45:55 · March 21, 2023
In this episode of Grace at the Fray, Jim Lovelady brings us to London to talk with Matt and Jenn, a missionary couple who have been serving with Serge for over 20 years. They explore the transformative power of prayer, and how resting in our belovedness as a child of God helps us find freedom and joy in it, rather than guilt and obligation.
In this episode of Grace at the Fray, Jim Lovelady brings us to London to talk with Matt and Jenn, a missionary couple who have been serving with Serge for over 20 years. They explore the transformative power of prayer, and how resting in our belovedness as a child of God helps us find freedom and joy in it, rather than guilt and obligation.
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Our guests for this episode were Matt & Jenn I., part of a Serge team that partners with local leaders to grow a local community of believers that lives out and spreads the Good News of Jesus in ways that are meaningful in the local British South Asian context. Their full names are not disclosed due to the sensitive nature of their work.
𝑮𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒆 𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑭𝒓𝒂𝒚 𝑷𝒐𝒅𝒄𝒂𝒔𝒕 is produced by SERGE, an international missions agency that sends and cares for missionaries and develops gospel-centered programs and resources for ongoing spiritual renewal. Learn more and get involved at serge.org.
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Questions or comments? Feel free to reach out to Serge’s Renewal Team anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to the Grace at the Fray—a podcast that explores the many dimensions of God’s grace that we find at the frayed edges of life. Come and explore how God’s grace works to renew your life and send you on mission in His kingdom.
Jim Lovelady 0:24 Hello, beloved! Welcome to another episode of Grace at the Fray – where we tell stories of how God’s grace meets us at the frayed edges of life. So I have a question for you: what’s your prayer life like? And you know, when someone asks you that, there’s a part of you that cringes inside because, “Man, leave me alone. Prayer is hard, and I don’t need you to give me your guilt trip about how I stink at prayer.” Well, my hope for today is that after this podcast episode, your prayer life will be marked by freedom and joy, not by guilt and obligation. And speaking of freedom and joy, not obligation and guilt, I want to ask you to go to wherever you listen to podcasts and to leave a rating, because it really helps us get the podcast out for folks. If you’re watching on YouTube, hit that like button and subscribe; and then click the little bell so that you can be notified when the next episode is out. And for more information, go to serge.org/podcast.
Now today, I want to take you to London. I took a trip there last December to visit Serge workers. And man, it was so much fun getting to know these folks who are doing some really beautiful work. Over the course of this season, I’ll be taking you back to London. But for this episode, I want to introduce you to Matt and Jenn. It was such a joy to hang out with them and hear their story. And due to the sensitive nature of the field where they serve, we don’t discuss the specifics of the work that’s going on, and where they’re doing that work. But it kind of doesn’t matter, because the Christian life comes down to loving God and loving your neighbor, wherever you are. So join us as we talk about how they are loving God and loving their neighbors. And how the biggest, most glorious, and most beautiful things in life—they all start with prayer.
Jim Lovelady 2:57 Tell me who y’all are? And, yeah, just a little bit of background.
Matt I. 3:02 So you want to introduce us?
Jenn I. 3:05 Sure. This is my husband, Matt. And I’m Jenn. We’ve lived here together since 2001.
Matt I. 3:14 And I first came at the end of 1996, so I was here for a few years before Jenn, before we got married. We both grew up in the States. I’m from Pennsylvania, and Jenn’s from upstate New York. And we’ve been living here and serving with Serge for 22 years together, 25 years for me.
Jim Lovelady 3:43 Yeah. So tell me, when you and I had the conversation about how you were at A&O the week that Jack was dying. Tell me some stories about what it’s been like to be with Serge. There’s the ministry here that you know, and is the grassroots kind of thing. But there’s something happening underneath that—that is from the DNA of the company. So like what is that? And, it’s more than just what attracted you to this company. How has being a part of this company affected the way you do ministry over the last 25 years?
Matt I. 4:28 Yeah, I first got connected to Serge when I was still in university. And, the summer before my final year of university, I spent in Ireland. And Josiah and Hunter were there at that point. And I think one of the things that really grabbed me that summer was an understanding of ministry that’s flowing out of God’s love and grace and mercy for us. And then also seeing transparency in leadership, being honest about failures and repenting and moving towards Jesus—that was very winsome for me to hear.
Jim Lovelady 5:32 And you were telling me about how Rose Marie is just a good friend. And it seems like everyone in close proximity to her, or when she’s in close proximity to them, comes away with joy because of her humility. And it seems like everyone is saying that “Rose Marie taught me how to pray.” So how has Rose Marie taught you how to pray?
Jenn I. 5:59 It’s a great question. I think we became friends when I first moved here, newly married, 20-something. [Before we moved to London] I had worked in the World Trade Center in a corporate job. And then, you have unstructured time, you’re just supposed to go out and love the community. How do you do that? And Rose Marie at that time was 70-something. And there was another woman who was also her age, and they invited me to come to their house for breakfast at 6:30 in the morning before we opened the charity shop. And I had to drive an hour to get there, so it was a big commitment. But these ladies had tea for us and breakfast. We would read the Bible and share lives. Honestly, they talked about some things that I wouldn’t expect, like, “Oh, I wasn’t dressed well enough at that event,” or something that I thought, ”oh, wait a minute, when I’m 65 I’m not going to… I’ll be more sanctified. I won’t think about those things.” But I thought, “Oh, they’re more like me.” And I think she just has a lifestyle of prayer. We just would pray together because we knew that we couldn’t help each other, but Jesus could help us. So honestly, I think she’s like a soul sister. Right? It really is where we encourage one another to pray together. And when we talk, we usually end in prayer; or if we have a prayer need, we’ll just ring each other up, and sometimes that’s really wonderful. She points you to Jesus, she points you not to yourself, and she’ll call you on your sin in a very kind way.
Jim Lovelady 7:41 If I get called out on sin, either I’ll be like, “Oh, you have no idea,” or I’ll be just overwhelmed by or embarrassed by that. But that’s not the way that Jesus comes to us. There’s this gentleness continually we see: “Let he who has no sin cast the first stone. Do you see anyone to condemn you? Neither do I.” And so it sounds like that’s the kind of posture that…
Jenn I. 8:06 Yeah, and I think it has to be organic too. I think you really have to know someone else. Right? Sometimes you can be overly spiritual in the Christian realm, and everything seems like it’s fine. Or you know, these are the certain words you’re supposed to use. But once you get into each other’s lives, you can ask the deeper heart questions. Somehow Rose Marie has a great way of asking, “How’s your heart? What’s going on underneath? Are you looking for people’s approval? You’re meant to lead the Bible study, but you really care more about what people think than making sure God’s Word is taught well.” She really knows and loves Jesus and His Kingdom. When she almost passed away, we got to see her in the hospital. And you know what? Through the oxygen masks, she was asking us, “I feel like God has more work for me to do. Would you just pray for me?” And that’s really amazing that she wants her life to be lived to tell others about Christ and what He’s done for her. She’s like a dear, dear sister. And also, I think people can put her up on a pedestal sometimes. But, if you get to know somebody, and they’re just a normal person who loves Christ, that gives you the freedom to be honest. She’s always honest about what her struggles are. So I think that’s helpful; that can be becoming.
Jim Lovelady 9:24 Yeah, there’s this strange propensity that we have to find someone who’s very much like Jesus, and expect that they be Jesus in unhealthy ways. I mean, I think that you come away from a conversation with Rose Marie, and the Spirit is there, and it’s beautiful. And the joy of the Lord is there when you hang up the phone, or when you part ways, or whatever. But when I was talking to her, I said, “You’re going to hate this question. Why are you so amazing?” And she’s hemming and hawing because she understands who she is, and who she is before the face of God. So she has this freedom from being self-preoccupied. So when someone says, “Hey, you’re amazing,” it’s kind of disorienting, because she hasn’t really been thinking about that. She hasn’t been trying to defend that, you know, which is me and my ego. You know, I’m trying to defend that. And she comes along and goes, “Hey, you do not have to defend. You don’t have to defend your ego, not when the Lord loves you.”
Matt I. 10:48 It’s interesting you just said that, Jim, because I was thinking about how you’d asked about prayer, and then connecting with Serge. And just in my mind before you just said that, I was thinking that the connection for me is… You talk about Kingdom-centered prayer. But you talk about grace and knowing that you are accepted based on the finished work of Jesus, that you’re united with Jesus by faith, united with Christ, and you’re welcomed into the presence of the Father. And so I think in coming into Serge, and doing ministry with Serge, I tasted that you are welcome in the presence of God. He’s pleased to use a son like you. But then what are you going to do when you’re in the presence of the King? You can be in the presence of that King because you’re free to be there. You’re not worried about how you don’t measure up, and so you’re free to be there. But then what are you going to do when you’re there? You’re going to care about what He cares about, which is His kingdom advancing. And how does that happen? Primarily through prayer. And so I think those things kind of got joined.
I can remember when I first came to London having conversations with Bob. I was essentially trying to, even though I’d come because I love the ethos of grace, and how that changes people and how that gives them the freedom to be honest and to fail. And I loved all that. And that’s what brought me here, but I was still kind of really trying to figure out what it looks like to grow in Jesus. And so we talked about some of that, but really what I started to do is realize I’ve got to focus less on worrying about my sanctification, and just care about what Jesus cares about. And then pray about that. And so then it was very natural to be in prayer meetings where we’re just dreaming about how we would love to see this broken world changed, and just telling Jesus about that for long chunks of time. And that gives you a chance to be weak in that situation; like, there’s no way we can do all these things. We can’t see the brokenness of the world healed within our own strength. But, because we’re praying to the God that’s got all these things in His hand, and has invited us to come in and just talk to Him about it, we can be really bold in these prayers. And so I can remember doing that for long chunks of time, and it was just a natural thing.
Actually, a thought came to mind when, after my first two years as an apprentice here, I came back and I was in a meeting when I was transferring to long-term. And it’s just this crazy memory! I think Bob Osborne was just visiting the office, and there was some prayer meeting, and we were praying. And I wasn’t trying to put on airs to pray in a certain way. I was just praying the way we would be used to praying. And I remember him saying something afterwards, like, “man, he really knows how to pray.” And I just thought, “That’s such a weird thing, like, what are you talking about?” But I think as I’m reflecting on that, it is because I was in an environment around people who were teaching me just by modeling how to pray.
Jim Lovelady 14:50 As I’ve come into the organization relatively new, trying to get a feel for things… We’ve been affiliated loosely (well, I have, while Lori worked in the sending center for a number of years). I’ve seen how as a staff in the sending center, we pray. We have prayer meetings twice a week. And it’s like, everyone takes this seriously as if this is part of our job. This is one of the things that we do; we pray for everyone who’s out there. And I’ve been so impressed, because it’s hard work. It’s a discipline that you have to engage in. And it’s just been this beautiful thing, and a lot of it has been over zoom. And so there’s boxes and boxes of people that I’m staring at. And we’ll just take turns entering into the idea, and I like how you talked about this, this idea of, “I’m just going to go before the Lord and dream Kingdom things in front of Him.” And there’s something really glorious and beautiful about crawling up into your Father’s arms and saying, “This is what I hope you would do; this is what I would love for you to do.” And it’s all things that are good and beautiful and shalom and the victory of God over the powers and principalities of darkness. And so He’s pleased for us to, at the very least, just dream in front of Him.
Matt I. 16:31 And I think—some of the ways that it just feels natural for me to pray—I think I’ve just absorbed them from other people that I’ve had the privilege of being mentored by and serving around. So, for example, the idea that you come in and say, “Look, I don’t know how to pray. Lord, come teach me how to pray.” Yeah, that’s okay to start there. I mean, what an easy onramp to say, “I don’t know how to pray. Teach me how to pray,” alongside with, “I don’t really want to be here. Lord, I’m a mess.” “These are 10 things I’ve just said and done, that I know in my own self I’m not worthy to be here, but thank you that I’m here because Jesus covers me. And I can just start by telling you, just talking to you about all my own junk. So, teach me how to pray, and I don’t really believe that this is going to change anything.” You know, all that just to kind of be open about my lack of faith and my sin. But then move beyond that and say, “Well, it’s okay. The gospel is that I’m not worthy, but Jesus has made me worthy and now He wants to invite me to pray about these things that we’re dreaming about in front of the Father.” But even then, there’s an element of faith. And another thing that’s been absorbed is—probably Bob. Between Bob and Rose Marie, they’ve been very influential, prayer-wise. Often, when I’ll pray, I’ll say, “Lord, thank You that these prayers that we’re praying aren’t just bouncing off the ceiling and coming back down.” You could say that in a trite way, but what that’s actually saying is I’m confessing that I start to think that this isn’t going to do anything. But then I’m also stating an act of faith: yes, this is going to do something that God has ordained that it’s going to work.
Jim Lovelady 18:51 Both sides of the confession—I confess that my heart isn’t in it. But I also confess that my heart is in it.
Matt I. 18:56 And also that You’re going to do something with this prayer, and that this prayer is going to change something in Your kingdom. And that’s the way things work.
Jenn I. 19:05 I think sometimes when we don’t pray, it can be because we think we don’t need help, or we’re not in a situation where we feel powerless enough. So sometimes, if you live overseas, we’re actually the ones that are blessed, because we’re totally in a place where it’s like, “Oh my word, this is impossible unless God’s at work, or He changes hearts so we’re able to love someone that’s so different than us.” So in some ways, we’re actually really lucky, because we’re often at a place where unless God works, nothing’s going to happen.
Jim Lovelady 19:40 So this is really interesting to me. Well, two things. I want to dissect what you’re talking about in terms of prayer, but I want to dissect what you’re talking about in terms of desperation. Because there’s a clear recognition that I can’t do this. And you kind of were just quoting Rose Marie right there. In the interview that I had with her, she said, “Prayer is driven by desperation. So if you’re not in a place of desperation, you’re not going to pray.” But you’re also talking about honesty. And we think that… There’s this tendency to not want to be so honest. But our lack of a desire to pray, we’ll just shove that under the rug and never really pray. But what you’re saying is “No, my first prayer is going to be, Lord, I don’t want to. I don’t really feel like praying.” And that’s the first prayer.
Matt I. 20:38 I don’t feel like it. And I don’t really know how to do this. And when I do, I don’t think anything is really going to happen, not really.
Jenn I. 20:47 And what does that say? What does that say about what you really believe in?
Jim Lovelady 20:51 So our Heavenly Father is so magnificent, and what Jesus has done, the victory of God, in His death, and resurrection is so magnificent, that those honest prayers are legitimate. They are a wonderful place to start, and, because the immediate response is grace, it’s a prayer of confession. And God goes, “That’s a great place to start. And thank you for directing those prayers to the only One who can do anything about it.” And then it starts to change your heart to where, just like what you were describing, where you go, “Man, I can’t believe I can pray this prayer to my heavenly Father.” And now your heart is soft, and then suddenly you find yourself dreaming in His lap about the Kingdom.
Jenn I. 21:43 I think also that it has to do with how God changes you when you actually come into His presence. Sometimes you experience a peace. I know that when I don’t have that peace, I run at a frenetic pace, trying to accomplish all these things, or trying to acquire all these things that I think somehow are going to fill this gap in my life. But no, actually when I slow down, and I’m like, “Jesus, I really need you.” And then you experience that peace in your soul, and it is like, “oh, wait a minute, I don’t need all that!” All those other things can fade in the background, because you experience that communion with the Father, which is what he actually made us for.
Jim Lovelady 22:21 Okay, so let’s go back to desperation. Because that’s what you’re talking about. Right?
Jenn I. 22:25 Jim, I wish I could give you more specifics, but honestly, can I just praise God for a little bit? Something in the last couple of months that just happened, I thought, “this is just grieving my heart, and God, I think is really grieving Your heart.” And I thought something had to change. And I thought, “Who can I call? What can I do? I need to get over it. I need to sort it out.” And I realize if I do all that stuff, it will hurt a lot of relationships. And I could sense the Spirit convicting me, “You’re trying to do this on your own strength.” So I asked a friend. I said, “Would you join me and just pray, ‘God, what do You think about this situation? If it really does grieve Your heart, I’m going to trust You to change it and move in a big way.’” But even that prayer felt like an impossible prayer to pray because I couldn’t see a way out. The most unlikely things happened or what I could think and it’s been so…
Jim Lovelady 23:22 More than you could ask or imagine?
Jenn I. 23:24 Yes, yes. Seriously, like even a sense of humor. I was like, “Oh, my word, Jesus, you really have a sense of humor.” And it’s just not fair to give more detail. I was blown away. I was like, “Oh, yeah, Lord, why don’t I do nothing more and just ask You to work? And then I get to watch You work, and then just celebrate how much more amazing You are.” So honestly, it’s really beautiful. And I felt like, “Wow, I got to see God’s heart.” And that He’s better than you can imagine.
Jim Lovelady 23:53 And I love that prayer of “Jesus, what do you think about this?” You know, because my immediate prayer is directed toward me: “Jim, what do we think about this?” We, in our lofty high tower, as we are seated on our throne, “Jim, what do you think about this?” And it never goes well if that’s how it’s going to go. It’s going to be “Let’s lose sleep over this.” That’s the answer to that prayer. Let’s be preoccupied.
Jenn I. 24:22 I probably did lose some sleep over it actually!
Jim Lovelady 24:24 Well, but there is this shift, where it’s like, “Wait a second… Oh, Jesus, what do You think about this?” And then He goes, “I’m going to show you, literally, more than you could ask or imagine.” One of the things that I want to emphasize in this podcast, and one of the things that is part of our DNA, is that when the gospel of the Kingdom of God renews and quickens our spirit and changes us and shows us that we are invited into something bigger, it enables us to go through suffering; it enables us to love people who are difficult to love, and people who are in our close proximity. So you started to talk about this. So talk to me about how the gospel has taught you to love people the way, like you said, the way Jesus loves them.
Jenn I. 25:22 You know, a really wise woman named Kathy Hall, she taught me actually, she taught me this prayer. She said, “You know what, Jenn, wake up in the morning and ask God to show you that He loves you. Like, put it on Him.” In Psalm 143, it says, “Let the morning bring me Word of your steadfast love, for I put my hope in you.” And before that, it says, “Otherwise, I’ll go down into the pit.” So I think it is really organic. You have to ask Jesus, “show me that You love me.” When I know that God is for me, He speaks through all of creation. Sometimes I see a green parakeet overhead, and I think, “Jesus knows I love green parakeets. He sent that just for me.” Something like that, I mean, honestly, Jesus has a sense of humor.
Jim Lovelady 26:16 Yeah. I love that.
Jenn I. 26:17 Yeah. So God… Lord, show me that You love me, because if I know that You love me… and help me to see the world the way You see it. Give me eyes to see what You see. It helps me to treat others the way that You treat them.
I just thought of something—I can give you an origin story. of how I became part of the company was actually through marriage, because I got married to this dashing young man. I had come for a week; I was between jobs in New York. And I had been a student here in London during my university days. And I often think the first actual authentic prayer that I ever prayed was in central London as a student. And I walked into a cathedral and thought, I’m in a different country. No one knows I’m here. The world is beautiful. But God, who are You? Like, what’s Your name? I’m just curious about the world because it looks like… it’s like you’re walking in an art museum that’s alive. It’s just so beautiful. And how did it get there? How did we get there?
So anyway, that’s why I came back to London. And I was working in the World Trade Center. I was working in IT. I’d never worked with kids, but the ministry that week was working with kids. We were sleeping on the floor of a church, and it was just really fun. Like, I just loved loving kids that were so different than me. And I really felt like I was trusting God in new ways different than New York. And I had also met Matt, but then I came back to New York City. I remember I was walking up 42nd Street, and I was telling Jesus, “Lord, I really want You to work in my life, the way that I saw You work the past week when I was in London and loving on all these kids.” And I heard Him say, “Oh, Jenn, you want to go do big things for Me? Well, how do you do things in the little things?” I felt like in my spirit He said, “Sometimes you use New York City, like that’s the spirit that fills you. You get a buzz out of that.” He was like, “Come to me; come to My Holy Spirit. How do you love those I’ve put in your life? How do you love your neighbors?” And so I thought, “oh, okay, maybe I have to start to love the people next door to me.” And wouldn’t you know, a South Asian woman moved in two weeks later next door to me. And I thought, “Oh, she’s someone different. She doesn’t know anybody. Maybe I should start to love her and pursue her.” And actually, I had a real heart for her. I think God gave me a heart for her. And I started inviting her over and spending time with her. And I’m actually still in touch with her. And that was 23 years ago according to social media. So, I don’t know, that’s just one little way that I saw God change my heart.
Jim Lovelady 29:18 A lot of times I go, “Oh, man, I don’t want to love this person who’s close to me, or this person who’s in my life, or I’m annoyed, or they’re in my way,” or all of those things. And that circles back to the prayer thing that you were talking about. This is the honest prayer. Jesus says, “Hey, love this person,” and I go, “Yeah, but not that person.” And that’s the beginning of a conversation with Jesus that is just brutally honest. But it’s liberating that I worship a God, we worship a God who says, “I already know your heart. I already know that you said, ‘Lord, I want to love my neighbor.’ And I already know that when I gave you the neighbor to love, your heart was going to be recalcitrant toward that opportunity. I already knew that; it’s not surprising to Me. And I already knew that you were going to say, ‘I don’t want to love that person.’” And then the Lord says, “Okay, let’s keep talking about that.” And your story is that the Lord gave you a heart of love toward that person. And that’s a miracle. When we wake up in the morning, the idea is, “How can I defend my reputation? How can I defend my standing in this world? How can I defend my meaning in life? What is it about me that I’m having to demonstrate to the world to prove my existence?”
Jenn I. 30:58 So self-focused. It’s all about you.
Jim Lovelady 31:00 And when the Kingdom of God… when Jesus sweeps you up into His Kingdom and goes, “Hey, I’m going to free you from having to think about those things.” And you go, “Well, so then, what do I think about?” He goes, “Love other people.”
Jenn I. 31:17 Yeah. You know, I think sometimes when we go back to America, we have people that wonderfully have given so much to support us in churches, sometimes they feel that we’re these people doing ministry, so we’re up on this pedestal. “Oh, I can never do what you do.” And sometimes I think, “Oh no, I’m just like you. I’m just like you. I’m no different.” But I see it so often that—the world is so busy. It’s like such a busy culture. Actually, it’s really easy. Sometimes you just have to say, “Lord, I’m going to be available to you. Even this next hour.” I can tell you that’s how I live my life here. “Hey, Lord, Jesus, what do you want me to do?”
Just two weeks ago, all these wrong things happened. I had to take my kid someplace because she forgot some part of her instrument, and so we’re like, “oh my gosh, we’re going to be late to school.” And then, all of a sudden, the traffic was parted. I actually felt like I was in Evan Almighty. I was like, “Oh, wait, God, You’re in this. You’re in this. Why am I here? I’m not supposed to be here. What do You want me to do? Jesus, show me. Okay, I’ve got extra time.” And next thing I know, I was like I should actually turn down the street. Okay, I’ll turn down the street. Oh, look, there’s a parking space. Oh, okay. I’ll park here. “Lord, I don’t know why I’m parking here, but I’m just going to be available to You.” I ended up seeing a friend who I’ve been praying for. She was right outside her house the moment that I walked by her house, not even trying to get there. And, at that moment, I was like, “Okay, Lord, You’re here and You love her.” And then that’s really wonderful because I feel like I do get to partner in what God’s already doing. We took a walk, and I got to pray for her. And I think sometimes when you pray you can bring people into the presence of God with you. And often I think a lot of people who don’t know Christ, when you pray for them, they have some kind of emotional response that they’re not even expecting, but maybe it’s because they’re coming into God’s presence. So actually, I think prayer can be really great evangelism. But also (I got off the topic), what I want to tell people is to be available to Christ. And maybe we all need to slow down. Maybe even in prayer, we just need to be silent. It’s not just us talking to God, but slowing down enough to listen to Him, and letting Him fill you, and then just seeing where it goes.
Jim Lovelady 33:46 If I have an imagination for how Jesus could be with me as I’m driving, and that Jesus could guide my steps; if I have an imagination for that, who knows what could happen? The beauty of it is, it doesn’t matter. If this is where the Lord wants to lead, then I’m taken care of. My agenda, which is normally my self-preoccupation, that’s my agenda for getting the instrument or whatever it was, this is my agenda. And my objective is this. And Jesus goes, “Those things are going to work themselves out.” And I go, “How do You know?” You know, even that is prayer, because it’s directed toward the Lord. And there’s a humility with that, where it’s like, “Okay, this is my agenda, but what do you want? Jesus, what do you want?”
Jenn I. 34:38 And it’s true, like it says, “offer your bodies as living sacrifices.” But it is hard because we do want to be in the center. Sometimes I think, “Oh, I know best.” And then I’ve seen all the collateral damage I can cause when I don’t know best. I don’t ask people questions, and I just make assumptions.
Jim Lovelady 34:54 And there’s such a grace that the Lord shows us those things, you know, in a tender way. For me, it’s always some sort of humiliating thing that happens. And I’m like, “I’m so embarrassed.” And as I work through that, it turns into this humbling thing. So every humiliation turns into this humbling thing where, at the end of it, I laugh and go, “Okay, right. It’s because I thought it was amazing.” And Jesus is like, “Now, you know that you’re not as amazing as you thought. You’re welcome.” You know?
Matt I. 35:26 Yeah, I was thinking just about—and I don’t know if we’re talking too much about prayer now—but I think we’re just so individualistic. And I think that as I think about praying, I almost never think about praying just by myself. There’s something about praying corporately with other people where I’m listening to them pray about God’s heart for other things. And that’s rebuking me and drawing me out of my self-absorption, but it’s also helping me, encouraging me that, yeah, I can pray about those things, too. So I think there’s a corporate aspect to learning how to pray, and also all the believing that when you see somebody praying who is really aware of God’s love for them at that moment, that’s drawing you into God’s love for you. So I think that’s another piece to this. And also, I think having long enough chunks of time in a corporate prayer time, where you kind of get beyond the initial. It’s almost like you kind of have to thaw out. And then you sort of enter into prayer. I learned later that Jack talked about those things when he was talking about prayer—there’s prayer, and then there’s prayer. And not that it’s like a secret higher life kind of thing. Not that at all. But just that you’re sitting together corporately in God’s presence long enough to kind of get beyond yourself.
Jenn I. 37:25 Are you saying we should pray since we’re talking about it?
Jim Lovelady 37:27 Yeah. I was thinking that. Yeah. It’s so funny.
Matt I. 37:31 But I’ve experienced that. I think the first time I heard somebody talk about that, I’d already experienced that before. So I believed what they were saying.
Jenn 37:40 You know, another thing is because we get to live cross-culturally, and we get to rub shoulders with people from other cultures, and from other faith backgrounds that have met Jesus. And, exactly what Matt was saying, you get to hear their prayers, but also know the sacrifice that they have given up to follow Him, be it, “I was made homeless by my family.” Or, “I brought shame on my family,” those things that I think, wow.
Jim Lovelady 38:13 Not even on your radar at a gut level. And you’re in front of someone who is at a very visceral real level. This is a significant thing.
Jenn I. 38:28 Yeah. I think, oh, wow. It’s really worth it. I mean, I think we’re the lucky ones. So it’s sometimes, yes: How did we get here?
Jim Lovelady 38:38 Yeah, that’s what Lindsay said that she’s honored; that it’s an honor.
Jenn I. 38:44 Yeah, why would You call me? Why would You call me? You see my heart, and yet, You’re so pleased to use me. Okay. Why should I say no? How can I?
Matt I. 38:55 Yes, it’s true. And we’re not just saying that. I think we really believe that. It really is a privilege and an honor. Yeah.
Jenn I. 39:04 Should we just stop and pray for a few minutes and then finish? Is there anything else we need to talk about?
Jim Lovelady 39:09 I think that we should end this in prayer. Yeah, you’re right. You can’t talk about prayer and not pray. Yeah. So let’s pray.
Jenn I. 39:17 Father, thank You for your presence. God, thank You that we don’t even just have to talk about prayer, Lord; we can just come to You and ask that You would fill us afresh. Father, we know Your peace, Father, that the world, this world with all its chaos, and busyness and heaviness and brokenness, Lord, Father, that it will be laid aside and we can rest and be filled with you, Father, that we would experience your Shalom. Lord, we just ask, Lord, we don’t know what to say, or even how to describe such a beautiful relationship with You, Father, but thank You that You really know us. You invite us. You cover us, Lord. You want to change us and transform us, Lord, and You want to satisfy the weary soul with good things. Lord, You want to lift the poor out of the ash heap and seat them with princes, and Lord, it really sounds like that story feels too good to be true. But it really is. And so, keep us from putting ourselves in the driver’s seat. And Lord, would You use Jim and the vision that he has? God, let it be Your vision. Lord, would You encourage us to mutually encourage one another? And, Lord, give us integrity. We pray that our children would know Your righteousness and Your faithfulness. Thank you, Jesus.
Jim Lovelady 41:10 Jesus, I thank You for these friends and this wonderful time to get to share our lives in front of You, with You. So thank You that You are here. Thank You for Your spirit. Continue to make us humble. Continue to make us desperate for You. Continue to guide our steps, and give us an awareness that You are guiding our steps, because we want to go where You go. We want to do what You want us to do. We want to think the way You think. So, show us these things. I pray that You would bless Matt and Jenn in ways beyond what they can ask or imagine. And give them a satisfaction in Your faithfulness that is over overwhelming with the realization of Your love, and Your goodness, and Your control—In all the things that they find themselves a part of—the people that they lead, the situations that they find themselves in, the suffering that they go through, either in their life or in the lives of the people around them. So give them the ability to love the way You love. And we want to just look at and celebrate those things. And so we celebrate now, knowing that You are doing great things now and You’re going to continue to do great things. So give us faith to see those things. Give us faith so that we’re not cynical, but that we actually celebrate. So give us such joy, we pray in Your name.
Matt I. 43:12 Father, I want to pray for this project that Jim’s doing. Lord, I pray that You would use it for your glory. I pray that You would be… Thank You that You use us in our weakness, Lord. I’m feeling the reality of the cameras this morning. Just a weird thing. So thank You for Your love for us this morning. I pray, Lord, that You would increase even as we decrease. Pray that You give him real wisdom in the editing and Father that this really wouldn’t really be about Serge. It wouldn’t be about an organization, but it really would be about You. And that people would be encouraged to pray and encouraged that You love them. And, Lord, we need those things today. I need those things today. I think there are things that I can see around me that I just don’t believe that You can change. So I confess my unbelief, but yet Lord, I know that You can change them. So Lord, I pray that You would make things new, that You would honor your promises. I pray for those who don’t know you, that You would open their eyes to see You, Jesus. I pray for my own heart. Lord, I pray that You give us grace for today. And we pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Jim Lovelady 44:54 How could we end that conversation about prayer any other way than to pray? If there is one takeaway that I want you to have, it is that prayer is way easier than we often think. And that’s because we have a God who loves us way more than we realize. So, as you go, go in that freedom—the freedom and joy of a God who loves you and blesses you.
So may the Lord bless you and keep you, and make His face to smile down on you. May the Lord be gracious to you and turn His bright eyes to give you his peace. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, life everlasting. Amen. Go in peace.
This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Matt and Jenn have been involved in cross-cultural church planting in multi-cultural, multi-faith British South Asian neighborhoods for 20+ years. Matt is from Pennsylvania, Jenn is from upstate New York. They met when Jenn was working as an IT Consultant in New York City and Matt was serving in London with Serge, though they overlapped at Cornell University where Jenn did a BA in Communications and Matt did a BA in History. Matt also did theological studies through Reformed Theological Seminary (Global).
Jim Lovelady is a Texas-born pastor, musician, and liturgist, doing ministry in Philadelphia with his wife, Lori, and 3 kids, Lucia, Ephram, and Talitha. He is passionate about the ministry of liberating religious people from the anxieties of religion and liberating secular people from the anxieties of secularism through the story of the gospel.
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