up a chair and sat down at the table with Craddock and his wife.
Dr. Craddock said he groaned inwardly: Oh no, here comes another preacher story. It seems everyone has one.
The man stuck out his hand. “I’m Ben Hooper. I was born not far from here across the mountains. My mother wasn’t married when I was born- which carried a stigma back in those days-so I had a hard time.
When I started to school my classmates had a name for me, and it wasn’t a very nice name—bastard. I used to go off by myself at recess and during lunchtime because the taunts of my playmates cut so deeply.
“What was worse was going downtown on Saturday afternoon and feeling every eye burning a hole through you. They were all wondering just who my real father was.
“When I was about 12 years old a new preacher came to our church. I would always go in late and slip out early. But one day the preacher said the benediction so fast I got caught and had to walk out with the crowd. I could feel every eye in church on me. Just about the time I got to the door I felt a big hand on my shoulder.
I looked up and the preacher was looking right at me.
“Who are you, son? Whose boy are you?’ ‘Who’s your daddy?’”
I felt the old weight come on me. It was like a big black cloud. Even the preacher was putting me down.
But as he looked down at me, studying my face, he began to smile a big smile of recognition. “Wait a minute,” he said, “I know who you are. I see the family resemblance. You are a child of God!”
With that he slapped me across the rump and said, “Boy, you’ve got a great inheritance. Go and claim it!”
The old man looked across the table at Fred Craddock and said, “That was the most important single sentence ever said to me.” With that he smiled, shook the hands of Craddock and his wife, and moved on to another table to greet old friends. Suddenly, Fred Craddock remembered. On two occasions the people of Tennessee had elected an illegitimate son to be their governor. One of them was Ben Hooper…a man with a great inheritance! www.christianembassy.com/…/Child%20of%20God%20-%20Ben%2…
How does Paul describe it? Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come!
Have you claimed this glorious inheritance? Have you grasped the grace of your identity? God offers us a new beginning, an extreme soul makeover, and once we receive it…
We yield the fruit of the Spirit
We find ourselves bearing the attributes of God in our daily lives. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The Spirit of God fills us with such elevating, encouraging traits. They become our second-nature.
We have had so many dear saints journey with our church family over the years who are now with the Lord. And yet, the inspiration of their legacies lives on.
A year ago Wednesday, Dick Plymale claimed the promise of the resurrection. This dear man lived close to his Lord. These nine virtues I just mentioned from Galatians 5:22-23 were so very evident in his life.
He was generous to a fault—many was the time I would mention someone with a need in our church, and he would quietly shake my hand, quietly placing in my palm a goodly amount of cash to help with that need. He would literally offer the shirt off of his back to someone if they were in dire straits.
He especially had great compassion toward children. He was soft-hearted, always wanting to see them smile. My administrative assistant, Ella, told me about the time she and her kids were at the circus. Dick saw them, bought them popcorn, and made their day!
Dick’s memory also offers a segway into my final point…
Being filled with God’s Spirit becomes evident when
We follow thru on opportunities for compassion
Anyone can have great intentions. But we only experience the blessings of the Spirit’s indwelling when we, like Dick Plymale, put those promptings from God into action, serving the needs of others.
Here’s a parable of Jesus we know and love so well and yet it bears repeating…I’m reading from the Message:
25 Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”
26 He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”
27 He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”
28 “Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”
29 Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”
30-32 Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.
33-35 “A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’
36 “What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?”
37 “The one who treated him with compassion,” the religion scholar responded.
Jesus said, “Go and do the same.” Luke 10:25-37
Paul tells us, Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit…
To pray, Fill me up, Lord means we first ask the searching question, Lord, am I intoxicated with Escapism? Am I on the run from myself as well as you, wasting my life being wasted?
And then, we pray, Lord, intoxicate me with Engagement! And God’s Spirit will indeed engage us as we
- Live with consciousness of the Holy.
- Grasp the grace of our true identity as a child of God
- Yield the fruit of the Spirit – that love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
- Follow thru on opportunities for compassion
Yes, fill me up with your Holy Spirit, O God, that I may live for you!
May God make it so!