Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pattern of Prayer: Part 1


Pastor Gene and Pastor Dan are gracious to allow me to share devotional thoughts with my church family through Heart to Heart. My soul purpose in my writing to is to encourage and support our church family in the mysteries, the power, the intimacy that grows between us and God, and the blessing that comes through developing a practice of prayer and leave a legacy of my love for Christ to my grandchildren. As I consider all the Lord has taught me and those truths that are precious and passionate to my heart, I pause in gratitude understanding that every word quickened in my heart has taken root because of seeds planted somewhere along the way. The majority of the seeds continue to be planted through the Word of God, yet every day I continue to grow and learn because seeds of sweet revelation and understanding planted through the gifting and revelation and insights freely shared by those who love God and are the called according to His purpose!

As our church enters into the first full week of praying collectively as a body of Christ for our city . . . and as we join with thousands throughout the nation praying for their cities and for our nation . . . it comes as no surprise to me that God would point me to a wonderful study in prayer and make the highways smooth to share it with you! In the next few weeks, I will be sharing an article called “A Pattern of Prayer” with you, written by Ben Godwin, Silver Cup Ministries. Ben has graciously allowed me permission to share his insights on the Pattern of Prayer. You can learn more about Ben and his ministry at www.bengodwin.org . It is my joy to share. . .

A Pattern for Prayer: Part 1
By Ben Godwin (used with permission)

Prayer is a valuable asset to the believer. As such, prayer should be our first resource not our last resort. It is the key to the heart of God that unlocks all of the resources of heaven.

President Abraham Lincoln during the dark days of the Civil War era stated, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.” Prayer enables us to tap into a supernatural power source when human effort is insufficient. King David expressed it this way, “Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Psalm 61:1-2)

On one occasion, Jesus’ disciples approached Him with a simple request, “Lord, teach us to pray…” (Luke 11:1) In response, Jesus gave them a pattern prayer (a sample, a model, an outline), not so much to be memorized and recited repetitiously or mechanically, but as a guide to the proper method of approaching God. We will examine that prayer a little later.

What is prayer?
Simply put, prayer is talking to (the act of communion with) God. Prayer doesn’t have to be lengthy, fancy or shrouded in religious verbiage, it just needs to be sincere and from the heart. God spoke to Moses and vice versa “face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.” (Exodus 33:11) A relationship is only as strong as its communication and our relationship with God is facilitated through prayer. Prayer, however, should be a two-way conversation—a dialogue not a monologue. Tennis provides a helpful analogy. You cannot play tennis with one player very well. Someone must return the ball once you hit it over the net. So it is with prayer. There should be give and take. Once we have poured out our heart to God, we should wait and be quiet in His presence and listen for His answer.

The Practice of Prayer:

Prayer should be as normal to the believer as eating and sleeping. The Reformer Martin Luther said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Prayer should not be just a crutch in a crisis, but a consistent lifestyle.

How often should we pray? The Psalmist David wrote, “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray…” (Psalm 55:16) The Prophet Daniel had a similar regimen, “Daniel kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God.” (Daniel 6:10) Paul raised the bar even higher when he instructed us to “Pray without ceasing.” (I Thessalonians 5:17) In other words, always remain in an attitude or mindset of prayer. So prayer should not only be a daily discipline but an open-ended and ongoing conversation between us and God.

The Purpose of Prayer:

The purpose of prayer is not to inform God for “your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” (Matthew 6:8) Rather, it is to invite God to be involved in every aspect of our lives. The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew’s Gospel (6:9-13) is only 66 words long. In this pattern prayer given to His disciples, Jesus outlined several important purposes for prayer:

1. To perpetuate a relationship: “Our Father which art in heaven…”The term Father indicates a relationship. So prayer is a vehicle through which we can nurture and maintain close fellowship with God. We do not pray to a distant, impersonal force out in the universe, but to our intimate, loving, heavenly Father.

2. To praise God’s name: “Hallowed be Thy name…”The word hallowed means to make holy, to sanctify, to venerate or consecrate. Notice the prayer begins with praise. The proper way to approach God is with an attitude of gratitude. “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise…” (Psalm 100:4)

3. To promote God’s kingdom & will: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven…”God’s will is for all humanity to be saved. His kingdom is His rule, dominion or authority. Prayer helps facilitate the fulfillment of God’s will and the advancement of His kingdom in the earth.

4. To petition God for personal needs: “Give us this day our daily bread…”Pay attention to the all-inclusive words our, us and we, used eight times in this pattern prayer. This is not a selfish, exclusive prayer; it is inclusive of the needs of others. Certainly we should present our own personal needs in prayer. But the key to having our needs met is often interceding for the needs of others— “And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends.” (Job 42:10)

5. To pardon us of sin: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…”A true prayer of confession garners forgiveness. However, our capacity to receive forgiveness hinges on our willingness to extend it. Jesus expressed this principle in the beautiful Beatitude, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)

6. To prevent us from falling & protect us from evil: “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil…”Either prayer will keep us from sinning or sin will keep us from praying! “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.…” (Matthew 26:41) Prayer keeps us strong in order to resist temptation and sensitive to the Holy Spirit to help us shun the very appearance of evil.

7. To praise God again: “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever, amen.”Notice how this prayer starts and ends with praise. I call it a “praise sandwich” because the petitions are “sandwiched” between two periods of praise. So the proper way to pray is to begin with praise and finish with praise for what God has done and will do.

In the next post, Ben will lead us into a look at the power of prayer and offer practical pointers for those of you who would like to develop a deeper prayer life in A Pattern for Prayer: Part 2. Always remember that it is not eloquence in what you say that matters to God, but rather it the sacrifice of your time and your love expressed through your desire to know God better that touches His heart. Your father yearns to hear from you today. He yearns to call you friend!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Seeking God for My City


My church is engaging in a prayer intiative to Seek God for the City 2010. We are encouraged to pray for revival and renewal in the hearts of God’s people. Revival is not a concept for the unbeliever, God’s grace poured out on the lost is “harvest”. Revival is for the Church. It is time for the Church to arise and awaken. America and Israel are the only nations in history that were established on faith and hope in the God of the Bible. America has been a primary vehicle in taking the message of the Gospel to the world. Yet, today America is facing a time of great challenge and the whole world is looking to see what will happen with us.

While most Christian’s don’t want to hear it, the Church in the West, the Church at home, has become lukewarm. The Emergent Church is writing a new Gospel. Wise seminarians are researching the scriptures for the errors they seek to find within them or greater wisdom than the scripture itself has to offer. Many new pastors today do not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible nor do they believe in the literal translation of primary essential doctrines of faith. Many eloquently teach that the “stories” of the Bible are largely symbolic. People flock to warm fuzzy churches in masses where they can count on hearing an uplifting message and great music. Funeral directors are sending every one to “glory”. People by and large do not want to hear about sin and they do not want to hear about hell. They are looking for a God who “fits” with their ideas rather than embracing God for who God is.

I am just finishing reading Deuteronomy, which is the final book of Moses and the law in the Old Testament. Next are the books of history. Every time I read God’s word, God gives fresh insight. Over and over in scripture, we see a cycle of Israel wherein 1) the people of God cry out for deliverance in the midst of rebellion and disobedience which ultimately leads them to captivity and oppression, 2) God raises a deliver and the people are restored to relationship with God , 3) the people soon forget God’s faithfulness and goodness and rely on their own wisdom and diligently follow their own sinful desires, 4) The blessings of God are withdrawn because of unbelief and rebellion, and the people of God again cry out for help in their captivity and rebellion.

There is very interesting scripture in the parable of the wicked vinedressers in Matthew 21. In it, Jesus says, “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?” They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

‘ The stone which the builders rejected as become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”


That new kingdom that Jesus spoke of was the Church. The Church was to bear fruit. I would submit to you that America was also in God’s vision as a new nation. America’s fruits and blessings came through her great sacrifice and through her faithfulness to God and to the Judeo Christian values that established this nation. Those national values; however resulted from the bottom up. A nations values directly reflect the values of its people. In spite of her great history and great blessing, America is in trouble. The Church is in trouble. Our families are in trouble. I would submit to you that America is in full force rebellion toward God today. The name of Jesus has become an offense in the same hallowed halls that used to praise Him!

To quote from the Quest study Bible, God wants us to understand something about him, and He works in ways so that we might know. But He offers even greater insight to us when we believe by faith. The Israelites (America) had seen many miracles, including their deliverance from Egypt. Yet their hearts remained unrepentant so that they could not understand or appreciate hat God had done for them. Though God offered them understanding, they didn’t receive it because of their stubbornness.

How about you today? Is God dealing with your heart? Is there a stubbornness that separates you from fully knowing and responding to the Lord? I know He is dealing with mine. As I cry out for my city, I cry out to God for me . . . Change me Lord! Give me the Heart of Jesus, Give me the vision of Jesus for my family, for my city, for my nation, Give me the determination and perseverance to gladly embrace your chastisement so that I might draw nearer to You and grow in obedience . . . because I love you, Lord, because of your faithfulness to deliver me, to restore me, to resurrect my soul. Pour out in me, Father, through Jesus, because of Jesus, in Jesus. Show me Your greater purpose. Pour out in your people, and pour out in this city. In You and You alone is our hope!

Did You Ever Wonder?


The Lord does not delay and is not tardy or slow about what He promises, according to some people's conception of slowness, but He is long-suffering (extraordinarily patient) toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should turn to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (AMP)

In one of The Truth Project videos, a young girl asks the question, “Did you ever wonder?,” as she pondered the intricacies of the way God designed the human body. The magnificence of God and the vast glory of His creative work is too great to comprehend for most of us. As Christians, God bequeathed to us an instruction manual to equip us to understand His plan for mankind and to prepare us to live in a way that is aligned with His purpose. Yet, we are unable to grasp the mind of God or even the depth of the mysteries contained within His Word.

If you gathered a group of Christians together and asked them if they believed in the literal understanding and application of the scriptures, the answers might surprise you. One example might be in relation to the return of the Lord. Most of us will say that we believe that Christ will come again. But did you ever wonder when? We are at a point in America, where we increasingly mock God and disdain the name of Jesus. The great Cathedrals of Europe are bare. A new world order appears to be forming in the West. Yet in spite of this, the Church of Jesus Christ is exploding in areas of the world where Christians are persecuted and hated. In the midst of great and horrific natural disaster, miracles abound. How do we explain it? The Bible teaches much about the signs of the Lord’s return and many are clearly visible, but with the world in such distress, did you ever wonder why He tarries? Why he doesn’t come now?

The Bible tells us. It says that the Lord desires that no man should perish. He yearns to have compassion on us. In Chapter 33, God gives Ezekiel a message for the people, Tell them: ‘As I live— the declaration of the Lord GOD — I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked person should turn from his way and live. Repent; repent of your evil ways! Why will you die, house of Israel?’ Throughout scripture, we see that those who loved God were moved to intercede with God for the people and the cities. God called us and saved us not because He simply wanted to bless us and give us good gifts, but because He wanted a people that would love and worship Him, a people who would be burdened for the lost and a people who would be willing to go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.

In 1 Timothy 2, Paul says, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle — I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying — a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”

I am one that wonders when the Lord will come, and I am increasingly amazed at how the scriptures are aligning with what is happening in the world today. Time may be winding down, or the Lord may tarry for many more years – I don’t know; but I am grateful and I do know that each day the Lord tarries provides new opportunity to examine myself and to determine if the great commission is really a priority in my life. Am I doing all that I can to share the good news of the Gospel with friends and loved ones who don’t know Christ? . . . or with my neighbors? Am I sacrificing time to make supplications, prayers and intercessions as Paul exhorted before the throne of grace? . . . are you? I’ve been reading the Old Testament and am reminded of all those times God bestowed mercy instead of destruction on those who rebelled because someone who loved God interceded for them.

Prayer makes a difference. We don’t know when the Father will say to the Son, “Time to go,” and the door will shut for those who do not know Christ. Take time to pray for someone that you know needs Jesus today, and continue to pray believing that God will hear and respond! Pray for our cities and the brokenness within them. Pray the Lord visits His people. Pray for the poor, the hungry, the sick, the lonely, those with a burden too heavy to carry. Pray for the parents who grieve and the woman abandoned and forsaken. Pray for the captive. Pray. Prayer makes a difference.

The Fragrance of Prayer


I have just finished reading in Exodus and considered how clear and concise God was in His instruction for each article of the tabernacle. He directed the heart of the writer to repeat those instructions, thus it is apparent that in the content of the details, God wanted us to understand something important.

The Golden Incense Altar was made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. It was situated just in front of the Veil (the curtain which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies). The priest would burn incense at this altar in the morning and at twilight (Exodus 30:7-8), as a perpetual fragrance before the Lord. The incense that the priest would burn had a sweet and pleasing fragrance to the LORD.

The burning incense signifies prayer. The psalmist said (Psalm 141:2) Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. In Christ’s revelation to John ( 5:8), John writes, Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Sincere and simple prayer is fragrant to God. Through Jesus, our hearts become the golden altars that send the sweet fragrance of prayer to the heavenly throne, where Jesus Himself receives them and makes intercession for us. Paul said in Romans 8:34, Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

JR Miller has a wonderful sermon on the fragrance of prayer that he wrote in 1888. You can access it in entirety at http://www.gracegems.org/Miller/sweet_fragrance_of_prayer. Nothing that I could possibly write could improve on this. In it, Pastor Miller says . . . In John's Apocalyptic visions, the redeemed are represented as "holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." The thought seems to be that earth's supplications rise up into heaven as sweet incense — that while humble believers in this world are engaged in offering up prayers and supplications, holy fragrances are wafted up before God.

It shows that the prayers of believers are not lost. Some people tell us there is no ear to hear, when we speak our words of request and desire — that our petitions merely float off into the air, and that is the end of them. But here we get a glimpse inside heaven, and find our prayers caught and preserved in golden bowls.

In one of the psalms there is a similar hint regarding the tears of God's people. "You put my tears into your bottle," cries David. In ancient times tear-bottles were sometimes used. When a man was in some sore distress, his friends would visit him, and, as he wept, would gather his tears and put them in a bottle, preserving them as sacred memorials of the event. Something like this appears to have been in David's thought when, in sore distress, he made the prayer, "You put my tears into your bottle." The words suggest the precious truth — that God does indeed take notice of all our sorrows, and that he treasures up the remembrance of our griefs. Our very tears he gathers, and as it were — puts them in bottles, that they may not be lost or forgotten. This is one of those incidental allusions, which show us how deeply God loves us and how tender is his care.

John’s picture of the golden bowls in heaven containing earth's prayers, shows us like precious regard in the divine heart, for the desires and supplications which believing ones put up to God. As they rise in holy breathings or in earnest cries, he receives them — every sigh, every yearning, every pleading, every intercession of love, every heart-hunger — and puts them all into golden bowls, that none of them may be lost! Often our prayers may seem to remain long unanswered, for some blessings are so rich that they cannot be prepared for us in a day — but we may be sure that they are not lost nor forgotten. They are sacredly treasured and are always before God, and in due time they will receive gracious and wise answer.


Never grow weary in praying. Cultivate a relationship in prayer. Discipline yourself to communicate with God. He loves you so much that your prayer is received as a sweet fragrance in the throne room by Christ, who makes intercession for you!

Revive My Heart


And one shall say, “Heap it up! Heap it up! Prepare the way. Take the stumbling block out of the way of My people.” For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57:14-15

The desire of every Christian heart should be to look like Jesus, to reflect the Lord of all in every aspect of the way we live our lives. Yet, the sweet and wonderful process of sanctification (Christ in us making us a new creation from within) recognizes God’s mercy and long suffering and acknowledgement that He knows we are but dust and loves us anyway. Yet the transformation that God would do in us is also dependent upon our willingness to submit ourselves to the Lord and to be obedient to the Holy Spirit as He prepares, reveals and directs the transformation cycle within us.

Because I am one of those people who prays for revival, I am especially sensitive to my pastor's exhortation to go beyond simply praying for revival and to begin to pray that the Lord changes hearts, beginning with my own. Sometimes those of us who have walked long with the Lord forget our terribly susceptible flesh nature and rest on self imagined laurels or knowledge that actually hinders the work the Lord would do in us. We forget that every good gift we have comes from the Father of Light and that without Him, we are capable of no good thing. Sometimes the young in the Lord wonder if they will ever get it right or if God really hears each prayer.

Praise God that while we are called to be fishers of men, it is totally the Holy Spirit’s job to be the cleaner of those caught in the nets of God’s word becoming living and active in the hearts of man. Praise God that salvation is a free gift through grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone. It was God’s ultimate plan that Christ would pay the full price and bear the full burden of our sin on Calvary.

Lord, help us to have ears that strain to hear you, hearts that hunger for more of you, and minds (determination centers) willing to sacrifice every idol of this imperfect and corrupt world that would hinder us from serving you totally. Help us, Lord, to cultivate humble and contrite spirits so that you might teach us your ways, Lord, and direct our paths. Mold us into new creations that reflect your salt and light to a hungry and dying world. Amen.

New Beginnings


There is just something especially sweet about new beginnings. We have a fresh new year filled with pages that will record the happenings of our lives before us. None of us know what the new year will bring, but those of us who know God are assured that regardless of challenges that lie ahead of us, we can rest in the knowledge that God is with us.

There is a deep seated awareness of need and hope for change as most of us make resolutions of some kind. As I considered my own resolutions this year, I recalled Don coming home from a men’s breakfast and telling me something that Harold Youtze, Director of the Sioux City Gospel Mission, shared with the men present. Harold's goal is to read a different version of the Bible each year. On each page, he lovingly scrawls a little note to one of his children. Each of them have been blessed to receive one of Harold’s Bibles as a gift: A gift fully reflective of the legacy of a father who loves the Lord, each page containing some thought quickened to Harold’s heart by the Holy Spirit and/or something that Harold wanted to say specifically to them about what he'd read.

When I heard the story it deeply touched my own heart. Thus, this year, I pray that the Lord finds me faithful to complete year one of my own legacy of faith and my love for God’s word by beginning my own pilgrimage to leave each of my kids a Bible of the Lord’s choosing. I pray also that this will be a year in which I grow closer to the Lord; a year in which my heart is knit so closely with the Lord’s own heart that nothing can separate me from desire to serve Jesus.

I stumble so often . . . I fail . . . I fall . . . but the Lord’s faithfulness and mercy consistently give opportunity to regain my focus and make right my path. Because of Jesus, because of His blood, I can always count on the fact that while heartache, and foolishness, and fleshly reactions to unmanageable situations can soil my life’s pages, the sweet atonement of Jesus always provides fresh new pages for me, fresh beginnings with each new day, fresh opportunity to start again and pour out my love for God with my life’s fresh choices.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lord, help me to be faithful


I love to write, but I am horrible about keeping up with my blog. I'm going to try again. Maybe by remembering to input the articles I write for my church, I can share my heart with those I love. In any event, there most certainly aren't multitudes reading my writings . . .I save them primarily because I believe it is a great way to leave a legacy of my love for God for my kids and grandkids here. I want most to share with them the thoughts and remembrances I have concerning the architect of my life ... the giver of all hope ...my beloved Savior. And I hope in some way to do the same with others that the Lord may bring into my life.

I tried once to sit down and write my life testimony. I couldn't do. The emotion and tears of gratitude that overwhelmed my soul were too much for me. Maybe some day I can record it here. In any event, it is hard to remember that broken young woman who cried out to God with the plea that if He were real, I needed Him to be real to me.

God heard my cry and met me where I was. I have never been the same. Most of my friends today would never believe the "me" that Jesus visited that cold and snowy night of brokenness and hopelessness. It was there, on the hard, cold floor in my bedroom that salvation visited me. It was the place where I came to understand David's heart as he laid prostrate on the ground sharing agony and honesty in tears and supplicaton before God. It was a place devoid of any pride and absolute in recongition that I had no hope apart from Jesus.

There have been no disappointments in my walk with Jesus. He has walked with me through many dark valleys and places of trial and agonizingly slow periods of waiting on Him. I no longer dread these places where I learned to trust and depend upon the Lord. In the dark places, I have been given such precious treasures. In the dark places, I I have learned who God is, who Jesus is, who Holy Spirit is.

He is always faithful. He has never acclimated to my vision, but rather He has taught me to humble myself and seek His vision. He has not showered me with wants or riches, but He has never failed to meet my needs. He continues to show me how far my heart is from the heart of Christ I so desire to reflect. He continues to give me opportunities each day to choose to walk with Him. He continues to help me see His broader vision, He speaks to me and has taught me to hear Him. There is no one or anything I love more than Jesus, and I know that every good gift (including my husband, our children, and my family and friends) comes down from the Father of Light!

I lovingly rededicate my blog to Jesus. I pray it in some way brings glory to Him. I pray something here will help someone out there. I pray that He helps me to be faithful and persevere in this effort, for even perserverance is a gift from God. I pray that my husband, my children and my grandchildren might always know how much I love Jesus, and how much I love them. The uttermost desire of my heart is that my family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and all those God has seen fit to link with my life here on earth will know Jesus in his utter fullness, and that His coming will always be our blessed hope!!

Amen.

Seek God for the City 2010: Revival

As our church begins to Seek God for the City 2010, we are encouraged to pray for revival and renewal in the hearts of God’s people. Revival is not a concept for the unbeliever, God’s grace poured out on the lost is “harvest”. Revival is for the Church. It is time for the Church to arise and awaken. America and Israel are the only nations in history that were established on faith and hope in the God of the Bible. America has been a primary vehicle in taking the message of the Gospel to the world. Yet, today America is facing a time of great challenge and the whole world is looking to see what will happen with us.

While most Christian’s don’t want to hear it, the Church in the West, the Church at home, has become lukewarm. The Emergent Church is writing a new Gospel. Wise seminarians are researching the scriptures for the errors they seek to find within them or greater wisdom than the scripture itself has to offer. Many new pastors today do not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible nor do they believe in the literal translation of primary essential doctrines of faith. Many eloquently teach that the “stories” of the Bible are largely symbolic. People flock to warm fuzzy churches in masses where they can count on hearing an uplifting message and great music. Funeral directors are sending every one to “glory”. People by and large do not want to hear about sin and they do not want to hear about hell. They are looking for a God who “fits” with their ideas rather than embracing God for who God is.

I am just finishing reading Deuteronomy, which is the final book of Moses and the law in the Old Testament. Next are the books of history. Every time I read God’s word, God gives fresh insight. Over and over in scripture, we see a cycle of Israel wherein 1) the people of God cry out for deliverance in the midst of rebellion and disobedience which ultimately leads them to captivity and oppression, 2) God raises a deliver and the people are restored to relationship with God , 3) the people soon forget God’s faithfulness and goodness and rely on their own wisdom and diligently follow their own sinful desires, 4) The blessings of God are withdrawn because of unbelief and rebellion, and the people of God again cry out for help in their captivity and rebellion.

There is very interesting scripture in the parable of the wicked vinedressers in Matthew 21. In it, Jesus says, “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?” They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

The stone which the builders rejected as become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”

That new kingdom that Jesus spoke of was the Church. The Church was to bear fruit. I would submit to you that America was also in God’s vision as a new nation. America’s fruits and blessings came through her great sacrifice and through her faithfulness to God and to the Judeo Christian values that established this nation. Those national values; however resulted from the bottom up. A nations values directly reflect the values of its people. In spite of her great history and great blessing, America is in trouble. The Church is in trouble. Our families are in trouble. I would submit to you that America is in full force rebellion toward God today. The name of Jesus has become an offense in the same hallowed halls that used to praise Him!

To quote from the Quest study Bible, God wants us to understand something about him, and He works in ways so that we might know. But He offers even greater insight to us when we believe by faith. The Israelites (America) had seen many miracles, including their deliverance from Egypt. Yet their hearts remained unrepentant so that they could not understand or appreciate what God had done for them. Though God offered them understanding, they didn’t receive it because of their stubbornness.

How about you today? Is God dealing with your heart? Is there a stubbornness that separates you from fully knowing and responding to the Lord? I know He is dealing with mine. As I cry out for my city, I cry out to God for me . . . Change me Lord! Give me the Heart of Jesus, Give me the vision of Jesus for my family, for my city, for my nation, Give me the determination and perseverance to gladly embrace your chastisement so that I might draw nearer to You and grow in obedience . . . because I love you, Lord, because of your faithfulness to deliver me, to restore me, to resurrect my soul. Pour out in me, Father, through Jesus, because of Jesus, in Jesus. Show me Your greater purpose. Pour out in your people, and pour out in this city. In You and You alone is our hope!