Friday, 30 September 2011

Vital Prayer

“Prayer brings renewal that the lack of prayer makes necessary.”  Let me say that again... “Prayer brings renewal that the lack of prayer makes necessary.”  

You know, the church can ‘live’ without vital prayer.  Many churches have been doing it for an awful long time.  My question is why on earth would you want to?  To the church at Sardis, Jesus said:  “These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.  I know your deeds;  you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”  Jesus knew it was possible to have the appearance of life, to be moving around like the headless chicken only to then collapse in a heap on the floor because the body has become separated from the head.

Up and down our nation the church of Jesus Christ limps along on life support because our prayerlessness has made renewal a vitally pressing need in our day.  We’ve become increasingly separated from the Head.   But before we start pointing any fingers anywhere else, lets not neglect the opportunity to examine our own hearts before the Lord.

One of the passages of scripture you’ll find in the prayer room is an agricultural themed prophetic word from good ole Hosea.  In chapter 6 he prophesies a great harvest for Judah, a great harvest of righteousness.  They he goes on a bit about all the reasons that its just not gonna happen in their condition until in chapter 10 he says:

12 Sow righteousness for yourselves,
   reap the fruit of unfailing love,
and break up your hard unplowed ground;
   for it is time to seek the LORD,
until he comes  and showers his righteousness on you.
13 But you have planted wickedness,
   you have reaped evil,
   you have eaten the fruit of deception.

It is time to seek the Lord until he showers his righteousness upon you.

Fast forward a handful of a hundred years and Jesus stands before the disciples and tells them

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”

The workers are few because the need of the harvest field is something that needs to be revealed to the human heart by the Spirit of God.  Keepers of hard hearts will never see the vital need for mission in the world.  The fields will always be someone elses work to them.  Or, it will be someone else’s problem because as for them, they have their own fields to plow....the fields of self sufficiency, distraction, pursuit of personal gain and their own cauldron of scepticisms and fears about the call to take the gospel to the nations.
The church has believed a theology that came from the Kevin Costner film of the 1990s, ‘Field of Dreams’ where he has this strange ghostly voice who whispers to him ‘If you build it, they will come’  So he builds a baseball pitch in his corn field and baseball legends appear from out of the field to play in it.  It becomes an attraction and the closing shot in the film is a massive line of cars coming towards his failing farm. 

In this passage Jesus does not say to the disciples ‘if you build it, they will come.’  No, his emphatic word to those 72 disciples was hey....get to prayer, ask for a spiritual revelation of the readiness of the harvest field!  Then ask the Lord to reveal to you who the workers will be that will go into the field.  And then having done that you will recognise it is you....I am sending you out like lambs amongst the wolves, said Jesus.

“Here I am Lord, send someone else.”

If passionate prayer does not mark the house of the Lord, it shall have a name and yet be dead.  My house will be a house of prayer, declares Jesus.  Back in Solomons day as he dedicates the grand temple to the Lord, he has this conversation, this encounter with God.  You will recognise the words, they are so vital and they are such a powerful testimony to the church in these days.

1 Chronicles 7 reads like this:
11 When Solomon had finished the temple of the LORD and the royal palace, and had succeeded in carrying out all he had in mind to do in the temple of the LORD and in his own palace, 12 the LORD appeared to him at night and said:
   “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.
 13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 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 I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.
 17 “As for you, if you walk before me faithfully as David your father did, and do all I command, and observe my decrees and laws, 18 I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor to rule over Israel.’
 19 “But if you[a] turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you[b] and go off to serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. 21 This temple will become a heap of rubble. All cwho pass by will be appalled and say, ‘Why has the LORD done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ 22 People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why he brought all this disaster on them.’” 

The message trumpets through the word of God through the generations:  consider your hard hearts.  Break up your fallow ground.  Humble yourself. Remove the stones of sin and wickedness from your lives.  Pray to the Lord of harvest for a revelation of the world around you, pray, get a revelation of the plight of those who are lost.  Recognise that it is my name  that is important not yours.  When you’ve planted the seed of the Kingdom in your cleansed heart, when you have a Kingdom vision instead of a ‘you’ vision, then you’ll respond by going into all the world, you’ll reap a harvest of righteousness for yourselves and for the Kingdom.  Healing will begin in your land because salvation colonies will establish themselves once more and darkness will be pushed glory will be revealed.  Only then will you have a name worthy of the majesty of him.

It was William Booth who said "Let others whose blood is fired and whose hearts are melted after the same fashion join hands with you. Make a Mount Carmel of some ante-room, or barracks, or kitchen and offer yourself up as a sacrifice, body, soul and spirit, and believe and wait until you receive the Holy Fire" 

And then he penned words to the song 

‘’Tis fire we want, for fire we plead,
The fire will meet our every need,
For strength to ever do the right,
For grace to conquer in the fight,
For power to walk the world in white,
Send the fire!

To make our weak hearts strong and brave,
To live a dying world to save,
O see us on Thy altar lay
Our lives, our all, this very day;
To crown the offering now we pray,
Send the fire!

Break up your hard ground.  See the Lord for a revelation of the harvest fields that are ripe.  Plant the Kingdom seed and a passion for his name in your heart....and then go.  Friends, we’re here to do business with God this evening.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Falling away

Last week, with my Circuit colleagues, we toddled off to the mother house of the Northumbria comunity.  It was a good day 'alone together'.  Good times of silence, conversation, reflection and talk over food.  God really spoke to me.

We were invited to consider the season, autumn (as it is here in the Northern Hemisphere).  A time where the vegetation begins to fall away and things change nature, colour and shape.  We were then asked to consider what was changing/falling away in our own lives.  When I look into what I see the future containing, the way the Lord is leading, here is what I sense what is, firstly,  falling away, but for each falling away, what I sense that means in the positive:

- freedom and liberty to choose = a welcome return to a disciplined life
- sense of entitlement to my own vision - = a welcome return to community and a vision bigger than my own
- losing unhealthy approaches and habits, comforts and dependancies = freedom!
- denial of true call and DNA = embracing identity
- the scripture that came to me was 'He who loses his life will find it.'

In 'ministry':
- the thoughts of permanancy, settling long term = embracing the pilgrim life...releasing the 'turasaiche' within!
-  good opinions of men...and then the Lord blazoned this scripture to my mind "Woe to you when people say all sorts of good things about you for this is how their father's treated the false prophets."  - Lk 6:26

Another highlight was what we hoped our 'spring' would contain, what I wanted to see.  Here is what I wrote:

"Mission-focussed communities of the followers of Jesus, rooted in authentic experience of vibrant faith and spirituality."

All that is enough to keep me engaged for a good while!  What about you?  What is God causing to fall away from your life and experience?  What are your hopes for spring?  More importantly, what does God want to do in your life in 'winter' inbetween?

Friday, 9 September 2011

Get in line

So Friday is my sabbath day...its my day off work. I am on my own for at least 6 hours of this day whilst my kids are at school and my other half is at work. Its so important for me to get before the Lord. This is a discipline. It won't happen if we're not disciplined enough to do it. Can I afford to do it? Nah..on my day off, financially, I could do with finding ways to earn some cash - we're in a recession for goodness sake. But if I'm not before the Lord, I might as well just go away.

Never mind this garbage we feed outselves about not having the time to come before the Lord. Sure, you might be saying, well I don't have 6 hours to take out. Sure you do. You just dont want to. You just don't make it possible. You make time for everything else apart from the Lord. How do I know this? Because I am human and for so long I've been a failure at this stuff. And when I am failing at this stuff, sin gets a foothold in my life and I cease being the man that God calls me to be. And I am ashamed. If I want to go round doing this stuff in my own strength, then I'm stuffed. I haven't got any. Come on, you know what I'm talking about here.

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...if what I said makes you sit up and take note, then thats the Holy Spirit telling you you're getting it wrong. But if you start to think 'oh you're useless, you'll never get it right scumbag, think you follow God? HA!' well, thats the enemy trying to get you down. God confronts us to show us the right path, not to beat on us. Come on, quit fooling around and get close to Jesus. Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you says James.

I didn't plan to say all that, but I think it might help at least one of you reading. Happy to support you if I can....let me know.

What I was going to say is that what God has been saying to me to day is to step up. Some of you who know me may not realise I'm a horrific introvert. Put me on an island for a week on my own - man, I'm almost in heaven. But yet, the journey the Lord has put me on has so often been about being out there, with people constantly. More than that, out there with a message the few want to hear, not only in the church but in the world in general. The gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those of us who are being saved, it is the power of God for our salvation.

And lots of time, especially in the last 3 years where I've been in situations where hope has slipped away, I've stepped back from the front. When we allow other things to crowd round, it obscures our vision of Jesus and his call upon us to be his disciples and to make disciples of all the nations.   Another thing thats happened is that I've been swayed by too many people's version of things. You know, we all need to learn and process what we're learning. But we have to bring it back to the Lord and say 'is this your thought Jesus?' 'Do you go with this?' 'Do I see this in you?' 'Is this how you went about things?' 'Does this fit with your message?' If yes, we hang onto it and put it as an arrow in our quiver. If no, then we cast it aside. What do you need to cast aside?

If your god is the god who is only ever patting you on the back and afffirming your lifestyle and your plans, then there is every chance you've fallen into the mistake of making a god in your own image. This god will ultimately fail you because it isn't real. The bible tells us that God disciplines us as his children, he pulls us into line for our own good and for his glory....but then pours out such an abundance, an ABUNDANCE, of grace and mercy. It will follow us all the days of our lives as we live submitted to Jesus.

Come on, get in line.