25 November 2013

PRAYER REQUIRES BROKENNESS



Psalm 24:3-6

Brokenness by definition is the condition of being completely subdued and humbled before the Lord, and as a result, completely yielded to and dependent upon Him also. Throughout scripture we see many occasions of brokenness and its usually accompanied with genuine prayer. In Genesis 18:27 “Then Abraham answered and said, "Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord:" Another example in Psalm 8:4 “What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?” One of the greatest examples is David in Psalm 51:16-17 “For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”Brokenness results in amazing things and transforms lives, people, and nations! 

A true story I came across about a small band of church leaders had been praying earnestly for revival in their community--a village on the Isle of Lewis, the largest isle of the Outer Hebrides, just off the coast of Scotland. They were particularly burdened for the young people of the island who had no interest in spiritual matters and scorned the things of God.

For eighteen months they met--three nights a week, praying through the night, right on into the early hours of the morning, beseeching God to come and visit in revival. But there was no evidence of any change.

Then one night, a young deacon rose to his feet, opened his Bible, and read from Psalm 24: “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord, and who shall dwell in His holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart . . . . He shall receive the blessing from the Lord.”

Facing the men around him, this young man said, “Brethren, it seems to me to be just so much ‘humbug’ to be waiting and praying as we are, if we ourselves are not rightly related to God.”

There in the straw, the men knelt and humbly confessed their sins to the Lord. Within a short period of time, God had begun to pour out His Spirit in an extraordinary awakening that shook the entire island.”

See we need to understand when we read accounts like this one! Before an impact can be felt in a home, a church, or a nation, revival must first be experienced on a personal level in the hearts of men and women. The single greatest hindrance to our experiencing personal revival is our unwillingness to humble ourselves and confess our desperate need for His mercy. LET ME ASK YOU! Does your sin make you weep? Do you feel broken over your sin Because! Brokenness is the off ramp to your sin! Brokenness is the place that brings you to repentance which ultimately leads to forgiveness and ends in fellowship with Christ. See in order for genuine prayer to ever happen.....God must break you and bring you to a place in your life where you cry out to God in repentance because of your sin. John MacArthur said “For all of us prayer is only genuine and only powerful when it comes out of a pure life and an attitude of self-denial that says Thy will, Thy name, Thy Kingdom.” As on puritan preacher said “"Plow deep in me, Great Lord, heavenly husbandman, that my being may be a tilled field, the roots of grace spreading far and wide until Thou alone art seen in me. Thy beauty golden like summer harvest, Thy fruitfulness as autumn's plenty."

Church family please don’t misunderstand what I mean by brokenness! Brokenness does not mean, as some think, having a sad, gloomy, never smiling or laughing. It does not mean always being pessimistically absorbed. Nor can it be equated with deeply emotional experiences. It is possible to shed buckets full of tears, without ever experiencing a moment of brokenness. Further, brokenness is not the same as being deeply hurt by tragic circumstances. A person may have experienced many deep hurts and tragedies, but never have been broken. Brokenness is not a feeling; rather, it is a choice, an act of the will. It is not a one-time experience or crisis; rather, it is an ongoing, continual lifestyle. It’s a persistent lifestyle of agreeing with God about the true condition of my heart and life, as He sees it. PSALM 24 DISPLAYS TO US THAT TRUTH FOR THIS MORNING, BY ASKING A QUESTION WHO CAN SEEK SUCH A HOLY GOD?

A PERSON WHO IS BROKEN BEFORE GOD WITH A DESIRE TO BE RIGHT WITH GOD (v3-v4)

“Who can ascend the hill of the LORD?”  Literally means Who is worthy to dwell there?” In all honesty no one! We are by nature depraved and unworthy [you are wretched] We are all sinners fallen from grace! But through Christ we are allowed to enter in because of the gospel. Remember David in his prayer to God? “Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight— That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.” Psalm 51:1-4. Just as David, I need at times to recognize my inability to approach His throne on my own, on my terms or by my merit. In the New Testament it’s the Spirit giving ability that I’m able to approach the throne of grace.

“he that has clean hands an pure heart” The understanding of David’s prayer is that he or she who would be recognized as a friend and worshipper of God must be a person not living in the practice of sin, but striving always to do that which is right. The “hands” are the instruments by which we accomplish anything; and hence, to have clean hands is equivalent to being upright. James 4:8 says “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” The “heart” not merely the one whose external conduct is upright, but whose heart is pure with a pure motives for the glory of God and the good towards one another. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.” What does that blessing look like? Coming to the throne of grace understanding the work of Christ through the Spirit that has and is being done in my in life to make it possible to enter His hill.

A PERSON WHO IS COMPLETELY DEPENDENT UPON THE LIMITLESS ABILITY OF GOD (v5)

“He shall receive the blessing from the Lord” literally, He shall bear away a blessing from Yahweh.” The blessing here referring to His favor and friendship. He or she shall be recognized and treated as His own…………..As His child, beloved! God is limitless in His ability to work through or answer our prayers! Isn’t that comforting and amazing to know as you face your next minute, hour, day? Nothing hinders Him from doing anything except what is just, pure, holy and acceptable according to His holy word. But! We also need to understand that God has conditions for His sanctified children when we approach Him whether it is through worship or prayer.

WHAT DO I MEAN BY THAT! The bible is very clear when it comes to worship when you have an ongoing problem with someone in the body of Christ. In Matt 5:22-24 it says “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Not only does it affect the other person’s relationship with Christ but it also affects yours. Before we can approach His throne we must confess our trespasses with genuine brokenness! In Psalm 66:16-20 says “Come and hear, all you who fear God, And I will declare what He has done for my soul. I cried to Him with my mouth, And He was extolled with my tongue. If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear. But certainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, Who has not turned away my prayer, Nor His mercy from me!”

See God has conditions but they are for our growth in His righteousness. His conditions are for our good and His glory, because He wants to bless you but it has to come under his conditions not ours. He is limitless when it comes to grace, mercy, forgiveness, and everything else when we seek Him in a right manner under His authority over our lives. "Only God can move mountains, but faith and prayer can move God" E M Bounds

Who can ascend to the hill? You and me under the grace of the gospel found in Christ
  • This is who can ascend the hill to God
  • This is who can stand before the throne of grace
  • This is what prayer requires from you and me

Brokenness is a great off-ramp to prayer! Prayer then is modeled here characterized by a passion and fervency, realizing self-denial and humility are required to enter in. It’s an essential ingredient is a longing for righteousness. It is built on God's character and it is consummated in God's glory. Another story I came across in letter a man wrote at a men’s retreat prayer weekend. “A dozen years ago, my friend Bob took the challenge of going away for three days to pray with a group of about eighty men from our church. It seemed crazy that busy men would take vacation time, drive a couple hours to a run-down camp, sleep on worn-out beds, eat lousy food, and do nothing but pray for three days. Yet I’ve seen it happen dozens of times – with life-changing results. On the second afternoon, Bob sat with a group of about twenty-five men. The brothers all participated, as they felt prompted, through spontaneous Scripture reading, songs, and heartfelt response. The Word, the Spirit and the prayers of the men were creating an environment of fresh spiritual hunger and unprecedented transparency. Overwhelmed by a sense of God’s presence and compelled by his desperation for a breakthrough, Bob stepped to the middle of this circle of praying men, sat down in a chair, and began to weep.
With unedited brokenness, Bob confessed to God and the men listened in on this holy moment. He wept over the loss of his first marriage, recalling the departure of his wife and young daughter due to his addiction to pornography. He thanked the Lord for his subsequent salvation and marriage to a godly Christian woman. His heartache then accelerated as he confessed his ongoing secret struggle with porn. He cried out with pleas for God’s forgiveness, healing, and restoration in his life. This holy moment was not prompted by a long prayer list. It did not spring from any human pressure or peer manipulation. Bob was transformed because he took time to behold Christ’s glory with an open Bible, a yielded heart, and an expectant faith....."

Who can stand on this hill and seek the Lord? Those who confess with a genuine brokenness towards a holy God who is full of compassion and forgiveness. Sometimes I feel like I approach God’s throne with arrogance or contempt as if God owes me something because I’m so good. I know what Jesus would say about me sometimes! “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.” Luke 18:11. Sometimes I need to remind myself who we are approaching with the blessing of prayer. Sometimes I need to remind myself of this truth found in the question of David. “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? Answer! “He that has clean hands and a pure heart” “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' Luke 18:13. Who would you rather be in this story ascending to the hill of the LORD? The man who wasn’t broken or the man who was? Because Jesus said “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:14. As one preacher said “God, Please let me back among the broken, meek, and humble. I don’t know how much longer I can handle being among those who know it all, have it all together, and are unwilling to be broken, uncomfortable and bedraggled. Please let me be back in a place where it is okay to be bedraggled, ruffled, confused, and searching. Back in a place where we believe you reach down in our discomfort and humility and embrace us. My heart aches for brokenness and the freedom to be such.”Perhaps you are praying a similar prayer today?

20 November 2013

SEEKING THE FACE OF GOD


Psalm 80

There is something about a face to face conversation with people that I thoroughly enjoy rather than a telephone conversation. there is just something about interacting with another person and looking them in the face, is much more refreshing than holding an electronic devise in my hand or at my ear; but I also realize that’s not possible at times due to cost and location! I've had many good conversations with my friends online and on the phone! I guess we can thank the good people of Skype and Mark Zuckerberg for giving us avenues to have face to face conversations via internet. But we have something that Skype and Mark Zuckerberg don’t have and that is the greatest Facebook access to Heaven! The word of God  and the Holy Spirit and when we are in the word of God we have access to more than just falling deeper in love with Him but an avenue into His presence through prayer. Throughout the scriptures we see many desiring an intimate connection with God’s face.....Seeking the Lord means seeking his presence. “Presence” is a common translation of the Hebrew word “face.” Literally, we are to seek his “face.” This is a wonderful privilege we have as His called out ones. But we also see many incidences of God hiding His face which prevented them from experiencing the intimacy and benefits of His face. In the Old Testament we read passages of God hiding His face or even setting His face against the people because of sin. FOR EXAMPLE:

Deut 32:20 “And he said, 'I will hide my face from them; I will see what their end will be, for they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faithfulness.”

Job 34:29 “When he is quiet, who can condemn? When he hides his face, who can behold him, whether it be a nation or a man?”

Isaiah 54:8 “In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you," says the LORD, your Redeemer.”

We need to understand something before we go any further. God desires and truly wants a face to face connection with His children. In 1 Peter 3:12 we read “FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE ON THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ARE OPEN TO THEIR PRAYERS; BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL." Similar truth is found in 2 Chon 7:14  “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Isaiah wrote these words “Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.” Isa 55:6. We need to recognize who is sovereign and in control of our lives. We need to recognize who we are approaching when we seek His face. Again, God desires a relationship with you and me! But we need to remember God is just and perfect and we must come under His conditions not ours. Praise be to Jesus Christ who has made those conditions available through His death and resurrection in the New Testament. What’s amazing is that the writers of the Psalms in the Old Testament prayed earnestly during those times when God’s face was hidden. Psalm 80 is a window into the heart of the broken over the sin of the people. This indicates greater desire; a deeper sense of the need to seek the face of God.

In a study I read, just recently said “In 1978 pediatric researchers coined a term known as “still-face effect” Through experimentation they discovered that normal feedback that new born babies receive from their mothers in face to face interaction is distorted by having the mother face their baby but remain facially unresponsive. The negative impact this has was “significant” according to researchers. The study showed that the baby reacts with intense wariness and eventual withdrawal, demonstrating the innate need of a child for interactive encounters with their mother. Just like a baby needing a mother’s responsive attention and love…..we are desperate for a life giving encounter with the face of our Creator and heavenly Father. There are many things we can lean when we seek God’s face through the avenue of prayer whether corporately or privately or as married couples.

GOD IS GLORIFIED

Next to salvation and a genuine walk with the Lord….nothing glorifies Him more than coming to Him in prayer, seeking His face. Why? Our hearts are sensitive to His presence, His power and His purpose for our lives. Our lips are free to glorify the One who gives us our next breath. Our lips are free to glorify the One who gives us access to His unlimited grace. Again He loves the call of His people through the gift of prayer. Acknowledging the awesomeness and power of our mighty God as we approach God through the power found in prayer. It’s by His power and might that we are able to come and continue in prayer and in the Christian walk. “Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, But to Your name give glory, Because of Your mercy, Because of Your truth.” Psalm 115:1. When we pray and God gets the thanks and the credit for what happens.

WE ARE SANCTIFIED

Sanctified means to “set apart” the beauty of seeking God face as powerless at times you might feel brings us closer into likeness of His Son. God is working in me, around me and through me to make me holy, to make me more like Jesus and prayer is one of those privileges that God has set us apart too. We are being transformed every time we humbly approach His throne. By definition “transform” is a marked change in form, appearance, nature, or character. As one writer said “The great fruit of transforming prayer is that praying Christians, while not perfect, are growing every day to the point that they act, think, speak, and serve like Jesus.” John 17:17-19 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” This is why Jesus makes it a part of His prayer to God.  He says, “Father, make them holy.” As Charles Spurgeon said “Children of God should exhibit the love of God, they should be filled with zeal for his glory, they should live generous, unselfish lives, they should walk with God, and commune with the Most High………"Holiness to the Lord" be written across the brow of our consecrated humanity!”

THE CHURCH IS EDIFIED

Pray causes God’s face to shine in our sanctuary, so that the church can grow as one body under Christ. Nothing is more edifying then praying with one another whether it’s a praise, request or critical situation in life. Prayer as a body of believers not only brings glory to God and sanctifies us deeper in holiness it also edifies us as we pray together. As a family when we are being edified our outlook on prayer changes from seeking the hand of God to what’s more important…. and seeking God’s face. “Edify” by definition “is understood as to build up. In the Christian context it means to strengthen someone, or be strengthened, in relationship to God, the Christian walk, and holiness. As Christians, we are to "let all things be done for edification" As Jude 20 says “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,” By saying the church is edified means…..that our lives, marriages, families and ministries within the church are built up, made strong and healthy through the foundation of biblical prayer. That’s why it’s one of the pillars of the local church found in the book of Acts. This is why the church is edified as we grow in His sovereign grace.

THE WORLD IS MYSTIFIED

The world doesn’t understand why or who we pray too! Even false cults don’t know why we pray! If you don’t believe me talk to a Jehovah’s Witness and ask if they pray! They will look at you like a deer in the headlights facial expression. They don’t get it because they are in darkness…chained to the bondage of sin. Paul said the only way for the world to understand or have the veil removed from their eyes to why we pray or who we pray to………. is by the power of God. “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” 2 Cor 4:6-7. Until God lifts their ignorance and blindness they will continue to be mystified by the church. They will continue to misunderstand the beauty of prayer and the fellowship it brings. But, this doesn’t mean we stop praying for them, evangelizing them, and loving them as Christ loved us. Jesus said "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matt 5:14-16. Let your holy life, your pure conversation, and your faithful instructions, be everywhere seen and known. Everything that you do in this life let it be revealed to others that you are real Christians.

THE DEVIL IS PETRIFIED

Do you realize that Satan and his fallen angels hate when you pray? And he will do whatever it takes to stop you. Though Satan isn’t omniscient, he is supernatural and powerful and is supported by millions of demonic forces that you and I have no clue too.But one thing is for sure he cannot read our minds or thoughts! With saying that though! He has had however some many years to observe our behaviour and actions.
  • He eavesdrop on our conversations
  • He observes what keeps us interested and occupied.
  • He watches to see what excites us or angers us
  • He looks for ways to breach the walls of your life.

Corrie Ten Boom said “When a Christian shuns fellowship with other Christians, the devil smiles. When he stops studying the Bible, the devil laughs. When he stops praying, the devil shouts for joy.” What is the enemy looking for, door or a wall to scale over? No! He’s looking for a crack, holes in the wall of your life. And when he finds a crack or an open door…….this is where he sends his attacks will full force.
  • He will find ways to keep us busy and not pray.
  • He will find ways for you to loss the victory found in Christ.
  • He will find ways for us to make excuses for our lack of prayer.
  • He will find ways to draw you to sin and shame.

That’s why Paul wrote …..“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Eph 6:11-13. When we are in the habit of continues prayer and seeking God’s face the enemy is will always be defeated and our walls are indestructible to the enemy. “Satan trembles when he sees, the weakest saint upon his knees.” William Cowper. As R.A Torrey said “When the devil sees a man or woman who really believes in prayer, who knows how to pray, and who really does pray, and, above all, when he sees a whole church on its face before God in prayer, he trembles as much as he ever did, for he knows that his day in that church or community is at an end.”

Seeking the face of God transforms us minute by minute as we love and serve Him with our whole heart with our lives and through the gift of prayer. John Piper said “The heavens are telling the glory of God. So we can seek him through that. He reveals himself in his word. So we can seek him through that. He shows himself to us in the evidences of grace in other people. So we can seek him through that.” As the Apostle Paul wrote “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Col 3:1-12. Prayer brings us into the presence of God….coming face to face as it was when Moses approached God in the mountains alone. Prayer brings us into a deeper, more intimate relationship with God. Prayer is a powerful thing in the life of a sanctified sinner saved by sovereign grace. As James wrote “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” As one writer said “It has been said that “prayer moves the arm that moves the world;” and if there is anything that can prevail with God, it is prayer - humble, fervent, earnest petitioning.”

Maybe your relationship through prayer feels like a “still faced effect” just like a new born when the mother doesn’t give a response of acceptance or love. Maybe there is something you need to ask the Lord so that He will communion with you as He once did. The problem is never God’s…..it’s ours! We are the hindrance to our relationship with Him. Seek His face as Daniel did and encounter the intimate blessing of God’s face through the privilege of prayer.