Our Desperate Need

The news and social media are full of opinions. People are for this and against that. Everyone has an opinion on things regardless how much or little they know on the subject. Yet, we find our world is quickly, and increasingly, becoming chaotic. Every time something is supposed to be fixed, several more problems replace the original problem.

Everyone is right in his own eyes and knows the solution, yet the solution rarely contains God. Even many Christians and churches seem to think political parties are some kind of saviors, while prayer and God’s ways sadly dismissed.

I strongly believe prayer, repentance, and acknowledging our sin—as individuals, as people of God, and as a nation—is the only way our nation and world will find healing. 

I just recently published my last book for awhile through Amazon, The Greatly Neglected Privilege: the Church’s Great Need of Returning to Prayer. It is available for $5.99. Of all my books, I encourage persons to get this one. Our need is great, and only God can get us out of the mess we’ve created. Understand, prayer is not magical. Prayer is communication with a living God. However, for prayer to be effective, we must approach Him on His terms. This is the part we don’t like to hear.

Anyway, I would’ve loved to have more correspondence with readers, etc. As it is, as much as I love writing, I’m taking a break from writing, both from books and blogging. I’d love to hear from you via email. 

I hope my blogs have been a blessing to you, and I hope you’ll check out the book. May Christ bless you richly. Goodbye, for now.

A Few Thoughts on Our Need for Prayer

Just a few posts I’ve put on Facebook. There’s so much talk about this in that about our world’s chaos, but not a lot about our desperate need for prayer.

“So much talk about pro-this and anti-that, but so little talk about praying for revival.”

“So many lament the lack of prayer in schools while so many churches no longer have prayer meetings or altar calls.”

“Prayer cannot be both important and unimportant. It either is or isn’t.”

“While I value my 2nd ammedment rights, but if I had a choice between it or revival, I would choose revival. And that is what I long for!”

“If the church isn’t serious about prayer, then neither is the church serious about the need for change.”

“‘What’s going to happen is going to happen,’ some say. No! God calls us to seek His face and pray. This can make all the difference in the world!”

Your Will Be Done / Is Jesus Our King?

An important question we must ask ourselves is this: Is Jesus our King? Note, the question is not whether He is King, because this is a given. He will forever be the Sovereign King of kings. Rather, the question is , is He our King? “Well,” someone will say, “He’s my Savior.” Again, this isn’t an answer to the question. Is Jesus Christ your King, and mine? Understand, our answers have ramifications and specific implications, and as my pastor pointed out recently, even children understand these implications.

Each of us, whether young or old, understand that a Monarchy is not a democracy. Neither majority nor minority opinions count for anything. Furthermore, the king is sole authority and rule maker. And when a king sends a request/command, it’s not a matter of whether the subject wants to do it. 

If Jesus is truly our King, then He has authority over us. Now, technically, He is King over all but many reject His authority over their lives. However, for the people of God, we gladly receive His authority over our lives. Likewise, if He is our King, then we must acknowledge He is the Sovereign rule and law maker. These are not up for debate. We are either willing to surrender to His kingship or defy Him like an unbeliever. When He declares something good and right, then it is so. And when He declares something as wrong and evil, then it is so. Again, to argue, debate, and to try to twist the Scriptures to fit our preferences is simply to defy Him just as an unbeliever.

We must also be cautious of words like liberal, conservative, moderate, Democrat, Republican, and the like. Jesus isn’t any of these. He is perfectly holy, righteous, and just. Sir, ma’am, you might use such words to describe yourself. However, if you profess Jesus ad your King (Lord) and Savior, is your life being transformed by being conformed to His likeness and teachings? 

It’s become en vogue in certain circles to cast doubt on the Scriptures; yet, when you read the Gospels, Jesus has complete trust in them and their accuracy. Some like to pit the “theologies” of the apostles against one another, but Jesus never does this with the prophets, and it is His Spirit which would guide them to complete the canon of Scriptures.

There are others who want to distort such as the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, twisting morality into something relative and subjective. Some do this with the issue of the sanctity of life as well. Nevertheless,  if Jesus is truly your King, then you’ll know you have no warrant to tamper with His ordinances.

Still, on the “conservative” side I have witnessed all kinds of pride and hypocrisies, as though we are among God’s favorites. Therefore, we think Jesus will just wink at our pride, turning a blind eye, demanding our ways, improprieties, and the like. Again, to dismiss His commands concerning humility, honesty, purity, love, and integrity is to rebel against Him like an unbeliever. None of us is immune from this tension.

So, as we consider the Kingship of Jesus Christ, we can acknowledge the difficulty of the Christian life, and the frustrations in prayer. Part of what makes the Christian life difficult is the reality of learning to say “No!” to ourselves and our preferences and passions, and learning to say “Yes!” to Christ’s. And part of what makes prayer frustrating is the fact many of our prayers are denied because they’re not in line with God’s character, ways, or will. But who is king? Is it you (or I) or is it Christ? Then where does our allegiance lie? Is it in us and our desires or in Christ and His desires? 

Consider what Jesus says in His sermon on the Mount:

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. ~ Matthew 6:24

While Jesus uses money as an example here, one’s master can just as easily be pride, lust, substances, an ideology, a denomination, a political affiliation, etc. The point is, whoever our true master and king is, that is who we will ultimately follow. There are many who profess that Jesus is their King, but their true loyalties are elsewhere. Therefore, Jesus is not really their King.

Understand, none of us is perfect. That’s not the point. Even the apostle Peter failed numerous times. Nevertheless, we continue to see his relationship, love, and devotion to Christ continue to grow in the Gospels, then Acts, and then in his letters. But this growth came through his receiving Jesus’ instructions, rebukes, and encouragement. When Jesus instructed him in teachings, Peter listened with acceptance—even when it was uncomfortable (for example, when he asked about forgiving a person up to seven times, and Jesus said seven times seventy. Peter didn’t argue). Or when Jesus rebuked him, even calling him Satan, Peter didn’t question Jesus’ authority or right to say such a thing. And when Peter totally blew it, denying Jesus three times, he humbly received His love when Jesus didn’t give up on him. But neither did he waste nor abuse that love.

So, perhaps one of the most difficult aspects to prayer is that of, while letting our requests be made known to Him, but also genuinely meaning it when we say, “Not my will, but Your will be done.” Why? Because He is the all-wise and all-good King. Honestly, sometimes my prayers are about what I want. Even aside from prayer, sometimes my flesh wants to respond with accordance to my desires, which are in contrast to Christ’s. I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t feel this tension. Yet, at the end of the day, who is King? And whose will do I truly desire to be done? And to whom do I truly give my allegiance? I hope that each day my allegiance to Jesus Christ is becoming increasingly solidified. Any of us can say that Jesus is our King easily enough. But the proof is in whether our lives are increasingly conforming to Him and the Sacred Scriptures. It is by this our lives prove if we are being honest when we say to Him, “Your will be done.” Otherwise, they’re just empty words.

Intercession and Standing in the Breach

The people of God – followers of Christ – are to be a praying people. The apostle Peter says of us that we are part of a holy and royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5, 9). When we consider the priests of the Old Testament, one of their tasks was to be intercessors on behalf of the people. Today, as members of the priesthood of believers, this holy and sacred baton has been passed onto us. Are we being faithful, or have we been fumbling it?

We are told by the apostle Paul,

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. ~ 1 Timothy 2:1-6

I don’t profess to understand prayer. I only know we are called to pray. While I know God is sovereign and doesn’t need our help, I also know that He calls you and me to pray. While our prayers do not change God, in some mysterious way God has decreed that He will only do certain things in response to the prayers of His people. For example, after telling him about the corruption of the false prophets, priests, and political leaders of the day, God then tells His prophet,

And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none. Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord God. ~ Ezekiel 22:30-31

Did you catch that? God sought for persons to intercede for the nation, for someone to ask Him to turn away His wrath and judgment, but He couldn’t find anyone. God implies that He wouldn’t have sent destruction if He could’ve simply found someone to stand in the breach on behalf of the nation. Beloved, do you believe our nation and world aren’t experiencing the judgment of God? If not, read Romans 1. We are told of three judgements which occur as God begins giving a people over to their sins. With each judgment, there is a deeper, darker, and more dangerous pit. Beloved, whether we admit it or not, America is in the third phase of judgment. Yet, WHERE are the people of God? We’re so busy playing games in church, we don’t have time to take intercession seriously. You don’t believe me? When was the last time your pastor spoke about revival? How often do the television and radio preachers talk about it? We hear people all the time saying how crazy our world is becoming, but how many of the same are saying, “Come with me, we must pray and seek God’s face”?

How many churches today still have prayer meetings and altar calls? Of those that do, how many are filled with people pleading to God for His mercies on behalf of our nation and world? How many people truly plead to God to send revival? There is no lack of evidence for the urgency of such prayers, but where, oh where, are God’s people to be found pleading?

Beloved, let me ask you something. Why do people need the Savior? What is the eternity awaiting those who die without Jesus? These are not trick questions. And if you’re born again, you’ll know the answers are that those who die apart from the saving grace of Christ will die in their sins and be forever condemned to hell. There are no second chances or do overs. Do we believe this? Tell me, DO WE BELIEVE THIS??? Then how can our churches not be burdened? How can we not be on our faces pleading before God?

Beloved, I don’t care about your theological camp. What I care about is the heart of God. And He tells us as He speaks through His prophet, “Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin…. For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the LORD God; so turn and live” (Ezekiel 18:30, 32).

Churches and pastors, lest we continue in our religious fun and games, and remain focused on building our empires in our own names and for our own glory, God also speaks through His prophet this warning:

So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. ~ Ezekiel 33:7-9

Beloved, our prayers matter. And our hearts matter. And to God our Father, the people all around us matter. The question is, do they truly matter enough to intercede and stand in the breach for them. If not, then let us be clear that our religious activities are nothing but sheer garbage.

Exchanging of Glory and Broken Cisterns

Throughout history there have been instances of revivals and spiritual awakenings, but not a single one of them came apart from God’s people praying. If there has ever been a time when there’s been a desperate need for revival, it is now. Yet, in a time when God and His mercies are needed, not only is secular society becoming more resistant toward Him, so also, many Christians are more interested in receiving warm fuzzies, and many ministers are more interested in building their churches.

Despite the increasing chaos our world is facing, where are the desperate pleas for revival being sounded from the pulpits? Where are the voices on social media stating our desperate need for God’s intervention – not in an accusingly fashion, but an honest plea?

We could learn a lot from the Old Testament, if we’d stop listening to Bozos who say it’s irrelevant to the people “under grace” (the writers of the New Testament declare that we have these writings for an example). Speaking through on of His prophets, God declares to the people of old:

But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. ~ Jeremiah 2:11-13

The people of God committed two evils: 1) forsaking God, and 2) pursuing and putting trust in other things other than God. Are we not guilty of this today? We claim to come to God in our churches and concerts, but is it truly to pursue God or to experience some form of manifestation? Is it truly about God and surrendering to Him, or to experience some kind of miracle and experience? Still, isn’t it, in many cases, just something we do out of habit? In this, are we not guilty of forsaking our God? Added to this evil is another evil of simply pursuing our own agendas (e.g., bigger congregations, bigger buildings, more programs, etc.). It’s not that these things are necessarily wrong in themselves; however, in many cases these come at the cost of genuine pursuit of, and surrender to, God. The whole counsel of God is neglected, lest the people are “offended” and leave, etc. So, are we not left with many wonderful buildings, many wonderful programs, yet a biblically illiterate and spiritually malnourished people?

Later, God says through His prophet:

An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their discretion; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes? ~ Jeremiah 6:30-31

Can we honestly say the church today isn’t experiencing this? If this is not true, then why are many churches, conferences, and concerts filled, despite the fact God’s Word is neglected, denied, or is said of “needing to comply with the times”? How is it many televangelsists continue to have their bank accounts expand, and “Christian” authors remain bestsellers, despite their teachings stand in opposition to the teachings of the Scriptures?

Still, God’s message to us is the same as His message to the people of old:

Return, faithless Israel, declares the LORD. I will not look on you with anger, for I am merciful, declares the LORD; only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the LORD your God and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, declares the LORD. ~ Jeremiah 3:12-13

I believe God wants to heal our land. He wants to bring revival. But instead of pleading for revival, our prayers are often filled with “bless me, bless me, bless me,” while secular society screams, “Leave us alone! We can handle this on our own!” And all that keeps happening is our world is spiraling further out of control.

Instead of trying to defend our positions, whether “liberal” or “conservative,” when will we humbly and honestly acknowledge, “God, You are right and we are wrong! Have mercy, for we have sinned against You greatly! Have mercy on us and our lands. Bring revival! Bring awakening! We are helpless apart from You! Have Your way in us!” Will we ever return to the fountain of living waters, or will we continue to trust in broken cisterns which cannot hold water, then only to continue to wonder why we remain thirsty while the world becomes increasingly barren spiritually?

When Words Become Groans (Grieving Over Uvalde)

This has been a difficult week. First, hearing of the sexual and spiritual abuse (and then the cover-ups) within the SBC, and then to hear of the shootings at the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. All this is overwhelming. My thoughts and prayers for all the families and individuals affected by all this.

As we consider prayer, I imagine there are a number of people who desire to draw near to God, but who are also struggling with knowing what to pray. This is okay. God understands even our wordless prayers. We are told,

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. ~ Romans 8:26

If all you can do is sob and weep in the bosom of our Heavenly Father, that’s okay. The Holy Spirit will intercede through the groans and sobs that are far deeper than words. May the God of all comfort bring comfort to you and all the families today. God bless you.

That I May Discern Between Good and Evil

The New Testament says the events in the Old Testament serve as examples for people today. Therefore, we should be very cautious of modern preachers who dismiss and criticize the Old Testament, saying it’s been done away with because of Christ (who declares that He did “not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets … but to fulfill them” [Matthew 5:17]) and is now irrelevant.

One of the things we would be wise to consider is the tendency of the people of old to dismiss God’s instructions and trying to combine idolatrous practices with the worship of God. And when tragedy occurred, there was the impulse to trust in the wisdom of men rather than turning and inquiring of God.

Today, do we not see the same tendencies? In many churches, crazy things are happening. People are assuming it’s of God simply because it’s “miraculous,” despite the fact such manifestations are not recorded in the Scriptures as being from God (e.g., “gold dust,” convulsions, etc.). There has also been an increase in persons in churches promoting Eastern mysticism and New Age occultism, such as enneagrams, yoga, and goddess worship. We must not dismiss the fact that the New Testament explicitly warns us that the time will come when “some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1)

Also consider the ancient’s tendency to put their trust in the wisdom of men, instead of inquiring of the Lord, when tragedies and famines occurred. Isaiah writes, “The people did not turn to him who struck them, nor inquire of the LORD of hosts” (9:13). In other words, while the Lord was disciplining the people and trying to get their attention, the people only dug their heels and refused to repent of their wickedness. Come hell or high water, they would figure out a way to get out of their mess. This never played out well for them. This will never play out well for us either.

Are we not seeing these tendencies of the sinful human heart being played out all around us, even in churches? We would do well to sincerely follow young King Solomon’s prayer request when his reign began. “I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in…. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9).

How has the church become so entangled with politics and thinking our leaders can get us out of the mess we’re in? How have Christians become so trusting of their hear that they disregard the warnings of the Scriptures? May we become a humble people who acknowledge our desperate need of God’s bestowing His wisdom and help. If we continue to trust in our own wisdom and experiences, this will not play out well for us. Many might curse my “negativity,” but what do the Scriptures say? Oh, that God would grant us an understanding, that we may discern between good and evil.

Return to the Blessing Giver

What a time in which we’re living. I’m tired of the constant lies coming from every direction, but I’m also weary of trying to proclaim truth.

We live in a time where vices are applauded and virtues are scorned. We claim to want peace, but our words are sharp as razors and we’re always ready for a fight. 

Before the rebuilding of the wall, Nehemiah says,

As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. (Nehemiah 1:4-7)

We know our country and world is in a mess. But is it simply from corrupt governments and politicians? Does it not spiral down to us as well? Have we not also acted corruptly? As a nation, even down to communities, churches, and homes, we’ve acted corruptly. We’ve exalted immorality, we’ve suppressed truth and applauded liars, we’re entertained by violence and trampled what’s holy and sacred.

As Americans, are we really above other nations? Do we deserve better? We’ve been so blessed, despite our pushing God’s statutes aside, watering down His Word, and constantly complaining and blame shifting.

Do we honestly not deserve what’s happening in our country? We’ve scorned the Source of blessings, then are surprised when curses come? 

I write this because it needs to be written. But I know it will go unread by the masses. By and large it will be unread and unheeded. Yet, I will say it again as I’ve been saying it for some time now, we need to truly pray and seek God’s face. We need to confess the sins of our nation as well as ours and our fathers’ houses. For we, too, have acted corruptly; Yes, even those of us who profess to be followers of Christ. My faith is weak concerning persons heeding my advice. Even so, let’s not be surprised if things go from bad to worse. Why expect blessings if we kick against the Giver and Source of blessings? But if we would turn to Him, confessing our own corrupt ways, who knows what God might do to restore our land?

The Prayers of the Righteous 

“Prayer accomplishes nothing,” says the naysayer, “I prayed about _____, and nothing happened!” Part of the problem with such thinking has to do with the misperception of God. God is not anyone’s genie or a cosmic vending machine. God is our Creator and owes us nothing. We are to serve Him, not vice versa. 

However, there is something else to consider. James tells us, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (5:16). Earlier, he writes, 

You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. ~ James 4:2-3

According to James, prayer is neither powerless nor the problem. He says the prayers of the righteous person has great power, and we receive not because we ask according to our own will and desires rather than according to God’s will and wisdom.

According to Noah Webster, 1828 version, righteous means, “Just; accordant to the divine law … it denotes one who is holy in heart, and observant of the divine commands in practice.” Character, integrity, and virtue all matter to God. The prayers of those who are righteous are powerful, not the prayers of those who are haughty, shrewd, deceitful, immoral, or unbelieving. Understand, this doesn’t mean God will answer prayers according to a righteous person’s desires simply because he or she is righteous. Paul the apostle notes,

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

Still, when persons want to dismiss prayer as a waste of time, we must consider the issue of character. When God denies our requests, do we have the right to be angry and to accuse prayer as being meaningless? Could it be that we are both the problem and the hindrance? Can we say with complete honesty, in accordance with the truth, that we are righteous, just, and holy in heart? If our answer is “No,” then we reveal that the problem is, indeed, us and not prayer.

Both as Christians and as churches,  if our prayers seem to be ineffective and go no where, then we should examine ourselves. How might we be living unrighteously? How might we be asking according to our desires while dismissing God’s will and wisdom?

Prayer is not powerful and effective simply because it is uttered, or even because it is spoken in God’s name. Prayer is powerful when it is spoken from one who is righteous and when God’s glory is kept in view. If you see prayer as futile, know that prayer is not the problem. Rather, the real problem is the unrighteousness being harbored within your heart.

Do We Really Pray for God’s Holiness and Will?

While teaching His disciples to pray, Jesus begins by telling them, “Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10). Do we, today, truly pray for these? Oh sure, with our mouths we do, but do we pray for these from the depths of our hearts? You might be convinced we do, but I’m not so certain.

To “hallow” means to honor as holy, to set apart, and to revere. It’s to set Him as the supreme focus, and to not treat His name or presence flippantly. For His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven would require persons to genuinely be focused on Him and what pleases Him. It would require for us to surrender to Him as the Sovereign, taking ourselves, our desires, and our preferences out of the equation. 

But is God truly hallowed among us when we are so concerned and distracted by the things of this world; when the music is more about the production, the delivery, and often about us; and when God must share the spotlight with Super Bowl Sunday?

Concerning His will, what if His will is green carpet rather than blue? What if He desires an organ rather than a band or vice versa. What if His will means for us to be poor or to suffer? What if He desires for you or I to be a missionary to Africa or to teach a class in the slums? How can His will be done on earth as it is in heaven when so many in churches are arguing why God says some things are considered sin and casting doubt on His Word (which explains His will)? How can His will be done when, too often, we’re more concerned about offending others than we are about offending God? Or if we’re more concerned about growing churches numerically that we’ll dilute the teachings, rather than grow the faithful in authentic godliness?

The only way we’ll sincerely pray for God and His name to be hallowed and for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven is if we get serious about God and our faith in Him. But the only way this will happen is if we are willing to confess our religious shallowness, insincerity, and hypocrisy, and ask for renewal of our hearts and spirits. And this must, for each of us, begin with ourselves.