Thursday, March 18, 2010
For the LORD will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you His people. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way. Only fear the LORD, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. 1 Samuel 12:24.
Samuel had served the Lord righteously as priest, prophet and judge He loved God, and he obeyed what the Lord directed him to do. The Bible teaches us that Samuel’s sons did not walk in his ways, however, which gave justification in the eyes of the people to ask for a king over Israel. When the people of God cried out for a king, it must have grieved Samuel’s heart. Surely it grieved the heart of God, who desired to rule over his people, but the people insisted on a king that they could see.
God would appoint Saul, a humble young man as Israel’s first king, but like so many who start out strong in the Lord, Saul’s focus would shift to ‘self’. As power and prestige increased, King Saul struggled with doing what was right in his own eyes and in his own might. Instead of focusing on God’s direction and authority, Saul began to react compulsively to the circumstances around him. It wouldn’t be long before jealousy and greed and feeding the sinful aspects of his character would rob Him of the Spirit that God allowed to fall upon Saul.
At the King’s coronation, Samuel wanted to wash his hands of the whole issue. Samuel was old by this time. He’d warned the people of Israel to honor God and do right in the eyes of God. He told them of the consequences they would experience in serving an earthly king. But as Samuel confronted the people of Israel and the King, Samuel says something here that grabs my attention. As he addressed the King of God’s nation, the ruler over His people, Samuel said . . . “far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you” (Selah, pause and consider) Over and over the scriptures teach us that God is the one who ordaines the earthly kings upon their thrones. Sometimes those kings are righteous rulers and the people are blessed. Sometimes they used as agents of God’s judgement and wrath. But in any event, we are commanded to pray for them. Note that Samuel says here that it is a sin in God’s eyes not too pray for God’s people and their leader(s).
The USA cannot be separated from Israel spiritually; neither can she be separated from the Roman Empire politically. While we grieve for the current state of nation, we must recognize the rebellion and mockery against Jesus Christ and the Judeo Christian values our country was founded on within the powerful halls of our rulers. Like a spinning top, we whirl toward an abyss of our own making. Like an elephant in the living room, we try to pretend it isn’t there, but everyone knows that is there and shuffles around it. I am concerned that if the United States does not repent as a nation and seek the face of the sovereign God that made us such a uniquely blessed nation, the trials that we encounter today will pale in scope to those ahead of us.
As someone who truly loves the nation of Israel and considers it my spiritual home, I am heavily burdened by what is happening in and around her today, and especially by the pressures that the United States continues to place upon her. A careful analysis of the timing of some of the most costly tragedies in recent American history remarkably coincide with our nation’s attempts to force Israel into giving up her land. Last week, she was globally and arrogantly rebuked by the United States because she announced 1600 new apartments for residents living in East Jerusalem and the opening of a synagogue. The roadmap for peace, or land for peace venture calls for East Jerusalem to be established as a Palestinian capital. How many Christians know that East Jerusalem is the City of David, and that it is here where the Temple Mount, the Mt. of Olives and so many sacred, holy places to not only the Jews but Christians are located? Do you know that if you are a Jew or a Christian that you cannot take a Torah or a Bible to the Temple Mount area and that you are forbidden to pray there? Do you know that the West Bank is Judea and Samaria? Did you know that Jews cannot enter the holy cities of Bethlehem, Hebron, and Jericho because they are Palestinian cities?
As Jesus entered the holy city upon that donkey so long ago, the palms were spread out and the people praised Him. As he prepared His disciples for what was ahead and told them what to watch for, he lamented, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’” Are we different as a nation than the Israel of Christ’s time?
We are living in amazing times. God is giving us opportunity to see the church arise in truth and passion. Unfortunately for many, man does not come to God in humility unless He is broken. The persecuted Church is on fire throughout the world. But then persecution always brings the glory of God doesn’t it? Today in the midst of the Muslim countries, an awakening is gaining momentum mightily with visions of Jesus visiting young Arabs and bringing them truth and hope in Christ who died for them instead of Allah who demands that they give up their lives by taking the lives of others. In China, it is said that a million people a day are being added to the underground church.
What will it take for the Western Church to wake up? Must we be broken? People, we must pray for our nation. We must pray that that God will move mightily in the halls of those who rule over God’s people. We need to pray that righteous leaders arise. We need to repent before God. We need to pray that God’s will is done through his appointment to the nation’s highest offices. We need to pray for Benjamin Netanyahu. He is a righteous man. We need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for her protection. We need to pray that the United States cease and desist its demands that Israel abandon her land.
If we do not, we sin against God and disobey His commandments. In spite of what is right in our own eyes, that is what the Bible teaches. God’s vision in Ephesians 2 is for 1 new man in Christ ~ Jew and Gentile. Paul says, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.”
Those same people who spread the palms before the Lord on the Palm Sunday would deny Him in front of Pilot and cry out for Barrabas to be freed. Yet, Christ would lay down His life for them anyway. He was well aware of the entire picture. He was fully aware of the horrible price for the blood that He alone could provide for atonement. He also knew that one day, He would return again to assume His rightful place as King of all the earth!! And His throne will be in the Holy City! His subjects will be those who determine to believe Him, determine to obey Him, determine to surrender what was right in their owns eyes for what God desires.
Jesus was an observant Jew. The Church of Acts was a Jewish church. American Christianity has not replaced Israel. Please pray God’s mercy over the United States in our rebellion, even as Israel rebelled, and for the peace of Jerusalem.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
By Ben Godwin, Silver Cup Ministries: www.bengodwin.org (used with permission)
The Power of Prayer
John Wallace wrote, “Prayer moves the hand that moves the world.” Prayer places all the resources of heaven at your disposal. The value and power of prayer is immeasurable. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16) The scriptures are replete with examples of how prayer turned the tide in the favor of God’s people:
• The cry of Israel moved God to deliver them from slavery in Egypt—Exodus. 2:23.
• The prayer of Elijah shut up the rains for three and a half years. Then, when he prayed again, God restored the rain—James 5:17-18.
• The desperate prayer of Hannah produced a son—I Samuel 1:12-20.
• Prayers of repentance spawned a city-wide revival in Nineveh and postponed the judgment of God—Jonah 3:8-10.
• The New Testament church was birthed out of a prayer meeting—Acts 1:14.
• Prayers of Jesus and the apostles healed the sick and raised the dead.
• The prayer of Paul and Silas brought an earthquake to a Philippian jail—Acts 16:25-26.
Numerous other examples could be cited. The power of prayer has and can literally change the course of history. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Pointers for Prayer:
• Pray periodically: “And when thou prayest…” (Matthew 6:5) Notice Jesus said when not if you pray. Make prayer a habit that you engage in periodically throughout your daily routine.
• Pray without pretense: “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.” (Matthew 6:5) Motives matter to God. The purpose of prayer is not to impress people or appear religious but to draw close to and make a spiritual connection with the God of the universe.
• Pray in private: “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy father which is in secret: and thy father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:6) Corporate prayer is desirable at certain times and there is much power in having others agree with you in prayer (Matthew 18:19). But the real secret to prayer is secret prayer! The word translated closet in the above verse is from a Greek word meaning “bed chamber”, a place where husband and wife share intimacy. A married couple will say things in private they would never say otherwise. Likewise, when you get alone with God, you will share things out of your heart that you wouldn’t with other people in earshot.
• Pray differently than pagans: “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” (Matthew 6:7) Some religions incorporate the use of chants that are repeated over and over for extended periods of time. Jesus called this “vain repetitions.” This does not mean that it is wrong to pray repeatedly about a certain need. For instance, Elijah prayed seven times for rain. Paul prayed three times for God to remove his thorn in the flesh. Even Jesus prayed the same prayer three times in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus simply wanted us to avoid memorized, mechanical prayers that don’t come from the heart.
• Pray with persistence: After Jesus concluded the pattern prayer in Luke 11, He told the Parable of the Friend at Midnight. In the story, a man has a guest show up unexpectedly and he comes to his neighbor’s house to borrow food to feed him. The neighbor initially makes excuses and refuses to help him, but the friend persists. Eventually, the neighbor gives him what he needs. The point is simple—if persistence pays when requesting a favor from a reluctant friend at midnight, how much more does persistence pay when petitioning a willing God? Jesus followed the parable up with this famous verse, “Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Luke 11:9)
• Pray with precision: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” (1 John 5:14-15) Prayer, like archery, involves aiming at and hitting a target! The target in prayer is the will of God. James explained a common cause for unanswered prayer, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:3) God will not answer prayer that is inconsistent with His will. The way to know the will of God is to stay immersed in the Word of God. Jesus stated, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” (John 15:7) Notice the conditional term “if.” For if we truly abide in Him and His Word abides in us, we won’t want anything that is contrary to His will. Let God’s Word guide your prayers like arrows to the bullseye of His will. This will increase your effectiveness and eliminate wasted time praying for the wrong things.
F. B. Myer astutely observed, “The great tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer.” James added, “Ye have not, because ye ask not.” (James 4:2) The words of an old hymn are fitting, “Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” May we all develop a greater discipline for daily prayer. May we all follow the pattern for prayer that Jesus provided. May we all utilize this key to the resources of heaven and realize how powerful an ally is this priceless gift called prayer.