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Friday, June 26, 2015

INTERCEDING AGAINST JUDGMENT

Many are saying America and possibly most of the world is under the imminent judgment of God in these days. I am reminded of God's judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah. God said the outcry against Sodom was great. People were crying out to him in oppression and suffering. God could not be a God of compassion and not judge the selfishness, wickedness, prejudice and violence we have turned to today. And yet as He was preparing to rain fire down upon Sodom the Lord invited Abraham to intercede for the city. If God is making you aware of imminent judgment, He is inviting you to intercede in prayer. Do you sense the urgency to intercede in prayer even if you are not sure how to do that? Interestingly enough Abraham came to some principles that will help us pray in these days.
First, Abraham appealed to God's love for righteousness. "Will not the judge of all the earth do what is right?" We need to pray for churches and believers and people who seek righteousness in high places in our society. They may be our only hope against immediate judgment. This week one of the most prominent pastors in America stepped down from his pulpit because of moral failure. I saw several Face Book posts on it. I made a comment on one of them. "If you were our enemy, who would you attack?" But while I had respected this man, I had never prayed for him. God forgive me.
Another principal that Abraham discovered was the intercession of the gospel. Some of you are skeptical of Abraham's understanding of the gospel. But he grasped a core principle in his interaction with the LORD over Sodom. The Lord loves righteousness so much that He was willing to spare the wicked because of the righteousness of the righteous. How does that relate to the gospel? That is its very heart. The only reason any of us are spared from immediate and final judgment is that God has imputed to us the righteousness of Jesus Christ. He alone is truly righteous. He is our only righteousness. He is our only hope. Interceding in the face of judgment must be based upon the spread of the gospel. Many of us in these days sense an urgency to pray for unreached and unengaged people groups in the world. That is intercession for the gospel. Are you praying and giving and going and sending so the gospel will be available to all who Jesus died to save?
Today, I believe there is another facet of interceding in the face of judgment. That is crying out to God for His supernatural hand in our ministry to hurting people. The first major judgment of God was a mercy on the world because of what we had become. God saw that the thoughts and intents of the heart of man were only evil continually. (Gen. 6:5) I do not know what kind of judgment God is preparing to send. We may well be preparing to taste the 7 bowls of God’s wrath upon the earth. But the Bible speaks of another kind of judgment that is in many ways worse. This is the judgment of what we become. In Romans 1 Paul says that God gives men over to the perversions and corruption of our hearts. 2 Timothy 3 says that in the last days people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud arrogant, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. These are days in which we need to pray for God to use us to heal in the face of incredible wickedness all around and within us.

Father, we cry out for Your mighty hand upon us as we seek to be righteous, as we spread the gospel and as we show compassion to a hurting world.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

PRAYING FOR PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION

I recently listened to a powerful sermon on missions by Tim Keller.  sermons.redeemer.com/missions He drew his text from the prayer of Jesus in John 17. When he came to verses 16-19 where Jesus prayed that His followers be sanctified, Tim Keller asked the question, “What did Jesus put in the hands of the first disciples as He sent them out to change the world?” Did they have manuals on evangelism, or church planting, or even preaching? They did not. They had one thing, holiness. And they turned the world upside down. Surely the Lord’s holiness is something we need to pray for.
How do we pray for His such transformation in our lives? If we take the Lord’s prayer for our guide in this, we might begin with forgiveness.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
None of us is holy before God. We need the Holiness of Jesus imputed into our lives.
Forgiveness also has another side. A major part of transformation into the likeness of Christ is developing forgiveness in our hearts for others. We need to exercise prayers of forgiveness for those who have wronged us. You can pray for God to forgive people who have harmed you. Have you ever prayed like Stephen while he was being stoned,
“Lord, do not charge them with this sin.”
How could you ever pray such a prayer for those who hate you and are harming you? I have trouble praying that prayer for people who love and annoy me. Stephen saw Jesus seated on the right hand of God. If you had such a vision of the majesty of our Lord, you might be able to pray as he did. Hebrews 11:27 tells us Moses endured as seeing Him who is invisible. 1 John 3:2 tells us we will be like Jesus when He returns for we will see Him as He is. We get a glimpse of His face as we spend time with Him in prayer and we are made more and more like Jesus.
In fact, for holiness we need to start earlier in the Lord’s prayer than His word on forgiveness. As Jesus modeled, we need to begin with worship and praise.
“Hallowed be your name.”
As we grow in fellowship with Him we will expand our praise more and more. Such praise gives us a clearer and clearer vision of the glory and majesty of our Lord. And it naturally leads to submission to His will.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
   on earth as it is in heaven.
Holiness is not simply the absence of sin. It is growing obedience that rejoices in His will. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

PRAYING IN A WORSHIP SERVCE

How do you pray in a formal worship service? Of course you want to join your heart to prayers that are prayed out loud as part of the service. You need to remind yourself to connect with those prayers. And you need to pour yourself into the praises being sung. This too may need to be intentional.
However, that is not all the praying you need to do in a worship service. Every time you enter a worship service you need to ask God to help you hear His voice. One of my life-scriptures is Matthew 23:1-12. In those verses Jesus said none of us were to be called Rabbi or instructor “because we have one instructor, the Christ.” This is more than a call for humility in preachers. This is a reminder that if we learn from or are stirred by a preacher, it is to be Christ Jesus Himself speaking through him. There are a number of barriers to hearing from God in a worship service. The greatest of them are in our own hearts. But whatever the barriers, we can ask God to speak to us.
For many years  I began worship services by inviting people to ask God to speak to them and let them hear His voice. I have usually added words like, “I do not believe it offends God for you to pray, ‘God if you are real, let me hear your voice.’”
I have also asked people to pray the same prayer for the persons seated on either side of them. You may not know exactly what that person needs, but God knows just what they need to hear from Him. I have also suggested that it would not be impossible for some to pray for everyone in the room, or if it were a large congregation, it would not be impossible to pray for many people all around them during the service. I am aware that many preachers have told us to pray only for ourselves in a worship service. We understand that they wanted us not to be distracted from our own needs or sins by praying for other people. However, I believe we are most likely to hear God’s voice if we are praying throughout the service.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

PRAYING IN SUFFERING

How do you pray when you are suffering? The first thing we pray is, "Lord, deliver me! I am hurting." And I know that it could never be God's will for me to hurt. However in the Garden before the cross Jesus prayed, "Father, take this cup from me. But not my will but Your will be done." I am so thankful that it was God's will for Him to suffer. He was bruised for my inequities. He was wounded for my transgressions. Has it ever occurred to that your suffering may be the thing God will use to bring someone God loves to His grace?
You have heard the statement, "We are the Lord's hands and feet." We are His hands. And when others see the nail marks in our lives, like His disciple, Thomas, they may come to Him as their Lord and their God.
I agree that we should pray for God to deliver us from pain. But we also need to be willing for God to use our heartache, our suffering our loss and failure. When we suffer we need to pray for Jesus to be glorified in our pain. And we can pray for God to use our suffering to bring about His glorious will in someone else's life.