Just Carol Pondering

Carol MadisonBy: Carol Madison

External Link to Blog:  www.justcarolpondering.blogspot.com

A faith journey saturated with hope in Christ through prayer

Jesus Changes Everything

Friday, June 19, 2015

I have brothers and sisters who were tragically killed on Wednesday night. I don’t personally know the believers who were gunned down in midst of their Bible study and prayer time at the Emanuel Church in Charleston. But I know they were brothers and sisters in Christ. I know this because they were doing exactly the same thing I was doing on Wednesday night - gathering with fellow believers to pray and seek God.

My heart is so sad for the families and members of this church. According to news reports, they were studying the Gospel of Mark that night. I don’t know the specific passage they were looking at, but two of the most life-changing statements ever spoken by Jesus are recorded in the very first chapter of Mark (vss. 15-17):

“Repent and believe.”
“Come, follow Me.”

The truth and hope for all of us rest in those two commands.

I’ve heard a lot of discussion and political commentary since Wednesday night. There have also been expressions of anger, sadness, and despair. We as a nation are trying to sort out this latest tragedy - and we are beginning to recognize the seriousness of the threat from within.

There is legitimacy in debate. But friends, we are at a crisis point. We are rapidly imploding on several levels. Ultimately, there is no real answer to be reached through endless discussions.

What we need is a RESET to Jesus. Period.

Repent and believe. Come, follow Me. 

Last weekend I was in Washington, D.C., gathered at the foot of the Washington Monument with 5,000 other followers of Christ. We were there to launch a movement - a year-long initiative - to invite our nation to RESET everything to Jesus. By next summer, we’re praying those numbers will grow to more than a million people who will gather on the Mall to lift up Jesus. He is our only agenda.

My hope is that God might grant us a Third Great Awakening in the coming months. I pray toward that end with this one thought in mind: Jesus changes everything.


Beyond a Football Game

Saturday, February 07, 2015

It wasn’t until a couple of days before I left for Phoenix that I realized I was arriving in that city just in time for the Super Bowl. But it didn’t take more than a few steps off the airplane to notice that I had unwittingly entered into the craziness of hundreds of thousands of people descending on Phoenix for a few days of revelry and football fun.

I was there for the National Prayer Committee meetings—and of course we drew only about 70 people from around the nation for our event! But these are my favorite meetings of the year because I love being with spiritually mature prayer leaders who know how to come together in unity (regardless of denominational backgrounds) and seek God for revival and spiritual awakening.

As the city filled with people oblivious to their desperate need for God, we realized that the timing and location of our meetings were not a coincidence. We received reports from local prayer leaders of how the Church of Phoenix had already been praying for months in preparation for the Super Bowl, especially regarding the suspected increase in sex trafficking that often occurs around a major sporting event.

Now, I realize that many people believe this is a myth. I’ve read the articles. They believe the number of women and children who are transported to a city in anticipation of an increased call for their services is way over exaggerated. Maybe. Maybe not. But I do know that the sex trafficking of any individual is pure evil—and I have no reason to believe that thousands of men descending upon a city for a sporting event would not be prime candidates for this dark underworld of abusing women and children. 

Call to Action
What I love about prayer leaders is that when evil raises its ugly head, they are quick to respond! Stop and pray now. Rearrange schedules. Stop and pray again. Pile into cars and drive down to the Super Bowl stadium to prayerwalk. Pray around the hotels. Pray for God to work on behalf of those who are being forced into slavery against their will. Pray for perpetrators to be caught and victims to be set free. Pray for the love of Jesus Christ to cover all sin.

For prayer leaders, it’s what they live to do—to intercede on behalf others. I remember praying specifically in my group, as we stood in near the stadium, that the police would set a trap—a snare—for catching the perpetrators and rescuing the enslaved. None of us realized at the time that a national sting operation was underway. Of course, I had no insider information—just the prompting of the Holy Spirit in how to pray!

Here are some of the results of the prayers of many people and the determination of government and law enforcement to attack this issue:
  • A national coalition conducted a sting operation through the cooperation of 27 agencies in 15 states, culminating with the Super Bowl.
  • According to the Los Angeles Times, nearly 600 “johns” were arrested and 68 victims were rescued.
  • More than 70 percent of those arrested were caught responding to online advertisements.
  • 23 people were arrested on suspicion of sex trafficking.
I’m encouraged by these direct answers to prayer. We need to wake up as the Church and intensify our prayers regarding these kinds of atrocities. As we pray, we support government and law officials in doing their part to push against the tide of evil.

I pray that the Spirit will always prompt me to open my eyes to the dark side of this world—even if I’m eating chips, enjoying Super Bowl commercials, and wondering why in the world they didn’t run the ball!


Even If Sound Systems Are Horrible

Monday, June 30, 2014

It’s a story I keep blabbing about because it brings such great encouragement to my own heart. There are times when I am disheartened in my prayer life because God can feel silent—or I feel stale and ineffective in my prayers. Then suddenly God reminds me that He hears my heart, knows the intimate details of my longings, and is listening and working out His plans and purposes. I just need to keep praying with faith and hope!

I’m editing a book for a friend that’s an amazing and redemptive story of his life. In fact, I’ve been pretty surprised to learn about the painful and destructive way Mark lived prior to becoming a follower of Christ. I had no idea.

So I was especially blessed to read Mark’s story of the moment he gave his life to Jesus. He writes about attending the Promise Keepers event at the Metrodome in Minneapolis in 1996, walking in as a very broken man. He and his friends found seats near the top of the Dome, where the sound system was horrible. He couldn’t understand anything the speakers were saying because of the echo and loud commotion. But when the man who shared the gospel message got up to speak, Mark understood every word perfectly. He bowed his head in his lap, and with tears streaming down his face, Mark gave his life to Jesus. It was the most transformational moment of his life.

As I edited this section, I was overwhelmed at God’s goodness. I wrote a note to him in the margin: “Mark, I was in the intercessor prayer room in one of the locker rooms during this event. The leaders came down and told us how terrible the sound system was, and to pray especially fervently that the men would still understand the gospel message. Then they let us sneak up and peek at all the men streaming forward to give their lives to Christ!”

Wow. Eighteen years later, I find out that Mark was one of the men I was praying for that night!

Sometimes we don’t know how God might be answering our prayers. And many times we get discouraged because we’re not sure our heart cries to the Lord are making any difference. But sometimes God pulls back the veil and gives us a glimpse of the eternal impact of those prayers.

So please, don’t stop bringing that special burden before the Lord. You may one day be surprised at the way He has answered.

It's Time to Heal

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It was an ugly, heartbreaking split between two churches 50 years ago. I was too young to have any idea of what was going on—I just remember suddenly being in a new Sunday school class with some of my same friends from my old class. We were in a new, vibrant church with familiar people, and so the transition was pretty easy for me.

But as the years passed, I began to get glimpses of the hurt and pain that accompanied the split of one of the largest churches in town. I overheard critical comments. There seemed to be a competitive spirit at summer camp between my new and old churches. Although we would join together for a Thanksgiving service with churches of the same denomination, I always knew there were still hurt feelings between believers who were once considered close friends. Certainly, unity in the Body of Christ was not on display as the two churches struggled to co-exist in the same town.

Then about five years ago I received an invitation (as did hundreds of people) to return to the original church for a 125-year celebration. I learned the son of the original pastor was scheduled to speak (his father was no longer living). I knew this former pastor was the source of great controversy, but I also sensed in my spirit God wanted to start a work of healing. So I prayed—and then sent a letter to the son who was scheduled to speak. I acknowledged that our families probably landed on different sides of the issues, but that it really didn’t matter. I simply stated this was an opportunity for him to speak peace and healing into the church by somehow addressing the obvious lingering conflict.

I then prayed that God would use this celebration as a defining moment of restoration and reconciliation. I returned to my hometown to attend the celebration, believing that the Lord was prompting me to pray those prayers. Although I had wished for more, he did touch on the past and spoke to the need to move forward. I had to trust the Lord was at work in even that slight mention.

Now, five years later and at exactly the 50-year mark—God is truly answering those prayers! Just last Sunday night, there was a unanimous vote to bring the two churches together as one congregation. God has done a work of healing and restoration—something I wasn't sure I would ever see in my lifetime! But the people are genuinely ready to come together in a spirit of unity and forgiveness, with great hope for the future.

I can’t help but wonder if this is just a glimpse of what is coming in the Body of Christ. True revival includes reconciliation between brothers and sisters in Christ who have experienced hurt and division over the years.

If this can happen between two churches after 50 years, it can happen in any church, ministry, family, or situation. That’s what I’m praying toward—the revival and restoration of the Church that in turn ushers in spiritual awakening in our communities and nation. It’s time.

Every Prayer Counts!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

For the past few years, I have spent many late nights praying with my friends Mike, Traci, and Madan in the prayer room at my church. We pray for revival. We pray for lost people. We lift up our pastor, his upcoming message on Sunday, and the worship services. We long for God to do a work of spiritual awakening in our nation.

In addition, we pray for India. We especially pray for the Dalit people – the untouchables. We pray they will experience the love of Christ and lead the way in revival throughout the nation of India. We pray this way because our friend Madan is an untouchable who was dramatically rescued from probable death by a Swedish missionary named Svea Mellin.

Unprecedented Chance
As a young boy in India, Madan Valvi's mother carried him on her back and walked all night to find medical help for him. It was Svea who opened the door of the Swedish Covenant mission and welcomed Madan and his mother. Not only did Svea get medical treatment for Madan, she also asked if she could bring Madan into the boarding school and essentially raise him – a chance never afforded an untouchable.

Somehow Svea knew God was prompting her to invest her heart and prayers into this young boy who was otherwise destined to live in poverty and humiliation. She became a spiritual mother to Madan, teaching him the Bible and praying faithfully that he would always serve God.

Madan graduated from high school, college, and seminary – something that just doesn’t happen among the Dalit people. He and his wife Deepali and their family received much of their schooling in the United States, but longed to return to India to share the gospel with those who will always be branded as untouchables.

Over the years, Madan lost touch with Svea. Yet he always carried a photo of her in his wallet as a reminder of God’s grace shown to him through this quiet, humble woman. After some 30 years had passed, Madan assumed Svea was no longer living.

Keeping a Promise
In the meantime, God miraculously opened doors for Madan to return to India several times a year to preach the gospel and show the love of Christ to the Dalits. They come by
the thousands to hear Madan preach. If an untouchable has the unusual fortune to rise above the caste system of India, that person rarely returns. But Madan joyfully goes back to his people with a message of love – and they flock to hear it and soak it in. Madan kept his promise to Svea that he would always serve the Lord.

Then the unexpected happened – something Madan never dreamed God had in His plans for him. He was invited to Sweden to preach the gospel and teach on the power of prayer and the hope for revival. After some research by a colleague, Madan discovered the Svea was still alive at 93 years of age! A reunion was quickly arranged between the two dear friends who had no idea what had happened to each other.

Madan wanted to thank Svea for her love and prayers. He wanted her to know that her investment in Madan was now bearing fruit far beyond anything Svea could have imagined.

Their joyous reunion was covered by local media and television, as well as by the
national Swedish press. Svea did not understand what all the media attention was about, but her heart was thrilled to see Madan again. She had retired from the mission field without any real assurances that her prayers had made any difference – and now God was allowing her to see the powerful impact they were having on a nation!

About a month after Madan and Svea were reunited, Svea was welcomed to her eternal home by her beloved Jesus. As a special gift to both Madan and Svea, the Lord allowed them to be together for that brief moment and rejoice in God’s faithfulness. Madan later returned to Sweden to honor Svea at her memorial service.

Svea had no idea how much her prayers had counted. Now she knows. I hope to live out Svea’s example in my own life and never give up praying for revival. If my heart is attuned to my Father’s heart, I can be assured that every prayer counts. 

Sometimes You Just Need to Ask

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Susan came forward for prayer after the morning worship service. She was a bit hesitant with her request because she was afraid we might think it was trivial or that she lacked the faith to be obedient to the Lord.

But she had a need that was weighing her down and causing anxiety in her spirit. She was leaving the next day on a missions trip to a reservation in South Dakota. She looked ahead at the weather forecast and realized it was predicted to be above 100 degrees for the week – and they were planning to work outside. “I don’t do well in the heat,” she confessed. “I’m so worried.”

We gathered around her and began praying exactly the right things. “Lord, give Susan the strength to endure. Ease her anxiety. Flood her soul with peace. Protect her from any physical stress that might cause her harm. Let her trust You in this circumstance.”

But my spirit was stirring as I listened to the prayers being offered on Susan’s behalf. It’s not that the prayers were wrong; I was just sensing the Lord wanted to do something different in Susan’s life.

When there was a break in the praying, I looked at Susan and asked her a simple question: “What temperature would you like it to be?”

She looked surprised, but replied, “Well, 80s would be perfect.”

“All right, then,” I said. “I would like to ask the Lord for 80 degrees for you.” I then prayed a very short but specific prayer for Susan. I asked the Lord to surprise her with that perfect temperature.

Susan came back the following week, her missions trip completed. She couldn’t wait to report the profound shift in the weather pattern – it was in the 80s the entire week!

Don’t Complicate Things
Prayer is such a mystery. At times we get caught up in trying to pray the right things, not wanting to suggest anything to God that might be “out of His will.” We want to honor the Lord in our prayers, and we certainly don’t want to give false hope or pray in ways that might cause people to be disappointed.

But sometimes we just need to ask. God could have chosen to grow Susan’s character by creating an opportunity for her to rely more on Him in the midst of sweltering heat. He could have decided that now was the time to release Susan of her anxiety by demonstrating that He would care for her regardless of the circumstances. He may have wanted to use 100 degrees as a way to build Susan’s character.

Instead, God chose to delight Susan’s heart by answering a simple request. As far as Susan was concerned, she believed God interrupted the weather patterns over an entire state and region just for her!

I was reminded of this story today, even though it happened a few years ago. Sometimes you need to remember God’s faithfulness from the past and let your hope for the future be renewed. I need some refreshed prayer hope!

Don’t hesitate to pray your heart’s desires. It’s OK. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 7:11: “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Rather than worrying that our requests might be too self-serving or maybe out of His will, sometimes we just need to ask our gracious and loving God. Let Him surprise you with abundant and good gifts.

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